12/12/2017

Tales from the Group Finder: Eternity Vault

I don't often run operations with random groups nowadays since ops are one of the few activities that I regularly get to partake in anyway (with my guild) and you never know how long a pug run is going to take you. Some are super smooth but others can turn into unexpectedly long-winded adventures (to put it mildly). Not having a lot of free time anymore plays into it too.

However.

I've been really curious whether the changes to the group/activity finder in the last patch have made any difference to people's willingness to use the tool to run operations. Most of the time players seemed to avoid it, presumably mostly because of the large degree of uncertainty in regards to when you would get a pop, if at all. It might sound weird to anyone who really hates talking to other people, but often just putting a group together in general chat was simply faster and easier.

Before the patch actually launched, there'd been some speculation about what shape exactly the improvements to the group finder might take. Display of average wait times and group formation progress maybe? Nope. However, Bioware did add a "role in need" display that shows you which role the group finder is currently short on for certain types of content. While the extra reward promised to those who queue up as that role isn't really worth it from my point of view, it has added a new dimension to queueing, because the promise of a guaranteed, fast pop holds more appeal than anything else.


So when the rotation had just switched to Eternity Vault on Sunday afternoon and I saw that healers were needed on Imp side, I decided to hop in on my Sorcerer. I felt slightly disappointed when I didn't get an instant pop, but I guess more than one healer was needed. However, I only had to wait between five and ten minutes for the group to fill up.

Everybody zoned in quickly and of course someone was over-enthusiastic enough to pull the turrets and get us all in combat while we waited for the group to actually assemble. The off-tank asked for someone to share the weekly mission, so I did. Then he asked for it again. I said that I'd already shared it, and I'm guessing someone else did so again. But the off-tank just kept asking. According to the chat log he already had a sharing request but he kept insisting that he didn't. After several more minutes of this he eventually went back out again to pick up the mission himself.

The first boss went smoothly enough, but then came the question of how to deal with the trash. The jumping shortcut seems to be quite well-known by now, but I suck at successfully making the jump as a Sage or Sorc, and nobody else wanted to volunteer for ages. Eventually the off-tank (an Assassin) made it across though and got the speeder sorted. However, another Assassin who was playing dps didn't seem to understand what was happening and tried to stealth his way towards the boss the long way, all on his lonesome. After he pulled something and died, everyone encouraged him to take the speeder this time, but he just left. It took surprisingly long to get a dps replacement, several minutes in fact.

On Gharj I witnessed a bug that I hadn't seen before, which is saying something! When he started jumping up and down on the first platform and a second one appeared, we moved across as usual, but then it was the second platform that suddenly disappeared. Everyone went "wtf" at suddenly finding themselves knee-deep in lava, but fortunately most of the group had the sense to quickly run back, so we only lost two people and were able to revive one of them.

The journey through the jungle was strangely heart-warming, with one guy taking the lead and me and another hanging back to make sure no stragglers got lost. Nobody needed help jumping up the cliff, but I had to rescue two people after they had fallen into lava. The system had designated me as the ops leader by the way, which caused me to somehow feel responsible for the group even though I hadn't had any plans to take charge.

The pylons were kind of amusing in that everyone wanted to click the consoles, to the point that at one time people actually clicked on them on opposite sides, making the wheel go left, right and then left again, wasting a lot of time. Fortunately it wasn't enough to cause a reset though. I also noticed that the Marauder wearing the Crest of the Dread Master (one of the few truly prestigious items of gear in SWTOR) kept nearly killing themselves on the adds with the reflective shield. Bought account?

The Council fight went alright, though I was baffled when the last person still fighting ended up being my co-healer, who was both well-geared and clearly experienced. I joked that they must have felt like taking on a challenge to pit themselves against one of the Marauders as a healer (mobs intended to be fought by damage dealers) to which they replied that they'd known something was wrong as soon as we pulled...

Soa seemed to go smoothly enough, but then he evaded and reset at zero percent - WTF, Bioware. Just how long has this stuff been going on? My co-healer announced that they had to go because "the GF" was giving them evil eyes. It took me a moment to puzzle out what the group finder had to do with anything... Anyway, they left but not without dropping group, so we unfortunately had to initiate a vote kick to make room for a replacement. And then we didn't get one! The wait for a replacement dps earlier had seemed long enough, but this was worse.

People asked me if I was okay solo-healing the fight and I said yes. It's only EV story mode, what can go wrong? Well, everyone but you jumping down onto the wrong platform for example. Wipe again! The third time was the charm though and we finally made it. Coincidentally, the group finder decided to finally give us a second healer just as we had reached the last phase. We warned him in chat that this was what was going on and he had the good sense to leave. I'm not sure how these things work exactly, but I suspect that he might have gained a lockout without any reward otherwise.

Overall, the run felt like a success to me though. I mean, I've also had EV pugs that had to give up on Gharj because he kept enraging... but that is why I never get tired of jumping into random groups. The potential for strange new experiences just knows no bounds.

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