Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wow ...

.. and no, this isn't related to World of Warcraft.  Apparently, two weeks ago (5/16) marked my one year anniversary of launching Imperial Intelligence.  83 posts (this will make 84), 5033 views, and 379 days later ... well, Imperial Intelligence is still going strong.

My original idea for this blog was a one-stop shop for all things Agent-y, but I quickly realized that was ... well, it was boring.  Instead, I morphed rather quickly into a general TOR blog with an Agent flavor; Assignments, Snap Shots, the opening bits of my posts featuring the Cipher and Kaliyo (or Temple), etc.

So, here's some interesting stats*!

*IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE DOES NOT GUARANTEE THAT THE FOLLOWING STATISTICS ARE EITHER INTERESTING OR EXCITING.  PLEASE USE CAUTION.

Njessi drives the most traffic to my site (355 referrals).  I should send her a cake.  Shintar (151 referrals) is a close second.  I should send her a cookie.

The most popular Google search that leads to me is: Imperial Sniper Rotation (11).  I should do more of that.

My Mass Effect 3 post is by far my most popular (398 views).  My Server Types and You! post is second (135 views).

My least popular post is my Twelfth Assignment (5 views).  After reading it again, I understand why.  Yikes.

I've accumulatd 66 comments, mostly from authors on my blogroll (which I appreciate).  I write for me, mostly, but also for the blog authors I've come to like and respect.  Even warlocks, I guess.

All in all, a pretty good year.  To be honest, 5000 views isn't probably a whole hell of a lot compared to many of the folks on my blogroll, but to me it's impressive.  I only expected a few guildmates and a few friends to even be remotely interested in this ... to see some of my posts get 50+ views is a thrill for me.

So, I'll be right back ... crafting some more Mass Effect posts to cheese some hits!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Diablo? Hell No.

So, I will never play Diablo 3.  Oh, that's a rather defining sentence ... let me amend that.  I am not currently playing and have no future plans to play Diablo 3.  I am sure it is a fantastic game, but I am very much opposed to some of things (ie, money grabs) that Blizzard decided to go with for D3, aka the digital slot machine.

First and foremost, there is the real money auction house.  "Oh, but Targeter, you daft little Chiss, you don't NEED to participate in that!" you exclaim, spittle flying from your mouths.  No, I do not need to participate in it.  But I find myself reeling in horror at the implication of it.  This is dangerous ground, people.  Some folks are crowing that the RMAH will bring new types of gameplay ... all it will bring is ruin to your wallet.  Blizzard will be taking fees out of every sale.  Originally, they planned to have fees for even posting an item!  This made it too much like gambling for many, and so they removed it to avoid legal problems.  South Korea held up publication of D3 due to RMAH concerns.  As of right now, the RMAH system still isn't implemented.  And of course, the RMAH system, while scary, isn't the most infuriating part.  Blizzard has also added a 'gold-only' auction house for those of you who don't want to participate in RMAH.  Hey, good move, right?  WRONG.  The RMAH will allow the sale of gold.

Yep, you heard that right.  Blizzard, who for years was against the very IDEA of gold-selling, is now going to promote it.  And profit handsomely from it.

"Okay, so what does that have to do with the gold auction house?" you stammer.  The sale of gold on the RMAH assigns value to the currency used in the other auction house.  That means that the gold auction house will be inflated to match the dollar standard set for gold.  This is bad.  I predict staggering inflation on the gold auction house; the gold earned there will then be sold on the RMAH.  See the dark road that leads down?

