Did I mention I'm a pacifist?

... is one of the voice lines of (not particularly popular) consular companion Tharan Cedrax. This post isn't about him though, it's about me. Yes, I've been trying out the pacifist life!

I first brought up the idea after visiting Dantooine during peace time, and got an approving comment from Charles Boyd of all people!
Well, now I had to do it. And thus, Pacis (pronounced "Paa-sis" in my head) the Jedi Shadow was born. It was obvious that a pacifist character had to be a Jedi, but the reason I chose Shadow was that I figured that the ability to go into stealth would come in handy when it came to avoiding combat later on.

The Pirate Incursion event wasn't actually on when I first created Pacis, so since I couldn't travel to Dantooine right away, I vendored my weapon and then walked around Tython a bit to see how far I could get without fighting anything. There were actually a couple of missions that I was able to do, such as the very first consular story quest to gather holocrons, and the side quest to visit the Twi'lek matriarch. Most of my XP had to come from simple exploration though.

Initially I was extremely paranoid about getting aggro on anything, but I soon realised that at least on the starter planet nothing really hurt very much. By the end I was happily charging through tunnels filled with hostiles twice my level and they would barely scratch me before I'd run far enough to get them to evade again.

I ran out of areas to explore by level five, but was still not allowed off the planet. I genuinely can't remember whether the ability to use the shuttle is gated by your class story or your level. The error messaging tied to that could certainly be more informative.

Anyway, I left it at that and waited for the Pirate Incursion event to come around again. Then I used the quick travel option in the activity finder to get to Dantooine and hid in a corner. The next time I logged back in the event was over and Pacis was able to explore in peace, only occasionally getting chased off by an Imperial spy or angry Kath Hound.

I was somewhat dismayed to find that the bonus mission to pet friendly Kath Hounds gives no XP, but of course I'm still doing it because why would anyone not do that one? However, I'm trying not to let the experience turn into a chore, so I'm not fretting about doing my two daily quests every single day. The goal is to slowly level up over time, and once the next Pirate Incursion comes around, to see if - being higher level - I end up being able to explore other planets and can find a few more non-combat quests to do. (The reason I want to wait until the next event is that without a ship of my own I won't be able to return to Dantooine otherwise.) I'll keep you posted about my progress.


PTS Adventures

I don't recall ever seeing as much excitement about the PTS as I've been seeing in the run-up to Onslaught. I don't know if it's just that I'm being exposed to more people talking about it now or whether is really is getting that much more attention, but the 6.0 PTS definitely feels different to previous public tests. I finally logged in myself the other night and was awed by the number of people just hanging out and messing around with the new gear on Odessen. It's not even like there was a special event going on or anything!

As none of the trooper/bounty hunter stuff was up for testing yet, I made do with a Sorcerer since I still consider my Sage my "main alt" and all the things we were being asked to test were Imperial only. From a healing point of view I wasn't sure what to make of the new set bonuses; the one I tried didn't really feel like it was affecting my play in any way. Of the three tactical items I saw for healing Sorcs so far, two unfortunately seemed pretty worthless due to how weak their effects were, but I made sure to say as much in the feedback thread on the PTS forum and am hopeful that Bioware will still tweak those numbers.

My guildies and I ran a master mode Hammer Station together since Bioware is apparently also changing the way level-syncing endgame content works. It did feel hard enough (the giant lobel Asteroid Beast wiped us twice as a certain someone spent way too much time goofing off), but apparently there's still a lot of tuning to be done on veteran mode and operations. Ajay on Twitter posted about suddenly being able to complete master mode Scum & Villainy in a pug in 25 minutes! Sounds scarily out of whack, but then again being able to take part in this kind of nonsense is precisely what makes it fun to play in a testing environment.

