10/06/2024

Legacy Level 50 on Star Forge

The other week I hit an interesting milestone by reaching legacy level 50 on Star Forge. While I have characters on all servers, I've never done a transfer between any of them, so my legacy levels are entirely independent of each other and purely a reflection of how much time I've spent playing on that specific server.

It's not really a surprise that Star Forge was the first secondary server on which I maxed out my legacy, considering that Shintar the Cathar trooper, created in 2016, was one of my first and most-played alts created on a different server than my home.

Still, at the same time it's kind of funny to think that it took me eight years of real time to get there, and to consider just how little in terms of story content I got done in all that time. When I hit legacy level 50 on The Red Eclipse (which would eventually get merged into Darth Malgus), I had only been playing for about ten months and had already completed four out of the eight class stories. On Star Forge I've still only completed one of them! So much legacy experience acquired from random nonsense like running dailies I guess...

Another thing that cracked me up was that I once again failed utterly at actually capturing a screenshot of the big ding, just like I did back in 2012. I'd been well aware that I was sitting at legacy level 49 and was creeping up on 50 but then... I just kinda forgot about it again, and when I realised that the ding had happened without me actually noticing, I checked my achievements just to find that it had actually happened several days ago. Seriously.

Anyway, I know that legacy levels are pretty meaningless, and have been so since forever. I reckon most long-term players have been 50 for so long, they haven't even thought about the concept in years. But to me, it was still an interesting milestone to reach on a second server. I'll probably post again whenever I get there on the other servers, but if I recall correctly, all the others are still only somewhere in the thirties, so it's probably going to be a while.

06/06/2024

Being in Guilds on Other Servers

When I first started playing on other servers for Galactic Seasons, it was purely a solo project. However, as my characters there started to make progress through their class stories and I became more attached to them, I also developed an increasing urge to be part of a guild with them, to be social with other people, and to have some sense of belonging while playing on those other servers too.

Season 6 has been the first season for which I was guilded on at least my main character on every single server, and it's been... an interesting experience. I've certainly developed more sympathy for people who struggle to find a good guild. For me, it's always kind of happened automatically, because when I'm really into an MMO I play a lot, and when you play a lot you run into familiar faces after a while, and when you spend a lot of time around the same people, you learn who you like and who you don't like being around kind of automatically. However, when you're playing more casually, like I am on these secondary servers, it can be much harder to get a good picture of which guilds offer the kind of experience you're looking for. Fortunately I seem to be at least mostly there after this season.

On Shae Vizla, I am of course still a member of Heroes of the Republic/Empire, which I joined at the server's launch. It has a bunch of nice people in it, and when the server launched, it was the biggest guild in town for a while, which allowed me to get the Galaxy Conqueror achievement without even trying, which certainly felt kind of ironic when that's one I'm still missing on Darth Malgus after more than a decade. One day you'll be mine, Belsavis! Ahem.

Anyway, things have kind of calmed down a lot since then, but I don't mind - it means I have to be less concerned about logging into all my alts to keep them active and avoid removal from the guild.

Characters from the guild "New Outriders" pose for a group shot on Tatooine

On Star Forge, I joined Intisar's little guild at the end of GS4. I had a pretty good time with them in GS5 (which was part of what inspired me to seek out guilds on more servers, because even with only casual involvement on my part it just made the whole experience much nicer). During Season 6 I didn't have as many chances to play with them (their events usually start at 1 a.m. my time and that's just not doable for me most of the time), however I still felt included and welcome on the Discord. I also got to join for some action with "Team Disco" on Swtorista's streams a few more times, since she streams at what's mid-morning in her time zone, which translates into mid-afternoon for me, which in turn means that I can actually stop by sometimes and backfill if I'm working from home and my workload allows it.

On Satele Shan, I joined Ootini Knights/Rage at the start of this season, and felt warmly welcomed there too, though I was a bit surprised by how quiet it was on their Discord. I didn't really expect to run into people a lot in-game due to my time zone issues, but I didn't see much activity on the Discord either, such as organised events or anything at all. I just figured a guild connected to a long-running podcast would have a bit more going on. As it is, it feels more like a place where a lot of people park their alts while primarily playing somewhere else... which is exactly what I'm doing myself, mind you, so no shade from me!

Loyal readers may remember that on Tulak Hord, I helped someone form a guild the first time I reached the fleet, and then just kind of stayed in that guild even as it went nowhere. Ultimately it just had me and one other guy left in it, but I didn't mind. During GS5 I even made it a bit of a personal goal for myself to use the guild ship that the other guy has purchased to invade small yield planets and then achieve the guild target by myself. I initially thought that I would just do the same again in GS6, but the nerfing of the reputation objective, as well as my inability to get alts into the guild due to the other guy never being around, made it hard to be efficient and I got a little frustrated after a while. In the end I left a friendly farewell in the guild message of the day and decided to try and find myself a new home where I could reap some guild Conquest rewards without having to do all the work by myself.

I already had a new guild in mind as well. I'd seen their recruitment message and liked it, their guild name sounded cute, and I'd actually run a master mode flashpoint with two of their members that had gone very well. It seemed like a good fit! So I got myself invited, looked for their Discord link... and found that they didn't have one. Instead they were old-school and used TeamSpeak for voice and listed a guild website in the guild description.

I was surprised, but didn't actually mind too much as my own guild on Darth Malgus also still uses TS for voice chat, and I was curious to see what a guild website would look like in the year 2024. I signed up and created a profile - but unfortunately the site turned out to be pretty empty. No event sign-ups or anything, and on the forums there was just an old message from someone complaining that they'd created events that nobody signed up for, and that they weren't going to bother anymore. Undeterred, I wrote a post to ask how one would go about finding out what's happening in this guild. More than a week later (!) I got a reply that said that people don't really look at the guild website, and to just be on TS in the evenings or speak up in guild chat. I've got to admit, that's a bit too old-school even for me, especially when I'm not planning to commit to playing a whole lot on this server. It was honestly kind of disappointing, because how am I supposed to make any kind of connection to people when I don't have opportunities to talk to them? I'm staying for now but we'll see where both I and the guild are at when the next season starts I guess.