The second reason I won't be playing Diablo 3 is the always online DRM and other inanity.  So, here's a riddle; what has multiplayer, requires an internet connection, and streams all of the character assets from a server?  If you answered World of Warcraft, you'd be correct.  If you answered Diablo 3, you'd also be correct.  Did you know that when Blizzard decides to shut down the Diablo 3 servers, you will no longer be able to play the game?  You are done.  Kaput.  Do not pass go, do not collect 200 gold coins (which you would then sell on the RMAH).  In 15 years, you won't be able to rummage through your old disc box, pull out Diablo 3, and show your son/daughter the game you lost so much of your free time to.  It won't work.  The server will be gone and all your hard work and characters will be forever wiped.  I've heard some jackasses claim that 'Diablo 3 isn't a singleplayer!'  Then why is it the first option on the screen?  Why allow a singleplayer campaign if you designed it to be multiplayer?  It's just infuriating.  It breaks from the tradition of Diablo and moves it closer to an MMO instead of a hack n' slash dungeon crawler.  Why can't I play the way I want?  Why can't I choose offline only?  "But Targeter!  They do the online DRM to protect your account!"  If you honestly believe that, please raise your right hand and slap the shit out of your face.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Did it?  Good.  Don't be stupid.  Exhibit A; yeah, that's working out really fucking well isn't it?  Secondly, the always online DRM is designed to ensure the integrity of your account ... so you can use the RMAH.  They want you to use it.  They want you to use it so goddamn desperately that it's almost comical.  I wonder if they'll start buffing drop rates of gear right before a financial quarter closes?  It'll be interesting to chart.  And beyond all that, since it's a server-based game let's not forget the server downtimes!  Nothing better than 1) logging on to play a singleplayer game, 2) discovering that it's maintenance day so you can't play your singleplayer game!  Huzzah!

The third reason, and this is really more of a personal reason, is that the Diablo franchise just isn't all that exciting to me.  Lots of gothic architecture, blood, gore, and demons.  It's dark, grimy, and morose.  That was cool in the 90s, but for me right now it just won't fly.  Maybe I've moved on from that type of game.

Oh wait, I haven't.  Because I'll be playing the ever-lovin' SHIT out of Torchlight 2.  You know why?  Well, the guys who made Diablo 1 and 2 (who, by the by, left Blizzard and formed Runic Games) make Torchlight.  TL2 has online multiplayer.  TL2 has LAN.  TL2 has offline singleplayer.  TL2 lets me play the way I want to play, when I want to play.

TL;DR - D3 is a money grabbing whore that is getting a lot of love right now and spreading herpes while robbing you blind.

Look, I'm really glad a lot of you are playing D3 and enjoying the hell out of it.  I'm sure it's fun.  But I will probably never know because the very idea of that game fills me with fury.  Have fun in Sanctuary, and when those same design systems make their way to your favorite MMO, I'll laugh and cry at the same time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oh Tobold ...

... you are such a fucking troll.

I feel bad for the dudes and dudettes at 38 Studios; I've seen upper management completely wreck sites and companies.  And I know there's very little difference between the assembly line worker for a doomed auto manufacturer and a developer who is told to create game assets in a certain way.  Upper management can create success through wise decisions and bold risks, or they can destroy hope through terrible missteps and willful blindness.

Still, Tobold trolling his readerbase for hits is nothing new.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Your Forty-Eighth Assignment: New Servers?

Pack up, Kaliyo.  We're moving.

Where to agent?

I can't divulge that yet, Kaliyo.  Operational security and all.

Oh piss off, agent.


Lock and load, agents!  Some ... well ... strange news today.  Server merges may be coming, but not in the way you're thinking ...

So I was perusing Massively today and saw this.  Interesting, to say the least!  So I pulled up the source article with Lead Designer (who thankfully is still attached to the project!) and saw this little quote:


PCG: Will they be cross-server at launch? Is that planned for the future?

DE: They will not be cross-server as we are coming up on a huge move to servers with massively higher population caps than we have today.

Massively higher population caps than we have today, hmm?  Oh realllllly?  Are we maybe staring down the barrel of mega-servers?  And is this a good thing?  Let's explore the ramifications.

So, the elephant in the room regarding SWTOR is the population density on most of the servers.  It's pretty low.  Last night I was on Shien at 8:45pm EDT and the Imperial Fleet was at 51.  Now, that sounds low ... and frankly it is compared to where we were two months ago ... but it's improved by quite a bit since last week.  The fact that 51 folks on is an 'improvement' is not a good thing, and BioWare knows this.  They've been talking about server transfers, both free and paid, for a while now.  And I always assumed it'd work just like WoW or Rift ... get a free transfer to another server and call that place home from now on.  But, is this what BioWare intends?

