Day 6: Environments

This is the sixth post in my 10 Days of SWTOR Screenshots challenge. Click on any screenshot to see a larger version.

I bet you thought that I had given up on this! I haven't, but all the hullabaloo about server transfers was too distracing for me to write about anything else really. However, now that things are slowly getting back to normal, let's talk environments.

One criticism of the game that I've seen a few times is that it supposedly doesn't have good graphics. Personally I don't see that at all, but then I also feel that I haven't actually encountered a game with genuinely bad graphics in many years. That's not to say that I like all modern video game graphics to an equal extent, but my like or dislike isn't so much based on their supposed quality as it is about overall style and maybe nitpicking on details such as that I don't like the look of certain animations in some games (also refer to this Extra Credits episode).

The Old Republic has won me over in every respect here, as I love the slightly cartoony style (I really don't care for attempts at photorealism in games), I adore most of the animations (seriously, I could just watch Jedi knights jump around all day and I'd be happy), and overall the art direction very much follows the aesthetics of the films by focusing on interesting character designs placed in front of gorgeous backdrops.

My favourite operation from a visual point of view is still Eternity Vault. Nothing says "Star Wars" like huge, gaping chasms without safety rails! Also, the place just generally feels enormous, even though the area you actually play in is of limited size.

For a bit of contrast, within the same operation we have this scene, taken during a raid break. Here the little details actually work quite well - I loved the look of those glowy mushrooms. Too bad I rarely get to pay attention to them while we plough through trash mobs.

One thing I still don't do nearly often enough is look up. I thought that Quesh had pretty much no redeeming features until I went there with my agent and my companion Vector prompted me to look up with a comment about the redness of the sky. Dude! I can't believe I never noticed! I now try to pay more attention to my companions' prompts, as they encourage me to stop for a little while to appreciate the scenery (even if I'm itching to get to the next part of my class quest).

Mako has been very good at this on Dromund Kaas in particular. Until she made me look up while playing my bounty hunter, I never even really noticed the way the citadel in Kaas City looms above the rest of the city.

And for a nice view of space, here's my boyfriend's Sith inquisitor boosting me through the Foundry. (We did eventually make it past HK-47 once he hit max level.) When we stepped out of the actual installation and found ourselves with naught but a force field above our heads, I was quite awed. Very atmospheric.


Using the new group finder, day 1

Today was certainly one of the more exciting patch days in TOR. Crafters were going nuts about augment kits, PvPers were itching to try out ranked warzones, and PvE players wanted to make use of the new group finder. While I've spent a lot of time PvPing as of late, I was firmly in the PvE camp today and my priority for the day was to try out the group finder as soon as the servers came up.

I was reminiscing about the release of WoW's dungeon finder last night and was rather amused when I went back to read the first impressions post I originally wrote on the day of its release. Has it really been only two and a half years? In some ways that post reads like something from another world to me now. How little did I know of how radically my dungeon running habits would change in short order... but I'm rambling. I decided to copy the format I used back then, do three flashpoints today and tell you in detail about how they went.

As an aside, general chat really cracked me up upon logging in today. The servers had barely been up for ten minutes and already people were whining that the group finder wasn't working because they hadn't got a group yet. Give people some time to log in, dummy! In-between those complaints, people were posting LFG requests in general chat as usual and getting told to use the new tool instead, which then led back to others complaining again that it didn't work anyway. It was extremely silly.

Flashpoint #1: Maelstrom Prison on my Guardian

My first order of the day was to queue up for Maelstrom Prison in specific on my lowbie knight. The Jedi Prisoner quest line is one that I like to do on all of my Republic characters, but I'd only managed to do Taral V on my knight so far. I made sure to queue up for Maelstrom Prison in specific and was surprised to get a group pop-up instantly. Not working, pfft! I zoned in... and found myself with a little shield icon under my portrait. Tank, what? But I hadn't picked tanking as my preferred role!

Unfortunately however, I apparently hadn't unselected it either... and that leads me to my first minor niggle with the tool: that it has all the roles that your advanced class can perform checked by default. I don't know why anyone thought that this was a sensible idea, especially considering that the game currently doesn't have a dual spec option or anything of the like.

Still, at the end of the day it was a user error, and I felt deeply embarrassed. I apologised profusely to my group mates and offered to leave, unless they wanted me to try tanking in my dps gear and spec. They all just stood there and stared at me in silence. Oh god, please don't give me the silent pug treatment in my very first run already, I thought. "Yes, no, anyone?" is what I actually put in chat, trying to coax some sort of response out of the group. One of them gave me the virtual equivalent of a shrug: "Up to you if you want to try it."

I went into Soresu Form and we gave it a try. And actually... it wasn't too bad! In fact, with all the droids that do knockbacks in Maelstrom Prison, I almost felt like I had an edge in tanking with talents like Unremitting. There were a couple of scary moments on large trash pulls and some boss fights when my health bar took a nose dive, but I mashed my survival cooldowns like crazy and the healer managed to keep me up at all times, something for which I gave him crazy kudos at the end. One of the bosses dropped a shield generator too, so I had at least the most important piece of tanking gear equipped by the end.

In the end what had begun as a huge embarrassment for me turned out to be a really pleasant run. My group mates weren't really very chatty, but I did get the distinct impression that they were simply happy to be there. They had no qualms about telling me that they didn't know how a fight worked and followed my instructions with no problems. At the end there were a lot of smilies and thank yous... and most of all I was happy to be able to say: "see you around".

At the end of the run I discovered that instead of porting me back to where I had been when I took the shuttle (aka teleport) to the flashpoint, we all got dumped outside the instance entrance. I thought this was a very good move though, as many flashpoints have quest hand-ins right outside, which you can easily do with your group this way. Not to mention that in nine out of ten cases being outside the entrance means that you'll end up on the fleet, which really isn't the worst place to be even if you were out and about somewhere else before.

Flashpoint #2: Colicoid War Game on my Operative

Next I wanted to see what things were like on Imperial side, and I had been itching to do Colicoid War Game on my agent anyway. However, I had to discover to my chagrin that for some reason the option to queue for that flashpoint was greyed out for me, even though the character was in the right level range.

Fortunately I managed to guess the reason for this correctly: I had a breadcrumb quest to talk to Darth Malgus (about the Colicoids), and once I completed that the flashpoint suddenly became available. As far as I'm aware Bioware has generally relaxed requirements to do the prerequisite missions for each flashpoint for the group finder, but I can imagine that me sitting on that intermediate step of talking to Malgus was causing an issue.

