Guild / Operation Woes

You may or may not have noticed that I haven't talked about running guild operations in a while. The reason for this is that my guild gave up on operations several weeks ago. We saw a brief resurgence of interest right after the server transfers, but then we lost two tanks at once and... yeah.

To me, it wasn't even a surprise. BoR has always taken a very casual approach to raiding, and not just in game. People would forget to sign up, or sign up and not show, all the time. Nobody cared. To be honest, as someone who was a dedicated raider in WoW for over four years, I was quite affronted by people's lack of commitment at the beginning. I couldn't argue that it worked though, due to sheer numbers more than anything else, and nobody else seemed bothered by it. So what if the raid starts an hour late? Does it matter if everyone's chatting away on Mumble in the meantime and having fun? I soon learned to go with the flow and love things as they were.

But alas, the numbers didn't last. I know from experience that it can be hard enough to keep a dedicated raid guild from falling apart when you suddenly find yourself one or more members short, but to me it felt like our casual raiders melted away even faster than snow in the sun once we stopped having the numbers for our "whoever shows up" style of operations. They wanted to be social and where the fun was, and if an operation wasn't guaranteed to happen and deliver entertainment, they had no qualms about completely ignoring it. I felt really bad while the guild leader still tried. Some nights I was the only one who showed up. I was actually kind of relieved when he let it go.

Part of me wishes that I had been able to help him, but I wasn't sure how. I already went through the whole "trying to save a failing raiding guild" thing in WoW, but while the guild did persist, I never felt like I had really made that much of a difference. I only remember that it left me feeling exhausted and anxious. With BoR I felt even more helpless, having only been a member for less than a year, not to mention my confusion in the face of the conundrum presented by the guild's purpose. I knew how to recruit raiders for a raiding guild (sort of), but how do you recruit raiders for a guild that is primarily social? As if guild recruitment wasn't hard enough already...

Anyway, this all might sound like a very depressing story, and it certainly did make me sad, but at the same time things are not as bad as they might seem. We do have active members left who chat and play together, just not enough for operations. I don't feel lonely. You may or may not remember that I wasn't sure whether I wanted to get back into raiding at all when I started playing TOR. While I did end up loving it in the end, operations remained just one of many pursuits that I enjoyed in the game, and not the main reason I played.

Still, it's easy not to miss raiding while I'm not actually missing out on anything. I cleared Explosive Conflict on normal multiple times, and I've never been that fussed about hard modes, so I've basically seen all that there is to see right now. There hasn't been a new raid since April. However, yesterday I read this developer blog about the upcoming operation Terror from Beyond, and that definitely sounds like something that I would love to see. Doesn't look like it will happen with my guild though.

I doubt it will be part of the group finder on release either. What to do? Ideally I'd like to find a friendly guild that'll let me come along for the ride a few times without forcing me to leave my home, but I realise that's quite demanding on my part. It's an issue that will definitely present me with some hard choices once the next patch comes out.


Crafting and me

I'm never quite sure how to describe my attitude towards crafting in MMOs. I'm not exactly a huge fan, considering that whenever I read a post about how involved crafting is in some other MMOs, with mini games and what not, I can only raise my eyebrows and frown. Why would I want to do that? Personally, I wouldn't.

However, it's all relative. Back in WoW I was surrounded by players who'd level alts without training any professions at all, or they would give them two gathering professions which would instantly be dropped for something else at max level. It seemed like people cared little about crafting beyond the perks it gave for raiding.

Me on the other hand, I still picked a matching gathering/crafting combination for most of my characters (like it was recommended back in the days of vanilla WoW), considered which ones would feel appropriate for which character, and then levelled them up as I went along. I don't recall ever dropping a profession to replace it with something else later on either.

This was just one more reason why I found myself increasingly frustrated with levelling in WoW towards the end, as keeping character level and profession skill in sync became more and more difficult over time. Cataclysm pretty much made me throw in the towel entirely. It was just too much of a pain to spend hours farming grey mobs for leather just to get another couple of skill points, while my character level ran away from me as soon as I did anything that granted XP.

In TOR I've been enjoying the fact that crafting while levelling is easy and you end up with useful items along the way too. (If anything it's my mission skills that tend to fall behind, because you can only send the minions out one at a time, and I tend to forget to do it.) However, I've also been feeling like a clueless dork as far as crafting is concerned, as I've been surrounded by nothing but people who are way more into crew skills than I am. They had alts for all the different ones within a month, got every new schematic as soon as it came out, and were generally complaining that the crafting isn't involved enough - while I was still confused about where exactly augments came from.

However, lately I've been getting a bit more into it, and while I'm still kind of surprised by this development, I may have actually found a niche for which I enjoy crafting and that makes me a little money too. It all started with me accidentally getting the schematic for a low level Resolve augment from a level one slicing mission. While the market for max level augments is pretty crowded on my server, there is a lot less going on when it comes to lower level ones, presumably for two reasons:

1) Most people only run max level missions most of the time, so the schematics for low level augments are comparatively rare, and
2) people think that nobody cares about low level augments anyway.

