30/08/2020

7 Ways of Being Better at PvP Without Actually Being Better at PvP

I've been doing relatively little PvP these past few weeks, but it's been on my mind today and made me remember this post, which has been sitting unfinished in my drafts folder for many months. Might as well finish it!

I try not to hold it against people in my random warzones when they aren't too great at PvP. Things like knowing when to use all of your abilities and how they could possibly be countered by other classes are something that takes a fair bit of play time to really internalise, and that's not even getting started on the benefits of good reflexes, which not everyone has either.

However, I'm always astounded by the amount of people - even players who are actually quite good at the actual PvP part - who are completely oblivious to basic tactics in the objective-based warzones. So, without further ado: seven ways in which you can help your team win an 8v8 warzone, regardless of your actual skill at PvP:

1. Inspect your team at the start of the match

Obviously there are situations where this isn't feasible, such as when you get back-filled into a match already in progress, but in most cases you'll load in well before the start of the match and can take a moment to familiarise yourself with the rest of your team. I don't mean that you literally have to hit "inspect" on every single one of them, but at the very least you can check what sort of class and role mix you've got.

The removal of stances and cells as visible buffs has made it harder to identify tanks and healers than before [note: the fact that I even thought to mention this tells you how frickin' old this draft is], but at least at 75, looking at their gear and any set bonuses usually gives them away. Many healers also like to spam heals in the spawn zone as a sort of non-verbal way of saying: "Look at me, you have a healer on your team!" At worst you can still check everyone's advanced class and hazard a guess. If nobody on your team is even of an advanced class that's capable of healing, you'll just be showing your ignorance if you complain about a lack of heals later (for example).

2. Mark enemy healers

In a similar vein, the moment you come face-to-face with the enemy, try to take in the class and role composition of the enemy team. People who intentionally dress to confuse (e.g. bounty hunters in Jedi robes) can make this tough for new players, but you'll soon learn to recognise each class by their weapons and certain signature moves. If you see someone casting healing abilities, it's generally a good idea to put a mark over their head to make sure everyone knows who to focus on if they ever want anyone on the opposing team to die. (Plus if you're a damage dealer, follow your own advice in terms of focusing!) Try to resist putting marks on non-healers, because nobody really cares if that Juggernaut is your personal nemesis, and it's just counter-productive.

Close inspection of the enemy can also lead to other surprising revelations...

3. Focus on objectives

You could argue that this point is a bit of a "duh", but based on the number of people I regularly see ignoring all objectives it clearly still deserves to be highlighted. Aside from completely new players who might not yet understand what's going on, you don't really have an excuse. Even if you never looked up any sort of guide, the voice-over at the start of each warzone still tells you what needs to be done to win, and you should focus on doing that. Don't chase kills in random places, but rather make sure that you're always attacking an enemy position or defending a friendly one when you're in a node-based warzone, and stick with the ball when in a Huttball match. Depending on your experience level, you could also look up guides for each map on how to hone your objective play further and improve yourself that way.

4. Communicate

Nobody joins a PvP match to chat, but a minimum amount of communication is generally beneficial. Most importantly, it helps to call "incomings", such as when one or more enemy is about to attack an objective currently held by your team. It's fine to keep it short and snappy here - most people will know what you mean when you say "1 inc snow". (Confused about how people call directions? This post might clarify some things.) 

I had this ancient screenshot saved under the file name "How to make calls in warzones".

Also, try to stick to being informative instead of being demanding or lecturing. When you're with a team of strangers, your odds of successfully playing battlefield general - even if well-intentioned - are pretty low.

It should go without saying that you shouldn't waste time ranting about how your team sucks or anything like that. I absolutely understand why people have that urge sometimes, but it does nothing to help - rather the opposite: it can cause newcomers to feel demotivated, not to mention that the time you spent typing your rant into chat is time you didn't spend focusing on the actual match yourself.

5. Look at the map every so often

All warzones limit your line of sight in places, though some are worse at this than others. (Odessen is probably the worst at this, as in most places you can't see anything beyond the room you're currently in.) However, the locations of your team mates are always displayed on the map and can help you make decisions about where to best reinforce after a death or when to help with an attack. If you ever find yourself wondering "Where is everyone?", the map is your friend.

