300s #4 and #5

Since the last time I provided an update on my Legacy, two more Characters have joined the 300-crowd: my Sorcerer Vahnora and my Vanguard Jehnira.

When the new changes to the Commanding Legacy Perk were announced the week prior to 5.5’s launch, I decided to break my vow of inactivity and farm those Dailies. I’m very pleased that they’re back to normal now, though, and I am doing them again with the same enthusiasm I had from before that annoying bug.


I decided to focus on Vahn for this, because unlike Jehn she had immediate access to all Daily zones. Jehn is still partway through the Shadow of Revan storyline and has yet to touch Oricon or of course Ziost, so while she was fifty-one Command Ranks higher I felt I had to start with Vahn just because of this convenience. For some additional context, I started this farming endeavour two hours before the Weekly reset on Tuesday, and had managed to complete all Daily areas save for Section X before the new week began.

To cut a long story short, Vahn hit 300 last Sunday and I believed that I was a-okay to receive that lovely new 75% extra CXP since she was my fourth CR300 character.

Cue Tuesday; It’s revealed that you need one of each mirror Class (Consular/Inquisitor, Knight/Warrior, Smuggler/Agent, Trooper/Hunter) to receive the full boost, something which the Roadmap aggravatingly miscommunicated. Since Vhiallia and Vahnora are a Sage and Sorc respectively, that meant that instead of four characters I technically only had three at CR300.

So, Jehnira needed to step up to the plate. I had always been saving up CXP Packs for this week; I was just hoping to be able to squeeze the highest amount of CXP outta them before I used them, but alas it wasn’t to be. Still, she managed to get from CR101 to CR233 just by popping several cargo bays’ worth of Packs at the first opportunity, and after running nine Flashpoints over the past two days (including two selarate bouts of three FPs yesterday), she hit CR300 yesterday, finally fulfilling that pesky requirement and meaning that I had a representative from each Republic base class at 300.

So, who now? I have no exact idea, and I have three candidates to choose from.

I’m currently taking my new Powertech Phirella (the third) through her Class story, with her having gone from Level 1 - Level 70 in eleven hours on Friday, so she’s currently the most active character of the three.

There’s my Juggernaut, Ferok’ia, who - should anything happen with my Guild group-content wise Impside, has access to the highest-quality gear in general (borrowing my Guardian’s 248 Armour and Offhand and having Crafted 246 peripherals), so she’s the best candidate to keep constantly doing stuff with of the three.

Then there’s my Sniper Pippera, who has the highest CR of all my non-300s (CR45) yet presently has the worst personal gear (peripherals, Mainhand, and Offhand) of all my characters, so she needs the most ‘help’ of the three. Then again, with the way I’m handling Crates at the moment - storing them with intent to disintegrate the Armour/Weapons inside into sweet, sweet Unassembled Components when 5.6 hits on November 28th - I don’t think she’s going to get that help she needs for some time.

I think I’m going to play it safe and go with the Juggernaut, since she can ‘carry herself’ through the Tiers without my feeling guilty about Disintegrating stuff she gets, since the Legendary Tier III version of each of her Peripherals would be the earliest ‘viable’ replacements for her Crafted 246 stuff.


5.5: The Cosmetic Touch-Up Patch

There seems to be a common trend in several of the 5.5 changes. Outside of Class Balance changes and the GSF changes in particular, the majority of the changes made relate to cosmetic changes. The Cartel Market and Inventory got a visual update, more Companion Customisations were made available, and of course the server list got its new truncated look a few weeks too early.

Just in general, there's a lot of changes to talk about with 5.5, so let's get started.


Starfighter Assault: Galactic Starfighter By Another Name

Today we'll be learning what changes will be coming to Galactic Starfighter in SWtOR. It's been a long, long time since this mode received any love, and tomorrow's 5.5 patch will be changing things extensively. I fully-expect them to nerf Repair Probes and Charged Plating in particular, because ships like the FT-7B Clarion - albeit one of my favourite ships - just has a shedton of defensive potential without really trying.

On a similar subject to Galactic Starfighter, I've been indulging in the Star Wars Battlefront II Beta since Wednesday, and have been having an absolute blast in the game's Starfighter Assault mode. To summarise its mechanics, it is basically a significantly simplified version of Galactic Starfighter.

To start with the similarities:

Targeting an opponent is the exact same as in GSF; you need to aim for a small circle in front of your target which is showing which direction they're heading if you want to deal maximum damage or lock-on to them. There are some exceptions to this which we'll get to in a moment, but on the whole if you know how to dogfight in GSF you pretty much know how to play Starfighter Assault.

Indeed, to make the transition easier you can of course remap controls to fit your GSF playstyle. For example the Right Mouse-Button by default is a "Zoom" while your abilities are initially keyed to Q, E, and F, with the third ability being your missile. I personally prefer to scrap the zoom entirely (it's pretty useless) and remap the missile to it instead as an alternate key (since you can remap to a keyboard and to a mouse simultaneously) and remap the other two abilities to 1 and 2 respectively since I use those far more frequently than keyboard letters due to having a programmable mouse.

That's pretty much it for the similarities. Yes, there's only one. I did say it was significantly simplified!

The differences are more than a bit extensive:

By default, a system known as "auto-levelling" is turned on, which rights your ship to the 'proper' level automatically should it become too tilted. This makes no sense in space and can thankfully be toggled off via turning on "Advanced Flight", and this drastically improves flight in general and makes it more akin to GSF flight.

In GSF there are only a couple of missiles which can be fired unguided without requiring a lock-on. In BFII, every missile has both unguided and lock-on capabilities; holding (or toggling, waiting, and then toggling again, which is another option) the button will cause it to lock-on, while tapping it twice in quick succession will fire it off unguided in a straight line. This is good for quick fly-bys of objectives provided you can be sure that your missile(s) will hit.

Health automatically regenerates for everybody after a while of not being hit. Whilst some ships do have ways to repair the damage taken, you don't need to have these abilities to restore health in general. This means that you can keep fighting for longer, even if you have to dip in-and-out of combat just to heal back up again. On a similar subject, there is not the option to prioritise shield, weapon, or engine strength. There isn't even a directional deflector shield, which is somewhat surprising considering that they're audibly made use of in the battle of Yavin in Episode IV.

There are only a handful of ways to evade missiles. Only a couple of ships (at the moment) can break a missile lock entirely, while everyone else either just has to outrun them or hope that they can not only survive the hit but avoid taking damage long enough for them to heal straight back up. On a similar note, only a few ships (AKA Fighters which don't have an Astromech heal and all Interceptors) have a speed boost, which then goes on cooldown. The most that can be accomplished at any other time is pushing throttle to full, and it is worth noting that the acceleration key does not need to be held down; your throttle will remain the same speed you push it to at all times unless you turn or deliberately slow down.

Similar to Domination, each side has offensive and defensive objectives as well as the opportunity for dogfighting and you ideally need a good balance of both; the dogfighters need to eliminate opponents so that other team members can focus on objectives without interruptions. However, the differences here are that the objectives aren't necessarily to capture, but rather destroy, and one faction has a clear-cut advantage in that if they eliminate all of the reinforcements in a single phase the game ends immediately with their victory. In the thirty or forty games I've played, I've only seen the Rebellion win six times often due to priority errors, some of which will be highlighted in a video at the end of this post.

While each side can have a maximum of 12 players, in actuality there are far more ships flying around than the supposed max of 24. This is because AI ships are flying around on both sides as well, some of whom are generic pilots while others are objective-NPCs for the defending faction to kill. Destroying the Objective NPC ships - be they Cruisers, Corvettes, or Bombers - has a significant impact on the team they support; either the phase progresses or the attacking team loses reinforcement points per each successful complete destruction.

All ships have good offensive capability, although it is worth stressing that time-to-kill itself in Battlefront is significantly lower than in GSF. The ship classes themselves are fairly similar to GSF; you have the fast light Scout/Interceptor, the middle-ground Strike Fighter/Fighter, and the spongy Bomber. However, unlike GSF where the Bomber is the weakest in terms of general attack, in Battlefront it's as good as - if not sometimes better than - the other two ships. For example, the TIE/sa Bomber has access to a multi-missile ability which targets three random targets in its flight path, while the BTL-A4 Y-Wing has an ion turret which both weakens and damages its target.

As you have probably already guessed from the above paragraph, the lack of mention of Gunships means that there aren't any in Starfighter Assault. The only Gunships which exist are slow-moving on-rails ships available as reinforcements for the ground Galactic Assault mode. The lack of an at-range sniper ship means that fighters have the opportunity to get up-close and personal and engage in some proper dogfighting, and it's amazing how much difference it makes.

