Conquering The World

Are you all sick of me writing about Conquest yet? To be honest, I am... at least a little. However, my guild's Master of Conquest knows no mercy. After we just managed to add Nar Shaddaa to our list of conquered planets last week, he drove us right on to try and conquer Oricon this week. And despite of starting to feel a bit burnt out on the whole thing, I'm still right there going along with it all. Have I mentioned yet how much I dislike the rampage objectives (to kill X mobs on planet Y)? If only they didn't grant so many points so easily...

I do have to say though that on the plus side, rampaging has got me to take a closer look at the "outside world" again (feels weird to use that term when we're talking about space stations vs. planetary surfaces but you know what I mean). I spend so little time on the original planets these days, not just because I haven't levelled an alt from scratch in a while but because even when I do, there just isn't much reason to hang around considering the speed at which you fly through the levels nowadays. And I haven't been too fond of heroics - the one type of endgame content that has you going back to a lot of lower level planets - ever since they effectively turned them into just another set of dailies.

Racing across Yavin as a group, killing everything in sight.

Chasing conquest objectives though, I've been looking for ways of combining the planetary rampages with actual "useful" things (instead of just trying to find a spot where I can kill the highest number of mobs in the shortest amount of time, like some of my guildies have been doing). So when Tatooine was a target last week for example, I exterminated a lot of sand people because there is an achievement for that I don't have yet. And this week's Rishi objectives got me to finally take a character through the first part of the Shadow of Revan storyline who had never done it previously. It's been so long since I last did that, it was a veritable trip down memory lane. (Oh snap! There's that jungle wampa that I always aggro by accident because it likes to lie down and I keep mistaking it for a corpse!)

What's even better is when I can find an excuse to do some of the open world stuff for Conquest in a guild group. We've actually done a few rampages as a full ops group, to finish off the evening after an actual operation, and it's been hilarious to charge across the landscape that way. We did it in the PvP instance too, so any Imps that just happened to come our way ended up being chewed up by the mob almost incidentally.

Raiding the Imperial base on Oricon, because Conquest told us to. There weren't many people in the PvP instance, but what few arrivals there were, were... surprised.

The best thing have been the world bosses though. I was very pleased when the introduction of level scaling turned those into proper enemies again, but incentives to actually kill them have long been lacking. (Why does the weekly quest to kill three world bosses give you nothing but a tiny amount of CXP and some credits? Not even a CXP pack? Come on.) However, people bloody love fighting over bosses for Conquest points and it's been great fun.

SWTOR's MMO aspects often go underappreciated (if they aren't getting brushed off as supposedly inferior to other games in the first place), but fighting for world bosses makes for some surprisingly old school fun. I've played games with open tagging as well and do like it for what it is, but in a system where guilds and factions are actively competing with each other, a certain degree of exclusivity makes sense. Sure, that also means that you can get things like griefers, who might try to get your boss to evade and reset so they can steal the tag, but I've only really encountered that a couple of times throughout the years, while experiencing many a happy rush just trying to beat the competition to the kill by "fair" means. During a recent Gree event for example our whole ops group charged into one of the side caves on the Western Ice Shelf and managed to snatch a world boss kill away from a group of Imps that was twice our size but still in the process of assembling and therefore too slow. You bet that was an exhilarating moment!

I only wish they'd include a greater variety of world bosses in the Conquest events. I get that Bioware wants them to fit a theme but there are still so many world bosses that still don't see any action at all (vs. Trapjaw on Tatooine for example coming up as a target what feels like every other week).


Shintar the Revanchist

I had to google how to pronounce that and what it even means, and as my pet tank commented, it makes zero sense as a title... but what's important is that you get it as a reward for killing Revan on hard/veteran mode, which my guild finally did this weekend, oh em gee. This wasn't like the Terror from Beyond either, where we had beaten the fight before, just not at the right level. Temple of Sacrifice and Ravagers have never been in a position where you could outlevel them.

