29 May 2013

SW:TOR // Overview

When I started playing back in January 2012, I originally created characters on three different European English-speaking servers: one RP-PvE server for my Empire characters and one RP-PvE server for my Republic characters. Additionally, I chose one “normal” PvE server to play with my brother-in-law. I picked Zellviren’s server for that purpose seeing it would be beneficial to at least know (of) another competent (raiding) player along the road. But, alas, plans change and as far as I know Zellviren has quit SW:TOR for good and personally, I am no longer interested in the raiding game.

After multiple waves of server consolidations, all my characters suddenly found themselves on a grand total of two servers: the RP-PvE server The Progenitor, which was, in fact, the server where I created my first (long-term, playable) character, a Sith Pureblood Sorcerer and the PvE server The Red Eclipse where I initially had no characters at all.

At first I was not very pleased with having both my Legacies combined, but eventually I have come to appreciate it, if only due to crafting benefits. Currently, The Progenitor houses twelve characters and I am pondering buying four additional character slots so that I can have all 16 Advanced Classes covered. Seven of those twelve characters are level 50 and have completed their respective story. The only class I still need to finish is the Smuggler. My Scoundrel is level 43 and I level her as a Healer primarily via Warzones, Flashpoints and class missions because I seriously dislike the combat mechanics – a mid-range melee class without lightsaber! No thanks!

I have one character on The Red Eclipse at this time – a level 33 Chiss Operative, also a Healer. This was the character I used to play with my brother-in-law, who unfortunately returned to WoW. It did not really come as a surprise to me because the real life has kept me very busy and I simply did not find any time to play with him regularly. Maybe we can continue our adventures now that the game is F2P.

The digital mini-expansion Rise of the Hutt Cartel offers virtually nothing of interest to me and I honestly do not know if I should purchase it at all. The direction the game is taking and the way paying customers are treated seem more and more like a cruel joke to me and I am actively considering cancelling my subscription. I have more than enough Cartel Coins and in-game credits to buy any unlocks that I might need and frankly I am not sure how long I can justify paying a recurring subscription.

In contrast to what certain people seem to think, Star Wars: The Old Republic is not a crappy game and its shortcomings most certainly do not lie in voice-acting or story-driven content. Bad performance, atrocious customer service and many lost opportunities may very well be responsible for a loss of subscribers. I will explore those points a bit closer in the future.

28 May 2013

SW:TOR // Different Realities

Telwyn wrote two posts about an experience labelled as “muo’ing”, which in SW:TOR means participating in (4-player) [HEROIC] content – Flashpoints, multiplayer missions – with two human players and their respective companions. Both stories offer a good read, so I gladly recommend taking a closer look.

I must admit, however, that his second post left me somewhat bewildered due to his group’s inability to defeat the second boss in the Athiss Flashpoint. They seem to have “hit a brick wall”. Their group consisted of a Jedi Guardian and a Jedi Sage and, according to one of the screenshots, the companions T7-01 and Qyzen Fess. The choice of companions might have a direct effect on their failure: T7 and Qyzen are both tanking companions, seriously lacking damage output. At least for the Jedi Guardian Kira Carsen would have been a much better pick. The Jedi Sage does not have access to a different companion at that time. The important part here is to put Qyzen into DPS mode (Combat Stance) and to deactivate his Taunt. The same goes, of course, for T7 should one desire to use him and the final screenshots suggests they did just that.

Another very important aspect of companion play is the need to manually control their behaviour. That requires targeting specific enemies and commanding the companion to attack them – ideally the one(s) the tank is actively working on (focus dps!). If one is using a healing companion, I would highly recommend deactivating their short duration (8s) crowd control mechanic in group play. Not only will it usually break early anyways due to AoE damage, but also the companion cannot heal while channelling that ability. Maybe one could make a case for using it under some very extraordinary circumstances.

