Monthly Archives: June 2019

Dantooine, We’re on Dantooine

Before June closes out, I thought I’d slip in under the wire and share some quick thoughts on this summer’s two in-game events.

Dantooine’s Pirate Incursion is the first new recurring event added to the game in many years, and I’d say it’s a solid addition. Like the other events, it’s light on story, but what it lacks in narrative, it makes up in setting. I write this every time we visit a new planet in SWTOR, but Dantooine is another distinct and beautiful world to explore. Don’t ever take for granted the wonderful work the game’s environmental artists and designers do.

The events quests can be neatly divided in two: regular dailies and heroics. The circuit for the dailies will smoothly lead you around the zone, and there is a decent variety of quests which mix combat with exploration. As someone who likes to stop and admire the view and venture off the path for crafting materials, I can still complete the daily patrol quest in under 30 minutes of casual play. I also really enjoy any quest that has me playing as a mouse droid. I can’t explain it.

If you have some patience, skill and gear, the heroics can be soloed, but, really, why would you? Group up with one or more players and they become much quicker and more fun. They can be combat heavy, so be ready to fight.

The weekly meta quest on Dantooine asks players to complete more quests and heroics than are available in a single day, meaning that if you want to complete the weekly, you must visit Dantooine more than once in a week. This is something we’ve seen on Iokath and Ossus. While I cynically understand this is meant to push player engagement in the game, I don’t mind it so much for regular dailies, but for an event I find it annoying. I often use events as an excuse to dust my alts and get them some action with a bite sized time commitment. Combined with the fact that the event currency, unlike all the other event currencies in the game, is character and not legacy based, I essentially feel compelled to run the event on my main characters.

If I have to run the same quests on the same characters every time the event comes around, I can see the Pirate Incursion growing stale, perhaps faster than other events.

Dantooine also has a variety of achievements, some of which can be more easily completed in peacetime than when the actual event is active. Dantooine’s peacetime state is a neat addition to the game. Unlike the testing area on Ilum which is empty when the Gree event is not active or the tunnels which are not accessible at all outside of the Rakghoul Resurgance, players can visit Dantooine any time they want. There are a pair of simple quests to complete and a few scattered hostile mobs, but for the most part, you’ll just encounter farmers going about their day.

Since the advent of level sync, it’s become less possible to visit a planet in more or less complete safety. Sure, there’s no real need to visit Dantooine outside the event, but if you have time to kill, it might be a pleasant alternative to running laps around fleet or jumping on the furniture in your stronghold. One of my fond memories of World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade expansion was when I would just chill out on one of Nagrand’s floating islands and simply enjoy the view. If you’re wondering where to find me while waiting for an operations team to form or a flashpoint queue to pop, look for me relaxing under a tree on Dantooine.

For many players, the meat of these events is the rewards. In that regards, I’d call the Pirate Incursion a mixed bag. The highlights include Quick Vrik, the Ugnaught companion, the Kath Hound mount and pet and an extensive selection of Dantooine themed decorations, but there is nothing I’d really consider a “must have”. I would generously describe the reputation armor sets as “basic” and might be annoyed that they are Bind on Pickup instead of Bind to Legacy, but I can’t see any reason why I’d ever want to buy them anyway. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t dust off the pirate themed armor from Shadow of Revan’s Rishi questline with some bold colors and fancy effects.

Outside of the Cartel Market, there hasn’t been a new crafted or reputation based dye or color crystal added to the game since Knights of the Eternal Throne’s launch, and I wish the Pirate Incursion had given crafters some new fun stuff to make while we wait for Onslaught.

Lady Luck, Please Let the Dice Stay Hot

The Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event has made its yearly return to the Smuggler’s Moon. I don’t really have anything new to add to my previous review of the event. I’m very happy with the new decorations that can be purchased with Golden Certificates, but I was able to buy all I needed with certificates won last year. I’m indifferent to the new companion and without adding a new armor set or mount to the vendor, there really isn’t anything I feel a burning desire to to save up for, so I may not be spending much time clicking slot machines this year.

I don’t doubt that the reason the Dantooine and Nightlife rewards seem sparse is that Bioware’s focus is on Onslaught in the fall, but right now I wish there were more incentives for me to really care about these events.

I will be back later this week with some more Aurebesh. What can I say? It’s summertime! I get distracted when the weather gets nice.