That said, I sure hope that Bioware will be able to gather enough data and take appropriate follow-up actions before Onslaught launches. We still haven't got an official release date for the expansion, but if they stick to their original September target, it's less than two months away now and public testing has only just started. Chuck and Brian said as much in the most recent episode of the Bad Feeling Podcast as well. I almost find myself hoping that the expansion will end up being delayed just to make sure that the devs actually have enough time to iron out all the kinks - looking at the current state of the PTS and thinking that this is what's supposed to go live in about six weeks or so doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

Anyway, if you're interested in giving the public test server a try yourself, here's the official article on how it all works and what to look out for. Once the next phase goes live, there'll even be rewards you can earn for the live game by participating in testing, something that Bioware hasn't done in years and that I definitely wouldn't want to miss this time around. What can I say? Sometimes, bribery simply does work.


MMORPGs on TV: Dead Pixels

This past weekend I found out that there's a new-ish British television show about MMO players called "Dead Pixels". It first aired on Channel 4 this spring and was apparently successful enough that they already greenlit a second season. Since the first one is only six episodes long and available to watch online for free, I sat right down and went through all the available episodes on Sunday afternoon. I never understood why after the success of The Guild, nobody seemed to want to pick that idea up again and make it come to life somewhat more professionally, with a larger budget, to take it in front of a more mainstream audience.

One thing I immediately liked about Dead Pixels and which is probably my favourite aspect of the show is that it intersperses the actors doing their thing with animated bits showing their characters' actions in the fictional MMO "Kingdom Scrolls". One thing that always bugged me a little about the setup in The Guild was that all their avatars looked exactly like they did in real life, only with funny clothes on. Nobody practising a bit of wish-fulfilment or engaging in some experimentation? In Dead Pixels on the other hand, main character Meg plays an ugly hunchback in the game, and another character, Usman, plays a purple cat person. The animation is very simple and cartoony, but that doesn't detract from its charm.

The show is officially billed as a comedy, but the humour is... a mixed bag. There were some jokes that genuinely made me smile or even laugh, such as when Meg's co-worker Russell joins the game and the crew quickly gets exasperated with his wide-eyed sense of wonder and desire to have fun, or when Meg gets excited about watching a story cut-scene while Nicky is shown to be skipping through it all.

More often though, I simply found the jokes hugely cringe-worthy. For example in one episode, naive Russell invites a friend he made in game to his home without realising that said friend is only fourteen years old. The others joke that surely someone will call the police on him for being a child groomer - crass, but I could have lived with it as a one-off gag - but this then goes on and on, as in an increasingly unlikely sequence of events the awkwardness of the situation gets dialled up to eleven and the joke gets run into the ground. Apparently the show's creators are the same people who were responsible for Peep Show (for any British readers who might be familiar with that), so I guess I shouldn't have been entirely surprised, but I don't remember that show being quite so bad most of the time...

Anyway, I acknowledge that humour is entirely subjective, and other people might well find it hilarious throughout. At least many of the positive reviews I've come across said as much.

What ultimately left me feeling uncomfortable rather than satisfied by the end of the last episode though was the show's portrayal of gamers - which is ironic, considering that I also found an interview with the show's writer Jon Brown, in which it's stated that he wanted to demonstrate what gaming is really like and correct bad misconceptions about gamers. Unfortunately I fear that he may well have ended up doing the opposite: enforcing bad stereotypes.

Simply put, the show's main protagonist Meg is a massive asshole. (And to some extent her friend Nicky too.) I'm fine with characters having flaws and dark sides, but she genuinely just spends most of her time being horrible to people with little to no consequences, and that's a problem when we're supposed to be rooting for her. When Russell first joins the game, she and Nicky lure him into a cave where they club his character to death and steal all his stuff. She feels a little bit of remorse the next day, but this is quickly forgotten again as everyone immediately goes back to treating Russell like a nuisance.

Another episode starts with Meg stopping at a bus stop in real life to scream at a random woman for (in her eyes) looking like a fake gamer girl. She and Nicky also participate in a harassment campaign against an actor who is supposed to star in a Kingdom Scrolls movie and feel vindicated when he drops the role. In general, she keeps being horrible to Russell while also trying to use him for sex throughout. And so on and so forth...