Finally, on Leviathan I joined Republic/Imperial Court at the end of last season, the guild that I'd seen advertise on Shae Vizla as offering a home specifically for players doing Conquest and Galactic Seasons across all servers. That was a slightly odd experience in a different way. They do have a Discord, and when I joined it I found out that this whole "guild conglomerate" was owned by the same people who lead Wardens of the Old Republic on Darth Malgus, a guild that used to dominate the planetary leaderboards once upon a time but whose activity fell off at some point for reasons unknown to me. As it turns out, they're still alive and kicking on Darth Malgus, just on a slightly smaller scale, and active as "Courts" on the other servers.

I had hoped to maybe find some organised events for group seasons objectives on Leviathan on the Discord, but it turned out that while they do have guilds on all servers, the main focus in terms of activity is on Darth Malgus and Shae Vizla, with none of the others getting regular events, just impromptu pings when someone does something like put a world boss group together (which I usually don't see in time). I also muted the general chat on Discord at some point because it made me feel like I really didn't fit in there. Remember when I expressed confusion about people freaking out and rage-quitting on the second boss in False Emperor for example? Well, the same week I wrote that, one of the officers in Courts ranted about stupid pugs and how they (the officer, not the pugs) hate it when people use the turrets on that boss and how that always makes them quit the group. Awkwarrrd.

Anyway, I guess on Leviathan my options for socialisation were always going to be limited with me not really speaking French and only a small number of English-speaking players on the server. It does feel like everyone who's there for seasons is indeed in Courts, as the guilds on both factions always go for the large yield target from what I've seen and achieve it easily. There are clearly a lot of people logging in every week to get their Conquest and seasons objectives done, just not necessarily with any interest in socialising while doing so. I guess you can't win them all, but I appreciate that they freely invite anyone who wants to be there with no questions asked, and that the guild has made it possible for me to earn guild Conquest rewards on all my alts on the server. I just didn't think it was possible to be a member of such a big guild and still feel so lonely in the crowd.

I will say that this whole adventure has once again made me more appreciative of what an absolutely genius gameplay system Conquest is. I mostly write about it in the context of my guild getting into crazy competitions during Total Galactic War nowadays, but it's really rewarding from a casual point of view as well, making it very worthwhile to be a member of a guild even if you don't talk to anyone. And from a leadership perspective, Conquest points give a better indication of activity levels than mere logins. I guess most guilds don't regularly check on their members' contributions, but I know that I take note of who's usually getting their personal Conquest done and who isn't, and by doing my part in the guilds I'm in on those other servers, I can show at least a "sign of life" and make a small contribution even when I'm not able to be online at prime time to socialise.

04/06/2024

Drop In: Yavin 4

Now that I'm pretty much done with my seasons goals on the other servers, I'm not sure whether I'll continue the "drop in" series... but last week, I still visited Yavin 4 strongholds on three different servers, which is enough material for a post.

Like Alderaan, Yavin 4 is huge and personally I just bought it when it first came out without actually doing much with it. As a result, my first visit to a Yavin stronghold last week was primarily spent doing a lot of running/driving around to figure out where all the extensions even were. You won't believe how long it took me just to find my way out of the first building the first time...

The first Yavin 4 stronghold I visited was Leeha's Pursuit of Peace on Darth Malgus. I always thought of Yavin as a very "Sithy" planet, so I was intrigued by how someone might convert it to a more Jedi theme (which is what the name seemed to imply).

I didn't think the entrance area looked particularly peaceful. I see some massassi there, an underwalker, statues of Revan and Darth Marr, and I forget who the guy posing for the statue at the top was, but I know he's also a Sith.

However, the first indoor area seemed a bit more on brand, with potted plants, datacrons and various crystals - which can also be Sithy to some degree I guess, but they didn't give that vibe here. It felt kind of colourful and friendly, as far as that's possible in a dank ruin like this.


Exiting onto the bridge leading to the biggest chunk of the stronghold, I found myself confronted with this giant Jedi statue, more crystals and an avenue of trees, which also seemed appropriate enough. Apparently I forgot to take pictures of this same spot elsewhere, but I generally felt that this view you have immediately after exiting the first building was well suited to creating striking vistas.

In one of the side buildings I found what I can only call a "Rakata room", which I thought was an interesting idea. There are a lot of Rakata-themed decos but while they were an evil Empire, I never got the impression that their use of the Force fit as neatly into the light-dark dichotomy of the Jedi and Sith (the casters in the Legacy of the Rakata flashpoint all use Sage abilities for example).


Now this staging ground was amazingly well done in my opinion. I like the neat lining up of soldiers and vehicles, and while many of the named NPCs came up as holograms for me, you could still tell that there was thought put into their placement. I like how C2-N2 and T7 are right next to each other as if they're roleplaying as C-3PO and R2-D2 for example.

On Leviathan I went to "Tyriuna's Temple of Darkness" because I figured why not see how it looks when someone goes all in on the Sith theme this time? The first building certainly looked very different, with hanging vines, gloomy-looking statues and Imperial flags.

This deco caught my eye because it looked like an ancient graveyard and I had not seen that before:

The cave at the far end of the stronghold housed a Kell Dragon, which I guess is the appropriate environment for one of these beasts!


And once again, the bad guys kept prisoners. Poor Choza.

 
Finally, I visited Mercwiththemouth's Stronghold on Satele Shan, just because I thought the character name was funny. It was listed as being at 99% completion, so I immediately had an uneasy feeling when I zoned in and the entire entrance area was empty. Deco spam incoming?
 
 
 
I started to wonder what was going on when I found more and more empty rooms, yet at the same time everything was super laggy. Had the game bugged out on me in some way? How could I be lagging if all these rooms were indeed empty? I got my answer when I got to the top of the first building and found that the owner had spammed his stronghold with small animated turrets... all their movements were what was making the whole thing lag.
 

Ultimately I was still surprised by how much empty space I saw at 99% completion though. I wonder if some of it was Yavin 4 plants which I kind of overlooked as part of the scenery, because otherwise I don't know how else you could get to 99% completion with so much empty space, even if one did fill a bunch of rooms with lots of small decos.

02/06/2024

Spring Abundance

This week's patch 7.5 brought with it three major new features, all of which I'll write about at some point. However, the one of which it was the easiest to get a general impression was undoubtedly the new seasonal spring event, called Spring Abundance Festival.