The latter seems like a perfectly logical argument until you end up crafting a piece of armour for a lowbie alt and it just so happens to crit. I hate staring at empty sockets in my gear, and I'm hardly the only one! Gotta put something in there, even if it won't last long. That gaping hole is just wrong.

Also, there is the option of twinking with augments. While you can't have twinks in TOR in the usual sense, since you can't do PvP without gaining experience unless you leave every warzone before it ends, you can significantly boost your stats in PvP by making sure that you wear the best gear possible for your level. It factors into the bolster mechanic in a big way, and most levelling PvPers will just be wearing random levelling gear that's probably a few levels below them.

At the moment I'm putting five lowbie augments onto the GTN each day, and they always sell, so the demand is clearly there. Only today I discovered the schematic for another useful lowbie augment, so I might soon be able to double my business. Considering the low price of each individual augment, it's hardly something to write home about, but it does add up over time and I've been getting a strange enjoyment out of knowing that I'm contributing something to the in-game economy that people actually want and use.


100 Posts!

I'm usually terrible at remembering blog-related milestones and anniversaries, but I'm happy to note that this is my one hundredth post on this blog! I'm looking forward to the next hundred.

I took this as an opportunity to have a look at my stats on Google Analytics and check what kind of search terms had led people over here. Overall they were less bizarre than some of the things that I found when checking the same data for my WoW blog back in the day: Mostly people were searching for information about game systems or pictures of certain types of gear. Still, a couple of things made me chuckle.

all day i go commando
can people tell when your going commando
hunks going commando
i enjoy going commando without any shame

This is just a selection of the more harmless ones that have nothing to do with SWTOR and everything with the punny nature of my blog's name. Sorry about the confusion, guys and girls! Though honestly, some of you are kind of pervy.

More surprising to me were all the search terms related to other games that Google ended up linking to this blog. Like, what the hell? I only write about TOR! I may make comparisons to WoW sometimes but I've never even touched or mentioned any of the others! I really feel like Google is letting both the searchers and me down here. It's not as if there aren't thousands of other blogs that actually do talk about those games.

diablo 3 the foundry level 1 entrance
guild wars 2 meme
me3 only dialogue options are renegade or flirt?
rift tier gear
the funniest wow podcasts 2012

Now to get to the ones that actually are related to the subject matter of this blog (and the ones that aren't related to anything in specific):

swtor commando overpowered
swtor commando underpowered

This about sums up everything you need to know about MMO PvP, really.

balmorra tor lasts forever

Yes, yes it does. It's one of my least favourite planets for no reason that I can explain, other than that my first experience with it was somewhat annoying.

does the consular story get better?

Yes, it does. Also, to quote another search term: jedi consular isn't so bad

green twi lek's belly

Now that's an oddly specific one, isn't it? Do I even want to know why you're looking for this? Probably not. Either way, the first picture in this post of mine might actually suit your needs!

i've got so many things today

Good for you!

i like big fan

Erm, okay! Good for you too! I guess.

jedi consular female body type 1 battlemasters

Another oddly specific search. I'm guessing this one is about the way the gear looks more than anything else, but still. Sorry, I can't help with that one as my own female Jedi consular Battlemaster is body type 3.

swtor here is the lady of pain

This one made me do a double take because my first thought was: what is the Lady of Pain doing in TOR? Apparently this is about a bounty hunter quest that I haven't done yet though.

swtor - mistakenly swore in general chat

It's okay, we won't tell on you. We can tell that you must have felt really bad to do a Google search about it! There probably isn't a support group though.

swtor lfg tool worked nicely last night

This one amused me because the wording makes it sound like the person simply felt like telling Google about their positive experience more than anything else.

swtor the esseles cant get on sheep

I don't recall the Esseles featuring any sheep. Recent patch change?

videos of people falling down from running

Sorry, not really something that you'll find here... but I can totally understand your interest. People falling down is funny.

where the hell is this chevin guy in the lower promenade?

Of course someone had to come and ask that after I said that it would be hard to miss the guy.

Also, Google knows that I'm multilingual!

comment faire pour avoir un gannifari dans star wars - You should have got one in the mail automatically if you were subscribed during the whole server transfer shenanigans. It's inside a goodie box.

swtor was ist lfg - Das ist LFG! "Looking For Group" = Gruppenfinder

игра соло swtor - Google translate had to help me with this one, but... yeah, of course you can play SWTOR solo! Most of the best content doesn't require a group. It's just a lot more fun with friends.

And finally, my favourite search term leading to this site, ever:

best swtor blogs

You're welcome.


Day 9: Silly

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

This screenshot is silly due to context more than anything else: at the time, two out of three of us sitting on the floor was actually our way of doing the (back then) [Heroic 4] The Stasis Generator. Okay, once or twice we had to get up and step out of the phase as about half the room aggroed at once and tried to kill people, but the rest of the time it was just our Shadow stealthing around and taking care of all the quest objectives while we just twiddled our thumbs. Maybe it's not such a great idea to design what's supposed to be a group daily of all things so that it favours stealthers to the point where they can solo it within a couple of minutes...

