Should SWTOR Innovate More?

Something I've long appreciated about SWTOR is that for most of its ten-year run so far, the devs have been sticking to what's known to work. They know that most of the players are mainly here for a story in which we get to make decisions that flesh out our characters and in which we can build relationships with NPCs, with some group PvE and PvP in a shared world on the side to keep us busy between story releases.

On the rare occasions when they've tried to deviate too much from that formula, such as during the "Knights of" expansions, I was not a happy bunny, but looking at the bigger picture, fortunately there hasn't been too much of that sort of thing, especially when you compare it with the (former?) market leader World of Warcraft and the way that's been trying to make every single expansion about some exciting and totally new feature for many years now.

That said, after several years of playing it very safe with new content additions, Bioware is finally looking to make some more daring changes with Legacy of the Sith, and I can't help but wonder whether they haven't already missed a trick or two.

Actually, the very first time that thought occurred to me was after the launch of Final Fantasy XIV's Shadowbringers expansion two years ago. I've never played FFXIV myself, but something that intrigued me about the reports of people who did was the addition of a new feature called the Trust system. From what I understand, this allows you to run certain story instances that are designed for group gameplay with NPCs instead of actual players, and the NPCs are all characters that you know from the story. When I first read about that, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was something like: SWTOR really should have thought of that first!

This isn't to say that I feel SWTOR desperately needs a feature like that right now. I strongly disliked the introduction of the GSI helper droid for solo modes back in the day, but I've been quite content with the way Bioware has handled more recent flashpoint releases by simply scaling the content so that story/solo mode is easily doable with your one or two companions.

My point is more that companions have been one of SWTOR's distinguishing features since launch, and back in 2011 just having them was one of the game's genuine innovations. Sure, other games had combat pets or mercenary NPCs à la Everquest, but no other MMO had them be fully fleshed-out, permanent companions with their own stories. It was a trend that other games felt the need to catch up with by adding their own spin on combat companions over the years, but in that same time frame, SWTOR itself hasn't really done much with the feature at all. The last major changes came with KotFE, when companion abilities were homogenised, affection was replaced with influence, all companions became capable of playing any trinity role, and more. However, since then, all that's happened is that we got more new companions and... that's it.

And that really seems a shame considering SWTOR's focus. To get back to the idea of being able to bring multiple companions into combat at once like in FFXIV's Trusts, one of the original trooper missions has you storming an enemy ship with your whole squad going in guns blazing, and everyone I ever talked to about that mission said that it was really cool and that they'd love to see the game provide more of that, yet Bioware never did. Again, I'm not saying that being able to run group content with a group of companions is exactly what we need... but considering the large stable of them that we have nowadays and how core they are to SWTOR's gameplay, you'd really think that Bioware would have come up with something new for them to do or contribute to by now.

You could say something similar about crew skills. I mean, crafting in SWTOR was hardly revolutionary even at launch, but the idea that your companions were doing all the work for you was kind of novel. This was around the time when a number of MMOs came out with companion apps on the phone, and players opined that it would be neat if they could manage crew skill missions from their phones as well - but that never happened. And neither did anything else, other than that new crew skill levels were added over time and some details about crafting progression were tweaked. It used to be that different companions had bonuses to different crew skills (remember when Elara Dorne had a bonus to both bioanalysis and biochemistry for example), but that was also taken out.

Looking at the way Bioware is overhauling a lot of UI elements with Legacy of the Sith, and considering that the crew skill window is one of the oldest, almost completely untouched UI elements in the game, I wouldn't be surprised if doing something with that was somewhere on their to-do list as well. I'm both excited for and scared of the day that will happen, as I'm not a fan of the companion window they introduced in KotFE, and crew skills is the only place where I can currently see my companions sorted by influence, so I'd hate to lose that.

But at the same time, I can't help but think that Bioware could do so much more with the crew skill system. Having played a bit of retail WoW on the side over the past year, I finally had a chance to have a look at the frequently derided "mission table" there and its various permutations throughout the last few expansions, and while you can say that they're all essentially phone mini games, I actually found myself quite engrossed by at least a couple of them. I also couldn't help but think how much more interesting it was that my in-game "companions" for these systems had different strengths, weaknesses and abilities, as opposed to SWTOR's companions - for all the depth they have as characters - being all the same when it comes to crew skills aside from potentially differing influence levels.

Again, I'm not saying that SWTOR needs to copy WoW and that crew skills should become an auto battler - in fact, that sounds like a pretty terrible idea when I put it like that. But my point is that the idea of having companions do your crafting/work for you was something that was originally unique to SWTOR, yet nothing has been done with that over the last ten years, while other games actually ran with the idea and even experimented with various ways of making it more interesting.

