Nine: And so, the time has come...

...to say goodbye.

When I created this blog nine years ago today, I had no idea how long it was destined to last. I had previously tried creating a blog a year prior, although it had very little longevity and I lost interest after writing three posts. I remember thinking it would be quite fun to focus a portion of that blog's energy around specific characters and their activities, like gushing over an Inquisitor's new ship, and so on, although that didn't come to pass ultimately. I even tried creating my own version of the character portrait frames as part of the aesthetic, something I'm very glad didn't survive beyond the conceptual phase!

Still, I hadn't quite abandoned the idea of blog-writing entirely, and a few months later Spawn of the Dread Master popped into existence. Through it, I got to interact with several members of the blogging community while getting my thoughts about the game out and about. It was really quite good fun, and I have some excellent memories from this blog's tenure.

Still, there comes a point when everything reaches its end. It's nice to think that something has the potential to go on forever and ever, but in practice it often can't or shouldn't work out that way. In some regards, I feel very fortunate; considering my track record for various projects, that what is now Galactic Antics even managed to reach its first anniversary without collapsing is incredible.

To reach nine? Wow. 

I'm choosing to pull the plug on this blog now rather than try and help it through another year or more simply because I've always believed in ending things on your own terms. I'd rather give this blog a proper ending rather than let it just die, and I'm genuinely concerned that when it comes to finding things to write about and subsequently getting my thoughts on paper, my current success rate with fleshing out a post concept will result in the blog just dying on its own with no send-off.

Plus, it feels right that it should be put to rest on the same day and even the exact same time my first post was published. Oh, yeah, pulling out all the poetic stops with this one!

Since I had been intending to end the blog today, for the past few weeks I had been trying to hash out some posts that I either always wanted to write or those which were relevant to my current interests. Needless to say, I was unsuccessful, but I will provide a short summary of what I would have liked to write about with each below!


Favourite Music in SWTOR

This one has been in my "I must write about this some day!" list for years. As someone who is big into soundtracks such as SWTOR's, it seemed logical that a post about this would be right up my alley.

Yet it never got written, because I felt absolutely terrified about inadvertently getting out of my depth. I enjoy music, but I could never dive into the themes, the melodies, or provide any substantial thoughts or feelings about a given piece of music other than saying "it's cool, I like it" and variations thereof. It's disappointing to almost be paralysed in such a manner regarding something that I love, but it is what it is.

In terms of pieces of music I would identify in such a post, the list would include the following:

A War of Heirs

Alderaan, the Throne

Balmorra, the Forge

Clash of Destiny

Coruscant, the Capital

Hope, the Republic Trooper

Peace, the Jedi Consular

The Clairvoyance of Aryn Leneer

I think some of these largely became my favourites courtesy of repetition, allowing the tune to get stuck in my head. Notably, part of Hope, the Republic Trooper would play on loop during the end to Act I aboard the Justice, and since that was the very first Act I conclusion I saw and it happened to be really quite long back in the day, it ended up sticking. That's also not the mention the music that plays when the trooper leaves a space station or planet with their ship, which is second only to the consular's in my view.

The consular definitely cheats, however, by making liberal use of the frustratingly-unreleased music that accompanies Obi-Wan's arrival to Utapau in Revenge of the Sith. That's a beautiful piece of music and I am sorry that we have no official avenue to accessing it.

Others, such as Balmorra, the Forge and The Clairvoyance of Aryn Leneer, I fell in love with the first time hearing them, especially as the opening 50 seconds of the former accompanied Imperial characters' visits to Balmorra from day one. In general, Balmorra, the Forge is a brilliant piece to represent the theme of Balmorra as this war-torn planet, where it is your job to help tear things down further before eventually building it back up again. That last minute and 12 seconds is absolutely glorious, and is well used in the Knights of the Fallen Empire launch trailer

I have a particular soft spot for Alderaan, the Throne, courtesy of its almost medieval-evoking harpsichord. It creates a very strong mental image of civility and elegance, and honestly would probably fit a generic fantasy game very well outside of the Star Wars brand. It's just such a lovely piece to accompany the peaceful landscapes of Alderaan.

