30/04/2020

Master Mode Flashpoint Tips: Commander Mokan

Introduction

As mentioned previously, I've been running a lot of master mode flashpoints with guildies over the past couple of weeks, and one of the nice things about this has been achieving true mastery of some of the harder boss fights in them. I've said in the past that I generally like challenging fights, but the problem is that spending all night wiping on a boss just to finally be triumphant in the end is an experience with diminishing returns. Wiping again the second and third time you do the boss, because the fight is still hard, is simply not that fun. However, there does come a point when after doing it a few more times you actually achieve true mastery of the mechanics, and then it becomes fun again when you one-shot those very same tough bosses and can revel in just how pro you are now.

I thought it would be nice to share some of the insights I gained about a few of the tougher flashpoint bosses this way, and I wanted to start with Commander Mokan, more commonly known as the bonus boss in master mode Battle of Rishi. I killed him back in the day when he was new, but it was painful and messy, and while I went on to kill him again after that, the fight remained confusing and frustrating to me all the same.

The problem is that while there are some guides out there such as Dulfy's or Vulkk's, I found that they focus more on explaining what the boss does instead of telling you what you need to do. (I do absolutely recommend them if you want to gain a deeper understanding of how everything works.) For me though, it's all nice and well to know that the tank needs to be cleansed, but just when is the best time for that? And yes, I know that I want exactly four stacks of the green debuff, but something always seems to go wrong no matter how we go about getting them, so what's up with that? Fear not, for I'm going to explain to you exactly what you need to do, and you'll probably be surprised by how straightforward it is once you boil it down to the basics.


The boss in a nutshell

He basically alternates between two phases, which I shall simply call "green phase" and "red phase". During red phase, all he does is stand there and channel an AoE that does massive damage to everyone in the room. During green phase, he alternates between doing two things: cast a conal AoE on the tank (he does this three times), and put down a green circle on a non-tank (this he also does three times). No person will get more than one circle on them during each green phase, unless someone has died and been revived, stealthed out, or the tank lost aggro. If that happens, you're probably about to wipe. The fight always starts with a green phase.

What to do as a tank

Congratulations, you've got the easy job! Just point him away from the rest of the group, hold aggro, and try not to die.

As it's really important that you don't lose aggro at any point, I recommend starting with a "taunt fluff", which is to say that you taunt the boss on pull, use your AoE taunt as soon as the taunt debuff runs out, and then use your single target taunt again as soon as it comes off cooldown. This should generally see you through safely even against the most overzealous damage dealers.

Use available damage reduction cooldowns during the red phase to make things easier on the healer, but make sure not to use anything that purges debuffs on you, as that will cause you to lose all your green stacks and result in death.

What to do as a damage dealer

Make sure to stand on the opposite side of the boss from the tank and spread out during green phase, so that when a green circle hits you, nobody else gets hit at the same time. Also try not to pull aggro. During red phase, stack up on the boss to make healing easier, and use any damage reduction cooldowns you have.

The big challenge for dps during green phase is

Circle Management

If you are the first person to get a green circle thrown at you, stand in it until you have two stacks, then move out. Once the second circle lands on someone else, step into that briefly to get your stacks up to four.

If you are the second person to get a green circle thrown at you, stand in it until you have four stacks, then move out.

If the first two circles have landed on other people and you know that the last one will be on you, step into the second circle to get two stacks from it, then step away. When the third circle lands on you, get another two stacks to get up to four. Then stack up for red phase, which will be imminent.

Rinse and repeat when the boss goes back to green phase, and continue until he's dead.

What to do as a healer

As a healer you undoubtedly have the hardest job in this fight, but it's still not quite as bad as it may seem at first. First off, you have to practice circle management as described above, just like the dps, while also healing people.

You will also have to cleanse the tank, but this is actually really straightforward: just cast cleanse on them twice per green phase (when they first get hit by the green cone, and then again whenever your cleanse is off cooldown). I used to fret about when to cleanse and how often but it's really that simple, as the tank always gets six stacks of the debuff on them throughout the duration of a single green phase, and by removing two you leave them at the desired four.

During red phase, make sure to stack up with everyone else and use all your big AoE heals.


I hope that by following these simple steps, you too will soon be able to one-shot this guy, making him just another stepping stone on your journey through Battle of Rishi.

25/04/2020

The Tank's Lament

I've been running a lot of master mode flashpoints over the last few weeks, mostly in full guild groups, and with our raid tanks not having much of a taste for doing even more tanking outside of operations, this has led to a resurgence of me tanking on my alts. Trawling through my blog archives, I'd forgotten just how much time I used to spend tanking years ago, but somehow I just let all of that fade away. My most recent post with the tanking tag is more than two and a half years old.

Anyway, I'm back in the saddle with a total of six max-level tanking alts, three of each class per faction. They are all in full 306 gear, even if it's not optimised, and I think I have a decent grip on mechanics. I'm undoubtedly best at playing Vanguard/Powertech (because it's easy) and worst at Shadow/Assassin (because it's complicated), but I can get by in small group content and on the easier operation difficulties on all of them.