This time I didn't get an instant queue. After five minutes I got a pop-up, but someone immediately declined and it was cancelled. It took another ten minutes or so for me to get another one, but this time everyone accepted.

You might remember that when I first wrote about the Colicoid War Game, I described it as "both hilarious and horrible" and concluded that it would probably be painful to do in a pug. I did feel like challenging myself today though, and fortunately for me some aspects of the flashpoint appeared to have been nerfed with this patch to make it a bit more pug-friendly. For example the gun turrets now provide a slow but steady stream of heals while you're mounted on them, which honestly made the first section completely trivial. I think you'd have to fail pretty hard to die there now. However, considering that it was never my favourite part of the instance to begin with, I didn't really mind.

The fun part came when we arrived at the forcefield obstacle course. Nobody in my party knew how to do it, but I was happy to explain. Unsurprisingly we spent a lot of time waiting for people to run back after they had been knocked off and died, but at least it got people talking, which I quite enjoyed. In the end it didn't take too long for us to figure it all out, and the fact that Bioware nerfed the respawn timer of the patrolling droids helped too, without having a negative effect on the puzzle part of the section. I was kind of amused when our tank appeared to have gone AFK while manning one of the consoles, and then came back saying that his cat had spilled his tea on his lap.

Again the whole thing ended on a very amicable note and with many "see you around"s.

Flashpoint #3: A random hardmode on my Commando

When I logged back onto Republic side, one of our tanks had just come online and was marvelling at the new group finder interface. I asked whether he wanted to team up with me to try finding a group for a max level flashpoint. He tossed me a group invite and next thing I knew I had the window popping up to tell me that a group was ready. I didn't even click anything! This would become important later. Anyway, not surprised that a tank and healer combo resulted in an instant queue, we accepted the pop-up to find ourselves zoning into... Lost Island. Gulp.

Don't get me wrong, I've successfully completed it more than once by now, but it's not really something that I'd want to pug just yet. We decided to give it a go anyway, however on the first boss we quickly found ourselves running into problems. Our gunslinger (another former Luka Sene player, yay) was doing a pretty good job, but our dps Shadow wasn't exactly performing in a stellar manner. His gear wasn't terrrible but probably not really up to Lost Island HM standards either, and more importantly he didn't really seem to be doing much, spending most of his time standing at range and running away from things instead of damaging the boss. After the third wipe the gunslinger commented that we didn't really seem to have enough dps (in the most generically inoffensive way possible) and the Shadow offered to leave so that we could get someone else. After he did so I sent him a whisper to say thank you and that it wasn't anything against him personally, and he seemed to be in quite a cheerful mood still. This was probably the most amiable parting over low dps that I've ever seen.

We queued up to get a replacement, and as I looked at the group finder window I noticed that I was listed as a provider of both damage and heals. Remember how I said that it's all turned on by default and that I never got to confirm my role when my guildie queued us up? Yeah. I unticked the damage box and hit the update button, but figured that we were probably going to get another dps anyway.

(Insert foreboding music here.)

We got another group member within seconds, a twi'lek Sage. Everyone was like: "Awesome, two ranged dps, that's going to make this fight so much easier!" And we did almost kill the boss before hitting his enrage this time... even though it was with two healers. How sad is it that we didn't even realise that we had two healers until halfway through the fight? Even though it was close, we wiped again and the Sage said that "Shíntar was queued as damage" and that she was out. And true enough, that's when I noticed the little damage icon under my portrait for the first time. I can only guess that the update to my queuing status came too late or didn't work properly. Again I felt very sheepish. I couldn't really tell whether the Sage was angry about what had happened, but her curtness before leaving certainly made me feel guilty.

The rest of us were a bit unsettled and unsure whether the system was working correctly. We reformed the party but weren't able to queue up to continue our run. My guildie and I agreed that we weren't very keen on trying Lost Island again, even if it was a letdown for the gunslinger who seemed really eager. He was right that we had almost got the boss down, but considering that more difficult fights lay ahead and that we hadn't really been looking for that level of challenge when we queued up (user fail on my tanking buddy's part this time), it was probably for the better.

After a brief break we tried again and an instant group pop-up took us to the False Emperor this time, with a dps Guardian and a Sentinel (who was another former Luka Sene player, what luck). It was kind of funny when my guildie took a shortcut early on by jumping down a ledge, I blindly followed him and realised only as I was jumping that we were leaping right over a bottomless chasm. Fortunately I managed not to fall to my death.

"How many times have you done False Emperor?"
"About five to ten times, why?"
"It's just that that jumping shortcut reeks of someone who's done this place way too many times!"

Our dpsers seemed skilled, but we were barely two minutes in when the Guardian started to say "wait" repeatedly and that he had to answer the phone for work. We said that it was no problem, we were just going to continue clearing some more trash. Unfortunately he was still on the phone by the time we arrived at the first boss, though he kept typing out more comments asking us to wait and assuring us that he was trying to make it quick.

"I just hope you're not a doctor," my guildie quipped. "'Yeah, yeah, just give him some of those drugs. I've got a boss to kill!'" The guy laughed and said that he was actually a management consultant. Which was funny because he then continued to give us unnecessary advice about what to do, no matter how many times my guildie said "I know" or was already doing what he was being told to do anyway.

Mr Management Consultant also kept saying "go" a lot, which was kind of ironic considering that he was the one who had kept telling us to "wait" only minutes before. Nooo, not my first gogogo-er already! "Stop saying that please," my guildie told him eventually. Fortunately he obliged... until we got to HK-47 and he did it again, right after giving us another redundant tactics rundown. "Oops, I'm not supposed to say that, right?" "Say it again and I'll slap you! :P" my guildie replied. (I do love him so.)

Basically, the Guardian's attitude was slightly annoying, but not overly so. It helped that my guildie was making some light fun of the situation. In terms of skill we had no problems though and breezed through the whole instance in what was a new record time for me (though it was only my third run of the place I think). The culling of trash mobs that was also mentioned in the patch notes was certainly very noticeable in this flashpoint.

So what's my verdict on the new group finder so far?

At least on the high population servers, it works, even while being limited to server only. I have no idea what dps queues were like though. What with today being patch day, there were presumably also a lot more people trying it out than there would be on a more average day. We'll see how that works out in the long run.

In terms of how it affects player behaviour, I'm not sure what to think. Struggling to get people to communicate and running into my first gogogo-er on day one already is not a good sign, but I'll try to remain hopeful. For what it's worth I had fun today. And unlike on my first day of WoW dungeon finding back in the day, nobody quit at random, threw a strop, tried to kick anyone else or ninjaed anything, which is a good sign.

