Monday, January 16, 2012

I Don't Have a Command Crew for the Shuttle: When Guildies Split

We don't have much of a guild anymore.

Phyona and I started a guild early on in our WoW days which we eventually built into a proficient raiding group. More than that, as it often happens, we made a lot of close friends. We spent so many highly entertaining hours together, it was a foregone conclusion that we would stay in touch regardless of the gaming platform.

Shortly after becoming one of the first few guilds on our server to down Nefarian, we collectively burnt out of raiding. Just about everybody in our 10-person raid core canceled his or her subscription, saying that we would try SWTOR when it came out. Over the next 11 months or so, we stayed in touch via Skype. Brief trials of other games didn't stick, but SWTOR still loomed in the distance.

How exciting it was, then, when we had nearly the whole crew on for the Old Republic's launch. Guild chat was lively, we were running flashpoints, and it felt great.

But gradually, the number of guildies online started to dwindle. Then, Nazbur and Berugrim announced they had canceled their SWTOR subscriptions. Nazbur in particular had been such a huge part of our guild, usually functioning as our raid leader. I had spent countless hours formulating strategies with him in WoW, and I count him as one of my best friends.

Naz and 'Grim are what you might call "powergamers." They like to put in a lot of hours, get loot, and gogogo. Plus, they don't particularly care about the Star Wars license. I probably should have seen their cancellations coming, considering that in SWTOR you can't top the charts (there are none) and the focus is on the journey rather than pure results. They were always saying how they were spamming spacebar to continue their "cleave."

Since then, other guildies have started experimenting with Empire alts. We've all become spread out in level, so flashpoints aren't as rewarding an endeavor as they once were. When I play, the game feels like Knights of the Old Republic 3, but with a bunch of juvenile people trolling a general chat channel. Don't get me wrong, I am still having a blast...

But Phyona, Dunquinn, and I need to figure something out. It might be time to migrate over to another guild. Though, after four years with our current guild, it's easier said than done.

Friday, January 13, 2012

No Reward is Worth This! A Lovely Bug

I believe I was somewhere on Nar Shadaa when I encountered a belly-laugh-inducing bug.

Corso kept falling down. I would move, he would run over, then faceplant. 

We don't have time for this.
Alright, Corso, let's go...enough already. Okay, let's see if stealth snaps him out of it...
Great, now you're getting shot. In stealth. Pro, Corso, pro.
                                       Fine, I'm leaving without you.
Let's just say Bowdaar got to stretch his legs for a while after this...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Full Reverse! My Experience with Reverse Engineering

Chewie, how many times do I have to say it? Lock in the damn auxiliary power! Here we are being pulled towards the largest space station in the history of the galaxy and certain doom and you're rubbernecking in the copilot's chair!


It's like Bowdaar 2.0 in here.

Anyways, I want to talk about all of the reverse engineering I've been doing. All told, I've reverse engineered a grand total of 0 items. Zero. Zilch. Not a single one.

You would think this would make me wholly unqualified to talk about reverse engineering, but let me explain.

I don't reverse engineer because I don't think it will be profitable. For me to start reverse engineering an item, it would have to meet the following criteria:

1A. Coveted Premium (Green) Item: That is, if there is demand for the item slot, there will be increased demand for the better versions of said item. For instance, remember the level 15 Cybertech earpieces I love to talk about? Players buy those because they have no earpiece at all. Therefore, they're more likely to shell out a few extra credits for a prototype (blue) or even an artifact (purple) item.


1B. Level Cap Item: There is no twinking in SWTOR,  so players are generally only concerned with getting the "best" gear at level cap. Easier to sell a player on a +5 stat boost when they know they will be keeping it for at least a while.

2. High Net Profit: The schematics granted through reverse engineering are coupled with higher materials costs. For instance, a green level ~15 mod might require two basic Underworld Metals at ~50 credits each, where the purple equivalent uses purple metals at 500+ credits each...when you can find them. It's difficult to pass a 1000% increase in materials costs onto your buyers and maintain profit margin, especially if the benefits are slim. So the question I ask myself is, Can I reliably find the mats I need to craft this?

It's hard enough finding a craftable item that meets those criteria (I do want to try level cap mods/armorings/etc. and will report on it if I do), but then there are other factors dissuading me from reverse engineering.

