Around the SWTOR-sphere: January 2024

I've had several reasons to think about what it means to be part of a community of content creators over the past two months. (Long story short: Interacting with other creators should always be a positive and inspiring thing; be wary of anyone who acts like they're the only one creating anything of worth and is cagey about giving credit to others.) Bhagpuss was also musing on how there used to be more exchanging of links and ideas between blogs, and one thing that stood out to me in that post was his mention of how there used to be more sites that did regular round-ups of what other blogs were writing about. Anyone else remember MMO Melting Pot? Or SWTOR Network?

I'm always happy to link to other creators where it's relevant, and I do have the blog's sidebar to promote a whole number of other SWTOR sites, but it's only visible on desktop and I don't know how often anyone even looks at it, so I could definitely do more on that front. So I thought... why not try being the round-up person myself for a bit? I look at a lot of SWTOR content over the course of the month that I rarely bother to share, even when I enjoyed it, so maybe I should do that more often?

So consider this new series an experiment. I don't know if I'll bother to make a post every single month, but we'll see how it goes. Without further ado, some SWTOR-related things I saw in January and that I thought were worth sharing.

  • The year was off to a good start with the State of the Old Republic podcast releasing its first episode in over six months, looking back at the last two patches. Ted is a great guy who even had me on as a guest once! I left an encouraging comment on the new episode but it seems to have been eaten by a spam filter or something.
  • I don't need to tell anyone who Swtorista is and she always has something or other going on, but it's worth noting that she started 2024 by unveiling a big project that had been in the works for a while: interactive maps for all the base planets. These are great for newcomers and veteran players alike who are interested in ticking some specific item off their personal to-do list, whether it's that last pesky lore object that's eluding you or a mission NPC that you could swear used to be in a different place last time and now you can't find it (that would be me). I used to have a site called SWTOR Ultras on my bar that used to provide something similar, but since it went down it's nice to see someone else provide this feature now.
  • NoblePlays is a YouTuber that's been around for a long time but who never quite took off (at least as far as I can tell) due to his (public) interest in the game being very on and off (being down on the game and stepping away from it, then coming back, then stopping again a few months later etc.) I suppose he could be on another one of those roller-coasters right now, but that didn't stop me from enjoying his recent video "SWTOR Is Actually Amazing For 2024". It was technically released in December but I didn't come across it until a couple of weeks ago.
  • "Is [MMO] worth playing in [year]?" is almost a YouTube video genre of its own at this point, but they are popular for a reason! The first one I came across for SWTOR this year was "Should You Play Star Wars: The Old Republic in 2024" by Renfail. He's not someone I usually watch, but when this popped up it seemed familiar enough that I might have seen one or more of his videos before. I was kind of surprised that he's been playing since launch and is clearly very knowledgeable about the game, but apparently he's only completed three of the original class stories (at least according to the character selection screen that he identified as his main server) and pronounces Revan as "reh-VAHN"? Just goes to show again that there are very different ways to love this game.
  • Fellow blogger Intisar always likes to ring in the new year with some predictions for what's to come, some of which turn out to be wrong and some of which are just plain silly, but they are always 100% enjoyable to read. Go check out his Five Predictions for 2024 right now.
  • XamXam is also an old hand when it comes to SWTOR content creation, but I particularly enjoyed her sharing her experience on the Shae Vizla server as an actual APAC player this month. I've done a fair bit of writing about my own experiences there, but as a European I'm obviously not the main target audience for the server, so it's interesting to hear the thoughts of someone who actually lives in the right part of the world for it to make a difference to their experience.
  • I have a complicated relationship with reddit and the SWTOR subreddit in particular, but I do like to check in on it every now and then, and every now and then it definitely contains some interesting, funny or insightful posts. My favourite in January was one called "Thanks for everything, SWTOR", which may sound like a goodbye but isn't. Rather, the OP muses on just how much time they've spent in the game, how many memories they've made and how much they've learned and changed over time. I thought it was particularly interesting that they still felt bad years later about some occasions where they'd been unnecessarily mean to people, I guess because most of the time you only expect the one being insulted to carry that memory with them.
  • Another thread I really enjoyed was called "What's the most genuinely emotional moment in the story?" in which people shared some of their favourite funny, sad or generally epic story experiences. While the original post is just a question, there are some great memories to be stirred in the comments. (Beware of spoilers though if you haven't played many of the stories yet!)
  • Just in time for the deadline! As I was getting ready to post this, I saw some people on Twitter share this article on Games Radar called "If you like Baldur's Gate 3, you should play one of Bioware's best-ever choice-driven sci-fi RPGs" (quite a mouthful, that title). Anyone who's been a fan of SWTOR for any length of time won't really find anything in there that they didn't already know, but it's always nice to hear about people (re-)discovering everything that makes SWTOR great even in its 13th year.


Seeing How the Other Side Lives

I know that the way I play SWTOR puts me into a small minority relative to the overall player base. Doing PvP, doing operations, doing Galactic Seasons on all servers... most players don't do those things. Still, I tend to think that having at least dabbled in pretty much every part of the game, I should be able to "get" what drives most players. While the story is not necessarily my main focus nowadays for example, I've played and enjoyed it, so I can completely understand why someone else's play experience may be centred around it.