6. Keep an eye on your ops frames

I know it's not very intuitive if you don't play a healer (and I do in fact know some people who like to hide their ops frames altogether to improve their fps), but everyone benefits from having a look at their team's health bars every now and then. First off because the general state of people's health gives you an idea of how you're holding up against the enemy team (everyone being close to full most of the time is a sign that you're kicking ass, while people going from one hundred to zero percent health in seconds is a bad sign), but more importantly because it can help you make better decisions in combination with the advice given above: If the map shows you that Bob is guarding an objective on his own for example, and Bob's health suddenly starts dropping, you'll know that he's under attack and you can go help him out, whether he has the sense to call for help in chat or not.

7. Do the maths

I saw this explained in a lot of detail in a video once, but I don't remember where exactly. The gist of it is that especially in node-based game types, you should always keep in mind that both teams have eight players each (the occasional quitter notwithstanding) and move around the map accordingly. As an extreme example, if you see seven opponents run towards one of the turrets in Civil War, that means that at least one of the other two remaining turrets can't have an enemy nearby right now (as only one enemy player is left unaccounted for), and you might want to have a go at capping this potentially unguarded target.

More commonly you may notice that you're having an uneven fight somewhere (e.g. four vs. two), which means that numbers must be tilted the opposite way elsewhere. This is important because if a large number of your team is fighting a small number of enemies, it means you are leaving yourself exposed to a large-scale assault somewhere else (and you may want to move). Conversely, if a small number of you manage to keep a lot of enemies busy, you could reasonably expect the rest of your team to overwhelm their opponents elsewhere and hopefully turn the fight in your favour.

25/08/2020

The Best Classes to Take into Onslaught

With the recent Steam launch having brought many new and returning players (back) to SWTOR, there's been a resurgence of curiosity about many basic aspects of the game. One question that returning players with a stable of multiple characters might have is which class they should pick up first to get the most out of the new story additions since they last played.

My post about the best classes to take into the "Knights of..." expansions is one of the most popular posts on this blog, but we've had a fair amount of new story since then, with the arc about Valkorion and his family more or less wrapped up and abandoned. I think it's fair to wonder whether the storylines that have come after are better suited for a different set of classes, or if there is one class that's just best for everything, meaning KotFE/KotET and everything that comes after. My answer to the latter is "yes, and it's the Sith inquisitor", but I'd really like to go into a bit more detail than that. So get ready for some minor content spoilers and mention of companion returns post-KotET, but I'm not giving away any major plot points or anything.

First off I think that on the whole, the post-KotET content has been much more neutral in terms of which classes it's suitable for. Your character is now the commander of the Eternal Alliance (whatever you may think of how they ended up there) and they are back to dealing with the two big factions, which is easily justifiable in my opinion, whether you originally started out as a Sith or a Republic trooper.

When Bioware first eased their way back into this style of writing they seemed to struggle a bit, and the Iokath storyline that followed KotET was pretty bland and awkward as a result. This was followed by what has been dubbed the "traitor arc" since then, which again started poorly but got better as it went along. It's also probably the single most class-neutral storyline we've had since KotET, simply because it focuses very much on your personal relationship with the traitor, which depends more on how you feel about that particular character than your class choice. That said, the last flashpoint in the series, The Nathema Conspiracy, features a nice callback to your class story with a lot of different permutations based on your choices there.

From there it's off to Jedi Under Siege, which takes place on the planet Ossus, and where the current ongoing storyline kicks off. While this is still fairly class-neutral content as a whole, Bioware started to include a lot more references to the original class stories from this point onwards, which is what I will use to justify most of my rankings. Also noteworthy is that from Iokath onwards you're given the option to start sabotaging your old faction, which is something that might be greatly suited for characters that were played as never having been that attached to their original faction to begin with.