I just checked the server list (at 1:15pm EDT) and my server is light.  As are the other 8 RP-PVE servers in SWTOR.  As are every other North American server not named The Fatman and Jedi Covenant.  And then I checked myself ... holy shit, do we REALLY need 9 RP servers?  And that doesn't even count the 3 RP-PVP servers!  Do we really, really need 12 RP servers total for a game with only 1.3 million subscriptions right now?

This talk of a move to huge servers comes at the right time.  The perfect time.  Look, it's going to get bad press no matter which way you spin it (and believe me, this is spin) so why not actually fix the problem while you're at it?  Combine servers into megaservers and let us play with a metric crap-ton of folks!

Here's how I think it will break out.  We'll have our home servers basically 'merged' with other servers.  Although you will still hail from your server (Shien for me), you will be able to see and play with other folks from your server group.  The reason you will still hail from your 'home' server is so that Legacy and character names can remain unique.  Trying to sort out whose Legacy name gets to stay and whose has to be changed would be an epic clusterfuck of monumental proportions!  So by retaining original home names, they avoid all that.  That being said, I'll never underestimate BioWare's ability to completely fuck shit up, so be prepared for the great QQ storm of 2012 if it happens.

Now the LFG tool is a rather different animal.  Will it pull from your 'home' server or will it pull from your megaserver group?  How many servers are being merged into each megaserver?  What's the timeframe on this type of move?  End of summer?  End of year?  How much notice will we get?  Are they going to completely eliminate some servers altogether?

BioWare, as is their wont, provides us with a nugget of information wrapped in a hundred layers of vague posturing.  Please, guys, we've been loyal.  Just tell us what's going on, what to expect, and when to expect it.  I think we, the few who have decided to stick by you guys, deserve at least that.

Fly safe, shoot straight!  For the glory of the Empire!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Farewell Rockjaw

Just as my game experience is taking an upward tick, I have to report sad news.  The interwebs is reporting that Bioware is laying folks off ... normally, this isn't a big deal for a newer MMO.  The old dev team is done and you thin the herd so you can streamline costs and still provide content.  But apparently the names being laid off are pretty big ... and this concerns me greatly.  The Doctors even made a post about it on the official forums.

Stephen Reid, Community Manager (also known as Rockjaw on Twitter) and the CM since November 2010, is apparently one of the casualties.  There are fears that Georg Zoeller, Lead Combat Designer, and Gabe Amatangelo, Lead PVP Designer, have also been fired.  Daniel Erickson, who was Lead Writer and was promoted to Lead Game Designer, may be on the chopping block as well.

If it turns out that most of the leadership at TOR is being let go, it can only be called an utter condemnation of the state of affairs right now in the game.  Bioware (and EA) have to answer to stockholders, and let's be real honest folks ... TOR has underperformed when you consider the unrealistic expectations that were set for it.  The stockholders wanted a real WoW-killer and what they got was a 1.5 to 2 million player game that's utterly fantastic.  But, unrealistic expectations or not, the hammer is falling on Bioware this time and it looks it's going to hurt.  It already does.

Farewell, Rockjaw.  You were fucking awesome.

Your Forty-Seventh Assignment: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Cipher, why are you smiling?

No reason, Kaliyo.  No reason at all.

Why is it that I don't believe you, agent?

I think things will be ok, Kaliyo.

Cipher ... you are a wuss.


Lock and load, agents!  Good news to report ... population on Shien seems to be performing a mild upswing.  Diablo fever is running its course and the Imperial Travel Bureau is now stepping down from alert.  Combine this with new information about patch 1.3 courtesy of IGN and overall it's been a good couple of days for TOR players.  The new trailer shows lots of interesting things; the new group finder tool (which features operations!), adaptive gear that changes to the correct armor type for characters, new Legacy character perks which can speed up XP gains, give you speeders at low levels and are only unlocked for one character at a time (but at a greatly reduced price compared to other Legacy unlocks), and of course ... the most important feature.

SITTING ON CHAIRS.  BEHOLD.