Revan is another one of those bosses with whom I have quite a long history. During the Shadow of Revan expansion his hardmode remained out of our reach because we couldn't even beat the encounter leading up to him, the Revanite Commanders. Then everything got retuned with 4.0 and we one-shot them. We didn't immediately proceed to Revan, but I have posts talking about our guild working on the fight from as far back as June of last year. We kind of worked on him on and off again, with another post from March mentioning that we were back at it, before we once again returned to the Terror from Beyond. Once that fell to our combined might, we continued things with Revan where we had left off.

We actually already came very close to beating him several weeks ago or so, but then we just kept messing up on the core phase again and again. When we finally beat him on Sunday it was a fantastic feeling.

Despite of the frustration caused by repeated wiping I also really came to appreciate the fight in a weird way. To be honest I always thought that the story mode version was a bit dull, and in hindsight I think this is because the fight seems to have been conceived as a hardmode first, and then they just removed half the mechanics for story mode, which is why it feels a bit bland. However, on hardmode the encounter is chock full of inventive and interesting mechanics that constantly push the player without being so punishing that you can't recover from small mistakes if everyone knows what they're doing (until the very end that is, where I think things fall down a bit).

As a whole, the fight is a sort of reverse Soa, where instead of fleeing down towards the ground as the Rakata warlord keeps smashing the floor around you, you are on the offensive against Revan, climbing upwards in the infernal machine he intends to use and slowly dismantling it from the inside. When you think about it that's a really cool concept; the ease of story mode just doesn't really do it justice in my opinion.

In terms of mechanics, the hardmode version introduced a whole bunch of cool things that hadn't been seen in game before, and many of which haven't actually been re-used since (as far as I'm aware).

- Debuff bouncing: Essence Corruption, the debuff that Revan keeps handing out in phase one, is the ultimate punishment for damage dealers, because worse than just doing damage to them it reduces their outgoing damage by twenty percent per stack. What really makes it interesting though is that player abilities can't actually remove it; dispelling it only causes it to jump to the person doing the cleansing as well as any other players in close range. Therefore the optimal tactic is for people with the debuff to run out of the group and then have the healers dispel it. The healers accumulate more and more stacks that way (since they are the ones who don't need to do any damage and don't suffer from the damage reduction), until a puddle appears that allows them to cleanse themselves for good.

This makes the whole thing surprisingly strategic, and as someone who's never been a fan of "dispel spam" I actively came to like this phase despite of finding it very challenging at the beginning. I just haven't encountered anything else like it. Even looking back at my WoW days, the only thing I could think of with something roughly comparable would be the Necrotic Plague in the Lich King encounter, though the "debuff jumping" mechanic was used in a different way there.

- Knockbacks as an intended mechanic: Knocking hapless enemies to their deaths has been a fun part of playing The Old Republic since its beginning. Often the game lets you get away with easily disposing of hostiles that way, though there have also been missions that could bug out if you tried to knock the wrong opponent to their death instead of fighting them the "normal" way. Revan however is the only fight I've seen where people utilising their knockbacks isn't just tolerated but clearly intended, namely as a way to deal with the blades. That does mean that you could theoretically build a group that would find the fight impossible - if your ops consisted of nothing but Vanguards, Sentinels and Scoundrels you'd have a problem I guess - but in practice so many of the advanced classes have knockbacks that it works out okay.

- Destructible environment: As mentioned the fight is as much about disassembling the machine as it is about fighting Revan himself, with the final phase being about destroying the machine core. That's somewhat novel by itself, but I thought the most interesting part of it is that during the first phase, tanks are meant to turn their backs towards the pillars surrounding the platform to avoid getting knocked off, which results in those same pillars breaking down. (That said, our tanks could largely cheese that mechanic by resisting the knockback with abilities such as a Vanguard's Hold The Line.)

