23/11/2020

6.2 Cantina Livestream

On Friday the SWTOR team hosted a "Cantina Livestream", which featured a mix of Bioware staff talking about content coming up in 6.2 and fun activities such as giveaways and guest interviews. I'd originally meant to watch it live but then I ended up being very sick on Friday evening, fell straight into bed at an early hour and completely missed it. (It was ultimately nothing serious, don't worry, but I genuinely couldn't do much other than sleep that night.)

Fortunately the whole thing was recorded and is still available to watch on Twitch now, and I finally got around to checking it out last night. It was great! You could tell that the team had put a lot of work into making the whole thing more professional and organised, and it showed.

They aired pre-recorded interviews with three special guests (originally these were supposed to be live but after the date for the stream had to be moved on short notice they unfortunately couldn't make it anymore): Kari Wahlgren, the voice of the female Jedi knight; Noshir Dalal, who voices one of the new characters being introduced in 6.2; and Darin De Paul, voice of Valkorion, Admiral Daeruun and others.


They were all awesome in their own way: Kari talked a fair bit about what it was like to voice the same character for such a long time; Noshir was a bit of a dark horse as we obviously don't know his character yet but seemed like a really cool guy and made me look forward to meeting this new Mandalorian just based on his obvious passion for the role; and Darin De Paul revealed himself to be a massive, happy Star Wars nerd. Everyone was just loving what they're doing and having a great time, which was very infectious.

I'll admit the actual info about 6.2 felt a bit thin - not that they weren't trying to make the most out of it without spoiling the story, but I guess after nine months of 6.1 it just feels like we should be getting more. Not that I don't understand the awkward real life circumstances of the last few months and appreciate everything they're doing, just... if one of your major new features is a new UI for emotes it feels a bit like you're reaching. (Also, I didn't hear anything about it having a button to claim all my unlocked emotes on new characters in a single click. Once they make it so I don't have to click more than a hundred emotes manually on all my characters anymore, then I'll be excited!)

Anyway, my desire for moar, MOAR not withstanding, it was a great feel-good stream, both informative and entertaining, and if you missed it I can only recommend watching the recorded version, even if it's on the side while you're doing something else. Update 6.2 is supposed to finally drop in December (exact date to be confirmed) and I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, and if you didn't have the four Korrealis mounts from previous Cantina events yet, you can claim them with the code LivestreamCantina2020 CantinaLivestream2020 for at least a few more days.

18/11/2020

Ashara vs. Ahsoka

I'm continuing my marathon of The Clone Wars and finished season five recently. Instead of talking about the season in general, I wanted to talk a bit about Ashoka this time, the show's poster child - she features pretty prominently throughout season five, and the last arc of the season is all about her. Without spoiling anything, I can say that it hits pretty hard on an emotional level and makes it more relatable to me why so many people love the character.

I don't just want to talk about Ashoka though - rather I'd like to contrast her with Ashara, the SWTOR companion that was clearly modelled in her image. SWTOR and the Star Wars expanded universe in general have this obsession with relentlessly rehashing concepts and copying whole characters from previous material and the fans just love it. That's why (class story spoilers incoming I guess) Jedi knights get a visit from their dead master's Force ghost at a crucial moment, and why smugglers are best buds with a Wookiee and get a chance to hook up with a princess. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise then that the character of Ashoka received a homage in the form of a young and headstrong, orange-and-blue Togruta companion with a name that also starts and ends with A.

As someone who had never seen the Clone Wars, this was something that largely went over my head at launch except on the most superficial level... but let's just say that at this point I can see what Bioware was trying to achieve with the character of Ashara - I'm just still not sure they actually succeeded.

Asohka in the Clone Wars starts out as a fairly generic young padawan. A bit snippy perhaps, but still inexperienced and keen to learn. After a brief struggle to get her and Anakin on the same page, they become a pretty good team, and in a slow and subtle way you can see her learning from him as the episodes go by, as she becomes more confident and beings to trust in her intuition, while also developing a slightly independent streak.

