The Shinquisitor

Has it really been two and a half months since my Sith inquisitor hit fifty? So it has. It feels rather embarrassing to admit that in all that time, I didn't bother to complete her class story until tonight. What can I say, I always get distracted by yet another alt... it wasn't until last week when Pet Tank and I decided to pull ourselves together and finally burn through Voss and Corellia together (bonus series and everything), which incidentally also served to level us all the way to the new level cap.

(On a tangent, did you know that the Makeb breadcrumb quest doesn't require you to have completed chapter three of your class story? I suppose this doesn't necessarily have to be a problem, except that it contains spoilers for the end of your class story, and you have to pick it up or it will block you from completing your class quest as it makes it impossible to use your ship's holo terminal for any other purpose. Forcing players to spoil the ending of their own story is not cool, Bioware.)

Anyway, what can I say about the Sith inquisitor story? Well, I'm afraid I have to admit that this one wasn't one of my favourites. It was by no means bad, but at least for me, it was way too much of a roller-coaster ride. I previously praised the Sith warrior story for managing to "deliver a truly solid experience every step of the way" - and in a way I felt that the Sith inquisitor was the polar opposite of that.

Parts of it were absolutely brilliant. I loved the second half of Dromund Kaas and the personal sub-plot that begins in the Dark Temple. The ending of chapter one had me glued to my screen and even replaced the end of the smuggler's chapter one as my favourite (and I did have an absolute blast with the smuggler so that particular bar was set very high). Your first companion's story arc cumulates in what I considered one of the most difficult and meaningful choices I've encountered in the game so far.

The problem is that between those flashes of brilliance, there was a whole lot of "meh". I previously struggled to level an inquisitor on my own because the story just didn't grab me after completing Dromund Kaas: searching for relics for my master seemed kind of dull and lacked the sense of urgency that most other class stories have at this point. I've previously talked about how let down I felt by how acquiring my apprentice played out. And the villain in Acts II and III just fell flat for me. He was a guy who hated me out of principle instead of having any personal reasons, and I never felt massively motivated to fight him. I didn't really want to kill him; I just wanted him to leave me alone! It also didn't help that the way he talked forever reminded me of the manager in Office Space.

More than anything though, I could never quite get over the way my character came across as kind of... weak. I'm not someone who needs to see herself as the hero of the day all the time (I was quite happy being a trooper who got bossed around a lot for example, and felt that the Jedi knight story - which many people love for how it lets you perform some amazing feats - was kind of over the top), but... well, let's just say that I actually found myself joking about how my character seemed to be required to pass out at least twice per Act, just so that she could be rescued by her companions or other friendly NPCs.

I'm not against using "loss of control" as a plot device to make a point about how you're up against someone who's out of your league, and I felt that both the knight and the warrior story did this well. But on my inquisitor - it just felt like she never really caught up. Everything was a struggle, her plans never quite seemed to work as intended, she constantly needed to enlist help with everything... I even spent a significant chunk of chapter three being dangerously ill!

I suppose this is meant to be the story of the underdog who has to claw her way up from nothing - I mean, already the origin story on Korriban shows a marked difference between the inquisitor as a former slave and the warrior as a pampered favourite student. I just felt... that at least to me personally, the pay-off wasn't really there until maybe at the very end, and then it just wasn't enough. I felt like my character should have achieved more in a shorter time, so to speak, instead of spending quite this much time failing over and over again.

What say you, fellow Sith inquisitors?

(Only got the bounty hunter left to go now!)


The Shroud Revealed And Other Heroics

It took me over a month, but I finally finished the main quest lines about the macrobinoculars (the one about the Shroud) and seeker droids (the one about the Dread Seeds). The following post will contain some spoilers about their quest mechanics, but none about the story.

The reason it took me so long to finally get these quests out of my log is that they follow what I'd call a rather old-fashioned philosophy of quest design, in that the majority of each chain can easily be soloed, but then ends in a [Heroic 4] that actually requires four people. Usually I wouldn't have an issue with this as I'm happy to group up even for stuff that can be soloed, and Pet Tank and I routinely tackle [Heroic 4]s with just the two of us... but the soloable part of each chain is really long and tedious at times (lots of travelling from planet to planet), which doesn't make it particularly attractive as a group activity even at the best of times, and there are parts of the [Heroic 4]s that actually require a full group of four due to multiple people having to click on things in different places.

Since the first couple of steps of both chains were really rather dull, I only worked on them when I felt that I had nothing better to do (which was not that often), and when I finally got to the heroic bits I wasn't sure who else in the guild still needed them. Pugging seemed like a rather unattractive option for something that required considerable coordination, and assembling a random group seemed like a pretty difficult proposition anyway, seeing how the group finder is no help when it comes to these quests, and the people who are currently progressing through them are bound to be scattered all across the galaxy (which makes "looking for more" in general chat rather difficult).

