PvP in 7.2 - Missing My MVPs

When Bioware announced that 7.2 was going to include the removal of ranked PvP, my initial reaction was to have sympathy for those who enjoyed that game mode, and when I sought out other people's opinions on the matter I was surprised by how many comments I saw that basically came down to "good riddance, it was nothing but a toxic cesspit anyway".

I then had a look at the official forums to see the reactions of actual ranked players and was amazed by just how much denial and deflection was going on there: Ranked wasn't toxic, but if it was, it was justified because of bad players daring to invade their space, and now all those totally not toxic ranked players are going to invade unranked and make people's lives hell there, but also unranked was already the most toxic game mode anyway and the game's going to die because the subscriptions of ranked players were all that was keeping it alive. Or something.

It's still a bit of a shame because I remember when the Bad Feeling Podcast (rest in peace) went through a phase of really wanting to make ranked a thing, and their angle was basically that ranked should be for everyone - after all, the point of the ranking system is that people of all skill levels will be sorted into the correct "bracket", and if only enough people queued then everyone should be able to take part and have fun being matched up against other players of similar skill level. Sadly it seems that this never came to pass and instead ranked turned into the home of a small elite that cannibalised itself until it was too late. Oh well.

So 7.2 brought us a brave new world where there is no more split between ranked and unranked, but separate queues for 8v8 warzones and 4v4 arenas, and we get to fill out a PvP reward track similar to Galactic Seasons.

The PvP season track is pretty bare-bones compared to the regular season, with only 25 levels, no separate subscriber vs. non-subscriber tracks, and no daily objectives. Instead there are six weeklies that are the same every week, and beyond those you can earn a small trickle of points by earning medals until you reach the weekly point cap of 1000. (Completing the track in its entirety requires 7000 points.)

The weekly objectives are split into three for warzones and three for arenas, which ironically meant that after thinking that the new queue split would mean no more arenas for me, I actually ended up queueing for more arenas than ever before, just to complete the weekly objectives during the first two weeks. While I've never really minded the occasional arena sprinkled into my random queue, I've got to admit that this particular experience has actually been kind of tiresome as the objectives require you to play twice as many arenas as warzones to get the same amount of credit.

Also, while it's not made very clear in the UI, the PvP season seems to have similar limitations on the weekly objectives as the regular season, meaning you can only get credit for four out of six each week. After spending several hours being a punching bag in arenas just to complete objectives that ultimately didn't award me any points (even though they weren't greyed out), I think I'll stick to the 8v8 objectives for the rest of the season... though I might still find myself playing arenas if I decide to go for the achievements tied to the season as well, as they require you to complete 25 warzone and 25 arena weeklies. Considering the season is only 12 weeks long, that's a lot though and I'm not sure I'll bother.

Another change that wasn't really advertised much has been a revamp of the scoreboard that you see at the end of the match, and to be honest... I'm not a fan. The primary tab now just shows a picture of your character and your personal stats - which are pretty meaningless without those of the rest of the team to put things in context. About the only thing I like here is that medals earned are listed in full instead of requiring you to hover over them to read what you got them for.

On the team score tabs, kills have been removed from the main view and are now only visible on hover - not sure if this is supposed to make people feel better about dying a lot? I used to find it helpful to be able to see them more easily in order to gauge everyone's ratio of kills vs. deaths at a glance.

However, the thing that irks me the most - and I was somewhat surprised by this myself - is the removal of MVP votes. When I first heard that this was also going to happen with 7.2, my reaction was something along the lines of "eh". I liked MVP votes, but I couldn't deny that they were an old system that didn't really seem to serve any purpose anymore, and in most PvP matches I played, most people didn't seem to bother casting votes anymore anyway.

However, what their removal made me realise was that MVP votes made me care about the rest of my team - not because I coveted their votes, but because the act of casting my own MVP vote made me pay attention to how much everyone else was contributing to the match. In this blog's first year I wrote a post called MVP Votes And You, in which I talked about the many ways in which someone could earn my MVP vote, and there were a lot of them! With their removal, I just don't feel like there's any point in paying much attention to the other players' performance unless I'm planning to PvP all evening and want to get a bit of an idea of who's a strong opponent that day and who isn't. If I notice anyone having played particularly well, there's no real way of showing appreciation for it, except for maybe typing it in chat, but they probably will have quit the match before I've finished typing anyway. Not to mention that it's much more effort than pressing a button.

Considering that Bioware said that an important reason for them making all these changes was to make PvP interactions more positive, it kind of galls me that they also removed something that was created specifically to be a positive interaction. I can only hope that they'll consider bringing the system back in some form eventually.

In the meantime, the jury's out on how well this new PvP season system is going to work, for me at least. For now it's got me doing more PvP than usual, but I also worry that with arenas being so heavily incentivised, I'll end up burning myself out on those. (Which - again - is incredibly ironic considering that we're able to completely banish arenas from our queue for the first time since their introduction.)


Voices of SWTOR

It's always funny to me how SWTOR seems to kind of follow me around even when I'm not playing it. I was PC-less for the past few days, visiting relatives on the other side of the country, so my internet usage was limited to browsing some websites and watching a few things on my phone. One thing I watched was the 2002 Disney movie Lilo & Stitch - a film I know I saw when it first came out but could remember very little about. (It holds up surprisingly well by the way!)

There was this side character who's an alien that basically looks like a giant shark and whose voice sounded familiar, so I looked up the voice actor afterwards, and what do you know - it's Kevin Michael Richardson, who also voiced Jace Malcom in SWTOR. Seems like gruff military types that push boundaries are his "type".

A few weeks ago Mr Commando and I were also questing our way through World of Warcraft's newest expansion, and in the Ohn'ahran Plains we ran into both Senya (voicing the centaur Ohn Seshteng) and the female trooper/Master Satele (voicing the green dragon Merithra). I also wouldn't be surprised if there were even more overlapping voice actors doing minor characters that I just didn't recognise instantly the way I recognise the major players.