- Built-in jumping puzzles: Getting from the first to the second floor is extremely straightforward, as it just involves climbing up a set of stairs with two small gaps in them, but in the heat of the moment you'd be surprised how many people still manage to fall through those gaps to their deaths! Getting from the second to the third floor involves a teleport for everyone on story mode, but on hardmode you need to brave a proper jumping puzzle that has you leaping from one rock to the next. To not be too harsh on people who are not good at that, only one person in the group actually needs to complete it, then the rest can use the teleporter like on story mode. Still, you could argue that putting something like a tightly timed jumping puzzle in the middle of a boss fight is a bad idea, but I thought it was novel at least, and the requirement for only a single person to make it gives that one player a chance to really shine.

- Looking the right way: Finally, on the top floor you have to contend with the most novel mechanic of all: aberrations that will knock you off the platform (and whose knockback cannot be resisted) if you don't look at them (as in: turn your character to face them) at the right time. The only comparable thing I've played in an MMO is probably that mission in Secret World in the parking garage in Tokyo, where you have to keep your character facing a bunch of demonic ghost girls as they will advance towards you and kill you if you look away.

This was something that I thought was both a really cool idea and highly frustrating. As there isn't anything else like it in the game, you basically make it to that floor for the first time, go "What?" and then wipe. And then you have no other way of practising the mechanic than by repeating the first seven minutes of the fight over and over, just to practise on the aberrations for a few more seconds, which is very tiresome and demotivating. Kind of gave me flashbacks to WoW's Teron Gorefiend to be honest, and at least someone coded a little flash game back then to allow people to practise that fight outside of the game!

Ultimately I also didn't like the sheer deadliness of the knockbacks. I vaguely recall hearing a talk with a WoW raid designer (I think?) from a long time ago where he said something along the lines of "killing the players is easy" and that's what this made me think of. It's not hard to make a fight difficult by simply making the players deal with a one-shot mechanic every few seconds (as in "do X or die"). The longer this goes on for, the more people will have a chance to screw up, and that's exactly what creates the difficulty of the last phase. The act of turning your character the right way by itself is not tricky (except that you have to remember to avoid certain abilities that might turn you to face something else) but having to do so over and over again while also moving around and fighting or else die instantly is simply exhausting.

All in all, hardmode Revan is an extremely choreographed fight, pretty much the epitome of what people think of when they describe raiding as a form of synchronised dancing, unlike a fight like Tyth, which has a fairly limited number of straightforward mechanics where the challenge lies in their pattern changing ever so slightly every time. Initially I found this somewhat tedious, but over time I actually came to appreciate it for the fact that no matter how badly you do initially, you will get better with repetition.

This was particularly noticeable for me in the first phase with the dispels, which I initially found extremely challenging, desperately trying to make sure I always hit the right person at the right time and never "wasted" a cleanse, which wasn't helped by our melee dps initially also not being that good at moving out quickly if they got the debuff. However, I did get better at my bit over time, they got better at their bit, and by the time we killed the boss that stage had become almost mindless to me, like riding a bike. It was also very noticeable on the second floor, where initially everything seemed extremely overwhelming, what with weaving your way through the aberrations just right while also accounting for the core's pushes and pulls etc. Yet over time it just became second nature, and I could even spare attention for things such as helping to knock off stray blades or adding a bit of dps whenever I knew that use of a group-wide damage reduction cooldown would temporarily lower healing requirements.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I'm really chuffed with this particular achievement, more so than I've been with any boss kill in a long time. All the re-tuning since 4.0 and 5.0 has changed things up a bit, but at least once upon a time this fight was known as the hardest boss encounter in the game. We still have plenty more bosses to kill, but as I jokingly said to another officer today: After successfully beating this fight, it feels to me as if we can take on anything.


KotFE Chapters 7, 8 & 9 Master Mode

Like my Imperial alts, my master mode KoTFE project has been somewhat challenging to keep up with, but I haven't forgotten about it and am in fact up to the start of chapter ten now.

Chapter seven was fairly uneventful. There were several fights that would have had the potential to be challenging, but none of them actually turned out to be. In fact, the only time I remember dying is when the Exalted sicced his minions on me, and that's because the previous cut scene has you transition straight into combat with a significant number of mobs and I didn't manage to get the situation under control quickly enough to not have them kill me. When I actually had the chance to initiate combat on my own terms it went just fine.

