What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been

On the day before the currently running double (C)XP event started, I hit Command rank 300 on my Operative. This made her my ninth character to reach that milestone, and the last class I needed for the Resolute Commander achievement (getting all eight base classes to 300).

It's funny to look back and think that a little over a year ago, something like that would have seemed like utter madness. Just getting even one character to Command rank 300 seemed like something that would take way too long for comfort. But the changes over the past year have really helped with making Galactic Command less of a grind and more fun. I wish we could have been at that point from the start and saved ourselves a lot of unpleasantness, but there's no point in wishing that the past had gone differently.

What's next? Probably levelling up yet again, this time my Juggernaut tank, for no other reason than that I enjoy playing her and she's not 300 yet. I've really embraced Command levelling as a sort of amusing goal of its own. It's not even about the gear, seeing how my play time on each character drops drastically once the numbers stop going up, and they are then mostly left in a mix of mid-level gear, depending on how kind or unkind the random drops have been to them.

It's really just more levelling, and seeing how ridiculously fast the base levelling game is these days, working on my "extra levels" has actually become a strangely decent substitute that I enjoy working on.


Keep Calm And Play SWTOR

I've been getting flashbacks to mid-2012 recently. For those of you who weren't playing SWTOR back then, it was both a good and a bad time for the game. What was good was that the game received new content updates at a pace that we are unlikely to ever see again, due to Bioware still operating with a massive team dedicated solely to the MMO for the first few months. What was bad was that the game's reputation was largely in the gutter. It was being called a failure left and right, and people who'd never even played it were happy to reinforce this negative image in public simply because they'd heard it was too much of a WoW clone / they were still mad at Bioware about the Mass Effect 3 ending / they just hated everything to do with EA. Even fan sites frequently sounded as if they felt the need to apologise for liking the game, and it was actually really off-putting if you were engaging with the community outside of the game itself. I wrote a post about it at the time.

Now, the haters never fully went away (do they ever, for any game?), but they did quiet down a lot after the first year, because there are only so many times you can shout "TORtanic!" about a game that continues to receive updates year after year and still continues to attract a considerable amount of players.

However, recently there has been a sudden resurgence of doom-and-glooming, which I suppose wasn't helped by SWTOR putting out less content in 2017 than in the years before that. It started with YouTube recommending a widely-viewed video to me which spent three quarters of an hour talking about how SWTOR is utterly dead. I have to admit that really annoyed me, mostly because it was released as part of a series that I had previously enjoyed watching, about MMOs that were actually "dead" in some way, as in shut down or at the very least put into maintenance mode. However, this one just felt like an attempt by the creator to get views by simply shitting all over a well-known game because he didn't like it very much himself. (And it worked - the video, which I'm not going to bother to link, quickly became the second most viewed video on his whole channel.) My favourite reply from the comment section was: "I hope you never become a doctor."

Then the rumour mill started to get going. MMORPG.com released an article with the title "The End of the Republic?" whose entire content could basically be summed up as: "SWTOR has been reasonably successful over the years, but now there are rumours that it might end! I mean, probably not any time soon, but I guess it was too good a subject line to pass up." This week, things came to a head when Kotaku published an article focused on Bioware's new property Anthem, which contained the following comments about SWTOR as throwaway lines:

"Over the past few months, BioWare has essentially transformed into a single-game studio as it harnesses its teams to work on the ambitious multiplayer action game Anthem, sources say. There are still small teams maintaining Star Wars: The Old Republic and piecing together the next Dragon Age, which was recently rebooted, but the bulk of BioWare’s staff in both Edmonton and Austin are now on Anthem."

And even more damning:

"BioWare has also discussed ending development on the multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic, those sources said, although one person familiar with the studio told me recently that plans are still up in the air."

The latter in particular has had people going absolutely bananas, some of them seemingly expecting SWTOR to get shut down any minute now. Personally I think they are misreading that quote in two ways:

1. "Ending development on" is not the same as "shutting down". I'm not saying that the game going into maintenance mode would be a good thing, but I still think that it's an important distinction.

