29/01/2023

The FULL List of 7.0 Augment Crafting Materials

A somewhat random, short and to-the-point post today. I've had several conversations with guildies about crafting purple and gold augments lately (item rating 286 and 300 respectively), and when it comes to exchanging mats, they always seem to expect to just hand over the rarest parts required, with the crafter taking care of the rest. To be honest, in the past that's how crafting often worked, because basic materials were available aplenty and you didn't need that many of them for special crafts.

However, ever since the 6.0 crafting update, the requirements to craft some of the more high-end items have been pretty ridiculous in terms of materials required. This is due to the tier system that Bioware introduced at the time, which makes you start by crafting green quality components, then craft several of those into blue quality components, then craft several of those into purple quality components, all while introducing a multiplier at every step that can bring the total number of materials required to produce a single high-level item up into the hundreds.

And yet, if you look at all the current guides about augment crafting, they basically say "get these five rare mats... and then there's also some crew skill specific items, don't worry about those". I'm guessing the people who wrote those guides don't actually craft themselves, because I don't know how else you can be so dismissive of such a huge chunk of the process.

Anyway, I decided to do a full write-up of what's required for each augment in terms of base materials (which then need to be "crafted upwards" multiple times towards higher level components). Note that the materials for purple and gold augments are almost identical except that where the purple versions require 5 Legendary Embers, the gold requires a CM-1337 instead, which is the special mat that Cybertechs make out of 5 OEM-37 and 5 RPM-13 plus 5 Legendary Embers.

Mats for one Synthweaving augment (crit or redoubt/defense):

  • 60x Artifact Data Spike
  • 60x Artifact Lustrous Artifact Fragment
  • 60x Artifact Lustrous Bondar Crystal 
  • 60x Artifact Woven Syntex 
  • 5x Legendary Ember (OR 1x CM-1337 for gold instead of purple)
  • 108x Premium Data Spike
  • 180x Premium Lustrous Artifact Fragment
  • 180x Premium Lustrous Bondar Crystal
  • 192x Premium Veda Cloth
  • 108x Premium Woven Syntex
  • 5x Processed Isotope Stabilizer
  • 54x Prototype Data Spike
  • 90x Prototype Lustrous Artifact Fragment 
  • 90x Prototype Lustrous Bondar Crystal
  • 120x Prototype Veda Cloth
  • 54x Prototype Woven Syntex
  • 5x Solid Resource Matrix 
  • 384x Standard Veda Cloth

Mats for one Armormech augment (absorb or alacrity):

  • 36x Artifact Data Spike 
  • 36x Artifact Fibrolite
  • 60x Artifact Duranium Plating 
  • 60x Artifact Tempersteel
  • 5x Legendary Ember (OR 1x CM-1337 for gold instead of purple) 
  • 108x Premium Data Spike
  • 108x Premium Fibrolite
  • 192x Premium Flerovium Flux 
  • 180x Premium Duranium Plating
  • 180x Premium Tempersteel
  • 5x Processed Isotope Stabilizer 
  • 54x Prototype Data Spike
  • 90x Prototype Duranium Plating 
  • 54x Prototype Fibrolite
  • 96x Prototype Flerovium Flux 
  • 90x Prototype Tempersteel
  • 5x Solid Resource Matrix
  • 384x Standard Flerovium Flux

Mats for one Armstech augment (accuracy, shield or versatile; versatile only exists in gold):

  • 36x Artifact Dallorian
  • 36x Artifact Data Spike
  • 60x Artifact Tempersteel 
  • 60x Artifact Duranium Plating
  • 5x Legendary Ember (OR 1x CM-1337 for gold instead of purple) 
  • 108x Premium Dallorian Scraps 
  • 108x Premium Data Spike
  • 180x Premium Duranium Plating
  • 192x Premium Flerovium Flux
  • 180x Premium Tempersteel
  • 5x Processed Isotope Stabilizer
  • 54x Prototype Data Spike 
  • 54x Prototype Dallorian Scraps
  • 90x Prototype Duranium Plating
  • 96x Prototype Flerovium Flux
  • 90x Prototype Tempersteel
  • 5x Solid Resource Matrix
  • 384x Standard Flerovium Flux

As you can see, it adds up to a lot. I crafted an augment for a guildie today after he'd handed me the mats for a CM-1337, the Isotope Stabilizers and the Resource Matrices, and when I did the maths for the "rest" that I had contributed, it added up to 60 million credits in value. Now, that's not worth as much as it used to be, but it's still a lot to spend on essentially doing someone else a favour. So crafters, don't let yourselves be ripped off! And if you're looking to get someone else to craft augments for you, be mindful of all the materials required - their amount and cost is not as trivial as many people seem to think.