Chapter eight had another walker that was a bit annoying (I'm really starting to dislike walkers of all kinds on my Sage) but the real surprise came in the form of Captain Lazna Delothrea, an unassuming Knight of Zakuul with some weak Skytrooper adds. I did remember her being a bit tricky on veteran mode, but on master she was an absolute killer, pouncing on you from quite a distance, just to follow this up with a stun and vicious stab that would reduce you to about a quarter of your health in one go.

I initially tried to go for my usual quick burn strategy, but since I seemed to be unable to take more than about a third of her health off before she came after me, I decided that I'd probably be better off trying to outlast her in my healing spec. I did a lot of fiddling then: getting Koth's meagre influence level of five up into the twenties at least, and trying to get HK-55 to make himself useful in some manner. Unfortunately I learned that the latter's contribution to the fight is worse than useless: he's immune to damage but also doesn't do any, though his useless shots are still capable of breaking crowd control somehow. I tried kiting around a container on the right, towards the platform at the back, around the structure on the left, but nothing worked as the Captain's ability to close any gaps quickly was just too powerful.

After more than a dozen wipes or so I finally grew sufficiently tired to google for advice and found this one video of someone successfully doing the fight - by going for a quick burn and using various legacy abilities from his heroic moment to chain more stuns than usual. Reminded me a lot of a video that an anonymous commenter linked in response to my post about KotET chapter six, in which I had stated that I couldn't see anyone killing the Rancor in the pit on a melee class. In said video a similar tactic to chain stuns was used to do just that.

The only thing that had me sceptical was that the video maker had been playing an Assassin - a class that is not short on defensive cooldowns, unlike my Sage. Still, I gave it a try... and what do you know, it worked, though it was close. Made me feel rather sheepish for having wasted so much time on all those drawn-out kiting attempts that didn't really go anywhere.

The final Arcann fight of the chapter was comparatively easy, though I decided to record and upload it to YouTube anyway, since the only other video of it I could find didn't show how you can use the power conduits around the area to stun him and take down his absorption shield.

Chapter nine doesn't actually have a master mode of course, but I still wanted to mention it just to repeat my annoyance about how it still has icons for veteran and master mode in the chapter interface that can't be filled. Just make it like the HK bonus chapter already and take them out.


I Miss My Imperial Alts

I considered calling this post "conquest is taking over my life" but decided that would have sounded just a tad over-dramatic. What has been happening though - in a nutshell - is that conquest has been dominating my play time heavily, at the expense of other activities (such as playing alts whose activities wouldn't contribute to my guild's conquest total), and I'm starting to feel a bit restless about it. Not burnt out exactly, but like that really shouldn't be all I'm doing.

Something similar happened when conquests were first released, and I hinted at how weirdly obsessive it made me back in this post from September 2014. And back then we weren't even that successful at conquest, only really making it into the top ten every so often.

Since the new system was released, things have kind of snowballed for my guild. We started with the small yield target, worked our way up to medium yield, and are now regularly going for large yield, or even fighting for first place on a planet. Last week we successfully conquered Ilum, making for our third victory in as many months. I also noticed that success breeds more success, as our placement on the board causes active players to whisper us and ask for guild invites, and then they in turn contribute to increasing our weekly guild total, allowing us to be even more successful.

Last time the "spell" of my conquest focus was broken by the release of the Shadow of Revan expansion, since activities such as levelling through the new content were by their very nature irrelevant to conquest but also sufficiently enthralling that I didn't care. Right now it looks like the next expansion is still several months off however, so I'll have to come to terms with how I want to spend my time in game by myself.

It's hard to nail down just what makes conquest so compelling. Part of it is simply the appeal of "making bars go up" that we MMO gamers are so fond of, however it matters that it's not just about me but about the guild. Knowing that other people care about us achieving our target, I feel that I should contribute as much as I can, especially as an officer. Yet even if we already have achieved the target, I then find myself thinking that I might as well cap another character to reap as many of the per-character rewards as possible (which I then just end up throwing in the bank to never look at them again, but I never claimed to make sense).