Back on Luka Sene, as the warzone queues got longer and longer, people started to do increasingly silly things to pass the time while waiting at the PvP terminal, such as dancing in a conga line... I'm not going to pretend that I want those half hour queues back, but they definitely weren't all bad either.

Another one from the category "strange things people do while waiting in the queue": staring at the wall together. This one was extra funny to me because I have a WoW screenshot from back in TBC where two guildies and I were staring at a wall in Tempest Keep in a similar fashion. Is this some sort of meme that I'm not aware of...? "Watching paint dry" or something?

I'll never forget the day that Bioware announced in the patch notes that they'd fixed the headless companion bug: "Headless companion bug? Never heard of that before, but it sounds ridiculous!" Patched, logged in... and promptly ran into someone with a headless companion, for the first time ever and of course right after installing the patch that was supposed to have fixed it. Though the funniest thing at the time was actually the reaction of the player the companion belonged to, as she stood there next to the bank in wide-eyed wonder and kept asking everyone around her whether they couldn't see her companion's head either or whether it was just her PC acting up. I love bugs like this.

Recovery after a wipe, everyone is there except our guild leader, who seems to have gone AFK for a few minutes. As repeated attempts to revive him don't lead to anything, someone suggests that we should perform CPR by jumping up and down on his chest. He came back mere moments later, and I thought that the facial expression on his character as she got up was priceless. -_- indeed.


Individualism and Collectivism in SWTOR

At Stubborn's reqest I'm participating in his latest project to get bloggers talking about collectivism in MMOs, focusing on TOR because that's what I play.

Right from the start it occurred to me that this is a pretty difficult subject. What do we think of when we hear the word collectivism? Groups. So a game where you solo a lot is individualist and one that forces grouping is collectivist? There is definitely some truth to that, but at the same time it's not quite that straightforward. Take automated group finders for example: you'd think that something that creates more groups would automatically encourage collectivism, right? That's not the case though, and most current iterations of group finders are heavily focused on catering to and benefitting the individual, by keeping queue times as short as possible and dishing out rewards for simply using the tool, while caring little whether the group that is put together that way actually has any kind of cohesion.

In a similar vein, collectivist is not automatically the same as social, and being an individualist doesn't mean that you avoid other people. I've talked a lot about how I feel that SWTOR is a very social game, so I won't elaborate on that again - just click on the grouping tag and you'll see plenty more posts on the subject. However, I do think that it leans quite heavily towards individualism.

The main reason for this are the stories, specifically the class stories. They accomodate play with other people very well, but always emphasise what an awesome individual you are, making all the difference in saving the galaxy or whatever it is you're doing at the time. You always stand out as being more capable and powerful than everyone else, and other people are at best helpful assets to your cause.

In terms of game mechanics, things are a bit... wishy-washy on this front to be honest. There are definitely some leanings towards collectivism: the emphasis on server communities by keeping group-finding tools for all content same server only (so far), the fact that damage meters only exist as an outside application for the hardcore (which means that most groups succeed or fail as a team with little room for finger pointing), or the oodles of available group content and the many incentives for teaming up.

However, on the other hand it's quite obvious that the developers shied away from making grouping too important. Almost every single group quest and flashpoint is completely self-contained and doesn't tie in with anything else in the world, to make sure that nobody feels that they are missing out by not doing them. It doesn't matter what light or dark side choices other players make in your group, you get points based on what you would have wanted to do. The best content in the game focuses on the player as an individual. And guilds are nothing but some green text and a name over your head.

The only area where I feel that the game really does promote collectivism without the shadow of a doubt is the overall lore. The conflict between the Empire and the Republic is perfectly believable as they represent two very different cultures and philosophies that are directly at odds with each other and great threats to each other. These aren't just two factions that are at war because their leaders have a bee in their bonnet and for the sake of game mechanics. I've never felt faction pride in even remotely the same way in any other game, and this has certainly influenced how I view other players around me.

Even though I really like playing with other people, I've never felt that the individualist nature of the game has hurt my experience in that respect. Playing nicely with others still makes the game better in pretty much every possible way. I do however think that people who wouldn't naturally seek out the company of other players probably don't feel heavily encouraged to do so either. I think that development heavily leaning towards individualism will probably remain a trend in MMOs in general though. If nothing else because it's hard to argue with the customer who feels that having to rely too much on other people's time and goodwill hurts his experience these days.