She seems to believe in the Jedi order as a Force of good, but just like for her master, some of the Council's decisions don't feel quite right to her. This comes to a head at the end of season five (spoilers for real now), when she's framed for a crime and expelled from the Jedi order as a result. While her name is cleared at the very end and she's asked to rejoin, she's too hurt by the betrayal she's experienced and leaves, in order to digest the events she just experienced on her own terms.

A lot of this clearly served as inspiration for the character of Ashara, though now that I'm checking the dates, Clone Wars was only on its fourth season when SWTOR came out (gosh, how time flies), so the events of season five couldn't have influenced Ashara's story. Nonetheless, she too is a headstrong young Jedi padawan who - aside from the obvious superficial similarities - isn't quite convinced that her masters always got it right and ends up turning her back on the Jedi order.

The problem with Ashara is that she doesn't have the chance to get several seasons of character development, so her turning doesn't really feel earned. I can't help but wonder whether she wouldn't have worked better as a companion for a class other than the Sith inquisitor. (I remember reading somewhere that for the original companions, Bioware came up with all the character concepts before actually assigning them to different classes and their stories, so it wasn't set in stone who would join up with whom initially.)

The game tries to make you interested in Ashara on Taris by having the Sith inquisitor review a number of holo recordings of her interacting with her fellow Jedi, but they only really provide a very basic characterisation, and nothing ever gives her any obvious motivation for deciding to follow a Sith. I've long complained that her "acquisition story" is one of the worst and that it would have been more logical for the inquisitor to simply kill her. This has always greatly overshadowed any enjoyment I might have gotten out of having her around.

Now if I imagine her as having been meant to be more of an Ahsoka-like character, somewhat dissatisfied with the way the Jedi do things and wanting to find her own way in the Force, I could see that being an interesting angle and making her subsequent actions, such as deciding to work with a Sith, more understandable. If you don't already go in expecting her story to go that way though (because "look, it's Ahsoka!"), I maintain that it's just not given a very convincing foundation in-game.

13/11/2020

Grumbling About Login Rewards

Yesterday the PTS server for 6.2 went up (gosh, it's kind of painful to think that Onslaught has been out for over a year and we're still on 6.1...) and with it a bunch of posts on the PTS forum asking players for feedback on specific new features. One of those features were... "daily login rewards".

Based on the reactions I've seen, most people seem to be 100% on board with getting free stuff just for logging in, but my own gut reaction was more akin to Michael Scott's upon realising that Toby is back in The Office. I am not a fan of daily login rewards at all, and here is why.

Basically, having experienced these kinds of systems in different MMOs, my reaction to them can be summed up like this:

If I'm super casual about the game, just sort of exploring it with little commitment, I don't really care about them because I'm not invested enough to really want to maximise my personal character gains. Depending on the nature of the rewards, they can make for a nice surprise every so often (or annoying inventory clutter the rest of the time), but they don't really make me want to log in more often.

If I'm super hardcore about the game, I log in every day anyway because I actually want to play, and the rewards are likely to not be of great use to me, so once again I don't really care.

If I'm somewhere in the middle however, which is to say somewhat invested in the game but not necessarily driven to log in every single day, log-in rewards are a road to resentment and burnout, as I'll feel compelled to collect them every day to maximise my gains, but at the same time don't really feel like playing every day, making the whole thing feel like a chore. Worst case I end up spending weeks or even months doing nothing but logging in to collect my freebies, until I get so sick and tired of the whole thing that I don't really want to play anymore at all.

Basically, the best-case scenario is that I'm neutral towards the rewards and don't care.

One of the things I've long loved about SWTOR is that in this day of more and more MMOs feeling the need to add "retention mechanics" like this, it has remained surprisingly chill. Yes, there are daily and weekly quests, but there is little compulsion to actually do anything every single day. The game just wants you to have fun on your own terms, and if that involves not logging in for a few days that's okay too. I really don't want it to turn into the kind of game that values engagement metrics over whether players are actually enjoying the game and having fun.

