Companion Returns: Vector, Iresso, Akaavi & Mako

More than two years ago I wrote about the first four Alliance alert missions that Bioware released to return more of the then still-missing class companions post-KotET. I found their shortness a bit disappointing, but was nonetheless excited for the first bits of class-specific content in years and looked forward to seeing the other four that were scheduled to come out soon after.

Would you believe that it actually took me until recently to see the last of those, as I only completed KotET on my bounty hunter the other week? At this point, talking about these companion returns isn't news anymore and I doubt anyone else really cares what I thought about them, but I've had this post sitting in my draft folder for almost two years so I'm going to finish and publish it, damn it!


This was probably the one I was looking forward to the most, considering that Vector is my favourite romance from the original class stories. He's also someone who actually manages to deliver the pathos of how heartbroken he was without his partner convincingly (in my opinion), unlike some other companions.

The only thing that made me raise an eyebrow a little was his story of how the Empire apparently "conscripted" the killiks to use as cannon fodder? That sounded odd to me, considering that I always got the impression that they were a pretty powerful faction, so I'm not sure how an already extremely weakened Empire would have been able to get them under its thumb just like that, but whatever I guess.

Lieutenant Iresso

Basically, Felix had a horrible time, the Republic abandoned him in his time of greatest need, and he'd like to just stick with you again if that's alright, kplzthx? I felt pretty neutral about this one, probably because I've always felt kinda lukewarm about Felix Iresso as a companion. I don't dislike him, but he's not one of my favourites either... I just didn't find him all that memorable.

The only thing that I was curious about was whether I'd be able to romance him if I hadn't romanced him before - my Sage actually kissed him once back in the day since I'd somehow manoeuvred myself into a companion conversation where my only options were 1) kiss him, 2) kiss him, or 3) say something mean, so I went for the kiss just to have her back out immediately afterwards because "oh noes, the Jedi code". This was apparently not sufficiently relevant to bring up again though, and having turned him down back then, there was no option to flirt with him this time around.

Akaavi & Mako

Now this is the one that held this post back, because while I did the smuggler version quite some time ago, I also wanted to see the quest from a bounty hunter's point of view and well... refer to what I said in the intro paragraph. It was also the most disappointing mission out of this lot of companion returns.

There wasn't actually that much difference between how the two classes experience it either: You get an alert that one of your missing companions has been spotted doing some bounty hunting on Tatooine, so you go there and find them in the company of the other companion. They quickly go from "hey, it's you" to "I met this other gal and she helped me out" to "let's hang out again just like old times" and it all goes by so fast it feels a bit like you could blink and miss it. I hope/assume it's a bit more interesting if you were in a romance...

I didn't mind the brevity so much on my smuggler since she honestly wasn't that close to Akaavi to begin with, but my bounty hunter had always been close to Mako, treating her like a little sister and encouraging her to hook up with Torian, and there was no reference to any of that. You also aren't really told anything about the other class companion other than that they are a friend and will want to come along. It was just a remarkably unmemorable affair.

I'm glad that from Ossus onwards Bioware went back to incorporating the returning companions into the main storyline again, even if it was in minor ways sometimes, as I feel that those returns have all been a lot more satisfying than these super short and rather disconnected Alliance alerts.


The Mysterious Mushrooms of Blood Hunt

Back in November I ran the Blood Hunt flashpoint with some guildies and when we got into the area for the raptor challenge I stopped dead in my tracks. The floor was suddenly covered with small purple mushrooms! It was very startling and different from how I remembered that part of the compound looking previously, but I didn't think too much about it - I figured it was either the result of some sort of graphical update that had been part of the expansion or maybe related to my graphic settings getting changed when I had recently upgraded my PC.

However, having been back to the place quite a few times since then, things have only gotten stranger, because the mushrooms aren't always there. Sometimes the ground is as bare as it used to be; other times there are different kinds of mushrooms. It's not consistent within the same run either: it's quite possible for one person in a group to see mushrooms while the others don't.

(This does make for great joke material, mind you. "Seeing mushrooms, eh? You sure you haven't ingested any recently?")

What strange bug could cause such a thing? Or is some dev maybe having fun by intentionally messing with players' heads? I wouldn't put it past them!