Whilst there aren't Gunships to worry about, there are exclusive Hero ships which can also be seen flying around the place. Some of these are only a tiny bit bigger than standard ships, so the normal hitbox and targeting mechanic applies, but others - notably Slave I - have got a far bigger hitbox because the ship itself is a lot bigger and thus easier to hit. In the previous game, Heroes could only be found as a pick-up, whereas in this game you earn them by playing the game and being good at various things, which is a significant improvement because it means that - theoretically - everyone has a chance to become one rather than have to solely rely on chance alone.

The worst difference - by far - surrounds the method of progressing through individual ship levels and acquiring upgrades. In GSF, it makes sense. You play the game, earn currency, and spend it on purchasing individual upgrades, thus improving your ships slowly and deliberately as you play more of the game.

Battlefront II's system in general makes Galactic Command - even in its original state - look good. In order to get your ships higher in level or with the right upgrades, you need to be lucky with RNG Crates which can give you anything for any one of your four ground soldiers, three ships, four reinforcements, or twenty-odd heroes (although range-specific crates can be purchased, this supposedly only guarantees you one item of the three for your chosen range and even then this isn't a certainty - I once got two sets of Crafting Parts and a Han Solo MvP victory pose from a Starfighter-only Crate).

Playing the game only raises your overall level, not the level of your chosen ship or soldier. Considering that it will be possible to buy these Crates with real money at-launch, some people will be going into any mode with several additional character or ship levels and upgrades over other players should they decide to inject money into it. It doesn't matter how much you play your ships; you may love Fighter and play it most of all, but due to the 'progression' RNG your highest-level ship might be your Interceptor even if you haven't played a single match with it.

This isn't right, and ideally it needs fixing. However, we're only a few weeks away from launch now, so it is exceedingly unlikely that anything significant will be changed between now and then, but a lot of people are making noise about it so hopefully things will improve at some point even if it isn't immediate.

Then again, this is EA we're talking about.

Anyway. I've prattled on for long enough.

To conclude, it's clear that both GSF and Starfighter Assault, while similar on a fundamental level, both do something better than the other somewhere along the line. Assault is far better at allowing proper dogfighting and balance between ships is pretty damn good, while GSF has a significantly better progression system and all of the ships do have their own identity.

Such is my love for Starfighter Assault that I recorded a few matches earlier this morning and uploaded one to my now-rather-bereft YouTube Channel. I fully-intend to continue doing so when the game launches properly since this is probably the most fun mode I've played in a game for quite some time.

Earlier in the post I mentioned that a balance was needed between dogfighting and objective-completion. This first video highlights two dangers of focusing too much on the former personally and not doing enough to help with the objectives; firstly, that the match itself was a close defeat in the second phase and secondly, that accomplishing a lot of kills can of course have a negative effect on relationships with individuals on the enemy team.

We here at Galactic Antics would like to apologise to any individuals whose feelings were hurt during the course of this match. Your feedback is appreciated and will be taken into account for future renditions of your Galactic Antics product.


The Vanguard Experiment: Secondary Results

Monday seems to be Vanguard day on Galactic Antics now. Yay, I guess?

For the past two weeks I've been documenting my progress with new-Vanguard Jehnira in a plan to see whether I could actually have a Trooper I considered "fun to play" since I realised how tedious I was finding Commando.

If you haven't read the previous entry, the current feeling is that this 'experiment' has been successful; I was finding Plasmatech much more fun than Gunnery, and doing the Trooper storyline and all Republic Quests again has allowed me to indulge in a game-long desire to see a Companion get from 0-to-max Affection/Influence solely through quests.

So, a week later, has my feeling changed or are things still on the up?


The Vanguard Experiment: Preliminary Results

Last week I wrote about how, having realised how tedious I was finding Commando, I decided to give the Vanguard Class another go with new-character Jehnira. Just to emphasise again, she is approximately the seventh Vanguard to have been created; the previous six had all failed to 'stick' at some point in their careers.

There are a few potential reasons for this. Either I didn't think there was a need to dedicate much time to a Vanguard due to the Commando's existence, or I just didn't like the playstyle as I had perceived it as being. The story being very memorable to me due to it being my first SWtOR story endeavour might also have had a part in it; certainly beyond the very first only one had reached Tatooine whilst the rest had stopped at Nar Shaddaa or earlier.

However, because I was unsure about the future of my Commando, this first potential issue had all but disappeared. This largely only left the playstyle and story issues, both of which are joined hand-in-hand in some ways; if I enjoy the playstyle of a character I tend to take them through as much of the content as I can instead of just skipping to the end and being done with it.

So, how have things been turning out?

Long-story short: so much better than I was anticipating.


300 #3

So yesterday I finally got my Sage up to Command Rank 300. She's been in the high 290s for almost two weeks now, and yesterday I earned and used enough Flashpoint CXP Tokens that completing a very long-overdue Social Points mission took her over the edge.

Because I know some people will find this delay rather odd, I am very much aware of the Daily Zone bug, which would definitely have enabled me to hit 300 far sooner had I indulged in doing them. Despite the fact that Daily Zones are my own choice manner of solo-grinding CXP, I'm staying away from them while this bug is in-effect as a matter of principle. Whilst I'm pleased that people are finally realising how good they can be for CXP I absolutely despise that, rather than under the Zones' own merit, it takes a bug for this to occur. Sigh.

But then, such is the way of life in an MMO, I suppose. Hopefully, it'll get fixed properly next week as they intend. My hope is that people still keep doing the zones even without this nuisance bug, but I sadly have my doubts. Regardless, I'll be launching back into them with gusto when they're back to the way they used to be.

Still, if increased exposure gets Section X's Alignment Bug fixed then that's okay. That's the only thing which really needs fixing of the 'standard' Daily set, although I'd love for them to increase the CXP given by the Weekly for Makeb and particularly GSI to the same standard as the other Daily Zones. Currently they're both only giving the base amount of 75 which all other Daily and Heroic Missions are giving rather than 750. That's approximately nine whole missions' worth of CXP right there lost in both places thanks to this annoying oversight.

So anyway.

Now that my Sage is 300, this leaves me wondering where I'm going to go next. Unlike my Gunslinger and my Guardian, Sage Vhiallia is going absolutely nowhere beyond this point. As fun as my choice spec of Balance is, I don't think it's a particularly viable spec for anything 'serious' at the moment due to how it works (e.g. timings of DPS-crucial abilities such as Force in Balance make it very hard to be consistent on certain fights). Meanwhile, Telekinetics falls too much on the 'tedious' side for me. I'm sure it's a decent-enough spec, I just don't find it very enjoyable, which is definitely my main factor in deciding whether or not I like a spec.

So, anyway, the next character. I'm still in the midst of deciding whether or not the Vanguard Experiment was a success (there was supposed to be a post on this today, but then this happened instead so that'll probably go up tomorrow), so I don't particularly want to commit to either of my Troopers at the moment. Meanwhile, over on Empire Side I've got my Sorc, Sniper, and Juggernaut waiting to be levelled to match their Republic counterparts, but of course any focus on these might be wasted if I decide to focus on my Vanguard full-time if I deem her a success. The Merc gets the short end of the stick due to the above factors and also due to my not wanting to focus on a Class whose mirror has been deemed 'unworthy' of carrying on.

Additionally, it is worth noting that unlike on Republic side my Imperial characters will only have the traded-off CXP Packs and Daily Zones to level with, since it is unlikely that they'll ever get involved with Flashpoints or Operations themselves. Basically, they're going to take a while to be levelled no matter what.

So... yeah. A few things to consider. I was always going to come to a crossroads when Vhi hit 300, but now it's even more complicated than I was previously envisaging. Still, it's nice to have another character at 300.


Here We Go Again...

I don't know what it is about Vanguards, but there's always something which makes me want to keep giving this Class a try. I think I've probably created about seven of them by now, before ultimately writing them off for some reason or other. Either I didn't find the playstyle to my liking or I just rationalised the need to dedicate myself to the Class as pointless because, after all, I already have an established Trooper; a Commando.

Yet no matter what, without fail I create at least one new Vanguard during each Expansion, just to see whether the changes - and there have been a fair few across 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, and now 5.0 - are enough to get past my previous stigmas. Bonus points for 2.0 having two new Vanguards created and even my original 'true Main' character, the Vanguard Tank Kiratahn, resurrected.

In 5.0 I believe there are a few more specific layers to my most recent diving into the Vanguard experience.

Firstly, the changes to Jedi Guardian - which was already one of my favourite Classes, in fairness - for 5.0 - removing most channels, making it infinitely more mobile - made me absolutely fall in love with it, to the extent that I'd now easily cite Vigilance as my favourite Spec in the entire game.

Secondly, I've come to realise just how tedious I find Commando DPS. Gunnery is boring as hell whilst Assault is just all over the place and is definitely one of the most "acquired taste" specs available. Not that I'm anticipating Plasmatech being any less in 5.0...