Unfortunately it's been a bit hard to locate during its first week, as the mission terminal they put on the fleet is in the exact same spot as the Gree event terminal, which was also active this past week, causing the two quest starters to overlap almost completely. With a bit of careful hovering you could find the right spot to start the introductory mission though.

From the looks of it, there's going to be a story mission that unlocks a new step each week like there is during the Feast of Prosperity, and completion of the first part is also required to unlock the various repeatable event missions. It's a bit longer than most event-type intros, but still not too bad to do on alts. One thing I noticed though was that other players were constantly photo-bombing my KOTOR-style cut scene; I wonder if the devs forgot to tick some box to hide other players from these?

Based on the general theme of the event, I expected a degree of similarity to the Feast of Prosperity, and I think it's fair to say that there is, though I'd argue that Spring Abundance manages to be even more chill. After all, the Feast still has you going out hunting world bosses and there's a bit of pressure to serve those meals in time. At Spring Abundance, aside from having to kill about a dozen mobs for the introductory mission, there are no such pressures. Just chill, 100% of the time, catching fish, baking pies and dancing at the May holo pole.

Shintar the trooper and Aric Jorgan dancing at the holo pole in Blba Groves

I've seen some people snark about the very idea of having these activities in SWTOR, but to be honest I don't get why. I thought it was a bit odd that we were sweeping floors for the Gormak as part of the main storyline, but as a side activity like this? Why the hell not? Nobody can be hero of the galaxy 24/7, and who says even a Sith can't enjoy a bit of gardening in their downtime?

The daily activities are cute, fast and fun, and everything gives Conquest points too, which is a nice bonus. One thing that's interesting to me is that the mission structure is a bit different from the usual in that there isn't a weekly that requires you to do x number of dailies, but instead there are several weeklies that are tasks of their own that can only be done once a week, plus the dailies which you can just repeat every day for fun (and profit).

Particularly clever to me is the way they used this for the pie baking and eating, as there is a daily to bake pie, but the mission to sample different pies only requires you to do so once a week, so even if it was quiet and not all pies were available to eat when you first showed up, you can try again the next day. Right now the event is pretty much the opposite of quiet though, mind you - people seem to happily and enthusiastically be taking part at all times of day from what I've seen. There are some pretty nice rewards to be earned as well (though I haven't decided yet what I'll go for myself), so this event just strikes me as a winner all around.

31/05/2024

Around the SWTOR-sphere: May 2024

Has it really already been another month? I've been so busy playing and writing, I feel I've hardly had time to look at other people's stuff for weeks. Fortunately May the 4th was Star Wars Day, so I managed to pick up at least a couple of interesting things around that date.

  • The one I saw shared around the most but still wanted to post here as well was this Old Republic Lo-Fi tunes compilation by Morden Wex. Just a nice little twist on some well-known themes, plus the animation with Lana as the Lo-Fi girl seemed very appropriate. I actually found myself wondering where the concept of the Lo-Fi girl came from anyway, and it turns out Wikipedia has a whole bit about that. I thought that was fascinating!
  • Sticking with the subject of music, via Bluesky I came across this 12-year old promotional video called Music of the Old Republic. As someone who wasn't really part of the game's pre-launch hype, I had never seen it and thought it was really interesting! Unfortunately it cuts off suddenly at the end, which made me try to find the full version - something at which I didn't succeed, but instead I found a slightly longer one called Composing the Music of Star Wars: The Old Republic, which appears to have been made using the same basic source material but featured different quotes. I had no idea they had five full-time composers on staff when this game was built! No wonder the soundtrack is so good... anyway, I know that this is old material, but I'd never seen it and thought it was really cool, so there.
  • Staying on YouTube for a moment, commenter Thander replied to last month's round-up that there was another "Should you play SWTOR in 2024?" video that I should check out, this time by NoblePlays. And yeah, I enjoyed "Should You play SWTOR? (In 8 Minutes)". I like how these videos come out in very different ways depending on what kind of player makes them. Previous ones I featured were mostly created by new or very casual players and quite focused on just how the game works and what state it is in. Noble as a long-time vet focuses more on an audience that already knows what SWTOR is all about and talks about why he still enjoys it after all these years.

    I then saw that around the same time, he also released a video called "Should You PvP in SWTOR? A Realistic Explanation" which I also liked. If you've ever been in doubt about whether to try out PvP, please watch this! And I don't just say that because I'd like to see more people in the PvP queue (though I do.)
  • In the written blogosphere, not a lot of things caught my eye this month. The only thing I noted down was Intisar posting his thoughts about various patch 7.4.1 features. I know that's a bit late now that we just got 7.5, but I still enjoyed reading his thoughts and opinions.

28/05/2024

Shintar's Galactic Season 6 Diary, Week 11

After how I felt at the end of week 10, I decided to put on the brakes. Yes, I still had some work to do on Darth Malgus, but on the other servers I was around level 90 everywhere, and that with literal months left in the season and no particular reason to push myself. I set myself a hard cap of no more than four weekly objectives per server (which is quite similar to what commenter Thander recommended in response to my previous post, but this decision was actually made a few days prior to that). Until now, I'd tried not to be too specific with my plans for which objectives to pursue each week, but this time I knew exactly what I was going to do:

  • Earn 200k Conquest points: I was still going to do this on every server as before.
  • Earn the seasonal currency: This would also get done automatically again.
  • Visit another player's Copero stronghold: You already know that I did this one too.
  • Do the Oricon weekly twice or the Osssus weekly once: Usually I quite like the Ossus weekly where I have access to it, but I wasn't planning to do it this time.
  • Kill 100 mobs with a healer companion: This was going to be my fourth objective on all servers.
  • Kill four named champion mobs on Balmorra (2 Republic, 2 Imperial): I do these sometimes, but it wasn't going to do them this week.
  • Complete 2 out of 4 selected flashpoints (Hammer Station, Athiss, Battle of Rishi or Nathema Conspiracy): Again, a no this week.
  • Kill the Hoth world bosses: This was one of three group objectives I was planning to do with my guild on Darth Malgus, but not anywhere else.
  • Kill champion guards or turrets on selected planets: This was the second one of those group season objectives.
  • KotET chapter 8 on veteran mode or higher: Still no chapters for me.
  • Karagga's Palace on story mode: This was the third group objective I was going to do on Darth Malgus, even if I was a bit surprised to see it again so soon.

