Category Archives: General SWTOR

Exile’s End

With Game Update 5.10 out this week, SWTOR ends the year on a high note. But there is one aspect of Jedi Under Siege worth focusing on because of the part I played in making it happen.

SWTOR often uses its launcher to promote the latest Cartel Market deal with tag lines like “Wield the Unstable Arbiter’s Lightsaber” or “Drive the Landslide Assault Speeder”. I don’t often give them much thought, but the ad on July 27 caught my eye.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I adore dumb jokes, and I had to share my joy at the appearance of the beefsteak tomato of a Jedi that was “Don the Exiled Knight”. I snapped a screenshot of the launcher and posted it to the r/swtor subreddit. I figured I’d get some cheap karma and a few funny comments, and that would be the end of it.

But it wasn’t the end. The post was received with good humor across the board and even SWTOR’s Community Manager, Eric Musco chimed in with the hope that Don be put into the game at some point. And this week, Bioware made good on that wacky notion.

Not only can Don be found on the planet Ossus, Bioware also included some achievements and a decoration associated with his discovery and history. I could not be happier. I love the exploration and scavenger hunting aspects of MMOs, and with the recent Nerf Herding and unusual Star Fortress achievements, folks at Bioware seem to as well. Exiled no more, Don will find a permanent home as an honored guest in my stronghold.

In discussing this unexpected turn of events with my friends, there was some debate about how much credit I deserve for all this. The consensus was that I deserve very little credit but the lion’s share of the blame, and I’ll cop to that. Making a dumb joke on the internet is pretty easy, and I’m hardly the first to tell this one, but I’ve got to hand it to the SWTOR community who ran with it and the good people at Bioware who rolled with it and did the actual hard work of bringing good ol’ Don to life. As for me, I’m pleased that I get to be a little more in on this inside joke than most.

I do wonder if Bioware had to get approval for Don from the overseers at Lucasfilm. I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation!

 

Comments Off on Exile’s End

Filed under General SWTOR, KotET

Lok’tar Ogar: Five Things SWTOR Should Steal from WOW

On account of the holiday, I took the week off and instead decided to take the easy way out with another Dumb Top Five list. Back in early 2005, the first MMO I played was World of Warcraft, and although I quit in 2013, I still have friends who play and I recently decided to dip my toes back into the waters of Azeroth. I am certain that any WOW vs. SWTOR discussion ends only in madness, but despite everything that World of Warcraft has going for it, I will confess that this blog will not be renamed “This Week in Zandalari” anytime soon. Nevertheless, there are some quality of life features that I’d love to see SWTOR swipe from WOW.

Before I begin, I want to state clearly that I’m not a developer or programmer or someone with any actual knowledge of how an MMO-RPG gets made. It’s easy to make suggestions, but I understand that the resources Blizzard can throw at a problem are considerable. Whether what I’m asking of Bioware is feasible is an entirely other issue. I’ll leave that to the professionals.

The Launcher

Blizzard’s battle.net launcher is pretty slick, and the thing I most like about it is that it recognizes when I’m logging in from home so that I don’t have to input my password and security key every time I play. I know this only saves a few seconds of typing, but it’s nice feeling like I can jump in to the game that much faster. SWTOR’s launcher received a makeover a few years ago, but I think it could stand a modern overhaul.

The Pet Journal, Mount Collection and Toy Box

I don’t really consider myself a mount or pet collector, but over the years I have accumulated dozens of different speeders and critters to the point that I sometimes forget what I have rusting in the garage or going feral in the backyard. Having a better interface to sort through the many jet cars, rocket bikes, fearsome beasts and tiny robot pals I’ve collected over the years would be a welcome improvement. And if such an interface could also include regen items and other toys such as the Life Day Snowball Bomb that would be great and perhaps open up some needed (to a pack-rat like me) inventory space.

Multi-tapping

One of the least fun parts of the MMO experience is waiting for mobs like Trapjaw on Tatooine, Valen Korik on Dromund Kaas, or the Eradicator Droid on CZ-198 to respawn especially if you arrive just as someone else has engaged them. Even worse is competing with your own faction to tag a mob. Multi-tapping allows everyone who hits a mob and participates in fighting it to get credit for the kill and a share of the loot. I believe SWTOR may be one of the last MMOs to not allow multi-tapping, and I think it’s long overdue. In an MMO, you should want and like to work with your fellow players when you encounter them in the open world (outside of PVP, of course).

