More Starfighter Assault Fun

Star Wars: Battlefront II has been in a very interesting situation since its launch. Doubtless the majority of people reading this will have heard of the furore surrounding it and will have taken a 'side'.

Myself, I've just been my usual self and battling on regardless since it takes a lot of tedium to get through my thick skull. Heck, I've been playing SWtOR for six years even with the last two-and-a-bit years being really quite stagnant and samey. If I have fun with the people I'm playing a game with then that overrules any potential misgivings about the game itself. That is, of course, not to say that I don't have periods of not finding stuff fun, but largely that's related to hitting our heads against something hard and getting nowhere for too long for seemingly no reason.


Back to Battlefront.

I'd already commented on Starfighter Assault being my primary tether to this new Star Wars game, and while I've been focusing more on the other modes as-of-late than I anticipated (due mostly to my guildmates who are playing it; they're strangely not as fond of Starfighter as I am) I still very much enjoy going back into it whenever I get the opportunity.

With the first DLC season, themed around The Last Jedi, Starfighter Assault was one of two modes to receive a new map alongside Galactic Assault. More than this, though; it also received an update to the Hero roster, although unlike the new Ground Heroes - Finn and Captain Pathetic Phasma - there's only one Hero and she joins the 'good' side.

For those of you who aren't aware of the current Tallie tally, this means that with the introduction of Tallissan Lintra the Republic/Rebellion/Resistance has six space Heroes while the CIS/Empire/First Order only has four. It also doesn't help matters that Tallie's A-Wing is probably the best Hero ship in the game at the moment; she brings to the table a missile-evade and the only group-heal in space, and on top of this she is an Interceptor so is an absolute beast at taking ships down.

Oh, and Poe's Black One has received an upgrade as well; whereas before it was just a different X-Wing which traded the overcharged weapons ability for an enemy-revealing pulse, it now has a fourth ability (being the only unit in-game which starts with one as default); the Accelerated Booster Pod. Basically, this gives the ship a speed boost, breaks missile locks, and gives it a small amount of damage resistance, all without sacrificing its BB-8 Heal or group support utility.

Both of these Resistance-era Heroes are thus the most versatile ships in the game, since they can not only pump out a lot of damage but sustain and avoid it reliably as well. I'm curious to see what later space Villains will be able to bring to the table, as at this moment in time the Heroes have very much stacked the deck against them with this DLC season.

While I have severe reservations about the changes and additions to the Hero roster - and I'm saying this as someone who actually really likes Tallie and Poe as Heroes - the same cannot be said of my feelings towards the first new Space map; D'Qar. Being the sixth map for this mode, it is thus also the first map where the Resistance has the defence advantage, whereas previously the only map set in the Resistance/First Order conflict had the First Order with a very strong advantage and the Resistance needing to overcome severe odds to achieve victory.

It's actually very interesting to look at the different maps and the apparent balance between each one, since it seems that 3 of the maps are fairly well-balanced and the others... well... aren't. At the same time, though, it is apparent to me that one of the main reasons why there is this imbalance at times is to do with ship shields; none of the standard CIS or Imperial ships have shields while all the other factions do.

When a faction is defending, numbers don't matter. You can throw as many sacrificial lambs to the enemy as you wish since the enemy needs to destroy an objective and killing a defender only helps advance the round by temporarily removing somebody who might otherwise prevent attackers from doing their job. For the attackers, on the other hand, numbers do matter. If people die to stupid reasons or because nobody's taking out that one guy with a 34-player killstreak then they're almost inevitably going to lose very easily.

So for the CIS and the Empire, when they're defending they're on a more even playing-field than when they're attacking. Quick deaths aren't very helpful when you need people to stay alive long enough to have a chance at attacking the objectives, and in the case of Endor it's very easy for people to die for 'stupid' reasons since there is an absolute shedload of debris to fly into, either because you turned too sharply, too late, or your internet spiked and you found yourself seemingly crashing into nothing.

That's not to say that just because the Resistance and First Order had the foresight to put shields on all their craft it makes their maps substantially easier. The ambush on the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer takes place in an asteroid field and because the first objectives are contained in the 'jaw' of the ship all three phases force attackers to duck and weave; this is made harder in the second phase by the objectives all being AI-controlled rather than stationary, so a player might be close to destroying a transport only for it to duck behind an asteroid and following it lands them directly in the path of an oncoming defender.

