09/03/2020

Four Kinds of Trash Skipping

My flashpoint pugging over the last couple of months has provided me with a lot of food for thought. One of the things I've been thinking about has been the practice of always skipping as many trash mobs as possible.

I used to say that I just hated doing that. I like running flashpoints because I enjoy the gameplay of killing baddies with a group of people. If my pug actually avoids killing as many enemies as possible, I feel short-changed - and in game terms, I do miss out on rewards such as XP for mob killing and bonus missions.

That said, I do get that not everyone runs random flashpoints for the same reasons as me, and I've certainly been there too: when you run several randoms a week (or even day) and keep getting into the same one, sometimes you just want to get it over with so you can do something else next.

Leaving aside the issue of bonuses and tangible rewards though, I still have mixed feelings about trash skipping. After thinking about it some more, I can split the "types" of trash skips that people engage in into roughly four groups:

Walking Past

This is the type I mind the least, and it's pretty much what it says on the tin. Most flashpoints don't require you to kill every single mob in them, and there are "spare" groups that you can obviously walk past without engaging them if you only stay far enough away from them.

It's straightforward and doesn't require any kind of explanation. Every player has basic experience with aggro range and can probably spot opportunities where it's safe to walk past a pull without aggroing it. However, even if you have absolutely no clue on the subject it's enough for one person to know what to do, walk ahead, and the others can follow in their steps. The worst thing that can happen is that someone gets too close, you pull anyway and have to kill the mobs after all.

Climbing/Jumping

The difference between this type and the first one is that the safe route is 1) probably not obvious and 2) requires a certain amount of skill at precise character movement. I'm not counting things like walking up some of the rocks in Legacy of the Rakata here, because while you "climb" those in the sense of engaging in some vertical movement in that flashpoint, it's basically just running up a slope and doesn't require any special skill. What I am thinking of are things like the weird ledge run in the room with the first boss in Athiss, jumping up that rock in Assault on Tython to avoid a mob spawn on the road to the temple, and the multitude of weird and wacky moves that people like to try in Directive 7.

I hate these with a passion, mainly because it's so easy for them to go wrong in spectacular ways, meaning that instead of shaving a few seconds off your run you actually end up wasting several minutes or even incurring repair bills. Since a successful skip doesn't save you more than a minute of mob-killing time, tops, one guy in the group struggling to make the jump and having to re-do it three times is already enough for you to have effectively "wasted" time instead of saving it - and that's if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, people get stuck in the terrain and die, forcing them to make a long run back from the last spawn point or even the start of the instance, or you eventually just have to give up and kill the mobs anyway after wasting several minutes on trying to bypass them.

It's also the most likely type to create friction in the group as it pits those with jumping skills vs. those without them. Nobody enjoys holding up their party because they fail at jumping, and being the one person who just keeps bouncing off the rock can quickly turn something that was meant to be fun into a stressful experience. Plus I've seen sufficiently blasé players literally run off and abandon people who were struggling with a jump skip... it never leads to anything good.


Stealth-Assist

These are the types of skips that require a stealther in the group, either to crowd control a mob that would usually aggro in order to allow everyone else to walk past unharmed, or to sneak up to a console and click it without engaging any of the enemies around it.

These I don't generally mind too much, as it usually just comes down to walking past things once the CC has been applied, and the risk/reward ratio is similar to that of walking past other pulls, with the added fun of skilled stealthers getting to show off a bit. There are two downsides however.

The first is that if you are the stealther and you're inexperienced with what people "usually" expect a stealther to do in this particular flashpoint, things can get awkward as everyone just stands around staring at you, expecting you to do your thing. Of course nobody is actually going to explain what to do - after all the point is to save time, not to spend it typing out instructions. Instead they might just get annoyed with you for not magically knowing how to do it right from the get-go. Fortunately most groups aren't too fussed about this kind of thing though and will happily default to killing things if the stealther doesn't appear to know what to do.

The other potential problem arises if you bypass a lot of trash via stealth use, and then someone who doesn't have stealth dies and gets sent back to an earlier respawn point, for example by falling down a chasm in Red Reaper. Then everyone needs to backtrack and either re-CC or clear the trash to be able to reunite the group, as the respawned person will otherwise be separated from the rest of the party by a wall of mobs. Again, fortunately this isn't too common an occurrence, but when it does happen it's super annoying.

Timed Run

This is another variation of simply walking past things, but dependent on timing because the mobs move. Examples of this exist in the Foundry, Directive 7 and Depths of Manaan. These trash groups are scripted to enter the scene once a group member passes a certain threshold but don't aggro while moving in, so if everyone rushes past them in sync you can avoid fighting them before they start to take notice of you.

This can be fun to do with a group of friends that all know what to do but can be hard to get right even then, so don't expect a pug to succeed, ever. Again, you'd pretty much have to make sure to type out detailed instructions beforehand, and in that time you could've simply killed the mobs anyway so it's not really worth the bother. I don't really see many pugs care about these, fortunately.

Ultimately it's a simple equation of risk vs. reward. The reward is always to shave a few seconds of time off your run. Admittedly that's not much, but I understand that it adds up over the course of a flashpoint and that's why people consider it worthwhile. However - if your "skip" also runs the risk of actually prolonging the run by several minutes, it's not a good tactic to push on random people whose skill levels you don't know. In fact it's rarely worth it. I just wish I could explain that to more pugs who waste so much time on trying to jump over pipes and tents and other such nonsense, just to have someone fail at it anyway.