The revamped objectives make it "worse" by providing a great source of inspiration if you're unsure about what to do on any given evening. I used to be more focused on the daily CXP bonus activity, but with more than a dozen characters at Command rank 300 that has lost some of its lustre for me. The daily objectives in particular can be immensely alluring, because there's that slight pressure of missing out on the points for the day if you don't do the thing today, and often they are fairly small and quick activities that make me think something along the lines of: "Eh, whatever else I do tonight, I have time to quickly do that daily objective!" - but if there are several of them that interest me, my evening's gone before I've even realised what I'm doing. Since they are legacy-wide, there's also a bit of a fear of "accidentally" triggering one while on an unguilded alt and losing out on the points that way, which also serves to focus my attention on the same set of characters over and over.

It's a peculiar problem to have when you like an activity and there's nothing really wrong with it, but there's still also a part of you that wishes you'd be spending more time on other things.


Podcast Shout-outs

I haven't been very good at linking and giving shout-outs to other content creators more recently. I mean, I have a whole bunch of links up on the sidebar to the right, but I'm not sure how many people even look at that. I was definitely better at bringing up other fan sites and the like in my regular posts in the past. Anyway, since Armagon was recently talking about the subject of MMO podcasts, I thought I'd give him and the general public some recommendations! Note that I'll happily recommend all the podcasts on my sidebar, but I'm not going to talk about all of them here because I already made posts about some of them in the past.

Bad Feeling Podcast

I actually wrote about the Bad Feeling Podcast before and wouldn't usually write about it again, but I do feel the need to mention how much it has changed. The hosts are still the same, with their dirty sense of humour and copious amounts of swearing, but where back in 2014 they were hapless newbies and therefore making podcast episodes about subjects along the lines of "aren't companions neat" or "what are crew skills", things have changed a lot on that front. They haven't exactly become hardcore players (actually, they definitely haven't), however they became official Bioware influencers and realised that they actually live quite close to the studio's offices. This has resulted in them being able to interview devs directly more often than any other SWTOR podcast, and I've got to say those episodes are really, really great. That's not to say that I don't enjoy the regular banter as well, but even if you're not usually that into podcasts, tuning in for the Bad Feeling Podcast's dev interviews is a great way of learning more about what's going on behind the scenes.

Passionately Casual Podcast

I didn't give this podcast a chance for way too long, and now that I think about it I suspect that it's because of the name. There's nothing actually wrong with it, but I have this really vague recollection (it's so vague that I don't have a time stamp for it or even any names associated with it) of being pointed towards a podcast or two that were supposed to be about SWTOR but weren't, which resulted in me feeling very let down at the time, and ever since I've been highly suspicious of anything that doesn't have an explicit SWTOR or at least Star Wars reference in the name. Silly, isn't it?

Anyway, the Passionately Casual Podcast is definitely about SWTOR, though they do have segments where they might mention other games for a bit. What eventually got me to check it out was that Corellian Run Radio shut down in January this year... and in the final episode it was pointed out that the two podcasts were effectively run by the same people and they wanted to focus on just one show, which is really fair enough. So if you used to enjoy CRR, you can get a similar mix of casual chat about what's been happening in game, community discussion and guest contributors from Passionately Casual now.

State of the Old Republic Podcast

Ted from the State of the Old Republic (SOTOR for short) podcast has a special place in my heart because he actually invited me to be a guest on his show last year, plus he likes and retweets my stuff on Twitter a lot. Thanks, Ted!

His show also stands out from other SWTOR podcasts in that it's usually just himself talking (though he does have the occasional episode with a guest, see above) and it's much more scripted. Whether that's your cup of tea or not is a matter of taste I guess... but I do like that it differentiates his show from all the others out there, and that it's pretty dense in terms of providing news and info (as he doesn't have the chance to get side-tracked by random conversation). He also has to put in extra work to come up with things to talk about by himself, which is something I can sympathise with as a blogger. For example he's been running a series of segments about levelling all eight classes in sync and commenting about where their stories intersect or where it's implied that events happen in a particular order, which I've been finding very interesting.