Day 1 - Tuesday

My week started once again with a long day at the office, so in the evening I was too tired to do much. I just visited a Copero stronghold on all servers and achieved my daily Conquest score with some clicky objectives.

Day 2 - Wednesday

On Wednesday evening I scored myself some Conquest points and worked on getting kills with my companions by questing on Darth Malgus, Leviathan and Tulak Hord, but three servers was quite enough for me for the day, so the daily objective on Satele Shan, Star Forge and Shae Vizla was once again completed with some clickies.

Day 3 -  Thursday

I know it's getting repetitive, but Thursday was another day in the office followed by a guild ops run in the evening, which meant that I didn't have much energy left to do seasons stuff afterwards, so I once again just got my daily objective done with things like crew skills, companion gifts etc.

Day 4 - Friday

On Friday evening I felt like doing a bit of questing again, but only on Darth Malgus and Leviathan.

Darth Zash in the Dark Temple, her face hidden in the shadows of her hood as she speaks

Day 5 - Saturday

The other servers had their turn on Saturday morning. On Tulak Hord, my Sith inquisitor finished chapter one of her class story in the process, and on Satele Shan I was baffled to find that for some reason I'd never bought the Dromund Kaas stronghold on that server, so I did that too (good for my Conquest bonus).

In the afternoon I continued to progress my weeklies on all the secondary servers via questing. Once again my alts across different servers were weirdly in sync, as my agent on Satele Shan and my bounty hunter on Leviathan also finished chapter one of their respective class stories.

In the evening it was time for social night with my guild on Darth Malgus, which we used to knock out those three aforementioned group objectives by downing both Hoth world bosses, killing turrets in the Imperial base on Oricon and doing a quick KP story mode run.

Day 6 - Sunday

On Sunday I once again didn't feel like playing that much, so I only did an operation with my guild in the evening (killing Terror from Beyond on 16-man master mode, yay) as well as getting my last few companion kills on Darth Malgus.

Day 7 - Monday

Monday was a holiday in the UK, so I enjoyed spending my morning going through all the other servers to finish getting kill credit with my companion where it wasn't quite done yet as well as progressing various class stories some more to earn some Conquest. I was kind of amazed to find myself doing Battle of Ilum story mode on my level 64 smuggler on Star Forge, since it's so rare for me nowadays to get into post-class story content before the level cap.

I then spent the rest of the day doing other things, until I panicked late in the evening when I realised that I'd have to go to bed early due to needing to get up early the next morning, and that I didn't actually have much time left to get my dailies done. I just rotated through all the servers as quickly as I could, doing a few more clicky objectives and quest hand-ins everywhere as appropriate to tick off the daily objective and get to 4/7 weeklies where I wasn't quite there yet.

Week 11 Thoughts

I've decided that this is a good point to stop keeping these diaries for this season. While I still have quite a bit of "work" to do on Darth Malgus for the achievements, the effort required for that isn't really enough to be worth documenting in this level of detail, and all the other servers are close enough to seasons level 100 that it'll be trivial to achieve in the near future, whether I put any effort into it or not.

This diary was an interesting experiment, but to be honest I'm glad to be done with it as it didn't quite work out the way I had hoped. My idea was that by keeping close track of what I was doing every week I'd find it easier to avoid burning myself out, due to having to be more consciously aware of what I was doing instead of, e.g. "suddenly" finding myself doing the same flashpoint for the fourth time in a row and feeling tired.

I guess that did work to some degree as I found it easier to say "just say no" to certain types of objectives this time around, however that didn't prevent me from still getting in way over my head week after week by underestimating the amount of time that would be required to complete even relatively simple objectives across six servers. Worse, having set myself the goal to write it all down added an extra layer of "work" that actually became a bit tedious after a while. (And yes, I know nobody is making me do this, but I did want to see it through to the end at least.)

Also, I only have so much creative energy and time to spare to write every week (about enough for a post every two to three days tops), which meant that these diaries being a weekly fixture "crowded out" a lot of other potential posts. I've accumulated quite a number of topic ideas in my drafts folder over the last three months that I just didn't have enough time to post about! Most of them weren't time-sensitive, so I'll hopefully still get around to writing about them at a later point, when there isn't so much going on...

For the time being though, patch 7.5 launches tomorrow, bringing with it a new story update, the new spring event and more, so there definitely won't be a shortage of things to talk about for a while.

25/05/2024

Drop In: Copero

This week's Galactic Seasons objectives included a visit to another person's stronghold again, and this week the stronghold of choice was none other than Copero - the new one handed out as the current season's main reward. I thought this was interesting because I had little idea what to expect from this stronghold. Obviously a lot of current players had access to it, but I wasn't sure how many would've bothered to list theirs publicly at this point. I hadn't even unlocked all the rooms in my own yet.

Fortunately I didn't have any issues with finding public listings, but it was definitely noticeable that there were fewer of them than there had been for most other strongholds, and only three of the six I visited sported 100% completion.

On Darth Malgus, the highest percentage I could find at the time I did the rounds belonged to Caij Vanda's Restful Resort at 71% completion. Nothing about this one really stood out to me, other than that a lot of the decorations seemed a bit random, giving off that "I'll just use everything I have without outright spamming" vibe that I've come to know well. I wouldn't have thought that the entrance hall would be the best place for a dance floor for example.

I did like how they filled the water in the underground docks with (mostly) appropriate plants though; I thought that was an interesting choice.

My next destination was probably my favourite of this lot, called Shayana-ténèbra's Stronghold on Leviathan. Most of the strongholds I've really liked while working on this series were thematically very consistent and usually a little understated, but this one was... not that. I still thought it had a lot of character though, starting with this weird abomination of different large decos mashed together at the zone-in spot.

Everything about this stronghold seemed to say "I like playing this game a lot and I want to use my stronghold to show that off", starting with the group of ops boss trophies near the landing area.

However, I recognised a lot of the other decorations as the result of "hard work" as well, from season rewards to flashpoint drops to decos that can only be acquired through grinding dailies. I just thought that was interesting. Also, whatever they did with this hallway actually broke the environment a bit - I'm pretty sure it's because of the decos anyway, as I didn't encounter this glitch anywhere else.

