That Other Patch Notes Post

I said in my last post that there were random parts of the patch notes for 6.1.2 that I wanted to comment on before the issues with the welcome window distracted me... I decided that I'm still going to make that post, and this is it. Note that I'm not reproducing the patch notes in full - if you're looking for the full notes, you can find them posted here on Vulkk or here on MMO Bits.

Nar Shaddaa Nightlife - The Nightlife event returns with new Missions and rewards! Get your credits ready for July 14th - August 11th.

At last, maybe I'll finally get to spend those casino chips that I forgot to use last year! Then again, it's only a month - requiring me to remember to spend my chips within such a short time frame is asking quite a lot, you know...

The following set bonus has been added to the game at level 75, available for all Guardians:
Fulminating Defense

(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Challenging Call gets two charges.
(6) Enure increases Elemental and Internal damage reduction by 75% for 3 seconds.
Source: The Nature of Progress Operation on Master Mode difficulty, and a small chance from Unidentified items on the Spoils of War vendors.

That four-piece set bonus looks mighty sweet for flashpoint tanking... but of course the main source of this is Dxun master mode, which I'm unlikely to ever clear. I do wish there was more of a connection between where you get certain sets and what they're good for - then again, having no clue what the encounters look like in Dxun master mode, maybe having two stacks of your AoE taunt is really vital in there.

The following set bonus has been added to the game at level 75, available for all Sages:
Undying Protector
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Activating Force Barrier heals all allies around you.
(6) Activating Force Barrier puts a barrier on nearby allies, absorbing damage for up to 8 seconds and granting them an additional 25% elemental damage reduction while active.
Source: The Nature of Progress Operation on Master Mode difficulty, and a small chance from Unidentified items on the Spoils of War vendors.

This is a very odd-sounding set bonus to me, in that I could imagine it being quite useful in a small number of specific fights where you can already use Force Barrier in a calculated manner instead of as an emergency cooldown (such as Dread Guards in TFB). Or it could be useful in PvP as well, where you use Force Barrier more than anywhere else after all. I wonder how useful that set bonus will be in master mode Dxun...

The following set bonus has been added to the game at level 75, available for all Shadows:
Ballast Point
(2) +2% Endurance
(4) Deflection grants Ballistic immunity for 6 seconds, giving you immunity to movement impairing effects, knockdowns, and physics.
(6) Increases Elemental, Internal, Kinetic and Energy damage reduction by 3%.
Source: The Nature of Progress Operation on Master Mode difficulty, and a small chance from Unidentified items on the Spoils of War vendors.

Did Shadows really need another way of making themselves immune to things? (Insert PvP-inspired sigh here.) Again, this sounds more like something that would be useful in PvP more than anywhere else.

The following set bonus has been added to the game at level 75, available for all Gunslingers:
Ballistic Concentration
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) When you deploy Scrambling Field, each group member within it grants a stack of Ballistic Concentration, increasing your energy regeneration rate by 1 for 20 seconds. Max 8 stacks.
(6) Each stack of Ballistic Concentration also increases the damage you deal by 5%.
Source: The Nature of Progress Operation on Master Mode difficulty, and a small chance from Unidentified items on the Spoils of War vendors.

This set continues a trend Bioware started in 6.0 of giving defensive cooldowns a damage-increasing effect. Personally I find these a bit annoying because they kind of encourage you to make these defensives part of your dps rotation instead of saving them for when you might actually need them to survive, but this particular example is one case I don't mind too much if it actually encourages Gunslingers to use their domes more often. (In my experience they rarely do unless you actively yell at them to do it.) Then again, once again this would only apply to Gunslingers doing Dxun master mode anyway (so nobody that I play with on a regular basis).

The following set bonus has been added to the game at level 75, available for all Commandos:
Rapid Response
(2) +2% Mastery
(4) Activating a healing ability has a 15% chance to cause your next Medical Probe to be critical.
(6) Healing an ally with Medical Probe applies a buff to them for 10 seconds. Each enemy defeated by this ally increases your healing by a 2%, stacking up to 5 times.
Source: The Nature of Progress Operation on Master Mode difficulty, and a small chance from Unidentified items on the Spoils of War vendors.

I don't know how good this is numbers-wise, I just know that there's already another set called Rapid Response (and it's still there, unchanged - I checked), which is unnecessarily confusing if you ask me.

The Rocket Fuel Vapors tactical item has been redesigned:
Kolto Pods heal for an additional 5% and last a second longer, gaining an extra tick of healing.
The HP-5 Dart Device tactical item has been redesigned and renamed to SC-4 Treatment Scanner:
Successive Treatment heals for an additional 5% and generates Supercharge stacks while channeled, up to 4 stacks for a completed channel.

The Running Rapid Restoration tactical item has been redesigned and renamed to Running Restoration:
Increases the healing output of Advanced Medical Probe by 15% and allows it to be activated while moving.

This just highlights again that I'm not a fan of Bioware redesigning what Tacticals and set bonuses do after the fact. I freaking loved the old Rocket Fuel Vapors and it significantly changed my rotation... now that they changed it I feel I need to re-learn how to best do AoE healing all over again. Plus the new functionality just sounds incredibly boring and lacklustre, even if I'm not yet sure how it works out numbers-wise.

Running Rapid Restoration was my Tactical of choice in more single target focused fights, but they changed it so that the "cast while moving" now only works on a different ability with a cooldown. Also a nerf if you ask me.

Finally, the HP-5 Dart Device was complete rubbish and people basically binned it all the time if they got it, but now it sounds like it might actually be somewhat decent? Made me glad that I had left one lying around in my legacy bank, but at the same time "make sure to save one of every Tactical and set bonus item just in case Bioware ever decides to make it good" frankly doesn't sound like the greatest system to me (and very casual-unfriendly).

The Unidentified Boxes from the Spoils of War Vendor now grant the correct Set Bonuses based on the player’s Class.

I had a guildie report that he got things like gear for knights when shopping there on his trooper... while funny, it wasn't very productive.

Corrected an issue where the entire Rapid Response Set was available from the Unidentified Helmet Box.

So they do know that there's already another Rapid Response set! Come on, Bioware!

If a character is at the weekly or global cap for a reputation, reputation items will no longer be auto-consumed. Instead, they will be granted as normal items that can be used later or vendored.

