Friday, June 29, 2012

Your Fifty-first Assignment: One Week In

There's definitely a different atmosphere, agent.  You can feel it.

Agreed, Kaliyo.  I guess we're finally getting what we wanted.

Oh, not everything we want, agent.

Would you stop staring at my ass?

Lock and load, agents!  Well, the first week of patch 1.3 (aka, the WUB WUB PATCH cuz I wubs it so much) went off fairly well.  We had two emergency patches (on Wednesday and Friday mornings, plus an extended maintenance on patch day), but this is to be expected for an MMO TOR's size.  BioWare, so far, has been pretty good about releasing stable(ish) patches that don't cause too many problems (we'll conveniently forget all the sound issues, companion problems, and disappearing augments).  All in all, deployment came off decently and there weren't too many problems that caused game-breaking errors or heart-breaking downtime.

DEPLOYMENT GRADE: B-

While the deployment (so far) was merely decent, the content released in this patch couldn't get a more enthusiastic thumbs-up from me if it tried.  Look, we know it was light on story content (and by light, I mean nonexistent) but this was, and was billed as, a systems patch only.  The LFG tool runs perfectly.  It's server-only, which means you can't sit in Fleet all day at low levels and expect your queue to pop incessantly.  It's designed to be turned on while questing and used to see content and get upgrades.  Minor points off for the annoyance of being returned to the fleet when the flashpoint is done, but I can sorta see why they did that.  No, wait, I can't really see that at all.  It disrupts the flow of the game for me, and even though it makes sense that the 'shuttle' would drop you off at the fleet after your mission, especially since most flashpoints require you to interact with the console at the mission departure console, it still is annoying to have my questing mojo interrupted.  One thing they failed to address was the ability for four guildmates to queue together and get the 'random' reward.  I guess they viewed the random reward in terms of a random group rather than completing a random dungeon.  I know, a nitpick, but hey, it matters to me.  Another feature added was the ranked warzone feature ... and this is nice.  The ranked warzone queue also fixed the extremely irritating 'cannot group after a pvp match was done' error.  So nice.  And apparently the 'dual queuing' system employed by the pvp queue is uber nice (being queued for both ranked and normal warzones at the same time; the ranked warzone popping and reserving your spot).  Couple that with the augment changes, new crafting schematics, and the server transfers, and that makes for a pretty hoppin' server community!

FEATURES GRADE: A
Unfortunately, there's no real new content in this patch.  Crafting, game systems, and ranked warzones carry no additional story, but some enterprising forumites have uncovered a possible new world event.  I suspect they'll unleash it on us in the coming weeks to sate our content thirst.  Other than that, there's no real content to speak of.  I'm expecting great things in 1.4 however; HK-51, a new raid (Terror from Beyooooooond!), and other goodies!

CONTENT GRADE: F

Overall, I couldn't really be more pleased with this patch.  It's provided accessibility and convenience features that the game sorely needed (and should have been in since launch).  Combine that with bug fixes, legacy perks, and the promise of a world event and this patch is easily shaping up to be the best of the bunch.  BioWare still has a long way to go, though.  1.3 really brings TOR even with other MMOs out there and nothing more.  These features are a no-brainer for any MMO that's launching, further reinforcing the idea that TOR released 6 months early.  But, that can't be helped now ... TOR's 1.3 patch is a homerun.

OVERALL GRADE: A-

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Your Fiftieth Assignment: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Where've you been, agent?

Out and about.  Why Kaliyo, do you miss me?

Oh please, you should be so lucky.  I've just not seen you around.  Found some new friends?

You could say that; that's them on the holocomm.  Looks like I'm needed.  Be a dear and clean up while I'm away?

Don't make me shoot you, Cipher.