10 comments :

  1. This is the sort of behavior that, over time, put me off pugging, rather than the more common complaint that people either don't talk or say things you'd rather not hear. I don't like any kind of "speed run" to begin with. I'm almost never in an instance to get it over with as fast as possible. It's either one I've never done before and I'm there because I need to do it once to finish something, in which case I want to do it right, not fast, or it's one I'm doing because I like it, in which case I don't want to rush through it.

    I'm fine with moving past mobs that are out of aggro range - that's just normal play - but any kind of complicated shenanigans to avoid a fight is just annoying. The only excuse for it is when you're in an instance that's significantly too hard for your group and any fight could be a wipe. In which case you probably shouldn't be there in the first place, but if you're trying to get one thing done for someone it can happen.

    What I really hate, though, is the idea that everyone already knows what to do, ither because they've done it umpteen times before or because they've prepped by watching video of other people doing it. I'm in it for the adventure not the homework. If people need instructions, type them in chat! How hard is it, really? If everyone wasn't in a hurry all the time we could have explanations and questions and do our prep in game, in context (and maybe even in character) like we used to do when dungeons were something people did because they were fun, not because they needed to do n dungeons of type x per day.

    Grumble grumble....

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    1. I strongly dislike when people expect others to study for group content like it's some kind of exam as well. Unless a piece of group content is explicitly labelled as particularly tough and intended for pre-made groups, everyone should be able to go in blind and figure things out as they go.

      That said, I'll admit that if I've done a lot of runs recently and they've been going very smoothly, I don't always bother asking people if they need an explanation, which can result in unhappy surprises. But that's on me then, not my unknowing pug mate's fault.

      I do feel that MMO dungeons are in this weird spot these days where if they provide a proper "adventure" experience that you'll only want to go through a few times at most, players will complain about lack of accessibility/content/rewards and devs will feel that their content is underused. Streamlining for easy access, lower difficulty and endless rewards on the other hand leads to some players "overdosing" and as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. It still boggles my mind that I ran over 1000 five-man dungeons during WoW's Wrath of the Lich King for example. I'm pretty sure I've never come close to doing that in any other game and don't think I'd want to do it again either.

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  2. I like the skips that are unlocked by crafting professions. That's a nice little bonus for having a profession. I miss those in the later flashpoints.

    Jumping skips are not my friend. I dislike that Athiss skip because I tend to fail it regularly. :/ I haven't gotten Directive 7 in a long time, but I remember failing some of those skips, though the 'driving up and over the tents' skip is the only one I remember specifically. I guess I need to get back to pugging flashpoints to relearn all the skips people think are efficient.

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    1. Oh, I didn't even think of the ones related to crew skills. To be honest those don't really feel like skips to me and more like intentionally built in alternate routes. Though you are of course right that they still make the flashpoint shorter.

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  3. I've gotten used to the kind of behaviour you described very well, but still none of it is what I came for when I started playing the game. I came to play the game, which is dealing with the galaxy's baddies ^^. And yes a lot of skipping tends to actually cost time instead of shortening the run. I think with all the thinking about Tech Fragments, gear, conquest and so on people tend to forget that it's actually a game and ment to be played not skipped...

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    1. I'm guessing that "over-farming" any type of content for rewards kills a lot of your inherent enjoyment over time.

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  4. Oh, you may have forgotten when we get the "just walk around it" bit even to the point of skipping bosses; sometimes to the point that it's shocking that it doesn't aggro (the second-to-last boss in Taral V is like... HOW DOESN'T IT SEES US PASSING BY??? In fact, do you even NEED to fight any of Taral V's bosses except of the duo before the first cutscene and the last boss?) It never ceases to amaze me... And also it requires more than just knowledge from where to walk, you also need to remember things such as "You'll pull if stealthed even if you won't unstealthed" and etc.

    I'm not gonna lie, I normally prefer skipping mobs, but I'm fine with killing everything if I have lower-leveled toons in the group. For a all-max-level feels like there's no real incentive to do it in Vet Fps (HM fps, of course, you'll get a real bonus line, most vet fps don't really have bosses for their bonus, so...).
    And sometimes, ah, sometimes there are just too much trash. Like Copero. Seriously, I bless the person who came up with Copero's skip. Even not being that easy, t's still much faster than going through it all.

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    1. Well, to be honest a lot of these bosses that people skip have more or less been demoted to named trash mobs since Bioware took all their worthwhile loot away in the name of balance.

      I am totally guilty of setting off those special stealth sensors whenever I'm in a run as a stealther, because I don't play those characters often enough to remember which mobs do it!

      And at least for now, killing mobs in flashpoints is not half bad for Conquest, at max level too. Which is why you have that weird "KP trash farm" thing going on right now. What delicious irony that people skip all the trash in flashpoints and then make groups to specifically farm trash in an operation!

      And ah yes, Copero. It did occur to me afterwards that maybe I should have added that one as a special stealth-assist case: "skip by committing suicide"...

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    2. I kinda choked reading the last line, serves me right for drinking while reading. And, YES, there's a whole lot of dying-for-my-friends in some instances -- Copero, EC, and the amazing super skillful EV jump.

      I think half of the reason KP farm is a thing is because of HOW QUICK it is. There's literal no exaggeration to saying it takes you 15-20 minutes to go from 0 to 50k conquest!And then you'll see people doing it "again and again" but that's basically because they're doing all toons in their legacy in an hour or two (or, well, depending on the number of toons in their legacy).

      I haven't really noticed the killing of mobs in fps being any more profitable than outside of instances, so, idk.

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