09/01/2022

Daily Tour: Iokath

I've been meaning to write about Iokath. Intisar wrote an excellent blog post called "Iokath is Good, Actually" back in November, which I meant to comment on at the time but didn't for some reason, and then it was too late because the comment section for that particular post had closed.

So I'll let you in on a secret here: Somehow, Iokath has become one of my favourite daily areas. No, really! I think a large chunk of it is the ridiculously high amount of conquest points it awards compared to the relatively low time and effort required to complete the weekly quest, but also, I just kind of like how different it is. So it's about time I continued my kinda-sorta series of posts about my daily routines and wrote about Iokath. Especially since I'm not sure whether it will continue to be viable once Legacy of the Sith hits, what with the planned changes to daily and weekly resets. If you're someone who investigated this on the PTS, please let me know in the comments.

Anyway, one of Iokath's biggest drawbacks as a daily zone is that you can't just go there, pick up all the available quests and get your weekly done in a single day. However, there's a simple big brain workaround around this: Go to the mission board - just the board, don't do any quests - two to three days in a row and keep adding to your log. Once you've got at least ten dailies that you're happy with, you can get your weekly done in one go. This still has the disadvantage that your quest log is pretty clogged up for a couple of days, but since I'm not much of a daily runner in general, this isn't usually a problem for me.

You may have taken note of my choice of words in the previous paragraph: "ten dailies that you're happy with", because god knows I don't like all of them myself. The colossal droid requires a group for example, which is not ideal in most circumstances. Both the scouting mission and the one to disable enemy defenses require too much running around for my liking. And unlike Intisar, I don't like the one to kill forty droids as a walker either.

I remember at the start you couldn't loot while in "vehicle form" and I'm someone who's very obsessive about making all the loot beams disappear, so being unable to deal with that quickly made this one a no-go. I do think they might have fixed this issue later on, but by that point it was too late for me. Plus being a walker prevents you from doing certain activities required for other missions, and you'll already have to kill dozens of droids just to get all those other things done, so adding another forty unrelated kills on top of that just doesn't appeal to me.

I do like the vehicle quests with the mouse droid and Iokath monitor, the one to defend the base, as well as everything in the docking ring and weapons factory plus the more generic kill quests. So this is how it goes then:

Starting in my faction's base, I first do everything that can be done right there, which covers the base defense and the aforementioned vehicle quests. For the kills with the monitor, I go just outside the base and up the ramp, where weak mobs come in singles and pairs, which are easy to kill even for the fragile monitor, and while I'm there I can also enable some laser defenses (because that's something you can apparently do in vehicle form).


Next I go back to the landing zone and enter the docking ring, which can contain up to four daily missions, though I'll also go if I've only got two or three. I disable the two lasers in the first room and do the little event there, and then proceed to the easternmost room, which contains one of the AA batteries (assuming I have that quest). Then I make my way north for the second one. If I don't have that particular mission, my circle will be condensed to just get a few more lasers and droid control stations.


Once done in here, I use my quick travel to quickly get back out, and then run out onto Iokath proper, just to make a quick beeline towards the tram that takes you to the weapons factory (pictured here is the Republic version of that). In there I first go to the southern room to play the weird ball game there (my inner SEO optimiser is screaming at me for not calling anything by its proper name, but I can't be bothered to look up the names of each mission - plus I wouldn't want people to find this while searching for a guide and then leave me angry comments about what a useless guide this is). I click on the panels along the walls if I have that particular quest, and then go north if I need to vent heat. At some point during this, I should usually be finishing my weekly, and once done, I can once again quick travel out.


I think the fact that the description of the actual daily "round" only took me three paragraphs should tell you how quick and easy the Iokath weekly actually is if you stack enough quests, as there are several places where you can get three to four of them done almost all at once - which is more than you can say for most daily zones to be honest!

