SWTOR: Pre-Entry Questions For Those Who Play

So… a friend of mine mentioned that they were playing SWTOR a week or two ago. “You probably wouldn’t like it,” they said, knowing my rabid distaste of the entire Star Wars universe.

But they shared that they were having quite a bit of fun with the Jedi Consular and the singleplayer storyline, because it was a sort of Zen type of balancing diplomacy/politics narrative (or that’s what I kind of gathered anyhow) and what the hey, it’s free-to-play now, right?

Though in the next breath, they admitted that since they were enjoying the game, they put down five or so bucks to get the premium benefits of earlier levels to a mount or something like that.

I said, “Uh huh. Okay” in a noncommital fashion, because I had other games I was in the midst of then, and my hard disk, suffering from a surfeit of Steam games, had only about 1.3 gb free space remaining. (A random Google said give at least oh, 38gb or so for SWTOR. *gulp*)

Here’s the thing, though.

I believe very strongly that Free 2 Play is a good model for MMOs over strictly sub-based, because it lowers the entry barrier for people who might be sitting on the fence.

And I also believe very strongly that one can learn valuable things from any MMO – eg. what you like, what you don’t – as long as you give it a shot and a fair shake, despite how convinced you are beforehand that you probably won’t like it.

So despite my hatred of holy trinity unoriginality, my not-terribly-impressed opinion of binary good/evil alignment systems and rolling-eye “What was George Lucas thinking splooging CGI into every shot of his new movies” viewpoint, I’ve always intended to give SWTOR a try some day.

Even if I think it’s a WoW clone, don’t like raiding as an endgame and have never heard of any other MMO restricting hotbars and UI customization only to paying customers before.

I figure I will at least be informed as to how they handled “story as a fourth pillar,” see how the companions system works, and get a few pretty screenshots while hopefully being pleasantly surprised by one or two unique things once I’m actually in-game.

I just finished all I cared to in Batman: Arkham City, so between removing that, and the brainwave of moving all 30+ gb of World of Warcraft (I’m never repeating that slow-ass download from scratch again, I gotta save my outdated folder somewhere in the blue moon case that I ever get the itch) to an external hard disk, I managed to free up 40 odd gigabytes for SWTOR.

I liked how quickly and effortlessly the website moved me from signing up an account with them (didn’t even need to give them an email) to throwing me the game client to begin the download.

Alas, SWTOR suffers from the same problem as WoW and TSW and frankly, all the humongous MMOs besides the GW franchise, patching takes fucking forever. I don’t get it. I’m staring at it take 100-200kb/s to download 9 gigabytes of some English video, and after that, I still have 12 gb of Main Assets 1 to go. And there’s probably Main Assets 2 and 3 and goodness-knows-how-many more still left.

I download Guild Wars 2 patches at 1 megabyte/sec or more, so it’s not my fibre-optic network slowing things down here.

Why make players wait to play your game? Get them in-game as fast as possible to be hooked. Stream other stuff later if you need to.

Case in point, the last time I tried World of Warcraft during Cataclysm, they did exactly that. Just cross the minimum download requirements, and you’re in, you can get the other non-essential stuff later. Guild Wars 1, just download the areas you’re about to see. Guild Wars 2, no queues, just overflow servers to get players playing the game first.

Anyhow, zeroth impressions rant aside, I’m aware that I won’t have the patience to try all eight classes offered by SWTOR. I might play one or two.

So my question for those who have played SWTOR, is which class(es) and storyline would you recommend for me?

Background: I have a preference of melee over ranged, though I enjoy back-and-forth flexibility. I need a class that can solo well. I gravitate towards and enjoy flipping between tanking and doing damage, though I tend to enjoy tanking very much less if I /need/ a pocket healer to keep me upright. I don’t mind rogue stealth or pure dps, but tend to twitch very uncomfortably playing pure healers.

And I’d like to experience some of the better-written (in general opinion) storylines and companions. In D&D terms, my heroes tend to lean towards a neutral good alignment playstyle – following the law is nice, but doing the right thing is better. I’m also very open to playing evil and badass and monster types, with preferably shades of grey, not so much black-and-white I-am-uber-Jedi-Knight-of-Light or ultimate-Dark-Sith-Lord type of deal.

Thoughts?

Judging by the size of the red bar, it’s going to take DAYS to finish the download, even if I leave the computer on, so feel free to weigh in for a week or so.

GW2: Living the Living Story

I remember the first day I logged in to the Living Story. It was all rushrushrush.

Read mail. Check Achievements bar, aha, 75 event-related things to do!

Teleport to hometown, chat up the heralds, get pointed to the two zones in question.

Quick teleport to Diessa Plateau, run about, see a star on the map, find a Memento Collector. Find a sign post. Fix it. Screenshot it for later decoding. (Still haven’t gotten round to it. Prolly says something like Safety or Refuge, maybe.)