That said, I do kind of wish things would always be consistent for the entire group at least. For example I learned recently that there can be inconsistencies with sound too: I've done the Crisis on Umbara flashpoint two dozen times by now, but it was only the other night that the two bosses that make up the first encounter suddenly started spouting voice lines at me. Up until then they had always been silent for me! A guildie said that he sometimes hears them and other times he doesn't. Just more strangeness.


A Quest A Day Keeps The Story Underway

I've previously talked about how disconnected story and character progression have become in SWTOR over the years. With level sync in place, that's not exactly a problem per se, but if you're like me and enjoy both story content and character advancement being dished out simultaneously, being forced to choose one over the other at times can be a bit of a downer.

Having seen all the stories in game multiple times at this point, I pretty much always choose progression over story repetition if I have to. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm entirely happy with this. It just feels wrong somehow to have character advancement and plot so wildly out of sync on some of my characters, e.g. to have them barely having left their starter planets story-wise while wearing endgame gear and doing hardmode content.

For quite some time now, my everyday play involving character progression has more or less been dominated by Conquest. I just enjoy watching that bar fill up from a variety of activities. Unfortunately, story content was rather at odds with Conquest until recently. When Bioware made the change to translate any XP-granting activity into also awarding Conquest points, it became viable to hit your target on a character by just doing story, but the whole system also felt unbalanced because the actual objectives were largely pointless.

The launch of Onslaught managed to make Conquest objectives meaningful again, but this also meant that trying to hit Conquest primarily through story content (which had few to no objectives attached to it) was very slow. Occasionally there'd be a bit of synergy between some Conquest events and certain levelling content, e.g. if there was an objective to kill mobs on Nar Shaddaa and you were on just the right step of your class story... but again, it wasn't great. Some class stories actually don't even require you to do that much killing for example.

One thing I really like about the last Conquest revamp is that they added daily repeatable objectives to do any quest and kill mobs for all the planets, and from what I've seen so far they seem to be there every week. This has been a great incentive to dig up some of those perpetually neglected alts with stalled story progress and put work into them again, one quest at a time. Finally, another way of combining story advancement and character progression (in the form of Conquest).

Shin-dow the Shadow does stuff on Tatooine. Only took me about four years to get here...

Mind you, it remains a bit awkward just how quickly the bar fills up - e.g. I'll do one class story quest on Balmorra for two days in a row and then I'm pretty much there already, at which point it's time to log off that character and not come back until Tuesday (when Conquest resets) for the next installment. It's a very choppy way of experiencing the story, but then it's not as if anyone is forcing me to do it this way, nor is it my first time doing any of these storylines, so I have a pretty good idea what's happening in each one anyway. At least the incentive to work on them again at all has made things on the levelling story front more interesting to me than they've been in a while.


What A Difference Six Years Make

One of the interesting consequences of SWTOR re-levelling its endgame content every time the level cap is raised is that you get to progress through all of it anew every time this happens. This is of course not as exciting as doing it the first time around (in fact, some people might find it actively frustrating to potentially have their progression reset every so often), but neither is it a case of everything being automatically on farm because you've done it before. There can be weird difficulty swings as a result of rescaling, classes get at least changed a little every expansion (to various effects), and since level cap increases are usually years apart, most guilds will likely experience significant turnover in their roster during that time, meaning that you may end up going in with a very different team compared to last time as well.

The bottom line is that "re-progressing" through content you've done before is a funny experience. I was thinking about this as we went back into Scum and Villainy master mode for the first time since Onslaught's launch the other night. I have a video of us killing the first boss in there back in 2014 - when we were five levels above the content (before Bioware introduced level scaling) and yet it was still a struggle. Still, it felt pretty epic when we got the boss down, and I'm still fond of that video to this day. (Also, Sting.)

This time around we were at level, and victims of stat normalisation to boot, but it still only took us a couple of tries to get him down. There were no great cheers on TeamSpeak, but I still thought it would be fun to effectively "re-create" that first kill video for comparison. It's interesting to note the differences.


The first thing that struck me was just how different the two videos look due to the degree of zoom. I'd forgotten just how closely zoomed in I used to play before working on the Revan fight forced me to increase my view distance as one of the fight's mechanics was impossible to deal with otherwise.

Seeing the fight from a greater distance makes it look quite different - for example you get a much better view of the other players' actions (in fact Mr Commando used watching the video as an opportunity to moan about all the things the damage dealers had done wrong in his eyes), and during the movement phases the sand traps are much more obvious.