Now, this post was actually going to be a whole lot rantier (yes, really), but then a dev posted an update on the forum thread about the login rewards to explain more about how the system is supposed to work, and it seems they want to avoid the sort of "must log in every day" compulsion that other games are going for.

Assuming I'm understanding everything he said correctly, there won't be any exclusive, time-limited rewards, but instead it's going to be more of an ongoing loyalty system that rotates through a total of 112 generic rewards or so every day you log in, and once you reach the end, the cycle starts all over again. So while logging in more often will give you more stuff faster, you're not actually missing anything if you skip a few days for whatever reason, merely delaying it.

I'll admit that's... probably the least annoying implementation of this kind of system they could have gone for, so thanks for that. I just still kinda wish it wasn't going to be a thing at all.

10/11/2020

Feast Finished

The Feast of Prosperity came to an end earlier today, and I wanted to write down some final thoughts on this world event. In a nutshell, I stand by my previous assessment that it was quite enjoyable. In fact, while I had been taking time out of my day to do some of the event dailies from the start, I actually ramped up my activities during this last week once I realised that a) some of the rewards were actually quite desirable (yet costly) and b) the best way to earn lots of tokens was to play alts, as the best sources of currency were the one-time story quest and the weeklies. Once you'd completed all the weeklies on a character, repeating just the dailies was a lot less profitable than simply starting on another alt.

Who wouldn't want to be rewarded with a chunky boy like that for a pet?

I mentioned in my last post that I quite enjoyed the daily world boss hunts, though it turned out that most of the missions on the terminal actually reset twice a day, so you could do them both in the morning and again in the evening if you were really into it. This, combined with the benefit of doing the event on alts, meant that world boss groups were running pretty much 24/7 and it was amazing.

I was really pleasantly surprised by the behaviour of the community too - as easy as guild ship transportation has made it to quickly move a whole group of players to a specific location, there were still always people who struggled with this concept, missed or accidentally declined the first summon and then promptly begged for another one two minutes later. It always made me roll my eyes a little, but in all the pugs I did I didn't encounter a single occasion of anyone in the group losing patience with this. You could tell that the Sentinels were tugging at their metaphorical leashes for sure, and often relieved the tension caused by the extended waits by murdering every trash mob in the area several times over, but not once did someone ninja-pull a boss while we were still waiting for a straggler. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I also learned new things about the mechanics of grouping. For example I've long been technically aware that SWTOR has a public grouping feature, but I didn't know much about it because nobody ever seemed to use it. Therefore I was very surprised when I grouped up with one of my guildies (whom I can only describe as the most efficient event/achievement pugger I've ever seen) to form a new world boss group, just to have him set our group to public and then spam chat with "type /j [name] to join for the world boss". This way players who followed his instruction could add themselves to the group without requiring an invite. I followed his example when I was building a world boss group from scratch on a different day and found it quite convenient, though I got the impression that a lot of players weren't really familiar with this feature either.


I was also amused to find that the ingredient-collection daily tied to the same planet as the world boss actually worked quite well in an ops group too. I remember the first time I was told to collect larval geo beast brains on Hoth after killing Snowblind, I had to do several laps around the area and eventually even ended up switching instances because there was so much competition for the kills. On another day however, someone in my world boss group exclaimed "Now for the brains!" or something like that before I had a chance to leave the ops group, so I tagged along and found that in the most wonderful of MMO fashions, a single mob dropped enough brains for an entire ops group of people if you did the quest while still grouped up. Brilliant!

The one-time story came to a satisfying conclusion, with an ending that allowed you to make a choice between supporting one of the two Hutts hosting the Feast over the other. Besides the currency incentives this was the main thing that motivated me to play through the whole thing on an alt - also to see how it would feel playing through it on a dark-sided character. Unfortunately (?) you don't really get to be mean either way, so when you get the mission to deliver charity for example you have to do so regardless of your alignment, and don't get to bribe gang bosses instead (as the dialogue kind of suggested). That said, there was something slightly amusing about imagining my mostly evil Marauder getting letters from orphans thanking her for her kindness.