Eventually I ended up making a post about it on the guild forums which netted me a few volunteers, and Saturday afternoon we finally had the right number of people online at the right time to get started with a group consisting of me, my pet tank, Mogle and a certain Squishy Shadow Tank.

What am I looking at in this screenshot...?

First we did the Dread Seed heroic, which I had attempted once before in a group of three, but we failed to complete it at the time as the monster from the next-to-last fight seemed to heal up faster than we could kill it with our limited dps. This time around we fared much better and it wasn't much of a struggle. I still have to give credit where it is due though and say that I really liked that monster fight for being interesting and atmospheric.

On the next encounter we learned that standing in pools of water with electric currents running through them is not healthy. Who knew?

The Shroud heroics were where things got really interesting though. The first one involved an epic chase across the top of air cars flying through the streets of Nar Shaddaa. I had fun bouncing from taxi to taxi for a bit, though I was absolutely terrible at it and fell to my death many times. Mercifully, the developers put in checkpoints of sorts, which allow all members of the group to leapfrog ahead once a single person passes them, which meant that I eventually got to the end purely thanks to other people's jumping skills.

The second heroic was even madder though, with plenty of mechanics that made full use of the four player requirement. I suppose that at its core, a lot of it pretty much came down to simultaneously pushing buttons in different locations, but the details certainly made things interesting. In one instance Mogle's Sage and I had to leap down to a lower floor to reach two consoles and then couldn't find a way back up once we had done our clicky bit. Fortunately duelling was allowed in the phase, so we challenged Pet Tank and Squishy Shadow to one each and they yanked us back up. I have my doubts whether that was the intended way of doing it though...

My absolute favourite bit was when we gained access to a shielded security console, and I immediately had a go at it to "press the shiny buttons". I then promptly got locked behind an impenetrable shield that seemingly left me with no other option than to continue pressing the buttons on the console. The really funny part however was that people then accidentally pulled a group of mobs without me and died, and then all the mobs came to me, trying to kill me... except that I was invincible behind my shield! The rest of the group eventually revived and picked them off the pile on top of my head one by one, but it sure was funny while it lasted.

Can't touch this!

It's worth noting at this point that we didn't use a guide or anything but rather figured everything out ourselves as we went along. While I've previously struggled with some puzzles in the game, such as the ones on the Theoretika, I have to admit that a challenge like that in a [Heroic 4] is quite fun. With four people working together and everybody providing some input, you're pretty much bound to figure things out after a little while. I do shudder to think what parts of this quest must be like for a group without voice chat though, especially the bit which required multiple people to press buttons in the right sequence without anyone being able to see anyone else (other than on the mini map).

Doing the whole thing with guildies though, I had an absolute blast, even if the entire exercise took quite a while. As one of them put it, it felt a little bit like a flashpoint (think Colicoid War Game but more complex), with lots of mechanics that were just familiar enough that they were relatively easy to figure out, but at the same time different enough to provide an interesting new challenge. All I can say is, if you're anything like me and have been sitting on those heroic quests for a while because they felt like a pain to get a group for: do put the effort in; the experience is definitely worth it.



Supposedly the vast majority of MMO players are achievers according to the Bartle Test. I feel rather like a special snowflake sometimes, considering that the last time I took it, I scored Explorer > Socialiser > Killer > Achiever myself. Yes, I care less about actually achieving things in game than pretty much anything else. I don't completely loathe achievement-oriented game play or anything, but it never manages to stay my priority for long.

With that in mind, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm not a big fan of achievement systems either, even though I know that a lot of players love them. From my point of view they detract from actual in-game achievements (such as overcoming a challenge) by shifting the focus onto a badge-collecting meta-game; they can be abused as a cheap replacement for actual content (instead of giving players a new dungeon, let's give them five new badges for running the old one clockwise, counter-clockwise, with nobody dying, in less than half an hour etc.); and sometimes they even outright encourage bad play. It's funny how many WoW pundits considered Ulduar's hard modes one of the game's high points for example, while I vividly remember loathing them for the way they encouraged our raid to "play stupidly" (by not killing bothersome adds or ignoring key mechanics of a fight) just to get another badge.

Sooo... when SWTOR introduced an achievement system with 2.0, I was not thrilled and said as much.

However, one and a half months into the expansion, now that I've actually had a chance to see it live... I have to confess that it hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Sometimes it's the little things: for example I like the fact that the achievements pop up near the top of my screen instead of at the bottom (like they do in WoW), where they would always cover part of my character. It feels less "in your face" and like I can choose to ignore them if I want. I genuinely appreciate that.

In the post that I linked above I also kind of mocked SWTOR's achievement system for being pretty dull ("run each flashpoint twenty-five times, kill a thousand mobs on each planet, kill a hundred mobs with each companion out") and joked about how max-level characters would just roam around the lowbie planets to mow down low-level mobs en masse. While I have observed some people engaging in that kind of behaviour (my guild leader and his favourite minion turned into terrors of Tython during early access, ninjaing the poor lowbies' training droids over and over again just to rack up numbers), it hasn't been nearly as prevalent as I expected it to be.

