How People Play Conquests

I've been recording the conquest participation of my guildies for eleven weeks now, as well as generally observing how other people talk about their interest in conquest, and I think I've managed to identify roughly five different ways in which people participate in this part of the game so far. Note that these aren't set in stone and it's perfectly possible for someone to change their play style and move from one group to another.

The Reluctant Tagalong

The Reluctant Tagalong has decided that they don't really like conquest. Doesn't matter how nicely you ask in the guild message of the day that everyone should please make a bit of an effort to score conquest points this week, they just don't enjoy it, and they couldn't care less about their personal target. However, you can generally coax them into contributing a little by dragging them along to guild activities while downplaying the conquest aspect. "Hey, we're going to run Scum storymode in a bit, do you want to bring your newest alt? She could probably use the gear..." If they tag along, that extra person adds another three thousand points to your guild score at operation completion whether they care about it or not.

The Oblivious Contributor

The Oblivious Contributor barely even has a passing awareness of conquest and doesn't really try to hit their target, ever. However, depending on their play style, it might just happen anyway! Dedicated PvPers commonly fall into this group due to the sheer number of warzones they play over the course of a week. If they do happen to hit their target towards the end of it, they are probably confused by the extra mission reward popping up out of nowhere.

The Irregular

The Irregular doesn't really have strong feelings about conquest one way or another, but they are not a creature of routine. They may not even log into the game every week! (It's unlikely that this is someone from your regular ops team.) Most weeks you can't expect to get much of a contribution out of this person, but if you make a point of advertising that the guild will make a co-ordinated effort during a particular week, and they happen to be online, they'll be happy to do a bit of "work" for the good of the guild and do their part to contribute towards any shared goals.

The Clockwork Conqueror

The Clockwork Conqueror has decided that they really like conquest and it has become a central point of their gameplay. They'll hit their personal target on at least one character every week, but usually they'll take a couple of alts along for the ride as well. After all, it's fun! With a couple of players like these, your guild can end up scoring pretty impressive numbers even when you've told people to take it easy this week. After all, why would they take it easy while they are having fun?

The Crafting Magnate

The Crafting Magnate is very rich in-game and enjoys the privilege of being able to create conquest points by effectively converting credits into conquest points via crafting. They'll log in several times a day to send all their companions out to craft and will accumulate a high amount of points this way without actually having to invest a lot of play time. If they have a lot of alts, they can single-handedly earn scores in the millions and carry a guild to victory that way. Players who are less rich may try to play the role of the crafting magnate temporarily, to give the guild a boost during a particular competitive stage, but will quickly run into the problem of running out of money and materials.

Have you seen any of these in your guild? And how would you classify yourself, if you participate in conquests at all? I'm probably a bit of a Clockwork Conqueror, though I'm starting to feel a little burnt out on it.


Gathering in my Stronghold

I've written about how I'm not much of an interior decorator and how I like the quick travel options introduced to the game with Strongholds, but one aspect of housing I haven't talked about yet is what decorations have added to gathering crew skills.

If riding a tauntaun on Tatooine is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Basically, I really love the little gathering nodes that you can place as decorations inside your stronghold. As far as I'm aware you can only get them from participating in conquests, though since they are not bound, there is always the alternative option of simply buying them from someone else. Aside from the sheer fun I've had with conquests so far, opening that little reward box every time I hit my personal target has added a nice little bit of extra enjoyment to the whole thing for me. There is something of a collectible appeal to the nodes... can I catch them all? I've started to organise them in such a manner that I can easily remember which type of material can be found on which node (which isn't necessarily self-evident, especially with the plants), and I've been pleased to see that the number of gaps (that is to say, nodes I don't own yet) is shrinking every week.

In comparison to previous ways of gathering materials, they have both pros and cons, though I feel that the former far outweigh the latter. Let's get the cons out of the way first:


- A single gathering action from a decorative node takes a whole 15 seconds.
- Each time you gather there is a pretty high chance that you'll trigger the resource exhaustion debuff, which won't let you gather again for four hours.
- Nodes also have an internal cooldown of several minutes, so if you got resource exhaustion and log on an alt to immediately gather from the same node, you'll have to wait.