Extendable Raid Lockouts

I’ve started running Veteran Mode ops again, and it’s been a lot of fun. But we run once a week, and each week we spend much of our limited raiding time re-clearing bosses we already have killed in order to get to the fights we’re still progressing on. In Warcraft, you can extend Raid lockouts from week to week so that the raid group can jump right into the fights they want to work on without fussing with stuff they don’t. I’d love to be able to do this in SWTOR. Thanks to Galactic Command, we don’t need loot from the early bosses, and skipping ahead to the fights we haven’t done would allow the group to more efficiently finish the operation and move on to the next one we want to learn.

Flex Raiding

My small guild runs a weekly Story Mode ops night and all are welcome. However, it’s not unusual for there to be too many people for an 8 person group but not enough to upgrade it a 16 person operation. There is no worse feeling as a raid leader than asking someone who has shown up to play and have fun to sit out because there just isn’t room. Flexible Raiding gets around this problem by dynamically scaling the difficulty of the instance around how many players are in the group. If you have a couple extra folks, the bad guys will be just a little tougher to account for the extra firepower. I would love to see this system in place for SWTOR’s Story Mode ops. I can see the logic in keeping static sizes for Veteran and Master Modes where mechanics and tuning are more tightly controlled, but if Story Modes are meant for everyone, I say let everyone play.

Honorable Mention: Jokes with Voice Emotes

“So I have this idea for a great movie…” and “She sounded like a Murloc!” are two of the little things I miss from WOW. SWTOR’s voice acting is of course one of its best features, but it makes me sad that my characters in SWTOR don’t crack wise using the /joke emote. So let’s do it. Hire some comedians, have a contest, swipe some groaners from dad and get that great cast to record some gags!

I realize that at least three of these suggestions would affect other systems in SWTOR. How should loot be handled by multi-tapping? How would extending lockouts influence Conquest where last boss lockout farming is a thing? Should SWTOR adopt personal loot? Should a lockout extend or end if anyone in the group clears the operation? These are problems that are easy to point out, but more difficult to solve.

That said, I think they are nuts worth cracking. SWTOR’s debt to World of Warcraft is obvious, but if WOW can adopt AOE looting and finally allow players a choice or two after SWTOR did, then I think it’s fair that The Old Republic can still steal a notion or two from its older sibling too.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

SWTOR Unite

Last week I had the honor of being invited to participate in the SWTOR Unite event in which members of SWTOR’s podcasting and streaming community teamed up to tackle Gods from the Machine. It was a real thrill to be the Hawkeye on this team of SWTOR Avengers assembled from the Bad Feeling Podcast, the Council, the Escape Pod Cast, the OotiniCast, the Passionately Casual Podcast, ScrublandShad, the State of the Old Republic, the Usual Podcast, and, last but not least, Working Class Nerds!

The goal of the event was to unite all these content creators in one place and share their enthusiasm for Star Wars The Old Republic. In that regard I’d say it was a big, chaotic, fun success. Hearing so many familiar voices at one time and in one place was super cool, even before we started killing bosses. While the experience level of the group literally ranged from one extreme to the other, I was impressed with how far we got. No, we did not complete the operation before everyone started falling asleep, but we did come this close to killing Izax, so close that there is no doubt in my mind that we’d have gotten him down with one more pull.

SWTOR Unite’s activity of choice was an operation, but it is a testament to the game that it can be a great source of fun for players with many different interests from killing raid bosses and dressing up characters to fighting other players and translating fake space languages.

I want to thank Dr. SWTOR and Marcus for organizing the event. I can’t wait to see what madness they have planned next!

Relay Junction, What’s Your Function?

This week’s Aurebesh translation is a work sign that I found on Corellia. I imagine this one provides information for the technical crews who work to maintain infrastructure around the planet’s war torn capital.

The sign uses of the term “sub-section” and is similar to others seen around the galaxy. The element that I find most interesting is the design’ incorporation of both of Aurebesh’s number styles: the standard style that closely matches our earthbound numerals and the digital-style with dots and dashes style. The large Arabic numerals clearly work better in the design, but inclusion of the smaller numbers in the alternate Aurebesh form is a neat touch.