A character standing in front of a trophy on a floor tile in the hallway inside the Copero stronghold, but all the walls are gone and everything appears to float in space

In Thahil's Stronghold on Tulak Hord (53% completion), the first thing that struck me was this library-like area in the front room, mostly because it's similar to how I've decorated that room in my own Copero Villa. I think it lends itself to that theme if you want to take the presence of the quest NPC into consideration, since he's interested in historical research.

However, the truly unique thing about this stronghold was how many of those square Gree lights it used. You can see six of the orange ones in the screenshot above, and eighteen of the blue ones in the one of the underground docks below (which had a lot else going on too). There were a lot more than that still, and this was noteworthy to me since they require Gree reputation currency to buy. I can kind of see why this person went for it though, because there's so little room on the walls that your options for lighting and the like are quite limited, and who wants to fill everything with basic junker's lights?


The main balcony looked pretty relaxing and also gave me similar vibes to how I've been trying to make mine look. Again, I think it's just a natural fit.

The main balcony in the Copero stronghold, surrounded by plants and sporting a large umbrella and fountain in the middle. NPCs stand around and chat or play music.

Apostle Lightwalker's Restful Resort on Star Forge was probably the busiest-looking of the Copero strongholds I visited, with a bunch of utilities crammed into the space where you load in and fireworks going off around you in more than one location - I didn't even know that was a thing.

I took a screenshot of the front room because I liked the use of Voss decos - I think they generally fit this stronghold really well stylistically, though scale is definitely a problem at times, as you can see from the hanging lanterns nearly touching the floor.


I'd also never seen this deco before that looked like a giant version of the weed flowers you can buy from the prefab vendor.

The underground docks revealed that the owner had kind of run out of ideas at some point and did just spam light side signs to get full completion.

Løch-ness Mønster's Luxury Villa on Satele Shan shed further light (pun intended) on the seeming challenge of getting enough variety in terms of lighting into the small indoor spaces, as it had both a green and a red-lit hallway.

It also had what I thought was an absolutely genius underground docks area, with walls used to create something that looked a bit like an airlock and a submarine surrounded by kelp.

Finally, on Shae Vizla there was only a single public stronghold listed when I checked, which was only partially unlocked and only at 27% completion. I don't have a lot to say about Terah's Stronghold because they were clearly somewhat limited in what they had to work with - there were quite a lot of life day decorations inside for example - but I still appreciated the opportunity to visit.

Have you visited other people's Copero strongholds yet? If so, did you see anything interesting?

22/05/2024

Shintar's Galactic Season 6 Diary, Week 10

As mentioned at the end of week 8, there was no seasons diary for week 9 as I was away and travelling. I did have my laptop with me and logged in a few times to get my free points from the weekly login bonus, but that was it.

Returning to my regular routine, I was actually a bit uncertain about how I felt about jumping right back into grinding for seasons, though I thought the weekly objectives for week 9 looked pretty promising and varied at a glance:

  • Earn 200k Conquest points: Yes, of course.
  • Earn the seasonal currency: Would also get done automatically once again.
  • Complete 8 repeatable or side missions and kill 100 mobs on the Empire Space planets Taris, Oricon, Yavin IV, Ziost or Dantooine: I figured I was going to do this one on several servers as usual, though this particular selection of planets is not great for exploration missions, which are usually my preferred way of hitting this target.
  • Do the CZ-198 weekly twice or the Iokath weekly once: I was probably going to do Iokath where I could, and CZ is short and sweet, though it carries a bit of a risk of burnout when I do it on too many characters in quick succession.
  • Complete 15 missions as a trooper or agent: I was definitely going to do this one.
  • Craft prefabs and fabricator crystals/designs: I previously noted that I usually only do the crafting objectives on Darth Malgus since I'm not set up well enough with crew skills on the other servers, but this objective was an exception in the past in the sense that prefabs can be crafted at a lower skill level and don't require as much in terms of materials, meaning I could buy mats from the GTN or with jawa junk and get this done on other servers too. I figured I might do this again.
  • Play 4-8 warzone matches (wins count double): While the PvP season was approaching its end, I figured I was still going to be happy to do this.
  • Play 3-6 GSF matches (wins count double): I don't mind this one, but I probably wasn't going to do both PvP and GSF across multiple servers due to time constraints.
  • Complete four uprisings on veteran or master mode: As established previously, I'm not a huge fan of uprisings so I probably wasn't going to bother with this one.
  • Do dailies on Ruhnuk or Kessan's Landing: I was probably going to do another round of Kessan's Landing with Mr Commando on Darth Malgus, but I don't have this content unlocked on the other servers.
  • Complete the Eternal Championship on Zakuul: I had skipped this one last time, but figured that enough time had passed that I might end up doing it again on at least one server/character that had access.

Day 1 - Tuesday

I spent the day travelling back home and was pretty tired by the time I was settled in and ready to play games. It was also immediately time for an ops run with my guild, so I didn't do too much in terms of seasons. On Darth Malgus I just started on the crafting objective and played one GSF match. I then did a couple of missions on my agent on Leviathan and played two warzones on Tulak Hord, but by that point I was falling asleep on my keyboard, so I just logged into the remaining servers to quickly get my daily objective done with some clickies.

Day 2 - Wednesday

Even though I had a long day in the office, I still wasn't as tired in the evening as I had been the previous night. On Darth Malgus, I finished the crafting objective, played a GSF match and did a few warzones, all of which were losses. This took me to two weeklies completed and progress made on another three. 

On Leviathan, I also did a bit of crafting and played three warzones there too, which were also all losses. One of them was a Queshball in which I saw someone pass the ball from the corner of the bottom floor straight to someone in front of our line on the top floor, which I didn't even know was possible. At that point I'd had quite enough of PvP for the evening.

To achieve the daily objective on the remaining servers, I did a round of CZ-198 on Tulak Hord and Shae Vizla, a round of Iokath on Star Forge, and a few story missions on my agent on Satele Shan.

Day 3 - Thursday

I started my evening with a GSF match and a warzone on Darth Malgus, which completed my GSF weekly and made some more progress towards the warzone one. On Leviathan, I did some Taris heroics on Imp side, followed by another CZ-198 on Tulak Hord. On Star Forge, I played a few warzones on my midbie knight.