That said, I kind of like the "feel" of the closer view much better. While it's very chaotic and at times hard to make out what's happening, there's something very visceral about the camera being trapped under the shield just like the player, the boss being in your face and Xuvva wings frantically flapping around the edges.


Despite of the high dps check, we were running with the standard group setup of two tanks and two healers back in 2014. I don't know if we'd even considered anything else. This time around we had Mr Commando solo-tank it, even if that meant that damage dealers were occasionally getting smacked in the face - but it was very much needed, considering that even with the extra damage dealer the dps requirements were much harder to meet than back in 2014.

It was also interesting to see me getting lost in the desert in the 2014 video, a mechanic that was later changed so that it wouldn't affect healers anymore (alongside some other mechanics in the operation, such as Styrak's nightmare). I'm actually kind of sad about this because I thought that it was a very immersive and fun mechanic, and since I almost always heal in ops I never get to see it anymore. I can sort of understand why they made that change for story mode, but I kind of wish they'd kept healers on the target list for the harder difficulties, especially considering that the incoming damage was clearly tuned to be survivable with a single healer for periods of time.


The 2014 run was a collaboration between my guild and another guild that we were friendly with at the time (many of them actually went on to join Twin Suns Squadron later). I can't really remember why we didn't go in with a full guild group... it could be that this was during a bit of a slump where we were struggling to regularly make the numbers, but I genuinely can't remember. Either way, about half the group in the video no longer plays the game.

On the plus side, the other half of the group is still playing game six years later, which doesn't strike me as that bad! There's me and Mr Commando of course, but Ard (who was tanking in 2014 but played his dps Commando just for this boss in the 2020 vid) is also still running with us after all this time, which makes me happy. He is an incredibly loyal soul but also kind of mysterious because even though he's been with us for so long I pretty much know nothing about his real life other than that he lives in Spain. Online friendships... anyway, the fourth person, my co-healer from the 2014 video, no longer does progression content but still hangs out with us socially, so I consider that a win as well.

In short, a lot of things have changed since 2014, but a decent number have not. Considering the online world's perpetual malleability I'm pretty happy with this degree of stability.


Somebody Stop This XP Train, I Wanna Get Off

I have a long history of moaning about XP bonuses on this blog, starting with this post from March 2013 when I scoffed at Bioware holding SWTOR's first ever double XP event in the run-up to Rise of the Hutt Cartel. I also know that I'm very much in the minority with this negative attitude towards XP bonuses, but to put it simply: I liked the game's levelling speed just fine at launch. That there's been a constant push to make levelling faster ever since just hasn't been a positive change for me.

Knights of the Fallen Empire in particular permanently increased levelling speed by several magnitudes, but then that expansion also introduced level sync, which I loved, so I guess they balanced each other out. I've just come to accept that I'm pretty much always going to be over-levelled for everything these days and level sync will just have to take care of the worst of the side effects. As for special double XP events, Bioware added the White Acute Module as an option to allow people to disable those boosts, and that was good enough for me too.

Going on a month of the current double XP event though, I've been starting to wonder whether that's still enough, and whether it isn't simply time for Bioware to allow us to disable XP gains altogether. It wouldn't need any real lore explanation, just allow Hathe'k (the Gree who sells the White Acute Module) to stick around on the fleet all the time and give him a second item to sell called Grey Equilateral Module or whatever; job done. I don't know how hard actually programming an optional XP stop would be though...

Anyway, this idea has obviously been thrown around in the past, especially as it's already a feature in some other popular MMOs, such WoW or LOTRO, and the main argument I've heard against having it in SWTOR as well is that it would result in people creating twinks for low level PvP, which would be cruel to newbies. I used to be on board with this notion, but having done more lowbie PvP recently, I'm honestly starting to doubt my stance on the idea.

If you're the sort of hapless newbie who doesn't even realise that their Shadow has stealth for example, any experienced player on an alt is already going to feel like a twink in comparison anyway. As long as these more experienced players aren't also forming premades, things can also go either way for the newbie: The same guy who kicked your arse in one match may very well end up on your team next time around, carrying you instead. Also, you know what else is cruel to newbies wanting to try to PvP? Long queues, lack of pops, and constantly getting into arenas instead of proper warzones because people outlevel the bracket within the blink of an eye just by doing some quests, even if they are using the White Acute Module.