Here in my neck of the wood, Life Day is rapidly approaching, and I hope everyone’s vacation is filled with clear skies and full bellies!

 

Comments Off on SWTOR Unite

Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR

Jedi Under Siege Livestream

I must hand it to the good folks down in Austin they did not scrimp on the news from the latest Cantina Livestream. That amount of stuff we can expect in the next game update previously might have been spread out across an entire season’s worth of a road map, so color me impressed and punch my ticket for the hype-train. Choo choo.

To start, I’m going to keep this spoiler-free, avoiding even the mild revelations from the livestream. Please check Galactic Antics, MMObits and Vulkk for far more comprehensive coverage than I could ever hope to provide.

For me, there is a lot to be excited about in Jedi Under Siege. The world, the planet’s design, the new and returning characters, it all looks cool. Instead of going into detail on each point, I think I’ll just discuss the two things that jumped out at me the most.

Story

I have written before about how I consider the choice of whether your character supports their original faction or switches allegiances my favorite part of the Iokath story, and I’m pleased that we will be allowed to reinforce that decision. When it comes to story updates, I tend to focus on my two favorite characters, one from each faction: my Consular and my Bounty Hunter. However because both characters opted to side with the Republic my journeys through Iokath were pretty much the same each time. But on the new planet, despite their similar previous choices, it looks like those characters will experience the story differently, and I’m genuinely psyched to dive in.

As we’ve seen previously, completing the story will unlock the new zone as a daily area. I seem to be one of the few people who like the Iokath dailies for their variety and scope (stomping around in a walker will never not be fun to me). I hope the quests and environments are interesting enough to make return visits worthwhile beyond the incentive to farm up the new gear. That the new zone will be populated with datacrons, a pair of world bosses and lots of new decorations is certainly promising. I do hope the world bosses are bit more pug friendly than the Dark vs. Light bosses and don’t have ridiculous respawn timers. If at least one is instanced like Toborro’s Courtyard and my guild can run it on our own schedule, I’ll jump for joy.

Nightmare Mode Lives

I have no plans to raid Gods from the Machine on its most challenging difficulty, and if scaling up all operations to max level remains the plan for future SWTOR expansions, it’s very possible that I will never even set foot inside it at that difficulty. And, yet, the news surrounding the return of Master Mode operations has me pleased.

During Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan expansions, I was part of a Hard Mode raiding team. We played casually, didn’t shatter any records, but were a solid group of fun people. During Hutt Cartel we and made steady progress on a light progression schedule. That changed during Shadow of Revan. The “hard-mare” version of Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice, created to be a compromise between Hard and Nightmare modes with the removal of Nightmare mode proved incredibly frustrating, and we ultimately stalled out after only beating the first two encounters of both operations.

I’ve never been more angry and disappointed with SWTOR than the night we gave up trying to beat the buggy mess that was Underlurker. Attrition set in and soon after Knights of the Fallen Empire launched without new Operations, the hard mode team was no more. I don’t blame any who quit. We found our groove in Hutt Cartel’s middle lane, and it remains a drag that the removal of a raiding mode that we barely ever touched eventually led to my team’s downfall.

The release of Master Mode Gods from the Machine also will included a rebalanced Veteran Mode that I assume will be along the lines of the old Hard Modes from Rise of the Hutt Cartel. If that is the case, then pinch my cheeks and call me Rosy because you can sign me up right now. I’ve recently started raiding Veteran modes again and as much as I do love Terror From Beyond, the thought of learning new hard mode bosses has me thrilled.

That’s just two of the things I’m looking forward to in the December update. Here’s hoping the year ends on a high note! However, I fear avoiding spoilers until then will be a challenge. Fingers crossed!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR, KotET

Design on a Dime: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Decorations

With the release of the sprawling new Rishi stronghold, I’ve been looking through my stash of decorations and realized that many of my favorites can be acquired in the game and that spotlighting a few might make for a good topic for another dumb top five list. Paring down the list, however, was not easy. It’s to SWTOR’s credit that there is no shortage of very cool decorations that won’t cost you a single Cartel Coin.