Yes! I was not a fan of the tokens just not being granted if you're already at the reputation cap, so I'm pleased to see this.

The Plasma Emitters in the Iokath Daily Mission “Systems Go” have been fixed. They will now appear in an inactive state, allowing players to complete the Mission.

I only ran into this bug fairly recently - I thought I was just having bad luck with someone else already having used all the emitters and them being super slow to respawn. Glad they fixed that.

Players who choose to flirt with Elara Dorne in the “Squared Away” Mission no longer find themselves on top of a table in the cantina when the scene ends.

I have no idea what this is about but it sounds hilarious. Must have been quite a racy flirt to end with you waking up on top of a cantina table afterwards!

Corrected an issue where the Conquest timer showed too many digits in the seconds section.

Haven't seen that in a while, but when I did it was rather funny to see that a Conquest event had exactly 12.93882374842792932692736 seconds left to go.

The “Makeb: Defeat Enemies 2” Conquest Objective now properly appears in the Objectives list after players complete the “Makeb: Defeat Enemies 1” Conquest Objective.

Oh! I was wondering why there was only one for Makeb!

Increased the requirement of planetary Mission Complete Conquest Objectives to require 2 Mission completions (up from 1).

That... seems fair. It should cause my class missions to advance a little faster too.

Conquest Objective point Decreases:
Credits for Junk – Daily Repeatable, decrease from 2000 to 1750
Amp Reroll – Daily Repeatable, decrease from 2000 to 1750
Take a Taxi – Daily Repeatable, decrease from 2000 to 1750
Harvesting Pinnacle – Weekly Repeatable, decrease from 9750 to 5800
Utility Point – Daily Repeatable, decrease 2000 to 1750

Again, that seems quite fair. I don't mind having these objectives, but they probably shouldn't be quite so lucrative compared to others that require actual gameplay.

New Conquest Objectives:
Play PvP 2 – Daily Repeatable, 2000 points
Play PvP 3 – Daily Repeatable, 3000 points
Win Arenas 2 – Daily Repeatable, 3000 points
Win Arenas 3 – Daily Repeatable, 4000 points

More objectives for PvP = win.

Reduced the amount of lower rating items players can receive from Ranked and Unranked Warzone Lockboxes while at an overall item rating of 306.

Finally! That only took them... what, eight months? I hope nobody's tried to actually gear up via PvP in that time, because it basically didn't work.

Players are able to modify their Utility Point selections and swap out pieces of equipment (which includes Tactical items) while waiting in the queue for a Warzone or Arena.

Yes! Another good change, as the fact that this was locked the moment you entered the queue used to drive many of my guildies who change their utilities a lot to distraction whenever we did PvP as a group.

All in all, lots of good/interesting stuff in there. There's already another patch queued up for tomorrow, but that one's only small and simply meant to fix a few bugs. More importantly, we'll see the start of the new swoop racing event! I'm sure I'll have things to say about that.


Broken Window

This week's patch was a medium-sized one, with one major new feature (the swoop racing event) that's not actually going live until next week. The rest of the changes were mostly small things, and I was thinking about doing a sort of summary post to talk about my favourites among them, but there was one addition that stood out from the rest above all others: that damn welcome window.

Basically, Bioware decided to replace this:

With this:

No big deal, right? I mean, I guess those icons are somewhat less intuitive than having the actual words there - I'm not sure anyone would know intuitively that the magnifying glass stands for the current planet or the flag for your guild - and it's a bit bigger than before, but it's not like... dramatically different, right? I've heard some people complain that it's the "wrong" shade of blue and that the rounded corners don't align with other elements of the UI, but frankly that's too "graphics designer" for me to care much.

Oh, did I mention that it also suddenly expands into this?

Note that big ad for the Cartel Market deal of the day and you'll have one reason why people are grumbling about this. More advertising for the Cartel Market! Money grab! Etc.

Personally, I actually don't mind this particular inclusion as the Cartel Market deal of the day is often quite good and I've occasionally kicked myself for missing a nice one simply due to never looking at the place. Somehow I find it easier to briefly expand the social bar once per day and look than to actually open the whole Cartel Market window; I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just because it's new.

I also suspect that, however much pressure there might have been to give the Cartel Market more exposure, Bioware genuinely wanted to promote the other two items in the window as well. The first shows your current main story quest, and the second shows the current week's Conquest event. They call the whole thing the "welcome window" because it's supposed to give (I'm guessing especially returning) players an idea what they can do.

My impression from reading other people's blogs and such is that returning players definitely struggle with finding their way back into the game sometimes, despite of the story missions being highlighted in the quest log and tracker, and many MMOs feature similar, often much bigger windows these days that shout about the best features to check out the moment you log in. I've always kind of enjoyed discovering content more organically, but I can understand why this is a thing.

Anyway, I don't think any of this would have been a big deal if the new social bar had simply replaced the old one in the exact same location - but for some reason Bioware decided to implement it as being located in the centre left of your screen by default, where it clashes with pretty much every UI setup under the sun:

You can move it, but only if you have "enable movable secondary window" selected in the UI editor, and only if you manage to "grab" it by the thin light blue border just so. Also, it won't necessarily remember this setting on all your characters - it seems quite erratic in that it will sometimes appear in the "right" place (where you moved it previously), or in the default position, or disappear altogether. Also, it's not part of the UI editor proper, so you can't hide or resize it. I've seen someone ask on the forums whether none of the devs know how to code for the UI editor anymore, as apparently a lot of newer UI elements have this problem.

I think all of this is pretty bad, but again, to be honest I think a lot of players wouldn't have noticed (or at least not immediately) if Bioware hadn't decided to put the bloody thing in the middle of the screen by default. As it was, both general chat and guild chat on Wednesday evening were full of people cursing about that damn window/bar in the middle of their screen and asking how to get rid of it.

And if all of this wasn't enough, this new window had also been on the PTS prior to this, with Bioware specifically asking for feedback about it - most of which was negative. The fact that the feature still made it to live with most issues unaddressed just makes it look like they didn't even listen.

