We Succeeded at Killing a Boss

A little less than a month ago I wrote about my guild's attempts at killing a couple of unusual bosses. On the subject of the Ancient Threat world boss, I noted that while we had failed to kill it that night, we actually came pretty close by relying on a zerg tactic utilising guild ship summons, and that we were thinking about coming back and giving it another go on Imp side, whose nearest base is much closer to the boss's spawn point than it is for Republic players.

Well, last week we did just that and it worked! We did it with a group of 22 people and it took about ten minutes. It was still almost as much of a mess as last time, but at least we were somewhat more organised about the guild ship summons, which allowed us to achieve victory this time around. I uploaded a video of the fight too, where you can watch me do all kinds of stupid things such as hit heat venting cooldowns when I have no heat anyway (I'm used to the bar working the other way round on Republic side, okay?!) or just running around like a headless chicken while trying to get in range of the current tank without stepping into red circles. Maybe it'll help some other guild out there though!


The Nameplate Dilemma

I think that on a basic level, a good user interface is crucial to an immersive MMO experience. I'm not talking about details like the size and exact positioning of your action bars here, but about the very way you interact with the world. It seems to me that there's always a balance to be struck between immersion and convenience: Pushing a button to instantly teleport from anywhere to anywhere else is certainly convenient, but it also means that there's no real sense of place. On the other hand, running around a beautiful landscape with no understanding of where to go or how to interact with anything will soon leave players feeling lost. The trick is in finding the sweet spot in the middle.

I've been thinking about all of this recently because of nameplates. You see, the default setting in World of Warcraft when I first started playing that was to show nameplates for friendly players and nothing else. It being my first MMORPG, I of course didn't know any different, but even once I became aware of my options, that setup still made sense to me. I get that characters having their name float above their head isn't in any way "realistic", but it enables the player to recognise familiar faces out in the wild, something that their character should reasonably be able to do in-universe as well, but that could be hard from a player point of view when all you see is a generic character model in the distance.

Eventually I learned that there could also be a benefit to turning on nameplates for friendly NPCs when doing the quest for master first aid in WoW, which is basically a slow whack-a-mole that requires you to click on a number of injured NPCs in the right order based on their names, but the actual character models all look the same. If you have to click on each one first to see what they are called, it's nigh-impossible to get right within the allocated time. If they all have their names floating above their heads at all times, it's trivial. So I got into the habit of turning that setting on for that specific quest and then immediately turning it off again.

I've been following the same model in SWTOR since the beginning, but just like Revan forced me to re-evaluate my view distance, bosses sometimes have a way of favouring one UI setting over another. We've been running veteran mode Gods from the Machine again recently, to teach some newer players the ropes, and the first phase of the Scyva fight involves dealing with a number of small adds with relatively little health, at least some of which need to die in the right place and at the right time. When I was first learning the fight myself I found that part to be a bit of a struggle, but then I noticed on someone else's kill video that they had enemy nameplates turned on, so I followed their example and voilĂ : instantly it became so much easier to keep track of all the little adds in the room and what health each one was on.

Back then I still stuck to my guns and turned enemy nameplates back off after the fight, but this time around I keep forgetting and it's been making me thoughtful. When tanking a flashpoint it's so much easier to keep track of all targets when they have their names and health floating over their heads, plus you can make much more decisive switches based on health levels.

Just cruising around the galaxy has felt very different too. Out in the wild, I can see even smaller mobs from miles away and it's much easier to circumvent them. I've long had a reputation for being oblivious to my surroundings and frequently pulling adds by accident, but now I'm wondering whether I've simply been made to feel like a buffoon because the people I've been playing with all had enemy name plates turned on at all times. It's not hard to avoid those!

As a result, I'm kind of torn. Part of me just wants to go back to the way it was already, to a landscape unmarred by floating names everywhere. It's so much more beautiful! However, the difference in convenience has also been very noticeable, and I fear that I may well end up missing it, especially in group content. Of course there's nothing stopping me from simply switching my settings around every so often, but still... it's given me food for thought.


