Free To Play Day!

Ahh, writing about patch days is always difficult, because you kind of just want to play instead of talking about playing. However, it's late and I have work tomorrow, so I've decided to pace myself and stop for the night. The new content is still going to be there tomorrow.

Maintenance was scheduled to last twelve hours today and then took another two and a half hours on top of that, which pretty much made the game unavailable for the entirety of the EU's day time. There was only meagre amusement to be had from watching people go stir crazy on various forums and on Twitter, and it was almost ten in the evening when the servers finally came back up.

People were pretty much dying to get on by then. I immediately logged on to four instances of the Republic fleet, and my significant other even encountered a queue a few minutes later - as a subscriber (who gets login priority)! Don't trust the estimated wait times though: his was 45 minutes and he got in after about 30 seconds. I imagine that it must have been pretty tough on free players that wanted to get started today though.

The first thing I noticed was a new welcome screen that lists all the subscriber benefits before you get to the character selection screen. I sure hope that they won't make me look at that every time I log in now; I'm already subscribed! Next I noticed the two new quickbars that they added for subscribers, all crowded together on the right hand side of my screen. I have to admit that part of me went "no game should require six quickbars to play", but at the same time there's another part that goes: "Buttons! Buttons! You can never have too many buttons!" And if you put two bars on each side and squeeze them close together, the space they take up isn't too bad. With all those extra quick slots, I really need to rearrange my abilities soon.

Tonight wasn't the time for that though; I wanted to be where the action was! The fleet was packed, and you could tell that existing players were excited about being able to buy new goodies. I kept hearing the distinctive "boom" sound of someone opening a Cartel pack left and right, and people were showing off their new speeders and pets everywhere. I only bought two packs to start with and only got a speeder that I didn't particularly care about. If you're after anything specific, I recommend waiting for a few days before going crazy in the shop, as most things will probably start showing up on the GTN once they unbind - and then you can decide whether you want to try your luck with the packs or would rather pay the credit price to get exactly what you want - no more, no less.

I was happy to learn that I'm not the only person enamoured with the little probe droids (want one on live!), and one guildie in particular cracked me up with his love for the new Party Jawa. He was initially somewhat annoyed that an outfit he had bought was apparently the wrong colour, but he claimed that it was all good as long as he regularly reminded himself to "keep calm and PARTY JAWA!"

Other than the Cartel pack madness on the fleet, Section X on Belsavis was where the action was, so I didn't bother to look for a breadcrumb quest and just headed over there immediately. Fortunately it wasn't difficult to find: on the orbital station the shuttle simply now gives you an option to fly down to Section X, and you land right in your faction's base, with all the new missions only a few steps away. There's a bunch of new dailies from the two terminals, and a droid that starts the HK-51 quest line.

I picked it all up and cast out my lure in guild to catch someone to play with, as doing dailies as a lonely healer is kind of tedious. I immediately caught a friendly Sentinel and we were off. It felt like there were mobs everywhere and it took ages to get anything done, but I suspect that this was largely due to the newness of it all, as we didn't really know what to expect and just sort of ran around at random. I'm sure it won't take people long to figure out the most efficient way of completing these new dailies.

There was a funny moment when I drove past the new world boss while people were fighting him (I was miles away, I swear) and somehow got caught by his aura, knocked off my speeder and died within seconds, much to the amusement of any guildies that were around to witness it. Later I also got myself killed by insisting on driving into the Imperial base to uncover that bit of the map. Those gun turrets hurt (and stunned me long enough that I couldn't even do much before I died). Good times!

The ship crash site where you do the HK-51 quest was the most interesting spot in the area in my opinion. The scene when you enter the ship and unveil its contents was pretty cool. I'm not sure why Bioware made a quest to unlock a new companion a [Heroic 2] though. Not sure what kind of message that sends: "If you want your very own killer robot, learn to play or make at least one friend"? I can see that not sitting well with a certain kind of player. Also of interest, there is an [Area 2] quest around the ship that requires Republic to kill some droids, and - I'm guessing - Imperials to kill some beasties. That struck me as a very obvious ploy to encourage world PvP - we'll see if it works.

Oh, and speaking of heroics, we were fortunate that we learned through word of mouth that the [Heroic 4] daily requires a full group of four before going in and attempting to two-man it. The reason you can't go in with companions is that there are two mechanics towards the end that require actual people to click buttons at the same time to complete the mission. I have to admit that had me raising my eyebrows a little because while I'm a fan of group content, I'm not so sure about mechanics that will forever require exactly X amount of players - they can get annoying quite quickly once the initial rush dies down. (I'll never forget the Ogri'la attunement quest chain in WoW's Burning Crusade and "looking for one more just to stand in a circle please".) That said... for now it was very fun. There was a puzzle part to it too, where you have to deactivate some sensors first or else spawn more adds, which can be quite challenging if you're relying on four people not to twitch at the wrong time.

Really looking forward to tomorrow now, as there are world bosses to kill, operations to run, and the HK-51 quest line to continue. I don't know which one will come first, but I'm sure it will be fun.

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