I think a lot of it is down to the fact that all achievements are legacy-wide, which is nice as it means that you can bring whichever character you want to the party and still get credit. If you enjoy levelling alts, there is absolutely no need to kill grey mobs just for numbers. While questing on Voss the other night, it really struck me how a lot of the achievements there just kind of... came naturally, as we were roaming around the planet and killing mobs for our missions anyway. After a while I actually kind of came to appreciate them as an additional way of tracking my progress, even if they were ridiculously predictable. ("Oh hey, we haven't killed any of these mobs yet; I bet there's an achievement for them too!" Annnd... 20 mobs later it flashes up on the screen as expected.)

I've also enjoyed killing random champion mobs around the galaxy for a long time now, and unsurprisingly an achievement has been added for that as well. I'm not thrilled about the added competition from players who will now hunt them down specifically "just to get the achievement", but it's been interesting to see a whole in-game list of champions for each planet and realise how many of them I've never even run into. Can't complain about being given some more encouragement to explore I guess!

I just hope that they don't decide to go overboard with the sillier achievements (the other day a guildie was ranting about having to set Makrin on fire on Makeb or something, which sounded kind of pointless to be honest)... and that they work hard on ironing out the bugs that are currently still plaguing the system. On release almost none of the PvP achievements worked as intended for example, as they all required you to hit exactly x damage, y healing or z kills (instead of "at least that much or more"), which pretty much never happens and made the damn things nigh impossible to get. This has been fixed since then, but a lot of the operations ones are still broken, either because they award the wrong badge (my favourite was my significant other receiving "survived Karagga on nightmare" from killing Fabricator on story; that was just random) or simply don't give credit at all (like the third and fourth encounter in EV).


2.1 Thoughts

Patch 2.1 hit this Tuesday and to be honest I wasn't super excited about it initially. Not because it's a systems patch instead of a content one, but because its focus was on customisation, and I actually have a very ambivalent relationship with character customisation. Basically, I do love having lots of different options at character creation, and every now and then I like to mix up a character's looks later on as well, but as a general rule I actually prefer consistency over the ability to change. (Every time I play my Sage, Mogle (my old guild leader) expresses disdain about the fact that she's still wearing her Elite War Hero chest, which she's had for-freaking-ever, and threatens to take me shopping for a new outfit. But I like the way she looks! You have no idea how hard it is to find some good-looking light armour for a body type three lady.)

On an individual basis I'm not opposed to allowing people to do things like change their character's haircut or get a new name if their old one sucked. But in the long run... let's just say that even in WoW, where character changes are pretty damn expensive relative to the subscription cost, I had guildies who faction-, sex-, race- and name-changed their characters so often that after a while even they couldn't remember what they originally started out as. I hated those moments of "who the hell are you" in guild chat, or being confused during raids because people looked completely different all of a sudden. It's nothing personal; I simply don't like having to deal with the side effects of characters being overly malleable.

For that reason I wasn't massively excited about this patch. I could see why some people would love it, but at the same time figured that I wasn't going to be one of them. On patch day I only went to the new appearance kiosk to have a look around and see whether it would inspire me to change Shintar's haircut or something, but in the end decided that she was perfect the way she was and that changing anything would've just felt wrong. (Plus, you know, the other day a guildie decided to randomly compliment me on Shintar's appearance and mentioned how he thought that she looked "just right" for a trooper. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.)

However! The funny thing is that I still ended up spending a whole lot of Cartel Coins that I'd saved up over the last couple of months of my subscription, so I suppose from a business perspective, Bioware must have done something right.

Firstly, I ended up buying the new human haircuts and Mirialan tattoos... even though I then didn't end up using any of them. This was right as I was experimenting with maybe changing Shin's looks after all, and wanted to see if the new hairstyles were any good. I didn't realise at the time that the new hair style "package" literally consisted of only the three new styles in the preview picture. Oh well. Oddly enough, I still don't regret that purchase, because I might use it on yet another alt at a later stage, and I'm happy to send the message that more variety in customisation options is something that they should add.

Then I bought my Cathar of course! When I got to the character creation screen I have to admit that I felt vaguely disappointed however. There seemed to be awfully few different options for each slider, and (as Ravanel also notes) none that allowed you to make a character that looked like the original Cathar NPCs in the game. Still, I did find a look that I vaguely liked in the end and rolled up my new level one consular right away... just to abandon her after one quest because I got distracted by other shinies.

The whole collection system left me pretty cold to be honest. I can see the benefits of it for people who buy a lot of gear from the Cartel market, but at the same time it kind of feels like something that... doesn't really need to be there? From my point of view anyway. Making a zillion free copies of some armour piece out of thin air just seems... random. Maybe it's cynical, but I can't help but feel that this system was only added to stimulate people's urge to "collect them all" by showing them an interface that constantly reminds them of all the items that they "should" have.

