16/09/2018

I Miss My Imperial Alts

I considered calling this post "conquest is taking over my life" but decided that would have sounded just a tad over-dramatic. What has been happening though - in a nutshell - is that conquest has been dominating my play time heavily, at the expense of other activities (such as playing alts whose activities wouldn't contribute to my guild's conquest total), and I'm starting to feel a bit restless about it. Not burnt out exactly, but like that really shouldn't be all I'm doing.


Something similar happened when conquests were first released, and I hinted at how weirdly obsessive it made me back in this post from September 2014. And back then we weren't even that successful at conquest, only really making it into the top ten every so often.

Since the new system was released, things have kind of snowballed for my guild. We started with the small yield target, worked our way up to medium yield, and are now regularly going for large yield, or even fighting for first place on a planet. Last week we successfully conquered Ilum, making for our third victory in as many months. I also noticed that success breeds more success, as our placement on the board causes active players to whisper us and ask for guild invites, and then they in turn contribute to increasing our weekly guild total, allowing us to be even more successful.


Last time the "spell" of my conquest focus was broken by the release of the Shadow of Revan expansion, since activities such as levelling through the new content were by their very nature irrelevant to conquest but also sufficiently enthralling that I didn't care. Right now it looks like the next expansion is still several months off however, so I'll have to come to terms with how I want to spend my time in game by myself.

It's hard to nail down just what makes conquest so compelling. Part of it is simply the appeal of "making bars go up" that we MMO gamers are so fond of, however it matters that it's not just about me but about the guild. Knowing that other people care about us achieving our target, I feel that I should contribute as much as I can, especially as an officer. Yet even if we already have achieved the target, I then find myself thinking that I might as well cap another character to reap as many of the per-character rewards as possible (which I then just end up throwing in the bank to never look at them again, but I never claimed to make sense).

The revamped objectives make it "worse" by providing a great source of inspiration if you're unsure about what to do on any given evening. I used to be more focused on the daily CXP bonus activity, but with more than a dozen characters at Command rank 300 that has lost some of its lustre for me. The daily objectives in particular can be immensely alluring, because there's that slight pressure of missing out on the points for the day if you don't do the thing today, and often they are fairly small and quick activities that make me think something along the lines of: "Eh, whatever else I do tonight, I have time to quickly do that daily objective!" - but if there are several of them that interest me, my evening's gone before I've even realised what I'm doing. Since they are legacy-wide, there's also a bit of a fear of "accidentally" triggering one while on an unguilded alt and losing out on the points that way, which also serves to focus my attention on the same set of characters over and over.

It's a peculiar problem to have when you like an activity and there's nothing really wrong with it, but there's still also a part of you that wishes you'd be spending more time on other things.

12/09/2018

Podcast Shout-outs

I haven't been very good at linking and giving shout-outs to other content creators more recently. I mean, I have a whole bunch of links up on the sidebar to the right, but I'm not sure how many people even look at that. I was definitely better at bringing up other fan sites and the like in my regular posts in the past. Anyway, since Armagon was recently talking about the subject of MMO podcasts, I thought I'd give him and the general public some recommendations! Note that I'll happily recommend all the podcasts on my sidebar, but I'm not going to talk about all of them here because I already made posts about some of them in the past.

Bad Feeling Podcast

I actually wrote about the Bad Feeling Podcast before and wouldn't usually write about it again, but I do feel the need to mention how much it has changed. The hosts are still the same, with their dirty sense of humour and copious amounts of swearing, but where back in 2014 they were hapless newbies and therefore making podcast episodes about subjects along the lines of "aren't companions neat" or "what are crew skills", things have changed a lot on that front. They haven't exactly become hardcore players (actually, they definitely haven't), however they became official Bioware influencers and realised that they actually live quite close to the studio's offices. This has resulted in them being able to interview devs directly more often than any other SWTOR podcast, and I've got to say those episodes are really, really great. That's not to say that I don't enjoy the regular banter as well, but even if you're not usually that into podcasts, tuning in for the Bad Feeling Podcast's dev interviews is a great way of learning more about what's going on behind the scenes.

Passionately Casual Podcast

I didn't give this podcast a chance for way too long, and now that I think about it I suspect that it's because of the name. There's nothing actually wrong with it, but I have this really vague recollection (it's so vague that I don't have a time stamp for it or even any names associated with it) of being pointed towards a podcast or two that were supposed to be about SWTOR but weren't, which resulted in me feeling very let down at the time, and ever since I've been highly suspicious of anything that doesn't have an explicit SWTOR or at least Star Wars reference in the name. Silly, isn't it?

Anyway, the Passionately Casual Podcast is definitely about SWTOR, though they do have segments where they might mention other games for a bit. What eventually got me to check it out was that Corellian Run Radio shut down in January this year... and in the final episode it was pointed out that the two podcasts were effectively run by the same people and they wanted to focus on just one show, which is really fair enough. So if you used to enjoy CRR, you can get a similar mix of casual chat about what's been happening in game, community discussion and guest contributors from Passionately Casual now.

State of the Old Republic Podcast

Ted from the State of the Old Republic (SOTOR for short) podcast has a special place in my heart because he actually invited me to be a guest on his show last year, plus he likes and retweets my stuff on Twitter a lot. Thanks, Ted!

His show also stands out from other SWTOR podcasts in that it's usually just himself talking (though he does have the occasional episode with a guest, see above) and it's much more scripted. Whether that's your cup of tea or not is a matter of taste I guess... but I do like that it differentiates his show from all the others out there, and that it's pretty dense in terms of providing news and info (as he doesn't have the chance to get side-tracked by random conversation). He also has to put in extra work to come up with things to talk about by himself, which is something I can sympathise with as a blogger. For example he's been running a series of segments about levelling all eight classes in sync and commenting about where their stories intersect or where it's implied that events happen in a particular order, which I've been finding very interesting.

The Council

The Council is the newest podcast on this list, but even that celebrated its first birthday recently, which should tell you how long it's been since I last made a post like this. This show marked the return of Redna, formerly of OotiniCast, who appears to have gotten back into SWTOR fandom after taking a break to get married and have a baby.

The Council has a number of unique features that I really like. So far, all of their episodes were dedicated to very specific subjects, with relatively little random chatter - though this might also be a side effect of the show still being relatively young. I've noticed over time that a lot of podcasts start out this way, but once they've talked about all the most common subjects, it just becomes "whatever's been in the news this week".

Anyway, they also stream their podcast on Twitch and then upload the videos to their YouTube channel, which I hadn't noticed any other podcasts doing before. (Though now that I did a bit of searching, I found that OotiniCast for example also uploads their episodes to YouTube... gotta switch to listening that way!) Anyway, the reason I like this is that while I still focus on the audio, I can occasionally glance over onto my second screen for the video, and being able to tie a face to each voice has made it much easier for me to remember who is who.

They also have this thing with posting polls on social media before every episode, which was what originally drew my attention to the show and inspired my post about Shadow of Revan being overrated when they were having an episode on the subject of expansions. I just like how they tie that into their discussions every time.

Finally, personally I haven't found another podcast where the crew feels so diverse in terms of interests inside the game. I was very surprised when I found out that Alise for example had only joined the game around KotFE's release - you don't hear from (relatively) newer players getting this involved in fandom that often. Or when they discussed the Conquest changes and literally everyone had a completely different opinion on them. I do love how that invites listeners to consider a point of view different from their own, and to think about how updates and changes might impact people with different play styles.