There are moments where the characters show likeable traits and their humanity shines through in a good way, but unfortunately those are rare compared to all the bad stuff mentioned above. Mainly the show portrays gamers as angry, rude, socially inept, unable to differentiate between virtual and real world, and deeply cynical towards anyone who doesn't act like they do. Fortunately that is far removed from the reality of MMO gaming as I know it, but sadly a TV show like this is unlikely to do public perception of our geeky hobby any favours.

All that said, I'll still happily watch season two when it comes out (assuming I hear about it and actually remember to pay attention). The characters do show some growth throughout the series and I suppose one can hope that maybe in future episodes they'll actually become more likeable as a result. 


Master Mode Dread Council

Mine and my guildies' ambitions to knock out as many ops achievements as we can - before the coming expansion potentially makes the fights more difficult again - continue. The latest encounter to fall to our might was the Dread Council in Dread Palace on master mode. Unfortunately I didn't get a kill video of this one as I noticed halfway through the fight that my GeForce experience had unexpectedly stopped working, and then that very same attempt - which hadn't even felt all that great up to that point - unexpectedly turned into a kill.

The thing that made this fight particularly interesting to me is that it's one that I'd never even tried before we started working on it this time around, not even back when you could over-level the operation. I'm actually not sure why, as we did kill the first four bosses back then, but that's just how it worked out.

I also didn't really do any research on the fight or watched videos about just what was different compared to veteran mode, so I was utterly delighted the first time we reached the end of the phase with the two ghosts, when Styrak and Brontes did something totally new that they don't do on either of the two easier difficulties: they repeated additional mechanics from their solo fights in Scum/Dread Fortress. Specifically, Styrak does his "now you'll see real power" move where he grows big and you get surrounded by small copies of him that try to trap you, and Brontes summons little reaches that connect through deadly electrified beams just like she does during the first transition phase of her solo fight. I thought that was a great example of how you can make a nightmare mode fight feel different and exciting beyond just making everything more deadly, something that SWTOR hasn't traditionally been that great at.

As a healer, I didn't find the fight particularly interesting in terms of my role - the main challenge was spacial awareness, as the group has to spread out and move around a lot, so when death marks go out you have to be able to quickly run across the room to be in range of everyone you need to cleanse before they die.

That said, there is something fascinating about the fight when you watch it, which is why I'm actually a bit bummed out that I missed the opportunity to record our first kill. It's quite "dance-y" in some respects, but everyone has to do a different dance while making sure not to crash into anyone else. I always particularly enjoy watching the tank who has to handle Bestia solo run across the room like a headless chicken to get her debuff to drop off, just to then get punted all the way back to where they started. It helps to know that actually, their running isn't as random as it looks, as they have to make sure to keep a distance from the other bosses so that Bestia doesn't buff their damage, and they have to position themselves just right before the punt so that they don't go flying over the edge to their death.

Speaking of people falling to their deaths, you only die from fall damage if you're already on less than half health when you go over the edge, so every time a wipe was called it became a bit of a fun challenge to allow your health to get low enough so that you could jump off and die without incurring repair bills, but before the abilities of the masters themselves had a chance to kill you.

Also, for some arcane reason related to how it's programmed, we soon learned that every set of Brontes' reaches that spawns gives 625 Conquest points when it disappears again. I've never counted, but I think you get at least a dozen spawns throughout the phase, if not more, which meant that each attempt that at least saw us through the reaches phase (even if some people died in the process) gave a huge boost to our guild's Conquest total. Not something you can easily farm specifically for Conquest gains, but it softened the blow of each wipe to know that we'd at least contributed something to the guild in the process anyway.

Oh, and when the masters finally died they dropped a cybernetic rancor mount, which was won by one of our tanks. Looks pretty spiffy!


Happy Blaugust!

It's the first of August, which means that it's once again time for Blaugust, the "2019 Festival of Blogging" as organiser Belghast called it this year.

In short, 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.

