Adopt-a-Grophet

With Onslaught coming to an end in just a month, it’s time to take stock of my over-stuffed inventories and clear out the clutter in preparation for Legacy of the Sith. I am a longtime MMO pack rat, and one of the changes coming with 7.0 is the removal of the Renown system and apparently its associated stash, and, well, I’ve been storing a “few” companion pets in my characters’ stashes and it’s high time I found them a good home!

These little fellows were previously available in Knights of the Fallen Empires Galactic Command crates, and whether it was out of a love of critters or sheer stubbornness,  I refused to ever grind pets into Command XP. Over the course of the expansion, my Legacy’s stashes became overrun with hundreds of Grophets and Ginxes. Rather than lose them to the void, I’d like to deliver as many as I can to a good home.

If you are on the Star Forge server, I will gladly send, free of charge, this lovable pair of pets to anyone who wants them! This offer is good as long as supplies last, and, believe me, supplies WILL last!

If you’d like to adopt a Grophet and a Ginx, send an in-game SWTOR mail to “Iamthe Grophet” on the SITH SIDE, or you can leave a comment on this post, or you can Tweet @IntisarNOR or you can leave a comment on the reddit post announcing this giveaway. Include your character’s name (remember to be mindful of spaces and special characters) and your faction, and I’ll gently put them on the first hyper-train from darkest Rishi to your stronghold’s mailbox.

As a special perk for readers of this blog, if you’d like some extras for your alts, let me know and I’ll tuck in up to four of each to your in-game mail!

If you’ve ever wanted the perfect pet to help you role-play as Nicholas Cage or Din Djarin, here’s your chance!

Update! Offer Good While Supplies Last

Over the past long weekend, I lost count of how many pets I sent out, but it was in the range of two hundred. I made a big dent in my stash, but my supply is not exhausted. Please consider this offer evergreen! My original tweet and reddit post will soon fade from my feed, so if you come across this next week, next month, next year, feel free to send a note to “Iamthe Grophet” on Sith Side, Star Forge, or leave a comment below, or tweet at me and I’ll cut some holes in a shoe box, pack it with an old towel and some newspaper and send a Star Wars pig and toad your way as soon as possible.

 

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Whatever Happens, Happens: Five Predictions for 2022

This week, let’s continue this blog’s annual tradition of embarrassment with my top five predictions for SWTOR in 2022!

Before we begin, I should take stock of last year’s list. Even though my predictive track record is traditionally not good, last year was a total miss. Looking over the post, I did briefly consider that the year might end with an expansion announcement rather than an actual expansion, but discarded that notion as unlikely. Ah, youth!

So this year, there is nowhere to go but up! However, it’s been tough to come up with predictions this time around. I’ve already engaged in plenty of wild speculation about Legacy of the Sith, and it’s hard to predict too much beyond what little we know already. Nevertheless, I’ll try to focus my speculation to what happens after 7.0 and what we know of its content.

Ready for Launch

I feel certain that Legacy of the Sith will indeed debut on February 15, its second announced launch date. I’ll give them a day or two wiggle room, but I don’t imagine it is a stretch to say that folks at Bioware really, really don’t want another delay. Will there be bugs and glitches? Of course there will. This isn’t my first MMO, and I’m sure we’ll have to endure some growing pains as we gear up, wait for things to get fixed and see how players are actually interacting with 7.0’s new systems.

Hopefully most bugs won’t affect the average player, but veterans know to strap themselves in and get ready for a bumpy ride for the first part of the expansion. The early weeks of Legacy of the Sith should be an interesting time in SWTOR, but hopefully not too interesting!

That Eriadu That You Do

While much of what we know about Legacy of the Sith focuses on Darth Malgus and the conflict between the Republic and the Empire, I don’t think the burgeoning Mandalorian civil war will be ignored. I have a feeling the next phase of that story will take us to the planet Eriadu. Heta Kol’s interest in Clan Cadera may be leading her to Eriadu where Clan Ordo fought alongside Torian Cadera prior to his introduction to SWTOR’s main story. That Eriadu appears on the starmap of Heta Kol’s path through the Outer Rim is probably not a coincidence. Is it a hint or red herring? I’m sure we’ll find out this year.

Beyond that, I have no idea what might be coming next. I still think Darth Malgus might meet his end on Elom, but I’m no longer feeling quite as sure as I did at this time last year. Will Darth Nul be the next big threat to the galaxy? It seems like a safe bet, but it remains too early to tell.

Origin Stories

Combat Styles and Load Outs are SWTOR’s big system changes coming with the expansion, but I fear an unintended consequence of characters having two Combat Styles is that the difference in gameplay between our characters might flatten out the uniqueness of our alts. I have many characters that I play to fill certain rolls in group content: a Shadow I made just to tank, a Sorcerer who only heals, etc. Come Legacy of the Sith when my group needs a tank while I’m playing my healer, I’ll just click a couple buttons to go from Sage to Shadow and Bob’s your uncle. While one character won’t be able to cover every single style, we’ll have more versatility in swapping roles. That’s pretty neat, especially since it will allow me to spent more time playing the characters I like the most, but I hope that doesn’t reduce out the importance of our Origin Stories especially when it comes to SWTOR’s ongoing narrative.

An Agent playing as an Operative and a Bounty Hunter playing as an Operative, should still have different story experiences. The difference can be subtle, but still feel big. For example: let’s see the return of our class ships as not only means of transport to new worlds, but also as settings for conversations. It’s become a running joke in the game itself how many of those Zakuul shuttles we’ve crashed, and I think it’s high time we take flight in our classic, iconic ships again.

I also think they can personalize the story with companion interactions. Instead of having Lana delivering the same exposition to each character, how about Troopers get their briefing from Jorgan, Consulars from Iresso, Sith Warriors from Pierce and Agents from Temple? Everyone would be getting the same information, but it would go a long way to make each play through feel different.

SWTOR has a huge cast, and wrangling them all into recording booths, especially in this day and age, must be a logistical nightmare, so I know what I’m suggesting is highly improbable, but I always like it when the game remembers that my Consular isn’t the same character as my Jedi Knight.