So I'm not saying that I think the Bioware team needs to come up with drastically new ways to play the game - I think Galactic Starfighter showed well enough that e.g. adding a first-person space shooter to an old-school tab target MMO with an RP focus is not a recipe for success. However, just looking at the areas in which SWTOR excelled at launch and which have remained a focus throughout the years, it feels like things have become a bit stagnant, with no real attempts to improve or expand on many existing core systems since around Knights of the Fallen Empire.

I think the combat changes coming with Legacy of the Sith are their most daring step in that direction that we've seen in a long time. So I do hope that these work out well, and that in the years to come we can perhaps see a similar amount of thought be put into other parts of the game that could do with a bit of freshening up, such as companions and crew skills.


Day 10: Death

It seems appropriate to finish off my 10 days of SWTOR screenshots series close to the end of the year, and end with the theme of death - which sounds a lot gloomier than it is, really. In MMOs, death is rarely much more than a temporary setback, and personally at least I often find it quite comical as well, which is reflected in some of these screenshots.

First off for example, we have this shot of a master mode Tyrans wipe in progress. Being dead on the floor always provides interesting opportunities for taking screenshots from a different perspective, but this was an unusual angle even for that situation. Plus I caught my co-healer stepping on me, which was an amusing bonus.

A different kind of death humour is illustrated by this shot of my Imperial agent dead on Ossus. I've long had a soft spot for humour derived from deadly verticality (one of the very first posts on this blog was about that subject), and elevators that go faster than should be physically possible are a classic that never gets old for me. So I was very pleased to find that the Imperial base on Ossus is also fitted with one of these, meaning that if you step on the lift at the top just as it starts its descent, you'll be taking one looong step down, which inevitably ends in having to call for a med probe.

This is an older shot from the PTS but pictures something that can happen on the live servers as well - a Sage or Sorcerer dying in their "immunity bubble" pose - because you did hit that button and should have been immune to damage, but the game decided that you should die anyway. Damn it!

Speaking of things looking not quite right, in this screenshot I found it striking how after Titan 6's death, the targeting circle for his body was quite some distance away from his targeting circle on the ground where we picked up the loot.

Seguing into dead bodies and loot, I'm perpetually baffled by Bioware's relationship with loot crates these days. Back in the day you always looted the boss's dead body itself, or you got a mysterious box if the body was inaccessible for some reason - which did make sense with some boss fights, such as Revan mysteriously disappearing at the end of the Foundry, or Darth Malgus in False Emperor needing to be pushed off a ledge in the fight's original iteration. But at some point... things got confusing.

As pictured above, you've been able to off Malgus the regular way for some time now, but you still don't loot him directly. That could be brushed off as a remnant of how the fight used to work, but it happens in newer flashpoints as well. I think it's the second boss in Spirit of Vengeance where you end up with a dead body (even though you technically don't kill the guy lore-wise), a copy of him that's still alive, and a box falling from the sky at the end of the fight. It's very strange.

Circling back to strange views of death, here's the view from the floor during Revan's core phase in Temple of Sacrifice... I get why the bodies are put off to the side like that, but I don't know why all those people died seemingly mid-air in strange jumping poses...

To, uh, another year of lots of virtual death?!


Happy Life Day and Another Blog Anniversary

I'd like to take this moment to wish all my readers a merry Christmas or whatever other holidays you may be celebrating around this time of year. In most European countries Christmas is being celebrated today, something I actually had to actively remind myself of... after eleven years of living in the UK (which I realised - somewhat to my shock - equals more than half of my adult life at this point) I've gotten so used to the way things are done here that I sometimes forget about how it's supposed to be done "properly" back home.

My last post was about SWTOR's tenth anniversary, and this blog celebrates its own birthday two days after the game. Usually I like to commemorate this with a post on the 22nd, but this year I let it slide because I got my third Covid jab that day and some side effects combined with other issues meant that I've been feeling pretty under the weather since then. But hey, Christmas is a good time for reflection too, so I might as well make that post today.

Sadly the last year hasn't exactly been a triumphant one for the blog, as my annual output declined further from it's previous average of more than a hundred posts. Last year I fell just below that for the first time, and this year I'm only up to 74 posts at the time of writing this. It would be easy to blame the lack of major in-game content milestones that I also brought up in my last post for a shortage of things to write about, but while that may have factored into things, it's not really the main issue. I still believe in my own advice when it comes to MMO writing, which is that as long as your game is alive and kicking, there's always something to write about. Sometimes you're just not that interested in what's happening at the moment, or maybe you're more interested in just playing the game without writing about it.