09/09/2018

Twin Sunmer Games 2018

Two years ago I wrote about my guild organising a fun little social event which we playfully called the "Twin Sunmer Games". We didn't repeat it last year, but this year people decided to revive it, though by running it at the start of September we were only just able to justify still calling it summer games.

The two officers organising it managed to strike a nice balance between old and new, repeating previously popular activities in new locations while also adding something new. The most important addition was to give the new custom Huttball functionality in the Rishi stronghold a try. The one match we played as a guild was quite fun, though we also ran into what I can only guess was a previously undiscovered bug, namely that a new Huttball would respawn before the old one had actually been removed from the game via scoring or being dropped, which led to up to three balls being carried around at the same time. That certainly turned wanting to focus on the ball carrier into an interesting dilemma...

To tie things together, the older activities that we decided to repeat were also made Rishi-themed. So we also played "Hot Ball" (Hot Potato) with the custom Huttball stand in the Rishi stronghold for example. People were complaining a lot about the ball disappearing without doing anything this time, suggesting that it was bugged, though to me it didn't really seem to be happening more often than usual.


A relay run on Rishi was also planned, but then scrapped because we were running short on time. I've been told that the plans for it have been saved for a later date though.

Sticking with the theme, the flashpoint speed run took place in Battle of Rishi this time. Since I still remembered what a pain it had been in the last event to be stuck in a healer-heavy group, I made sure to relog my Guardian for dps. I also remembered the group with the most conservative approach winning last time, but of course our group leader had other ideas! This time the crazy plan was to skip a load of trash by running through to a checkpoint, dying, and letting the Scoundrel in our group vanish and then revive us once the mobs had reset. To be fair, that would have worked if we hadn't messed it up on the first attempt, which resulted in a wipe. As it was, the whole group dying and having to rerun the whole gauntlet up to the first boss was quite a set-back, though we still managed to finish in second place, only mere seconds behind the winners.

I also made a ten-minute video to summarise the event again, in the same style as last time:



If that makes you want to join in the fun, we do accept applications... though in fairness you should know that we don't organise events like these all the time.

06/09/2018

Autumn Road Map Excitement

With how often I've gently mocked Bioware for liking to make announcements about announcements before actually saying anything of substance, and what with them clearly reading my blog and taking everything I say to heart (that's me being sarcastic in case you weren't sure), Keith decided to drop a road map for the next few months on our heads without any kind of advance warning for the second time in a row. What is this madness? There was also a live stream about it for which Dulfy has already provided a summary as usual.

Let's talk about the big bullet points and I'll share my opinions!


Must take more pictures of roads/paths to illustrate road map posts...

Huttball on Vandin

The new Huttball map that was mentioned in the summer road map will be set on Vandin and is in fact already on the PTS. We've already known about this for a few days actually and I was going to make a post about it at some point, but now all this other stuff has come up and there's just too much else to talk about. I expect that I'll still write about the new Huttball at some point, at the latest when the new map actually releases.

Republic vs. Empire Story

The new Republic vs. Empire storyline that they already hinted at apparently won't have to wait until 6.0, but will already start (I'm guessing it's only the start) in 5.10. And at the risk of setting myself up for disappointment: it sounds awesome! Apparently we'll finally return to having distinctively different story arcs for Republic and Empire, and if you sided with the other faction on Iokath that will be taken into consideration as well. The story will be taking place on a new planet whose name they haven't explicitly revealed, though from the hints mentioned in the road map I've heard people say that it's probably Ossus. There will be dailies, world bosses and new friendly NPCs, oh my! Calphy suggested that from the way they talked about a Jedi Master/Imperial Commando accompanying the player through their respective faction's story arc, maybe this could end up being a prelude for 6.0 similar to the way Forged Alliances ended up being a prelude to Shadow of Revan.

Operations & Gods from the Machine Master Mode

Remember when they officially cancelled Gods from the Machine's master mode? Well, apparently it's now coming after all: yes, it will stack on top of the existing "hardmare" mode, and no, they aren't planning on nerfing the existing difficulties.

Now I'm not usually someone to complain about the devs spending time on making X instead of Y, because I think that paying attention to every aspect of the game is a good thing and I like having a variety of things to do. I also always like to remember Ion Hazzikostas' quote about WoW from about two years ago, saying that almost every MMO activity only caters to a minority of the player base.

However, with all that said, I do think that there are ways of using your time and resources badly, and this is one of them. Veteran mode Gods is already so hard that hardly anyone does it; master mode will be a complete non-starter for everyone but an absolutely minuscule number of players. The road map also states that Bioware are planning on developing additional operations content later, which is good, but I honestly wish they'd gone straight for that and left this particular idea on the scrap heap. As it is, I hope the dozen players or so who can beat it will have fun with it; for the rest of us it will simply be a completely irrelevant addition.

Crafted Tier 5

There will be a new tier of gear, but it won't drop from bosses or Galactic Command, but will instead be entirely crafted. Erm..? I don't know what to think of this. I like the idea of crafting gear in general, but I didn't even bother with the last tier of augments for example. With the mats from this likely dropping from Gods master mode, I wouldn't get to acquire any of the mats "organically" anyway, and then it just turns into a question of how much money you're willing to pour into the GTN to increase your item level, which seems boring. I probably won't bother with this one either.

Guild Systems

There are going to be a whole bunch of quality of life changes for guilds, which is definitely going to be interesting to me as someone who is an officer in her guild! What we know so far:

- "Heraldry": My first thought as a former WoW player was: "So, tabards then?" Of course, actual tabards would be silly in SWTOR, which isn't necessarily to say that they won't be included, but I'd expect them to display the chosen guild logo in some other way. How, though? On the guild ship? Non-guildies wouldn't see it there though...

- "Progression system": Again, I immediately thought of WoW's guild levelling. They took that out again soon after introducing it though because it caused all kinds of issues. I hope the Bioware devs have thought this through.

- Guild Inspect: So people can see some info about your guild if they inspect you I guess? Sounds nice but not sure how useful it's actually going to be for people looking to join the guild of someone they encounter on the fleet or in a pug.

- Guild Mail: The ability to mail every single guild member at once sounds amazing at first, but then the thought of receiving said mail on all of my... however many alts I have these days, is also terrifying. Undecided on this one!

- Ability to directly challenge other guilds to PvP matches: This could be nice for PvP guilds I guess? Can't see it getting much use in what's primarily a PvE guild.

- Logging: My first thought was that this would finally show things such as a list of when members joined or left the guild, something that's been long overdue, but what they actually mentioned on the stream was better logging of members' Conquest point contributions, which for me is even better and would go a long way towards making up for the recent changes that made it harder to do so manually.

- Also guild-related Conquest improvements of some sort (no details on that yet), more guild ranks, and the ability to ban a whole legacy from the guild instead of just a character.

Companion Returns

Doc, Nadia and dark side Jaesa confirmed! Plus there might be more if they finish the relevant content in time (unlikely then, but it's still good to know they are working on getting everyone back). I still haven't played through all of the already existing companion returns... really need to get cracking on that!

Overall, I think this is a very promising road map. While the revival of Gods from the Machine master mode and the related new gear tier get a thumbs down from me, everything else sounds great. Can't wait!

