I surprised myself the other night by absolutely trashing the final Space Combat mission, “The Impossible Sector” on my Trooper. In my last post about the mini-game, I said “I don’t find it overly difficult, even without all the right ship upgrades” and that was true at the time – until I unlocked the level 40 mission “Drexel Sweep”. Bloody hell that was hard – way overtuned in comparison to what came before and, considering that the tips screen suggests level 3 or higher components, I shouldn’t have found it so difficult even when with a complete level 5 loadout. “The Impossible Sector” stymied me just as much on every attempt when I first tried it and I gave up on space combat for a while in disgust. Coming back to it and I had no trouble at all completing it – so either they changed it in a patch or I was just being crap the first time around. Either way, it was fun.
Space Combat has very little to do with what I want to talk about though but it’s a good way of reminding myself that I enjoy the game and still have fun. It’s tricky, though, when there’s so much going on outside the game. This week saw the announcement that Drs Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk are leaving the company they founded to pursue non-gaming related careers and, not only that, but that they resigned back in April. On top of all that, players were stunned by the sudden server consolidation that happened a couple of days ago.
It’s hard not to feel a little trepidatious about the future.
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There’s been some remodelling done in these parts, in case you haven’t noticed (and if you’re feedreaderising this content then you probably haven’t.) It’s only a phase one and should cover most of the important things like being able to read posts, comment on posts and see some of the older stuff – but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that some things don’t work so please let me know if there’s anything obviously out of place or nor working.
Some features are still brewing – a proper archive system, a page of links to sites I read/recommend and some more social media sharing stuff amongst others – and I do plan on updating some of the older posts, but I’m a bit busy with a real job, family, coursework and, um, playing games so I there’s no must-be-done-by date.
Enjoy – and I promise I’ll try to keep updating.
One scroll of resurrection later and my Tauren warrior is level 80 and suitably attired for adventuring in Mt Hyjal. It’s been a while since I’ve walked the lands of Azeroth – the best part of two years in fact, ever since my Warlock dinged level 85 shortly after Cataclysms release and I logged out over the Christmas break and didn’t log back in. But while I had no intention of necessarily getting the new expansion at release, I wanted to see what the 5.04 changes were like and check out the significant overhaul to the talent system. Also, mounts and pets are now shared account wide which is sort of cool. That means as and when I eventually get my Mechano-Hog, I only need it once.
After my free 7 days was up, I decided to sub for a month, primarily to see Rouf up 85 (he got to 83 in the short week of the trial) but also to check out the new scenario that was being made available for the week prior to the expansions release. I’ll admit that I have no idea what these Scenarios are other than they sound like 3-man, story driven, instances – although they differ from a 5-man story-driven instance like the Culling of Stratholme I’m not sure (no role requirements is apparently one selling point). Prior to the xpac release, the Fall of Theramore scenario is a level 85 instance. After release it will be for level 90.
But it doesn’t look like I’ll get to see it just yet.
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The final screen of Guild Wars 2′s character creation made me sit up and pay attention by asking one simple question.
It wasn’t really a choice as there was only one answer I could possible choose:
I had recreated Rouf, my fat, balding, bearded, drunken alter-ego, as a Norn Engineer in this particular parallel universe and this time around, his actual, official, in-game backstory involved getting so horrendously drunk that he couldn’t remember what he’d done. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
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The latest update for SWTOR has hit the PTS and the Update 1.4 patch notes are available on the forum. Content wise the offering is a little slim and the main selling point is the new
raid Operation, Terror From Beyond. The marketing spiel:
Travel to the remote planet of Asation, where the Dread Masters have commandeered an ancient Gree Hypergate in order to unleash untold horrors upon the galaxy. Terror from Beyond features 5 powerful new boss encounters that can be challenged in 8- and 16- player Story or Hard Mode, offering some of the most challenging group content yet!
So what are my brief thoughts?
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The downside to running a 100 mile ultramarathon is that, between training and preparation, it kind of demands a lot of attention and focus and so I have to apologise for a three month hiatus in updating this blog. And what a three months it’s been!