D'Qar, on the other hand, is a lot better in terms of objective placement. While there's still a fair amount of debris, there is a fair amount less of ducking-and-weaving required since not only is the debris a lot bigger and far harder to accidentally fly into (although it's still possible) objectives are stationary for the first two phases and fairly substantial in the third. Since there are only two viable paths into the numerous self-contained objectives (field generators) in the second phase and they're all over the place it's a fair amount harder for a defender to chance upon an attacker to begin with, and even harder for them to destroy their target once they're inside the generators and opening fire.

Thus, while the Resistance still has the advantage as the defending faction it isn't a total nightmare for the First Order. While at the time of publishing this post I had only played as the First Order once subsequent viewings of the map from their perspective has reinforced this view. While the second phase is tedious and the third phase is very reliant on sufficient numbers being left alive to complete the objective, both as remainders of the reinforcements from the previous phase and those which may be depleted throughout the third phase itself, the fourth and final phase is the easiest phase for an attacker in any map.

Basically, the First Order has almost three minutes to defeat fifty Resistance ships. That's all; once those ships are destroyed, the game ends and victory befalls the First Order. This has an additional twist in that in this phase only the Resistance has a reinforcement counter; the First Order only has a time limit and a set number of ships to kill. This is thus the first Starfighter map not to feature a direct penalty - although throwing too many sacrificial lambs to the slaughter will be detrimental if not tempered - to the attackers for losing friendly craft in the final phase, and it makes for a nice bookend for them should they reach this far.

I sincerely hope that we'll see this sort of thing added in future maps, because it also adds a greater amount of pressure on the defenders to eliminate their opponents as quickly as possible since the moment the third phase ends it's them who'll be fighting for their lives instead.


Since it had been a while since I uploaded anything to my YouTube channel, I decided to spend Tuesday recording various matches and ended up with two matches which I deemed as worthy to upload. The first is set on D'Qar and the second is set on Ryloth. This is admittedly the second gameplay video of Ryloth I've uploaded to the channel, but at least it shows off Tallie's A-Wing, so there's that to it I suppose...

I still very much enjoy Starfighter Assault, and I'm still very hopeful that we'll eventually get a nice offline mode of it. As I said earlier I'd happily spend a lot of time just shooting bots out of the sky in my own time without feeling guilty about killing another player.


300 #8

It's been an interesting week for yours truly. I've finished my first term at my new university, lost a tolerated feline friend, and by the end of today I'll have seen The Last Jedi and, most importantly, have met my family's prospective new kittens who'll be joining us on the 27th of December.

That's not what people reading about a SWtOR fan blog care about, though, although considering that this series is very much a personal indulgence, there's not much reason for anyone to care about this post either...

But yeah. Those of you who have seen the regular "300 #x" posts will have seen this coming eventually, but yesterday I finally managed to get my final character, Phirella the Powertech, up to Command Rank 300. I'd saved up enough packs over the past few weeks to get her from CR34 to CR254 on the first day of the double-CXP event, meaning that she climbed two hundred and twenty ranks from CXP Packs alone.

I love the amount of CXP you can get nowadays.

Being free of the necessary grind, I now don't really know exactly what to do. I've started funnelling most of the CXP Packs I get now towards my Sage, since of the remaining two pairs of classes I've yet to get geared up (having a Gunslinger/Sniper and Guardian/Juggernaut in full 248 including the new Augments) Sage/Sorcerer is easily the one I understand and care for more, whereas I've developed a sort of apathy for any Trooper/Hunter classes and so have no interest or desire to get them geared up any further than where they are currently.

So, yay. All 8 characters at CR300. I can relax again.


5.0: One Year Later

A year ago today, the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion launched, bringing with it nine new Chapters of Story Content, five new mini-Flashpoint experiences known as Uprisings, Veteran Chapter Difficulty for all Chapters of both Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne, and the controversial system known as Galactic Command.

A year down the line, what's changed, been introduced, or remained stagnant?


300 #7

One of the things 5.6 is bringing with it next week is another Double-Rewards week. In spite - or because - of this, I was determined to get another Character to 300 beforehand, for reasons best described as "eh, screw it".

My Juggernaut, Ferok'ia, had climbed to Command Rank 271 from CR71 during the last 2xCXP Week courtesy of an absolute shedload of Command Packs, so she was rather frustratingly close to attaining the big 300. I ran her through Oricon, CZ-198, Black Hole, and Section X on Thursday - the only Daily Zones she'd unlocked until yesterday - and got her to CR 284.