03/09/2018

Half-time

Today I uploaded Pugging with Shintar season 2 episode 10, which means that I'm halfway done with season two, hurrah! I've determined that I'll need/want it to run for exactly twenty episodes, since there are ten different operations for me to cover, and with my intended schedule alternating between operations and uprisings, that'll make for a total of twenty videos. With two uprisings per episode I will have completed all of them on story mode after the next episode, so for the remaining four installments meant to feature uprisings I'll switch to pugging randoms on veteran mode. Should be fun!


Unfortunately as a whole, this season hasn't been as much fun for me as the previous one. I've mentioned before that recording the operations pugs has felt more like "work" than anything I've done before, and as I've progressed I've noticed that it's my self-imposed rule of wanting to do them "in order" more than anything else that's causing me issues. I've always said that the best way to have fun pugging is to be flexible and jump into whatever content people are willing to run at any given time. Unfortunately I need specific operations for this series, and I need them at specific times too, since I only really have time to record an ops pug during weekends. It's getting a bit frustrating to be honest!

I've made a note for myself to not just fixate on the featured group finder operation in the future, but to also see what gives Conquest points in any given week, as those ops might be in higher demand as well. I'm hopeful that the next few will be easier to find groups for (as I said in the video, people aren't super fond of running that one operation that has more bosses than any of the others). Of course the biggest challenge will be Gods from the Machine, but at least I won't have to deal with that one until the very end.

What also hasn't helped is that my viewers seem less interested in this second season than they have been in the first. It might seem silly to worry about viewer numbers when I'm far from wanting to make a career out of making videos and am used to low view counts to begin with, but it's still noticeable and a bit disappointing to see less engagement on these newer episodes than there was on the older ones when they came out. I don't know if the episode length is off-putting, or maybe people just aren't as interested in the content? I'm guessing that season one was a bit more "relatable" in so far as most SWTOR players would have had an Esseles pug at some point (for example), so they have a frame of reference while watching someone else run it, but I'm guessing that not as many people have done operations or uprisings, and that might be why they aren't as interested. Anyway, I can only make guesses about that. If you're someone who's been following the series and has an opinion on this, feel free to share in the comments!

Anyway, these are the episodes I released since the last summary post (only four since the ops episodes in particular took some time to get right, as explained above):

S2E7: Tanking All The Adds in Uprisings - This one was a good demonstration of how the endless waves of adds that you get in many uprisings can get unpleasant for a healer (thus the title).

S2E8: Cheerful Wiping in Terror From Beyond - With TFB being my second favourite operation, I was really happy to pug this one, even if there was a slight hiccup in the middle. I also ended up in another guild's partial guild run again, this one led by an unexpectedly friendly and not at all evil Decepticon.

S2E9: Pleasant Uprising Surprises - This was probably the most fun uprising episode so far, with people interested in getting achievements in both of my runs. Even if I didn't need the achievements myself anymore and therefore gained nothing from them, it made for a nice break from the usual routine.

S2E10: Enjoying the Sights in Scum & Villainy - Scum was a bit annoying to find a group for, but I already talked about that in the main post above. The group itself was once again very pleasant.

31/08/2018

Victory on Yavin and Crafting Craziness

It's barely been a month since I got excited about my guild conquering Alderaan during Total Galactic War, and I didn't expect us to go for first place somewhere else any time soon, but at the start of last week things took an unexpected turn. We were just about to go for our usual large yield target again, when someone pointed out that the medium yield planet for the week, Yavin IV, didn't seem heavily contested. There were only one or two other big guilds going for it, and they looked like we should be able to beat them.

And just like that, Twin Suns Squadron ended up conquering a planet for the first time outside of Total Galactic War.


Of course, we acquired a secret super weapon a few months ago. Does it count as giving away trade secrets if I talk about this? Ah hell, I don't care - if you're reading this and you're from a competing guild, I'm both flattered that you actually ended up here and salute you for your dedication to researching the competition.

Anyway, when we absorbed another guild a few months ago, one of the new members we gained was someone to whom I shall simply refer as X. X loves Conquest and he loves to craft, two things which made for a very potent combination in the past. Less so since the Conquest revamp, but it still seems sometimes that surely he must be spending more time just logging in and out of alts to claim crafting credit for repeatable Conquest objectives and to queue up new items than doing anything else.

With how hard Bioware nerfed crafting for Conquest points, his effectiveness was greatly diminished, but he still regularly hits his personal target on more than a dozen characters per week (which is why I have to laugh when I see people moaning on the forums about how the new system made it "impossible" to do Conquest on more than one character). However, this week he showed us what he could still do, and it made me wonder whether Bioware still hasn't nerfed crafting enough.

Obviously we were all doing our best to secure victory, but X achieved nearly 1.5 million conquest points on his own (yes, we counted), most of which were accumulated by crafting war supplies. Now, war supplies only gave 300 points a pop last week, even with a maxed out stronghold bonus, so he basically had to craft several thousand of them across his legacy. With how much more expensive Bioware made this process as well, my mind still boggles at the sheer amount of materials he must have poured into this project. And he did admit afterwards that this wasn't something he would be able to do every week, as he needs to rebuild his stockpile again after going nuts like that. But still...

I am extremely grateful for his hard work and in awe of his dedication, but at the same time it seems a little wrong that this is still possible. Our next biggest contributors that week, none of whom went crafting crazy, only achieved about a tenth of X's score across their legacies. I guess we'll get to enjoy this advantage while it lasts and see about conquering a few more planets while we're at it.

27/08/2018

Rishi Proprietor

While it was another one of 5.9.2's major features, I didn't buy the new Rishi stronghold until about a week after its release. Money wasn't an issue; as I've mentioned previously I just kind of fail when it comes to MMO housing. I like the concept but in practice I don't want to spend a lot of my gaming time rearranging furniture. So the Rishi stronghold can join Yavin, Manaan and Umbara on the list of strongholds I own because I can, but which don't contain anything but a couple of random decorations placed on a whim. Meanwhile, I spend all my idle time in the first room of my Coruscant (Republic) or Dromund Kaas (Empire) apartment.


I did have a bit of a walk around and was astounded by the sheer size of the Rishi stronghold. While I did explore it a little on the PTS, my observations there remained somewhat superficial, and I was honestly shocked by how hard a time I had even finding all the rooms in order to unlock them. At one point I caught myself instinctively opening my map to find the nearest quick travel point, but of course there weren't any because it's a stronghold, duh!

I did find out only today however that you can set different locations as your "loading-in spots" for different characters, which is very cool. If they added something like that for the other strongholds I might actually spend time in more than one room...


Interestingly the thing that eventually pushed me into purchasing the stronghold despite of my lack of enthusiasm for decorating was wanting to take a screenshot of myself with Speedy the turtle. For those not in the know, for purposes of providing ambience a little turtle patrols the beach inside the stronghold, and it looks like the Juvenile Turtle pet that you can buy from the Cartel Market. "Speedy" quickly became a fan favourite, just for a dev to decide to include a cruel joke: a hidden achievement that gets Speedy killed, forever replacing him with a small pile of bones and earning the responsible player the (very appropriate) legacy title "Horrible Person".

Now this has been interesting to me because so far, hidden achievements have always been something desirable - a way to show off that you possessed secret knowledge. But calling yourself a horrible person? Killing an adorable turtle? No, thanks! There may be no special title for it, but I consider myself a member of the highly exclusive club of people who know how to kill Speedy but prefer not to do it.

24/08/2018

Arena, Arena...

... it reminds me of a warzone story (imagine me singing this to the tune by Santana).


