Musings on Personal Goals

It has been some time since I last provided a general update about my feelings regarding SWTOR. As the number of posts since December will doubtless indicate, I am feeling significantly better about things than I was for most of last year, and I am also happy to say that I have settled into a decent balance between time spent in-game and outside of it.

I have had two main goals on my mind throughout the past couple of months:

Firstly, Luck of the Draw. When Galactic Season 3 was on the horizon, I was initially deeply sceptical about my chances of completing the season in-full, that is to say all 100 levels plus all meta achievements. Still, I reasoned that it was at least worth giving it a go and see how I felt about it, since as I have expressed before it is rather easy to start these things "too late" and subsequently miss out on all rewards, etc.

Despite my initial reservations I am happy to say that I ultimately stuck with it, although I am still thinking that the current setup requires a bit of a shake-up going forward. I suspect that the novelty of farming reputation tracks for 12 - 14 weeks every time a season crops up will have worn off in quite a big way if they repeat it ad nauseam.

Still, it is done, and now we wait to see what sort of things GS4 entails. 

Secondly, character-gearing. When 7.2 launched, I unlocked the ability to buy 332 mods using gear from a couple of Columi and Thyrsian crates I'd saved up prior to the patch, and subsequently went on to upgrade all my characters' earpieces, legendaries, and relics up to 332 as well. I told myself, and voiced this plan to others, that I wouldn't get the 336 gear; no longer being involved in progression ops, I don't really need gear of higher rating than 326, although higher gear is still almost always useful.

However, a few weeks later it settled in that the longer I put off upgrading gear to its highest potential outside of R-4, the more painful it would be to upgrade it beyond 332 when the time came. It was already going to cost me 360 OP-1 catalysts per character to upgrade earpieces and relics to 336 from 332, and if we eventually get the option to upgrade Rakata to 340 that's a further 120 catalysts per gear piece on top of that.

So my current goal is to get all characters up to 336 rating, although of course for the time being the highest legendaries can get to is 334. I only have one more character-pairing to go, that being my hunter-smuggler duo, and I'm hoping that I can get at least one of their three required pieces as loot from a veteran mode op. Every piece is, after all, 120 catalysts saved, but if needed I will of course splash out if I get back up to 360 catalysts before that point.

Alongside this, I've also been getting each character their own separate set of tacticals. Each character already had their own main and off-hand weapons, so I've further reduced the number of items they need to send across to their partnered-character by at least one, but I imagine this is where things will stop. It's far too costly to source legendaries for all characters, at least while I still need them for upgrading the few 332 legendaries I have left, and crafting augments is too much of a palaver at the moment to get full secondary armour sets for them.

Still, only a few more pieces to get then I'm done with this goal as well. After that, who knows? Maybe I will decide to start splashing out on alternate legendaries. 

I'm not too sure that's a serious concept, though.


Perpendiculars of Grey

The Gree event is probably my favourite of the original SWTOR events that are still in circulation today. I don't really feel that the BBA week suits anyone other than my hunter - hopefully for obvious reasons - and I've never really gotten over my distaste for rakghouls as a concept.

I do still kinda regret missing out on the first rakghoul event, though, but since exams took priority ultimately it was a necessary loss.

The Gree event, meanwhile, is just... serene. You aren't dealing with horrific creatures or scumbags across the galaxy, but instead just seeing a bizarre research project in progress. Even the instanced boss, Xenoanalyst II, is hands-down the most pleasant raid boss in the entire game - it acts more like a laboratory professor dealing with its latest batch of test subjects and wanting to see how they react to certain stimuli than it does a 'traditional' boss, even celebrating its defeat as it still meant it gets decent research.

However, while it has been out for almost ten years now there have been a couple of things I haven't been all that invested in. Firstly, the PvP aspect. Sure, the original purpose for Ilum was this big open-world PvP planet and this is BW's attempt to pay homage to that, but I've never really been one to seek or incite fights. 

Secondly, the additional world bosses, Gravak'k and Surgok'k. Sure, I'd killed them a handful of times on Harbinger, but the times when organised groups for the two bosses coincided with my being available were very far and few between, even within my own guilds. The ability to transfer to The Red Eclipse at least meant that I was in guilds that were active and more likely to kill these bosses, but again it just seemed very rare when something actually could and would happen. 

