Life in the Cloud

I mentioned back in August that the SWTOR devs were gearing up to move the servers from their own proprietary hardware to Amazon Web Services, starting with the French server The Leviathan. That move seemed to go down without any major issues, as they continued to transfer both Darth Malgus and the German server Tulak Hord together two weeks later.

When a guildie asked me ahead of the transition whether I had any more details on how the move had gone for the Leviathan, I checked the forums and could barely see any mention of the topic, even on the French sub-forums. I think in the end I saw something like two posts saying that their ping had improved, and one complaining that it had got worse, but ultimately I took the overall silence on the subject as good news.

And indeed, when Darth Malgus came up again after the maintenance accompanying the move, I didn't notice any difference to my gameplay. I'm not someone who routinely watches her ping, so I couldn't tell you whether it's technically better or worse, but the fact that I couldn't immediately notice any kind of difference was good enough for me.

Things weren't quite all right yet however, as the server started to have issues only two days later, mostly characterised by weird lag and an inability to transfer between different areas. I noticed it myself when I was queueing for GSF and the group finder got stuck at "building match" (which is usually a status that's only a few seconds long, after the system has found enough players and just before you get your pop-up) without actually creating one. The server ultimately had to be taken down for a few hours of emergency maintenance, but after that whatever had been causing the issues seemed to be fixed.

Finally, a little more than two weeks later, the two American servers, Star Forge and Satele Shan, made the move as well. The Aussies immediately asked whether this meant that they could get their new local server too now, but Community Manager Jackie replied that there's still more work to do behind the scenes before this option can be looked at. We also learned that contrary to my previous hope, they did not decide to move Satele Shan back to the American west coast, so both it and Star Forge both remain located on the east coast.

Last week OotiniCast did a poll on Twitter to ask people about their experience with the move, and the result was that 67% of players who voted felt that nothing had changed, 22% voted that playing on their server felt better after the move, and 11% said that it felt worse. I think that can be considered a success.

I voted for "no change" myself, because aside from that one hiccup shortly after the move, I haven't really had any issues. There was one slightly odd occasion when I was doing heroics and found that clicking on the heroic quick travel from my mission tracking UI did nothing, but opening it from my inventory worked... I was grouped at the time and another person in the group said they were experiencing the same. Not sure if that was related to the move, but it's something I never experienced before and it was somewhat reminiscent of the zoning issues people experienced before the emergency maintenance, so it might have been related? However, even if it was, it was one tiny blip that barely inconvenienced me in weeks of playing.

All in all, if you find yourself wondering "How did that whole move to Amazon's cloud servers go?" the answer is that it seems to have gone well, mostly because people have had relatively little to say about it.


Star Wars: Visions Season 2

I know I'm a bit late to the party commenting on this one, since it came out back in May, but at the time I was watching something else and not that keen on immediately starting on this one. However, I finally got around to watching it this month, and I still wanted to jot down some thoughts.

I hadn't read anything about what was planned for season two, so I was completely (and pleasantly!) surprised to find that the shorts weren't all anime this time, but rather a variety of very different animation styles, from studios all over the world. The first three episodes alone made my eyes pop with how colourful and different they were. Let's do a very quick (spoilerish) commentary on each invidual episode again:

1. Sith

This one started off with a very psychedelic art style, which made me wonder whether I was seeing some kind of dream. I really liked the idea of a Sith wanting to retire and a Force user in general using their powers to be artsy, which is not something I recall ever seeing before.

2. Screecher's Reach

You start off wondering if this is going to be something like The Goonies, but it actually gets really scary and the ending was quite poignant and surprising.

3. In the Stars

This one was very sad. Then I read some discussion about the episode online and saw people say that the ending can actually be interpreted as the two protagonists having died, which makes it even sadder.

4. I Am Your Mother

I squeed in delight when I saw Aardman Studios come up in the intro - I had no idea a studio I'm actually familiar with had contributed to this season! Unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed this one. A perfect, fun blend of Star Wars and quirky English humour (two things that you wouldn't necessarily expect to go well together, but they made it work).

5. Journey to the Dark Head

The only traditional anime episode this season, and it was also good. They perhaps try to cram a bit too much characterisation via backstory into the episode, which doesn't necessarily work so well in this short format, but it was still visually stunning and exciting. Probably had the best villain of the season in my opinion.