Spending time in more casual guilds on other servers during seasons has been rather eye-opening in that regard, which is to say that I've been quite surprised by some of the things people talk and seemingly care about. Here are three of the biggest items that caught me off-guard:

1. Companion power

I feel a little confused every time I see someone talk about what the "best" companion is. Most of them are identical in terms of their abilities, and the few who have a bit of an edge in one area or another still aren't massively different. Since every companion can play every role nowadays, the thing that matters the most is whether you like their look and voice lines, not how well they can "parse".

But people care a lot about min-maxing their companion performance. I always thought the Commander's Companion, a consumable that you can buy on the Cartel Market and that instantly raises your influence with one companion to fifty, was kind of a dumb item. Who would spend real money on that when there are multiple ways to raise your companion influence organically? Apparently the answer is: a lot of people.

And not just that, but apparently those same players consider it pretty much mandatory to have all of their companions maxed out, which honestly kind of blew my mind. I've been playing this game since launch and not one of my characters has all their companions at maximum influence (though my main is the closest simply from years of running crew skill missions). Some don't have a level fifty companion at all. Because from my point of view... it's just not needed?

There are a few use cases for maxing out companion influence, such as if you're heavily into crafting and want to maximise those crits, or if you're working on one of the game's extremely tough solo challenges. There's a reason my Sage, on whom I did KotFE on master mode back in the day, has exactly two level fifty companions: Lana and Senya (because I felt the need to max out their influence while working on tough chapter bosses).

However, in PvP and group content (where I spend a lot of my time), companions are irrelevant, and most other solo PvE content is so easy that your companion's exact influence level makes no noticeable difference (at least to me). Seriously, if I quest with a companion that's under level ten, I may notice that they "feel a bit weak" so to speak, but above twenty or so they are more than powerful enough for pretty much anything, meaning I don't really notice further increases in power level.

Maybe this is a remnant of my experience playing at launch, when companions were much weaker than they are now and gear affected their output, so it made sense to try and squeeze every little bit of extra performance out of them. Compared to that, they still feel OP to me in their current form regardless of influence level, but others will have a different perspective.

2. Running heroics

I used to love heroics when the game first came out and they were genuinely challenging open world group content. When they were turned into just another type of daily in Fallen Empire, I was not impressed. I'm not much of a daily runner at the best of times, and now there were even more of them, just with mobs that took longer to kill. I got pushback for this opinion even back then, so I knew that others felt differently.

Even so, I've been kind of flabbergasted by the number of people I see for whom running heroics is a regular part of their routine every day. I don't know whether it's just been particularly pronounced on Shae Vizla because people see them as a good way of making credits, but I could absolutely not play that way and it's kind of weirdly fascinating to me that so many players seem to actually enjoy this kind of grind.

3. World bosses

I've always quite liked world bosses, but my general experience has been that they're fun to do once for the achievement, and then maybe another couple of times for one-time missions. After that they just become kind of unrewarding to revisit repeatedly in my opinion (unless one is an objective for Galactic Seasons of the Feast of Prosperity of course). If you're already bothering to put a group together to do some sort of group content, why not do something that pays more than a few credits and a couple of Conquest commendations?

So I was quite surprised by the amount of world boss hunting I've seen going on and the sheer enthusiasm some people have for it. When Heroes of the Republic did Nightmare Pilgrim for example, people were pretty much counting down the minutes to the event for at least half an hour before it was actually meant to start. Now, I did learn that while you're levelling, killing world bosses gives pretty good XP, so some people use it as a form of power levelling - can't really argue with that. Likewise, if you're a new guild, world boss events are a way of being inclusive of characters at lower levels.

However, at max level I'm honestly still not entirely sure why people seem to do them as much as they do. My best theory is that players who mostly like to play by themselves see them as a low-pressure way of socialising, where you don't need a specific group composition, there's rarely more than one boss mechanic to worry about and you don't necessarily have to talk. Heck, with guild ship summons the whole thing can pretty much be reduced to "accept summon when it comes, whack whatever's in front of you until it's dead, leave". But maybe that's just what some people are looking for to feel connected to their guild and if they're too shy or time-constrained to invest time in activities like flashpoints or operations? I'd never really considered world bosses filling that specific niche before.

Heroes of the Empire fighting the Nightmare Pilgrim on Voss

Have you ever come across an activity or way of playing the game that utterly surprised you with how popular it was with other players?


PvP Season 4, Arenas & PvP on Shae Vizla

PvP Season 4 ends in five days, and I managed to do something this season that I've never done before: for once, I didn't just complete the main reward track, but I also completed all the seasonal achievements. And I didn't stop there either! Not only did I do all this on Darth Malgus, but I did so on Shae Vizla as well, which is a huge jump from never even getting all the achievements in the first place.

There was no tangible reward for doing this, I just kind of happened to get about 80% of the way there (on both servers) without really trying, and then I figured I might as well put in the extra effort to push myself over the finish line.

Sith warrior Cheriza from the Black Sun Squadron guild displays the PvP Season 4 legacy title "No Quarter Given"

Loyal readers may recall that the reason I never bothered with completing all the seasonal PvP achievements before was that I didn't like queuing for arenas. I don't mind them from a gameplay perspective, and I was quite content with having them pop up every now and then when unranked arenas and warzones shared the same queue, but when they were split out with the launch of PvP Season 1, I found the dedicated arena queue to be way too toxic for my taste. The repeated personal insults were just too upsetting, and I certainly wasn't having enough fun to make up for that, so I decided to simply nope out of that part of the game.