Still, I managed to acquire ten kills of Gravak'k and nine for Surgok'k. It would have been ten for both, were it not for my abstaining in protest at my guild's actions on one such evening in 5.0. We'd killed Gravak'k and headed over to Surgok'k's cave to find an Imperial team gathering to kill it. Our tank for the evening charged in, followed by the rest of our group, effectively stealing the boss from under them. I stayed back by the entrance of the tunnel, still mounted, doing nothing but watching the Imps run past me. 

I'm sorry, but I tend to take a very negative view on actions like that.

The end-result of not focusing a lot on these aspects of the event is that I still lacked the Gray Perpendicular and Blue / Red Octagon legacy titles by the start of 2023 while many of my peers had had them for years. 

Well, finally, I have acquired Gray Perpendicular at last.

It was a bit of a weird thirty minutes, to be honest. On the Tuesday (24th), someone put in Imperial Ilum chat that they were seeking group members for a Xeno kill, and I promptly signed up. They pulled together a group of 13  including themselves in the end, and then it became very clear that the group leader unfortunately didn't quite understand what they were trying to do.

Unable to get any more than 13, they announced boldly ten minutes after the group had started that the plan was to do 16-man veteran mode for a chance at the Red Sphere. Now, veteran mode Xeno has historically been one of the hardest bosses to pug due to its DPS checks, and 7.0 ramped it up a fair notch even with higher gear now being accessible. A group of 13 stood no chance, especially as the group only had one healer and one tank.

A good number of people traipsed into the instance, assuming it to be set for 16VM, when it wasn't. They were asked to leave when a couple of the others tried and failed to enter, but the group leader still didn't set the phase even when asked. However, the ops leader never set the phase properly at all. Best guess is that they'd never learnt how to, which is fair enough I think. SWTOR doesn't actively teach you how to do such things outside of the read-only tutorials which most seem to just gloss over or forget about, so if you've never had to actively do it and only see others do it, I can understand not knowing what to do about it.

To top it all off, whether it was because the group was proving more trouble than it was worth or they just fancied doing the daily while it was there, they kept the group waiting and went off to the the Gray Secant daily. This understandably ticked off a good number of people, with at least one threatening to quit. They passed leadership over to the solitary healer (who, incidentally, didn't realise they were the only healer), and left.

So after about twenty minutes' general confusion, we remaining 12 headed into Xeno SM at last. It went well enough, although a couple of people needed to be taught about the consoles while the fight was active, and afterwards someone asked if we could go and do the other bosses. Fortunately, nobody left so we had enough to make it a feasible venture, although we acquired a thirteenth member anyway.

Gravak'k was messy, but we got it down without wiping. We did lose most of the group, though. Surgok'k was straightforward, with no deaths whatsoever, and finally... it was done. Gray Perpendicular unlocked. I'm not intending to actually use the legacy title but it's still nice to just own it, y'know. I wouldn't have made a post about it except for just the rather unusual circumstances behind my tenth Surgok'k kill. 

I do hope that ops leader managed to get into a Xeno VM group after all that without much hassle.


An Overdue Perspective on... Galactic Seasons

The Galactic Seasons have been available for almost two years now, having started in April 2021 (how time flies!) and yet I haven't really commented on them except in passing.

This is because, until recently, I feel that I haven't been in the best position to comment on them, at least from a fair perspective. Season 1, The Stranger from Kubindi, was an interesting concept marred by horrific execution. Season 2, Shadows of the Underworld, shared top-billing with the sheer grind of early 7.0 and that really coloured my perspective of the whole thing. Season 3, Luck of the Draw, therefore, is the first season where I feel I can approach the system and offer a mostly-unbiased view of it all.

That said, I shall of course be touching on both prior seasons as part of my assessment of the system as a whole. After all, the system changed so much between the first two systems that it would be remiss not to comment on where it improved and where it might have become more tedious.

On with the show!


The Advantage of Shorter Storylines

Legacy of the Sith attracted a fair bit of criticism when it launched with a remarkably short storyline. Granted, this was also largely because there had been a fairly major part of the expansion delayed until August, but the resulting expansion has had many refer to 7.0 as an "expansion" in quotation-marks.