It's weird because changing a small part of the user interface is such a tiny matter in the grand scheme of things... but this just goes to highlight the importance of a good UI: it needs to give the player everything they need to know to navigate the virtual world while also being as minimalistic as possible so as not to be distracting or annoying. I feel Bioware definitely violated the latter principle here and it just goes to show how much a misstep in that area can disrupt players' experiences.


SWTOR's PvP Brackets Explained

I've been spending some time in all three PvP brackets recently and I have to say it's quite interesting how each of them has its own unique flavour.

Lowbie: 10-42

I freaking love the lowbie bracket and I'm clearly not alone. Just the other day I ended up in a lowbie arena with two people who both professed to have repeatedly created new characters just to play more lowbie PvP, even if it meant deleting higher level characters to make room in their roster.

What makes lowbie PvP so great is that it's relatively simple in terms of combat gameplay. If you want to interrupt someone, you can. If you want to knock someone off a raised platform, you can. At the higher levels there are often a variety of counters for pretty much every move you could think to make, which can be frustrating if you're not on top of it and end up doing things like wasting a knockback on someone who just used an ability that makes them immune to knockbacks.

This relative simplicity of combat seems to attract people who love to focus on objectives instead, which means that the bracket consists of this odd mix of utter newbies who are only just taking their first steps into PvP and don't have a clue what they're doing and hardened veterans who are on their umpteenth PvP alt just for the hell of it.

Huttball in particular can be amazing fun! I'm kind of lukewarm about it at max level, where I neither love nor hate it, but in the lowbie bracket you can actually have some really fantastic games. I think the reason for this is that the lack of cooldowns at this level makes it almost impossible for a single person to just grab the ball, run and score, as they are very vulnerable to being rooted and killed, and healing power is limited as well. This makes scoring a goal a proper achievement that requires teamwork and repeated passes, and you very rarely get one team just steam-rolling another - the character power to do so just isn't there.

Since there are fewer people queueing than for max-level PvP, there's also a bit more of a community feel, as you'll often see the same names over and over again - and since it's random whether they end up on your team or the enemy's, there are no hard feelings either. Mind you, the downside of this smaller community is that you'll get a higher proportion of arena pops than at max-level whenever there aren't enough people queueing, and during off-hours pops might stop altogether. Your mileage may vary on whether that really is a downside (maybe you really like arenas or only play during prime time anyway).

The one thing that's definitely a downside is that due to the nature of the lowbie bracket, you'll also run into the noobiest of noobs, so you need to have some patience with players who do really silly things such as run around without using their stealth on a stealth character, or are completely oblivious of what just happened when they end up catching the Huttball. They seem to make up only a minority in any case.

Midbie: 43-74

Midbie is a step up from lowbie in terms of combat as characters will have most of their abilities by now, but most will still be missing some of their cooldowns at least. There's a bit more pressure to know not just your own but other classes' abilities as well, in order to engage in proper counter-play.

Still, the more objective-oriented mindset from lowbie still continues in this bracket. If you just want to kill people, you can get faster and more frequent pops at max level after all. And with how quickly levelling is these days, you'll get there in no time simply by doing story quests, meaning that many people ending up in midbie PvP have usually made a conscious choice to be there instead of questing, similar to the lowbie PvPers.

Midbie also has to deal with the same double-edged sword of a smaller community, which means more name recognition but also slower pops and more arenas.

Max-level: 75

Max-level PvP contains both the best and the worst of SWTOR PvP. With the sheer number of abilities a level 75 character has, not to mention utilities and now also Tacticals and bonuses from different gear sets, there is a lot of room for skillful play. Most of my "I can't believe he just did that" moments in PvP have happened at max level, usually when I'm in awe of someone seemingly predicting my next move within barely a second and successfully countering it in that time. Unfortunately I myself am not that skilled at all this, despite of having all classes at max level, and I'm more likely to find myself frustrated at being outplayed in ways that are really hard to counter if you don't have sufficiently fast reflexes and intimate knowledge of every single ability in the game.

The large number of cooldowns, healing and self-healing also mean that you're more likely to end up in somewhat tedious stalemates, such as arenas going to acid, or nobody being able to cap the middle turret in Civil War.

Finally, you end up with all kinds of bored max-levels who don't really care about objectives and just want to pass the time killing each other with big numbers. I'm hardly surprised anymore when such matches are accompanied by one guy muttering to himself in a foreign language while another yells in all caps about how we're all terrible and should uninstall the game. The queue pops are fast, but basically you pay for the increased quantity with a decrease in quality as far as teamwork and community spirit go. Then again, sometimes a quick bout of face-smashing may well be all you're looking for that night.


Peace Out, Tatooine

The other day my pacifist Jedi wrapped up another planet (as far as that's possible considering her unique circumstances) by finishing business on Tatooine. Just exploring and doing some side quests on both Nar Shaddaa and Tat was enough to get her from level 35 to 44 - and while I suspect that the last two months of double XP are at least partially to blame for this amount of progress, I'm sure that all the new Conquest objectives had something to do with it as well. At this rate she definitely won't run out of non-repeatable content to keep her busy until the level cap.

Tatooine being a pretty hostile environment, I didn't expect to find too many quests that didn't involve violence. Oddly, this was true in Anchorhead, where pretty much everyone wanted me to kill someone or other, but once I left the "big city" behind, people were more open to giving me tasks whose only strict completion requirements were non-violent.

I'm not going to talk about every single quest I did this time, because the pattern is pretty established by now: The objective is to click on some things next to hostile mobs, so I click and stealth out with Force Cloak the moment I get aggro, then wait for it to come off cooldown before repeating the whole process until quest completion.

I'll note that my favourite mission was the reunion with Fez Burba, mostly because it also had a non-violent bonus I could do. My least favourite was the Jawa that wanted me to save his malfunctioning droids, because the zapper gun I was supposed to use to fix them only worked about one in every five times, meaning that I must have spent a good twenty minutes or so on that quest alone, waiting for Force Cloak to come off cooldown yet again because the stupid doodad kept failing and putting me into combat without actually progressing the mission.