And really, it's mostly been those two factors that have limited my writing. I mean, there's interesting stuff happening on the SWTOR PTS right now, but I'm just not that invested in playing on there more than once in a blue moon. (No, not even when there are rewards on offer - I struggle enough to get all my alts through the story content on live!) When I'm playing, it's mostly got to do with my guild and Conquest - which I do write about sometimes, but it's not that interesting to me to write about all the time - so I'd rather spend more time just playing, even if it's something else.

Anyway, let's have a look at what I did write about in the past year:

With farming tech fragments to gear up no longer being a concern, I wrote about wasting my tech fragments gambling at Kai's back in January. Incidentally, I never stopped doing that as I'm still missing lots of set pieces and Tacticals for the achievements. I just stopped keeping track of the millions and millions of credits I was pouring into it... I probably don't want to know. On one of those occasions when I did talk about Conquest, I also summed up the reason Bioware was making changes to the way new players contribute to guild Conquest scores, apparently inspired by some strange happenings on my very own home, the Darth Malgus server.

There was more Conquest talk in February, as Bioware unleashed a Total Galactic War for the first time in nearly a year. I also started watching Star Wars: Rebels. In general, those first few months of the year were very quiet on the blog though, as I didn't feel I had much to comment on other than the patch 6.3. preview in March. In line with what I said above though, I was however very busy playing WoW Classic during that period, as my guild was trying to finish up Naxx before the release of Classic Burning Crusade. It's telling that I made a post called "Too Much To Do" on my WoW blog during that same time...

When 6.3 actually released at the end of April, I got busy again though... especially with Galactic Seasons, which prompted me to keep a diary of my activities while I was working my way through its 100 levels of rewards. These diary entries made up a lot of my blog content for the next three months... aside from that, I talked about finally beating Dread Master Styrak on master mode without being over-levelled for it, watching the rest of Rebels and finally getting caught up with the Mandalorian craze. We also had to say goodbye to SWTOR's refer-a-friend system.

July of course brought the excitement of the Legacy of the Sith expansion announcement, though this was soon marred somewhat by the opening of the PTS causing a lot of confusion and asking us to test changes that hadn't previously been mentioned at all. My Galactic Seasons grind came to an end and I wrote a series of three posts to summarise the whole experience.

August featured a wild mix of content, from me finally writing down all my thoughts about the Secrets of the Enclave flashpoint released in April, to my experiences with datacron hunting on Mek-Sha and Onderon, to grumbling about the Nightlife event once again to loving the first season of Bad Batch.

In September I had to say goodbye to being able to master loot and picked up levelling my pacifist again. I also mused about how rich the current expansion has made me and how to prepare for the next one.

In October, Star Wars: Visions challenged my ideas about what it means for content to be canon, and my achievements challenged my notion that I didn't like GSF all that much. I also hit max level on my pacifist, something I was very proud of, looked back on Onslaught as an expansion, and attempted to split the whole of SWTOR's ten years of history into distinct time periods.

November was relatively light on content again after that, as I mostly dedicated it to themed posts for IntPiPoMo. We also got a December launch date for Legacy of the Sith, just to have that changed to February only three weeks later. And now the end of the year is the usual time to reminisce and take stock.

Talking about how I haven't blogged as much this year as I would have liked to always feels a little strange, because on the one hand, a hobby blogger primarily writes for themselves - so if you don't feel like it at some point, you just don't feel like it, and that should be that! But realistically, I also feel a certain pride in having maintained somewhat regular updates on the blog for a whole decade by now, plus I enjoy getting comments and interacting with them, so letting people down by not posting for longer periods of time feels bad.

One thing I can promise you is that I haven't lost interest in blogging or the game - at any given point I've got at least several blog post ideas bouncing around in my head, it's just that when push comes to shove, sometimes I find myself prioritising something else in the end. And even if the blog topic wasn't time sensitive and you write it down for later, the spark that made you want to write about it doesn't always last, so if you miss your original chance to write down your thoughts, it often doesn't end up happening at all.

My point is, I can't promise that I'll be back to writing a hundred posts next year... but there'll be new SWTOR content for sure, and you can bet that I'll be covering it.


Happy 10th Birthday, SWTOR!

Today, Star Wars: The Old Republic turns ten years old! And I've been both a player and a subscriber for that entire time...