What happened to make me change my mind? Well, the Shae Vizla server happened, and as I mentioned in my first impressions post, doing PvP over there was an absolute blast during launch week. I actually dared to queue for both modes again for the first time in ages because I figured, we're all level ten with a hundred credits to our name, how could anyone possibly find a reason to take things too seriously and be toxic in that environment? And people were indeed pretty good-natured for the most part. I encountered exactly one guy being toxic in an arena during those days, and that was after he lost a drawn-out one-on-one against an opponent. The way he yelled insults at that person was still unnecessary and stupid, but it was also such an obvious case of someone just being a sore loser that even I couldn't take it too seriously.

I was having so much fun in that environment that I earned the maximum number of PvP season points during the first two weeks of the server's life without even paying attention. Once I noticed, I thought to myself: Hey, if it's going to be that easy and fun, I might as well complete the PvP seasons track here too. It didn't remain that easy once queue pops started to slow down, but for a while they were still consistent enough that I could complete multiple weekly missions for both game modes across my stable of alts.

Meanwhile, I was working on completing the PvP season track on Darth Malgus as well, by following my usual modus operandi of doing nothing but warzones. However, the experience on Shae Vizla made me reconsider my stance on arenas. I'd also heard some other players who weren't exactly PvP gods mention that they were doing arenas for the season on their home server and that things weren't so bad in the lowbie and midbie brackets since you were less likely to run into toxic try-hards there. So I decided to start queuing for arenas in the lower brackets on Darth Malgus as well and... it was actually decent fun. I didn't encounter any toxicity, and mixing things up with the occasional arena weekly made my seasonal progress easier as well (since sticking to only one mode makes it harder to max out your points every week).

Ops chat during an arena: Siarru says: "Yeehaw! Let's kill some Imps! Wait, are we Imps?" Zataa replies: "Cue 'are we the baddies?' - it's mixed." Ni'kesho says: "I am." Siarru comments: "Damn, so confusing."

After I completed the main reward track on both servers and thought about writing a post about that, I had a quick look at my achievement progress and was surprised to find that on Shae Vizla, I had in fact completed everything bar the 2000 medals achievement, and even for that one I was already most of the way there. It seemed like a no-brainer that I should continue playing until the end of the season to get that ticked off as well.

Then I checked my progress on Darth Malgus for comparison and found that I was even closer to completing the medals achievement there, though I was only on six out of twelve arena weeklies completed. After a bit of deliberation, I decided that it might be worth trying to push that to completion as well.

At first, things seemed to go well enough, but then I got into an arena with my midbie Scoundrel where someone went off on me big time after we lost the first round, spamming "shit healer" in chat over and over, to the point that another person on our team actually told him to chill the hell out. In that moment I felt that familiar surge of adrenaline caused by a mix of embarrassment and anger and immediately thought to myself: Here we go again, this is why I stay out of fucking arenas. I thought that was going to be the end of that particular experiment.

But for some reason, I pressed on anyway. I think it was due a mix of factors. While I was initially very flustered by the guy's insults (I knew I hadn't done great in the first round and was already feeling bad about that, which is when I'm particularly susceptible to insults making me feel even worse), I thought I actually played quite well in the second round, and while we still lost, I thought it was very obvious that it wasn't due to me being a "shit healer" but due to the fact that our dps was doing way, way less damage than the enemy team and I could only compensate for that for so long. The fact that another member of our team spoke up to... well, not exactly defend me, but to agree that the mean guy was way out of line, also helped a little.

Around that time I also happened to come across this old blog post of mine, in which I told the story of being intimidated by a PvP bully and then encountering him in a different context. In that story, we actually ended up getting along in the end and he apologised for having been an ass before. I don't expect the guy from my most recent encounter to ever get to that point (though it was a character name I recognised from previous matches), but I did find an odd kind of comfort in the idea that like my old nemesis back then, he might actually feel kind of embarrassed if he realised that people will remember him for this kind of behaviour and that it may well give him a bad reputation.

Either way, I pressed on and fortunately didn't have any more encounters like that, though I'll say that ticking the boxes for six more arena weeklies still wasn't the most fun thing I've ever done. Arenas may technically be shorter than warzones in terms of match duration, but their queues aren't necessarily any faster, so I spent a lot of time waiting for pops. The resulting matches were often only partially filled and hideously imbalanced, and losing a 3v4 game while getting zero medals for your efforts feels worse than losing normally. I was very glad when I was finally done, and grinding out the remaining medals in warzones was much more pleasant, not just because I prefer warzones, but because medal acquisition is much smoother there. Unlike when you're getting stomped in an arena and finish with zero medals, you pretty much always earn some medals in a warzone even if it's a loss.

Meanwhile I encountered a different problem on Shae Vizla: that of the lowbie and midbie queues suddenly dying. I'd previously enjoyed mixing things up by playing different characters, but I was at a point where I had only ten days left to earn a little less than 300 medals, and spending hours in queues that might never pop just seemed like a waste of time in that situation. (Never mind that if I did actually get into an arena, it might end up being another one of those zero-medal matches, basically making them worthless for my purposes.)