The Grand Acquisitions Race in Review

After how exhausted I had felt after the first day of the event, I didn't feel much of a pull to get back into it. I completed the last couple of quests as they unlocked until I had finished the scavenger hunt in its entirety, but I didn't feel a particular urge to go back for more. It took me until Sunday to suddenly be overcome by panic as I realised that the event was almost over, and I was missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get as much out of it as possible (OMG!), so I went back and repeated the whole thing on my Sage. It was a lot less painful once I knew where everything was, though I managed to get lost in Nar Shaddaa's industrial sector yet again. I also completed the Race once on Imperial side, duoing through the quest chain with my significant other.

People have been sharing their thoughts on the event today, and as Spinks put it very aptly, common consensus seems to be a "resounding meh". I'm afraid that I have to agree with that to a certain extent, though I did have fun.

The Good Stuff

Mind you, I still don't take it for granted that Bioware creates content specifically for time-limited events between patches. I'm grateful for the effort, and I like that feeling of logging on and having my routine shaken up as there are suddenly more "pressing" matters to attend to rather than me just running yet another warzone.

I also liked that this event involved more storytelling than the previous one. The choice at the end whether you wanted to hand the items over to the Chevin or help your faction uncover their possibly nefarious purpose felt like a nice character building moment and a lot more meaningful than the random "kill/cure sand people" daily that we got during the rakghoul event. While the story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger of sorts, rumour has it that it will all tie in with the new operation and warzone once they come out, which would make a lot of sense.

Finally, they did take the negative feedback about the personal gating during the last event to heart and instead made it global, so if you only jumped into the event on the third day, everything was unlocked for you right away.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

There were two areas in which I felt majorly let down by the event. The first one was that there simply wasn't anything to do other than the main quest, unless you fancied running around Nar Shaddaa collecting smuggler's crates, something that I'd personally consider more masochistic than fun. I appreciate that there's only so much time and effort they want to invest into what's only a one-off adventure, but they set a much higher standard for themselves with the first world event, which had multiple dailies, two scavenger hunts, three world bosses and the plague. They didn't live up to that same standard this time.

My second gripe kind of ties in with the first one, in that the event felt way too solo-centric for me. During the rakghoul plague, the world truly came alive as people were grouping up for the world bosses, joining plague parties and engaging in spontaneous world PvP in the Dune Sea. This time around, everyone just focused on doing their quest, and other players were likely to be nothing but an awkward nuisance when it came to having to wait for a mission item to respawn or having to compete for the crates. I guess that the event might have encouraged some world PvP on Nar Shaddaa on dedicated PvP servers, but on my PvE one I didn't see much of it - I think people were too spread out and always moving through narrow corridors. I once got myself flagged by acccidentally driving into Empire territory, but nobody ever attacked me, even though I ran into plenty of Imps and even went AFK for a couple of minutes.

When my SO and I duoed our way through the event on Imperial side, we also found some of the quests unusually unfriendly towards grouping. We discovered quickly that the smuggler's crates did drop multiple copies of each quest item if you were grouped, but you could only share them if you looted the crate at the same time, otherwise the game would give two copies of the same item to whoever looted first and the crate would despawn right afterwards, which made things quite awkward.

The droid escort on Dromund Kaas also bugged out for us as the droid simply despawned every time I tried to repair it. Fortunately we soon realised that this appeared due to the game getting confused by the fact that I wasn't the one who had started the event, and we managed to circumvent the issue by making sure that whoever triggered any given mission would then also be the one to click on everything else involving the same quest. But really, I usually expect TOR's quests to hold up better than that when it comes to people attempting them in a group.

Not a problem for me, but...

While a week was plenty of time for me to get everything done, the short duration of the event sucked for several bloggers I know who were on holiday some time during that week. I generally do like that Bioware is keeping these events short to prevent burnout and boredom, but I think that limiting it to a week is taking things a bit too far. Why not make it ten days or two weeks? Hardly that radical a change, but it could make a big difference for many players.

I've also seen several people complain that they felt that the rewards weren't any good, specifically because the only available weapons were rifles, which are generally only used by three out of the sixteen advanced classes. I kind of agree and disagree with that one at the same time. I agree that the rewards weren't very exciting. I had a lot of tokens to spend, so I bought some things that I didn't really care about purely because... eh, why not? It's not like I'm in desperate need of credits, and at least a few months down the line I'll be able to show off that ugly pet I bought and say: "Yeah, I was there!" But I don't see why this should be a big deal. As far as quests go, TOR is not a loot-driven game at all. In fact I think it's slightly unusual in that you never even know what you'll get for any given mission until you complete it, as there is no preview of the rewards. However, people don't care because they do the quests for the sake of seeing the story anyway. Likewise, I would've happily participated in the Grand Acquisitons Race purely for the sake of getting to see it even if there had been no tokens involved at all. The items are just a little bonus, so they don't have to be awesome in my opinion. In fact, it's probably better this way so that nobody feels the need to stupidly grind tokens just to buy some item that is considered a must-have.

My Own Minor Niggles

Again, I appreciate that it makes sense to only put so much effort into a one-time-only event, but was anyone else a bit unsettled by how their character suddenly seemed to have turned into a mute? Couldn't they have at least given us a couple of conversation choices that reused some of the stock phrases? I thought it was really odd that every single "conversation" just consisted of people talking at my character, without giving me any way to respond. What is this, The Secret World?