I wonder if Bioware's going to send me a statue of Darth Malgus as loyalty reward? But then, people already got those with the collector's edition back in the day - not that I have one of those...

Anyway, this was supposed to be a time of pure celebration. Legacy of the Sith was supposed to be out, and I figured I was going to be talking about how awesome it is (because I think it will be), but... well, it's been delayed until February, and as much as I want to be supportive of that decision, I figure it's left those of us who aren't active on the PTS shuffling our feet a bit.

I also tend to use this annual post as an opportunity to look back at the game's big content milestones from the past year, and with the expansion having been pushed back into 2022, well... We got Secrets of the Enclave, which was awesome, and we got the first Galactic Season, which was... something. Then there were a couple of small updates that featured brief chats with characters on Odessen, like the return of Zenith - which again, was very nice but not very substantial... and yeah, that's pretty much it. I made sure to go through all the patch notes from last year to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything, but they mostly consisted of items like bug fixes or notes that they made a change to the amplifier window... not the most exciting stuff! Hopefully 2022 will be all the better to look back on, with the expansion and lots of other stuff being added.

Even without the hype of an expansion launch though, I'll say that it feels pretty cool to think that both the game and I are still here ten years later. SWTOR wasn't the mega hit it was supposed to be at launch, but neither was it ultimately the total failure that many made it out to be during its first year. It's found its audience and niche, and continues to churn out content - at a slower pace than in the early days for sure, but not significantly diminished in quality, which I consider no mean feat. I see no reason why this couldn't easily continue for at least another ten years.

The devs also seem happy right now - Bioware isn't exactly a small indie company, but I do get the impression that the SWTOR team is comparatively small and scrappy within the larger business, and full of people who're obviously doing a job that they love - which is something that I do think affects the final product in a positive way.

If you want to look back on what I've had to say about SWTOR on its previous birthdays, you can find links to those posts here:

Happy Birthday, SWTOR!
Happy 2nd Birthday, SWTOR!
Happy Third Birthday, SWTOR!
Happy 4th Birthday, SWTOR!
Five Years of SWTOR
Six Years of SWTOR
Seven Years of SWTOR
Eight Years of SWTOR
Nine Years of SWTOR

To the next ten, but for now, just bring on that expansion already!

EDIT: There's also an official anniversary news post, which supports what I said about the devs loving their job and talks a bit about what's coming up.


Day 9: Silly

IntPiPoMo may be over for this year, but my 10 days of SWTOR screenshots aren't finished, and I'm still planning to complete that project. The theme for day nine was "silly".

On the subject of players doing silly things, I present you this shot of one of our tanks "standing guard" at the exit of Fabricator's room in Karagga's Palace, with the markers behind him also meant to delineate a border that people shouldn't cross (yet). If you've ever had someone run ahead into that room too early, I don't need to explain to you why that is. (The boring explanation for everyone else is that it contains a trash pull for which you really want everyone to go in together and be focused or it can quickly spiral out of control.)

A different kind of silly screenshot is of in-game cut scenes where I managed to capture the animation at such a peculiar moment that the result looks weird more than anything. Above you can see my Mercenary about to sock an Alderaanian noble for example... which is funny in itself I guess, but the shot also looks kind of bizarre, like she's actually about to fall over drunk or something.

Or how about my Sniper performing this "heroic" leap on Iokath?

I guess this scene is meant to be at least slightly silly, but I still love the way Darth Malora is just kind of flying past these Imperials here.

Another intentionally funny scene that took me quite a few tries to capture correctly was this moment from Secrets of the Enclave, when Malgus' medical droid comes rolling out of the dead boss's mouth... I did the flashpoint on Republic side first and remember wondering at the time why the mob model had such a big mouth...

The Nature of Progress operation is another great example of (relatively) recent content laced with wonderful humour. I adore this conversation so much.

Reading tooltips pays off in there as well. Such as this one when a Trandoshan Medic manages to inject someone on trash...


Day 8: Memorable Moments

IntPiPoMo may be over for this year, but my 10 days of SWTOR screenshots aren't finished, and I'm still planning to do that. The theme for day eight was "memorable moments".

First off we have a shot of guildies grouping up to kill the R8-X8 world boss on Ossus. I chose this one not because that particular kill was memorable, but to represent that whole era of Ossus being endgame. I loved it so much and I repeated all the related activities a stupid amount of times... I've often joked that had there been an achievement for killing each world boss a hundred times, I'd probably have gotten it.

