Feasting with Hutts

I've been posting a bit less frequently than on my usual schedule lately - just seems to be something about this time of year, looking at past years... - but yesterday we had the first sizeable patch in months so of course I have things to say about it!

There's a teeny tiny story update that comes with it - more of a two-minute conversation really - but it's still nice to have as a reminder that things are supposed to be happening in terms of plot even while we've been treading water for the past few months as players.

However, the undisputed main event was of course the start of the Feast of Prosperity, the new seasonal event centred on Hutts and food. I knew it was going to be exciting when I logged in to this in guild chat:

There is indeed an introductory quest that features you chatting with the Hutts for a while before running some errands on Rishi, one of which involves waiting for what feels like a stupidly long respawn on three clicky things. Having heard my guildies complain about this in chat I made sure to hop straight into the PvP instance, though for once that wasn't completely empty either. In fact, I saw Republic and Imperial players wait peacefully next to each other and felt oddly torn whether I should wreak havoc on the red nameplates.

Fortunately a random Guardian threw me a group invite and saved me from my own indecision by immediately charging the nearest Imp, which actually made me feel a bit better. They can complete their quest after we're done, let's not risk any hostile queue jumping! Being in a party also has the added benefit of only having to click once to get everyone in the group credit for the clicking, so I can only recommend it.

As an aside, I'm not sure how I feel about this new trend to have the breadcrumb quests for new events expanded into these mini storylines. On the one hand it's neat and more context is nice, but on the other hand it makes repetition on alts somewhat annoying. (I'm looking at you, Swoop Event.)

Anyway, the repeatable event quests made for more interesting fare. There's some traditional gathering by clicking on things as well as some world boss killing (because apparently we didn't have enough reasons to kill the Primal Destroyer over and over again yet) - fortunately Bioware has had the sense to dramatically decrease the respawn timer of the affected bosses to only five minutes or so, or else there would have been hell to pay I'm sure.

The main event in my eyes however are the new dailies to cook and serve dishes. I laughed out loud when I first tried the one with the droid serving food, because it reminded me somewhat of a repeatable quest to serve noodles I remember doing back during WoW's Mists of Pandaria expansion. I'm sure there are other games with similar mechanics but that was the closest thing I associated with it. It took me a little while to figure out what's what, but once I got the hang of it I thought it was quite fun!

Similarly, the cooking daily involves you dashing around the kitchen, gathering ingredients and turning on appliances as instructed. Both missions have an easy and a hard version, but I've stuck to easy so far. Maybe once I've done it a few times I'll want to up the challenge. As the event is supposed to run for three weeks, there should be plenty of time to try everything out without feeling rushed.

It's all a bit silly really, but then we can't be dealing with big drama and galaxy-wide upheaval all the time!


Healing Revan 16-man veteran mode

My guild hit another milestone the other week by defeating Revan in Temple of Sacrifice on 16-person hardmode difficulty. This was easily the most satisfying boss kill for me in a long time, considering how long it took us to get there. We only do 16-man ops for one week once a month, and we'd been working on this particular challenge for three or four months now (I honestly lost track). I was so excited when the achievement finally popped up I even forgot to take a screenshot! I do have a kill video though:

I'm not going to re-hash my general thoughts and opinions of the fight, which I already gave when we beat it on 8-man two years ago and which still apply. However, the larger group size did provide some unique challenges for the healers on the first floor, which I thought I would document here as I couldn't find any written information on the subject myself when we started working on the fight, so maybe this will be helpful to others.

In a nutshell, the big complication is the Essence Corruption debuff. On 8-man, affected damage dealers run out of the group, healers cleanse and gather up all the debuffs, then run into the two puddles to cleanse themselves and you move on. This mechanic already takes some getting used to in the smaller format (not just for the healers, but also for the dps), but 16-man really ramps it up to eleven.

With twice the number of people and the same amount of room, there is less space for people to spread out when they need to be cleansed, and on our earlier tries we often had to wipe it because Corruption got totally out of control in the melee group. The poor guys got yelled at quite a lot and accused of stupidly using self-cleanses, but as it turned out the problem was actually that one of the healers was standing too close to them when doing the cleansing. Healers are contagious too, so you really can't do that - you either have to hug your fellow healers or just stay away from everyone.