It's been interesting to remember all the things I used to enjoy about tanking: being a group's guide and protector, and having the control to line up a pull just so, for example by popping a reflect at just the right moment to maximise my threat, or by getting a group of mobs to line up perfectly for easy AoEing.

Unfortunately, people don't like to wait three seconds to allow me to do this because they want to pull now, so my reflect is useless because all the aggro is on the healer and since my AoE taunt is on cooldown I end running in circles like a muppet instead, manually hitting every mob in the face just to prevent the healer from getting mauled from five different directions.

A more experienced tank in the guild has been teaching me all kinds of little tricks that I'm always in awe of and that make me feel very clever when I actually remember them and manage to execute them perfectly, whether it involves standing in just the right place to counter a boss mechanic or using a certain Tactical in a specific situation.

But again, people can't wait three seconds for me to position the boss or swap a piece of gear, because... I don't know? So off they go again pulling everything at random, because "it's one of the easy flashpoints anyway" and as long as we don't wipe it doesn't matter, right?

I've always said that there's a special relationship between tanks and healers - and in hindsight I'm clearly biased, considering that I ended up marrying my last pet tank. You don't have to be marriage material as a tank for me to love you when I'm healing though. I'll want to stick close to you anyway, viewing every group as you and me against the world - I mean, we can do without those pesky damage dealers if we really need to, right?

Unsurprisingly, when I'm tanking I tend to project this attitude onto my own healers, assuming that they'll stick close to me and rely on me for their protection as well. When the healer does appear to share this mindset, it's great and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (and incidentally also moves that person up in my healing priority list if we're doing operations together).

Unfortunately, a lot of healers don't have the same view of things as me. So I stand there forlornly with only half health after just picking up my loot, as the healer didn't even bother to throw a heal over time on me after the last fight and instead ran off to charge right into the next pull, AoEing everything as if he signed up for the group as a damage dealer. I thought we had something special! You're breaking my heart, man.


/cry

If tank and healer make a really good team, you can even pull off some pretty crazy stunts, such as charging into a huge AoE pull together and not dying.

Or someone else who's not the tank just makes a huge pull without any consideration of the consequences and you wipe.

In fairness, the tank is but one person in a flashpoint group, and who's to say that everything has to be about what they like? Maybe everyone else is just having more fun doing things their way? What makes the tank's sense of fun more important than anyone else's?

Nothing of course. But if you want other people to tank for you, you might want to consider not turning every trash pull into an uphill battle for them. (I sometimes get the impression that a lot of people who don't tank don't even realise what a huge difference it can make for a tank's sense of enjoyment and - maybe more importantly - ability to control a pull to get the initial aggro vs. having all the mobs immediately run off to chase after someone else.) Else you may find yourself waiting on the group finder soon, wondering why your requests for a tank in guild chat were met with nothing but silence.

(I know this post probably sounds a bit emo and it is, but sometimes writing these things down can be really cathartic. It doesn't always get me this down when I'm tanking and people are impatient and uncooperative in their play style, but when I'm in the wrong mood it can be downright depressing - especially when it's guildies, who are supposed to be better than pugs! I've thought of trying to explain some of these things to others before - when they were actually occurring that is - but unsurprisingly, hurrying after impatient players that are about to get themselves in trouble yet again (while also clearly thinking that nothing is wrong) is not exactly conducive to verbalising complex emotions.)

(On a different and more amusing note, as I went through my blog archives about tanking, I found this post about tanking in WoW from more than nine years ago, and I had to laugh at the way past me described pugs as basically having two attitudes to you as a tank: either they think you're their boss or they think you're their bitch. I used to be a lot more patient with the latter group than I am these days. Ain't nobody got time for that.)

22/04/2020

Conquest Craziness

Yesterday was patch day, and it was once again time for Bioware to mess with Conquest. They had announced more than a month ago that they were planning to make changes to the system again, and I thought about writing a post about it at the time, but to be honest I couldn't quite summon up much emotion about what was being discussed on the forums back then. The only way I can think of describing how the proposed changes sounded to me is that they seemed weird but inoffensive. I wasn't entirely sure what Bioware were going for and it didn't sound like it was going to make a huge difference to the way I play.

Well, that sure was wrong!

On Tuesday I logged on as soon as the servers came back up, which was shortly before the current Conquest was about to end. I logged into a character that had been sitting on around 35k points, and the moment I logged in she shot up to more than 70k. That was... interesting.

Basically, Bioware weren't messing around when they said that they were going to increase the number of objectives and went straight to ludicrous. In guild chat there were jokes about getting points merely for logging in or trolling general chat, and to be honest they weren't far off. Some of the new objectives include: taking a taxi, assigning a utility point, gaining a character/legacy/renown level, giving a companion gift, and raising a crew skill, to name but a few, and all of these are at least daily repeatable and award a pretty silly number of points. It's honestly pretty funny more than anything else, and there was an ongoing stream of laughter and incredulous exclamations in guild as the evening progressed: "Wait, there's one for selling vendor trash?!"