Day 4 - Friday

Before reset, I did a round of CZ-198 on both Satele Shan and Shae Vizla. Since I noticed people saying in SV general chat that warzones were popping, I queued up for those as well and got a few matches in.

In the evening, I didn't feel like playing a lot of SWTOR. I just played two more GSF matches on Darth Malgus - not for seasons, but to complete a partially done weekly mission, and did an operation with my guildies.

Day 5 - Saturday

Since I had neglected them the previous evening, it was time to catch up with the other servers the next morning. I did some Taris heroics on Leviathan and Tulak Hord, continued my Star Forge trooper's main story progression on Corellia and completed another round of CZ-198 on Satele Shan. On Shae Vizla, I tried queueing for warzones again close to reset, but sadly nothing popped this time. I used the time to get some crafting going instead and eventually had my trooper chat with her companions for some missions, which also earned me the required points for the daily objective. I stayed and crafted some more until after the reset, so once the crafting weekly ticked over, I was also immediately done with the daily for the next day.

I once again didn't play very much in the evening, just logging in with Mr Commando at some point to knock out both the Eternal Championship and the Kessan's Landing dailies on Darth Malgus, which got me to 7/7 on that server. I also did a couple more warzones just to finish off a weekly mission.

Day 6 - Sunday

I once again did the rounds on the remaining servers before reset. On Leviathan I did one Taris heroic and finished the crafting objective while queueing for warzones, though nothing popped. I then did the same on Tulak Hord, though I got into a Huttmall match there just before I was about to log off. On Star Forge, I continued my trooper's questing on Corellia, and on Satele Shan, I once again did a couple of Taris heroics while also getting started on the crafting objective.

In the evening I set to doing some catching up, since I was still pretty behind on weekly progression. On Darth Malgus I only needed to unlock another room in the new stronghold to earn enough Conquest for the daily objective though, and I figured this would give me plenty of time to work on the missing weeklies on the other servers. However, things turned out to be more time-consuming than I expected. On Leviathan I completed the warzone weekly, did a round of CZ-198 as well as a few missions as an agent. On Tulak Hord I also completed the warzone weekly and did a couple of additional missions on my trooper. On Star Forge I completed yet another warzone weekly... by that time it was getting really late though, so I just did a Taris heroic on Satele Shan and finished the weekly crafting objective before logging off.

Day 7 - Monday

In the morning, I quickly knocked out my daily objective on Shae Vizla by finishing up my trooper's class story on Belsavis. I then put my warrior main in the warzone queue again while I was working. I was getting a bit annoyed by the fact that it looked like I might not be able to finish the warzone objective even though my counter was on 7/8, but matches did eventually start popping and I got it done.

Later in the day, after the reset, I got back to finishing off more weeklies, as there was still quite a bit left to do on the other servers. On Darth Malgus, I only needed to get my daily done with some clickies, but then it was off to the races again.

On Leviathan I needed to do one more round of CZ-198, another Taris heroic and a flashpoint on my agent to get to 7/7 weeklies completed. (I was only on something like three missions completed as an agent, but then I queued for my introduction to group finder quest and got a Black Talon... mission completions for days.) On Tulak Hord, I also did two more Taris heroics as well as a few more story quests on my trooper. On Star Forge, I did three more missions on Corellia on my trooper, finished my crafting objective, and finally did a round of Yavin IV dailies on my boosted character.

This got me to 7/7 weeklies completed on all of those servers, but while it was reasonably fun, it also took absolutely forever. I decided to only push for 6/7 on the last two servers by having some more companion conversations on my trooper on Shae Vizla and doing a couple more Taris heroics (plus a few extra mission hand-ins) on my agent on Satele Shan.

Week 10 Thoughts

While my holiday had left me feeling quite refreshed, I was not as happy to jump back into the seasons action as I had hoped, plus I vastly underestimated the amount of time my weekly objectives of choice would require.

However, I did hit season level 100 on Darth Malgus, which is one milestone ticked off. I have to keep completing weeklies there regardless since I want to get the two additional achievements as well, but the other servers are actually not that far behind in terms of levels, so at least the end of my cross-server efforts is in sight now.

18/05/2024

How's the Shae Vizla APAC Server after Six Months?

It's been a few months since I last wrote about the Shae Vizla server, but that doesn't mean that I stopped playing on it. The start of Galactic Season 6 did however result in a reduction of my play time. Before that, I was focused on my home on Darth Malgus, with playing on Shae Vizla as my only side gig, but the new season meant that I suddenly had to divide my "secondary" play time among five servers again.

As the server turned six months old a couple of days ago, I wanted to write about it again to talk a bit about how it's doing. Three months ago I acknowledged that it had become quite quiet, but was hopeful that the opening of server transfers would inject some life into it again.

Sadly, that didn't exactly happen the way I had hoped. I mean, the server transfers definitely had an effect, initially. A lot of the cheaper stuff on the GTN was snapped up and prices increased somewhat with the introduction of all those credits into the economy, though not as much as I would've expected. I even heard allegations that people were transferring characters over purely to "shop" before returning to their home servers, though I don't know if anyone actually did that.

A female Twi'lek and Qyzen Fess standing in front of the Senate Tower on Coruscant. The Jedi is turning to look up and behind her at the building.

Activity also increased for a bit initially, and at least level 80 PvP started popping again after having been pretty non-existent for several weeks. However, this doesn't appear to have lasted. I think guilds are still organising PvP events for their members in dedicated time slots, but just queueing at what should be APAC prime time hasn't gotten me much action in a while, even with my level 80.

However, in fairness, I haven't been around as much recently, so I reached out to some players whom I knew to be located in the APAC region and/or who I knew were much more active on Shae Vizla, to get their more informed input. Thanks to everyone who replied and was willing to chat with me! This group consisted of:

  • Xam Xam - currently taking a break from SWTOR, but a well-known SWTOR content creator from Australia who was celebrating the opening of Shae Vizla when it launched
  • Kal - another SWTOR content creator and owner of Today in TOR, Kal is also located in Australia and founded the guild Heroes of the Republic/Empire on Shae Vizla's launch day. (This is also the guild my own characters on SV are in.)
  • J.R. - lives in Eastern Canada but has been one of the most active people in the Heroes guild, constantly organising and leading events like world boss hunts and activities for seasons objectives
  • Paiche - lives in South America but is also very active on Shae Vizla. I mainly interacted with him in organised PvP events that were aiming to get queues popping

Without exception, everyone I spoke to did express a degree of disappointment or concern about the server's population levels. "I didn't expect the server to have this much of a falloff in terms of general population," was Kal's first comment. Xam Xam added: "Looking back, I regret that some players (including myself) and the developers placed greater emphasis on maintaining a fresh start experience or healthy server economy than on the player population."