2. More importantly, everything that article references from "sources" is fairly vague. It's still bad PR and probably not something Bioware/EA are happy to have aired in public, but they're not exactly giving away company secrets. However, if that sentence was a definitive statement of intent basically leaked to a journalist before its official announcement, that would've been quite a severe faux-pas on the side of the person providing the information. I think a more likely interpretation is that putting SWTOR into maintenance mode was something that was brought up in a discussion and then not followed up on. Trust me, businesses regularly discuss a lot of options for the future without necessarily implementing even most of them. The reason it is brought up here at all is to emphasise the article's point of how desperate Bioware is to have Anthem be a success, to the point that they've considered all kinds of things just to get even more manpower onto the project.

Now, beyond that I'm not going to spend a great amount of time arguing about why I think that worrying about SWTOR being shut down or even being put into maintenance mode at this point is premature. Other people have already done that, such as Larry Everett on MassivelyOP and Xam Xam on her new site MMO Bits.

The only thing I would like to bring up, mostly because I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else so far, is that few people seem to consider that, regardless even of what happens to Bioware after Anthem's launch, there are reasons for EA to want to keep SWTOR going, assuming that it makes any kind of money at all:

1. They don't need any more bad PR right now. You could say that they are already hated by so many that a few more gamer tears are nothing but drops in the bucket, but I think the recent hubbub about Star Wars: Battlefront II's monetisation has shown that they do care when it gets to the point of drawing negative attention from their investors. And if there's one thing MMO players are good at, it's expressing their anger loudly. How many people are out there, still condemning the shutdowns of City of Heroes and Star Wars Galaxies years after the fact? And I'm pretty sure SWTOR still has more players than both of those had put together (at the point when they were shut down). So a premature end to the game would draw quite a bit of ire from the community. Now, maybe the people in charge at EA aren't sufficiently clued in to actually consider this... but to me it seems like they'd really prefer to tread lightly right now and to not piss off paying customers unnecessarily.

2. Remember the outcry when EA shut down Visceral and said that they wanted to focus on multiplayer games that could feature ongoing monetisation? Well, guess what, SWTOR is exactly that kind of game. In fact, I would think that from a marketing perspective, EA should view SWTOR as a great opportunity to test and review what sort of monetisation methods have worked for games like that and which ones have not.

Anyway, those are just my two cents on the matter. As someone who is very active in the community, I always find it a bit depressing to see stuff like this. At the same time, I'm aware that as a highly engaged player, my own view tends to be somewhat skewed towards the positive - I remember just how much of a shock the free-to-play announcement was to me at the time, because it seemed to go utterly against my own experiences of a great and thriving game.

However, regardless of what happens to SWTOR and when, there's also this to consider: Even if we were to find out that SWTOR was meant to shut down next week - would you rather spend the game's last remaining days wailing on forums or actually playing it while you still can? I know which one I'd pick. With that, I'm off to play some more!

(Also, Keith has been dropping more hints about the next expansion. MMOs generally don't launch expansions just before throwing in the towel. Just saying.)


KotET Chapter 1 Master Mode

Last year I dipped my toes into veteran mode chapters for the first time. (Gosh, has it really been a full year since that fateful encounter with the vine cat?) I did complete both KotFE and KotET eventually but concluded that I probably wasn't going to attempt master mode any time soon, since I wasn't interested in repeating the story on characters that had already done it and none of my alts seemed well-suited to jumping right into the most difficult version of the content available.

However, it has been a year, more returning companions have given me an incentive to take more characters through the "Knights of..." expansions, and good gear for alts is about as easy to come by right now as it's likely ever going to be this expansion cycle, so I thought that I might as well give it a go, once again defying chronological order and starting with KotET instead of KotFE.

Unfortunately, already the first chapter didn't go well at first. I quickly got stuck on my Operative and soon gave up on it, downgrading the difficulty to story just to finish the chapter. Then I tried again on my Scoundrel. I don't know why I expected different results really, since that's essentially the same class, but I guess I figured that having slightly better gear and having completed all the Star Fortresses (which actually gives you some small perks in this chapter) would give me an edge somehow. And it actually did!