 

Comments Off on Dantooine, We’re on Dantooine

Filed under General Star Wars, KotET

Conquest, What is it Good For?

I had been preparing some thoughts on the new Pirate Incursion event, but this week one topic has dominated discussions in guild chat, Discord and on Twitter: the changes to Conquest that were more or less rolled out Tuesday, after a rough and lagtastic launch last week. This post was inspired by and started as a comment on Shinter’s Going Commando blog post criticizing the change. I highly recommend folks check that out first!

I’m also a bit confused by the revision to Conquest. First and foremost, it seems like the change is still causing lag especially where farmers are gathered. I tried to run the non-bug hunt heroics on Balmorra, and the ability delay was noticeable even in an instance with as few as 30 people. Once the population hits the 90s it gets close to intolerable. Likewise, the lag on Dantooine is often rough. Whatever issues I have with Conquest, I’ll smoother play over easy Conquest points any day of the week.

As for those issues, I’m in a small guild with Republic and Sith branches to feed, and while we generally hit our small yield target, we’re still only levels 16 and 14. At the old rate, it might’ve been 2021 before we maxed out the guild’s level. If it didn’t matter I wouldn’t care. But large guilds have access to better perks and better rewards. Excepting guilds that are focused on Conquest and may or may not be using bots to craft medpacks, I don’t think our individual members are putting any more or less effort than folks in large guilds who succeed due to the economy of scale.

My guild would’ve hit a large yield this week, but I didn’t dream it would be possible, so I set the target for a medium planet. We blew through that goal in two days without even trying. Double XP is probably skewing the numbers, but it seems like the only reason to invade a small yield planet is if the guild wants to come in first place. Further more, I don’t see a small or mid-sized guild that does care about Conquest ever being able to win any planet of any yield when larger guilds can just steamroll them off the leaderboards.

If this is a meant to be a catchup mechanism for small guilds, I applaud Bioware’s intentions. I know all too well how hard it is to unlock all those rooms and make sure there are enough funds to fully perk out the ship, but I fear this change is making a bigger mess than the one it hopes to clean up. Generating four or five types of numbers (xp/cxp, legacy xp, conquest points, guild xp) from every action we take is ridiculous system bloat. Why can’t one number handle all those tasks? Like Shintar, I’m wondering what is the point of Conquest now if it is just extra rewards for stuff we’re already doing. Isn’t that what Galactic Command is for? How can Conquest be fun and rewarding to small and large guilds alike? I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think these changes are resolving those questions either.

I’ve long been a fan of Conquest. I like that different objectives direct my play in different directions from week to week. “Oh, lots of PVP objectives? I’m queuing up!” “Well, the operation of the day is this, but if we run that instead, we get more points.” “Let’s look for Battlemasters and world bosses tonight.” That sort of thing. Now objectives barely matter since killing mobs generates so many points. In fact, I’m avoiding worlds with objectives to reduce lag. I think there can be a middle ground and I hope Bioware can find it, hopefully, well before 6.0.

Words with Friends

During the weekend, my guildmates and friends continued to weigh in. The general consensus is that Conquest point generation accelerated to ludicrous speed. I missed out on the last two double xp events and set aside extra time last week. I easily hit the personal Conquest target on every character I dusted off to play. Even folks who were happy to take advantage of the xp bonanza feel like it’s excessive but want to see how it goes now that double xp isn’t over-powering everything. A friend of mine remarked that she liked the change because it meant she didn’t have to choose between playing how she wanted or helping the guild level up by completing objectives that weren’t as fun. Last week she had the freedom to do both. And that is a position I would not dream of arguing against.

I don’t like to play Monday morning quarterback, because, as I often say, I’m not a game developer, but I am increasingly of the opinion that Conquest and Galactic Command/Renown could be merged into a single, more elegant system. Easier said than done, no doubt.

 

Comments Off on Conquest, What is it Good For?

Filed under General SWTOR

To the Victor Go the Spoils

When game update 5.10.3 was delayed, I figured I could take the week off and enjoy some late spring weather. Sadly, SWTOR had other ideas. During Thursday’s livestream, Eric Musco, Charles Boyd and Keith Kanneg introduced the upcoming Spoils of War gearing system, and it turned out to be one of the most interesting and informative livestreams I’ve ever seen from the SWTOR team. Their enthusiasm for Onslaught is clear, and it’s making me look forward to the expansion even more.