Flashpoints/Operations: Rakata Mind Trap

There are numerous decorations to be found in flashpoints and operations, and the latest group content has been over-flowing with decorations. As much as I adore Copero fountains and get a kick out of seeing Tyth sulking on Manaan’s ocean floor, my favorite in this category is and always will be the Rakata Mind Trap. I love these things as art objects, technological accents, creepy Force artifacts or just the Star Wars equivalent of lava lamps. I have dozens, I put them everywhere, and I always want more.

Reputation: Ancient Voss Sarcophagus

All of the recurring event and planetary reputation vendors sell some appropriately themed decorations. While I think the Gree vendor has the best over-all selection, my single favorite reputation decoration is the Ancient Voss Sarcophagus. I’m always happy to visit Voss, and this decoration’s spooky sculpted face and eerie, green glow nicely captures Voss’s unique aesthetic. It’s appropriate for a Sith reliquary, a Jedi’s archive or a Bounty Hunter’s treasure horde.

Vendor: Custom Huttball Stand

For a cool 2,018,000 credits you can and should add a Custom Huttball Stand to your stronghold. This decoration is sold by the “Starfighter & PVP Decoration Vendor” on each faction’s Fleet. Before we could truly PVP in the Rishi stronghold, we could play Hutt Potato with friends using this interactive decoration. Grabbing the passable Huttball, starts a timer and the last person holding the ball gets blasted into the air by the exploding orb. Even when it comes to children’s games, the Hutts don’t mess around. One of the fun things about this decoration is that the explosion can hurl characters places they normally can’t reach. Some guildies and I once used the Hutt Potato to make it on top of the massive Holocron of Ancient Masters.

Achievement: All For One Four-Pack

The Star Fortresses added during Knights of the Fallen Empire are jammed packed with achievements and rewards, and while it might be a bit of a cheat, you can get four different decorations for completing a single achievement: All For One. It’s hard to beat that much bang for the buck. The Portable Sentry Turret, the Scramble Grenade Suspension Chamber, the Force Focus and the Prototype Medical Probe are all animated with glowing effects and one or more of these will fit the themes of any number of strongholds. The achievement requires reaching rank 10 influence with all of the Alliance base specialists which is fairly easy if you have a decent stash of supply crates from planetary Heroics, and then completing a Veteran mode Star Fortress with all the buffs that can be found around the Fortress. Unlike a few of the other Star Fortress achievements, this one can be completed in a group, so if you’re having trouble, ask a friend for help!

For the Truly Dedicated: Event Ambassadors

Having a vendor to repair your gear and take all that useless loot off your hands is a must for any stronghold. But wouldn’t you rather have a vendor with style? Not some rusty old droid or poor Felusia Stato and her silly hat. The Event Vendors dress for success. Sith and Republic versions of the vendors are available in the Cartel Bazaars of their respective fleets. Ambassador Ky’lee is a Cather who is not afraid to dress in white after Labor Day, and Ambassador Jirrik is a Chagrian who knows how to contrast his blue skin against red Sith robes. Either of these decorations will set you back nearly forty assorted tokens that can only be earned during the Relics of the Gree, Rakghoul Resurgence, and Bounty Broker recurring events. The events come around so often these days that’s its not that much trouble to save up for these swanky personnel decorations.

Honorable Mention: Craft Your Starship

Crafters can make all the essential utility decorations and many, many others from Synthetic, Industrial and Universal Prefabs, but toss in a few Dark Projects and you can park your favorite class’s personal starship. Dromund Kaas and Coruscant are the only two strongholds without the Starship Hooks these decorations need; otherwise they are prefect additions elsewhere. I won’t tell you which class has the coolest ship, you should pick your own, but it’s the Agent’s X-70B Phantom.

Honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Certainly there are lots of neat decorations for sale on the Cartel Market or GTN, but there are plenty more to be found in the game, and with a little effort you can transform your stronghold from the place you empty your bags to a place you call home.

For more information about Strongholds that I could ever hope to share, please check out these invaluable resources for the decorating fanatic: TOR Decorating and Swtorista’s two episodes about strongholds and decorating from her Academy series.

 

Comments Off on Design on a Dime: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Decorations

Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Beach Front Property

This week I’d like to share my first impressions of the Rishi stronghold. I hesitate to call this a review because I’ve only scratched the surface of all the spaces this stronghold has to explore. The stronghold lag bug meant I did very little with it the first week, and even though I spent a couple hours decorating this week, I’m still only at 12% completion as I write this.

