Category Archives: Onslaught

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This Week in Aurebesh, I am not yet two weeks into Onslaught, and I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of SWTOR’s new expansion. I still need to the complete the story on the opposing faction, visit the new flashpoint in something other than storymode and venture into the Dxun operation, let alone uncover Onderon and Mek Sha’s many achievements and hidden Datacrons.

I do want to share my first impressions about the good (the story and worlds!), the bugs (lost quest objective spawns, group finder ops!) and the ugly (Conquest and crafting!), but I also want to take my time enjoying leveling and exploring, so my commentary will have to wait a bit longer.

One thing that I do think is safe to say is that Mek Sha is super-cool. It’s as if all of Nar Shaddaa were stacked and crammed into one tiny planetoid with a gigantic picture window into the void of space. It’s dark, dank, claustrophobic and yet another neat setting unique to both Star Wars and the Old Republic setting.

It’s also bathed in a colorful, holographic glow. While there are many new signs and displays to be found on Mek Sha that I plan to examine in the future, there are also many familiar posters, lights and graphics repurposed from the game’s vast library of imagery.

Before you write this off as lazy, it’s worth remembering that whether you travel to Times Square in New York City or Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo or Piccadilly Circus in London you will behold many of the same ubiquitous brands and logos of our own world’s corporate landscape shining down on you in neon light.

So while I lollygag my way through Onslaught, I’d thought I’d take a break this week and revisit some of my favorite signs and graphics that I have already recreated in this blog and that you can spot on your journey into the underworld of Mek Sha.

I hope long time readers to this blog will forgive this self-indulgence, and I hope new visitors enjoy a taste of what this project has been for the last three years!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General SWTOR, Huttese to English, Onslaught

Buy n Large

In anticipation of SWTOR’s new expansion Onslaught’s launch next week, let’s check out a little poster that is oddly relevant to the closing days of Knights of the Eternal Throne both in terms of what it says and where this particular example can be found.

The poster announces a sale, and even though the hype train for Onslaught has been surprisingly low key, SWTOR’s Cartel Market has done its part by running a six week long series of sales. I don’t deny that I’ve been hoarding my monthly grants to take advantage of the deals.

This sign pops up all over the galaxy, but the example I’ve chosen comes from the flashpoint Hammer Station, directly outside the room where heroes confront the final boss, Battlelord Kreshsan. While the Onslaught Test Server was active I made sure to spend time exploring, Onderon, Mek Sha and Dxun, but like many others, I also spent time racing through Hammer Station in order to complete the PTS achievements to unlock the Kai Zykken log mount.

I am proud that I got to help a whole bunch of friends complete the achievement, but if you come across me in the activity finder and Hammer Station pops, please don’t take it personally when I drop from the group. I’ve had my fill of Hammer Station for a while.

As for the poster itself, I highlighted but did not recreate it in the very earliest days of this blog. It has a simple and charming design featuring a happy three-eyed alien who has no doubt gladly been parted from their hard earned credits, cartel coins, peggats, truguts or wupiupis. I’ve been there too, my tri-occular friend.

Despite a simple design, the poster has several layers of folds, faded colors, stains, rips, tears and general distress that suggest that the sale being advertised has long since ended. The Aurebesh at the top of the sign is written using a rarely seen freehand style rather than any of the standard versions. Aside from this poster, the only other place in the game you might see this type of Aurebesh is in some graffiti on Coruscant. Against my better judgment, I used Comic Sans in my English version, but the world’s most hated font does indeed match the style of the original Aurebesh.

I hope that this poster will one day be available as a stronghold decoration.

New York, New York

I am fortunate that I was able to get away and participate in the New York Community Cantina a couple weekends ago. I’m a natural wallflower, but it was great fun to meet not just the people who make this game I love, but also so many of the good folks I’ve been lucky enough to play with online. Hearing familiar voices come from real people is a rare pleasure and I’m extremely glad I made the trek.

The Cantina event was light on official news; the venue did not really lend itself to elaborate presentations and we’re close enough to Onslaught’s launch that there isn’t much left to announce. But in chatting with the devs from Bioware, there were additional tidbits to learn. The bosses in the Corellia flashpoint will be different depending on which faction you’re playing. Everyone will get to interact with the much-missed characters Kira and Scourge as they make their through way the story, although they won’t be joining everyone as companions afterwards. More generally, Bioware plans to keep things moving in the weeks and months ahead. They don’t want Onslaught to drag out as long as Knights of the Eternal Throne and intend to make sure that every aspect of the game gets some love: from story and group content to PVP, strongholds and even Galactic Starfighter. It won’t come all at once, but regardless of how you play, there should be something for you in Onslaught.