First, the opportunity cost is prohibitively high. Like, equal to 10 premium and 20 prototype items (a total guess based on a bunch of different guesses from around the net) for just a single artifact schematic. Making up for that drain in resources will take time.

Then, there is an element of randomness that can result in totally useless schematics. No Smuggler worth his spice is going to fork over extra credits for a +defense blue! Or worse, a +shield purple! And NOBODY is going to want level cap +presence purples, considering that stat is completely useless in endgame. This multiplies your opportunity cost. (Note: Mods, Barrels, etc. only gain existing stats rather than gain random ones, making them infinitely more predictable.)

Now, I understand that on high population servers, reverse engineering can open the door to untapped markets. But is it worth it?

So, have any of you forayed into the world of reverse engineering with success? Any selfless souls doing it for the good of their guild? Am I totally wrong on this? Let's hear it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mirror Class: Meet Kir

Quick update:

I wanted to make a Gunslinger so that I might eventually provide all you dual-blaster space cowboys with some tips and such, but I wasn't quite ready to revisit the Smuggler storyline.

So I turned to the Smuggler mirror class and created an Imperial Agent.

While I still (of course) prefer the Smuggler, I'm hoping this will allow me to provide extra insight to our favorite class and reach out to a larger audience without boring myself.

Now, who knows where I got the name "Kir" from? No googling!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hear Me Baby? Hold Together: Energy and Smuggler Healing

I don't have quite enough experience with Smuggler healing yet to make a full-blown guide, but I can offer you some delicious food for thought in the meantime. Besides, I've been writing some puffy stuff lately, I have to throw a (saw)bone to you hardcore Smugglers.

Let's talk about energy.

As a longtime healer in WoW, I'm used to tracking a mana bar while healing. For all intents and purposes, you had a finite amount of resources (and therefore time) for each fight. When you ran out of mana, the fight was over. Exercising restraint in managing your casts, i.e.using mana-regenerating abilities or not always casting the most expensive heal, was a huge part of healing strategy.

Now, with our rechargeable energy bar (sounds like something you eat before a marathon), we can heal forever. Instead of having a countdown until we must stop healing, we have a limit placed on how many heals we can cast or how hard we can heal per unit of time. For instance, you might be able to cast five average heals or 2 big heals in any given 10 second window. And should you be overzealous at any point in the encounter, you risk not being able to heal at all.

This conceptual shift has to change the way we approach healing. Some rules have become apparent:

1. Never Cap on Energy: If at any point you allow your energy to cap, you are sacrificing healing throughput. You can always be stacking Slow-Release Medpacs if there isn't a lot of damage going around.

2. Never Stop Casting: Similar to the first rule, every second you stop casting is a throughput reduction. Regardless of your energy or incoming damage, you can at least cast Diagnostic Scan during lulls. It provides energy return (and thus more heals) even if the actual healing done is pitiful.

3. Keep Something in Reserve: The biggest challenge for Sawbones Smugglers right now is not getting too aggressive, especially if DPS is taking damage they shouldn't be. It's difficult, but try to hold a bit of energy just in case. Emergency Medpacs are a boon, allowing you to exploit Upper Hand as a second resource if need be.

4. Use Energy Regen Abilities: If there is HP to be healed, don't keep Cool Head on cooldown. The sooner you use it, the sooner you can use it again. More energy equals more healing.

I don't know about you guys, but I would be a bit scared to tank heal in a raid situation with the energy system. I feel like blanketing the raid with a stream of Slow-Release Medpacs, spot heals, and Kolto Clouds is more conducive to our heals/unit time limit. At that point, if we can't keep up with the damage it is the DPS' fault. Conversely, I would be hesitant to heal anybody but the tank if I were tank healing, which is neither productive nor fun. Could I get used to it? Yes, but I'm not sure I would want to.

How are you guys getting along with the energy healing system? Any horror stories? For those who may already be raiding: tank or raid heals?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Look What Phyona Got Me!

It's Max Rebo!

And since I'm a huge Star Wars nerd who also loves elephants, I happen to know Max Rebo's real name:

Siiruulian Phantele. Which sounds an awful lot like Cerulean Elephant. I see what you did there, Lucas...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Let's Keep a Little Optimism Here: Ten Best Things About SWTOR

We've all seen "Return of the Jedi" a bazillion times, so we know that the stolen Imperial shuttle Tydirium is blasted out of the sky by Vader's flagship because the rebels' clearance code was too old.