There are some pieces of music that I really like that were never officially released, either on SWTOR's youtube channel or via the Collector's Edition CD, like the rendition of the KotOR theme that plays during Revan's grand entrance at the end of Legacy of the Rakata. While some videos do exist of the ripped music files, I cannot in good faith include them officially on this list.

I have absolutely loved listening to the music of SWTOR, and I look forward to hearing what new pieces they have in the pipeline for future content.


A Gut-Feeling Comparison between SWTOR and WOW

This one has tried to take several different forms over the past couple of months. Obviously, my take on the latter game is going to be heavily biased; I'm new to it, I've been used to what SWTOR has done for almost twelve years, and my idea of what makes a game fun and compelling will be very different to a lot of the typical WoW playerbase.

With that in mind, the latest iteration of this post would have looked at things I ultimately loved about how SWTOR handles things compared to WoW. This would touch on the incredible alt-friendliness, something which SWTOR feels increasingly like it was ahead of its time with, lack of emphasis on "short-term" current content, and viability of so much of the game courtesy of level-scaling compared to what WoW does.

For example, the middle category of those three would touch on how WoW loves to have cycles of new activities or various 'seasonal' dungeons for its playerbase that may or may not include gear upgrades, then introduce something new a short while later that may give better gear, causing some of this earlier  'new' content to just become abandoned even if only two months old.

It's just so baffling to me that this is just how things are. I mean, I know things also become fairly quiet in SWTOR once people get all they want from it, but the game does at least try to encourage you to go back to older daily zones, and at least because their rewards are mostly timeless (i.e., mainly cosmetic) that doesn't render them redundant if starting them afresh with newer characters or as a new player!

Additionally, I tend to find that in the case of the Mythic+ dungeons, where eight dungeons at a time are made available in difficulty-scaling mode that can increase up into the +20s, having such a concentrated focus actually makes it harder to memorise stuff. Within SWTOR, I know I don't need to fret about working on memorising stuff, as I've been doing flashpoints and operations for years, and because they're all scaled up to our level it is quite easy to just go and do them. In WoW, because you have to memorise so much in such a short space of time, that paradoxically makes it easier to forget about things if you have to take a break of even a week or two.

It doesn't help that there's so much more going on courtesy of the "affixes", which give different challenges each week, so there may be some weeks where you don't need to worry about 'extra' stuff and can just focus on the proper dungeon mechanics themselves, and other weeks where the affixes present a significant difficulty upgrade for whatever reason. I get the feeling that I'll finally have cracked which dungeon does what, where, and when by the time the season ends and another eight get set up. Not fun.

Yeah, that's right, I'm finding reason to complain about an MMO churning out multiple significant updates in a short period of time. MMO players, always finding something negative about the grass which we don't realise is greener, huh?

There's also much less onus on just keeping up-to-date with a character in SWTOR, because you can just get gear and level up regardless of where your character is in the story. Sure, someone like me who has all their characters caught up to the most recent story is in the unlucky position of always having to repeat the same stuff in short order, but someone who has ten, twenty characters, all of whom are spread out story-wise? There's a lot of variety there for what you can do and how slowly or quickly you want to progress any given character through stuff.

Heck, there's a guildie of mine in SWTOR who hasn't even started Knights of the Fallen Empire on the vast majority of his characters, and has never seen beyond the earlier parts of 4.0's storyline despite being max-level with several characters and a frequent contributor to endgame progression and fun casual content. I can't say I blame him, given the quality of a good portion of the content that succeeded Rise of the Hutt Cartel's various storylines, but it's a stark contrast compared to WoW, where if you want to get a character to max-level and geared up, you need to have access to the new expansion's area or group content and will be steered towards doing the new stuff even if you're halfway through the previous expansion's content. 

Essentially, I think what I'm getting at is that I'm not a huge fan of how WoW focuses so much on making each of its newest expansions, events, or areas relevant until a new one comes out and they essentially abandon what came before compared to SWTOR trying its best to keep the entire game relevant somehow. WoW is massive, but it feels tiny at the same time due to just how much stuff is just... irrelevant beyond a certain point. Even trying to level through an old expansion kicks you back to doing the 'actual' story the moment you hit a certain level (which, as of the latest patch, is now level 61, and before that 60 and 50). That's not a good look in my book.