The only thing that did bug me a little was that the rescue mission on Mek-Sha involved killing Brothers regardless of your faction. Considering that Imperials are openly aligned with them, I thought it would have made more sense for the player character to bribe or negotiate with them rather than to be simply attacked on sight.

Anyway, I can only concur with Intisar's assessment that this event has been a nice addition to SWTOR's calendar, offering some light-hearted amusement in dark times and combining quick and easy event activities with optional but very attractive rewards. I'm already looking forward to seeing it return next year.

02/11/2020

Feast of Prosperity, Continued

We're approaching the end of the second week of the Feast of Prosperity and based on the excited chatter I've been seeing about it on Twitter it seems to be shaping up to be quite a success. Personally I haven't been doing the event quests quite as religiously as I've approached this kind of thing in the past, but I have been trying to do at least some of them on my main every day.

The story quest which I originally assumed to be just an introductory breadcrumb actually continued this week, and I assume it will come to some sort of conclusion after Tuesday. Like the Swoop Event story it suffers a bit from being all aliens talking gibberish all the time, but aside from that I've been finding it quite interesting. The question of whether these two Hutts really are as charitable as they've been claiming to be seems to be shaping up to come to an interesting conclusion. I liked the part where your character delivers charity to some individuals in need on Mek-Sha, which was actually pretty sweet. Who'd have thought that Mek-Sha of all places would have an orphanage?


I've also been quite enjoying the daily world boss hunts. I do like casual, impromptu group content in measured doses, and the world boss pugs have been fitting that bill pretty well. I think it was quite clever of Bioware to make them part of this event - if these dailies were just something that was on all the time, people would quickly become bored of them and participation would likely drop to unsustainable levels. However, in the context of this limited time event, it's easy to find groups for them pretty much at all times (plus it helps that the bosses are so easy that group composition requirements are pretty flexible).

After a few days I also went ahead and finally tried the more difficult versions of both the food serving and the cooking dailies. The former was a bit of a disappointment, as it's not really much harder, but simply longer. It does speed up a bit towards the end compared to the "easy" mode, but basically, if you can do the easy mode without errors you're capable of doing the hard mode as well; it just takes four times as long.

The more difficult version of the cooking daily is more interesting, as it puts certain tasks on a timer but also forces you to actually pay attention - no longer can you just blindly click on whichever item is highlighted in the UI, but you have to actually look around and identify the correct ingredient visually and/or by hovering your mouse over it. That is actually more difficult and engaging without taking much longer than the easy version. The only thing that's mildly annoying is that I've found that any time you're supposed to add something to the grill, the targeting can be a bit fiddly and doesn't always register, even if the targeting circle was clearly placed in the correct location. When you only have a few seconds to add the ingredient, this can be annoying - however, fortunately failure just means starting over, and since the whole thing is really quick it's not a big deal either way.

21/10/2020

Feasting with Hutts

I've been posting a bit less frequently than on my usual schedule lately - just seems to be something about this time of year, looking at past years... - but yesterday we had the first sizeable patch in months so of course I have things to say about it!

There's a teeny tiny story update that comes with it - more of a two-minute conversation really - but it's still nice to have as a reminder that things are supposed to be happening in terms of plot even while we've been treading water for the past few months as players.

However, the undisputed main event was of course the start of the Feast of Prosperity, the new seasonal event centred on Hutts and food. I knew it was going to be exciting when I logged in to this in guild chat:

There is indeed an introductory quest that features you chatting with the Hutts for a while before running some errands on Rishi, one of which involves waiting for what feels like a stupidly long respawn on three clicky things. Having heard my guildies complain about this in chat I made sure to hop straight into the PvP instance, though for once that wasn't completely empty either. In fact, I saw Republic and Imperial players wait peacefully next to each other and felt oddly torn whether I should wreak havoc on the red nameplates.


