Is PvP More Balanced Now?

While I've always been better with words than with numbers, I have a soft spot for statistics. I mentioned recently that I put together some stats about warzones twice before: once in 2013 and once in 2015. Both times they seemed to confirm the common refrain that Republic sucks at PvP: my win rate was only 35% the first time around and 38% the second. (Though mind you, I didn't run a comparison on Imp side to verify whether this was really faction-related or if it was just me dragging my team down.)

I was curious to find out whether this had changed after last year's "Summer of PvP" tore down the faction barriers and took measures to improve matchmaking. The short answer is: maybe a little? This time around I finished my 100 recorded matches with a 42% win rate, which is certainly an improvement but still not as good as it should be in my opinion.

I also recorded once again whether it seemed like any given match had been fair or unfair (I used the latter label when it felt like the losing team never really stood a chance, regardless of which side I was on), and about half of all my games (48) felt like they had been seriously unbalanced. (Though again, this is slightly better than it was in both 2013 and 2015, when 53 of my 100 matches had felt like bad match-ups.)

One thing that's worth noting as different this time around is that I didn't just restrict myself to playing three healing characters on Republic side. Since faction shouldn't matter anymore I played characters on both sides (in fact, as it happens two thirds of my games were played on Imperial side this time around) and I also rotated through my entire stable of alts, playing characters of pretty much all classes and specs. I actually would have expected that to depress my win rate a bit as I'm pretty horrible at PvPing e.g. as Gunslinger or Sentinel, but if it did it wasn't enough to bring the numbers down to the level of the previous two experiments.

One thing that does seem to support the idea that class/role matters is that I came closest to reaching win/loss parity on my healers (20 wins vs. 24 losses, or a 45% win rate), and if you only count matches on my Commandos or Mercenaries (my main class), I did in fact win more often than I lost (12 vs. 8). Gunslingers/Snipers technically also won more than they lost (2 vs. 1) but that total is so low anyhow that I simply consider it a fluke. Sentinel/Marauder is certainly closer to what I'd expect from me on that class, racking up only 2 wins vs. 8 losses.

Of the old faction lines there was no evidence anymore, as my Republic characters had an average win rate of 45% vs. only 40% on my Imps.

Another thing that's interesting to look at is the distribution of the numbers among the different types of warzones. I noted in the past that my odds of winning were generally better in the node-capping game modes (Civil War, Novare Coast) and at their worst in Huttball. The former still seems to be true (mostly) as the two game types in which I could actually record more wins than losses were Novare Coast and the Proving Grounds, while Civil War was a perfect 50-50 split. Huttball wasn't as bad this time around though, as my 41% win rate in it was very close to the average.

This time the warzones that caused me the most losses were Yavin Ruins (only won 1 out of 5, but again that's a pretty small total), Voidstar (3 out of 10) and Hypergates (3 out of 9). So this is an area where the faction mingling definitely seems to have helped, as I still remember the pain of playing unranked Huttball as a Republic player back in the day very well. As for Novare Coast and Proving Grounds, I can't help but wonder if me really loving those warzones doesn't play into it a bit, as I would assume that it makes me play a lot better, therefore increasing my team's chances of winning.

Anyway, while win/loss ratio among different warzones has improved, Huttball still has balancing issues as it was the warzone that felt by far the most unfair, with nearly two thirds of matches having felt like the losing team never even stood a chance. I think that may just be the nature of the map though, as any amount of co-ordination just makes such a huge difference. Funnily enough the most "fair" game mode by that measure turned out to be Hypergates, at least during my experiment. Out of 9 matches played, only a single one felt like the outcome had been a foregone conclusion.

Finally, one more thing that I kept track of this time around and that I hadn't paid great attention to previously was the day of the week on which I played. This was interesting as there was a clear trend towards Thursday to Saturday being the best days to play, providing an almost perfectly balanced win-loss ratio, while Monday to Wednesday were the worst, as I had to put up with two losses per win or worse on those days. I'm not sure how to explain this. Theoretically a larger number of players participating in PvP should help with the matchmaking, but from my experience Thursday and Friday night aren't exactly prime time for PvP - then again, I might be wrong about that. Tuesday is also the time of the weekly reset, I wonder if that plays into it somehow?

tl;dr: Yes, your chances of winning as a Republic player seem to be somewhat better now than they used to be, though on average the change is not that drastic. The biggest and most noticeable change has occurred in Huttball, where your odds are much better now, though it remains somewhat unbalanced in general, with only a third of games actually feeling like good match-ups that result in a fair fight.


Random Makeb Love

Telwyn is finally playing through the Makeb story on Imperial side, only six years late... and here I thought I was slow when it took me two months to get to it! Funnily enough, I was reading his post on my second monitor while I was using my primary to play through Imperial Makeb myself... for the second time in recent weeks, in fact.

Looking back at some of my old blog posts, I've had a very on-and-off relationship with Makeb. At first I quite liked it, but then repeating it a couple of times quickly made me feel burnt out. Finding that every single one of my characters was getting funnelled into it as "chapter four" of their class stories felt disingenuous and annoying.

Then after Shadow of Revan came out my attitude towards it softened again, since it wasn't considered a requirement to progress the new storyline but rather just another piece of side content, like the various daily areas. Since then I've often skipped it since there's already enough strictly linear story content that I have to get through to get to the bits I like, but every now and then I like to take a character through it again - fortunately it doesn't matter where they are in terms of personal progression; you can do Makeb at any time.

The release of Ossus also made me oddly nostalgic for Makeb. As I discussed in this post, sometimes you don't know what you've got until it's gone. At the time of its release, Makeb had seemed a bit lacklustre compared to the class stories, but after more than three years of plodding through a one-size-fits-all storyline, I can't help but see it in a very different light. The depth of the world building conveyed through totally different story threads! All those different NPCs you get to interact with that have their own lives instead of everything being about your companions all the time! It suddenly tastes oh so sweet.

And it oddly makes me wish that we could meet some of those characters again one of these days. As it stands, the only story references to Makeb after its release were a brief mention about Isotope-5 powering Imperial ships in Lana's summary of what happened during your five years in carbonite, and of course Doctor Oggurobb joining your Alliance. On Imperial side though there are so many more characters that would be fun to meet again. I'd like to see how Captain Hanthor is doing for example. (And this time give us a flirt option while you're at it!)

I've even come to appreciate the relatively minor players such as Nadrin and Sergeant Bedareux. Actually, the latter made me realise that I don't recall another character anywhere in Star Wars canon that has a French-sounding name - based on the spelling anyway, even if it's then pronounced in a very English way in the English client. I wonder if the German and French voice actors actually pronounced his name closer to what you'd expect? Also, if you do know any other French-sounding characters from Star Wars canon, do let me know please because now I'm oddly curious.


Proving Grounds Tactics

I've been quite focused on PvP over the last couple of days, so I thought I might take this opportunity to finally write that post about tactics in Odessen Proving Grounds that I've been thinking about for a long time. Please note that this isn't a beginner's guide - if you want to know the basics of how this warzone works, consult Xam Xam's guide here.