This is fine by me. I very much enjoy the zen of decorating. For the Manaan stronghold I had a good sense of what I wanted to do with each area from the get go and most of the rooms were blocked out quickly. But I expect Rishi will be more like how I decorated Yavin, a process that took almost a year as I played with different options and furnished areas around brand new or old weird decorations.

The first stronghold change I want to mention actually happened earlier this year with the update to Conquest: the separation of the total stronghold completion percentage from the bonus granted from completing Conquest objectives. Removing the incentive to chase 100% completion has been a real boon. Even before the maximum number of hooks on Manaan was increased, my stronghold there was stuck around 75% complete, but it still felt overly cluttered. Now, I can declare a room done when I’m happy with it, not when I’ve maximized its usage of hooks.

Moreover, if in the weeks or months to come, I get a fancy new decoration, it’s nice knowing that I still have plenty of hooks left to place it on. I love my Nar Shaddaa stronghold but adding even one deco means removing another, and that can throw a whole room into chaos. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but I think it’s easier to balance the Force than find the proper ratio of tables to chairs.

The Rishi stronghold has several new features that we’ve not seen before. The most prominent is, of course, the PVP zones, and I’m impressed with how well they’ve implemented them with team colors, score keeping, spectating, and custom decorations for the pitch. I don’t know how much actual PVP I’ll do in my stronghold, but having the option to mess around with my friends whenever we want is pretty cool.

There are also other little things of note. That a dozen of my favorite pets eagerly watch while I beat up a target dummy makes parsing just a little more fun. And let’s not forget Speedy the Turtle who is the first unique inhabitant of a stronghold. I’d still like to see a Force ghost haunting Yavin, but watching Speedy trundle by while I chill out on the beach makes me smile every time.

And if Speedy doesn’t bring you joy, you can kill him dead. The inclusion of secret achievements and earnable legacy titles exclusive to the stronghold has been another fine addition. I don’t know if we’ll see full on questing in a stronghold (I can arm-chair-develop a dozen quest suggestions at the drop of a hat), but seeing the stronghold concept change from something static to something approaching dynamic is pretty neat, and I hope Bioware keeps exploring new ideas for things players can do in them.

There is one new feature that I discovered just last week: light switches in the rooms of the Overlook. I don’t know if it was a simple change, but it’s a subtle one that can totally alter the character of a room. It’s not quite the day-night cycles I’d have liked to see in all strongholds, but I really do like this addition!

Finally, the team at Bioware must get props for the agile response to player feedback they received from the PTS. The removal of clutter, the change of the color of the sand, and the addition of the overlook rooms are just three of the changes that came about because of requests from the players. I understand some of the fixes required herculean effort from the designers, but it has truly made for a better stronghold.

If your favorite stronghold is the front room on Coruscant or Dromund Kaas with the GTN, mailbox, a vendor and your banks all crammed within arms reach of the zone-in spot, then Rishi is an easy pass, but if finding the right rug to tie a room together, being the captain of a space-pirate ship or grabbing some rays on the beach are a few of your goals in life, it’s worth the credits.

 

2 Comments

Filed under General SWTOR, KotET

SWTORbringers

This week, I thought I’d take a look at the notorious MMO cinematic in which the leader of the traditionally “evil” faction and their associates stage a brutal attack on a beloved stronghold of the opposing faction. As the leader’s eyes glow red, they slaughter their enemies and leave the site a burning, destroyed ruin.

But enough about Darth Malgus, let’s talk about Shae Vizla. The Deceived cinematic, released nearly a decade ago, was Shae’s introduction to Star Wars lore, and she remains a popular character years later. In the space of this scene, she deploys all the gadgets and weapons you’d expect from a Mandalorian hunter including this pop-up display:

Based on information from my translation, I surmise that Shae had sliced into Coruscant’s space traffic control to track the arrival and explosive entrance of the Sith’s stolen transport. The display indicates that Malgus’ deception was successful, and that the Republic never saw the attack coming.

The Aurebesh text contains some awkward grammar and a misspelling or two, and I’ve tried to keep my translation as faithful as possible. In addition, it seems like the text in the right hand column was truncated mid-word. This could easily be chalked up as panic from the controller as they realized what is about to happen or that their feed had been hacked. The version of the Aurebesh font used here includes numbers that match our Hindu-Arabic numerals, and I did not bother “translating” all of those.