With all that out of the way, I would recommend prioritising the classes as follows if you're uncertain:

1. Sith Inquisitor

The Sith inquisitor is in the lucky position that they were a great fit for KotET/KotFE but the new content fits them like a glove as well. They basically enjoy ruling their own little faction, and whether you decide to go back and help the old Sith Empire or would rather scheme against them because it's the Sithy thing to do, opportunities for intrigue abound.

Jedi Under Siege starts with a call from your old friend Moff Pyron (who remembers you of course), and if you sided with Khem Val over Darth Zash at the end of his companion arc in the base game, you'll get to reunite with Khem on Ossus. Even better, you get to romance him too if you're into that kind of thing!

In Onslaught you're also given the opportunity to reclaim your old seat on the Dark Council if you wish (and in an appropriately Sithy manner as well).

Oh, and Andronikos and Ashara also come back in post-KotET Alliance alerts but that's really just the icing on the cake.

2. Jedi Knight

The Jedi Knight is another character that gets along well with the KotFE/KotET storyline and manages to continue into the new content quite seamlessly. You'll get recognised both as an important Jedi and a military commander, and no fewer than three of the original knight companions make their return as part of the storyline from Ossus onwards: Doc, Kira and Scourge. The latter two haven't had that much to do yet (that'll be in the content drop we're anticipating towards the end of the year), but all three are fully integrated into the storyline and reuniting with them is quite interesting. Kira can now also be romanced by female knights and Scourge is open to either gender. I haven't been able to find confirmation whether Doc swings both ways as well now...

3. Imperial Agent

The reason I rank the Imperial agent highly is mostly because of the saboteur option. You don't have to take it if you don't want to, but of all classes the agent was the one for whom it could (potentially) make the most sense to want to betray the Empire by the end of their class story. This was the sort of story thread that I think most of us didn't expect to ever get picked up again once Bioware said that there weren't going to be any more class stories, but the saboteur option has effectively revived it and even made it more "mainstream" so to speak.

Vector returns is a post-KotET Alliance alert, which is nice enough if you like him or even romanced him, and agents also get an exclusive little chat with him after the Task at Hand interlude that serves to remind you that he's still there and involved in the agent's life and decisions.

4. Jedi Consular

Similar to the knight, the consular is recognised for previous achievements on Ossus, and there are opportunities to both fight and be diplomatic.

In terms of companion returns, the consular was a bit of a black sheep during the KotFE/KotET era as no consular companions were involved in the main storyline and Qyzen was the only one that could be re-acquired via an Alliance alert. Post-KotET however, Lieutenant Iresso returns in an alert, you reunite with Nadia as part of the Ossus storyline, and Tharan comes back during Onslaught. Good times!

5. Sith Warrior

I ranked the Sith warrior as fairly high in terms of its suitability for KotFE/KotET, but to be honest I never pictured the warrior as someone who wants to sit on a throne and rule - better to leave that to someone with an interest in politics while they go out and smash faces. Ossus and Onslaught offer some nice opportunities here as you get back onto the front lines of the war and get the option to leave all that pesky planning to other people if that's more up your alley.

Quinn returns on Iokath and you get the option to finally get closure in regards to "that thing" he did during your class story. Jaesa returns in an Alliance alert after Ossus too, both her light and dark side versions. The former can now also be romanced, and the latter can also be killed if, like me, you always found her pretty annoying.

6. Bounty Hunter

You finally get Mako back in post-KotET Alliance alert, but it's a bit lacklustre to be honest. There is an interesting moment in Onslaught where bounty hunters get a slightly different reaction from an NPC than other classes, but other than that it doesn't offer anything particularly exciting for the class. The main reason I still rank it above trooper and smuggler is that bounty hunter is another class for whom the option of wanting to change sides in the war makes more sense than for most others.

7. Smuggler

Corso, Risha and Akaavi come back in two post-KotET Alliance alerts but they are short and not that great in my opinion. And while part of Onslaught takes place on a planetoid where a smuggler could feel right at home, nothing much is made of how this might make for a different experience for this class.