I also still wish that they had given more obvious hints as to the locations of the various quest items. People shouldn't be expected to use an external guide or to blindly drive around a planet for hours, hoping to find a clickable thing in a corner somewhere. It's okay to have this kind of gameplay if it's just one optional activity of many, but if finding the hidden items is the entirety of the event, it should be a bit more engaging.

Finally, systems like having to collect quest items from random boxes can go DIAF. I didn't mind the mechanic as a way to allow people to collect additional tokens if they really wanted to, but making the quest items a frustratingly inconsistent random drop from the boxes was not a good move in my opinion.

Let's hope that the next event will be a step up from this one again. I do have to admit I'm rather tickled by the notion of an Ilum event as mentioned by Gabe Amatangelo in this Darth Hater interview.


Final Thoughts on F2P (for now)

My initial reaction to the F2P announcement three weeks ago was short and fairly brusque. I didn't even try to be objective on the subject at the time because I knew that I was extremely emotional about it and simply wanted to vent.

Unfortunately my feelings on the matter haven't changed much, even if I've cooled down a lot after several weeks. I still don't like all the complications that the new model will introduce, and while staying a subscriber will remain an option, there will be a drastic decrease in the value for money that subscribers receive.

I'm also still worried about whether this is a good move for the future of the game. I think that many F2P supporters have a somewhat romanticised view of the payment model, looking at it as a sort of miracle cure that allows any and all MMOs to triple their revenue, forgetting that it also has to be done right. I don't need to elaborate on why what we've currently seen of TOR's F2P future does not look particularly well planned, as many others have already done so.

That said, none of this has actually changed my feelings about the game itself. I won't say that things like payment model and bad PR don't matter, because my enthusiasm sure has been dampened a bit by this whole affair, but at the same time the actual in-game content hasn't become any less fun for it. The class stories are still great, and the PvP is still a blast.

I will keep my fingers crossed that things will go well for the game against all odds, and depending on the exact limitations of the F2P model, I'll probably stay subscribed. If the game goes into a direction that I don't like once the transition has been made, that will be something to deal with there and then. For now I shall stick to business as usual, both in game and on the blog.


My favourite SWTOR cinematic

So everyone's talking about WoW's Mists of Pandaria cinematic trailer right now. I watched it out of curiosity, and pretty much as I expected it was very well done but didn't draw me back in at all. Mostly my emotional response was a mix of amusement about the sheer levels of testosterone featured in the trailer and confusion about what exactly it was trying to achieve.

It also made me think about game trailers that really resonated with me though. The original cinematic trailer for WoW still gives me the chills today; it just did so many things right:

I knew almost nothing about Blizzard and the Warcraft franchise when I first watched it, but it managed to captivate me anyway. The maps and narration at the beginning establish sufficient context for what is going on.

After that, the cinematic mostly focuses on showing off different races, classes and environments, with the main message being "this could be you". Obviously it's not a hundred percent faithful to gameplay (to this day I've never heard of infernals climbing towers anywhere), but it's a close enough approximation and it looks cool as hell. I didn't even know what a druid was at the time, but I knew that being a night elf in a lush green forest definitely looked appealing.

TOR came with not one, but three cinematic trailers: one which I consider "neutral" (while "Return" is about the Sith retaking Korriban, Republic characters escape to carry a warning), one that shows the Empire kicking ass ("Deceived") and one that shows the Republic doing so:

This trailer was one of the major points that sold me on the game, and looking at it now I realise that for all the differences, it has a lot in common with the original WoW trailer. The narration at the beginning makes it easy to understand what's going even if you'd somehow never heard of Star Wars before, and then it's all about watching different classes kick ass.

Seeing the troopers shine in this cinematic was the sticking point for me, as I never felt particularly drawn to the idea of playing a Jedi. But then, how can a simple soldier prevail in a world dominated by force users? Well, the video answers that question. Look at how that guy fights against the force lightning - the sheer willpower! Did he just set off a grenade in a Sith's face? OMG!

As a bonus, it also tells a story, but it's completely optional. I know WoW's WOTLK cinematic had a lot of fans, but to me it was always a bit of a letdown after Blizzard's previous work. Yes, yes, it's poignant and pretty and everything, but what does it have to do with me? If you didn't already have a backstory with Arthas (case in point: me), there was nothing there to draw a connection between player and game.

In comparison, the story in "Hope" is very low key. The trailer can do its job perfectly fine without you ever knowing more about the characters than "this is a trooper", "this is a Jedi" and "this is a bad guy with a really scarred face". But once you do know more, you can get an extra tickle out of knowing that this is a younger Satele Shan facing off against Darth Malgus, and that the brave Republic trooper is Jace Malcom, captain of Havoc Squad at the time. Did you know that, like Satele and Malgus, he too shows up as a quest giver in game? He's a bit more well-hidden though, you've got to do the Alderaan bonus series on Republic side to run into him.