Falling From a Great Height is Never Fatal

Speaking of Malgus, SWTOR’s next expansion looms in the hopefully not-too-distant future. While not much is known, Bioware has indicated that we’ll be returning to a story based on the war between the Republic and the Sith Empire. As part of that, there has been speculation that this renewed focus on the game’s original conflict might also signal the return of Darth Malgus, perhaps as leader of the Sith Empire or an antagonist for both factions.

On the one hand, I am totally on Team Malgus. He’s my favorite of SWTOR’s many Darths, and had most of my Sith characters been given the chance they would’ve gladly joined his New Empire on Ilum. I take the original iteration of the False Emperor flashpoint as canon, and there is plenty of precedent in Star Wars for Sith lords surviving exactly the kind of defeat Malgus saw there. Moreover, there is the infamous moment cut from the Sacrifice cinematic that revealed that Arcann and Thexan had taken Malgus’ carbonite frozen body as a trophy. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Malgus remains on the minds of the folks in Austin.

That said, between the Shadow of Revan expansion starting with the return of Revan and ending with the return of the Sith Emperor, and Darth Maul’s equally improbable return to popular consciousness just this summer in Solo, I wonder if maybe we’ve been there and done that already.

So I’m split and give it an even chance that he’ll be back. Star Wars needs good Dark Side villains, and he certainly fits the bill, but I wouldn’t be disappointed with someone new.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR

In the Pink

I thought this one would be easy. I really did.  I had planned to post this recreation during the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event since this neon sign can be seen around the moon’s Promenade and casinos. Clearly, I’m late to the party.

The challenge of this recreation was not in the translation. Like many similar signs, it seems to be a collection of random letters in which I’ve long since given up attempting to find meaning.

At first glance, one might think this sign is written in Aurebesh. Technically, however, it uses Galactic Basic, a font that, like Aurebesh, was inspired by the script used on monitors in Return of the Jedi. Galactic Basic is actually more accurate to what can be seen in the movie, but Aurebesh was codified in official sources first and has since become the official version of the language.

The center logo, the inset letters on the upper left and the two repeating glyphs on the bottom are all written using Galactic Basic. The orange tinted letters in the next-to-bottom row are rendered in the Atrsian font. Like Aurebesh, this font has a tangled history. It also can be glimpsed in Return of the Jedi, and was featured in several early Lucasarts games.

My guess is that all these fake space letters were meant to be parts of the same “language” but because they were fleshed out separately, they all became individual fonts and scripts. I’m certain that had high definition screen captures and copious reference materials been around three decades ago, the current landscape of Star Wars’ written word would be very different!

The use of Atrisian is not an usual sight in SWTOR. This script can be seen not only in signs on Nar Shaddaa, but also carved in the ancient ruins of the Rakata on Belsavis. It’s amusing to think the same glyphs that adorned the great works of a long lost civilization are still emblazoned in neon around the galactic underworld.

The large logo in the center is what caused me the most trouble. The repeated letter rotating around the center translates to J, but I’d wager it was not selected because of any particular meaning but because of how the alien glyph maintains its symmetry in the arrangement. The English J, however, is not quite so accommodating and I tried many variations, fonts and even custom letters attempting to replicate the original layout. In the end I realized I was overthinking the problem, and took inspiration from the actual design. Reshaping the glyph to resemble a J more or less did the trick. I don’t think my recreation is as stylish as the original, but it’s close enough that I hope it gets the idea across.

Living Large on the PTS

Despite having played since launch, last week was my very first visit to SWTOR’s test server. I cannot deny it was fun to get an early peek at the Rishi stronghold and queue up for Saturday’s PVP test.

My first impression of the Rishi stronghold is quite good. I think they are aiming to address the major complaints regarding the previous strongholds on Umbara and Manaan. Unlike Umbara’s train, Rishi has a large variety of environments to explore and decorate, from the massive pirate airship to the beach and the cove. It also looks like they are paying more attention to how decorating hooks are being used. As much as I love Manaan, the widely spread out hooks and limited choices of what hooks are even available has been a source of frustration. Rishi seems to have a larger variety of hooks, placed closer together so that decorators will be able to create areas with more cohesion.