8. Trooper

Elara Dorne makes her comeback during Iokath but it's not very exciting. In the aftermath of Onslaught you get another little scene with her though (like the agent does with Vector), which is nice. Other than that there isn't anything going on that feels particularly tailored towards troopers.

Looking back at the final ranking, I'm kind of surprised by how similar it is to my KotFE/KotET ranking, with knight and inquisitor coming out on top once again, and smuggler trailing behind yet again. That said, I think it's important to repeat that overall, the newer content doesn't feel nearly as badly suited for some classes as KotFE/KotET did, and that there's much less of a difference between how much you'll enjoy playing through it as an inquisitor vs. a smuggler.

Got a different take on how different classes experience the current expansion and the content leading up to it? Feel free to leave it in the comments!

20/08/2020

Turning Jawa Junk into Credits

When jawa junk suddenly started to proliferate with Onslaught, I was kind of pleased. Valuable tokens that you can trade for crafting materials and more! Yes! However, as the expansion has gone on, I've found that I've got more and more stacks of the things piling up in my bank and it's starting to bother me. I kind of want to get rid of at least some of them - just to free up some space if nothing else - but at the same time I don't want to just waste them, you know?

Initially I just bought some grade 11 crafting materials (which is the current crafting tier). This turned out to be a big mistake. While you do need stupendous amounts of these to craft pretty much anything, they are horribly overpriced on the junk vendors. I initially thought that maybe this was justified due to the materials' rarity or something, but it really isn't. People easily gather the exact same materials out in the world or from missions by the thousands and sell them on the GTN for much less. I did some maths and at least based on the prices on Darth Malgus, if you buy grade 11 crafting materials for jawa junk, you're basically parting with your junk for as little as half a credit (!) per piece. Just... don't do it.

I did a bit of research to see if others had any recommendations and found several people saying that the companion gifts and exotic crafting materials were reliable sellers. They weren't wrong, and I did sell a few stacks of those, but my gut feeling was that I still wasn't getting good value for my money/junk.

Yearning for a definitive answer, I did what any player with a bit of an obsessive streak would do in such a situation: I made a spreadsheet. Specifically, I wrote down every single item sold on the jawa vendors and how much it cost in junk, price-checked it on the GTN, and then let it calculate how many credits per junk piece I was going to make if I sold the same item at the current lowest price.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first: There is no single, clear "winner". I repeated my price-check just a couple of days apart and there was considerable variance in what came out on top. But there are some patterns, which I guess make sense if you think about them.

For example, the "obvious" sellers like companion gifts and exotic crafting materials are - at best - lower to mid-tier in terms of value for money. I guess this makes sense because it's right there in the previous sentence: they are the "obvious" choices. Every players knows what a companion gift is and knows that they're useful. Therefore it's safe to assume that they have some value and other people will buy them. Similarly, anyone who's ever done any group content has likely rolled off for some exotic crafting drop, and even if you're not sure what exactly they're for, there's some vague sense that they're rare and valuable.

Regular crafting materials are very different though, because they're fairly obscure. (Just writing down the list made me realise how many item names I didn't even recognise.) Even if you're a seasoned veteran of the game, I'm pretty sure that most of you would give me a wide-eyed look if I asked you to sense-check whether Lanthanide Modulators are worth buying and trading (that's a grade 5 slicing component by the way). Or how about Neuro-Stimulators (a type of grade 3 medical supplies)? Can you think of something craftable that uses these items as reagents?

The good news is that you don't actually need to know all those details. It's enough to know that certain crafting materials are where the money's at, and that they let you cash out hundreds (for the green ones) or thousands (for blue or purple) of credits for each piece of jawa junk converted and sold.

Which ones exactly sell for the most can vary from day to day, even on the same server, and I haven't been gathering data for long enough to spot any real trends, but the most basic common factor seems to be that it's usually selected lower-grade (1-6) materials that give you the best conversion rate so I would at least price-check those if you can't be bothered to go through the whole list. My best guess as to why that is the case is that people don't spend much time gathering in the lower levels but still need the mats to level up their crafting crew skills. The recent influx of new players from the Steam launch may have contributed to that too.