25/01/2023

Daily Tour: CZ-198

Thanks to Galactic Season 3, I've been spending a lot of time on CZ-198 over the past couple of weeks. For characters without much story progress, it's the only place in Wild Space to go! Regardless of that, I'm pretty sure that CZ-198 is the most popular daily area in the game, and has been pretty much ever since patch 3.2 removed the requirement to run two flashpoints as part of the weekly. (Who else even still remembers that?!)

It's just such a small area (which is a funny thing to praise when many players - including me - are always clamouring for more planetary real estate) that it takes no time at all to clear. A guildie frequently likes to boast that it takes him less than ten minutes. I'm not that fast, but it's still pretty quick, and I definitely appreciate it as an easy source of daily commendations when I'm running low.

That said, I generally prefer variety over efficiency, meaning I'll happily run different, less efficient daily areas for a change of pace as well. Having found myself running CZ-198 in specific sixteen times over two weeks for the sake of seasons objectives is definitely a bit much. However, it's also one of the few daily areas that doesn't require any story completion before unlocking, and my alts on the other servers don't have a lot of choice in that regard yet.

Either way, all this time in Czerka Corp's contested facility has given me plenty of opportunity to refine my daily route. For example I like to get all my kolto and toxin containers done in the processing department nowadays, even though there are only two spawn points for each there. (I remember commenting on the oddness of Czerka keeping biotoxin containers in their office space many years ago.)


I try to pick up the set in the office first, and the set next to the droid containers respawns so fast that it's worth running back and forth between the two to pick them up over and over again. In-between I also take care of my five droid containers, and if some mob groups respawn during the process that's fine as I need them for the kill quest anyway. By the time I leave I'm ideally sitting on around 25 kills already, so that I then just have to make a beeline for the champion droid, killing a few more mobs on the way, and finally finishing in the waste disposal area.


In the past I used to try and get out of the processing department as quickly as possible, collecting all my kolto and toxin containers in the supply area, but I've found that I much prefer not having to go up the ramp to where the kolto containers are at all, as the mobs up there are so spread out that they are annoying to AoE. Also, because of CZ-198's popularity, the kill quest can actually be the most annoying part during busy times (even with shared tagging) because stuff is always dead, and I've found that hanging back and killing more of the groups around the droid containers as they respawn is a more reliable way of getting my kill count up at a decent pace.

What do you think of CZ-198? Do you have a special routine when it comes to tackling this daily area?

20/01/2023

Map Malaise

When Bioware announced that 7.2 was going to include changes to the in-game map, I wasn't quite sure what the big deal was. After having played for more than a month after the release of said changes, I have to admit that this update has turned out to be a bigger deal than I expected... but not necessarily in a good way.

Now, the old map is still there, so before you tell me that I could always just keep using that... it's not that simple. You see, there are parts of the new pull-out map that I really like and don't really want to be without anymore! However, there are also ways in which it kinda sucks.

I guess the core problem from my point of view is that I still don't understand what the point of adding this new map was. Best I can guess is that someone at Bioware really hated having both the regular map and a mini-map to deal with and proposed that they could come up with a map design that would be able to fulfil both roles at once.

The thing is, if that was their plan (and it probably wasn't), it failed miserably in my opinion, since the new map falls short both when compared to the regular old world map and to the existing mini-map.

My biggest issue with it when comparing it to the regular map is that it has a single fixed point of view (showing you the current sub-zone you are in) and can't be changed to show you the whole planet or to have a peek into a different sub-zone, so if you want to use the new map to check something like where on the planet to go for a new mission, you're just out of luck and it feels awful.

When compared to the mini-map, it holds up a bit better, but I've found the display of gathering nodes on the pop-out map to be a bit wonky in that it can be hard to judge just where they are relative to your character (and you can't zoom to make it clearer), and if you suddenly find yourself in combat and want to know your enemies' positions, you need to fold the whole thing down to mini-map view again or else you can't see those red dots representing your foes.