People like to complain that kills don't matter when it comes to winning the battle for Odessen, but I think that's really only part of the problem - after all, with the exception of Hypergates and Yavin Ruins, most warzones don't directly award points for killing enemy players.

I suspect what confuses or annoys a lot of people about the Proving Grounds map is how fast-paced it is, with the 90-second rounds and constantly changing objectives, and that contrary to many people's instincts, it pays off to spread out instead of group up. Finally, the short duration of each round and constantly resetting objectives mean that it's frequently possible to lose a battle even if you're winning and vice versa (on a small scale) - because defeating that node guardian just as the round ends does nothing to advance your team's score.

Spreading out

There are two reasons why it's beneficial for a team to spread out in the Proving Grounds. The first is simply the randomisation of the objective spawns at the beginning of each new round, which means that you can't know in advance where to stand in order to quickly capture the next upcoming objective. By making sure that your team is spread out all over the map, you're increasing your chances that someone will be near the next node or battle mod to go active and can get on it as soon as possible.

Tied into this is the fact that the way capping works heavily favours defenders. Because the node won't flip as long as even a single defender remains standing inside its boundaries, even a single defender can buy valuable seconds just by staying alive for as long as they can, and if you have multiple defenders it becomes very hard to get rid of them all in time to change node ownership and still get points from it before the round ends.

In practice this means that you want to start the match attacking the initial two control points with a four-four split, with one person in each "team" breaking off to pick up the battle mod on their side as well. It's rather frustrating to see how rarely this actually happens, presumably because people uncertain about what to do think that their best bet is to "stick with the pack", or they might think that the warzone works similar to other base-capping modes such as Civil War and Novare Coast, where you usually have all but one person sticking together at the start.

From then on, after the end of each round, your goal should be to spread out across the map as far as possible. Obviously you can't tell the rest of your team where to go, but you can try to get away from them as much as you can! Personally I favour positioning myself near one of the battle mod spawn points, as they appear a few seconds before the control points become active, which means that you can pick up a mod and potentially still make it to a control point in time too. Also, the fact that they are located halfway between two nodes increases your chances of being near one that's about to become active. If you can't or don't want to stand near a mod spawn point for some reason, my next favourite place is the bottom control point (artifact chamber) as you can easily go from there to mid (cantina) but not the other way round.

Control points or battle mods?

On any PvP map where you have both main and secondary objectives, the question is always how much those secondary objectives are worth pursuing compared to the primary ones (e.g. orbs in Ancient Hypergates vs. pylons/kills). In the Proving Grounds the answer is that they are very much worth it! Two of the four mods are in fact equal in value to a captured control point each (assuming they are quickly put to use, and correctly), namely blue and green. Green obviously allows you to activate and capture an additional control point where the enemy team might not expect it, and blue doubles the point gain on an existing node, meaning that it's also worth as much as a whole additional objective.

While the mod colours rotate too quickly for you to be able to target the one you want specifically, what with lag and so on, you can definitely avoid getting one that you don't want, by making sure to run over it just after the colour you didn't want flashes up. Personally I usually avoid red.

The red (deactivate) battle mod is certainly also powerful, however it's hard to put to good use if the enemy defenders pay any attention at all. Unless you are a Sniper/Gunslinger that is - I don't even know what the ability is called, but they are able to temporarily make themselves immune to both interrupts and stuns at the same time, meaning that if they roll in with a red mod and use that ability, the node is gone and there is nothing you can do about it.

The orange/speed-up mod is not that useful in my opinion as it doesn't increase point gain, just speeds it up so that the control point expires quite a bit before the end of the round. Obviously this is technically advantageous in that you need to spend less time defending that particular node, however at 90 seconds the rounds are already quite short as it is, so that a few seconds saved usually don't give you sufficient time to do something useful elsewhere. I seem to recall that I've only ever seen this mod make the difference between victory and loss once, when both teams were incredibly close to hitting 600 points and the one that managed to speed up their point gain with the mod just managed to get there first.

Victory in death

Another thing that makes Odessen quite unique - as mentioned above - is that your chances of scoring a minor win even in death are much higher than in most other warzones. Sure, sometimes this can happen in other game modes too, such as when the act of killing you distracts someone for long enough that a team mate can capture a turret behind them for example, but the Proving Grounds really embrace the concept because dying between rounds effectively doesn't cost you anything, and you "only" need to stall the enemy for 90 seconds at a time to defend a control point or prevent either side from capturing it. So get ready to embrace death whenever it buys your team some time because every second counts.

Got any "expert" tips of your own to add? Feel free to leave them in the comments!


Less Huttball, Please

When the new Huttball map on Vandin was released in October last year, the PvP queue was tweaked to temporarily give it priority over other maps. This usually happens when a new PvP mode or map is released and makes sense, as people want to see what's new and need every chance to practice the new mechanics.

However, when the queue was supposed to return to normal, it... didn't really. Vandin popped slightly less often, yes, but Huttball was a whole still seemed to come up insanely frequently. People commented on this on the forums, even me! There was some questioning whether it was a bug, but eventually, in March, Eric Musco came right out and clarified that it was not a bug but working as intended because all maps get equal priority, which just leads to Huttball popping more often now as it has three different maps whereas most other (non-arena) game modes only have one (though he did encourage people to give feedback about this).

The thing that immediately struck me about this was that while Eric talked about the whole thing as if it had always been this way, in my own experience this hasn't been the case. I've compiled sets of warzone statistics twice on this blog, once to figure out whether Republic really loses all the time (the answer at the time seemed to be yes) and the other to find out how often arenas were popping compared to regular warzones.

When I collected data for the latter there were already two Huttball maps in the game, the Pit and Quesh, and my numbers clearly showed that in terms of priority, they were not being treated as full game modes. "Generic" Huttball had an equal chance of popping as other types of warzones, and those Huttball pops would then be split half and half between Nar Shaddaa and Quesh. As it should be in my opinion!

These days though, it's all Huttball, all the time. I'm currently collecting some data on my warzone matches again, and out of 45 games played so far, 15 have been Huttball, which means that every third match is a Huttball game, while Civil War, Voidstar, Novare Coast, Ancient Hypergates, arena, Proving Grounds and Yavin Ruins have to split the remaining two slots among the six/seven of them. (I'm actually not sure how arenas are handled now as they are supposed to pop less often if there are enough people in the queue, but I still see them relatively frequently even at max level.)

I like Huttball well enough but that still feels highly unbalanced to me. And it's been going on for nine months!

In my opinion the queue should be an even split between:

  • Arena (rotating between the six different maps)
  • Ancient Hypergates
  • Civil War / Yavin Ruins (I could technically see treating those as separate game modes, but I think they are similar enough to justify lumping them together and letting them alternate)
  • Huttball (rotating between the three different maps)
  • Novare Coast (as it's totally different from Civil War/Yavin other than also featuring three bases)
  • Proving Grounds
  • Voidstar

So in an even six/seven-way split, Huttball would only come up half as much as it does now, if not less. Meaning that it's been popping at double the "normal" frequency for more than half a year! (I forget when exactly the official "new warzone" grace period for Vandin was supposed to have ended.)