I can't quite decide whether that's a good or bad thing. On the one hand, it's kind of bad for immersion when an ancient dragon starts speaking and I go "ooh, it's my trooper". On the other hand though, I just think it's kind of neat that SWTOR has had so many noteworthy voice actors contribute to the game over the years, and identifying their voices in different contexts makes for a fun little game of its own.


My 11th Year of SWTOR Blogging and Happy Life Day

This blog celebrates its anniversary two days after the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I always use that as an opportunity to review my blogging activity for the past year and how it reflected on my relationship with the game. While I just called out certain rough spots in the game's release schedule last year, it's honestly been doing better than the blog, as my output in terms of posts dropped for the third year in a row (though I should only be a couple of posts down on last year by the end of December).

I don't really have an excuse. As I've said previously, I'm simply not as focused as I used to be, what with splitting my free time between multiple MMOs and also blogging about WoW again.

The most quiet time on the blog this year was January, as I was honestly in a bit of a funk after the Legacy of the Sith delay and didn't feel terribly motivated to play. I think I did some Conquest or something? The only things I wrote about were SWTOR being featured in an issue of Star Wars Insider (an experience that taught me something about the challenges of hunting down a physical magazine in 2022) and how I'd come to quite enjoy the Iokath dailies.

Then in February, it was finally expansion time! The launch felt very exciting, though my overall first impressions were less so. Nonetheless I spent the next few weeks happily reporting on all the new content I was having fun with, such as the newest story and Galactic Season 2.

This continued into March, when I mused about the (to me) somewhat strange changes to repeatable content that limited which flashpoints and daily zones would grant rewards each week (which were fortunately reverted soon after) and the complexity of the new gearing system. I wrote about how the introduction of combat styles made the game feel different even as I personally refused to pick up an additional combat style on any of my characters for the time being, and I tried to evaluate the changes to the new player experience but found it difficult to distinguish between what was truly new in 7.0 and what had already been changed earlier and I just couldn't remember. I also had fun in the retuned operations and found it quite funny that even places like Eternity Vault were suddenly somewhat challenging again.

By April my excitement started to wane a little, however. I had to do some soul-searching in regards to the fact that the change to combat logging that was also implemented with 7.0 meant that I couldn't hide how bad I was at dps anymore. The tight tuning of the operations made gold augments more relevant than they had been before and gave them an uncomfortable air of pay-to-win. I was looking forward to the expansion's first patch, even if it was only a minor one. Most of my fun came from the fact that I'd found Season 2 so easy to complete that I decided to follow in the footsteps of one my guildies and attempt to complete it on the game's other servers too, something that led to some interesting new experiences.

At the start of May I had to admit that things weren't looking good on the ops front at all, as initial amusement about hitting the enrage on the first boss in EV had made way for frustration with how overtuned everything was, plus class balance issues were adding additional aggravation. In other news, I finally picked a second combat style for my Commando main, and had some good times in PvP. I confidently declared that SWTOR's endgame was all about alts instead of gear, and continued to have fun working my way through the Season 2 track on multiple servers. I also started to document my post-KotET experiences as an Imperial saboteur.

By June I was noticeably running out of steam again. I continued my saboteur's adventures and completed Season 2 on Star Forge, but otherwise I didn't feel terribly motivated and was kind of holding out for patch 7.1.

In July I completed Season 2 on the remaining servers, talked about Josh Strife Hayes' take on SWTOR, and was mostly very glad when we finally got a launch date for 7.1.

August came, and with it 7.1, which brought with it excitement about the new daily zone and an unexpected story update. And of course there was the new operation R-4 Anomaly... which made it a struggle for me to say anything positive about it since Bioware had once again decided that actually, they didn't need story mode to be accessible and that ops were now primarily catering to the top 1%. I tried to drown my sorrow in gambling (just kidding... though I did take part in the Nightlife event with more enthusiasm than I had in a while).

Seriously though, the problems with R-4 Anomaly really hit me hard. I did write a bit about the issues it presented for me at the beginning of September, but to be honest things were even worse than I admitted in that post. Basically it pushed me to a point where I was ready to step away from raiding altogether. So Bioware doesn't want people like me to raid anymore? Well fuck it; guess I won't then. Considering that I've been running operations in SWTOR pretty consistently almost since launch, that was a pretty big deal.

The reason this ultimately didn't happen was Mr Commando. This was a surprise in so far as he'd been moaning at me for years about how he doesn't really enjoy the game the way he used to, and that he's just "locked in" by our shared raiding habit, so I thought he'd be delighted by an opportunity to just drop the whole thing altogether. However, in a move that surprised even himself, he stuck with it even when I stopped and eventually managed to mellow me down to just "taking a break". I alluded to this in a post at the end of the month, where I wrote about the strange hoops people had to jump through to kill bosses in R-4 veteran mode.

I kind of avoided talking about the whole situation in more detail by posting less and mostly sticking to subjects that were kind of peripheral to the game instead of talking about actual gameplay, such as websites for combat logging, the update to the official forums, or the second "Best View in SWTOR" contest. This continued into October until it was time for the launch of Galactic Season 3, which somewhat invigorated my interest in the game and writing about everything a new season entailed.

As I spent more time playing again, I realised that I had warmed up to combat styles a bit and actually made use of the feature on a couple of alts. On a related subject, I complained a bit about how levelling and gearing alts was quite awkward this expansion, but I also celebrated finally finishing off the last achievement for the Feast of Prosperity. We got our first glimpse of 7.2 and it looked really good. It actually launched before the end of the year too, bringing with it a very cinematic story update and a new daily zone.