Sith warrior Apacella from the Heroes of the Empire guild displays the PvP Season 4 legacy title "No Quarter Given"

So I had to ditch my alts and focus entirely on playing my level 80 Juggernaut. Even on Shae Vizla I still preferred to give the max-level arena queue a wide berth, so I focused on warzones only. They were still popping reasonably often, but considering that there are only a few specific hours in the day when my play time overlaps with APAC activity, I was starting to worry that I might fail due to a lack of pops just short of crossing the finish line. The maths told me that with an average of about eight medals per warzone, I only needed to play four per day until the end of the season, which is quite reasonable, but again, considering that some days I might not get to play at all... to be on the safe side, I decided to pour all my efforts into binging PvP on the weekend and ground out 150+ medals over the course of those two days (much to the amusement of Mr Commando), ensuring that I only had a few matches left to do afterwards.

Doing max-level warzones on Shae Vizla was very fun in a different way and strangely nostalgic by the way. Because the population is relatively small, you see a lot of the same names over and over again, and you soon learn who the PvP guilds are, who the healers are, and what general weirdness to expect. (For example there was this one guy who liked yelling in all caps in a foreign language(?) in general chat during warzone matches. No idea why.) It kind of reminded me of the game's early days and the kind of community-building I got to witness in the days before mega servers.

Is there a moral to all this rambling? I'd say the main takeaway for me was that I was reminded that I do actually enjoy arenas in moderation. There's a particular kind of fun to the mayhem that is picking who you should go for first, trying to focus an opponent down quickly, switching targets, kiting enemies and all that jazz. Doing them while levelling probably also teaches you how to use your class toolkit better than anything else in the game, because you'll be actively eager for every new button that helps you deal with various problems you'll encounter, such as using defensive cooldowns to not die, interrupting healers, or gaining counters to knockbacks and roots. Almost more importantly, you then get to practice using these skills over and over again, making sure that you'll actually remember that they're there. In solo PvE you just don't need those things nowadays and it's easy to forget parts of your toolkit if you don't use them often enough.

I also started to be a bit more liberal with the ignore feature this season than I've been in the past if people are being horrible, and I wonder just how much chatter this is actually blocking out now. There's been more than one occasion where I saw interactions in warzone chat that made it clear that I was missing something due to having someone on ignore. It's something I do remain conflicted about, because while not having to listen to certain types of people definitely improves one's gameplay experience, it also seems like a bit of a shame to remove any chance of reconciliation, especially if the infraction wasn't that egregious.

Finally, it's worth noting that I spent a significant percentage - if not the majority - of my time PvPing this season not as a healer, but as a dps, most frequently as a Juggernaut, and I've got to admit that for the first time ever, I'm kind of finding myself doubting my commitment to healing. I still love it in general, but in PvP it's often just so... unsatisfying. You can heal for millions and yet feel like you've achieved nothing, all while being more likely to get crap from team mates and enemies alike regardless of what you do. Yet playing as a Jugg, seemingly nobody cares how good or bad you are, and even if I die ten times during a match, I rarely feel too bad about it because I hit hard and still feel powerful in defeat when it takes multiple enemies half a minute to take me down. Just something to think about.

Either way, it's been a ride, and while it's been fun, I also think this is one experience I'm unlikely to repeat (100%-ing the PvP season on two servers that is). I don't think I'll ever be able to complain about the 2000 medal achievement being too much again though, considering I effectively earned more than double that number this season.


The End of Galactic Season 5 & The Future of Shae Vizla

We're in the last week of Galactic Season 5 and I'm happy to say that I managed to complete the season reward track on the Shae Vizla server with several days (and several weekly objectives) to spare. So did many others, based on the chatter I've seen about it.

I don't think this is a coincidence. I'm pretty sure the devs counted the days and intentionally launched the Shae Vizla server at a point when there was just enough time left to complete the season track without using any buyout options - ensuring that seasons fans would be drawn to the new APAC server and give it a nice boost in activity for its first two months. It also seemed to me like the weekly login reward was giving season points more often than usual, presumably to help get more people over the finish line.

Apacella riding an armasaur mount in the Imperial base on Belsavis

Personally, I finished the season at legacy level 27, with one character at level 80, and three alts at 59, 34 and 30 respectively. None of them completed their class stories yet, but at least the warrior is getting close, having just finished Belsavis. This is a lot more progress than I made on Leviathan and Tulak Hord when I first started playing there in Season 2, but as mentioned previously, I've been doing more than just seasons on Shae Vizla. Grinding Gree reputation during Gree event week for the first time in years was one hell of a nostalgia trip; I'll tell you that.

I can't help but wonder what lies in the server's future though. As per my post from a month ago, there was a noticeable drop in activity when 7.4 came out and a bunch of "tourists" presumably returned to their home servers, but after that things were pretty stable for a little while. However last week, which was when I believe the very first players were able to complete the season (if they had maximised their point gains with 12-point objectives every week), I noticed a pretty sharp drop in below max-level PvP activity. Until then, I'd been completing both the warzone and the arena weekly on my levellers pretty consistently, but seemingly overnight, lowbie and midbie matches of both types just stopped popping completely, making it impossible to get any PvP done if you didn't have a max-level character yet.