For all my fretting about the PvP changes coming in patch 5.9.2 I didn't even do any PvP right after its launch. It's really only been this week that I've somewhat gotten back into it, mainly for the Conquest points. (Pro tip: The one-time objective to complete the weekly warzone quest is really easy to achieve in the sub-70 brackets, what with it only requiring you to play 3-5 matches instead of 10-20).

Things went largely as expected. I didn't notice the mechanical changes very much, except when Giradda decided to kill me literally two steps from the goal line in Huttball, the bastard!

I do miss the faction rivalry already. From an immersion point of view it all just feels a bit meaningless now. "But Shintar," you might say, "how can you expect instanced PvP to be immersive and meaningful in the first place?" To that I can only say that it just was. Roleplaying isn't limited to emoting and having conversations in /say, and I used to enjoy playing the role of honourable Republic trooper out to defeat the evil Imps. It's hard to get any feeling of that when every single match puts you onto a mixed-faction team.

I guess there's always World PvP. I did run into some of that unexpectedly while chasing the Tunnel Lurker with some guildies, when we rounded a corner and suddenly found a bunch of Imps camping the entrance to the Republic base. To cries of "Gondor calls for aid" and "now the bloodlust's got him" mayhem ensued... for about five minutes. During which everyone was laughing and going on about the horrible lag in chat. But hey, I'll take what I can get.


Anyway, in terms of pops and balance, the ramped up cross-faction play has been a godsend. Especially in the sub-70 brackets, pops are so much faster, and at least so far my matches have felt much more balanced than previously. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I'm suddenly doing more winning than losing.

The most interesting thing to me so far has been the new arena, the Mandalorian Battle Ring. Even though I was superficially aware of its introduction, I never got into it on the PTS and managed to avoid any information about it other than a mention of it being located in Shae Vizla's compound on Rishi. After the matchmaking changes, I got to see a lot of it, especially on my midbies - presumably because not that many people were queueing, as arenas are only supposed to pop in unranked warzones now if there is a player shortage.

In my first match, we just walked up the ramp to the top of the giant plateau that dominates the arena and beat each other up there. Second time around though I was forced to learn that there was more to the terrain, as an enemy Marauder decided to make a run for it when he was the last person left on his team, and managed to disappear into a tunnel leading right through the centre of the plateau on ground level. As soon as we were chasing him out of it, he jumped onto some air vent thing like there is in Huttball and went flying out of reach - he was clearly already much more familiar with the arena's layout than we were. We did get him in the end - but it was... educational.

Finally, I had what must have been my most bizarre arena experience ever in another round in the Battle Ring. As soon as I loaded in I could tell from the banter among my team mates that a) they knew each other, b) they knew at least some of the enemy team and c) they had apparently already beaten these particular players repeatedly. When the round started with the enemy team still being a player short and my team mates asking me to hang back while one of them would try to take on all three enemies on his own, I thought it was just a bit of silliness that was more likely to allow our opponents to make up for their number handicap than anything.


Well, let's just say that's not how it went, and I actually watched the lone Juggernaut solo all three members of the enemy team. When he tried to repeat this feat in the second round, after they had been given a fourth player, he did die, though not without taking some people with him beforehand. I ended the match feeling slightly confused while I slowly meleed the last enemy to death, with the other two remaining team members standing by and spectating. Then they gave me their MVP votes and quit.

I've certainly had worse times in PvP.

20/08/2018

KotFE Chapters 4, 5 & 6 Master Mode

Just like when I did them on veteran mode, I'm finding that the KotFE chapters seem to fly by on master mode, and I'm actually eager to do more. They are much better balanced than the KotET ones, and while I still think that giving trash mobs the ability to kill you in three hits is not the best way of creating difficulty, I've got to admit that I'm deriving a certain entertainment out of puzzling out how to best tackle each fight. It certainly turns all the mobs between cut scenes into more than annoying bumps on the road.

After respeccing my Sage in chapter three I actually left her in Telekinetics spec (just to promptly go "oops" when I joined a story mode EC run as a healer and didn't realise that I was still set up to dps until we pulled the first boss). Burning things down quickly feels much more fun than endlessly drawn-out engagements, and the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing also adds a dimension of learning how to play to the whole thing.


Chapter four was fairly unremarkable; I just kept practising my default tactic of trying to nuke things as quickly as possible while slowly back-pedalling away from them. What was kind of funny was that I momentarily forgot that part of the chapter actually takes place in the outside world and the mobs were therefore not actually dangerous in any way - I've never crept around the Eternal Swamp that carefully before! The iknayid mini-boss at the end of the chapter killed me with its adds, but not before I had successfully taken down the boss itself.

In chapter five I remembered the Skytrooper Control Droid giving me trouble on veteran mode and the master mode version didn't disappoint either, though the difficulty seemed about the same actually. Playing as dps with a healing companion instead of as a healer with a tanking companion I had to change my approach a little however, making sure to get aggro on adds quickly so they wouldn't all shoot Lana, while also being cognisant of the fact that she wasn't able to keep up with healing me through the damage very well. In the recording I made of the fight you can see me messing up in more than one way, such as accidentally tab-targeting to the boss while he was immune to damage, thinking of using heroic moment way too late and letting Lana die, but I still made it through. I think the most useful tip I can give is to pause for a moment when you're down to a single add to give yourself a chance to get both you and your companion healed up as much as you can, as that's about the point at which you will be exposed to the least damage.



Chapter six featured all the fun of the Scion trial of course, which I recalled being interesting on veteran mode as well. I decided against uploading any recordings of it in the end however as I didn't find any of the fights too tough, despite of suffering a few deaths. With the first two batches of Scions it certainly helps that if you kill one of the two, the killed one won't respawn even if you die, leaving you to contend with only a single enemy afterwards. With the second batch (Vanat and Berusal) I even found that after dying to their initial ambush, I could just pull them separately (or at least Berusal didn't even aggro after I cast a CC on Vanat). Just watch out for Force Crush, that was still a one-shot on me even in full 248 gear.

The end of the chapter featured the fun of fighting Heskal without a companion of course, which went down similarly to how I did it veteran mode, with me focusing on doing damage while he was channeling Debris Storm (while avoiding its red circles obviously) and spending the rest of the time trying to line of sight his Turbulence, which still took off most of my health even in full 248 if I allowed it to hit me. It is interruptable the normal way too, but with my fairly long cooldown on that it felt safer to "save it" for situations when I might find myself unable to use line of sight instead. The parts when he summoned the various vision adds were actually kind of funny due to how little health they have: As I have the utility that causes your bubble to cause a bit of backlash damage, they basically kept killing themselves instantly as soon as they attacked.

I expect the next few chapters will continue to be relatively painless - the ones I'm most worried about based on my veteran mode experiences are chapter ten for its insane trash and sixteen for a potentially even more merciless incarnation of the Arcann fight. Nonethless, I'm actually looking forward to all of them!

17/08/2018

Developer Appreciation Week: Much Love for the SWTOR Dev Team

Blaugust continues, and it's Developer Appreciation Week! While my post on this subject last year was more general in tone and could be read as addressed to many developers, I do want to specifically give some love to the SWTOR devs this time.

It does tie into last year's post though in so far as I want to start with another lesson I learned at work in the past year: that it can be demotivating sometimes to work on a product/brand that is perpetually treated as an "also ran". It's disheartening to be strongly invested in something while constantly seeing that it's just not as popular as some of its "siblings", and feeling like you're caught in a vicious cycle where you sometimes can't do your best because of a lack of resources, yet because you're not doing so great you won't be given any more resources either.

