19/11/2017

Three Cheers for Swtorista

In case you've never heard of Swtorista - maybe because you're only playing SWTOR very casually; I can hardly fathom another reason - she is one of the game's biggest community contributors these days and recently got to celebrate hitting 20,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel (which has been sitting on my sidebar under "SWTOR Content on YouTube" for quite a while now). I have to admit that I haven't actually watched that many of her videos myself, because a lot of them are geared towards new players which means that I'm not really the target audience, but it's still great to see someone be such a force for good in the community, always bursting with positive energy and being interested in what people have to say. Also, she mains a trooper. Do I even need to add anything else?

Anyway, as is her style, she celebrated her new subscriber milestone by being generous and holding many giveaways, but also with some events. Yesterday I spotted that one of them was happening just an hour before my usual ops time, an easy time to jump in and have a look!

The premise was simple: Meet on Tatooine and do the "no bones" dance together, which Swtorista says is her favourite. Since it's an emote that has to be unlocked, she even hoarded a lot of them to give out for free so people would be able to join the dancing without having to spend any money. Fortunately I didn't require one because I have most of the emotes unlocked account-wide, I just don't always remember to go in and claim them until I actually want to dance and notice that everything is greyed out. And yes, I did have an eligible character on the Star Forge, where the event was being held, because that's where my Cathar Commando from the Ebon Hawk has ended up after the merges.

I arrived on Tatooine pretty bang on time and was surprised to be put into instance five of the planet already. I mean, we all know how the game's instancing works on a basic level, but it was kind of surprising how quickly it started spawning new ones. Tatooine 5 hadn't even hit 50 people by the time Tatooine 6 started showing up.


People starting to gather in instance 5.

Swtorista herself was in Tatooine 1 of course, which was a bit disappointing for everyone who couldn't make it there. However, at one point she hit on the fact that the game would give some leeway if you were friends with a person in another instance and announced this on chat. I added her to my friends list and bingo! Immediately the game prompted me to transfer to Tatooine 1, despite of it showing as full on the map menu. Unfortunately there still seemed to be a hard cap on how many people it would let into a single instance of the planet, as I never saw Tatooine 1 go above 99, and I don't think everyone in the other instances was just that bad at following instructions.


Stalking the hostess.

I thought about saying hi, but there were so many people shouting in chat, all wanting to see Swtorista of course, that I decided things were probably overwhelming enough as it were and I was just going to "hang out" and enjoy the event. Emotes were handed out all around, though not everyone was happy: Some people discovered too late that completely free-to-play accounts weren't allowed to trade and therefore couldn't receive the emote either way. I think some of the attendees in the other instances also felt a bit abandoned, which I could understand. Obviously Swtorista could only be in one place at a time, but I didn't really understand why she couldn't send some of the "assistants" she had brought into the other instances to hand out emotes there too and provide some direction. Then again, there seemed to be talk happening on voice chat on top of all the shouting in text chat, which I wasn't privy to, so maybe it was explained there.


Either way, eventually most people in instance 1 at least were ready to do the dance, so we did! It was just a bit of silliness and didn't last long, but it was still fun to just see so many players coming together out in the world. The whole thing really highlighted the limitations of SWTOR's instancing system however - while it makes perfect sense to limit the number of people in one place at any given time to avoid overcrowding in daily areas and such, when you just want to have a social gathering it's not very fun to be forcefully kept apart. I guess Bioware wants us to stick to the fleet, which is intended to be a social space and supports much bigger numbers.

In any case, it was a memorable little event (they went on to do some more things afterwards I think, but by then it was time for my guild's ops night), so thanks, Swtorista! Here's to your next ten thousand subscribers.

18/11/2017

Day 6: Environments #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.


While we spend relatively little time in space in SWTOR, I always find the view from space, usually showing our ship(s) approaching a planet, absolutely gorgeous. Here we have the Gravestone and the Eternal Fleet approaching the Dyson Sphere of Iokath for the first time.


I really love the overgrown parts of Iokath you get to explore in KotET chapter four. It's a shame that there isn't more of that later on; it's all so pretty. (Also, only tangentially related: While I don't consider my Marauder very photogenic in general, she has a way of looking great in shots like this that focus on her silhouette. Or is it just me?)