I can’t wait, and I’ll see you there!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, KotET, Onslaught

PTS Adventures

In anticipation of Onslaught‘s debut next month, I’ve spent some time on the PTS testing out gear and gearing though the new Spoils of War system. SWTOR is again making big changes to how loot is acquired, and the team is using the PTS to gauge reactions and tweak things before they go live. The quick response from Bioware has been great to see. Things may not be perfect by the end of October, but I’m thinking things are on the right track.

Currently gearing works like this: get your tier set either through Galactic Command or operations/pvp, tweak your stats; repeat three or four more times, substituting Galactic Command for or skipping to Ossus at the last tier. Repeat for each character.

Spoils of War aims to both smooth out and mix up this process. The first step is to get the top level of random gear drops. We know there are 19 levels of gear, but I don’t think of them as tiers like we have now. I ran two Veteran Mode and one Master Mode flashpoints this week and went from item rating 278 to 284. Onslaught will shower us with loot, and we’ll be getting golds before we know it. If anything, there might be too much loot. I have recieved doubles and even triples of the same item from one boss. Even if one is an upgrade the rest are going straight into the Deconstructor. After each boss now there is a pause as everyone stops to play the inventory management mini-game before moving on to the next encounter. This is not super exciting. If all that extra loot is really just intended to be ground into Chuck Bux, I’d almost prefer cutting out the middleman and getting fewer, more focused drops along with more Tech Fragments.

Much of the gear is not perfectly itemized but we spend so little time with each piece that it hardly matters. Something important to remember is that all this gear is legacy bound.and we’ll only have to go through this first stage once before we have gold sets to share with our alts.

Once we’re rocking 306 gear, the next step will be to acquire sets and Tacticals. Traditionally, this has been tied directly to the first step, but it looks like getting our sets might be a separate chase. Beyond getting lucky with the random vendor or Kai Zykken, I confess I’m still confused about how we’re supposed to get class set bonuses. Completing sets has been the benchmark for our readiness to tackle tougher end game content since the game’s earliest days, and I’d like some clarity about how players will do this.

The main issue with the PTS right now is that I feel like we’re testing the system piecemeal rather than as a whole. If you recall the flow chart that Eric Musco presented during the first Spoils of War livestream, the focal point that Renown and Deconstruction orbit around is the big green “Play What You Want” circle, but right now we’re really only able to access a narrow slice of that circle. Chain running Hammer Station is not really how I want to play. The new operation is dropping loot now, so the wedge is getting bigger, but it’s hard for me to judge the whole if the main focus of Spoils, playing what you want, is not fully integrated into the system.

My impression is that gearing through Hammer Station and relying on the vendors will be a massive pain. To be honest, I’m okay with that. Please, Bioware, please, don’t make speed runs of veteran mode flashpoints the best way to acquire gear.

I’d hope to see specifics about where and how to best get our class sets and Tacticals. Currently, if someone in my guild needs, say, set boots, I know which bosses to target to get them what they need. Will that be the case in Onslaught? I’d rather help someone get an upgrade after beating a boss than telling them to grind Tech Fragments and buy or gamble for what they need from a vendor. Moreover, players and teams dedicated to more difficult content, whether it be Operations or competitive PVP, need certainty in gearing. This is not news and should be an important lesson I trust Bioware remembers learning during Galactic Command’s teething stage.

I’m also somewhat amazed to see Spoils of War move away from modular gear. Ever since we got our first orange weapon on a starter planet, the flexibility afforded by modding gear has been a strength and hallmark of SWTOR’s gear system. Leaving aside the fact that it is not fun to replace a favorite weapon with a non-modable one for even a short period, I don’t want to lose the option to tweak and adjust my stats.

I did get more modular gear from Master Mode Hammer Station than Veteran Hammer Station and most of the drops I got from new operation on Dxun were moldable. I assume this is by design, but I’d prefer the game not be so stingy with armorings, mods and enhancements.

I don’t play a ton of video games, but Spoils of War reminds me of Diablo 3 with its flood of loot, most of which we’ll turn into Blood Shards/Tech Fragments in hopes of Kai Zykken selling what we need on the weekend or getting lucky with SWTOR’s equivalent of Kadala on Fleet.

I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. I have the impression that gearing to best-in-slot in Onslaught will take some work (even leaving aside Amplifiers), but I’m not clear on how getting to “good-enough-in-slot” will be. When I ran Hard Mode operations during Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan, I never had a full set of best-in-slot gear. Even getting best-in-tier was a long process. Since 4.0, we’ve been spoiled by how relatively easy it is to get the absolutely best gear possible. Getting actual upgrades from a boss is kind of a rare occurrence these days; while running on the PTS with friends we were laughing about how we couldn’t remember the last time we got upgrades or even dreaded side-grades in Hammer freakin’ Station.

