20/07/2024

Brief PSA: Shintar No Longer on Twitter

Almost twelve years ago, I made a post on here to announce that I had made a Twitter account. It only seems fair to also make a note today that I no longer have a Twitter account. Or rather, it technically still exists, but I've been locked out of it.

Twitter had been pestering me for a while now to add my date of birth to my account. I'm usually not the kind of privacy nut to refuse giving any personal data to anyone, but Twitter under the leadership of Elon Musk? No, thanks. Plus I'd been using the site just fine for over a decade without giving them that, so I didn't see the need. I figured they just wanted it to have an excuse to shove porn down by throat, since that seems to be their latest thing.

At one point they decided to set me a deadline. If I wasn't going to add my birth date by July 8th, I was going to lose access to my account! That day came and went and nothing happened. Figures that it was just a bluff. But then yesterday...

A screenshot that says: Add a birth date, Shintar @ShintarCommando. What happened? X needs to confirm your age for you to continue using these services. As a result, we have temporarily locked your account.

So I guess that's it. I mean, the site had got a lot worse since Elon took over and I've been wanting to move away from it anyway, but I've got to admit I didn't expect it to quit on me first. And despite myself, I'm a little annoyed and upset.

I won't miss Twitter as a whole... the random browsing experience got so much worse once they made the change the verification, as the top replies to any post would just be blue checks saying horrible and/or stupid things. But for some reason most of the SWTOR community (including the official account!) seem to pretty much live on Twitter, and I feel that I'm going to miss out on a lot of things now.

Like that mount sale I posted about the other week? Was only announced on Twitter. Yesterday, a friend told me that the official account had announced a livestream for this Tuesday. If he hadn't told me, I wouldn't know because there certainly hasn't been any sign of that announcement on any of their other socials, including the official forums!

In the past it made sense to focus on announcing things on Twitter because unlike most social media sites it was open to be viewed by anyone, whether they had an account or not, but Elon Musk changed that! I wonder whether people even realise that all their "public" posts are no longer truly public. Like, if you go to the official SWTOR account's page without being logged into Twitter, the newest non-pinned post that you can see is from May 2022. Why do you think only Twitter users are worthy of knowing about what's happening with the game, huh? It's not even such a big platform anymore!

And of course many of my fellow content creators are the same. I wonder how long it'll take for anyone to even notice that I'm gone. Maybe in a month or so, someone will go "huh, I haven't seen Shintar post anything in a while; wonder whatever happened to her".

Anyway, that's that rant out of the way. I'll just have to live with less news about the game and community involvement going forward I guess.

17/07/2024

The Acolyte (No Spoilers)

I've been really slack in terms of writing about new Star Wars media in recent months... I watched both the final season of Bad Batch and Tales of the Empire when they came out, but while I enjoyed both, I found myself surprisingly lacking in interesting things to say about either. Not so with The Acolyte!

Official poster for "Star Wars: The Acolyte"

In the months before this show's release, I saw some curious comments about it around my corner of the fandom along the lines of "if you liked Andor, you'll like this too". This both caught my attention and immediately made me extremely sceptical... because I adored Andor, and comparing anything new to that show was setting yourself a really high bar. Not to mention that I thought a big part of Andor's charm was that it didn't need the Force and lightsabers to be interesting, so I couldn't see how a classic Jedi story could compete with that anyway. As a result, I ultimately didn't take those comments too seriously, though I tried to think of them with consideration for what I assumed was the intended sentiment behind them: to imply that The Acolyte was going to try and be different from previous Star Wars shows, which I figured could end up being commendable in its own way.

Why do I start with this? Because after having seen the last episode today, I can say with 100% certainty that this show is definitely not like Andor, but also, it did live up to the promise of trying something different, and for that I really liked it. In fact, this may well end up being my second favourite Star Wars live action show to date (though I wouldn't fault anyone for feeling differently)!

Set in the High Republic era, it immediately puts us in a context where there are no Skywalkers or Emperors or any of that baggage. I haven't read any of the High Republic books, but as a SWTOR fan, the pictured shenanigans surrounding the Jedi order didn't seem that dissimilar from the Old Republic to be honest. At this point, I like the idea of Jedi and Sith as groups of people more than as singular heroes with superpowers. When you have lots of Jedi, they don't all have to be amazing at everything; you can have some that are a bit dorky, or more bookish or what have you. Different personalities instead of just "the good guy" and "the bad guy".

And in that regard, the show immediately worked for me. I was interested in the characters right away, and some amazing acting really helped. Lee Jung-jae, who portrays Master Sol, acted his damn heart out in every single episode. I read somewhere that he actually had to learn English for the role, which you know... you might think that would be a handicap and not necessarily make him ideal for the role to start with, but damn, he was absolutely perfect in it. If anything, I think the show suffered a little from narrowing down the cast in the later episodes because more could have been done with some of these characters in my opinion.

The plot was also interesting - in Disney+ the show is tagged as "Mystery" and there is definitely some of that. More than anything though, I appreciated that it gave us what's probably the most nuanced portrayal of Jedi and Sith that we've seen in live action yet. The Jedi have good intentions, but they're also just people doing people things: they feel worry, lie to hide things that they think will harm others, get bored, argue, act rashly and make a lot of what turn out to be bad decisions. And the main Sith we see is a hardened killer, but also not without reason or incapable of expressing sentiments other than hate or rage - definitely one of the better villains we've gotten in Star Wars.

Another thing I liked - and which it did have in common with Andor actually, even if wasn't on the same level - was that the show didn't hold the viewer by the hand at every step of the way. For me it was episode three where I first caught myself thinking "eh, that wasn't a very satisfying explanation for that event" and at first I found myself feeling a little disappointed... until I talked to other people who had seen the episode, who highlighted to me that there was at least one clue I had missed to show that this was supposed to be an unconvincing story, that we were only seeing one person's point of view and they were obviously missing something. After that I immediately started to be more attentive, and there were still things I missed that I needed others to explain to me, and that actually delighted me.

Oh, have I mentioned the fight scenes yet? I don't need massive action in my Star Wars, but if you're going to have lightsaber fights, you might as well make them good, and I think The Acolyte probably had some of the best live action choreography since The Phantom Menace. It's more Eastern martial arts inspired than usual, but it works really well, and there were quite a few fight scenes that actually made me go "whoa, cool" which is something I personally rarely feel when it comes to action sequences nowadays.