The next challenge was cleansing assignments. With two people and eight raiders, we tended to agree on something like "I start top left and you bottom right (of the ops frames)" and it was fairly straightforward, but with double the amount of everything, things got kind of complicated. I watched some kill videos for inspiration and people mostly seemed to be yelling out who they were going to cleanse, so eventually that's what we did too. It felt very chaotic at first, and it does require a certain amount of discipline for the rest of the group to shut up during that phase so none of the calls get missed, but we actually settled into it quite quickly. There tended to be a sort of unspoken hierarchy which meant that the ones with faster reflexes were calling first and then the others took whoever/whatever was left over. Plus everybody knows that every healer has their favourites that they prefer to cleanse before others...

So we got the basic gist of it down quite quickly, but especially at the beginning there were still a lot of mistakes, with people getting cleansed too close to others and causing unnecessary spread. Still, that's not necessarily a reason to wipe it; people just have to keep their cool, focus on the task at hand and continue doing what they're supposed to be doing. Nonetheless I was very proud of the healing team by the time we got the boss down, because there were huge improvements in the smoothness of the process and eventually we rarely had any cleanse go astray at all.

The big question that remained at the end of the phase was how to get rid of the Essence Corruption on the healers, because while there are twice the number of healers on 16-man, there aren't twice as many puddles! There is a third one that spawns near the entrance fairly early on, but it's easy to miss, people frequently stepped into it by accident, and if you don't use it in a timely manner it despawns anyway.

The way we dealt with it in the end was to have one healer cleanse only at the beginning, take the extra puddle relatively early on and then focus only on healing. Then, once HK-47 comes in, the three remaining healers with Corruption finish up the cleanses on the damage dealers while staying at somewhat of a distance from everyone else. Two of them manually cleanse all debuffs from the third (ideally the one with the lowest number of stacks, but we usually decided in advance who it was going to be), and then take the two remaining puddles to clear themselves. Success! For that phase anyway...

The rest of the fight was pretty similar to 8-man to be honest, and the main thing that kept wiping us were the aberrations on the top floor, as usual. For all that though, it felt all the more epic when we finally got it down.


Watching Clone Wars Season 4

I'm continuing to watch Clone Wars in small but regular drips, and wanted to write down some of my thoughts on season four after finishing it the other day and on how it relates to SWTOR.

You can tell that the show is coming into its own at this point, as like so many that start out with fairly shallow, mostly stand-alone episodes, it's slowly moving towards longer, more intricate multi-episode arcs.

Still, I thought the start of the season was fairly weak, as I didn't much care for the three-parter set on Mon Cala, which mostly seemed to be an exercise in showcasing some cool underwater visuals. (Though I thought the bad guy being a literal shark was kind of funny.) The episodes that followed weren't really much better either.

Things picked up with Darkness on Umbara, which is of course where the location for SWTOR's Crisis on Umbara flashpoint came from. What I didn't know was just how much visual inspiration the Bioware artists took from this season: For example there is a fight with some vehicles that look somewhat like giant flying centipedes, and after they're blown up and crash, the resulting wreckage looks eerily reminiscent of the sort of terrain that players have to navigate in the flashpoint. Also, while the plot on Umbara doesn't feature a train, another episode later in the season, Bounty, mostly takes place on one and again it looks quite similar to where players start out in the flashpoint in SWTOR. I just thought that was interesting.

Story-wise, the Umbaran arc was also the one I probably liked the most this season, though I was admittedly a little disappointed that the Jedi general just turned out to be evil, as I personally thought that it would have been more interesting if he'd really just been someone employing questionable methods and embodying a bad attitude on the Republic side, but I guess that would have been considered too morally complex for a kids' show.

One episode that really kind of shocked me was the one called Massacre, which lived up to its name as it's basically about the Separatists eradicating the Nightsisters. It's just one big battle episode, but both sides are nasty and you can't really root for either! I guess in the end Ventress is at least a slightly sympathetic character, but nonetheless I kept wondering to myself for most of the episode just what I was watching here...

Finally the end of the season brings the return of Darth Maul, something I'd wondered about ever since seeing the end of Solo, but I haven't been a huge fan so far. There isn't even any kind of explanation for why he's alive, he's just... there, insane and with weird mechanical spider legs as a replacement for his lower body. I don't know if it ever does get explained how he survived, but so far I haven't been too impressed.