- Yes, I’m still playing SWTOR. Or still subbed (and just renewed) at any rate although I haven’t actually played that much for a month or so (race then holiday and although I took my laptop, I neglected to take my security key). Big news is that I finally got to level 50 on my Trooper. The downside is that we elected to move server during the transfers and she is now called by a different name which annoyed me. My guild has all but quit the game for the most part which is disappointing although they’ve left me in charge of not one but two guilds.
- 1.3 has come and gone and added the Group Finder to the game. I can’t comment on it at all because I haven’t used it. I haven’t used it because I haven’t grouped and live in fear of PUGs and the general abuse bandied around at “noobs”. Then again, my Smuggler is currently Sawbones and healers are always welcome, right?
- SWTOR is going Free-to-play. I can’t even begin to comment about this because a) I’ve missed the boat when this was a hot-topic and b) I don’t think I care. I’ll discuss it more when there’s a date and when I next have to renew my sub (in January).
- There was a new world event: The Grand Acquisition Race. I managed to play it for one evening before going on holiday (and then took my laptop away but not my security key so I didn’t finish it. D’oh!)
- I finished Batman: Arkham Asylum to celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises. Yay for finishing video games (it’s a rare occurence in these parts.)
- Both Funcom’s Secret World and ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 were released, the latter now only a mere 9/10 days old (officially) and still has that just-out-of-the-packaging smell. I’ll share my thoughts on both of those soon.
- I still haven’t updated this blog’s design.
So yeah, I’m back (not that I ever really left). I will be playing some more SWTOR soon, blogging about it, trying to find a balance in maintaining and gaming and a running blog and finding time to train, game and do all those other things too.
How have you all been?
A lot’s changed since I first wrote about my initial impressions of crafting back in January. Firstly, I’ve switched mains and levelled up a new Crew Skill (Armormech – hit 400 last night) so I feel in a better position to know what I’m talking about. Secondly, patch 1.2 came out with some significant changes to the crafting system.
A quick overview of the changes:
- The chance of researching schematics via reverse engineering has been significantly increased
- On critical successes, crafted Custom (orange) gear now receives an Augment slot.
- Augments can now be crafted by several professions.
- Players may now reverse engineer many endgame items to research schematics for items and mods.
The most significant change to Custom items is, to my mind, being able to add an Augment slot means that they have the potential to be as good, if not better, than Purple gear of the same level. As mods from the new tier of end-game mods can be extracted and put into other gear (while retaining set bonuses), this increases the possibility of being able to outfit your character exactly as you want. (The available options can only increase as the Devs have said they are looking at a way of making social gear – currently only available in light armour flavour – be adaptive to whatever armour type you need it to be. So my female Trooper might be able to wear the slave bikini as heavy armour if she wanted. Not that she would, I hasten to add).
I’m also pleased with the change to augments. Originally they were next to useless because they were randomly received from Slicing missions but now they can be RE’d into schematics and Slicing can be used to provide materials to make them. There’s also a rumour or two that the ability to add augment slots directly to items will become available at some future point. (Source – hat-tip to Shintar for pointing it out to me.)
There have been some changes to Reverse Engineering too, primarily the chance of learning a schematic has been “significantly increased”. This chance is now available on the tooltip of researchable items and seems to be 20% on all the armour items I’ve been crafting so far – although I’ve been unlucky with learning schematics from them. (As and when I get enough crafting materials to hand, maybe I’ll do some probablity verification testing of my own.) Unfortunately, I think it still relies far too heavily on the Random Number Generator (RNG) and the nature of upgrades still hasn’t been changed (Epic level 9 items? Why?) Having to get a critical success for an augment slot is still annoying too.
While these changes are welcome and improve the crafting section of the game, I do feel that all three of my suggestions from my last post still stand (although one will be crossed out as and when it gets added to the game – that being the ability to add augment slots). I’ve also been doodling around with ideas about another method of being able to learn new schematics and bring the “skill” back into “Crew skill”. That’s for another day though.