I imagine that anyone who really hates Huttball (and it was pretty much the most divisive game mode until Odessen Proving Grounds was released) must surely have taken a break from PvP by now... and that's not a good thing! Huttball is fun and all, but only in moderate doses. Please fix those queues, Bioware.


Guild Level 100!

This weekend Twin Suns Squadron hit level 100. We joked beforehand that this was a big occasion and that we should all have a party to celebrate, but in reality the guild ended up dinging late on Friday night, with me and a relative newbie to the guild being the only people online. At least that meant that I got to push us over the line personally and was able to take a celebratory screenshot.

I was doing KotET chapter 8 on my Sage at the time.

Of course, if you were to ask me what this means for the guild, the answer would be "nothing, really". I'm somewhat reminded of when I hit legacy level 50 in the most anticlimactic manner and had to admit that it didn't really do anything.

In the case of guild levels, the last one that provides additional benefits is level 64, at which point you unlock access to the final set of guild perks. After that, all that happens is that your number continues to go up... which does bring up the question of whether there is an actual cap, and if so, what it is. As far as I'm aware Bioware haven't made a statement about it.

While I find the thought of guild levels going on forever kind of amusing (a guildie joked about 1000 being our next goal), I wonder if there shouldn't be at least a temporary cap if Bioware has any plans to add more perks for higher levels. Otherwise the bigger guilds are just going to continue pulling further ahead of the rest of the pack indefinitely. I inspected a random member of one of the big guilds on the fleet to see where they were at and that guild was almost at level 150 already.

Of course, I'm doubtful whether Bioware is going to invest further into the guild levelling system. They've said that they want to keep adding to it, but realistically I can't say that guild levels and perks have seemed to be a priority since then. They haven't addressed any of the bugs and glaring issues that have been plaguing the system since its release more than six months ago (if Jedipedia ever takes down its page about guild perks, guild leaders everywhere are going to be so screwed). The only thing they fixed was the over-abundance of Grand Chance Cubes dropping from Soa... no surprise there.

That said, even while buggy and unfinished I guess the system is still a nice addition to the game as a way to track a guild's activity levels and progress. Even our tiny Imperial alt guild is up to level 21 by now. And like I said in my first post about guild levels, I still enjoy taking a screenshot every time we ding while I'm online. They are fun little snapshots showing what I've been doing while the guild continues to grow. Here are some more from the last six months:

Hitting level 17 while I was doing GSI dailies on my Guardian during Total Galactic War (I know that because I never do them during any other weeks).

Level 23 while I was doing Ossus heroics on my Scoundrel.

Level 32 while we were running back from a wipe in Gods from the Machine veteran mode.

Level 46 while I was healing a casual Karagga's Palace run on my Sage.

Level 55 after a messy Soa kill which had me (the tank!) finishing dead in lava.

Level 63 while doing progression on Master and Blaster veteran mode.

Level 77 while I was doing dailies on Iokath on my Scoundrel.

Level 78 from another Soa kill, this time with me doing Shadow dps.

Level 80 from another Soa kill? Must have been a week where we were going for first place in Conquest and were using the operations guild perk to its fullest.

Level 83 achieved while I was playing Quesh Huttball on my Sentinel... based on how PvPing on her usually goes, it probably didn't end well.

Level 84 from working on Corruptor Zero on 16-person master mode... lots of people were getting rampage achievements from killing the adds over and over during every attempt.

Level 86 while we were exploring the newly released Dantooine.

Still doing Ossus world bosses at guild level 90...

Hit guild level 91 from killing Dread Master Tyrans on 8-man master mode (this was the first time I'd done this at level by the way).

Level 95 during Dread Council master mode attempts. For some reason Dread Master Brontes' little tentacle spawns give an insane amount of Conquest points each since the Conquest changes.

Hit level 98 as we were pulling Tyrans on 16-man master mode. (Not got that one down yet.)


Lessons Learned from ESO

When I decided to patch up ESO on new year's eve for a laugh, I didn't expect that to turn into six months of subscription time for Zenimax, but that's what happened. That said, I did just allow my subscription to run out again, as my play time decreased significantly over the past two months and I'd really rather focus on other games as my "secondaries" over the summer. (Hellooo, WoW Classic!)

While I'm very much someone who focuses on a single game and is happy to call it home, I do think that it's good to dip your toes into the wider MMO waters at least every now and then, as it can expand your horizons in terms of what's possible but also helps to crystallise just what it is that you love about your "home" MMO.

Here are the main things I learned while playing ESO:

I really like an "explorable" world

Until my husband decided to get in on the game too and "forced" me to make some actual progress with my questing, I was extremely slow to get anything done in ESO as I found it very hard to focus on any given task. I would leave town to get back to where I last stopped questing and immediately be distracted by a gathering node, a fishing pool or a random chest, and before you knew it I had wandered off into a completely different direction. And I loved it!

Some of my favourite ESO memories simply have me thinking back to those days of wandering around aimlessly and marvelling at the beautiful trees in Auridon. Without wanting to change the game into something it isn't, this does make me wish that SWTOR rewarded random exploration like that a bit more too.

Combat matters more to me than I expected

I love old-fashioned hotbar combat and am not a fan of action combat at all, but I don't completely hate the latter, as I've spent years playing Neverwinter and having a pretty good time. However, until ESO I'd never really thought about why that is, or what makes the difference between tolerable and tedious for me when it comes to playing with a limited action set.

I'm still not entirely sure to be honest, but I do know that while I don't completely hate ESO's combat either, I noticed that it tended to get tiresome pretty quickly for me. The best way I could think of describing it is that it feels like all the abilities were conceived to be part of a classic hotbar system and were then simply mashed into an action combat framework without much adjustment.

What I mean by that is that in Neverwinter, as an example of action combat that I like, all the abilities on my limited action bar feel very impactful, usually serve very different purposes, and most of them have cooldowns. It feels good to execute them in the right order, watch the flashy animations, and top things off with a powerful ultimate.

In ESO, a lot of abilities actually feel pretty samey, and except for your ultimate nothing has a cooldown, with your only constraint being resources. In a game with classic hotbar combat, I'd be quite happy to have several abilities that do similar things, because I can have them all on my bar and choose the one that is best for any given situation, plus there are often cooldowns to juggle. In ESO you just find one thing that does a lot of damage and then spam it.

I tried to get a bit of variation in my rotation by going for several damage over time abilities, but the default UI makes it a pain to track them, and ever since the Elsweyr patch the game has stopped showing them to me completely (and yes, before anyone asks, the respective UI option is turned on - buffs and debuffs just flash up for half a second when I cast them and then disappear). It's all just not very fun. And it's surprising how off-putting that can be when seeing the next bit of the story involves slogging your way through a bunch of mobs to the other end of a cave for example.