Now, the seasonal model always affects the levels of in-game activity on all servers, but personally at least I've never noticed this being quite as pronounced as I've seen on Shae Vizla. Whenever I queued for both warzones and arenas for example, you could tell which mode was a season objective that week because it would suddenly pop much, much more often. When I decided to try gearing up my level 80, I thought I'd queue for GSF since I remembered that being an easy source of gear early on. I queued for hours without getting a single pop. The next week, there was a GSF-related seasons objective, and suddenly I could get the weekly done easily, multiple times over. I also know that (what I think is) the third biggest guild on the server advertises openly that its focus is on doing Galactic Seasons across all servers. I for one am curious to see what happens to them and the population in general once the season ends. Not that the devs leave long breaks between Galactic Seasons nowadays anyway, but still...

The Transfer Question

One obvious way of giving the population a boost would of course be opening up server transfers to Shae Vizla. I don't think many people minded transfers being locked initially when the server first launched, but pretty much from week two onwards, long-time APAC players with legacies on other servers kept asking why transfers weren't open yet. Shortly before Christmas, Keith took to the forums to say that they weren't even sure whether they should enable transfers at all, a statement that received a fair amount of pushback. Justifiably so in my opinion - while I've enjoyed the fresh start experience a lot, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the main purpose of the Shae Vizla server was to provide a home for both new and existing APAC players.

Yesterday we finally received another update on this matter, as Jackie confirmed that transfers are indeed coming, and that there'll even be a limited number of free transfers available for loyal subscribers, however they'll limit the number of credits you'll be able to take with you. This makes sense because the disparity between the Shae Vizla economy and those of other servers is currently so big that someone transferring in with a stash of a few billion credits earned on e.g. Star Forge would be able to buy out literally the whole Galactic Trade Network.

While I'm generally in favour, I do wonder how this will affect the experience of those who choose not to transfer any characters. (While I've got characters on all servers nowadays, I've made a point of keeping all their legacies separate.) I expect guild chats may become quieter as anyone who took a transfer will no longer be popping achievements all the time, activity at level 80 will pick up but will likely also be a bit of a two-class system for a while if people transfer over with full gold augments. Even with a stringent credit limit I suspect that there'll be at least a small degree of inflation. However, ultimately Shae Vizla should be allowed to become a server just like any other, one that simply happens to be located in the Oceanic region. The fresh start has been fun, but ultimately wasn't the goal.


Meeting the Curator

Aside from the big Chains in the Dark story update, patch 7.4 also contained a smaller side story with KOTOR-style cut scenes, which continued the storyline that started with Lane Vizla on Ruhnuk in 7.2.

What's it about? Spoilers ahead:

Lane recalls you to Ruhnuk to tell you that she's been working on restoring the small Basilisk droid you left with her but she's made no real progress as she just doesn't know enough about their inner workings. She has however found out about a reclusive rich guy called the Curator who apparently collects rare droids, and she wonders whether he can help. As he shuns company, she wants you to infiltrate his home stealthily, while pretending to be a courier with his newest purchase.

For this, you have to fetch a bunch of stuff from around Ruhnuk, Mek-Sha and Dantooine. You then go to the Curator's house, which just happens to be on the outskirts of Kessan's Landing (convenient!). Your disguise gets you in, but it quickly becomes obvious that you're not delivering the real goods he expected (though I think it's funny that he instantly turns on the messenger instead of assuming the seller sold him a fake or something like that). His defenses consist of nothing but some antique astromechs though, which are disabled with as much as a kick and a slap.

Three astromech droids

When you demand to know more about Basilisk droids, he has to admit that they are so rare that even he doesn't own the schematics... however, he knows of an equally as rare/even rarer(?) HK-24 droid on Belsavis, a type of droid that was specifically used to hunt Basilisks and should therefore have lots of information about them. He suggests that you retrieve its memory core, and that in exchange for providing you with its location, he gets to keep the chassis for his collection.

You do go along with this plan and return the HK core to Lane. She puts it into an old astromech to access it and the astromech goes absolutely nuts, yelling about how it's malfunctioning and wanting to self-destruct, followed by an attempt to destroy the powered off Basilisk droid. 

Lane asks you to return the astromech to the Curator to see if he can fix it up to not go crazy. He's not too pleased to see you again but offers to put together a bespoke restraining bolt. While you fetch some parts for him, he puts the HK-24 core back into its chassis and of course something goes wrong, causing it to turn on and attack him. You come back in time to take it out again and protect him, after which the memory core goes back into the astromech with a restraining bolt applied.

The Curator talks to a Sith while standing next to the lifeless HK-24 chassis
When you turn it back on on Ruhnuk, it still gets somewhat agitated, seemingly arguing with itself, but in a somewhat more restrained manner. Lane also says that the Curator has contacted her and wants to sponsor the restoration of the Basilisk droid.

This story was about what I expected in terms of length and depth. I was a bit surprised by just how silly it was, considering that the previous installment of this storyline was quite serious. Not that there's anything wrong with silly, but we did just have the goofiness of the Galactic Season 5 story as well...

There were only a couple of small things I didn't like. For example I was thrown off by the fact that during the first conversation with Lane, her pronunciation of the "G0-T0 eye" (the thing you're supposed to pretend to deliver to the Curator) changes between "go-to" and "gee zero tee zero", which is quite a big difference.