Another quest that was worth noting is the one to save Raith's "Loved Ones" (aka "the one that makes fun of Transformers collectors", or at least that's how I always tend to think of it), because strictly speaking the objective to loot the chest requires no fighting, however there are two mobs next to it and I could only crowd control one. The problem was that looting the chest triggers a cut scene, and with the second mob aggroing as soon as I un-stealthed, I always got an error message about not being eligible for the conversation (due to being in combat), which prevented me from actually completing the quest. I'd basically need someone else to pass through and deal with those two mobs for me, or wait until level 75, when Pacis could technically acquire and use the Tactical that allows you to put two enemies to sleep at once. I left the quest in my log for now.

Speaking of opening chests, I've had a pretty good time emptying lots of security chests under the noses of sand people and pirates. Not that they ever contain anything valuable, but they glow and I like clicking on shiny things. Also, it's important to note that pacifism is perfectly compatible with thieving as long as nobody gets hurt (in my world at least).

My favourite discovery on this planet was another heroic that I could not only do (Breaking the Code) but that was in fact the best heroic I've found for stealthing so far, even better than retrieving Luran Gonthor's deed on Coruscant, because it doesn't even require any crowd control or use of Force Cloak. You can just stealth into the building, unstealth next to the console you're supposed to click (there are no mobs right next to it), click and then re-stealth the normal way or quick travel out. Pretty ace!

I'm curious what Alderaan will have in store. You'd think that a beautiful planet full of snooty nobles should offer more than a few non-violent business opportunities, but first impressions can be deceiving.


Gods Unleashed

The first four bosses in Gods from the Machine each drop an item called "[boss name] control module". First-timers to the operation inevitably ask what it is, and the answer is usually something along the lines of: "It allows you to temporarily turn into the boss on Iokath; nothing special."

Now that I think about it, it's actually pretty weird how utterly unexcited we've always been about these drops. Being able to turn into a boss (and one that's considered a god, no less) should be freaking cool! I guess the problem is that it only works on Iokath, and people don't like Iokath. I mean, personally the dailies have grown on me over time, but then I've also been told that I have some masochistic tendencies. What good is a cool transformation if the only time you can use it is to do content you don't particularly enjoy, in a place you don't like? Yeah.

And yet... I've kept all five of my control modules in my bag ever since I won each of them, and every now and then I've looked at them longingly, telling myself that I'll get to use them one day.

Well, the other day I decided that it was time to make this happen. Sure, just turning into one of the gods and then doing dailies on Iokath would probably be pretty boring, but anything can be fun if you turn it into a guild event! So that's what I did, especially since I was sure that other people had unused control modules sitting in their bags and banks as well.

Unfortunately we ran into practical limitations very quickly. I had envisioned us marching across Iokath as a whole army of gods from the machine, but as it turns out the game will only allow one copy of each god to be active at any given time, meaning that a lot of people only got to scurry along as our "adds" at the gods' feet as it were. Even worse, our plan to at least let people take turns was foiled as well, as the consoles in the control room kept indicating that the gods were still "on cooldown" even after the original lot had expired, without providing any details about just how long said cooldown was. We just had to call it at that point as there seemed to be zero documentation about this online either and we didn't fancy waiting around indefinitely.

That said, we managed to have a pretty good time while it lasted. I got to pick Scyva because it was my birthday, and others were quick to claim the other gods. There was a certain humour in the fact that the most mellow of our officers, who wouldn't hurt a fly in real life (no really, he's a strict vegan), turned into Tyth, the god of rage. And one of our tanks had way too much fun slipping into the skin of Nahut and using the tank-killing move to which he'd fallen victim way too many times on other people instead.

Vehicle mechanics in SWTOR tend to be kind of clunky and these were too, but the sheer fact that the gods lived up to their names, with massive health pools and the same overpowered abilities that they also use in the boss fights, was enough to make playing them fun.

We started off by paying a visit to the Colossal droid, who was still taller than we were even in our transformed states, but he died easily enough. Then we had the idea of invading the Imperial base, where absolute carnage ensued. I hadn't gone into this with PvP in mind but we just so happened to be in the PvP instance when we started, and a few guildies decided out of their own volition to change sides and put up a bit of resistance.

Mind you, they mostly ended up being ganked a lot, but they didn't seem to mind too much and had fun getting the occasional kill among our non-transformed followers. We as gods may have been pretty unassailable by a small handful of players, but with base defenses going off all around us non-stop, the place was still dangerous for those who had followed us on their regular characters. No non-guildies were harmed in the process by the way, as the PvP instance was pretty empty, and the one Imp who briefly showed up (very sensibly) did a straight 180 the moment he saw the mayhem happening in his base.

I uploaded a video recording of the event here if you want to get a better idea of what it was like; it's about half an hour long. It was definitely fun and I'd happily do something like this again - though maybe next time we should aim for a slightly fairer fight and have a few more people (and maybe even some of the gods) on the defending side.


1000 Posts!

I celebrate two types of milestones on this blog: the blog's birthday (which is shortly after SWTOR's birthday every year in December) and every time I've written another 100 posts. The 900 post milestone happened back in June last year, at which point I expected to hit the big thousand in April or May of 2020. I think it was mainly the lull I found myself in during the months just before the launch of Onslaught that led to me missing that target by a little bit - which is only a shame in so far as a commenter pointed out that it would have been cool if I could have timed it so that the 1000th post was published on the 4th of May.

Anyway, this is the 1000th post now! In the past I've used these milestones to look at something related to blog statistics: mostly funny search terms that led people to the blog, but more recently also items such as which posts have been the most popular over time. I thought that for this one I'd do something slightly different though, and talk about my blog tags or labels.

Tags or categories are among a healthy blog's best features in my opinion, and I always love it when other bloggers make good use of them, as it makes it much easier to find specific content that interests you. I use my own tags all the time as well when trying to find older posts that I've written on certain subjects.

They can also provide insights into just what a blogger writes about most often though, so that's the angle I've decided to take this time around. Let's look at and talk about the blog's twenty most frequently used tags:

1. screenshots (636)

Now this very first tag is a bit of a funny one, because you might very well ask: "Why is this even a thing? Don't most of your posts contain screenshots?" The answer is yes, and this tag is evidence of that, proving that apparently 63.6% of my posts do in fact contain screenshots. However, this wasn't always the case. To this day I remain the kind of blogger who's more focused on the written word than on fancy images, but I've certainly mellowed and use them a lot more often now than I did in the past.