You can find out more about how it all works here, simply see a list of all the participating blogs with links to them here if you just want to browse other people's contributions, or start chatting with like-minded folks on Discord or Twitter (contact info also included in the two previous links).

I fear that my own contributions will be limited this time simply because I'll be on holiday for part of the month, but I still signed up as a participant just to spread the good vibes. At the risk of sounding overly touchy-feely, for me interacting with fellow bloggers and long-time commenters gives me more of a community feeling than any social media platform: I may have very limited knowledge of their personal lives, but I look forward to reading their thoughts every day and have had ongoing exchanges with some of them for close to a decade now. I guess it's like the virtual equivalent of going down to the pub and hanging out with the regulars, just for those of us who are couch potatoes and/or don't like alcohol.

Anyway, the point is that there's always room for more, so if you've ever thought about putting yourself out there or reviving a project gone dormant, Blaugust is a great time to do so.


The Shroud Bugged Out

You may have surmised from the fact that I was talking about doing the Dread Seed quest chain in my last post that I was also going to do the heroic missions that cap off that very same chain and the one for Macrobinoculars this weekend. I'm very fond of both of these missions because I'll forever remember the first time I did them both being hilariously chaotic.

You would also think that after successfully completing them half a dozen times I'd be able to knock them out pretty quickly at this point, but this is a notion of which I was quickly disabused this Sunday.

And to think that we started out so well! When we met up in front of the Shroud's lair, I was immediately pleased to note that all of us were actually on the correct step of the quest. Most of the previous times that I've done this mission it usually turned out that someone still needed to do the part that I like to call the "taxi chase", and then it always took some time to get them caught up with the rest of us. Our team on the other hand - consisting of me and my guildies Mostyn, Ken and Uni - looked like it should be able to make short work of the whole thing.

Unfortunately it soon became apparent that I was the person in the group who had the most experience with the mission, which was less good. As it turns out it's very easy to follow the instructions of other people telling you to click the button in front of you, but being able to do so doesn't necessarily mean that you now automatically know what everyone else in the group is supposed to be doing.

Already in the second room we briefly got stuck as everyone else went into the little side alcoves and started clicking the buttons there, while I ran up and down the corridor yelling about how I knew that there was something for me to click here but I didn't know where it was. Fortunately another guildie who happened to overhear us on Teamspeak was able to point me in the right direction (the ceiling). "It's like the blind leading the blind," Mr Commando observed wistfully from the other side of the table.

Then things got buggy though. We got to the part with the droid in the security station, where mines keep going off around him, you kill the turrets surrounding the station, he summons some droids, and after you kill those, he surrenders. The problem was that we killed the turrets and then nothing happened; the mines just kept beeping away and the next phase refused to start.

This is actually something that had also happened to me the previous time I did this quest, though back then we'd been able to reset it by simply walking away from the area, and when the sequence restarted it completed properly the second time around. That didn't work this time though. We ran all the way outside the phase and back in, even tried wiping the group by suiciding on the laser grid, but nothing seemed to work.

Eventually we exited again and reset the phase, which did not reset the first two puzzles but respawned most of the mobs, so we had to kill those all over again. Fortunately the security sequence also started up properly this time (we noticed that messages about escalating defenses popped up in the middle of the screen now, which hadn't happened before).

Though then we got stuck again because when the droids finally spawned, one of them managed to somehow run inside the controller's defensive shield, where he was untouchable and kept us stuck in combat. Fortunately this time we were able to reset the thing by simple getting some distance. When we tried again we made sure to instantly stun and nuke any droids coming out of the station right next to the shield.

Then it came to the puzzle part, one I thought I remembered reasonably well. One person mans the security station (this is usually my job), one has to go into the room with all the poison gas, one to the droid assembly line, and the last to the elevator. How and why any of these things go together and interact in a logical way I don't know; I just know that they do.