Ultimately, this comparison is really what's hurting my long-term potential for WoW, and why I do not believe I will be investing in any future expansions unless things change drastically. I love having the option to flit between multiple characters in SWTOR and use them for whatever I want to, as they all have the same rating gear and I know how to use them to a good standard. There is much less effort involved in focusing on a given character, and it subsequently doesn't feel as much of a waste to focus intermittently on different characters if you're having trouble deciding which one you enjoy most.

It's certainly a risk in WoW that you can feel like you've made a 'mistake' in switching mains and losing needed time and opportunity to gear up another character. This is also not helped if this realisation coincides with a once-thriving zone now being abandoned, depriving you of decent and casual access to upgrade materials and the like. That isn't a fun feeling at all.

I may have a fair number of issues with SWTOR and what it's doing, but I will always define it as "my" MMO simply because I have far fewer long-term issues with its core gameplay and values. Sure, BioWare kept us in the dark a lot of the time, and chances are that will continue under Broadsword, but at the same time I'd rather not be faced with the knowledge that this or that piece of content will only be relevant for a couple of months, if that, before something new comes in before it even gets released. 

I'll take 'timeless' content, where in theory you can come along to it any time you like and still get the exact same experience as you would have done on day one, over stuff like that any day.


What my "Ideal" MMO would be

Having played five MMOs, I've seen a fair number of features across them that I really like when compared to similar features in other games. Thus, it seemed like an idea to try and highlight what these features would be and combine them into one big ideal MMO.

Of course, this is a massive concept, and it can't be denied that a number of the things I like would be impractical except if money were no object. I mean, SWTOR's story delivery in terms of origin stories, and fully-voice-acted cutscenes, and treating classes as characters rather than vice-versa is probably going to be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It's absolutely fantastic, but we know from experience that it quickly became something that not even SWTOR could keep going to a great extent for very long.

Other features I would have identified beyond quest and story delivery would be the customisation features seen in Neverwinter Online and The Elder Scrolls Online, where the outfit and dyeing systems blow SWTOR's out the water with things like dyes that can be applied in any order to an outfit and even weapon's available colour slots (a maximum of three) rather than being a pre-packaged deal of two dyes that are occasionally released alongside a reversed variant. It seems like such a small thing to call out of all the features possible, but designing a character and their looks is incredibly important to me, so of course I have to prioritise it.

Definitely would pick the alt-friendliness of ESO and SWTOR in terms of gearing characters. ESO needs to learn more about alt-friendliness with things like mount training, but then I guess they wouldn't profit from riding lessons sold on the Crown Store as much... 

World-design would be ESO, hands-down. ESO is by far the prettiest MMO I have ever played, and courtesy of many town NPCs having unique looks and even names their towns also feel the most alive of any MMO I have ever played, with WoW following behind. Heck, the NPCs even have different voiced dialogue, both with other NPCs and directed at the player, depending on your quest progress. That's pretty swish, even though some lines do get tiresome. 

Dragons, in your own homeland! Praise Vivec! THE GUILD HAS NEED OF YOU, COMRADE! Oh, just shush, you lot.

Otherwise, in terms of core gameplay it would have to be more akin to SWTOR and WoW's style than the actiony style of ESO and Neverwinter. I found myself absolutely loathing the action gameplay when I tried raiding and harder difficulty dungeons in ESO, and when it came to SWTOR in some form with R-4 Anomaly I just noped out of there very quickly. I'm sorry, I play these games for fun, and having to be aware of when to move, where to move, constantly doing stuff on the move, etc. etc. just isn't fun to me. I may have a ton of respect for players who can play these games well, but I have no interest in imitating them even by choice.

When I tried Jedi Survivor I promptly pegged it down to the lowest difficulty, as the parry-dodge-block style of combat just isn't what I live for. I'm happy I didn't pay for that game (courtesy of EA Play Pro, I didn't steal the thing; it's not even worth that!) given that I stopped after about six or so hours, and no, "it gets good after x hours" is not an excuse for forgiving dire gameplay in the first few hours, especially when it's not good enough to make up for a dragging storyline.

Getting sidetracked. Point is, I'd pick anything but actiony quick-reflex gameplay.