The show is not perfect, of course. The editing in some episodes struck me as slightly odd in terms of where scene changes were placed, and more than one episode ended with a cliffhanger that just felt annoying and unnecessary. While I've praised some of the actors, others were... struggling to live up to the ambition of their roles is how I'd put it I think. I might not even have noticed it in a worse show to be honest, but it was kind of noticeable when contrasted with the more outstanding performances in this one. And while I quite enjoyed the plot, the general writing and dialogue was mostly... kinda mid. I can think of a lot of moments that I thought were memorable, but very few lines that were. I can't fault anyone for being more bothered by these things than I was, but I just loved the characters, the setting and the overall story.

Without going into spoilers, the last episode ends with one character's arc coming to a neat conclusion, and another coming to what I'd call a temporary conclusion... but there are several obvious hooks for a second season. And I'd actually like to see one, which is quite a contrast to Ahsoka, where my reaction was pretty much that I would watch a second season, but that I also didn't really care whether there was going to be one or not. Unfortunately what publicly available numbers there are seem to indicate that The Acolyte hasn't been as much of a success as previous shows, so a continuation currently looks anything but guaranteed.

14/07/2024

Adventuring With Bessi

There's one major feature of patch 7.5 that I still haven't written about here yet: Bessi the Basilisk Droid! To be honest, I did the introductory quest line during the first week and then decided to nope right out of the whole system for the first month - it was all dailies and I was already doing the new spring event on ALL the characters; there's only so much daily-running I can take. However, I always intended to get back to Bessi eventually, so for the past few weeks I've been taking her out on adventures every week.

B3-S1 lying peacefully in Lane's lab, offering you a daily quest

When Bessi and her new "venture" were first announced, my reaction could basically be summed up in three bullet points:

  • Good: a companion with a meaningful story and gameplay behind it!
  • Bad: another incentive to do the same old daily areas yet again!
  • Confusing: why do we need a new system for this?

I feel like seeing the system in action only really gave me a partial answer to the last question. It has its own snazzy UI of course, but at its core it's still just a bunch of quests and achievements? My best guess is that the whole thing is legacy-wide in a way that the current achievement system wouldn't quite have been able to support or something...

The Basilisk Prototype venture UI at level 5

As a system, I'm honestly feeling a bit ambivalent about it, but it might be that the devs are still working out some kinks. For example I saw people complain a lot about mission RNG from level five onwards (before I'd gotten there myself) and this was addressed pretty quickly with a new option to unlock specific missions via currency on a vendor.

For me, where I'm at right now, there are mainly two things that still seem a little unrefined to me: one is that even though the system was advertised as legacy-wide, all the training module missions are character-bound, which makes it kind of unappealing to ever go on an alt, as you'll keep earning new missions on the same character, and switching to an alt would require you to pay extra to unlock training missions on a different character, when what you really want to do is save your precious currency for actual advancement.

The other thing is that it's just... a bit confusing, but in a way that I find hard to articulate. I was actually somewhat reminded of the way I felt about the 7.0 gearing system when Legacy of the Sith came out, which is to say, I kinda got what I needed to do, but if you asked me to explain how it all works, I'd just draw a blank. With Bessi in specific, I can always see the checklist of tasks in the venture window, but I find that I have to keep referring back to it all the time, because I just can't quite keep track and the flow never feels entirely organic to me. I pretty much always complete one task at a time and then have to go "OK, now what".

Bessi herself is incredibly cute though. She's basically a robot dog with a giant, multi-barrelled gun for a face, which sounds bizarre but works somehow. Everything about her design walks a fine line between threatening and adorable. I particularly like her idle sound, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up the first time I heard it because she growls a bit like the T-Rex from the original Jurassic Park, only slightly more robotic. But then you watch her wag her tail while she casts heals on you and you just can't help going "aw"; it's pretty amazing honestly.

Lane Vizla introduces Shintar the trooper to Bessi

Also, and it almost pains me a little to say this, but the daily gameplay loop turned out to be more fun than I expected. It's a bit different in that you have to "rent" Bessi for an hour at a time, so you have an incentive to really dedicate that time slot to nothing but her (logging out pauses the timer so you can take breaks if you want, but my point is you may not want to go off and run a flashpoint halfway through or something).

More interestingly though, we're not being asked to do the weekly mission in each daily area like on pretty much every other occasion, but instead Bessi's training modules require you to do just two daily or heroic missions in a specific daily zone at a time, which makes you think about things like which ones to pick for good synergy and can result in a lot of planet-hopping in a relatively short time. It's just... different.

The one thing that's surprised me is how extremely time-gated the system is. Obviously there was always going to be a limit in terms of how much progress you're allowed to make in a single week, but there are four different currencies involved and so far I've always reached the weekly cap for all of them within only two hours of gameplay, at which point it's back to the stable for Bessi as she can't make any more progress until the next week. Considering how the resource investment for each level is also increasing over time, the devs clearly weren't kidding when they said that unlocking Bessi's full potential was going to be something that takes a level of real time commitment that not everyone will be willing to make to this system.

How are you getting on with Bessi and what do you think of the new venture system so far?

10/07/2024

My 7 Favourite Post-Launch Story Updates

Over the years, a lot has been said and written about the merits of each of the different class stories, but there's been comparatively little discourse about the expansion stories from what I've seen - which I think is a shame, because in my opinion there's some pretty good stuff in there. Obviously, no single storyline can live up to the eight original class stories in terms of sheer breadth of unique content, but that aside, I disagree with the general sentiment I often see expressed that those stories were the peak of the game's storytelling and that it's all just been downhill from there. The more cinematic cut scenes post Knights of the Fallen Empire have been so much more exciting to watch than anything in the original class stories, and many of the non-player characters that were introduced in later years are much more interesting than the vast majority of NPCs we interacted with in the base game.

With all that said, I wanted to write a bit of a love letter to some of my favourite expansion stories. Back in 2019 I wrote a post called "Good Quest, Bad Quest" in which I laid out what I think makes an MMO quest good or bad, and those are the main items that influenced my ranking of these stories as well: presentation, writing, plot, characters, gameplay and world building.