But in all seriousness, 1.3 looks to be a pretty hefty patch that implements some sorely needed game systems but is relatively light on content.  Unfortunately, still no word on ranked warzones and cross-server pvp, both of which are hotly anticipated by the community.  I'm positive this will ensure that the official forums are a constructive, healthy place to be.  /sarcasm

On a personal note, I've had 'the talk' with my guild.  We're shutting down operations until 1.3 drops and afterwards we'll reevaluate where we stand on the server.  We've contemplated a move to Ebon Hawk or The Harbinger if Shien is given free server transfers.  If not, I'm sure we'll have an influx of new players from lower pop servers will help fill our ranks.  All in all, I'm pretty hopeful that things will turn out.  There's light at the end of the tunnel and I'm pretty sure it's not a Corellian rocket train.

I think.

Fly safe, shoot straight!  For the glory of the Empire!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Your Forty-Sixth Assignment: Dried Up

It's a ghost town, cipher.

Where did everyone go, Kaliyo?


I don't know, agent, but I don't like it.


It's too quiet.  Guns out.


Lock and load, agents!  Well, at least those of you who are left.  Before this week, I was disinclined to hear the naysaying that 'servers were dead' and 'no one is on!'  I thought to myself, "What poppycock!  Surely there may be some servers who are a little lighter than others but the merest idea that people have left the game in droves?  Unthinkable, I say!" all the while adjusting my monocle and dusting my top hat.

But this week, the absolute truth has hit Shien like the goddamn hammer of the heavens.  Folks, I hate to say this ... but yeah.  They're right.  It's a damn ghost town.  I was on Tuesday night, operation re-set day and our standard weekday raid.  We start at 8pm Eastern.  There were a grand total of 5 people on guild, including me.  The Imperial Fleet housed only 23 souls (although that number would balloon to a whopping 34 half an hour later!) and there was absolutely zero interest in PUGing.

I am now legitimately afraid for the health of this game.

We can't muster enough folks to raid.  Our main tank may be leaving the game and going back to WoW because of PVP imbalance.  My officers are off playing Tera or Rift or Diablo 3.  I knew times would be lean when new games came out, especially D3 as there are more than a few Diablo fans in my guild.  And maybe I'm paying the price for my laissez faire attitude to guild management; for the most part I left the guild to its own devices and didn't pester them too much.  I valued their time and made sure they knew that they could spend it anywhere; S&V would always be open for business.  Heck, even I wandered off to play 360 or go outside occasionally - I logged in only 2-3 times a week.  Maybe my attendance and attitude has driven S&V to this sorry state.  I can't be sure but I sure feel guilty.

I think the course for us is clear; we may suspend raiding, we may switch to the Republic side (which is about twice as active), but I think S&V will always exist in some form or fashion.  We may have to mothball it for a while, but Targeter will live on.  He may just not be used for a while.

Either way, things are looking grim.  So, I turn to you fellow GMs and bloggers ... what can we do?  What can we do to preserve our guilds in the face of these trying times?  We've got Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria coming soon as well ... can the Scummers, can your guild, can any guild survive that?  What are your plans?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Your Week in Rage: What WoW Has Become

I've only done one "Your Week in Rage" before, dedicating the entire post to bashing on douchenozzles that like to bag on stuff because it's cool.  Well, today I'm going to go off the handle again.

So, this weekend I did what I swore I'd never do.  I played WoW.

*insert dramatic music*

One of my TOR guildmates still actively plays WoW.  We were chit-chatting this weekend and he mentioned that he was a mount collector (an activity I thoroughly enjoyed in WoW as well).  He mentioned that he never got the Scroll of Resurrection mount and I said, rather innocently, "Toss me one and we'll see if we can get it."  Unfortunately for him, it requires 30 days of playtime to be bought before the mount can be awarded.  That shit simply won't happen.  Not now.  Because I've never hated WoW more than I do right now.

I'll have to be honest; I was a tad excited to be logging back into the game again.  TOR's sort of hit a lull for me lately - we've cleared Karagga's Palace and Eternity Vault and we're getting ready for hardmodes and Denova, my alts have sort of ground to a halt, and we've had the past week off of raiding (Mother's Day, RL stuff, etc).  I felt it was a good time for a quick change of pace.  A vacation of sorts, a merry jaunt in days of yore.