Basically, when I started this blog, I used them rarely enough that whenever I did include one or more screenshots it felt like something that was worth noting, and I sometimes used the tag to quickly check back on whether I had used certain screenshots in a post before or not. At this point this has become somewhat of a moot point, both because most of my posts contain screenshots anyway and because a category with 636 entries in it is not something you can casually scan for what you've used before. But it's there, so I'll keep using it.

2. quests (183)

Considering that story content is the bread and butter of Star Wars: The Old Republic, it shouldn't be a surprise that "quests" is the second most used tag on this blog. After all, every new piece of story is delivered in the form of a quest - or missions as the game officially calls them, since it came out in the days of "we're trying to differentiate ourselves from WoW by using different terms for everything".

I only wish that I'd thought of coming up with a separate "story" tag early on, because sometimes I want to talk about wider story developments such as the Republic vs. Empire conflict and then it feels a bit weird to just tag that with "quests". However, considering it's what I've been using for more than eight years now, it would be weird to change things up at this point, unless I ever feel like going back through one thousand posts and retroactively tagging some of them "story" where appropriate. I can't even rule that out entirely, considering some of the ways in which I've been spending my time this year, but it's unlikely.

3. operations (152)

Speaking of using different terms for everything, here we have SWTOR's term for raids. I'm a raider, so I talk about them a lot. Makes sense. Then again, you could argue that considering how much of my time in game I spend running operations, it's actually kind of impressive that I "only" talk about them 15.2% of the time and don't mention them at all in the other 84.8% of posts.

4. swtor general (145)

This is a generic catch-all term for things that I find hard to categorise, such as the game's population, server merges, content cycles, comparisons between expansions etc. I'm actually kind of surprised that it's "only" in fourth place - clearly I manage to be specific about my subjects more often than not.

5. pvp (142)

I don't consider myself that much of a PvPer, but I guess PvP being the fifth most used tag on the blog paints a slightly different picture. It's not my number one way of passing the time, but it's clearly a fixed staple of my in-game diet.

6. flashpoints (126)

Flashpoints are in a similar boat as I enjoy doing them quite regularly, but considering just how much I love them I'm kind of surprised they rank below PvP in terms of how much I talk about them on the blog. Maybe I like thinking about them more than I actually spend time running them (which would make them sort of the opposite of my stance towards PvP I guess).

7. guild (126)

My guild is awesome so it deserves to be mentioned a lot! This seems appropriate.

8. community (124)

This is a tag that I like to use for a variety of community-related subjects, from how people behave in pugs to links to other fan sites or content creators. I've long known that I care about community a lot, so I guess it makes sense that it would come up in my blog posts reasonably often, but I was still kind of surprised to see it in the top ten. 

9. companions (121)

Another one of SWTOR's staples, so no surprise that the tag associated with them is in my top ten, even if my general impression has long been that I seem to worry/care less about my companions than the average player seemingly does.

10. patch (102)

My first thought on seeing this number was: "Has SWTOR even had 102 patches?!" So I checked the official patch notes page, and at the time of writing this it currently lists 276 numbered patches - huh. I'm sure I didn't actually cover most of them though, and most of these posts were probably about a small handful of larger patches... but still interesting, I guess.

11. gear (99)

I didn't think I cared that much about gear?! Am I that shallow? The blog says yes!

12. silly (93)

I often am, and so are my guildies, so this checks out.

13. grouping (90)

As a big fan of group content and someone who's very interested in all the dynamics surrounding it, it makes sense to me that this is a tag that I use a lot. Then again, we're talking 90 out of 1000 posts here... is 0.9% really a lot?

14. knights of the fallen empire (89)

Now this one I found really interesting because no other expansion tag has been used nearly as often. The next one in line would be Knights of the Eternal Throne with 49 uses, and that despite of that expansion lasting three times as long as KotFE. I think it's because I mainly use expansion tags when I'm specifically talking about an expansion's story content or new game-changing features that were a part of it. KotFE came with a huge amount of story content (it took me 17 posts just to cover all the story chapters) and the switch to monthly chapters, introduction of level sync and general side-lining of group content was a huge paradigm shift that caused a lot of friction at the time and made for a lot of good blogging material, even if it also caused players a fair amount of heartache.

15. pugs (85)

I like joining pick-up groups and talk about this often. Once again, this checks out.

16. levelling (83)

I also like levelling alts - maybe not as much as some, but it's certainly something that comes up every so often.

17. npcs (80)

This tag is kind of related to what I said about "quests" earlier and mostly focuses on notable characters and their roles in the story. Though sometimes it can also be a bit random.

18. warzones (80)

I gave warzones a separate tag to distinguish tales about specific matches from general PvP talk about things like class balance etc. but also from world PvP. Most of the time the two do still go together, but not all the time.

19. links (75)

I think I originally created this tag to mark posts where I was doing a lot of linking to other content creators or fan sites, but then I also started using it for posts that do a lot of interlinking within the blog itself. I'm not actually sure that's very useful at this point, but like the screenshots tag it's there so I might as well keep using it.

20. videos (74)

As much as I call myself a blogger rather than a YouTuber, videos are a thing I also create sometimes, and when I feature them I use this tag. It's not just for my own videos though, but also for videos from other people, official trailers etc.

Anyway, that's that. Just a little journey looking into the sort of subjects I like to write about the most. What about you, dear readers? Do you ever use tags to find things? Or am I just the sort of person that can be a bit obsessive about sorting/categorising things?

(By the way, I was going to tag this post with "blog" and all twenty labels featured in it, but Blogger won't let you have more than twenty tags and I didn't want to drop just one, so nothing but "blog" it is.)


Video Stuff

I've been feeling quite inspired on the video front recently, so I thought I'd make a blog post to plug my most recent creations. If you're already subscribed to my YouTube channel, you can pretty much ignore this! As I've mentioned previously, I'm primarily a blogger, not a YouTuber, so creating and promoting videos is not exactly a focus for me, but that doesn't mean that I don't want anyone to see it when I do make one.