People mostly seemed to agree that this was due to the way the server had been launched, including the way transfers were handled. J.R. said the following: "I feel there was little planning for the server and was an after-thought.  First, the short notice caught a lot of people off-guard. I believe if they announced the SV launch a few weeks in advance, then more buzz would be created and players that weren't already subscribed would subscribe to make sure they could grab their choice character names."

Paiche thought that it was specifically the intended target audience of APAC players that seemed to have been put off: "They came, saw how grindy it was gonna be with the economy and no transfers and went right back." J.R. also echoed this sentiment: "The initial transfer restriction was met with varied responses [...] but I feel the devs dragging their feet to make a decision on when and how to do transfers led to a drop-off on players who couldn't wait for transfers to unlock. During this time, casual players stopped playing or returned to their main servers. Launching a new server in the middle of GS and PvP Seasons also prevented players from establishing a foundation on the new server. While everyone rushed to create characters on the new server, most people returned to their main servers to finish their partially complete GS and PvP Seasons. I heard this from many APAC players - some of which haven't returned to SV." Paiche also commented on this, as he actually came back to the game specifically for the Shae Vizla launch: "It really was a fresh start [for me] because I didn't have anything to lose by starting from scratch - but other people were in the middle of GS5."

This was interesting to me because from my personal point of view, the launch had been extremely convenient, as I'd just finished up Galactic Season 5 on the other servers, and there was just enough time left to also complete it on Shae Vizla as well if you started at launch and then completed the maximum number of weeklies every week. However, I can see how players who are more casual about seasons may not have felt the same way. With that in mind, it might have been more beneficial to have the server launch at a time when there was no seasonal content going on. Also, while the way the server's opening dropped kind of as a surprise was pretty cool, a bit more notice may indeed have been beneficial to get the word out.

I also thought it was interesting that two of my interviewees chosen for their activity levels on the server were in fact not APAC players. Looking at the Heroes guild Discord, it does often seem to me like a lot of group content happens in what's the middle of the night for me, during US west coast prime time instead of APAC. While every server has visitors from other regions that play for Galactic Seasons or to join friends, it does feel at least to me that Shae Vizla has a particularly high population percentage-wise that wasn't the original target audience. J.R. seemed to get a similar impression, saying that he thought that "SV is unique in that outside APAC prime time the game gets a bump during NA prime time (when I play) as well" and that he considered it the server's biggest win that he'd made "new friends from not only Australia and New Zealand, but also Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and throughout the United States and [was] learning about their cultures". Kal also commented that "it's really nice to see a lot of American and European English speakers coming to the server to hangout in the off-time on their own main servers".

I specifically asked Paiche about PvP, since that was how we'd first got talking and I figured he'd have a better picture of the situation than me. He bluntly stated that it's "worse than on other servers" though he did say it was still happening. Aside from the fact that it can be hard to get pops as has been my experience, he said that the problem is that the only people queueing are the remaining hardcore PvPers and even if they're not going in as premades, the fact that you only really run into these extremely skilled opponents whenever you do get a pop can be off-putting if you're not on the same level, as you'll basically just get stomped a lot. I haven't really seen this myself as much (whenever I do get a pop) but it does remind me of similar experiences I had in PvP shortly before server merges in past years, when the PvP population had kind of dropped down to the most dedicated.

Now, a lot of what I've described and quoted has been on the negative side. It's undeniable that Shae Vizla has become a small server, and many people will be put off by that. Personally I've always hated "dead server" narratives though, as both large and small servers have their pros and cons, it's just that due to the very nature of the fact that large server = many people and small server = fewer people, you'll see a lot more people extolling the virtues of large servers than you'll see proponents of small ones. (Ask me about my aggravations with mega-servers in WoW Classic some time...) Large servers are good for activity queue pops and getting pugs for group content, while small servers excel at providing a sense of community and a more relaxing and immersive experience for solo play (as you're not jostling elbows with ten other players doing the same thing every time a quest giver sends you out to solve their problems).

Paiche specifically asked me to quote him as saying that "Shae Vizla is the best server for solo players". In terms of community, J.R noted that "of all the servers I’ve been on, I’ve had great pug experiences and minimal toxicity on SV as compared to all the other servers. And this is the main reason I increased the time I spend on SV. I think joining a guild with similar objectives as you helps greatly." This was echoed by Kal by saying: "It is really nice to see the same names around every single guild you log into, it's like the entire server is one massive extended family or school to be honest, with all the different kinds of players like jocks and nerds in their different guilds". He also added that "with or without the server transfer limits, SV's GTN is probably the best in the game, there's no other server where playing 20 minutes of heroics casually each day lets you buy Gold or Platinum cartel market items".

About the "new server" experience in general, Xam Xam commented: "As much as I enjoyed the fresh start experience for a time, I don't think the APAC Region was the right place for it. [...] Regardless, I think this 'experiment' shows that there is an interest in a fresh start experience for SWTOR. Perhaps a fresh start server could be launched with a proper marketing campaign and much more notice in a more populated region someday." 

I have to admit I'm less sure about that one myself. I definitely loved the excitement of the experience myself, but based on how quick and steep the drop-off in engagement was, I'm not sure it would really be worth the effort to do more of this kind of thing. Based on my personal experience at least, even World of Warcraft - which is much bigger - has struggled with population management after its recent new event server launches.

Anyway, to get back to Shae Vizla, I think it's got some challenging months ahead to be honest. While I don't think the smaller population size is inherently a problem and does in fact offer some unique perks highlighted above, I personally feel like the server is currently struggling to really find its niche. To make a comparison to the Leviathan, which is generally known to be SWTOR's smallest server nowadays - I would never question it's viability because it has a very clear target audience: French speakers. So if, for example, you're a French person who also likes to do group content or PvP, you may feel the pull of a larger server like Darth Malgus where queue pops are more reliable... but people would be chattering at you in English there, in content where it's important to communicate and understand each other, which is a definite con if you're not comfortable with the language.