So, since 5.0 made Vigilance a lot more fun than it used to be - even if it simultaneously neutered Master Strike Blade Dance Blade Barrage - and I've practically written off my Commando, I am very curious to see whether Vanguard can captivate my interests at long last or whether or not it will be another waste of time.

With Levelling Content being how it is, it's certainly not going to be really that easy to work out what the answer will be, but that's definitely more of a problem with how quickly things die now more than it is due to the Classes who experience the fights. That said, Vanguards are very good at demolishing packs of mobs with their Flak Shell and Ion Wave in particular, so whilst this certainly makes for a fun 'stomping' experience, it definitely doesn't help this "things die too quickly" issue in the slightest.

I'm also not a huge fan of how the Vanguard gets their Leap at Level 59, but hey-ho, it's not the end of the world. With how I do Planets - I may abhor the Levelling process since I tend to learn a Class better when I have most of my skills available but I still absolutely adore the Levelling content - it won't take that long to get 'up there', at which point I can focus on experimenting as properly as I can given the circumstances. This will take even quicker than I was anticipating since a week of Double-XP will be beginning tomorrow.

Good thing certain Heroics take some time to mow through these days.

Anyway, I've spent long enough wittering on about Vanguards and stuff and I haven't even posted a picture of the subject in question yet.

Introducing Jehnira!

Currently I'm in two minds about her. You may recall that in my 5.4 summary post I said that I was thinking of trying Lana's hair model, but it does not adapt well to either of the darker hair colours afforded to humans. I still decided to see what it was like out in the 'real game world' rather than just visible within the Character Creator, and it certainly doesn't look as bad as I was originally perceiving. Still very silver, though.

I honestly don't know for sure, though. I'll keep her with the new Lana-look for the time being and obviously I can revert back if I don't find it entirely to my liking after a few days. Anyone have any opinions on the matter that they'd like to share?

Somewhat interestingly, I believe her name finally brings an end to my apparent aversion of using all letters in a character's name except for the one which my own name starts with. Having scrapped all but one of my DvL characters I am unable to confirm whether or not this is truly the case, but I do seem to recall having used the only other outstanding letter - Q - in one of their names, in which case I've finally used every single letter of the alphabet in my characters' names.

Not that this was something which needed doing. I just found it amusing how after all these years of creating several dozen characters that there were still a handful of letters which I had never thought of using, and now it's hopefully come to a close.

Also, somewhat distractingly, without intending to I seem to have accidentally remade a former friend's Vanguard, just with darker skin (I think), different colour eyes, and potentially a different hairstyle if I decide to stick with Lana's hairstyle. Otherwise it's still different, but only because it lacks the front strands which would normally cover the left eye since it's the same base style. Amusingly, all throughout creating her I kept thinking "I've seen this character design before, I swear it", but was otherwise perfectly content with her look. It was only halfway through Ord Mantell when glancing at the character portrait that the resemblance finally clicked.

Comes to something when you remember what a character looked like from the portrait and not from an in-game cutscene.

So that's awkward. But hey, he's not around anymore to know, so it's nowhere near as awkward as it could have been. Now that I've said this, he'll turn up out-of-the-blue next week sometime. That's usually how these things work, right?

Finally, I am rather pleased to finally be able to translate this particular armour and weapon combination onto a Character of my own. The combination of the Havoc Squad Armour with the Stronghold Defender's Blaster Rifle (coupled with the Strap Tuning) has been a 'staple' look for Aric Jorgans across my Legacy for some time now, with Miorahna's Rusk even having his own variation of this style, so to finally have a Character who can use it themselves feels very satisfying indeed.

It also really helps that when this particular rifle folds up, it becomes far less of a sticking-out-eyesore on a female character's back compared to practically every other rifle out there, where - unlike on male characters - the stock invariably sticks out over crest of the character's head. Definitely one of my biggest pet peeves with female rifle-wielding characters.

Of course, keeping in with the trend, Jehnira's Aric also makes use of this style. I'm nothing if not consistent.


So, yeah. Curious to see how long this particular experiment lasts. I'm not expecting great results, but maybe I'll be surprised. Time shall tell. 


Thoughts on 5.4 [Spoiler-Free]

"That's it, Choza, you're really making them fear your wrath with how far away you're standing!"
So 5.4 finally launched yesterday after two days of delays. The delays were caused by something causing the Flashpoint Crisis on Umbara to malfunction somehow, so obviously it was a necessary fix since CoU was the main focus of this Patch.

So, now that it's here, what is there that's worth seeing/doing?


Third Anniversary Follow-On: Giveaway Results

Last week, as you may recall, I announced in my Third-Anniversary post that I would be holding my first giveaway. It was always going to be something of a shambles, since I only ever had four items which I could put up as potential rewards.

This is largely because I have absolutely no idea what's popular among the community, and oftentimes whenever something is popular I find myself completely baffled as to why. So as a result, even though I probably should have bought something specially for this occasion, I was absolutely petrified that I would have made the wrong decision(s) and have completely wasted that purchase due to nobody having an interest in said item(s). 

Still, I was moderately happy with the four items I had managed to discover through RNG, with the E-95 Dread Behemoth Tank being the item which I thought would be the most difficult to shift due to its annoyingly-coincidental low price on the GTN. The Unstable Peacemaker's Dualsaber - despite being one of the nicest saber models in my opinion - was also a big risk because only 1/8ths of the Classes could have used it.

Somewhat disappointingly (but not that surprising, considering how "half-assed" even I called it), the giveaway didn't receive that much attention at all. After all, a competition which only offers four items - only 50% of which are generally desirable or appealing - isn't particularly captivating. 

Indeed, only two people entered, and I find it very appropriate that both individuals have made the most comments on the blog between them across its three years. Since they also selected their own specific items, that made designating the prizes far easier than I was anticipating, and of course it means that I don't get to disappoint anyone, so bonus points all round! 

Thus, the Krayt Dragon Skeleton goes to Shintar, and Zayne Carrick's Armour Set goes to Ravanel! Congrats to you both, and be sure to check your Mailboxes today for your prizes. 

Whilst I am slightly disheartened that the giveaway didn't get much love, I will once again reinforce my pledge to be determined to do better next time. Afterthoughts never go down well, even if they're apparently well-intentioned. 

As for the Unstable Peacemaker's Dualsaber and the E-95 Behemoth? I honestly don't know. I'll probably try and keep certainly the Dualsaber on until the next giveaway since I personally have no need for it, and the Behemoth will just... I dunno... continue to exist? Whilst it's a decent item I don't think it has enough staying power to be worth keeping specifically for a second giveaway attempt.

Once again, congrats to both Shin and Rav, and thank you once again to everyone who has stuck with the Blog for the past three years. 


[Potential Spoilers] Community Reactions: Saying too much by saying little

Being a part of a community can sometimes be both a blessing and a curse.

It enables you to find a whole host of like-minded people with whom you can debate your views or beliefs, and the disagreements - whilst sometimes unpleasant - can still lead to interesting results. The support networks can also be absolutely incredible.

However, something sometimes happens which people can't keep quiet about. This more often than not leads to a commendable response to keep things quiet, but sometimes these best-intentions backfire if the responses are handled in a certain manner.

One such instance of this is the response to apparent leaks regarding a Story development in SWtOR. I myself have no idea what this is; I don't enjoy looking these things up.

However, the response to the leaks has led to me getting some idea of what's up.

Whatever the leak is, it's big. It's led to people forming private groups in which to discuss the news and even encouraging encrypting messages. Elsewhere, the reaction from people in the know has been summarised as the equivalent of "No More Ops" but for Story Players. Bonus points to this last one for the person who responded that they were "effectively done with SWtOR" because of the truth.

I'm something of a puzzle-solver, as it's something which I've picked up due to my family also having an interest in it. I'm definitely not the best, but it has led to an annoyingly-incessant curiosity all the same. So when I see all this hullabaloo, rather than ignoring it as I should, I can't help but get to the bottom of it.

Fair warning: As the title implies, whilst as I say I have absolutely no idea what the correct answer is, I would advise staying away from this post if you have any fear whatsoever about spoilers, since as usual I will be posting an over-long hypothesis and coming to my own answer(s).


Milestone: 3-Year Anniversary!

So again the time comes to celebrate another year of running this blog. Three years ago on this day, the blog's initial incarnation, Spawn of the Dread Master, was released unto the world. It was just a bit of a mess, something which probably hasn't changed in three years, but it's certainly been an interesting ride.

As with last year, I still find it rather incredible to say that this thing is still going after more than one year, although obviously compared to last year the amount of blog posts has been reduced significantly for some reason or another.

Regardless, it's certainly been an interesting year. Those of you (un)fortunate enough to have been following the blog since its inception may recall that last year I made the transition from WordPress to Blogger due to my frustrations with certain elements of the former platform (e.g. the scheduling system) finally getting the better of me. Thankfully, a complete transfer of all data, posts, etc. to Blogger was possible, so nothing important was lost.