Honestly, the most difficult thing was to decide what actually counts as a separate story. In the past it was pretty clear-cut for the most part, but ever since Ossus the game's ongoing storyline has been a bit of a never-ending soap opera in which different plot beats get picked up and dropped again without necessarily coming to a proper conclusion. You could argue that it's basically all been "the Malgus saga" since then, but I don't entirely agree with that as everything around Onslaught (and somewhat randomly, the Manaan part of Legacy of the Sith) has felt more like a classic and mostly self-contained Republic vs. Empire story to me, while I tend to think of Echoes of Oblivion as a stand-alone adventure that referenced a lot of older content. Spirit of Vengeance involved the Mandalorians for the first time, but then the focus kept ping-ponging between them and Malgus again.

Anyway, I obviously decided to make some choices in regards to the above; this is just to add some context.

The Jedi Under Siege loading screen, with Darth Malgus looming large over Tau and Malora

1. Jedi Under Siege (2018)

Also known as Ossus or the prelude to Onslaught, released with patch 5.10. There was never going to be any doubt in my mind that this was going to take the top spot on my list, because I loved this update so frikkin' much. Seriously, if you go back to the blog archives from December 2018, every other post is just me gushing about some aspect of this update or another that I loved.

I'd yearned for a return to Republic vs. Empire after Knights of the Eternal Throne, and while Iokath had paid lip-service to this, it had also been done in an extremely lacklustre way, just to then immediately steer away from the subject again to pivot into what would later become known as "the traitor arc". Comparatively, Jedi Under Siege felt like a return to form, the likes of which we hadn't seen since the base game. Ossus was a beautiful planet that made it a joy to explore again, something that hadn't really been the case with the very limited environments of the "Knights of" expansions and Iokath's confusing architecture.

We were introduced to several new and interesting characters in the form of Tau Idair, General Daeruun and Major Anri, and several companion returns that people had been anticipating for many years were skilfully worked into the story in an organic way (Doc, Nadia, Khem Val). On top of that other minor characters made surprise re-appearances, such as Jonas Balkar from the trooper story, NR-02 from the Black Talon, or Darth Malora from Korriban.

Not to mention that Malgus came back! You may be tired of him now after watching him sit around and mope for the last two years, but back then I thought this was a genius move and a fun surprise. And of course, the storylines for Republic and Empire side were different and well-written. I just had a blast all around with this content and am always happy to revisit it on alts. The fact that it takes place on an open world planet instead of constantly shunting you through instanced corridors feels very liberating, and I enjoy seeing the little variations in dialogue depending on what class you play and whether you had any pre-existing relationship with any of the returning NPCs.

The Onslaught loading screen with Tau, Arn, Anri, Malgus and a lot of space battles going on

2. Onslaught (2019)

In this context I'm talking about the story content that came with the immediate 6.0 expansion launch, meaning the story on Onderon and Mek-Sha plus the finale in the Objective Meridian flashpoint.

Onslaught honestly repeated a lot of what Jedi Under Siege did, only with some minor flaws. We quested our way through two new planets again, met some interesting new and returning characters (Arn, Darth Savik, Jakarro and D4, to name but a few) and once again saw things from different perspectives depending on our faction and to some degree our class (getting the option to reclaim your Dark Council seat as a Sith inquisitor was fire). It just wasn't... quite as good. For example the Republic story on Onderon suffers a bit from your senator liaison being a bit boring, and on Mek-Sha too much of the content for both factions overlaps, but it's still a storyline that I love to replay.

The Rise of the Hutt Cartel loading screen, featuring Lemda Avesta, Lord Cytharat and Toborro

3. Makeb (2013)

This the storyline from which the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion got its name, except the Hutts don't really get to rise very much at all before you slap them down again. They came in 2.0 and went within the same patch. This is a piece of content on which my opinion has changed a lot over time. Initially I liked it well enough, but the mobs on Makeb were quite numerous and tough at launch, and replays quickly started to feel like a slog. Not to mention that it was being sold to us as chapter four of our class stories for a while when it very obviously wasn't that.

However, considering how much smaller expansions got in the years afterwards, I've really grown fond of our adventures on Makeb in retrospect. We get to explore a large, picturesque planet over the course of a pretty meaty storyline, and it's totally different for Republic and Empire side as well. The Imperial storyline is admittedly a lot stronger, since the Republic one feels a bit odd with the whole "the planet is about to blow up" threat never seeming entirely convincing, but it's not terrible either. It's where we first meet Doctor Oggurobb after all.

The Shadow of Revan loading screen, featuring Revan looming large over Lana and Theron

4. Shadow of Revan (2014)

I'm mainly thinking of the actual 3.0 expansion launch story here, though I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to include the Forged Alliances story arc that formed the prelude to the expansion; I'd just personally treat that as its own thing. I'm also not really including the Rise of the Emperor patch here, since that had nothing to do with Revan anymore really. 

Many people cite this as their favourite expansion, but as I've stated many times before, I think it's somewhat overrated. That doesn't mean that I think it's bad however, not at all! Again, we got to quest our way through two beautiful new planets, Rishi and Yavin IV, and the tale of battling the Revanites and their new-old leader was compelling enough. There were some bits that fell a little flat for me, but I did enjoy the story overall.

It's also the expansion that had us start our adventures with Theron and Lana in earnest (including the option for some romance), which I guess is a big plus for some, though it's been more of a mixed blessing to me personally. I know many people love Lana, but if you think Malgus is worn out as a character, imagine how those of us feel who aren't crazy about Lana and yet have had to listen to her tell us what to do for over a decade now...

5. Echoes of Oblivion (2020)

I hesitated a bit to put this one here because I actually don't necessarily think that this is a great piece of content to replay on multiple characters, which is something that is quite important to me. The final boss fight is (in my opinion) one of the worst in the game and the whole thing is pretty linear without any meaningful variations based on your faction or class. However! In terms of world building, this storyline did so much to tie up several years worth of annoying loose ends that I can't not list it here as a piece of content that was very meaningful to me when it came out. It just felt like a love letter to the game's lore in a big way, trying hard to improve on all kinds of tidbits that had felt a bit unsatisfying in the past. Plus hanging out with Kira and Scourge was fun. I wrote a longer review about it back then, which you can find here.

6. Legacy of the Sith or Whatever It Is We're Doing Right Now (2020-?)

As mentioned in the intro, it's very hard to pin down a clear start and end point for this one, but personally I see what I'm talking about here as starting with the introduction of the Mando plot in Spirit of Vengeance in patch 6.2 and then pretty much everything that comes afterwards, except maybe the storyline on Manaan since that doesn't really tie into anything to do with the Mandalorians or Malgus. I'm also treating this placement as tentative since I'm not sure whether 7.5 will turn out to be a real cut-off - I suspect not, so future updates might change my opinion on this storyline. It's honestly been a bit of a ride, and I know many players have understandably been put off my the sheer amount of real time that has passed while all of this has been going on. But I still like the storyline because it has given us both new flashpoints and multiple new planetary areas in terms of gameplay, plus it's had a lot of what I think is great character writing. I'm really interested in seeing where things go with 7.6!