I'm reminded of a comment I saw reviewing 7.0's launch, deriding it for being too short to be worthy of a tenth anniversary, and that only a campaign totalling "20 hours at least" would have been acceptable. 

It is true that other MMOs are capable of releasing large story updates which do take a fair bit of time. The Elder Scrolls Online has released several chapters - their version of expansions - over the past few years, each with at least 20 hours of content. This is not including the four dungeons that may provide extra context for the goings-on or the small zone DLC that provides its own story and, over the past four years, an epilogue to the story started with the first annual update.

World of Warcraft of course puts out massive expansion updates, with each individual zone released being the equivalent of at least medium-sized planet in SWTOR

I'm not familiar with how Final Fantasy XIV handles its expansions, so for the interests of fairness I shall be leaving it out.

Of course, neither of the games I mentioned has to put nearly as much effort into the voice-acting compared to SWTOR, which must pay forty-eight voice actors in all three languages just for the main classes alone every time an update comes out that involves our characters in a more robust manner than just rolling out the KotOR overlay. They can afford to spend more money and time on building large worldspaces and flooding them with short bite-sized quests that are mostly quite basic in structure.

That's not to say that SWTOR hasn't experimented with the WoW formula. Rishi is by far the closest we have come to seeing a WoW-style quest system, and I'm honestly so glad they never tried to repeat it. The quests were numerous, but they were also incredibly short and ultimately many of them could just have been part of longer quest-chains, as is more traditional-SWTOR.

However, there is one quite significant advantage to shorter quest-chains. Replayability.


Thoughts on 7.2: The Good, the Bad, and the Eeehhhhhs

As I have expressed before, I'm not a big fan of Mandalorian-themed stories at the moment. They are rather over-exposed, being prominent in no fewer than four television shows across the past decade and having a sizable presence in The Old Republic

All that is fine if you are a huge fan of the culture, and the sort of exposure they're getting would, I imagine, be idyllic if you've always been a huge Mandalorian fan. I, however, am not. 

Alas, with Mandalorians now becoming a prominent force in the main storyline of The Old Republic, this is one instance where I cannot just put said content to the side and focus on the stuff that does interest me more. Patch 7.2 continues the storyline started technically back in 6.0 before 6.2 really got going with it; the growing rift between Shae Vizla - Mandalore the Avenger - and several clans who are disgruntled with her leadership and uniting under one banner.

Last time we saw them, these clans had united behind she of the inconsistent voice and armour colour, Heta Kol, and they attacked The Spirit of Vengeance II - Shae's flagship - in both a show of force and in a successful attempt to steal the banner of Clan Cadera. After that, they disappeared to parts unknown. Well, now we've found said parts unknown, and it's time to take the fight to them.

Along the way, courtesy of the Digging Deeper story update with 7.1, we're also being treated to more story about the Kateen siblings. Sa'har's brother, Ri'kan, being in-league with Heta Kol was a twist that really caught me in particular off-guard, and it succeeded in giving me something of an anchor point to be interested in where that element was going. 

Then there's also the new PvP season, something which I have not yet had any personal experience of, and some new and exciting indications for SWTOR's future.

All-in-all, while 2022 might not have started well for SWTOR, it's certainly trying its damnedest to end it on a bang. What are my thoughts on all that we got this patch? Read on and find out!


Adventures in Orlando

Before I begin talking about the main subject of this post proper, let me take you all back in time a bit.

I’m old enough to remember the first time DVDs were released commercially. I remember going into our local Sainsbury’s branch with my mother and seeing a whole stack of blue boxes, each containing a silver DVD player and five accompanying DVDs. I can’t quite remember what all of them were, but I know for sure that two of them were The Full Monty of all things and a truly dire adaptation of James and the Giant Peach. Since when were giant mechanical sharks and underwater undead pirates part of the story?

Since my family and I had quite a lot of VHS tapes, the transition to DVDs was relatively slow at first, although the advantages were immediately apparent. For one, no longer was there a need to rewind after finishing watching a film. For another, DVD menus opened all sorts of benefits, such as scene selection and bonus features. Finally, there was the increased portability potential. Cars were being produced which had in-build DVD players and screens on the backs of seats, providing passengers new entertainment opportunities.