More Customizations

I was very happy indeed to see on the PTS several new hairstyles and complexion options in the character creator. More diverse and inclusive customizations are always welcome, and I hope what we’ve seen on the PTS is only the beginning. Obviously, I’d love to see more hairstyles, beards and make-up options for everyone! More skin colors and tattoos (including full body ink) for Mirialan, Rattataki, Togruta, Twi’leks and Zabraks! More elaborate horns for Zabraks and piercings for Rattataki! I’d love to see Cyborgs have access to weird and distinctive enhancements: glowing robotic eyes, segmented faces and mechanical jaws. How cool would it be if Valance’s half-metallic skull became an option for Cyborgs?

I could suggest new additions for days, but I do hope for more appearance options for our characters inspired by the evolving interpretations of the peoples of the Star Wars universe that we have seen since SWTOR‘s launch. I honestly don’t know how much bang for the buck new haircuts or tattoos get versus a cool armor set or weapon, but I definitely feel like the options from SWTOR’s character creator are starting to pale in comparison to the competition and the more of those we can get the better.

Once Porg Unto the Breach, Dear Friends

Look, you knew this one was coming. I seriously considered giving up on Porgs this year, and instead would’ve devoted this last prediction to a desperate hope and plea that SWTOR not embrace NFTs this year. But I want to keep the tone of this list light, and any such prediction would’ve ended with me curled up on the floor, sobbing “Please, God, no.” Beside SWTOR already has a cash shop, and while you may not like the Cartel Market, at least it isn’t preventing anyone from getting a PS5.

Moreover while watching Aviriia’s interview with Charles Boyd last fall, I couldn’t help but notice that, SWTOR’s Creative Director had a Porg perched on the bookshelf behind him. To that all I can ask is this: WHERE IS MY PORG, CHARLES? WHERE IS MY PORG?!

So this is it. I’m calling it now. 2022 will be not only the year of the Porg, but also the Loth Kitty, the Flesh Raider Baby, the Force Owl and the Rancor Toddler. I predict our characters’ menageries will overflow every wide-eyed, adorable critter the galaxy has to offer. But no Grogu, That’s just crazy talk.

So here’s to 2022! Last year was pretty quiet, and I hope SWTOR makes up for it with a tenth anniversary filled to the brim with new characters, breathtaking locations, exciting action and unexpected plot twists that we can all enjoy together. I realize this year’s predictions have ventured a bit farther into what I hope for Legacy of the Sith rather than what I actually foresee, but it seems to me that the days before an expansion are a great time to dream big. What are your hopes and predictions for this year of SWTOR? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Galactic Seasons Interview with David Staats

This week, I have have been given the opportunity to interview David Staats, a System Designer at Bioware about the upcoming second Galactic Season, “Shadows of the Underworld” which will begin with the launch of Legacy of the Sith in February. I want to thank David for taking the time to comprehensively answer my questions and everyone at Bioware who helped make this possible!

For readers who might not know, would you mind introducing yourself? What is your role at Bioware and how does it relate to Galactic Seasons?

David Staats: Absolutely! My name is David Staats and I am one of the Systems Designers here at BioWare working on Star Wars: The Old Republic. I originally joined the SWTOR team back in 2014 just after the launch of Galactic Strongholds and remained on the team through our Shadow of Revan and Knights of the Fallen Empire expansions. I rejoined the team again in mid 2020 shortly after the launch of Onslaught and have loved being back as a part of this team and part of the greater SWTOR community.

As a Systems Designer a part of our job is to create, balance, and maintain the core game reward loops and goals for players within SWTOR – all the stuff that a player does between their amazing story beats. This includes components such as Guilds, Conquest, Legacy, Crew Skills, Achievements, Group Finder, Strongholds, and more.

Galactic Seasons is one our newest systems in this nature, and one I have been involved with in every aspect–from its inception and initial development to its continued development into Season 2 and beyond. I work with our incredibly talented team of producers, artists, engineers, UI/UX designers, and Quality Verifiers (QV) to develop all aspects related to Galactic Seasons.

The first Galactic Season seemed to be structured towards completing objectives every day of the week if possible. I have heard players complain that if they simply did not have time to play on a given day or a week, they felt like they fell far behind. Is this something Season Two will address?

David Staats: Yes! This was a piece of feedback I took to heart and set out to address with Season 2.

When we balanced Season 1’s Galactic Season Point distribution, we did so with the intention that the average player would have plenty of time to complete the Season. We didn’t want to apply too much pressure on players that they felt like they needed to log in every day to make the progress required to earn the full rewards in the time allotted. In fact, the Season was balanced with the notion that the average player could complete the Season by only doing a small handful of days worth of Daily Priority Objectives with the occasional supplemental Weekly Priority Objective, and that player would still complete the Season with time to spare.

This was the intention, however, the feedback we received from players told a different story.

We felt this was extremely important to alleviate, so it was the very first and most important design change we tackled when we approached Season 2. Our plan to shift this focus from daily emphasis to weekly emphasis includes a few things.

A large part of the daily participation feeling was in the number of points a player could earn each week by completing all Daily Priority Objectives (42 points per week potential) when comparatively speaking to the Weekly Priority Objectives (24 points per week potential). Moving into Season 2, the total point percentage for Daily Objectives is now substantially smaller for Season 2 (16%) than it was for Season 1 (57%), while the total point percentage for Weekly Objectives is substantially higher for Season 2 (79%) than it was for Season 1 (32%). Our hope is that moving forward the Weekly Objectives will drive the core participation, with the Daily simply being supplemental.

Next, we are changing the distribution method of the Objectives such that all players will be provided 10 Weekly Objectives per week and just a single Daily Objective per day. This was done so that players who have time on a certain day could complete more of their Season progression in one go, rather than having it be spaced out over the course of the week. In addition, we also heard feedback that the Season 1 method of Objective delegation was leaving little to no room for players to participate in the Season together, so this change both alleviates the Daily participation feeling while also providing players more opportunity to plan their week with their friends.

Finally, we are adjusting what that Daily Objective is asking from players. For Season 2, that will simply be “Earn 25,000 Personal Conquest Points across your Legacy.” This would allow players the freedom and flexibility to play however they want while still making Galactic Seasons progress and alleviating that final bit of Daily participation concern.

Our ultimate goal is to fully relieve the pressure of daily participation, and rather invite players to participate in Galactic Seasons on a week-to-week basis. The feedback we received from Season 1 went directly into informing what changes were needed to meet this goal, and we encourage everyone to continue providing feedback as we progress into Season 2 and beyond.