In terms of technical implementation, I'm impressed by how many different functionalities Bioware managed to roll into a single tool, though I haven't tried queuing for heroics, dailies or story mode operations yet. I just wish they'd make some minor tweaks to it, such as not having all roles selected by default, asking you to confirm your role and what you're queuing for when you're in a group instead of just letting the leader throw everyone in the deep end, and maybe adding some more sounds. I think there's a really quiet noise when the pop-up to inform you that your group is ready first appears, but everything else appeared to be silent, which felt a bit odd to me. I really missed having sound cues for entering the queue or having a new party member join.

I'd love to hear about other people's experiences with the new group finder (and in fact I'll probably be off to the forums now to have a look around for more opinions).


Settling In

Three days on The Red Eclipse and I'm actually quite happy. I can't overstate the huge quality of life improvement that is short and reliable warzone queues. Since my initial bad run of eight losses in a row, things have evened out considerably and I've seen a lot of wins too. I don't mind the weaker players on my team anymore, and I laugh when poorly geared opponents make me feel like a goddess among men. I'm also starting to see more really good players on our side, and I'm amazed at how many of them are pretty much kitted out in full War Hero. Back on Luka Sene not even the hardest of the hardcore had that, simply because even if you sat in the queue all day you only got a limited amount of matches in and thus limited rewards. Suddenly the idea of owning a full War Hero set of my own eventually doesn't seem like a complete pipe dream anymore.

Still, I don't quite feel "at home" yet - I greet people whose names I recognise from Luka Sene, but the vast majority of the masses on the fleet remain a bunch of strangers. I believe that this will improve over time though. I'm taking note of people with memorable or weird names already (such as Mr Widdlywee of the Widdlywee Legacy, or the guy who has characters called Whalepoo and Whaleballs), and the other day I had an awesome team-building experience when I ended up in a random warzone with no Jedi. Who thought that such a thing was even possible? Seven troopers and a gunslinger made for a slightly odd group composition, but we had a good laugh about it and won by a landslide. I also memorised the name of the guy who kept putting guard on me as someone to watch out for in future games who should receive healing priority above all others.

On the PvE front, I actually pugged a couple of low-level flashpoints and heroics. I was surprised by how pleasant it was, and then I felt silly for being surprised. It's easy to forget that pugging wasn't always a complete nightmare and still doesn't have to be. Funny how even a short break from pugging made my expectations briefly revert to what they were in WoW instead of  anticipating more of the goodness that is TOR pugging. I think there is a dedicated term for this in psychology.

As it was, I had a lot of fun. I think my favourite bit was three-manning a Nar Shadaa four-man heroic with no crowd control and a companion healer. When we stood in front of the first pull there was a bit of an "oh crap" moment when we realised the full extent of our predicament, but we marked up a focus target and decided to give it a go anyway. What a triumph that was when we survived even the patrol that added to the pull by accident!

I'm actually kind of looking forward to the group finder patch tomorrow... maybe foolishly so, but I'm thinking that with the sheer size of the server now, it might actually have a sufficiently large pool of players to work with while still leaving people with a sense of accountability that might prevent some of the worst possible asshattery.

My guild has also felt somewhat invigorated, and we had our first one-night clear of Explosive Conflict on Friday, which provided me with some more video editing material.

Basically, all is well in my (game) world, and despite of all my initial worries I consider this server transfer a success for me personally. I'm still a bit concerned about the effect that all those empty servers will have on the influx of new players, but then there is nothing I can do about that. I'll start talking about things other than server transfers again, I promise!

(As a side note, after all the bellyaching I did about the subject, I was vaguely amused by this post by Liore about server-transferring in Rift. In some ways it's like night and day.)


My first night on The Red Eclipse

Transferring server as a guild was actually kind of fun - lots of people online and chatting excitedly. We didn't manage to get all of our active members transferred and into the new guild on the first night, but we made a good start.

The transfer process itself went as smoothly as everyone had predicted and was done within five minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I only had to change two of my character names: my main is now Shíntar ("with a funny eye"), and my bounty hunter with her three-letter name gained an apostrophe. I couldn't believe that neither of the four-letter names of my Republic alts were taken. I feel like I really lucked out.

The first thing I did after transferring was make a separate chat window for general chat so that I could hide it away without completely disabling it. It's not that the quality of the chat was that awful (though I did see people say some pretty dumb things), but the constant LFG, WTS etc. requests were just too spammy while I was also trying to pay attention to other things.

Next thing I ran around the fleet a bit to see whether I recognised anyone... and I did! I was really pleased when a friendly Vanguard returned my greeting emote and we showered each other with sparkles. It's a bit weird I suppose, but I really missed seeing those familiar faces around. They are not my friends; they are barely even acquaintances: I only really know their names and maybe a bit about their play style, but that's it. Still, that familiarity with the people around you is one of those things that gives an MMO a sense of place, and having the majority of my "small town" evaporate from one day to the next had made me sad, so it felt good to reconnect with at least some of them. I also joined the custom chat channel for former Luka Sene players that I had been told about and there were lots of people in there.

And then... it was time for warzones! After being unable to do any PvP for several days I really had an itch to scratch. I have to admit that the queues were very quick, five minutes tops, and I got the daily done on four characters in one evening, something that would have been totally unthinkable back on Luka Sene even during its better days.

The downside was that I lost my first eight matches in a row, and there were some seriously bad players on my team. I'm usually not very demanding when it comes to player skill, considering that I'm not that amazing myself, everyone has to start somewhere etc. but some of those games actually had me shouting at my screen. I think I died a little inside during the Huttball match where we had three players next to the central pedestal when the ball spawned, but they all just ran around it, refusing to touch the ball, until an Imperial player simply walked over and ran off with it.

To add some context, I felt that the quality of the PvP in the warzones on my old server was very high towards the end. Back when I started PvPing, Republic lost the vast majority of games, but over time we seemed to catch up as the population shifted, and while there was still some variation in win/loss ratios depending on time of day, I would go so far as to say that the Republic had a slight edge by the end of it all. Getting thoroughly spanked by random Imperials eight matches in a row came as a bit of a shock to the system after that.

There was a turnaround that made me smile though, when I ended up in a Voidstar match where I recognised a character name, a guild name, and one guy's appearance (nothing sticks in your memory like a Mirialan trooper dancing the night away with his pants off...). As luck would have it, I got grouped with four people from a former Luka Sene guild! I whispered one of them and he recognised me as well, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Unsurprisingly we completely obliterated the Imps in that game, and it felt good to finally get some revenge.