So last night I finally managed to complete one chapter, after several hours of fighting and dying and about a million credits in repairs. Ow.

Similar to what happened during my veteran mode experience, I found myself quite annoyed by how few resources there seemed to be about this particular content, even a year later. So I decided that I'm going to write down everything I learned that might help someone else with completing this chapter, and I'm planning to do the same for continuous chapters, assuming that they'll continue to be challenging.

So, where to start?

Like in many veteran mode chapters, get ready to die to trash a lot. At least for most of the first half of this chapter there are usually also some NPCs involved in the fighting, which helps to keep aggro off you. Nonetheless, be prepared to die to sudden (near-)one-shots and to not let this put you off. At least with most trash, you can simply get up again, dust yourself off and just soldier on - whatever you already killed will stay dead, so it's just a matter of slowly whittling away at the enemy's numbers.

The first real road block I encountered was the PA-717 Planetary Assault Goliath a.k.a. the big droid boss you run into early on. In fact, this was actually the fight that gave me by far the most trouble throughout the whole chapter, which made me feel extra bad about being unable to find anyone even talking about having had difficulties with it.

The first issue I ran into was the conal AoE attack that he starts with and which he repeats often. Just something to step out of, right? Sure, but tell that to Lana. And with my Scoundrel being a healer, it was usually Lana who had the aggro! I experimented with different set-ups but no matter what role I set her to, it just didn't work. As dps she would usually get one-shot. As tank she could take a couple of hits, but it was still too much damage, too quickly to keep her alive for longer than a few seconds. With both her and me healing, we could stay alive for a little while but got absolutely nothing done. And trying to manually move her out of the AoE didn't seem viable with how frequently and quickly it got cast.

In the end I did something I'd never done before: I respecced to dps, even though I have zero experience with it as a Scoundrel (unless you count me playing a hybrid spec for a while before Shadow of Revan did away with those). And as it turned out, in this case even bad and clueless dps was better than anything else, because with me on dps and Lana healing, I consistently kept aggro and could make sure to always aim the AoEs away from squishy old Lana.

The next problem I had was the inescapable AoE knockback the droid does every so often. It tended to knock me out of the boss's regular range, at which point he starts spamming instant orbital strikes on you which hurt a lot. Usually he then also yanks you right back, but that's a lot of time you spend sort of incapacitated and getting nuked. I died to this a lot. Until I took note of the little Voss flag next to the boss that is! By running next to it every time he wound up one of his knockbacks, I could just bounce off the flag harmlessly and then get right back into the action.

Finally, there are the mines, which move around and cannot be destroyed from range. Initially I was pinning all my hopes on getting help from "Deadeye" Leyta - if you destroyed the Tatooine Star Fortress before starting the chapter, she helps you out with a snipe ability that can actually destroy mines. However, it only works on one at a time and has a really long cooldown (on master mode anyway, I can't remember what it was like on story mode). I mean, it's still handy to have, but with the sheer amount of mines going around, it's not much more than a drop in the bucket.

In the end I realised that I simply had to take out some of the mines purposefully while hitting a damage reduction cooldown. As a Scoundrel I found my roll very useful for this. This helped me remove the worst offenders while minimising the damage they would cause. I even recorded a video of me finally beating the fight:

Note that it was still far from a perfect run - for example you can see me rolling right past the flag at one point and getting knocked back anyway! But it was good enough, and combined with a bit of luck I actually made it through. Boy, did that feel good.

The next bits of trash were easy enough, and having destroyed the Voss Star Fortress prior to the chapter, I also got free bonus completion from Rokuss. The next real challenge was the defense of the Tower of Prophecy, where I actually found my regular old healing spec pretty useful, as I spent most of the first half of it just healing myself and the NPCs while trying to break line of sight with the constant stream of adds. Since almost all of them were weak, they fortunately died quickly enough to the fire of the NPCs.

The real challenge comes when the three Horizon Guards come in, because all three of them cast an undodgeable thunderous blast that is once again a (near-)one-shot. At first I actually had to laugh at how quickly I died every time they appeared - I usually didn't even have time to do anything, not to mention understand what was going on.