6. The Spy Dancer

Star Wars meets the French Resistance! You kind of wonder why nobody thought of this one before, seeing what an obviously good fit it is. Also, this was the second episode in the season with no Force shenanigans (I Am Your Mother was the other one) and I didn't miss it at all.

7. The Bandits of Golak

Again, India meets Star Wars was an interesting combination. I liked the old lady splitting her cane into dual lightsabers.

8. The Pit

Possibly the weakest of the episodes, as it was a bit slow at the start, but still enjoyable. I liked the message of people coming together to help each other and push back against an oppressive regime. Also, I know this isn't canon, but I thought it was interesting and pecuilar that all the slaves were humans and the rich citizens protected by the Empire all seemed to be aliens.

9. Aau's Song

Another interesting art style, with all the characters looking like adorable plushies. The Force manifesting itself through sound/song was another interesting idea. I also liked the Jedi character just being genuinely kind and helpful... I think I've had my fill of subversive stories telling us how flawed and not good the Jedi are for the moment.

In summary, while I already liked season one, I liked season two even more, both for the wide variety of art styles and the obvious influences all the studios from different parts of the world brought to their interpretations of Star Wars. Personally I also really liked that the episodes weren't all just variants of Jedi vs. Sith like most of season one, and two episodes got by without using or referencing the Force at all.

If there was an overarching theme to this season, it's probably something like "little kids finding the Force", since that does apply to the majority of the episodes - and that's also the main point I've seen raised by detractors of the season, in that they are not that keen on the trope of little kids doing dumb kid things... which I think is fair; I just didn't mind that much personally.


Notes about Galactic Season 5, Week 2

Man, remember when I used to keep weekly diaries of all my daily progress back during Season 1? For about three months back in 2021, this blog was almost nothing but me waffling on about how I'd completed my seasons objectives every day. I mean, it was of course fun in a way, but in hindsight it also seems slightly insane and I'm glad that the devs changed things dramatically from Season 2 onwards.

This is not going to be like those diary posts, but a few things did happen last week related to seasons that I found noteworthy.

First off, I was surprised by how quickly the devs pushed through a change related to how the seasonal missions are unlocked, which didn't seem like it was desperately needed but had simply gotten negative feedback on the forums. Basically the original setup was that doing the seasonal missions on an alt would've required you to buy access from a vendor for the price of one Galactic Seasons token each. To me, this actually seemed pretty reasonable, as I wasn't planning to play through this story on all my alts, but for those I did want to do it on, I appreciated the idea of having something useful to spend my tokens on. Apparently a lot of players absolutely hated that though, so now the mission items are in collections and you can simply unlock them there. My desperate mission to find things to spend Galactic Seasons tokens on whenever I hit the cap continues.

Regardless though, I found it remarkable how quickly the devs responded to this and that the change was pushed to live within only a week. That is not how I'm used to them operating unless it's something literally game-breaking.

Now, my other thoughts relate to the weekly objectives that were available in week two. Firstly, I'm really liking these new objectives to do things with your companion in dps or tank role, which have been put in to replace the ones that used to ask you to kill mobs with the new seasonal companion.

It makes me feel kind of old now to consider that anyone who started playing after 2015 doesn't even remember the times when companions couldn't play all three trinity roles, and how you were stuck with whatever your first couple of companions specialised in. If you were, say, a smuggler or a Jedi knight, not getting a healer until your forties definitely taught you some harsh lessons while levelling up.

Now, while I think it's generally a good thing that you can change each companion's role, I also feel it kind of encourages a certain kind of mindless play to have every companion just be set to healing by default. So I like that this objective is something to perhaps encourage more casual players to at least try something different in a setting of their choice. Who knows, maybe you'll find that you actually don't need all those heals while doing your dailies, and that going in as a double-dps team makes things a lot faster. Or maybe you're someone who loves to use AoE and didn't even know that setting your companion to tank gives them a powerful AoE pull that puts mobs into a neat pile for you if they were previously spread out. Just... a really low-pressure way of nudging people towards trying a different play style, and an objective that also synergises well with other weeklies.

Now, an objective I was less pleased with was the first iteration of the weekly operations objective. I was happy when I first heard that they were going to add some weekly objectives for operations, and at a glance, I thought that doing one of four listed story mode ops seemed pretty reasonable, but then it turned out that to get your twelve points, you actually had to do all four.