Curious how other people experienced the post-transfer PvP, I had a brief look at the official forums and actually found this thread on the subject pretty interesting. It starts with a silly complaint like most of them, but some of the responses are quite thoughtful. This post from the second page by "Astarica" rang particularly true for me:

Prior to the server transfers a lot of server basically have about 20 guys left still PvPing. You pretty much know exactly every one of them and every one of them are awesome players because a lesser player would've already given up.

That kind of gameplay is at a very high level but it's also really boring because good teams simply don't screw up. There are a lot of games where it feels like I'm just going through the motions, i.e. I attack the enemy's best healer. [...]

Now after the transfers there's an active population so all the regular players return so of course you don't have games where both sides effectively make no mistake. It's frustrating when your side loses a game that you should win, but the reverse is just as likely to occur too. Personally, I prefer having some variance over 'first team that caps the first turret wins in Alderaan" which is pretty much how the last 100 games on Alderaan went on my old server.

I don't consider myself an awesome player, but I completely see his point about how the long queues were off-putting for more casual PvPers. His description of Civil War games pre-merger is hyperbolic too, but there's some truth in it as well. For me it was more apparent in Voidstar, where towards the end pretty much every match got decided by whoever breached the first door first (nobody really got much further), while I actually saw people reaching the datacore repeatedly tonight.

Basically there are three things to consider in regards to this new warzone experience:

1) Short queues mean that more people are willing to play, which means more people in bad gear and with little experience on both sides. However, more people also means shorter queues, which is a positive, self-reinforcing cycle.

2) Even the more experienced people are all jumbled together from different servers right now, so people don't know who the healers are etc. This should get better though as at least the more frequent PvPers start to memorise some names.

3) With so many more people playing, there's also a certain luck of the draw, as you won't just play with and against the same bunch of hardcore PvPers all the time, so you might just have to get used to not having winning or losing streaks that are as predictable as they used to be.

At the end of the day, another player who posted on page four of the above thread probably said it best:

I'll trade getting owned with my team of noobs to window shopping on the fleet with WZ comms I don't have any day.


Beating the dead (server) horse one last time

Don't worry, this isn't another moan about the server transfers. I just received so many sympathetic and encouraging comments to my last post that I thought I should give the people who were interested an update on what has been happening.

Basically, after some discussion and a vote on our guild forums, the majority turned out to be in favour of moving. There's still some grumbling and it's obviously not going to be all sunshine and rainbows, but most agreed that it's bound to be better than twiddling our thumbs on an abandoned server. We're looking into getting the guild reformed on The Red Eclipse tonight.

Our guild leader wants to leave the old guild up for a couple of weeks however, headed by an alt, in order to use the guild message of the day as a pointer for people who haven't logged in during the past week and might be confused about what's been happening upon returning. We'll be able to do without a guild bank on our new server for a little while.

I do have to give credit to my guildies for keeping my spirits up during the past couple of days. I did the Black Hole dailies in a group three times in three days (which is unusual for me), and there was lots of fun and laughter going around. Yesterday a guildie and I ran into another person at one point and my guildie assaulted him with a drive-by sparkle. The poor guy stopped dead in his tracks and just stood there staring at us for a moment. "I bet he's like... what the hell is this, I thought I was alone on this server!"

As a matter of fact, the Black Hole actually seemed to be one of the areas that has been the least affected by the transfer, probably because doing dailies is one of the few things that you can do at max level that doesn't require other people (with the exception of the heroic dailies). We actually had people "ninja" the button to summon Quick-Hands Quarl right in front of us and struggled to find enough boxes for the area daily. "Man, this server is way too crowded," I joked to my guildies.

The place that was undoubtedly hit the hardest by the transfers is the fleet. Again, a guildie managed to find humour in the situation as he posted on the forums: "I'll need two days advanced notice to take down all my GTN listings. That said, there's one person on the fleet at the moment... and that's me. Sooo, I'm not sure who I'm trying to sell stuff to - that's how much I love selling things!" Also, when the population counter on the fleet hit 14 last night, he immediately cried out for a party in general chat, which elicited some chuckles from people as well.

The total server population, including both factions and all levels, has shrunk down to less than a hundred even at prime time, and less than ten during the more quiet times of the day. In a way it's interesting though that those players are still around. The vast majority of them are low-level as well, so I can't help but wonder whether they are people who are happy or at least indifferent about levelling through their story in solitude, or whether they are new players who simply don't know any better and are wondering why nobody is around.

Anyway, soon this will all be behind me. No more wandering through a post-apocalyptic empty fleet while the loudspeaker server admin repeatedly tells people to bugger off already read up on the wonders of server transfers. To be honest, in the long run I would expect people to move away simply due to the annoyance of being spammed by that server admin message every fifteen minutes or so. I've only seen it five times and it's already driving me bonkers.


A Little Music Video

Remember back when I complained that there weren't enough fan-made SWTOR videos out there? Well, I've decided to take things into my own hands and start making my own! (Read: Hey! Guess who got Fraps and Sony Vegas Movie Studio for her birthday?) Unfortunately for you, I'm a total noob at video creation so the results may not be that impressive for a while, but hopefully I will learn. For now, behold a little music video dedicated to my love of playing Huttball as a Sage (and to Luka Sene's old PvP community)!

Just don't ask me when and why I ended up connecting Korean girl pop to Huttball. The internet does strange things to people. At least my guild leader conceded that while he considered the choice of music "strange", it still works somehow.

As an aside, watching video recordings of myself in PvP was quite a blow to my ego. I never thought that I was awesome at it, but I wasn't aware that I spent that much time running into environmental obstacles or just standing around not casting anything...


Server Transfer Blues

I have to admit I've been feeling a bit down on the game for the past couple of days. Nothing to do with the game itself really, but this whole server merge "transfer" business has really been getting to me. I hated not knowing what was going to happen to my server. Of course I suspected that it was going to become an origin server like ninety percent of the others, but I didn't really know. It was as if a black cloud was hanging over my usual enjoyment of the game all weekend. It feels a bit silly to get this hung up on MMO business I suppose, but in game it was a really big deal for me, bigger than even the biggest guild drama I've ever had to deal with.

Then the dreaded update finally arrived on the official server transfer thread this afternoon:

Luka Sene --> The Red Eclipse

Less than two hours after the announcement went up, I had an e-mail from Bioware in my inbox with the title "Transfer your Character Now". Three minutes after I logged into the game in the evening, a giant server admin message flashed up in the middle of my screen, raid warning style, also telling me to check out more information about the free transfers on the website. Geeze, no pressure or anything! "Optional" transfers indeed.