Yesterday, I decided to indulge in a little experiment which I'd been somewhat-intrigued about since creating an Instant-65. Since Instant-65s are granted decisions based on their faction (Imperials get Dark-Side/'unwise' actions while Pubs get the Light Side/'advised' actions) since they have nothing else to go on, I was curious to see whether the current level of a character's Alignment and the associated Alignment they were fighting for made any difference to the allocated decisions if that same character skipped straight to Eternal Throne.

Since Ferok'ia is just one of my seven Light-Siders and was thus theoretically different from the 'stock' Imperial Instant-65, it made sense to me to use her for this purpose (and again, "eh, screw it"), and of course it meant that all remaining Daily Zones were unlocked for her as well. The bottom-line is that no matter whether you're playing a Light-Sided Sith or a Dark Jedi, your Faction is the only thing that matters for the allocated choices. You may play the most kind-hearted Bounty Hunter imaginable but should you decide to skip Fallen Empire for convenience you're suddenly scum remembered for letting countless people die on Zakuul.

The other thing which factored into my decision to skip straight to Throne was the ability to more-or-less instantly complete the Alliance Alerts, and none of the associated activities were more important in this moment in time than the Eternal Championship.

Y'know, the thing introduced in 4.3 last year with Bowdaar's Alert? Despite the fact that it has been out for well over a year-and-a-half by this point, I still needed two Achievements for it (and thus the entirety of the Fallen Empire Achievements); Eternal Warrior and Eternal Legend. The former - unsurprisingly - is rewarded for completing the Championship with a Warrior, while the latter is rewarded for completing it with all Classes.

So, that's done. Eternal Legend at long last, meaning that finally my Fallen Empire Achievements sit at 100% Completion. And I never 'need' to do the Eternal Championship again, so huzzah.

Anyway. This was followed up by runs of Ziost and Yavin IV and Ferok'ia hit 300.

So, just the one Class left; the Bounty Hunter. Since I don't yet have a lot of experience with playing Powertech, particularly in group content, and she's still going through her Class Story (and to be fair she's done a lot here, being CR33 only from all Missions through Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine), I imagine that the main things I'll be using to get Phirella to 300 will be the CXP Packs. I likely won't have enough to get her above CR100 this week, so it'll take something of a while before I finally have all eight Classes at 300.


Personalised Companion Lists I'd Create for my Characters

One thing I like doing in my spare time is finding as many ways as possible to try and diversify my characters, an act which is becoming increasingly harder now that the story has us all coming to the same basic point.

Regardless of your choices, everyone always goes to the same place, meets the same people, yadda-yadda, boring. It is the hope of many people that when the Alliance finally dies we can go back to our different factions, something which has been hinted at as a possible option (although as it's 'possible' this may imply that continuing the Alliance is itself a possible choice).

In the absence of anything more 'serious', I content myself by thinking of 'ideal' Companion teams which I'd like to construct from the available Companions if ever the choice emerges to reduce the number of characters in our over-substantive Companion lists. I am not imagining for a second that this would become an option, but it's nice to dream.

Now that talk is turning to more original Companions returning, starting with Raina Temple in 5.6, this thinking is in my mind more prevalent than it ever was, so because nobody asked for it, here are my choices for personalised Companion lists. The lists I have come up with only include those characters who could be given to use as part of the Story; Cartel Companions, Reward Companions, etc. don't count because having gone to the effort of acquiring these Companions it is unlikely that people will choose to get rid of them.

These are in no way indicative of who I think fits best with all characters as a base; my choices for my Hunter are not what I'm saying all Hunters should aim to have by their sides. Accounting for the sheer amount of options which may become illogical due to personality clashes or even disagreement with philosophies and choices is impossible.  Similarly, I am of the opinion that some characters should remain Class-specific, and I'll get to those when I get to those.

For example, all of my Imperial and Republic characters will be aligning with their original faction and not have anybody change sides; thus, all of the characters who would ordinarily despise the Empire would have no problem joining up with, say, my Jedi Knight. This would be very different from somebody whose Knight defected, thus potentially drawing the ire of staunch Republic patriots and freedom fighters.

Anyway, I've prattled on long enough. On with the list.


300 #6

In my last immediate post I wrote about how I was returning my primary Imperial focus to Pippera, my abandoned-since-5.0-for-some-reason Sniper.