There were also complaints that the objectives felt like “chores” or forced players into gameplay modes like PVP or GSF that they didn’t enjoy. To what extent is Galactic Seasons about encouraging players to try something new or simply allowing them to play however they want to complete objectives?

David Staats: It’s best to approach this as a comparison between two Systems we have in the game – Conquest and Galactic Seasons. Both are very similar in nature at their core – complete objectives and earn rewards.

Conquest is a system which we wanted to reward players for virtually anything they did in the game, and have those rewards be meaningful to one’s overall in-game progression (be that monetary, Guild, or equipment related progression). This allows the player to continue to progress through the game by simply playing any content the game offers. Because Conquest is so flexible however, it also has the potential to leave some players with decision paralysis. One could sit and shuffle through the expansive list of Conquest Objectives long before actually going out and doing anything.

When we set out to create Galactic Seasons we wanted there to be some overlap to Conquest. Seasons was intended as a system which rewarded players with mostly cosmetic items, but intentionally asked players to step outside of their comfort zone in order to obtain those rewards. We want Galactic Seasons to be a more directed and streamlined path to activities, becoming a system which complements Conquest, but not replacing it.

While the core intent of the systems is different, we still want to give players opportunities and room to progress through their Objectives in a manner they see fit best for them. This was our intent with some of the Objectives from Season 1 such as “Defeat non-player opponents across Belsavis, Hoth, Rishi, or Tatooine.” and “Complete [HEROIC] missions on either Alderaan, Balmorra, or Corellia.”.

With Season 2, we are continuing with and expanding on this type of Objectives design, while also updating how we present them to players each week. We are adding a handful of Objectives into Season 2 which give the player bonus progression for certain actions. This is intended to further provide ways for players to progress their Objectives in a way they felt best for them, including if a player wanted to further challenge themselves. Here are a few examples of Objectives we have planned for Season 2 which follow this new type of Objective design:

  • Ace of the Armada: Board your personal ship and complete Space Missions (1 point). Earn bonus progress for completing [HEROIC] missions (2 points).
  • Legacies of the Force: Complete Flashpoints (1 point). Earn bonus progress for completing Depths of Manaan, Assault on Tython, Korriban Incursion, or Secrets of the Enclave (requires content) (4 points). Earn additional bonus progress for defeating their Bonus Bosses (3 points).
  • Quelling the Uprising: Complete Uprisings (1 point). Earn bonus progress for completing Crimson Fang, Done and Dusted, or Firefrost (1 point). Earn additional bonus progress for completing them on harder difficulties (1 for Veteran, 2 for Master). (Requires a Subscription)

Looking at the ‘Legacies of the Force’ Objective above, the Objective requires 8 “points” to be completed. This provides the player with a few options:

  • For a player who does not want to run any of the listed Flashpoints, they could still make progress by running any other Flashpoint in the game, earning 1 point for each run regardless of the difficulty. While this may take more time, the option is completely viable and available for players.
  • For a player who does run one of the listed Flashpoints but may want to do it in Solo/Story Mode, they would still make progress by earning 1 point for running a Flashpoint, and an additional 4 points for it being a listed Flashpoint (for a total of 5 points).
  • For more of a challenge, a player could complete one of the listed Flashpoints while defeating that Flashpoint’s Bonus Boss to complete the Objective in a single Flashpoint run.

Any of the above methods and/or any variation of the above is a viable path to completion.

As also mentioned, we are now providing 10 Weekly Objectives for players each week, but the system only asks for 7 of those Objectives to be completed. Once those 7 Objectives have been completed, the remaining Objectives will be disabled, so if there is a certain Objective or Objective type you may not enjoy, there is more flexibility in Season 2 to avoid it.

SWTOR has an expansive amount of content within the game, and with that there is the opportunity for certain pieces of that content to become somewhat lost as players find the most efficient way to progress. We want Galactic Seasons to be a game map of sorts, providing a straightforward and clear path for players to follow to participate in the various types of content available, and with Season 2 we are taking that notion to the next level with the Objectives.

As SWTOR is an MMORPG, we support and encourage group play and want to provide opportunities for players to experience other parts of the game they may not have in the past.  It has been incredibly wonderful to read comments across various channels that players have found a new joy in Galactic Starfighter!

Can we plan on Season Two and perhaps future seasons lasting as long as Season One?

David Staats: Yes, and for a few reasons.

First is that we want to offer ample time for players to progress through the Season without a fear of missing out. Shorter time periods create more pressure to get as much done as quickly as possible, and that is not our goal with Galactic Seasons. We want Galactic Seasons to remain as a longer term goal players can work toward over time, and enjoy the ride – something you want to come back to week-after-week to progress rather than binge through and move on.

We also want to allow some small windows of time between Seasons for players to unwind from the previous Season. Galactic Seasons can be a long commitment window, and we want to encourage a healthy play balance with the game.

Finally, this cadence gives us an internal time-frame which allows us to create the content and rewards associated with Galactic Seasons to the quality we would expect them to be at.

Season 2 is currently planned to run from February 15, 2022 – July 5, 2022 with our release of Legacy of the Sith. As with Season 1, Credit Catch-Up will be available later in the Season and will remain capped at Reward Level 95 (and as usual, this is all subject to change).

Season One front-loaded many of its unique rewards like the companion Altuur zok Adon and the Shadowlight mount, and I always looked forward to days when I’d get a Galactic Season Token because that put me one step closer to being able to unlock one of the strongholds, but I confess I’d be a little less excited when I saw that I’d have some bracers or a green companion gift to show for my efforts that day. Will there be any changes in how rewards are distributed throughout the season?

David Staats: We want to ensure that the Season is kicked off with a bang – that players feel energized and excited about the rewards they are getting – and we will continue to evaluate the reward “highs” and “lows” for a more consistently enjoyable Season. As mentioned earlier, player feedback has continued to play a big part in how we are crafting Seasons, and the reward structure and cadence is certainly subject to that same notion.

Season 2 is designed to balance the “am I getting rewarded for my effort” feeling, not only because we are offering more rewards than we did in Season 1, but also because we are structuring the progression to focus on weekly participation over daily. If a player has a full day to complete all 7 of their Weekly Objectives, they could earn multiple Reward Levels all in one go and those “high” and “low” rewards will come together to help bring a more balanced reward cadence.