My heart sank as I only saw ten people on the fleet at what was usually prime time. A quick /who command revealed less than a hundred people per faction on the entire server. A couple of players were levelling alts and one or two guilds were raiding but that was it. No warzones were running all evening, which didn't really come as a surprise as the well-known PvPers had all been talking about looking forward to the free transfers for weeks. From the looks of it, a third to fifty percent of our active server population left on the first day alone. It was depressing.

I've pushed for discussion of the server transfer issue on our guild forums, and as expected opinions are split. Two or three people are cautiously enthusiastic, others like me are not necessarily completely opposed to transferring but still unhappy about having to deal with this issue at all.

My guild master is adamant that he's not going, as all of his current character names are taken on The Red Eclipse, including his main's name which is also his real life nickname. Meanwhile my boyfriend has worked himself into a rage about how stupid he thinks the entire thing is, how he doesn't want to have to deal with queues and how he's thinking about cancelling his subscription now, simply out of protest at how badly he feels Bioware has been handling this entire situation.

Really? And I'm supposed to be happy about this?

As I was collecting mail on my alts (and not bothering to relist my auctions in case we do end up transferring in the next couple of days, not to mention that hardly anyone seems to be left to buy things anyway), I spotted an out of guild acquaintance near the bank. If the game allowed for more emotional expression, I probably would have run up to him, grabbed him by the lapels of his robe and yelled "Oh my god, someone is still here!" like a crazy person, but as it was I just waved at him and asked him whether he and his guild were going to transfer too.

He said that they were all planning to go, probably even today. I replied that my guild was still undecided, adding a frowny face for emphasis on how I felt about that. He gave me a smile in return. "I think everyone will go." "See you on the other side then," I said, "... maybe. If we recognise each other after all the forced name changes." Again he seemed to be completely unburdened by worries like mine. "There's a Luka Sene chat channel!" I thanked him for bringing that to my attention and logged off.

I'm trying to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and pray that it's not an oncoming train. I hope that my guild master and my boyfriend will come around, because anything else will leave a massive gash in my little circle of gaming friends. I still don't really want to transfer. I don't want to stop being Shintar because the name's already taken on The Red Eclipse, nor do I want to have queues upon logging in, deal with spam in general chat or fight 50 people for quest mobs in the Black Hole. But I like the prospect of staying on a dead server until it's closed and never playing another warzone again even less.


Random NPC Love

One thing that never ceases to entertain me is the way Bioware manages to make even some of the most mundane quest NPCs memorable. Part of it is the voice acting I suppose, since characters speak different languages and have different accents. It also helps that conversations aren't limited to 511 characters, so there's some more wiggle room to infuse each character with personality instead of only having them convey the absolute bare minimum of information.

More than anything it's simply creative effort though. I'm guessing the writers are quite aware that it's hard to make the nth quest to kill ten whatevers memorable, but they do pull it off over and over again. Quest NPCs are made visually interesting via facial scars or unusual species/class combinations, and every dialogue contains potential hooks to pull you in and make you chuckle or raise your eyebrows.

I was questing on Dromund Kaas on my bounty hunter alt last night, and I immediately found it striking how differently I got addressed depending on my class. On my agent, NPCs generally seemed respectful, but also at ease and happy to see me. On my Sith inquisitor, they were wary. And now on my bounty hunter, they seem to have a certain disdain for me... most of them anyway.

I actually laughed out loud when I approached Guard Kullin (aka the guy who guards the blocked off jungle road near the spaceport), and the following exchange happened:

My bounty hunter: "What's this? Shaking down travellers?"
Guard Kullin: "Heh. What are you going to do if we say 'yes'?"

OMG, I don't remember you being funny with any of my previous characters! Too bad there was no option to flirt; I could totally see this guy and my bounty hunter having a fun night out at a cantina or something. It's a shame that he only has something like three lines. I did go out of my way to be nice to him however by offering to run his little errand willingly and without asking for compensation. Because he made me laugh, it made me want to be decidedly un-bounty-hunter-ish for once.

Other NPCs were as I remembered them, but still entertaining. The paranoid Imperial who admits to having killed his own men for "suspicious behaviour" while they were planning a surprise birthday party for him still makes me raise an eyebrow every time. Talk about over the top!

I could almost make this a regular feature: Random NPC Love for a character that only has a few lines but still manages to be awesome in their own way. What are other people's favourite random NPCs?


When free transfers are not a good thing

So Bioware finally announced the first of the highly anticipated free server transfers today. I think they did a good job at trying to communicate how it would all work in advance, but forum trolls who don't bother to read are unfortunately unavoidable. I feel a bit sorry for the moderators that have to deal with all the "why isn't my server included" threads.

That said, I was still very unhappy with what I saw, as it seems that my fears in regards to transfers are about to come true: the current free transfers all offer to move characters from low population realms to high population ones instead of the other way round. This means that Bioware is trying to consolidate server populations instead of balancing them. I don't think that this is a bad idea per se, but I do think that trying to do so via free transfers is a bad move for a variety of reasons.

Even with transfers being free, it's inevitable that a lot of people won't use them, whether that's because they don't even know that the feature exists because they don't follow the news, they are only moderately active, or they like(d) their server to begin with. However, many people will transfer, and removing some of the most active players from an already low population realm is going to have dire consequences for those that remain. Server community will fracture as familiar faces disappear without notice. Warzones might stop popping completely. Guilds will crumble under the pressure of arguments about whether to transfer or not. New or returning players will find a server that's completely devoid of life. Do you think that they will all bother to read up on transfers or just quit because "this game is clearly dead"?

At the time of writing this, Luka Sene hasn't shown up on the transfer list either way, but I'm not looking forward to when it does as I expect it to become an origin server now.

The thing is, I don't think that consolidating servers is a bad idea in general. I can absolutely believe that there are too many servers right now to balance the population in such a way that all of them will offer a good play experience. But if you want to merge servers, then just merge servers. Some people will be annoyed initially if they are forced to change their name, but at least all their friends will still be there, not to mention that they'll have more people to play with in general. All this bitty transfer approach is going to achieve is the loss of existing server communities and cohesion issues for guilds. Not to mention that the current free transfers might turn out to be a "fake choice" anyway, if Bioware decides to close down the near-dead origin servers later on (as many people suspect).