The latter is largely a side effect of the crazy Conquest changes that were implemented a month ago. About two years ago (patch 5.8 for those who like to keep track), Bioware decided that completing Conquest objectives should also award credits and experience points, which I always thought a bit weirdly recursive to be honest, but since Conquest was much slower back then it wasn't much of an issue.

With the most recent Conquest changes basically rewarding lowbies for breathing though, levelling and Conquest can work each other into a sort of self-reinforcing frenzy at times: For example, you hand in a quest and gain some XP. This also completes a Conquest objective for handing in a quest, so you gain extra XP from that. This extra XP causes you to level up, which in turn completes another Conquest objective called "gain a level", which in turn grants you even more XP and so on and so forth. It's pretty silly and honestly kind of amusing most of the time, but it does make me wince a little when my lowbie PvP characters level up every other match and I can already see the border to the midbie bracket looming in the distance after what feels like barely a handful of matches played.

This could all be solved by simply allowing people to temporarily disable XP gains, and the more I think about it, the more other positive effects I can see that such a feature could have:
  • Finding combat while levelling too easy/boring? Stop your XP gains and see just how far you can get fighting enemies several levels higher than you, without taking anything away from the people who like easy/fast levelling.
  • I'm not a fashionista so not much of an expert on this, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that certain armour sets can only be acquired during specific level ranges, which is very annoying if you're missing a piece for a cosmetic set and outlevel the chance to get it. Being able to lock yourself until you've farmed up everything you want would be another benefit for players.
  • With more people actually spending some time in lower level brackets, there might even be a bit of a market for crafted lower-level gear again (gasp).
I don't know, am I overlooking some big problem with this other than the potential twink issue, which I suspect wouldn't actually be that big a deal? Let me know what you think in the comments.


Master Mode Flashpoint Tips: Umbaran Spider Tank


I previously wrote about Commander Mokan, whom I consider one of the hardest flashpoint bosses in the game. The thing that makes Mokan hard is understanding the tactics involved - however, once you've internalised all the steps, the actual execution isn't all that tricky aside from the healer having to be capable of a certain degree of multitasking.

Today I'd like to write about a boss that is also one of the hardest flashpoint bosses in the game, but for completely different reasons: the Umbaran Spider Tank at the end of Crisis on Umbara. This one's no puzzle at all (stay out of the fire and kill adds) but the problem lies in the requirements for perfect execution, which are pretty harsh on master mode. Also, unlike Mokan, killing the Umbaran Spider Tank is not optional, meaning that he's driven many a group to despair, and pugs will often drop out as soon as they see that their queueing for a random master mode has landed them in Umbara, even though it only takes 20-30 minutes to complete if you can one-shot everything. The problem is that most groups won't get that experience; instead they'll just wipe a lot and often end up abandoning the whole thing.

I am not above these problems myself, and have only ever had a single what I would call a "perfect kill" of this boss, where we killed it right where it spawns, it was a one-shot and everyone was still alive by the end of the fight. To this day I'm not entirely sure how we did that; I think our dps must have just been awesome that day. More commonly there've been at least a handful of wipes involved, and by the end we're often just as dead as the Spider Tank, with the only difference being that we're allowed to get up again and loot while the tank does not get that luxury.

That was until I was taught the strategy I describe in this post. It's fair to describe it as "cheesy", as it involves fighting the boss in a way that clearly wasn't exactly what the developers had in mind when they designed the encounter, but as it doesn't actually avoid any of the mechanics I don't consider it exploitative. Just like the best way to beat the Purifier Droids in KotET chapter four on veteran/master mode is to leg it into a different building, this fight can be made a lot more manageable by moving the boss and forcing the add spawns into a funnel that makes them a little easier to control. It's no miracle solution to suddenly making the fight easy, but it does take a significant amount of pressure off the group by giving them more wiggle room to handle the adds before they maul the healer.

The boss in a nutshell

Once again I can recommend what both Vulkk and Dulfy have to say about this fight if you want to know the exact details of every ability the boss does, but the short of it is that on top of damaging the tank it does both a painful knockdown and places fire circles on random group members that make it a constant challenge to stay alive. At certain health percentages a wave of adds spawns in, and once the boss gets low on health an unending stream of adds begins, forcing you to burn it quickly. While dps is important, the main challenge of the encounter is simply staying alive, as a particularly unlucky combo of the same person getting stunned and hit by a fire circle can be absolutely devastating to their health bar, and all this happens while the healer will struggle not to get eaten by the adds.