So the new map doesn't work as a replacement for either the world map or the mini-map for me, but at the same time I do kind of love it for other things. It's just small and transparent enough that you can keep it up on your screen even while moving around and actively playing, which is very handy for orientating yourself in large spaces. (I'm ashamed to say that even after eleven years of playing this game, I still need to check which section of the fleet has the crew skill trainers sometimes... especially with the way everything is mirrored on Imperial side.)

This is especially handy in PvP, where the new map let's you keep an eye on your team's movements at all times while also staying fully immersed in the match. It's great for guarding a node while also keeping an eye on how the attack is going for example.


Anyway, what all this means is that instead of map usage being simplified and functionality being condensed into a single map instead of two, I now regularly find myself looking at three different maps to check different things, and while that's not the end of the world, it just doesn't feel good either... and considering how often I look at the map in everyday play, I'm getting a lot of opportunities to be reminded of just how clunky I find this new setup.

How have you been finding the new map?

14/01/2023

Three Not So Little Grophets

The datacron on Rishi is definitely one of the more memorable ones for me. Back in the day before datacrons gave legacy-wide credit, I got it on quite a few alts... usually by someone else offering to summon people there whenever it was uncovered. I also got trapped under the rock that usually hides it at least once:


However, beyond the whole vanishing rock thing, I had no idea what was involved in revealing it, other than that I had overheard some talk about farming grophets, and that the special drops from them were easy to mistake for vendor trash (might be that they were even grey items originally, but I'm not sure about that one).

Then during a guild datacron hunt in 2021, we did the whole sequence to unlock the datacron in Raider's Cove, and I was the lucky one who won the roll to reveal the datacron and get the achievement using data packets that someone else had farmed.

I didn't really think about it again until a day in September when I was questing in Rishi's PvP instance on one of my alts. I don't generally use the PvP instance most of the time, but sometimes I switch my focus to PvP when I'm dealing with some sort of quest objective that's overfarmed, and then I often forget to switch back until I actually run into an enemy player. Anyway, on this occasion I didn't run into an enemy player... but while making my way to the pirate ship west of Raider's Cove, I came across a ginormous grophet with a name.

I instantly twigged that I must have run into one of the rare grophets related to the Rishi datacron, and like any good MMO player who discovers a rare and strange creature, I immediately went to kill it. I was surprised to actually see an achievement pop up too because I didn't know that there were any related to this.

Now I was intrigued. I'd always heard that getting the rare grophets to spawn was a horrible grind, but apparently you could just... randomly come across them in the world now? So I consulted the old Dulfy guide on the matter to learn where they spawn, just so I could, you know... check in on them if I happened to be in the area. I quickly decided that even if I didn't find them in their dedicated spots, I was at least going to kill the "placeholder grophets" from now on whenever I passed them, just to at least give the rares a chance to spawn, even if it was ultimately for someone else.


And what do you know, the other week I came across both Wudd and Breck on different characters. There was a bit of a hiccup with Breck as on re-checking the guide I realised that I'd actually read the map wrong and had been killing the wrong group of grophets the entire time (d'oh), but I got lucky after relocating to the correct place and got Breck to spawn after only a couple of visits. I was on my Sorc when I once again killed the placeholders, got a warzone pop and took it, and when I reappeared on Rishi after the match, there was Breck.

So now, more than eight years after it was added, I've finally seen every part of the Rishi datacron journey (not to mention that I earned a bunch of new achievements and the "Wolf of Rishi" legacy title). I really like it when old content still reveals new secrets to me. And I'm going to hold on to those data packets so that I can pay it forward and let someone else get the achievement for handing them in whenever a guild datacron hunt visits Rishi again.

10/01/2023

8 Weeks Left

 ... until the end of Galactic Season 3. I reached level 100 on Darth Malgus a little while ago, and last week I also hit it on Leviathan, Tulak Hord and Satele Shan. Star Forge is trailing behind a little with eight levels left to go, which is a bit odd considering that last season it was the first of the "secondary" servers where I finished the season. I think I got a bit overconfident, thinking that I had such an easy time on that server last time that it was fine to leave it as my last place to visit most days... but of course that also meant that if it was late in the evening or I was short on time for other reasons on any given day, it also became the place where I played the least.

Still, less than ten levels is not far behind, and I should be able to be proud! Last season I started late on the other servers and had to use credit buyouts for a few levels, so being done (nearly) everywhere without having to use any buyouts, and two months before season end at that, is some great progress! I should be able to lean back and relax now, right?