While my family never owned a car with an in-built player, we did own a portable DVD player which we strapped to the back of the driver’s seat for me to watch during long journeys on the way to various holiday destinations. With the number of times my family goes on holiday, it saw a lot of use prior to around 2014 or so when we stopped using it.

One of the films that we would take with us in the early days was The Lion King, which to this day is still my favourite animated film. I was the sort of person who liked plugging in not only the main disc but the disc containing bonus features as well, and in this instance the bonus features contained an entire section themed around the Animal Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World.

Young me was transfixed. Firstly, this thing looked like an entire country, not just one part of a theme park. Secondly, since the only Disney park I knew about at the time was the one in Paris, this was also the first time I realised that there were other Disney parks around the world. Granted, this did seem confusing at first; after all, if Disney was French, as I thought at the time, why would there be parks in America, let alone even bigger ones?

Retrospectively, I do find it amusing that my young mind had effectively normalised the concept of foreign language dubs for films due to this misunderstanding of Walt Disney’s nationality.

If this section on the DVD was designed to advertise Animal Kingdom Park, it did its job; the dream of visiting Walt Disney World had firmly planted itself in my mind. The issue, of course, was that it was very difficult to justify doing so for several years. Sure, there were things we could have found to do, but it’s a lot of money to just gamble on whether you can find things to do for a long enough time to make it worthwhile.

Things got kicked up a notch when it was announced that an entire section devoted to Star Wars, known as Galaxy’s Edge, would be opening within the Hollywood Studios Park. Suddenly, there wasn’t just Star Tours, which we had done a few times in Paris, but an entire array of specialist themed shops, eateries, experiences, and additional rides in the offing.

Time continued to pass on by, and around 2019 the idea to visit Orlando was floating around as a serious prospect. We even popped into a Virgin Holidays branch to pick up a brochure. Nothing came of that, however, and I’m very glad about that considering that the very next year the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Again, we waited, this time to be sure that nothing would emerge to interrupt potential plans again, and in late 2021 we begin formulating plans for 2022 with the help of the ever-reliable Trailfinders. Initially, we were looking at a December holiday due to the timings working out best for us around then, but it soon became apparent that for a first-time trip out there, December is one of the worst times to go. After some mulling around moving it to February half-term 2023, one of us suggested looking at October half-term 2022. We checked everything was a-okay with my parents’ workplaces, booked the hotel and one of two days out in wider Orlando, and we were sorted!

To begin with.

See, there are multiple layers to organising a holiday in Disney. You may be booked into a hotel, but that’s just step one. You then need to look at the website or download the My Disney Experience app, where you’ll have the options to reserve parks whenever you like (assuming there’s availability), and 60 days before you go you can start booking restaurants and certain special experiences. This is also where you can buy Genie+, the revised Fast Pass system, with options to start booking rides opening at 7:00am each day.

This is where things got a little bit confusing. My family and I are not exactly what you would call technologically adept. As the most adept member – and even then, that’s being generous – it was up to me to try my best to co-ordinate and link my parents’ accounts to the app so that we’d all see the same things, and that took a good amount of time due to quite confusing layouts and all sorts of hoops the app has you go through. It was all sorted in about thirty minutes, but it wasn’t a fun thirty minutes for any of us.

Additionally, for some reason people within the UK cannot use the app or the website to book experiences. I learnt from reading a forum thread of people griping about this that one way around this was to use a VPN to connect to somewhere in America, and that would allow you to book without phoning in. I can confirm that this does work, but since I’m paranoid I still ended up changing my Disney password upon doing this just in case the VPN wasn’t as secure as it claimed to be.

We were done with everything we could have wanted to be done with by the time September arrived. All we had to do was wait again until Thursday the 20th of October.


Pulling Back (Again)

Five weeks ago, I logged back into SWTOR for a "trial week", to see if I could break back into it in some form again.

Five weeks on, I am on the verge of taking another extended break (once TGW has been and gone).

I have mentioned previously that I had made it my goal to reduce the amount of time I was spending on playing games. I am normally not very good at sticking to goals that I set myself, as I have the mental fortitude of a plate of jelly when it comes to actually committing to a lot of things, so I was perfectly well aware that I would make this bold statement about how I was definitely going to stop wasting as much time on this game, only to keep on playing it all year and beyond with as much gusto as ever.