Let me be clear here: I really enjoy ops. I'm in a guild focused on that, and we had a blast completing this objective together. We did it on a Saturday evening and in total it took us about two hours and fifteen minutes. Since we had twelve people show up, we undermanned the 16-man version, and to make things a bit more challenging/interesting, we decided to attempt an all-dps run - no tanks, no healers. It was quite fun and interesting to see that we did indeed get away with that setup on all but one boss - Master's damage output on Master and Blaster was pretty high, and we decided after one wipe that we'd rather have one person respec to healing for this one fight so that we could get past it and move on.

However, for all the fun we had, four operations in a single evening is still a pretty big ask even for an organised guild (we usually try not to go on for longer than two hours), simply because regardless of how easy they are, even at a brisk pace you can only go so fast, and if you include the organisational side of things, it's a pretty big time investment for a single weekly. (Only the GSF weekly for medals is worse in my opinion - I considered myself lucky to complete it last week after "only" having to do the GSF weekly mission on three different characters.)

Plus I can only imagine how much worse it must be if you're trying to pug all four ops over the course of the week, both in terms of time required and potential for annoying complexity: e.g. you join a group for KP and things go well, so they then want to continue to EC but you did that one the day before and only need Ravagers now... it just seems like it could be a massive headache. Jackie said they were open to feedback and I think this simply needs to be reduced to require at max two out of four operations.

Finally, the last thing I wanted to comment on is the update to the flashpoint objectives. This change is something that was communicated beforehand, but I didn't really have much of an emotional response to it at the time.

The way it used to work was that you needed to get eight "points" and you'd get one for every flashpoint you did, but you could also get bonus points for doing specific flashpoints, and even more points for doing the bonus bosses in those flashpoints. Basically, the best case scenario was that you'd complete the objective in a single run, and the worst case that it would take eight runs, with anything in-between also being possible. I guess that was kind of complex (possibly also for the devs, seeing how there were sometimes bugs with certain bonuses not applying correctly), and I get the logic behind wanting to simplify it to just require you to run two featured flashpoints, period, but still... this week I did kind of feel like something was missing now.

It's not such a big change on my main on Darth Malgus, because whether I run just one master mode flashpoint with guildies or two doesn't feel like a huge difference. However, last week I also did this objective on the other servers, and there I thought it was very noticeable that only having the listed flashpoints count made the experience kind of same-y.

I actually decided to try my luck by queueing for random veteran flashpoints at first to complete the weekly mission to do three of those, hoping that someone else would've specifically selected to queue only for the flashpoints eligible for seasons and I would then be grouped with them. This worked out on one character, who fully completed her flashpoint seasons objective at the same time as completing the weekly mission. Two characters only got lucky once, and then had to manually queue for or solo one more of the eligible flashpoints in specific. And one was so unlucky that her whole flashpoint weekly went by without a single eligible flashpoint popping, so she gained no seasons progress whatsoever from the experience. Yes, I know it's kind of my own fault for trying my luck, but under the old system I still would've come away with some progress at least, so this felt a bit bad.

That said, again to be fair, I still had a blast pugging all those veteran mode flashpoints. I haven't done a lot of pugging since 7.0, so it felt quite fresh, and I was pleased to encounter so many people of different knowledge levels. In fact, I definitely viewed it as positive how many players seemed hesitant and clearly new, if not to the game then at least to this content - it's good to see that at eleven years of age, SWTOR still attracts plenty of newbies.

I'd like to think that they'd also mostly rate their experiences in those flashpoints as positive... except for that poor lowbie in Athiss. The other two people in the group were Operatives who were running ahead in stealth and CCing things for us to follow. The lowbie fell behind and died (though I'm not sure to what, as I was close by and didn't even see anything aggro), and before I could even finish typing my question about what had happened into chat, they'd already dropped group, clearly overwhelmed by this push to rush when they had no idea what was going on. The stealthers then also asked me to do the annoying jump skip and I got stuck on the wall. I used /stuck to free myself and then got stuck again. While I waited for /stuck to come off cooldown, they just killed the trash in the end...