More Patchy Goodness

Yesterday was patch day, which made me realise that it's been two and a half months since the last medium-sized patch. Dang.

One feature that wasn't in the patch notes but that launched at the same time was that they finally turned on the Steam achievements that they promised us on launch. I was quite amused by the deluge of pop-ups that appeared when I first logged in after the patch... and slightly disappointed that I had actually been granted every single achievement instantly. I mean... I knew that they were going to be granted retroactively, which is definitely how it should be, but I'd been kind of hopeful that there might be something to aspire to in there. Guess not. /dramatic sigh

Anyway, let's talk about the actual patch notes! As usual, I'm not going through literally every single one (you can find the full list on the official site), but just highlighting some that stood out to me.

Double XP Event - Starting September 15th and lasting until October 13th, there will be a month-long Double XP event! Enjoy a full month of Double XP, Valor, and Renown.

I've expressed my disdain for double XP often enough at this point, but double Valor and Renown are definitely useful. I'm still working on some of the Renown rank-related achievements.

Uprisings - Rewards have been improved and added to all Uprising bosses comparable to Flashpoint rewards.

Oh look, another attempt to get players to care about uprisings. I have to admit, I read this and thought: "Huh, maybe I should go have a look at that some time", just to immediately forget about it again five seconds later. Maybe one day...

Effects granted by “On Use” Relics abilities are now removed when the Relic is unequipped.

Now this one wouldn't actually have caught my eye on its own, except that players were immediately complaining on the forums that this also affects the relics you can buy to deal with the rakghoul plague, meaning that they don't work like a reusable stim anymore. (You used to be able to just equip them, vaccinate yourself, and then unequip them again.) I agree that this change is a nuisance, but at the same time I can't claim that it's a big deal. It's not like the sort of content for which you'd want to be vaccinated is so cutting edge that a small loss in power in one gear slot would really put you at a serious advantage. Though I guess I wouldn't mind Bioware actually making an MK-4 version of the relic with stats appropriate for level 75.

The following self-healing defensive cooldowns no longer generate threat: [a list follows]

This just made me raise an eye-brow... why shouldn't cooldowns that result in you healing yourself generate threat when all healing does? Wonder if there was some sort of heal-tanking cheese going on that this change was meant to address.

The Jedi Guardian’s Force Leap Cooldown reduction from the “Battlefield Command” utility is now working correctly.

A guildie of mine notoriously complained about how bugged this was. I experienced the bug with Force Leap showing as off cooldown when it actually wasn't a few times myself but didn't actually connect the dots tracing it back to this utility; I just thought my game or connection was being laggy.

The following archived Biochem schematics are no longer available to craft: [a list follows]

Aw, why you take things away, Bioware? And most of all, why now? There was a time when these were being used to win at Conquest in silly ways, but that's kind of been obsoleted by the more recent Conquest changes anyway. Once again, I can only wonder what that was about.

The Eternal Empire Walker in Chapter VIII of Knights of the Eternal Throne no longer interrupts the abilities of the player’s walker.

I experienced this bug the last time I played through that chapter of KotET myself and it was annoying AF. At the time I wasn't even sure what was happening; I just knew that it was nigh impossible to get any ability off on my walker at all (and then I died).

Players are no longer blocked in the “Macrobinoculars: Heroic 4: The Shroud Revealed“ Mission as droids are now spawning after the turrets have been defeated.

Another big "thank god"! This mission has been notoriously buggy for a long time, but at least there were workarounds in the form of resetting the phase and such. However, a few months ago or so they seemingly stopped working, and the last time I tried to complete this mission with a group of guildies we eventually had to give up after countless phase resets and what not because we just couldn't get those damn droids to spawn. I hope it really has been fixed (I shouldn't have to say that, but Bioware has a bit of a thing for saying they fixed bugs but then it doesn't actually turn out to be true). I should get a group of guildies together again soon to find out for sure.

The Emperor Slot Machine no longer removes a Kingpin’s Casino Chip when a Cartel Market Certificate is won.

