31/10/2016

Senya's New Face

Hello again! It's been a bit fun taking a week's break following my crazy week immediately after the announcement of Galactic Command. It's time to kick things off once again!

When BioWare were first announcing the new streams to show off Galactic Command, they did so using a screenshot from the new expansion. As the title suggests, this image showcased Senya, and revealed that she has had a touch of facial remodelling:


Being a fan of Senya, my immediate reaction was to - of course - analyse this new face and decide whether or not it 'worked' for her compared to her original face, which, in case you have forgotten (in which case shame on you), looks like this:


As you can see, the age-lines on her face are more pronounced, her eyebrows are more pointed, and her jaw is slightly more square. Additionally, the blue in her eyes seems to be a little more pronounced.

It seems that this new visage is entirely based off her trailer appearance, as her armour has also now gained lights on the collar, something which can also be found on her trailer armour.

So, my thoughts on the new face.

Personally, I'm not too fond of it. I appreciate their making her face more detailed (seriously, the facial detail on her and Valkorion is stunning), but I feel that this is taking away from Senya's already-established character.

Senya as we know her is someone who is pragmatic and somewhat hard to trust or like when in her 'on-duty' mindset and yet is kind and sentimental the rest of the time. Her old face suited this kinder personality wonderfully, but admittedly it was difficult to imagine her being almost harshly dutiful.

This newer face, to me, does the exact opposite; it easily suits her on-duty mindset more than it does her 'true' sentimental personality. However, this is much more problematic now that we know the extent of her sentiments. Sure, her new face makes her claims that she'd bring justice to Arcann and Vaylin seem more believable, but it will be harder to align a 'harsh' face with her desperation to save both of her children from themselves in Chapter XVI.

Maybe it's just me. I do like how it's more detailed, but it just doesn't really suit the Senya I thought I was seeing throughout Fallen Empire.

21/10/2016

A Farewell to Commendations

As indicated yesterday, this is going to be the last post for a week. Figured that I'd quite enjoy a break after all the hubbub surrounding Galactic Command.

For today's post, we'll be returning to solid confirmed fact, although this will swiftly segue into nothing more than speculation once again.

As part of the 5.0 update, all Warzone Commendations and Data Crystals will be phased out. Due to the unique nature of these, I sincerely doubt we'll see the same happen to the Fleet Commendations.

This has raised some interesting questions:
  • Will there be any special types of currency in 5.0?
  • What are the Commendations/Crystals being converted into?
  • What happens to all the things that we can currently buy with these currencies?
Some of these answers have been revealed, but for the other questions, we can only guess, and I'd like to offer my speculations here today.

First, though, I have to say that I will miss Commendations and Crystals if they're being removed without a planned replacement, and particularly since 3.3 when Warzone Commendations became so useful. Data Crystals are, potentially, less so for active Raiders outside of purchasing the blue and purple Exotic materials and stacks of Companion Gifts, of course.

Anyway, on to speculation!

~~~

For the first question, whilst there will be a new Currency type, it will only be linked to the Dark vs. Light aspect of Galactic Command which should have no impact on 'significant' in-game items.

For the second question, it has since been confirmed that they're planning to convert every Crystal and Commendation type into Credits. The exact Exchange Rate was revealed on the 28th of October; it's going to be 1:50 for Warzone Commendations, 1:500 for Common Crystals, 1:1,000 for Glowing Crystals, and 1:1,500 for Radiant Crystals.

There will be a limit of 2,000,000 Credits on each character for the conversion, with the respective caps for Crystals and Commendations being 500,000 for 1,000 Common Crystals, 500,000 for 500 Glowing Crystals, 750,000 for 500 Radiant Crystals, and 2,000,000 for 40,000 Warzone Commendations. Basically, it is impossible to hit this limit with Crystals alone, and you'd need 5,000 Warzone Commendations to make up that 250,000 credit deficit.

For the third question, it has also since been confirmed that the answer will simply be "Credits" for the majority of items. I can't see too many PvPers being overly enthusiastic about MedPacs and Adrenals costing Credits, however.

Certainly, for levelling mods, Legacy shells from the Adaptive vendor, and Companion gifts, nothing significant can come from making these cost Credits. I imagine we'll see mods costing between 100 - 500 Credits, the Legacy shells between 5,000 and 10,000 Credits depending on the piece of armour, and Companion gifts costing 5,000, 10,000, and between 30,000 to 50,000 Credits for Blue Rank 5s, Pink Rank 5s, and Purple Rank 6s, respectively.

It's impossible to make everything a solid 1:1,000 conversion for Data Crystals. If you made the gifts cost that amount at a 1:1,000 then the mods would cost 2,000 apiece (initial modding at Level 10 would cost 38,000 Credits if this happened!) so flexibility is absolutely key if they are to convert these items to requiring Credits. 

As for off-set gear, I do not imagine for the slightest that we'll be able to actually buy that gear from vendors ever again, to give greater emphasis towards the crafters as the solitary source of off-set gear. The Fleet may suddenly find itself emptied of a good portion of its vendors in the Combat Training and Supplies areas. 

The only remaining things to touch on are the Exotic materials. Right now you can buy the Blues for 25 Glowing Data Crystals and the Purples for 300 Radiant Data Crystals, but making these purchasable with Credits is going to result in some considerable aftershocks in the economy. Prices would decrease rapidly and nobody would ever worry about the grind if they themselves could simply purchase items needed to craft gear for themselves for even 1,000,000 Credits flat.