I do miss those days somewhat. I really did like the importance of the world bosses, and that they were epic fights for maximum-size ops groups, but unfortunately they haven't aged well for that same reason, because now that the player base's focus is elsewhere, you can't easily go back and knock them out with just a few friends.

This shot was from Jedi Under Siege launch night. It may not be particularly immersive, but I do always enjoy seeing the masses pour in to enjoy the new story.

I wrote a whole post about it at the time, but I thought it was worth calling out again that spending my 37th birthday turning into a robotic deity and rampaging across Iokath with my guildies was an incredibly unique and fun experience.

This is a screenshot of me getting the achievement for completing the Trial and Error uprising on master mode in February 2020. I don't actually remember that evening in specific being that memorable, but basically that uprising seemed to be incredibly overtuned on its release and we spent a lot of time wiping in there the first couple of years. When we finally gave it another try during Onslaught and were able to beat it at last, it felt like quite an achievement. I think they definitely changed the tuning as well though, because it wasn't nearly the same level of crazy anymore.

This shot is from one of our datacron hunts from earlier in the year and was memorable to me in two ways: First off, I finally got to see how the Rishi datacron is done "properly", because back in the day I'd just been summoned to it after the whole process had already been completed and therefore I stayed completely oblivious to what was actually involved in unlocking it. (This is the reason I no longer accept well-intended summons to new datacrons, by the way. I want to actually see and understand how they work.) The second reason it was memorable to me was that someone else had pre-farmed the required materials so that we could quickly get it done on the night... but we rolled for who'd be the one to actually activate it, and since I won I got to do it and got an extra achievement to boot. That was nice.



Welp, seems my taking stock ten days before the expansion launch was premature... because yesterday Bioware surprised us with the bombshell announcement that they've decided to delay the launch of Legacy of the Sith by two months until the 15th of February.

I was simultaneously extremely surprised by this and not surprised at all. I'm not surprised that they ultimately decided that the expansion needs a bit more time in the oven, as I'd already become increasingly dubious of the planned 2021 launch the longer they put off committing to an exact date. Onslaught was originally supposed to come out in September 2019 and was then pushed back until the end of October, so there was also already a precedent for the current SWTOR team not being afraid to announce a delay when they thought it was needed.

However, I was surprised that they decided to drop this piece of news on us literally only a week before the launch was supposed to happen, as that's extremely short notice and they'd only just announced the 14th as the release date less than three weeks ago. How could they change their minds on this so quickly?

I saw some cynical comments along the lines of Bioware wanting to "trick" people into subscribing without actually adding any new content (insert dismissive hand gesture here), but most of the reactions I've seen to the delay were surprisingly positive. Obviously there was disappointment, but after the many disastrous game launches we've seen in recent years, I guess people would rather wait for things to be ready than deal with a million bugs.

One thing I really appreciated was that the devs immediately created a forum thread where they prompted people to ask questions about the delay, and community manager Jackie set to answering the most pressing ones only a few hours later. I myself posed the question that I also raised two paragraphs earlier, about why this came on such short notice, and got the answer that they'd basically been hoping against hope until the very end that they'd be able to launch in time for the ten-year anniversary celebrations, but that ultimately it just didn't work out. Fair enough; I can believe that.

They also explained that they needed two whole months because a good chunk of that was going to be holiday time for them too, to which again, I can only say "fair enough". There's been a lot of talk in recent years about crunch time and game devs having to deal with bad working conditions, so I'm all in favour of them getting to enjoy their well-deserved holidays too.

Still, the question remains what this means for me and my guild in specific. As I said in my last post, while I hadn't completed all of my pre-expansion goals, I'd reached a point where I kind of felt that things were "good enough" and that I was ready to jump into the new content anyway. I suppose I can use the extra time gained to work on some more of those unfulfilled goals, but... I've got to admit I'm not hugely enthused at this particular point in time as I'm just not in the right mindset for it.

Activity in my guild had been quite frantic for the last two weeks, as several guildies had been playing at all hours of the day to still get their Limitless achievement before it was supposed to go away. I guess the guy who was still a fair bit off will enjoy the extra time gained to complete his goal, but I imagine that the ones who pushed particularly hard to get it done in time might feel a bit let down at the moment. One of my guildies had also booked some holiday time to coincide with the expansion launch and was understandably ticked off at this last-minute change of plans.

On top of that, my ops team went on break some time ago to recharge in advance of the expansion, but with another two months to go this now also feels a bit odd, because now this break will either end up being much longer than intended, or we'd have to spin activities back up again for a few weeks just to then rejig things yet again when LotS actually launches. The joys of dealing with guild logistics...