My only other advice is that due to the volatility of the market, I wouldn't recommend buying too much of anything in one go. Throw up a stack of 10-100 of a highly valued crafting mat and see how quickly it sells. Fortunately the generosity of the GTN means that you always get your deposit back even if things don't sell the first time around.

I may update this post later or write a follow-up to let you know if I notice anything else that's interesting or just to let you know how well my own plan to turn my junk into riches has been going.

16/08/2020

Watching Clone Wars Seasons 2 & 3

More than two years ago now (yikes), I mentioned watching Clone Wars season one on DVD. I actually ended up buying season two a few months later and did watch a few episodes of that as well, but then I just kind of... stopped. I think popping discs into a DVD drive every couple of episodes is just too much effort nowadays...

Earlier this year I subscribed to Disney Plus when it finally launched in the UK, and of course all seasons of Clone Wars are one of the things that's available on there as well. Sadly I've been pretty terrible at making use of that subscription - I can't explain it; I can put dumb YouTube videos on my second monitor all day long but when it comes to watching any sort of "proper" content I'm always hesitant and put it off until later. I really don't know why that is.

Anyway, I did end up finding a good opportunity to get more use out of that subscription recently, because we purchased an exercise bike the other week and watching some Clone Wars (or whatever) while pedalling the miles away is a nice distraction. Thanks to this new setup, I've now made it through seasons two and three (oh, and I watched the Clone Wars animated film as well).

I don't really have much to say about the film, other than that baby hutts are silly but I guess it served as an explanation for how Anakin ended up with a padawan to begin with. I did want to write down a few comments about seasons two and three though before proceeding to watching the next one.

First off, I had read somewhere that there was a recommended watch order, which was different from the actual release order, but that seemed a bit overkill for a kids show to me. I could soon see that the idea wasn't without merit though, when - while simply watching the episodes in the order in which they popped up on D+ - I watched clone troopers graduate that had already been killed in season one, and saw a senator get murdered just to have him pop up again alive and well a few episodes later. It's not too bad I guess, just slightly disorienting in the moment.

While there are still a few lighthearted and simple episodes (the two-parter with pseudo-Gozilla for example, or the one where the droids go shopping /sigh), there was a very noticeable increase in mature subject matter. There's a lot of fairly adult talk in regards to politics for example, and I was going to comment how it was very prescient of the writers to paint the banking clan as the ultimate bad guys, but I just looked it up and these seasons came out just after the 2008 financial crisis so I guess that was just meant to be low-key educational.

There's also quite a shocking amount of death for a kids' show - and I don't just mean anonymous troopers and droids getting shot in big space battles, but people getting stabbed, sliced to pieces, gunned down point-blank etc. While there's never any blood and the camera pans away if the method of death is sufficiently graphic that there really ought to be, it's still quite a lot. We're not just talking about generic mooks dying here either, but named characters with personalities.

Interestingly, there's also been an increase in mysticism - I've sometimes seen people comment that SWTOR content that treats the Force more like magic (such as anything to do with the Dread Masters) doesn't quite fit into Star Wars, but Clone Wars is one piece of canon material that clearly also embraced this style whenever it suited the writers. For example there was this three-parter where Anakin, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan get trapped in a weird place with three powerful Force users, and that explores the prophecy about Anakin bringing balance to light and dark in a more literal way than I had ever considered. (The episode has some pretty cool visuals too.) Or the arc where Asajj Ventress returns to the Nightsisters? Definitely some weird shit going on there.

Finally, I think I could see the seeds of where Ahsoka's popularity comes from. In season one she didn't really do that much yet, but in seasons two and three she gets more episodes that focus on her and manages to pull off a couple of heroic feats of her own, not the least of which happens in the two-parter that finishes season three. It did leave me curious where her character will go next.

13/08/2020

Master Mode Flashpoint Tips: Syndic Zenta

Introduction

It's been a while since I've written one of these! I did however have a few more bosses on my list that I really wanted to cover, and one of them is Syndic Zenta in master mode Traitor Among the Chiss. I've been told by some people that they haven't had that many issues with her, but to me she's been a right pain in the rear on more than one occasion, which I think makes it worthwhile to share what I have learned, for the benefit of others who might be having the same difficulties.