In Season 1, we offered Subscribers a total of 77 Rewards along the Subscriber Track, and 31 rewards across the Free/Preferred track. This resulted in a mixed reward cadence where Subscribers sometimes had empty reward levels in the Subscriber Reward track and only had a reward in the Free track to claim.

Players will be able to see on PTS that with Season 2, Subscribers are provided 100 rewards along the Subscriber Reward track alone, meaning there are no empty Reward Slots across the 100 Reward Levels on the Subscriber track. In addition, the Free track will be increased to 55 Rewards, meaning that Subscribers will often approach Reward Levels with 2 Rewards associated with it. While this is the intended pattern of rewards, it is possible that this can change.

We’re always looking for ways we can improve, so this type of feedback and further feedback on the cadence is greatly appreciated!

Should players expect that each season will have rewards exclusive to that season? For example, if someone missed out on gaining Altuur as a companion during Season One, will they ever be able to have another chance to earn him? Or will past rewards be retired for good?

David Staats: Ultimately yes, it is possible that we will offer previous Season rewards, however there is a fine line to this. Some rewards are better suited to be brought back, while others we want to maintain their exclusivity, and that is a notion we have and continue to approach very mindfully with any reward we bring back which may have been previously retired.

We have intentionally designed the rewards for Galactic Seasons with the mindset that they could be brought back for players who may have missed them. If and when we approach this it will likely be done in the same vein as how we structured Ki’at Thavo (the Seasons Reward vendor), where only certain items from a Season will be made available, and will likely require Galactic Season Tokens.

However, there are no plans for Season 2 to bring back any Season 1 rewards for players to obtain.

The first two seasons seem to be themed around their signature companion. Will that be the model going forward? And will each season’s theme be separate from SWTOR’s ongoing story or related to events going on in the game at the time?

David Staats: Our plans for Seasonal themes will definitely include a strong connection to the Companion for that Season, but we are also looking into a larger theme which that Companion and players can fall into. When we were looking at the theme for Season 2 we took a larger picture approach – what is something which really speaks as a central theme to Star Wars, and how can we incorporate that theme into all aspects of the Season?

For Season 2, we landed on Syndicates of the underworld, a theme which is extremely prevalent throughout Star Wars stories, from the original trilogy, to the Clone Wars series, to more recent stories such as The Mandalorian. Knowing we wanted to explore that as a central theme, we then looked at what that theme meant for the overall picture of the Season – how does the Companion character (Fen Zeil) fit into that theme, how do the rewards fit into that theme, how can we better incorporate the Objectives for the Season into that theme, and what kind of story can we tell with that theme?

Star Wars offers lots of opportunities for incredible storytelling, and we want Galactic Seasons to have its own unique approach to that, individual of what the player might be tackling for their own character’s story. We want Galactic Seasons to be relevant for any player at any point in their own story progression, so while there may be small nods or acknowledgements of the most up-to-date story, we also want it to keep its own time frame in terms of what may or may not be happening across the Galaxy.

 

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February of the Sith

Late to the party as usual, I still feel like I should comment on the big announcement that Legacy of the Sith has been delayed until February 15th of next year.  Many, many folks assumed a delay was inevitable, but this was a bigger one than expected.

This year has been especially light on story content, and I am very much looking forward to jumping back into the thick of things, so it’s a drag that I will have to wait a couple more months. But I think it’s for the best. The version of the PTS that went up this week still doesn’t feel polished, and I would expect that the expansion should launch in a state better than “mostly playable.” As any veteran player can tell you, problems, even very serious ones, that pop up in SWTOR before the December break have traditionally not been addressed until well into January. So rather than rush to meet an arbitrary deadline, the good folks in Austin will get to go into the holidays at an easier pace, and should be able to take some extra time to tighten the nuts, patch the leaks, and smooth the edges out of the expansion. In the long run, it can only be a good thing.

However, delaying the expansion one week before launch and just three after the initial date was even announced is not a good look for Bioware. Does it affect me personally? No. In fact, I’m actually kind of glad that I won’t have to worry about gearing up over Christmas vacation. I’ll spend the extra couple of months keeping on keeping on. I’ve got plenty of achievements to knock out and enough alts in need of care and feeding that I won’t be lacking things to do. But I know other folks are feeling done with Onslaught and will be taking the time to check out other games.

In addition, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that other players might’ve subscribed early to catch up on story or re-familiarize themselves with the game in anticipation of next week’s announced update. SWTOR has long been a game that allows players to come and go as they please, and someone who took Bioware at their word that Legacy of the Sith would be launching next week shouldn’t have to re-subscribe in February.

If it were up to me (and, to be clear, it isn’t) I’d say anyone with an active subscription on December 14, should automatically receive access to Legacy of the Sith. In fact, I’d go even further. Anyone subscribed at any point between now and February 15, should get access to the expansion’s story and leveling content.

Look at me, spending EA’s money!

Titans of Industry, part 3

Finally, let’s not neglect the Aurebesh any longer and take a quick return visit to the moon CZ-198 to check out this hover train car that can be found in the freight depot in the bowels of the Czerka controlled installation.

The translation of the transport company’s logo is not complex at all, and it reveals a name that is either a fairly unusual surname, or perhaps a spelling mistake. The rules surrounding the usage of “I before E” have long vexed me, so if it is in error, it’s not one I’d ever hold against someone. If we read it as “Field Transit”, then the company name is somewhat mundane. I wonder if the logo’s design suggests another possibility. Could the prominent circle be symbolic of a sun or star? If so, “Starfield Transit” strikes me as a rather more poetically Star Wars name.

Spelling error or odd name? The galaxy may never know!

 

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Opa! Opal Vulptilla Winners!

I am very happy to announce the winners of my Opal Vulptilla mount raffle! Yep, not winner but winners! Because of how many entries I received, I decided to pull three names from the hat. Congratulations to cyberchp, Nimue, and Tannsrw! Check the in-game mail of the character on your entry for details about how to redeem your mount.

Thank you to everyone who entered! I enjoyed reading every single comment, and I appreciate everyone who took time out of their day to stop by my weird little corner of the internet.