Just give me classes, I hate skill systems

Again, this is something I'd long felt on a gut level. I never saw the appeal in Rift's much praised soul system for example. But playing ESO really drove the point home. People say that the freedom of picking and choosing your own skills is fun, but to me it's like someone handing me a bunch of cardboard and some markers to give me the "freedom" to build my own board game. That is not the fun part, and since I'm not an expert on game design, the result is unlikely to be particularly balanced or enjoyable to play.

That said, I also don't like looking up guides on how to build my character to be viable, so it's simply a lose-lose proposition from my point of view. I originally hoped that it wasn't going to be an issue in levelling/easier content, but you do start to notice a bad build dragging you down after a while when you watch the speed with which other people around you kill things.

Finally, while ESO technically has classes, they are not very distinct as the vast majority of skills are cross-class, most notably all the weapon skills. So you can be a Sorcerer wielding a staff, or a Templar wielding a staff, or a Warden wielding a staff... you get the idea. Apart from a few signature abilities such as certain pet summons, I generally can't even tell what class the characters around me are because they all appear so samey.

Character identity is also really important to me

I now have two level 50 characters in ESO, a Templar and a Sorcerer. Even though I intentionally made different choices while levelling them, the problem described above has made it difficult for me to feel like they have distinct identities, and in fact I largely lost the enthusiasm to create a third character because it feels pointless making more alts if the experience isn't going to lead to anything that I'm not already getting from my first two characters.

This was made worse by the questing. I've mentioned before that ESO's questing is very much plot-, not character-driven, which means there is some interesting stuff going on, but you're just a blank slate being steered around by more powerful personalities and doing what you're told to advance the plot. (Kind of similar to the way KotFE & KotET feel at times actually...) Moving from one quest giver to the next, you'll be recognised as a hero one moment and get mistaken for a servant the next, depending on what's convenient for the story being told.

Unfortunately that even extends to the factions. I originally thought that the game would surely foster a lot of faction pride, what with the three-way PvP zone being a big focus, but if that's the case then it's clearly limited to that game mode.

The PvE content actually starts out really strong, with each faction having its own dedicated levelling path that introduces you to its different cultures, which is very interesting and did help me form an attachment to my faction at the beginning... but then you're given a quest to do the story of the other two factions too, because why let good content go to waste reasons, and the DLC content doesn't give a damn about any previous loyalties, happily sending you to slaughter soldiers of your own faction without as much as acknowledging that this might not be something a character of your background might want to do.

I actually found that worse than if there had never been any concern for factions at all. If I'm just some random adventurer, who cares, I can be a sellsword for hire by anyone. But to build me up as the Saviour of the Dominion for example, just to then send me off to kill soldiers of that same Dominion with abandon raised my hackles.

Anyway, all that might sound very critical of ESO, and it does explain how the game fell short of my expectations in several ways. However, I wouldn't have paid for a subscription for six months if I hadn't had any fun, and I'm still planning to go back to see more of the story eventually.

The whole experience really drove home for me though that I'm a very picky customer when it comes to MMORPGs, to the point that even a well-made game that does a lot of things right can fail to be "sticky" for me if it doesn't manage to hit certain notes that are important to me on a personal level.


Finishing Up Ossus

Despite of how many posts I've written singing its praises, I don't think I've sufficiently conveyed just how much I freaking love Ossus. It's now been six months since its release and I'm still doing those dailies and killing those world bosses. Part of me is a little disappointed that the achievement for killing Kil'Cik and R8-X8 repeatedly only goes up to 25, because at this point I'm pretty sure that I must have killed both of them about a hundred times.

The fact that both Masterwork Crystals and the gear earned from them will become redundant in a few months hasn't really been a deterrent to me either. One person's grind is another one's fun gameplay, and I've just been enjoying slowly chipping away at my goal of getting all my characters on Ossus into full 258 gear (sans weapons on Imp side, because there's no way I'm pugging the queen on hardmode). Three out of the six recently reached that goal, and the other three shouldn't have much further left to go.

Last night I also finally sat down and tackled those "miscellaneous" bits of content that I initially put off at launch, such as the datacrons and achievements. I'd had multiple offers from guildies to summon me to some of the datacrons previously, but I wanted to see for myself what they were all about.

I started with tracking down the Ossus Cipher, which was only added with the Dantooine patch last month. I actually really liked the way this particular "find the clickies" achievement worked, because while I used a guide to find all the locations, the items weren't always in the exact same spot. For example the guide would show a screenshot of volume four lying on top of a crate inside a tent, but for me there was nothing there. So I roamed around the camp a little, and eventually discovered that for me it was lying behind a whole stack of crates on a raised platform off to the left. I like that this meant that consulting a guide didn't completely rob me of the fun of finding things for myself; it just made it a lot easier to know the general area each volume was going to be placed in.

Next up I visited Don the Exiled Knight and collected his journals. (By the way, I was so chuffed when I found out that this meme actually originated with fellow blogger Intisar of all people.) These I liked a bit less, mostly because the items weren't glowy the way lore objects and other interactables usually are, which made it very hard to tell them apart from the environment at times, even with a guide. That said, I actually enjoyed reading the short journal entries and finding out how Don's journey mirrored the player character's in parts.

Finally, the datacrons. Again, I went straight for a guide, considering that in six months of doing dailies I hadn't come across an obvious route to reach any of them.

The presence datacron with the grappling hook was decent fun, but it bothered me a bit how the point on which to use the grappling hook just appeared in thin air once you had found the tool. If they had made it part of the landscape / more obvious, it would have given players at least a hint in terms of what to look for.

The mastery one was the only one I could picture a player finding naturally if they are the type to investigate every nook and cranny, as it involved you climbing up a narrow shaft from inside a cave, and the point of exit is close enough to the datacron that you can hear it "twinkle" once you make it to the top. That said, I'd never noticed that crevice myself, or even the cave it resides in... in fact, this whole exercise with the achievements and datacrons caused me to find about five or six new caves that I hadn't even known existed - clearly I didn't get adventurous enough in my own exploration of the planet.

Finally, there was the endurance datacron, the most involved one of the lot, about which I had heard much complaining. In fact, I vividly remember one evening when I was busy doing my own thing (probably doing PvP or something) while a guildie was trying to get this datacron, and basically all that came out of him for hours was some swearing every ten to fifteen minutes. He really struggled with some of those jumps.

With that said, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy I personally found the whole thing. It sure is complicated and unintuitive in so far as it's hard to imagine anyone ever coming across it "naturally", but none of the jumps themselves were actually very challenging. The most challenging part was a section in the latter half which has you doing a jumping puzzle in a dark cave that's only illuminated by a small portable lamp you get and some glowing mushrooms that light the way for you. The limited visibility could be extremely disorienting sometimes, but as I said the jumps themselves were super easy as long as you could actually figure out where you were supposed to be going. I think I only fell down once early on during this entire section.