Also on Iokath, but inside the Gods from the Machine operation. Despite of having said it many times, I'm still bad at following my own advice to look up more often. The first time I noticed this massive contraption on the ceiling of Tyth's room, I went "whoaaa" and drew the whole group's attention to it, leading to a discussion of what exactly Tyth needs a giant extractor fan for.


The ceiling in Esne and Aivela's room is similarly impressive.


Everyone knows that Alderaan is easily one of the most gorgeous planets in the game, but here, too, you can be surprised by looking up occasionally. Even if flying space whale/ray hybrids are ridiculous.


Sticking with the theme of looking up, here's my Cathar agent pausing on her way to confront her chapter three baddies for the final time to take in the chandeliers. I think that's the same or at least a similar style to what they use in the Shrine of Healing on Voss...


This was taken on Balmorra. It looks eerily pretty in a way, doesn't it? As long as you don't start thinking about the fact that the green stuff dripping from the ceiling is Colicoid goo...


Finally, it was Rav who highlighted last year that many places on Zakuul have a certain beauty to them that most people probably don't even notice while rushing through the story chapters. So I took a break during KotET chapter nine to appreciate this "indoor park" before continuing on my way to save the planet.

IntPiPoMo count: 46

15/11/2017

Day 5: NPCs #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.


I had this idea for a post called "my five favourite Nautolan NPCs" or something along those lines at one point, but then I realised that I didn't actually have screenshots of most of them and I was too lazy to go out hunting for the right pictures. One such NPC that I do have a picture of is Leeha Narezz from the Jedi knight story. She seems like a bit of a one-note character at first with her droid obsession, but later it turns out that there was more to her than meets the eye... 

 
Colonel Grezor is another interesting Nautolan, I think the only one of his species we see working for the Empire. You meet him during the introductory mission to Explosive Conflict for Imperials.

Nautolans would totally be my pick for next playable species. Aren't we way overdue for one anyway? I can't believe it's been more than two years since Togruta Day! I still tend to think of them as the new guys...


Oh, Arcann, how far you've come. The other day I stumbled upon an old post of mine where I expressed pure horror at the fact that someone had found my blog while googling whether they could romance Arcann. Why would you even want to? I asked. To be fair, I feel that during the KotFE days this was definitely the sensible question to ask. However, redeemed Arcann is a very different man, and since apparently a large percentage of players decided to redeem him, a romance actually appears to be in the cards now. How times change.


Raid bosses are NPCs too! I've said before that I don't think Gods from the Machine gets enough love, but I've been quite charmed by everything I've seen of it so far, even if we're very much behind schedule in terms of bosses released. I'm looking forward to the next one coming out soon.


I didn't even note down the name of this Twi'lek NPC on Balmorra, but I took a screenshot of her because I really liked her look. Despite of the multitude of different customisations available for the species, I find that a lot of Twi'lek NPCs look incredibly samey - always body type one or two, with cute faces and usually blue, pink or green. So I liked this Balmorran resistance fighter in yellowish tones and sporting one of the bigger body types, like my own Twi'leks. (Fun fact: I rather dislike body type one on Twi'leks. I find that they look awkwardly out of proportion when their lekku are almost as thick as their whole body.)

IntPiPoMo count: 38

14/11/2017

Approaches to Levelling

The other day the subject of how people level came up on Twitter. Or at least it was "the other day" when I wrote the first draft of this post... by now it's been quite a bit longer already. Either way, the point was that I didn't really follow the conversation then, but the subject remained on the back of my mind and got me thinking about my own levelling.

When I first started playing and created Shintar the Commando, I would say my play style was what you could call exploratory. I wanted to see as many different things as possible, including group content and PvP, but I wasn't hung up on any kind of completionism, skipping both Taris and Alderaan in their entirety except for my class story. I figured that being over-levelled wasn't going to be very fun, and there were always going to be alts. I didn't do Taris's main and bonus story arc for the first time until I levelled my Guardian, and Alderaan on my Sage. This way I eventually explored all the game had to offer, sticking my nose into different types of content with every new alt.

Then my pet tank and I became an item, and he infected me with his completionism. We levelled a couple of characters by doing all the quests on every planet, over-levelling be damned. However, eventually he lost his taste for that and when left to my own devices I returned to picking and choosing whatever I fancied at the time, while sticking to the class story as my guiding thread. With XP gains getting buffed, I actually needed to do less and less to keep up with it, but the changes did allow me to revisit some class stories that I had already completed with relative ease. However, there were only so many times I really wanted to replay the same class story in quick succession.