All in all, I think you can see that it hasn't just been a year of ups and down for the game, but also for my relationship with it. I was hyped for the expansion, but then it launched with many issues (though I still had fun with 7.0). I had a lot of hopes for patch 7.1, but instead it broke my spirit and tested my ties to the game in a way that had never happened before. It feels like brighter days might finally be ahead with 7.2, but I've also got to admit that I'm not entirely "over" my disappointment with R-4, and my interest in raiding remains a little precarious. I know it's just a game, but it's a game that has been my virtual home for more than a decade now, so these kinds of things can still hit hard.

For now I'll be AFK for a few days to take part in a family Christmas for the first time since the pandemic and I hope y'all have a good holiday period, whether you celebrate Christmas or do something else. Maybe you'll even find a tauntaun under your Christmas tree like I did.


Eleven Years of SWTOR

It's kind of wild to me that Star Wars: The Old Republic has entered its second decade now and that I've been along for the entire ride. The first year of this new decade has also been... something.

Last year around this time I was a little disappointed that Legacy of the Sith had been delayed on very short notice, especially as I was really looking forward to it. We eventually got that expansion two months later, but sadly it didn't turn out to be what everyone had hoped for. It's really weird actually, because there was so much hype around it; they even invested in a cinematic trailer for the first time in five years and it was awesome - Bioware must've known that what they were about to deliver wasn't anywhere near ready to live up to those expectations. I still wonder what went wrong behind the scenes there...

Anyway, while I thought that much of the negativity around the launch was blown way out of proportion, I think it's hard to deny that overall, people were let down. UI changes felt strange, the story content was short for something called an "expansion" even by Bioware's standards, and in general it felt like too much stuff had to be cut or delayed. It took until August's 7.1 patch to make it feel like we'd actually received an expansion launch worth of content, though that wasn't without its issues either... but I'll talk more about that in my general "my blogging year in review" post.

To Bioware's credit, they managed to push out 7.2 before Christmas, something I didn't really expect to happen. (And to me the fact that people kept asking about what was happening with Life Day and not getting any responses for a while indicates that there was at least some uncertainty internally as well.) 7.2 turned out to be a pretty meaty patch as well, with a new planet, a chunky story update, new dailies and a major PvP update.

If you look at all of that added together, we actually ended up getting significantly more content this year than last year: two large story updates plus one medium-sized one, two new planets/daily areas, a new flashpoint, a new operation, two Galactic Seasons, a PvP revamp and a bunch of UI updates. Not to mention combat styles, the expansion's big new feature. Technical updates like that are just always hard to judge because while I'm sure they take a lot of work in the backend, their impact on players is going to vary.

All in all, while the game was off to a rocky start this year, things seem to have stabilised somewhat by now, and I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say about the contents of patch 7.2 before my Christmas holidays are over. With all the updates they're making to things like the user interface, it definitely feels like Bioware are laying the groundwork for the next ten years of SWTOR, and that's nice to see.

If you want to make comparisons to how I felt at the end of the year on past anniversaries, feel free to check the links below:

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
Happy 10th Birthday, SWTOR!


Dailies on Ruhnuk: Confusion Central

I really liked Ruhnuk's general visuals from the first preview we got of 7.2. The story impressed with intricate cinematics. We also knew from the 7.2 preview that the daily area on Ruhnuk would come with its own planetary story arc again, something that I quite liked on Manaan, and this time the NPCs were going to be voiced too instead of everything being alien gibberish (which had been my main criticism of Manaan).

What could possibly go wrong?

A lot, as it turns out.

You see, I'd initially held off on tackling the dailies since Mr Commando didn't have time to play for a few days, and a new daily zone is one of the few pieces of new content that we can still meaningfully play together, so I wanted to "save" my first experience for a shared play session. But boy, did that turn out to be a shitshow.

We started on Saturday at 3pm, with the caveat that Mr Commando would have something else to do for a bit at 4pm. "It's just dailies! This isn't going to take an hour, don't worry," I mocked. 4pm rolled around and we were nowhere near done, so we took a half-hour break while he did his other thing. Then we logged back in and continued... for another two hours. In total it took us no less than three hours to do the new storyline and a single round of the new dailies.

Now, to be fair, what with it being our first time and both of us going in blind, we were always going to be inefficient in ways that can be avoided once you know everything the new quests entail and where they take place. However, the amount of running back and forth we had to do was utterly comical, and it was made significantly worse by the fact that Ruhnuk's geography is terribly confusing to navigate. Mr Commando soon compared it to Iokath, at which point I felt the need to defend the latter, as I actually quite like Iokath nowadays and I don't think it's ever been nearly as confusing as Ruhnuk has been for us.

The problem is that Ruhnuk consists of a large number of little sub-zones, which are mostly either narrow outdoor canyons or indoor tunnels/corridors, none of which are reflected very well on the large planetary map (which the game helpfully shuffled out of the way onto a new keybind in this update as well), meaning it's really hard to get a grip on how they are all connected and which of the half a dozen exits from any given sub-zone is going to lead where.

Anyone who's played the game for any length of time knows that the helpful little map highlights that are supposed to show you where to go for a quest can also get a bit confused when it comes to things like taxi points or elevation changes, which only amplified our issues. (When I looked up some info about the daily area online afterwards, I found out that Vulkk's guide actually included multiple custom-made maps, which are awesome and contain so much additional information that's hard to impossible to discern in game.)

At first we just snarked about all this a little bit, saying things along the lines of how Bioware clearly took the feedback about 7.0 being quite short to heart by making these dailies take forever to complete. By the second hour we descended into hysterical laughter when we found that a quest marker made us fight our way through the same damn tunnel for the fourth time, but by the third hour we were honestly just kind of sick of it and wanted it to be over.