Wait, what?

This started as a post about what fixes/updates/additions need to be made to SWTOR. But after poking around the internet a bit, I realized that plenty of people have done that already. I hope (and do believe) this is the work of a vocal minority, but yeesh, there is a lot of negativity surrounding this game (some coming from my own guild)! Do I think that mouseover macros or UI customization or endgame bug fixes need to happen? Yes. Do these break the entire game? Are they going to stop me from playing? Of course not.

You can go just about anywhere else to read about what's wrong with SWTOR. Here you're going to read about what's right. Presented in a tidy list format!

1. It's Star Wars: Duh. Talk all day about flashpoints vs. instances or crew skills vs. professions or whatever other game system. The Star Wars license rocks and is indeed the main reason for many people playing SWTOR at all. You can't have lightsaber in WoW. You just can't. Add in John Williams' sweeping score, Corellian stock light freighters, scrolling yellow text, Mandalorian armor, and force lightning and you're in for a good time.

2. Missions: I know there are plenty of players who mash spacebar and 1 or 3 and I feel sorry for them because they're missing the core experience of this game. Missions,  and especially class missions, are so much more engaging than ever before. The voice acting is generally fantastic (I have to make a female Trooper, I hear she's voiced by female Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect), drawing you in to every step of your character's adventure. Considering the sheer number of lines spoken, I consider the dialogue system a major achievement. Not everybody agrees. We have a close friend and guildy who may be leaving the game because the talking "interrupts [their] cleave." I think Phyona addressed this best on our guild's facebook page, where she wrote
"I guess it has to do with how into your character you are. I'm obsessed (borderline in love) with my character so I listen to all the dialogue intently and flip out on people when they talk over it haha. I despised questing in WoW and adore questing in this game, which is a huge deal for me. I can understand that if all you want to do is the actual gameplay, the story can be frustrating, but I genuinely believe that if you find a character you really connect with, this game is unlike any other. For me, the major difference between this and WoW was that in WoW everything I did was to achieve a goal (leveling in one way or another), and in SWTOR, you're meant to savor and experience the journey. If you can manage to embrace that intention, I think this game will evolve (it's still just a fledgling) into something incredible."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

You Just Can't Bear to Let a Gorgeous Guy Like Me Out of Your Sight

To which Phyona, my significant other, would likely respond, "I don't know where you get your delusions laser brain."

I suppose there's a Leia (or a Chewie) for every Han and she's mine.

Without getting all mushy on you, Phy is a huge part of my life and concurrently my gaming. It took 10 levels for my Scoundrel to meet Phyona the Jedi Guardian, but they've been inseparable ever since. Well, almost...

Anybody with a gaming buddy knows about the struggles involved in playing an MMO together. Such a large percentage of content is based on level that it can be difficult to find content to do together while leveling. Inevitably, somebody has a day off or doesn't feel like playing or has to give their wookiee a bath or whatever, and vroom, one player is off like a ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. The gulf that can result from just one or two sessions of solo adventuring can tear two toons apart!

With respect to SWTOR in particular, one of the adverse side-effects of having such excellent story content and dialogue is that going back to repeat content isn't fun for either party. One person gets stuck waiting, waiting, waiting. The other can't enjoy the content to the fullest knowing their partner is itching to slice through some rakghouls. Not that I miss WoW's lack of compelling quests, but at least it made adventuring together a bit more accessible. You were in for the miserable, boring grind together, I guess.

Perhaps the easiest way to combat this is by creating alts, i.e. you have one character that you only play with your partner. But without fail, you get attached to that character, right? That's the one you have to play.

I find it curious that a game that is at its most fun a multiplayer endeavor often separates you from your friends, at least until level cap. And this isn't like WoW where the whole point was to play with your friends at cap. I absolutely love running missions with Phy and watching the dynamic between our characters unfold.

Then again, Phyona says that my unenlightened Smuggler only slows her galaxy-saving Jedi down, so what do I know?

What do you guys think? Do you have a leveling partner or are you in this for just one person? Prefer grouping with strangers? Or does a guild fill this void as it often does?