Fortunately a random Guardian threw me a group invite and saved me from my own indecision by immediately charging the nearest Imp, which actually made me feel a bit better. They can complete their quest after we're done, let's not risk any hostile queue jumping! Being in a party also has the added benefit of only having to click once to get everyone in the group credit for the clicking, so I can only recommend it.

As an aside, I'm not sure how I feel about this new trend to have the breadcrumb quests for new events expanded into these mini storylines. On the one hand it's neat and more context is nice, but on the other hand it makes repetition on alts somewhat annoying. (I'm looking at you, Swoop Event.)

Anyway, the repeatable event quests made for more interesting fare. There's some traditional gathering by clicking on things as well as some world boss killing (because apparently we didn't have enough reasons to kill the Primal Destroyer over and over again yet) - fortunately Bioware has had the sense to dramatically decrease the respawn timer of the affected bosses to only five minutes or so, or else there would have been hell to pay I'm sure.

The main event in my eyes however are the new dailies to cook and serve dishes. I laughed out loud when I first tried the one with the droid serving food, because it reminded me somewhat of a repeatable quest to serve noodles I remember doing back during WoW's Mists of Pandaria expansion. I'm sure there are other games with similar mechanics but that was the closest thing I associated with it. It took me a little while to figure out what's what, but once I got the hang of it I thought it was quite fun!


Similarly, the cooking daily involves you dashing around the kitchen, gathering ingredients and turning on appliances as instructed. Both missions have an easy and a hard version, but I've stuck to easy so far. Maybe once I've done it a few times I'll want to up the challenge. As the event is supposed to run for three weeks, there should be plenty of time to try everything out without feeling rushed.

It's all a bit silly really, but then we can't be dealing with big drama and galaxy-wide upheaval all the time!

14/10/2020

Healing Revan 16-man veteran mode

My guild hit another milestone the other week by defeating Revan in Temple of Sacrifice on 16-person hardmode difficulty. This was easily the most satisfying boss kill for me in a long time, considering how long it took us to get there. We only do 16-man ops for one week once a month, and we'd been working on this particular challenge for three or four months now (I honestly lost track). I was so excited when the achievement finally popped up I even forgot to take a screenshot! I do have a kill video though:

I'm not going to re-hash my general thoughts and opinions of the fight, which I already gave when we beat it on 8-man two years ago and which still apply. However, the larger group size did provide some unique challenges for the healers on the first floor, which I thought I would document here as I couldn't find any written information on the subject myself when we started working on the fight, so maybe this will be helpful to others.

In a nutshell, the big complication is the Essence Corruption debuff. On 8-man, affected damage dealers run out of the group, healers cleanse and gather up all the debuffs, then run into the two puddles to cleanse themselves and you move on. This mechanic already takes some getting used to in the smaller format (not just for the healers, but also for the dps), but 16-man really ramps it up to eleven.

With twice the number of people and the same amount of room, there is less space for people to spread out when they need to be cleansed, and on our earlier tries we often had to wipe it because Corruption got totally out of control in the melee group. The poor guys got yelled at quite a lot and accused of stupidly using self-cleanses, but as it turned out the problem was actually that one of the healers was standing too close to them when doing the cleansing. Healers are contagious too, so you really can't do that - you either have to hug your fellow healers or just stay away from everyone.

The next challenge was cleansing assignments. With two people and eight raiders, we tended to agree on something like "I start top left and you bottom right (of the ops frames)" and it was fairly straightforward, but with double the amount of everything, things got kind of complicated. I watched some kill videos for inspiration and people mostly seemed to be yelling out who they were going to cleanse, so eventually that's what we did too. It felt very chaotic at first, and it does require a certain amount of discipline for the rest of the group to shut up during that phase so none of the calls get missed, but we actually settled into it quite quickly. There tended to be a sort of unspoken hierarchy which meant that the ones with faster reflexes were calling first and then the others took whoever/whatever was left over. Plus everybody knows that every healer has their favourites that they prefer to cleanse before others...