03/01/2022

That Star Wars Insider Article

Back in October, I retweeted someone noting that Darth Malgus and Star Wars: The Old Republic were going to feature on the cover of Star Wars Insider #207:

Aside from being happy to see the game get some good publicity, I immediately knew that I wanted to see the actual article behind that cover as well. Physical magazines like Star Wars Insider may seem a bit quaint and old-fashioned nowadays, but personally I've retained some fondness for the format. During my teens I went through a phase where pretty much all my pocket money was spent on various magazines every month, which I then ended up reading in their entirety from front to back every time. Before I had internet, this was simply the best way to keep up with news when it came to certain niche interests such as Star Wars. Star Wars - The Official Magazine was the German equivalent of Star Wars Insider at the time and also on my reading list.

I will say though, as it turns out, even just buying a specific magazine can be quite a challenge nowadays. In Austria there were newsagents at every corner of my neighbourhood when I grew up, and even so it could be tricky to find one that carried everything I wanted to read. Here in England I've found them to be somewhat rarer, and I wouldn't even have known were to start looking for one with a sufficiently large selection. You'd think the answer would be to simply order online, but as it turns out nobody wants to sell single issues of physical magazines online either, only if you pony up for an annual subscription. I eventually found/settled on purchasing a digital copy from a site called Pocketmags, even if it felt very pricey for what it is.

I wish that as a result I had some super secret and exciting insider scoop to share with all of you, but alas. Unsurprisingly, the seven page article about SWTOR is mostly a fluff piece aimed at people who either haven't played the game at all or have only a passing familiarity with it (perhaps they played it at some point in the past and then stopped) - which makes sense for an audience of general Star Wars fans I guess.

The only quote hinting at future content beyond what we already know about Legacy of the Sith is Charles Boyd saying: "We're going to be doing some cool stuff with Malgus, and it's going to set off a new direction in the storyline that I think will be really intriguing. We never seem to run out of cool things we can do in this storyline. But always expect more, and there is more coming down the road." Which sounds cool, but is also very vague.

Still, I did enjoy the rest of the article too. It's basically a combo interview with Charles Boyd and someone called Orion Kellogg, whom I hadn't heard of before but who's apparently an executive producer at Lucasfilm Games and a sort of brand liaison for SWTOR. I liked that the general vibe seemed to be one of them being quite happy with what SWTOR represents, with it being the longest running Star Wars game to date, and Orion calling out the ever evolving and growing online community as something he's enjoyed watching. You'd hope that, financial incentives aside, knowing that the game has many loyal and deeply involved fans would also serve as a reason to keep it running for many years to come. Then again, they still can't even be bothered to give it a listing on the starwars.com games and apps page, which includes highly rated classics such as Angry Birds Star Wars and multiple version of Star Wars Pinball...

30/12/2021

Should SWTOR Innovate More?

Something I've long appreciated about SWTOR is that for most of its ten-year run so far, the devs have been sticking to what's known to work. They know that most of the players are mainly here for a story in which we get to make decisions that flesh out our characters and in which we can build relationships with NPCs, with some group PvE and PvP in a shared world on the side to keep us busy between story releases.

On the rare occasions when they've tried to deviate too much from that formula, such as during the "Knights of" expansions, I was not a happy bunny, but looking at the bigger picture, fortunately there hasn't been too much of that sort of thing, especially when you compare it with the (former?) market leader World of Warcraft and the way that's been trying to make every single expansion about some exciting and totally new feature for many years now.

That said, after several years of playing it very safe with new content additions, Bioware is finally looking to make some more daring changes with Legacy of the Sith, and I can't help but wonder whether they haven't already missed a trick or two.

Actually, the very first time that thought occurred to me was after the launch of Final Fantasy XIV's Shadowbringers expansion two years ago. I've never played FFXIV myself, but something that intrigued me about the reports of people who did was the addition of a new feature called the Trust system. From what I understand, this allows you to run certain story instances that are designed for group gameplay with NPCs instead of actual players, and the NPCs are all characters that you know from the story. When I first read about that, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was something like: SWTOR really should have thought of that first!

This isn't to say that I feel SWTOR desperately needs a feature like that right now. I strongly disliked the introduction of the GSI helper droid for solo modes back in the day, but I've been quite content with the way Bioware has handled more recent flashpoint releases by simply scaling the content so that story/solo mode is easily doable with your one or two companions.

