Swtorista Does It Again

A bit over a year ago I wrote about how Swtorista celebrated hitting 20k subscribers on her YouTube channel by holding a big dance party on Tatooine. Yesterday she hosted another event to celebrate the milestone of 50k subscribers, and it was great fun!

I noted that last time the biggest challenge was the fact that the game kept spinning up new instances of Tatooine really quickly and it was impossible to get everyone into the same one: "I guess Bioware wants us to stick to the fleet, which is intended to be a social space and supports much bigger numbers." It seems that Swtorista had similar thoughts, as the event took place on the Republic fleet this time.

Another thing I made a note of last time was that I was a little confused about what was going on based on following only what was being said in text chat, so I joined the voice chat on Discord this time - and it was the best thing! I've been a member of the SWTOR Discord for a few months now and it's a useful enough resource for a variety of things, but I pretty much never use Discord for voice chat so I had no idea it was so full of clowns! And I mean that in the best possible way; people's comments made me laugh so much. I made a little highlights video to capture the gist of the event, which you can watch on my YouTube channel if you like (about ten minutes long).

The emote of the day was /sweep, which makes your character get out a broom and start sweeping, something that seemed very appropriate to do on the fleet considering I've previously commented that all those animal mounts that people use nowadays are bound to be making a mess of the place.

Kid Lee, another SWTOR community contributor, streamed the whole thing and after the main event he and Swtorista hosted some brief interviews with a number of content creators. One of them was me! You can see a recording of it here; my bit starts here. I was unusually tongue-tied and couldn't think of much to say - this is why I prefer writing over speaking, though I think part of it was also that I wasn't sure just how short this "short interview" was supposed to be. I was the first person to be grabbed and terrified of going on for too long, so I kept everything I said to really basic things, hah! Some of the later interviewees went into slightly more elaborate discussions so I guess I could have said a bit more too but oh well. It was really sweet of Swtorista to make the celebration about highlighting other creators instead of bragging about her own achievements. (Though I think at this point some bragging would be totally deserved - just how many websites, videos and podcasts has she contributed to by now?!)

Once again there was even more to the celebration than just that event though - again there was a trivia contest which was a bit late for my time zone, as well as some giveaways on Twitter, asking for people to draw fan art of Swtorista or to dress up like her during the event. I actually decided to give the latter a shot as I quite like the armour set she usually wears, plus there is an easy to craft lookalike available. Unfortunately I soon realised that my Gunslinger on Star Forge wasn't anywhere near high enough in Armormech to do the job, so I just bought some pieces off the GTN. They weren't cheap but not terribly expensive either. My character only had about a million credits on her but managed to afford the full set without going broke. If anyone was smart enough to make a point of selling "Swtorista costumes" just before the event I reckon they could have made a killing!

As for the fan art people submitted on Twitter, my favourite of the ones I saw was this one by Commandeur Koshiran who drew Swtorista as Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, which I thought was pretty brilliant.

May she lead us to many more fun events!


The Ossus Circuit

It's been more than three months since the release of 5.10, and I'm still doing Ossus dailies with gusto. It's actually been somewhat surprising to me just how much enthusiasm I've been able to maintain for them, considering that I would never describe myself as a lover of daily quests, but whenever I'm not raiding, the two things I'm usually doing whenever I'm logged in right now is either PvP or trundling around on Ossus.

Where even the turrets seem happy...

I keep thinking that there are other things I want to do, such as finally getting the last two classes I'm missing through KotET, but as Wilhelm often says, there can be a difference between what we want on an intellectual level and what we actually feel like doing once we get down to business. I really like the thought of finally being able to say that I've completed the current storylines on one character of each class, but apparently my more primal urge is just to whack things whenever I log in. Oh well.

I'm not quite as zealous about getting the quests done on every character every week as I was in the beginning (doing the same couple of world bosses over and over and over again was bound to get old after all) but I'm kind of surprised by how much I still enjoy the content anyway. I think a part of it is that I'm still playing ESO, but only really for the story (I've tried dungeons and PvP but haven't really found them all that engaging), and I've observed previously that a balanced MMO diet for me seems to consist of about equal parts story and character progression.