That's definitely a place that everyone who currently works on SWTOR has got to be familiar with. EA likes to "forget" about it when they talk about their line-up of Star Wars games (though they've gotten a bit better at this in the last couple of years), while Bioware prefers to (understandably) focus on its own properties and tends to treat SWTOR as "that licensed thing we also do". Fans are so used to this that players positively freaked out from all the attention when Casey Hudson actually devoted a whole sentence of his 600+ word "Mid-Summer Update" on the official Bioware website to SWTOR. Long story short: SWTOR devs, I know your work often doesn't get much attention, but do remember that there are still hundreds of thousands us out there who enjoy what you do and are grateful for you doing it.

Next, let's talk about a few specific things that I appreciate about the SWTOR dev team.

First off, I love how passionate they tend to sound whenever they get to talk about the game. Charles Boyd in particular is a poster boy for doing what he loves, what with parading around as a trooper in his free time. (I think he builds blaster replicas in his garage too? Or am I confusing that with something somebody else said?) Every time he and/or Eric and Keith appear on a podcast I immediately get excited about the game again, even if I'd been in a bit of a lull before that. You can tell that they aren't just people trying to sell you something as good because that's what it says in their notes, but that they are genuinely into the game and care about all its little details.

At this point, can I also give a shout-out to Eric actually? I'm not really sure how good a job he's doing if you did a comparative ranking of MMO community managers as I'm not sure about everything that's involved, but I simply appreciate that he's stuck with the role for more than five years now (and he was already working at Bioware before that too). To this day he appears to remain completely unperturbed by all the toxicity he must undoubtedly be encountering on a daily basis, always letting it roll off his back while trying to focus on what people may be trying to communicate underneath their potentially nasty words. That's a really valuable skill, and with him having occupied the same role for so many years now he's kind of become "the face of SWTOR" to fans simply because absolutely everybody knows him, which is also nice in terms of consistency.

Tying into that, I'm always impressed by how much the SWTOR team tries to listen to the fans. They haven't always been great at this in the past, but they've been working on it for a long time now and things have improved a lot. I'm always baffled when people claim that the devs don't listen - mind you, listening to the players doesn't mean that everyone always gets what they want: in fact, that's literally impossible as some players' wants will be diametrically opposed to each other. However, so many things they've added to the game - especially more recently - have been directly based on player feedback, from larger changes such as cutting the "Knights of" story arc short and refocusing on group content to small things such as making previously static companions customisable or changing the colour of the sand in the Rishi stronghold. To be honest, sometimes I almost feel like they listen to players too much and could dare to do their own thing a bit more, haha! (I mean, just because people disliked Saresh that didn't mean you had to completely assassinate her character, you know...)

In conclusion: Thanks for continuing to be passionate about what you're doing! As long as you'll remain dedicated to making the best damn Bioware Star Wars game you can, us players will always happily come along for the ride.

13/08/2018

Inventory Management

One of the shared writing prompts inspired by Blaugust that I've seen going around in the past few days has been on the subject of inventory management (appropriately inspired by Bhagpuss of Inventory Full). I think this is quite a fun subject to talk about, not least because a lot of it applies across different games but also because I actually kind of enjoy fiddling with my inventory (to a certain extent).

Here are the people I found who have already written about the subject at the time of posting this. Feel free to let me know if I left anyone out:
So one thing I found interesting was that in many of these posts, people talk about the annoyances of inventory management and dealing with a lack of storage space, but there was very little about how they do actually manage their inventory on a day-to-day basis, so I thought I'd write about that.

At its core, my system is very straightforward: Put stuff you want to keep and always have with you (such as toys or stacks of consumables) in the top left corner. Stuff I want to keep for a while but expect to use up soon (such as armour pieces which I'm planning to wear but for which I'm not high enough level yet) goes into the bottom right corner. Everything else goes in between. In games where things go into multiple bags instead of a single unified inventory, I might spread things out across different bags, but the core system is still the same.


The key thing about this is that I always know where new stuff goes: in the bit I marked in green on the screenshot. I'm always a little horrified when people show me screenshots of their own inventories and they are not just very full but have random gaps everywhere. No wonder you're having trouble keeping things organised if you never know where your newest bit of loot might end up. Random gaps are the enemy. I hate it when one of them appears in my "keep this" rows (because the item I stored there was unexpectedly used up or disappeared), then some random junk item ends up filling the hole and keeps occupying that slot for ages because I never notice it or think to look for something to vendor there.

I always make sure to visit vendors religiously. Always keep as much free space for the next adventure as possible. My biggest problem are usually items that I don't want to vendor because they could be useful later (to me or even someone else). Actually, now that I think about it that may well be why ESO never clicked for me. That game allows you to gather everything and learn every crafting profession, so my bags filled up with crafting-related items repeatedly before I'd even hit level five. I didn't want to throw them away because I knew they had a purpose... usually what I'd do in such a scenario would be to visit the auction house and at least sell things to other people so they can use them, but of course ESO doesn't have an auction house. Faced with a never-ending avalanche of potentially useful stuff that I didn't know what to do with I preferred to log off instead, heh. (Not to mention that ESO doesn't allow you to arrange your inventory the way you want to either.)

Anyway, I digress. Lest you think that I'm some sort of inventory management guru, let me assure you that I'm not. Like many people I struggle with wanting to hold on to too many things that really aren't that valuable or important when you think about it. The above screenshot actually showed the inventory of one of my alts, so let me show you my main's for comparison:


Yes, it's still orderly, but way too full of random stuff. I don't really have that many things I need or want to carry around with me at all times, I'm just too lazy to sort them out. I highlighted some of them in red. For example I always have not one but two holo trainers with me - why? Since I first hit the level cap back in 2012, I probably haven't spent more than a few hours levelling on my main (every time the cap got raised basically). Or those four goodies from... I think it was the pre-order bonus? I never use those, ever. But I guess I feel I should have them around just in case I suddenly need to prove my veteran cred or something. Then there's that social token that has no purpose other than to make you do a little cheer emote and which I only own because there used to be a quest that told you to buy one. (I think that mission has been removed since then.) Also, two different stacks of anniversary fireworks? Really?

The bottom right corner doesn't fare much better. How likely am I to use those bound pink and purple dyes that I got from a cantina crate any time soon? And oh my god, the armour shells! Yes, it makes sense to keep some of them to upgrade later but how many different sets of armour do I realistically expect to be buying in the future? Maybe writing about this will help me with finally overcoming the inertia that has kept those items in their places for so long and encourage me to engage in some spring/autumn cleaning.

10/08/2018

More Conquest Tweaks

Tuesday's patch was mostly about the Rishi stronghold and PvP changes, but there were some tweaks to Conquest as well, which are shaping up to have a bigger impact on me than I originally expected.

On the plus side, it looks like Bioware finally, finally managed to fix the reset bug on their third attempt, which had previously allowed people to repeat objectives that were meant to be limited to once a day ad infinitum. As I noted when I originally analysed the Conquest revamp, one of its major goals seemed to be to actually get people working together and to reduce the impact that a single person could have a guild's score, but this bug effectively negated that. Someone who was both "in the know" and willing to cheat the system could still carry their guild pretty heavily, potentially skewing its results upwards by quite a bit. So it will be interesting to see what the scoreboard will look like by the end of this week, which will effectively be the first week of the new system working as intended. And if it turns out that the scores awarded for certain objectives are still too low for comfort (or even too high), at least we'll all be on the same page about it.