My point is more that companions have been one of SWTOR's distinguishing features since launch, and back in 2011 just having them was one of the game's genuine innovations. Sure, other games had combat pets or mercenary NPCs à la Everquest, but no other MMO had them be fully fleshed-out, permanent companions with their own stories. It was a trend that other games felt the need to catch up with by adding their own spin on combat companions over the years, but in that same time frame, SWTOR itself hasn't really done much with the feature at all. The last major changes came with KotFE, when companion abilities were homogenised, affection was replaced with influence, all companions became capable of playing any trinity role, and more. However, since then, all that's happened is that we got more new companions and... that's it.

And that really seems a shame considering SWTOR's focus. To get back to the idea of being able to bring multiple companions into combat at once like in FFXIV's Trusts, one of the original trooper missions has you storming an enemy ship with your whole squad going in guns blazing, and everyone I ever talked to about that mission said that it was really cool and that they'd love to see the game provide more of that, yet Bioware never did. Again, I'm not saying that being able to run group content with a group of companions is exactly what we need... but considering the large stable of them that we have nowadays and how core they are to SWTOR's gameplay, you'd really think that Bioware would have come up with something new for them to do or contribute to by now.


You could say something similar about crew skills. I mean, crafting in SWTOR was hardly revolutionary even at launch, but the idea that your companions were doing all the work for you was kind of novel. This was around the time when a number of MMOs came out with companion apps on the phone, and players opined that it would be neat if they could manage crew skill missions from their phones as well - but that never happened. And neither did anything else, other than that new crew skill levels were added over time and some details about crafting progression were tweaked. It used to be that different companions had bonuses to different crew skills (remember when Elara Dorne had a bonus to both bioanalysis and biochemistry for example), but that was also taken out.

Looking at the way Bioware is overhauling a lot of UI elements with Legacy of the Sith, and considering that the crew skill window is one of the oldest, almost completely untouched UI elements in the game, I wouldn't be surprised if doing something with that was somewhere on their to-do list as well. I'm both excited for and scared of the day that will happen, as I'm not a fan of the companion window they introduced in KotFE, and crew skills is the only place where I can currently see my companions sorted by influence, so I'd hate to lose that.

But at the same time, I can't help but think that Bioware could do so much more with the crew skill system. Having played a bit of retail WoW on the side over the past year, I finally had a chance to have a look at the frequently derided "mission table" there and its various permutations throughout the last few expansions, and while you can say that they're all essentially phone mini games, I actually found myself quite engrossed by at least a couple of them. I also couldn't help but think how much more interesting it was that my in-game "companions" for these systems had different strengths, weaknesses and abilities, as opposed to SWTOR's companions - for all the depth they have as characters - being all the same when it comes to crew skills aside from potentially differing influence levels.

Again, I'm not saying that SWTOR needs to copy WoW and that crew skills should become an auto battler - in fact, that sounds like a pretty terrible idea when I put it like that. But my point is that the idea of having companions do your crafting/work for you was something that was originally unique to SWTOR, yet nothing has been done with that over the last ten years, while other games actually ran with the idea and even experimented with various ways of making it more interesting.


So I'm not saying that I think the Bioware team needs to come up with drastically new ways to play the game - I think Galactic Starfighter showed well enough that e.g. adding a first-person space shooter to an old-school tab target MMO with an RP focus is not a recipe for success. However, just looking at the areas in which SWTOR excelled at launch and which have remained a focus throughout the years, it feels like things have become a bit stagnant, with no real attempts to improve or expand on many existing core systems since around Knights of the Fallen Empire.

I think the combat changes coming with Legacy of the Sith are their most daring step in that direction that we've seen in a long time. So I do hope that these work out well, and that in the years to come we can perhaps see a similar amount of thought be put into other parts of the game that could do with a bit of freshening up, such as companions and crew skills.

28/12/2021

Day 10: Death

It seems appropriate to finish off my 10 days of SWTOR screenshots series close to the end of the year, and end with the theme of death - which sounds a lot gloomier than it is, really. In MMOs, death is rarely much more than a temporary setback, and personally at least I often find it quite comical as well, which is reflected in some of these screenshots.