Unfortunately, I was also immediately reminded of when they first started awarding Conquest points based on general XP back in June and how off-putting I found that. It seems to me that many of the issues I had with that change will return with this new update: Too many points awarded for the in-game equivalent of "continuing to breathe" are likely to make the whole thing too passive and will once again widen the gap between smaller guilds who "work" for their Conquest and large ones that simply invite random players and accumulate huge scores just by having active characters in the guild, even if their players neither know nor care about Conquest.

The main difference of course is that it's arguably not quite as passive as the points derived from XP gains were. "Use a decoration" may not be much of an objective, but it is something, and it seems to me that there should still be some advantage in deliberately pursuing certain objectives, but I'm finding it hard to judge at the moment. Right now my main concern is simply the sheer speed with which you hit your personal target by simply doing anything at all, which might revive that feeling of "the game is encouraging me to stop playing" that I had between June and September. I wouldn't be surprised if Bioware ended up tweaking both personal and guild targets upwards in the next couple of months.

I guess we shall see - at the moment the amusement derived from the silliness of it all still overrides everything else, but I'm always sceptical of games giving me sugar rushes like that - I've found that it rarely ends well in the long run. Plus it's a simple fact that I really enjoyed the way Conquest has been working since Onslaught's launch and found it very engaging as it was. I didn't really need or want it to change in any major way.

In order to not sound too pessimistic about my Conquest prospects, I will say that I really like the revamped UI for objectives. I honestly always thought it was a bit weird that they used to look exactly like achievement pop-ups, as it could be quite confusing at first glance what you'd just triggered, so I like that it's much clearer now. There are also a lot of interlinking buttons to take you from pop-ups to the main window and from there to your objectives, which I guess might help introduce more casual players to the system (presumably as they go "what is this", click on the shiny button and end up in the Conquest window). And with all those silly new objectives, chances of a new player triggering one by chance are much higher than they used to be.


Oh, you did a heroic mission? Have a medal!

18/04/2020

Character Boost

I've never been a fan of level boosts in MMORPGs. I don't have any "moral" objections to them, along the lines of "back in the day we had to go up in levels barefoot and uphill in the snow, so you must too or it won't be authentic", but to me they just feel like they're promising an experience that probably doesn't actually come true for a lot of people, namely that of skipping the supposedly "boring" part and jumping right in where the fun begins.

Obviously I'm biased because I generally enjoy levelling, but my point is more that even if you don't, time to level isn't the only thing standing between you and that mythical fun at endgame: there's also knowing how to play your class, feeling invested in your character and the game, and more, and none of those things are included with the price of that level-up token.

Plus there's also the issue of players who don't even have the slightest idea what their buttons do jumping straight into endgame group content and making life difficult for others, but I'll admit that I haven't experienced this being as much of a problem as I initially expected when WoW first made character boosts mainstream in the run-up to the Warlords of Draenor expansion. Maybe people generally have the sense to not queue for a random dungeon straight away when they can't even tell what they're supposed to do with all those abilities on their bars; I don't know.

Anyway, SWTOR introduced character boosts with Knights of the Fallen Empire and has given out at least two of them for free to subscribers since then, but I never used them because I simply didn't see the appeal.

However, this morning I found myself at the character creation screen to roll up a new Assassin to tank master mode flashpoints for our alt guild on Imperial side, and when I noticed those free tokens still waiting for me I actually paused to think. I didn't really have any particular urge to start on the inquisitor story yet again as I still have two characters that have it in progress, and I wanted this character to be ready for endgame as soon as possible. That... actually seemed like the perfect occasion to use a boost. So off I went.


I felt a bit confused when my newborn Assassin was spat out on Odessen, actually wearing the exact gear set that had been displayed on the character creation screen - that never happens - but I quickly found myself back in my usual new character routine of emptying my mailbox of several dozen promotional items such as titles, speeders, pets etc. - if Bioware ever decides to just auto-grant all these things to any new character I'll be one happy woman.

I also noticed that my new Togruta was dark sided and Deception spec by default - which made sense as it's probably the easiest to play of the three Assassin specialisations, but it meant that I had to be off to the fleet to retrain. I thought it was interesting that the game only plopped a relatively small number of abilities on my bar - I guess someone at Bioware decided that starting someone off with literally all of a level 70's abilities on their bars would be a bit overwhelming and I don't think they are wrong. It does require the player to take an interest into what else is hiding in their ability list though if they want to do more than just bumble their way through the main solo storyline.