It’s been a busy week. Apart from anything, I have a new PC with a fresh install of Windows 7 and a copy of SWTOR running on an SSD which means that, finally, I might be able to visit and explore the wonders of Alderaan without either graphics lag or screen freezes every couple of minutes.
Of course, I might just be cursed in which case, expect a rant and a /ragequit some time over the weekend.
Seriously though, I’ve got an 3.1Ghz i3-2100 CPU, 4Gb RAM and a new Radeon HD 6850 card so hopefully that’s a common enough – and up-to-date enough – build to handle the game. I’ve also only got a monitor with a maximum resolution of 1280×1024 so I’m not really going to be making much demands on the system until I get that upgraded.
Other than that, I’ve been popping in as and when I can this week to take part in the Rakghoul pandemic world event. Occasional events can, inevitably, be either fun or tedious. WoW’s Seasonal events had a mix of both and LOTRO’s – well, the one or two I tried just annoyed me like a lot of the rest of the game. So far, this new event is setting itself apart for a couple of reasons:
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My suspicions that there would be an official announcement regarding the whole “30 days for level 50s” situation was right. A post was posted this evening by Dr Greg Zeschuk himself, addressing the issue. The two main points are:
1. 30 days will be given to players with either a level 50 or who have reached Legacy level 6.
2. Players have got up until the 22nd April to meet one of those criteria.
This is a brilliant solution. Why? Because (according to the post) a player who has been at level 50 on one character for a bit will have got to Legacy Level 6. However, other players who have played just as much but not got a level 50 will also have reached level 6. Not only that, but, given that this patch was all about the implementation of the Legacy system and rewards, it’s actually a blindingly obvious and relevant solution and, to my mind, a fair and equitable of awarding all veteran players for their “support and loyalty” irrespective of their playstyle.
I’m glad I didn’t ragequit this morning so I don’t have to crawl back here with my tail between my legs – I trusted that the issue would be addressed. It has, I’m satisfied and still willing to give them my money and loyalty.
Well done Bioware.
(I still won’t have a level 50 by the end of the week though – but hey, thems the breaks. What can you do?)
I want to talk to about the couple of hours I spent trying out Update 1.2 last night and give you my initial impressions of the new Warzone, Novare Coast. But I’m not going to because after logging out of the game and glancing quickly at my Twitter feed, I noticed the announcement about “Thank You” gifts in appreciation of “support of our community throughout the development of the Legacy game update”.
I’ll be blunt – it pissed me off.
I write this at the risk of being hypocritical in sounding like a whining, self-entitled gamer who is throwing his toys out of the pram because he didn’t get something that he wanted. That’s something I’ve always despised about gaming culture and one reason why I rarely interact on official forums. That doesn’t assuage the feeling of annoyance I’ve got.
My beef is with this specific sentence in the press-release (emphasis mine):
As a thanks for being one of our most valued players, every active account with a Level 50 character as of April 12th, 2012 at 12:00PM CDT / 5:00PM GMT, will receive thirty (30) days of game time in appreciation for your support and loyalty.
“Our most valued players.”
I make no bones about the fact that I’m a slow leveller. Last night I got my Trooper to level 39, matching that of my Smuggler and making her, officially, my new main but I’ve still got a way to go before the magic five-oh. I signed up for a six-month subscription from the off and I’m in no rush. As evidenced by this blog, I really enjoy the game – in fact the main reason that I don’t blog more often is because I’d just end up sounding like some gibbering Tellytubby on a roller-coaster, shouting “WOOOO!!!! Again! Again!” with all the constant posts enthusing about how much genuine fun I’m having playing SWTOR.
I recently mentioned that there was some disquiet in my guild about the game and a long thread (based on this post by my GL) about the issues people were having with the game. I ran the risk of becoming the poster child of SWTOR fanboys – sorry, fanbois – everywhere with my exuberant posts. I also agreed with the observation made that those who are still having fun were those still levelling after all this time – and those who weren’t having fun had reached level cap. Perhaps that’s at the heart of what’s happening here.