That was about the "worst" thing I saw though. Everything else was just kind of fascinating and marvellous. A group with a stealther that didn't skip anything in Nathema Conspiracy. Mavrix Varad deciding to go counter-clockwise around the room instead of clockwise. Someone pulling the boarding party in Mandalorian Raiders while one group member was lagging way behind, causing the Juggernaut boss (who has random targeting) to run off towards them and only come back around the time when all his companions were dead. A group that was completely undeterred by Crisis on Umbara. Just good times all around. We'll see how I feel about these as the season progresses.


The Hunt for the Best View Returns... Again!

Last year, I mentioned that the "Best View in SWTOR" contest, first held in 2021 for the game's tenth anniversary, made an unexpected return. I was even more surprised when I saw the announcement yesterday that it was coming back for a third round this year. If the SWTOR team wants to make a habit out of this, they'll have to give us a lot of new planets this year or else start repeating some of them on the featured planet list next year.

Anyway, I immediately felt inspired and spent some time traipsing around the galaxy and taking screenshots - none of which I'm going to show here yet of course. Instead, I'll share my submissions from last year. Back in 2021, I only submitted shots for three out of ten possible planets, but last year I actually entered nine out of ten possible screenshots, with Odessen being the one planet I left out since I just couldn't find an angle I was happy with there. Anyway, these were my submissions - you can compare them to the actual winners here.

Coruscant will always have a special place in my heart, and the quintessential experience of the Republic home world is stepping out of the spaceport into that perpetual dusk while the music swells and sky cars roar past overhead. There was no question that this was going to be the focus of my screenshot, and it was for the winner as well, but they basically faced the other way. It's a worthy shot, but I'll admit I still prefer my own submission in this case.

The winning shot of Quesh shows grass, water, trees and part of a Hutt Palace, and it's interesting to me that I took some similarly-themed shots during my own exploration of Quesh, but ultimately I opted for submitting the refineries blowing smoke into the sky, since to me, the toxic air is what defines Quesh more than anything else.

I had a hunch that this one wasn't going to be winning shot material, since I noticed that while NPCs are technically allowed to be featured in your submission, no winner has ever included one in the foreground. However, to me it was perfect since swamp and rakghouls are what defines Taris above all else. The winning shot was of the wreck of the Endar Spire instead (I think?) which is of course a KOTOR reference but never meant much to me personally.

There's something to be said for the stark beauty of driven snow, but while taking shots of Hoth I struggled with how empty it always looked, which is why I opted to include these tauntauns in my submission. Same problem as with the rakghoul I guess... though I also notice now that perhaps I've been using the full width of the screen too much, seeing how the winning submissions get cropped down to 4:3 for the in-game decorations. Half of that tauntaun wouldn't even be in the shot then.

Alderaan is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful planets in the game, but I find that this beauty can be a bit challenging to capture accurately in screenshots, so I was quite pleased with myself for managing to take this wide shot of the Glarus Valley. The winning shot ended up being one of Castle Panteer however, which I guess was kind of the more obvious choice. I had taken pictures of it myself as well, but opted against submitting them.

Dromund Kaas is an interesting mix of rain-swept jungles contrasted against the stark, futuristic spires of Kaas City, and I simply decided to submit this rather old screenshot I took of the city since I really liked it. The winner shows both the jungle and parts of the city in the background, which I really can't fault.

With Manaan there was the question of whether to screenshot the new invasion zone or the serenity of the old entrance area. For me it was an obvious choice since I really don't like the visuals of the invasion zone all that much. This particular shot was actually taken inside the Depths of Manaan flashpoint. The contest winner was from the new area though.

Iokath was a challenging place to frame, since it's incredibly cluttered visually, in a way that I honestly find kind of ugly. I eventually found this view at the edge of the expanse, which looked much cleaner and more serene, with just the Eternal Fleet ships taking to the sky in the background. I will admit that this isn't very "typically" Iokath though. The winner managed to take a much better shot of just outside the Republic (?) base that manages to be visually busy but still look good.

Rishi was a tough one because I couldn't decide whether the Rishi Maze or Raider's Cove were more iconic for the planet. I eventually opted for the former, with a grophet in the foreground because I love grophets, OK? I was quite surprised that the chosen winner actually included neither.

Anyway, I'm off to take more pictures of this year's featured planets! If you want to take part, you can find all the details here, and you have until the 29th of September to make your submission(s).


PvP Season 3 & A Look at Some Battle Records

I completed the PvP Season 3 reward track last week, taking one more week than the absolute minimum required to complete the season, and I wanted to once again jot down some thoughts on it.