Of course, then my pet tank pointed out that I could use the new interface to copy my Life Day Tinsel Bomb to all of my alts. Hell yes! (I always regretted buying only one of those.)

Lastly, I had a look at the new dye system. If nothing else it was hilarious to watch our PvP officer rage in guild chat about how people should queue up for warzones instead of "messing about with stupid colours". But no, I actually like this new addition, with the only slight downside being that I'll have an empty slot on most of my gear pieces in the future, which doesn't agree with my slightly OCD side.

People have pointed out that they feel that the new dye system is clunky compared to how it works in other games, but I kinda like the way SWTOR handles armour modifications (it actually makes me get very attached to my gear), and I feel that this new dye system fits right in with the rest. I've also seen complaints that there are too many "ugly" / not enough "nice" colour combinations, but frankly I wouldn't be too bothered about that at this point, as this is something that can easily be addressed by adding more options in the future (based on what people like, obviously). The fact that the dyes come in random packs is slightly annoying I suppose, but they are cheap enough that even I bought a couple, and with enough people buying into the system it's easy enough to trade whatever you get for a colour that you actually like via the GTN, and without too high of a cost attached. (Then again, this might just be me, opting for dyes like "light orange". I hear that if you want pure white or black for example, that'll cost you.)

The only thing that actually does bug me a little is that some pieces of gear simply don't dye very well. I was considering finally wearing my Arkanian chest piece, assuming that I could change it to a colour other than "vomit", but as it turns out the grey butt flap (which is what I end up staring at most of the time, considering the camera angle) stays the same no matter which colour you apply to the rest of the item, and it just doesn't work. I had similar issues with my gunslinger's coat, where even changing both primary and secondary colours didn't actually seem to affect a lot of the texture, so the end result was simply too lackluster too bother with. Then again, I suppose you can always find another piece of gear that does work for you.

I did really like it when we went into an operation the next evening and everyone was suddenly so much more colourful.


200 Posts!

201 with this one, actually... I didn't plan for my 200th post to be a bit of a rant, but what the hey, that's how things go sometimes.

Just like I did when I hit my 100 post milestone, I took another look at Google Analytics and what kind of search terms led people to this blog since the last time.

The main feeling I get whenever I look at my search terms is one of slight embarrassment about the punny title of the blog. I still love it, but I could really do without learning about all these weird fantasies and questions that people have about being out in public without underwear... I won't repeat any of them now in order not to make it even worse.

SWTOR-wise, it's mostly the same old, same old, always people looking for information about how to play Commandos and where they rank in the pecking order of classes after each new patch. (Sorry, I know I'm not really helpful in that regard.) What surprises me a little is how many hits I get about the Jedi consular story. I mean yes, I did write a post about it ages ago, but I also wrote about five other class stories and nobody seems to come looking for reviews of those. There's also a fair few searches about where to find HK parts. I hope that if nothing else, the story of how I struggled with the quest chain but did love it in the end will serve as encouragement for some people, if not necessarily as useful advice.

The roughly two posts that I've ever written that actually contain useful advice, about the crash-to-desktop workaround and how to LFG, still get the most hits and regularly show up on the sidebar under "recently popular posts". All the questions about "how to LFG" surprise me though, because you'd think that with the group finder people would have less of an issue with that now. Or are there actually players who find the interface too complicated and need a guide for that?

The one thing that really surprised me among my more popular search terms was Thana Vesh, whose name came in fifteenth place among my top searches, not counting a whole bunch of slight variations. For a simple NPC that only stars in a single planetary storyline on Imperial side, that's quite impressive. Judging by the nature of the search terms, it seems that people either a) get stuck on the quest if they die at some point, or b) think she's hot and want to find out if there isn't some secret way of BSOCKing her after all. Sorry, folks!

Now for some random search terms:

From the "why do you keep sending players of other games to my blog" pile:
bioshock infinite crashes to desktop
dark age of camelot crashing to desktop vista 64
lotro crashing to desktop after log on
tera theorycrafting
don't like wow pugging (Who does these days?)

Questions and answers:
should I go back to swtor - playing swtor again
how is swtor coming along - swtor popular again
should I start swtor again - came back to swtor and love it

Funny typos:
glee event swtor, need more time for hellix (A Glee/SWTOR crossover, now there's something I'd never have considered on my own...)
healing tosh and zorn (What a bunch of tosh!)
swtor how to unlock all 4 quickbards (Is a quickbard anything like a battlebard?)

Strange SWTOR fetishes:
beefy powertech swtor
female smuggler look at my rear
sexy mens swtor gear (That sounds like a case for the Hawtpants Republic...)
imperial agent sex fiction

Looking for guildies:
squishy shadow tank (He's over there!)
Marscreed swtor (An ex-guildie of mine - look, you're so famous people are even googling you!)