- After the initial time or money investment, the nodes are yours forever and inexhaustible.
- They can be placed in a convenient location where it's easy to gather every time you log on.
- Every character is capable of gathering from any node, even if they don't have the corresponding crew skill.
- With crew skill missions, there is often a chance that the result will be somewhat randomised, e.g. an archaeology mission for rank 3 artifact fragments could either give you Ancient Artifact Fragments (which I often need) or Prehistoric Artifact Fragments (which are way too common in my opinion). The nodes allow you to specifically target the type of resource you actually want.

It's that last point in particular that has been a real boon to me, because for some reason I always find myself confronted with massive imbalances on any material tier that can wield more than one result. It's wonderfully refreshing to be able to just focus on farming what I need. I suppose I always would have had the option to go farming out in the world, but for some reason I've never considered that a viable alternative in this game - probably because travel can be such a pain.

On a side note, all the crafting material decorations also serve their purpose as decorations pretty well. The metal scrap piles and artifacts are a great way of making a room look cluttered (e.g. a storeroom), and the archaeology crystals add a beautiful splash of colour to any apartment. Many of the bioanalysis nodes also make for great substitutes for "proper" potted plants, many of which can be quite expensive.


Community Love

As a blogger I'm probably more involved with the community of my game of choice than most players, but sometimes I still feel that it would be nice to stay on top of things more efficiently than I currently do. Sadly I'm a bit old school in terms of my social networking. I like blogs, but they are not as popular as they used to be. I never watch livestreams, just the occasional recording of a highlight. I use Twitter, but only very sporadically. And while I like podcasts, I find it frustrating how hard it is to keep up with them. (Compare the time investment of reading ten blogs to that of listening to ten podcasts!)

The one thing I have been trying to do is to always keep my blogroll and link list updated, removing sites that have gone dead and adding new ones as I find them, even if I don't actually visit them consistently. The power of simply being connected is not to be underestimated. I'm happy to say that these link lists have seen some serious growth this year. I even had to split the podcasts off into their own section, since having everything in one place was starting to get unwieldy.

I think back to around mid-2012 and how frustrating it was to see the game I loved shrink as much as it did, which meant that at least one fan site closed up shop pretty much every other week. I see something similar happening to Wildstar right now, except that (at least from the outside) it looks like what they are going through is even worse. Either way the remaining fans have my sympathy. Word of mouth is important, and seeing others lose faith in your game or even badmouthing it can be very demotivating.

I felt that 2013 was a fairly quiet year for the SWTOR community. The game stabilised and the people bashing it moved on to greener pastures and newer games, but there wasn't exactly a huge amount of good news to report either.

But this year... I've been feeling really good about the game and what I've been seeing in the community. Revenue is apparently down, but EA actually dared to talk about the game in a positive way again earlier this year, and I felt that this surge of interest was reflected in community activity as well. New podcasts cropped up left and right, and they banded together for co-operative projects to share the love. New fan sites appeared to cover new demands - when Galactic Strongholds came out for example, TOR Decorating immediately provided an amazing go-to resource for this new part of the game.

My favourite new addition is more recent: SWTOR Network, a moderated aggregate site for game and community related news and opinion pieces. No more having to click through all the links in my side bar when I'm looking for what's new; I can just go to SWTOR Network and see it all neatly condensed in one place.

If you haven't been that involved with the community outside of the game yourself recently, I can only recommend giving it (another) look. There are a lot of dedicated content creators out there now, and it's a pleasure to read or listen to them. (And if you're a content creator yourself, why not share your stuff on SWTOR Network for all to see?)


My Second Sorc - A 12x XP Story

This is Dormaba. She was one of my earliest alts, probably the fourth of fifth character I ever created. I had heard some good things about the Sith inquisitor story at the time and came up with a character concept for a light side Sith. Of course, when my character opened her mouth for the first time, I had to discover that it didn't matter what you said, the voice actor for the female inquisitor managed to make all of it sound incredibly snarky, which wasn't really what I'd had in mind. I knew that my character probably wasn't going to manage anything better than a neutral attitude before I'd even left Korriban. I quite enjoyed the Sith starter planet, but towards the end of Dromund Kaas my enthusiasm abruptly fizzled out. Look for artifacts for my master, without even knowing what and why? Meh. Eventually I managed to continue the story anyway, but it was in very rare and small bursts of gameplay. Nearly three years later, Dormaba was still only level 30 and had yet to set foot on Alderaan. I didn't help that I had rolled up another Sorcerer in the meantime and actually levelled that one to the cap.