First off for example, we have this shot of a master mode Tyrans wipe in progress. Being dead on the floor always provides interesting opportunities for taking screenshots from a different perspective, but this was an unusual angle even for that situation. Plus I caught my co-healer stepping on me, which was an amusing bonus.

A different kind of death humour is illustrated by this shot of my Imperial agent dead on Ossus. I've long had a soft spot for humour derived from deadly verticality (one of the very first posts on this blog was about that subject), and elevators that go faster than should be physically possible are a classic that never gets old for me. So I was very pleased to find that the Imperial base on Ossus is also fitted with one of these, meaning that if you step on the lift at the top just as it starts its descent, you'll be taking one looong step down, which inevitably ends in having to call for a med probe.

This is an older shot from the PTS but pictures something that can happen on the live servers as well - a Sage or Sorcerer dying in their "immunity bubble" pose - because you did hit that button and should have been immune to damage, but the game decided that you should die anyway. Damn it!


Speaking of things looking not quite right, in this screenshot I found it striking how after Titan 6's death, the targeting circle for his body was quite some distance away from his targeting circle on the ground where we picked up the loot.

Seguing into dead bodies and loot, I'm perpetually baffled by Bioware's relationship with loot crates these days. Back in the day you always looted the boss's dead body itself, or you got a mysterious box if the body was inaccessible for some reason - which did make sense with some boss fights, such as Revan mysteriously disappearing at the end of the Foundry, or Darth Malgus in False Emperor needing to be pushed off a ledge in the fight's original iteration. But at some point... things got confusing.

As pictured above, you've been able to off Malgus the regular way for some time now, but you still don't loot him directly. That could be brushed off as a remnant of how the fight used to work, but it happens in newer flashpoints as well. I think it's the second boss in Spirit of Vengeance where you end up with a dead body (even though you technically don't kill the guy lore-wise), a copy of him that's still alive, and a box falling from the sky at the end of the fight. It's very strange.


Circling back to strange views of death, here's the view from the floor during Revan's core phase in Temple of Sacrifice... I get why the bodies are put off to the side like that, but I don't know why all those people died seemingly mid-air in strange jumping poses...

To, uh, another year of lots of virtual death?!

24/12/2021

Happy Life Day and Another Blog Anniversary

I'd like to take this moment to wish all my readers a merry Christmas or whatever other holidays you may be celebrating around this time of year. In most European countries Christmas is being celebrated today, something I actually had to actively remind myself of... after eleven years of living in the UK (which I realised - somewhat to my shock - equals more than half of my adult life at this point) I've gotten so used to the way things are done here that I sometimes forget about how it's supposed to be done "properly" back home.

My last post was about SWTOR's tenth anniversary, and this blog celebrates its own birthday two days after the game. Usually I like to commemorate this with a post on the 22nd, but this year I let it slide because I got my third Covid jab that day and some side effects combined with other issues meant that I've been feeling pretty under the weather since then. But hey, Christmas is a good time for reflection too, so I might as well make that post today.

Sadly the last year hasn't exactly been a triumphant one for the blog, as my annual output declined further from it's previous average of more than a hundred posts. Last year I fell just below that for the first time, and this year I'm only up to 74 posts at the time of writing this. It would be easy to blame the lack of major in-game content milestones that I also brought up in my last post for a shortage of things to write about, but while that may have factored into things, it's not really the main issue. I still believe in my own advice when it comes to MMO writing, which is that as long as your game is alive and kicking, there's always something to write about. Sometimes you're just not that interested in what's happening at the moment, or maybe you're more interested in just playing the game without writing about it.

And really, it's mostly been those two factors that have limited my writing. I mean, there's interesting stuff happening on the SWTOR PTS right now, but I'm just not that invested in playing on there more than once in a blue moon. (No, not even when there are rewards on offer - I struggle enough to get all my alts through the story content on live!) When I'm playing, it's mostly got to do with my guild and Conquest - which I do write about sometimes, but it's not that interesting to me to write about all the time - so I'd rather spend more time just playing, even if it's something else.