The boss in a nutshell

She starts on the floor, then jumps up onto the walkways above her, changes position a few times, then jumps down again and covers the floor in lightning periodically. There are also a lot of adds, and during the top phase she throws some targeted circles around that you should avoid placing on other players. That really is the gist of it, but once again I'll happily point you towards Vulkk or the old Dulfy guide for more details on the mechanics.

What to do as a tank

At the start of the fight, round up the adds on the ground as best as you can while damage dealers focus on AoEing them down. Once Zenta goes up, follow her (either by leaping or via using one of the available grappling hooks) and position yourself just around the corner from the ramp that leads up onto the walkways. Feel free to taunt and hit the boss occasionally, but she shouldn't really be your main priority at this point as she doesn't actually hit that hard. It's more important that you focus on rounding up the adds as they appear and do your best to keep them from overwhelming your healer (who should be standing near you.)

Once Zenta goes down again you're basically racing against a soft enrage as more and more adds will be spawning in rapidly. Use everything you've got to get their attention while staying alive (AoE taunt, stuns, damage reduction cooldowns etc.) and hope that the dps can kill her in time before you and the healer both get overwhelmed.

What to do as a damage dealer

Start off by killing the adds on the ground, then dps the boss until she goes up. Follow her and continue to focus your damage on her, but keep an eye on the tank and healer, and jump over to them occasionally to mop up the pile of adds that will accumulate on them. When Zenta goes down again, just nuke her from range if you can.

If you're playing a melee class, make sure to wait a few seconds as she will cast her big lightning floor move almost immediately, and you don't want to jump right into it. Then jump down after it and nuke her with all you've got (while also hitting what damage reduction cooldowns you've got available) before the swarms of unending adds overwhelm your tank and healer.

What to do as a healer

At the start, you can hide behind a nearby crate to the left to avoid getting sniped. Once Zenta goes up, stick close to your tank as you will be getting healing aggro on any and all adds that spawn, and you'll rely on the tank picking them up to stay alive. Keep an eye on dps taking damage as well, though it shouldn't be too bad on them. Once Zenta goes down again, leave the damage dealers to their fate and focus on just keeping yourself and the tank alive as best as you can. If you can survive until Zenta's defeated, all remaining adds vanish automatically.

08/08/2020

Nightlife Grind Update

Initially I was going to use "gamble" in the title again, but since I established in my last post that clicking on a virtual slot machine a thousand times to eventually claim your guaranteed prize at no financial cost is really more of a grind than a gamble, I edited it accordingly.

Over the last few days I managed to click my way through all the free tokens I'd accumulated on my Commando main and one of my Shadow alts, but more chips keep pouring in from every "normal" play session regardless of my efforts. Still, just this first "round" of clicking my way through the chips already resulted in me getting the "rare" Rodian companion and speeder on both characters, as well as a couple of extra speeders and almost two hundred certificates. Fortunately all the prizes bind to legacy so you can send them to other characters, which is nice. I don't think this was always the case, as I have this vague memory of winning a duplicate speeder that I couldn't use years ago, but I may well be mistaken about that.

I also got the achievement for blowing up a slot machine, but it was a bit disappointing as there was no animation to go with it. I can't tell if it's supposed to be that way or whether it's just another bug.

Keeping busy on my second monitor while going through the click-grind eased the tedium somewhat, but I still wouldn't call it a fun experience. In fact, once I'd cleared out one character's tokens, I barely felt like playing for several days after.

As the event is running for another two weeks I'll undoubtedly end up with several dozen more free chips, but I think at this point I'll just let them pile up. Maybe I'll come back next year for whatever the new prizes are then, but at the current rate it costs me almost as much time to use my free chips as it takes me to earn them, and the former is just not enjoyable to me.

As I said before I'm usually pretty good at not succumbing to artificially created pressure to engage in in-game activities that aren't really fun to me, but I'll admit that the promise of free stuff got me this time. Looking at the negative effect it's been having on my overall fun levels though, I at least know to take a step back from that now and to re-focus on doing things that actually bring me joy.