What to do as a tank

After the little cut scene has played, send the rest of your group back down the hill, just around the bend where a bunch of kolto barrels are lying on the ground. Pull the boss and start running down the hill; it will evade at some point. Then repeat this manoeuvrer - this time the boss won't evade but will instead follow you all the way down to the rest of the group.

Try to position the boss so that it's not straight up against the cliff face, so that there's a bit of room to run around it on all sides. Keep it facing away from the rest of the group as much as you can but run out of fire when you must. When adds come down the hill and run past you, you can also hit them with AoE; hopefully the dps should be able to take care of them for the most part though.

What to do as a damage dealer

After the little cut scene has played, run back down the hill to where a bunch of kolto barrels are lying on the ground. Wait for the tank to bring the boss all the way down to you, then start to dps. Try to stay away from each other to avoid more than one person being hit by any ability, and run out of fire circles as quickly as you can. Also try to retain some awareness of where the healer is hiding, so that you break line of sight as little as possible and don't run out of range.

Whenever adds come down the hill, try to resist the urge to run up and get them as soon as they get close - let them come down. By default they will aggro on the healer, and if the healer breaks line of sight properly the adds should bunch up nicely close to them, at the bottom of the hill. At that point you want to charge in and kill them quickly (but still avoid standing on top of other dps or the healer while doing so).

When the boss is at around thirty percent health, mop up any adds that may still be around before continuing to dps (just look at the red dots on the mini map). At about twenty percent an infinite stream of adds will start spawning, so just focus on nuking the boss at that point. With the adds taking some time to run down the hill, you should be able to kill the boss before they reach the group and start causing trouble, so that you then only have to deal with getting rid of them after the boss is already dead.

What to do as a healer

After the little cut scene has played, run back down the hill to where a bunch of kolto barrels are lying on the ground. Try to hide behind one of the "tentacle trees" there, or on the other side of the path. (See the spots marked with a healer marker in the above screenshot.) Move when the boss puts a fire circle on you and if you lose line of sight of group members you need to heal, but try to stay behind one of the trees as much as you can, so that the adds will have a long way to run when they come in. Once they start bunching up near you, the dps should quickly AoE them down.

Note for everyone

One of the reasons to fight by the kolto barrels is that you can pop them for some extra healing if it feels like the healer can't keep up with the damage at any point. Keep in mind that they don't respawn though, so if you use them all up and wipe you don't get them back for the next attempt.


Pugs vs. Guild Groups

My rant about tanking the other week generated a surprising number of responses from fellow bloggers such as Yeebo or Bhagpuss. (I guess complaining about those gosh-darn irresponsible damage dealers is one of those golden oldies when it comes to blogging topics.) One thing that kind of amused me about Telwyn's response was that he assumed that I was complaining about pugs when my beef in this particular case had in fact been with guildies. Pugs just have such a bad reputation that they get blamed for all ills! I still enjoy pugging though, even if I've been doing most of my recent runs in full guild groups. Both styles of grouping have their own unique appeals really.

To start off, I do want to say that I can fully understand why pugging can be stressful - in my experience this is usually the case when you feel you don't have any choice but to pug, e.g. because you "have to" do a piece of group content to progress the story and have no friends or guild to help you through it. This is not how I'm experiencing pugging in SWTOR though - I always have options and know the content well; so opting into a pug run is pretty much always a conscious choice.

As Bhagpuss helped me pinpoint in a comment to a previous post about pugs, they are simply an enjoyable way of people watching. I've never been a huge fan of reality TV, but I do understand its appeal, and pugging works in a similar way, only in a slightly less mundane environment and with more interactivity. This isn't to say that I don't want my pug runs to be successful, but ultimately my primary motivation is to be entertained, and groups behaving in weird and interesting ways can be immensely entertaining even if they aren't actually very good at playing the game.

Pugging is also a great way of connecting with the wider server community. I know people like to say that things like server community aren't really a thing anymore these days, and I acknowledge that features like mega servers and automated group finders have made it harder to get a clear picture of a server's larger social structures, but they do still exist and you can absolutely still make connections if you try. I thought it was interesting that while levelling Nautalie the Shadow purely through flashpoint pugs, I met several people with whom I could have easily struck up a friendship if I had been "looking for love" so to speak and one particular pug hero even offered me a guild invite. I wasn't looking because I already have enough people to worry about in my life right now, but there is still something about testing the wider waters every so often that I find deeply satisfying.