Funnily enough, aside from combat and content structure (raids, dungeons, etc.), the latter of which is shared to the letter by almost all of these games, I actually don't know if there's anything I would actually pick from WoW that no other game does...


Conclusion and Farewell

Well, here we are. The end.

These past nine years have been good fun. I have enjoyed nursing this blog through the years, and I'm grateful to have given myself the opportunity to start anew after my prior attempt.

Would I want to pick blogging up again? I can't say I would at the moment, at least not until I get over my current struggles with actually writing things to a satisfactory standard. Indeed, to prove that point, this is actually the second time I have written this post out in-full due to my not liking the original "final" draft.

If I were to create another blog at any point in the future, it would be more general and just be used as an outlet for anything that comes to me on any subject. I firmly believe that the days of maintaining a specialist blog, even one with a theoretically wider scope, are behind me.

Regardless of how rough things have been over the past couple of years in particular, I have very much loved being a part of the wider SWTOR and blogging community. I hope people have enjoyed reading my various thoughts on what's been going on in SWTOR, and even though I may no longer be jotting them down I will still be paying close attention to what does go on in the future. Those of you reading other SWTOR blogs will likely see me cropping up in their comments sections from time to time, so I'm not going to fade entirely into obscurity.

It's been fun. Thank you all for sticking with this blog for as long as you have, and for now: 

Farewell, and may the Force be with you.


Ranking SWTOR's Expansion Patches

In my last post, I talked at length about my favourite individual story update from each expansion. While I discussed certain patches which launched an expansion, none featured in the list itself, with each expansion instead being represented by an update that came out during their lifespans.

For the most part, this is because I tend to find a lot of expansion patches themselves relatively lacklustre, at least in terms of story content. A few of them have brought in changes to game systems that I really like,  and some I do enjoy the story of, but thus far no single expansion has provided both a story I really enjoyed and really great new or updated features and the like in one package.

Once again, this post will be completely ignoring the version of the game that launched with 1.0. The sheer breadth of content that came with the released game, while lacking in endgame, is quite simply unparalleled when it comes to the rest of SWTOR's story content. It's thus unfair to really include it in the same category, as that launch content still holds up really well; far better, in fact, than several storylines that we've seen come out throughout the years.

On with the show!

My Favourite Story Updates From Each Expansion (So Far)

When it comes to expansions in an online game, SWTOR has had a fair amount of variance with the content it would offer in its own expansion patch-cycles. Some, like 2.0 and 5.0, would deliver the expansion's  entire themed story in the very first update and then immediately (or at least quickly) segue into something new, and others, like 4.0 and 7.0, stick with the intended theme all the way through.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.

For updates like 2.0 and 5.0, you run into a situation where you're logging in with the game's splash-art proudly telling you that you're off to put the Hutt Cartel down or wrestle with Vaylin for the Eternal Throne, when actually you're past all that and are now dealing with Czerka and whatever it is that's going down on Copero. However, especially as far as 2.0 is concerned, this breadth of content also helps the galaxy feel far bigger, as there's much more going on than just chasing down one man's plans or seeing how separate stories become entwined.

For updates like 4.0 and 7.0, the story should feel more streamlined as it's all part of one big story, but that presents another problem entirely; if the story doesn't work, and that's all you've got, it's going to leave one heck of a sour taste. 7.0's glacial story content release presents a further problem with this, that being that stringing people along for months if not years before things come to light can go wrong very, very easily if the payoff isn't deemed satisfactory.

I do prefer having more variety of stuff to do, but there's no denying that the 2.0 model in particular wouldn't work as well nowadays. Back then, we were just another player in the galaxy, with no power-base to speak of, and it was easier to slot us into some inconsequential stuff as a main story update. That's not to say that inconsequential stuff can't still happen now that we're the Commander of the Alliance and powerful higher-up within Task Force Nova and the Hand of the Empire, like with the Feast of Prosperity, but it's much more of a side thing than an actual story update.

It's funny in that regard to compare SWTOR to the occasional stuff that World of Warcraft does. WoW likes to do a lot of "cutesy" stuff, which can often be fun, but I really don't think that would translate across well to SWTOR.