For a long time SWTOR had the story thing down pat, while games like Neverwinter added a bit of supplementary character progression, but with ESO's quests filling my story quota at the moment (while failing miserably at providing me with a feeling of progression), SWTOR has to cover different ground, and apparently grinding Masterwork Data Crystals fits the bill. I'm not even sure why, because I don't really need the gear for anything, not to mention that I expect that we'll see a gear reset relatively soon, but I guess it's just a relaxed sort of fun.

I feel that I've got doing the dailies in particular down to a proper art form by now. By splitting the weekly mission in two chunks of five quests instead of doing all ten at once, you can pick and choose your favourites and just do them two days in a row.

On Republic side, I start in the Ossus Canyons by planting sensors and collapsing tunnels. I avoided the "Wasteland Terrors" for a while, because while it is technically the fastest quest to complete, this only applies if you're not competing for the spawns, and most of the time whenever I checked they were camped to hell and back. So I started doing the quest to scan the landmarks instead, even if that also required a quick detour to the Jedi Temple. However, more recently I've often found that the bugs were actually up when I rode past them, and then I'd kick myself for not having picked up the mission to kill them, so now I usually take it anyway and only resort to scanning things if there is a tiresome amount of competition. Either way that's three quests ticked off, at which point I quick travel to the farms to put out fires and erect some turrets, and that's that.

On Imperial side, I start at the farms, with the two counters to the missions mentioned above (sabotaging equipment and destroying turrets) and also pick up the one to scan the area. Then I quick travel to the canyons to pick up the two quests there, just to immediately proceed to the Dead Forest. There I do the two quests I just picked up, to plant listening devices and reprogram excavator droids, and also finish the scanning daily. Boom, done even more quickly!

While I'm doing these quests, I keep an eye on general chat and immediately whisper anyone building a group if they have a spot for whatever role I'm playing. If the group is still in the process of filling up, it's usually done by the time I've completed my quests. With two days of looking out for world boss groups per character the odds of finding one are pretty good, though I've set myself the rule to not fret if I don't find one in a particular week. Sitting around in the base just to wait for a world boss group is not worth it in my opinion.

The world boss groups themselves have changed less than I would have expected. The droid is less of a death zerg these days, with most groups having figured out the trick with tanking him in the corner, however that also means that people have a lot less patience with tanks who don't get it right. I was in one group which had been taking way too long to fill up, when someone offered to tank, with the caveat that they were not at all experienced... yet this did not prevent the ops leader from going absolutely mental when things went wrong and there were some deaths, spewing abuse in ops chat in all caps over and over again. Almost makes me miss the death zergs; it seems to me that people were a bit more zen about dying then.

The bug groups were funny for a while in that even after Bioware had clarified what caused him to bug out sometimes, there were still plenty of arguments going on. Never mind appealing to the authority of the official dev statement, I even saw one guy scoff: "What do the devs know!" Because clearly his superstition about having to tank the boss in the middle of the area had so much more ground to stand on...

However, this too, seems to slowly be calming down as I believe Bioware has finally fixed the bug. Then again, they seem to have introduced yet another new one as the other day I killed both bosses and appeared to get credit, but then the weekly mission didn't actually complete, and instead the note "1/1" just appeared in the mission text. What in the world...

Anyway, my point is that Ossus continues to provide plenty of entertainment to me. I realised that I've really been missing that feeling of having a new area that is "the place to be" for a while. As I mentioned in my retrospective on daily quests, the last time a planet made me feel that way was probably Yavin after the release of Shadow of Revan. Neither Ziost nor Iokath had quite the same appeal. Zakuul never gave players much of a reason to hang out there either, and Odessen was more trying to compete with the fleet than to be a place where you actually did things. I may want old content to maintain some semblance of relevance, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy it when new additions get you sufficiently excited to overshadow everything else at least for a while.


Talk To Me

Pretty much ever since I first started paying attention to things like that, players have accused Bioware of not communicating well when it comes to SWTOR. Personally I've never been able to relate to this complaint because my needs in terms of information about the game are extremely simple and can be summed up as follows:

1) Is there some sort of technical issue (server downtime, mechanical game changes etc.) that I should know about? Please make it easy to access that information.