Don't get me wrong, I understand that they probably have reasons to do it this way - presumably technical issues as well as a fear of bad PR - but I'm worried that this might end up coming back to bite them in the back in the long run. Actively killing off low-pop servers while leaving them up as ghost towns might not make the big gaming news, but players will be affected nonetheless.

After browsing the forums for a bit and seeing a lot of forum warriors spew hate at anyone who doesn't think that these free transfers are a good idea, I think this set of comments sums it up best:

"If they do it like was done with Warhammer, they offered the free transfers to specific servers then after a couple months they merged all the rest. By doing it this way you do not have as bad PR issues and you also are getting a more realistic view of the new servers user count based on who actually transfers."

"Warhammer? Where is that game now? LOL"


MVP Votes And You

One of the mechanics that I really like about SWTOR PvP is the MVP vote. It's a simple button on the final scoreboard, yet it can completely change your focus from annoyance at someone on your team who played badly to thinking about who played particularly well instead. I believe that Bioware copied the idea from Warhammer Online, though other games might use similar systems. I know that plenty of games don't have anything like it though, and as someone who only played WoW before I actually found the system mildly confusing at first.

First off, seeing how English isn't my first language and I'm not really into sports, I initially didn't even know what MVP means. (It means Most Valuable Player.) Secondly, being told that I got to cast a vote immediately made me wonder whether an election of some sort was going on at the end of the match, and whether voting for the "wrong" person might negatively affect other players. I need not to have worried of course, as the votes don't get tallied up; each individual vote just gives the person voted for a tiny bonus to their valor and commendations gained from the warzone. There is no election for the "ultimate MVP" or anything.

You don't get to see who voted for whom and you can't vote for yourself, so the system effectively relies on blind goodwill. For that it works surprisingly well in my opinion - there always seems to be at least one guy who doesn't bother to vote, but most people do. The actual reward is so small that it's almost negligible, however the social value of getting an MVP vote is immense. (You can tell because there are always people complaining on the forums about how unloved they feel when they don't get MVP votes.) I really love getting one or more votes myself, because it's effectively a small pat on the back that says that someone else in the game appreciated my efforts and thought that I did well - unless you're really cynical and assume that people just hit the MVP button at random, but I prefer to take a more optimistic view myself.

We'd all like to get MVP votes ourselves, but who should get ours? If you're new to the MVP voting system like I was it can be hard to figure out who to vote for at first. At the end of the day you only have a very limited view of what's happening at any point during the game, not to mention that you're probably more focused on doing your own job well rather than on scrutinising the other players' performance. However, there are some simple rules of thumb that can really help with making the decision who to vote for. (Note that this can also be read as a guide on how to get MVP votes if you look at it from the other side.)

1. Vote For Your Friends

Some people scoff at the idea of friends that queued up together voting for each other, arguing that it compromises the purity of the system when people vote for someone just because he's a friend instead of whoever "truly" made the biggest contribution to the team. Personally I think this is pretty silly. If a friend queued up with me and his presence made the game fun for me even though we lost, you bet that he was my personal MVP, even if he didn't do so well! Likewise I don't hold it against anyone else if they give priority to their friends and guildies when voting. It's just too straightforward not to do it.

That said, I personally don't believe in voting for your friends all the time. A true friend won't get mad at me for casting my vote for someone else whom I saw pull off something really cool. Choosing your friend is an easy pick, but it shouldn't become a restriction that you always have to vote for your friends, even if someone else's play really impressed you.

2. People With Big Numbers

Most people don't queue up with friends all the time, so who do you vote for if you have no clue what happened and all you have to go by is the scoreboard at the end? Well, generally speaking, voting for someone who achieved big numbers during the match is a pretty safe bet. No, it's not a guarantee that they were actually the best or always made the right decisions, but presumably they at least know how to play their class, and that's got to be worth something. Voting for the person who dealt the most damage is kind of boring, unless they really stood out in some other way as well. Sort by healing done and have a look at whether your team had any healers. People always moan about there not being enough healers in their games but then also refuse to show them any appreciation with MVP votes. Don't be one of those people! Vote for a healer today! The only people who get even less appreciation than healers are probably PvP tanks, but then they are also very rare. If you do see someone with a very high protection score, that means that they made frequent use of their guard and taunt abilities in an intelligent way, something that is definitely worth rewarding.

I would be slightly weary of voting for people solely based on their objectives score or their amount of medals, as it's still a bit questionable what counts as working towards as an objective for the purposes of the scoreboard and what doesn't. And medals are way too easy to game. I've seen way too many Sages stand at a node doing nothing but spam Noble Sacrifice on themselves, just so that they could then heal themselves and get healing medals.

3. People Who Impressed

Voting for whoever got the highest damage, healing or protection is a good way of getting used to the system, but it gets boring quickly. Another relatively easy option is to vote for someone whom you noticed doing something particularly helpful, even if it was just one thing. Of course this requires you to pay at least some attention to your surroundings.

Some potential candidates for this are: someone who guarded a deserted node all match even though it was quite boring; someone who continuously interrupted enemy caps; someone who used their crowd control, slow or knockback abilities to great effect; someone who came to your rescue when you were under attack; someone who scored in Huttball; someone who planted a bomb in Voidstar. These are all little things that may not necessarily make someone the "true" MVP of the game, but they do matter, it's relatively easy to notice at least one of them during the match, and it helps to make your vote feel more meaningful.

4. People Who Talk

This last one is quite interesting because it actually has nothing to do with the player's gameplay performance, but it can still influence people's votes, both positively and negatively. For example I make a point of never voting for someone who spends time moaning in chat about how our team has bad gear or the enemy is overpowered. I recommend that you don't give them your vote either, unless you want to encourage that kind of thing. On the other end of the spectrum however, it is definitely noteworthy if someone repeatedly calls incomings in chat or simply provides some pep talk during the match. I always tend to notice the names of people who do this... and it may be in my head, but I swear I always get tons more votes if I say something like "good try at least, we did our best" in chat at the end of a loss. Again this is something that some hardcore players might look down on as a voting criterion, but I think that the power of using words to (de)motivate your team is something that shouldn't be underestimated.


Day 5: Gear

This is the fifth post in my 10 Days of SWTOR Screenshots challenge. Click on any screenshot to see a larger version.

I have to admit, I'm a bit anxious whether Njessi will approve of this post. I'm talking about fashion! Sort of. And I'm not really qualified! Oh no.

Anyway, let's get cracking.