"What do you mean the next story update involves helping a clutch of turtles survive on Rishi? I'm the Alliance Commander, slayer of Valkorion, ally of Mandalore herself, and the one who's going to kick Malgus's butt! I can't do something as meaningless as this!"

I mean, I'd definitely be up for helping turtles survive on Rishi if ever that does become a thing. I may never be able to make up for unintentionally killing Speedy, but if I can help some survive in their honour, I'll feel a little bit happier.

Anyway, the point of today's post is that I intend to look back over the various expansions - including the base-game - and talk about my favourite story updates that came with each one. This will not just involve my talking about the story content each patch delivers, but any extra things they added if I deem them important enough.

I am including 7.0 in this despite the fact that we're still partway through it, because I'm still intending to bring this blog to a close next month, so I'm not going to be able to comment on 7.0's grand finale. I might as well address my current favourite update in this expansion while I'm giving myself the opportunity!

On with the show!


Passage of Peace, Past

Galactic Season 4 is finally in my rear-view mirror at last. Despite my growing reservations about Galactic Seasons as a concept, I have ended up dutifully doing my part each time, although by now the process feels incredibly formulaic and in dire need of another rework.

The trouble is, it doesn't feel like there isn't a lot they can change to me. The objective system works well enough, and it's always nice when something that in recent years has been kind of neglected like a comparatively obscure world boss gets featured. Much like the introduction of level-scaling, I like how that particular aspect of the whole thing makes older content both relevant and actually involving. 

My appreciation for what SWTOR has done over the years has grown exponentially since getting involved in World of Warcraft. That game honestly feels horrifically dated compared to what SWTOR has going for it at times.

That said, I am definitely looking forward to seeing what Galactic Season 5 has up its sleeve to try and make things different. Honestly, the thing I would like to see be looked at or removed entirely, even if just for this upcoming season, is the seasonal reputation track.

A new reputation track is a pretty safe option to add as a new grind. It keeps people tied to specific content or areas for a while if they want shiny rewards from a reputation vendor, and with seasons it's just another thing to add to the checklists for specific weekly objectives and achievements. However, since the seasonal reputation is entirely tied to a currency you receive for completing seasonal objectives or killing foes, that can result in quite a big grind depending on what you do if you wish to stay afloat.

Sometimes, that's easy. If you're the sort of person who happily pugs flashpoints and story mode operations like no tomorrow, you'll likely end up swimming in the stuff. If you are a progression raider who spends half their week working up to a final boss and not necessarily killing it, and that's the only group content you do, that's an entire sector of content where you're effectively locked out of gaining currency for.

Not even the Jawa Intel feels like it helps a great deal while out killing foes on daily runs if that ends up being your main source of income outside of objectives. Sure, it does help, but the drop rate on the things is still really quite woeful. 

PvPers, meanwhile... okay, so it's been a while since I've done a PvP match and associated weekly, so maybe they've changed this, but I don't believe there's any way for them to earn currency just from doing PvP.

Oh, and even if you do get an absolute shedton, you're still limited to a 5,000-per-week reputation cap. Again, I get it, they have to stretch it out somehow as completing 100 weekly objectives for the achievement will take fifteen weeks minimum, so completing the reputation track six weeks before that isn't something I feel the developers are happy to let people do. Unfortunately, this does mean that if you start working on the reputation "too late", even by just a week, you're completely screwed and have no chance to complete the track in time to complete the relevant achievements.

The thing is, I can get why they've done it this way. It's clearly a hangover from the original design of 7.0's content: encourage players to do as much of everything as possible in order to maximise their gain of relevant stuff. However, there is a very fine line between people feeling "encouraged" and people feeling "forced", and in this regard I can definitely sympathise with PvPers in particular who care enough about seasons to complete everything, as their favourite activity may well yield nothing.

All of this is why I feel the seasonal reputation tracks require a rework. Just a slight one, it doesn't need to be massive, but I would like to see things change.

The most immediate thing I can think of would be to increase the source of currencies. Adding them to the PvP daily / weekly boxes if they aren't already there would allow those who only do PvP to maintain a steady income without needing to go elsewhere. Operations are trickier, in that while I would perhaps like to see them spread the currency tokens across bosses much like tech fragments are, that may lead to certain operations (looking at you, Scum & Villainy) being a better source if only by a couple, up to a few, tokens. 