The Council

The Council is the newest podcast on this list, but even that celebrated its first birthday recently, which should tell you how long it's been since I last made a post like this. This show marked the return of Redna, formerly of OotiniCast, who appears to have gotten back into SWTOR fandom after taking a break to get married and have a baby.

The Council has a number of unique features that I really like. So far, all of their episodes were dedicated to very specific subjects, with relatively little random chatter - though this might also be a side effect of the show still being relatively young. I've noticed over time that a lot of podcasts start out this way, but once they've talked about all the most common subjects, it just becomes "whatever's been in the news this week".

Anyway, they also stream their podcast on Twitch and then upload the videos to their YouTube channel, which I hadn't noticed any other podcasts doing before. (Though now that I did a bit of searching, I found that OotiniCast for example also uploads their episodes to YouTube... gotta switch to listening that way!) Anyway, the reason I like this is that while I still focus on the audio, I can occasionally glance over onto my second screen for the video, and being able to tie a face to each voice has made it much easier for me to remember who is who.

They also have this thing with posting polls on social media before every episode, which was what originally drew my attention to the show and inspired my post about Shadow of Revan being overrated when they were having an episode on the subject of expansions. I just like how they tie that into their discussions every time.

Finally, personally I haven't found another podcast where the crew feels so diverse in terms of interests inside the game. I was very surprised when I found out that Alise for example had only joined the game around KotFE's release - you don't hear from (relatively) newer players getting this involved in fandom that often. Or when they discussed the Conquest changes and literally everyone had a completely different opinion on them. I do love how that invites listeners to consider a point of view different from their own, and to think about how updates and changes might impact people with different play styles.


Twin Sunmer Games 2018

Two years ago I wrote about my guild organising a fun little social event which we playfully called the "Twin Sunmer Games". We didn't repeat it last year, but this year people decided to revive it, though by running it at the start of September we were only just able to justify still calling it summer games.

The two officers organising it managed to strike a nice balance between old and new, repeating previously popular activities in new locations while also adding something new. The most important addition was to give the new custom Huttball functionality in the Rishi stronghold a try. The one match we played as a guild was quite fun, though we also ran into what I can only guess was a previously undiscovered bug, namely that a new Huttball would respawn before the old one had actually been removed from the game via scoring or being dropped, which led to up to three balls being carried around at the same time. That certainly turned wanting to focus on the ball carrier into an interesting dilemma...

To tie things together, the older activities that we decided to repeat were also made Rishi-themed. So we also played "Hot Ball" (Hot Potato) with the custom Huttball stand in the Rishi stronghold for example. People were complaining a lot about the ball disappearing without doing anything this time, suggesting that it was bugged, though to me it didn't really seem to be happening more often than usual.

A relay run on Rishi was also planned, but then scrapped because we were running short on time. I've been told that the plans for it have been saved for a later date though.

Sticking with the theme, the flashpoint speed run took place in Battle of Rishi this time. Since I still remembered what a pain it had been in the last event to be stuck in a healer-heavy group, I made sure to relog my Guardian for dps. I also remembered the group with the most conservative approach winning last time, but of course our group leader had other ideas! This time the crazy plan was to skip a load of trash by running through to a checkpoint, dying, and letting the Scoundrel in our group vanish and then revive us once the mobs had reset. To be fair, that would have worked if we hadn't messed it up on the first attempt, which resulted in a wipe. As it was, the whole group dying and having to rerun the whole gauntlet up to the first boss was quite a set-back, though we still managed to finish in second place, only mere seconds behind the winners.

I also made a ten-minute video to summarise the event again, in the same style as last time:

If that makes you want to join in the fun, we do accept applications... though in fairness you should know that we don't organise events like these all the time.


Autumn Road Map Excitement

With how often I've gently mocked Bioware for liking to make announcements about announcements before actually saying anything of substance, and what with them clearly reading my blog and taking everything I say to heart (that's me being sarcastic in case you weren't sure), Keith decided to drop a road map for the next few months on our heads without any kind of advance warning for the second time in a row. What is this madness? There was also a live stream about it for which Dulfy has already provided a summary as usual.