I have established before that I'm a full armour fangirl. With that in mind, it feels kind of like a naughty confession to admit that my Jedi knight is wearing an orange belly top (not the one pictured above, but one that uses the same model). Worse, it's not the right armour type for her either; I made a conscious decision to sacrifice some armour for looks (at least while levelling) as a heavy armour equivalent doesn't currently appear to exist in the game.

It started out innocently enough when I first found a green chest piece that used the same model back on Tython. Initially I scoffed a little at how skimpy it looked but I wasn't too concerned with it at the time. Over time, it even grew on me... and when I got my first robe, I wore it for about ten seconds before discarding it again. Robes can look so unflattering on the larger female body types, it's not funny. Back to showing off my twi'lek's toned green belly it was!

In a way I still feel a little bad about the outfit because it is more than a bit ridiculous to go into battle like that. However, my knight is a bit of a daredevil, so I can absolutely see her taking unnecessary risks for no reason. The force protects her more than any armour anyway, right? Most importantly though, every time she force leaps, I think it looks less like an attack and more like some sort of gymnastics move. And for that, a light top like the one she's wearing is simply perfect.

I have to admit I've been really slack in terms of min-maxing and haven't bothered to get lots of crafted gear to enhance my stats with augment slots. My current tier gear serves me fine. With one exception... the helmet, which looks like someone draped a sheet over their head and drew a face on it (link goes to the tanking version, since that's the only one that has a picture on Torhead right now). Fortunately, a guildie crafted the above for me, a Tempered Laminoid Helmet (screenshot on Torhead is inaccurate). Most of my guildies actually think that it's hideous and that I'm mad for wanting to wear this "bike helmet", but personally I love it. I think it looks sleek and Star Warsy and matches the rest of my gear. I even had a second one made for my PvP set, since I'm not too keen on the trooper helmets featured there either. And I did get one guy randomly whispering me in a warzone once to tell me how awesome he thought my helm looked. So nyah!

Lastly, we have my operative modelling the Cademimu Sharpshooter set, minus the helm - she's wearing Flexiglass Battle Headgear in the head slot instead. Anyway, funny story behind this set: I'd been wearing the same chest piece for thirty levels or so because I had never seen anything that I liked more than my Black Talon Operative's Jacket. Then I was boosting my boyfriend's marauder through Cademimu one day, and the last boss dropped the above chest piece. My dear man had just rolled greed on everything, but I paused to preview the chest for a moment. Could it be...? Finally something that looked cooler than my Black Talon jacket? I've got to... - and zap, my graphics card spazzed and my screen went black before I could roll need. D'oh. I was so pissed off by this that I then spent the rest of the evening soloing Cademimu until I could get the jacket to drop again. Took me five or six tries I think, but it was totally worth it.

(Also: they totally nerfed the Elevator of Evil in Cademimu! It doesn't stop at the useless random platforms anymore but goes straight to the bottom now. Kids these days have it so easy.)


Trying to make sense of the E3 announcement

So Bioware unveiled a new trailer at E3 to give us a sneak peek at what kind of new content we can expect to see throughout the rest of the year, after 1.3.

(As a slightly snarky aside, for a company that has created such a cinematic and story-driven MMO, they sure make some pretty boring, bullet-pointy trailers for its patches. Why not give us little glimpses of story instead, something to make people go "ooh, I want to see how that plays out" instead of simple feature checklists?)

Anyway, not to sound ungrateful, but most of the things they advertise sound pretty par for the course. A new space mission, a new operation, a new warzone, a new planet - that's all good stuff and I'm looking forward to it (the operation in particular looks really cool in my opinion), but it's also pretty much what I expect to see in regular content updates for an MMO.

Some of the more unusual bullet points have me more baffled than excited though, with the biggest one being the announcement of a new level cap. I like levelling well enough, but raising the level cap and obsoleting endgame content when the game is still less than a year old seems like a bad move to me. I can only guess that this is related to the continued story quest progression. As you level up, the stories imply that many months pass over the course of your level gains, so it would be consistent to add more levels as the overall story of the game progresses. Still, I'm not sure that this consistency is worth the sacrifice of so much endgame content so soon.

Then there is the addition of the Cathar as a playable species. I'm not surprised by that, as they pretty much struck me as the most likely candidate for such an addition, and I'd personally be quite happy to play one (if I had more character slots...) However, presuming that they'll become available to both factions... well, that's just going to be weird. The Mandalorians nearly wiped out their entire species once; I can't really see them being very friendly with the Empire now! Not to mention that I played through Imperial side Taris only recently and all the "kill the Cathar" quests there are still freshly on my mind. I can't imagine just how weird it would feel to play an Imperial Cathar and be sent to kill members of your own species while the NPCs make degrading remarks about them throughout. Pureblood Sith going to the Jedi Academy strike me as positively quaint in comparison.

More importantly though... it appears that the Cathar announcement has actually been edited out of the official trailer linked above at the time of writing this! You have to watch this video of the official press release to see the Cathar ad, between the mention of the new companion droid and the note of the level cap increase. I wonder if they got cold feet right afterwards, fearing that they wouldn't actually be able to make the Cathar release for this year and should thus take it out? That would be pretty embarrassing, right after they made such a big announcement about it. Or maybe it was the other way round and they edited it in for the press release at the last second? Would be weird not to put that same version up online then.

Anyway, these are just some initial thoughts. I'll probably have more to say about this in time.


My first pug operation

There I was, having just completed Lost Island hard mode with some guildies, when I returned to the fleet and saw a call going out in general chat that someone was looking for a healer and a dps for normal mode Eternity Vault. It wasn't exactly as if I felt a particular urge to go pugging, not to mention that it was way too late in the evening for any sensible person to embark on an adventure like that, but well... I couldn't help thinking that it would be nice to get my Sage alt into EV, and more importantly, the person doing the asking was someone whom I vaguely knew to be a very nice person. So I volunteered, and dragged a guildie's gunslinger alt along with me to fill the last spot too.

Interestingly, nobody checked our gear or asked how much experience we had. We were just implicitly trustworthy. I have to admit I sort of assumed that someone putting an operation pug together would probably be fairly experienced themselves, so I was quite surprised when it turned out that my guildie, another gunslinger and me were actually the only people in the raid who had done all the fights before. My guildie expressed some worry to me that this could potentially end up taking longer than expected, but at the same time we were happy to share our knowledge of the fights.

We were quite pleased when the first boss went down on the first attempt, and I couldn't help being slightly amused by watching the more inexperienced players in action. Usually you expect someone who doesn't know the fight to stand in the fire or something, right? With these guys, you could tell that most of them were PvPers because they didn't - instead they ran away from anything that looked even remotely dangerous, even if it wasn't. PvP doesn't have enrage timers, but it certainly teaches you to do your damnedest to stay alive.