In hindsight I think we probably could have saved some time by making smarter use of quick travel points, but this is where the issue with the maps comes in again since it was impossible to see where on the planet we were supposed to go in order to plan ahead, meaning we couldn't do anything but follow the confused arrows back and forth through the same tunnels and ravines over and over. Other people seemed to be in a similar predicament, based on the number of characters we encountered that would just barrel through with a massive mob train in tow, trying to get from A to B at a decent pace without having to fight a dozen mob pulls... and often those mobs would then end up aggroing on us, forcing us to fight even more and making our own trip take even longer.

Despite of Mr Commando's initial passionate declaration that he was never going to come back to this horrible planet, we did give it another try today to see how we would do with a bit more knowledge of the lay of the land and with just the dailies and no more story missions left to do. This time it "only" took us a little over an hour, which is much more reasonable I'll admit... though still quite long considering we were playing as a duo in nearly best-in-slot gear and with maxed-out companions. I dread to think what kind of slog some of these mob pulls must be as a solo character with lesser gear (and without stealth).

I just don't quite know what to think. In general this patch has been shaping up to be a pretty good one, and I really like a lot of things about Ruhnuk... but I can't deny that in terms of gameplay, this has been the worst first impression I've had of a daily area in years, if not ever. I'd like to think that with time, it might grow on me the way Iokath has, but at the moment it's hard to imagine myself spending much time there beyond one visit per character and to max out the reputation, because endlessly wading back and forth through tunnels of mobs is just not my idea of fun.


Ruhnuk Is Very Cinematic

I was sceptical until the very end, but Bioware actually managed to release 7.2 before Christmas. I'll need a few more days and additional playthroughs on alts to fully sort out my thoughts on the new story update, but one thing I can already say about it is that it contains the largest amount of in-game cut scenes that we've seen in a long time, and they are marvellously done as well.

The big action sequences actually reminded me a bit of KotFE - and yes, I know I've said many times that I don't look back on that expansion with a great deal of fondness, but its cut scene quality was not something I ever had issues with, rather the opposite. The duel between Shae Vizla and Heta Kol in specific kind of reminded me of the showdown between Senya and Vaylin in KotFE chapter eight - as in: it was a prime opportunity to wear out your screenshot key while trying to get good action shots. You can see just a handful of them below.


Season 3 Halftime Thoughts

We're slowly approaching Galactic Season 3's halfway point, and I've been doing very well for myself! On Darth Malgus I'm up to season level 88, and on all the other servers I'm somewhere between the mid-sixties to low seventies.

That's basically me confessing that I haven't really been able to ease up on my slightly obsessive play on the other servers, even though it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. It's not that I don't enjoy playing there, but my brain doesn't quite seem to be able to comprehend that you can't just multiply the effort for something like the PvP weekly by five without feeling a dramatic increase in play time required to achieve that goal. And by the time it starts to drag I've usually progressed enough that I kind of don't want to give up on the weekly so close to the finish line... c'est la vie. At least being close to finishing the season on Darth Malgus means that there'll soon be one server less to consider when it comes to weekly objectives.

Aside from chasing objectives, I've kind of enjoyed rounding out my legacies on the other servers a bit. At the start of the season I was able to buy both of the fleet strongholds on every server, which gave my Conquest point bonus a crazy boost compared to what it used to be.

The clone of my main that I made on Tulak Hord hit 80 the other day, as did my Shadow on Satele Shan, which leaves Leviathan as the only server where I don't have a max-level character, though my knight there only has three more levels to go as well.

I've also enjoyed adding to my legacies on the other servers with the creation of some Imperial alts. Occasionally there are some easy season objectives that require you to have characters of both factions, such as the one this week that asks you to kill a few named mobs on Quesh on both Republic and Imperial side, and it annoyed me a bit that I couldn't do those. So I've been using the weekly objectives to do x number of quests on a character with a specific origin story to create alts on servers where I didn't yet have anything that matched the requirements. Specifically that has resulted in a new Sith inquisitor on Tulak Hord and my ancient lowbie agent on Satele Shan finally getting to level ten. Fun fact: while Conquest and Galactic Seasons officially don't unlock until level ten, you already get credit towards seasons objectives before that, which meant that my Sniper got the one to complete fifteen quests as an agent at a mere level nine.

Another thing to note is that I've been loving the change to the prize tracks that replaced some Cartel Coins with Cartel packs instead. I know there was some moaning about this at the start of the season from people who primarily do them for the free CC, but I've got to admit as someone who's never short on CC I've unexpectedly been loving this change! It means I get to open some boxes without having to spend money of either kind, and I've liked some of the prizes enough to just keep them. For example I got a set called "Berserker" out of one of my free Cartel packs on Satele Shan, which is apparently a fairly common set from a really old pack, but I didn't recall ever seeing it before. I really dig the "cybernetic suit" look it sports though and decided that it was a great fit for my new agent.

And the stuff that doesn't appeal to me personally? Gets claimed and thrown onto the GTN once the bind timer runs out, which means that this is also a great time for people who prefer to buy their Cartel items with credits, as the free crates from seasons provide an additional supply of items that wouldn't otherwise be there.


Buried in Time - Where Are Those Damn Eggs?

I've mentioned in the past that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the GSI dailies. In theory I like the concept of having more (mostly) non-combat missions, but with the way the GSI dailies work in practice, they are sadly often tedious to do. I still remember scouring three different instances of Alderaan for Big Red for example.

One mission I recalled being pretty pleasant though is Buried in Time on Tatooine. It requires you to dig up three "fossilised egg clusters" near some Krayt Dragon skeletons, and since the environment consists of sand dunes and there are almost no mobs around, it's easy enough to find them. Or at least it should be. I definitely remember it being that way for me in the past.

Having done the GSI weekly a couple of times for Galactic Seasons though, my experience was very different this time around, and I would easily spend half an hour or more driving in circles without finding more than a single egg cluster. I even took breaks and tried to switch instances, but to no avail.