Anyway, let's have a look at what I did write about in the past year:

With farming tech fragments to gear up no longer being a concern, I wrote about wasting my tech fragments gambling at Kai's back in January. Incidentally, I never stopped doing that as I'm still missing lots of set pieces and Tacticals for the achievements. I just stopped keeping track of the millions and millions of credits I was pouring into it... I probably don't want to know. On one of those occasions when I did talk about Conquest, I also summed up the reason Bioware was making changes to the way new players contribute to guild Conquest scores, apparently inspired by some strange happenings on my very own home, the Darth Malgus server.

There was more Conquest talk in February, as Bioware unleashed a Total Galactic War for the first time in nearly a year. I also started watching Star Wars: Rebels. In general, those first few months of the year were very quiet on the blog though, as I didn't feel I had much to comment on other than the patch 6.3. preview in March. In line with what I said above though, I was however very busy playing WoW Classic during that period, as my guild was trying to finish up Naxx before the release of Classic Burning Crusade. It's telling that I made a post called "Too Much To Do" on my WoW blog during that same time...

When 6.3 actually released at the end of April, I got busy again though... especially with Galactic Seasons, which prompted me to keep a diary of my activities while I was working my way through its 100 levels of rewards. These diary entries made up a lot of my blog content for the next three months... aside from that, I talked about finally beating Dread Master Styrak on master mode without being over-levelled for it, watching the rest of Rebels and finally getting caught up with the Mandalorian craze. We also had to say goodbye to SWTOR's refer-a-friend system.

July of course brought the excitement of the Legacy of the Sith expansion announcement, though this was soon marred somewhat by the opening of the PTS causing a lot of confusion and asking us to test changes that hadn't previously been mentioned at all. My Galactic Seasons grind came to an end and I wrote a series of three posts to summarise the whole experience.

August featured a wild mix of content, from me finally writing down all my thoughts about the Secrets of the Enclave flashpoint released in April, to my experiences with datacron hunting on Mek-Sha and Onderon, to grumbling about the Nightlife event once again to loving the first season of Bad Batch.

In September I had to say goodbye to being able to master loot and picked up levelling my pacifist again. I also mused about how rich the current expansion has made me and how to prepare for the next one.

In October, Star Wars: Visions challenged my ideas about what it means for content to be canon, and my achievements challenged my notion that I didn't like GSF all that much. I also hit max level on my pacifist, something I was very proud of, looked back on Onslaught as an expansion, and attempted to split the whole of SWTOR's ten years of history into distinct time periods.

November was relatively light on content again after that, as I mostly dedicated it to themed posts for IntPiPoMo. We also got a December launch date for Legacy of the Sith, just to have that changed to February only three weeks later. And now the end of the year is the usual time to reminisce and take stock.

Talking about how I haven't blogged as much this year as I would have liked to always feels a little strange, because on the one hand, a hobby blogger primarily writes for themselves - so if you don't feel like it at some point, you just don't feel like it, and that should be that! But realistically, I also feel a certain pride in having maintained somewhat regular updates on the blog for a whole decade by now, plus I enjoy getting comments and interacting with them, so letting people down by not posting for longer periods of time feels bad.

One thing I can promise you is that I haven't lost interest in blogging or the game - at any given point I've got at least several blog post ideas bouncing around in my head, it's just that when push comes to shove, sometimes I find myself prioritising something else in the end. And even if the blog topic wasn't time sensitive and you write it down for later, the spark that made you want to write about it doesn't always last, so if you miss your original chance to write down your thoughts, it often doesn't end up happening at all.

My point is, I can't promise that I'll be back to writing a hundred posts next year... but there'll be new SWTOR content for sure, and you can bet that I'll be covering it.

20/12/2021

Happy 10th Birthday, SWTOR!

Today, Star Wars: The Old Republic turns ten years old! And I've been both a player and a subscriber for that entire time...


I wonder if Bioware's going to send me a statue of Darth Malgus as loyalty reward? But then, people already got those with the collector's edition back in the day - not that I have one of those...