Having retrained on the fleet, I wanted to fly back to Odessen and was chagrined to discovered that I had zero credits and therefore couldn't actually afford to do so! (Though I also noticed that I had been given three crew skills that were all trained up to 600, with Synthweaving, Archaeology and Underworld Trading apparently being the defaults for inquisitors.) Fortunately the button to launch the Jedi Under Siege intro took me back to Odessen for free.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by how well Jedi Under Siege works as introduction for a brand new character. Both Lana and Major Anri (on Empire side) spend a fair amount of time expositioning, which I think can feel a bit belaboured if you're playing through the entire proceeding and following story in one go and already know what's going on, but as a starting point for a new character it's not bad. It reminds you of just where you are, and it throws several talking points at you that invite you to think about how your character feels about certain things, such as the big factions, loyalty, slavery, Sith politics etc.

It did feel a bit weird to basically be given the option to go saboteur mere minutes after having created the character to be a specific faction, and I took it out of curiosity more than anything else, but I have to admit that it didn't really feel earned. I don't know if I'll continue down this path on this character or just stick to tanking group content.

Speaking of that, gameplay-wise Jedi Under Siege also makes for a much better tutorial than KotFE or KotET ever did in my opinion, as there is relatively little combat but the mobs are on the slightly tougher side, giving you a chance to practice rotations and cooldown use. The final mission in the library could even be considered a very basic tutorial for group content, because while Malgus is utterly OP compared to a random pug, dealing with a large number of silver and gold mobs that have annoying abilities such as stuns and stealth detection gives you a feel for the sorts of things you're likely to encounter in flashpoints later on. Of course in my particular case it helped that I already know how to play a Shadow tank (for a given value of "know" - I'm not exactly very good at it), so I only had to figure out which Assassin ability mapped to which Shadow one.

All in all, it was a much more pleasant experience than I had expected as someone who's always frowned on character boosts. I guess I managed to find that rare sweet spot where it really does work (experienced player who wants another max-level alt for a very specific purpose).

15/04/2020

Stuff Is Happening

While I've been busy gushing about my guild in particular, that doesn't mean that nothing else has been going on with SWTOR on a more general level.

Contrary to my predictions, we did have a Rakghoul Resurgence last week for example. I followed the responses to the Twitter announcement about the upcoming monthly events with some interest, and while there were one or two commenters who thought that running this event under the current circumstances was in bad taste, the most upvoted comment was in fact one that said: "If ever there was a good time to fight the rakghoul "PLAGUE" it is now!" Different coping strategies for different people I guess.

In terms of effects on EA and Bioware, they had to reduce support hours and channels (so better hope you don't run into any major problems with your account in the immediate future) and Charles Boyd confirmed a couple of days ago that the entire team has shifted to working from home to stay safe. Unsurprisingly, this also means some delays to new content, but one can hardly fault them for that.

Specifically, next week's patch will now "only" contain various quality of life changes and the start of a double XP event, with master mode Dxun getting delayed to June. Tantalisingly, Charles also announced that the June patch will feature the release of a new event centred around swoop racing. This is something that players have been asking about for a long time but that Bioware also had to shoot down in the past as their internal testing revealed that the game's engine couldn't deal with racing in a satisfying manner, as lag etc. would make people appear in slightly different positions on each screen so that the winner might not actually be who it appeared to be on yours. Charles mentioning "insane obstacle courses" makes me think that they decided to shift the focus on individual challenge instead, maybe with a leaderboard but certainly not involving any simultaneous races, which would make sense to me.

In less happy news, he also had to drop the bomb that the next story update would have to be delayed as the Coronavirus situation meant that their usual voice recording studios had to close down and many voice actors aren't able to record from home. Again, one can't fault anyone for that, but I do have to say I was still kind of surprised to hear it as I would have expected the recording for the next update to have already been done. I certainly always thought that this stuff happened much further in advance.

Either way, I guess we should all be glad that they are still working on bringing us entertainment, especially now that people have more time to stay at home and play games. It's not like there's a lack of things to do as it is.

11/04/2020

Virtual Guild Meet-up

Over the years I've met a fair number of people in real life that I first met online - I guess nowadays that isn't so strange anymore, but fifteen years ago the notion of me meeting "strange internet people" was definitely still something that made my family very uncomfortable!

Having been in my current guild for about eight years, I've met a few of my guildies in real life as well; and some other guildies that I haven't met in person have at least met each other - but a bigger guild meet-up never really seemed realistic, considering how spread out we are across Europe. You may well be intrigued by the idea of meeting some of your guildies face-to-face, but are you curious enough to pay for a plane ticket just for that? Probably not!

Watching many big real world events get cancelled or move to the virtual space in the current climate gave me food for thought though: why not have a virtual guild meet-up? Yes, in a way we're already doing this every night by playing together, but I was thinking of something different, using webcams and just saying hi to the people behind the avatars. I proposed the idea to the other officers, we did a little test with Google Meet (most of us already knew what the others looked like anyway), and the idea was given the green light. And thus, we organised Twin Suns Squadron's first ever virtual guild meet-up last night.