At least all operations of a certain type and difficulty giving the same amount from the last boss is fair, even if it means those who just do progression raids without killing the final boss miss out on currency.

Secondly, I would like to see an option added for players starting later than others to "catch up" with the reputation if they would wish. I don't really know how feasible this option is, as there has been no indication that the developers can even allow the weekly cap to be adjusted on a personal basis. Added to which, there would also need to be a system in place to detect which players would be relevant for a catch-up mechanic.

If it is possible, I would like to see a multiplier-system be introduced. Let's say a player who is still at the lowest tier in week five is allowed access to a token which temporarily increases the weekly cap by a factor of 1.75, in other words up to 8,750, increasing to a factor of 2 in week 6, and so on. Any tokens that player activates during this time are also multiplied by that same factor. This would, in theory, allow them to use the same number of tokens to reach the original weekly cap as before, but still at potentially a fast enough rate to complete the track in time.

It might not even be possible to begin with, in which case pipe dream, but I'm just trying to think of ways that the developers can make this particular grind feel less annoying the later you come to it. I mean, sure, at the end of the day you're not going to get everyone through, but I do feel sorry for everyone who does come to it late, or believes they're fine until they get a rude awakening that oh no you're not, and by then there's nothing they can do.

Thirdly, there is also the option to have the objectives themselves drop reputation tokens rather than just currency. Make it so that the 8-pointers drop a large blue, and the 12-pointers drop a purple, and you're away. By all means, continue to have the currency as a backup option, as it would still be required to allow players to keep earning the reputation, but then maybe that itself needs a rework. Rework the jawa, make it so that he'll sell a reputation trophy of your choice from any inactive season to you for various jawa scraps, and you needn't continue adding seasonal currency after seasonal currency.

It would be nice to cut down on that. Remember when their goal was to reduce the number of currencies we had to minimise confusion? 7.0 says "hi!".

Fourthly, and easiest of all, make the dang things cheaper!


In all seriousness, I really wouldn't mind it if with GS5 we saw the removal of the reputation track, even if just for one season. I don't really know what its replacement could be in terms of achievements, although since each companion has a specific activity associated with them as a weekly objective, maybe they could make it so that you had to complete that activity a certain number of times during the season.

Or maybe just... don't add a new achievement for the sake of it if there is no reputation track to do. Just leave off with earning level 100, the 100 weeklies, and the umbrella achievement for both. 

If they do end up adding seasonal reputation tracks with each successive season and we don't end up with a break somewhere along the line, I really hope we get a change in the current status quo. It's been fine enough for the time being, but there have been some serious flaws exposed throughout the last three seasons that could really do with being addressed.

Trouble is, I don't really think there's a lot they're ultimately going to be able to do. I'd love to be surprised, though.


To bring this back on-topic for my finishing GS4, it was... alright. I still feel that Amity hasn't done quite enough to beat PH4-LNX as my favourite of the companion, despite my own disappointments about how Fay was handled, but he was decent enough. I do miss being able to dress up the seasonal companion like you could Altuur, but I get why they've shifted to full-body-and-outfit customisations, and at least with Amity they actually did a full unique costume rather than just the gloves as they did with Fen.

Well, I say "gloves", but really they were just his hands with a glove texture appended on. That's SWTOR's aliens like duros for you. 

I don't really know what, or who, I'd like to see next. Amity fulfilled my previously-expressed wishes for a faction-specific soldier and a Force-user in one go, but I'd still like to see something that feels like it's quite special at some point. Fen, Altuur, Fay, they're all in some regards representing the neutral underworld, when there is so much potential for more.

I'd still love to see us get someone whose role in the galaxy actively clashes with at least one of the factions, rather than someone who fits in no-matter-what. Give us a disgruntled Imperial soldier, a Sith, a Jedi, someone who doesn't necessarily plug-and-play. It could be really interesting to see how a character of a specific faction responds to their situation, whether it involves us helping them feel better about continuing their role now that warfare has broken out if you're of the same faction and loyalty as they are, or maybe even convince them that there is more to life than just being the same-old-same-old and to break away from their former ties if you're of the opposite faction or are a saboteur.