Anyway, this was supposed to be a time of pure celebration. Legacy of the Sith was supposed to be out, and I figured I was going to be talking about how awesome it is (because I think it will be), but... well, it's been delayed until February, and as much as I want to be supportive of that decision, I figure it's left those of us who aren't active on the PTS shuffling our feet a bit.

I also tend to use this annual post as an opportunity to look back at the game's big content milestones from the past year, and with the expansion having been pushed back into 2022, well... We got Secrets of the Enclave, which was awesome, and we got the first Galactic Season, which was... something. Then there were a couple of small updates that featured brief chats with characters on Odessen, like the return of Zenith - which again, was very nice but not very substantial... and yeah, that's pretty much it. I made sure to go through all the patch notes from last year to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything, but they mostly consisted of items like bug fixes or notes that they made a change to the amplifier window... not the most exciting stuff! Hopefully 2022 will be all the better to look back on, with the expansion and lots of other stuff being added.

Even without the hype of an expansion launch though, I'll say that it feels pretty cool to think that both the game and I are still here ten years later. SWTOR wasn't the mega hit it was supposed to be at launch, but neither was it ultimately the total failure that many made it out to be during its first year. It's found its audience and niche, and continues to churn out content - at a slower pace than in the early days for sure, but not significantly diminished in quality, which I consider no mean feat. I see no reason why this couldn't easily continue for at least another ten years.

The devs also seem happy right now - Bioware isn't exactly a small indie company, but I do get the impression that the SWTOR team is comparatively small and scrappy within the larger business, and full of people who're obviously doing a job that they love - which is something that I do think affects the final product in a positive way.

If you want to look back on what I've had to say about SWTOR on its previous birthdays, you can find links to those posts here:

Happy Birthday, SWTOR!
Happy 2nd Birthday, SWTOR!
Happy Third Birthday, SWTOR!
Happy 4th Birthday, SWTOR!
Five Years of SWTOR
Six Years of SWTOR
Seven Years of SWTOR
Eight Years of SWTOR
Nine Years of SWTOR

To the next ten, but for now, just bring on that expansion already!

EDIT: There's also an official anniversary news post, which supports what I said about the devs loving their job and talks a bit about what's coming up.

18/12/2021

Day 9: Silly

IntPiPoMo may be over for this year, but my 10 days of SWTOR screenshots aren't finished, and I'm still planning to complete that project. The theme for day nine was "silly".

On the subject of players doing silly things, I present you this shot of one of our tanks "standing guard" at the exit of Fabricator's room in Karagga's Palace, with the markers behind him also meant to delineate a border that people shouldn't cross (yet). If you've ever had someone run ahead into that room too early, I don't need to explain to you why that is. (The boring explanation for everyone else is that it contains a trash pull for which you really want everyone to go in together and be focused or it can quickly spiral out of control.)

A different kind of silly screenshot is of in-game cut scenes where I managed to capture the animation at such a peculiar moment that the result looks weird more than anything. Above you can see my Mercenary about to sock an Alderaanian noble for example... which is funny in itself I guess, but the shot also looks kind of bizarre, like she's actually about to fall over drunk or something.

Or how about my Sniper performing this "heroic" leap on Iokath?

I guess this scene is meant to be at least slightly silly, but I still love the way Darth Malora is just kind of flying past these Imperials here.

Another intentionally funny scene that took me quite a few tries to capture correctly was this moment from Secrets of the Enclave, when Malgus' medical droid comes rolling out of the dead boss's mouth... I did the flashpoint on Republic side first and remember wondering at the time why the mob model had such a big mouth...

The Nature of Progress operation is another great example of (relatively) recent content laced with wonderful humour. I adore this conversation so much.

Reading tooltips pays off in there as well. Such as this one when a Trandoshan Medic manages to inject someone on trash...

14/12/2021

Day 8: Memorable Moments

IntPiPoMo may be over for this year, but my 10 days of SWTOR screenshots aren't finished, and I'm still planning to do that. The theme for day eight was "memorable moments".

First off we have a shot of guildies grouping up to kill the R8-X8 world boss on Ossus. I chose this one not because that particular kill was memorable, but to represent that whole era of Ossus being endgame. I loved it so much and I repeated all the related activities a stupid amount of times... I've often joked that had there been an achievement for killing each world boss a hundred times, I'd probably have gotten it.