~~~

We've never known an expansion to hit without Commendations; for several people, they're the only way they've found to get gear if they can't do Operations. WarZone Commendations being removed in their entirety is going to leave a serious mark after they've become just so beneficial since 3.3. 

All the same, I am interested in seeing what happens in the future with what they do for the former Commendation system. Maybe it won't hurt nearly as much as some people think, but maybe it will hurt just as badly as a lot of people fear?

19/10/2016

Wednesday Warzones #5: es77a7ewe7477e565465666

It's time for yet another instalment of Wednesday Warzones!



Finally we round off the footage from the 14th of September (there were just too many good matches!) with some bizarre chat gibberish and drunken rantings. Needless to say, this video takes its name from one such gibberish outburst.

Participants:

Vhiallia - Balance Sage
Kenkuria - Defense Guardian
Suss'daowoss - Telekinetics Sage
Golu - Seer Sage

18/10/2016

Analysing Galactic Command

Tuesday post! This is a rarity but ultimately 'necessary' since this is quite a significant thing to talk about.

In a LiveStream yesterday, BioWare unveiled their new Galactic Command system.

Basically, you get Command Points by completing one of the various tasks:
  • Dailies and Heroics
  • Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne Chapters
  • Flashpoints
  • Galactic StarFighter
  • Operations
  • Uprisings
  • WarZones
The tasks in question can all be accessed via a new Galactic Command panel, which seems to act as a second Group Finder. I assume that simply going into things such as Flashpoints, Operations, and PvP counts just the same no matter how you enter them, so ultimately this is just a flashy bit of cosmetic fluff. Additionally, there is just no way they can get rid of the current Group Finder system. It may not be that good, but it at least serves a way to pick-and-choose if your Group wants to do a certain Flashpoint.

These Command Points then allow you to progress through the various ranks until you hit a (currently) unspecified Rank. Along the way, you earn not only Light/Dark points for yourself, but also for the server. For an unspecified time, these points will pool into a 'Dark vs. Light' bar which indicates which side is winning, which - according to the follow-up Blog Post - will allow for various events to occur based on which side is higher at the time:

"If the dark side is growing stronger... suddenly players may see Sith Acolytes begin spawning and attacking Alderaan and Tatooine!"

Depending on which side then wins, the winners will temporarily gain access to bonus "Command Experience" (read: total of Command Points gained) and a cosmetic item vendor. Because shinies! Losers only gain a bonus to the Light/Dark points they gain.

I do have to say at this juncture (because I won't be touching on this aspect again given what else is happening with Command) that actually making Light/Dark points mean something for those already at Light V or Dark V very nice. Much like Social Points and Valor, hitting the cap for these on a character immediately makes acquiring them through our activities pointless (hehe), but now there actually will be something to put these spare points towards.

There's also an additional reward: Command Crates.

These are interesting, and potentially really quite concerning to certain players.

For the most part, Command Crates seem to be the Alliance Supply Crates reformatted; they drop Companion Gifts, cosmetic armour and items, mounts, and pets. However, there's one further addition to these particular crates. They're designed to drop endgame gear as well:
  • Once you hit Level 70, the source of end-game gear will be Command Crates from Galactic Command.
  • Both PvP and PvE gear will come from Command Crates. Their gear is now shared as Expertise is being removed.
  • Gear will no longer drop from bosses as all gear will come from Command Crates. All cosmetic/unique drops will still remain on those bosses (Stronghold Decorations, Wings of the Architect, etc.).
This is interesting.

I personally think that more ways to get endgame gear is a good thing if done properly; I sorely miss the days when Story Mode Ops set-bonus gear dropped from Hard Mode Flashpoints, so I'd love to have seen something like this done again.

However, removing all gear from Operations is a very interesting and concerning side-effect. I personally would have preferred to have the option to gear oneself whilst still being able to get gear from Operations. This has the potential to be quite slow depending on how long it takes for the best gear to start dropping from the Rank rewards (if NiM-grade gear doesn't start dropping until Rank 30 it will take a couple of weeks at least for the first people to start getting it).