So as you've probably guessed already, she's now my sixth Command Rank 300 character. Considering that she started on approximately the 19th of October at Command Rank 40, gaining 260 Ranks in just under two weeks isn't bad going at all. I had hoped that she'd hit 300 prior to the next double CXP week on November 8th, since this now frees up all of the stashed CXP packs (of which I have several cargo bays' worth full) for my Juggernaut, and this has been accomplished well before that deadline.

Focusing on Pip for CXP also enabled me to make use of a brand-new capability in SWtOR; the capability to transfer Ship Requisition grants across to another character (or get more 'free' Requisition for the same character), provided that the character making the purchase has enough Fleet Commendations to do so. Since primary-GSF character Calph had over 900 Commendations, this meant that Pip gained two each of the Minor (120) and Major (350) Ship Requisition grants, which give a character 1,200 Requisition per ship and 4,000 Requisition per ship respectively.

So now, after almost four years since its early access period, I finally have an Imperial character who is actively partaking in GSF. It's nice to see how the other side flies, particularly as oftentimes when using Calph's ships on the Republic side I've been stomped into the dirt by very good Imperial GSF teams. As this is the way of the world, now that I'm flying the ship-flag for the Empire, I'm coming across a lot more good Republic teams.

Ah, well. It's nice to finally begin work on getting those Ship Mastery achievements up slowly but surely on the Empire side, and of course now that I have a better idea of what components work 'best' with each ship thanks to experimenting with Calph's, I'm not wasting nearly as much Requisition as I was prone to do beforehand.

So. Two classes remain; Warrior and Hunter. Looking forward to finally getting this done.


A Return to Sniping

When it comes to Alts, I have a distinct system in-mind. If I enjoy them and believe that they're able to hold their own in harder Group Content, they're going to get some gear and love. It's why my two designated Mains on both Factions are Gunslinger/Sniper and Guardian/Juggernaut; as much as I love Balance for Sage, I don't think it's at all viable for content like Operations, and whilst it does have good damage output I currently don't know Vanguard DPS well enough to even want to risk taking it into anything of the sort for the moment.

For Galactic Command this makes things very simple. The designated Mains are the only ones who'll be working towards getting the full endgame gear (not that the Imperial equivalents actually need it; I just want to have characters on both Factions with full endgame gear at the same time for once, is all), and everybody else will just be staying at Command Rank 300 with their gear frozen in a state of permanence until the next expansion. Currently this system has proved somewhat successful, with both Calph and Miora on the Republic side already having done the hard work and being in full 248 while their Imperial equivalents have only a small amount of catching-up to do thanks to certain spare items which they had earned.

Since the announcement that items from all Crates earned up to 5.6 will have items within that can be disintegrated into Unassembled Components, I've taken this one step further. I will be keeping the four 'background' Alts exactly where they are with their current gear - no longer upgrading as they progress as had been done previously - and everything they get will simply become Components. In the case of the Vanguard and Sorc, this means that there's 353 Crates of Components between them (199 for the Vanguard, 154 for the Sorc). This also carries over in some form to the Mains; any gear they get that they can't upgrade to something which they themselves can use will be similarly disintegrated.

This has a twofold benefit; first, it allows the Imperial Mains to quickly get 248 rating versions of their peripherals (assuming they get at least one Legendary version of each from their Crates when they eventually become eligible to receive them) and second, should Tier V be released next year with Master Mode Gods then I will hopefully have enough Components stored up by then to negate the grind completely for at least one of the Mains, with Calph as the highest priority, and just buy as much 254 (gear rating only assumed based on the gap of 6 seen between the other ranks [230 > 236 > 242 > 248], so there is a chance that I'm completely incorrect) gear as possible.

I like being prepared even if that which I am preparing for never comes.

But anyway, that was just background noise.

Over the past few months, my Sniper Pippera had been very much left behind. My Juggernaut received the bulk of the Imperial attention gear-wise since she was actually doing something regularly (in this case her Class Story) whilst Pip was doing absolutely nothing but sitting on her backside in the Tatooine Stronghold and occasionally being required to Craft something. To summarise, while she could benefit from Calph's Master Mode-quality armour, everything else was left at either 224 or 220.

The news that my Guild would finally be returning to doing a couple of one-off Ops on the Imperial side finally caused me to pull my finger out and fix Pip some decent gear for a change. She now has her own 246 Crafted Earpiece, Implants, and Relics.