Going fishing in the wider pool of players is also a great way of learning new tactics for content. Sure, guildies can teach each other new tricks too, but if everyone just ran with the same group of people all the time, they'd rarely learn anything new. Observing how other players handle certain trash pulls or boss fights in random groups is a major factor in spreading and sharing knowledge, and I always enjoy seeing people come up with strange new ways of avoiding to kill trash mobs (even if I often disapprove and don't necessarily strive to emulate those particular "tricks").

Finally, another thing I like about pugs is that the stakes often feel lower to me than in guild groups. This goes back to what I said at the beginning about having choices. It's a common refrain that automated group finders result in people not caring about their groups, and while I do think that's generally a bad thing and would never encourage anyone to treat their pug mates badly or to drop group at the drop of a hat, there is something to be said for not feeling pressured to stay in a bad situation with strangers. Guildies may well be more forgiving of mistakes, but you'll still have to deal with the memory of a bad run the next time you log in, because you will see all those people again.

Or to use a less dramatic-sounding example: I am not great at playing damage dealers, which in guild groups often makes me feel a bit bad because so many of my guildies are extremely good at it and I feel like I'm dragging the rest of them down when I play dps myself. I actually kind of prefer to take those characters into pug runs as there's less of an expectation there that you'll put out great numbers - nobody is likely to know or care as long as you manage to kill the boss.

Of course, the pug run's major weakness most of the time is the lack of unity of purpose. Sure, sometimes you'll get a group that just so happens to gel very well, but that's serendipity and definitely not the norm. This is where groups of friends or guildies shine as they'll usually be clear from the beginning about what the goal is, whether it's a quick random run for the daily reward or teaching a new player the ropes.

That aside though, premade groups are often as much about the people as anything else - which is funny actually, considering that I said the primary purpose of pugs is people watching for me, so I guess the social aspect wins out either way. In a group of friends it's more about spending time with people you like though, with the instance run mostly just providing a context for hanging out.

Ultimately the point is that they both have their place in the way I play, even if I may favour one over the other at particular times. It just comes down to what I'm looking for at the time.


Apex Predator At Last

When I was reviewing Onslaught's new gearing system one month into the expansion, I mentioned some frustration with being unable to acquire the Apex Predator set on my Commando. I eventually settled for a different vendor-bought set instead, which may be equally as good anyway (there seems to be some disagreement about this), but nonetheless the Apex Predator set remained somewhat of a holy grail for me. I just hated that I wanted it and couldn't have it!

Over the course of the last four months I slowly managed to acquire another four pieces of it - I'm not 100% certain I remember correctly, but I believe the legs dropped from Soa in an Eternity Vault run, and three other pieces eventually showed up on Kai Zykken, enabling me to purchase them for tech fragments. However, that still left me one piece short of the coveted six-piece set bonus.

I actually saw the gloves drop off the first boss in Eternity Vault once, but we have a guild rule that you should only roll need on things for the class you're actually using during the run (unless nobody else wants them of course), and I was playing an alt at the time, so I watched them go to a friend instead. I didn't begrudge them their luck, but inwardly I did sigh a little.

Last night we were doing Eternity Vault hardmode for social night once again, and after some um-ing and ahh-ing about which character to bring and for what reason, I settled on my dps Commando. That way I could cap another character for Conquest and play something slightly different but would still be eligible to roll on any Apex Predator gear on the off chance that one of the two pieces I didn't own yet actually dropped.

We did make it through the whole operation without any useful trooper drops that I can remember and I was already thinking that I was out of luck once again when one of the loot roll prompts from Soa revealed a set of Apex Predator gloves. It's funny to think that there was once a time when I was so shy about accepting loot that I physically ran away from my computer just so I wouldn't have to roll on it, because this time around I hit that need button so fast you wouldn't even have had time to blink.

Two other people rolled on it, and the winner turned out to be someone who had been naughty and rolled even though he wasn't on a Commando. One of the other officers told him off and reminded him of the loot rules. "Give it to Gort then," declared the ops leader, and I frantically scrolled up to look at the results of the loot roll in detail. Gort had been the third person to roll on it (and was on his Commando) but his roll had been the lowest! Why was the ops leader ignoring me?!