Turns out, it's actually been much, much easier to stick to this plan than I first thought.


Okay, so to break down how my thoughts have evolved over the past five weeks:


1) Raiding.

I mentioned a couple of posts back that it was probably "best" that I stick to more casual stuff rather than anything serious, since if there was any risk that the serious raiding would continue to contribute to my ill feelings about this game it was wisest to avoid it as much as possible.

Unfortunately... that wasn't quite possible.

Story modes are in a bizarre place for a lot of people. The old legacy SMs, with the sole exception of Gods from the Machine which is still very hectic, are very easy to complete and are often described by several guildies as "boring" and a "complete faceroll". I have to step in every single time this comment comes up, reminding them that - as experienced players in fully-augmented 330 gear - that's kinda what story modes should be to them. 

That said, I do acknowledge that as 340 gear eventually becomes more accessible, it's going to get even more insane than it already is...

In terms of challenge, how I like to view things in group content is thus:

Story mode: accessible to everyone, irrespective of skill level or class.

Veteran mode: requires more experience than story, but not providing too much of an additional challenge.

Master mode: requires a high level of experience with classes and mechanics, but should still be more than accessible after gearing up from veteran modes.

At the moment, story mode (on the whole) is pretty much the only operation tier which sits bang on the money with my ideas of how it should be. I remember doing a Dxun SM run (after the recent nerfs) where one of the healers opined that story modes should present some form of a challenge, and while I do get that view I also have to ask; why? If players want a challenge, there are more modes accessible to them for that - as the baseline tier that anyone can access via activity finder, why force players to encounter a challenge that might put them off this content altogether?

Granted, said player (at the moment) is only taking part in our casual social Saturday raid nights, which do tend to be story mode more often than not, so I can understand why he'd be asking for more of a challenge when he's not likely to see much more than veteran EV / KP anytime soon.

So, now that I've laid the groundwork for how I feel story modes should be, many people who have been raiding since 7.1 will know exactly where this leads.

R-4 Anomaly.

A couple of weeks before R-4 launched, a fellow officer stated that it was his intent to take the social team into the new op the very first week, once the progression teams had cut their teeth on it a bit. Having read a little bit about the feedback for the first two bosses from the PTS, I immediately stepped in to say "no, that's too soon". The small handful of social-only players we have are not bad players by any means, and our social runs are often peppered with progression-tier players, but it was evident from this feedback that even our full progression teams would struggle a bit with the first two bosses.

Indeed, it took our progression teams a good part of their first evenings to get those two bosses down, and it was only on the following evenings that they were able to get past boss 3 and up to boss 4.

And it's boss 4 where things really kick off. 

It took two weeks for all three progression teams to kill her. On story mode. 

This is entirely down to two phases which are far too punitive for story mode.

Firstly, Recursive Blast. This is a chain knockback that links four players together and knocks them directionally proportional from the previous target. The first player gets knocked back from Dominique herself, then the next player gets knocked back from that player, and so on. This can get really hectic, as a bad angle can catapult one player in the chain off the gantry, and that in turn can result in the next player being knocked into thin air and glitching out. Additionally, anyone within the accompanying yellow circle also gets knocked back, even if they don't have Recursive Blast!

Additionally, if anyone gets the annoying bug where they see a character is stuck face down on the floor, it takes about two seconds for the yellow circle of Recursive to update whenever they move. I saw that on our sage healer on Sunday night, and we seemingly kept standing on each other with our circles as I legitimately could not tell where or even when he was moving until his circle jumped.


Recursive Blast is also immediately followed by a mechanic called Force Blast. This is easily avoidable, provided you know how - you just have to have someone standing directly next to her. So if you have a team of melee DPS with one healer up top next to Dominique and you're too slow killing the attractor and the healer gets knocked off the gantry by Recursive Blast... you're getting hit by Force Blast.

This is basically a one-shot, as it hits you with four to five successive blasts of high damage. I had been pulled in to help the first team that got up to Dominique, and Force Blast was what wiped us for the majority of that evening. I twigged that nobody was up top next to her during that time, so suggested maybe sticking the tank up there since they're not necessary for the attractors and maybe she needs to have her attention directed on someone specific, but we didn't have time to investigate that as an option.