7. Oricon (2013)

Technically part of the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion and only a short side story, I liked patch 2.4's "The Dread War" for giving us a cool daily area and bringing the story of the Dread Masters to a satisfying conclusion. The plot and writing are pretty basic - here are some really scary bad guys, we need to beat them - but it showed us how something that isn't technically part of the main storyline about our character could still result in a really interesting and enjoyable story update.

I'm going to stop here because after this point, I think I'd start to be a bit more grouchy about the storylines that remain, and this is meant to be a positive post! You might be surprised by some of the things I haven't listed - I know the "Knights of" expansions have their fans for example, but I'm not one of them to be honest. You can read more about why here if you want.

If you've played through all the expansion content to date, how much do you agree/disagree with my rankings? Is there a post-launch storyline that I didn't mention here and that you feel is really underrated perhaps? Feel free to chime in in the comments.

06/07/2024

Galactic Season 6 in Review

We've got less than a month left of Galactic Season 6, and usually I would've been done with and written about the whole thing weeks ago. The reason I'm still at it this time is the Fragments Found achievement, which is grindy and horrible and which, at my current rate, will keep me busy until the very last week of the season. Still, that last stretch seems pretty predictable at this point, so I thought I might as well share my thoughts on the season as a whole.

GS5 was a slam dunk for me last year, so it pains me to say that GS6 was a bit more of a mixed bag. Let's get into the whys and hows.

Theme & Rewards

I expressed at the end of Season 5 that all the free decorations handed out as part of the seasons reward track had rekindled my interest in housing in an unexpected way, so I loved that the main reward for Season 6 was a stronghold. The Copero Villa is beautiful, and with its smaller rooms it fills a niche that wasn't previously catered to, offering a housing option for those who aren't so fond of the giant vaulted ceilings that are present pretty much everywhere else in the game.

Top-down look of the entrance area to the Copero stronghold, with a Makeb Gazebo on the landing pad

The matching decorations on the reward track were also absolutely beautiful, and I can say with confidence that I finally stopped fretting about what to do with my season tokens whenever I get close to the cap again - I can always use a few more of those beautiful decos from the vendor. There were some other solid pieces on the reward track as well.

Objectives

The objectives were... okay. I definitely appreciated that the devs took the feedback about the ops objective from last season on board and changed it so it only required completion of a single story or veteran mode operation instead of two to four within a single week. Otherwise it was mostly the same old, except that they seemed to want to mix things up a bit by doubling up on certain objectives, like in that one week when all three "kill 100 mobs with your companion" objectives were active at the same time, which was kind of strange in a way that I can't really rate as good or bad.

I did think the seasonal objective to visit another person's stronghold was genius in its simplicity and I had a lot of fun looking at other people's strongholds across all servers. The posts I wrote about this were also quite popular with at least a certain subset of my readers, somewhat to my surprise.

Story

The story is where the disappointment starts to set in, because after how much I enjoyed Galactic Season 5's story, I had high hopes for this one. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Season 5 was a narrative masterpiece, but it was an actual piece of story content where I didn't expect it, with a fun little mystery and three missions that actually offered you choices that changed the experience a little. I really liked that.

Unfortunately Season 6's story was nothing like it. It still came with three missions that you unlocked as you progressed along the reward track, but they didn't feel like part of a coherent whole, offered no choices and didn't come to any kind of real conclusion.

Shintar and Amity talking to Vagol Oss in the Copero Villa. Amity says: "Something about you is very familiar. Do you know the Messengers of the Cold Moon?"

There was a little Easter Egg for those who brought Amity along again though, solidifying his position as best boy in my mind.

I actually thought the first mission was quite interesting at first, and the idea of "run this flashpoint" being framed as an act of studying history struck me as very clever. Unfortunately the three flashpoints you were required to run are all on the long side if you don't have stealth, and it made the mission a bit of a drag to do more than once. Most annoyingly though, you kind of go into it with the expectation of learning more about your mysterious Chiss benefactors at the end, but you don't get to meet any of them, and Vagol Oss' information about House Inrokini's goals remains vague all the way to the end.

In the second mission you meet a Jedi researcher called Cay Teenu who has also come to help you out with your studies. She's interested in biology and has a strained relationship with a former padawan who was expelled from the Jedi order. I thought this was actually the most coherent of the three missions, because at least it comes to somewhat of a conclusion with the Jedi thanking you for your help at the end.

The final part introduces yet another character who wants you to run errands for her, a disgraced Sith named Juna Helos. However, once you complete her mission, nothing happens. I initially thought I'd missed something - both her and Vagol offer some more conversation options after their missions, but they didn't yield any more information. I even went all conspiracy theorist for a little while, wondering whether there was some deeper meaning to each NPC making recommendations about what kind of decorations you could put into the house, whether you needed to decorate the villa in a certain way to unlock the last part of the story. But no, doing additional research on this just yielded other people being confused by the sudden cut-off as well. Season 6's story consists of nothing but running some errands in the name of mysterious benefactors that you don't get to meet and that's... it. No pay-off. With Juna Helos also appearing in the Spring Abundance storyline, another option I considered was whether there could be a continuation next season, but I think that would be a bit odd and seems unlikely to me.

Blueprint Fragments

I wrote about how the removal of the seasonal reputation track caused some confusion at the start of the season, and the way the devs kept the seasonal currency in as nothing but vendor trash. This definitely seemed like a strange setup, but once I understood what was happening, I didn't mind it too much.

The problems started once I realised how stupidly grindy the final achievement was that replaced the old reputation track. With the seasonal reputations, I'd never had any issues with maxing them out well before the end of the season. Acquiring the reputation tokens took no special effort beyond doing my weekly objectives every week, I just had to remember to actually pop them in order to max out my weekly reputation allocation in a timely manner. In fact, last season I commented on how I didn't see the point of the "Brrazz's Gift" booster items since I never needed to boost the item drop rate for the reputation currency anyway.