The PVP areas are a gimmick to be sure. But it’s a cool gimmick. And even if I’m just using it every once in a while, I’m fine with that.  As with the addition of target dummies, having more stuff to do in our strongholds is something I’m glad to see. I hope they continue to explore more ideas in the future. Maybe there could be a special boss on the pirate ship that can only be summoned during the Bounty Broker event, or a stronghold zombie survival mode in which the beach is swarmed during the Rakghoul Resurgence. Armchair developing is easy! But, hey, I can dream, can’t I?

I also participated in Saturday’s PVP testing during the morning and evening sessions. I don’t PVP a whole lot so take these comments with a grain of salt.

For the most part it seemed like the matchmaking worked. There were a ton of healers in the morning queue, but the teams had even numbers. The matches with three healers per side tended to stalemate; I imagine with a larger pool of dps that wouldn’t happen as much. I did notice that backfilling in arenas would not always keep the tank/healer balance, but I guess filling empty spots quickly might be more important.

I thought the Mandalorian arena was pretty cool. All my matches there were fought on the top level, so I don’t know if the lower ring or tunnel will see much action.

I ran four Voidstars during the day, and aside from the one with six healers, they definitely went faster. Once the first door opens, the other matches became a race to the finish, which I consider an improvement.

Overall, I went 7 and 6, which I rate a smashing success and had a really good time. It seems like most folks were there to poke around and have some low stakes fun. It was neat to cross paths with some SWTOR celebrities, and I like to think my healer saved a dev or two from certain death once or twice during the day.

I’m definitely in the camp that is happy to see the return of open PTS testing. That the good folks at Bioware have been quick to implement changes that have come from feedback has been great to see. I hope to visit the test server more in the future.

 

Comments Off on In the Pink

Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR, KotET

Summertime Blues

Just a few hours after my last post, Keith Kanneg shared SWTOR’s Summer 2018 Roadmap. I’m not usually one for hot takes, but, what the heck, I’ll give it a go.

I don’t do a ton of PVP these days, but cross-faction grouping, a new Huttball map and the ability to exclude certain types of matches all sound pretty good to me. I prefer objective based PVP, so if I can queue knowing that I won’t get dropped into an arena with three strangers against a pre-made, I’d play more.

On the PVE side, there isn’t much. I’m always up for a new stronghold, but that’s about it until the fall. Welcome to the content drought of 2018.

My first guess is that they’re giving World of Warcraft’s new expansion a wide berth, which, honestly, doesn’t strike me as a bad idea. In addition, Keith Kanneg recently raised the question of how folks want to receive SWTOR content: in smaller, more regular updates (which seems to have been the model for KotET) or in larger full fledged expansions. I hope they’re leaning towards the latter model now, which sadly means having to bide time until stuff comes together. I’m not psyched, but this isn’t my first MMO, and I’ve seen things like this before. If this is the cost for getting story updates that last longer than 5 minutes and not having to wait months between raid bosses, it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Besides, it’s the summer, there is plenty of other stuff to do. Time to get some sun!

 

Comments Off on Summertime Blues

Filed under General SWTOR, KotET

That’s What They Want You to Think

I was out of town when Game Update 5.9 launched, so this review is coming a little late, but I’d like to share some impressions. Between the excellent Izax encounter in Gods from the Machine and now The Nathema Conspiracy, the last couple of patches have been pretty good for group content.

Nathema is easily the strongest of Knight of the Eternal Throne’s three new flashpoints. It’s not as high concept as Crisis on Umbara or as beautiful as Traitor Among the Chiss, but it hits every mark when it comes to pacing, rewards and fun boss fights.

The flashpoint offers plenty of loot including more than a dozen new decorations, a unique armor set and even a brand new droid companion, all of which are available to all players regardless of skill level.

Nathema’s master mode also feels appropriately balanced for what I expect from a hard mode flashpoint. Thankfully, it’s neither as as brutal as Umbara nor the trash-fest that Copero can be. As long as the group can pay attention to a few mechanics, it’s perfectly doable in a reasonable amount of time by a decently geared team.