Let's talk about the big bullet points and I'll share my opinions!

Must take more pictures of roads/paths to illustrate road map posts...

Huttball on Vandin

The new Huttball map that was mentioned in the summer road map will be set on Vandin and is in fact already on the PTS. We've already known about this for a few days actually and I was going to make a post about it at some point, but now all this other stuff has come up and there's just too much else to talk about. I expect that I'll still write about the new Huttball at some point, at the latest when the new map actually releases.

Republic vs. Empire Story

The new Republic vs. Empire storyline that they already hinted at apparently won't have to wait until 6.0, but will already start (I'm guessing it's only the start) in 5.10. And at the risk of setting myself up for disappointment: it sounds awesome! Apparently we'll finally return to having distinctively different story arcs for Republic and Empire, and if you sided with the other faction on Iokath that will be taken into consideration as well. The story will be taking place on a new planet whose name they haven't explicitly revealed, though from the hints mentioned in the road map I've heard people say that it's probably Ossus. There will be dailies, world bosses and new friendly NPCs, oh my! Calphy suggested that from the way they talked about a Jedi Master/Imperial Commando accompanying the player through their respective faction's story arc, maybe this could end up being a prelude for 6.0 similar to the way Forged Alliances ended up being a prelude to Shadow of Revan.

Operations & Gods from the Machine Master Mode

Remember when they officially cancelled Gods from the Machine's master mode? Well, apparently it's now coming after all: yes, it will stack on top of the existing "hardmare" mode, and no, they aren't planning on nerfing the existing difficulties.

Now I'm not usually someone to complain about the devs spending time on making X instead of Y, because I think that paying attention to every aspect of the game is a good thing and I like having a variety of things to do. I also always like to remember Ion Hazzikostas' quote about WoW from about two years ago, saying that almost every MMO activity only caters to a minority of the player base.

However, with all that said, I do think that there are ways of using your time and resources badly, and this is one of them. Veteran mode Gods is already so hard that hardly anyone does it; master mode will be a complete non-starter for everyone but an absolutely minuscule number of players. The road map also states that Bioware are planning on developing additional operations content later, which is good, but I honestly wish they'd gone straight for that and left this particular idea on the scrap heap. As it is, I hope the dozen players or so who can beat it will have fun with it; for the rest of us it will simply be a completely irrelevant addition.

Crafted Tier 5

There will be a new tier of gear, but it won't drop from bosses or Galactic Command, but will instead be entirely crafted. Erm..? I don't know what to think of this. I like the idea of crafting gear in general, but I didn't even bother with the last tier of augments for example. With the mats from this likely dropping from Gods master mode, I wouldn't get to acquire any of the mats "organically" anyway, and then it just turns into a question of how much money you're willing to pour into the GTN to increase your item level, which seems boring. I probably won't bother with this one either.

Guild Systems

There are going to be a whole bunch of quality of life changes for guilds, which is definitely going to be interesting to me as someone who is an officer in her guild! What we know so far:

- "Heraldry": My first thought as a former WoW player was: "So, tabards then?" Of course, actual tabards would be silly in SWTOR, which isn't necessarily to say that they won't be included, but I'd expect them to display the chosen guild logo in some other way. How, though? On the guild ship? Non-guildies wouldn't see it there though...

- "Progression system": Again, I immediately thought of WoW's guild levelling. They took that out again soon after introducing it though because it caused all kinds of issues. I hope the Bioware devs have thought this through.

- Guild Inspect: So people can see some info about your guild if they inspect you I guess? Sounds nice but not sure how useful it's actually going to be for people looking to join the guild of someone they encounter on the fleet or in a pug.

- Guild Mail: The ability to mail every single guild member at once sounds amazing at first, but then the thought of receiving said mail on all of my... however many alts I have these days, is also terrifying. Undecided on this one!