Cue this whole 12x XP thing.

My initial impressions of it were humorous. Gaining nearly a full level just for handing in a single quest is pretty silly. I tried to mix things up a bit by doing some exploring in between class missions, but quickly found myself frustrated by how much travelling I had to do compared to engaging in actual gameplay. When you do all of the missions on a given planet you're generally forced to travel around in a small-ish area and get several quests done at once. When you're just following your class story on the other hand, you're constantly moving from map to map, to the point where you almost spend more time travelling than actually playing through the story.

I also noticed that my XP gains were wacky in more than one way. The floating text, the listed XP reward in the mission window and in the chat box almost never seemed to agree on a number, and sometimes it seemed to bug out completely, granting me little to no XP at all. Other people agreed with me on the forums that there seemed to be some sort of bug, while some claimed that it was just a graphical glitch. I think that if I was supposed to earn enough XP to earn a level and then I didn't actually level up, there's more than a UI malfunction going on - unless someone has actually been able to gain levels by resetting their UI or relogging.

Due to this I was falling somewhat behind as I was approaching level 40 and did the Quesh planetary storyline to bolster my experience gains a little. (Plus you can't go down on Quesh without picking up the starter mission to this chain, and I hate abandoning quests.) Around this level I also noticed that my gear was starting to seriously fall behind and that it had a very noticeable effect. I managed to catch up a little by spending some planetary commendations, but it was never quite enough. After a while I started to find gold mobs hard to kill, and later even silvers. I think the only thing that kept me afloat was my 700+ presence stat, which loses some of its potency by the higher levels but still provides a significant advantage compared to a character that doesn't have that additional companion power to fall back on.

The final boss fight of my class story was a real endurance test considering how underpowered my character was, which wasn't helped by the fact that Khem Val, my companion of choice, insisted on running into the circles of Bad that the boss kept placing on the floor throughout. In the end it was easier to just put Khem on passive every so often and kite the boss around the room on my own.

Money and crew skills were also an issue. I managed to stay on top of my artifice since I had materials stocked up on my other characters that I could fall back on, but I think that if I hadn't had that stockpile saved up, it would have been a pain to gather enough materials while levelling so quickly. It was also costly. While it helped that skill training was free, training crafting schematics was a considerable drain on my finances. I thought I was doing okay, hovering between 100k und 200k credits for the longest time - until I hit 400 artifice, went to train all the new schematics and suddenly found myself completely broke before I had even learned everything. I couldn't even afford to fly to the next planet to continue questing there. That was rather awkward.

Gameplay was engaging enough, as I specced my little Sorc into the lightning tree, dps being something that I had never seriously tried on either my Sage or my other Sorc. I used to joke that Sorcerers were boring, with all their abilities being lightning, lightning and yet more lightning, but there was actually something pretty satisfying about being able to get several quick zaps off in a row.

I also had time to really pay attention to the story and found myself wondering whether I was going to feel differently about it the second time around. (You may or may not recall that the inquisitor story wasn't one of my favourites.) The answer is pretty much no. If anything, the highs were a little less impressive the second time around since the surprise effect was gone, while all the times my character was cringing in pain and falling over were all the more noticeable. As I still don't have the guts to make a character go full-on dark side, my floundering around on neutral ground didn't seem to result in any noticeable differences in the story either - until the end, where my almost perfectly grey Sith was given a different honourary name by the Dark Council than my light side inquisitor, which I thought was neat.

Continuing to Makeb was pretty funny. If at all possible, the XP gains there seemed even more insane than the class story ones had been (even if they are supposed to be based on the same multiplier). The GSI support satellite system was a godsend and underlined just how undergeared my character was, considering that her health more than doubled every time I clicked on that shiny console. Suddenly things died at a speed and with an ease that was much closer to what I was used to, and it was nice. Relogging outside of a base and suddenly losing the buff in the middle of enemy territory was scary though.

I also enjoyed visiting Makeb again, somewhat to my own surprise. Immediately after 2.0 I kind of overdosed on it, with too many of characters having gone there in too short a period of time, but returning to it after a bit of a break, I enjoyed the story again, as well as just looking at the environment with its wacky beasts and strange flowers. (Balloon plants?) The moment I hit 55, my motivation to keep questing took its usual nosedive though.