In hindsight it feels like that comment of mine made the monkey paw curl... I was hoping for a nicer and more useful type of reward when I wrote that, but the devs apparently took it to mean that they needed to make the boosters more useful by turning the seasonal currency into a horrible grind that will make you yearn for anything to alleviate the pain.

Tooltip for the Blueprint Fragments item. It reads: Bound to Legacy. A small fragment of building blueprints for various constructions useful for the Stronghold on Copero. Once collected the information is automatically transmitted, leaving the fragment inert. These command a small price to some vendors and can be sold freely. They will only be found durnig the Galactic Season "Building a Foundation".

Don't get me wrong, I get that this is the "top tier" achievement that requires extra effort, but the degree of extra effort required this season was ridiculous. I don't know anyone who aimed for that achievement and wasn't fretting about it pretty much throughout the whole season. The thing that got me was that I spend so much time in this game and yet still only just scraped by because of how incredibly grindy it is.

It doesn't sound so bad on paper; after all you earn fragments for completing pretty much any kind of PvE group content, plus while simply fighting things with your companion. In practice though, you can (and I have) spend hours playing the game without making any progress towards this achievement whatsoever. Doing PvP? Nada. GSF? Nope. Killing some ops bosses with your guild but you don't fully clear because you're still progressing? Nothing. Killing things with your companion in areas that don't count for some reason? This has to be the worst one because you just can't tell what kind of area will or won't count and why. I killed hundreds of mobs in the Minboosa District while playing through the 7.5 story repeatedly, and those didn't drop a single fragment. Other areas do seem to be eligible but still offer only a crap drop rate. I did Kessan's Landing dailies (as a non-stealther) with the Brrazz buff on, just to end up with two fragments in my inventory at the end. Out of 1500 needed. It just felt ridiculous.

When someone who plays as many hours as I do a week still struggles, something seems wrong to me. I've heard people say that you can earn a decent amount of fragments by applying the buff and then just slaughtering flesh raiders on Tython for an hour or two... which may be true but also sounds like absolutely awful gameplay. It shouldn't be like that!

And that's without even starting on the fact that the buff items, for what little good they did, were bind on pickup instead of bind to legacy, and the buff didn't stop running once you logged off, so if you couldn't play for the full hour of the buff duration in a single play session - tough luck, the rest was wasted.

I hope that whatever they end up doing for the next season doesn't include anything like this. If they don't want to do a reputation track anymore, that's fine, but collecting 1500 pieces of vendor trash that only drops under certain (unclear) circumstances, and with a low drop rate at that, was just a horrible replacement all around.

03/07/2024

Mount Sale Shopping Tips

Yesterday SWTOR surprised us by launching a surprise "Cartel Market Summer Mount Sale", with more than 48 pages of mounts (back) on the Cartel Market and most of them at around half price, though some have even steeper discounts. See, this is exactly what I meant when I said that they were experimenting more with different kinds of sales!

This is definitely something I welcome, because I'm not a fan of enforced scarcity for virtual items, and it's actually kind of mind-boggling how many hundreds of items the SWTOR team has created for the Cartel Market over the last decade and how many of them are not even available for purchase a lot of the time. So bringing them back and with a discount on top is definitely something I approve of. The sale runs until July 16th according to Twitter.

A blue and grey Togruta riding a Rimefrost Whitefang mount on Hoth

I feel like spending money on cosmetic items you like is one of the better ways of supporting an MMO that you enjoy, so I can only recommend that everyone takes a look at the sale section themselves to see whether there's anything there that interests you. However, I also advocate spending your hard-earned cash responsibly, so here are some tips to make the most out of this sale!

1. Avoid impulse purchases

I know sales are exciting, but seriously, there are 48 pages of mounts here. Unless you're a completionist and there's no limit on the number of Cartel Coins you're willing to spend, take a good look at everything that's available first and have a think about what you really want. That Hoverchair might look kind of nifty on the preview picture, but do you really want to be seen around the fleet on that thing? You don't want to splurge on something on page two just to be out of money when you see something that you actually would've liked much more.

2. Check that you're buying the right thing

What do I mean by that? Well, someone on Twitter pointed out for example that for some reason the Dune Sea Bantha is currently listed twice, at different prices. Obviously you don't want to buy the more expensive one! I think this is just a bug, but still something to watch out for. Likewise, while browsing I noticed that a couple of mounts seemed to have wrong images representing them - for example the Frostcrest Devourer is displayed as brown on the store image, but when you actually preview the item, it's grey and blue. I don't think there are many items affected by stuff like this, but you want to be on the safe side, so look closely. If there are multiple colour variants of a type of mount, you'll want to make sure to grab the one you like the most! This is really just an extension of point one.

3. Compare prices on the GTN

Just because something is on sale on the Cartel Market, that doesn't mean it can't still be cheaper elsewhere! Before hitting that "buy now" button, take a look at the GTN to see whether your mount of choice has any listings there as well, and if so, how much they're going for. There's no universal answer to the question of whether it's better to spend credits or CC because it'll depend on your individual situation, but as an example, there were four mounts I checked out that are going for 750 CC in the sale, and when I looked on the GTN, three of them were only 5-20 million credits there, so I opted to go down that route instead. The fourth one however was going for a hundred million, which I thought was a bit pricey, so I opted to purchase that one with CC instead, especially since I wanted it on a secondary server, where I'm not as rich in-game.

4. Check your cargo holds

Because people are doing the above, now may also be a good time to sell off any spare mounts that you might have stashed away in your Cargo hold. This may not be true for every mount, and there may be a dip in price as some people buy them off the CM specifically to re-sell on the GTN, but it's something worth looking at at least. On Leviathan, I'd been trying to sell a medium-rare mount that I got out of a free Cartel pack for many weeks now, and the moment the CM sale started, it finally sold.

5. Consider buying to re-sell yourself

If you'd like to turn some CC into credits, grabbing a couple of rare mounts while they are on discount may not be a bad idea either. Kal points out that the TF-4 Rampage and Walkhar Trickster are very rare for example. They obviously won't be as rare after this sale, but it's still something to consider, especially if you're willing to play the long game.

Anyone remember when mounts were called "vehicles" in game by the way? It's still the name of the relevant post category on this blog, because at launch we only had speeders and no animal mounts. I think the first animal mount was the tauntaun added with patch 2.3? I don't remember when they changed the actual in-game ability list to say "mounts" instead of "vehicles" though...

30/06/2024

Where Is the Group Content?