Of course not, because with so much time left I'm now thinking about stretch goals. The achievements for doing 100 weekly objectives and maxing out the reputation track will come more or less on their own on Darth Malgus, but on the other servers... last time I started so late that they hadn't even been a consideration, but this time around they are actually within reach. Maxing out the reputation should be easy enough as long as I keep playing and using my rep tokens, as you could do that in six weeks even if you were starting from zero.

For the weeklies, I did the maths and to reach 100 on the secondary servers, I'd have to do 4-5 weeklies every week until the end of the season on most of them, and 5-6 weeklies on Star Forge. Not a trivial time investment, but not impossible either. I think I'm going to give it a shot, especially after seeing the weekly objectives for the next month that were posted on the official website yesterday and how many of them are really quite easy to complete. Just two more months of this and then I can take a break.

Wish me luck!

07/01/2023

Showdown on Ruhnuk - Uneasy Story Thoughts

In my first impressions post about the 7.2 story update, I noted that it featured a lot of very well-done cut scenes that reminded me a bit of Knights of the Fallen Empire, and not in a bad way. Since then I've been thinking about how to best describe my thoughts about the 7.2 story more comprehensively, and it's been surprisingly difficult.

Let's start with a brief summary of the plot - this will obviously contain spoilers. Despite its length, Ruhnuk is actually easier to summarise than the previous update, because despite being longer, it's a fairly straightforward story which mainly gains its run time from cut scenes and companion chatter that isn't necessarily crucial to the plot.

Basically, as per Shae's call at the end of Digging Deeper, you travel to Ruhnuk with her, Rass Ordo and Akaavi (plus Torian if he's alive in your playthrough). The unique nature of the planet makes communications difficult, which is good for being sneaky but also makes it harder to call in support. You sneak around Heta's base of operations and run into Sa'har of all people. Your character recognises her, but a trigger-happy Shae spooks her and she runs off before you can have a meaningful conversation.


As you continue to sneak around the base, you briefly get separated, at which point Heta and crew show up and subdue you by pointing a bunch of sonic weapons at you that basically look like giant spotlights. Shae finds you again and challenges Heta to a duel, who accepts. Meanwhile you get knocked out and dragged away as a captive.

Rass shows up to rescue you just in time for you to witness the duel between Shae and Heta in a big arena. You also notice Bask Sunn on the edges, pointing one of those sonic weapons from earlier at Shae to weaken her and ensure Heta's victory. You can disrupt him or allow him to keep going.

Either way, Rass has managed to get a call for support out at last, which means that Shae's Mandalorians descend upon the scene and a big brawl between them and Heta's followers ensues. Shae's also been injured during the duel and needs rescuing. In the melee, you end up fighting Sa'har's brother Ri'kan, who it turns out has a history with Rass. In the end, Heta and her forces retreat.

In the epilogue, Shae recovers from her injuries and shares her thoughts on everything that happened - mainly she's quite annoyed that Heta got away again. You learn that Rass and Jekaiah's sister died during a mission in which she clashed with Ri'kan but his forces were beaten, and that Ri'kan blames the Ordos for the mission's failure. We also get a view of Heta's situation - she, too, is somewhat frustrated because she lost her secret base and her fleet suffered losses. Ri'kan tries to cheer her up by spoiling that Sa'har has knowledge of a powerful weapon that they could use to their advantage, somewhat to Sa'har's dismay. Heta is intrigued and immediately wants to learn more from Sa'har, with Ri'kan once again getting left behind.

So, there is a lot to love about this update. I already said that the cut scenes are great. There are some interesting minor choices to make, plus of course the major one of how to react to the discovery of Bask Sunn manipulating the duel in Heta's favour. The characters are interesting and I liked learning more about them.


The thing is... I really enjoyed my first playthrough of this story, but the second one already felt a lot less fun, and by character number three things were actually starting to drag a bit - and that gave me KotFE vibes in a bad way. Mind you, I've struggled with the replayability (or lack thereof) of newer story updates since Shadow of Revan. However, it's not always been equally bad. For example, the Jedi Under Siege story was very fun to replay because it was different for Republic and Empire, and there were a number of nice little touches that included different lines of dialogue for different origin stories.

