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.


Eternal Veteran: Chapter Difficulty, Part II

Master Modes for all Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne Chapters are being released tomorrow, and yet I still need to talk about how Veteran Difficulty affects Eternal Throne. You can find my blathering about Fallen Empire Veteran Mode here.

Let's get started!


Returning to the Stars

Galactic StarFighter, as I've already talked about before, is fairly brutal for a new player or character to get really 'introduced to'; from the sheer amount of time it takes to upgrade a ship to the clunky UI to the fact that some systems are left completely unexplained, there's a lot for new participants to take in.

So it is with Galactic Command that new players will be introducing themselves to the activity in an attempt to get as much out of the system as possible, since GSF is one of the most rewarding things you can do (a victory with eight medals earns at least 1,060 CXP dependent on whether or not your Alignment is winning or you have a CXP Booster on).

I'm not exempt from this; I really enjoyed GSF back in the day on Ziodus, but he was the only character who ever really did anything. Because I don't really want him to only be doing GSF (which he pretty much would be if he ever gets to 70, since I largely only refer to him as "the GSF character"), I figured it would finally be time to put my preachings about the activity being tedious for new players/characters to the test and get Calph her own set of ships.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not doing this purely so I can farm CXP. I just got caught up in the wind of fresh activity which hasn't been felt around GSF for so damn long, and I'm really enjoying being back, and it made more sense to me to get a currently-regularly-used character doing things rather than have the essentially-retired but more-experienced GSF character only doing GSF and nothing else. Having a new character with their own fresh potential does make things more interesting, although I don't think I'll be straying too far from what my previous playstyle was like...

After about two-and-a-half weeks of getting back into it... yes, it is brutal for a new character, but I do admit that I am coming from this with more than a base understanding of how each and every ship works, so my 'new' experience is totally different from somebody who is actually new to the activity. I may be somewhat rusty nowadays, but I do pick things up quickly when I am reminded of them visually.

Indeed, so far the most confusing thing to get my head around again is what exactly Communication does for the ship. Dampening and Sensor Range are fairly obvious (although Sensor Focus Range is another matter of confusion), but there's nothing to indicate what increasing your Communication range does for you. From what I understand, having needed to research it, it puts enemies your allies detect on the map if their own Communication range overlaps with yours.

So you may be 36,000 kilometers away from a pesky Gunship, but if a player on your team with a 23,000 km sensor range detects them whilst their 7,000 km communication range overlaps even slightly with your 15,000 km communication range, you can see them too.

When it comes to battles themselves, it is easy to see why new blood isn't easily kept, particularly on the Republic side. For whatever reason, at least on The Red Eclipse, in Deathmatches Imperials always seem to be the ones who use mostly-Gunship teams whilst Republic players, in their armies of Scouts and Strikes with only a few Gunships, get mown down in their dozens. When you get in matches like that, yeah, even veterans can get just a teeny bit despondent...


All in all, I am pleased to be back doing GSF. It's nice to see that Command XP has managed to increase interest and activity, even if - again - it can simply be derided as people trying their best to stay afloat in the Command System.

Ultimately, this does touch on something of a point. A lot of people do do whatever they can for Command XP without much care for what it actually is. Ranked and Casual PvP have both been 'infested' by CXP grinders, for example, which doesn't really result in a 'good' Ranked environment. The key to coping with the Command System and CXP is truly to focus mainly on stuff you enjoy, not to senselessly grind whatever you can since this will burn you out.

So, sure, take up whatever activities you want, but if you aren't enjoying taking part in whatever gives the most CXP, then this will ultimately harm your game experience since you will only see the grind and nothing else which could make these certain activities enjoyable. GSF, PvP, Operations, they all give a lot, but there is so much more to each of these which sadly the rush to grind is just making people ignore.


Crossing Lines and Fracturing Opinions

How does one define 'crossing the line' nowadays?

If you've been following recent developments for the most recent exploit in SWtOR, the answer is far more oblique than it should be.

By now, you should have heard of the Fractured Uprising exploit; this entailed pulling the final pair of bosses in such a way that the first one automatically kills himself, thus making the Uprising two minutes shorter.

Okay, so two minutes isn't that long, but it does begin to add up. Particularly when, as a result of all this, you can't go two minutes on Fleet without reading "LF 1 Tank for Fractured Uprising Farm" or something similar in General Chat. Or when people attain Command Rank 70 on four characters largely through farming this one particular instance. 