Lock and load, agents!  Well, today is the big day ... Patch 1.3 has dropped.  Now, I've gotten limited experience with it so far, but from what I surmise this patch is WHAT THE FUCK good.  I plan on delving even deeper in tonight to get a feel for the game systems and whatnot, but I'll tell you this: this patch is rock-damn solid.  It was solid on the PTS, suprisingly solid, and the deployment today (minus the couple hours of extended maintenance) was smooth as butter.  The fleet is performing admirably - you can tell they improved the engine to handle higher population.  Load times even seem to be shorter, but I'll have to travel to Alderaan or Corellia to truly test that out.  The group finder tool is intuitive and easy, with simple controls.  Reports say that PVP grouping is easy as pie.  Even the legacy costs for character convenience are pretty relaxed this time around.  Around 125K or so credits will get you the maximum experience benefit from one of these categories: PVP, flashpoints, class quests, space, or exploration.  There's also a whole bevy of crafting-related changes that N'jessi has chronicled.  This is a game systems patch and they absolutely delivered in spades.

I logged on shortly over my lunch to see what it was like; I only had about 45 minutes to do stuff so I really only got to glance at the LFG tool and Ranked Warzone UI, but they were the same from the PTS.  I posted some stuff on the GTN (boy, was THAT place hoppin'), tooled around on the fleet, checked out the Legacy perks, and logged off.  But I simply cannot wait to get back home and kill some Pubs with my agent.

But ... let's talk about the elephant in the room.

How long will this enthusiasm last?

Let's be frank, folks.  This is a systems patch only.  This provides next to no content.  It just provides access to said content and variations on the same content.  How long can this content keep us ... content?  I'm afraid the answer is 'not long.'  I'd be shocked if we by next week we didn't start hearing whispers of Patch 1.4, HK-51, the planet Makeb, and the level increase.  The sheen on this patch will wear off quickly as folks realize 'Hey, this is the same stuff I've been doing, I just have a new way of accessing it.'  And don't misinterpret this as me baggin' on 1.3 ... this patch was desperately needed and I thoroughly applaud Bioware on both the speed with which they delivered it and the stability it seems to have.  I'm just saying, MMO gamers are a fickle bunch and they like their toys ... these new features may get old quickly for some and they'll be looking forward to the next patch for more story content.  I don't blame them really ... for me, these features, being released over 6 months after the game launched, needed to be in since the get-go.  It was really a no-brainer and I despair to think about how many subs were lost because BioWare was unable to act quickly enough to get these systems in place.  But, them's the breaks and we gotta deal with what we have.

And what we have here is a failure to commun ... wait, wrong quote.

And what we have here is a rock-solid patch that delivers rock-solid features.  Good job, guys.  Now, where's Makeb?

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



PS - Congratulations on reaching your fiftieth assignment, agent!  You've served the Empire well.  I hope you get fifty more.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Free to Play Fuckcrap

I know that Frank Gibeau recently opened a can of worms when he cracked his yap about the possibility of SWTOR going free to play at some point in an undetermined future.  There's been a lot of crowing and chest-beating about SWTOR's ultimate demise and this really only whipped the lonely ladyboy trolls of the internet into a frenzy.  Case in point.  Even some bloggers (who have been known to troll before) are getting into the act.  Ok, enough.  Seriously.  Here's the actual quote in all its glory.  What it says is this:

  • EA is going to embrace the 'free to play' model completely at some point in the future
  • SWTOR is not going free to play any time soon
  • SWTOR WILL be getting new types of free access (free trial in July, perhaps no box cost?)
  • SWTOR has new content coming
  •  EA is confident people will be playing SWTOR for 10 or 15 years

Frank Gibeau, courtesy of GamesIndustry International:

"We're really proud of Star Wars. We're really excited about the launch. We've had tremendously positive feedback from our fans and our subscribers. You're right, it is a complex and difficult market out there on the PC because of the availability of free-to-play products like our own, like World of Tanks, League of Legends... WoW is a free download that you pay a subscription to after a period of time. We're cognizant - we see that," Gibeau told us.
Gibeau stressed that EA will continue to evaluate the business around Star Wars and implement changes as needed, so free-to-play isn't out of the question at all (indeed, BioWare recently said as much too).

"We're going to be in the business from a long term standpoint so absolutely we're going to embrace free access, free trial, ultimately some day we can move in and embrace that model. It's all a matter of timing and thinking things through. We have a great business right now and we're not looking to make any abrupt changes. We made some good announcements in terms of giving you the first few levels free, because our telemetry told us that if we can get you to around level 8 or 9, you stick with us for the long term. So really the strategy right now is about opening up the funnel at the top so we can acquire more customers who are interested in Star Wars who perhaps aren't ready to pay the full price," Gibeau continued.