World Event, Take 2

Last night Bioware officially announced the start of SWTOR's second world event, the Grand Acquisitions Race. It didn't actually go live before I went to bed however, so I didn't get a chance to look at it until I came back from work today, which was quite late in the evening. I suppose they wanted to try something different with the timing after the last event conveniently started on a Sunday at lunch time in my time zone.

We've kind of known for a while that another world event was coming, even if we didn't know all the details, so I have to confess that I didn't get as excited about the announcement this time as I got about the unexpected outbreak of the rakghoul plague back in April. It's always hard to beat a first experience that great though.

I had heard that this event mainly consisted of a big scavenger hunt (so far). While the previous one incorporated two minor scavenger hunts as well, they were just one part of a much bigger whole, so I didn't mind simply looking up a guide to "get it done" back then. However, knowing that the scavenger hunt was the main event this time around, I didn't want to spoil myself and then simply go through the motions as directed by a third party. I wanted to see how well I could work things out on my own first.

Unfortunately it turned out that the answer to that question was: not very well at all. (The following contains partial spoilers about the locations of some items, just so you know.)

It started off innocently enough when I went to the Lower Promenade on Nar Shaddaa "in search" of the guy who was supposed to start it all. My worries about Giant McSnoutface the Chevin representative being hard to find were completely unfounded however, as his holographic representation sits right next to the giant Hutt statue and is pretty enormous.

Hard to miss this guy.

I picked up the mission to hunt down nine supposedly rare items and then checked my log to see whether it contained any more information about where to find them. It didn't offer any more specific advice than "somewhere on Coruscant and Nar Shaddaa". I knew right then that I was going to be in trouble.

"Am I supposed to find all these things just by running around and hoping to bump into them at random?" I wailed at my guild leader. He told me that there were some NPCs that gave hints if you hovered over them. I did eventually find two groups of them that dropped hints related to one item each, one on Coruscant and one on Nar Shaddaa, but nothing relating to the other four items I had to find.

There was also an associated quest line started from a letter you receive immediately upon picking up the main mission, but the three items for which you receive hints from there weren't unlocked yet today, so that wasn't particularly helpful.

I decided to follow one of the hints I had found and investigate the Justicar sector on Coruscant. After lots of pointless driving around, I spotted someone sitting on a giant cannon in a corner and shooting things, something I knew hadn't been there before the event. It wasn't too hard to figure out that I had to click on the glowy box next to it, then shoot some mob spawns with the cannon, and then click on the box again to loot it. Okay, that wasn't too bad!

This is a pretty decent hint I think. I only ever found two of them though.

Ever since the server transfer I've kept general chat in a separate chat tab and don't look at it much since it can be very spammy when it's busy - today was a good example of this. However, I was keen for some more clues without completely spoiling myself, so I was pleased when a quick peek revealed people talking about the Silent Sun Cantina and complaining that someone hadn't been "waiting for his turn".

I made my way over there, and indeed there was quite an obvious thing to click on on the ground... except that it always told me that "your escort is waiting". Turns out that this is Bioware speak for "someone else is doing this thing right now, you need to wait for them to finish". This wouldn't have been too bad except that "this thing" consisted of solving a little puzzle. A very basic and simple one, mind you, but still... at one point there was a massive delay and build-up of people waiting simply because someone started the event and then ran all over the room, clearly without the slightest clue of what to do. I was glad that things resolved themselves quickly once it was my turn, showing that I had understood the workings of the puzzle correctly while observing the people before me.

Something is happening here! At the time I wasn't sure what it was though.

After that I returned to Nar Shaddaa as the side quest led me back there. In the Nikto sector I found my first smuggler's crate, a random spawn that contains event currency, and also has a chance of containing part of another one of the quest items, or a pet. At first this didn't seem like a bad idea, but the damn things were spread extremely thin and way overcamped. Imagine WoW's Noblegarden egg hunt, except with the spawn points spread out across half a continent instead of being limited to a small village. Yeah.

Just as I left the sector, I got three mysterious messages about decrypting some code, which also gave me a buff. In hindsight, I think this was because I was grouped with my guild leader and he was probably doing that bit at the time. Since I didn't know what was happening, I was simply confused and asked what the hell I was supposed to do with those buffs. He directed me towards a crate I was supposed to click, but doing so only made the buffs disappear and then gave me a quest... to get the buffs. Eh? Something isn't quite working as intended there I think. Anyway, it was no big issue to pick them up myself and from the intended location.

Around this point things started to drag though. I must have spent hours driving around Nar Shaddaa without finding much of anything. Eventually I gave up and asked for a hint, at which point I was told to look in the general vicinity of the world boss. Great advice, except that I kept getting lost during my attempts to find him. When I finally did find the spot that started the hunt for yet another item, things were fairly straightforward from there.