Run about along all the roads, following the signpost trail like breadcrumbs, see refugees, help refugees, see refugees get slaughtered by mobs under the aegis of insistent players begging others not to kill the mobs so they could keep reviving the NPCs for the ‘chievo.

Give up with mapchat and swap zones to Wayfarer Foothills to pretty much do the same thing – Hansel and Gretel across the snow, doing both rupture and non-related dynamic events along the way and scavenging mementos off fallen Norn like a hungry vulture.

Hit the 75 mark, admire shiny title (which I don’t wear since I prefer the GW1 HoM ones,) decide I’d seen the majority of the prelude event (Flame rupture, check. Frost rupture, check. Refugees, check) and log out for the day.

Content locust, much?

That’s how MMOs have trained us, no?

Sometimes, less is more.

Perhaps it only works for a certain type of player, but the slower-paced nature of this “event” has allowed me to rein back the Achiever and let the Explorer out to play.

I’ve been happy to take my time and amble around enjoying the scenery, content to let further discoveries happen at a more organic pace.

The next day, while wandering around Diessa Plateau at a more sedate speed to see if anything had changed, it struck me that there seemed to be a lot more obscuring dust and fog effects than I remembered seeing before.

duststorm

Memory is a tricky beast, and for all I know, they could have been there since game launch. I could have sworn the cratered devastation where the Blood Legion wanders around wasn’t that foggy when I was doing the heart there. I would have been really grumpy trying to find stuff to pick up and separatists to fight through that kind of sandstorm.

Who would know, without screenshots? I failed to take any relevant ones earlier, so I can’t check back.

I’d prefer to think of the dust and fog as related to the ruptures though. It makes for a good story.

The next two days I spent in Orr on the grand screenshot project and didn’t check in on the two zones. I did however stumble across the Refugee Coordinator in the Black Citadel that I had previously missed and talk to him, learning about possible Flame Legion involvement.

Today, I wandered back into Diessa Plateau to check on things again.

I had the fortune to witness an entire roleplaying warband – some eight to ten odd members – slow marching their way out of the Black Citadel and headed to the town of Nolan on some business of their own.

At the same time, a Living Story dynamic event had started, so non-roleplayers (or the simply non-involved) were also kept busy fighting off earth elementals and sealing ruptures.

rupturewarband

The Charr warband is on the road in the background.

Somehow, the conjunction of the two incidents helped me to immerse a lot more into GW2 as a world, instead of seeing it as a bunch of maps with a metagame overlay of orange swords and shields and circles.

Ambling further on my way to check out the north side of Diessa Plateau for any possible hints of refugees/source of troubles – Dredge and Flame Legion both, I caught sight of something incongruous through the trees.

frostrupture

Is it? Could it be?

Surely, those mountains were not steaming when I was last here as a lowbie.

prollynew

Closer inspection suggested, yes, these are probably new and related to the Living Story. They looked rather like the same steam vents that pop up in the rupture events – with the kind of less textured detail one might expect from something quickly modeled for a temporary event, rather than permanent environmental background.

The dredge certainly seem to be brewing up something under that mountain…

I spotted no change in the dredge area of northwest Diessa yet, though I wisely took a few screenshots to record memories now, to potentially check later.

Meandering further along, near the skillpoint with the scorpions… Could it be, what is this I see?

morevents

More vents? More steam? They probably weren’t there before.

I sidetreked to the lake to finish up the aquatic combat part of the daily, then noticed that the Font of Rhand was open and there seemed to be a few people inside.

On a whim, I waypointed over to the Incendio Templum and headed through the gate. It’s been a long time since I was last there – beta and launch – and I loved both my forays into the Font mini-dungeon.

rhandgate

It was rather sadly obvious how newer players differ from those in beta. (During launch, one guy led the way with me as a backup to go get the statue’s sword and the rest following blindly.)

I’m not the kind of player to spoil secrets by immediately spilling the beans, so at first I held back from solving anything to give the others time to run around and explore. (It was also useful for me to see which exactly gates started out closed and what triggered each.)

It turned out that what they did was leave everything alone and run back and forth from closed chamber on the left to underwater chamber on the right and stare in perplexity at the un-pullable chain and the rock gate blocking the way to the next room that they knew they had to get into. One or two guys vanished, presumably given up or decided they’d seen everything.

Sighing to myself, I decided to trigger the first step before I ran out of fellow compatriots. (Spoilers to the Font of Rhand follow in story form.)

I headed back to the three old statues in the first room and attacked them to get the statue head. One other guy joined me.

As I picked up the head to bring to the mortar in the closed chamber on the left side, he dashed off and left before seeing what I did.

At the time, I -presumed- he knew, like me, what to do and had left me to go do it.