Overall it was a pleasant enough experience and nice change of pace, though I do think there are definite disadvantages to levelling a character this way, aside from things like the financial issues I already mentioned. Spending all your time in class story phases feels lonely as you rarely encounter other players, and personally I felt that limiting myself to the class story resulted in me getting less of a "feel" for the character than usual. All those light and dark side decisions you get to make in the side stories really help with shaping a character's personality.


Of Uncleansable DoTs and Other Combat Changes

Last Thursday's livestream apparently provided a lot of information about the global combat changes coming with 3.0 that were previously only hinted at. I didn't watch it myself, but as usual Dulfy has a helpful summary.

I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised by just how much whining and gnashing of teeth is going on in the comment section of that article. I know that people are always afraid of change, and I've frequently been sceptical about some of Bioware's decisions myself, but the amount of comments about how the sky is falling and the game is going to fail is truly staggering this time around - especially since a lot of them don't seem to be based on anything but the fact that dps numbers will be nerfed across the board. Sure, everyone likes to see their numbers increase and nobody likes to be nerfed, but at the end of the day I've always felt that especially in SWTOR this is a relatively minor part of the experience compared to other MMOs. I mean, this is the same game where for the longest time you couldn't even see a mission's rewards until you had completed it, and yet that didn't put anyone off questing.

I'm pretty sure that shortly after 3.0 nobody will even care about this anymore, because the nerf only really hits people at level 55, and most of us will quickly level past that point as soon as it's possible. People decry it as an insult that they might be doing as much damage at 60 as they are currently doing at 55, but what is really being lost? You get a bunch of new content to play through!

Anyway, aside from the general dps changes, a whole bunch of other things have been announced, some of which I'd like to comment on:

Raid Buffs

A number of new buffs will be introduced with the aim of encouraging people "to bring players of every base class." I have no idea how this is going to be pan out, I just wanted to say that it cracks me up that this is basically the complete opposite of WoW's much-touted slogan: "Bring the player, not the class."


The cooldown of all cleansing abilities will be increased to 12 seconds. I'm on board with this as I've previously complained about "cleanse-spamming" being an annoying mechanic from a healer's point of view. I do wonder how they are going to adjust fights like Nefra, which are currently all about the cleanse spam.

In PvP all DoTs will become uncleansable. Now, I'm not a fan of this at all, however to be honest Bioware has been going in that direction for a while, with more and more specs getting "cleanse immunity" for certain abilities. At least this way I'll know to never waste a cleanse on a DoT again. Currently the system has become pretty obtuse, as you don't just need to learn to recognise the DoTs of each type that your class can cleanse by their tiny icon, you then also have to memorise which of them (and note that these are not highlighted in any way) are uncleansable due to an immunity.

In turn they want to make all CCs cleansable - which surprised me in so far as I thought that a lot of them already were.

The issue that remains is that Bioware seems to thinks that DoT classes need even more help with doing damage in PvP, which isn't really backed up by my own experiences. Without cleanses, DoTs will become completely unescapable. At least I can try to run away from an opponent in melee or break line of sight on continous ranged attacks. A DoT only needs to hit you once to stay with you and do its full damage.


Interrupt cooldowns will be increased across the board, to 12 seconds for melee and 18 seconds for ranged. I have mixed feelings about this. While playing my baby Vanguard as Tactics with the shortened interrupt cooldown I sure enjoyed being able to shut down so many casts. But with a class as my main that is extremely dependent on cast-time abilities I also found it frustrating sometimes just how easily a moderately competent team could keep me shut down in PvP.

The thing that kind of worries me is this change's effect on PvE. Unlike DoTs, interrupts are a key component on a huge number of fights, not just in operations, but also on class story bosses and even some trash mobs. I can see Bioware going back to make balance changes on big boss fights like Kephess in Explosive Conflict, where it might become impossible to shut down the quick chain casts of the droids at the start once interrupt cooldowns have been increased. But what about all those smaller fights that will suddenly become harder? Not sure about that.

Buff/debuff changes

I was super excited when I first heard that they were finally making changes to the buff/debuff UI, but from the looks of it, the raid frames - which is where I as a healer would need an update the most - won't be included. This sucks. The only positive spin I can put on this is that these changes show that they are at least aware of debuff tracking being a problem and might eventually get around to fixing it on the ops frames as well.