Shintar the trooper with her arms crossed and looking grunmpy while wearing a delivery uniform

Also, the whole premise of pretending to be a delivery person was a bit... eh. It wasn't quite sweeping the floor of the Gormak cantina, but it felt close. Not exactly a job for an Alliance Commander or Sith Lord in my opinion. The whole thing was a bit weird from a mechanical point of view as well, as they literally make you put a whole gear set on, which in the age of the Outfit Designer doesn't change your appearance anyway (unless you go and select "show gear as outfit", which I did for my own immersion, but it did feel a bit clunky). I would've expected to just get a quest item that you click and poof, you're disguised. But I don't know, maybe someone out there was really happy to get this cosmetic gear set for future pizza delivery roleplay (since you do actually get to keep it)?

Finally, the last thing that got me was that when you're on Belsavis and some guards stop you, you have to kill them even as a Republic trooper! That just felt wrong; there should have been a non-violent solution available.

Aside from those things, I quite enjoyed the story. I had a good chuckle at all the droid shenanigans, from the ridiculous defense droids to the maddened HK to digging for parts outside the Curator's house. I did laugh out loud at the bit when you first leave his house and there's this glowy chest next to the door... I was like "Is this a lore object?" and clicked, just to be greeted by an "intrusive thoughts" cast bar, which finished with my character swatting the relic off its pedestal, to an audible expression of dismay from the Curator.

Sith warrior Arrah has an intrusive thoughts castbar while eyeing a relic

I believe there's been an indication that part three of this storyline, when it arrives, will bring it to its conclusion, presumably with us actually getting a Basilisk... companion? Then again, I'll be very surprised if this is the last we've heard of the Curator, and I wouldn't put it beyond him to mess things up somehow...


Guild Level 600

Back in December, I noticed that Twin Suns Squadron, my guild on Darth Malgus, had hit guild level 600. I gave it a brief mention in the guild message of the day but didn't really think about it beyond that. Until a few days ago that is, when I noticed that we were still level 600... and that our guild XP bar had stopped moving.

Twin Suns Squadron's guild XP bar maxed out at level 600

It was only then that I realised that we'd in fact hit the level cap for guilds. I'd had no idea that there even was one. I mean, I guess I always figured that there had to be one for practical reasons, but I expected it to be a really high number that we weren't going to reach for many more years, such as 1000.

However, apparently the cap of 600 was well known before anyone even got to it, as a quick Google search for "swtor guild max level" revealed a reddit post from over five years ago that already stated it to be 600 back then. Though that same post also posited that "guilds can first reach it in the week of August 27, 2024", which obviously turned out to be very wrong. (It's possible that XP rates were changed at some point after said post was made though.) I couldn't find anything on which guild was the first to hit level 600 or when, but apparently Stroke my Wookie of Darth Malgus hit level 500 in June of 2022.

I feel slightly sad now, both that I missed the opportunity to celebrate the ding itself due to not even realising that it was going to be special, and because our guild has no more levelling to do now. I just like making bars go up and I'll miss that.

When Twin Suns Squadron first hit level 100, I was so excited that I made a whole post about it. Then again when we hit 200, and again when our smaller Imperial alt guild hit 100. At some point it stopped feeling that exciting though, and like I said, I kind of started to think that we were (effectively) going to continue levelling forever. Now I wish I'd continued commemorating those milestones.

I figure there's no point in getting my hopes up that the devs will actually raise the guild level cap some day - after all, they never raised the maximum legacy level from 50 either. Plus the guild levelling/perk system hasn't really received much love over the years in general. I thought it was a really neat new feature when it first came out over five years ago, and Musco said at the time that they intended to "support [it] for a long time going forward".

I guess they technically did that in the sense that it's still functional and in the game, but it hasn't really received any more feature updates. They just fixed some small issues and bugs, and not even all of those at that. For example the "previous leaders" column in the Conquest leaders tab remains blank to this day, and we still don't have a way to tell when guild perks are rotating other than by checking the Jedipedia page, because there's still no in-game indicator for that five years later.

I don't know, it all just makes me feel a little melancholy. I suppose for whatever flaws it may have, SWTOR's guild levelling system remains solid and generally does its job. I certainly feel engaged by helping the guild I'm in on Shae Vizla grow and progress. I'm just a bit sad to see that particular part of the game come to an end for my main guild. I'll try to enjoy the 184 levels we have left on Imp side while I can.


Thoughts on the New Galactic Trade Network

In technical terms, patch 7.4's major new gameplay feature was a revamp of the Galactic Trade Network. I've never been an auction house baron in any MMO that I've played, but I do tend to buy and sell small items pretty regularly, so I was very curious to see what this would look like.

In fact, I was interested enough to download the Public Test Server client and check out the changes before they hit the live servers. I had a little play around and provided a bit of (what I hope was) constructive feedback in the dedicated forum thread on the subject, but I have to admit, my first impression wasn't super positive. It wasn't exactly negative either, it was just... for a revamp of such a major feature, I'd expected much more. The difference between World of Warcraft's classic and current auction house is like night and day for example.

The updated GTN however didn't seem that different, and while there were a few new features that looked nice, we were told that we were also losing a couple of bits of old functionality. It just didn't feel like more than a sidegrade, and I was honestly left with a slightly uneasy feeling initially.