Last year's Dark vs. Light event managed to reinvigorate my interest in levelling by inviting me not to care about the class story for a change and to simply chase levels. For the sake of the achievement I revelled in things like doing lowbie PvP and flashpoints, where I played with the handicap of a limited skill set and unfamiliar specs, and I had a right blast doing so.

However, in the end the whole experience also left me feeling a bit adrift. The class story always served as a sort of anchor for my levelling. I would even say that story is more important in SWTOR than levels themselves. The progression of the two systems used to largely line up, so their separation wasn't that noticeable for me, but nowadays you'll run out of levels to work on long before you've even scratched the surface of all the story threads.

What point is there then in rolling up more alts if I haven't even bothered to re-experience all the stories with my existing ones? If I did want to re-play the consular for a third time for example, I couldn't help but think of the consulars I already have and that haven't even finished their story, even though they sit at high levels. It's a bit of an awkward situation. Part of why I've been able to throw myself into my new flashpoint levelling series with so much vigour is that it's allowed me to level another character with a purpose. If I want to chase levels just for the sake of chasing levels, Galactic Command offers plenty of opportunity for that at the level cap these days.

Sometimes I think that my best bet might well be to try out alt life on another server for a bit - except that there are fewer of those around now than ever. Not having a huge legacy of pre-existing characters lends the whole exercise at least some semblance of freshness, and I suppose I could work towards getting Legendary Player status a second time or something...

What motivates you to create new alts after you've more or less seen it all?

12/11/2017

Day 4: Missions & Conversations #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.


Most of these are going to be from Knights of the Eternal Throne, seeing how that's been the big expansion since I last posted pictures for this challenge. Whatever else you want to say about it, it features some beautifully framed cut scenes that make for some great screenshots, like this one of my Marauder Arrah dreaming of a throne room in flames.

 

While this screenshot doesn't really do it justice, I was also really impressed by the intro to chapter one, with the way it shows your shuttle weaving through the space battle above Voss.


I even enjoy the look of simple scenes like characters just talking to each other. For example I really like the way my Guardian Fali is framed here while talking to Vette.


Not a cinematic scene, but the curing of Bergola in chapter six is one of my favourite "Easter Eggs" in recent content. If you don't know what that is about, Calph has a detailed guide!


(Sort of) speaking of pets, I purchased my first ever companion from the Cartel Market this year, and I was pleasantly surprised by how acquiring it gives you a sort of "mini quest" to talk to an animal handler or droid merchant. It's only a small touch but (to me) still much better than simply having the new companion automatically appear with no explanation.


One last KotET screenshot because I've said before that I love being able to catch people mid-flight.


And finally, one screenie from replaying KotFE on my Sorc. I hadn't even considered in advance that her lightsaber and Arcann's would be the same colour. Either way, you've got to admit that the lightsaber duels in KotFE are very cool. It's just a shame that moments like these are pretty damn awkward if your character doesn't actually wield a lightsaber...

IntPiPoMo count: 33

10/11/2017

Reunited And It Feels So Good

The dreaded/anticipated server merges have come and gone.


Before (with more servers still hiding behind an invisible scroll bar).


After, with just those five now.

Bioware's optimistic initial estimate of twelve hours downtime turned into nearly double that, leading to people raging on social media about how useless they all were (and to some extent, other people raging about the ragers) - what else can you expect nowadays? However, in the end, the servers came back up, and everything had worked out well. Aside from a few UI preferences being reset, everything seemed to be where it should be.

As expected, I haven't really noticed much of a difference, but then I stay away from general chat most of the time, which is where I suspect most of the excitement played out. Dipping my toes into PvP, everything seemed as abysmal as it had been before the merge, only with some new names on both sides. It's been fun to see which guild names were unoriginal enough to have been slapped with an "@ Servername" tag. I can't believe there was apparently more than one "Royal Panda Society"...

I also have two Coruscant apartments and two Dromund Kaas strongholds now, which feels weird. My first thought was that I should probably delete the duplicates since they weren't really used anyway, but then I thought I might as well keep them as long as they don't get in the way of me purchasing any new strongholds. It's a curiosity if nothing else.