I did some googling to find out whether this was a known issue that other people were having too, and while I could find some posts from players bemoaning that they were indeed having the same problem and wanted to blame it on some kind of bug or lack of respawns, there were always lots of replies along the lines of, "I don't know what you're talking about, it's as easy as ever for me!"

The best lead I found were multiple mentions about it potentially having something to do with graphics settings and view distance, and this seemed to align with some of my own experiences. For example there was one time I found an egg cluster next to a rock, thought "neat" and just went a few steps to the right to harvest an archaeology crystal... and when I turned around, the eggs were gone. I eventually got them to reappear by running back to the original spot and running around for a little bit. Another time I saw someone else doing the quest, and I could see that player successfully deploy their seeker droid and dig something up, but on my screen there was nothing there.

Eventually I managed to narrow it down to a problem with zoom, though it might also be tied to graphics settings. (I play with everything close to maxed out; I don't know if the problem also occurs on lower settings.) I play with the camera pretty far zoomed out nowadays, and as it turns out the fossilised egg clusters don't visually pop into existence until you're nearly on top of them when you play that way, which was what made them so impossibly hard to find.

When I finally did a test run with the camera closely zoomed in, I found four or five eggs within only a couple of minutes, and I noticed that if I stood still with an egg cluster in sight and then zoomed my camera out, it would disappear, and then come back once I zoomed back in. This creates a bit of a paradox as zooming further out usually allows you to see things further away from your character, but in this particular instance you'll see the eggs from further away when you're closely zoomed in. It's weird!

Anyway, as part of struggling with this whole process, I took some screenshots of known egg cluster spawn points to make it easier to find them again in the future, and I thought I might as well share them here. So if you're having the same problem as me, remember to zoom in closely and then just run around checking the spots below. (It's not a comprehensive list of all spawns, but it's a start.)

Near X -1141, Y -809, in the sand tracks leading away from the skull of the smaller Krayt Dragon skeleton.

At X -1155, Y -979 near the nose of the larger Krayt Dragon skull.

Around X -1162, Y -994, under the group of flappy birds near the larger Krayt Dragon skull.

Near X -1193, Y -756, next to the spine of the larger Krayt Dragon skeleton.

Around X - 211, Y -819, next to a large bone sticking out from the smaller Krayt Dragon skeleton.

At X -1223, Y -1016 where the larger skeleton's tail ends, close to the cave entrance with a class story phase.

Approximately X -1225, Y -861, a small distance away from the larger Krayt Dragon skeleton.

Around X -1226, Y -920, next to one of the bigger Krayt Dragon's ribs where there's also a Scyk spawn point.

At X -1286, Y -965 where the larger Krayt Dragon's tail loops down towards the cave entrance.

Around X -1340, Y -1104 above the cliff leading down to the bone pile below the cave.

Near X -1346, Y -820, some distance away from the larger Krayt Dragon skeleton and near where another Scyk spawns.

At X -1357, Y -977 next to a large rock.


Andor Stuck the Landing

When I wrote my post about Andor last month, I commented that "for all I know the writers could still mess up horribly and ruin everything, but at the moment that doesn't seem likely to me". I'm happy to say that the writers did in fact not mess up the finale. The last episode came out this week, and it was great.

With the entirety of season one behind us now, I've seen people say that this is the best Star Wars has been in decades. Some might even say that it's better than the original trilogy itself. I don't know where I'd put it myself, but I've never been good at ranking pop culture items. Andor's definitely got to be somewhere at the top though.

Alternate Andor poster from starwarsnews.net

I've just continued to be amazed by the craftsmanship that has gone into this show on all levels, resulting in something that is both artistically and thematically incredibly coherent. Just this morning I was reading an interview with composer Nicholas Britell, who was responsible for the show's sound and music, and I couldn't help geeking out about all the little details. Did you know that the intro was slightly different for every episode? I'd seen people comment that the number of stars in the background increased as the season progressed, but I hadn't known about the acoustic side of it.

You know how with some shows, you have a good time in general, but then there'll be a scene or episode that kind of makes you go, "I don't know... that doesn't really make sense to me"? Hopefully you won't take it too seriously and will still be able to have fun, but it's a bit of a distraction nonetheless. Andor has been the opposite of that for me, in that there've been moments that made me go "huh, that's really clever/interesting" and then I see a comment or read something in an interview afterwards that suddenly makes it even better because it reveals additional connections or details that I'd missed. It's just such a beautiful work of art.

It's really fascinating how much they managed to do with the character of Cassian Andor alone. While rewatching Rogue One last month, it struck me again that while I did enjoy the film myself, the criticism that its characters never really got fleshed out were definitely very valid. You can basically see tiny glimpses of depth and if you're able to fill in the rest in your head that's great, but I can't fault people for whom that didn't work. It's absolutely true that the film itself didn't give viewers a lot to work with.

After seeing Andor, one has to wonder whether Tony Gilroy just prefers having more time to flesh out a whole cast of characters, as he certainly gets a lot done over the course of twelve episodes. (This is where it gets spoilery by the way.) Cassian starts out as someone who already hates the Empire, having lost many loved ones to its violence, but that by itself hasn't been enough to make him take meaningful action against it. He derides the Empire and steals from it, but ultimately he's still trying to just get by. It's not explicitly said like that, but there's a sense of: That's just how it is, what can you do? It's not like he's ever known the world to be any different.

He's also a slightly unusual main protagonist in that he's not instantly remarkable in some way. He's not particularly charismatic, strong or fearless; he's a fairly quiet guy who is rightfully and visibly scared when in danger. However, he's also very observant, intelligent and good at understanding what makes people tick - no wonder he makes for a good rebel spy!

When he finds himself conscripted into a rebel heist, he has no moral qualms about what they're doing, he's just not sure it's worth the risk, an assessment that turns out to be quite astute when about half the team dies in the process. In a way it's not really a surprise that he decides to simply take his cut and go. He just wants to get away from it all.