And finally, simply random:

class with the least buttons swtor (Sage/Sorcerer, from my experience anyway.)
damn you swtor for not fixing the crash (Yes, damn you, and I'm gonna tell Google about it!)
dragon naturally speaking general training dialog (...?)
my boyfriend's beard (Whatever you expected to find with this search term, it's not here.)
swtor one night balmorra (...makes a hard man humble.)
what is this hologram thing on my trooper healer (Um, could you be any more specific?)
you know that feeling when u think prepared for exam (No, I never really felt like I was prepared, even when I was.)
hutt commando (Never! I bet they couldn't even hold an assault cannon with those piddly arms! And I'm pretty sure they never wear underwear to begin with...)

Anyway, to the next 100!


Operations Blues

I haven't written about operations progress in a few months. In case you've ever wondered why, the sad truth is that I personally simply haven't had any. Somehow this really hit home for me the other night when I was traipsing through TfB story mode and a friend from another guild whispered me to ask if I was currently doing hard mode. Such an innocent question... but it carried with it the assumption that I was still miles ahead of whatever he was doing with his friendly social guild at the time, which is kind of the way it used to be - but not anymore. Believe it or not, Carb, you've already spent more time in hardmode operations this expansion than I have. Be proud.

In fact, tonight was the first time I even set foot into one of the new hardmode operations, TfB to be precise. It went about as I expected, which is to say: not too badly, but it also could have gone better. It's certainly interesting having to "re-learn" content that you've cleared before because both you and the mobs are five levels higher, everything's been retuned and you're coming in with a different team, even if the overall strategies are the same.

Incidentally, tonight was also the first time that some other guildies completely cleared Scum and Villainy 8-man on hard mode. Serious congratulations to them; everything I've heard about it seems to agree that the last boss is very hard.

The last couple of months have honestly been kind of difficult for me because my own transition to more casual raiding didn't happen by choice. Rather, the guild went through a reorganisation before the launch of the expansion which meant that there suddenly wasn't room for me in progression operations anymore. Without going into too much detail, it can be said that I was pretty damn bummed about this - which is kind of ironic considering that I originally said in my guild application back in October that I was "not looking to raid hardcore". I did get to enjoy the progression nights that I got to go to over time however, because there's nothing quite like that exhilarating adrenaline rush just before you do overcome a tough challenge eventually.

I pretty much went through the five stages of grief after being faced with my "demotion" (there was no actual change in rank, but being excluded from something that I did get to do previously certainly felt like one):

Denial: "Okay, reading about these changes is pretty upsetting to me right now, but they'll never be able to actually go through with all this anyway. People won't stand for it! There'll be outrage and /gquits and they'll have to back down!" (There was outrage and a couple of /gquits, but in the end it changed little.)

Anger: "Why me? It's not fair! People keep telling me that I'm a really good healer but now I'm not good enough? Have they all been lying to me? Have I pissed somebody off? I thought we were friends! I thought I was part of the team! What did I do to deserve this?!"

Bargaining: "Isn't there some way I could still get to go? If I've annoyed you in some way, I'll be better, I promise. I'll min-max more! I don't know what I've been doing wrong, but I'll find out and fix it! I'll become the best Commando healer ever! No really, I'll do anything! (Except sexual favours.) What does it take?!"

Depression: "This sucks. I suck. Clearly I can't heal my way out of a wet paper bag. Everybody secretly hates me and wishes that I would go away already. I should just quit the whole game right now before I cause myself and others any more frustration. Or maybe I should switch to doing nothing but PvP. I would fit right in with the best with all these rage and ego issues."

Acceptance: "Aww, screw this. There are worse things in the world than being average. And at least I've still got my pet tank."

So I've been doing story modes with a bunch of guildies that generally don't raid as much plus the other rejects leftovers differently abled raiders? It hasn't been without its issues, but it hasn't been too bad either. I do take a certain pride in being a doormat able to adjust my play style as needed and get my fun in whichever ways I can, and it's been nice to get to know some guildies a bit better with whom I previously didn't get to spend much time. It seems that I can find people to play ball toss with pretty much everywhere, and in the last week I've actually felt the itch to start working on a raid video again, which is definitely a good sign. After tonight I'm also hoping that we'll be able to work on hard modes some more and make some progress there, even if it will be slower for us.

Plus, you know, silly floating wrigglers:

Who can feel down in the face of those?


Guild Stereotypes

I've been thinking about guilds lately, and I've come to the conclusion that for all their differences, all the guilds that I've been a member of over the years are kind of the same in terms of their structure and make-up. I'm sure that not all guilds are like this, but it seems to me that personally I always find myself drawn to groups consisting of the same "types" of people...

The Laid-Back Leader

The laid-back leader may or may not possess any actual leadership skills, but they always possess oodles of charisma. Everyone in the guild loves them and more often than not this fact is the only thing that holds the guild together in times of trouble. If they quit or stop playing the game, things fall apart quite quickly. Which is strange, because to the casual observer it looks like they do fairly little actual work for the guild anyway...