I was ridiculously hyped in advance as I always love being able to put a face to a name, and we ended up with about twenty people joining (though some couldn't stay for very long), which I considered a very good turn-out. Several had cobbled together elaborate setups involving more than one computer, or a PC and a phone, in order to be able to both play and show us their faces at the same time, which I thought was oddly sweet. Also, while most of the attendees were what I'd like to call "the usual suspects", as in people who attend other guild events all the time, a few more quiet players that aren't usually around much worked up the courage to show up as well, which felt quite gratifying.

I had pencilled in about half an hour for getting things sorted / saying hello to everyone, which worked out quite well as people trickled in slowly and there were some technical challenges. For example we hadn't realised that Google Meet would mute people by default once the meeting exceeded a certain size, so people kept coming in auto-muted without noticing, and there was always some confusion until they realised what was happening and found the button to un-mute themselves.

Another "issue" was that some people displayed their real names instead of their nicknames, which combined with the auto-muting led to some confusion about who was who - I had counted on being able to recognise people's voices from TeamSpeak at least! So we had chats like: "Hey, um... Ian? You're on mute so we can't hear you... also, who are you? Lol..." Then he found his un-mute button, said one word and I immediately went: "Oh, it's Ten!"

Once things had settled down somewhat, we decided to do a social ops run as usual on a Friday night, but with the video call open instead of everyone sitting on TeamSpeak like we normally would. We did the Dxun operation on 16-man story mode, and especially initially I was struggling a bit to keep my eyes on the health bars as I kept looking over at the webcams instead! It was fun to see people react to things visually as well, from smiles to facepalms (though several guildies seemed to have what I called "resting ops face", which resulted in them giving everyone very blank stares a lot of the time). At one point one of my co-healers started plucking away at his guitar while one of the officers was trying to give instructions. It was all very silly.

There was a bit of tension towards the end of the op as we had several wipes on Huntmaster (that guy is always a bastard), one of the healers had several DCs and so on, but even that was interesting in a way. For example someone commented that Mr Commando didn't look nearly as angry as he sounded when he was telling people off for standing in bad stuff. I do always tell people not to worry too much about his yelling and that his bark is a lot worse than his bite, but I guess it really helped for them to see for themselves!

Anyway, we did end up clearing the operation in good time (after a couple of people had consumed several "wiping beers" on screen) and it felt like the conclusion of a very successful evening. Several people have already told me that they'd like to have another night like that, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

07/04/2020

My 20 Favourite Outtakes Captured on Video

As long time readers will know, I also have a YouTube channel, and I've occasionally linked to videos that I uploaded on there. I started making videos a few months after creating this blog actually, but I never had any great aspirations about being a video content creator or anything like that - most of the time I just enjoy capturing gameplay and boss kills with my guild, so that I can later look back on them with nostalgia and remind myself of all the nice people I've played with over time and what fun we've had.

One "series" I started early on was called "Twin Suns Outtakes". Basically, pretty much as soon as I started recording videos, I also ended up with footage that wasn't necessarily worth making a dedicated video about but that nonetheless tickled me in some way. One of the earliest examples of this was us wiping in embarrassing ways in Karagga's Palace. "Look at us wipe" didn't seem like a good title for a video, but I didn't quite want to throw the footage away either. Thus the outtakes format was born, where I threw together random clips that I wanted to preserve either because they were funny or just because they were tied to some particular memory that was dear to me for some reason.


I usually make a new outtakes video every few months and they always tend to be quite popular with my guildies. Over time there's been a bit of a shift from random footage to general "funny moments" as new capture software allowed me to specifically save recordings of events after the fact, without having to rely on me just happening to turn on video recording at the right time for something interesting to happen.

Anyway, with more time to spend at home I've been on a bit of a nostalgia trip re-watching old videos, and I thought it would be fun to make a top list of some of my favourite SWTOR moments with my guild captured in these videos.

20. Bouncing Jedi Knights Standing Together (early 2013)

Low on the list we start with one of those clips that isn't really funny by itself but mostly just stands for a memory. There was a time when "Smash spec" for Jedi knights and Sith warriors was particularly powerful and lots of people were playing it as the flavour of the month - including some of my guildies on alts. I don't remember who originally came up with the idea, but one day while we were bouncing around smashing things someone started singing the start of "We All Stand Together" from Rupert and the Frog Song on TeamSpeak and it somehow became our theme song, with the lyrics being changed to "we all smash together".

We imagined ourselves having a whole music video of us smashing things to the tune and I even started recording footage, but I soon realised that a) I would have needed a lot of footage to make a good video about it, b) it was actually quite hard to get good shots of us smashing things, and c) who was going to sing the modified lyrics anyway? It wasn't very well thought-out and I quickly had to abandon the idea, but I did preserve its memory in the start of that one outtakes video and it still makes me smile every time I re-watch it.

19. How not to summon the Hateful Entity (March 2014)

This one is a slightly deadpan piece of humour, featuring a full sixteen-man ops group getting together to kill a special boss, the summoner clicking the item to start the summon and... nothing happens?

"Do it again!"

"Says it's on cooldown... for 23 hours."