However, the world (specifically the Empire) doesn't let him get away. In a scene that feels both weirdly realistic but also humorous, he ends up being arrested for basically nothing due to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time and "looking nervous" - a massive irony after he just got away with a huge crime.

He ends up in a dystopian prison that doubles as a forced labour camp, which is more than he can bear, and planning an escape becomes his only means of survival. It's interesting though that here too, he doesn't suddenly transform into a charismatic leader but rather manages to push and encourage another inmate whom he knows others will listen to and follow.

Yet even after all that, it still feels like he's briefly considering just trying to get away from it all once again. He still has his hidden stash of cash, so if only he can get back to his elderly mother, they could both be okay... but of course Maarva is not okay; she's dead. And even as Cassian sneaks off to attend her funeral, you can tell that he's feeling lonely and lost. It's only when he sees the recording she made for the ceremony that it hits him that there's something left for him, that there are people whom he can help, and it feels fitting that he's not there anymore when the Imperials come looking for him because he's decided to go off and save Bix.

In a way I feel like even summarising it like that is perhaps simplifying it too much - the point is that his motivation isn't just "grr, revenge" or "I have nothing left to live for". It's complex and layered and feels very real.

This is true for the rest of the show's ensemble cast as well - because despite the title, it's not just about Andor. There's Luthen for example, who's what I suppose you could call a rebel spymaster: resourceful, devious and with eyes and ears everywhere. However, even though he's on the side we're cheering for, his behaviour is often appalling, as he's so removed from it all, it sometimes seems as if he's just treating people's lives and deaths as some sort of game. Of course, then he has an amazing speech at the end of episode ten in which he reveals that he's fully aware that many of the things he does are despicable but that he sees no other way of building a better future - a future he himself doesn't think himself worthy of and that he doesn't expect to ever see.

There's also Mon Mothma, a character from the original trilogy whose personal life wasn't ever really fleshed out in great detail, not even in the old EU as far as I can tell. In Andor she presents an interesting contrast to the rebels on the ground in that her role of providing financial support to the rebellion seems very easy on a superficial level, seeing how she continues to live a life of luxury as a senator on Coruscant in the meantime. However, we soon learn that she has to make sacrifices of a different kind, as she has barely anyone she can trust and has to keep up a facade in front of absolutely everyone, including her husband Perrin and her rebellious teenage daughter Leida.

Perrin was actually an interesting side character to me - I've seen many commenters deride him as boring or annoying, but my read on him was that he's just a guy who wants to live a good life and hates how with Mon everything has to be super serious and/or about politics, which is why the two are rather estranged. We learn that their marriage was arranged when they were very young, so it's not like they were ever deeply in love or anything, but my impression was that there was at least affection there once, and that it's just another thing that's crumbling for Mon. She finishes the season by arranging a marriage for her own daughter and wrongly accusing Perrin of having gambling debts in front of a known Imperial spy, all in order to cover her own tracks of financial wrongdoing, making heavy sacrifices in a different way.

And of course there are the Imperial antagonists, Dedra Meero and Syril Karn, whom we end up feeling for at times as well, even while we don't want them to win. Possibly my favourite scene from the first story arc was the one where Syril discusses Cassian's killing of two guardsmen with his supervisor, and the supervisor's assessment of the situation is completely spot-on, yet at the same time you can understand Syril's opposing viewpoint of wanting justice for his colleagues and feeling enraged by what he sees as corrupt handling of the case. He's kind of an Imperial idealist, in that he actually believes the propaganda about maintaining order and being rewarded for excellence, even as the system tries to beat him down over and over again. Honestly, I found him weirdly relatable at times, especially when he was exchanging snark with his mother - let's just say that when my own relationship with my mother was at its worst, I was quite familiar with being told that I was a disappointment too.

In general, all the characters feel like real people, so that you find yourself weirdly caring even about the minor players that hardly have any lines. I'm already excited for season two, though that won't be ready for another two years. We already know that its events will start about a year after the end of season one and will finish just before the start of Rogue One, with bigger time jumps between individual story arcs. It's just a shame we won't get more than that...


Master of the Feast

I've been doing pretty well for myself during the seasonal events this year. While I missed out on the coveted High Roller Shades last year, I finally managed to acquire them this year, two days before the Nightlife event was about to end again. I probably should have made a blog post about that, but for some reason I only felt like posting a brief comment on Twitter at the time, something I kind of regret now... here's what it said:

Finally, I waited more than a year for this! I feel I can make my peace with the Nightlife event now (until they add another prize I really want I guess...)

And this week I finally managed to complete the last achievement I was missing from the Feast of Prosperity. I had completed all the basic activity- and story-related ones ages ago, but there's one achievement in particular called "What did you put in this?!" which is hidden until you actually complete it, but at the same time features requirements that you might not hit automatically without tracking and specifically going for them.

Now, there's a very roundabout way in which you can check your progress even while the achievement is hidden, but I'd forgotten what it was. Fortunately Swtorista provided the answer (as usual) - you basically need to find someone who already completed the achievement, inspect them and shift-click their achievement into chat. Then you can click on that yourself and it will show your own progress.

It sounded like the kind of thing I can imagine being extremely awkward (how do you randomly find someone who's got that achievement?), but I guess I got lucky in that it didn't take me long at all to do so while chain-inspecting people around the Feast event area. Finally seeing my own progress was a major revelation as it clarified why I still hadn't got the achievement myself - I'd been barking up the wrong tree all along.

See, it has three requirements: to do 25 of the hardmode cooking missions, 25 hardmode cantina rushes, and to use pepper 75 times while preparing meals. I was convinced that it was only the pepper that was holding me back, since I seemed to remember only using it rather sparingly before I'd become aware of the achievement's existence. However, it turned out that I was actually done with peppers and all I was missing was nine more cantina rushes. I'd been thrown off by the fact that I already had the 25 completions achievement for that mission, however that achievement counts both difficulties, so I had clearly overestimated my willingness to take on the harder version. (To be honest, it's not really harder - it just takes twice as long for little extra reward, which I guess is why I hadn't done it more often.)