This in itself, in my opinion, makes it so much worse than a 'mere exploit'. As I've already said, two minutes isn't a huge difference of time, especially since Fractured is the fastest Uprising for the moment anyway. The very fact that this exploit is being actively encouraged in General Chat, let alone the sheer amount of people who have seen groups derailed by exploiters, makes it worthy of some form of punishment in my eyes. 

As examples of the above case: Mox from Corellian Run Radio was pulled back by a Sage group-mate of his in an attempt to prevent him from derailing an exploit, but he was able to push through and force a proper boss pull, whilst a guildie of mine recently had to endure a group-found group of people who tried to trick him into pulling the boss whilst they all stayed away, thus leading to a stalemate of six minutes where nobody did anything since he was the only group member "not happy" with the idea of exploiting. 

Too bad for them that he was assigned as the group leader. 

When breaking the terms of service is being encouraged and even enforced by groups, this alone should give it the precedent needed to punish players, even if it is just a small punishment, and yet BioWare have recently come out and said that exploiting this is absolutely unpunishable, even though it is being acknowledged by the higher-ups as an exploit. 

What makes this sting even harder is that BioWare have shown that they are slowly getting better at catching people. They let too many people go over the Ravagers exploit, yet they made up for it slightly with their handling of people accessing the Colossal Monolith fight a week earlier than intended, and their handling of the 4.0 currency-stack exploit and Season 7 Ranked PvP hackers has been (comparatively) perfect. 

Furthermore, there was another (thankfully caught and fixed by 5.0a) exploit involving the Jawa Scraps you'd receive from the Galactic Command crates; a player could manually plug in how many stacks they wanted to disintegrate, even if they only apparently received sixteen, and receive all the Command XP they wanted in the process. They have confirmed that anyone who made use of this bug would be punished, but I for one don't know if they've actually gone through with this yet.

BioWare aren't exempt from finger-pointing either. Once again, they've waited far too long before even beginning to officially address this, and it's a telling point that we first heard about potential action from their response to e-mails from the CRR hosts a week before they posted their official response on the forums.


As I say, I do acknowledge that two minutes isn't much to fret about. My main concern over this exploit is simply that it quickly got to the stage whereby it was being publically sought for in General Chat and groups were sometimes unwillingly and unwittingly thrown into chaos about the entire ordeal. When it gets to this point, as it did for the Ravagers exploit when people were switching servers to sell it, you know that things have gone too far.

The fact that BioWare are letting these people who are forcing potentially-unwilling groupmates to deal with the exploit or actively seeking groups in General Chat for it doesn't fill me with enthusiasm. It's disappointing and confusing, but otherwise there's not much I can do other than offer my thoughts on the matter. 


Attitudes to Raiding in 5.0

No matter how long you've been involved in MMOs in general, the concept of Raids shouldn't be a stranger to you. The toughest content requiring decent groups to clear the hardest difficulties has blessed or plagued MMO culture for years now, and SWtOR is of course no different.

What is changing nowadays is the general feel and attitude towards this type of content in SWtOR, and not just from the player-base.

Since Nightmare Dread Fortress and Dread Palace launched, there has been a noticeable slow steady decline of 'raid interest', which was only heightened in 3.0 when we only had SM and HM Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice as 'proper' raids with nothing else bar the Colossal Monolith (which very few people consider to be an 'actual raid') being brought out during this time.

4.0 and 5.0 have both elicited very similar responses. Although every Operation was scaled to the highest level, thus meaning that there was far more to do than just one or two Ops, veterans can't help but feel that they're trapped in a never-ending cycle of 'sameness'. Command XP hasn't helped with this in the slightest given that Operations drop no actual loot and, presently, are a somewhat inefficient way of getting CXP compared to PvP and Uprisings.

BioWare hasn't helped matters much; they're constantly stringing people along on the potential mere implication that maybe there will be Operations simply because they aren't 'allowed' to talk about the future until they consider the time to be right.

All of the above raises a very serious question: is there a 'correct' attitude to raiding in 5.0?