My eventual approach was to immediately dodge behind the ramp leading upstairs as soon as they spawned, to use the way it breaks line of sight to avoid the one-shot - though not without putting down a Bushwhack at the door first, to make sure that I'd gain at least some aggro on the Guards and they wouldn't just immediately go and kill the NPCs instead. This was a bit RNG dependent to be honest. The NPCs would usually kill one of the Horizon Guards quite quickly, but the other two would go after me. Now, if I got unlucky they would both stick to me and then I'd usually die because I couldn't dodge both of their abilities simultaneously. However, as you can once again see in my video of the kill, when things went well, the second Horizon Guard would initially go after me but then turn around and go after the NPCs again, while losing enough time in the process to give the NPCs time to kill him as well. That only left me to deal with the last one, and he was easy enough to kite around a pillar at the back.

You can also see in the video that I was a bit hesitant initially when the last boss came in because I expected him to have thunderous blast too, but he's actually safe to approach and in fact better to nuke quickly while interrupting all his big casts.

Next came walking the walk to the Shrine of Healing and well... you probably won't need a guide for that but it was still pretty tedious. I've died at least once on that section pretty much every time I've done it, regardless of difficulty setting, and master mode cranks that up to eleven. Specifically there are rocket troopers to watch out for (handily marked by giant red arrows over their heads), whose long cast will take off about a third of your walker's health in one go. Oh, and they usually come in packs of four, so you can do the maths. Once you know what to look out for it's not too hard to take them out first, but the first time a set of them spawns you'll probably see your walker get blown to smithereens before you've even realised what's happening.

Also, to add insult to injury, the repair teams are for some reason unable to heal your walker back to full on master mode; they only repair you a little bit. But hey, like with most of the other trash, it's just a matter of attrition. The slow walk back every time I died never felt longer though.

The walker boss at the end also sports rocket trooper adds now but otherwise functions similar to veteran mode. Just keep walking in circles around him and shooting him whenever he's not in an immunity bubble, hit your shield if you happen to get rooted in the big beam, and kill adds as they come... unless the walker is really close to death, then it might be better to just go for a quick final nuke.

The inside of the shrine features some more hard-hitting trash mobs... /yawn. And I've got nothing on how to fight Senya because light side all the way, baby.

I hope that this will help some people at least, and if you have any tips of your own to share, feel free to do so in the comments. There just doesn't seem to be that much interest in these master mode chapters beyond farming a select few easy ones for CXP, considering that nobody seems to have written a comprehensive guide about them to this day.


On Hoth

After about four months of sitting around in Aurek Base, my Commando on Star Forge finally made it through Hoth. Sometimes it seems that this planet is where my alts (figurately) go to die - though it might just be a general problem I have with chapter two of the original class stories. Whenever I roll a new alt for story purposes, I tend to breeze through the prologue and first chapter really quickly, but once chapter one is done I (somewhat bizarrely) tend to feel "too accomplished" to continue right away, despite of the game beckoning me with even more story. Sometimes the momentum manages to carry me through to the end of Balmorra/Taris, but by Quesh I definitely start to lose steam. But hey, at least Quesh is short, right? And then I get sent to Hoth, look at the huge map, groan and log out.

I'm actually not entirely sure why that is. With the improved travel options we have access to nowadays, it doesn't really take that long to get things done. Even while doing all the quests as well as getting all the datacrons, I didn't feel that I actually ended up spending that much time on the planet. There's just something about those endless white plains...

The funny thing is that Tatooine is basically the same, only hot and brown instead of cold and white, and I love Tatooine. In fact, during my very first playthrough I commented on the similarity between the two and gave Hoth a good mark as well. It just hasn't held up as well in terms of replayability for some reason.

Maybe it has something to do with the story and NPCs. Replaying all the quests on Hoth for the first time in ages, it struck me how none of the side missions were very memorable at all (I didn't save a single one for my favourites list), and the main planetary story arc didn't really form a single coherent story either but was just several small missions strung together: first you defend the Republic base, then you go into that power station, then you fight pirates, then you're tasked with securing Republic superweapon #347.