I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't lose a single character name, not even those of any of my lowbies. And even better...


I am Shintar with a regular i again. Who's laughing now, "other Shintar"? You may have won back in 2012, but five years of patience have now paid off in my favour. It's kind of funny actually how much this excited me. I mean, I wasn't really that fussed back when I first lost the name. However, it did start to feel like a bit of a rivalry when I kept running into the guy in PvP. At last, victory is mine. If he ever decides to resubscribe, he can put a funny i in his name.

08/11/2017

Day 3: Companions & Pets #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.

I apologise if this feels a bit spammy, but I need to make one of these every three days if I want to make it through the challenge before the end of the month! At least I should have the server merges to talk about for my next post.

For now, the picture posting challenge continues with companions and pets.


I just love this shot of my Cathar Sith warrior and light-side Jaesa. They've got each other's backs. I think I like my companions best when the game has them fighting by my side canonically (as opposed to randomly while doing dailies). It's a bonding experience.


In a similar vein, I think this part of KotET chapter nine is one of Theron and Lana's stronger moments (if they are the ones who accompanied you to the Spire). Generally speaking I'm unfortunately a bit tired of them.

I've been thinking about why that is and I think it's not just overexposure, but probably more a feeling that they mostly exist to serve as love interests and to force the plot along. The original companions all had their own stories aside from just following you around, and actually most of the supporting cast from KotFE and KotET have their own agendas too. But Theron and Lana never seem to do anything that isn't about pushing the Outlander into moving the plot along. They have mysterious and convenient connections, but they don't appear to have any friends or interests aside from the Alliance. I kind of want to tell them to go out and get a life.


Shroud of Memory is an enjoyable little story featuring two fun companions, but like with all the chapters, I kind of struggle to make myself replay it. I think I've only done it three times so far? I just don't enjoy being in a solo instance all the time...


On the pet front, fiery grophets are still a thing with me! I'm pretty sure that companion pets are not supposed to show up in cut scenes, so I was very amused when my Marauder's grophet decided to unceremoniously join her for her conversation with the Scions on Iokath.


Also, here we have Pugette receiving emotional support from her own grophet, Charles. All of my alts have grophets now actually and I cannot house any more. I've declared one of my low-level alts the dedicated grophet herder and she keeps any spares in her cargo bay for now. One day their time will come... maybe when Bioware holds another DvL event, asking us to roll up another eight alts.


One thing I really liked about the Done and Dusted uprising is the part where you can summon random desert animals as temporary companions. We spent a really long time in there early on, just constantly summoning and re-summoning more of them, just so that everyone could get the achievement for finding them all. They aren't exactly very useful in a fight, but it's just funny to watch all these random critters engage in combat.


Yes, I already featured the "random companions haunting strongholds" bug in my day 1 post, and several times before that, but I just never grow tired of the strange scenes it creates. Once again, none of the pictured companions were actually mine. My Sorcerer just kind of seems to stand there thinking "WTF..."

IntPiPoMo count: 21

06/11/2017

Day 2: Class Stories #IntPiPoMo

Want to know what the hashtag is all about? Read all about International Picture Posting Month here. Want to see the full list of themes I'm following while posting screenshots throughout the month? You can find it here.

The class stories I replayed this year were Jedi knight, Sith warrior and Imperial agent, so this post might feature some spoilers for events occurring in those three. Yes, I still give spoiler warnings for the basic class stories six years later. They are enjoyable, why risk ruining a good thing for somebody for no reason?


I was always curious whether you had to accept the sham wedding to one of Bas-Ton's children on Voss as an agent, but my agents were never nasty enough to find out - until this year! The answer is no, you can just force them to give you what you want at gunpoint. I was still kind enough to not shoot them at the end though. (I think?! Now that I'm thinking about it, I don't remember for certain...)


I've written about how it took me ages to level a second Jedi knight, but to be honest my second Sith warrior was sitting there with an unfinished class story for quite a long time as well. The problem was that she was part of a levelling duo that my pet tank had lost interest in. It was only this year that I finally pushed him towards at least finishing up our class stories. There were so many things I had forgotten! Such as how you get to team up with this Jedi master on Belsavis. Truth be told, he is actually more fun if you're dark side because at least then you get to banter. If you're light side he's just kind of pompous and condescending, never quite believing your good intentions.