Bioware is at least making a token effort to give us other things to do, by having a double XP event over the Christmas holidays, promising to re-run the Feast of Prosperity for three weeks in January and planning to have no less than three Total Galactic Wars throughout that period as well... but I gotta say that all that still feels like a very weak substitute for the actual new content we'd all been looking forward to. Which is my way of saying that I'm OK with waiting I guess, but I may well find other things to do in the meantime instead of spending even more time feeding Hutts and the like.


10 Days to LotS - Taking Stock

Legacy of the Sith is only ten days away! Am I hyped? Do I feel prepared? Let's discuss.

First off, I'm looking forward to the new story as usual. Bioware's storytelling has been consistently enjoyable to me over the last few years, and I've got no reason to assume that Legacy of the Sith will deliver any less. The teaser of the mystery Twi'lek has me intrigued, but I've got to admit that I'm not sitting here racking my brain and speculating about who she could be - I mostly just like to let these things come at me and be surprised.

In terms of everything else, my mood is honestly a bit "eh". I seem to have fallen into a similar pre-expansion funk as I did before Onslaught, where I was initially quite intrigued by the PTS but then quickly lost interest and played very little during the weeks immediately leading up to the expansion launch. (Though once the expansion was actually out, I loved it.)

My ops team has been on a pre-expansion break for several weeks already, and the PTS once again didn't manage to hold my interest - I didn't even end up giving feedback on the Commando class changes, which I really should have done I guess! However, as I observed two years ago, I'm just not that into being an unpaid game tester.

In fact, more than ever I found the PTS to be a very double-edged sword this time around. I think it's good that Bioware is showing us stuff early and that they're taking feedback to make tweaks to optimise things before going live, but at the same time there's a sort of "culture" around PTS reporting that I've really come to despise, picking up on every little thing, spreading it around as news and delving into all kinds of speculation about what this or that is going to mean for the expansion. I know it's well-intended and I don't hold anyone's excitement against them, but at least in my social sphere the effects it's had and that I've had a chance to observe have been mostly off-putting, as every update from the PTS seemed to turn into a game of telephone and people would get all hyped up or panicky about things that nobody even said in the first place.

Eventually I decided to just stay away from most things PTS-related myself, as I simply got tired of repeating "guys, first off that isn't what he said at all, and secondly, you know the PTS isn't final" over and over again. If I saw a Tweet or screenshot pointing out a new feature such as the revamped character creation screen, I'd have a quick glance and then move on. I don't mind a brief heads-up that things are changing, but I don't want to hear all about a bunch of details that may not end up reflecting the final build anyway.

And it does seem that there are a lot of smaller changes coming too, more than we were initially aware of. However, I just don't see the point of fretting too much about them in advance. In a bit more than a week, we can all see for ourselves how it pans out.

A little over two months ago I made a post with pre-expansion goals I'd set for myself. How have I been doing with these? The answer is "alright", but not great. I only achieved two of them in full, which were Renown 999 on my main and to finish levelling my pacifist. In terms of getting my alts caught up with the story, I made some progress but not as much as I'd originally planned, with only five or six of my main eight being fully caught up (though none of them are missing much, so there's still time I guess). I also made good progress on my saboteur agent for a few weeks and then just stopped again. Only four KotET chapters left! One day...

I'm still optimistic about the expansion, and I'm sure I'll have a good time with the new story and doing group content with my guildies again. I've just avoided spending too much energy on preparation and worrying about what's coming. What about you?


Day 7: Team #IntPiPoMo

I'm taking part in IntPiPoMo, and this is the seventh of ten screenshot posts I'm making as part of a series for this, each one themed around a certain topic. Today's topic is "team", which is about the people I play with.

A lot of my enjoyment of the game revolves around operations with my guild. I don't think I would do them much if I wasn't in a guild, but as it is they just provide this social activity for us to do multiple times a week, and it doesn't matter if the content stays basically the same, the people always make it a little different. Pictured here is my Scoundrel dancing up close with one of the other officers during a break on one of our "social" (read: easy mode) nights in TfB.

When it comes to harder content we have to be a bit more selective in terms of who to bring and when, but that only forges closer bonds. Here's my ops team sitting in front of Izax before we were getting ready to pull.

Operations aren't the only thing that my guild makes more fun though, running flashpoints with guildies is great too. This shows me healing Kaon Under Siege on my Operative on Imp side, standing on a bunch of pipes where a guildie had shown me that you could get away with not getting pounced on by the mobs as much.