That said, I still wonder how many hoops we’ll need to jump through to get to “good enough” whether it’s for Operations or PVP or soloing. I’m fine with “good enough” being different in Onslaught than it was during Fallen Empire, but it is something I hope will become clear before the expansion launches.

 

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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.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Onslaught

Onslaught Semi-Hot Take

The announcement of SWTOR’s next expansion Onslaught is now a week old, and I thought I should at last toss in my 2 cartel coins. I’ve never been one for hot takes, and my main response to the news has been “Sounds cool! Can’t wait!” This is fine, but not especially compelling, so I’ll try to be a bit more specific. Before I get started I must applaud the amazing work by Swtorista, Kogass, Kid Lee, Boomy, Vemapris, Lady Rann and everyone at the swtorfancommunity for their heroic efforts to bring a constant stream of news, photos and interviews from Star Wars Celebration. To be able to tune into the Cantina as it happened was a vicarious thrill and very much appreciated by this homebody.

First, and probably least importantly, I won’t lie, I was hoping for a trailer. Blur’s two amazing Fallen Empire cinematics definitely spoiled me, and I’ll always be eager for more. But as the old joke asks: does a two million dollar trailer cost us raid tiers? I have no way of knowing, but if it means more resources for the actual development of the game, I won’t complain. The in-game cut scenes throughout the Fallen Empire cycle were leaps and bounds above what had come before, so I expect to experience the same level quality with Onslaught.

The two planets we will be visiting in Onslaught, Onderon and Mek-Sha, embody one of SWTOR’s strengths: the ability to explore existing Star Wars lore while still expanding the universe with new locations and characters. Onderon has connections to both recent and older Star Wars stories, but we’ll also get to visit an entirely new world in the gutted-out planetoid of Mek-Sha. If there is one thing the designers of SWTOR have shown time and time again is that they can create fantastic settings for the players to explore and I look forward to setting down on both worlds.

We’ll also be returning to Corellia for the expansion’s first flashpoint. Corellia had a prominent role in last year’s movie Solo so it seems like a good choice for a locale to revisit. Likewise, the expansion’s operation on Dxun reflects this mix of old and new. This will be the game’s first visit to Onderon’s moon, but a welcome return of Czerka’s distinctive brand of corporate villainy which has been a part of the game since the start.

The expansion will also come with a new playable species, Nautolans. Personally, Nautolans don’t float my boat, but not every character customization option has to be for everyone. I would’ve preferred additional appearance options for the existing species, but I don’t deny that many, many people are psyched to play a Nautolan and that “new playable species” is a sexier bullet point than “more haircuts and tattoos.” And, of course, I’m already squatting on a name for my Nautolan.

In January, I predicted that we’d see gearing changes in 6.0, but the Spoils of War system aims to go far beyond what I could’ve anticipated. From the broad strokes Bioware sketched out in the last week, the new system’s embrace Legacy gearing and the ability to customize gear sets for different styles of play all sounds very, very interesting, but the devil is in the details, and I am loath to draw any conclusions until I see those details.

Something that is very encouraging, however, is Bioware’s willingness to solicit player input and feedback before the system goes live, both on the forums now and in the PTS to come. Clearly, they’ve learned a thing or two from the launch of Knights of the Eternal Throne. I don’t expect the Spoils of War system to be without issues or imbalances, but I have faith we won’t have to endure the mess that was Galactic Command’s rollout and growing pains next time around.

Also in January, I predicted an August launch, but with enough caveats that I think I can give myself half credit for the call since the launch will be just one short month later in September.

Finally, Onslaught will be included with the game’s subscription. I know many regular players who would’ve been fine paying extra for the expansion if it had included more story, flashpoints, ops, pvp, etc, but SWTOR’s business model seems to be this: Sub for a month and get access to everything the game has to offer. And it seems to be working for them. When I revisited World of Warcraft last year, I was put off that I had to both subscribe and pony up for the expansion. I’m honestly impressed that someone whose subscription to SWTOR lapsed two and a half years ago still has access to all of the game’s latest story content.

Sure, WOW’s expansions and major patches dwarf SWTOR’s. That will never change, but I think SWTOR has done a decent job of picking up the pace of releases lately, as long as that continues into Onslaught I’ll count myself a happy subscriber.

So, in conclusion, it all sounds cool, and I can’t wait for September, but I think I mentioned that already.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, KotET, Onslaught