2) What's coming up in terms of new content? Tell me just enough to get me excited but not so much that it'll spoil all the fun.

Sure, I also enjoy a good developer interview now and then to get a better understanding of how and why they do the things they do, but that's very much a bonus. And by those standards, I've found Bioware's efforts perfectly adequate. They tend to be on the stingy end when it comes to releasing information about upcoming content, but I see that as part of an intentional strategy that values surprising the players with big plot twists. Sure, sometimes it would be nice to be given a bit more information a bit sooner, but on the whole I appreciate their stance. To be honest, I bet that it's sometimes pretty hard for them to keep mum about all the exciting things they are working on while players complain about nothing happening! And I certainly prefer this approach to its opposite - I still remember my utter horror at Blizzard posting the in-game story cinematics for Warlords of Draenor on their own front page two months before the expansion's release (and no, adding "spoiler warning" to something like that isn't really good enough).

That said, it's been very noticeable that the SWTOR team has been trying to step it up recently. They've posted some articles on the front page that are meant to give us insight into what's going on behind the scenes, such as a look behind the scenes of Ossus with Charles Boyd and an explanation of two technical improvements that are meant to come with the next patch.

The dev tracker has also been abuzz with activity, as more devs have been daring to show their faces on the forums, and a new Community Co-ordinator called Daniel has made an appearance. I have to admit that my cynical side immediately went: "Is Musco leaving?!" I certainly hope not, but just the thought of more than one person being paid to post on the forums more regularly is a bit mind-blowing to me at this point.

Mind you, in some ways all of this is of a limited usefulness to me as I can't really keep up with all the things they say anyway... but then friends and fan sites usually pick up the most important stuff to boost the signal, which means that sooner or later I do hear about it too. The two articles linked above for example were quickly making the rounds on Twitter, and the latter in particular actually got me quite excited about the patch in ways that seem way out of proportion for a small technical update. Then again, that's what the game needs right now: some more positive buzz, and this new communications initiative has already had a noticeable effect in my opinion. So even if it wasn't something that important to me personally: two thumbs up to Bioware for trying to do better.


SWTOR's F2P Seven Years In

I still remember when it was first announced that SWTOR was going to convert from its subscription model to a free-to-play game: I was devastated, viewing it as an admission of failure and fearing for the game's future. However, the free-to-play conversion came and went, I stuck with the game anyway and quickly found that it wasn't actually all that bad. Yes, the cash shop filled with silly hats did happen, but for the most part that's been easy enough to ignore and my overall enjoyment of the game hasn't really diminished as a result of the business model change. I just stayed subscribed and nothing much changed.

Due to spending most of my time in operations, I don't know many other players who don't subscribe either. We've had people dropping to preferred status occasionally, but as you can't participate in ops without being subscribed these days, this doesn't tend to last (either they re-subscribe or fade away). Running into a completely free player in the wild is always a slightly bewildering experience because nobody really knows how free accounts work and what sorts of restrictions they are subject to. I also remember grouping with a free player for the heroics on Korriban once and having trouble even communicating with them because of their inability to chat in various channels. Still, my point is that to a subscriber SWTOR's free-to-play model is pretty much a complete non-issue.

If you read certain forums or blogs on the other hand, you'd think that it was actually the game's defining feature. People who've never even tried it will go on and on about how terrible it is to play for free and "lol hotbars", purely based on something they read somewhere once. And others who've never played the game either pick up on this and then in turn spread the word about the supposed evils of SWTOR's business model.

This always makes me somewhat defensive when the subject of the free-to-play model comes up, because while I don't think that all the restrictions are good, people are rarely interested in having an actual discussion on the pros and cons of the system and just want to engage in some good old EA bashing. Which in turn is a completely alien point of view to me as someone who's been playing the game for over seven years now and has always felt that she's getting good value for money out of it.

The end result seems to be that the people who enjoy talking about SWTOR's business model the most are those who don't actually play it (anymore), while those who are the most passionate about the game simply subscribe and play, largely oblivious to any potential restrictions that non-subscribers might face. Like I mentioned in one of the posts I linked above, the people actually playing for free regularly - who would be in the best position to cast judgement on F2P restrictions - tend to be enigmatically silent for the most part.