My 10th Level 55

Back in March I wrote a post called "Levelling My 10th Alt", in which I mused on how to keep the levelling process fresh when you've already done it more than a couple of times, and wondered which of my alts was going to be the next one to hit the level cap. As happens to me quite frequently in this game, I got distracted by max-level activities soon afterwards, and for the next six months, none of my alts really went anywhere. I think my Vanguard still hasn't finished her class story on Balmorra.

My Shadow actually hit 50 back in April but my pet tank and I felt little drive to continue levelling our consular duo for some reason and only got back to it very sporadically. This weekend however, we finally got there: while we're only at the end of Voss in terms of story progression, we went to Corellia to do some heroics for this week's conquest event, and those provided us with the last bit of XP we needed to hit 55.

I'm oddly happy to have reached the nice, round milestone of having ten characters at the level cap, and specifically to finally have a tank on Republic side. (Not to mention that Shadow/Assassin was the only advanced class I hadn't played to the cap in either of its incarnations yet.) While I levelled my Powertech in tanking spec last year, we don't run endgame content in our Imperial alt guild that often these days. I think I tanked Dread Fortress on story mode twice, Scum and Villainy once and that was it.

Based on my experiences back in WoW and in general, tanking isn't exactly my calling, but I can do a decent enough job at it with a bit of practice, and especially when it comes to alt runs tanks are often something that we're short on.

I'm also a very lazy raider to be honest, in so far as I tend to only really pay attention to the parts of each fight that are actually relevant to my role. Seeing how I'm playing a healer the vast majority of the time, with a healer main and two healer alts at 55, this means that I don't have much of  a clue about a lot of important fight mechanics. I vividly remember the first time I came along to Terror from Beyond as dps and just how much of a surprise I was in for during the second phase of the Terror fight. You mean I have to do something other than stand on a single platform most of the time and cast the occasional heal?!

While I've had a chance to do pretty much all operations as dps at least on the easier difficulties by now, tanking is still a great unknown to me when it comes to endgame. I think I'll quite enjoy getting a chance to finally unravel those old familiar fights from the one point of view from which I haven't seen them before.

(While my Guardian is one of my oldest alts, I've just never felt like speccing her for tanking. I'm not sure why; it just doesn't feel right for her.)


My Useless Friends List

Time for a bit of a random tangent that has nothing to do with recent events.

I've always felt that, in terms of gameplay, The Old Republic manages to strike a nice balance between encouraging socialising and allowing you to play solo. Sadly however, many UI functions that are supposed to support socialising are in a terrible state.

Let's take a simple example: the guild list. Every single time I log on, it's bugged when I look at it for the first time.

Exhibit A

As you can see, the "show offline members" box is not ticked, yet every time I open the guild panel after logging in, what does it do? Show me a bunch of offline members. The sad thing is: this bug has been around virtually forever. I can't say for sure whether it's been there since launch or was introduced with one of the first patches, but either way it's been there for a long time. It's so bad that it's become second nature to me to mechanically tick and untick the "show offline members" box every time I open the guild window in order to fix the bugged display that I hardly even realise what I'm doing anymore. You could argue that it's not an important issue because it doesn't directly affect anyone's gameplay, but if players encounter the same bugs day after day, year after year, it doesn't exactly cast a great light on your game.

The worst offender however (in my opinion anyway) is the friends list. It's already gone through various stages of bugginess when the friends display on top of the screen wouldn't update correctly, and the "notes" field that's supposed to help you remember whose alt belongs to whom has been reset so many times that I've given up on trying to fill it in over and over again.

The biggest socialiser in my guild, who plays several hours a day and has friends in many different guilds, told me that when you're looking to fill those last couple of spots for your ops group, you might as well forget about your friends list - it's just that useless. I think that's saying something.

It doesn't even have a default sort that makes any sense: not alphabetical, not based on the last time the person was seen online, not based on when they were added - it's just a random jumble of names.

But the worst thing is that it's still entirely character-based in a game that encourages heavy alting. Even if you don't fill up the maximum of 22 character slots per server (for subscribers), there are eight different class stories you're supposed to play. Even if you only have five different characters and you want to be friends with someone who has the same amount, that still results in 25 friends list entries for each of you, just to keep in touch with one person. I almost despair these days when a friend tries the game for the first time or someone new applies to the guild. Will I remember to add them to all of my character's friends lists? The answer is probably no, and then they'll be looking for me when I'm on the one alt who doesn't have a friends list entry... Simply put, it's a logistical nightmare.