What I got was a barren game world devoid of communication, a world far more dead than TOR-haters claim our game to be.  It was a desolate wasteland with no activity.  What few characters that were there were waiting in some LFG queue for a dungeon or battleground or raid.  General chat was completely silent.  So was Trade.

That's right, even TRADE.  In a capital city!  To be fair, I was over on the Horde.  Our old server (Blackwater Raiders - RP) was never a bustling hub of activity with PUG raids going off every 10 minutes (well, actually it was in Wrath of the Lich King).  I didn't expect to see hundreds of people chatting it up, hanging out, doing stuff.  But I definitely did not expect the ten characters I *did* see to be standing in place and occasionally vanishing.  'Screw this,' I thought to myself and jumped over on the Alliance.

It was even worse.  The Dwarven District of Stormwind was fairly active, as was the main trade section.  General chat was dead, as was Trade.  In fact, I even typed in "/1 So is anyone doing anything for fun?  Old raids, RP, anything like that?"  The only response I got was from some druid next to me who pointed and laughed.  This went on for two hours.  I eventually hooked up Horde-side with some old guildmates of mine and we ran a 5-person Ulduar run for transmog purposes (which is a stinkin' cool system, fyi).  And to be doubly fair, the MoP beta is going on right now and it's the end-of-expansion blues ... these all contribute.  But I've been through the expansion blues and I don't ever remember the server being that devoid of life ... of communication.  It was ridiculous.

It just further cemented my opinion of the game.  It has gone from a social game to a lobby game.  If you stand in place and wait in a queue all day, you are playing a lobby game.  Sorry, but them's the facts.  I don't mind a PVP queue.  I don't even mind an instance queue (if done properly).  But a raid queue?  Really?  Really.

Welp, this weekend just solidified things for me.  The WoW that I loved to play is dead and gone.  And it ain't never comin' back. 

Snap Shot: Dreams

I make them come true.  Sometimes I feel like John the Baptist for the Agent class.  Then I remember that my Ambush and Snipe are way better than John's.  Seriously, I wish more people would just take my advice and roll a stinkin' Agent.  We can all agree that the storyline is the best in the game and then move on to cookies and tea to discuss where to place Orbital Strike in your rotation.

Bam.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Your Fourty-Fifth Assignment: Reload

Two more coming, cipher.

I see them.  *fwip fwip*  Handled.  I'm out of ammo. 
Hand me another power pack.

They keep coming.  Will they ever give up?

No, Kaliyo.  You can't argue with people who won't listen to reason.  I'll just keep shooting.


Lock and load, agents!  So this week was rough.  Naysayers were out in full force, proclaiming the end of TOR and laughing maniacally.  They lined up Guild Wars 2 as the 'real' WoW-killer and crowed about how it will 'change the game.'  People saw a 23% decline in subscribers and rang the death bell for a galaxy far, far away.  Some were even joyous about it.  I don't really mind the intelligent conversation about what is happening, what can be done, and what BioWare can do to stem the tide and grow the playerbase.  What I do mind is the "my game vs your game" mentality that permeates the continental webbernets.  It just irks me.  It's why I try to stay away from bashing Warcraft; it's just not conducive to good conversation.  Do I blather on and on about how poorly designed WoW's quests are?  How low-poly their zones are?  How they constantly re-use models with different paint?  How the raid design is insipid and uninspired?  How character models are butt-ugly?  How the micro-transaction store is a pure cash grab?  Do I go on and on about that?  Nah, it's not healthy to bag on a game that so many people enjoy.  So it always mystifies me to see others so gleefully bash a game they profess to hate, yet obsess over with a zealous passion.  Oh well.

FYI, I totally just bashed WoW.  I r hypocrite!

So, now that the 23% is out in the open, what's BioWare to do?  They clearly have a hill to climb this financial quarter, and it's already half over.  It's not Kilimanjaro, but neither is it a gentle slope.  So what can we expect to see from the boys and gals in Austin to keep our beloved game afloat?