Let It Snow

Happy 2017! As you may have noticed, I took an unscheduled week off blogging last week. Why? Things were just a bit too hectic for me with real-life goings-on combined with the usual in-game activities, but now they're settling down a fair bit so back to blogging. Huzzah!


The Life Day Event comes to a close tomorrow, and it may or may not have escaped your attention that this provides a quick, easy, and completely legitimate (provided you don't use a macro, which is against the Terms of Service) way of farming Command Experience Points; throwing a Snowball - or using the somewhat-controversial Snowball Cannon - and winning a Snow-Covered parcel earns you a quick 20 CXP.

This is of course doubled if you hit one of the Overheated Life Day Droids on Coruscant, Dromund Kaas, or Nar Shaddaa given that they reward you with the Decorations and not just the Parcel.

Because I still needed a number of items which were being sold on the vendor (list further down), I decided to indulge in snowball-throwing on one particularly slow weekend (AKA Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day) whilst also turning it into an experiment; just how much CXP could be earned simply through this one simple activity?

The answer? Quite a lot. The method I was using involved having Shae Vizla as an unwilling target, pummelling her alternately with the Snowball Cannon and the traditional Snowball whenever they came off cooldown, clicking off her Dusted with Snowflakes debuff all the while.

Slow, methodical, but at least somewhat controllable.

I can't remember the exact number of Parcels I started with, but let's say it was roughly twenty. I have since bought the following items:
  • Life Day Tinsel Bomb - hadn't bought it before, so just thought it would be nice to complete the Collection - 20 Parcels
  • Sleigh I - I actually did own this mount beforehand, but only on Ziodus, so now it was Calph's turn to get hers - 20 Parcels
  • Life Day Vestments, Lower Robe, and Boots - I hadn't bought any of the gear or mounts from the Cartel Market before this year (because who can resist a Festive Tauntaun with a mildly-glowing red nose?) so these were again just to complete the Collection - 30 Parcels for each piece, so 90 Parcels for the whole set
  • Life Day Holo-Tree (Green) - Centerpiece Decoration, bugged and inaccessible in previous years - 40 Parcels
  • Life Day Holo-Tree - this is the item which enables you to place a Holo-Tree at a specific location, similar to the Holo-Dancer or the Galactic Party Bomb, and again I did not purchase it previously - 50 Parcels
  • Czerka LD-1 Celebrator - again, simply because I hadn't bought it before, mainly because I just really dislike the blasted thing, but at least I now have the Achievement for it..? - 100 Parcels
  • Vectron J0-1Y - I really dislike this completionist nature I have sometimes... - 100 Parcels 
In total, I was able to spend 420 parcels this year. Subtracting the original hypothesised twenty parcels, this means I earned roughly 400 Parcels which were then used to purchase the items with the original parcels.

It doesn't stop there, though.

Because I'm a sucker for the Cyan Sphere, but only have it on one character, I resolved to earn enough parcels to purchase this one as well, but obviously only once I've got enough Gray Helix Components to do so, of course. This requires 16 Helix Components and 36 Parcels, or the standard 48 Helix Components as an alternative price.

So 436 Parcels earned. That's still ludicrously high, but at least each of these had a use so not 'wasted' or over-indulgent.

About that.

I found I got slightly addicted to this one simple activity. So much so that I actually have an extra 214 Parcels sitting in my Legacy bank, resulting in a total of 250 as-of-yet unused Parcels.

Adding this all up together, this comes to 650 snow-covered parcels earned this year. I'll spare you from having to do the maths; this is 13,000 CXP. This is just shy of three Command Ranks when you get into Tier II, which I was comfortably in by the time I decided to indulge in this little experiment. 


So, feel free to laugh at my insanity. I'm really not proud of this sheer amount of snowball-throwing I've done, but it has been an interesting experiment nonetheless.

Whilst obviously my case is a very extreme example (although I wouldn't be surprised if there are those who have done even more), it is nice to see BioWare 'include' CXP in this, since it's very amusing to see a huge increase in the amount of snowballs being thrown, and it gives a semblance of a little holiday fun.

Even if you can spin it as being a way of negating more painful Command Grind. At least it's moderately silly and harmless compared to what else is going on at the moment...

Still, we've only got a day left of this snowball-throwing CXP fest before Life Day retires for yet another year, so in the meanwhile, fetch your snowballs; it's time for a last-minute pummelling of your friends and guildies!