Perhaps we should have done, as the raid leader then spent the next couple of days calculating all sorts of ways to counter Force Blast. Shield at this time, take this passive, do this, do that. I should state at this juncture that in new story modes, we go in blind for the first week, so if a mechanic happens that requires a specific thing to be done, it won't be the sort of thing a team will be aware of until they've experimented a bit. 

This led to a marvellous moment with the third of our teams to reach Dominique, as on their very first pull they managed to work out the ARIA positional mechanic after accidentally failing it twice, and they still managed to get through to the Recursive Blast phase in what was easily the best first pull any team of ours had. It was wonderful to watch that on stream having seen that first-hand, since my heart was absolutely racing - would they get through it before Dominique powers up? They did, and they managed to get her down to almost 30% before the Recursive phase killed them.

However, it's the burn phase which is the absolute killer. If you have high DPS, you're going to be fine, as you can burn Dominique down before the bigger adds show up, and those adds play a significant factor in what sort of things can and will go wrong. The Reapers, for example, slow their target to a crawl - and Recursive Blast is still going out during this phase. Imagine it, a melee DPS gets Recursive, is stuck under the boss at a bad angle and is shunted far away, so the next player gets punted off, and so on and so forth.

If the big adds do show up, it's a massive race against time for your group to be able to burn Dominique down before those adds kill you. If your DPS isn't high enough - let's say one of your DPS is stuck floating below the gantry - you're dead. I should also state, before some wise-arse "helpfully" points this out in the comments, that our teams do take in five DPS. 

This is story mode. It's in activity finder. If a seasoned capable-of-making-good-progress-in-master-mode raid team struggles to complete it, how the heck can a random hodge-podge group of strangers, whose members may be able to pull 14k DPS at best stand a chance?

That's not even beginning to think about veteran mode. IP-CPT, the first boss, is so insanely difficult with the DPS check that teams are taking in six DPS and no tanks. And if you think the DPS check is the most difficult thing in that fight, oh-hoh, you've got another thing coming. That floor pattern is crucial to learn for veteran. In story, it's a nuisance, but you can afford to build up stacks if you're too slow in moving or get trapped by a giant red circle.

In veteran, you die the moment you get 5 stacks. You need to know where to move, when to move, where's safe, where's not safe, where to take your giant grenade - there are two of these in veteran now - and so on, all to avoid taking any stacks for as long as possible. This is arguably the closest SWTOR has ever been to an action-oriented MMO like ESO or Neverwinter, where red circles and other positional mechanics are even more abundant, and due to de-sync and various other issues in this game, it's horrific.

And yet... there aren't any other options remaining, at least not if you want to get better gear. Sure, they reduced the health pool of legacy ops bosses' health by at least 10%, but that's not going to make that much difference on a fight which was previously insurmountable for whatever reason. Even if it did, you'd just be going in for the sake of doing something rather than because you'd get something from it other than a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Until further notice, all gear higher than 330 is tied to VM R-4A. We've always known that R-4A would bring in higher gear, and previous concerns about content difficulty have been assuaged (or at least attempted to have been assuaged) by promises that "better gear is coming". It took five-and-a-half months to get here, it's insanely difficult to even make good headway into getting that better gear, and if you can't get past that first boss or guarantee getting a lockout from another team for boss two... that promise is meaningless. I myself tried to replicate that assuaging when someone mentioned how difficult IP-CPT looked, and in retrospect that was a massive misreading of the entire situation.

I wish I could say I was a stranger to that particular tendency.

Now, yes, eventually they will add crafting, and hopefully that will start to provide a means independent of R-4A to start getting 332+ gear if they keep Rakata and the rest at 330 from here on out. At the same time... sure, that'll make the legacy master modes more accessible, and it'll help a bit with the DPS check on IP-CPT, but we're talking two, three, maybe four or more months down the line on top of the five-and-a-half month wait for this patch for the promise of "better gear" to start trickling down in some meaningful capacity to players like me and the majority of those in my guild who aren't going to reliably benefit from Watchdog lockouts.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I do firmly believe that higher difficulty content should not be kept exclusive to the top-top % of players, as eventually... that'll just make the pool of available players smaller and smaller until there's nothing left. This is also one of the downsides of the PTS, as, sure, people can go and test R-4, but... what sort of players, what sort of teams, are doing that? Not the casuals who are the ones most likely to suffer it in activity finder. No, it'll be the hardcore progression players who do SM once, if at all, and then immediately begin work on VM.