"[We want to give them] an opportunity to try and it and say, 'You know, I really do like this. I'm going to make that commitment.' MMOs, obviously, are a big commitment of time and money and so giving people an opportunity to access it for free, try it, we found in our telemetry and our experiments is a really good strategy and a good tactic. We're going to do that. We also announced a... mass amount of content thats coming for the service, so we're going to be in the Star Wars business for ten years, who knows? We're still publishing Ultima Online for seventeen years. So we're definitely going to be in the Star Wars business for a long time and if the business changes in accordance with how the market is reacting, then that's just good process for us since we're trying to create the best possible service for our gamers."


We asked Gibeau if he's absolutely confident that a decade from now EA would still have people playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. He answered, "I am, actually. We're still playing Dark Age of Camelot, we're still playing Warhammer, we're still playing Ultima Online, we're still playing Runescape, we're still playing Lineage. What's beautiful about an MMO is that when you get to a certain scale it stays with the program for a long time."


Part of lasting a decade or more will obviously involve being flexible with business models. "The advent of free-to-play is certainly a change in the dynamic of the PC market. I don't think subscriptions ever go away, but when you have an IP as broad as Star Wars, we're definitely going to look at opportunities to grow that business and look at different ways of bringing customers in and serving them," Gibeau said.

There.  Now you can read it and make your own decisions, rather than relying on fucktard bloggers more concerned with crowing over SWTOR's rather exaggerated death knell.

IMPONIAL INTELLIPRANCE

I TOLD SHINTAR I'D DO IT!  WHY'D YOU MAKE ME!?!

I just love the hay out of my new server!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Your Forty-Ninth Assignment: Positively Charged

There seems to be more people around, agent.

You're right Kaliyo.  Afraid you have some competition now?

Please, agent, we all know you'd be useless without me around.

That's true enough.  Well, let's go be social.  Put on your pretty face, please.

Screw you, agent.

Lock and load, fellow agents!  So the server transfers/mergers/migrations are all done and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.  I know I've not blogged in a bit and there's a good reason for it ... I've been busy in-game.  I haven't logged this much game-time since launch.  I'm adding old players, actively recruiting, doing pvp (with damn-near instant queues!), getting the guild bank organized, and mulling a guild merger with some rather nice folks from our old server to bolster our raid team and possibly venture into 16-person operations.  All in all, a very, exciting time for a SWTOR player.

But I have noticed a few grumpy faces in the crowd.  And I understand; change can be a pain in the ass and totally a fun-sucking hell-pit.  For them, I give you my reaction to the transfers in MLP:FIM form (especially Shintar!) as a demonstration of what they can anticipate when they log into their new home:

SMILE SHINTAR!
Pinkie Pie discovers she's transferring to Ebon Hawk

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Transfer Impressions and Help

Well, it's complete.  My guild is transferred over to Ebon Hawk (more or less).  These are my thoughts on the transfer process and all it entails.

The Service

The actual server transfer tool is quite simple, if not elegant.  It's certainly fast.  All you need to do is go to the homepage and log in in the top right corner.  Once you're logged in, click on your name and go to the My Account page.  From there, look to the left and you'll see a Character Transfer link.  There's a list of servers and characters that will come up, click on those you wish to me and click on Pre-Select Server button to access the free transfer.  Click through the approval pages and you're done!  The transfers themselves take less than a minute and are bookended by emails; one to initialize, the other to notify you of completion.  All in all, the process takes less than five minutes and is very, very smooth.

Logging On

Be prepared for queues.  I don't honestly expect to see queues for that long, but the novelty of a new server (plus doing all the little things you need to get a guild back up and running) is causing problems.  The longest I had to wait to log into Ebon Hawk was 10 minutes (356 deep in queue) but to be fair, that's not too much of a problem.  I'd rather have queues for a while than log onto Shien and see 18 people in Fleet.  Once you log in, you may notice something odd about your character ... his name may be a random string of letters!  My smuggler was The Outlaw AUSDEFWLLFUGEUT for a while; when logging into this character, you will receive a prompt to change it.  If you DO NOT receive a prompt, don't worry.  You can either log out completely and log back in (and sit through the queue) or log back in at a later time.  I logged into my smuggler at 9pm and didn't receive the prompt.  I was worried that I'd be stuck with that name forever, so I submitted a ticket and logged back out.  Lo and behold, I logged back into him 20 minutes later and was able to change.  Now whether that was due to the ticket or just simply logging on is anyone's guess.  Either way, I was able to change a bad name to a good name (hello Targeteer, the Republic privateer brother of Targeter!)