And, of course, Fherr is correct. The Twi-lek is Kephess. I don’t know how I missed it.

 

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Life Moves Pretty Fast

Last month, I discussed how much I enjoyed participating in the Best View in SWTOR contest. I had an excellent time exploring the galaxy and taking a snap shot or two. Yesterday the winners were announced, and although none of my submissions were selected, I thought I should at least share them here.

First, however, I want wish a hearty congratulations to all the winners! I can see why each landscape was chosen and I look forward to putting their decorations on display in my strongholds.

As for my entries, I won’t waste your time with much commentary. If I’m being honest, I think most if not all of the winning submissions are superior to my own. Still, I am happy with my efforts. My favorite snapshot from my batch is the Zakuul oasis, but I can see how it is probably not an iconic view of the planet. I am also fond of the Tython and Tatooine landscapes. The Ord Mantell picture took some patience. Because of phasing issues, it seems the Smuggler’s ship is only visible to players in the outside world when someone else is just starting the Smuggler’s class story, the rest of the time the landing bay is empty. I had to be quick with the screenshot button when the ship phased into view! And, finally, yes, my Makeb vista was snapped in almost exactly the same spot near the infamous Makeb datacron as the winner’s. Great minds think alike!

Hutta

Korriban

Makeb

Mek-Sha

Ord Mantell

Ossus

Tatooine

Tython

Yavin IV

Zakuul

If your submissions are online somewhere, let me know, I’d love to see them!

There are many more worlds to visit, and I hope Bioware revisits this type of contest in the future.

 

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Who’s that Twi’lek?

Last Thursday, Bioware hosted a livestream to focus on the story of SWTOR‘s upcoming expansion  Legacy of the Sith. It was a short one, but they did not waste any time getting the news out. They shared some information about where we’ll be going and who we’ll be going there with. It was neat to see some old and new faces and places, but the developers also made sure to include two big pieces of information.

The first was entirely expected and long awaited: the expansion’s release date is December 14, 2021, less the one month from now! It will be an exciting race to the finish line. I think it would be generous to call the state of the game on the PTS “a work in progress” and I truly hope the team at Bioware will be able to get everything in working order for the launch with plenty of time to spare.

New Twi’lek, Who Dis?

The second big reveal was rather more unexpected, and I must tip my hat to the good folks in Austin for putting it out there and not remarking on it at all.

We caught our first glimpse of a mysterious new character in the lovely key art that will serve as Legacy of the Sith’ loading screen, followed by a few tantalizing frames at the very end of the teaser trailer.

Recently Bioware has been rolling out remastered versions of SWTOR‘s amazing cinematic trailers, and if you haven’t watched them in a while, it is worth it to revisit them in high definition to be reminded about what a breathtaking introduction to the game’s setting they are!

I thought the days of these types of cinematics in SWTOR were over. But when they revealed a new CGI model of Darth Malgus on the cover of Star Wars Insider, I started to wonder, but did not dare get my hopes up. However, one look at those big blue eyes, and it was immediately obvious that this shot was not rendered in SWTOR’s game engine. Something is coming, and I cannot wait to see it.

This past summer I took Bioware to task for not giving us enough to anticipate or wonder about for Legacy of the Sith, but with one loading screen and a few frames of video, they’ve excited my interest and got me asking questions!

The first and foremost is, of course, who is she? With my tin-foil-hat firmly in place, I have a theory. I think she is Darth Malgus’ daughter. While Eleena Daru came to a tragic end at Malgus’ hands, it does not strike me as impossible that she bore him a child. If true, this leads too all sorts of additional questions. Who raised her? Did Malgus know about her? Does she know who were parents are?

And I think there are some clues in what we’ve seen and heard already.

She carries a purple lightsaber, a color which Tau Idair’s voice actor Enuka Okuma aptly described in the livestream’s pre-show as a balance of the Jedi’s traditional blue lightsaber and the Sith’s red. Moreover, the figure wears black armor over white robes, imagery which again bridges the Jedi and Sith. I don’t believe any of this is by accident.

Is she Jedi? Is she Sith? Could she be neither? The notion of “Gray Jedi” is a contentious one. Personally it’s never appealed to me as a formal designation or coherent philosophy, but the concept of Jedi and Sith who exist outside their respective codes has long been a part of Star Wars and especially Old Republic lore. And Malgus’ voiceover in the teaser indicates a clear desire to break free of both the Sith and Jedi.

Is this woman part of his plan for that? His hope for that? His tool for that? And what does she think about her role in all of this?

I think the final clue comes in the name of the expansion itself. It may not be a metaphor at all. As the child of Darth Malgus, she would be the literal Legacy of the Sith.

Like I said, I have questions but no answers. And I love it!

Opal Vulpltilla Raffle

Finally, to celebrate this week’s announcements, I am lucky enough to be able to share with my community a chance to win an Opal Vulptilla mount. To enter this raffle, all you need to do is leave a comment below this post. Who do you think the mysterious Twi’lek is? What is your favorite Aurebesh letter? Will you redecorate your Manaan stronghold to reflect the war there? Which returning character will we be able to romance in 7.0 and why is it Darth Rivix? Let me know what SWTOR thoughts are on your mind! However, I must insist that you DO NOT post datamined spoilers from the PTS. I will delete and disqualify any such comments.

To enter, leave a comment below with the following information:

  • Your character name (be mindful of spaces and special symbols!)
  • Your faction
  • Your server

That’s it! I will accept entries for two weeks from this posting and will randomly select the winner on December 4 at 12 PM ET.

If you prefer not to comment publicly, I will also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com or through twitter.

There are no country or server restrictions on any of the prizes that will be awarded.

This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with LucasFilm Ltd, BioWare or Electronic Arts Inc.

We’re on the honor system here, so one entry per person, please.

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing everyone in Legacy of the Sith!

If you’re new here, I hope you’ll take a look around. I’ve been translating SWTOR’s alien languages for more than five years now and sharing commentary about the state of the game as I see it.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Iokath is Good, Actually

I feel like I’m overdue for a Dumb Top Five list, and while we have a moment to catch our breath between Legacy of the Sith announcements, I thought I’d pick a particularly hopeless lost cause to champion. For the record, I’m not trying to pick a fight with anyone in particular. The simple fact of the matter is that whenever anyone mentions Iokath, it is almost always in the context of how much they hate it.