In general, breadth is more fun to replay than length - which is not to say that you can't have both, but realistically it seems that Bioware investing in one always leads to cuts in the other area. In line with this, Showdown on Ruhnuk is a reasonably long story update, but it doesn't have a lot of breadth. It's the same for both factions and all classes, and personally I haven't run into any lines that were different based on your origin story (maybe if you're a smuggler and talking to Akaavi or something).

However, I realised that there was something else that was bothering me, and it's got to do with the non-player characters. There is some good stuff there: I quite like Rass Ordo and appreciated the addition of some flirt options with him, though you can also be very curt in your conversations if you don't like him. Similarly, the dialogue encourages you to think about your relationship with Shae, and just how far you want to go in your support of her feud against Heta. Seeing Akaavi and Torian again was also neat.

Heta, Sa'har and Ri'kan though... they are still relatively new characters all things considered, and I do find their stories and relationships interesting... but they are fairly independent of the player character. We keep seeing cut scenes of what they're up to elsewhere; we see the ways in which the relationship between Sa'har and Ri'kan is strained - and again, to some degree I'm here for that, but it's not very fun to replay because it's just like watching a mini-movie that's always the same and doesn't involve your character at all.

Again I couldn't help but be reminded of Fallen Empire and the relationships between Arcann, Vaylin and Senya. These were also kind of interesting to uncover... at first, but ultimately they largely played out without your input. Vaylin hates Senya because of her childhood, and you can't do anything about it other than tag along while Vaylin snarks and Senya cries about it. Arcann's big change of heart comes about when he sees his sister attack his mother, again something for which your character is not present for. There's all this investment in backstories that ultimately have no impact on your playthrough, and that's the kind of thing that tends to start to bother me after a while, because it feels like the whole budget is being spent on telling other characters' stories instead of yours. Sa'har and Ri'kan are far too new to annoy me in that way, but I'm a bit worried whether we'll ever get to interact with them in a meaningful manner, or whether we'll just get to watch their sibling conflict play out in "meanwhile, somewhere else" cut scenes, until one day we'll get the option to kill one or both of them and move on.


I guess it's just important to me that my character can have some sort of relationship with the NPCs that are central to the story. I didn't mind playing second fiddle to Shae on Ruhnuk, because we've fought her and worked with her, and (depending on your choices) there might be some tensions there that make you feel like your choices have meaning. It's the same reason I like Darth Malgus as a character. Sure, from a Republic point of view he's just another evil Sith, but on Empire side he gives you all those missions while levelling, then you work with him on Ilum until he betrays you. On Ossus, you work with him again, and again he turns against you and the Empire. That's some history, man, and that stuff is at the back of my mind whenever I get to interact with him. Even if the dialogue wheel doesn't give me explicit options to express all those thoughts, they're still kind of there in the background. I just can't get invested in the same way when it comes to characters we barely get to interact with.

In summary, I really enjoyed the Ruhnuk story the first time, but on replaying it I'm awkwardly reminded of some things I disliked about KotFE, and I can't help but worry whether we're heading in a similar direction again. I'm not saying it's exactly the same - we don't have the awkward chapter format to deal with, and the setup for this story has been much more organic than the weird KotFE timeskip and change of focus ever was. However, I'm definitely feeling a bit uneasy is what I'm saying.

Oh, and on a more humorous note, there's of course the part where your character gets knocked out... something else that happened a few times during KotFE but hasn't happened in a while. Please tell me I wasn't the only one who sighed when that happened and went: "Yep, here we go again"?

Anyway, that's just me - I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this. If you've replayed the Ruhnuk update on alts, how did you feel about it? And how invested are you in what happens to Sa'har and Ri'kan at this point? Let me know in the comments.

03/01/2023

A Good Year for SWTOR on Steam

Over the past week or so, people have been sharing their "Steam Replays" on social media and blogs. I got one too, but it doesn't really have much to offer in terms of interesting data, as 94% of my time on Steam was spent playing SWTOR. I guess this graphic showing my play time over the course of the year is nice as it largely backs up what I wrote in my year-in-review post.

January was a low point, then lots of interest in the months after the expansion launch until I ran out of steam (pun!) in June. August's patch brought an uptick in activity, but not that much because I wasn't happy with it. Finally things picked up again with Galactic Season 3 in October. Oh, and I guess the session counter shows that I fire up the game on average twice a day, every day.