This one just amused me because this is a patch note for an annual event that ended a couple of weeks ago. I guess it was already in the pipeline and they just decided to deploy it anyway in anticipation of next year? Still a bit weird.

Did anything catch your eye in the latest patch notes?


Life on the Guild Ship

I think everyone has their own preferred spots to log in and out in any MMO. In the game's early days I used to "live" on the fleet, but ever since they added housing, my Coruscant stronghold has been my home on all my Republic characters. It's just too convenient to be able to have all my utilities right next to each other, plus I also take the opportunity to harvest some free crafting materials from the utility decorations every day.

Ever since I started my project to sell most of my jawa junk, I've had to relocate to our guild ship however, as we have all three of the jawa vendors located right next to a GTN terminal and multiple cargo holds there. Technically I could have acquired the vendor decorations for myself and placed them in one of my personal strongholds, but that would have required an amount of effort that I didn't feel like making.

It's been interesting to see just how many other people seem to have made the guild ship their virtual home - I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised by this, but I expected more players to be like me and prefer hanging out in their private abodes. Whenever I'm logged in on the guild ship, bouncing back and forth between the vendors and the GTN, I'm continually amazed by all the people I see logging in and running to and fro. Considering how much it costs to acquire and fully unlock a guild ship, I guess I should be glad that people are actually using it!

As for my jawa junk selling, it's been going moderately well. I think I've made about 75 million credits from it so far, but it feels like I've barely made a dent in my junk stash and of course more scraps keep coming in all the time. I guess it's nice to be making all that money from seemingly nothing but in terms of freeing up more bank space it would be preferable if I could get rid of more materials faster. I'm just not a fan of flooding the market with any single item; it just never works out well for me.

I did get a bit bored with maintaining my spreadsheet of prices. I like me a good spreadsheet, but let's just say that manually price-checking 261 items every few days got old really fast. Instead I've settled into a routine where I will only do the full check every so often, but I do log in several times a day to check what has sold, and anything that sells quickly and is still going for a good price at that point, I just buy more of and re-list immediately.

There are some green and purple low and mid-level materials that sell very consistently for a decent profit and of which I have a stack on the GTN almost at all times at this point. I do try to avoid grade one materials and anything above grade five, because while there is good profit to be made with some of them too, I've found them annoyingly volatile. Technically you don't lose any money if the price suddenly drops and your listing expires, and you can just keep re-listing it at a higher price until it sells I guess, but as stated previously my goal with this has been to shift jawa junk both at a good conversion rate but also at a decent speed, so I try to avoid too much speculation and uncertainty.

Interestingly, blue junk/materials are probably the hardest to get rid of and actually bring in less value than the greens at times. Naturally, blue junk is also what I've got the most of, so it looks like I'm gonna be at this for a while at least...


We Failed to Kill Some Bosses

Last week was 16-man week in my guild again, and we decided to do something different this time by revisiting the Dreadful and Hateful entity (the latter of which I hadn't seen since that afternoon back in 2014), as well as a world boss on Yavin IV called the Ancient Threat, which I didn't really know anything about other than that it was kind of secret and existed.

It was... interesting.

The Dreadful Entity went down easily enough, probably in part due to the Veteran's Edge stacks you get on hardmode these days. The other two bosses... didn't.

With the Hateful Entity, there was some confusion at first about how to summon it as people kept saying that a certain pack of womp rats needed to be killed in a specific way. Mr Commando and I were raising our eyebrows at this as we remembered no such thing from back in 2014 - it sounded a lot like some sort of superstition to me and I said as much. In this case it turned out that I was wrong though, and you really do need to get all the womp rats equally low to get the "Hateful Presence" to spawn that in turn can be used to summon the Hateful Entity. I'm still baffled by how I have absolutely zero memory of doing anything like this back in 2014 and I even went on a bit of a googling spree afterwards to find out if Bioware maybe changed the mechanic at some point, but no: I found guides from before then that referenced the womp rat thing too. I can only guess that the allied guild that we ran with back in 2014 were already familiar with the whole concept and made sure to do it right without talking about it? I have no idea.