Changes

One of the first things you'll likely notice is your Legacy ... it's gone.  Oh, the perks aren't gone, but your name likely is.  The only way you could avoid that would involve having a legacy already established on your destination server.  The highest level legacy then merges the lower one into it and you can keep your higher level legacy name.  If you do NOT have a legacy, you'll need to reset your name.  I used to be Fel, named after famous Imperial pilots Baron Soontir Fel and his son, Jagged Fel.  Fel is a nice name and all, but I kept getting called a warlock, so instead I went for Cracken in homage to Rebel spec ops leader General Airen Cracken and his famous starfighter pilot son, Pash.  Once that's done, you'll need to reset your UI.  Luckily for you, all your old settings will transfer over, so just load up your favorite UI setup and you're good!  Lastly, and perhaps most painfully, you may need to change your guild name.  Much to my sorrow, Scum and Villainy was taken on the server already by a well-established guild.  This caused much grief for us, and we are now currently in the process of finding a new name ... but it won't be the same.

Community

Now, this will vary server to server, but my initial concerns about transferring so many folks to one server proved rather moot.  Now that has a lot to do with the type of server I'm on (RP) and the Ebon Hawk folks have been nothing but accomodating to the new guys and gals; I've been really impressed so far by their grace and generosity.  They've even set up 'refugee guilds' for new transfers so they can reconnect with their former server-mates (ie Shien Refugees, Rubat Crystal Refugees, et al).  They even have their own website set up with a chatbox!  The PVP queues were back to back and I never had to wait more than 30 seconds for one.  Now, the quality of the PVP ...well, that's a work in progress.  Overall, I'm very happy so far with the community.

Things to Look Out For

  • Make sure you have cleared your mail and GTN auctions before you transfer
  • If you want to make sure you keep your character's name, make a level 1 character on your destination server then delete him right beforehand.
  • Clear your guildbank!  You can put in a ticket to get your tabs moved over once you get on your destination server.Your personal bank will transfer fine.  Don't worry about it!


Overall Impression

Overall, I'm very, very happy with the entire process, even if I did lose my guild name.  Small price to pay for a vibrant community.  The communication from BioWare on the transfer service was spotty at first, but by the end of it, I couldn't have been happier.  The Community Team really came out in full force and were very active on the forums.

All in all, well done BioWare.  You made a tough situation pretty easy and pain-free for the most part.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Farewell?

Shit.

Shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit.

SHIT.

Well, Shien just came up on the transfer list.  And not as a destination server.  Shit.

Good news is that we're available to transfer to one of the servers I had spied out for us ... THE EBON HAWK.  It's got a GREAT community.  I can't wait to get over there and see it.

At the same time ... SHIT.  I really wanted Shien to stick around.  I really thought we'd be a destination ... and now Shintar's post hits me full in the face.  The decision we have to make is huge.  Stay and be forgotten?  Or go and start over?

Shit.

I guess we've got a big decision to make.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pack Your Bags!


I'm a little shocked to be honest.  The North American servers that are targeted for transfers are ... well, they're a little perplexing.  Keller's Void (aka Helen's Hole) is moving to Jedi Covenant (the second most populated server in the US).  Keller's Void was already a decently busy place by all accounts, hosting the guild known as AIE (from The Instance podcast fame) as well as several other large guilds.  I suspect many, many players will be taking advantage of this.  And Hedarr Soongh wins the server transfer lottery by getting the ability to move to The Fatman, the most populated server in TOR.  Soresu's moving to The Harbinger (that was one of the servers I had an eye on for transfer), and Rakata Mind Prison is moving to The Bastion.