Although the formatting is still woeful on all those old posts and the comments didn't transition properly (replies aren't staggered but instead all comments in their own right), so this is something that will need to be fixed at some point. Maybe.

The point is that this isn't just a standard anniversary post but also an anniversary of my and the blog's time on Blogger. Let's get started, shall we?


5.4: Shadows, Shuttles, and Scoundrels

So again I come up with a post idea immediately before BioWare announces something that's worth commenting on. Oh, my timing, you never improve.

Yesterday, Keith Kanneg revealed more details about what's coming with 5.4. This Patch will be, as we've been aware for quite some time, the first Patch to contain an actual new Flashpoint since Blood Hunt and Battle of Rishi waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 3.0.

It was also promised in the new Roadmap to continue the trends seen since 5.2.2 and 5.3; Class Changes and Companion Customisations.

Finally, it also promised to herald the end of Season 8 of Ranked PvP.

So, with all that riding on it, what's there that's interesting and/or surprising?


The Return of the GSI Satellites

In Patch 2.9, a little service known as the GSI Support Satellites was added on Makeb. These bolstered a Player's gear substantially, provided 2% Healing every 3 seconds while in combat, and provided a massive 250% XP Bonus to Exploration on Makeb, and only on Makeb, while active.

These proved both popular and semi-controversial. People loved them for the exact same reason as other people hated them; they made Makeb very accessible and all-but removed the risk of 'losing' the big fights, which were somewhat challenging when they were first released. I say this wincing at the mere memory of how bad the Cartel Mining Mesa used to be. 

In 4.0, these Satellites were removed, and for good reason. Level-scaling pretty much ensured that they had next-to-no reason for existing in the first place; there was a cap on the maximum amount of Health, Armour, and Damage/Healing values which had never been in place before, and with the numerous ways of getting shedloads of XP a Player would more often than not be above the cap of 56 by the time they reached Makeb, let alone finishing it. 

Additionally, since gear no longer mattered for Companions and they could have any role, it was no longer of import whether or not you had a Companion appropriately-geared for the fights they'd have to endure. 

However, in spite of their comparative uselessness, it seems that they were missed by quite a substantial amount of people, because at some point in 5.0 - I recall it being a relatively-recent re-addition but I can't for the life of me even find the relevant Patch Notes where their return is mentioned - they made a return.

Being the curious sort, when I went to Makeb the other day to finally get around to working on the <Kill it with Fire> Achievement now that I actually had a character with burns I was willing to use regularly, I decided to indulge in using the Satellite just to see what it did.

As suspected, Level-Scaling has nullified the Bolster aspect. Provided that you reach the cap of Mastery, Endurance, and Power (which is attainable at Level 70 by completely removing most of your gear), your character only gains the 250% Exploration XP buff and the Healing Probes, both of which are nice to have, but shouldn't necessarily be the biggest selling-points of the Satellites in the first place. 

Notice how I deliberately specified the things which your character gains? There's a reason for that. Companions benefit from this far more than any single Player does. 

How, you might ask?

Well, you know how every time you go down to a Planet the Companion is synced perfectly to the Level-cap, so much so that they don't even say they're 70/whatever down to 56 but for all intents and purposes have always been Level 56? 

The GSI Satellite does away with that. Your Companion is left at their highest present Level and thus has access to all their big non-scaled stats and numbers.

This basically means that you become immortal. Either your Companion is steamrollering over everything in its path (and creating far more Threat than you could ever hope to even as a DPS), or it's outhealing every bit of damage done to you by an absolute payload (and again creating vastly more Threat because of the passive healing Threat and because it'll still deal damage when it sees no reason to heal you), or your Companion is literally an Immortal Juggernaut of a Tank.

Which means that everything on Makeb is an absolute walk-in-the-park as long as you're under the effect of this Satellite. Since nothing can even so much as touch your Companion, there is virtually no risk of death unless you happen to get knocked off a cliff or your Companion is unable to either see you or the target you want it to kill because of reasons. 

Of course this isn't even mentioning the PvP aspects of this. Say you decide to go onto a PvP Instance just to see if you can get a few more kills for your Achievements. 

You yourself don't find anyone, but are instead found. Let's say while mounted. Your opponent has the drop on you while your Companion is tucked safely away from harm's way. Unless you are dismounted by the force of the attacks and your instantly-summoned Companion is very quick-on-the-draw with its Healing (if it's even a Healer at all) you're pretty much dead in the water instantly.

On the other hand, you may get locked into a stalemate of constantly being unable to negate either Companion's healing, since of course you yourself can't defeat their Companion, and nor they yours, since being Level 56 trying to tackle a Level 70, every ability will miss or be resisted


So basically, the return of the GSI Satellites, while welcome in some centres, is quite a ridiculous phenomenon. It's practically unnecessary for several Player characters and it presents the "Companions are over-powered" crowd with far more fuel than they know what to do with.

Whilst the Satellite is of course optional, I do think that the Companion aspect of it should be tweaked, even if only to address the aforementioned concerns regarding a Companion's usage in Open World PvP. That said, I do acknowledge that this isn't a frequent occurrence to begin with. In some ways, this Satellite could be considered a soft-exploit if used solely to gain an unfair advantage over other Players in such theoretical battles, which I don't see as being acceptable in the slightest.

Still, it's interesting to see the Satellite back for whatever reasons. I am very curious to know just how many people wanted to see it return. 


Decoration Documentation: Manaan

So as everyone should be aware by now, the Manaan Stronghold was released yesterday, allowing Players to add an additional 25% to their Conquest bonus, and providing another opportunity for me to be thankful that I don't put effort into all of my Strongholds.

I had only put effort into one of my five Strongholds, Tatooine, whilst the rest have just had a whole host of random items thrown in just for the Conquest bonus. The only other one to have had a 'set theme' was my Yavin temple, but only because I decided to chuck 750 Republic Guardsmen into the Stronghold in my own form of personal protest against the impracticality of a temple being your average living quarters.

Or so I tell myself anyway.

Regardless, it had been some time since I had actually dedicated time and effort to working with a Stronghold, and since Manaan is one of my favourite planets of all time, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to see what I could do.


5.3: Sisters, Strongholds, and Silliness, Oh My!

As mentioned in Wednesday's Blog Post, 5.3 is right around the corner. I've already touched on the balance changes which will be coming in this Patch, but we didn't have any official previews of anything else on which to comment. We knew that the second Gods from the Machine fight would be being released and that a sixth Stronghold would be being released, but outside of the class changes and a list of pending bug-fixes there was nothing more concrete.

As of yesterday via an update to the general Knights of the Eternal Throne story page and the Influencers being allowed to post videos of the ESNE and AIVELA fight, we do now finally have something more tactile to comment on.


Gaining Balance

5.3 is around the corner and if you've been paying attention to the SWtOR Roadmap and especially the DevTracker you will be aware that Class Balance will begin another phase with this patch. Eight Disciplines were announced as being updated to fall more in line with where the Developers wanted each of them to be, with the promise that they will get around to other specs eventually. These were just the eight which needed the most attention.

Immediately, however, there was a slight discrepancy. The Roadmap announced that Scoundrels (forewarning at this point: all of my personal thoughts on these changes will be from a Republic player's perspective) would be seeing changes in 5.3 alongside Vanguards, Commandos, Sages, Shadows, and Gunslingers, but when the specific Disciplines were listed, there were no Scoundrels to be seen. They're probably going to be the 'main' focus of 5.4.

The eight Disciplines that will be changed are as follows:
  • Serenity
  • Gunnery
  • Plasmatech
  • Seer
  • Dirty Fighting
  • Balance
  • Assault Specialist
  • Saboteur
Along the way, Eric also posted a really long post about "how Class Balance happens", which detailed exactly what they categorised the different Disciplines as and where they wanted each of them to be. It also revealed that no Utilities were being adjusted this time around; these changes were only affecting the offensive potential. I do question their logic of listing Dirty Fighting as the Quasi-Sustained spec for Ranged DPS, however; I would honestly have thought this would apply most to Saboteur. 

I'm aware that this isn't the first time BioWare have detailed exactly what their views on the different Classes are, but I always appreciate it being done all the same, since even if I don't always agree with a certain perspective it's (mostly) always interesting to read another's point of view. 

Anyway, on with the list.


Life of the Night

The Nar Shaddaa Casinos are once more brimming with activity, which can only mean one thing; the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife Event is back, and with it come more opportunities for people to wile away the weeks spending as many Credits as they have trying their best to win the newest rare items.


300 #2

The end-result of focusing on characters the way I do is that one or two end up incredibly far ahead of the rest due to the amount of time spent dedicated to the front-runners. In prior expansions, this has nearly always resulted in one character getting full set-bonus gear while everyone else is left with high-endurance Comm Gear, or a set composed from a mixture of PvP and Comm gear.