It also struck me how incredibly unhappy all the NPCs are to be on Hoth! NPCs pretty much always have some grievance or another, that's why they send you out on quests to solve their problems after all, but these tasks can still be presented with a positive attitude. However, everyone on Hoth seems to hate the place so much - maybe this has actually rubbed off on me as a player. There was a funny moment in the first area that I'd completely forgotten about, where if you choose to leave a traitor alive after confronting him, he retorts with a resigned: "You're leaving me on Hoth? Couldn't you just shoot me?"

It's telling that the stories I do remember with some fondness are those that revolve around the rare few people who are actually having a reasonably good time on Hoth: the Ortolan settlers and the pirate survivalist cult. Though I'd forgotten all about the tension between the Republic and Empire that the player is subjected to in the latter quest on Republic side... I actually went with betraying the Imps this time (M1-4X approved) but felt kind of bad about it afterwards.

Overall, engaging plot lines and memorable moments are not one of Hoth's strengths however.



I don't know if it's just a side effect of having played this game for more than six years and therefore not finding everything quite as engaging anymore or also a function of the way modern life has generally shortened our attention spans, but I'm finding it hard these days to just be happy doing a single thing while playing.

I always want to watch or at least listen to something on my second monitor at the same time, or alternatively I want to at the very least feel that whatever it is I'm doing and focusing my attention on will kill three birds with one stone (no, two is not enough).

For example, I'm enjoying another stint on the Ebon Hawk Star Forge right now, working on my Commando there. Those play sessions are satisfying because they tick a lot of boxes:

- I get to slowly chip away at my main goal of revisiting all the side quests on Republic side.
- If any of them catch my attention in particular, I can record them and add them to my "Favourite Side Quest" playlist (which is a sort of related side project).
- I get to complete the trooper story for a third time. Not a high priority, but might as well while I'm there...
- I get to play without the support of my max-level legacy. Intriguing!
- What's life like with Galactic Command when you don't have/use any of the boosts and just putter along doing quests every so often? Interesting to see.
- A low level legacy means that there are achievements to be had everywhere!
- ... and datacrons to hunt! I used to get my fix for that on the Progenitor but since that has been merged into Darth Malgus, doing them on yet another server is the only way to keep re-experiencing those jumping puzzles in a meaningful way.
- And with all that, I still get to watch things on my second monitor as well... I just pause the video every so often whenever I visit a quest hub, but I can continue watching while cruising around and killing ten womp rats.

Plus, every so often you get to relive fond memories, such as when running into this champion who actually still hits quite hard even to this day.

Now, it doesn't always have to be quite this much. Other times I will settle for something like PvPing on my agent because:

- PvP is fun.
- It gains her Command ranks and she's not 300 yet.
- It's PvP bonus day or we're in a light side victory state, so I'm feeling extra efficient.

Still, always wanting everything to be contributing towards several goals at once is quite a tall order. It's made me wonder whether this isn't the real reason I struggle so much with replaying KotFE & KotET. When I set myself the goal to complete veteran mode KotFE for example, I went through the entire sixteen chapters in a flash! Having more than one thing to work towards was fun. However, the rest of the time those chapters are pretty much the antithesis to my desire to multitask:

- The way combat and dialogue alternate quickly and frequently is very immersive the first time around but doesn't play so well with watching something else on my second screen because I need to start and stop all the time.
- Unless you're making a point of speed-running by skipping cut scenes etc., they aren't a great source of XP or CXP either.
- Beyond seeing the story and how different choices play out (which is fun two or three times) there just isn't... anything. You don't get any good loot, there is little to no room to go off the beaten path for a bit and do something else, there's no reputation to earn, no achievements for killing 100/500/1000 skytroopers... welp, I can't believe I just suggested that as an addition to make chapter replays a bit more interesting.

Don't tell me to go play something else instead though - I like my comfort food! I just really have an urge to be efficient about it at the same time.