I'm not the first one to note this on the official forums, but understandably more people are busy clamouring for gameplay improvements and new content than for better UI functionality. Nonetheless I think that a little bit of time has to be made to implement quality of life improvements every now and then. A cleaned up, more practical way to stay in touch with my friends would definitely be my personal number one priority in that area.


Musings on 12x XP

At least in the more vocal parts of the community, I'm definitely in the minority for not liking experience boosts. Whenever another double XP weekend rolls around, I sigh, shake my head and go off to sulk in a corner / focus on playing my max-level characters. It's not great - I'd much rather be part of the shared experience of having fun together, but I just don't enjoy having my experience gains increased to ludicrous levels whether I like it or not. I don't mind XP boosts as items in the game which you can take or leave, but enforced "bonuses" annoy me.

You don't even have to dislike them on principle to see why they can be annoying - I think it was on OotiniCast where I heard someone express disappointment the other day that his levelling experience with his friend had become completely screwed up since one of them had pre-ordered the expansion (and had therefore had the XP boost applied) while the other one hadn't. I do hope that Bioware implements an on/off toggle for these things eventually.

I often feel that levelling in this game, and the "side quests" in particular, get a bad rap that isn't really deserved. They absolutely are worth doing more than once, and as far as unnecessary repetition goes, nobody says that you have to do all of them on every character and in exactly the same order.

Sometimes I wonder whether "levelling is boring" isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think that levelling is boring, you're probably going to try and get it over with as quickly as possible, therefore focusing on repetitive and "efficient" activities to level - which are boring. Meanwhile those of us who are willing to take it more slowly get the chance to engage with all kinds of different content on our way to the level cap and end up having a good time while doing so. But anyway...

Part of why I dislike double XP weekends in particular (aside from the inability to opt out of them) is that they seem to encourage people to "play stupidly", e.g. spam Kuat Drive Yards for maximum XP per hour while complaining all the while about how boring it is.

And this is why this whole 12x XP thing actually has me somewhat intrigued... because it works so differently and seems to want to encourage deeper engagement with the content. Even if I feel that the generic planetary quests get a bad rap, I won't disagree that the class stories are the more interesting part of levelling a new class, and this event actually pushes players into paying attention to them, even if they don't want to do anything else. (Not that this will prevent people from using the event to try and power-level through class stories by space-barring through everything, but at least it's very clear that this isn't the point of the exercise.)

I have a couple of characters that have been stuck in the mid-levels literally for years since I accidentally made them a bit redundant. Specifically I created a Sorcerer and a Powertech relatively soon after starting to play the game, and then ended up re-rolling both of those classes with my pet tank and levelling them to cap with him instead. Part of me thinks that I should have just deleted those older characters by now (why do I need two Sorcs and two Powertechs when they are not even my favourite classes), but I'm just too sentimental. They were some of my earliest creations!

So I've decided to do the unthinkable and use the "class levelling event" to maybe get these characters to the end of their personal stories at least, to give them and myself some closure, even if I don't really know what else I'm going to do with them afterwards. Wish me luck...


Total Galactic War!

This past week Total Galactic War swept across the galaxy. In case you don't know what that means, it meant that instead of three to five planets being up for conquest, no less than twelve planets were up for grabs - fourteen actually, if you count Balmorra and Taris twice for having separate versions for Republic and Empire. This is important because during a normal week only thirty to fifty guilds can win anything by placing on the leaderboard. During Total Galactic War on the other hand, a whole 140 slots were available on the scoreboard, drastically increasing people's chances of winning at least a consolation prize.

Before the event went live I found myself wondering whether there were even that many guilds on the Red Eclipse yet who actually owned a guild ship. In the end the answer seemed to be no, or at least there were still ten empty slots left on the scoreboard when the event ended. It is however possible that some guilds simply chose poorly by invading a busy planet early on and then got pushed off the leaderboard there, even though they could have been in the top ten on another planet.