In terms of SWTOR's performance on Steam in general, I was intrigued when Pallais shared on Twitter that SWTOR had made it into Steam's bronze bracket for best-selling games in 2022, whatever that means exactly. Either way it strikes me as not bad for an eleven-year-old F2P MMO for which Steam is only a secondary channel.

Looking back, the game was in a similar spot in 2021, and I had it in my head that it achieved the same in 2020, the year it launched on Steam, but as it turns out I got my stats mixed up there. It wasn't a top earner back then, however it made the "most played" list of that year by achieving over 30k concurrent players on Steam at launch. Of course it hasn't managed to maintain those lofty numbers, but clearly it continues to chug along quite happily.

30/12/2022

PvP in 7.2 - Missing My MVPs

When Bioware announced that 7.2 was going to include the removal of ranked PvP, my initial reaction was to have sympathy for those who enjoyed that game mode, and when I sought out other people's opinions on the matter I was surprised by how many comments I saw that basically came down to "good riddance, it was nothing but a toxic cesspit anyway".

I then had a look at the official forums to see the reactions of actual ranked players and was amazed by just how much denial and deflection was going on there: Ranked wasn't toxic, but if it was, it was justified because of bad players daring to invade their space, and now all those totally not toxic ranked players are going to invade unranked and make people's lives hell there, but also unranked was already the most toxic game mode anyway and the game's going to die because the subscriptions of ranked players were all that was keeping it alive. Or something.

It's still a bit of a shame because I remember when the Bad Feeling Podcast (rest in peace) went through a phase of really wanting to make ranked a thing, and their angle was basically that ranked should be for everyone - after all, the point of the ranking system is that people of all skill levels will be sorted into the correct "bracket", and if only enough people queued then everyone should be able to take part and have fun being matched up against other players of similar skill level. Sadly it seems that this never came to pass and instead ranked turned into the home of a small elite that cannibalised itself until it was too late. Oh well.

So 7.2 brought us a brave new world where there is no more split between ranked and unranked, but separate queues for 8v8 warzones and 4v4 arenas, and we get to fill out a PvP reward track similar to Galactic Seasons.

The PvP season track is pretty bare-bones compared to the regular season, with only 25 levels, no separate subscriber vs. non-subscriber tracks, and no daily objectives. Instead there are six weeklies that are the same every week, and beyond those you can earn a small trickle of points by earning medals until you reach the weekly point cap of 1000. (Completing the track in its entirety requires 7000 points.)

The weekly objectives are split into three for warzones and three for arenas, which ironically meant that after thinking that the new queue split would mean no more arenas for me, I actually ended up queueing for more arenas than ever before, just to complete the weekly objectives during the first two weeks. While I've never really minded the occasional arena sprinkled into my random queue, I've got to admit that this particular experience has actually been kind of tiresome as the objectives require you to play twice as many arenas as warzones to get the same amount of credit.

Also, while it's not made very clear in the UI, the PvP season seems to have similar limitations on the weekly objectives as the regular season, meaning you can only get credit for four out of six each week. After spending several hours being a punching bag in arenas just to complete objectives that ultimately didn't award me any points (even though they weren't greyed out), I think I'll stick to the 8v8 objectives for the rest of the season... though I might still find myself playing arenas if I decide to go for the achievements tied to the season as well, as they require you to complete 25 warzone and 25 arena weeklies. Considering the season is only 12 weeks long, that's a lot though and I'm not sure I'll bother.

Another change that wasn't really advertised much has been a revamp of the scoreboard that you see at the end of the match, and to be honest... I'm not a fan. The primary tab now just shows a picture of your character and your personal stats - which are pretty meaningless without those of the rest of the team to put things in context. About the only thing I like here is that medals earned are listed in full instead of requiring you to hover over them to read what you got them for.


On the team score tabs, kills have been removed from the main view and are now only visible on hover - not sure if this is supposed to make people feel better about dying a lot? I used to find it helpful to be able to see them more easily in order to gauge everyone's ratio of kills vs. deaths at a glance.

However, the thing that irks me the most - and I was somewhat surprised by this myself - is the removal of MVP votes. When I first heard that this was also going to happen with 7.2, my reaction was something along the lines of "eh". I liked MVP votes, but I couldn't deny that they were an old system that didn't really seem to serve any purpose anymore, and in most PvP matches I played, most people didn't seem to bother casting votes anymore anyway.