Better Late Than Never

I was perusing my flashpoint achievements today - noting once again that despite of my love for the format I'm far off ever reaching 100% completion in the category - when I noticed that in the more than three years that it's been in the game, I've apparently never done Korriban Incursion on hard mode on any Imperial character... according to my achievement panel anyway. I'm still not sure I quite believe it - I mean, yes, I play less on Empire side than on Republic, but... three years!

Fate has a funny way of going about these things, so I actually happened to be queueing for a random master mode on my Sorcerer as I was confronted with this information, and guess what I got?

It was actually a somewhat odd experience. The first boss kept putting dots on everyone, which I could not remember from the Republic version at all. And the bonus boss was a total pushover, where I remember the Republic version being quite a pain in the rear (at least in his original iteration) due to his mass Force choke ability. The Imperial version seemed to do nothing of the sort!

However, the biggest surprise to me was the second boss turning into an utter wipe-fest. Again, I don't recall ever having any issues with this on Pub side. I was starting to seriously question myself and my knowledge of the game: Is the flashpoint tuned that differently for the two factions? Was I just failing at healing? For how long are you supposed to be able to deal with that soft enrage?

Our first tank left after a few wipes, citing that he had just struggled through this flashpoint recently, taking several hours to complete it and that he was feeling unable to cope with all these wipes again. When one of the dps left as well, I got worried that the group might be falling apart, but fortunately the remaining damage dealer was a friendly Assassin who seemed quite keen on getting things done no matter what and patiently waited for replacements with me.

Luckily for us, our replacement tank was both overgeared and very patient, repeatedly telling us after yet another wipe that she believed in us and even going so far as to hand out free stims to everyone in the group. It sure felt good when we finally did get the boss down. The rest after that was easy again, though we learned that our friendly Assassin was even more clueless than he had seemed at first and didn't even know that he had a crowd control ability.

I actually really enjoyed the run despite of all the wipes. It really taught me how to optimise my performance on the second boss, and it was nice to see hapless newbies and seasoned veterans work together in harmony instead of butting heads. So, yes. Master mode Korriban Incursion down on Imp side, woo! Only three years late...


A Love Letter to Odessen Proving Grounds

Dear Odessen Proving Grounds,

That is your preferred mode of address, isn't it? I know that's how you were originally introduced in the patch notes, but since then I've also heard people refer to you as "Alliance Proving Grounds" sometimes, which has made me wonder.

I'm writing to you because I feel sad thinking of all the bad things that you have to listen to people say about you every day. "Not this one!" or "I hate this one!" over and over again, usually followed by a notification that so-and-so has left the ops group. It would make anyone feel bad.

I just wanted to tell you: Ignore the haters. There are those of us who absolutely adore you.

People accuse you of being too complicated? I like a simple good thing as much as the next person, but if everything was simple the world would be quite boring. We love your beautiful complexity and how different it makes you from most of the other warzones. People who just want to bash others' heads in can stick to doing so in their ranked arenas.

I sometimes suspect that a lot of the most public hate for you is fed by well-known PvPers who love to play stealth classes, because stealth provides them with a noticeable advantage in most warzones. That doesn't fly with you however, oh no! Capping an objective? Not possible in stealth. Defending an objective? Not possible in stealth either. Carrying a power-up? No way you're doing that in stealth.

No, instead you decided to give love to those long-suffering support players, the tanks and healers. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that those roles aren't inherently fun to play - however, they are probably more prone to being made un-fun by other players than any other. You'll know what I mean if you've ever healed a Huttball game and pointlessly plinked shots off the enemy ball carrier while your team's damage dealers were off having random duels in the middle of nowhere. If you're playing support, you need someone to support who's actually interested in winning the game, and that's not always guaranteed.

However, your unique design has finally set the tanks and healers of the world free, since you offer multiple ways to contribute towards winning that don't actually require you to kill anyone. In fact, you turned a lone tank or healer guarding an objective into a force to be reckoned with all on their own. It doesn't even matter if the enemy eventually kills you, as long as you manage to stay alive just long enough. There is a unique kind of satisfaction in falling over defeated just as a round ends and the objective gets deactivated. You may have won this fight, but you definitely lost the battle, suckers.