SWTOR has long had a reputation of being a "single-player MMO", and I've always hated that. One of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog dealt with this topic in fact. Don't get me wrong, I have no issue whatsoever with anyone praising the personal storyline or preferring to play by themselves, but the thing that has always ground my gears is how this often dovetails into people being dismissive of the game's group content, calling it sub-par and not worth anyone's time.

Especially at lauch, that was just so not true. Coming fresh out of WoW's Cataclysm, where Blizzard had removed all group content from the levelling content in the open world, I loved that in SWTOR, heroics actively encouraged you to team up with others while levelling, plus you got bonus XP for questing in a group, instead of an XP penalty like in WoW. Social points also offered an incentive to do group content in PvE. While WoW players were moaning about being stuck with the Dragon Soul raid for nearly a year, SWTOR pumped out a new flashpoint or operation every other month. It was objectively a glorious game in terms of group content if you enjoyed that kind of thing.

Players from the guild Twin Suns Squadron assemble on Hoth to kill the world boss Snowblind

Sadly, over time, SWTOR's dedication to encouraging grouping has been watered down quite a bit. Rise of the Hutt Cartel was the first and last story expansion that supported group conversations in new story content. Heroics were nerfed in difficulty and turned into just another kind of soloable daily quest in 4.0. Social points were removed with 7.0. Any plans to add new flashpoints or operations were discarded with 4.0, until they eventually made a come-back a few years later, but things have kind of petered out a bit again since then.

This has made me a bit sad, but not... devastatingly so, because while I enjoy group content, I obviously don't spend all my time in it either. I love getting new story updates! And I suspect that catering more to solo players is simply where the money is. At the very least, I'd assume that it's much more straightforward to measure the return on investment when you see a subscription up-tick after a new story update as opposed to a patch adding a new operation. I wouldn't expect many lapsed players to specifically come back for a new operation, and I'm guessing it's more of a retention mechanic for existing long-time players, giving them something to do with their friends once their interest in playing by themselves has been exhausted.

With all that said, I do think that spending some time on catering to players who like group content is still important, because they are the ones most likely to get others to try or stay in the game, to gush about it in public and promote it on social media. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single well-known SWTOR content creator that doesn't participate in group content at least some of the time.

And recently, I've been hearing a lot of discontent - from different directions, so it's not just one person and their group of friends - around the fact that we haven't heard anything about upcoming group content in a while. Now, players always want more of the stuff they like, but the reason this really drew my attention is that I've heard these kinds of complaints before... and they usually did not bode well for the months ahead, as in the past these were the times when I had to watch people I cared about leave the game and never come back. I think at this point SWTOR players who are invested in group content have mostly come to accept that their preferred mode of play is not a high priority for the devs and that they can't expect updates tailored to their interests very often - but there's still an expectation of getting something at certain intervals, and there's definitely a point where they'll lose patience and unsub.

Looking at my timeline of major content additions from last year, the longest gaps between major group content releases over time have been as follows:

  • Between operations: 2 years and 10 months, between the release of Dxun and R-4.
  • Between flashpoints/small group content: 1 year and 5 months, between the release of Nathema Conspiracy and Objective Meridian
  • Between major PvP updates: 4 years and 2 months, between the release of Vandin Huttball and the introduction of PvP seasons (yes, really)

I'm writing this at the end of June, shortly after we just got a major patch, so I wouldn't expect another one until October at the earliest, by which point it will have been:

  • 2 years and 2 months since the last operation (R-4)
  • 1 year and 4 months since the last flashpoint/small group content (Shrine of Silence)
  • 1 year and 10 months since the last major PvP update (introduction of seasons)

In other words, it's not totally unprecedented to have to wait this long for new group content, but considering that it's been this long for every type of it, I'm not surprised to see people going stir-crazy all over the place.

I really hope that the devs will have something relevant to share whenever they announce the next major patch (I'm not counting the next Galactic Season, as I know that's its own thing), because few things are as much of a downer to me in this game as seeing players I like and whose company I enjoy slowly turn away from the game because the devs just don't care about giving them anything new to hold their interest.

27/06/2024

A Year at Broadsword

Today's it's been exactly one year since it was officially announced that development of Star Wars: The Old Republic was being transferred from Bioware to Broadsword Studios. I actually would've completely forgotten about this anniversary if somebody hadn't reminded me on Twitter a few days ago, and today I was reminded again when Keith released this producer's letter for the second quarter of 2024.

I don't have much to say about the producer's letter itself because it spends more time looking back than telling us anything really new. Nar Shaddaa Nightlife will start on July 9th, and at some point in July or August there'll be a livestream about the next Galactic Season patch. Just business as usual, really. That's not a bad thing though, is it?

When the news of the studio move first broke in early June last year, it sounded extremely scary for fans of the game. Words like "maintenance mode" were thrown around a lot, and certain content creators were cashing in on presenting the news in the worst possible light. 

A video thumbnail showing YouTuber Nixxiom dressed as a Sith Warrior and with a tear in his eye next to the SWTOR logo and the words "It's over?"

Exhibit A

Even those of us who were trying not to panic were struggling to make sense of the situation with the limited information we had available.

A year later, all of the hubbub surrounding the subject honestly seems kind of silly in hindsight, because from a player perspective, nothing really ended up changing at all. And I mean, if you weren't happy with the work the devs were doing before, there's no reason for you to be positively excited about the move either, but for me it's honestly been a big relief.

The content has kept coming out at a similar pace to what we've been getting in the last couple of years before the transition, with patch 7.4 with a new story update and a new daily area launching last December, and more recently patch 7.5 at the end of May giving us another new story update as well as introducing a new seasonal event. In-between we also saw the servers get moved to the Cloud, the launch of a whole new server for the APAC region, and both Galactic and PvP seasons have kept rolling along.

If I had to point out anything that's changed... well, right after the move, the devs actually seemed a bit giddy to me, though that seems to have settled down again since then. I will say that if anything's changed, it does seem to me that the team has dared to be a bit more experimental with communication and monetisation.

In terms of communication, they actually revived the e-mail channel as a way of promoting the game to existing and lapsed players (even if the look of their decade-old email template pains me a little, as someone who does that kind of marketing as her day job) plus they sent out a survey looking for feedback in November, something they hadn't done in many years. Totally anecdotally, at least one thing I specifically asked for in that survey was actually put into the game a few months later as well, so...