There have been two exceptions to this: 2.0 and 5.0. In the case of 2.0, this happened when Calph took over from then-main Ziodus the January after DF and DP came out, so both ended up in full Dread Forged gear during their 2.0 careers. In the case of 5.0, Calph is still far and away the 'leader of the pack' at roughly Command Rank 1,161, but finally as of yesterday evening I've got a second character at 300. For context, my next highest is Command Rank thirty-five, whilst Calph has been CR 300 since January 29th.

As I've written elsewhere on this blog, I've become quite a big fan of Jedi Guardian DPS. I was hooked on it as a 'main-backup' during 3.0, and since Miorahna became pretty much my favourite character in terms of looks during 4.0 and the Class is a hell-of-a-lot more mobile now in 5.0, my love for the Class has grown all the more. So, it seemed right that when it came to focusing seriously on an Alt, Miorahna would be the perfect choice. 

Whilst she didn't get full 242 despite reaching Tier III after the new drop-rates came in, she still got a fair few pieces of 240 and some 242. Combined with spare 246/248 Mods and Enhancements from Calph, that meant that by the time she reached Tier IV she was in at least full optimised 240 with one 242 Earpiece, Relic, and Implant, and the 242 Chest, Bracers, Belt, Headpiece, two 242 Offhands (the armouring from the second is used in her Boots as the offset piece), and full 246 or 248 Mods and Enhancements. 

She did also have 1,000 Unassembled Components, so I traded in both her Offhands to get a 248 Offhand Saber and the Generator as well as the Earpiece, meaning that she had three 248 pieces before even hitting Tier IV. After earning several more Components she was able to earn a 248 Relic of Serendipitous Assault yesterday by trading in a spare 242 Relic, which was then complimented rather nicely by the only good piece she received from the three Tier IV Crates she's so far earned; a 246 Relic of Focused Retribution.

I'm still not the best at Guardian DPS, but I was quite happy with how she coped in the final fight of Scum and Villainy yesterday evening; she did the worst of the team in terms of output at 6.8k but was only 900 DPS or so behind the leading Player, neither of which I'm sour about considering that I still haven't got the optimal rotation down for Guardian properly yet. I still mess up on which filler to use when. 

Then again, of the final bosses I'd argue that Styrak HM is probably one of the better ones for Melee, so it remains to be seen how this result translates across to a melee-unfriendly fight which still requires well-above-average DPS output...

It comes to something when, as a result of my growing respect for this Class, Miora's Imperial equivalent, Ferok'ia, is actually better geared than Calph's Imperial counterpart due to actually bothering to get both the Guardian and Juggernaut their 'peripheral' (Relics, Implants, and Earpiece) pieces crafted. Pippera still only has her 220 and 224 peripherals, not to mention 220 weapons. That Sniper's just been completely ousted from her post since 5.0 and I'm actually okay with that.


As much as the criticisms levied at Galactic Command are totally justified (and they better be, since I've thrown quite a few of them against it myself), it can be seen to work out pretty nicely sometimes. Ignoring the Mods and Enhancements sent over from Calph's spares, none of Miora's current gear was won during an Operation; it's all come from Command Crates and then been upgraded from there. I won't deny that this outcome was very fortuitous even with the new drop-rates, which are still a bit of a nuisance to deal with. I think she received about four 242 belts...

I'm very much looking forward to 5.2.2 bringing in purchasable set-bonus optimised 230 gear for Command Tokens; finally, for the first time in literally ever, all of my characters will be in optimised set bonus gear and I can begin to use them 'happily'. I legitimately can't wait.

Additionally, I am seriously tempted to pick up the Tank armour set for Miora (and craft the unoptimised Mods, Enhancements, Relics, Earpiece, and Implants), just so I can practice off-tanking. I'm not confident to say "yeah, I'll happily main-tank something", but I've been delegated as the off-tank for a good number of times for certain boss fights even when not on a Tanking class so I'd be happy to give it a proper shot. For example, I volunteered as the DPS-with-taunt for the aforementioned Styrak run whilst Calph has been an off-tanking Gunslinger for SM DF and DP runs which my guild did at the start of 5.0 and then again in early 5.1.

So based on that, I think I'll dedicate some time to learning to do it properly for a change. Just start, see how it goes, and go on from there. I'm someone who only learns what a bad idea is when it's pummelling me in the face, so I imagine that this will happen to me here. :P


We're on the Road to Somewhere

After a few weeks of promising the Roadmap at the end of this month, it seemed for a brief amount of time that Keith Kanneg would unfortunately be unable to deliver it within his promised schedule. The exact reasons for the delay were not specified, which is a shame because it would have been nice to know at least some specific details regarding the various hoops which he had to jump through, but there it is.

Thankfully, he was able to circumvent these delays and posted the Roadmap earlier today. So, as several bloggers will doubtless be doing, I'll be diving in to take a closer look.


Exclusive Accompaniment: Prospective Sub-Reward Companions

This post was originally scheduled to come out last Thursday, but then other things got in the way. There was an update on the upcoming Roadmap and the first tease of stuff coming in 5.2.2 by Keith Kanneg, the first slight hint at the possibility of weapons coming to Outfit Designer, and of course there's the recent trend of putting rare items and surefire popular-sellers on the Cartel Market.

Such fun! Now back to the otherwise-scheduled-as-normal post.

Since Fallen Empire, BioWare have introduced a couple of pre-established characters as subscriber rewards. Shae Vizla and Nico Okarr were both characters only seen in the Trailers before Shae became a pivotal part of the 3.0 story, and the infamous HK Subscriber Rewards scheme reunited people with the barmy Bodyguard-turned-Assassin Droid they had lost in the main story.

Since the Companion Subscriber rewards proved popular (which is also partly what led to the HK Scheme in the first place), I think there's a good chance that BioWare will repeat this experience, since they also seem keen to hand out Companions left, right, and centre at any given opportunity - one was a reward for completing the Eternal level of the Dark vs. Light Event, and just look at the amount of Companions available now via the Cartel Market.

We're still a long ways off from the next Expansion, but still I'd imagine that by now some people in BioWare are busy drumming up all sorts of plans for it and which Companions will be destined to return. As part of this, they'd also of course need to consider potential Sub-Reward Companions, so the question remains: who could it possibly be?


Satele Shan's Vent of Defiance: A Look at Recent Cartel Trends

Time to talk about that Cartel Market thing again.

Everyone knows about in-game cash shops and the various issues that come with them. SWtOR's is of course infamous for the Cartel Packs chock-full of different items of varying rarity which subject anyone who invests in them to dealing with the harsh mistress which is RNG.

Over the last couple of years, some of these exclusive and rare items have slowly but surely trickled their way out of the Packs, with the only really unique example being the Tythian Lightsaber Pike, which is a very rare drop from its owner himself. The more... interesting... examples involve items which are put up for direct sale.

Items in the past which have seen this treatment have included the Temple Guardian and XoXaan armour sets, the Ziost Guardian's Lightsaber, the Eliminator's Dual-Edge Vibrosword, and the Dune Sea Bantha.

Regardless of the appeal for some of these items, it can't be denied that they pale so very hard in comparison to three of the more-recent direct-sale transferees.

A couple of months ago the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber - which eventually became the first Platinum rarity item - was put up for the whopping price of 7,600 Cartel Coins, while in the last fortnight we've seen the Defiant Vented Lightsaber (initially 5,700 CC before rising to 7,600 CC) and Satele Shan's armour (2,132 CC before rising to 2,600 CC) be added.

No matter your opinion on this behaviour or their reasoning behind it (can't get enough money, be so skint from lack of Subscriptions that they need the Cartel Market, or just because they run an internal betting market based on how many people give in and purchase these items; you know the sorta stuff the internet can come up with), you can't deny that this is the sort of thing which would captivate people's attention.

In particular, the initial discounts on the Defiant Vented and Satele Shan items seems to apply some form of psychological pressure beyond the fact that these items were only meant to last a week before being taken down; it's first a case of buying it before it's 'too late' and the price rises, and then it's just 'too late' in general. Psychological trickery is a key part of parting people with disposable income of their money, after all. NeverWinter Online does something similar with its "20% off Companions" (etc.) vouchers for the Zen Market.

Especially when the Satele Shan set - one of the most sought-after armour sets of all time for some reason (hint: thigh-high boots) - is the unexpectedly 'fair' price that it was, particularly compared to the very high price of the arguably less popular Defiant Vented lightsaber the week prior. Heck, even its non-discounted price of 2,600 CC isn't as bad as it could have been!

The main question I ask of such practice is who the 'main audience' is. There are those - like myself, I must admit - who just want to say that they have the item in-hand for any eventual possibilities, there are those who just want to collect everything even if they never find a use it, and then there are those who feverishly purchase everything they can and compulsively unlock them for their various Characters and Companions to use.