First off, I remember telling people at one point that I didn't really mind Galactic Seasons and PvP seasons overlapping all that much, since the Galactic Season sometimes has PvP-related objectives and there can be some synergies. This was the case last week as well, as there was a weekly objective to earn medals in PvP.

That said, I've kind of changed my mind about this, because I really liked the way PvP Season 3 largely fell in-between Galactic Season 4 and 5 this time. It was much easier to focus on earning my weekly PvP points with not much else going on. More of this kind of spacing things out, please.

The changes the devs made to how you earn warzone medals were definitely noticeable and had a clear impact on how quickly I could complete medal-related objectives. I said last season that I wasn't going to go for the 2000 medals achievement again, since I was only about halfway there after completing the track and essentially would have had to double my efforts just for that achievement alone. So I didn't even look at it much this season, however when I checked after completing the reward track, I was actually about two thirds of the way there, which is a pretty dramatic improvement, and I don't think I suddenly got that much better at PvP.

AFKers are still annoying, but I saw fewer of them this season than last time. On a side note though, is it me or have GSF players become a lot more kick-happy recently? It's like they want to use their kick function as much as possible before the devs take that away too... I swear it feels like hardly a match goes by without me seeing someone get booted for inactivity.

The only really odd encounter I had in a warzone this season was in a Queshball where a gunslinger had somehow managed to entrench themselves on one of the lines above the playing area. They weren't unreachable and could technically still be attacked from range in certain locations, but obviously there was fighting happening in midfield as well and most dpsers seemed to want to focus on the closer threats even while the slinger kept raining death upon them from above. I was wondering whether that was some sort of exploit, but I never saw it happen again after that, so it might've just been the result of a knockback gone wrong or something like that.

One thing I wanted to do at the end of this season was take a look at my battle record. We used to have a very basic one in the past that recorded wins and MVPs earned, but I long suspected that it was a bit dodgy and eventually got my proof when I did a PvP weekly on a char whose stats were on zero to begin with, and afterwards the record showed fewer wins than I had literally just achieved.

When the devs got rid of ranked and added seasons, they also added a new battle record, so I wanted to look at what sorts of numbers I'd accumulated there over the last three seasons... especially since I often felt like I was losing all the time. (No kidding, the other week I lost twelve matches in a row. That hurt.*)

The stats revealed that things weren't actually as bad as I had thought, though I'm not sure whether these new battle records are entirely trustworthy either. For example I found that several of my characters had zeroes showing in most of their fields in a way that made no sense (e.g. 82 matches played but zero damage done or taken), and whatever "K/D" is supposed to be, it's clearly not the number of kills divided by the number of deaths as listed on the record (e.g. 209 kills divided by 46 deaths is most definitely not 0.819).

Still, assuming that there's at least merit to some of the numbers, they were interesting to see. I have a few characters on whom I do PvP more often than on others, but in general I try it at least a couple of times on every new alt. Of the fifteen battle records I checked for this, my worst win percentage was 33%, but that character had actually done only three warzones since the introduction of PvP seasons, so it doesn't really say anything. However, most were actually close-ish to the fifty percent mark, either a bit above or a bit below. Considering that I solo-queue 99% of the time, that seemed pretty alright.

The highest win percentage belonged to my level 77 Vengeance Juggernaut with 73%, but she's also played "only" 15 matches, so not a huge sample. The spec did seem pretty powerful and easy in warzones whenever I played her though, not to mention that she's in a pretty good place in the midbie bracket at the moment, near the very top and wearing the previous expansion's endgame gear. which undoubtedly helps a lot.

The honour of most matches played goes to my Nautolan Corruption Sorcerer, whom I created a few years ago for the sole purpose of PvPing. She hit the level cap this expansion and I've continued enjoying playing her there even at 80, meaning that she's up to over a hundred matches played at this point. Her 54% win rate is alright in my book.

Interestingly, my second most played PvP character is my Bodyguard Mercenary, my main's Imperial mirror, who's played 91 matches since the introduction of seasons, but somehow she's got the lowest win ratio of any of my characters aside from the aforementioned alt who only played three matches. Her win rate is only 43%, and her average damage taken is 38% higher than the Sorc's despite the heavy armour and in spite of also doing 36% more healing on average. So she does more healing but loses harder. Where's the justice in this world?