I do miss those days somewhat. I really did like the importance of the world bosses, and that they were epic fights for maximum-size ops groups, but unfortunately they haven't aged well for that same reason, because now that the player base's focus is elsewhere, you can't easily go back and knock them out with just a few friends.

This shot was from Jedi Under Siege launch night. It may not be particularly immersive, but I do always enjoy seeing the masses pour in to enjoy the new story.

I wrote a whole post about it at the time, but I thought it was worth calling out again that spending my 37th birthday turning into a robotic deity and rampaging across Iokath with my guildies was an incredibly unique and fun experience.

This is a screenshot of me getting the achievement for completing the Trial and Error uprising on master mode in February 2020. I don't actually remember that evening in specific being that memorable, but basically that uprising seemed to be incredibly overtuned on its release and we spent a lot of time wiping in there the first couple of years. When we finally gave it another try during Onslaught and were able to beat it at last, it felt like quite an achievement. I think they definitely changed the tuning as well though, because it wasn't nearly the same level of crazy anymore.

This shot is from one of our datacron hunts from earlier in the year and was memorable to me in two ways: First off, I finally got to see how the Rishi datacron is done "properly", because back in the day I'd just been summoned to it after the whole process had already been completed and therefore I stayed completely oblivious to what was actually involved in unlocking it. (This is the reason I no longer accept well-intended summons to new datacrons, by the way. I want to actually see and understand how they work.) The second reason it was memorable to me was that someone else had pre-farmed the required materials so that we could quickly get it done on the night... but we rolled for who'd be the one to actually activate it, and since I won I got to do it and got an extra achievement to boot. That was nice.

08/12/2021

Delayed!

Welp, seems my taking stock ten days before the expansion launch was premature... because yesterday Bioware surprised us with the bombshell announcement that they've decided to delay the launch of Legacy of the Sith by two months until the 15th of February.

I was simultaneously extremely surprised by this and not surprised at all. I'm not surprised that they ultimately decided that the expansion needs a bit more time in the oven, as I'd already become increasingly dubious of the planned 2021 launch the longer they put off committing to an exact date. Onslaught was originally supposed to come out in September 2019 and was then pushed back until the end of October, so there was also already a precedent for the current SWTOR team not being afraid to announce a delay when they thought it was needed.

However, I was surprised that they decided to drop this piece of news on us literally only a week before the launch was supposed to happen, as that's extremely short notice and they'd only just announced the 14th as the release date less than three weeks ago. How could they change their minds on this so quickly?

I saw some cynical comments along the lines of Bioware wanting to "trick" people into subscribing without actually adding any new content (insert dismissive hand gesture here), but most of the reactions I've seen to the delay were surprisingly positive. Obviously there was disappointment, but after the many disastrous game launches we've seen in recent years, I guess people would rather wait for things to be ready than deal with a million bugs.

One thing I really appreciated was that the devs immediately created a forum thread where they prompted people to ask questions about the delay, and community manager Jackie set to answering the most pressing ones only a few hours later. I myself posed the question that I also raised two paragraphs earlier, about why this came on such short notice, and got the answer that they'd basically been hoping against hope until the very end that they'd be able to launch in time for the ten-year anniversary celebrations, but that ultimately it just didn't work out. Fair enough; I can believe that.

They also explained that they needed two whole months because a good chunk of that was going to be holiday time for them too, to which again, I can only say "fair enough". There's been a lot of talk in recent years about crunch time and game devs having to deal with bad working conditions, so I'm all in favour of them getting to enjoy their well-deserved holidays too.

Still, the question remains what this means for me and my guild in specific. As I said in my last post, while I hadn't completed all of my pre-expansion goals, I'd reached a point where I kind of felt that things were "good enough" and that I was ready to jump into the new content anyway. I suppose I can use the extra time gained to work on some more of those unfulfilled goals, but... I've got to admit I'm not hugely enthused at this particular point in time as I'm just not in the right mindset for it.