- Ability to directly challenge other guilds to PvP matches: This could be nice for PvP guilds I guess? Can't see it getting much use in what's primarily a PvE guild.

- Logging: My first thought was that this would finally show things such as a list of when members joined or left the guild, something that's been long overdue, but what they actually mentioned on the stream was better logging of members' Conquest point contributions, which for me is even better and would go a long way towards making up for the recent changes that made it harder to do so manually.

- Also guild-related Conquest improvements of some sort (no details on that yet), more guild ranks, and the ability to ban a whole legacy from the guild instead of just a character.

Companion Returns

Doc, Nadia and dark side Jaesa confirmed! Plus there might be more if they finish the relevant content in time (unlikely then, but it's still good to know they are working on getting everyone back). I still haven't played through all of the already existing companion returns... really need to get cracking on that!

Overall, I think this is a very promising road map. While the revival of Gods from the Machine master mode and the related new gear tier get a thumbs down from me, everything else sounds great. Can't wait!



Today I uploaded Pugging with Shintar season 2 episode 10, which means that I'm halfway done with season two, hurrah! I've determined that I'll need/want it to run for exactly twenty episodes, since there are ten different operations for me to cover, and with my intended schedule alternating between operations and uprisings, that'll make for a total of twenty videos. With two uprisings per episode I will have completed all of them on story mode after the next episode, so for the remaining four installments meant to feature uprisings I'll switch to pugging randoms on veteran mode. Should be fun!

Unfortunately as a whole, this season hasn't been as much fun for me as the previous one. I've mentioned before that recording the operations pugs has felt more like "work" than anything I've done before, and as I've progressed I've noticed that it's my self-imposed rule of wanting to do them "in order" more than anything else that's causing me issues. I've always said that the best way to have fun pugging is to be flexible and jump into whatever content people are willing to run at any given time. Unfortunately I need specific operations for this series, and I need them at specific times too, since I only really have time to record an ops pug during weekends. It's getting a bit frustrating to be honest!

I've made a note for myself to not just fixate on the featured group finder operation in the future, but to also see what gives Conquest points in any given week, as those ops might be in higher demand as well. I'm hopeful that the next few will be easier to find groups for (as I said in the video, people aren't super fond of running that one operation that has more bosses than any of the others). Of course the biggest challenge will be Gods from the Machine, but at least I won't have to deal with that one until the very end.

What also hasn't helped is that my viewers seem less interested in this second season than they have been in the first. It might seem silly to worry about viewer numbers when I'm far from wanting to make a career out of making videos and am used to low view counts to begin with, but it's still noticeable and a bit disappointing to see less engagement on these newer episodes than there was on the older ones when they came out. I don't know if the episode length is off-putting, or maybe people just aren't as interested in the content? I'm guessing that season one was a bit more "relatable" in so far as most SWTOR players would have had an Esseles pug at some point (for example), so they have a frame of reference while watching someone else run it, but I'm guessing that not as many people have done operations or uprisings, and that might be why they aren't as interested. Anyway, I can only make guesses about that. If you're someone who's been following the series and has an opinion on this, feel free to share in the comments!

Anyway, these are the episodes I released since the last summary post (only four since the ops episodes in particular took some time to get right, as explained above):

S2E7: Tanking All The Adds in Uprisings - This one was a good demonstration of how the endless waves of adds that you get in many uprisings can get unpleasant for a healer (thus the title).

S2E8: Cheerful Wiping in Terror From Beyond - With TFB being my second favourite operation, I was really happy to pug this one, even if there was a slight hiccup in the middle. I also ended up in another guild's partial guild run again, this one led by an unexpectedly friendly and not at all evil Decepticon.

S2E9: Pleasant Uprising Surprises - This was probably the most fun uprising episode so far, with people interested in getting achievements in both of my runs. Even if I didn't need the achievements myself anymore and therefore gained nothing from them, it made for a nice break from the usual routine.

S2E10: Enjoying the Sights in Scum & Villainy - Scum was a bit annoying to find a group for, but I already talked about that in the main post above. The group itself was once again very pleasant.