Basically, lower pop servers (save for Keller's Void) are moving on to much, MUCH higher pop servers, which is exactly the opposite of how I thought it would be.  I was thinking that the lower pop servers would be getting transfers *from* higher servers to help even out the balance.  This move from BioWare tells this ol' agent one thing ...

They get it.  They totally, completely get it. 

They don't want 200 decently populated servers.  They want 100 heavily populated servers.  For the first time in a long time, I feel that BioWare completely understands its playerbase (at least, most of us).  Look, the closure of servers is going to look bad no matter which way you spin it.  By serving its playerbase in the best way possible (putting folks on high pop servers) you can guarantee a vibrant, active community full of stuff to do.  What the transfer servers represent, outside of Helen's Hole, are some of the absolute lowest populations out there.  By putting them on the busiest servers, they probably don't actually increase the server load all that much and they'll inject a new swagger on the destination servers.

This is absolutely a step in the right direction.  I fully applaud it.  Now c'mon, lets put some new folks on Shien!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Snap Shot: TRANSFERS JUN 12TH!

The first group of server transfers will start on June 12th!  Read this for all the info!

Snap Shot: Sniper Changes

Lock and load, agents!  PTS IS LIVE!  I'll be downloading it tonight to see what's changed and test the new Group Finder tool.  Ranked Warzones are live on the PTS as well!  Patch notes here!

Agents have had their talent points refunded!  For us Snipers, they've swapped the position of Rapid Fire and Sniper Volley and changed the abilities.  What does it mean for us?  I'll have to theorycraft it and see what I come up with.  Here's the notes pertaining to us:

Imperial Agent


Sniper
  • Due to changes in the Sniper skill trees, Snipers have had their skill points refunded.
  • The amount absorbed by Shield Probe now scales properly based on character stats.
  • Entrench's buff tooltip no longer incorrectly mentions damage reduction.
  • Target Acquired now increases Accuracy by 30% and Armor Penetration by 15% instead of increasing Alacrity.
  • An issue that prevented Shatter Shot from displaying visual effects has been corrected.
  • Series of Shots' visual effects now fire 4 times over the 3-second activation. Its projectile now changes color based on the equipped color crystal.
  • Takedown has a new sound and visual appearance.

    Marksmanship
    • Rapid Fire and Sniper Volley have swapped positions in the skill tree.
    • Rapid Fire is now a 3-point passive skill that reduces the cooldown of Ambush and Series of Shots by 1 second per point.
    • Sniper Volley now finishes the cooldown of Series of Shots and increases Alacrity by 10% and Energy regeneration by 50% for 10 seconds. It has a 45-second cooldown.
    • Followthrough has a new sound and visual appearance, and its visual effects now change color based on the equipped color crystal.

    Engineering
    • Cluster Bombs now lasts 20 seconds (up from 10). Cluster Bombs can now be detonated once every second (down from once every 1.5 seconds).
    • Imperial Methodology now provides 2 additional Cluster Bombs (up from 1).

Monday, June 4, 2012

E3 PRESS CONFERENCE: MAKEB

I was watching the EA press conference at E3 today and got absolutely fucking GOBSMACKED.

In July we will be able to:  This YEAR we will be able to:

Play as the Cathar species
New Operation: TERROR FROM BEYOOOOOND (featuring the Dread Masters; see Torhead patch leaks for more details)
New Planet: Makeb
LEVEL CAP INCREASE
New story!
New abilities!
New Flashpoints!
New Space Mission: Space Station Assault
New Companion: Your OWN HK ASSASSIN DROID
New Warzone!
Possible Ranked Warzones?  LFG?
A big old heaping spoonful of WHADAFUUUUUUUU

I was not expecting this.  Here's Darth Hater's writeup of it.  I can't find ANYTHING official yet ... but it looks like we're getting some expansion content in a game update ... IN JULY this year!  LFG and ranked warzones look on track for 1.3, so that means July.  No official word from BioWare yet ... still awaiting a post on the forums!

JESUS FLAPJACKS CHRIST JUNE, GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I Have No Idea What Match-To-Chest Is Doing ...

... but I think I like it.


It's after Memorial Day, right?


Dreamy.  And blue.  Very blue.
EDIT: I thought it couldn't get any cooler.  It just did.

COOOOOBBRRAAAAA!