Activity in my guild had been quite frantic for the last two weeks, as several guildies had been playing at all hours of the day to still get their Limitless achievement before it was supposed to go away. I guess the guy who was still a fair bit off will enjoy the extra time gained to complete his goal, but I imagine that the ones who pushed particularly hard to get it done in time might feel a bit let down at the moment. One of my guildies had also booked some holiday time to coincide with the expansion launch and was understandably ticked off at this last-minute change of plans.

On top of that, my ops team went on break some time ago to recharge in advance of the expansion, but with another two months to go this now also feels a bit odd, because now this break will either end up being much longer than intended, or we'd have to spin activities back up again for a few weeks just to then rejig things yet again when LotS actually launches. The joys of dealing with guild logistics...

Bioware is at least making a token effort to give us other things to do, by having a double XP event over the Christmas holidays, promising to re-run the Feast of Prosperity for three weeks in January and planning to have no less than three Total Galactic Wars throughout that period as well... but I gotta say that all that still feels like a very weak substitute for the actual new content we'd all been looking forward to. Which is my way of saying that I'm OK with waiting I guess, but I may well find other things to do in the meantime instead of spending even more time feeding Hutts and the like.

04/12/2021

10 Days to LotS - Taking Stock

Legacy of the Sith is only ten days away! Am I hyped? Do I feel prepared? Let's discuss.

First off, I'm looking forward to the new story as usual. Bioware's storytelling has been consistently enjoyable to me over the last few years, and I've got no reason to assume that Legacy of the Sith will deliver any less. The teaser of the mystery Twi'lek has me intrigued, but I've got to admit that I'm not sitting here racking my brain and speculating about who she could be - I mostly just like to let these things come at me and be surprised.

In terms of everything else, my mood is honestly a bit "eh". I seem to have fallen into a similar pre-expansion funk as I did before Onslaught, where I was initially quite intrigued by the PTS but then quickly lost interest and played very little during the weeks immediately leading up to the expansion launch. (Though once the expansion was actually out, I loved it.)

My ops team has been on a pre-expansion break for several weeks already, and the PTS once again didn't manage to hold my interest - I didn't even end up giving feedback on the Commando class changes, which I really should have done I guess! However, as I observed two years ago, I'm just not that into being an unpaid game tester.

In fact, more than ever I found the PTS to be a very double-edged sword this time around. I think it's good that Bioware is showing us stuff early and that they're taking feedback to make tweaks to optimise things before going live, but at the same time there's a sort of "culture" around PTS reporting that I've really come to despise, picking up on every little thing, spreading it around as news and delving into all kinds of speculation about what this or that is going to mean for the expansion. I know it's well-intended and I don't hold anyone's excitement against them, but at least in my social sphere the effects it's had and that I've had a chance to observe have been mostly off-putting, as every update from the PTS seemed to turn into a game of telephone and people would get all hyped up or panicky about things that nobody even said in the first place.

Eventually I decided to just stay away from most things PTS-related myself, as I simply got tired of repeating "guys, first off that isn't what he said at all, and secondly, you know the PTS isn't final" over and over again. If I saw a Tweet or screenshot pointing out a new feature such as the revamped character creation screen, I'd have a quick glance and then move on. I don't mind a brief heads-up that things are changing, but I don't want to hear all about a bunch of details that may not end up reflecting the final build anyway.

And it does seem that there are a lot of smaller changes coming too, more than we were initially aware of. However, I just don't see the point of fretting too much about them in advance. In a bit more than a week, we can all see for ourselves how it pans out.

A little over two months ago I made a post with pre-expansion goals I'd set for myself. How have I been doing with these? The answer is "alright", but not great. I only achieved two of them in full, which were Renown 999 on my main and to finish levelling my pacifist. In terms of getting my alts caught up with the story, I made some progress but not as much as I'd originally planned, with only five or six of my main eight being fully caught up (though none of them are missing much, so there's still time I guess). I also made good progress on my saboteur agent for a few weeks and then just stopped again. Only four KotET chapters left! One day...

I'm still optimistic about the expansion, and I'm sure I'll have a good time with the new story and doing group content with my guildies again. I've just avoided spending too much energy on preparation and worrying about what's coming. What about you?