*There was a wholesome happy ending to that particular story though. Back on fleet I spawned in next to a guy who'd just been killing me in my previous match and they waved at me. I did a /cry since my dozen-long loss streak was getting me down and they expressed sympathy, followed by an offer to team up. Being on the same team after that, I noticed that person being nothing but constructive in chat as well. Then a couple of guildies wanted to join in too and my losing streak was balanced out by a win streak as we queued as a group of four for a few matches. More than anything I was kind of impressed by the rarity of meeting someone so friendly in PvP. I gave them my sincere thanks for cheering me up when we had to part ways again.


Patch 7.3.1 and Galactic Season 5 Are Here!

Here are some of my favourite items from the patch notes:

Update on Kai Zykken and the Spoils of War set bonus armors -  Kai Zykken will be removed and Set Bonus Armors will be available from a new vendor in the same location on the Fleet.

It's been a while since I last wrote about gambling away my Tech Fragments with Kai Zykken, but we've hit a point in the expansion where I once again have a lot of them to spare, to the point that I started visiting Kai again, even if the set bonuses are useless at level 80 and I was doing it purely for the achievements. There was supposed to be some sort of bad luck protection but it never really seemed to work for me - so it felt kind of vindicating to actually see a dev comment on the forums that it "[wasn't] working as intended".

I've been very pleased to just see the whole system get replaced by a vendor who'll simply sell you the sets directly, which should make filling out those last few achievements a lot easier. I also had a chuckle at the fact that the vendor is a droid called "S3T-BNS" (because he sells set bonus gear, get it?) and has dialogue about how Kai is under investigation for misleading his customers... which is basically a fun in-game jab at all the trash he used to sell us.

Decorations will now drop when killing enemies in the Interpreter’s Retreat area.

Nice to hear that they fixed that now, even if it's too late for many of my alts, who have been done with the area for a while.

"Pickled Space Worm" can be used as a crafting ingredient again. The Cantina Hoth vendor now sells a craftable version of this item. Players who acquired the item recently will need to repurchase the item from the vendor. 

At first I was like "what the hell is this even talking about", but then I looked it up and I had totally forgotten that this was an ingredient for Ice Scrabbler Jerky... dang, I had no idea that item was actually rare for a while due to this bug.

The debris piles for the mission "It's Really Piling Up" now respawn as expected.

Fun fact: I did this mission about a dozen times without actually knowing what I was doing because the things that looked like debris to me apparently weren't it... so I just ran around the area spamming the button until it completed.

Fixed an issue where weapon part VFX could be seen floating in areas.

Wonder if that will put an end to the "you seem to have forgotten your cannon" jokes that have been a thing for a long time...

The maximum number of Dark/Light alignment points is now 10,000 (down from 100,000).

Actually it's 11,000 right now for some reason! But still, good that they reduced this... the higher numbers made sense back in KotET when doing anything gave you a constant trickle of light or dark side points, but now that we're back to only gaining 50 points a pop from conversation choices here and there, requiring 100,000 of either type to fill out the bar was ridiculous.

Quick Travel costs will now scale with the player’s level.

I wasn't fussed by the introduction of quick travel costs, but this is a good change to make things easier for new players in particular.

When listing an item on the GTN, the default listing value will be based on recently completed transactions, if available.

I've seen this in action and it's actually quite funny... like when you see a weapon listed for 400,000 credits and then the GTN suggests you list it for 30k. The real value revealed!

Fixed various 7.3 Old Wounds Cinematic bugs including the NPCs clipping during the conversation with Oggurobb.

Oh, you mean like this? (May have to embiggen to see it properly.)

This happened during my first Imperial playthrough and it was admittedly quite distracting... though also hilarious.

All shrubs in the Athiss Flashpoint have been fixed.

I have no idea what this was about but I'm now extremely intrigued by what was wrong with those shrubs.

The queue icon now only glows when the group is queued for Warzone and PvP Arena matches.

I'm glad to see this one fixed as it was quite odd to see it glowing randomly when you weren't queued for anything (and vice versa, seeing it say you weren't in the queue for anything when you actually were).

Thrill of the Hunt / Forced March has been renamed to Mobile Protection / Frontline Medic.