According to posts in the main Gearing Topic, the drops will be random, but they will still be tied to your Advanced Class. People familiar with how the BattleMaster gearing system worked will likely just have shuddered in fearful recollection. Additionally, hitting the Rank cap will not stop rewards from being granted; you'll simply continue to get XP as you would usually up until you hit the point where you'd usually level up, and you'd then get the reward and the process repeats ad infinitum.

Seeing as the grade of gear which drops depends on your Command Rank, any future expansions and gear-tiers will be significantly biased towards players who actually hit the cap this time around (however long this takes). This is very much a 'carrot- and-stick' approach to gearing, it seems...

~~~

I do have to say that in many ways I silently approve of a certain amount of this. I like having the option to gear for ourselves (even if it's going to take a fairly long time compared to what it used to be), although I am still highly concerned by the fact that Operation gear is just gone (more thoughts below). Actually making a lot of old content (and people have been scoffing at my doing Daily runs again! Hah!)  appealing to grind for the best gear is a strategy I approve of, as it isn't just easy street for gearing and the HM Flashpoints are actually relevant gearing places once again. 

No longer will people be able to farm Highlighted Hard Mode Eternity Vault and instantaneously get a NiM-Grade Mainhand. One thing I've been campaigning for in-game to any guildies who'd listen is the removal of KP and EV from the Priority Ops system and make HM-grade gear the highest drop from these (granted, I also campaigned that this removal should also apply to ToS, Ravagers, and any new Ops but shift the drops for these so that NiM-grade gear dropped from Hard Mode to actually give an incentive to run these as HM with no NiM mode), but their outright removal of Priority Ops for this system actually does leave a (albeit very minor) sour taste in the mouth.

At the same time, however, the notion of gearing now only being RNG-dependent is rather concerning. As I've already expressed several times, I indulge in not only Dailies and Operations but duoing HM Flashpoints (and hopefully Uprisings too) with a friend. Therefore, we are both in a very good position to start this whole grind off and keep a certain momentum going, but this definitely won't apply to everyone.

For people who either don't have a lot of time in the week to dedicate to SWtOR due to work or - heck - even dedicating what time they do have outside of set Raid times grinding in other games (I'm noticing certain parallels between this system and aspects of the Campaign system for NeverWinter, for example) this system is going to be very slow and incredibly painful even if NiM Operations provide the quickest way to get Command Points. Keeping gear in Operations would at least provide a quicker alternative for people who simply can't dedicate the required time to grinding.

It would also negate this very RNG approach. I can already hear people complaining about their sixth 248 (or whatever grade NiM-grade is) chestpiece in a row when all they need is the offhand to complete the set. 

As one of my guildies has pointed out on our guild's forums, this system makes people who only dedicate their time to Raiding (which sadly applies to a good number of people in several Raid teams across the entire game for multiple differing reasons beyond work) almost a liability since there simply is no alternative way to acquire gear. Nobody who raids would want that hanging over them. At least with the current system you can gear a new or returning team-mate relatively quickly using the Priority Ops.

It also can't be denied that making Command Subscriber-only is also a severe punishment to Free-to-Play players, who can get around their current restrictions through certain Cartel Market unlocks. If they can still access Operations through Operation passes but not the Command system, what's the point of even allowing them to still do endgame stuff?

At the end of the day, this is definitely going to be something to get used to.

In summary, I like this system in theory, but I'd like it more if it was one option for gearing rather than the option.

Links for more information here:

17/10/2016

The Importance of Uprisings

Uprisings are, as we are all aware, the Flashpoints of 5.0. We don't know for sure how many we're going to get or exactly what we have to do for each of them, but we can certainly hope that they're far better than Star Fortresses used to be.

As the first proper four-man content since 3.0 with Blood Hunt and Battle of Rishi, the Uprisings have a lot to live up to.

I imagine that we'll see each one following the pattern establised as the Flashpoint pattern in Flashpoints such as Hammer Station, Czerka, and Depths of Manaan in being roughly 30 minutes in length with three bosses (although I sadly doubt that they'll all have bonus bosses). Fairly small, yet still making their mark.

I'm curious to see what the bosses themselves will be like. Given that there are rumoured to be at least five (with a further two or three names floating in the ether) there should be at least fifteen bosses across all of the Uprisings. I have my doubts that we'll see many new mechanics, but it will certainly be interesting to see which mechanics they have.

Heck, they could re-utilise every single Flashpoint mechanic we've seen thus far and with the correct spins I'm fairly sure most people would find the fights enjoyable.

