I have to confess, I've largely been ignoring datacron hunting so far, and I'm not even sure whether I should feel guilty about that or not. I've seen some comments around that getting all the datacrons that benefit your class should be part of being a good raider, and obviously it helps a little, but I wouldn't exactly expect people to make something that only increases their main stat by naught point something percent a major priority, not unless they are in a very hardcore guild at least. That's just my opinion though.
In a way it's weird that I haven't been more interested in this particular aspect of the game, considering that I rate pretty high as an explorer, but I guess there are different kinds of exploration - and sticking my nose into every last nook and cranny of the geography while levelling up isn't exactly my kind of thing.
The other night however I found myself suddenly overcome by a whimsical urge to hunt down some datacrons, with the intent of getting the right matrix shards to build myself a relic that has something other than endurance on it. As it turned out, one of the ones I needed was the infamous datacron on Tatooine for which you need to ride the Jawa balloon.
I made my way to the location where you can board the balloon, and as it turned out I had just missed its departure. According to online resources that meant that I was in for a wait of more than half an hour. I settled down under the twin suns and went semi-AFK, doing things outside the game and only checking back in every couple of minutes to see whether anything had happened.
It quickly struck me how very "old school" it is of Bioware to have a feature like this in the game, where you're flat out expected to just sit around and wait, for up to an hour in total. I'm sure many people would decry this as absolutely terrible game design today. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it though. It's not something that I would want to do all the time, but as an optional one-off thing... why not? It's certainly what I'd call an experience.
After a little while a bounty hunter showed up, and then a Jedi a little later. The Jedi didn't hang around for long though.
I soon started to feel a certain sense of kinship with the bounty hunter. We were like the only two people waiting at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. I toyed with the thought of striking up a conversation (even though he was The Enemy), but dismissed it eventually because I knew that we'd be stuck with each other for quite a while, and I didn't want to deal with the pressure of having to keep the conversation going for that long. I wanted to be able to continue AFK-ing whenever I wanted without being rude.
When the balloon finally appeared in the distance I actually became giddy with excitement. Hell, even just remembering the experience makes my heart beat a little faster again! How silly is that? I called out in general chat that the balloon was coming around soon, just in case anyone else wanted to get on. Nobody else came though.
In hindsight my call was a bit premature anyway, because that balloon is slow. I didn't time it, but I think it must have been another ten minutes at least from the time it first appeared on the horizon to when it actually came close enough to board. As I observed its slow approach I felt like someone trying to watch a kettle boil. My god, is it even moving? Barely.
The closer it got, the more excited I became. When would be the best moment to jump? Should I be on my speeder or on my own two feet? I decided on the feet. I didn't dare to go AFK anymore because I didn't want to miss the crucial moment. I also found myself wondering whether it was moving slowly enough that you'd get a chance to run back up and try again if you missed with your first jump. Fortunately I didn't have to find out. When I finally felt that it had come close enough, I jumped and landed safely right in the middle of the basket. It turned out to be pretty huge and hard to miss actually. The bounty hunter made it too.
I was relieved, knowing that I was safe for at least a while, as the flight was going to take another half hour or so to get us to the sandcrawler with the datacron on it. I went semi-AFK again, but couldn't resist having a peek at our progress at least every couple of minutes. After all, I wasn't sure when exactly I'd have to jump off. I knew the location of the sandcrawler with the datacrons on it, but I didn't know which route the balloon was going to take. It didn't really seem to be going in a straight line, drifting this way and that every now and then. I also kept spotting other sandcrawlers in the distance and then kept cross-referencing the map to figure out whether this was "the one" or not.
Finally I spotted our destination. The glow from the datacrons was visible even from quite a distance.
My heart beat faster and faster. I kept telling my boyfriend about how thrilled I was and he kept telling me that I was mad. I had just spent the last hour sitting around semi-AFK, just waiting for the silly balloon to move, how could that possibly be exciting? But it was precisely the fact that my time investment was at stake now that made it feel important. I knew that I wasn't going to try again the same night if I failed, and since I'm hardly a pro at jumping, the chance of me missing my target was definitely considerable.
I started to carefully move around the edge of the balloon. My character automatically took the first step up without me having to jump, but the outer rim did block me from just walking off by accident. But would jumping out from the inner step take me far enough? Should I try to jump and land on the very edge first? Those "ropes" looked like they might prevent me from falling, but I wasn't sure.
And then it was right there, right below us. I don't even know how I jumped, I just did. My character tumbled and took some falling damage, but landed safely on top of the sandcrawler. Victory! The bounty hunter made it too and I cheered at him, though he took no notice. He just grabbed his datacron and was gone before I knew where he had jumped off.
I hadn't really looked much into the second datacron located on a ledge off to the side, since it was a strength one and as a trooper I don't really need strength. Still, I gave it a quick shot and promptly fell right past it. I was slightly disappointed but not hugely bothered. Maybe I'll get back to it some day, maybe not - either way it's not particularly relevant to me except for completionist purposes.
But that balloon ride... that was definitely something else. I might just have to ask my guildies to give me a shout if they are going on any rides in the future; I imagine it must be even more fun with a friend in tow.