I thought there weren't any class changes for Commando healers this patch as this innocuous "renaming" sounded purely cosmetic, but no, it turns out we've been nerfed because we can now no longer cast Full Auto on the run. I already noticed this being very annoying. 😞

“Inspired by” tabs have been created for the Cartel Market to help players easily find special items.

So this is fine, but personally I really just wish they added class filters to the armour sets, so you could e.g. see all bounty hunter style armours at a glance instead of having to click through dozens of pages of everything jumbled together.

Priority Transport: Personal Starship can no longer be used in Warzones or Arenas.

I hadn't heard of this bug before reading these, but man, I do love the mental image of someone just noping out of an arena for example by simply quick travelling to their ship.

Fixed issue where Galaxy Map would blink for new players before they had a ship.

Yes, finally! This bug had been there for years and also happened on new alts of existing players. As someone who must click on all the shiny things, I always found this one super annoying.

Fixed an issue where some areas would not allow Quick Travel or Stronghold Travel.

Another nice quality-of-life change as this bug was really quite annoying, blocking you from quick travelling in seemingly really random places, and the only way to "fix" it was basically to run a little in any direction and keep trying until it would let you. I mostly noticed it in Seeker Droid areas.

As for the new season, I don't have much to say about it yet. I had enough of a break since last season that I was happy to check back on my alts on the other servers and get back into the grind. Obviously there's no new companion this time to instantly judge... I wonder how popular that decision will ultimately turn out to be. I'll admit I kind of had to chuckle when Mr Commando, who's taken a bit of a shine to seasons but doesn't pay much attention to news about it, asked me "how to get the new person" and I had to be the one to tell him that there isn't a "new person" this time.

I did like the first of the new missions though (it was very silly), and I also like that there is now a hand-in box on the fleet for the reputation items that all your characters can access regardless of their storyline progress. I was not a fan of how how in Seasons 3 & 4, if you wanted to get reputation tokens on alts (for example for the "gain reputation" Conquest objective), you had to claim the companion on that alt first because you had to hand in to them personally on your ship.


Strange Conquest Drama

Last week was Total Galactic War in SWTOR - I've often talked about this Conquest event in the past and expressed my love for it. Most weeks, Conquest may be dominated by the same few guilds entirely dedicated to it, but a couple of times a year at least, small to medium-sized guilds get to have a shot at conquering a planet as well and I like that.

I think the SWTOR team is also well aware of the extra engagement this event generates, as they've taken to strategically launching it at times when there's a bit of a lull in content - without it, this past week likely would have been pretty quiet in game, with PvP season 3 slowly winding down and Galactic Season 5 not starting until tomorrow.

Things in my guild started off in the usual way: planning which planet to invade, scoping out the competition, rallying our members to the cause and so on and so forth. Picking a planet was actually surprisingly easy for once, as all the guilds we wanted to avoid committed relatively early, which made our options quite clear. We opted to invade Ruhnuk, as we had never conquered it before and none of the guilds already on the scoreboard were ones we knew to be competitive. The guild in the lead before we invaded was an Imperial one called "The Tribe", named after the guys from The Mandalorian. We overtook them within a few hours and then worked on maintaining and expanding our lead.

Now, two days later I was doing some PvP on a low-level character when I received a whisper from someone called "Cassian Andor" (with some special characters), who wanted to speak to the GM or an officer. I immediately had a bit of an uneasy feeling as the guy had drawn attention to himself in an earlier warzone by berating people in chat, which at the time made me think that he was unfairly defiling the good name of the character he'd decided to roleplay as.

Anyway, I engaged with him anyway, just to see what it was about, and it turned out that he was a Republic alt of someone from The Tribe and boy, was he mad. With ALL CAPS and insults flying left and right, he told me that supposedly ALL the guild masters on the server had decided who was going to conquer which planet this week and Ruhnuk was supposed to be theirs. Ignoring the insults, I initially decided to treat the whole thing as some kind of misunderstanding and calmly told him that we simply hadn't been involved in anything like that.

He briefly pivoted towards a weird RP angle - that it should have been common sense that Ruhnuk was owed to a Mandalorian guild, and that Twin Suns Squadron had no special connection to that planet, but ultimately it seemed to come down to him simply not believing me when I said that we weren't involved in whatever scheme he had been a part of. According to him, there had been an agreement and we had violated it!