So of course I piped up on voice chat with: "OR you could give it to me, who actually had the second highest roll" - and instantly felt bad because listening to my own voice I couldn't help but think that I sounded like a greedy jerk. It's not like I would have begrudged Gort the loot, but I did have the second highest roll and didn't want to be ignored! I guess nobody ever said that being assertive always has to feel good.

Anyway, the happy ending of the story is that I was traded the gloves, and everybody was happy for me despite of my doubts (at least everyone who said anything, hah). In fact, Gort (who was a good sport about the whole thing) and the oblivious ops leader invited me to a random master mode run so I could take my new set for a spin, and we got Battle of Rishi, where we one-shot Commander Mokan once again because of course we did.

I guess in the old days I would have included a proud screenshot of me wearing the new set, but to be honest I don't think it looks that good on a trooper, and more importantly the one "spare" piece I don't own is the chest piece, and what I'm using in that slot instead makes the whole ensemble look kind of silly. But I've got it now and I don't even care if it really is the best in slot for Commando healers anymore or not; it just feels bloody satisfying to own and wear after chasing after it for more than six months.

EDIT: Ah what the hell, I found a chest piece in my bank that kinda works with it, especially if you unify colours. Flexing time!


Friendly Takeover

I've previously mentioned that my guild has an Imperial alt guild, but we've never advertised this much because it isn't really a full-fledged sister guild or anything like that. We're firmly rooted on Republic side for the most part, and the Imperial guild has only really served as alt storage for characters created on the opposite faction to see all the different class stories.

Initially, it was under the same leadership as our main guild too, which is to say it was led by our old guild leader and then Mr Commando once he took over. However, Mr Commando soon became absolutely terrible at remembering to log into his Imperial alts, so that after thirty days of inactivity on that faction the mantle of Imperial guild leadership would automatically get handed over to the next officer/player(?) to log in, which was usually me. I would then point this out to him, and he would log in just so that I could hand leadership back to him... and then immediately forget about the whole thing again, just for the whole process to see a rinse and repeat a month later.

After a few times of going through this whole shebang, I eventually reached a point where I decided that I was tired of it. If Mr Commando couldn't be bothered to lead the Imperial guild, I'd just do it myself! It's not as if it actually mattered who held the rank, considering that we weren't really doing anything with it. So the next time I inherited guild leadership, I tweaked some of the ranks, renaming the GM rank to "Empress" and giving Mr Commando a special rank that I initially called "Empress' Pet" or something like that, however as he wasn't very amused by the latter I quickly got rid of that again. In the end, there were some jokes about me trying to seize power/staging a hostile takeover, but as I said it didn't really make a difference to anything so we soon moved on.

An Empress arises.

When the Conquest changes about two years ago suddenly made it possible to get something out of Conquest without being competitive, I decided to trial going for a small yield target on Imp side. That went really well, and even better, it didn't remain a one-time thing. I got buy-in from a guildie that was always amassing a lot of points by crafting that he would help to "top off" our Imperial score towards the end of the week if needed, so going for the small yield every week actually became a regular thing. I don't think we hit it every time, but it did feel like it encouraged a bit more activity. If nothing else the steadily increasing Conquest score showed people that there was some activity on Imp side, even if the number of active characters was low and they were mostly being played asynchronously.

Another officer and I also started to organise small events on Imp side a bit more frequently, and I began investing into slowly but surely expanding our Imperial guild ship. As Conquest was made easier over time, we even found ourselves able to shoot for medium yield with increasing frequency. And with the most recent Conquest craziness, I decided that we might as well invade the large yield planet and we did indeed hit our new target after only four days. We also unlocked the last room on the Imperial guild ship that same week.

Chuffed with our performance and in a slightly jokey mood, I decided to set the guild message of the day to: "The Empress is pleased with your hard work on Conquest and smiles upon you benevolently." It barely took five minutes for someone to notice and pipe up about it on Discord... and then things escalated from there, as people apparently hadn't really noticed my chosen GM rank until then and started jokingly addressing me as Empress in guild chat (and sometimes even on voice).

It still makes me break into giggles every time, especially when it comes from particularly deadpan guildies whom I wouldn't usually expect to take part in such silliness. On a personal level it's also a happy reminder of how far the Imperial alt guild has come under my "leadership" though, and all joking aside, I am pretty pleased with that.