Now despite of all the driving around I had done, I still hadn't completed the quest item from the smuggler's crates. I was on 5 out of 6 parts but had gone through something like 20 crates in a row (all of them hard to find and highly contested of course) with nothing but currency tokens in them. I was getting so worked up over it that I ended up looking up a guide just to check that the last part wasn't randomly hidden somewhere other than a smuggler's crate, but every source just seemed to reassure me that it was simply RNG.

When I finally got the last part of my item, the enthusiasm had completely gone out of me though. I simply looked up the last quest item I was missing on Coruscant and got it out of the way quickly before logging off. I was just too tired and exhausted.

I seem to recall that RNG-related complaints were one of the major points of negative feedback that Bioware got in response to the rakghoul event (in addition to lots of praise for other things). I don't know why they decided to make an RNG-related mechanic such a major part of this scavenger hunt in response.

Other than that, I think the main lesson to take away from this is that I suck at discovering things on my own and probably shouldn't have tried so hard as it only sucked the fun out of things in the end. That's my own fault more than anything else though. Still, I hope that the parts of the event that have yet to be unlocked will be less mysterious and random.


Understanding your role in Huttball

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Huttball. It's the most complex warzone I know, what with the moving objective, the mechanics of passing and the dangerous terrain. All these things can be great fun if you manage to use them to your advantage, and when a pug really gets its act together and produces some great team play, it's an awesome feeling to see a group of random people fall into a sort of dance together.

On the other hand, when you don't really know what you're doing and neither does your team, Huttball sucks worse than any other warzone. People will be all over the place simply because they don't follow what's happening, and you'll be losing badly. On my main I often used to find Huttball frustrating even when we won, simply because I felt so useless, constantly slowed or punted off a ledge somewhere and miles away from where I would have to be to be useful.

However, while I can't turn bad pugs into good ones, I've learned over time that I can really improve my personal Huttball experience by understanding my role in the game. Like football, Huttball kind of relies on people to focus on taking and holding certain positions: offence, defence and midfield. Characters are better suited for some of these than for others based on their class and spec.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, tanks and healers should be focused on offence, because it's about moving the ball over the enemy goal line and staying alive. Defence on the other hand is mostly the territory of dps. Who else is going to take the enemy ball carrier down quickly?

One of the things I find most frustrating in a Huttball game is when I somehow find myself chasing down the enemy ball carrier on my own, as a healer. Those hammer shots aren't going to do jack, and getting a chance to one-shot the enemy with a well-placed punt or stun in a fire is rare. These days, I rarely even bother with giving chase unless it's convenient and there's nothing else to do. It just gives my pug mates the wrong impression (oh, someone else has it under control and is killing the ball carrier... - no, I'm not; I'm a healer and my damage is terrible!) and draws me away from areas of the playing field where I actually could be making a difference once the enemy either scores or loses possession of the ball.

The other big factor determining your ideal position is your class's mobility. Knights and warriors have the best mobility hands down, and should thus focus on the "ends" of the playing field and getting to the enemy where they are hard to reach and other classes would struggle. Classes with bad mobility (I'm mostly thinking Commandos/mercenaries and Gunslingers/snipers) do best while trying to keep control of midfield, as this doesn't require them to move as much. Everyone else, who usually has some way of getting around, should move between mid and the edges of the playing field as needed.

Obviously these roles aren't set in stone, but I've found that it really helps to use them as a guideline. I've always loved Huttball on my Sage and my knight, because I knew exactly where I should be - running ahead to yank people to safety on my Sage, and chasing people down with leaps and bounds on my knight. On my Commando, I kept trying to be wherever the ball went, and I could just never keep up. It was so frustrating! Ever since I let go of that desire, my games have been much more fun, as I mostly stay around the middle, supporting defenders and attackers as needed, without making any futile attempts to run all the way to the end that never lead to anything anyway. You've got to be able to have some faith in your pug mates, even if they disappoint you sometimes. As you can't personally be everywhere at once anyway, it's better to be where you have the biggest chance of making a difference.



While not a huge fan of non-combat pets in general, I have to admit that I kind of like the new Gannifari. I've long held the opinion that the akk dog models in the game look more cute than fierce, and kind of wanted one as a pet ever since I saw a guildie pick one up as a temporary fighting companion in Colicoid War Game. In fact, I was thinking of saving up warzone commendations to buy a Lawgriffarl once I had all the gear I needed, as it looks like it should be using the same model. Now I might not have to, as the Gannifari does the job quite nicely - even if it's just another "have this as a random gift, everyone" kind of pet.

I did feel kind of awkward when I noticed this while doing dailies in the Black Hole though:

I'm sure it wasn't a relative, little one... don't look at me like that!


Day 8: Memorable Moments

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

I'm very much spoiled for choice on this one. So many memorable moments! It was hard to pick just a few.

Let's start with my very first world boss. I must have been level thirty or so then. He was exciting both because he was my first ever raid boss in SWTOR and because killing him was the first major guild event that I participated in. As it happens he also dropped a purple trooper chest which I won, and which I still keep in my bank for the memories.