We started off with me at the security station, Mostyn by the poison room, Uni at the droid assembler and Ken at the elevator, but Uni kept complaining that he couldn't get in. "When I click this thing, doesn't the door go up?", I asked. "Yes, it does, but there's another one right behind it. It's like it goes up and stays closed at the same time." While this sounded quite inane, I was quickly reminded of a visual glitch that I sometimes see in cut scenes involving doors. The problem was that for Uni it was more than visual: the "second" door remained solid and wouldn't let him pass. Mostyn walked over and was able to walk right "through" it in front of Uni's eyes.

So we decided to have Mostyn and Uni swap places. However, Uni's game would have none of that either: While he didn't see any doors at the poison room, he was still prevented from entering by an invisible force field.

We tried swapping him with Ken, but now Ken was having problems with the poison room. He could get inside; but he couldn't click the console! "I can see where I'm meant to click, but it's just not letting me interact with it!"

As a last ditch effort, we were going to try having Ken back at the elevator, me at the poison room and Uni at the security station, but of course he couldn't click on that either.

Everyone agreed at this point that it would be best for both Ken and Uni to leave the instance and restart their game, since whatever was wrong seemed to affect them in specific and not the instance as a whole. "Are we going to be featured in a blog post now?" Uni asked on the way out. Well, you've got your answer!

After they'd both relogged and rejoined the group, it at first turned out that they had loaded back into the wrong instance, so they had to leave the phase again to switch instances outside. But once we were finally all together again, everyone was able to get through doors and click on things, and we literally unlocked the next step on the first attempt. If only it could have been that easy right away!

Fortunately nothing that came after caused us any more serious issues, Mostyn just fell to his death once and in the last fight people were running in circles like headless chickens for a while, but that didn't prevent us from getting it down.

Ken went to bed after that but the three of us who remained also needed the Dread Seed heroic so we did that too, and fortunately it went down without a hitch, except that I swear those power cells get deadlier every time I do the part where you have to power up the turrets. I know they are supposed to explode if you get hit while carrying one, but I've also been one-shot seemingly just from stepping on a floor cable while carrying a cell (are neither the cables nor my shoes insulated?!) and this time I managed to fall over dead literally the moment I clicked on one to pick it up.

Another bug I had previously encountered but which fortunately didn't happen again this time was one of the doors not opening for a group member (who was fortunately only helping out at the time and didn't need to be there for the final kill anyway, and unlike the Shroud heroic, fighting Lord Tagriss doesn't actually require a full group of four players).

Still, though. I used to think that the toughest thing about these quests was finding a group for them, but now I'm not so sure anymore. I mean, we had a whale of a time because we are friends who trust each other and are able to see the funny side of most mishaps, but can you imagine trying to communicate Schrödinger's door to a pug group? They'd just think that you've gone mad! Hopefully the Bioware devs will find the time to fix some of those bugs before they ruin too many groups' experiences, even if this isn't one of the most popular quests in the game.


Voss Seeker Droid Bug

Consider this one of my rare PSA posts, which usually come about after I stumble across a question or problem that's very peculiar, and then on trying to google the answer/solution, I realise that nobody seems to have posted one so far. Hey, might as well perform a small public service and do it myself, right?

This time the issue is the Seeker Droid/Dread Seed quest line which sends you all over the galaxy to dig up Dread Seeds, as there are a couple of areas where the Seeker Droid mechanic is a bit buggy. One of them is Balmorra from what I remember, but it's relatively easy to work around that one because the area is very open, so you just run around a bit and eventually you'll get it to work.

Voss on the other hand is a tricky one, because the dig site for the mission is underneath Voss-Ka and can only be accessed via a tunnel and by going down a narrow little path. What happens is that you do that, get the "Your Seeker Droid detects something in the area" message, take two more steps, and immediately get its "Your Seeker Droid no longer detects anything" counter, which causes the icon/item to get greyed out again. If you then continue into the area marked on the map, you can run around as much as you want, the icon won't light up again and you can't dig. Frustrating!