The Quiet Wingman (or -woman)

Okay, so the laid-back leader may or may not be doing any actual work, but if they are not it's because they can rely on their quiet wingman or -woman to do so. This person is probably an officer - but doesn't have to be - and usually quiet during social gatherings, but they are always listening and taking note of what's going on. They are the person the guild leader can go to if he needs help, and will often also serve as the guild website administrator. In short, they do all the boring jobs that nobody else can be bothered with, and for some strange reason they seem to enjoy it. The rest of the guild usually has some fondness for this person, but nothing close to actually appreciating all the work they do.

The Passionate Guy (or Girl)

The passionate guy (or girl) only ever wants what's best for the guild - but unfortunately they frequently find themselves disagreeing with the leadership about what exactly that is. It's not that they like to argue, but they are just so damn passionate about their opinions! Their frequent headbutting can get tiresome to the officers (though the rest of the guild secretly enjoys reading the long rants on the forum), but at least it keeps them on their toes and prevents them from becoming too apathetic. Properly directed, this guy or girl's passion can be funnelled into making some very useful contributions to the guild, but if handled badly it will likely lead to drama and/or a ragequit.

The Cheerleader

The cheerleader represents the "soul" of the guild and everything that leadership wants it to be. They may not be the perfect member, but they sure try: whether that's by making conversation in guild chat when it's quiet, giving in-depth replies to every post on the forums or making an effort to get to know pretty much everyone else in the guild. They'll proudly tell everyone what an awesome bunch of people they're playing with and try to support the leadership in all its endeavours, even if they find themselves disagreeing with some decisions and arguing about them in private. They'll generally be quite popular in the guild, except with players who find their constantly cheerful and optimistic attitude grating after a while.

The Class Clown

While the cheerleader may represent the soul of the guild, the class clown is the life of the party: chattering away endlessly on voice chat and always saying and doing silly things that make the other members laugh - or roll their eyes. They might be loved by everyone or be a more divisive figure that seriously gets on some people's nerves. However, everyone can agree that the guild wouldn't be the same without their shenanigans. Having multiple class clowns in the room frequently leads to hilarity.

The Hardcore Guy (or Girl)

Hardcore guy or girl is a great asset to the guild when he or she functions well. They know all the strats, play their class perfectly and are always prepared for the next raid. They naturally gravitate towards a leadership position simply because they want to get things done and are willing to do their part and more. Depending on how willing the rest of the guild is to go along with their efforts, they might lead it to new heights of greatness... or get frustrated by lack of success. In the latter case they'll probably /gquit eventually, poach a couple of the best members and found their own hardcore guild which makes great progress for three months before it falls apart due to lack of social cohesion.

The One-Trick Pony

The one-trick pony is a member who is extremely focused on a single part of the game and only participates in that one activity to the exclusion of all else. Whether they are a compulsive daily runner, a PvP god or "that guy who only shows up for raids", their extreme focus has caused them to become very good at what they do. Their only problem is that they're pretty useless outside their comfort zone - and anyone in the guild who doesn't participate in their activity of choice might not even be aware of their existence. If their favourite activity isn't the guild's main focus, it's important for a one-trick pony to have at least one friend in the officer corps, or else they might find themselves /gkicked one day simply because nobody remembers who they are.

The Quiet Soldier

We all know this type: always shows up for raids on time and is generally wonderfully reliable. As a bonus they make few demands from leadership as long as they're allowed to keep following their usual routine. They just don't talk much, other than to say "hi" and "bye" every evening. Most guilds are lucky to have a couple of these quiet soldiers to bolster their ranks, because they provide stability where a group of nothing but loud personalities would only butt heads. Problems only occur when a quiet soldier suddenly disappears and nobody knows why, nor does anyone know them well enough to contact them outside the game.

The Infrequent Visitor

The infrequent visitor is a member who only shows up every couple of weeks or even months. Reactions to them coming online range from "oh my god, you're back!" to "erm, who is this guy?". If it's the former, the infrequent visitor will be happy to still be remembered and jump right back into the action - just to disappear again a week later. While some special individuals can maintain this status for years, most players will eventually make a proper return or drift away completely.

The Awkward Guy (or Girl)

The awkward guy (or girl) sticks out like a sore thumb. Where the rest of the guild is fairly united in their attitudes towards the game and other players, the awkward guy or girl is loud, brash, or maybe just plain annoying to the rest. If they are a new member, they probably won't last long, but it's quite possible that they happen to be a founding member or an officer's best friend. In which case the rest of the guild is probably quietly praying that they'll /gquit in a fit of rage one day... or they may have accepted that just like that awkward uncle at family gatherings, they are simply part of the package.