Heck, some of the best stuff in SWTOR comes when characters with specific dichotomies enter into dialogue with one another. Lana and Gnost-Dural's conversation prior to Objective Meridian still stands out in my mind as a really good interaction between two people of different origin and alignment, and even though the Alliance can be allied with either the Republic or the Empire as well as its own thing, it is still presented as maintaining some of its prior neutral elements.

But what is the point of that if the writers aren't actively trying to find opportunities to explore those elements? In general, it would be really interesting to get some feeling about how your personnel are feeling, like maybe some updated ambient conversations like the ones you hear as your alliance specialist influence grows, just so we know how our current personnel are feeling about potentially fighting their loved ones.

It's certainly still quite fertile ground. I hope to someday see it explored, and I feel a seasonal companion would be a decent way of going about things. We shall see what we shall see.


Broadsword, Part 2

I haven't really posted about my thoughts on SWTOR's rumoured move to Broadsword since my last post on the matter, and that's mainly because... well... what was there to say? It's all so unknown, whether it actually would move at all, whether it would go to somebody else, and what sort of impacts that will have. I will happily theorise about in-universe stuff until kingdom come, but something like this, which is actually meaningful?

No, there's just no point getting caught up in "what this will really mean!!!" for the game and the community. What will happen will happen.

However, earlier today after a couple of posts by Keith Kanneg acknowledging the rumour and answering some general questions about it as best he could - I mean, he's never going to convince those who've already decided this is the game's final death knell, is he? - we finally have official confirmation that Broadsword is indeed taking over the reins of SWTOR.

These posts echo a general feeling I have seen from ex-SWTOR developers and those more in the know about BioWare and such things; that Broadsword is better-handled to carry an MMO forward than BioWare is. I mean, BioWare are not a bad game studio, nor are they a bad studio when it comes to crafting stories, but an MMO is not a game that BioWare is traditionally best at running. 

With a game series like Mass Effect, mechanics and gameplay are on the whole secondary to the story. That's not to say that they aren't important, but you tend to remember characters and dynamic moments in the storyline more than you do how a particular class plays. Doubly so for Knights of the Old Republic, the gameplay of which has aged horrifically while the story still holds up well. An MMO, on the other hand, often ends up being far more about the gameplay than the story, as people spend so much more time just doing stuff once they've done all the story, whether that be daily zones, PvP, raiding, etc., etc. 

The point is, unlike a traditional single-player game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age which is one-and-done, with DLC as an additional extra thing to invest in if they're asked to or want to, with an MMO you've got to do a lot more stuff on a regular basis. Sure, BioWare have proved capable of doing this; the 2.0 patch-cycle stands out as a prominent example of what the company could do for the game at its strongest, and since then no expansion or patch-cycle has ever really come close to repeating its sheer volume of content in a similar length of time.

I'm not envisaging for a second that Broadsword will be able to instantly turn things around and make every subsequent expansion like 2.0. However, if certain rumours are correct and BioWare were using the income from SWTOR to bump up other projects more than they were to improve SWTOR itself, then not having this drain will be immensely beneficial somewhere along the line. After all, everything costs money, and if BioWare weren't investing nearly as much money into SWTOR as it needed... honestly, I don't see how things can't improve.

Truth be told, I'm honestly more scared for BioWare's future than I am SWTOR's. They haven't had a lot of big successes recently, with Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda both being disappointments financially. Sure, they had Mass Effect Legendary Edition, but that was just a remaster; impressive, yes, but if you've already played the full trilogy several times over there's nothing really new there that you couldn't experience second-hand.

Point is, with the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games still being worked on and nowhere near release, that suddenly puts a shedton of pressure on BioWare to get them right. After all, they won't have SWTOR to keep them afloat anymore, so if either of these games fails in EA's eyes... I honestly don't see BioWare surviving.

I really hope it does continue to persist, however. It's had some wonderful games throughout its time, and it would be sorely missed.

For SWTOR, however, I am very much looking forward to seeing what this move will result in. Even if it takes a while for things to manifest, it's nice to think that things are looking relatively positive now it can actually flourish without anything holding its investment opportunities back. I wish everyone with the current team well, both those moving to Broadsword and those who are sadly being left behind and needing to find their way. I'm really hoping those folks can find new work in good time.