"So, same time tomorrow?"

(Turns out we could get around it, I think by trading the item to someone else, so we did get our summon after all, but in the moment it was funny.)

18. The bugged ops group (November 2018)

This is just an amusing example of how badly things can get messed up when the operations UI bugs out. What started with an accidental kick from the ops group escalated in confusing ways until our wannabe ops leader suggested I turn off the power to the entire house and start over, which makes me laugh to this day.
 
17. Wiping on Jarg and Sorno (November 2012)

This is actually the clip I mentioned in the introduction, showing us wipe on the second fight in Karagga's Palace on 16-man nightmare mode (back when that was a thing). Having died relatively early and close to the centre of the room, I hid my UI and had a pretty good view of what else was going on. Since I wasn't even recording game sound in those very early videos, I added the cheerful tune of Desmond Dekker's "You can get it if you really want" to falsely instil a sense of hope in the viewer, just to end with a record scratch as the last person in the group dies and the bosses reset.

For the well-initiated there are additional layers of humour as you can watch panicking guildies do silly things, such as a Sentinel temporarily back-pedalling from the boss as if that was going to help in any way, or a Sage healer planting an AoE heal under the boss instead of under any players. Unfortunately I can't link the actual video as another song snippet in it got hit with a copyright claim that caused the whole thing to be blocked worldwide.

16. Learning how to play a Combat Sentinel at 3am in the morning (January 2013)

When you're doing PvP at 3am in the morning, the strangest things can seem funny, such as a guy saying "blade rush" over and over again. 'nuff said. Unfortunately I can't link this one either because it appears that a copyright claim on a song snippet elsewhere in the video resulted in the sound of the entire uploaded version of the video being removed and I don't know how to get it back without re-uploading the entire thing.

15. Grappling Fail on Copero (June 2018)

A guildie you will encounter in these outtakes quite frequently goes by the simple name of Mace. Mace is the longest standing officer after Mr Commando and me and is quite popular with the officer team as he enjoys filling out spreadsheets and is therefore often entrusted with menial and (to the rest of us) tedious tasks such as putting together ops teams and group rotations. He also has a very strong personality that combines boundless enthusiasm and a desire to min-max in bizarre ways with an almost childlike naiveté at times. As such, he is well-known for doing silly things that make the rest of us laugh and for being the patient butt of many jokes - if you do find him funny. His clowning around is a kind of litmus test for whether you'll fit in with the guild's general sense of humour I guess.

Anyway, this particular clip has him somehow fail at using a grappling hook in the Traitor Among the Chiss flashpoint, fall to his death, run back, and then die again from trying to jump across using a Scoundrel ability instead. Meanwhile the rest of us stand on the other side and alternate between laughing and facepalming.

14. I Will Survive Scyva (May 2018)

The last phase on Scyva in Gods from the Machine used to be pretty deadly even on story mode (I think she may have been nerfed a bit since then), to the point that it wasn't unusual to have a majority of the ops group die while only a few survivors remained to finish off the boss. This clip features one such occasion where I was once again enjoying a class A viewing experience from the floor while one tank and the other healer slowly finished off the boss. Gloria Gaynor seemed like an appropriate soundtrack.

13. The Naked Gunslinger (November 2017)

Ever since the introduction of the Outfit Designer decoupled a character's appearance from what they are actually wearing, it's become a problem that people would sometimes swap gear around between characters and then forget what they were actually wearing under their apperance - or more importantly that they weren't actually wearing any gear underneath.

We've had similar situations occur many times since then, but this is the first one I can clearly recall happening in an operation, and the way Ard pointed it out to Mace, coupled with Mace's obvious embarrassment, just had both of us healers in giggling fits.

12. Asterisks (August 2018)

TeamSpeak has an option to have its built-in announcer voice pronounce the name of whoever is entering or leaving a channel - it's not the default but I'm one of the few people in the guild who have this enabled. There is also a setting where you can set a specific pronunciation for your name in case it's quite different from the way the bot would usually pronounce the written version.

One time Mace (of course, who else) somehow messed up the phonetic setting for his name, causing me to be treated to an endless stream of the robot voice pronouncing "asterisk" the moment he came online. I thought it was hilarious.

11. Lost on Ossus (February 2019)

Another prime example of "the kind of thing Mace does" - during one of our first runs of the Hive of the Mountain Queen he exited the instance by accident (?!), got killed right outside because in his hubris he'd set his focus to PvP, and then couldn't even find his way back inside because apparently he'd been summoned before and didn't even know the way? It was just one blow after another; you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

10. The Elevator Incident (April 2013)

Now, I'm not too fond of this video in practical terms since I had just changed my recording setup and for some reason the quality of my own voice recording was absolutely abysmal (which is why I felt the need to add the subtitles so people would be able to make out what I was saying at all), but as the incident became the stuff of legends in the guild I just had to include it and rank it quite highly too.