I also liked how the whole thing felt a bit like a story told without words. You actually go back to the same area where the big boss fight of the planetary storyline takes place, which seems strangely magical now that it's devoid of mobs, and after you've puzzled through all of that, you get to enter a personal instance to unlock the datacron's power where you meet a Jedi tree (no, really) called Ood Bnar. It's a Legends thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What's really nice though is that completion also grants you a unique weapon tuning that doesn't bind, and this is repeatable once per character. So if you don't care for using the tunings yourself, you could make some decent money re-doing the datacron run on several characters and selling the rewards for several million credits each.

I'll say it again: The all-around awesomeness of Ossus really makes me extra hopeful and excited for Onslaught. Hopefully the dev team can stay on track.


900 Posts!

I always like to celebrate milestones on this blog, so today I'm making a post to say that this is my 900th blog entry under this domain. Hurrah!

In the past I  used to take this as an opportunity to go through the search terms that led people to the site, but then Google largely stopped showing them to me, so the last two times I talked about things like the most frequently visited articles instead. Since then, apparently Google has decided to give me back the ability to check search terms, so yay me!

One thing that's interesting is that the latest iteration of Google's search analytics doesn't just show me clicks (which are the primary source of interest, as they lead to people actually visiting the site) but also "impressions", which is to say that the blog came up as a search result for someone but wasn't clicked on. Previously there wasn't always a clear differentiation between the two.

The searches that lead to clicks are largely what you'd expect: people actually looking for the blog or coming across one of my rare guide articles, though there were a few unexpected results in there. For example there were a surprising number of people looking for ultimate cartel pack, presumably in search of information about what can be found in one.

It also pleased me to see what an unexpected success the story write-ups that I've been doing since KotFE appear to have been. With the increased focus on choices mattering I guess it's not surprising that people want to be sure they aren't going to end up with a bad result (does lana die if you refuse valkorion, take senya or koth, save vette or torian). Apparently not many other sites have covered this content in great detail. There was also a noteworthy amount of interest in my comparison between SWTOR and KOTOR, and in comparing SWTOR and ESO (the latter not something I would have expected).

The search terms that led to impressions but no clicks are (unsurprisingly) more out there, but that just makes them all the more amusing. Hilariously, the search term with the most impressions in the past nine months was... "Swtorista", hah! I guess that's what I get for writing about several of her events and projects. People are right not to click though, because obviously I'm not her. Though apparently I also got some actual clicks from the phrase "who is swtorista", and a smaller number of people ended up getting pointed towards my blog when they searched for Vulkk.

And now for some of the weirder searches:

the butt hutt - Do Hutts even have butts?

attention all planets of the solar federation - Apparently these are lyrics from the song 2112 by the Canadian band Rush. I'm not sure what that has to do with my blog, but then I realised that Redbeard used this line as title for one of his recent posts. Combined with some other search terms, this seems to indicate to me that Google even pays attention to my blog roll, and immediately notes that certain terms appearing on it might be a small indication that my blog has something to say on the subject too. I didn't expect that.

bee inspired trailers - /raises eyebrow

chiss rule 34 - This is a very roundabout way of saying that you're looking for porn featuring people with blue skin and red eyes. There were some more "rule 34" searches in there, but I can at least get why people might be interested in Master Satele for example, or aliens with extra appendages. But blue people is a rather peculiar fetish in my opinion.

frimmin on the frim fram - 21 impressions for this one! That made me google it myself and I'd never realised that this was "official" probe droid talk instead of just something random my then-boyfriend made up back when we were testing the free-to-play model on the PTS.

history channel battle of hoth - At first I was like "Why would anything like that be aired on the history channel?" but then I remembered that I learned only recently that a lot of TV station names have basically become "legacy names" that have nothing to do with the actual programmes on display anymore. (I myself haven't owned a TV in years, so I wouldn't know.)

how do you pronounce tatooine - This one fascinated me mainly because it implies a situation where someone came across the name of the planet one or more times purely in writing and didn't realise that there was an easy way of hearing people say it out loud. What a strange world we live in.

ion hazzikostas married - The question is: Why do you want to know?

is dulfy ok - Dulfy, former guide writer extraordinaire for several MMOs including SWTOR, has recently gone quiet, to the point that people are worrying about her and googling this! Word on the street seems to be that she's fine though, just busy with real life.

knights of the old republic 4 - I like how they just skipped 3!

methinks the hoth protest a month - That's not how that saying goes...

nobody cares about star wars anymore - While it seems to me that we are starting to feel a bit of franchise fatigue considering the speed with which Disney has been cranking out new content, that particular wording is so wrong it's funny.

reddit saltier than crait - I don't know what this person was expecting to find, but the wording made me smile.

vette jaesa I deserve both - I laughed out loud at this one simply due to the imperious tone. No "can I romance both vette and jaesa". This guy is making demands! Google is not going to help you there, friend.

Now, the next one of thse is going to be a big one, because I'll be hitting 1000 posts! At my current pace I'd expect to reach that around April or May next year. Enough time to think of something bigger to mark the occasion.


Peace and Pacifism on Dantooine

Since the double dose of the Pirate Incursion event came to an end on Tuesday, Dantooine has been in its dedicated peaceful state. And I've got to say: Dantooine during peace time is both unique and adorable.

There is no other planet like it: Except for some Imperial spies hiding in corners and the occasional angry Kath Hound, it's devoid of hostile mobs. You can easily ride across the rolling meadows from one end of the accessible area to the other with nothing ever attacking you .

There are a bunch of achievements to chase that require you to find some small clickies that have a medium to long respawn timer, which is not something that's particularly up my alley, but there are two regular daily quests too: to inject Kath Hounds with a serum and to dig up some relics. They don't reward reputation or the special event currency, just a bit of XP and credits - they are just a cute little thing to do for fun.

I particularly like the one with the Kath Hounds, considering that I've previously professed my love for them. On Republic side, it has a bonus to pet friendly Kath Hounds, which again, is just adorable.

It got me thinking though: Does the inclusion of these quests mean that we've now officially got a way to play a pacifist character from level 1? If this sounds like an odd idea to you, you've got to know that I've always loved stories about people levelling up in unusual ways: whether it's considering any death a permanent failure, running around naked, refusing to use a companion or going from 1 to 70 exclusively via GSF.

In World of Warcraft, a player also made headlines by refusing to join a faction and levelling his character without engaging in any combat, purely by picking flowers and mining ore (both of which grant experience points in WoW). I always figured that this wasn't possible in SWTOR because while there are non-combat activities that grant XP, such as many GSI dailies, they generally don't unlock until the higher levels and you don't gain character XP from gathering or crew skills.

As I noted previously though, the Pirate Incursion event is accessible from level one, and you don't even need a ship to travel there via the activities window. So you could use this method of travel to get to Dantooine when the event is on, and then log back in once it's over and start levelling purely via petting Kath Hounds and digging for relics once a day. (If anything attacked you, you would have to run away of course, if you genuinely wanted to stay true to your pacifist creed.)

Madness? For sure, but also a really intriguing idea to me.