However, long time readers will know that I’ve always offered at least lukewarm support of Iokath so, sure, if I’m gonna die on a hill, let that hill be the machine world run by SCORPIO. So as part of this project’s goal to spotlight parts of the game that some players might have overlooked, here are my top five reasons why Iokath is actually good.

Iokath is Just Cool

Questing across the inner surface of a Dyson sphere is one of those mind blowing scifi concepts that can be difficult to wrap our heads around.

Iokath dwarfs the largest sentient made structures in all of Star Wars lore. The closest thing to Iokath SWTOR players will have encountered is Kuat Drive Yards, the artificial ring around the planet Kuat, and that’s not even close at all. Iokath is a sphere whose perimeter is likely similar to the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun, and encloses and draws in the entire radiant output of a star! There are whole other planets orbiting inside of Iokath! Iokath’s surface area is several hundred million times that of the Death Star! It’s an astonishing notion to think about. Its makers are also responsible for the Gravestone, the Eternal Fleet and the pantheon of Zakuul’s Machine Gods, some of the most terrifying powers in the history of the entire galaxy.

So next time you’re on Iokath, look up and know that’s not sky you’re seeing. It’s an endless expanse of technology enveloping everything around you within an Astronomical Unit.

Iokath is Easy

This is probably where I’m gonna lose people. “Iokath is confusing!” “It’s a pain to get anywhere!” On my early visits, I certainly agreed, but whoever designed Iokath, I’d argue, did make it easy to traverse. Once I began to understand how the teleporters and trams connected across the zone, I discovered I had no problem getting from one quest area to the next. Armed with that knowledge, everything else came together.

The dailies lead players to two main areas: the Weapons Factory in the south of the main Expanse, and the instanced Docking Ring section near the Alliance Fleet Spire where players zone-in. There are other quests involving killing various types of droids, and those can be completed anywhere on Iokath. Otherwise there are a some other missions with objectives in the general Expanse area. These objectives are either near the faction bases, or accessible via teleport pads or tram stations.

Once I collect the dailies (Yes, I know. I’ll get to that later), I’ll decide whether I just need to turn around and drive back to the Docking Ring, or head to the Weapons Factory by quick-travelling to the Superweapon Command at the bottom of the map, then taking the tram to either Superweapon Command Entrance where the teleporter zaps me right next to another tram station that will drop me at the factory. It sounds more complicated than “Hop on your speeder and drive to the green arrow on the map,” but I get around Iokath quicker than I do Yavin or Section X.

I believe that having the missions spread out around the zone and questing be somewhat non-linear is fine, more than fine even. Exploration should be a part of the RPG experience and not every map needs to funnel players in a straight line from start to finish. It’s okay to let players find their own path or wander around a little.

Iokath is Fun

Fun is relative, of course, and in matters of taste there can be no disputes. The CZ-198 daily area is brilliantly designed to shuttle players through the zone in a non-stop frenzy of combat and quest object clicking, but sometimes I just want to do something different, and Iokath does a pretty good job scratching that itch.

I’ll concede that some people absolutely loath vehicle quests, but I don’t mind most of them. Rolling around as a seemingly harmless, chirping mouse droid and blowing an enemy walker to smithereens is good for a laugh. The turret daily is nigh impossible to fail and nice when I’m just looking to kick back and only press one or two buttons for a bit.

Above them all, I love the walker daily the most. I will never not enjoy stomping enemies into dust beneath my metal toes, blasting robots into next week with laser beams and raining missiles down on my foes.

If I just want to run around and kill mobs, SWTOR offers plenty of ways for me to do that, but I appreciate that Iokath at least wants to mix it up a bit with some oddball quests and and overall more relaxed pace. At the very least, the odds of having to compete with other players for quest objectives and mobs are significantly less on Iokath. If you in an anti-social mood, it’s the place to be.

Iokath has Good Rewards

First off, if you’re looking to score some Conquest points, Iokath will net you a bucketful. Assuming the values don’t change in 7.0, the weekly alone should still complete a character’s personal conquest.

In addition, the reputation rewards are nothing to sneeze at. The Iokath Annihilator armor set is, in my opinion, the best Sith themed reputation set in the game. The Republic counterpart, the Iokath Technographer set is a bit of an acquired taste, but its glowing piping and animated visor are as distinctive as anything you’ll find on the Cartel Market.

Each faction’s reputation vendor also has a decent selection of decorations. Personnel decorations are always useful for populating an empty stronghold, and I especially like the light cast by the Iokath Wall Lamp from the Republic vendor.

And if you want a big, pointy speeder to cruise around in, both faction’s vendors can set you up.

Iokath is Bad, Actually

In good conscience, I cannot gloss over the reasons people dislike Iokath. First and foremost, even though the weekly quest requires that we complete ten dailies, the quest terminal doesn’t actually offer enough quests to complete the weekly in one go. It seems, by design, Iokath is not meant to be completed in a single day.

This is fundamentally at odds with how nearly everyone, including myself, approaches daily areas. We want to get in and out all in one trip. People already don’t want to go to Iokath in the first place, expecting them to go back at least twice a week is silly.

To make matters even more confusing, the selection of quests offered on any given day rotates on a daily basis so that I may not be offered enough quests in a specific area to make going there a good use of my time.

My strategy when approaching Iokath is to collect quests early in the week and then check back later as the selection changes so that I get not only enough missions to complete the weekly but enough in the areas where I want to go. However, this tends to leave my mission log clogged to overflow when I’d prefer to leave room for others I want to complete that day.

To put it mildly, this is not at all player friendly design. If it were up to me, I’d put all the missions on the board and let players pick and choose the ones they want to do. At the very least, there should always be enough quests to complete the weekly, and if not every quest will be available, the ones that are should share common objectives and destinations to make completing them efficient.

Is Iokath good? No, but it could be. It should be! Players should not be expected to jump through extra hoops just to complete some dailies. Instead of keeping things fresh, the narrow and random selection of missions causes frustration and works to make visiting Iokath feel worse than it needs to be. Let players choose which dailies to take. Yes, someone will math out the most time-to-credit efficient path to take to complete the weekly in the fastest possible time, but I think that’s preferable to almost no one ever going there at all. And if other players want to mix things up and discover the joys of crashing around in a walker or grab a couple friends and take on the Colossus Droid, so much the better.