First off we have "Getting Physical as a Juggernaut", which was one of those rare videos that were a completely spontaneous idea. Basically I had spent an afternoon doing PvP in the midbie bracket on my Juggernaut Cheriza while also being on a bit of a Dua Lipa trip and listening to Physical on repeat, and it occurred to me that leaping at and smashing into people was a valid interpretation of the phrase "getting physical"... so I edited it all together into a sort of love child between a PvP montage and a music video. It doesn't show me being particularly awesome at PvP or anything like that, it's just a bit of fun.

Another way in which I felt like getting creative recently was that for the first time in literal years I decided to make not one, but two cinematic raid videos - which is to say I went into a 16-man story mode operation and recorded the proceedings from first person view and with all UI elements hidden, just to edit the best footage together to an epic soundtrack. I do think the results are the best two videos of this type I've done so far (we did both Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice in one evening):

As an aside, I decided to use two Two Steps From Hell songs as the soundtrack, which led to me reading up about them, and I didn't even know that they were specifically composing their creations to be used in film and video game trailers! That certainly explains why they work so well for this kind of content.

I also made a "behind the scenes" video which shows my guildies talking about silly things while epic battles were being fought on screen, plus some, let's say... less epic proceedings that I couldn't use in the main videos for obvious reasons.

Finally, I've talked about my outtakes videos before, and with this whole pandemic thing I've been spending more time with my guildies than any sane person should, resulting in lots of recordings of ridiculous conversations and silly deaths, and me putting up another compilation of this footage pretty much once a month.

Now, the primary target audience for these are my guildies and I'm sure to an outsider a lot of things simply wouldn't make sense, but I have had feedback from a few people not in my guild that they found these quite amusing as well, so I thought I'd mention them. If the humour's not your cup of tea that's completely understandable - but if you do like having a peek into the silly goings-on in a social raiding guild, here is your chance (be aware that there's some swearing, dirty jokes and stuff):


DvL Bosses Defeated At Last

Looking back at past blog entries, I wrote about the dark vs. light world bosses exactly twice before. Once in late 2016, when I basically went "Hey, these are a thing!" and once in mid-2018 when I noted that my guild was having another go at killing some of them for the achievement. We did kill a few of them back then, but ultimately people lost interest again before we got anywhere close to getting them all.

I think there were a number of reasons for this: All the driving around to find bosses could be quite time-consuming without necessarily leading to success, and their availability being tied to a light or dark side victory meant that going after them was often only an option at inconvenient times. They also caused a significant amount of deaths and repair bills for very little reward. I think too many people just decided eventually that they'd rather be spending their time doing other things.

The other week however, a bored officer seemed to get it into his head that we should give hunting the bosses another go, and enough people were available and happy to come along to at least make a start. We still had the issues mentioned above, but we actually got better at dealing with them, and a couple of days ago the first few people started to have their achievements pop up (though since these world boss hunts have been quite irregular, and different people have attended them at different times, we'll definitely have to keep going for at least a little longer to make sure everyone gets all the bosses they still need). I thought I would share more of what we learned along the way.

First off, general resources about these bosses still seem to be quite thin on the ground, but we found this German site which lists a lot more boss spawn locations than the old Dulfy guide. (It's quite a peculiar site; a blog set up in 2017 that clearly had ambitions to become a bigger source of guides but ultimately only posted two entries, one of which is the linked DvL post.) Back in 2018 I noted that I didn't think bosses were tied to particular planets, but this turned out to be at least partially wrong - there are a couple for each alignment that can indeed spawn anywhere in the galaxy, but most of the others are exclusive to specific planets, so if you want to catch them all you can't be too choosy about where you go hunting. The linked guide lists which boss can be found where and also which of the two ability sets each one uses.

Killing the bosses can be a challenge but simply finding them up is an even bigger one. In hindsight it feels like it was a really bad idea on Bioware's part to make these guys despawn if the first attack on them fails, particularly with no in-game indicator that this is a thing. They are way too easy to mistake for regular mobs at a casual glance, causing many a newbie to pull them and then die or run away, thus despawning them. This is an issue on all the planets but particularly aggravating on Coruscant, where it's always busy and many of the spawn points are near frequently visited quest locations, meaning that it's not unusual for a boss to get despawned by a hapless noob mere minutes after their initial appearance. We had quite a few occasions where we were just lining up to pull when a random newbie did a sudden drive-by charge-in, costing us the boss and inducing a lot of rage in some people even if I personally don't think the lowbies can be blamed for their ignorance.

We eventually learned to try and prepare for the victory state in advance: while you'll never know when it'll pop exactly, once one side seems to be on the way to winning you can extrapolate at least the rough time when the victory state will be achieved (taking into consideration that the indicator tends to move one step about once every ninety minutes). We would then make sure to form an ops group in advance and have people park themselves near various spawn points, so that anyone who laid eyes on a boss when it appeared could instantly use the guild flagship transport to summon the rest of the group to their location and grab the boss right there and then.

Also, it's good if people have characters on both sides of the faction divide, because the Dromund Kaas spawn locations are slightly more out of the way, meaning that if you had no luck on Coruscant, you could usually go there instead and still find a couple of the same bosses up in the jungle even after everything on Coruscant had already been cleared out.

As far as boss difficulty goes, we learned that while the bosses effectively all use one of just two ability sets, there can be huge variations in difficulty based on the planet they are on and the exact spawn point. The planet matters because the scaling is pretty wacky: on Coruscant and Dromund Kaas the damage is relatively mild, on Tatooine and Alderaan it's mostly manageable, but on Hoth it's a real nightmare. For example one of the boss abilities is a saber throw at a random person, and on Hoth that pretty much one-shots people if they aren't at 100% health when it hits them, causing a lot of very annoying and seemingly unavoidable deaths.

Spawn location also matters because both sets of boss abilities include people leaving circles of pain on the ground, which means that the fights are easier on open plains and super awkward in tight spaces as you quickly get boxed in. On bright, snowy terrain the circles can also be hard to see sometimes. In addition it matters whether there's a medical droid for your faction nearby: some of the boss locations are quite close to respawn points, making it easy to keep zerging back if people die a lot; others will revive you at the other end of the zone, making a wipe likely if too many people die in quick succession as they just won't have time to make it back before even more people die and things snowball from there, even if characters that can get out of combat use a guild summon occasionally to speed up the return of any fallen comrades.