So we got the basic gist of it down quite quickly, but especially at the beginning there were still a lot of mistakes, with people getting cleansed too close to others and causing unnecessary spread. Still, that's not necessarily a reason to wipe it; people just have to keep their cool, focus on the task at hand and continue doing what they're supposed to be doing. Nonetheless I was very proud of the healing team by the time we got the boss down, because there were huge improvements in the smoothness of the process and eventually we rarely had any cleanse go astray at all.

The big question that remained at the end of the phase was how to get rid of the Essence Corruption on the healers, because while there are twice the number of healers on 16-man, there aren't twice as many puddles! There is a third one that spawns near the entrance fairly early on, but it's easy to miss, people frequently stepped into it by accident, and if you don't use it in a timely manner it despawns anyway.

The way we dealt with it in the end was to have one healer cleanse only at the beginning, take the extra puddle relatively early on and then focus only on healing. Then, once HK-47 comes in, the three remaining healers with Corruption finish up the cleanses on the damage dealers while staying at somewhat of a distance from everyone else. Two of them manually cleanse all debuffs from the third (ideally the one with the lowest number of stacks, but we usually decided in advance who it was going to be), and then take the two remaining puddles to clear themselves. Success! For that phase anyway...

The rest of the fight was pretty similar to 8-man to be honest, and the main thing that kept wiping us were the aberrations on the top floor, as usual. For all that though, it felt all the more epic when we finally got it down.

04/10/2020

Watching Clone Wars Season 4

I'm continuing to watch Clone Wars in small but regular drips, and wanted to write down some of my thoughts on season four after finishing it the other day and on how it relates to SWTOR.

You can tell that the show is coming into its own at this point, as like so many that start out with fairly shallow, mostly stand-alone episodes, it's slowly moving towards longer, more intricate multi-episode arcs.

Still, I thought the start of the season was fairly weak, as I didn't much care for the three-parter set on Mon Cala, which mostly seemed to be an exercise in showcasing some cool underwater visuals. (Though I thought the bad guy being a literal shark was kind of funny.) The episodes that followed weren't really much better either.


Things picked up with Darkness on Umbara, which is of course where the location for SWTOR's Crisis on Umbara flashpoint came from. What I didn't know was just how much visual inspiration the Bioware artists took from this season: For example there is a fight with some vehicles that look somewhat like giant flying centipedes, and after they're blown up and crash, the resulting wreckage looks eerily reminiscent of the sort of terrain that players have to navigate in the flashpoint. Also, while the plot on Umbara doesn't feature a train, another episode later in the season, Bounty, mostly takes place on one and again it looks quite similar to where players start out in the flashpoint in SWTOR. I just thought that was interesting.

Story-wise, the Umbaran arc was also the one I probably liked the most this season, though I was admittedly a little disappointed that the Jedi general just turned out to be evil, as I personally thought that it would have been more interesting if he'd really just been someone employing questionable methods and embodying a bad attitude on the Republic side, but I guess that would have been considered too morally complex for a kids' show.

One episode that really kind of shocked me was the one called Massacre, which lived up to its name as it's basically about the Separatists eradicating the Nightsisters. It's just one big battle episode, but both sides are nasty and you can't really root for either! I guess in the end Ventress is at least a slightly sympathetic character, but nonetheless I kept wondering to myself for most of the episode just what I was watching here...

Finally the end of the season brings the return of Darth Maul, something I'd wondered about ever since seeing the end of Solo, but I haven't been a huge fan so far. There isn't even any kind of explanation for why he's alive, he's just... there, insane and with weird mechanical spider legs as a replacement for his lower body. I don't know if it ever does get explained how he survived, but so far I haven't been too impressed.