Psynister wrote about this topic too and in the comments, Liore pointed that this free month is likely to be a “holy crap we need to improve the retention of level 50s” move. (She also blogged about it too). It’s true as well. Update 1.2 is pretty hefty but, at the last minute they cancelled the release of ranked Warzones (only available to level 50s) and sidelined the open-world PvP on Ilum (only available to level 50s) because it’s in need of a rethink and redesign so, in many ways, this can only be seen as a salve to temper the frustrations of those who have already reached level cap.
Level 50s: Bioware’s “most valued” players.
I can see the point. I’m looking forward to trying out ranked warzones myself (have I mentioned how much I adore playing warzones yet? I mean, aside from every other post!) and this delay works in my favour. I can sympathise with the poor level 50s. After all, what have they had to do since the release of the game? I mean, apart from two patches that extended an existing Operation, added a new Operation, added two new level 50 flashpoints and a legacy system that has a lot of rewards for level 50 players?
Obviously level 50s are Bioware’s “most valued” players – look at all this stuff they’ve gotten already.
Would it be churlish to point out that Update 1.2 also removed several items from the game (vehicles and crystals) that were largely unavailable to any player who was not yet level 50? Yeah, I know if I really wanted those items then I should have levelled faster but, hey, in all honesty they weren’t my priorities. Yeah, it probably would be very churlish. Forget I mentioned it.
I can only agree with Liore that, really, the 30 days free reward is a thinly veiled retention bonus that’s targeting players like her – already level 50 and, in her own words, someone who “had kind of wandered away from SWTOR over the past month or so”. That’s the “most valued” player Bioware is rewarding for their “support and loyalty”. It’s sound business acumen – entice those likely to wander off somewhere else by offering them a carrot to stay.
That wording though – well, that, if you haven’t guessed by now, is what really fucks me off the most. By exclusion, I am not “most valued”. My “support and loyalty” is not being rewarded except for a mini taun-taun pet. Oh… wait, that’s not for loyalty because anyone who signs up for a sub in the next 8 days will also get one. It’s not even that I really begrudge anyone like Liore who’s eligible for it – I mean, what are we talking about? A months free access, worth about £7 or £8? If Bioware had said “Here’s a reward for sticking with us even though we really fucked up end-game content and had to delay ranked warzones!” I don’t think I’d even be writing this post.
But they didn’t say that.
Their choice of wording – describing players who’ve reached level 50 as “most valued” – makes me feel like a second-rate citizen. It implies that the metric by which loyalty is determined is based on character level rather than, say, length of subscription. It makes me feel like a sucker for planning to commit to the game long-term, for trying to encourage other players to stay when they had doubts about it – even for starting this blog to share my enthusiasm.
I’m a player who, as Liore rightly surmises, would probably not need much to encourage retention. I’m probably also the sort of player who will pay more by way of subscription fees than the level 50 who subs after a content patch, completes the new raid and then unsubs for a couple of months until the next update. But the message I’m getting here is “Yeah, we don’t really care about you. You’re not our ‘most valued’ player.” Yeah, well, that’s fine – but you’ve now actively discouraged my retention.
I despise the fact that I feel so strongly about this matter. I loathe the fact that I feel hypocritical writing a post that could – correctly and justly – be described as needy and entitled. I’m angry that, through what I think is a poor choice of words, Bioware evoked this response from me.
I will be interested to see how this plays out. Despite an extremely long thread on the forums about this topic (170+ pages when I looked this morning), there has been no direct response to any of the long-term-but-not-yet-50 players (that really needs a better acronym or something but I CBA to work one out) despite some other posts from Stephen “Rockjaw” Reid and others. It makes me wonder if they’re working out how to deal with this and putting together an official response. I’ll wait and see.
Incidentally, Novare Coast is… interesting.