03/08/2020

From Gamble to Grind

Looking back at this blog's archives, I seem to write about the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event about once every three years. It's not one of my favourites, as people's weird flexing about who can manage to lose the most credits in the shortest amount of time always weirds me out, and I just don't consider watching my character stand at a console clicking things to be particularly riveting gameplay.

Still, it's been three years now since Bioware introduced casino chips as world drops to encourage greater participation, and ever since then I've at least tried to make use of the free chips the game keeps giving me - I say tried because I remember two years ago I meant to use them all up just before the event ended, but got the time wrong so that I actually showed up too late. Last year I think something similar happened, except then it occurred when I finally wanted to see the prize vendors about what to buy with my certificates. The fact that I can barely even remember what happened kind of speaks for itself really.

This year though, Bioware added a new, third slot machine called the Emperor's Grace, and a lot of the chips that drop from content were the type to use on this new machine. It was bugged initially, but the last patch fixed it, so I thought I'd stop by quickly to use up the seven or eight chips I'd earned through drops so far. I figured it was going to be a quick affair, and it being the newest and shiniest machine, the prizes had to be good, right? That's one of the big appeals of gambling: the chance to win big with minimal effort.


I therefore felt a mix of delight and horror when I realised that the most common prize for a win at the Emperor's Grace machine actually consists of fifty tokens a pop for the Kingpin's Bounty machines - which meant that within minutes I had racked up several hundred of the things.

I briefly felt excited by the sheer monetary value of my winnings - at the vendor, one Kingpin's Bounty chip costs 75,000 credits, meaning that I had won more than 50 million credits worth of casino chips. Unfortunately you can't sell them back to the vendor at that price though.

Now, even without knowing the exact drop rates of the prizes coming from the Kingpin's Bounty machines, it's pretty obvious that having several hundreds of complementary tokens to spend on them is bound to result in a nice payout. Even if you don't win one of the rare "special" prizes, the more common certificates that can be traded for all kinds of decorations and cosmetics are pretty damn useful as well.

However, considering that each spin's most common outcome is to simply give you your chip back, getting rid of literally hundreds of the things takes absolute ages, and it was with this realisation that the feeling of dread set in.

I mean, this isn't even gambling anymore. There's zero financial investment required from my side, not even in virtual currency, because the game's just given me hundreds of tokens for free. There's no question about whether I'll even get anything from playing either - with so many chips, I'm guaranteed to receive a good number of prizes. However, we're not talking about a quick game of chance for a potentially big win anymore - instead I'd have to spend literal hours at the slots just clicking away to be able to claim my rewards. It's basically the worst sort of grind.

And while I don't mind some grinds, I'm not sure I'll be able to make myself go through with this one. Maybe if I an opportunity arises to watch something sufficiently engaging on my second monitor for long enough, but I don't know. I kind of find myself thinking: "If you just want to give me free stuff, Bioware, why can't you just give me the stuff? Why are you asking me to stupidly click on slot machines for hours first?"

It's a silly question of course, but in a way it was still enlightening that I found my thoughts even going down that road. I've noticed that in many modern MMOs, people complain a lot about randomness in all aspects of their games. And I've often considered that a bit weird, remembering my early days in WoW and recalling my delight at many random drops, and just generally not minding the randomness too much most of the time.

However, the thing back then was that I wasn't expecting to get every possible drop. The odds of many items dropping compared to how often you would realistically run the content were such that you knew that you were never going to get everything you'd potentially like, and everything you did get was therefore perceived as a treat.

The thing is, with content having become more and more accessible and infinitely repeatable to keep people busy, you're much more likely to hit a sort of "saturation point" where you've got everything you want/need and once you know that the game is designed to give you everything over time, you're essentially just grinding out the time to that saturation point. I guess at that point it's not that big of a jump to ask why you can't just cut to the chase, especially if the activities on offer don't provide a lot of inherent enjoyment.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. Just... damn slot machines.