One thing I already mentioned back in 2018 is that group size definitely matters: these bosses seem to have been designed for ops groups of twelve people or more, and they don't scale downwards very well at all. Basically each boss will target a certain number of characters with each of their abilities, and if there aren't enough of you? Too bad, that just means that some players are going to get more than one effect on them at the same time and will basically die within two seconds. You simply have to be able to accept that this is a thing and be willing to get up again, dust yourself off and keep going. One of our guildies who wasn't particularly fussed about the achievement but came along when first invited got so frustrated with dying constantly and having no way to prevent this through skilled play that the next time we asked him to join he said something along the lines of preferring to be kicked in the nuts for half an hour over ever doing another one of theses bosses again. So your mileage may vary!

Ultimately it remains an achievement that requires quite a lot of commitment, as you'll likely have to take part in several boss hunts over the course of days and weeks until you get all of them. (I don't know what the percentages are, but bosses aren't guaranteed to appear at each spawn point, so sometimes whole maps will be empty despite of a recent victory state.) And while getting the achievement and the associated flag decorations is definitely cool, it'll cost you a lot of time and probably also money in repair bills from all the random deaths that can be hard to impossible to avoid.


Swtorista hits 100k subscribers, I get to run DP with her

I posted about the way Swtorista celebrated hitting 20k YouTube subscribers back in 2017, I posted about her hitting 50k last year, so it only seems appropriate to post about her hitting 100k this year - and not just because I got to be a special guest of honour (gasp)!

This time around she decided to celebrate the occasion with a twelve hour long stream this past Saturday, and being her usual community-minded self, lots of people were invited, including me! Unfortunately I had to decline her original proposal to join for a dedicated segment about content creators because it was scheduled to start at 4am my time... and while it technically would have been possible for me to stay up that long on a Saturday, I'm too middle-aged at this point to do without sleep for that long.

She was undeterred by this however (how is that for making someone feel special) and invited me to a different, earlier event instead: a 16-man ops run with her guild and some other guests I knew, such as Intisar and Ajay (I don't know if they also had issues attending the other segment). I was more than happy to join for that, especially as I knew that I was going to miss the by now traditional mass emote event due to it colliding with my regular ops time.

I hadn't played Shintar the Cathar trooper on Star Forge since before Onslaught, and while level 70 was technically high enough to enter DP story mode, I decided to put the little bit of extra effort in to get her to 75 before the event. Plus I also wanted to have the taxi and quick travel points on Oricon unlocked, just to make sure I wasn't going to end up being one of those people who go: "Oh, I haven't done Oricon on this one yet! Can I have a summon?" (You know who you are!) Someone offered a guild flagship transport anyway so it wouldn't have mattered, but I was still satisfied to hit 75 a few hours before the start of the run.

Running the operation with Swtorista and her guild was fun and... interesting. In a way her guildies reminded me a lot of my own, not necessarily in any details of their personalities, but let's just say that there were a lot of "archetypes" present that I certainly recognised, such as:
  • the one who realises that their level 75 alt doesn't even have a ship so they can't be summoned
  • the one with the character named and dressed according to a silly theme
  • the one who likes to do funny voices on voice chat
  • the one who likes to make dirty jokes on voice chat
  • the one who doesn't talk much but tops the dps meters and is always the first one to make a beeline for the right objective/target, providing guidance for the less attentive players
Honestly, that alone would have been worth a chuckle, but the whole run was pretty good fun too.

I had told my own guildies about the event as well, and a few of them even came to watch the stream and say silly things about me in stream chat, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I also recorded the event from my point of view and uploaded a video of it again:

Originally I was going to call it "highlights" but considering that it's still about half the length of the run I think referring to it as a condensed version of the event would probably be more honest. Swtorista also uploaded an unedited version of the whole thing on her own channel (though it starts a bit after mine) if you prefer that. Plus she posted a Twitter thread documenting everything else she did that day if you want to check it out (she did do lots of cool stuff).

Anyway, many thanks to Swtorista for inviting me (some of my guildies think I'm super famous now, haha) and what can I say but to the next 100k subscribers?! Just don't forget to leave yourself some time for just playing the game too, girl!


A Series of Unexpected Events

When I wrote about skipping story content last year and why I'm conflicted about it, one of the arguments I gave against it was that at least for me, there can be quite a difference between imagining how a character would react to certain story beats in the abstract, purely based on their personality and alignment, and actually playing through that same content, because small details such as certain pieces of dialogue can end up making quite a difference to the way things feel in the moment.

I've had a great example of this recently in the form of my bounty hunter - or should I say "one of my bounty hunters"? I'm up to three of them at max level for some reason and have been splitting my play time between them in the most awkward of ways. Anyway, this story is about my dps Powertech T'ir (don't ask me how to pronounce that, I just added the apostrophe somewhat randomly when she lost her original name during the first round of server merges), who is the bounty hunter with the most story progression and on whom I've been making a concerted effort to get caught up with current events. In case it's not obvious, this means that this post will contain spoilers about story content from KotET onwards.

T'ir's a Chiss and tends to lean towards dark side decisions, so I thought everything would be pretty cut and dry for her. She's not exactly an Imperial loyalist, but she's been getting along with the Empire well enough, so I couldn't really picture any set of circumstances in which she would defect to the Republic when given the choice.

So the other week I finally finished the last chapter of KotET on her. Declaring herself an Empress at the end seemed like quite a high point for a bounty hunter fond of personal power. I don't think she has any real desire to rule nor interest in politics, mind you... she just likes being the strongest and punching people. Calling herself an Empress must have felt like a bit of a joke to her, to be honest.

Then it was time to go to Iokath, to find the Republic and Empire squabbling there. T'ir didn't really want to support either of them - they both seemed kind of beneath her at that moment. Acina had previously been an ally, but here she was trying to snatch some superweapon for herself behind everyone else's back - typical Sith scheming, bah!

And who was representing the Republic? Jace Malcom, a hardened war veteran with whom a bounty hunter could actually see eye to eye, and who also happened to be her boyfriend's dad. (In hindsight I honestly I have no idea how or why I ended up in a relationship with Theron on this character... they are/were a terrible match. However, the point is they were a couple at the time, so the familial relationships were a consideration.) With all that in mind: Why not side with the Republic on this occasion and bash some Imperial heads in? To a bounty hunter like her it's all the same anyway. (Fun fact: If you pause this story arc after "defecting" and then click the launch button to resume, it will put you in the wrong base and you'll get murdered by guards as soon as you arrive. Huzzah!)