There is a lot to digest, and I encourage all SWTOR players to at least check out Musco’s recap on the forums. I certainly can’t cover it all within a few hundred words, but I’ll try to focus on a few highlights.

First off, it’s clear that Bioware is really trying to make good on the “play your way” promise of Knights of the Eternal Throne, and are working to take what they learned from Galactic Command’s poor launch and eventual evolution into a decent supplementary gearing system and make it work for everyone in Onslaught.

With Spoils of War, Bioware is at last fully embracing, or finally surrendering to, the notion of sharing all equipment across our Legacy, and this is welcome news. To be honest, I had long since accepted that we’d never get meaningful left side Legacy gear. However, it’s cool to know that I will be able to share my best relics, implants and earpieces with alts who can slide into whatever content I’m doing at the drop of a Mailbox or Legacy bank.

Galactic Command will be rebranded Galactic Renown, but it’s not just a name change. The item level of drops from the crates will be based on the character’s currently equipped gear and not their Command Level, so alts can start getting useful gear immediately rather than slogging through hundreds of levels of GC before they have a chance of seeing the upgrades they can actually use.

Spoils of War should also be friendly to our main characters as well. Once again flashpoint bosses will drop loot! We won’t need or want every item we get, but we will be able to reverse engineer/disintegrate those drops into crafting materials or currency (Chuck Bucks!) that can be used to make or purchase the equipment we do want. Right now we can disintegrate Command Stash gear into useful Unassembled Components, but unused equipment from other sources simply gathers dust. I have dozens of Unassembled Tokens won in Operations clogging up my storage bays, and it’s nice to know that in Onslaught I’ll be able to do something with that kind of stuff.

The second part of Onslaught’s “play your way” goal will come from how we put all this gear together. This is where the players and theory-crafters who want to min-max should be able to get their hands dirty. There will be multiple types of set bonuses that can be mixed and match and two new types of gear and stats: Tacticals and Amplifiers.

Tacticals are brand new items that are meant to define and focus play styles with bonuses that change both combat and non-combat abilities. Some Tacticals will be most useful for Operations, others for PVP, still others for crafting and gathering.  This is interesting and potentially scary. To say that the livestream chat went wild at the notion of a Tactical that would let Assassins and Shadows share Force Shroud and Resilience with guarded teammates was an understatement. Bioware has their work cut out for them to keep these both balanced and fun for all specs and classes.

Amplifiers are additional bonuses on armor shells, armorings, hilts, barrels, mods, and enhancements. While it seems like Bioware wants to make it fairly easy to find equipment with a good item level, folks who want to get granular with their stats might find complexity in getting the perfect mix of Amplifiers and Tacticals.

They have indicated that Tacticals will be rarer drops than other gear, and I assume that some Tacticals will be most readily available from harder PVE or PVP content. If you want that awesome Tactical but don’t want to queue for PVP or run difficult operations, you’ll have to get lucky with your Galactic Renown drops or save up your Charles Points. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Galactic Renown provides all players a secondary way to get all gear, but players willing to dive into the game’s deep end should have a quicker path to those upgrades.

I suspect getting Best-In-Slot Amps will be the new gear grind. If my math is right, there will be 32 Amplifiers and getting all those just right might take some time. Again, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Grinding gear is a core part of the MMO experience, and I hope recalibration of Amps and deconstruction of gear will allow us steady progress towards our goals if the drops don’t go our way.

Finally, we will be able to start testing these systems on the PTS this month! Galactic Command was introduced to players at KotET’s launch, and Bioware spent many, many months after responding to player feedback to make the system workable. It is heartening to know that they are already soliciting input from players well ahead of the expansion’s debut. I’ve played MMOs long enough to know that Spoils of War will certainly have plenty of bugs and imbalances, but I’m hopeful that the rough edges will be filed off before Onslaught’s official release. Look for me on the PTS this summer!

I also hope we might see some of this in the game before September. Revamping Legacy storage for crafting materials will make anyone who crafts happy, and being able to earn a Tactical or two to help with leveling prior to 6.0 might be neat as well.

 

Comments Off on To the Victor Go the Spoils

Filed under General SWTOR, Onslaught