I've occasionally toyed with the idea of starting a new free-to-play account to do some research on the subject and clear up some misconceptions, but I've seen other people try and fail to do the same, and I'm also honest enough with myself to admit that I'm already unable to keep up with all the existing projects that I've been trying to juggle over the course of the past year and that I hardly need to add to their number at this point.

So I was highly pleased to see that Swtorista, one of the most passionate and knowledgeable voices in the fan community at the moment, basically did the whole thing for me and made a very detailed video about it:

The title is a bit clickbaity, sounding like it could potentially be one of those angry video gamer rants with which YouTube seems to be inundated these days, but her tone is actually as cheerful and entertaining as always. It's most certainly not a rant, but instead a detailed exploration of all the different restrictions that free players face, with Swtorista always adding her own opinion on whether she thinks a particular limitation is useful and serves a purpose or is rather silly. The video is over 40 minutes long but I found that time flew right by while watching it and I was entertained throughout.

I'll also openly admit that while my overall "how much do you know about free-to-play" scorecard was pretty good, there were some items on that list that were completely new to me, such as that completely free players can't place bound pieces of armour in their bank. WTF. In general, the video reinforced my impression that when F2P was first introduced, they must have had a brainstorming session at Bioware to talk about every possible gameplay feature that they could restrict in some arbitrary way without completely crippling the player... and then decided to actually implement the lot of them.

I may be a subscriber and perfectly happy with free players having some serious restrictions, but some of that stuff is so random, it does kind of make you shake your head. (My favourite quote from the video was: "If Billybob wants to play 40 space missions a week for free, just let him.") For example I'd happily see stuff like the restricted number of action bars go the way of the dodo just so that people can stop bringing it up as some kind of catch-all argument for why SWTOR's business model sucks. Sure, those who just love to complain will simply latch on to something else instead, but I'd still be happy to be able to reply that no, that quick bar restriction is not a thing anymore.

Then again, some of the most upvoted comments on the video sadly admit that they specifically subscribed because of some of those silly restrictions, with the limited amount of action bars being one that got called out in specific. That doesn't really make a great business case for Bioware to ease up on the restrictions for free accounts. But I guess we can always hope.


One Tamriel vs. A Galaxy Far, Far Away - Thoughts on Level Sync

I've come to the realisation that I hold two rather contradictory opinions on the subject of levels.

One is that I absolutely love a meaningful levelling system, where what level you are makes a noticeable difference to the way you play and you genuinely feel your character increasing in power every time you level up. The thing that really drove this home for me was playing on a private World of Warcraft server that emulated the Vanilla version of the game. It made a noticeable difference there whether you fought a mob that was the same level as you, one that was lower, or one that was higher, and a single level could be the difference between failure and success. It made me realise just how watered down the levelling systems in many modern MMOs have become in comparison, which gives me one more reason to look forward to the release of Classic WoW.

On the other hand... I also love level sync, but for a completely different reason, namely that of immersion. Feeling more powerful every time I level up is great, but going back to the starter zone at max level is another matter. Yes, it makes sense for my character to have become more powerful, but not to the point where enemies that previously threatened me should fall over dead the moment I merely look at them funny. It's always made me feel awkward and out of place when returning to lower-level zones. (I talked about this a bit when I first started on the Loremaster achievement in WoW back in 2010.) Considering that SWTOR is a very immersion-driven game, I was super hyped when Bioware first announced that they were going to add level scaling with KotFE. Seriously, I can even remember where I was when I first read the announcement (I was in a shopping centre during my lunch break at work) and how much it excited me.

Soloing what was previously meant to be group content can be entertaining... but also kind of awkward.

The funny thing is that for the longest time I didn't even realise that these two things were at odds with each other. What finally did cause me to put two and two together was Elder Scrolls Online, which I'm still playing on the side right now. ESO also had a traditional levelling system at launch, but replaced this with "One Tamriel" in late 2016. One Tamriel introduced open world level scaling that works both upwards and downwards, so you can basically walk out of the starter zone and go wherever you want, to do things in any order you like.