Yet... if these are the only people actively going to test this stuff, what else can BW really do? They won't have any other feedback before it launches beyond "this is too easy, make it more challenging", and so that's the only thing they have to go on. Who cares if the forums are now full of people complaining about the difficulty? BW listened to the testing feedback, so they clearly know exactly what their player-base wanted all the time!

That's fairly cruel by my standards, but honestly, I have just had enough of dealing with the stresses of progression and all that entails with where things are right now. And, unfortunately, it's had a negative impact on how I feel about the rest of SWTOR, and it's made me want to avoid even our social nights for the time being. Will I get over it? I'm sure I will, but it still hurts knowing that something that I have enjoyed for the past few years is... not as welcoming as it once was. 

I have enjoyed seeing master mode raids, clearing them, laughing about silly moments with the team and members I have got to know and love... and at the moment, the game is dangling that content above my head, saying "it's not for you anymore!". I hope this is just a blip in how BW are going about things, because I really don't want to believe this is how they'll be going about things from now on. I'm hoping that all the feedback they've had about how even veteran modes are now so much more difficult than they were before will have opened their eyes to the fact that the hardcore raiders aren't the only raiders in the game looking to have a meaningful raiding experience.

I'm not too hopeful, however, given that this patch cycle of difficulty comes after 6.0, where they had a knee-jerk reaction to the top-top % disliking Veteran's Edge in master modes and removed it. It took a full expansion for them to rectify the changes they had made, and I fully anticipate them repeating that again this time.

I do hope they at least nerf R-4 SM before 8.0, however.


2) Story.

Digging Deeper was a nice little story quest, and I am intrigued to see where certain elements go, but on the whole I am still not at all invested in Malgus. We at least now know that he's looking into the Children of the Emperor, perhaps suggesting that he wants to make an army of thralls (imagine the results of that if he gets hold of members of the Alliance!), but there's no guarantee that's actually what he's planning on doing.

Additionally, dangit, Tenebrae, you're dead. Stop having even an indirect presence in this game already!

The Mandalorian stuff was never really of interest to me as, y'know, Mandalorians definitely aren't over-saturated in Star Wars at the moment, but linking Sa'har's story to them was something I didn't see coming. Shin and I have previously discussed that we'd find it fun if Carrick or Vaiken stations were to be attacked in a Flashpoint while Malgus gets freed, and at this point it seems likely that Sa'har could encourage Heta Kol to send a force of Mandalorians to free Malgus to help unlock the secrets of Nul's holocron - he sure seems like a trustworthy guy, I'm sure nothing could go wrong!

In general, I've always been kinda surprised that neither of the hub fleets have been under threat for the past eleven years, not even during the Zakuul invasion where everything else seemed to change. Well, now that the big-bad of the game himself, Tenebrae Malgus is imprisoned there... golden opportunity, I feel!

...in about a year's time.

Sorry, cruel comment again. 

In all honesty, though, I really don't like how this expansion is shaping up to be all bits and pieces of vague information, especially as (something that I didn't realise until Shin pointed it out) our characters have had very little agency with the current events. Malgus is here, go do this, come to Elom, be told this, go ask Malgus this, blah, blah, blah. Sure, we're off to Ruhnuk next, but if we end up being more than just tools in the Mando civil war I'll be very surprised. I'm certainly not expecting us to have any meaningful interaction with Sa'har just yet, although if we do more than catch a brief glimpse of her and call to her, I'll be happy.

And since this is now all shifting back to Alliance-centric stuff, it's mostly all going to be the same. SWTOR had done this even before 4.0, but they at least knew to create noticeably different contexts in every cutscene between factions even if the overall result was the same. On Oricon, the Empire might still free the Republic survivors, but it's done because Lord Hargrev feels they'll be useful assets in the fight rather than because "we must save our soldiers!" as it could easily have been by having Imperial players see Imperial soldiers.