The 'true' answer is subjective, but you know they've won people over when you see a Trooper run by wearing Satele's armour accompanied by their Vette who is also donned thus.


Regardless of your views on the practice of putting once-rare items on the Cartel Market, a weapon of a similar design to that wielded by the main villain in a Star Wars main-Saga film did make sense as a direct-purchase item for Star Wars Day week. The choice of Satele Shan's garb is pretty much open to interpretation more than anything else since, of course, no movie connections can be made.

This move is undoubtedly proving popular in certain circles. I'm curious to know how many people purchased both that set and the lightsaber.

On a similar note, it's fascinating to see BioWare returning to the ill-fated "no more bronze items" policy regarding the aforementioned Cartel Packs. This move proved unpopular due to the higher price of unlocking silvers compared to bronze so they swiftly retreated from it, but now they've returned to it. On-paper this 'promises' better chances at getting rare items (especially since Chance Cubes are now guaranteed items rather than a part of the overall draw), but I don't think this return will prove awfully wise.

Time will tell, of course. It does make a habit of doing so.


Weapons in Outfit Designer in the Works

One of the most-requested features of Outfit Designer has been the inclusion of Weapons. Whilst BioWare have mostly remained silent on this matter, Charles Boyd recently took to the Forums and stated that the team were looking at seeing if they could fit this addition into this year's schedule.


Roadmap and 5.2.2 Teasing

Those of you who keep tabs on the SWtOR Developer Team will have noticed a bit of internal shuffling. Ben Irving, the controversial Game Producer who infamously instigated the "Thrill of the Hunt" 'meme' for Galactic Command has been promoted elsewhere in BioWare so is no longer a part of the SWtOR team.

In his stead, another SWtOR team member, Keith Kanneg, has been promoted, and has immediately won a large amount of support due to his empathy with the players and, more importantly, frequent communications.

Recently, he's been updating us with the progress of a new Roadmap, with the most recent update being that it will be out towards the end of this month. To tide us over, though, he's given us a small glimpse at 5.2.2, which will be out in Mid-June. 

As a summary:
  • The Nar Shaddaa Nightlife will be returning, including some new rewards alongside the original ones.
  • New Speeder Perks will be available, increasing Movement Speed by 120% and 130% respectively.
  • Companions will gain Influence from Crew Skill Missions.
  • Tier I gear will be available from a vendor for fewer than 800 Command Tokens.
  • Player Hangars in GSF will be given a free Bomber and Gunship as a starting ship, Requisition rewards will be increased, and costs for item upgrades will be reduced.
To start with, we don't know a lot of the specifics, which makes sense considering that this is just a small teaser of things to come rather than detailed Patch Note-esque notifications. We don't know whether these new rewards will be purchasable with Golden Certificates or just Jackpot rewards from the Slot Machines, how much Influence will be earned per Crew Skill Mission, and which models of Bomber and Gunship will be designated as the starting one (the Gunship could well be the GSF Early Access Subscriber one, though).

However, even though this is a very barebones tease there is a lot of potential here. 

In particular, I'm very pleased with the extraordinarily low cost for a full set of Tier I gear, which will only need to be bought in-full once per Class if you use Legacy Gear, thus meaning that only Relics, Earpieces, Implants, and certain weapons will need to be purchased multiple times for all relevant Characters. Indeed, if you have proficient Crafters as part of your Legacy you may not even need to craft these and only need the Set Bonus gear for, well, the Set Bonus alone. 

I'm also very curious to see how much Influence is given per Crew Skill Mission, since if it remains consistent regardless of each individual Companion's Rank it could very well be the cheapest (if a very long) process to get a Companion's Influence up.

Finally, I'm interested in seeing how the GSF changes impact things. I've said time and again - and I haven't been the only one, of course - that it's absolutely brutal for new Players and Characters to get into. This is due to the current high costs of upgrades and the fact that you do need to purchase several ships to counteract the quite-frankly awful starting ships. Hopefully these changes make things a lot easier for new Players to get into!

All in all, I'm pleased by what we're seeing. Not only are we getting more frequent updates and 'significant' teases of updates, but we're getting them from a person new to this role and who is thus showing a lot of promise. 

Hopefully he keeps this momentum going, because from what he's done so far, I think he's doing a fantastic job!


Character Revamps: Wreaking Havoc

I seem to be on a streak of character redesigns (and annoying/bad pun-based titles) lately. As I had anticipated and previously reported on, the new hairstyles have seen some usage amongst my main eight characters, with Calph and Ferok'ia receiving the Shaecut and the "goth mop", respectively.

However, if you've visited my duly-updated Characters page recently you may have noticed another character has received something of a redesign if you have good eyes and somehow have his image burned into your memories.

So really, nobody will have noticed the redesign.

All the more reason to delve into it!


A Hairy Situation

It's been a while since I made a post with a pun for its title, and I'm sure that you've instantly worked out what this post will be about.

We last received new hairstyles as drip-feeds throughout 3.0, with the results being the quite-decent specimens of Pigtails, Double-Braided, and Shaggy, the bizarre specimens of Pompadour and whatever that unnamed short female hairstyle is, and the "what-the..." specimens of Afro, Dreadlocks, and... shudder... Undercut.

Now, for the first time since the first hairstyle bundle was released immediately after the Appearance Designer made its long-awaited arrival, an entirely new hairstyle bundle has been added to the Cartel Market. Compared to the previous one, this one offers a slightly more disappointing range of additions, since whilst the previous one included four hairstyles (two female, one male, and one unisex), this one offers only three (I know, one fewer, how will we cope?), two of which are unisex whilst the third is a female-only style.


Betrayers and the Betrayed

War for Iokath has introduced the totally original idea that there's a traitor in amongst the forces of the Alliance who also has connections with the Empire and the Republic, and is using these connections to apparently incite open warfare.

We have already seen their efforts result in multiple Uprisings against the Alliance by forces from both Empire and Republic, and of course their word is enough to make all three factions rush to Iokath as soon as the radiation subsides.

Whomever this traitor is is apparently female, and is wearing as part of their currently only-known getup the skirt of a Scion. However, for reasons I shall explain momentarily, I think this last fact is a clear attempt at misdirection.

Anyway, I just thought I'd offer my speculation on who this character is and who it most certainly can't be. For this post, I will be basing my suspicions off of the apparent gender of the individual.


Twelve Months of TRE

It has been twelve months to the day since BioWare opened up cross-region server transfers, so by extension it has also been twelve months since I finally made an actually good decision in SWtOR and transfer to The Red Eclipse.

It's been a rather interesting year. I've got into a rut of doing group PvP, something which I didn't ever think I'd get truly involved in, resumed a fairly-dedicated Operations schedule after escaping another one of my "burned-out" breaks, and just generally have made my own mark on the server (for good or for ill is for others to decide, not me).

Of course I've made a fair number of friends along the way, and I'm thankful to them for (somehow) being able to put up with me, my ramblings, and anything else which drives people slightly barmy.

It has been a bit of a bumpy ride, though; since 5.0 hit, one thing has led to another and one of my longest SWtOR friends has decided to quit playing the game (at least on this server; he has previously retreated to other servers in the past so he may be doing this again). It's always sad to see friendships end, but it's not something I haven't been able to put behind me in the grand scheme of things.

I don't have anything planned by way of a celebration outside of this post. It's unfortunately one of those weeks were deadlines are ramping up, so I obviously don't have much time to dedicate to "non-crucial" SWtOR affairs.

Still, it's been a fun first year on TRE, and hopefully the next twelve months will be just as fun!


Tier IV: Rewarding Stability

I'd been trying to write a post detailing my plans for Tier IV for quite some time, but because I always found myself drifting more towards the "I'd advise everyone to..." angle I decided to delay it until after 5.2 because then I'd be able to completely avoid the annoying advice-giving. Even I find my own advice aggravating at times.

So, yes, 5.2 brought with it Tier IV. We've known that this was coming for just about two months now, and since my main character Calph has been in full 242-rating Gear for just about as long I've had plenty of time to prepare.

I decided to stop opening Crates at the equivalent of Command Rank 511, with the aim of saving as many of them up as possible and disintegrating the contents. I didn't originally have a goal set in mind, but since the amount of Crates I'd earned poured over into a second Cargo Bay my goal to attain at least 160 - two Cargo Bays' worth of Crates - came into being. I did manage to attain this goal, and by Wednesday that 12th of April I had acquired 177 Tier III Crates.