Anyway, if you're all caught up with the story, you know what comes after that - the traitor story arc. Oddly, the bit I enjoyed most about that was the interaction with Aristocra Saganu. In particular, there was one line of dialogue where you get to say something along the lines of: "Really, you'd sell out one of your own just like that?" and his response is: "You're one of our own too." I actually had to pause and blink there for a moment to realise that he was talking about the fact that T'ir is a Chiss just like him. I hadn't even considered that! At the end he also sent her a letter about how she was a role model for all young Chiss, which I thought was great.

The issue of the traitor himself largely played out as I expected. While there were a couple of heart-wrenching lines about love, T'ir wouldn't have become a bounty hunter if her heart was that easily wrenched. I'm not sure she would have been able to pull the trigger herself, but simply turning her back on him when he had already been injured by someone else's hand was surprisingly easy.

Where do you go from there though? Surely not back to working with the father of the man you just left to die? Handily though, Emperor Vowrawn also wrote her a letter asking to let bygones be bygones and saying that he'd quite appreciate her working with the Empire again. He might not be so bad; he reminds her a bit of Darth Tormen... I also think she'll get along just swell with Malgus, though I don't know how well he will like someone who already switched sides twice. I guess the best way to find out is to play! I'm very curious to see how things will play out for her from here, as I never expected to have an Imperial loyalist that would be dealing with Vowrawn instead of Acina...


Peaceful Progress on Nar Shaddaa

Once again it's been a while since I last wrote about my pacifist Jedi Pacis. I made a new tag called "pacifist levelling" now to make it easier to find the previous posts in the series. Anyway, last time she had done everything she could on Taris and it was time to continue to Nar Shaddaa.

Taris had been quite satisfying in terms of how many of its quests were doable without fighting anything, though there was some disappointment near the end when I had to acknowledge that none of the heroics were feasible to do in such a manner. Nar Shaddaa was kind of the opposite in that I initially found it somewhat annoying but then discovered some real gems towards the end.

I wasn't actually off to a bad start with one of my favourite side quests to cleanse the spice trade. Handily, someone else had just been through the area and killed all the actual spice traders, meaning that I didn't even have to hide from anyone while clicking the shinies for quest completion.

Another exploration mission I found and that worked for me involved blowing up some swoop bikes. This one was a bit trickier as I was on my own and the Nikto gang members did not take kindly to my meddling, meaning I had to use Force Cloak after each attack (on the bikes, not the bikers) and then wait for it to come off cooldown before I could go again.

After that I hit a bit of a lull as I couldn't actually remember the details of a lot of the quests I started, meaning that I repeatedly went through the trouble of sitting through the mission dialogue just to realise too late that they had objectives that clashed with my pacifist creed, meaning that I just had to abandon them again. I also used the dialogue option to decline quests a lot (where it was available). This was actually interesting because it's not an option I ever used very much (nor did anyone, I suspect, which is why Bioware didn't bother with including it anymore after launch). While it was interesting, I can't really recommend it either... rejecting just always made my character sound like either a coward or a jerk, and the quest givers were either annoyed or depressingly resigned to their impending doom.

One mission that I had been looking forward to, the one to find the wayward droid, was not available, presumably due to being tied to progressing one of the main story quests somehow. I did find two more though: first the one where a worker asks you to find a missing Jedi padawan who had told her that she was Force sensitive before disappearing. I thought I remembered that one requiring the killing of some Nikto, but apparently that was only a bonus as simply finding the dead Jedi's body completed the mission just fine.

The other one was the one where a mercenary / escaped prisoner asks you to destroy some Imperial torture devices... again, I suspected that there would be some killing required in this one as well, but this turned out to not be the case. The only annoying thing was once again a lot of waiting for Force Cloak to come off cooldown, as pretty much every objective was next to some angry mobs that I had to immediately escape from after destroying it.

Anyway, the most interesting thing about this quest was actually the introductory cut scene, which has the NPC pointing a blaster at you and as a Jedi you counter by drawing your lightsaber... except that Pacis doesn't wield a weapon! I was rather stunned that the cut scene equipped her with one anyway. (The colour crystal in the non-existent saber was bright white by the way.)

Not sure where that came from.

The area in the vicinity of that quest was actually quite frustrating as there were a lot of probe droids with stealth detection abilities about, often putting me into combat unexpectedly or even foiling my attempts to vanish sometimes, and with no safe places to escape to I even died a couple of times. It did force me to pay more attention though and to actually watch out for the stealth scan casts.

On the plus side, it was in this area that I discovered another heroic that I could complete as a pacifist: Shadow Extraction, which requires you to break someone out of prison. This one was also absolutely crammed with stealth-scanning droids, which was quite a pain and required some trial and error, but eventually I figured out how to sneak past some of them safely, and where I couldn't do so I learned to quickly run past out of stealth and then Cloak once I was safely out of range of their detection range.

I did think it was funny that a prison break-out of all things didn't include a single objective about taking down guards or anything... I basically just hacked sliced into their computer and then opened the guy's cell. How he actually made it out without any of the guards stopping him remains a mystery...

Sorry, Phalanx, you're on your own from here.

Anyway, the real jackpot was that I then found a second heroic that I could stealth: Breaking Down Shadow Town. Again, just lots of clicking on different terminals and such required but no actual fighting, so I just had to spend a lot of time waiting for Force Cloak to come back off cooldown every time I was spotted (which in many instances seemed pretty unavoidable).

With Trouble in Deed I'm now up to three repeatable heroics that I can do without fighting anyone, which I think is pretty rad, though I think I'll have less incentive to repeat the two on Nar Shaddaa simply because they required a lot more effort / were a lot more time-consuming compared to the quick in-and-out job you can do on Coruscant.

With all the new Conquest objectives for doing quests (plus nonsense like taking a taxi and gaining a level), this was also the first time that Pacis was able to complete her personal Conquest. She's really moving up in the world! I've also already started on Tatooine, so hopefully the next part in this series won't take another four months to get published, but at this point I'm not making any promises.