Which I did, stuffing the head in the mortar and letting it fire to bring down the ceiling, and ventured back to the underwater chamber on the right side – whose chain could now be pulled and the rock door busted down.

Two or three others had already swum into the corridor with the fire breathing heads and past into the chamber with even more fire-breathing heads.

They were swimming around and opening caskets in a frenzy, so again I presumed one of them knew what to do and left to go get the statue’s sword – the last key needed.

(Which, by the way, is in a side corridor down from the room with the three old statues. Kill the Flame Legion veteran, which opens the door behind him, and climb the pillars to reach and jump towards and pull the chain – which releases the statue’s sword buried in the rock below.)

I’ve always gone to fetch the statue’s sword, so I’ve always been just a mite fuzzy on what exactly to do in the room with the fire-breathing heads and the icy torches. Usually by this time, most of the heads are out and one guy is yelling at the others to get their act together and get the last few done.

To my immense bemusement, the other three players are -still- swimming around aimlessly and randomly firing at all the enemies that popped out of the caskets. All heads are still breathing fire.

Guess this was a perfect opportunity for me to figure out the exact secret of this room.

Not wanting to be like a drill sergeant, I left the others be and touched an icy torch for the hell of it. Immediately, I was surrounded by an aura of ice. Reading the tooltip that popped up for the aura, it said something like “reflect projectiles off bubbles and turns them to ice, creates icy aura of rejuvenation.”

Well, okay. Seemed clear enough.

I opened a few caskets, got a bubble to pop, switched to my trident which is a long range projectile and reflected it off the bubble (which is also conveniently described as “reflects missiles.”)

Immediately large, vivid icy snowflake effects shot up around the bubble and me. Nothing happened to the head yet though, but I wasn’t anywhere near it.

Sure enough, the moment I got in front of the head and got the icy aura near it, and then swam away, the head stopped breathed fire.

Well, there you go.

I wordlessly demonstrated by doing, six heads, willing the players around me to catch on and actually learn by example and observation.

Instead, one player vanished, another continued swimming around aimlessly and the last, hooray, the last actually touched an icy torch and was surrounded by the icy aura. But promptly couldn’t figure out what the heck one was supposed to do with it.

Seeing that a few of the heads I put out were firing again, and fearing I was going to run out of comrades before getting to the boss at the end, I spoke up and described exactly what to do.

“Touch the icy torches to get the aura. Use projectiles and reflect them off the bubbles to put out all the heads.”

I neglected the swim near the heads part, but I figured I had to leave -something- for them to figure out, right?

In the end, I think one of them got the idea, and between the two of us, we got all the heads put out and the gate slid open. As we swam in, someone asked, “Anyone know what to do after this?”

Ah, a straight question. I reply to straight questions. “Yes,” I said, “We need the statue’s sword. I put it down and lost track of it. Anyone picked it up?”

Silence.

One look at their player models said no, they were carrying their speargun harpoon gun thingmajigs. I had to keep swapping between the statue’s sword and the trident to ice the heads, so it was no wonder that eventually my luck would run out and the sword would disappear and respawn.

“Oh, okay, I’ll go back and get it,” I said. “Can someone hang around here and open the gate for me please?”

“k” was the one letter reply.

Retracing steps through all the above took a while, dragging angry red mobs behind me while I was in flimsy magic find gear, especially when I kept missing my jumps because I was in a hurry and the veteran respawned on me.

“Blazebane went to get the sword,” was what I overhead him say to the other.

A minute after that, I was hauling the sword back through all the stuff, apologizing for the delay to find only that one guy who had stayed to pull the chain and open the gate for me.

Where’s the other guy, I asked.

Silent shrug. Went out and left, apparently.

Sheesh.

Just the two of us? Against the Champion Rhendak the Crazed?

I remembered the crazy six to eight man fights where he’d go after us like a shark and get stuck in the ceiling swimming around, while the water boiled all around us and people got toasted alive by the fire breathing dragon heads at the bottom. On the bright side, he dropped a chest per player that downed him.

Well, this would be interesting.

My principles about spoilers don’t apply in cases of immediate self-preservation, and this was one of those times. “Ok,” I said, “Swim out to the outer chamber for revives. When he throws a fireball at you, dodge because the water will boil around you very shortly. And try to keep near the top because of the fire-breathing heads below. Let’s give this a shot.”

Turns out Rhendak has had some changes made to his encounter. (Or the tweaks happen automatically when fewer players are in play, but probably the former.)

For one thing, there were no fire breathing heads, for which I was very thankful, because it gave more room to dodge and maneuver.

He also used to spawn like a trap when someone opened the grand-looking chest – but this time, he was just there already.

I had quickly gotten out of my yellow power/precision magic find gear and swapped into my P/T/V exotics for better survivability. This had the amazing side effect of turning me into the main tank. Barely any fireballs went after the other guy. Hooray for highest toughness aggro mechanics.

