21/05/2020

What A Difference Six Years Make

One of the interesting consequences of SWTOR re-levelling its endgame content every time the level cap is raised is that you get to progress through all of it anew every time this happens. This is of course not as exciting as doing it the first time around (in fact, some people might find it actively frustrating to potentially have their progression reset every so often), but neither is it a case of everything being automatically on farm because you've done it before. There can be weird difficulty swings as a result of rescaling, classes get at least changed a little every expansion (to various effects), and since level cap increases are usually years apart, most guilds will likely experience significant turnover in their roster during that time, meaning that you may end up going in with a very different team compared to last time as well.

The bottom line is that "re-progressing" through content you've done before is a funny experience. I was thinking about this as we went back into Scum and Villainy master mode for the first time since Onslaught's launch the other night. I have a video of us killing the first boss in there back in 2014 - when we were five levels above the content (before Bioware introduced level scaling) and yet it was still a struggle. Still, it felt pretty epic when we got the boss down, and I'm still fond of that video to this day. (Also, Sting.)



This time around we were at level, and victims of stat normalisation to boot, but it still only took us a couple of tries to get him down. There were no great cheers on TeamSpeak, but I still thought it would be fun to effectively "re-create" that first kill video for comparison. It's interesting to note the differences.



Visuals

The first thing that struck me was just how different the two videos look due to the degree of zoom. I'd forgotten just how closely zoomed in I used to play before working on the Revan fight forced me to increase my view distance as one of the fight's mechanics was impossible to deal with otherwise.

Seeing the fight from a greater distance makes it look quite different - for example you get a much better view of the other players' actions (in fact Mr Commando used watching the video as an opportunity to moan about all the things the damage dealers had done wrong in his eyes), and during the movement phases the sand traps are much more obvious.

That said, I kind of like the "feel" of the closer view much better. While it's very chaotic and at times hard to make out what's happening, there's something very visceral about the camera being trapped under the shield just like the player, the boss being in your face and Xuvva wings frantically flapping around the edges.

Tactics

Despite of the high dps check, we were running with the standard group setup of two tanks and two healers back in 2014. I don't know if we'd even considered anything else. This time around we had Mr Commando solo-tank it, even if that meant that damage dealers were occasionally getting smacked in the face - but it was very much needed, considering that even with the extra damage dealer the dps requirements were much harder to meet than back in 2014.

It was also interesting to see me getting lost in the desert in the 2014 video, a mechanic that was later changed so that it wouldn't affect healers anymore (alongside some other mechanics in the operation, such as Styrak's nightmare). I'm actually kind of sad about this because I thought that it was a very immersive and fun mechanic, and since I almost always heal in ops I never get to see it anymore. I can sort of understand why they made that change for story mode, but I kind of wish they'd kept healers on the target list for the harder difficulties, especially considering that the incoming damage was clearly tuned to be survivable with a single healer for periods of time.

People

The 2014 run was a collaboration between my guild and another guild that we were friendly with at the time (many of them actually went on to join Twin Suns Squadron later). I can't really remember why we didn't go in with a full guild group... it could be that this was during a bit of a slump where we were struggling to regularly make the numbers, but I genuinely can't remember. Either way, about half the group in the video no longer plays the game.

On the plus side, the other half of the group is still playing game six years later, which doesn't strike me as that bad! There's me and Mr Commando of course, but Ard (who was tanking in 2014 but played his dps Commando just for this boss in the 2020 vid) is also still running with us after all this time, which makes me happy. He is an incredibly loyal soul but also kind of mysterious because even though he's been with us for so long I pretty much know nothing about his real life other than that he lives in Spain. Online friendships... anyway, the fourth person, my co-healer from the 2014 video, no longer does progression content but still hangs out with us socially, so I consider that a win as well.

In short, a lot of things have changed since 2014, but a decent number have not. Considering the online world's perpetual malleability I'm pretty happy with this degree of stability.

4 comments :

  1. It's funny, I've had my camera out at a distance for so long that anything with a close in view has me reaching for the scroll wheel on my mouse to move the camera out. I do like the close-in view for story telling purposes as you can really see the characters. It's just hard to go back to that once you've gotten used to a wider view of a boss fight.

    I think I need to work on playing with the camera at the default setting for questing and the like, and switch to being out for instances / operations. It would be nice to see things closer up again. :)

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  2. "I pretty much know nothing about his real life other than that he lives in Spain." This reminded me of a tank we spent the best part of a year grouping with back in EverQuest. The character was female but the player, who didn't say much and never anything about themselves, we guessed was probably a man (no voice chat then, of course), probably in his late twenties or early thities, which most people we knew in game tended to be.

    Then one night we were deep in a very dangerous nest of tunnels, every fight taking us close to our limits, and that tank suddenly had to afk (can't remember why - probably we never knew). Someone else where they lived took over the character and it turned out to be... her dad. Our tank was an 18 year old Spanish student living, I think, in Madrid. We found out more about her from her dad in half an hour than we'd learned in months.

    After that, though, we saw less and less of her until we finally saw nothing at all. I did wonder whether it was because we now all knew who she was in real life and she'd preferred it when we didn't. (She was one of the best tanks we ever had, too. Waaaaay better than her father!)

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, it's interesting how different people can be about this sort of thing. Some will divulge half their life story after a few hours, others won't even share their real name after years of knowing you.

      I think I'm fairly in the middle when it comes to talking about myself (which is to say I get comfortable sharing more the longer I've known people), but I can be quite nosy when it comes to others and it sometimes requires some restraint to not be too pushy about it. When this whole COVID thing started I worked up the courage to ask Ard if he was safely working from home or whether his job required him to go outside still, and he confirmed it was the former... but still didn't tell me what it actually is that he does, hah!

      We have another raider that one-ups him though, as he never even speaks on voice chat. In fact, while we've always referred to them with male pronouns and they've never corrected us, for all we know they might not even be a "he". I remember joking once that they might in fact be a cat having mastered the art of playing the game.

      I might like to know more, but I respect people's boundaries and am happy to have them around in whichever way they like to present themselves.

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  3. This is rather sweet! You know, nowadays, people never even consider double tanking unless it ABSOLUTELY can't be avoided - and often opt for those who can respecc on field when needed. It's interesting.
    I have lost contact with a lot (most) people I used to play with, and it is rather sad, but I see other people who have been playing together for years an years and it does give me hope! :)

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