He proceeded to make some vague threats about how we had "created enemies" in his 500-member guild now and that they were going to "infiltrate (y)our guild" and mess with us going forward. I was in a Voidstar match while all of this was scrolling across my chat window, and when it became clear that the conversation was going nowhere except more CAPS and insults, I eventually blocked the guy.

Now, in hindsight this just seems weird/funny, but I'm honestly pretty thin-skinned and at the time I actually felt somewhat shaken by having this rando come up to me and repeatedly call me and Mr Commando names over some made-up offence. So I shared screenshots of the conversation with the other officers and also warned the rest of the guild to be on the lookout in case this guy or other members of The Tribe decided to come harass them instead.

The other officers' minds were equally boggled by both the vitriol and the sheer ridiculousness of the attack, and the members who chimed in on the conversation - bless their hearts - only felt spurred on to work harder on actually securing the win. However, a couple of them pointed out that they were indeed aware of the existence of a Discord where some guild leaders were making agreements about which planets to invade during Conquest.

To be honest, that didn't really surprise me and I don't have an issue with it either - it's all part of playing the game. However, I do take issue with those people then deciding that their secret backroom deals are now the law and going around harassing people whose actions don't fit into their plans - plans which aren't even known to them! Is this going to be the next big thing on Darth Malgus? People pretending to be the Conquest mafia?

I mean, I've long known that Conquest can be rife with drama and people doing some pretty deranged things, but I guess the worst of it has always passed me by because my guild is not a dedicated Conquest guild - we just push Conquest a couple of times a year when the opportunity arises. I've been taking part in Conquest since it was introduced nine years ago and had some pretty intense competitions with other guilds over the years, but they always stuck to fighting us by playing the game and trying to beat us fair and square. I'd just never encountered anything like this before.

It's certainly ironic that a guild seemingly based on roleplaying as Mandalorians of all people got mad about actually being challenged to a fight because they simply wanted to have the win handed to them. Mind you, I'm not blaming the guild as a whole - who knows how many of them even know what their GM gets up to. (To be clear, the guy I talked to didn't explicitly identify himself as the GM, but based on his passion and his legacy name being "Tribe" it seems like a reasonable guess.) I guess it's just another strange tale of Conquest to add to my records...


Take That, Brontes!

Dread Master Brontes and I have a long history. I'm not going to talk too much about that right now, because I already wrote a whole post about it back in 2019 and for the most part, what I said back then still applies - if you want to know the details, just go back and read it. The tl;dr version for our purposes today is that in the almost ten years since the release of Dread Fortress, I've never been able to kill the last boss in it on nightmare/master mode, despite spending a fair amount of time trying.

Not much changed since 2019... though I think we never even attempted the fight during the Onslaught patch cycle, as word on the street was that the boss's tuning was so out of whack that she was basically the hardest boss in the game at that point. Legacy of the Sith's operations tuning has had plenty of issues of its own, but Brontes' difficulty sounded like it had been dialled back down to more "normal" levels again, so we've been visiting her occasionally.

Specifically, my guild does 16-man progression one week a month, and last week we actually managed to clear Dread Fortress for the first time! One of Brontes' remaining orbs exploded just after she died and took out the remainders of our raid group, so you could technically call it a draw, but it still counted. Here's the kill video, consisting of footage from both myself and another officer who was playing a dps Vanguard:

It certainly felt like quite a milestone to finally get her down after all this time, though at the same time it feels a bit weird to think that the 8-man kill still eludes me. 16-man might be ever so slightly easier in terms of gameplay, especially as a healer, but then getting a 16-man progression group together in this game is much harder than finding an 8-man team, so it's kind of a wash in terms of overall effort I suppose.

At least the additional time spent on progressing the fight has taught me that it wasn't my healing that was at fault in the past, as I now understand a lot better what happens in the last phase (in the 2019 post I admitted that I found it hard to tell what was going wrong in our attempts). Basically it's almost always the tanks' fault - no shade intended, as they do have the hardest job in that part of the fight if not in the whole fight in general. It's just that everyone else is so busy with their own priorities towards the end, there isn't much time to keep an eye on everything the tanks are doing. And then one mess-up pretty much just results in the whole group getting obliterated without anyone being able to tell in the moment what exactly just happened.

I just hope I don't need to wait another ten years to tick the box for the 8-man achievement.