It's worth looking at the prospect of what Uprisings will bring to the game because they are the first true group-content to come to the game since Battle of Rishi and Blood Hunt gained Hard Modes in 3.1. Colossal Monolith and the Star Fortresses technically count as well, but one of these is a simple instanced boss (which is like calling Xeno, Eyeless, or Golden Fury worthy group content) whilst the Star Fortress were primarily designed to be soloed and were never added to Group Finder.

Thus, the Uprisings could serve to gauge two very crucial factors.

First, they would allow people to see how healthy the group-content stage at endgame is for more varied things. Yes, they're basically just Flashpoints so even looking at the standard Group Finder queue could serve this purpose, but it would show how the community responds to new content. If the Group Finders never get off the ground for Uprisings, that's definitely not a good sign, for example.

Second, they are a very slight glimpse into what the future of group content in SWtOR may be like. I know, you can't truly judge Operations off Flashpoints, but what I mean to say is that if the Uprisings are full of nice mechanic-laden fights rather than just big numbers and RNG (Ma/stuck and Bastard, I'm looking at you both here) then there is a very good chance that future Operations fights may be, too. Granted, any new Operations fights would hopefully feature new mechanics, but baby-steps are very necessary when testing the waters, particularly where BioWare are concerned.

Analogies are both vague and helpful. It's like trying to waffle on more whilst having nothing else to say.

In conclusion, then, Uprisings are worth keeping an eye on.

I sincerely hope that they're going to be fun and memorable enough that they're actually worth doing time and again. The Star Fortresses are just so forgettable outside of the Exarch fight in Heroic (or should this now be termed 'Veteran'?) Mode, whilst virtually every single standard Flashpoint has something that keeps people remembering them fondly.

13/10/2016

Influential


Influence is an interesting subject to tackle. Depending on your point of view, it's either an interesting experiment, useful for Crew Skills, or a complete waste of time.

The same rules also apply twofold to story Companions. Senya, Koth, HK-55, Kaliyo, and Aric can all depart as part of the Fallen Empire storyline - notably, three of them are Romance Companions which sadly most likely leaves Vette and Torian as the 'de facto' sacrificial romance options for Eternal Throne since neither Lana nor Theron are ever going to die (sadly) and they can't feasibly make either Aric or Kaliyo part of yet another choice - so grinding Influence with any Story Companion is regarded as very very risky.

Amusingly, some people have taken this to an entirely new level and quit Chapter I: The Hunt early solely so that they could keep Darth Marr and grind his Influence up.

Because I'm beginning to run out of things to talk about in the run-up to the next Expansion (I always have this trouble), I figured I'd finally turn to those Companions whose Influence I myself have ground up to 50, even if it does make me look like a pathetic individual.

Hey, people need something to laugh at, right?

10/10/2016

Throne of Everlasting Chivalry

On Friday, we finally received more official information about Eternal Throne. It's time to start delving through what we got!

07/10/2016

KotFE Retrospective: My 5 Favourite KotFE Chapters

Continuing on from last week's post, it's time to round off the KotFE Retrospective series by looking over those Chapters which were my absolute favourite.

05/10/2016

Wednesday Warzones #4: Deep Questions

It's time for another instalment of Wednesday WarZones!


This week's video picks up where the last one left off. There are still three more matches worth showing off from this night's footage, so these ones will be shown off in the next video. 

Coincidentally, just like the last video, this one also earns its name from a specific moment in an Odessen match. Clearly Odessen just has that sort of an effect.

Participants:

Vhiallia - Balance Sage
Kenkurian'ah - Watchman/Combat Sentinel
Corriari - Shield Specialist Vanguard
Sh√≠ntar - Combat Medic Commando

03/10/2016

The Grind: Dailies vs. Heroics

Yet another thing I've yet to touch upon in any real way is how the [HEROIC] Missions have changed with 4.0. As everyone knows, every Heroic Mission outside of a few select cases (namely those for Gree, Rakghoul, Section X, and the Macrobinocular and Seeker Droid quests) are now [HEROIC 2+] missions and thus can easily be soloed.

Heck, of the specific instances where there still are [HEROIC 4] Missions, only one is impossible to solo, this of course being the final Shroud Mission.

They're also very accessible, with new terminals on each Fleet as well as on Odessen providing easy access to every single 'standard' [HEROIC 2+] Mission; the only ones not present here are any Area Heroics and the CZ-5X Droid on CZ-198.

Because of this, Heroics swiftly became the thing to do; the access was easy, the payout was good, and there was the additional reward of the Alliance Supply Crates.

Of course, this also means that for many people they have replaced the previous credit-grind system of the Dailies. Comparisons between the two have been done several times before, of course, but I'd like to just wade in and add my own views to the pile-up.

This will also be solely from an endgame perspective. Heroics are of course an invaluable source of XP Gain for levelling nowadays - so much so that they are the most widely-advised supplements to planetary and class quests - and Dailies don't emerge until Level 50 with The Black Hole and Section X.