Once Upon a DvL Event

Can you believe that it's been three years since Bioware announced SWTOR's big Dark vs. Light event? Two days ago Dr. SWTOR polled people on Twitter about what they ended up doing with all the characters they had to create for this event, and the poll results seem to indicate that most players either abandoned or outright deleted them. However, I wasn't the only one who chimed up about missing an option to state that I simply treat them as normal alts now.

This made me think that it would be fun to look back in more detail on what happened to my DvL alts. As a reminder, I took two of the eight through their class story at the time, with the other six levelling purely through flashpoints, PvP and GSF, only doing their class story up to the end of Coruscant/Dromund Kaas in order to get their ship and acquire mobility. As a general rule, the ones on Republic side have received more attention since, simply because I spend much more time playing there, but even there not all alts are equally loved.

My DvL "main" back in the day, Shilu the Scoundrel, on whom I did all the story content achievements such as completing Shadow of Revan and KotFE, as well as all the major group content objectives such as hardmode flashpoints and world bosses, has actually ended up becoming one of only five alts that are all caught up on current content and ready to jump into Onslaught when the time comes.

It's funny because I already had two smugglers that I was quite attached to when I created her, but the fact that I knuckled down and got her through KotFE for the DvL achievement (something I consider a bit of a chore at this point) gave her an edge over the other smugglers from then on in terms of being used for story progression, because I didn't have it in me at the time to go through the whole thing on a second smuggler.

That said, even though she's been my "smuggler story main" for several years now, it's interesting that I still struggle to think of her as my primary smuggler. Checking my /played time, both my old Gunslinger and my first Scoundrel (neither of whom have started KotFE) still have considerably more play time. I do think that the slower levelling process pre-4.0 allowed me to get more attached to characters than the current way of flying through the levels.

Also on Republic side, we have Starberry the Guardian, who was the second to last character I created for the event, but who quickly became a bit of a favourite of mine. I just think that she looks really cute, and playing Guardian tank is super fun. Unfortunately I don't get to tank very often, and even when I do, my Vanguard is still better geared and I'm more comfortable playing her, which forever leads to poor Starberry being sidelined. Though hey, at least I progressed her class story up to Tatooine/Alderaan by now. (Only took me three years...)

The other two Republic characters, Zeresa the Commando and Shin-dow the Shadow, aren't quite as well off. Zeresa still hasn't progressed past Coruscant, while Shin-dow is halfway through both Taris and Nar Shaddaa. Mostly they come out on the rare occasion when a guild run is short on dps for some easy piece of group content, or when I fancy a bit of PvP as a damage dealer.

For the latter I actually prefer playing Commando, as it's quite fun! It's weird to look back at my post about Zeresa's creation and see me complaining about Commando survivability, but that was before the big buff they received in 5.0. As it stands, she's the only dps character I have that makes me feel like I can actually make a dent in an enemy's health in PvP. Shadow is fun for the stealth aspect but I don't like Balance Serenity spec much while not really wanting to respec her either.

A good way to highlight the differences in engagement between Republic and Empire side is (Command) level. All four of the above are level 70 and have been Command rank 300 for a while (if with the help of CXP packs earned by other characters, but it's still telling that I prioritised them as recipients), but on Imperial side none of my four old DvL characters have maxed out their GC ranks, and Cheriza the Juggernaut isn't even level 70 yet.

My favourite over there is undoubtedly my Sniper Corfette, because even though I don't like Sniper gameplay, I loved secretly siding with the Republic at the end of her class story, and ever since this whole loyalist/saboteur thing came into focus on Ossus I've been meaning to make some progress with her as she'd be the perfect candidate to become an Imperial saboteur. I haven't actually got her any further than Rishi yet though.

I'm also quite fond of Shinister the Assassin. Deception is the more fun dps spec for Shadow/Assassin in my opinion, so doing some PvP on her is better for that particular fun fix than using Shin-dow. Only the other day I decided to finally play through her class story on Balmorra and I'd forgotten just how fun some of the inquisitor's lines are... "How do you know I'm not a Colicoid?" Now that I think about it, it's been a long time since I last played through the inquisitor story, so maybe I should give her some more love on that front.

Shi-rah the Merc and Cheriza the Jugg are honestly the least loved of the lot. Shi-rah only hit level 70 last week when I took her to Dantooine on a whim, and Cheriza hasn't had anything to do since 2016 other than a handful of PvP matches and that one time I took her along to a casual guild operation on Imp side. Still, I don't see that as a sign of not caring - after all there are only so many hours in the day, even fewer of them are free time, and I have so many alts to play!

The point is that I do not value these alts any less for having been created during the DvL event. That said, I think that the ease and speed of levelling since 4.0 has generally made it harder for me to get attached to any alts created since then. You just don't spend enough time getting a feel for what you'd like their characters to be or how to play them, and there are fewer opportunities for memorable moments to occur that would make you feel more invested in them.


Hearts and Minds

While game update 5.10.3's focus was on the release of Dantooine, it also included a surprising little story addition: a mission called "Hearts and Minds" that takes place after Ossus. It's quite short and purely dialogue-based, but really well done.

I've expressed disappointment in the past when e.g. the Arcann romance consisted of nothing but a few lines of dialogue and a kiss, but in this update it didn't feel like more should have happened, and the conversations seemed highly customised. (Plus we didn't even know that it was coming, which is always good for expectation management.)

As far as I can tell none of the events and choices in Hearts and Minds are of great importance, but a lot of variables are taken into consideration and expressed in some way, such as your faction, whether you're loyal or a saboteur, whether Theron and/or Koth are still around, whether you're in a romance with either of them etc.

I looked up videos of a couple of permutations that I currently expect to never see myself, but avoided others so as not to spoil myself. For example I haven't seen the Theron romance dialogue yet as I'm holding off on doing the mission on my Scoundrel because Koth's "exiled" state is apparently bugged right now. (And I think he exiled himself in her story... to be honest I'm sometimes struggling to keep track of what happened on which character at this point.) I'm also really starting to feel the pressure to level up a saboteur; as I heard that some of their dialogue choices are hilarious!

The basic non-spoiler summary of events is that you have a brief meeting with some of the high-ranking members of your Alliance, and then you visit the fleet to either take part in a brief interview (Republic) or hold a short speech for the troops (Empire).

This seems to mainly serve two purposes: to further cement your stance as a saboteur or loyalist, and to give you a refresher on where you stand with some of your Alliance members. For example my inquisitor had Theron asking for reassurance that she merely wanted to win the war against the Republic, not destroy them all - presumably as a set-up/reminder that he might leave you if you treat his old faction with too much brutality.

Imperials are also faced with Bey'wan Aygo handing in his resignation as he doesn't want to fight the Republic. I've been trying to find out if there's an option to kill him if you don't like him leaving, but I'm guessing not, even though I haven't come across anything conclusive. As it stands he offered my characters to train up a replacement in the form of Commodore Pardax, who then takes his place as the "contact" for any outstanding Alliance alerts you might still have in your log from him, and can be seen standing in the base's hangar next to him. You can tell that she still has a lot to learn because she's only level 21! I hope we don't have to level up our standing with her all over again though.