A couple of weeks before this event, one of my guildies had proposed the ambitious plan that we should try to go for gold during Total Galactic War. Since we already had an idea what sort of activities would reward points, he suggested that we start "saving up" things like completed operations quests to hand them in as soon as the event started. Even so it seemed overly ambitious to me at the time - after all we'd only even made it into the top ten twice before (once on Nar Shaddaa and once on Belsavis). Due to our guild name (Twin Suns Squadron) it was suggested that we should go for Tatooine.

When people started to come online Tuesday evening however, it was obvious that Tatooine was already highly contested. A contact in the guild that was in the lead at the time told us that they were determined to craft their way to victory, even if it meant clearing out their guild bank. We chose to look for easier prey and decided to invade Taris instead, which hadn't seen much activity yet at that point.

Shortly afterwards one of the server's top ten conquest guilds joined us there, and I wasn't the only one whose heart sank at the news. According to SWTOR Conquest they had previously scored three to eight million points a week, while our own all time high was barely above two million. Nonetheless we were determined to put up a fight.

Much to our delight, we not only managed to remain in first place, but we even succeeded at increasing our lead over the course of the week, finally ending with an impressive total and a new guild high score of 4,169,656 points. For a while we were even ahead of the top-scoring guild on Tatooine, which seemed highly ironic, though that guild did overtake us again in the end.

On the whole, I was kind of surprised that several of the mega-guilds seemed to have lower scores than during previous weeks. I can only guess that the high personal conquest target of 50k points put a lot of people off getting involved at all. Many are probably also busy levelling alts, what with the 12x XP bonus for people who pre-ordered the expansion.

For Twin Suns Squadron it was an exciting event in any case - I was thrilled enough when we managed to make it into the top ten before, but I didn't think that we'd be able to ever win a conquest event with a guild that only has about twenty active players logging on each week. Clearly all bets are off when Total Galactic War is at hand.


16-man Group Finder to Make a Return

With all the excitement about the expansion and the discipline system, an (in my eyes) pretty important piece of news about next week's patch has largely slipped between the cracks from what I can see: the group finder will return to 16-man mode.

When this change was originally announced for 2.8, I was cautiously optimistic about it. Of course, then we all had to learn that Bioware had coded the new 16-man functionality in such an inefficient manner that people actually trying to use it crashed the servers, so that the change had to be reverted in an emergency patch.

Being faced with the feature's imminent return, I have mixed feelings about it. For one thing I'm obviously a little apprehensive. While Bioware wouldn't be redeploying 16-mans if they hadn't worked hard to fix the problems they caused last time, the issues were of such a scale that I'm a little worried whether whatever changes they've made to the system will be good enough or if we have more technical issues to look forward to in the near future.

However, even if everything goes down without a hitch I'm not entirely happy about this change. The introduction of conquests has taken the group finder from something that mainly existed to help people pug more efficiently to something that also serves as a way of accumulating conquest points for guilds. Doing operations through the group finder is one of the repeatable objectives that awards a good amount of conquest points every week, no matter the specific event, and it's a good way of getting guild members involved that might otherwise not be that interested in conquest. My little guild has been running several group finder operations a week since conquests began, and it's been a nice way of revitalising the guild and getting people of different skill levels to play together.

The problem is, this has only worked for us because the group finder is limited to 8-man groups. We don't usually have enough people on at a time these days to put a 16-man group together, so once the group finder changes over, this source of conquest points and social fun will suddenly run dry for us, or at the very least present us with problems. Sure, we could still queue up with however many people we have online and hope that there are enough players in the queue to fill in the gaps, but we'll basically be at the mercy of the right pugs a) being online and b) being competent enough to make the run a worthwhile endeavour. Not to mention that we'll suddenly have to worry about things like loot rules, which are generally not an issue in a full guild run.

Don't get me wrong, I'm by no means against pugging. All you have to do is check the pugs tag on this blog to read all about the (mis)adventures with random strangers that I've willingly subjected myself to in the past. However, I think that injecting pugs into what is supposed to be a focused guild run with a set objective is a lot less fun. Not to mention that large guilds won't have to put up with this problem, thereby gaining another advantage over smaller guilds in regards to conquest.

I'm trying to see the bright side: maybe semi-pugged group finder operations will be a fertile ground for recruitment - after all, what better way is there to advertise your guild than to have people tag along for your guild runs, allowing them to see first-hand how awesome you are? I'm a little worried that this may just be wishful thinking on my part though. As usual, we'll have to see how it pans out on live.