However, what their removal made me realise was that MVP votes made me care about the rest of my team - not because I coveted their votes, but because the act of casting my own MVP vote made me pay attention to how much everyone else was contributing to the match. In this blog's first year I wrote a post called MVP Votes And You, in which I talked about the many ways in which someone could earn my MVP vote, and there were a lot of them! With their removal, I just don't feel like there's any point in paying much attention to the other players' performance unless I'm planning to PvP all evening and want to get a bit of an idea of who's a strong opponent that day and who isn't. If I notice anyone having played particularly well, there's no real way of showing appreciation for it, except for maybe typing it in chat, but they probably will have quit the match before I've finished typing anyway. Not to mention that it's much more effort than pressing a button.

Considering that Bioware said that an important reason for them making all these changes was to make PvP interactions more positive, it kind of galls me that they also removed something that was created specifically to be a positive interaction. I can only hope that they'll consider bringing the system back in some form eventually.

In the meantime, the jury's out on how well this new PvP season system is going to work, for me at least. For now it's got me doing more PvP than usual, but I also worry that with arenas being so heavily incentivised, I'll end up burning myself out on those. (Which - again - is incredibly ironic considering that we're able to completely banish arenas from our queue for the first time since their introduction.)

28/12/2022

Voices of SWTOR

It's always funny to me how SWTOR seems to kind of follow me around even when I'm not playing it. I was PC-less for the past few days, visiting relatives on the other side of the country, so my internet usage was limited to browsing some websites and watching a few things on my phone. One thing I watched was the 2002 Disney movie Lilo & Stitch - a film I know I saw when it first came out but could remember very little about. (It holds up surprisingly well by the way!)

There was this side character who's an alien that basically looks like a giant shark and whose voice sounded familiar, so I looked up the voice actor afterwards, and what do you know - it's Kevin Michael Richardson, who also voiced Jace Malcom in SWTOR. Seems like gruff military types that push boundaries are his "type".

A few weeks ago Mr Commando and I were also questing our way through World of Warcraft's newest expansion, and in the Ohn'ahran Plains we ran into both Senya (voicing the centaur Ohn Seshteng) and the female trooper/Master Satele (voicing the green dragon Merithra). I also wouldn't be surprised if there were even more overlapping voice actors doing minor characters that I just didn't recognise instantly the way I recognise the major players.

I can't quite decide whether that's a good or bad thing. On the one hand, it's kind of bad for immersion when an ancient dragon starts speaking and I go "ooh, it's my trooper". On the other hand though, I just think it's kind of neat that SWTOR has had so many noteworthy voice actors contribute to the game over the years, and identifying their voices in different contexts makes for a fun little game of its own.

23/12/2022

My 11th Year of SWTOR Blogging and Happy Life Day

This blog celebrates its anniversary two days after the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I always use that as an opportunity to review my blogging activity for the past year and how it reflected on my relationship with the game. While I just called out certain rough spots in the game's release schedule last year, it's honestly been doing better than the blog, as my output in terms of posts dropped for the third year in a row (though I should only be a couple of posts down on last year by the end of December).

I don't really have an excuse. As I've said previously, I'm simply not as focused as I used to be, what with splitting my free time between multiple MMOs and also blogging about WoW again.

The most quiet time on the blog this year was January, as I was honestly in a bit of a funk after the Legacy of the Sith delay and didn't feel terribly motivated to play. I think I did some Conquest or something? The only things I wrote about were SWTOR being featured in an issue of Star Wars Insider (an experience that taught me something about the challenges of hunting down a physical magazine in 2022) and how I'd come to quite enjoy the Iokath dailies.

Then in February, it was finally expansion time! The launch felt very exciting, though my overall first impressions were less so. Nonetheless I spent the next few weeks happily reporting on all the new content I was having fun with, such as the newest story and Galactic Season 2.

This continued into March, when I mused about the (to me) somewhat strange changes to repeatable content that limited which flashpoints and daily zones would grant rewards each week (which were fortunately reverted soon after) and the complexity of the new gearing system. I wrote about how the introduction of combat styles made the game feel different even as I personally refused to pick up an additional combat style on any of my characters for the time being, and I tried to evaluate the changes to the new player experience but found it difficult to distinguish between what was truly new in 7.0 and what had already been changed earlier and I just couldn't remember. I also had fun in the retuned operations and found it quite funny that even places like Eternity Vault were suddenly somewhat challenging again.