I was also saving up any and every Operation, Uprising, and Flashpoint CXP Pack, and I'm fairly sure I don't need to justify this decision. Again by the 12th of April I had managed to acquire 209 CXP Packs, or more specificially:
  • 9 Rare, 10 Rare Bonus, 7 Super Rare, and 7 Super Rare Bonus Flashpoint CXP Packs, totalling 33.
  • 5 Uncommon, and 4 Rare Uprising CXP Packs (I didn't do as many Uprisings as I would have liked during this time), totalling 9.
  • 54 Common, 23 Uncommon Bonus, 45 Uncommon, 9 Uncommon Bonus, 32 Rare, and 4 Rare Bonus Operation Packs, totalling 167.
So come Wednesday the 19th of April, when I returned from holiday, I had a lot of things to open. Since the Light Side was fortuitously on Light IV when I logged on around 15:00 on that day, I didn't have too long to wait, but I started opening some Tier III Crates and Disintegrating the contents. I had earned only one Tier IV Crate when Light Side won, so I promptly opened up every CXP Pack I possessed.

The end result is that I managed to attain one-hundred-and-four Tier IV Command Crates from this Pack-popping (what an unpleasant phrase...). However, I decided to hold off from opening any until I had completely demolished my remaining Tier III Crates because I wanted to open all the Tier IV stuff in one go. Basically after everything was Disintegrated - including stuff from the Tier IV Crates - I had managed to earn a total of 19 additional Command Crates through Disintegrations alone

So, 123 Command Crates, and hopefully a shedload of items to wade through. I lost track of how many Prototype 244s I received, but this didn't matter since I didn't keep a single one of them. This is simply because they share the exact same stats as 242 gear (the mods are unoptimised so are useless anyway unless you're a Tank), so they are completely worthless to me. They're still an upgrade to anyone 240 and below, but the implication prior to 5.2 that they were an upgrade to 242 in their entirety has been completely disproved.

Even in spite of the silly 244 items I got quite lucky with my 'winnings'. From these 123 Command Crates I managed to receive:
  • 1x 246 Belt
  • 1x 246 Bracers
  • 1x 246 Quick Savant Implant
  • 1x 246 Serendipitous Assault Relic
  • 1x 246 Boots
  • 1x 246 Greaves
  • 2x 246 Offhand Blaster
  • 1x 246 Mainhand Blaster
  • 1x 248 Quick Savant Implant
  • 1x 248 Focused Retribution Relic
  • 1x 248 Gloves
  • 1x 248 Mainhand Blaster
Because I also had 1,000 Unassembled Components stored up on Calph, I decided to purchase the Adept Earpiece, second Quick Savant Implant, Serendipitous Assault Relic, and another Blaster, spending 972 Components in the process. 

So as a result of the various spare items I received (and decided to Claim; I received about three pairs of Artifact 246 Gloves which all got Disintegrated) every single one of my Mods and Enhancements are 246 or better. I have since managed to acquire a third 248 Blaster from a recent Command Crate, so the spare Mod and Enhancement from this have been useful for upgrades as well. Aggravatingly, I also received a now-useless 248 Serendipitous Assault Relic from another Crate, but that's unfortunately the nature of RNG gearing. 

There was, however, one moment of monumental slip-up. I received a 248 Adept Implant in one of these Crates, something which sits at odds with how my gear is currently set-up (as you've already read, I use an Adept Earpiece alongside two Quick Savant Implants). I decided to keep it around and wait to see if I received a QS Earpiece or Implant before deciding its final fate, but unfortunately I cocked up and instead of Claiming it as I eventually wanted to do, I accidentally Disintegrated it.

This is the first instance I have ever had in the brief history of Galactic Command of Disintegrating an item which I wanted to Claim. Unlike a lot of people who have made this mistake, my most frequent slip-up has been Claiming a host of items which I wanted to Disintegrate (a mistake I also made several times on Wednesday), so it's nice to finally suffer this accident myself since that completely eradicates my especially-annoying superiority complex in this regard.

That said, I'm thankful that this Implant wasn't something which I wasn't dubious about Claiming, but it's still rather aggravating when all is said and done.


Tier IV has been rather interesting to tussle with, even though it's still barely a week old. The drop-rate being fixed for an unspecified amount of time (it is worth noting that a mount in the Decorations which states its Source as being a "Tier V Command Crate", so it remains to be seen how this is integrated and how it affects Tier IV and Rank 300) is both a blessing and a curse, since it means that you always know you have the same chance to get gear as you'll ever have, but at the cost of knowing that your chances to get better gear can never increase.

Or at least not for the time being. We still don't know whether Tier V will ever become a reality, and whether or not they'll begin adding Ranks to Tier IV to prepare for its potential arrival. If it does happen, it will probably be similar to Tier IV as it is now, whereby the Rank where it 'starts' is the only Rank it can be. 

Let's only hope that Tier VI doesn't enter into proceedings any time soon...


Thoughts on 5.2: The Good, the Bad, and the Eeehhhhhs (Volume Two)

So 5.2 launched on Tuesday, bringing with it a small-scale Story update, the first boss of the first new Operation in two-and-a-half-years, Master Mode Uprisings, and a new Daily Zone with attached Reputation Factions.

Since I locked myself into a regime of "Thoughts on [Patch.Patch]" throughout 4.0, I decided that I would resurrect this regime from 5.2 onwards, since there is a lot to discuss that isn't just "How to make Galactic Command somewhat more bearable" as 5.1 largely was.


Front Lines and Stabs in the Back

The story update coming with 5.2 will be bringing back two powerful NPCs as part of the story; Supreme Commander Jace Malcom and the Sith Empress Acina. Since the story involves us choosing our side, this will also dictate which of the two is antagonistic and getting in our way, and which is friendly and helping us out.

However, there may be an additional side-effect of this choice. In the comments section of this post by Shintar of Going Commando I raised a purely-hypothetical situation of the absolute extreme. Normally I'd just leave such a comment alone since its a point made in a very specific context, but this particular hypothetical has had me thinking quite a lot over the past two days, so I have something to get off my chest.


The New Warrior's Path

5.2's delay has certainly caused something of a discussion point amongst the SWtOR Community. Some are regarding it as an embarrassment or a failure, others don't mind in the slightest, and there are those who are happy with the delay since it means that, ultimately, they get a "better" patch update than they would have done otherwise.

I put myself roughly in the "don't mind" category. I'm somewhat miffed that I'll be missing the launch-day of the Patch due to being on holiday (indeed, this blog post is currently being written under the grey skies of a caravan park) until the Wednesday, but at the end of the day I'm only missing one day of 5.2. Ultimately, I can't be at all annoyed about missing the Tuesday since on this day next week I'll be visiting the Star Wars Identities exhibition in the O2 Arena before attending a concert by the phenomenal Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall.


So, with 5.2 being delayed, I decided to turn my attention elsewhere this week, since I was particularly keen to avoid doing things on Calph for as much as possible, given that I had brought her CXP total to 4,989/4,990 for her current Command Rank. This avoidance did fall through yesterday (aggravating for my OCD) but again, can't complain because Master Mode Draxus bit the dust to make our raid group feel good about ourselves.

Instead, I focused what attention I could this week before holidays interrupted procedures to continuing the adventures of the only DvL character I have left in active use; my newest Sith Juggernaut, Ferok'ia.


She's a Maaaanhunter

Of all the Achievements in PvP - or even in the game in general - few are as coveted as <I Am Death Incarnate>. For those who aren't aware, this is the fifth and final Achievement for killing people in PvP-combat, and entails killing a total of 50,000 people. For comparison, the previous four entail killing 10, 100, 1,000, and 10,000 players. Thankfully they don't keep with the factor of ten for the final one; 50,000 is daunting enough, 100,000 would be something else entirely.

The main reason why this is such a coveted Achievement is because of the Legacy title which it grants: Manhunter. Curiously, the fourth Achievement (killing 10,000) is actually called <Manhunter>, which isn't confusing at all.

You've probably worked out the point of this blog post already, so I'll stop beating around the bush and get straight to lighting it on fire.

Wrong metaphor? Definitely.

Yesterday evening, I finally managed to earn this Achievement on Calph. It had been three years, five months, and five days since I had earned the 10,000 Player Kills Achievement.

Getting gradually closer and closer has rather dominated my priorities in PvP combat of-late, since rather than go and guard as I usually do on Calph (because Gunslingers are flippin' good guards), I found myself wanting to get more into the action to get this done quicker.

This backfired considerably on Sunday, the day I originally planned to earn the Achievement - if for no other reason than it allowing my Monday-post-schedule to be met - due to the teams we kept coming across; I needed roughly seventy kills, and whilst a couple of late-afternoon match proved decent, the only Warzones where we had any marked success during my guild's "PvP Prime-Time" in actually killing multiple players were Arenas. The teams we came across in the two VoidStar matches we were allocated had too many Healers to allow for killing no more than ten players across both rounds. These things happen, but it was rather disappointing to miss my goal.