Yet because we're dealing with the same characters like Kira, Lana, Scourge, everything they say is largely going to be the same regardless of which character you're on. Sure, the little bits with Gnost-Dural, Tau, Rivix, etc. are going to be different, but these are sadly few and far between in the grand scheme of things. Everything else must eventually coalesce into dealing with the same significant players.

I have never really gotten over the fact that each of our characters is essentially living in an alternate timeline once they get past Fallen Empire. It's one thing for companion characters, people who are personal to us, to be different within the Alliance. It's another thing for entire planetary and even galactic storylines to be different, since of course if you're playing an Imperial Alliance Commander... the Republic Commander and all they do can't exist. Lord Tarnux dies on Mek-Sha at the hands of the Republic Commander, but to an Imperial Commander he's alive and well and even holding Arn and Gallo hostage at the end of the Manaan storyline, as their scheme has failed in this version of events.

Nothing quite tops the whole Acina / Malcom situation, which can completely change who sits at the head of the Empire. If Acina dies on Iokath, as Republic loyalists and Imperial saboteurs will see, then Vowrawn sits on the throne. If Malcom dies, then Acina still reigns. Incidentally, we no longer have any tangible consequences to Malcom's death (it originally led to Jebevel Madon standing down as Supreme Chancellor in favour of Galena Rans, but now that's happened irrespective of your choice on Iokath!), so this entire situation feels very one-sided.

So... yeah. There are certainly things I am looking forward to exploring more of from what we've seen, but it has to be said that, much like with 4.0 and most of 5.0, my interests lie beyond the story BW are telling. Manaan was short, but it was very nice to get a reminder of the actually interesting stuff going on in the wider galaxy...

I am still pissed off that we didn't even get to see Madon once before he was replaced by Rans.


3) Other stuff.

I mentioned earlier that I had made it my goal to cut back on the amount of time I was spending playing games. This is because I am, at long last, trying to expand my horizons and explore things that I have had an interest or passion in, alongside trying to find employment.

To get the last bit out of the way, still no luck. Flinging out applications to various retail stores, but no bites yet. I imagine there are quite a lot of people trying their luck at the same time, to be honest...

In terms of the other stuff, I showed off artwork I had produced in a previous post of BB-8 and a (very surprised) Darth Vader, and I have been enjoying keeping going with that. I'm quite pleased with where my skill level currently is, but I do of course have more to learn. Nothing to show off this time, however. 

In general, however, the thing that I'm most proud to say is that I haven't directly spent money on cartel coins or crowns or anything like that for an entire month. I have often flippantly commented that I have a spending problem with MMOs, and while I'm not in a bad place financially, I have come very close to being overdrawn with my debit account on some months.

I should state at this juncture that I'm currently 'living' on a £450 / month income - that's allowance from family combined with Universal Credit. Just so people don't think I'm spending thousands and thousands - I'm not, but with occasional food purchases, subscriptions, and other direct debits, it's easy enough to burn through at least £200 of that a month before any luxury purchases are considered. I really need a job.

So... yeah. I'm happy with that. Sure, I can justify spending some money on a game each month, but (while it won't matter all that much once we get to October) it's still nice to cut back on the sheer amount of expenditure on unnecessary 'stuff' that I was racking up relative to my 'income'. 

Yeah, October's going to be... expensive...


As much as I don't feel aligned with SWTOR at the moment, I still feel a considerable amount of attachment to it, largely due to the community I am part of and the friends I have come to know through it. I doubt I'll be walking away entirely anytime soon, but it's not great that I'm going to be taking a second break so soon after my last. I don't want to guess if this one will be longer or shorter than the previous one, as anything can and likely will happen. I'm giving myself this last week, to help where I can with my guild's efforts with TGW, and maybe just freeing myself from the concerns of progression-related nonsense for even a fortnight will be enough.

I don't really know where I would like things to go from here, realistically. It's unlikely that we'll get 7.2 much before November at this rate, and even if that does bring in better gear with crafting I for one am unlikely to want to focus on it. If all I want to do is log on to do social night each week, I certainly won't ever need more than I have, and full 330 is plenty already for that.

That's assuming I don't suddenly feel the urge to jump back into progression content. That's... that's unlikely to happen before 8.0, I would say, based on my current feelings towards the currently inescapable meta that the difficulty of the higher-end content is presently lending itself towards.

But you never know.