As I said there are a fair number of conversation options I haven't seen, but among the versions of the quest I did experience I wanted to note a few more things that I liked:

Paxton Rall gets a mention by Aygo as offering useful naval support if you recruited him.

Imperials get to meet up with Darth Krovos of Kuat Drive Yards fame, and if you rescued Admiral Ranken in KotFE chapter 15, she says that "Zasha and her family send her regards". I always wondered if those two were an item, considering that they seemed oddly close for a Sith and an Imperial officer, and that pretty much confirmed it for me.

I tried two different versions of the Imperial loyalist speech, the one to increase the troops' fervour for war, and the one emphasising change and reform. The former seemed to meet with approval from both of my Sithy bystanders, while the latter caused Lord Izar to express some doubt, just for Krovos to talk right over him and say that it was a great speech and that it expressed exactly what was needed.

Finally, a small thing, but I was kind of impressed by the number of Imperial soldiers that were actually lined up for the Imperial speech. I've long been somewhat disappointed by SWTOR's crowd scenes and assumed that they had to be kept small due to the limitations of the engine, but either that has changed or they found a way to work around it this time.

What were your thoughts on this mission?


Points and Pointlessness

Sooner than expected, Tuesday's patch brought the return of the Conquest point change about which I expressed concerns two weeks ago, and which crashed the servers last Tuesday. This time it "only" caused the game to crash whenever you looked at the mission or Conquest tabs, which was still something to behold. (Seriously, I don't think my game had crashed this much since 2012.) A server restart took care of that particular issue quickly enough, but the game remains somewhat laggy during busy times, as it's now trying to assign Conquest points to every little action.

The reports from guildies who had briefly seen the way this worked a week ago, before the change had to be temporarily reverted, were not exaggerated. The Conquest point gains assigned based on normal experience earned are absolutely insane at level 70. Yes, I know it's also double XP week right now, but still. After less than two days of playing, my main was "accidentally" sitting on a personal score of about 80k points, without even trying... with your personal "target" for the week still set at 15k.

And I know this is not going to be a popular opinion, but I find that kind of sad.

More than anything the current situation actually reminds me of what was done to levelling heroics in 4.0: They used to be casual, open world group content, and I loved them. Then Bioware changed them into basically another form of solo daily quests, and all the people who like dailies and who didn't care for the old heroics went: "Yes! Best change ever!"

And because there are apparently a lot of people who like dailies, this was seen as the popular opinion, and the end result was that people who liked dailies now had more of them than before, with two different names (the ones actually called dailies and the ones called heroics), and people who liked casual, open world group content (like me) had no content of that type to play anymore.

Conquest has always been an objective-based endgame system. While you could technically also participate at lower levels, the general idea was quite obviously for it to be something to keep you busy at max level. The different objectives gave you goals to work on, and the changing weekly events provided variety in what kind of goals were available.

I think Galactic Command caused a bit of an identity crisis for Conquest, because the two systems were filling somewhat similar niches, giving you a bar to fill via a variety of activities to earn rewards. At least that was my theory as to why, when Bioware revamped Conquest in 5.8, they narrowed down the objectives a bit and emphasised the collaborative aspect more heavily than previously.

The initial version of the updated system was probably a bit too stingy with objectives, but this was rectified relatively quickly, leaving the new Conquest in a very good place in my opinion. I've been participating in it almost every single week since then, much longer than the original iteration of Conquest ever managed to keep me engaged.

After this week's patch though, Conquest objectives have suddenly and decisively become utterly pointless, because the amount of "passive" points you automatically earn for the simplest of tasks, from killing a group of mobs to completing a single daily quest, is so insanely high that pursuing any particular objective for its comparatively piddly Conquest point reward is pretty much a futile endeavour with no real benefit. From what I've seen, the most efficient way to fill your Conquest point bar now is to simply do dailies/heroics or grind mobs.

It doesn't really matter though, because you'll get points no matter what you do. You'll get enough points to hit your target if you've never even heard of Conquest. I'm pretty sure that there's a significant number of casual players out there who'll be very surprised this week to suddenly get a random quest-like pop-up that suddenly gives them free stuff for nothing in particular (as far as they can tell).

And in my opinion, that sucks. Like with the heroics, a type of gameplay that was one thing has suddenly been turned into something completely different. And since that "something different" is "get free stuff for whatever you were going to do anyway", forums and blogs are full of praise for this change. But all I'm seeing when I read "I love the new Conquest" is: "I didn't care for Conquest before, so thanks for turning it into something different now that gives me free stuff for doing my dailies".

Meanwhile my own gameplay experience is diminished, because Conquest goals feel like a thing of the past now, as my Conquest bar just fills itself in parallel to my CXP bar, with no notable difference between the two other than different rewards when the bar is full.

Make no mistake: I'm not saying that Conquest needed to be hard, before anyone accuses me of some kind of elitism. In fact I just praised the Pirate Incursion event for its variety of new and rewarding objectives only a week ago. I'm saying it should have remained something that requires deliberation and conscious decision-making about which activities to do or not do. We already had a system that rewarded you for playing any way you like, and I don't see why we needed another that works more or less the same way.

I will keep participating in Conquest of course, because there literally isn't a way not to anymore, unless all you do is roleplay on the fleet. But mindlessly showering me with rewards is not the same as actually giving me something interesting to do.


Alderaan Places

I join an Alderaan Civil War in progress on my Mercenary alt. I don't know why she's the one who ends up having all these adventures as of late; it's not as if I play her particularly often. Just weird luck, I guess.

Anyway, the match has already started, but hasn't been going for long yet, as only one turret has been capped and both scores are still high. I run towards mid the Command Center (!) which is usually where most of the action is and where I can be of most use as a healer.

While we fight, the second side turret gets captured - by the same team, and I notice for the first time that said team is not mine. Not a good start, but at least we should be able to get mid with those odds and then we can take it from there, right?

Nope. We fight, I hit every cooldown I have, but eventually I go down while being nuked by four different opponents.

Seeing that everyone else around me was also already dead or dying and that mid is lost, I head for snow the Generator (?), where I can see some of my team members fighting and it looks like we might stand a better chance of winning. However, I've barely jumped off the landing platform when out of nowhere I have three enemies on me again, and of course all my defensives are still on cooldown. Why are they even here? I'm nowhere near an objective! I die much more quickly this time while the enemy team captures their third turret and the helpful announcer voice calls out that "an enemy is unbeatable". It's gonna be one of those games, isn't it?

Since I'm not interested in throwing myself into the maw of the exact same enemy gang a third time, I try mid again, where the crowd appears to have thinned out a bit. I support the lone Juggernaught there and come agonisingly close to capturing the turret not once, but twice, but enemy reinforcements arrive just in time to prevent it and kill me yet again. At least someone on my team manages to capture grass the Crash Site (?) in the meantime.

I return to mid once more, because after the carnage I was just subjected to it suddenly seems suspiciously empty... but another attempt at the turret gets interrupted by some pebbles coming at me from behind a pillar, and when I see what I've come to think of as "the kill squad" coming around a corner again, I don't think twice and make a run for it towards snow - which my team just managed to capture.