I like Iokath. I really do. When I manage to score a good mix of missions, it’s one of my favorite weekly areas. And if it could get out of its own way, I think more people might like it too.

Update!

If you are a fan of Iokath or are looking for some help to get into the area, do not miss “Daily Tour: Iokath” for some in depth commentary and guides to the dailies on Iokath by Shintar of the Going Commando blog. It includes helpful maps and suggestions for navigating the zone.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Welcome to the Hype Train

This week, I’m honestly not sure where to start!

Let’s take it slow and begin with a quick look at this sign seen outside the shattered Zoo enclosure at the center of Axial Park on Corellia. If you participated in the recent Feast of Prosperity event, you likely came across the sign on your way to fight Lucky the Rancor who an was objective of one of the World Boss ingredient daily quests.

At first glance you might think this sign is written in Aurebesh, but technically it’s not. Instead it uses “Galactic Basic” a font, which better matches the script glimpsed in Return of the Jedi. That text from the movie also inspired the official Aurebesh, but the two fonts don’t fully match. So while the fonts are similar, I’d say the are more step-siblings than directly related.

If you mouseover these signs near the Zoo, a pop up with alternate text appears. The literal translation indicates this is a welcome sign and its design with arrows and credit symbol are likely meant to point to a ticket booth, but the in-game translation turns this into a warning sign. In context, this make sense given that a dread-corrupter Rancor has broken from its cage, and it’s probably telling that that any authorized personnel who did enter the enclosure are no where to be found.

Legacy of the Sith Hype

The big SWTOR news is that after months of relative silence, a torrent of Legacy of the Sith information has been released, Bioware has made numerous posts about how various games systems will look in the next expansion, and SWTOR is even getting some welcome media exposure in advance of its tenth anniversary.

I should confess that I haven’t spent much time on the 7.0 Test Server. I was fairly active during Onslaught’s testing period but decided to lay off this time around so that I can go into the expansion with fresher eyes. That said I have been vicariously following the news and controversies roiling around the PTS. Nevertheless you shouldn’t consider my takes so much hot as tepid.

Some of the changes have me confused and asking “But why?” In general, however, I think I see what Bioware is aiming for, and I hope they’re able to hit their targets.

Among experienced players, the class changes have been the most fraught. I’m not up to date enough to go into any detail, but when it comes right down to it, ability bloat has become a real problem in SWTOR, and I can’t blame the developers for trying to rein it in. I don’t think we need three rows of buttons to play the game, and the sheer number of confusing and often redundant abilities makes learning the game intimidating to new players and even some veterans learning new classes.

I don’t envy Bioware this task. We’ve gotten used to having all these options, and for skilled players pushing the hardest PVP and PVE content, many if not all of those buttons find their use. Since the ability cull seems to be focused on defensive cooldowns, I’m not surprised tanks and pvp players are worried about what this means for their favorite characters.

This week saw lots of information for how Bioware intends gearing and itemization to work in Legacy of the Sith. I can’t possibly summarize it all, but basically different types of content will reward different qualities of gear. This marks an end to Onslaught’s “play your way” Spoils of War system. The last two expansions made it relatively easy for anyone to acquire the highest item rating gear, but they also fostered negative gameplay loops in that have lead to SWTOR’s group finder being dominated by Hammer Station and Toborro’s Courtyard. It’s not the player’s fault. To gear up fast of course people will run the easiest content for the best rewards.

But it’s not fun, and it’s not a great experience for new and veteran players alike who want to experience the breadth of SWTOR’s diverse group content only to be funneled into the same things over and over and over.

More difficult content will soon reward better gear. This is a good thing. I progressed through Veteran Mode Dxun and Nightmare Mode Explosive Conflict operations this year, and every single piece of equipment I got was ground into tech fragments. Honestly, it’s not a great feeling when collecting loot is more a bag-clogging nuisance than a reward for overcoming a challenging encounter.

It’s probably not an accident that Bioware has dusted off the Tionese, Columni, and Rakata names for the tiers of raid gear, since the expansion’s system is somewhat more old school in design. If you kill a boss, someone on the team gets an upgrade. There’s a reason that’s a tried and true model.

The advantage that 7.0 has over SWTOR’s earlier vertical progression systems is that everyone will have access to the same gear. No more will a solo player grind commendation tokens to buy gear with poor itemization and no set bonuses, gear which was worse than lower rated loot from operations. All players will be able to get Legendary items with “set bonuses,” and everyone will be able to collect and upgrade their equipment. There is no downside to everyone having access to good gear, and I just don’t see that changing.

But, yes, players engaging with the game’s most difficult content will have first crack at the best loot. That’s okay. Raiders make up such a small slice of the player base; let them have this.

I know some solo players are concerned about being left out in the cold. All I can say is that I’m not planning on doing much Nightmare raiding in Legacy of the Sith, so I will be in the same boat as them. I was most active raiding during the Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan expansions, and at no point did I ever have even a single character in a full set of best-in-slot gear, but I still killed lots of Hard Mode bosses, completed every flashpoint and had no problem running dailies and completing story updates. I will do the content I enjoy, collect the gear I get and upgrade it as best I can. I’m not worried.

If you are a solo player worried about gear, then let me encourage you to dip your toes into SWTOR’s truly wonderful flashpoints and operations. The group finder is not for everyone, no doubt about it, but running flashpoints with friends and guildmates is the best part of the MMO experience. There are lots of guilds that welcome players looking for a place to play at their own pace and are more than happy to introduce them to group content. Every weekend my guild hosts world boss hunts and operation runs, and we are always glad to teach folks new things. It’s never been easier to jump into SWTOR’s storymode operations, and seeing that notification when someone gets an achievement makes me smile every time.

This leads me to the announcement that Legacy of the Sith‘s new operations will not have 16 player modes. I have mixed feelings about this. I hear of few, if any, teams that progress on 16 player mode first. It’s almost always done after and only for the achievements, so I can see the value in focusing on the version of the operation that most people will actually experience. That said, I think its worth keeping 16 person modes for Storymode. Even my small guild often has more than eight on our Storymode nights, and we will bump things up to 16 person so that everyone can participate. Going even further, I’d love to see SWTOR swipe “flex raiding” from World of Warcraft for its Storymodes so that those operations could dynamically scale depending on the group size from 8 to 16 or potentially even 20 or 24!