Greetings From Another World

Unlike many MMO blogs that I read, I prefer to maintain a narrow focus in my writing. This is my outlet for thoughts about SWTOR; if I have something to say on another subject I'll find somewhere else to talk about it. Today I'm going to make an exception to that rule though... as thanks to some friends, I've found myself compelled to try out the new Neverwinter MMO in the past week.

I suppose there's still going to be at least a tangential SWTOR connection here as I'm not a very experienced MMO tourist, and thus my impressions are heavily coloured by my main MMO. But where to begin?


While I've been playing exclusively in a galaxy far, far away for more than a year now, my first MMO was World of Warcraft, so playing in a fantasy setting immediately felt familiar. In fact, there's something oddly reassuring about the many similarities between different fantasy MMOs. Elves, dwarves, magic... you might not know all the details about the lore, but it's easy enough to jump in and get the gist of it. In this particular case, having some familiarity with Dungeons & Dragons helps as well of course.


The game looks "pretty enough" I would say, though I feel that it lacks a distinctive art style. You know how with some MMOs, you can immediately recognise the game in question as soon as you see a screenshot from it somewhere? Yeah, Neverwinter is not that game.

Still, some things look very good (... then again, some don't). I do absolutely love some of the combat animations. Just seeing those get executed over and over again makes my character fun to play. On the "not so impressive" side however, my tiefling has some awful clipping issues while riding a horse. I'm usually pretty indifferent towards clipping of weapons and the like, but no character of mine should ever have body parts disappear inside a horse's butt!


There is this one theme that reminds me of the original MechCommander every time it starts playing, which is a rather bizarre connection to make, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

The main quest lines are voice-acted and show close-ups of the NPCs when you talk to them. Who says that SWTOR hasn't had an effect on quest delivery standards going forward? Too bad it's also set said standard really high... because Neverwinter's voice actors speaking in hilariously bad accents just make me laugh, and the fact that the talking NPCs aren't in any way animated other than that they move their jaws a little makes them look like creepy dolls in my opinion. To be fair though, I find that amusing more than off-putting.


Neverwinter is one of those newfangled "action combat" MMOs, which means that you have to constantly move around and dodge stuff. Having never played one of these before and knowing myself to be bad at twitch gameplay I was very sceptical about this at first but I've actually been coping alright. Still, I have to say I'm coming to appreciate how positively sedate SWTOR's combat feels in comparison. I like being able to slack a bit while questing and fighting trash in group content, thank you very much! In Neverwinter you have to keep your hands on both keyboard and mouse at all times to get anything done at all, and it gets tiring after a while to be honest.

I was also kind of surprised that the game has a companion system! Another win for SWTOR I guess if that's something that other games copy now. Neverwinter's companions are just generic pets from a vendor though and don't seem to have very good AI from what I've seen so far. I accidentally chose a wizard as my first companion due to lazy clicking, and he spends a lot of time just standing around and staring at me in combat. To add insult to injury, one of his idle animations is a "point and laugh" emote which he's really fond of for some reason! So basically I have a lazy sod following me around who enjoys mocking me at every opportunity. Hmm...

Heals, Please?

While I'm a healer at heart, someone else in the group of people I was going to play with said that he wanted to be the healer this time around, so I rolled up a rogue. Stealth and stabbing things, right? Right. Still, being deprived of my usual ability to heal, I thought it was an interesting twist when I found out that there is no standard out of combat health regeneration in Neverwinter, unless you're in a dedicated safe spot (next to a campfire) or drink a potion. This added a real sense of danger to the world for me and has made exploring hostile territory very exciting. I find myself being extra careful at all times and have yet to die outside of a PvP match at level 28, even though there have been some close calls.

Who is that masked tiefling?

I do wonder what sort of attitude towards healers this will produce in the long run. Will they be extra valued due to providing a rare service? Or will people not care because they are used to surviving without one anyway? I ran a pretty tough skirmish (short five-man group content) tonight where the automated grouping tool hadn't provided us with a healer, but everyone in the party just paid attention to their own health and chugged potions as needed and without further comment. What a strange world, where people actually feel responsible for their own survival...


Unfortunately the game seems very unfriendly towards grouping when compared to SWTOR. It's got an automated group finder for dungeons and skirmishes, but that just keeps throwing you into "rush rush" type groups where nobody talks and which are already starting to wear me down a bit to be honest, even if they get things done. (As a rogue I'm perpetually saddened by all the people who run over traps and skewer themselves before I've even had a chance to disarm anything.) While the open world areas are quite densely packed with mobs and make grouping up an advantage, I have yet to run into any dev-created content there that intentionally seems to be tuned with groups in mind.

The UI is also very punishing towards parties. As far as I can tell there is no way of seeing what quests your group mates are on, and conversations along the lines of "What are you doing?" - "Wait, didn't you pick that quest up as well?" are not uncommon. While transferring between maps it's easy to get yourself stuck in a situation where the game won't let you move on without "gathering your party" first, even when said party is on another map, meaning that you have to break group and reform in the new area just to be able to continue.