What came a bit out of left field for me was the part of the patch notes that stated that the downtime between Conquest events was going to be reduced from 24 hours to a single hour on Tuesday evenings. I was surprised by how dismayed I was to read this.

I've always perceived the Monday Conquest "downtime" as a pleasant break intended for those who had given Conquest their all in the previous week, giving people time to reflect on what had worked and what hadn't, as well as to study the final scoreboard to see how their guild held up compared to the competition. In my own guild I'd gotten into the habit recently of spending Monday evenings noting down people's individual scores to give them credit for their efforts on the guild forums - while there is a top five display on the revamped guild Conquest tab, the fact that it's character- instead of legacy-based makes it heavily biased towards people with no or few alts, while the guy who scored exactly 15k points on fourteen alts gets no recognition within the game itself.

With this change to the system, things like my manual calling out or even rewarding of players for their Conquest contributions will have to become a thing of the past. Hell, I won't even know the guild's final placement on the scoreboard, since it will only be visible for an hour during a time when I'm still on my way home from work, and by the time I'll get home Conquest will already have reset.

I guess that's a niche problem to have, but it still makes me a bit sad and I can't help but wonder what was wrong with allowing for a day of rest and reflection between Conquests.

08/08/2018

KotFE Chapters 1, 2 & 3 Master Mode

With over a year having passed since I completed KotFE on veteran mode and four months since I finished KotET on master mode, I've been overdue for ticking that last achievement off the list: KotFE master mode. To be honest, the main thing that was holding me back was indecision in regards to which character to take into it.


My Sage was an obvious choice. As my main alt she's the character I know how to play best after my main, and she's really overdue for getting KotFE and beyond done from a story point of view as well. I had originally planned to take her through it as my second character after my main, but then kept putting it off due to worries about another light side playthrough not resulting in enough variety and all of the consular companions except Qyzen remaining missing. With Iresso having returned recently and Zenith at least on the radar, there's definitely some incentive there to finally get started in order to see their return stories. On the other hand... Sages are kind of lacking in damage reduction cooldowns, and just how many times do I want to heal things to death anyway?

It was mainly the latter which made me consider my Gunslinger as an alternative choice. Taking a damage dealer with great survival cooldowns through the content just seemed much more appealing from a mechanics point of view. Then again, I already have a smuggler all caught up with the current storyline; could I really justify taking another through when I hadn't completed KotFE/KotET on all base classes yet?

Sentiment and story eventually won out over gameplay considerations, and so Golu began her journey into KotFE. I was immediately treated to some cringe-worthy cut scenes as the bug that causes certain armour sets to display their Imperial look on Republic side apparently still isn't fixed yet.

Anyway, as was my experience with veteran mode, so far KotFE's master mode hasn't been nearly as bad as KotET's, which is why I figured I could summarise the first three chapters in a single post.

I knew chapter one couldn't be that hard since I remembered that there had been a time when people had made a point of speed-running it for CXP, to the point where Bioware felt the need to nerf its rewards. I died a couple of times to some of the skytrooper mini bosses since my damage output was low and I misjudged what to interrupt sometimes, but that was a simple learning experience. Only the last boss seemed to pose a little bit of a challenge, but even he was relatively easy to defeat with a bit of pillar-humping.



Chapter two was a similar experience, which was again not unexpected, as that too had had a reputation for making a good CXP farm for a while. The trash hit less hard as well. I had to laugh though when one of the mini bosses that are based on your class literally one-shot me when I failed to interrupt one of his casts.

The one thing I was curious about was the Monolith fight at the end, because somewhat contrary to the former I had also heard reports of this fight being quite hard. I ended up one-shotting him myself, but it was very slow and involved my character running in circles and healing herself for ten minutes. Afterwards I googled the fight to figure out what I had been missing and apparently you can climb on a rock in a certain spot where he can't hit you and easily beat him that way. Oh well, my way feels more legit to me even if it took longer!



The biggest and very unexpected road block I ran into so far came in the form of the Ground Assault Walker mini boss in chapter three that blocks your way just before you cross that bridge on your way to the droid factory. This is where the Sage's lack of damage reduction cooldowns really hurt me for the first time, because I couldn't survive more than a couple of hits from the walker and the small, fenced-in area wasn't really suited to kiting or breaking line of sight either.

I started by giving Lana some gifts to raise her measly influence rank from one to at least fifteen, but after that seemed to make no noticeable difference I decided that clearly the solution was instead to burn down the walker myself before it could kill me. So I did something I'd never done before: I respecced my Sage to dps, and funnily enough, just like in KotET chapter one, totally clueless dps was the way to victory over skilled healing. Even though I neither knew how to play Telekinetics nor had any accuracy on my gear, I one-shot the boss on my next attempt (though the adds got me afterwards... but it didn't matter because the boss was dead). I expect that this will be something that I'll have to repeat in future chapters.

05/08/2018

800 Posts!

Time to celebrate another blogging milestone! It's been nearly a year since I hit the 700 post mark, as my posting frequency has dropped a bit in the past year. The problem is that I'm just trying to juggle too many things at the same time: Not only do I have a full-time job with a long commute, am going all out on SWTOR which inculdes running operations three nights a week, participating in Conquest and blogging about it, I've also been giving more attention to my secondary MMO, Neverwinter, and to making videos. Not enough hours in the day! Not that this stops me from trying.

Anyway, I still haven't really come up with a good replacement for the old Google Analytics search term fun, so I thought I'd celebrate with a reprise of the "most popular posts on my blog" theme from last time, only instead of looking at my top ten posts of all time according to Blogger, I'll be logging at my top ten posts from the past year according to GA. There are some interesting differences.

1. The Best Classes to Take into KotFE / KoTET (2017) - 1249 views

Okay, so this one was in my top ten posts of all time last year, and it was the "rising star" of the lot so to speak, as it was the most recent post to earn the honour of being included. As I said at the time, it covers a question that I think is relevant to many new and returning players and was linked on reddit, so that explains a lot of its popularity.

2. Galactic Command Is Alright Now (2017) - 767 views

This post made it to second place mostly because it was also linked on the SWTOR subreddit, by the ever lovely Swtorista, who thought that it raised some interesting points. Unfortunately she didn't exactly do me a favour in this case as most people there seemed to disagree with my stance, which is fine, but some of them actually got quite worked up about it too (as people do on the internet). It was quite amusing when someone in the reddit thread concluded that my opinion proved that I was clearly too much of a casual who couldn't have been playing for very long, but some of the anger people expressed was less fun. I even felt a bit sad for some of them, because what else must be going on in your life if a reward system in a video game can make you that mad? I mean, obviously we all care about this stuff more than average or we wouldn't be writing about it, but still... At least I didn't see anyone getting really nasty (or if they did, the mods were quick to delete those posts), and no toxicity spilled over onto the blog.

3. So what's the difference between beating Revan solo vs. in the operation? (2015) - 665 views

I've often said that I'm not a guide writer, but sometimes I end up writing one almost by accident, usually by talking about something that gave me pause or personally caused me trouble but which is simultaneously a minor enough issue that nobody had thought of writing a "proper" guide for it before. This is one of those posts, as I reviewed the option in the Shadow of Revan story on Yavin to deal with the temple solo or in a group. As I said in the post, it was ultimately much ado about nothing and not very well explained, so I'm not surprised that people are still googling it to find out what all the fuss is about.