I do have to say that this has been implemented in an extremely polished way. You really can go wherever you want right away, and a lower level friend can join the fun at any time without feeling like they are dragging the group down. The existence of such an expertly crafted level scaling system makes atrocities like Neverwinter's scaling look even worse than I already thought they were (though at least Cryptic is planning to address that in the next module).

However, it also made me realise that at least for me, there is such a thing as making level scaling too good. I've sometimes grumbled about how SWTOR's level sync makes you too powerful too quickly if you over-level content, but ESO showed me what a possible alternative to that looks like, and it actually has its downsides too.

Specifically, levelling in ESO feels incredibly boring and pointless to me. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that I'm not enjoying the game overall; I have absolutely been having a good time doing quests and other things. However, the act of increasing my character level by itself has been an exercise in tedium and futility - I pretty much end up having the most fun whenever I manage to ignore my character level entirely while playing. If I end up glancing up at that bar in the top left corner too many times, it just gets me down.

It was all right for the first couple of levels, because I actually wanted to earn some skill points to fill my action bar - however, with the game limiting you to five abilities at a time (ten later on, once you unlock the option to swap weapons in combat) and skill points also being awarded from other sources such as completing quests and doing dungeons, I found myself quickly running out of things I actually wanted to spend them on. I've actually rolled up a second character by now, and both of them routinely run around with a dozen unspent skill points or more because I just don't feel any particular urge to spend them on anything. It's all horizontal progression anyway: Most of my early skill point allocations have been desperate attempts to find some combination of abilities that I actually enjoyed using - and once I did, there was no real incentive to unlock any more.

So gaining new abilities doesn't make you feel more powerful, and your character level in itself doesn't really do anything either. (I'm told that the scaling does eventually stop once you get to a certain champion rank, which seems to be supported by the high-level players I occasionally see rampaging across the landscape two-shotting everything, but that strikes me as too little, too late.) If a boss is giving you trouble, you can't just level up and come back later either, though funnily enough, simple food and drink serve as alternative power-ups in such situations. Never mind levelling up; just eating a stale loaf of bread will basically turn you into Popeye after a can of spinach.

You don't get to look forward to being able to equip more powerful gear (though again, this might change once you hit champion rank territory), because for the most part, your gear doesn't feel like it matters much either. And you don't unlock any new content, because you can go anywhere from a low level anyway. (Except dungeons, strangely enough, which is an interesting reversal from the way SWTOR does it. In SWTOR, you still need to level to be able to access the quest content, but can do any instance/flashpoint once you're past the starter planet. In ESO, you can do any quest at any level, but for some reason each dungeon is still gated behind a minimum level. Would love to know how that came about.)

So you gain levels for nothing, and you gain them extremely slowly to boot. From what I gather there are certain ways to level very quickly, such as via random dungeons, but for some reason the rate at which you gain XP from simply doing quests and killing mobs - as I would expect most new players to level - is an absolute pittance compared to that.

All this has made me more appreciative of the way SWTOR does level scaling. I still think it has resulted in levelling being too quick and your character becoming too powerful too quickly, but I appreciate that you do feel more powerful as you go up in levels, and that doing so actually grants you access to more content. I like that mobs never lose the ability to do damage to you, yet you don't need to be a max-level character in top-end gear to notice a power difference once you're past the planet's recommended level. I may not want to feel god-like when I return to the starter zone, but I still prefer my levels to matter in some way at least.


Hype and Hope

When I reviewed my 2018 predictions for SWTOR back in December, I said that I wasn't going to make any for 2019, but lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about SWTOR's near future again. This year's Star Wars Celebration takes place in Chicago and is only about a month away at this point, and Bioware has made it clear that this will be when we'll finally find out about what's in store for SWTOR for the rest of the year. I think even though it hasn't been made official, everyone pretty much expects this to be the long-awaited 6.0 expansion announcement.

Someone asked me in a comment section somewhere what this expansion would have to entail to make me happy, and this gave me pause because I actually didn't immediately know what to answer. I've heard a few other fan content creators do their own speculating, and in my opinion some of their expectations are pretty high. I guess this is somewhat understandable, what with Casey Hudson's claim that this was going to be SWTOR's "most exciting year yet", but I've long been wary of superlatives like that. And what exactly does "exciting" mean in this context anyway? Exciting things aren't always good...