Worse, I had forgotten about this too! So many great screenshot opportunities that were wasted back in the day because Print Screen never worked...

 

Now this I remembered well, but damn was it still a cool moment. Makes me want to roll up another Sith warrior right away just to do get to do it all over again.


I've said before that the Jedi knight story has too many ups and downs for me, oscillating between boring and cliché and twists that evoke genuine emotion. The moment you reach Uphrades always struck me as one of the story's early highs, having your character reach the scene too late and being confronted with just how bad things can get if the baddies get their way.


I'll never forget this random gold guy near the end of Act I. I even mentioned him in my original summary post for the Jedi knight class story. He kicked my arse so badly back in the day, underlevelled as I was and with no companion healer. I felt kind of saddened by how easily he fell over this time.


Finally, I always love scenes where someone flies through the air and I successfully manage to capture it. Just makes for great screenshots.

IntPiPoMo count: 14

04/11/2017

Day 1: Bugs #IntPiPoMo

International Picture Posting Month is upon us again! I wasn't sure whether people in my known part of the blogosphere were going to participate in it again this year as I still hadn't heard as much as a peep about it by the end of October, but apparently Chestnut was just waiting until the last minute to put her explanatory post up.


I quite enjoyed participating last year, so I will take part this year again. I will also once again use my self-imposed "10 Days of SWTOR Screenshots" challenge as an excuse to post the 50 required pictures, considering that I don't usually use that many images in my regular posts. This means that November probably won't feature as many "meaty" entries but more random insights into what goes through my head during everyday play. You can find the list of themes I will use in this old post.

We're starting with... bugs. No matter how long I play, the game never seems to run out of those.


Let's start with a classic: doubled-up companions. I already referenced this one back in 2015, but it never ceases to amuse me. Nothing quite like it to throw off an important in-game cut scene, like this one from the Jedi knight class story, where my Sentinel was suddenly seeing Kira double.


Another popular occurrence is companions that shouldn't belong there haunting your strongholds. Like in this screenshot, where upon exploring my newly purchased Manaan stronghold, I ran into Broonmark already there and staring out into the sea. This was extra dramatic because my trooper had already done his Alliance alert and killed him. It's like one of those moments where it suddenly turns out that someone's not dead after all and they've come back to get their revenge.


It seems strangely apt that the world would be broken in the domain of the so-called Worldbreaker Monolith. At least when you stand in a certain place, there is a clearly visible crack/line in the ground where two bits of floor weren't quite properly connected. Or at least this was the case when I took this screenshot - maybe they've fixed it by now; I haven't been to that part of Ziost in a while.


Invisible floors are another popular type of bug/glitch, but there's something particularly unsettling about having to cross the chasm in Voidstar without being able to see the bridge. Actually, now that I'm looking back through some old posts, I had the exact same thing happen on my Assassin before! I'd forgotten all about that.


Somewhat related, but I believe that my Guardian wasn't actually standing on invisible ground here but in actual thin air, as in: I had tried to leap to someone and ended up somewhere I definitely shouldn't have been able to land. Unfortunately vertical movement in warzones is subject to really bad descync issues sometimes, where your game shows you one thing while the server has already decided that the character is actually somewhere else, leading to lots of annoying "teleportation".


This is the same Guardian during KotET chapter eight, appearing to wear a set of gear that looks noting like what she was actually wearing! (I believe it's the equivalent Imperial version of the same gear set.) This is a really jarring bug in some KotET cut scenes, especially if the "alternate outfit" you are given doesn't match your character at all, such as is the case here, with my Twi'lek Jedi losing her lekku and turning into what looks like an Imperial fighter pilot. I reported it ages ago but last time I checked it hadn't been fixed yet.


The Shadow ability Kinetic Ward, more commonly known as "rocks" has the strange habit of sometimes visually dropping off the character that is "wearing" it and just floating around in space for a while. "You lost your rocks over here" is something we've had to say to our Shadow tanks more than once.


Now this one needs a bit of explanation because it's non-obvious. SWTOR is a bit old-school in terms of not having shared mob tagging, so if a mob has already been tagged by someone else, a little padlock appears over their portrait and the tooltip explains that you won't get anything for killing it. Except... sometimes this padlock randomly appears over the head of party members, or like in this case: myself! Nice to know that I won't get any loot for killing myself, Bioware...

IntPiPoMo count: 7