Finally, we are racing to SWTOR‘s tenth anniversary, and still no release date has been announced. I am definitely looking forward to Legacy of the Sith, but the promised “holiday” release is looming ever closer, and it still seems like a lot of things are yet to come together. For now, I’m crossing my fingers, closing my eyes, and punching my ticket for the hype train.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Legacy of the Sith

A Billion Here, a Billion There…

The topic of inflation has come to a head recently in the SWTOR community as Hypercrates and other high value items have increased in worth beyond what the game’s auction house, the GTN will allow them to be sold for. I’m no game developer or economist, but I thought I’d add my two cents to the discussion, which in this economy won’t go far.

Inflation is a common problem in MMOs where credits are generated out of thin air and often never leave the game, but it’s been compounded in SWTOR where there have been in the past exploits allowing free credit generation and content lulls where there is little else for players to do but accumulate wealth without having much to spend it on.

During Onslaught I have made billions of credits casually selling excess crafting materials on the GTN. I typically post between two and five auctions when I log on, and then at the end of my session or the next day collect the proceeds from sales and replace what’s been sold. I’m not selling high value items, but have been making bank at a steady pace throughout the expansion.

And I’m not alone, I know many other billionaires, and I’m certain the “tres comas club” is hardly exclusive company anymore. I doubt SWTOR’s current credit sinks are making a big dent in the economy these days. The problem of how to drain trillions of credits from an artificial economy has got to be a tough nut to crack without drastic measures that enrage the rich and punish the poor.

However, there are steps that I imagine Bioware might take to cool things off in the forthcoming expansion, Legacy of the Sith.

First and almost most certainly, the day-to-day cost of doing business will increase. Expect to pay more for repairs, profession training, crew skill missions, pulling mods, and rerolling amplifiers. This is standard practice in SWTOR already, but I wouldn’t be shocked if those costs increase closer to the pace of the inflation we’ve seen. Should Tacticals and class set pieces sold by the Spoils of War vendors cost 10 million credits or more next time around, I won’t be surprised.

I make my own augments and stims, and it’s not worth it to run missions for the supplemental materials that are necessary for crafting. Instead I’ll pay a vendor hundreds of thousands of credits for the cloths, flux and recombinators needed to craft even a small stack of purple components. I bet the cost of crafting stims and augments will skyrocket in Legacy of the Sith. Likewise, if they add more craftable dyes and color crystals and other cosmetics (remember when Cybertechs could build speeders?), plan on needing expensive supplementary materials for those as well.

This is all fine. Credits are pretend money, and they’re meant to be spent and not gather dust in my Legacy bank.

I’ve also seen it suggested that the game could use more credit sinks. It is already significantly more expensive to unlock the newer strongholds than the old, and if they add new ones, opening all the rooms will surely not be cheap. I didn’t need to spend any credits catching up with Galactic Seasons, but I also didn’t hear of many people spending more than a few million on that themselves.

Would people crack open their piggy banks if Kai Zykken offered extravagant and expensive loot on an extremely limited schedule? There is some precedent for this. After game update 1.1.5 back in 2012, SWTOR added a limited time vendor that sold white color crystals for the then princely sum of 2.5 million credits, and I remember the fear of missing out was real as people scrambled to save up before the vendor went away.

I agree with the notion that Bioware would not offer Cartel Market items for sale for credits at any price, but there are rare and in some cases no longer available items from PVE and PVP content they could offer as replicas or reskins. But would that be enough to tempt a significant number of players to spend enough to the point where the economy cools down? Would you pay a billion credits for replica Wings of the Architect?

Lately I’ve been asking friends what would they spend a billion credits on, and no one has an easy answer, and I doubt there is a single magic bullet that would appeal to all players. The folks I know seem to be willing to pony up those credits up for something that has a long-term benefit to their characters or their guild. What that might be, I can’t say. A multi-passenger mount? No cooldown rocket boots? Legacy hood toggle?

Come the expansion, we might see a mix of expensive Legacy unlocks and cosmetic items added to any new Reputation vendors (and maybe some old ones as well), but I don’t know if Bioware would actually offer a billion credit item for sale, but if they do, I hope it’s spectacular.

Finally, I think it is possible that Bioware might follow the example of other MMOs and offer a way to turn credits in to Cartel Coins or game time. Since these transactions would be happening outside the GTN and player economy, Bioware would, in theory, be controlling the price and insuring that the value of credits never sink below a certain dollar or Cartel Coin amount and thus slowing inflation.

Some games allow players to purchase their version of Cartel Coins with in game credits, but I doubt this is a road Bioware would take. Perhaps instead we might see a SWTOR version of World of Warcraft’s “WOW Token” an item which can be redeemed by the owner for subscription time or cash shop credit. The Token’s real money cost is more than the regular subscription price, but it can be sold to other players for in game gold through a Blizzard controlled marketplace, not the auction house.

This allows players who are rich in the game to fully subsidize their subscription through the real life purchases of other players who don’t mind trading dollars for gold. I don’t know if this has meaningfully slowed inflation or gold selling in WOW. If I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of the WOW Token, and I’d be reluctant to see my SWTOR credits be tied to real money. It’s pretend money, and I think it’s meant to be spent on pretend things. I don’t want to feel like I have to choose between blowing a few millions credits for a cosmetic item on the GTN or saving a few bucks on my subscription. If that means inflation is a thing in the game, then so be it.

But I have friends who play WOW who do like the Token since it allows people with more free time than money to play, and people with less time to drop a few dollars and come away with enough gold to stay ahead of WOW‘s own inflating economy. As always, I do not ever want to tell people how to spend their money or their time, and it would be foolish of me to think my outside impression is correct.

My gut feeling, however, is that SWTOR won’t go down this path. At the very least I doubt Bioware has the infrastructure in place to smoothly and securely set up such transactions. But they have at least acknowledged the problem, and I hope they’ll be taking steps to address it as best they can. Who knows what the future holds? I surely don’t! Still, just to be sure, make certain you’ve got plenty of walking around cash when you get there.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith, Onslaught