Anyway, as for what I personally would like to see, in a nutshell: a "classic" expansion following the basic model of Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan. That would mean one large or two medium-sized planets with new quests and story, a level cap increase, one or two new operations, one or two new flashpoints.

I guess to someone who's made their home in a different MMO it might seem strange that the inclusion of such basic features might even be in question, but SWTOR's just never really developed a consistent model when it comes to adding new content. In the early years it briefly seemed like they were settling on having two smaller expansions per year, one focused on story and one focused on a new feature, such as space combat or housing (which was a cadence that I quite enjoyed by the way), but then Knights of the Fallen Empire came out and threw everything into disarray. Mind you, they still had a plan at that point, to continue telling that story over several "seasons", but then that didn't work out either (for whatever reasons), and since then we've just kind of gone from one patch to the next for more than two years.

From the sounds of it, 6.0 has been in development for over a year, which makes you think that it should be big, considering Bioware's previous output in past years (before the current big lull that is), but everyone always claims that the SWTOR team is much smaller now, so I don't want to get my hopes up too much. Also, people have pretty much always complained about SWTOR's expansions not being meaty enough. I do remember feeling similarly back when Rise of the Hutt Cartel came out actually, simply because my only real reference point back then was World of Warcraft, and WoW's expansions had always been huge. I knew to adjust my expectations after that, but I've still seen other people complain about the lack of content in pretty much every expansion after that.

Beyond this hope related to the basic scope of 6.0, I have little in the way of expectations. The way gearing works will need a revamp because the number of currencies, vendors and tokens is a proper nightmare right now, to the point that it confuses even pretty hardcore players, but I don't have a specific solution in mind myself. I guess it would be nice if there was some new feature that turned out to be a pleasant surprise, but the last big new feature they decided to surprise us with (Galactic Command) created nothing but unhappiness, so... if I had to choose, I'd rather not have something dramatic and new than end up with another dud.

Only somewhat tangentially related, but one also has to wonder whether there will be a big cinematic trailer again. None of the aforementioned expansions that I'm hoping 6.0 will mimic had them, but after KotFE and KotET had one each it would feel like a bit of a vote of no confidence on EA's part if they decided not to promote this new expansion in a similar way. And Star Wars Celebration would certainly be as good a place as any to try and make a splash with a shiny new cinematic. Bioware's presentation is also going to be a big enough deal that it actually got a mention on the official Star Wars site, which is rare enough.

Ultimately, I find myself going back and forth on this subject a lot, even within the time it took me to write this post. Hype is bad and leads to nothing but disappointment in my opinion. There are plenty of reasons to try to not get too excited about what's coming up next. But then there are those small glimpses that make you hopeful again - and story-wise, I absolutely adored Ossus and can't wait to see how those events will be followed up. I guess I remain cautiously optimistic that reality won't be too far off from what I'm hoping for.



I've talked about some of the many bugs that came with the Ossus patch, but one I haven't mentioned before concerned Kil'Cik, the Geonosian world boss. A bug with the bug, so to speak. Separate from the issue mentioned in the post I linked above, which caused individuals to sometimes not get quest credit for killing either of the world bosses (which was quickly patched out), this particular problem affected only Kil'Cik, but whenever it struck, nobody in the group would get credit for the kill. The good thing about this was that at least it gave the whole group an incentive to immediately try again in another instance.

The bad thing was that somehow this particular bug got people's imaginations going. Nobody could possibly know what exactly was causing it, but humans love to look for patterns, and a certain type of people with endless confidence in themselves didn't hesitate to quickly start passing off their personal observations as fact. First they claimed that the boss supposedly bugged if you didn't tank him in the middle of his platform, which was eventually amended to him at least having to die there. I immediately knew that was rubbish because during my very first kill the boss had spent pretty much the entire fight up against the wall and we'd got credit for the mission just fine.