So it was that I began Monday with twenty-eight players left to kill. As with Sunday, kills weren't particularly easy to get due to the skill/plenitude of the Healers, but I did manage to get eighteen kills between the initial VoidStar and Novare Coast matches. Odessen Proving Grounds was the third WarZone, which historically doesn't really provide much opportunity to get many kills, but as luck would have it things worked out nicely. I ended up with twelve kills, which, if you've been following closely, you should be able to work out as two surplus kills to my desired total of ten.

The Moment of Glory

Of course, with a new shiny and highly-coveted Legacy title comes the opportunity to come up with a funny Screenshot showing it in use. I decided that I would punish some of my Companions in fulfilling this goal, because I just couldn't think of anything more original at the time.

Certainly, I wasn't going to go into a Warzone, take a bloody 'selfie', and then quit never having intended to play at all. That's just not cricket.

Bowdaar wasn't particularly impressed that I would think to use him in this way, and wouldn't even return a high-five. 

"Oh, c'mon, you big lump, share the love!"
Koth was much more receptive to celebration, though, but as he is currently the focus of Calph's romantic affections I don't think he could do anything other than participate for the good of his health.

(Out of frame: C2 holding a pistol in Koth's direction)
Okay, so it doesn't really suit Calph as a Smuggler. I know that a Hunter would make far more sense, but considering that Calph is my main and the one who actually placed that triggering killing-blow, I couldn't really show it off on any other character.

Besides, I much prefer Party Crasher as Calph's Legacy title. Much more apt.


I'm pleased to finally have this Legacy title as a part of my arsenal, but I'm just so relieved to get this Achievement under my belt in general. It is by far one of the most tantalising Achievements, in spite of its "inevitable" status for people who engage in PvP frequently.

This in many ways is probably what puts a lot of people off. 50,000 is, as already mentioned, a very sizeable amount of players to kill for the 'casual' PvPer, a caste which I most certainly throw myself into. Indeed, if I were to find a way to let my younger self know that I would be getting this Achievement, I'd probably be scoffed at.

Quite how a new player feels when they look at that Achievement and its requirements I don't know; I'm sure some will see it as a challenge, but PvP is no longer as 'easy' to get into gear-wise as it used to be. Indeed, if it wasn't for Patch 3.3 reducing the gear costs to a very manageable level I probably would never have escaped from my self-imposed 'PvP drought'.

Back to the matter at hand.

It's been a long road getting to this point, and I'm happy to be 'released' back to my guarding duties in future matches. Now all I need to do is earn those pesky final seven-and-three-quarter Valor levels...


Instant 65 Adventures

Nothing like three weeks of completely letting this blog slide into brief inactivity again.

In between bouts of frequently-recurring illnesses and a busy few weeks, I won't deny that blogging has fallen by the wayside somewhat. I'm almost thankful that technological difficulties (long story short; nVidia ShadowPlay is recording everything but my microphone input at a super-quiet level and my attempts to fix it have so far proved ineffective) have rendered the Wednesday Warzones series inoperable for the moment, since maintaining this is impossible at-present.

It also doesn't help that, right now, things are just 'more of the same'. I could be reporting on the Command system now the 350% boost has been implemented, but I've harped on about Galactic Command for too long and inevitably I'd turn to criticising the lack of RNG fixes again. Similarly, talking about PvP and Operations would also likely see a return to prior criticisms that, whilst the changes are decent, there is a lot more which can and should be done.

However, there is one thing which is new for me to talk about; the instant-65 experience.

As everyone should be aware, you can create instant-60 and instant-65 characters and take them through the respective storylines. I'm fairly sure most people have created a quick instant-60 character during 4.0, mostly to partake in a get-alts-geared-quick scheme through the Priority Ops. Instant-65s are at a noticeable disadvantage in this regard, since it does take a greater amount of commitment to get them levelled and kept around due to the Command System.

Regardless, the above concerns didn't stop me having a series of questions regarding these newer instant characters. They would, of course, have skipped the entire Fallen Empire story, so how would the game allocate your choices? Moreover, whilst the cast of main characters would be guaranteed, would the 65s have any access to the Alliance system?


Complex Simplicity

As many people are aware by now, BioWare's goal with introducing Galactic Command as the main means of acquiring gear and utterly removing Commendations was to vastly simplify the 'endgame state'.

With the changes which have come to Galactic Command in 5.1 and those which are going to come in 5.1.1 and 5.1.2, it has become all too apparent that they are now doing the inverse and are taking the system to an even more complicated - not to mention tedious - level than ever before.


5.2: War for Iokath Stream Thoughts

Yesterday, BioWare revealed details of 5.2: War for Iokath. It looks to be one of the more detailed patches we've had for some time, so let's get cracking with analysing each of the details.


Master Chapters: First Opinions

Master Mode Chapters are out, and with them comes the opportunity to spend a good amount of time repeating story content all over again but this time with even more death opportunity.

So far, though, from what I've seen, Master Mode isn't that bad, especially in comparison to Veteran Mode. Okay, there are exceptions which I'll get to in a minute, but otherwise things aren't as bad as I was dreading.

The most interesting thing, to me, is that Companions get an Influence Boost. One of my guildies commented that his Darth Marr was 35 when he could've sworn he was only 2 or 3, and voiced his guess that Marr had been boosted. When I received my own Marr, I found that rather than the quite nice 28 I'd left him at for the Veteran KotFE run that he'd been boosted to Influence 39.

I did actually have enough Imperial Memorabilia Gifts to get him to 50 from 28 anyway (I maaaaaaay have spent a fair bit of credits in getting all of Calph's currently-accessible Story Companions - so Acina, Kaliyo, Marr, SCORPIO, and Torian missed out originally - who weren't already 50 to the max-level in preparation for Master Mode), but it was still nice to get something of this sort for free, particularly when it was a relatively substantial boost.


For me, there were five Chapters which had moments that I was wary of after seeing them in Veteran Mode. These are Chapter II in both expansions, Chapters VI and X in Fallen Empire, and Chapter IV in Eternal Throne.

So far, having started from Chapter I: The Hunt and going in order (currently at Chapter V), I've only come across one of these Chapters in Master Mode, which is Chapter II: A Dream of Empire, which had one of the hardest Fallen Empire fights - if not the hardest. It came to a massive surprise to me that the Monolith in Master Mode Chapter II not only died on the first try but actually seems substantially easier than it did in Veteran Mode in general.

Provided you don't get hit by his Terrible Shout, which reportedly hits for 400k. Credit to a guildie who died to it due to forgetting that it could be interrupted for discovering this number.

I'm intrigued by this in several ways, because it raises several pertinent questions. Was it genuinely easier? Was my slightly higher Gear-level a factor? Did it just seem easier because I did the Veteran Mode, knew how painful it was, and managed to adjust accordingly?

I don't know the actual answer to these questions, but they're still good questions about the experience. As a Gunslinger, I don't have access to anything like a truly substantial self-heal (outside of passive healing in-Cover, which is risky in the Monolith fight in the first place, the most I have is 10% every 18 seconds on Hightail It), so it wasn't as if I was running away and healing back up half the time.

Of course, it also helps that he managed to knock me onto a piece of cliff and subsequently spent about fifteen seconds standing still and contemplating the meaning of life before getting a grip on reality and resuming his pursuit.

Or non-reality, as it may have been.

So whilst my own experiences have been fairly straightforward for the time being, this is nothing next to another one of my Guildies, who 'mains' a Sage for Story stuff. At time of writing, he's trying out Chapter II: Run for the Shadows because he was inspired by his own "this was easy!" reaction to the Monolith fight and just decided to gun it.

Interestingly, his Acina - who was previously Influence Rank 28 - was boosted immediately to Influence 50.

Basically, the Vine Cat tore him to shreds a few times (basic attack dealing 20-30k damage) before he was able to just burst everything down with both him and Acina as DPS, the GenoHaradan scout hit so hard alongside its adds that I was pulled in just so he could see how another class handled the damage (spoiler: I still melted, but my intervention allowed him to kill the boss), and he still hasn't managed to kill the end bosses even with multiple stuns and Focus Target modifiers being used to their full advantage.

All in all, he's had about a 500,000 Credit repair bill from this Chapter alone.


So, yeah. Master Mode is interesting from what I and my guildies have seen so far. I haven't seen enough to say whether it makes for a 'decent' challenge (I'm still shocked at how quickly the Monolith died in Chapter II), whilst again it seems that certain fights are conversely too challenging for any Class to do effectively. I'll be able to gauge more effectively when I see the remaining fights and Chapters.

I find it particularly interesting how - despite the Mission Tracker saying it gives 400 CXP - the actual mission reward itself grants over 1,000 CXP, which makes Master Mode Chapters a very good source of solo-play CXP. Sure, it's not as quick as a PvP match or an Uprising, but at least the Chapters aren't dependent on other people.

At least this way, if you die you've only got yourself and your slave Companion to blame.