So I've dutifully been doing Feast dailies all week (not just the cantina rushes, but also the other types since I do still like the world boss hunts in particular), until I finally managed to tick the achievement counter over on Monday. Sadly I didn't manage to capture the moment of the achievement actually popping up, but it sure felt good to finally hit that 100% score for the Feast category. I've often said that I'm not much of an achievement hunter, but sometimes it just feels good to get that last thing done.

The question is now: Am I "done" with the event? I'm not usually someone to farm a world event endlessly for all the rewards, so once I've achieved everything I personally wanted to get out of it, I don't tend to go back very often. Then again, the Feast only comes around once a year, so maybe I'll feel ready for some more cooking, serving and killing delicious world bosses by this time next year anyway.


Alts and Endgame

This week, I took some time to review the state of my alt stable on Darth Malgus. Nine months after Legacy of the Sith raised the level cap, I've got fourteen characters at level 80. You might consider that a lot or not, but to me it feels rather low, considering that I had twice as many characters at the old level cap and the expansion only added five more levels.

I think there are several different reasons for this. One that I already mentioned previously is that levelling from 75 to 80 can be relatively slow by SWTOR's standards, unless you're all caught up with the current story or like to spend an hour or two cheesing the penultimate boss in Nathema. Some avenues for levelling that were available in the past have also been closed off. As someone who spends a lot of her time in flashpoints and operations with guildies, I used to just take my close-to-max level characters along to social runs of master mode flashpoints or story mode operations, but both of these are now unavailable until you actually hit the level cap (presumably for the sake of pugs who hated having non-max level players along). If I had a penny for every time I've looked at my selection of alts to pick one for a group activity and found myself thinking "oh yes, that one", just to then realise that the character in question wasn't 80 yet and therefore couldn't come...

In a lot of content that you can access at lower levels, such as daily zones, certain rewards such as the daily currency are also unavailable if the character doing the content isn't 80 yet. This has often pushed me towards playing my existing 80s for the rewards rather than spending time on getting more characters to the level cap.

The way you gear alts nowadays has also felt somewhat clunky to me. I wouldn't say it's alt-unfriendly (I did still level and gear fourteen of them after all) but it just feels less smooth. Onslaught's loot showers that were always based on your existing item rating (and where hitting the maximum was easy to achieve) made it very easy to gear alts as you could just throw some of the excess into your legacy bank and pull out a full gear set on any new alt as soon as it hit the level cap. Gearing that way was obviously not going to be 100% optimised, what with missing augments etc., but it was pretty solid for how easy it was.

In 7.0, the way you could only upgrade your gear to item level 330 via master mode operations made it kind of awkward to do the same, as just getting your gear up to that level took a lot more time. And once you got there, more 330 drops could only be acquired by continuing to kill master mode bosses (whose loot drops were scarce when compared to 6.0), meaning it wasn't easy to get a full set of gear, what with all loot being randomised fixed-stat items with no mods. Plus there was a certain incentive to dissemble the gear for more ops currency at times because if you wanted weapons for your alts for example they had to go through a whole chain of upgrades as well.

I initially tried to save up gear for my alts the same way I had done in Onslaught, but it was just awkward to end up with six pairs of gloves and no chest pieces for example. Plus because I wasn't generally taking my alts into master mode ops, they themselves could only contribute non-Rakata gear to the overall gear pool (which only went up to 326 max).

With 7.1 Bioware added a gear vendor on the fleet, who - once unlocked - sells you 330 mods that you can send to all your alts. Easy, right? Well... easi-er I guess, but still clunky as the unlock is not account-wide, so you either need to do it multiple times or do all your shopping on one character who then has to mail dozens of mods around your legacy, eight letter attachments at a time.

Also, I hope you've got suitable moddable gear on all your alts to put all those mods in! I mean, armour sets and weapons are straightforward enough, but if I put you on the spot right now and asked you where to get a moddable generator for example, would you know? (I asked my guildies and they pointed me to the adaptive gear vendor in the supplies section of the fleet, next to the level 10 mod vendor. That one's actually very affordable, but you've got to know about it.)

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the legendary implants yet! At first I thought the little mission to unlock them after hitting level 80, asking you to gather "activity points", was quite cute, but after the tenth time it becomes a bit of a chore to be perfectly honest, just to be able to access the implant vendor. It's all... not terrible, but just noticeably more clunky than back in Onslaught and I've got to admit I'm not loving it.

If you're a certain type of raider, you might wonder why I bother to get any gear for my alts at all - since it's all legacy-bound, many of my guildies just operate with a single gear set (plus weapons for different combat styles and such) that they constantly shuttle back and forth between all their alts. The reason I don't do that is that I simply find it annoying. It feels dumb from an immersion point of view to effectively strip all your characters bar one naked most of the time, and it's annoying to always have to wait for people to send their gear back and forth (never mind the inevitable delays when someone can't find their Tactical of whatever), especially when all you're doing is a story mode where you really don't need to be wearing gear that is 100% optimised. I'm a bit more sympathetic when it comes to progression.

Either way I kind of find myself missing the simplicity of Onslaught's gearing, and being able to ease characters into endgame more gradually instead of having to hit max-level first. I know there've been other times in the game's life when gearing was more convoluted and even less alt-friendly than it is now, but that was so long ago now. The ease of 6.0 is still much fresher on my mind and easy to miss.