Then the patch actually dropped, and fortunately things were fine, though I did see more than a couple of forum threads complaining about the lost features. There wasn't a huge outcry or anything, but I did see a few comments along the lines of "why such a major revamp for so little gain".

In fact, let's make a list of all the pros and cons of the new GTN that I can think of (feel free to let me know in the comments if I forgot anything).

Item purchase window for the new Galactic Trade Network


  • We get to see information on what price an item has been selling for historically, both in the long and short term. This makes it easier to judge demand and whether something is priced fairly.
  • There are new buttons to see the most recent listings, popular searches, or a small selection of favourite searches, for items you like to look up regularly.
  • Listings can now be set up to last for up to seven days (up from three).
  • There is now only one search result per item, and you simply enter the quantity you want to buy (without having to scroll through pages of one item each or anything like that).
  • Filters have been cleaned up, with some outdated categories removed and new ones added (I think?)
  • Seller names are no longer shown, which makes it harder to launder money or get up to other shady business.
  • Whenever you want to purchase something, it will only ever take the cheapest listing(s). This prevents people from buying overpriced items by accident or getting scammed by intentionally confusing listings.
  • Whenever you buy something, you can pick it up right there from the GTN; you no longer need to go to a mailbox.


  • The listing fee is no longer refunded once a listing sells or expires. This can result in a loss when low-priced items fail to sell repeatedly.
  • Crafted items with an augmentation slot on them now have that slot removed when put up for sale.
  • Most random gear drops from the open world can no longer be listed on the GTN.
  • When searching for crafting schematics, ones you already know are no longer greyed out. Thanks to Medullah for pointing out that this one was actually fixed between PTS and go-live.
  • With every purchase defaulting to the cheapest listing and seller names no longer visible, you can't intentionally purchase from a seller you like, or message someone to make them an alternative offer.
  • If you sell something or a listing expires, you get mail about it but also have to go to the GTN to actually pick up the goods; you no longer get them delivered to your mailbox.
  • This is probably a bug that might get fixed, but sometimes when you've performed a search and want to perform another immediately afterwards, you have to hit enter/the search button twice before the results update to the new search.

You can see that the number of pros and cons is almost equal, though of course not every item on either list is of equal importance. Having to hit enter a second time right now is not a big deal, while the new pricing history is a godsend for potential sellers.

Still, overall I would have expected more. For example, in the aforementioned WoW auction house revamp, they made it so that when you put something up for sale, it immediately shows you the current listings with their prices, which is information you'll definitely want so you know what price to set for your own listing. On the new GTN however, you still need to go to the search tab and perform a search first as if you were looking to buy, and in fact there is now an extra click required to see the full range of existing prices for that item.

Also, some features are double-edged swords... I was initially pleased to be able to list items for seven days for example, but it turns out that the fee for this is higher per day than for the other options, and with the new system encouraging undercutting like never before (since you literally can't buy anything but the cheapest item), leaving a listing up for that long is likely to just end up being a waste of credits as you're likely to be undercut pretty quickly.

That said, I'm hopeful that the answer to the question of "why such a major revamp for so little gain" is that there is more to come. I'm not a developer, but I know from my interactions with devs at work that sometimes when you want to update something, it's actually easier to code everything new from scratch than to untangle decades-old spaghetti code written by someone who left the company years ago. I imagine that SWTOR's GTN could have been in a similar situation, and that it was simply easier for the SWTOR devs to rebuild it before doing anything else than to try and bolt new features onto the existing framework. They do still want to add those buy orders after all...


Struggling with Credits on Shae Vizla

I hit level 80 with my first character on Shae Vizla shortly before the new year. It's still kind of funny to me that I'm effectively a "warrior main" over there right now, strictly because "complete missions as a Jedi knight or Sith warrior" was a seasons objective during the server's launch week.

Story-wise, she's only just finished chapter two of her class story, but that's still better than I usually do with story progress before getting distracted by other activities.

Since I'm currently aiming to do more on this server than just seasons objectives, I thought I'd jump onto the gear treadmill. It was a strange experience to actually run out of Conquest commendations while picking up gear, and I was kind of taken aback when seeing that even buying what I tend to think of the "cheap starter gear set" costs about ~250k credits, with prices increasing for item level upgrades. On any other server, I'd consider that chump change, but on Shae Vizla, credits remain precious. I briefly felt inspired to do a round of Dromund Kaas heroics solely for the purpose of making money but was quickly reminded of why that kind of gameplay bores me.

My Sith warrior Apacella seething next to the Conquest gear vendors on the fleet

The economic situation in general is really interesting to me though. SWTOR has had issues with inflation for a while (even if I personally didn't think it was as much of a problem as some people made it out to be), but the devs have taken measures to combat it in the past year that have actually been really effective. My personal measuring stick for this have been the blue flagship encryptions, which I remember selling for about 200-300k credits a pop once upon a time when Conquest was still relatively new. At the peak of inflation, they were going for more than ten million a piece, but now they are down to about one million again - on my home server Darth Malgus, that is. On Shae Vizla they sell for 15-30k each right now (not that I've been selling mine; they've been going towards the guild bank).

While levelling, I generally felt that I was in a good place in terms of credits. There were some small expenses like quick travel or locking in an outfit in the outfit designer, but none of this was too bad (outfit designer costs scale with level and are cheap when you're a lowbie). However, now that I've hit max level, I feel like there are credit sinks left and right that make it challenging to save up for anything.