As for her weapons, that solution presented itself very nicely. You may (but most likely will not) recall that in a previous post talking about Tier IV in its very early days I mentioned that I had upgraded two 242 Mainhands into 248 ones for Calph only to then receive a third from a Crate that very same day. This is something which continued to repeat itself not once but twice; she now has five GEMINI MK-5 Mainhand Blaster shells in her Cargo Bay.

Since 5.0 did away with the whole "Barrels/Hilts/Generator Armourings being bound to specific slots", that meant it was possible to gift two of these three spare weapons in their entirety to Pip, meaning that before she's even left Tier I she has a total gear rating of 247 and now only needs her Earpiece, Implants, and Relics at 248.

It wasn't just her gear needing work, either; I decided to give into my recent "make everyone look distinct" overdrive once again and give her a slight makeover. I had noticed that even though I had finally been making headway with giving everyone their own different hairstyle (basically, four characters used the Jaxo-style prior to the release of the "goth mop", Shae-cut, Lana-bob, and Senya-bun enabling me to diversify things while still adhering to my policy of simplicity over elaborateness) there was still a fair amount of repetition; five of my characters were female body-type-ones while one of these and a further three individuals used the Bright Blue eye colour.

Whilst Bright Blue is a beautiful eye colour, I decided that it was time to change things up. The only one of my characters to possess the colour now is Guardian Miorahna, while Calph has changed to having the greenish-blue option since it's closest to my own and Ziodus has been completely retired so doesn't count.
Since Pip was the only one of those who was both BT1 and utilised Bright Blue eyes, she upgraded to once again be body-type-two and now has dark green eyes. Despite initially trying to keep both her original Jaxo-cut and hair colour, I've been trialling new looks for her, resulting in her eventually becoming a Chiss. It'll take some time to get used to, but I think it works alright.

Since restarting my focus on Pip, she has become the sixth-highest in terms of Command Rank once again, having just surpassed Ferok'ia's Rank of 71 yesterday afternoon. Those two seem to be having a tug-of-war between themselves, since at the time of my previous post, Pip was ahead of Ferok'ia only to be surpassed since I decided rather impulsively to focus on the better-geared one rather than take things slowly and rationally, which has led to things being where they are currently.

Over-impulsiveness is an especially-aggravating trait of mine these days. I really need to get that fixed.


I'm pleased to have finally got over my apparent-aversion to devoting attention to Pippera. I don't quite know why exactly I was so determined to just abandon her (especially as her Republic equivalent is my full-time Main), but hopefully it shouldn't happen again.


300s #4 and #5

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there’s my Sniper Pippera, who has the highest CR of all my non-300s (CR40) yet presently has the worst personal gear (peripherals, Mainhand, and Offhand) of all my characters, so she needs the most ‘help’ of the three. Then again, with the way I’m handling Crates at the moment - storing them with intent to disintegrate the Armour/Weapons inside into sweet, sweet Unassembled Components when 5.6 hits on November 28th - I don’t think she’s going to get that help she needs for some time.

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


5.5: The Cosmetic Touch-Up Patch

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

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


Starfighter Assault: Galactic Starfighter By Another Name

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

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

To start with the similarities:

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

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

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

The differences are more than a bit extensive:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway. I've prattled on for long enough.

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

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

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

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


The Vanguard Experiment: Secondary Results

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

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

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

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


The Vanguard Experiment: Preliminary Results

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

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

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

So, how have things been turning out?

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


300 #3

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

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

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

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

So anyway.

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

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

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

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


Here We Go Again...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing Jehnira!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Thoughts on 5.4 [Spoiler-Free]

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

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


Third Anniversary Follow-On: Giveaway Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Milestone: 3-Year Anniversary!

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

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

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

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

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


5.4: Shadows, Shuttles, and Scoundrels

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

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

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

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

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


The Return of the GSI Satellites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How, you might ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Decoration Documentation: Manaan

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

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

Or so I tell myself anyway.

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


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

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

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


Gaining Balance

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

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

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

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

Anyway, on with the list.


Life of the Night

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


300 #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


We're on the Road to Somewhere

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

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


Exclusive Accompaniment: Prospective Sub-Reward Companions

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

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

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

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

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


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

Time to talk about that Cartel Market thing again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Weapons in Outfit Designer in the Works

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


Roadmap and 5.2.2 Teasing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Character Revamps: Wreaking Havoc

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

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

So really, nobody will have noticed the redesign.

All the more reason to delve into it!