It was an epic dodge battle of ranged tanking.

boss

I slipped up once and had to bail out to the outer chamber to bandage heal up, and the other guy followed me – either to revive me or he didn’t want to tank it – which led to Rhendak leashing and regaining all his hp.

Following which, I decided to stop obsessing about doing damage and focus my best on swimming out of the way, dodging when necessary, and self-healing what I didn’t manage to move out of range in time. Basically surviving or heal-tanking, though it was more dodge-self-supporting.

That left the other guy free to unload on Rhendak.

And we downed him. Just the two of us.

Alas, he only dropped one chest (of blue loot), not the chest per player that I remember from way back when. The grandiose chest behind him though, contained some zone level-appropriate loot, instead of being the trap it used to be.

All in all, still fun. I am fond of the Font of Rhand.

That was a satisfactory cap to the day’s daily. Tomorrow, further ambling about the Wayfarer Foothills.

P.S. I am aware that much of the stuff I discovered over the course of several days probably all arrived at the same time in the one big update. That’s my point, that more time between each event change allows for a more organic process of discovery, if players can get used to this new style of “event.”

I need a better word. Event brings to mind something momentous and earthshaking over the course of a few days, which the Living Story isn’t. Yet.

Occurrence? Incident? Happening?

GW2: The City in the Sea – Verse 4 (and Final)

But lo,

039a - But Lo

a stir is in the air!

039b - Stir in the Air
The wave — there is a movement there!

040 - Wave Movement
As if the towers

041a - As If Towers

had thrust aside,

041b - Thrust Aside
In slightly sinking, the dull tide —

042 - Dull Tide
As if their tops had feebly given

043 - Their Tops Feebly Given
A void within

044a - A Void

the filmy Heaven.

044b - Filmy Heaven
The waves have now

045a - The Waves Have Now

a redder glow —

045b - A Redder Glow
The hours are breathing faint and low —

046 -Hours Breathing
And when, amid no earthly moans,

047 - No Earthly Moans
Down, down that town shall settle hence,

048 - Down Down
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,

049 -Hell Rising
Shall do it reverence.

050 -Reverence

— The City in the Sea, Fourth and Last Stanza

Edgar Allan Poe

Because Orr is Orr-some.

And Poe is da Poe-t.

P.S. If you’re reading this in a reader which doesn’t show the Featured Image of each post, do check them out if you liked what you saw. Those were my last four chances to put in what looked great to me but didn’t quite fit the poem.

GW2: The City in the Sea – Verse 3

There open fanes and gaping graves

027 - There Open Fanes and Gaping Graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;

028 - Yawn Level With the Luminous
But not the riches there that lie

029 - But Not Riches There That Lie
In each idol’s diamond eye —

030 - In Each Idols
Not the gaily-jeweled dead

031 - Not the Gaily Jeweled Dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;

032 - Tempt The Waters
For no ripples curl, alas!

033 - For No Ripples Curl
Along that wilderness of glass —

034 - Along Wilderness of Glass
No swellings tell that winds may be

035 - No Swellings Tell
Upon some far-off happier sea —

036 - Far Off Happier Sea
No heavings hint that winds have been

037 - No Heavings Hint
On seas less hideously serene.

038 - Hideously Serene

— The City in the Sea, Third Stanza

Edgar Allan Poe

GW2: The City in the Sea – Verse 2

No rays from the holy heaven come down

012 - No Rays From Heaven
On the long night-time of that town;

013 - Long Night Time Of That Town
But light from out the lurid sea

014 - Light From Out The Lurid Sea
Streams up the turrets silently —

015 - Streams Up Turrets
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free —

016 - Gleams Up Pinnacles
Up domes —

017a - Up Domes

up spires —

017b - Up Spires

up kingly halls —

017c - Up Kingly Halls
Up fanes —

018a - Up Fanes

up Babylon-like walls —

018b - Up Babylon-Like Walls

Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers

019 - Shadowy Long Forgotten Bowers
Of sculptured ivy

020a - Of Sculptured Ivy

and stone flowers —

020b - Stone Flowers
Up many and many a marvelous shrine

021 - Marvellous Shrine
Whose wreathéd friezes intertwine

022 - Wreathed Friezes Intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.

022.5 - The Viol The Violet
So blend the turrets and shadows there

023 - So Blend The Turrets
That all seem pendulous in the air,

024 - Pendulous In the Air
While from a proud tower in the town

025 - Proud Tower In The Town
Death looks gigantically down.

026 - Death Looks Gigantically

— The City in the Sea, Second Stanza

Edgar Allan Poe

This one’s for Syl, cos she loves this stuff. Sorry it took this long to do another.

I was waiting to make sure I didn’t spoil Orr for slower levelers. Really! Honest!

*hem*

Verse 3 and 4 tomorrow. Y’all must be pictured out by now.