However, as far as Shae Vizla goes - the main advantage of having a dedicated server in the APAC region is finding people to play with in your time zone and the lower ping you get in activities like PvP or ops, where lag can really screw up your performance. Yet that's exactly the kind of content that's harder to get into on a small server, and from the sounds of it, many APAC players chose to remain elsewhere. So your choices become playing on one of the US servers, where your ping is bad... or playing on Shae Vizla, where your ping is great, but you might not actually find people to do the content with at all. I know which one I'd pick.

Players have somewhat limited power to improve the situation. They can form guilds and try to organise events, which can work well for a while, but it doesn't take much for any such group to fall below the critical mass needed to keep going. Paiche thought it would be good if Broadsword could encourage more players to move to Shae Vizla with some special sort of incentive: "Maybe 2xp again, double drops, cosmetics, decos, I don't know. Something that makes SV enticing to play in." On the forums I've also seen a group of players clamour for unrestricted transfers, and that all players located in the APAC region should simply get free transfers regardless of subscription status. I'm not sure how well any of that would work, but I kind of suspect that Broadsword considers their work on the server "done" for the moment and has moved on to focusing on other matters either way.

So my advice to you if you're in the APAC region and considering Shae Vizla as your destination would be:

  • If you primarily play solo, go ahead and have fun.
  • If you're happy to quest by yourself, but also want to do some group content, find a guild that caters to your needs and you'll also be fine.
  • If your idea of a fun evening is to shoot the shit on the fleet and just queue for activities, hoping for quick pops, unfortunately Shae Vizla is not the right place for that right now and you're probably better off on one of the US servers.

Feel free to share your own thoughts about and experiences with the Shae Vizla server in the comments.

12/05/2024

Drop In: Tatooine

Being on holiday doesn't mean that I was going to skip writing about week eight's tour of Tatooine strongholds I did for seasons.

Like Nar Shaddaa, Tatooine was among the first batch of strongholds added to the game, and I have a particular fondness for it because out of that first set of four, it was originally my favourite. Unfortunately, it being old and from a time when strongholds served a slightly different purpose than they do now, I also saw some more evidence of old-fashioned deco spam, though not as much as I did on Nar Shaddaa.

I visited a Tatooine stronghold on all six servers this time, starting with Tlaocetl's Vacation Retreat on Darth Malgus. The first thing that struck me about this stronghold was that the decos were a pretty contradictory mix in terms of themes, with the room where you load in containing a bar, a serene fountain and an altar covered with skulls all in close proximity of each other.

As I looked around the other rooms, I initially got the impression that it was all a collection of personal trophies, but then I also found a room that was completely empty and a couple more that had obviously just been "spammed" to get to 100% completion.

On Leviathan, I visited Karen Himeki's Syndicate Nerver Center, hoping that perhaps the name was hinting at an underworld theme, but in practice this stronghold was probably one of the most competently done yet unexciting strongholds I've ever seen. Imperial flags and guardsmen indicated a clear faction preference, and several rooms contained setups with tables and comfy-looking couches that looked like nice places to hang out, but I didn't get much of a sense of purpose from the place. Unless the purpose was really just to make a comfortable place for Imps to spend their free time, in which case the owner succeeded at that.

My favourite stronghold of this lot was the one I visited on Tulak Hord, called Vermächtnishändler's Black Market (the character name is German for "legacy trader" by the way, implying that it's a bank/GTN alt, which somehow made it sound even more fitting).

What I liked about this one was that a lot of the rooms were very strongly themed and at least loosely fit the overall theme as well, starting with this very striking view when you first load in:

The balcony in the Tatooine stronghold, with two giant beast skulls hanging from the ceiling and staring at the visitor

There were also multiple cantinas.

A detail I particularly loved was this outdoor bantha enclosure consisting of fencing and sun roofs and which used last season's depository of dark wisdom to create what looks like a sort of feeding trough for the animals.


The owner was also clearly proud of their PvP prowess, as they had a whole room dedicated to their various trophies.

Then there was what I could only call a "droid room"...


... and a Hutt room, though I'm not entirely sure what's going in the little scene that's set up in it. It looks like one guy is threatening the Hutt and the other one is defending him? Maybe?

On Star Forge, I visited Monsieur Fancypants' Hideout at 99% completion, which amused me with its name. I was surprised that this was the only Tat stronghold I visited that actually featured the Sarlacc pit deco (from what I saw).

 
Other rooms once again revealed a strong Imperial focus, with dark side relics and Sithy NPCs front and centre.

The room that really surprised me in here though was an unassuming hallway. You don't expect hallways to be interesting, as they're usually just connectors between different rooms, but this one was absolutely stuffed with carbonite trophies and flashing red lights, which just made me go "WTF", haha.

On Satele Shan, Kaómi's Republic Sanctuary finally offered a bit of reprieve from all the Imp lovers, with a stronghold filled with Republic guardsmen and featuring a briefing room that I liked.


The thing that really stood out to me in this stronghold though was its use of desert flora. You don't often see these cactus plants from Ruhnuk used for example, but this player really selected the right plant decorations to create scenery that looked appropriate for Tatooine, instead of simply assuming that an endless water supply could create an oasis where everything and anything can grow anyway.

Finally, on Shae Vizla I was once again somewhat limited in terms of choice and ended up visiting Ralyne's Marketplace Cantina at only 39% completion. One funny thing here was that I soon realised that it belonged to a guildie and they were actually inside while I was roaming around, browsing the GTN or something.

The owner once again did what they could with a limited number of decos, with a pretty "standard" selection of items as well as a dedicated relic room and med bay.

The funniest and most interesting thing to me was a small room containing only two decos: an animated metal/rubbish conveyor belt and a floor tile that's meant to look like there's a beast pit underneath, and they had been positioned in such a way that it looked like the conveyor belt's contents were being spilled into the pit. I don't know why, but that just tickled me.


Do you have any thoughts on these Tatooine strongholds or the ones you visited yourself for last week's season objective?