I could just add lots of raid boss kills to this list, but that would be boring. I decided to simply pick one to stand for all of them, namely the one that was probably the most exciting: the Ancient Pylons on hard mode. It's pretty silly really, because the encounter is so easy, but back when it was bugged so that the consoles would become unclickable when you were about halfway through and the only way to reset them was to reset the instance and thus the entire trash, it gave us nightmares week after week.

After 1.2 fixed that bug and we were finally able to beat it, my guildies cheered louder than I've ever heard them cheer for anything else. It was totally ridiculous because our excitement was completely out of proportion compared to the effort we had to put into beating the fight just then (clicking buttons, yay), but the relief after all those weeks of frustration build-up was just too great.

While I haven't collected a whole lot of datacrons, most of the ones I have found and clicked on have some pretty nice memories attached to them. The Tatooine balloon ride is a good example - I even made an entire post about it at the time.

When my smuggler and her trooper friend levelled through Tatooine recently, we also rode the balloon together, and my heart was in my throat again when we had to make the jump, even though I knew how it worked this time. We got both datacrons on the sandcrawler that time... and also got to witness a poor fool of a Jedi getting punted off the balloon when he accepted a duelling request from an Empire player. Fortunately he took it in good spirits and laughed about it in general chat afterwards.

And finally of course, how could anyone forget the Rakghoul Plague world event? If that wasn't memorable then I don't know what would be.

I really hope that we'll see another world event soon. I seem to remember reading somewhere that information about another world event was already datamined months ago, but I guess other things have been keeping the devs busy since then.


State of the Combat Medic

In non-depressing news... in the latest episode of TOR Reporter, the hosts pointed out that Bioware is currently gathering feedback on all the advanced classes and their specs on the forums, something that I wasn't previously aware of. The threads are over two weeks old by now, but people are still posting in them daily, so I thought that I might as well add my two cents. Better late than never.

The two questions asked are:

1. How do you think your (Commando in this case) spec is perceived by other classes?


2. How do you perceive your own spec?

As you would expect and as Anexxia also pointed out in the podcast, most people tend to answer with something along the lines of "my spec sucks and needs a buff" to both questions, which is not very useful, but at least vaguely entertaining. I'll try to maintain a more balanced view.

How others perceive the Combat Medic

I believe that the vast majority of the time, people are happy to have a healer at all and don't care about which class said healer plays. They are more likely to be worried about whether the character is sporting an adequate level of gear than whether his or her class is the current flavour of the month.

However, there are some trends. In operations, I get the impression that Combat Medics are considered adequate, but people would probably be a bit weary of a raid in which all the healers were Commandos. We have good synergy with the other healing classes, but nothing about our advanced class screams "I'm awesome no matter what" like a Sage's floor heals for example. (Full disclosure: I play a max level healing Sage as well, so it's not like I'm hating on the competition here or anything.)

In high end PvP, Commando healers are definitely less popular than other advanced classes, as LFM requests for ranked warzones always seem to specify that they want a Scoundrel, or maybe a Sage.

In random warzones, I wouldn't be surprised if many players found our kind a bit of a nuisance to kill. This might be true for any well-geared healer though.

How I perceive the Combat Medic

I'm not a hardmode raider really (though I have done some), but as it stands I haven't run into any content that made me feel like my class's performance was inadequate. Ammo management is challenging sometimes, but I also enjoy it. In heavy AoE situations I eye the Sages somewhat jealously, considering how hard I have to work to keep people alive while they can just dump their floor heal and call it a day, but it doesn't feel truly bothersome.

In PvP I only do random warzones, and there I feel that Combat Medics have both pronounced strengths and weaknesses which pretty much balance each other out.

Our main strength is our heavy armour and survivability, which can make a world of a difference in an environment where you can't necessarily count on other players to help a healer that is under attack. Our burst healing is also quite good, which works like a charm to bring people back from the brink of death when an enemy tries to burst them down in turn. Kolto Bomb as a short-cooldown AoE that can be cast on the move is quite powerful as well, even if it doesn't heal for much.

Our main weaknesses are a lack of mobility and being very obvious targets. We can do a little bit of healing while on the move, but unless we can knock our pursuers off a handy cliff, we have no way of escaping an enemy without help, as we have no speed boost, charge or counter to snares, knockbacks and stuns. We just have to sit there or walk along really slowly and take it. Even with heavy armour that rarely works well.

As far as being an obvious target goes, the fact that all our main abilities have a cast time means that any enemy can immediately identify us as healers. Worse, trying to do any healing with Hammer Shot is like painting a giant target over your head. While I kind of love the green beam in PvE for its sheer weirdness, I think that this is the only thing that I truly find unbalanced in Combat Medic PvP, as our Mercenary counterparts don't have a visual equivalent and can heal from the back without announcing their presence quite so loudly.

Have you submitted any feedback? And how do people who don't play Combat Medics actually perceive them?