The reason I was so puzzled with their struggles is that my wife and I had no problems at all “muo’ing” any (4-player) [HEROIC] content in the game whatsoever. None at all! Basically, we were ploughing through mobs, leaving them zero chance to resist. Usually, the experience went a lot smoother than “pugging” on my solo characters. Considering the fact that both groups (Telwyn’s and mine) consisted of two experienced human players respectively, who were sitting right next to each other and have often played a similar combination (Tanks and Healers) in other games in the past, I must admit that I find the different outcome rather strange.

At first glace, one could assume that my wife and I are just vastly more skilled than they are and that we have a better control over our characters (e.g. rotation, micro-management) or that our talents are better distributed (we are both using hybrid leveling specs, Tank/DPS and DPS/Healer). However, I highly doubt that and even if it were true, I simply cannot imagine it having this big an influence at the early stages in the game. With SW:TOR being an MMORPG, the most important element is, of course, equipment (gear).

The reality in SW:TOR is simply not the same for everyone due to the Legacy system. A player’s alts can have a direct influence on the current character’s gameplay. I have access to every (crafting) Crew Skill across all my characters and can easily produce almost any item desired during leveling, most importantly augment kits, augments, armorings, mods, etc., in short everything one needs in order to fill one’s Custom gear with the best level appropriate modifications. Furthermore, I spent a few credits on buying two (level 10) +41 Power color crystals for our lightsabers from the GTN. This means that my wife and I are wearing fully modded Custom gear and our companions are using level appropriate Prototype gear crafted by my alts with Armormech and Synthweaving.

Additionally, my Legacy level is 41 and I have seven level 50 characters, all with their respective companion bonuses unlocked, which increases the Presence attribute on all my characters by a large amount (+10 for every completed companion conversation line and another 100 for reaching level 50 as a Human species). Presence has an enormous impact on gameplay, particularly at lower levels, making companions very powerful. I can easily solo The Esseles and/or The Black Talon flashpoints at level 10 and can continue soloing all [HEROIC] missions on Coruscant and/or Dromund Kaas. Depending on the class (extreme) soloing can be kept up almost to the very end.

The discussion of soloing vs. grouping should best be left for another day. Hopefully, I was able to demonstrate how the Legacy system can cause different realities for different players. Every player needs to decide for themselves whether the like this or not, however, it does seem to be one of the unique features of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

24 May 2013


It has been over a year since my last post. Mainly two events in my real life have kept me very busy. First, I was leading a research group funded by a government grant and while this was a very pleasant and rewarding experience, it simply meant a lot of work. Now that we are close to finishing our assignment, things have finally begun to slow down a bit leaving me time for recreational activities.

In even better news, my wife gave birth to our first child, a beautiful and healthy baby girl. I cannot even begin to describe how happy that has made me! If only the little angel would sleep through the night just once. Also, my wife finished her doctoral thesis a few months before giving birth and is now taking a break from working as a corporate consultant focusing fully on caring for our daughter. If things go as planned, my wife will resume working shortly after our daughter’s first birthday whereupon I will become a full-time parent for at least six months.

As I said, these events demanded a large amount of my time and energy which left me precious little time for gaming. I was playing SW:TOR maybe once or twice a week for about one or two hours, primarily participating in Warzones. That came as bit of a surprise to me considering that I rather dislike PvP, but Warzones turned out to be a very viable alternative to traditional leveling, especially for my Scoundrel healer.

Regarding gaming in general, however, this post has been somewhat of a wake-up call. My situation is very similar to the one of the author and I must say that I find myself thinking along the very same lines. The outside circumstances have changed and I longer feel valued or appreciated as an MMO player. There is simply no game in sight that offers exactly what I am looking for. My brother-in-law has gone back to WoW, but for me that ship has sailed a long time ago.

On a final note, the alteration of the blog title was necessary in order to avoid any association with one of the more controversial writings of the recent past. I think the confusion will be minimal as hardly anyone has ever visited my blog and others have re-launched their blogs several times. If I remember correctly, Zellviren had five different versions of his blog within a very short time.

The next couple of posts will likely deal with my wife’s take on SW:TOR which may come off rather harsh, along with some of my own problems I currently have with the game.