Until the future, then. Let's see what it holds.

Oh, and we also have news that the next Galactic Season is coming with the next patch, which was previously stated as being towards the end of Summer. Another instance of a Galactic Season starting roughly a month after the previous one ends. Joy.


Thoughts on 7.3: The Good, the Bad, and the Eeehhhhhs

A new story patch is out, and of course I have to offer my thoughts on it.

7.3: Old Wounds follows immediately on from Ruhnuk, and both us and Shae Vizla are seeking answers about Nul and her datacron from Darth Malgus before it potentially gets too late. We're also invited to Voss, as Sana-Rae and Arcann finally have answers from the expedition we sent them on towards the end of 6.0.

There's a fair bit to cover, so let's get started!


Contemplating 7.3, Galactic Season 4, and Gaming Apathy

After all the recent hubbub about SWTOR's future, the news that Old Wounds would be launching on the 13th of June is very welcome. It's roughly when I expected it to be, as when the PTS went down towards the end of May I stated that I could maybe see it due a fortnight later (in other words, the 6th), so a week later is still pretty close to my original estimations.

In the meanwhile, I'm just chugging along with the latest Galactic Season, and am almost at the end point now. Certainly, I no longer need to worry about maintaining a consistent income of Notes of Reflection each week, as once I hand in those which I accrued this past week I'll only need a couple of hundred more reputation to hit the cap. Yes, I could always pop the reputation boost tokens and get it done on Tuesday, but I know from experience that the persistent nature of the 24-hour long buff (i.e., it cannot be clicked off, and it doesn't tick down when logged out) bugged me the last time I tried it so am not keen to repeat that again.

Besides, I'd only use it to boost one token. All that, when just waiting seven days would do just fine?

Regardless, once that's done it's just focusing on the last 23 objectives then that's this season done and dusted at last.

At that point, I don't really know what my plan is. I have noticed a growing sense of apathy towards not just MMOs but video games in general these past couple of months. Notably, when Jedi: Survivor was on the horizon, I just felt... nothing. Sure, I watched a few of the gameplay fluff videos explaining what was what, but I honestly felt no real pull. As a subscriber to EA Play Pro, it is a game I would get access to through that, so I acknowledged I would at least give it a go, but I had no real desire to actually buy the thing.

And indeed, it didn't stick the landing as far as I'm concerned. The original game, Fallen Order, was okay, but as the sequel got nearer and nearer I honestly just felt I didn't need to see the crew in action again. I was quite happy with the open ending of the original, and I have to say I just didn't feel much excitement for a sequel even back then.

I'm finding the same sort of thing about the new game that's just been announced, Outlaws. I mean, it looks pretty, don't get me wrong, but I'm just not feeling much excitement about it. It doesn't help either that it's an open-world game, and those are extremely personal taste. I have to say that my experiences with the tedious design of Mass Effect: Andromeda's open world environments really haven't endeared me to the concept, although to be fair MEA has a fair number of annoying RNG quests where you have to hunt certain items in enemy camps, and there is every chance that you can scour the entire map and come back to the camp you cleared first and find the item has spawned there again.

So... I don't know about anything game-related at the moment. I'm still keeping going with SWTOR and WoW, because I have some very good friends who I'm enjoying playing that content with, but beyond that... I'm just not feeling very much excitement about games. I don't know quite what's responsible for this, but something in my brain this year has flipped. Maybe it'll be temporary, maybe it's the start of a more long-term thing, I don't know.

What I think I'm trying to say about all this with relation to SWTOR is that I'm glad that 7.3 is coming next week, because it falls in the window where I'm still actively wanting to engage with it. I'm sure I would have come back to it were it to launch after I'd finished seasons, or at least prolong my probable post-seasons game break until after I'd seen all I wanted to see with the newer update, but it being imminent works very well indeed as far as I'm concerned.

Ultimately, I still have three-and-a-bit weeks to go until I reach the end of Galactic Season 4. Anything can happen during that time, so I'm not committing to anything until that point. In the meanwhile, my plan is to take things as they come and go from there. What will happen will happen.