Visually, once again the artists at Bioware have created another wonderful environment to explore. Nathema’s landscape is at first familiar from our first visit, but we quickly discover that Valkorion’s death has brought the planet back to life before we finally descend into one of the Emperor’s baroque and spooky crypts.

I should also discuss the events of the story, so spoilers ahead. Unlike the previous chapters, a lot happens here. Things get started with a quick visit to an abandoned Imperial listening post. Exploring dark, deserted ships is something that happens a lot in SWTOR, but it’s almost always done well, so it’s a setting I don’t mind revisiting from time to time.

The story doesn’t waste our time before letting us know that Theron’s betrayal was only for show so that he could infiltrate the Order of Zildrog. This was foreshadowed from the beginning so I’m cool with this result. The real focus of the story belongs to the villains: Vinn Atrius and GEMINI16.  I think the writers did an excellent job with them. Atrius is remarkably fleshed out and sympathetic for a one-off antagonist. In many ways, he’s right; things on Zakuul did get a whole lot worse after the Outlander showed up.

And I also can’t complain about him objecting to my character’s sparing Arcann either. It’s one of those decisions I wish the game had fleshed out more. My character spared Arcann because I believe in mercy, but I still consider him a war criminal. In my head cannon, Arcann is under house arrest on Odessen, but from Vinn’s perspective, the guy who brought the war right to Zakuul’s doorstep got off scott free. I’d be pissed too.

The story also wraps up the GEMINI storyline. The SCORPIO parts of the Eternal Empire saga were some of my favorites (I’d love see KotFE and KotET told from SCORPIO’s point of view because she is so clearly the hero of her own story), but no matter what choices you make, it’s certainly a tragedy for the GEMINIs. I’d like to think that some of the GEMINIs freed during The GEMINI Deception are still out there, but that may not be the case.

I’m not the first the say this, but Nathema is all about clearing the decks in preparation for the next big story arc. The Eternal Fleet is destroyed, the Eternal Alliance will soon be folded into the Republic or Sith Empire, and we’re not too likely to visit Zakuul again. It looks like Lana is the only character left who is certain to be around for what’s to come.

From a storytelling standpoint, I can see why this is necessary. Bioware has done a good job lately letting new and returning players jump back into the current story without forcing them to catch up through stuff that may not interest them, and while launching Knights of the Fallen Empire with a five year jump did the trick there, dealing with the players’ status as Alliance Commander needed more work.

I may devote another post to my thoughts about the missed opportunity that was the Eternal Alliance and why I’m not as excited about a return to the Republic vs. Empire dynamic, but for now I’ll just finish up with the one part of The Nathema Conspiracy that did disappoint me: the destruction of the Gravestone. I loved that hunk of junk; it’s a cool mix of the Millennium Falcon, Serenity, Space Battleship Yamato, and a haunted house. I’m honestly bummed it won’t be a part of the action going forward, and instead got swept up in the rest of Nathema’s house-cleaning. Given the big role the Gravestone played in the whole Eternal Empire story, I think she deserved better.

But that, for me, is the only sour note of a flashpoint which I think stands among SWTOR’s best. Whether you play solo or with friends, definitely check it out.

Many Happy Returns

Game Update 5.9 also marks the first time I’ve been able to play one of the recent companion reunion missions. The two characters I’ve completed the story on are my Consular and my Bounty Hunter so each of them had a companion waiting for them. I’ve seen these missions very accurately described as short and sweet, and I cannot disagree.

On the one hand, it was really nice hearing my characters speak dialogue that was written specifically for them for a change. And catching up with Felix and Mako was most welcome.

But, yeah, they are short, really short. I realize at this point, Bioware just wants to get these long over due reunions out of the way, but it’s a drag that major companions are returning with less gameplay than Broonmark’s recruitment alert. It’s a shame Mako and Akaavi won’t get the Profit and Plunder treatment, or that my Sage could not have led the mission to rescue Felix from imprisonment. Clearly the companion thing is something that got away from the developers, but I hope it’s something Bioware doesn’t overlook again. However, with so many favorites and possible pairings, that’s a lot of plates to keep spinning, and I don’t envy them that herculean task.

We’ve reached the end of SWTOR’s latest road map, so it’s now time to wait and see. A new expansion means a host of new possibilities. I’m curious to see what comes next!

 

Comments Off on That’s What They Want You to Think

Filed under General SWTOR, KotET