There's also a small but dedicated group of us that really loves doing the Shroud and Dread Seed heroics at the end of their respective quest chains. We've all done them on so many alts by now but are always happy to do them again! Here's a shot of one such run (I'm the second one from the right, the Zabrak Sorceror in the red and black robe).

Finally, we also do casual PvP together sometimes, though I personally partake in that less often than the other activities. To be honest I sometimes prefer to fully pug my PvP because I don't want to feel angry at my guildies if they mess up. Here my lowbie Merc was teamed up with a guildie's Powertech though, waiting for a Corellia Square arena to start.

Finally, here I am with the same guildie on different characters, and my poor Squid Sorc ended up being the only non-stealther on her team. As if I needed even more of a target painted on my head... (I thought it was amusing though.)

IntPiPoMo count: 51

It's obvious at this point that I won't finish my "ten days" series by the end of November - I could have pushed harder but I had other things on my mind throughout the month and didn't want to force it. After all, the whole "ten days" theme is something of my own making, so there's no need to fret about completing it within a certain timeframe. I still managed to squeeze enough posts in to hit my IntPiPo count, and I'll simply post the remaining days throughout early December.


Day 6: Environments #IntPiPoMo

I'm taking part in IntPiPoMo, and this is the sixth of ten screenshot posts I'm making this month, each one themed around a certain topic. Today's topic is environments, which is honestly always the easiest one to find images for (though it can be hard to choose my favourites) as pretty environments are something I love taking screenshots of!

First off some more views from the original set of planets... I've said before that I don't tend to think of Taris as pretty, but look at it in the right light and from the right angle and it absolutely can be!

My Mercenary speeding across the dunes on Tatooine looking snazzy.

Another shot of a speeder ride, though this one is my Marauder on Ossus. Being one of the newer planets, it's perhaps somewhat less iconic, but I do like the increased graphical detail.

Alderaan is one of those classically beautiful places, but I hadn't really taken many screenshots of just the scenery until recently, when Swtorista asked for some submissions for a screenshot contest, which is when I took this (though it wasn't my submission).

Swtorista's contest was inspired by the official Best View in SWTOR screenshot contest, whose winners were announced today. Some amazing shots there! I did not win anything myself, but I did go around taking some pictures to submit at the time that made me appreciate the landscape in whole new ways, like the above two shots of Mek-Sha, a planet of which I don't traditionally think as good-looking. Loved those bizzare container building towers and the reflections on the tepid pool!

On the subject of strangely mesmerising environments, here we have the lair of the Mountain Queen on Ossus, a place not many people visit with any regularity or have seen at all I reckon, and yet the artists worked hard on nailing that alien feel of a giant insect hive.

Another indoor location, a simple Ilum crystal cave... but what's ever simple if you've got crystals that are glowing like lightbulbs spicing up the scenery?

IntPiPoMo count: 45


Legacy of the Sith Expansion to Launch December 14th

Last night it was time for an important livestream once again, and I did my usual thing of missing it and then catching up on all the info the next day.

In general, the stream was nice but not particularly meaty in terms of information. There was an interview with Enuka Okuma, the voice actress of Tau Idair, which I enjoyed just like all the previous interviews of this type that they've done before, but the rest was mostly a bit of chat about different NPCs, most of which we were already familiar with. Which is fine, I'm just saying "hey, Lana will be there too" isn't exactly some ground-breaking revelation and that's okay. We like Bioware to keep the big stuff under wraps until it actually comes out. I suppose this was the first time they officially confirmed that the Legacy of the Sith launch storyline will be different for Republic and Empire again, like Onslaught's was, though I think most of us already suspected that.

Keith made a brief appearance and I went "aww" when he told the little anecdote about his wife. Also something about wanting real life Community Cantinas to come back once the pandemic allows... but those aren't really very relevant to me over in the UK anyway.

We did finally get a launch date for the expansion however! It's going to be Tuesday the 14th of December, so just a little less than four weeks away. Swtorista had previously run a little game to have people guess the date, and the 14th had been one of the most popular guesses (it was mine too). That is somewhat dangerously close to Christmas, but I suppose the devs have given themselves a bit of insurance by delaying the launch of the new operation until later this time, so they should only really have to deal with story bugs and the like during that brief period before they go on their holidays, without any risk of major exploits for ops gear causing chaos over the Christmas period or anything like that.

Somewhat unexpectedly from my point of view, the two most intriguing reveals came in the form of the new expansion loading screen and a short celebratory video with a surprise at the end.