Basically it was my first ever run of the Scum and Villainy operation, and I just remembered someone emphasising emphatically that we'd have to enter an elevator and get down quickly or we'd all die! So of course I ran into the first elevator door I saw opening. Except that wasn't where we were supposed to go nor even the right time; it was just a door that released an add and then closed permanently afterwards. As a bonus, I got myself stuck in there just at the point when I was supposed to click a console to help with the next part of the fight, effectively wiping the group.

"Don't get stuck in the lift" was a catchphrase that followed me around for quite a while after that.

9. Zero Attention Span Imps in Novare Coast (January 2017)

Everyone who's done at least a moderate amount of PvP must be familiar with the type of player that always chases kills over objectives. In fact, if you're the more objective-focused type yourself, it can be particularly fun to beat players like that, as achieving a win against someone who is able to repeatedly kill you feels a bit like a David vs. Goliath kind of situation and makes you feel all clever.

This was the case in this match as well, where me and several guildies came up against a bizarre Imperial premade that literally just rushed around the map to kill everyone at a certain point as a group and capture whatever objective was there, but then immediately left said objective undefended, resulting in an easy win for us even as we repeatedly got steamrolled by the Imperial train as it made the rounds. It was quite a funny situation.

8. Firefrost Yakety Sax (December 2016)

One evening when we couldn't find a tank to do the Firefrost uprising on veteran mode, a guildie suggested that it was quite viable to go in without a tank but using two healers instead, so we did that. It mostly went fine too, until the last boss overwhelmed us with adds... at which point we didn't wipe, but started to humorously kite things in circles, with another guildie even playing Yakety Sax over TeamSpeak for us. Such is guild life.

7. Gods from the Machine trash collection (early 2019)

I've said before that I think Gods from the Machine contains a bit too much trash to make it an enjoyable place to visit frequently, but that said, the first time around the challenges presented by said trash are extremely amusing, especially on hard mode. From guildies screaming as they get swarmed by adds bursting out of the ground to impromptu singing, explosions and people falling off things, this place has it all.

6. Auto-running into Dread Fortress (June 2017)

Mr Commando is an overly cautious tank if anything, so we were very surprised the time he entered master mode Dread Fortress and pulled literally the entire room up to the boss - turns out he had hit auto-run when entering the instance and somehow it had persisted after he loaded in, and as he had been looking elsewhere during the loading screen he didn't immediately notice... it was very bewildering, and there was much death and laughter.

5. Still Standing Against The Operations Chief (May 2018)

The Operations Chief in Scum and Villainy has the funny quirk of the tank being able to take virtually no damage, as his main attack is a long cast called Terminate that can be interrupted by dodging behind a pipe at the last second and then immediately coming back out again.

This worked very much to our advantage when we first did the fight on 16-man master mode and made a right mess of things, with dps and healers dropping like flies left and right, causing the boss to enrage... but our tank just kept on going, avoiding all the hits for what felt like half an eternity and until the few people remaining managed to finish off the boss. Elton John seemed like an appropriate soundtrack.

4. Chasing the Mace (October 2018)

Another little Mace adventure, this one had him bringing an extremely low-level and terribly geared character to an Eternity Vault run. The last boss, Soa, has a mechanic where he summons a ball of lightning that chases you and does damage that is hard to avoid, and it was fun to see Mace fear for his life and worry about dying from a mechanic that was trivial to everyone else in the group.

At first the healers were working frantically to keep him alive after the first orb cost him about 95% of his health, but then it somehow morphed into wanting to see him die instead after he bragged about being too skilled to die and trying to endlessly kite the balls that were chasing him in circles. Eventually people started chasing him with their lightning balls and it all turned into a bit of a comedy show.

3. The Book of Mormon (April 2016)

When our original guild leader decided to quit the game we made a big song and dance about it and had one last social night in his honour. Of course, he had his own idea about song and dance and suddenly started playing songs from The Book of Mormon on TeamSpeak while we bumbled through Karagga's Palace, much to the consternation of everyone else in the channel and even more so those who joined in later. It was a fun evening all around.

2. Commando Healer PvP in 4.0 (September 2016)

Commando healers are considered quite powerful in PvP these days, but I remember very well just how much of a punching bag they were for years before 5.0 and the introduction of Echoing Deterrence in particular. It was so bad that I considered making a whole ironic PvP video about the terribleness of Commandos, but ultimately it was another one of those ideas that kind of fizzled out before I had really recorded enough footage. That said, I had some, and I decided to use it for a section of this outtakes video. Call me self-indulgent for laughing at my own jokes, but watching my character get punted around, stunned, knocked about some more and killed over and over again to the theme tune of Happy Days still makes me laugh today.

1. Imposing martial law to prevent wipes (March 2013)

This is one of those early classics that will forever stick with me, even though most people who were in the operation at the time stopped playing long ago and the humour is pretty crass. We were working on making our way through Explosive Conflict master mode and wiping a lot on the two tanks, and the ride back to make another attempt was very long, repeatedly sparking conversation. In one of those moments when things turn utterly absurd, our Sentinel suggested that we should be able to prevent further wipes by threatening people with physical violence. Typically on the next attempt we had to call it a wipe because that very same Sentinel got stuck in one of the tanks... ending with our Gunslinger asking the priceless question of: "So Dom, which bone are you having broken?"