Fortunately there's a simple workaround, which I'm not sure everyone's aware of, so I made a little video about it last night while doing the quest on my Scoundrel:

Basically it seems to be less about absolute positioning and more about making sure you don't "trip" over the line that triggers the "Your Seeker Droid no longer detects anything" message. So the thing to do is to walk down the path very slowly and stop instantly the moment your Seeker Droid lights up as available. Then, instead of continuing down the little winding path, turn towards the cliff and edge your way down into the area that way. If you run into the "Your Seeker Droid no longer detects anything" message at any point, go back up and start again. You should quickly be able to find an invisible "path" though that allows you to enter the area without your droid becoming disabled, and then you can run all over the place and dig to your heart's content. Hope this helps someone!


To Skip or Not To Skip?

Several bloggers I'm following have been talking about Final Fantasy XIV recently, not least because it just got a new expansion. However, the game being what it is, several of those bloggers haven't actually been able to talk about the expansion yet, because they are still in the process of getting through all the prerequisite quests first, something that can only be bypassed with a cash shop purchase, and even that is a relatively recent addition from what I gather (previously there was just no way around it, period).

From this post on Time to Loot I learned that the community even has a name for the long chain of quests that players have to complete to even get access to the very first expansion: they call them "the Horrible Hundred". Bhagpuss then used this as a jumping-off point for a post of his own on when focusing on the journey instead of the destination might not be sound advice.

I've previously written about how I'm kind of glad that SWTOR is not as dogmatic when it comes to story progression, despite of the game's self-professed focus on narrative. That said, reading this whole discussion, especially Bhag's comment on Naithin's post - in which he asked whether the latter would actually be happy to skip all that content if it was a gameplay option - really made me think.

As much I've moaned in the past about KotFE and KotET in particular feeling like a bit of a drag (though actually, I already complained about Shadow of Revan and Ziost before that), I have not made use of the option to skip either so far.

I keep thinking about it, but the thing is that there are choices to be made in those expansions, and I don't like the idea of simply being saddled with one of the two default sets of options. It doesn't matter if those things never come up again afterwards; I would know! I've sometimes seen people clamour for a tool similar to Dragon Age Keep, which would allow you to lock in custom decisions even while skipping the content, but I doubt that Bioware would consider creating such a thing a good use of their time and money.

The thing is, even if we did have that option, I'm still not sure I'd want to use it. Even though replaying the exact same linear story over and over annoys me, there are moments when I find myself engaging with parts of it on a roleplayer's level, even when it's my umpteenth time through - usually because I hadn't thought about how that particular character would feel in that particular situation considering her background... which can then cause me to make somewhat different choices than I would have made if you'd simply asked me to fill out a scorecard beforehand.

On the other hand, there are the problems that make KotFE and KotET in particular - and to a lesser extent also the Iokath/traitor arc - such a nuisance to replay:

- It's not just the linearity and one-size-fits-all format of the story, but that it is so all-encompassing. Makeb and Rise of the Hutt Cartel are also linear stories, but they are independent from each other and you can do them out of order if you so wish. When you start KotFE though, the game demands that you must have finished all the "important" storylines before it, and if you haven't they will be auto-completed for you, with no option to ever go back.

- For all the complaining a certain section of the player base did about lack of content during KotFE, I've found it striking just how long each chapter is compared to the average quest line in the base game. A single planet's worth of class story is generally shorter than a chapter, with the latter clocking in at about 45-60 minutes each if you watch all the cut scenes, and still at least half of that if you were to space-bar your way through.

This is a problem in so far as chapters make it much more awkward to pause at a random point and come back later. Your overall progress will be saved, but if you exit the phase even briefly while not at a dedicated "check point", all the mobs after that will respawn. I've cleared Odessen of Zakuulan troops in "End Times" more often than I'm happy to admit, simply due to exiting the chapter at a bad time and then finding that I had to do huge chunks of combat all over again.

I'm not certain that solo flashpoints are any better either. I haven't tested it, but I would expect them to give a bit more leeway when it comes to not respawning all the trash if you leave for five minutes, but they probably won't save your overall story progress if you need to abandon it halfway through to come back another day. Either way, the end result is that both solo flashpoints and chapters make you feel like you always need to be willing to commit a larger chunk of time to playing in order to make any progress.