This is an interesting contrast to when the game launched. I found that in this post from March 2012, I noted that credits had been a bit of a struggle while levelling up, as paying for new skill ranks at the trainer was expensive, but once I hit max level, there wasn't really a lot to spend money on, even as a round of Belsavis dailies netted me 100k credits each time. (Though it's interesting to see how that number felt like a lot to me back then. Even on Shae Vizla, a million credits doesn't feel like a lot to have right now, at least not to me.)

Nowadays you only have small expenses while levelling, but then you hit max level and:

  • Building outfits becomes expensive, costing 100k+ credits for a full outfit at level 80. Not to mention the cost of purchasing dyes for example.
  • As mentioned above, the gear vendors charge considerable fees for every piece of gear you buy or upgrade.
  • Unlocking legacy perks is another credit sink running in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. While the legacy system was added very early in the game, it wasn't there yet at launch when I started.
  • Death can also get expensive. On my fully-kitted out Commando on Darth Malgus, one death costs 30k+ credits, which doesn't even register with me over there, but on Shae Vizla you may find that kind of cost noticeable. In fact, I found it interesting that there are posts on the forums complaining that progression raiding on SV isn't really viable right now because wiping repeatedly incurs a high cost that requires way too much grinding to compensate for. I'm not really in a position to comment on the validity of that complaint, but it's noteworthy to me that this is even a talking point.

I was somewhat reminded of something that happened in my guild on Darth Malgus not too long ago, when someone returned to the game after a long absence, made their way to the level cap, and then fizzled out with a bit of a rant about how they found the endgame to be grindy and boring. I responded to them at the time that the game could indeed be like that if you were hell-bent on playing only a single character, but that it's designed around the idea of making you play alts, which immediately alleviates a lot of those issues.

I think I basically need to heed my own advice from back then and consider that even if I do want to gear up a bit on Shae Vizla, there's no need to rush it, and that I should keep working on my alts to strengthen my legacy as a whole. My wealth should automatically increase over time that way, without the need to start grinding for cash.

Either way, it's another interesting aspect of the "fresh start experience". When I started playing on Leviathan and Tulak Hord in Galactic Season 2 and ran into issues with needing credits to finance buying out a few levels on the seasons track, I could "cheat" by buying a dye from the Cartel Market and selling it on the GTN for a billion credits, which meant that I was immediately set for life in terms of any normal gameplay expenses. On Shae Vizla there are no shortcuts like that (at least as of now).


Is SWTOR Unusually Bottom-Heavy?

One feature of the 7.4 patch that wasn't officially announced but got noticed by players on the PTS was a number of small graphical updates to low-level content, the most striking of which was the retexturing of Korriban. I had to take comparison screenshots for myself when I first heard about it, which you can find below.

A Sith standing on Korriban during patch 7.3. The environment looks very orange and sandy.
A Sith standing on Korriban on the patch 7.4 PTS. Increased texture detail makes the environment look more grainy and brown.

I find it quite interesting how the devs continue to subtly improve and tweak the starter planets and other early levelling content (such as when the Black Talon and Esseles received improved cut scenes a couple of years ago). It's not unusual for older MMOs to drastically revamp their starting experience if they feel that it has become outdated, but these smaller tweaks are fascinating to me.

Another one I encountered personally and that initially confused me was that the optional champion probe droid at the end of the Chamber of Speech heroic on Tython was turned into a gold assault droid that blocks your path now. Why? Who knows, but somebody at Broadsword clearly thought it was a worthwhile change to make.

At the same time, they have to be very careful with adjustments like that because SWTOR's early game is still incredibly precious to people. The low levels tend to be a particularly enjoyable experience in many MMOs, but I can't think of any others that I know where many players would outright say that the lower-level game is better than the max-level game, which is a sentiment I see people express about SWTOR quite often. Even if you really enjoy the newer stories (like I do), it's hard to deny that the base game with its eight distinct class stories wins in terms of sheer volume of varied content available.

The other week I saw a reddit thread (which I unfortunately can't find anymore or I would have linked it too) where someone said that they had a "problem" because all their characters tended to fizzle out around Hoth, at which point they'd just start over. At the same time the poster didn't really sound that unhappy about it though, and like they were actually having a good time going through the starter experience over and over again, and there were quite a few commenters who concurred.

Even among those who actually finish the class story and reach the level cap, I'm always surprised by the number of people I see on reddit (a place that by definition attracts a more engaged audience) who've never even played through any of the later expansions and don't seem particularly bothered by it. I'm sure that players like this exist in other MMOs as well, but games like WoW for example tend to push you towards endgame quite vehemently, so I can't imagine that play style being hugely popular there. With SWTOR though... I really do wonder just how many dedicated players (not just new ones, who obviously start off at the bottom by default) are happily just puttering away in low-level content for months or years on end.

I can imagine that this must make for a bit of a conundrum for the devs sometimes, to justify the development of new story content at max level when many players don't even go there (which in turn makes it more understandable why many MMOs try hard to push you into it). Then again, I'm pretty sure that there are still quite a few players like me as well, who are always excited to check out new story releases (and subscribe to check them out).

What's your experience with this? Do you know anyone who just sticks to the base game by choice? Or maybe you yourself prefer to hang out in low-level content?