So now we own two turrets... but we're way behind, with our ship on less than 200 health while the enemy's still has more than 500 points left. "Too late, it's all over," a dejected team mate announces in ops chat. "We need three to win and that won't happen." Another agrees, and to be honest so do I... so I decide to attempt to regain at least a bit of my dignity by standing guard at snow.

This time I'm not alone though, and soon several enemies come over from mid to skirmish. They aren't quite so hot when it's not three or four vs. one though. With four of us vs. four of them we manage to at least hold our ground.

"Your ship is nearly lost. Turn the tide, Shadow Squad! Take back the artillery!" the second announcer chimes in as our ship ticks down to less than one hundred health points, when someone... captures... mid?

I take a moment to type "lol" into chat. I don't really dare to hope, but just having made that comeback, even if only briefly, feels worthwhile on its own. I continue to run in circles and heal people... but now I can't take my eyes off the score indicator. The enemy ship's health is ticking down quickly with three turrets firing at it, and it's already almost down to 200. If we can only hold that third turret for another minute, then we'd be back to winning with two!

Eventually I notice the attackers starting to peel off to run towards mid, and I follow to continue the fight there. Ultimately only one of our defenders remains at snow, and she eventually gets killed, losing the node and asking in chat why everybody abandoned her. But by that point the enemy ship is on less than 40 points while ours still has more than 80. Thirty seconds later the warzone is ours.

"That was pretty awesome!" I type in chat.
"Very surprised," concedes the Generator's last defender, who was also the person who'd declared the match a certain loss a few minutes earlier.
"That's a lesson for ya, never give up!" adds the Juggernaut with whom I was fighting at mid earlier, adding a happy smiley face for emphasis.
"Yee-haw us," agrees the second person who had expressed doubt in chat earlier.

I know I've said it before, but this is why you shouldn't quit just because things look bad for your team: If you leave as soon as it looks like a loss, you'll never get to experience those awesome moments when your team unexpectedly manages to turn things around.


Dailies on Dantooine

So, we have a new daily area on Dantooine! How is it?

The daily lovers in my guild seem to adore it, based on the fact that some of them have literally done it several dozen times over the last couple of days. Me, as someone who's not quite so fond of dailies but doesn't mind doing them on special occasions or with a specific goal in mind... I think it's pretty solid, though I don't like it as much as Ossus.

SWTOR's version of Dantooine is certainly very pretty and also quite open, making it easy to get around. I was surprised to note that the mobs feel a bit tougher than usual, to the point where it actually feels worthwhile to use things like crowd control, interrupts and cooldowns on some pulls, which I like as it makes the combat more engaging. I already mentioned that it's very rewarding in terms of Conquest, and the reputation vendor has some pretty good stuff for sale, including a lot of decos. Finally, you can tell that Bioware really tried to make the quests a bit more interesting - there isn't a single one that asks you to just kill x mobs.

Despite of all this and having done the full set of missions on both Republic and Imperial side several times now, I struggle a bit to achieve good flow. While I actually love the vehicle quests for example (the turret defense mission on Republic side is similar to the one on Iokath, which I also love, and its mouse droid counterpart on Imperial side is short and cute), others are a bit... annoying.

For example quest credit in groups is once again somewhat hit and miss. Laying mines on Empire side is shared (but apparently only if you stand right on top of each other), but revealing them on Republic side is not. Tagging Nova Blade ships and speeders as Imperials gives shared credit, while destroying them as Republic does not (though at least you can both target the same camp without having to wait for it to reset or anything like that).

On Republic side the mine quest has a bonus mission to kill Imps, and for some reason half the Imperial mobs in the area don't count towards it. In general the mine quest seems to have way too few spawn points for both factions, which can turn it into a real drag.

I'm also not super fond of the way they decided to split the meta quests this time around. I really liked the way Ossus makes it a valid option to do everything in one day or to split it over two days. On Dantooine you must do two days of dailies to complete the weekly quest, and while you could technically leave out one or two quests by doing five and five or six and four, you'd then miss out on the meta daily once, as it requires you to do all six missions.

Finally, I'm not sure how I feel about the heroics. I generally love heroics, and right now they have some funny stuff going on which I'm not sure is intended, such as that you can rush to the end of the Hugo one and click the door in combat to instantly teleport your whole group inside, or that a stealther can get past all the mobs in the power station, use the elevator and cause all the mobs to despawn. But I appreciate that not everyone is a fan of the format, so requiring the completion of five for the weekly feels a bit excessive, as it means two days of normal dailies and two days of heroics.

There are a few more positives though: First off, I like the way they incorporated a little story quest for characters who've done Ossus. If you haven't, the terminal will only play a short snippet of a news report about Dantooine (which could have been a bit longer I'll admit) but otherwise you get General Daeruun or Darth Malgus cutting in and telling you why they think Dantooine is important right now. I don't think we've ever had a recurring event incorporated into the main storyline like that, and I think it's neat. (Though why it causes one daily mission to then have two extra steps remains confusing to me.)

Also, and I'm surprised that I haven't seen more people talking about this, but Dantooine is actually SWTOR's first open world area that scales you upwards. The technology to do so (Bolster) has been in game since launch, but it was initially only used in PvP and then in instanced PvE content. Until now, planets only ever scaled you down, not up.

I decided to take a level 20 alt on Satele Shan straight to Dantooine and it was really a surprisingly smooth experience. The lack of defensive cooldowns and escape moves made me feel a bit squishy, but dps was fine, thanks to Bolster taking into account the number of abilities you have available, and additionally buffing your damage if you have fewer moves.

In fact, even though the event was officially advertised for characters of level 20 or higher, the solo content tab in the activities window apparently makes it available from level one. A guildie of mine used this option at level two (when you have what, two abilities? Three?) and was bolstered so hard that when he jumped into the turret daily first thing after arriving, his turret managed to one-shot all the gold mobs. Again, not sure if that was intended, but I guess I don't see the harm. I wouldn't expect new players to accidentally run into that option at level one and get confused.

Mind you, just because Bolster works that doesn't necessarily mean the players will accept it. I was actually kind of amused when I joined a group for the heroics on my level 20 and was instantly removed again after joining. I did ask why that was and was told that I was missing too many abilities in my rotation at level 20. I didn't waste any time arguing and the next group I asked took me along happily enough, but it was still interesting.

Also, it is worth noting that while dps isn't an issue, the lack of survival cooldowns at low level is definitely painful in the heroics. Even while trying to take care to always run out of red circles and the like, I still died enough times (mostly from things like random aggro moves and dots) that after we had finished the third heroic (which coincided with my last death) I had a two minute cooldown on being revived and just returned to base. So I guess I should add that while I think it's fine to do/join the heroics at low level, you should be realistic about what you're in for. When I helped my guildie's level four through the heroics later, he didn't die once as I knew that if he got aggro he would need quick heals and made sure to provide them.

We'll see whether another week of this event and then seeing the different missions during peace time will change my first impression.