4. Which Healing Class Should I Choose? (2016) - 551 views

Okay, this was one of my rare attempts to write a proper guide, even if it was a very short one. It didn't really gain much traction after its original publishing date in February 2016, but earlier this year Swtorista (again!) gave it a signal boost in a post on the official forums called "The Ultimate Guide of Guides for SWTOR 2018", in which she collected and curated links to a bunch of different community resources. I felt quite honoured to be included in that.

5. The Art of Achieving Map Completion (2014) - 495 views

This was another one of my more accidental guides, and yes, it was in my top ten of all time as well. A guide to one specific achievement is always something a bit niche, but in this case even more so since exploration is not something for which you can easily write up a few instructions, as success is more about understanding how the underlying system works than about following a prescribed order of steps. Good thing I quite like writing long rambles along those lines. It's also worth noting that this is the oldest post to still make this list.

6. The Missing Companions (2016) - 395 views

Here's the last one that was also in my top ten of all time, the one about which companions still hadn't returned after the release of KotFE. Considering that this post is now two years old and we've had a veritable surge of companion returns this year, it's getting more and more out of date though... For anyone interested I can recommend Vulkk's Companions Status List instead, which is much more detailed and he actually keeps it up to date.

7. A Traitor Among the Chiss - The Story (2017) - 359 views

Seeing this one on the list actually came as a bit of a surprise to me, as it was "just" a story review. Why were people so keen on reading someone else's thoughts on this flashpoint? Did lapsed players want to know what was happening to help them decide whether to re-sub for this new content or not? Maybe it was just because this update raised some questions at the time it came out, such as about Theron's real status or what was revealed by the mysterious star map, both of which were matters I addressed in the post.

8. KotFE Chapter by Chapter - Chapter 16: The Battle of Odessen (2016) - 274 views

Another kind of surprising one to me. I have several theories as to why people might be finding this one. One is that they are looking for help with the Arcann fight, for which the post provides some guidance but not much, and the other is that some might be agonising over whether to shoot at Senya or not and wondering what consequences it has. Surprise: there are none; the outcome of the chapter is the same either way.

9. KotET Chapter by Chapter - Chapter 6: The Dragon's Maw (2017) - 250 views

I'm guessing this one gets a fair number of hits because people are looking for hints for the puzzle section. Unfortunately I didn't provide any myself, but I did include links to actual guides in the post, so I don't feel too bad about people finding this post while searching for help.

10. So THERE's That Skytrooper Control Device (2016) - 230 views

This post is pretty much what it says on the tin - an explanation of where to find the Skytrooper Control Device for the bonus mission in KotFE chapter 15. Ironically, the last time I played through this chapter, I failed to find it myself again. After writing a whole post with screenshots about it. I suck. Still, I'm glad it's on the list because it's one of those few posts that were specifically meant to be helpful, and it looks like it has been.

It's interesting to me to see how many of last year's most popular posts were related to story. I guess this is not something that a lot of SWTOR fan sites discuss in depth anymore?

Anyway, see you in about a year for a celebration of the next 100!

02/08/2018

I Waited 3 1/2 Years For This

More than three years ago, I mentioned in a post that I had never killed the Revanite Walker world boss on Yavin 4. As I explained at the time, he just seemed to spend most of his time dead, as in: already killed at the hands of other people.

As the years went by, the Lance Squadron Commander slowly became less interesting for guilds to kill and could be encountered slightly more frequently... but at the same time there was also less interest in killing him from my guildies. And whenever we did have a large enough group of players online and I actually remembered to bring up the matter of killing this particular boss, someone else had once again beaten us to it.

Well, yesterday it finally happened. I was just finishing off tanking a partial guild run of EC story mode when another officer excitedly called out on TeamSpeak that he'd got a group for the walker together and the boss was actually up too! (The reason there was such large interest in killing him was that this actually awards conquest points this week.) I was so there!


Aaand then we killed him. After all this time it was actually kind of anticlimactic, especially with people repeatedly going on about how much tougher he used to be "back in the day". It's not like I'd know!

Still, it definitely felt good to finally be able to hand in a quest that had been sitting in my log for three and a half years. (It's actually a weekly repeatable too, hah!) Now I just need to repeat the kill nine more times for the final achievement... at my current rate I should have it by the end of 2050.

30/07/2018

#Blaugust Reborn - Why Blog?

SWTOR has a pretty active and awesome community of fan content creators, but as a blogger, things can still feel a bit lonely sometimes since so much of people's focus when it comes to content creation has shifted to podcasting and streaming/video-making these days. Well, in the month of August at least, no blogger has to feel lonely because Belghast of the Tales of the Aggronaut blog is hosting Blaugust! This used to be an event about posting every single day throughout the month of August, which is why I avoided it in the past to be honest - my days of wanting to post something every single day are long past me.


However, this year he decided to give it a broader appeal. You can read all the details here, but as a short summary you could say that the event is about the following:

- Encouraging people to blog, whether they are new to it or "hardened veterans". Most of the people involved write about gaming, but it's not strictly limited to that.
- Exchange links to increase exposure of your own posts and to find new blogs to read yourself.
- Share tips and advice about the subject of blogging (the event is also supposed to incorporate what used to be called the Newbie Blogger Initiative in past years).
- Developer Appreciation Week! I quite liked that one last year.

I signed up as a contributor, which doesn't really mean anything special for the blog as I'm not going to try to ramp up my posting frequency or anything, and I don't necessarily expect to make use of all the different writing prompts - but I will be mentioning the event every now and then and am fully planning to check out other people's blogs throughout the month. My blogroll could certainly do with some fresh blood.

If you are thinking about starting a blog, or maybe reviving one that you started in the past and then abandoned, this is the perfect opportunity to do so! We sometimes like to joke that blogging is dead, but more seriously: I believe that despite of social and new media, blogging will still remain relevant for quite a while and I'll give you three reasons why:

Controlled Discourse

Recent social media kerfuffles have once again highlighted that for all the connections that social media provide, they can also be incredibly vicious and unpleasant. We tend to forget that every public Tweet we make is basically like shouting into a megaphone, because most of us only ever generate a very limited response. However, things could basically get picked up by the wrong crowd at any moment and then all hell breaks loose.

I actually didn't know whether to be amused or sad the other day when in a discussion about this issue, I saw several people say things along the lines of: "If you just want to shout into the void without anyone ever responding, get a blog!" I mean, yes, you can make a blog that doesn't allow comments, but I think for most of us having comments enabled is part of the appeal. We do want to hear responses to our ramblings.

Anyway, the nice thing about blogging is that you control the discourse. People starting to flood a post or the whole blog with unwanted comments? You can selectively limit them without breaking a stride when it comes to your own output. Also, personally I've found that even if you allow completely anonymous comments, it seems that the feeling of "being on your turf" somewhat discourages people from leaving outright nasty comments, at least compared to an open platform like Twitter or reddit. So again, to make a long story short: blogs are nice because they allow you to have public discussions with strangers but with a safety net. I wouldn't be surprised if people actually came to appreciate this more again with all the social media ugliness that we've been seeing recently.