I remember once zoning into a match in progress on my Sage healer, with the enemy team having a considerable lead, and I almost single-handedly turned things around because while everyone else was busy brawling in mid, I spent several rounds activating objective points with the green power-up and claiming them for our side.

People may complain that you don't give enough weight to killing the enemy. Again I say, leave those people to their arenas. I enjoy winning even if my enemy is still alive. (If killing was the only point, what would even be the point of playing a healer?)

Others may moan about your map design. The other day I saw someone state on the official forums in all seriousness that sometimes they manage to run all over the map without finding any players! Well duh, I thought, because running all over the map trying to find players isn't the goal. If that person actually focused on the objectives, they'd meet some opposition soon enough.

Again, I actually really love how different your map is, with those narrow tunnels making it hard to see the enemy. It means that you never quite know what's coming and you're rewarded for being able to make good guesses as to what's going to happen in the next round. I gotta write a guide about that some time...

Finally, let's not forget how you achieved that seemingly impossible feat of bringing Republic and Empire together to fight for the same cause. Sure, Yavin Ruins has copied that now, but you were the first. Not only that, but you did it with style. Some people may be clamouring for unity in other places now, but can you really see Pubs and Imps fighting side by side on Alderaan or Denova? Pfft.

Never change, Proving Grounds. Never change.

Lots of Love,

A Fan


Stagnation Appreciation

Like I suspect many others, my guild has been fairly quiet over the holidays, with members spending  a good chunk of time away from the internet and with their families. Last week we finally got enough people together to organise a guild run again but we wanted to take it easy, so we ran Eternity Vault, Karagga's Palace and Explosive Conflict on story mode of all things.

And... I was kind of surprised by how much of a good time I'm still having with these operations. Sure, Eternity Vault seemed amazing to me when I ran it for the first time six years ago, but shouldn't I be tired of this stuff by now? When Bioware first announced their plans to scale all content, I wrote at length about my hopes and concerns about it, and the potential of getting tired of the same instances remaining relevant endgame forever was certainly one of my worries.

And yet, here I am and I'm still having fun. In fact, this week I also ran another group finder operation with random strangers (Karagga's Palace) and had a blast providing guidance to those who were unfamiliar with the content for one reason or another. There's just something extremely comfortable about doing something that you know very well with only minimal variation. It's kind of like knitting another scarf I guess. If you're an experienced knitter I mean.

The other night I decided that I really wanted to do something fresh and different, so I patched and fired up Elder Scrolls Online. Quite a few people in my wider social circle have been playing it as of late and most of them have been full of praise for it. I managed to gain two levels and it was... okay I guess. Nothing was wrong exactly, but part of me found the experience oddly overwhelming and exhausting. While looking for something in the UI, lots of windows kept popping up to tell me about this feature and that, and even though depth is a good thing, something that's supposed to intrigue and entice me, I just felt tired even thinking about having to learn and understand all these new systems.

Back to SWTOR it was.

Bhagpuss also wrote a post only a few days ago about how he's actually quite happy playing all the MMOs that already exist and not exactly dying for something new right here, right now. Like he says, maybe it's the season.

I kept thinking that for me, it's probably also a case of MMOs not just being different things to different people, but also different things to the same person at different times. When I first started playing World of Warcraft over ten years ago (yikes), my real life was in a somewhat awkward, uncertain and unsatisfying place. I relished the opportunity to escape into a virtual fantasy world full of adventure and systems that were a lot more straightforward than the real world (kill kobolds, level up - got it).

No, I haven't become one of those fabled "gamers with real lives" who barely have ten minutes of spare time to play each day, but I do have a full-time job right now and in the last few months in particular it's actually been quite engaging and I've had to learn a lot of new things. That takes brain power, and by the time I come home I'm not really looking to learn a whole new set of rules. I'd much rather have some comfort food that takes me through a well-practised and satisfying routine before going to bed.

That doesn't mean that I don't want new content of course - just that I'm still getting a lot of mileage out of the old stuff in the meantime. While I've been there and done that, right now I'm actually quite happy to be there and do it again.