  • GROUP FINDER - This is the most obvious change.  A group finder, which I was initially against, is probably the one option that will be coming quickly to TOR.  It will simply provide more options to players to experience content which has been a sticking point for a large portion of the playerbase.  Heck, I've never done False Emperor, Kaon, Lost Island, on regular or hardmode simply for the inability to find a group.
  • CROSS-REALM PVP -  This has been a pain point for PVPers for a long time, and I sort of agree. Queue times on Shien are pretty decent on both sides, but we're one of the more populated RP realms.  The barren ghost towns have queue times ranging in the hours; that's just not acceptable.
  • GOOD NEWS! - The first two points are being addressed either before 1.3 or during 1.3, so these problems will be alleviated soon.  Not soon enough for some folks.
  • MORE SOCIAL REWARDS - And this point is nebulous; I don't mean actual gear or items.  I mean the reward of the social experience you have in the game.  The Rakghoul Plague was a fantastic step in the right direction.  I expect to see more of these in the future as it really excited the playerbase.  I also love how it was just dropped on us with no warning, like a real outbreak.  Fantastic stuff.  I'd love to see social events geared around the war, perhaps a PVP event held on a contested world like Corellia, Alderaan, or Taris that rewards open-world PVP kills.
  •  SERVER TRANSFERS - Earlier, I was speaking of ghost towns and this fix would tie directly into it.  BioWare has stated that both paid and free transfers would be coming.  This will greatly alleviate the empty feeling some servers are having.  I expect to see some servers get decommissioned and turned into "New Player" servers while the current populace of the server is shipped off for free to other low-population shards.  The RIFT model of pretty regular free transfers may not work here, as that system promotes shard hopping to an almost ridiculous degree.  We want stable servers, not nomadic flavor-of-the-month groups wandering from server to server.
  • ENDGAME CONTENT - This seems to be a hot-button issue for some players.  I'm less affected by it than others as my guild has only been in the raiding scene for 3 months (and gone through both EV and KP, now on to Denova).  Endgame content doesn't have to mean operations, either.  More warzones, flashpoints, and even another pass at Ilum would be good.  More collectibles wouldn't be bad either.  Or perhaps more emphasis on the datacrons?   Pet collecting wouldn't be bad either.  Speeder costs prohibit casual collection of vehicles, but if the prices were lowered ... and of course there's also the Legacy system.
  • LEGACY SYSTEM - The 1.2 changes for Legacy were impressive and sweeping in scope, but I can't help but feel that they've held out on us.  1.3 should expand the Legacy system even more with cool goodies.  Here's the problem ... the costs excludes many players.  I understand the idea of a credit sink to keep the economies of the server from being completely retarded, but some of these costs are just beyond the reach of the average player.  1.5 million credits for a new race is rather steep ... 600,000 just to get 6 minutes less on my Quick Travel?  The rewards are not commensurate with the prices, which means that these Legacy items will continue to be unused.  Why bother with these if the gratification from the reward is nullified by its insane price?  Hopefully they'll take another look at these soon and adjust to a realistic view of the playerbase.

Fly safe, shoot straight!  For the glory of the Empire!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Your Forty-fourth Assignment: 23%

That looks boring, Cipher.

Yes, Kaliyo, the mundane world of finance can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated.

If by intimidating, you mean duller than a rancor's butt, then yes.

Don't you have something to shoot?  I'm trying to work here.


Lock and load, agents!  Well, today wasn't the best day in the world.  But why, Targeter? you ask innocently.  The 1.2 Legacy patch was a smashing success, as was the Rakghoul event.  Why are you so down?

The EA financial call was held today.  And well, let's just get it out of the way ... TOR subscribers dropped from Q4 to Q1 by 23%.  Gonna let that soak in for a while.  Yeah.  Be prepared for the onslaught of 'TOR IS DED' and 'LOL WOWKILLARZ' from the uneducated.  It's going to be going on for a while ... in fact, I recommend you stay away from the official forums for a while.  Actually, any type of forum.  Period.