- Finally, all of this is made even worse by the fact that some chapters are very closely tied together and affect your gameplay outside of the main storyline. Mainly I'm thinking of how starting KotFE gets rid of all of your companions, and you don't get any new ones until chapter three, and nothing like a proper full roster until chapter nine. For that reason I never start KotFE unless I'm willing and able to burn through the first few chapters in a single session.

So for all these reasons KotFE and KotET are a bit of a nuisance in the narrative progression of one's character, and I know quite a few people who have used the option to skip this content quite liberally. For me however, the roleplaying considerations I mentioned earlier in this post weigh against that, and so far they've still won out every time.

I do think that there's a chance that my attitude might start to shift over time though, as Bioware keeps adding more and more "post-Knights" content, because the more of it there is, the more I'll feel the urge to actually get to all that content. In addition, the more the adventures of Arcann and Co. retreat into the distant past and become irrelevant, the less strongly I expect to feel about "having" to go through them for my character arc to feel complete.


Is PvP More Balanced Now?

While I've always been better with words than with numbers, I have a soft spot for statistics. I mentioned recently that I put together some stats about warzones twice before: once in 2013 and once in 2015. Both times they seemed to confirm the common refrain that Republic sucks at PvP: my win rate was only 35% the first time around and 38% the second. (Though mind you, I didn't run a comparison on Imp side to verify whether this was really faction-related or if it was just me dragging my team down.)

I was curious to find out whether this had changed after last year's "Summer of PvP" tore down the faction barriers and took measures to improve matchmaking. The short answer is: maybe a little? This time around I finished my 100 recorded matches with a 42% win rate, which is certainly an improvement but still not as good as it should be in my opinion.

I also recorded once again whether it seemed like any given match had been fair or unfair (I used the latter label when it felt like the losing team never really stood a chance, regardless of which side I was on), and about half of all my games (48) felt like they had been seriously unbalanced. (Though again, this is slightly better than it was in both 2013 and 2015, when 53 of my 100 matches had felt like bad match-ups.)

One thing that's worth noting as different this time around is that I didn't just restrict myself to playing three healing characters on Republic side. Since faction shouldn't matter anymore I played characters on both sides (in fact, as it happens two thirds of my games were played on Imperial side this time around) and I also rotated through my entire stable of alts, playing characters of pretty much all classes and specs. I actually would have expected that to depress my win rate a bit as I'm pretty horrible at PvPing e.g. as Gunslinger or Sentinel, but if it did it wasn't enough to bring the numbers down to the level of the previous two experiments.

One thing that does seem to support the idea that class/role matters is that I came closest to reaching win/loss parity on my healers (20 wins vs. 24 losses, or a 45% win rate), and if you only count matches on my Commandos or Mercenaries (my main class), I did in fact win more often than I lost (12 vs. 8). Gunslingers/Snipers technically also won more than they lost (2 vs. 1) but that total is so low anyhow that I simply consider it a fluke. Sentinel/Marauder is certainly closer to what I'd expect from me on that class, racking up only 2 wins vs. 8 losses.

Of the old faction lines there was no evidence anymore, as my Republic characters had an average win rate of 45% vs. only 40% on my Imps.

Another thing that's interesting to look at is the distribution of the numbers among the different types of warzones. I noted in the past that my odds of winning were generally better in the node-capping game modes (Civil War, Novare Coast) and at their worst in Huttball. The former still seems to be true (mostly) as the two game types in which I could actually record more wins than losses were Novare Coast and the Proving Grounds, while Civil War was a perfect 50-50 split. Huttball wasn't as bad this time around though, as my 41% win rate in it was very close to the average.