For some reason that I can't fathom they also didn't consider it necessary to make sure that when zoning, all members of a party land in the same instance of the new zone. This is bad because there is a lot of transferring between zones in this game, meaning that you will constantly find yourself separated from other members of your group whenever you get placed in different phases. While it's easy to switch between map instances in theory, the game locks you out of it for a few minutes if you do it too often for its taste, which means that my questing partner and I already had to spend a fair amount of time just sitting around and twiddling our thumbs while waiting for the instance switch to come off cooldown just so that we could actually get back onto the same map and play together.


At the moment it feels like there's loads to do in the game, but I suspect that's because there's a lot that I haven't seen yet. The amount of developer-created quest content is actually somewhat limited and you'll fall behind the experience curve quite quickly if you try to level through the main story quest line alone. However there are quite a few additional sources of experience, not to mention the much talked about "Foundry" where players create their own content. And it's all free to access, so that's good.

On Free To Play

Back when SWTOR announced its introduction of a "free to play option" I scoffed at the idea, both because I don't like the idea of free to play models for a variety of reasons, and because I found it odd to call it an "option" - either a game is free to play or not. Looking at it now however, I think it was the right choice of words, because at its heart SWTOR still feels like a subscription game to me, with the free part of the game constantly trying to nudge you towards subscribing. I've heard a lot of people comment negatively on that.

By comparison Neverwinter truly is a free to play game that just hopes to make some money out of you by making you buy things that save you time and/or are shiny. Funny thing: after nearly a week of playing it I found myself getting frustrated with my lack of bag space and decided that I should probably spend some real money on a bigger bag. After all I was having fun; might as well throw the devs a bone, right? But I really struggled to make myself do it!

It made me realise that for some reason I'm perfectly happy to pay for what I feel is a service (such as access to a game, aka a subscription), which is usually measured in time, but I don't like buying virtual items. Even if the total cost is the same, the latter just feels like so much worse value for money to me somehow. I mean, a tenner for a virtual bag? Compare that to the price of a subscription for a whole month of entertainment and there's just no contest. The huge part of the game that I already got for free doesn't even factor into it.

I did give them some money in the end though.

In Summary

Neverwinter offers a nice little romp through a pretty fantasy world that feels quite true to the setting and has a fair amount of things to do. I think that the strenuous action combat and UI fails that make grouping a pain will be off-putting to me in the long run though.


Levelling Through Old Endgame Content

When Rise of the Hutt Cartel was first announced, I was a bit worried about what would happen to the old level fifty flashpoints and operations. Previous endgame content becoming obsolete is not a new thing for theme park MMOs, but it didn't look like Bioware was introducing enough new stuff to replace it.

A bit less than a month into the expansion, I'm actually quite happy with how they handled the transition. While you could argue that the endgame options at 55 are a bit sparse in some areas (*cough*flashpoints*cough*), I do like how they've kept the level fifty content relevant.

I've mentioned before that the gear curve from the previous level cap to Makeb and beyond is fairly smooth. The quest rewards are decent enough upgrades if your gear isn't the greatest, but wearing the previous top tier of gear I didn't have to replace anything until I got into the new hardmode flashpoints. Meanwhile the old level fifty flashpoints and operations have been retuned to drop what was previously the top tier of loot even on the easier difficulties - meaning that they actually offer a viable alternate gearing path to 55. The experience gains from this content are surprisingly good as well.

Rolling in XP in EV on my Sorcerer

Running the old hardmode flashpoints on my still-level-50 alts I find it amusing how there is suddenly value in killing extra trash and doing the often neglected bonus bosses again - after all it all adds up to experience gains, right?

I've also joined my guildies for "Imperial alt operations" two weeks in a row now, and it's been great fun. Pre-RotHC we'd pretty much stopped running EV, KP and EC on story mode months ago, but the chance to level some long neglected level fifty alts and gear them up in the process has suddenly brought them back onto the table.

It's a very social way of levelling as well, and an excellent group content training ground for alts that you don't usually play very much. Tonight I unexpectedly found myself raiding KP and EC on my Marauder, whom I hadn't really played in months and even then I was never very good at playing her to begin with. (Melee dps is about as diametrically opposed to healing as it gets in my opinion.) My performance was laughably poor in parts (it took me until about two thirds through KP to spot Vicious Throw on my bar and go "oh right, I should be using that, shouldn't I"), but since I knew the basic tactics and the content is pretty forgiving these days it wasn't a major issue. While I'll never be a star among melee dps, I felt that after those two hours or so of running operations I had already improved quite a bit compared to where I started out that evening. I was also almost level 52.

As a bonus, I finally got to see the operations story content from Imperial side, something that I never did before the expansion. Handing in the EC story quest in particular was a major aha moment, considering that I'd been wondering for months what exactly the Dread Masters' deal was and seeing how it's not explained anywhere else in the game as far as I'm aware.