In terms of monetisation - well, I know some gamers consider it a dirty word, but I don't mean anything bad by it when I say that it seems to me that the devs have been experimenting a bit more. I'm not someone who keeps a super close eye on the Cartel Market, but it has seemed to me like they've been rotating the stock around a bit more, putting different items on sale more often, featuring better and more popular items as the deal of the day, and just generally been trying to make existing ways of monetisation interesting to new audiences, such as with shiny new dyes (which totally worked on me, not gonna lie) or more recently, outfits that allow you to display your hair under a hood. Nothing radical or obtrusive.

In summary, here's the tl;dr for lazy readers and for those Google snippets:

What has changed about SWTOR since the move from Bioware to Broadsword?

Not much, the game has continued to receive content patches of a similar size and at a similar pace to before the transition.

Did SWTOR go into maintenance mode?

No, it continues to receive story updates and other content updates multiple times a year.

22/06/2024

The Abundance Festival in Review

I wrote about the Festival of Spring Abundance at the start of the month when it first came out, but now that it's about to wrap up I wanted to write another post about it to reflect on how it's gone.

A female human Imperial agent posing on Dantooine with her pet power droid and her companion Vector. She's wearing the Nightshift Tech armour set.

For me personally at least, this new event has been a massive success. I took part in some of the activities pretty much every day, completed the little event storyline on nine different characters, and ground out enough currency to buy most of the rewards I really wanted on Darth Malgus, which included the Nightshift Tech armour set for one of my agents as well as at least one of each decoration. I can definitely see myself coming back for more of the potted plants though, as they tend to be one of my favourite types of stronghold decoration. The only slight regret I share with Intisar is that the armour set is character- instead of legacy-bound.

I also got all the achievements except the one that is still bugged (so nobody could get it) and the one for the rare fish that is completely RNG-dependent. All in all, I enjoyed this event enough that I can see it competing with Life Day for the position of being my favourite seasonal event in SWTOR - except they're both such chill events, they'd probably be happy to just share first place.

The daily missions were easily my favourite part, because they were both fast and easy while still awarding a lot of Conquest points. Okay, so the dancing one was pretty much a matter of getting paid for taking an AFK break... but I'm not someone who minds a freebie every now and then.

The pie baking and eating was probably the most fascinating to me, though I was a little disappointed that there wasn't as much complexity to it as I originally assumed. When I first learned that there were achievements for eating a perfect and a bad pie for example, my mind instantly went spinning with all kinds of theories about how to make my pie qualify as perfect ("bad" seemed obvious since you can select the wrong ingredients while putting your pastry together), but I then found out that your skill in preparing the pie actually has zero impact on its perceived quality when someone else eats it by clicking on it on the table; it just seems to be completely random.

Tables with pies laid out in Blba Groves on Dantooine

What still remained fascinating to me though was that people seemed to bring real life food preferences into the baking process. What I mean is that most days, when it came to choosing which pie to bake, I took a look at the tables to see which of the four types had the least representation or was maybe even missing entirely, so I could fill the gap for anyone else who was still on the weekly pie-eating mission. And the vast majority of the time, it was either the Deepwater Dac Pie (tentacles, gross!) or the Pitted Ka-Olive Pie, but mostly the former. Bestine Threeberry Pie and Sweet Spore Tarts were almost always represented, I can only guess because they looked and sounded like something one might actually want to eat in real life. I just thought that was kind of amusing.

The weeklies were a bit of a mixed bag for me. The creature rescue was extremely adorable the first time I did it, but once I realised that it was the exact same set of creatures every week, it became my least favourite just because it required so much running around. I'm pretty sure the sheer amount of planetary travel involved also cancelled out most of the reward money.

The cultivation daily was similarly time-consuming, and once again I was slightly disappointed to see us planting the exact same crops every week, especially considering that the prerequisite seed procurement mission sent us to a different planet each week. You'd think they'd actually make us pick up different seeds while doing that. I did enjoy making Mr Commando do the mission with me though to get the achievements tied to completing it as a group.

The egg hunt I generally enjoyed, though the experience could vary a lot depending on which server I was on as well as the time of day (I did some of the event stuff on Star Forge and Shae Vizla as well). Yavin IV was very easy for example, since the area is large and offers good visibility, with the roaming Massassi not really posing much of an obstacle. In general, the eggs were not as hard to spot as the livestream in which the event was first announced had led me to expect, but the fact that players were competing for spawns could be a real pain in the neck. The Rishii Village location was the worst in my opinion since it was both small and featured a lot of verticality, which made it hard to do a good "circuit" of the area and competition could be extremely fierce. While trying to poke my nose into every nook and cranny, I also managed to get stuck between buildings more than once, to the point where using /stuck actually killed me instead of moving me. Death by egg hunt, what a way to go.

The one-time story quest was much shorter than I expected. I thought that it was going to be a mirror to the Feast of Prosperity, giving us a new story step for every week of the event, for a total of four missions, but in reality it turned out to only have two parts, both of which were quite short. I can't say I really minded though, as this meant that it actually felt very doable as something to complete on alts. For comparison, I haven't actually done the Feast of Prosperity storyline on many characters due to its length. My only gripe with the Abundance storyline was that even though the cut scenes were KOTOR style and all the talking was alien gibberish (so there was no voice acting cost tied to giving additional choices), there was no dialogue option to account for your character not actually knowing Juna Helos from the Copero stronghold story. It felt kind of wrong that all my alts were just supposed to know her automatically.

Still, all of these were ultimately very minor complaints, and overall I've had a grand old time. I already look forward to revisiting this event next year to earn some more plant decos and work on those last two remaining achievements.

19/06/2024

PvP: Queues, Rewards & Healer Power

I originally planned to name this post "PvP Ponderings", but a quick search on the blog revealed that I already made a post with that exact same title back in 2012. That post was mostly about how unexpectedly enjoyable SWTOR's PvP had turned out to be for me (and others).

The last time I really spoke about PvP on the blog was back at the start of PvP Season 5 in March. My lofty ambitions to progress through the PvP season track on more than one server didn't really end up going anywhere, since Galactic Season 6 ended up eating most of my time soon afterwards and had no overlap with PvP at all for its first five weeks. As a result, I only completed the PvP season on Darth Malgus this time... though I did get all the achievements again, and was actually fully done (even with the medals achievement) a couple of weeks before the end of the season. I think most of that was due to the crazy Total Galactic War we had in April, as I did something like nine PvP weeklies during that week, which obviously gave me a major leg up in terms of achievement progress early on.