The loot distribution featured an unpleasant surprise as the third gunslinger in the group rolled need on everything. I have to admit I immediately found myself wondering whether he was a current WoW player. There was some angry muttering about how you shouldn't need on anything you weren't going to use, but we moved on. Nonetheless I was annoyed, especially as the ninja had managed to prevent both me and the other Sage from getting our Columi gloves. My guildie vocalised what I was thinking when he said that he wasn't going to keep going if it was going to be like this all night. Since I noticed that the ninja was from the same guild as our raid leader and a couple of others, I whispered the former to gently remind him to make sure that his guild mate played nice. He apologised profusely for the ninja's behaviour and promised to take care of it. It wasn't a problem again.

Gharj was once again sort of humorous to watch as people flailed around in the lava and died to being stomped whenever the boss jumped. Fair enough though, some mechanics you have to see in action before you really "get" them. Once again our pug didn't let us down and the second attempt was pretty much perfect.

"The next two bosses are really easy," I commented afterwards, trying to sound encouraging. My smuggler companion immediately reprimanded me for getting overexcited. And he was right to do so, as we actually managed to wipe on the Pylons after one of the inexperienced players started the fight way before people were ready, one group got wiped out just before they could finish their side, and then the whole encounter "timed out" and reset. I didn't even know it could do that.

Again, the next attempt was smooth sailing, as we made sure to have an experienced person do the puzzle on each side so that we didn't have to explain the whole shebang to everyone there and then. I suppose at the very least it taught some people one of those unspoken rules of raiding: that it's never a good idea to press any buttons if you're not sure what they do. (Same goes for speaking to strange NPCs, or running in before the tank.)

The Infernal Council at least was pulled off without a hitch right off the bat. While a couple of people were quite slow, everyone finished off their mob in time so that was good enough.

Soa was the big question mark, as he's a lot more complex than the rest of the encounters, and we didn't have any voice chat. My smuggler friend gave a quick rundown of the most important abilities while immediately saying that he fully expected us to wipe at first. We marked up the experienced people and advised the newbies to stay close, and then we pulled and hoped for the best.

All things considered, I thought that we did very well. One or two people inevitably fell to their deaths, but it could have been worse. We actually made it all the way down to the bottom and only died to Soa's enrage eventually. Our second attempt was pretty similar, only that this time too many people got caught in mind traps at the end. The third time was the charm however. Our main tank had died to fall damage again, so the experienced gunslinger from another guild somehow ended up tanking, and he pulled Soa under every single pylon without fail. Gunslinger tanks, you heard about them here first.

I suppose in many ways this wasn't a remarkable pug, but considering how much WoW's pug raiding culture had deteriorated by the time I left, it still felt like a breath of fresh air.

Nobody was obsessed with other people's gear or performance, as long as it was "good enough".

Veterans were happy to coach the inexperienced and share their knowledge around.

The ninjaing issue was resolved calmly and without any drama or needing to remove anyone from the raid.

And most importantly, at the end of the night, everyone had got something out of it and had some fun.


Explosive Conflict Completed

This past Wednesday my guild cleared Explosive Content on normal mode for the first time. After we spent all of Sunday night wiping to Kephess over and over again, often missing out on killing him by just a smidgeon of health, it felt well-earned when we got him down on what was only our second attempt on Wednesday.

I have to stand by what I said in my early impressions of the operation, specifically that story mode feels considerably overtuned. Again this isn't really a personal complaint as I enjoyed the challenge level that we came up against, but we were already mostly Rakata geared when we started. I just can't see any raid group going straight from Eternity Vault and Karagga's Palace story mode to EC and having any success there. I think this is definitely a case where Bioware either needs to nerf the content to bring it in line with story mode progression, or they need to redefine what exactly the progression curve is supposed to be. However, requiring clears of the previous hard mode to get into the newest story mode strikes me as sort of defeating the point of having a story mode (that is to say, a decidedly accessible one) in the first place.

I suppose for now I can only recommend that if you are in a guild that is struggling with normal mode EC, try going back and getting some Rakata drops from hard mode EV and KP first. (You don't necessarily have to clear the entire place on hard.) I know it's called hard mode, but with the current design EV and KP don't really require any more skill on hard than on normal, only more gear - which is what you should have accumulated naturally after successfully clearing both on normal mode first.

Minor story spoiler ahead I suppose: at the end of EC's one-time operation quest, you briefly get to meet the same bad guys that indirectly caused Karagga to go rogue through their expansion into Hutt space. I wonder if the next operation will feature them as bosses, whether they are going to be built up as a threat any further by causing some more trouble from a distance first, or whether it will be about something completely different.

I really like how Bioware seems to be tying it all together, even if all those little connections might be slightly wasted on people. I mean, after playing all these different characters week after week (remember, the game encourages alting), who can remember every little detail of every quest? I had actually completely forgotten about the connection to the ending of Karagga's Palace myself, but then I got to do the one-time KP quest on my Sage on Friday and had an aha moment when I was reminded of how it all fit together. Really, it's all interconnected so well that you probably don't just have to play all the different classes to 50 to get the full story, ideally you would then have to do some of the first ones you did all over again, just to take note of all the things you missed the first time.

Another fun note about the baddies at the end of EC was the fact that when they first appeared, I had the following conversation with my boyfriend:

Him: "Uh, I know those guys."
Me: "Oh? How so?"
Him: "I was the one who set them free. On my Sith."
Me: "That's what you get when you let people play Empire alts..."

Just more evidence of the interconnectedness.

I suppose it's just a shame that the 1.2 operation didn't last us longer than a month on normal mode, even with a very limited number of nights devoted to working on it. With 1.3 not containing any new raid content, PvE endgame will be a bit dry for the next couple of months.

On the plus side though, I expect the group finder to invigorate interest in flashpoints and the first operation tier, so it will be a good time to get some alts geared up. And well, in terms of progression my guild still has nightmare EV and KP left, as well as EC hard obviously, which is supposed to be very tough. It's not the same as getting a new story, but chasing after Campaign gear should tide us over for at least a couple of months.

We might even be able to get some 16-man raids going, though I'm not holding my breath for that. It's kind of funny, because from what I can tell the game currently offers zero incentive for going for the larger group size... but there is this other guild on our server that seems to be really keen on teaming up with us to do 16-mans anyway. I suppose we're just that awesome. And well, if we do get the people together for it... I guess there is little harm in at least giving it a go.