03/04/2020

#Blapril And Blogging

It's that time of the year again... Blaugust! No, wait, wrong month... but apparently we're having it in April this year because lots of people are stuck at home and blogging is a nice, indoorsy hobby to keep you busy during times like these. Thus, say hello to Blapril. (Personally I would have gone for Blopril since I don't like the association with "bla", but it is what it is.)


I won't rehash what dozens of other bloggers have already said about the event and simply quote my own super-short summary of it from last year: It's a community event for content creators (not just bloggers anymore), encouraging them to be loud and proud of what they do, so that people can share ideas, give each other encouragement, find new audiences and expand their own horizons. Most of the participants focus on talking about gaming, but there are no real limits on the subject matter. If that sounds at all interesting to you, you can find out more here.

I myself have signed up for the community and networking aspect of it, but as a regular reader you shouldn't really notice anything different on here.

Tangentially related, I got tagged for one of those chain letter-like things that we used to call "memes" back in the day before the word changed to mean something else. I'm not usually a huge fan of these, especially when they consist of nothing but "answer these ten completely random questions", but at least this one is related to blogging so I thought I might as well fit it in here.

The rules of this so-called "Blogger Recognition Award" (which doesn't actually involve any awards) are as follows:
  • Thank the wonderful person who nominated you and leave a link back to their blog(s).
  • Explain your blog’s origin story or its history.
  • Hand out two or more pieces of advice for new bloggers.
  • Nominate other bloggers and hook us up with links to their blogs.
First off, the wonderful person who tagged me is Telwyn of the GamingSF blog. I've enjoyed reading his blog for a long time as we seem to have similar tastes when it comes to using our blogs as gaming diaries and reflecting on game design. He plays a lot of different MMORPGs, but unlike some he doesn't always jump into the newest hotness but rather maintains a fairly large stable of games that he revisits every so often. I find that quite interesting as it means he plays on at least a medium progression level in all of his games, which is not a play style I see get coverage on a lot of blogs. Also, luckily for me it so happens that all three MMORPGs that I'm active in are part of his stable as well. If you're looking for reading material about a specific game, he has handy category links on his sidebar. Since this blog is about SWTOR, I guess I might as well include a link to his SWTOR category.

As for this blog's history, from what I can remember I've enjoyed writing pretty much ever since I learned how to do it, but that may be going back a bit far. I started my first digital diary around twenty years ago (oof) and when I really got into World of Warcraft I created a blog just for writing about that. When SWTOR became my main game instead, it made sense to me to give that game its own blog, and here we still are eight years later.

Since I've been dealing with FAQs at work today, I'm going to put my advice to new bloggers into a similar Q&A format:

How do I know if I'm cut out to be a blogger/content creator?

Because you like creating content or just talking about things. Or maybe you don't even like talking very much because you're kind of shy, but you're still bursting with things you want to express. Blogging would be great for you in that case!

How do I get started though?

There are plenty of free tools to build your own website or just publish your writings on someone else's domain these days, so just make an account somewhere and start writing. You can always sort out details such as prettying up the layout later.

Any suggestions what to write about? And how often?

Generally speaking you can write about anything, but I do suggest picking a general niche. Many bloggers will tell you not to limit yourself too much and just write about whatever, but personally I find that more stifling than liberating, because to me the freedom to write about anything is too much of a blank canvas. If you have at least a general direction, such as "what have I been playing lately", it's much easier to come up with an answer to the question of what to write about.

Similarly, I agree with Telwyn's advice that it can be good to set yourself at least a vague schedule, such as planning to post twice a week. Again, obviously blogging is meant to be a fun hobby, not a job, but having that sort of structure can help you pace your ideas instead of burning all your fuel in three days and then being out of ideas for the next month. (Also, readers generally appreciate regular updates too.)

How do I get other people to read my stuff?

You can use social media like Twitter to promote your writings, but I've found that - especially if you also want to benefit of the community aspect of content creation - the best way to disseminate your writing is to interact with other content creators, which in the case of blogging means leaving meaningful comments on their blogs and linking to them if they've inspired you/you enjoy their work. People do click on those links and before you know it someone goes "have you seen this cool new blog over there yet" and suddenly you've got readers of your own.

What do I do if I run out of ideas?

Come up with some new ones! There are always things to talk about, even if your blog has as narrow a focus as this one (it doesn't get much more specific than writing hundreds of blog posts about a single computer game). I did write a more long-form post about this a few years ago, which you can find here.

Finally, the tagging of other bloggers! I'll pick both SWTOR and general MMO bloggers for this. Don't feel pressured to join in if you don't really fancy it; it's just supposed to be a bit of fun.