At the time of me writing this, we're already into the fourth week of PvP Season 6... and while I'm having fun, I'm honestly also a little concerned. I've previously written about how my experiences PvPing on different servers have heightened my awareness of how different these places can be in terms of activity levels and queue times, and to be honest I've always viewed the Darth Malgus server as a good place to be in that regards. Sure, pops might be marginally quicker on Star Forge, but at that point you're just splitting hairs.

However, this season so far, things have felt different somehow. Like during the last two seasons, I'm trying to get my arena credits done in the lowbie bracket, but I don't remember having to wait quite so long between matches before. I know the lowbie bracket isn't the most active, and I haven't exactly pulled out a stop watch while sitting in the queue, but fifteen to twenty minutes between arena matches seems quite normal now even during prime time, which means that if (like me) you lose a bunch of those matches, it can take up to two hours to just get the daily "play arenas" mission done, which means that completing a whole arena weekly (which basically requires four dailies worth of play) is turning into a considerable time investment. I'm thinking about switching to the midbie bracket this week just to see if that's any better. Still, I probably wouldn't even have commented on this if I hadn't noticed my queue times at max-level increasing as well. I remember when I used to boast about unranked PvP pops being near-instant on my server, while now it can sometimes take ten minutes to get into a warzone even at level 80 during prime time.

I'm trying to tell myself that it's not a big deal, or even that I'm just imagining these queue times being longer than they used to be, but I can't help but worry. Back in 2017, shortly before the last big set of server merges, I wrote a post called "The Curse of Queues", in which I pondered the way automated queueing systems shape our gameplay expectations and how the more of them you add to your MMO, the bigger your population needs to be to appear somewhat lively. Accordingly, when the devs decided to split the unranked queue into warzones and arenas, I was a little worried about what that might mean for wait times, since you'd now need more players queueing to keep both modes active at the same time. I didn't notice any negative effects immediately - but now I wonder whether the consequences of this split might be starting to catch up with reality.

My first thought once I considered the subject of queues "drying up" was something along the lines of: Okay, for whatever reason not enough people are queueing for PvP. Could the devs offer some incentives to make more people join in? However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that unranked PvP has probably never offered more rewards than it does now. I don't remember the details of all the PvP gearing systems throughout the years, but it was basically always a matter of completing daily and weekly missions to work towards some gear upgrades and that was mostly it. Oh, and you'd gain valour ranks for titles I guess. But otherwise, people just kind of had to PvP for fun, because there wasn't much else in it.

Nowadays on the other hand, we still have all that other stuff, plus seasons rewarding things like cosmetic armours and stronghold decorations. Shouldn't PvP be more popular than ever? Then I remembered that there's this thing called the Overjustification Effect (I had to look up the exact name), which basically means that things that we find inherently enjoyable become less so once we start doing them for extrinsic rewards. And then I wondered whether there isn't some of that at play here, especially as the requirements in terms of when and how to play (in order to earn those rewards) are much more stringent now than they used to be.

What I mean by that is that before 7.0, to earn rewards from PvP, you just had to pick up the daily and weekly mission from the PvP terminal, press the queue button, and that was it. Progress might be faster or slower depending on your win-loss ratio, but you could always take a break and pick up where you left off at a later point without losing anything.

Since the devs changed it so that dailies and weeklies reset every day/week, you need to keep playing to get them done within the specified time frame or lose all your progress. I used to hop around between alts a lot more, playing a warzone here or there as different roles or specs, but nowadays I'm much more focused on sticking with the same small number of characters, because else I can't complete my weeklies, which would mean progress towards tech fragments and seasonal achievements going to waste.

I also no longer get warzones and arenas served at random, with both giving me equal credit towards my goals, but I need to queue for them separately, and complete a certain number of matches in both modes if I want to get full rewards - all within the week of course. It's kind of strangely demanding, and I actually noticed that it makes me more cranky when I have a losing streak. Obviously I never liked losing all the time, but at least in the past I could decide to take a break and come back later. Nowadays though there's always that feeling of, "Grr, I need to complete this today, why can't I get one bloody win? I don't have all evening for this!" I've definitely noticed that the matches during which I'm most relaxed and enjoying myself the most are those with the lowest "reward stakes", for example when my weekly is already at 15/16 and I literally just need to complete one more match regardless of outcome.

I can obviously only speak for myself, but the requirements for progress really do feel quite different from a casual PvPers point of view compared to how it used to be, and I wouldn't be surprised if that affected more people's enjoyment.

Of course, when it comes to PvP, everyone tends to have their own pet issue that they think is ruining it at any given point - usually certain classes being over- or under-powered - but I honestly feel like I don't have enough knowledge about that area of the game to have strong opinions on the current state of class balance. I'd argue that things have never been perfectly balanced though and that the game has weathered all kinds of "flavours of the month" throughout the years.

One thing that was interesting to me on that subject though was when I watched a PvPer's "react" video the other day and he mentioned that he thought healers were actually kind of weak right now, since a good dps could easily beat a good healer one on one. This made my ears perk up because I did mention at the end of Season 4 that I had found myself surprised by how much more I enjoyed dpsing in PvP nowadays when healing had been my passion for over a decade. I didn't think to blame anything systematic for that; I figured it was just me, but now it seems likely that those two things are related, because that feeling of powerlessness has definitely contributed to me being turned off healing in PvP for the past year or so.

It's weird because I can't off the top of my head remember another era of the game when healers in general were quite so weak in PvP (as opposed to one specific class being over- or underpowered). More often the complaint has been that they are too powerful, and that this made matches tedious when it's too hard to kill anyone. With that in mind, I funnily enough can't even claim that the current situation has necessarily been bad for the quality of matches as a whole - it definitely seems to be that, going in as a dps, I see far fewer of those "slug fests" where people just hammer each other in a big pile around an objective forever without anyone actually going down. Ball carriers in Huttball actually need to be fast or good at passing now; you can't just brute force your way through a wall of enemies with some heals behind you. And those are not bad things! So I wouldn't blame the weakness of healers for a decline in interest in PvP, even if it has affected my personal enjoyment somewhat. It's just another interesting thing that I've observed.

This has turned out to be quite rambly, but these are just some of the things that have been going through my mind in regards to PvP lately. What are your personal experiences with this game mode recently? Do you think I'm completely wrong about declining participation and that queues are fine? I'm happy to hear other points of view.