7.2 Livestream Thoughts and Impressions

I'm writing this shortly after having watched the official livestream about 7.2, because I'm actually excited by what I saw! I honestly went into this one with no real expectations, probably because both 7.0 and 7.1 have turned out to be somewhat disappointing to me, and I couldn't even think of anything to look forward to beyond the next story update (which is something that usually only gets touched on lightly in these streams to avoid spoilers). However, it turned out that based on what we were shown, 7.2 looks like it's actually going to be quite a meaty patch.

Story-wise, we'll be going to the planet Ruhnuk (pronounced "Roo-nik") to go after Heta Kol as hinted at the end of the previous story update, and that's all I'm going to say about that, even though there was some more talk about the characters we're going to meet there. Seek out additional information about that at your own discretion.

The first big surprise was that Ruhnuk is not just going to be a story location, but a proper open-world planet, with dailies, a new faction to earn reputation with, a world boss and even a new datacron! I've got to admit that this one completely blind-sided me, I guess because my thinking was that after they had to delay the release of the Manaan daily area, I wouldn't have thought that they'd already be working on another daily area at the same time, and one with more real estate than we got during what was supposed to be the main expansion patch 7.0.

I'm 100% here for a new planet though, even if I don't expect it to be very large. They showed a little flyby video which kind of gave me Athiss vibes.

Next they talked about changes coming to PvP, which started with Musco telling us that they're planning to abolish the ranked queue and that it's all just going to be the same thing now. My first thought was "Are we all going to be ranked all the time then?" but no, it seems they are simply getting rid of the whole concept of publicly ranking players and rewarding prizes based on ranking altogether. I mean, I can't claim to personally be sad about that, considering that I never really cared about ranked, but presumably there are people who do? Wonder how they're feeling about this...

Instead Bioware will introduce a PvP season track similar to the way Galactic Seasons work, where you "level up" through PvP and earn rewards within a limited time frame. I'm not really sure how I feel about that. Galactic Seasons have quickly grown on me, but I'm also quite content with having breaks between them. I'm not sure I really want another bar to fill for rewards running at the same time? I guess we'll see how compelling this turns out to be.

Other PvP changes included with the update will mean no more PvP restrictions for non-subscribers, and separate queues for 8v8 warzones and 4v4 arenas. Now, while I consider this a welcome change, it also cracks me up in a way because when arenas were first introduced nine years ago, I was quite unhappy with the fact that they were mixed in with the "regular" 8v8 warzones and not a separate queue, but then I quickly came to the conclusion that I didn't really mind them too much. I mean, if given the choice I'll probably only queue for 8v8 from now on, unless I know it's quiet and arenas give me a better chance of getting a pop, in which case I'd be fine with queueing for both. It's just not a huge deal for me at this point.

Finally, they'll also retune PvP medals a bit because they consider some of them too easy to get at the moment, and they'll add a new arena located on Onderon that looks like it should provide a lot of opportunities to play hide and seek.

There was a short note about gearing changes, in that both the minium item level dropped from all sources as well as the maximum item level attainable from all sources (except R-4) will increase by four to six levels. I guess this is the belated opportunity for people to gear up for R-4 veteran mode without actually having to kill anything in R-4 veteran mode first, but I'm not sure how much of a difference it's going to make at this point.

The final major item was that they're continuing to make updates to the user interface. The most exciting thing they mentioned in this context was that they'll finally be adding a colour-blind mode! As Mr Commando is red-green colour-blind and has often complained about the challenges of seeing certain kinds of circle mechanics, that's great news.

They are also changing the map so that no part of a planet is ever fully hidden anymore even if you haven't explored it yet, but instead you can see all the terrain from the beginning and it's just kind of greyed out. I guess my tips for how to get the Galactic Explorer achievement will become a bit outdated whenever that goes live. You'll also be able to have a semi-transparent map up on screen all the time, which is fine but didn't seem that big a deal to me considering the current map already goes semi-transparent if you have it open and want to move. I remember that was hailed as a very useful feature at launch, since you could keep it open while moving around. But I guess the functionality is becoming more granular/customisable.

The deconstruct window is going to gain a delete section, which sounds just like an accident waiting to happen in my opinion. (Oh no, I just deleted all those things I meant to deconstruct!) However, apparently mass-delete is something people wanted? I can't say I've run into many situations where I had to delete a whole bunch of stuff at once. In fact the only one I can think of off the top of my head is when I opened a bunch of Alliance crates and got a lot of duplicate legacy armour pieces that I wanted to get rid of. Still, wouldn't it be better to come up with a workaround so we don't have to delete quite so much stuff instead of making it easier to delete a lot of things at once, e.g. by allowing more of them to be vendored for one credit? Just my own two centscredits on that one.

Finally on the UI front, they're unsticking a bunch of buttons from the mini map and instead letting you add them in a custom order to the top left or bottom right of your UI. I've got to admit that after just checking out the UI revamp in the latest World of Warcraft patch the other week the parallels to that game's pared-down mini map and tiny icons in the bottom right of the screen were striking. At least you should be able to increase the size of the things in SWTOR.

Last and (in my opinion) least, there are going to be some new rewards for Life Day and new Cartel Market items. Which is fine I guess, just not something I personally care about a great deal. I was just amazed that they featured someone with the job title of "Art Monetisation Director" on the stream as I figure that brandishing the word monetisation in front of players is a bit like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I hope he doesn't get any mean comments.

Anyway, it was a good stream overall, and they said that the PTS should go up soon, but I figure it's going to be a little while until we can actually play this update in the live game. While they proudly advertised it as "coming this winter" as if that's really soon, they don't have a good track record with releasing things in the run-up to Christmas (see the delay of Legacy of the Sith last year), so I personally wouldn't expect to see 7.2 until next year, either in late January or early February, even if that would mean that they'll have to split out the Life Day rewards to actually release them in time for the event.

P.S.: If you're reading this before November 16th, you can claim a free Colonel Gallo poster decoration for your stronghold by redeeming the code LotSGallore.