By April my excitement started to wane a little, however. I had to do some soul-searching in regards to the fact that the change to combat logging that was also implemented with 7.0 meant that I couldn't hide how bad I was at dps anymore. The tight tuning of the operations made gold augments more relevant than they had been before and gave them an uncomfortable air of pay-to-win. I was looking forward to the expansion's first patch, even if it was only a minor one. Most of my fun came from the fact that I'd found Season 2 so easy to complete that I decided to follow in the footsteps of one my guildies and attempt to complete it on the game's other servers too, something that led to some interesting new experiences.

At the start of May I had to admit that things weren't looking good on the ops front at all, as initial amusement about hitting the enrage on the first boss in EV had made way for frustration with how overtuned everything was, plus class balance issues were adding additional aggravation. In other news, I finally picked a second combat style for my Commando main, and had some good times in PvP. I confidently declared that SWTOR's endgame was all about alts instead of gear, and continued to have fun working my way through the Season 2 track on multiple servers. I also started to document my post-KotET experiences as an Imperial saboteur.

By June I was noticeably running out of steam again. I continued my saboteur's adventures and completed Season 2 on Star Forge, but otherwise I didn't feel terribly motivated and was kind of holding out for patch 7.1.

In July I completed Season 2 on the remaining servers, talked about Josh Strife Hayes' take on SWTOR, and was mostly very glad when we finally got a launch date for 7.1.

August came, and with it 7.1, which brought with it excitement about the new daily zone and an unexpected story update. And of course there was the new operation R-4 Anomaly... which made it a struggle for me to say anything positive about it since Bioware had once again decided that actually, they didn't need story mode to be accessible and that ops were now primarily catering to the top 1%. I tried to drown my sorrow in gambling (just kidding... though I did take part in the Nightlife event with more enthusiasm than I had in a while).

Seriously though, the problems with R-4 Anomaly really hit me hard. I did write a bit about the issues it presented for me at the beginning of September, but to be honest things were even worse than I admitted in that post. Basically it pushed me to a point where I was ready to step away from raiding altogether. So Bioware doesn't want people like me to raid anymore? Well fuck it; guess I won't then. Considering that I've been running operations in SWTOR pretty consistently almost since launch, that was a pretty big deal.

The reason this ultimately didn't happen was Mr Commando. This was a surprise in so far as he'd been moaning at me for years about how he doesn't really enjoy the game the way he used to, and that he's just "locked in" by our shared raiding habit, so I thought he'd be delighted by an opportunity to just drop the whole thing altogether. However, in a move that surprised even himself, he stuck with it even when I stopped and eventually managed to mellow me down to just "taking a break". I alluded to this in a post at the end of the month, where I wrote about the strange hoops people had to jump through to kill bosses in R-4 veteran mode.

I kind of avoided talking about the whole situation in more detail by posting less and mostly sticking to subjects that were kind of peripheral to the game instead of talking about actual gameplay, such as websites for combat logging, the update to the official forums, or the second "Best View in SWTOR" contest. This continued into October until it was time for the launch of Galactic Season 3, which somewhat invigorated my interest in the game and writing about everything a new season entailed.

As I spent more time playing again, I realised that I had warmed up to combat styles a bit and actually made use of the feature on a couple of alts. On a related subject, I complained a bit about how levelling and gearing alts was quite awkward this expansion, but I also celebrated finally finishing off the last achievement for the Feast of Prosperity. We got our first glimpse of 7.2 and it looked really good. It actually launched before the end of the year too, bringing with it a very cinematic story update and a new daily zone.

All in all, I think you can see that it hasn't just been a year of ups and down for the game, but also for my relationship with it. I was hyped for the expansion, but then it launched with many issues (though I still had fun with 7.0). I had a lot of hopes for patch 7.1, but instead it broke my spirit and tested my ties to the game in a way that had never happened before. It feels like brighter days might finally be ahead with 7.2, but I've also got to admit that I'm not entirely "over" my disappointment with R-4, and my interest in raiding remains a little precarious. I know it's just a game, but it's a game that has been my virtual home for more than a decade now, so these kinds of things can still hit hard.

For now I'll be AFK for a few days to take part in a family Christmas for the first time since the pandemic and I hope y'all have a good holiday period, whether you celebrate Christmas or do something else. Maybe you'll even find a tauntun under your Christmas tree like I did.