The Legacy of the Sith loading screen, or "key art" as they call it, isn't one of their better ones in my opinion. I find it hard to put my finger on it, but all the faces look ever so slightly off - stylised in a way that's different from the way they usually do these, and I'm not a fan. However, what's interesting is the small but central figure of a green Twi'lek with a lightsaber, who was conspicuously absent from the summary of important NPCs that we're going to meet - so who could she be?

This ties into the little anniversary video to promote Legacy of the Sith that they also revealed, most of which is a fairly generic happy clip show of previous cinematic trailers... until the very end, when we see an extreme close-up of a CGI-quality pair of eyes in a green face that made every fan sit up and go: "Hang on... that's not from any existing trailer!"

It seems fair to guess that this might be the same Twi'lek we see on the key art, but more importantly, does this mean that we'll be getting a new cinematic trailer for the first time since Knights of the Eternal Throne? And they are not pushing it yet, perhaps to not actually release it until the expansion is about to launch, so that anyone who's captivated by whatever it shows can then jump right in? If so, that's some pretty clever marketing - respect! I'm intrigued and curious to find out more.


Day 5: NPCs #IntPiPoMo

I'm taking part in IntPiPoMo, and this is the fifth of ten screenshot posts I'm making this month, each one themed around a certain topic. Today's topic is NPCs.

Let's start with Attros Finn, a character that features early in the Jedi consular story and who - to me - embodies a lot of a consular's good qualities. He's a healer, and I've always liked the humble Jedi outfit he wears - plus Mirialan is a great species for Jedi in general.

From the series "Twi'leks I really like", we first have Juda from the bounty hunter story and of course, one of the game's more recent but no less fabulous additions, Major Anri. I have this short clip of her on my YouTube channel (warning: Onslaught spoilers) and it gets a lot of love.

The fact that Shadow of Revan's side missions didn't include cut scenes made the NPCs in them somewhat less memorable I think, but I still loved "The Slayers Three" and their odd love for hunting. I always thought those three siblings in intimidating outfits could have an interesting story behind their adventures!

I've mentioned previously how the little detail of which character appears as an extra antagonist at the end of the Nathema Conspiracy based on your character's class and alignment has a fascinating amount of permutations, though I avoided spoiling myself for the full list. Pictured above, we see my light-side loyalist agent being addressed by Marcus Trant, formerly head of the SIS and Theron Shan's boss, and below we have Master Sumalee hating on my poor smuggler. Why, Master Sumalee? I was light side all the way!

A shout-out to various nameless Sith and Jedi NPCs that go out looking cool in various cut scenes. (This is from some Imperial class story on Alderaan... Sith warrior I think?)

This guy on Balmorra might have had a name, but if so I didn't note it down. I do remember that he's one of those characters where the dialogue teases the option of getting him to back down without a fight but regardless of your choices you can never succeed.

IntPiPoMo count: 38


Day 4: Missions & Conversations #IntPiPoMo

I'm taking part in IntPiPoMo, and this is the fourth of ten screenshot posts I'm making this month, each one themed around a certain topic. Today's topic is... missions and conversations, which means everything surrounding story content and the sorts of cut scenes we get to experience while playing through it.

I think I've said it before, but the Makeb storyline is one of those pieces of content that I've come to appreciate more and more over time. When it came out it seemed like a downgrade from the unique class stories, but from where we are now I see it as a good example of a planetary story that is unique for both factions, with both halves coming together to form something greater.

One thing I like about the Imperial storyline in particular is that the Imps are effectively doing good for selfish reasons, like in this scene where they end up rescuing some civilian scientists from evil mercenaries... because they need them for their own ends of course.

Another thing I've mentioned before is that thanks to the quick travel between planets I don't see the "planetary ship approach" cut scenes very often anymore, so when I do come across a shot like this one of the Jedi knight ship landing on Voss it honestly takes my breath away.

Beautiful scenery and framing are another thing I loved about the Ossus storyline, such as this series of shots of Darth Malgus and the player character coming out of the Jedi library.

Speaking of framing, I like this shot of my group coming up to Lord Tagriss to claim the last Dread Seed. I've done this infamous group quest more than a dozen times, but I hadn't really taken in the sights of the corrupted Jedi temple properly until this time.

Another thing I enjoy taking screenshots of: good action scenes! Above we first have a Sith warrior facing off against Nomen Karr during their chapter one finale, and below we have Senator Nebet fighting Beast Lord Akoru on Onderon.

Of Akoru I also have this fun shot of my bounty hunter whispering to him... I think it's to blackmail him? But the gestures and expressions make it look more like she's making a pass at him or something, hehe.

IntPiPoMo count: 30