Anyway, we eventually managed to summon the Entity, but killing it was unfortunately another matter. I don't think we even got it to 80 percent on our best attempt. Some of that failure was undoubtedly down to bad play on our part (especially early on we lost quite a few people to death mark dispel failures), but the damage also seemed quite insane. For example a Gunslinger reported being hit by two unavoidable abilities in quick succession that hit for more than his entire health bar even when at full health. How do you deal with that in a downscaled operation with fixed health values?

A quick search yielded only a single kill video uploaded since 6.0, but I guess that proves that it's technically possible. Unfortunately it's a bit hard to tell what's going on in it, but it looks like they brought a lot of Powertechs in order to have the Sonic Rebounder buff on the group 24/7, which would then presumably prevent the sort of deadly two-shot combos that kept befalling some of our raid members.

Speaking of it being hard to tell what's going on, I remember being told back in the day to make sure to turn all my graphics settings to low for this fight as it would otherwise be too hard to see what's happening... this is probably still true, but I decided to leave mine on high anyway this time as a sort of experiment. My PC could actually deal with it fine, but the sheer amount of lightning and particle effects did indeed make it hard to tell what was happening a lot of the time. Still, I have no regrets - at least I got some cool screenshots out of the whole ordeal whenever I died and hid my UI to watch from floor level as the rest of the group slowly followed my example.

Another thing that was funny and which I definitely don't remember happening back in 2014 was that after wiping, people wouldn't necessarily respawn at the start but instead appeared in a random location inside the operation. I ended up on the other side of Thrasher's gate a couple of times, and in the middle of trash pulls the rest of the time. The latter made for a sort of cruel but hilarious Russian roulette as the whole ops group would revive but certain people (often including me) would immediately die again as they were teleported alone into the middle of various trash packs and mugged to death. Hey, if you're gonna die anyway, you might as well do it in an entertaining way!

We didn't have much luck with the Ancient Threat world boss either, though at least it was an interesting experience to get all the buffs required to summon it, as this requires you to find a number of small "secret" clickies dotted around Yavin IV that also grant several achievements.

The boss itself is the same "glowing ball" model as the two Entity bosses and has similarly simplistic mechanics, though the mask from Dreadtooth isn't required anymore. A lot of guides we found said that this fight was quite easy, but this didn't really match our experience. For example the red circles that were supposed to come down only every 15 seconds or so according to some sources were dropping almost non-stop, forcing the whole raid to run around like headless chickens. More importantly though, the ongoing AoE damage that was supposed to be insignificant and easy to heal through actually ticked for about seven percent of everyone's health every two seconds and felt pretty impossible to heal through with a normal role setup of "only" about a quarter of the group being healers.

For this one we couldn't find a kill video from this year at all, just one that was uploaded this year but clearly recorded before Onslaught, so it may well be that the scaling went a bit awry for this boss. We heard from some acquaintances that they have successfully killed it since 6.0, but apparently only by going in with a group of five (two of which were healers) and drawing out the fight to nearly an hour.

Interestingly we did get quite close to killing it once, by going complete zerg and spamming guild flagship summons every time someone died, revived and ran back. The only problem was that as Republic, the run back without a summon is really long (way too long for a significant number of people to survive). At some point, one of the summons got borked up and red circles were dropped right under the summoning spot so that people got put in combat or died instantly the moment they accepted the transport, and then we couldn't get another person into a position to summon in time, leading us to wipe at around ten percent. As guild ship summons have a long cooldown, it wasn't really feasible to keep trying that method for several attempts in a row, unfortunately.

We are however of half a mind to try this same zerg method again some other time, but this time on Imperial alts, who respawn much closer to the Ancients Threat's "home", meaning that people should be able to keep running back to some degree even without a summon. If we do get it down that way it wouldn't exactly be something to be proud of, but hey... sometimes you just gotta do what works.