28/09/2020

We Succeeded at Killing a Boss

A little less than a month ago I wrote about my guild's attempts at killing a couple of unusual bosses. On the subject of the Ancient Threat world boss, I noted that while we had failed to kill it that night, we actually came pretty close by relying on a zerg tactic utilising guild ship summons, and that we were thinking about coming back and giving it another go on Imp side, whose nearest base is much closer to the boss's spawn point than it is for Republic players.

Well, last week we did just that and it worked! We did it with a group of 22 people and it took about ten minutes. It was still almost as much of a mess as last time, but at least we were somewhat more organised about the guild ship summons, which allowed us to achieve victory this time around. I uploaded a video of the fight too, where you can watch me do all kinds of stupid things such as hit heat venting cooldowns when I have no heat anyway (I'm used to the bar working the other way round on Republic side, okay?!) or just running around like a headless chicken while trying to get in range of the current tank without stepping into red circles. Maybe it'll help some other guild out there though!

14/09/2020

The Nameplate Dilemma

I think that on a basic level, a good user interface is crucial to an immersive MMO experience. I'm not talking about details like the size and exact positioning of your action bars here, but about the very way you interact with the world. It seems to me that there's always a balance to be struck between immersion and convenience: Pushing a button to instantly teleport from anywhere to anywhere else is certainly convenient, but it also means that there's no real sense of place. On the other hand, running around a beautiful landscape with no understanding of where to go or how to interact with anything will soon leave players feeling lost. The trick is in finding the sweet spot in the middle.

I've been thinking about all of this recently because of nameplates. You see, the default setting in World of Warcraft when I first started playing that was to show nameplates for friendly players and nothing else. It being my first MMORPG, I of course didn't know any different, but even once I became aware of my options, that setup still made sense to me. I get that characters having their name float above their head isn't in any way "realistic", but it enables the player to recognise familiar faces out in the wild, something that their character should reasonably be able to do in-universe as well, but that could be hard from a player point of view when all you see is a generic character model in the distance.

Eventually I learned that there could also be a benefit to turning on nameplates for friendly NPCs when doing the quest for master first aid in WoW, which is basically a slow whack-a-mole that requires you to click on a number of injured NPCs in the right order based on their names, but the actual character models all look the same. If you have to click on each one first to see what they are called, it's nigh-impossible to get right within the allocated time. If they all have their names floating above their heads at all times, it's trivial. So I got into the habit of turning that setting on for that specific quest and then immediately turning it off again.

I've been following the same model in SWTOR since the beginning, but just like Revan forced me to re-evaluate my view distance, bosses sometimes have a way of favouring one UI setting over another. We've been running veteran mode Gods from the Machine again recently, to teach some newer players the ropes, and the first phase of the Scyva fight involves dealing with a number of small adds with relatively little health, at least some of which need to die in the right place and at the right time. When I was first learning the fight myself I found that part to be a bit of a struggle, but then I noticed on someone else's kill video that they had enemy nameplates turned on, so I followed their example and voilĂ : instantly it became so much easier to keep track of all the little adds in the room and what health each one was on.

Back then I still stuck to my guns and turned enemy nameplates back off after the fight, but this time around I keep forgetting and it's been making me thoughtful. When tanking a flashpoint it's so much easier to keep track of all targets when they have their names and health floating over their heads, plus you can make much more decisive switches based on health levels.


Just cruising around the galaxy has felt very different too. Out in the wild, I can see even smaller mobs from miles away and it's much easier to circumvent them. I've long had a reputation for being oblivious to my surroundings and frequently pulling adds by accident, but now I'm wondering whether I've simply been made to feel like a buffoon because the people I've been playing with all had enemy name plates turned on at all times. It's not hard to avoid those!

As a result, I'm kind of torn. Part of me just wants to go back to the way it was already, to a landscape unmarred by floating names everywhere. It's so much more beautiful! However, the difference in convenience has also been very noticeable, and I fear that I may well end up missing it, especially in group content. Of course there's nothing stopping me from simply switching my settings around every so often, but still... it's given me food for thought.