Eventually enough people seemed to observe the boss bugging out despite of being tanked in the middle of the platform that at some point an alternative theory emerged. It wasn't the boss's position per se, they said, but people registering as too far away from him, which most commonly happened if someone disconnected or died and then returned to the med centre. So any disconnected people were swiftly removed from the group from then on, and someone usually issued a decree just before the pull that people should under no circumstances return to med centre if they died.

When that still didn't solve the issue, it somehow became about death and reviving in general, so now combat revives were banned as well. As time went on, people got more and more passionate about their convictions about what supposedly caused the boss to bug. I saw one guy get removed from the group when he dared to return to the med centre after dying, and generally people got quite shouty. I had to chuckle last night when someone drily commented in response to one such authoritarian that "maybe the boss bugs out every time someone types in all caps".

Today I finally found out the solution to the mystery. Bioware recently added a new official account to the forums called "QA_Droid", which gets used by various devs to communicate with the players about bugs and other technical issues. In a recent post they revealed the true reason behind the boss bugging out: whenever a guardian add is killed, it shaves off a percentage of the boss's health, and if you kill one at just the wrong moment so that this damage becomes the killing blow, kill credit is given to the dead mob instead of the raid group. What do you know.

It really tickles me that in the end, all those wild theories weren't even remotely close to what was really going on. I'm in no position to make fun of people though, because I didn't know any better either. Sure, I knew that the "must tank him in the middle" theory was rubbish from the beginning, but the one blaming respawning/player distance for the bug sounded plausible to me and at least personally I didn't experience any fights that provided conclusive evidence to the contrary. Either way it's interesting to see how quickly superstitions like that can develop and get passed on simply because of some people very confidently stating them over and over again.


Tracking My Playtime

After seeing it mentioned both by UltrViolet and Wilhelm, I downloaded and installed an application called ManicTime at the start of February to track which programmes I use the most in my day-to-day life. Its paid version seems to be targeted at businesses that want to keep an extremely close eye on just what exactly their employees get up to on their PCs, but the free version is good enough to allow for some easy fun with personal statistics. Unlike some similar services, it also doesn't get confused if you accidentally leave a game launcher up in the background for example - it only counts whatever you're actively engaging with at the time.

Since we're now in March, I thought it would be interesting to look back at what data it recorded for February. Unsurprisingly, I only played two different games all month: SWTOR and ESO. SWTOR clocked in at 66.5 hours and ESO at 63.5 hours. I was honestly kind of impressed with myself for somehow managing to fit 130 hours of gaming into a 28-day month, especially since I was also off for a few days to get married. (Though, saying that, I'm also a bit worried now that some readers will think me a freak for spending that much time at my computer. And that's not even counting the hours spent just browsing the web!) On a normal work day I barely have three to four hours left between coming home and going to bed, and that also includes things like having dinner. Clearly I underestimated just how long my weekend play sessions can get to make up for that. Plus it helped that I had a couple of days off this month I guess.

It was also interesting to see the different patterns in which I played the two games. The biggest chunk of SWTOR's playtime came from doing group content with my guild. On days when I didn't do any of that, I would maybe log in briefly to do a round of Ossus dailies but that was usually only a matter of minutes. Whenever ops night came around however, more or less my whole evening was dedicated to SWTOR.

Meanwhile, my daily engagement with ESO also tends to be short, but nonetheless a little longer than the SWTOR dailies, as I mainly log in to do things like claim my daily login reward, train my horse, or queue some new crafting research, which requires a bit of fiddling. I haven't done much group content in that game however (though I've done a little). Mostly what happens is that I make a point of sitting down for a really long play session on the weekend when I want to make some quest progress, because for some reason the quests feel really time-consuming to me and I worry that I'll lose the plot if I don't spend several hours on focusing what's going on. I don't think that really is a requirement, but with the way I play and still being relatively new to the game, I spend a lot of time puttering about in ways that I suspect most long-time players don't, which makes for very slow progress.

Anyway, it's interesting to have a baseline number to which I can compare future months. Also, I once again feel pleased with just how cheap my hobbies are. I'm a subscriber both in SWTOR and in ESO, and looking at those playtime numbers, the entertainment cost for each game was 11p / hour for SWTOR and about 16p / hour for ESO.