Searchability

I get that not everyone is as interested in archiving and preserving their own words as I am (it's pretty conceited, isn't it), but a properly formatted blog is like a miniature library that makes the past both easier to remember and straightforward to navigate. Between an archive sorted by year and month, tags and the simple search function, I can find any old piece of writing that I want to revisit with ease. Likewise the few more useful posts that I've written are merely a Google search away from anyone else who might want to find them.

One of the big problems I have with audio and video is that it's a pain to find things again later on. Ever felt your heart sink when someone tells you to check out so-and-so talking about such-and-such and they link you to a one-hour video without a clue of where the actually relevant part begins and ends? Or maybe you vaguely recalled hearing an interview in which something was said that you'd like to revisit... but you have no idea how to find it again based on that fleeting bit of memory alone. I've even run into it myself when recording my Pugging with Shintar videos, when I suddenly find myself thinking: "Didn't I talk about this before?" but I have no way of verifying my suspicion other than re-watching all of my old videos to find where it might have come up (which I usually can't be bothered with).

Maybe this is something that technology will be able to solve with time, but I wouldn't hold my breath for it happening any time soon. For now, blogging is still the way to go when it comes to creating content that will survive the test of time.

Time-Sharing

I suspect that one of the reasons that blogging and I suppose reading in general is on a bit of a downturn is that we live in an age of multi-tasking, where people don't feel productive if they aren't doing at least two things at the same time, and reading is really limited in that regard. You might be able to whip out a book while training on your exercise bike or something, but generally speaking, if you want to read something, you have to focus on it. This is a major advantage of podcasts and streamers, that you can listen to them on your way to work or watch a video while knitting a scarf.

However, one of the big trade-offs that comes with this is that both watching and listening take far, far longer to impart the same information than the written word. I reckon that most blog posts I read throughout the week don't take more than two to five minutes to read, with many taking even less, while most podcasts and videos that pop up on my feed tend to range from fifteen minutes to an hour. This is the main reason I'm really bummed that so many of SWTOR's content creators are focused on video these days - because while I'd be happy to say, read three blog posts about a new stronghold, I don't really want to watch three twenty-minute videos about said stronghold, even if they are all nicely done. Since each individual's content demands more time, I'm actually following much fewer of them than I follow bloggers, because there are only so many hours in my day - which is a shame in a way.

Long story short: reading and writing allow you to share information much faster and with more people, with less time commitment required on the end of the consumer.

Did I convince you to try blogging yet? Well, even if not it might still be worth your time to check out the list of Blaugust blogs and read about other people's adventures in gaming at least (not necessarily in SWTOR). I promise it will take no time at all!

27/07/2018

Interview Insights

If there's one thing that the SWTOR fan community is lacking right now, I would say it's a site that gathers and curates news and articles about the game (I'm not talking about just re-posting patch notes here, or about guide writing). Anyone remember SWTOR Network? Man, I loved that site, and not just because they linked to me a lot. It's such a shame that it ended up being abandoned.


Memories...

As it stands, it can be easy to miss things like interviews if they don't get reposted as official news anywhere, and sometimes I don't come across them until quite some time after they've been released.

For example the Passionately Casual podcast had a great two-part interview with Eric Musco and Charles Boyd recently. Part one was largely about upcoming content and I actually already listened to it over a month ago, but I didn't load up the more lore-focused part two until the other day, and boy, was it even more interesting than I had expected! Everyone has their own topics of interest of course, but the two things that stood out to me the most were a mention of Zenith (the consular companion) and an almost off-hand comment about something going back to early SWTOR's development.

The thing with Zenith was that dataminers found files for an Alliance alert for him a whole two years ago now (something I mentioned here), but to date he is one of the few companions that remains missing post-KotFE. In the interview, Charles brought up why that is: Apparently what they had planned was similar to another Alliance alert that was released around that time and which wasn't well received, so they decided to not go ahead with it and have now come up with an alternative scenario that they think suits the character and will be received much better.

This is all good news as far as I'm concerned, but I couldn't help but wonder which Alliance alert he was referring to, mostly because I don't remember any of them being particularly badly received. I've been trying to remember which alerts came out around that time, and I think we can narrow it down to Bowdaar, Broonmark and Guss Tuno. Bowdaar's and Guss's were among my own top five Alliance alerts! I guess Broonmark's wasn't that great, seeing how it was a puzzle that wasn't much of a puzzle. I now remember that Cal ranked it as his absolute least favourite actually. Could that have been it, that Zenith's alert was supposed to involve another puzzle?

The other thing that was mentioned in the interview and which blew my mind was that apparently in SWTOR's very early development stages, they originally intended to have three factions: Jedi, Sith and Underworld characters. It's easy to see how classes like the smuggler or bounty hunter would have slotted into that third faction. I have to admit that as much as I like the game as it is, the idea of a third playable faction sounds like something that could have had the potential to be extremely cool as well. To think of the possibilities...

In other interview news, long-time Bioware vet James Ohlen, who's been working on SWTOR from the start, recently left Bioware and used the occasion to grant a little interview to Game Informer. Most people probably latched onto what he had to say about Anthem, but I found the tidbits he provided about SWTOR the most interesting. This comment made me laugh:

Working on the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was the game director, which meant I had the most power, but I often felt like I was the captain of the Titanic and I could just steer it a teeny tiny bit if I put all my efforts into it.

I get what he means, but did SWTOR really need any more Titanic comparisons? He couldn't have chosen a worse analogy there I think.

The other line that stood out to me was this one, when asked about whether he has any regrets:

With Star Wars: The Old Republic I wish that I pushed a little bit more toward making it kind of Knights of The Republic online rather than “Star Wars World of Warcraft.”

This is interesting to me because people can't agree to this day whether SWTOR is/was too much or not enough like WoW - which is exactly the argument people got into in the comment section of MMORPG.com when that site linked to the interview. Of course, for me the balance between those two aspects at launch was actually just right, but I guess I'm in the minority with that opinion.

25/07/2018

Conquerors of Alderaan!

Since at least one commenter asked about it: Yes, we won! To be honest, I was planning to write about it anyway; I was just very busy yesterday.


Our lead held and we finished with a comfortable margin of victory. In fact, looking at the entire scoreboard at the end of the event, it was revealing and positively surprising to see that only six guilds in total had higher scores than us as far as I could see (there might have been another couple of high scorers on Imperial Balmorra and Taris; I didn't relog to check those), meaning that actually, we probably would have been able to take on some of those competitors we had so cautiously and intentionally avoided when choosing where to invade. Then again, some guilds' results are probably a bit deceiving - if they faced no real competition for their invasion target, they didn't have to try very hard to win - however, that doesn't mean that they aren't capable of scoring much higher when push comes to shove.

I was so ridiculously happy with the result - I mentioned previously that I've taken up my old habit of tallying up total scores per legacy at the end of each event again - that I sent everyone who had contributed at least 15k points a thank you note in the mail. (As I did so, I learned that you can't send more than one in-game mail per minute, probably to counter credit spammers... let's just say that this resulted in a pretty long evening.) It seems a little silly if you think about how ultimately inconsequential the rewards for first place are... or if you're in one of the even bigger guilds who routinely win Conquest every week anyway. However, for us this was our biggest success to date, and I just loved seeing everyone work together and contribute in their own way: officers organising extra events to help people gain points, or guys who rarely bother with Conquest making that extra push to hit their personal target on at least one character, even if they weren't around to interact with other guild members very much otherwise. It's the sort of thing that really makes MMOs special to me and gives me warm and fuzzy feelings inside.


Now we've definitely earned some rest until the next Total Galactic War though!