Now, if you've been a fan of mine for a while (and honestly, who hasn't) you may remember that I sort of bagged on WoW when they showed a 10% quarter over quarter sustained sub loss.  Now, seeing as how I'm a fair guy (when it comes to financial stuff) I'm going to have to do the same evisceration of TOR.  It's only fair and accurate.  You can't drop 23% of your playerbase quarter over quarter and expect anything else.

So, on today's financial call (which I have yet to listen to all the way through), the sub count was listed at 1.3 million active subscribers as of March 31st, the end of the financial quarter.  That's a 400,000 sub drop from the January call.  Ok, any way you cut it, that's a bad number to display, especially for a new MMO.  That represents a 23% loss of subscribers.  Now, to ease the pain of that tidbit BioWare announced that in Q2 (Q1 for their financial records, but we'll just call it Q2 for us since it's simpler) two new 'content packs' will be available ... Legacy and Allies.  So that means Legacy, obviously, has already arrived (along with the free 30 days of playtime for veteran players).  Allies, ostensibly patch 1.3, should be out shortly, as the financial quarter ends on June 30.  It appears that 1.3 will have the long-anticipated (even by me!) arrival of the Group Finder function as well as some quality of life improvements and possible goodies for guilds.  There's not a lot of concrete info out there on it yet, but I expect some in a few days.

23%.  That's a large number.  So, what caused this?  Why did one out of every four TOR players decide to call it quits?  The answers are probably as varied as the players themselves, but realistically, the bugs and lack of content at 50 probably put off most of them.  I mean, hey, I'm having a metric shit-ton of fun at level 50 and really have since I got there.  I'm raiding, I'm exploring, I'm leveling new characters ... but that's not really for everyone and now BioWare is going to pay the piper for their story-first, plot-driven MMO.

I'm not bashing TOR, guys.  I'm really not.  I personally LOVE the story-telling in this MMO.  I think it's a revolution in how MMOs function; they changed the game in so many ways that it's nearly impossible to count them.  They have truly advanced the genre, but in advancing the genre they have bucked some rather old traditions.  You're no longer able to just level one character and stick with him; TOR expects you, no demands that you level more to experience the whole story.  The MMO is about story and your decisions.  You aren't just a cog in a machine, mindlessly clicking 'Accept' to clear some quests out and get to the next hub in some abysmal, low-poly jungle.

In doing this though, TOR may have put off some of the veteran MMO players.  The race to 50 and then the blitz through content just wasn't as important as the storylines of the classes.  This type of paradigm shift will take some time to gain a foothold and TOR's going to suffer for it.  So for now, yes TOR will be the butt of jokes.  It will be derided, called a 'failure.'  You will be mocked if you openly support it (like I will).  But hold fast; better days are ahead.  TOR was never designed to be the "WoW-killer" and it never called itself that ... but that's the title that folks gave it and the reality is that so far, at least financially, TOR is not living up to expectations.

So, what can be done to slow the decline?  Simple answer, really.  Content.  Lots and lots of content.  Cool things like group finder, more raids, more stuff.  The team in Austin needs to keep an eye on quality control, stamp out the bugs, and push progressive, interesting content.  PVP fixes, new battlegrounds, new operations.  New races, new stuff, just new things all around.  Now isn't the time to hold back; when you are punched in the face and knocked down, do you slink back to your corner and come up with a plan to get back at the bully?  No, you come right back up and swing like a madman because right now, TOR's fighting for relevance.

What's your plan, BioWare?  Swinging for the fences or striking out?  It'll be interesting to watch.

Fly safe, shoot straight, get your chins up, and your fists ready.  For the glory of the mother-fuckin' Empire.

Target Acquired: KARAGGA

Welp, the nefarious types of those well-known, little-loved gang of thieves known as <Scum and Villainy> have killed themselves a rather obese lookin' Hutt.


Yep, that's us Scummers, gettin' down content that is actually fairly relevant.  This is an important step on the road to us becoming 'ubr srs bzns raidarz.'  Nah, fuck that shit.  It was a hell of a lot of fun though!  And I even got a sniper rifle token.  Boom.

OH.

And go watch the Avengers in your local theater.  It won't change your life, but it will knock a few ass-hairs off.