This time the warzones that caused me the most losses were Yavin Ruins (only won 1 out of 5, but again that's a pretty small total), Voidstar (3 out of 10) and Hypergates (3 out of 9). So this is an area where the faction mingling definitely seems to have helped, as I still remember the pain of playing unranked Huttball as a Republic player back in the day very well. As for Novare Coast and Proving Grounds, I can't help but wonder if me really loving those warzones doesn't play into it a bit, as I would assume that it makes me play a lot better, therefore increasing my team's chances of winning.

Anyway, while win/loss ratio among different warzones has improved, Huttball still has balancing issues as it was the warzone that felt by far the most unfair, with nearly two thirds of matches having felt like the losing team never even stood a chance. I think that may just be the nature of the map though, as any amount of co-ordination just makes such a huge difference. Funnily enough the most "fair" game mode by that measure turned out to be Hypergates, at least during my experiment. Out of 9 matches played, only a single one felt like the outcome had been a foregone conclusion.

Finally, one more thing that I kept track of this time around and that I hadn't paid great attention to previously was the day of the week on which I played. This was interesting as there was a clear trend towards Thursday to Saturday being the best days to play, providing an almost perfectly balanced win-loss ratio, while Monday to Wednesday were the worst, as I had to put up with two losses per win or worse on those days. I'm not sure how to explain this. Theoretically a larger number of players participating in PvP should help with the matchmaking, but from my experience Thursday and Friday night aren't exactly prime time for PvP - then again, I might be wrong about that. Tuesday is also the time of the weekly reset, I wonder if that plays into it somehow?

tl;dr: Yes, your chances of winning as a Republic player seem to be somewhat better now than they used to be, though on average the change is not that drastic. The biggest and most noticeable change has occurred in Huttball, where your odds are much better now, though it remains somewhat unbalanced in general, with only a third of games actually feeling like good match-ups that result in a fair fight.


Random Makeb Love

Telwyn is finally playing through the Makeb story on Imperial side, only six years late... and here I thought I was slow when it took me two months to get to it! Funnily enough, I was reading his post on my second monitor while I was using my primary to play through Imperial Makeb myself... for the second time in recent weeks, in fact.

Looking back at some of my old blog posts, I've had a very on-and-off relationship with Makeb. At first I quite liked it, but then repeating it a couple of times quickly made me feel burnt out. Finding that every single one of my characters was getting funnelled into it as "chapter four" of their class stories felt disingenuous and annoying.

Then after Shadow of Revan came out my attitude towards it softened again, since it wasn't considered a requirement to progress the new storyline but rather just another piece of side content, like the various daily areas. Since then I've often skipped it since there's already enough strictly linear story content that I have to get through to get to the bits I like, but every now and then I like to take a character through it again - fortunately it doesn't matter where they are in terms of personal progression; you can do Makeb at any time.

The release of Ossus also made me oddly nostalgic for Makeb. As I discussed in this post, sometimes you don't know what you've got until it's gone. At the time of its release, Makeb had seemed a bit lacklustre compared to the class stories, but after more than three years of plodding through a one-size-fits-all storyline, I can't help but see it in a very different light. The depth of the world building conveyed through totally different story threads! All those different NPCs you get to interact with that have their own lives instead of everything being about your companions all the time! It suddenly tastes oh so sweet.

And it oddly makes me wish that we could meet some of those characters again one of these days. As it stands, the only story references to Makeb after its release were a brief mention about Isotope-5 powering Imperial ships in Lana's summary of what happened during your five years in carbonite, and of course Doctor Oggurobb joining your Alliance. On Imperial side though there are so many more characters that would be fun to meet again. I'd like to see how Captain Hanthor is doing for example. (And this time give us a flirt option while you're at it!)

I've even come to appreciate the relatively minor players such as Nadrin and Sergeant Bedareux. Actually, the latter made me realise that I don't recall another character anywhere in Star Wars canon that has a French-sounding name - based on the spelling anyway, even if it's then pronounced in a very English way in the English client. I wonder if the German and French voice actors actually pronounced his name closer to what you'd expect? Also, if you do know any other French-sounding characters from Star Wars canon, do let me know please because now I'm oddly curious.