Fallen Empires: Let’s Tell a Story…

Big shocker here:  this post will have spoiler-stuffs for the Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire.  By extension, that means it will also have spoilers for most of the storyline in the entire game, potentially.  So, if you’re reading this and don’t want spoiled…stay far, far away from this post!  Do not click the “read more” link!  Pretend you didn’t even read this!  I will try to step lightly around some details, but even the setup is semi-spoilery, so read at your own risk!

Think I’ve put up enough warnings here?  Here’s to hoping.  My comments after the break….

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Fallen Empires: Mechanical Overview

Okay, it’s been a few weeks since Star Wars: The Old Republic kicked off the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion and story, and in that time, I’ve been able to run through my two “main” characters through the content-my Imperial Agent and my Smuggler.  (I do plan to run the other six “main” characters through, but I will probably not spend as much time on certain activities, as detailed below.)

As with a number of recent posts, I’m going to slap that big old “read more” tag on my story review, so that those interested in avoiding spoilers can do so.  But with this post, I’m going to cover some of the stuff that impacts the game as a whole, which requires no special knowledge of the KotFE story.

One of the biggest changes involves equipment.  Prior to the expansion, every bit of equipment was geared to specific classes; Aim attributes were key for the Troopers/Bounty Hunters, Cunning for Smugglers/Agents, Strength for Knights/Warriors, and Willpower for Sages/Inquisitors.  Companions could use equipment based upon those four stats as appropriate:  Jaesa was best with Willpower equipment, while Guss was a Cunning fellow.  In theory, this meant that in flashpoint content, a perfectly balanced team of four-one of each class, I mean to say-would not have a conflict on loot rolls, because it would be obvious who would benefit best from that.  (MMO vets know just how much of a pipe dream that concept is.)  But it also meant that people who were new to the game and disinclined to read up on things could be confused by all these stats.

I don’t have much sympathy for that, incidentally.  The learning process is the learning process; people who were there at the beginning of the game had to start the same way.  You learn by reading and doing.

The expansion has changed all this.  Now, all four of those statistics have been folded into a single Mastery stat, which means any bit of equipment is usable by everyone-well, within certain details:  heavy, medium, and light armor restrictions still exist, and weapons of the characters are still regulated, so you won’t see Vector whipping out an assault cannon.  But if you find medium armor, it won’t matter if it looks like something a Smuggler would wear or if it’s something a Jedi Knight would wear:  both would be able to use it with equal facility.

Another big change-actually, a whole heap of big changes-impacts companions.  Those stats I mentioned before for companions?  Completely irrelevant now.  Gear no longer has any impact at all on companions.  (There are posts on the forums that claim otherwise, but the dev intent clearly indicates that if this is true, that’s a bug-so don’t expect that to stay that way.)  Instead, your level and your Presence score is what impacts their effectiveness.  Additionally, the companions no longer have a set role; where once your character would have a melee tank companion, a ranged tank, a melee DPS, a ranged DPS, and a healing companion…now you can set their roles manually.  Bowdarr the Wookiee can be a healer now; C2-N2 (for the truly mad among you) can be a DPS companion.  Their skills are not necessarily all identical:  setting Kira as a tank has her using a Force Pull to bring enemies close, while T7 would use a set of cables to do the same thing.  Same mechanics, different style.

Affection has changed as well into Influence.  Companion stories are no longer based on Affection, but at predetermined points in the class stories.  (Some of these are apparently broken; I can confirm that Skadge wasn’t able to be listed as “complete” as of the last patch prior to today.)  A higher influence score impacts their effectiveness.  There’s a new cap on this, too, so maxed out Affection will get a companion to level 10 influence-and there’s a lot more levels to it now.

Companions with high Influence and a character with a high level are startlingly effective, especially if the companion is in a healing role.  So much so, in fact, that the healing has a significant nerf incoming in today’s patch.  The jury’s out as to whether or not this nerf is appropriate or too much.

There’s also some restructuring going on with abilities and skill points, and folks who have been with the game for a while have seen this before; I’m not going into specifics, but it’s the same sort of deal when the level cap raises:  some abilities come sooner, some later, and a couple new ones are put in.  It’s annoying how skills you can use before the expansion are suddenly unusable until you get to a higher level after it happens, but it is what it is.

So that’s the mechanics; took a bit more wording here than I’d anticipated, and there’s a lot to cover with the meat of the expansion, so I’ll save that for the next post.  We’ve covered most of the big changes here; the arguably biggest one is tied in to the story of the expansion:  what happens when empires fall?  And what role do the player characters play in all of it?

Stay tuned….

Passing into Legend

The post title is probably pushing it, but I can’t help but feel that there’s some level of truth to it.

A few days ago, the host for a whole heaping bunch of guilds in assorted games, GuildPortal, announced that it would be shutting down for good by the end of the month.

This isn’t actually a big surprise to me.  The site was never really the same as far back as a few years ago when the site experienced a massive database failure which resulted in a rollback that amounted to weeks.  I think a lot of folks stopped really trusting GuildPortal at that time-and I think that was about when the person who administered the site pretty much gave up on it, too, because there was no word from the administrator pretty much since that event.  This was one of the prompts, in fact, that led me to moving the Hyperspace Outlaws guild off of GuildPortal.

At the back end of last September, the web domain expired, and all GuildPortal sites were offline for a day or two.  When it came back, I was rather surprised-that hinted at actual activity!  But it seems that it was to only clear the decks, because that announcement of shut down appeared as a small banner over every GP site last week.

I’d been affiliated with GuildPortal as a member since the early days of my MMO playing.  This very blog, in fact, had begun there, before I’d moved to WordPress.  GP didn’t have a convenient method to transfer my blog entries from there to here-no RSS feeds, no exports, nothing-so I just put a link from this blog back to the old one for archival purposes.  When the domain name registration became an issue, I’d been prepared to lose those entries; I’d paid attention to the domain and knew it would be expiring, and given the inactivity of the admins, I had figured there was a good shot the site would be gone at that point.

This time, I have slightly under a month’s advance notice, and I’ve decided:  nah, I don’t want to lose that blog history after all.

So I have gone through the painstaking process of going post by post in the old blog, and transferred those posts here, preserving date and time stamps (although the time stamps are suspect; between changes in blog software and the local time not being recorded properly, those times aren’t anywhere near correct).  Over 250 posts worth have been added to this blog, and now my entire blogging history can be found here, categorized as “The Old Blog”.  This took me a good chunk of my weekend, but I had nothing better to do when football was on.

I’ll likely go through the posts again at a later time to properly categorize the posts and tag them as I have with all the posts I’ve made since moving to WordPress.

It was nice, in a way, to revisit the posts of the past, and see the highs and lows-not to mention watch the evolution of just what I blogged and how I blogged; kind of evolved from a “this is what my character is doing” to bigger thoughts on MMOs and gaming concepts.

I did make a few edits on the posts, to correct spellings long uncorrected, make a few comments on a few of them, and remove all the links that referred back to GuildPortal (since they’ll become invalid links); for that matter, I got rid of a couple other invalid links (such as ones that referred back to CoH forums or SWG forums).

I’ll wrap up here to urge anyone who has any content they’ve got on a GuildPortal site to hurry up and save it somewhere else, because all that data is going to vanish like smoke in just a few weeks.  Active guilds will want to find a new home-fortunately, there are a number of options out there these days, with their pluses and minuses.

RIP GuildPortal.

Me and My Shadow

Well, here we are, a couple weeks into the new Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire.  (Man, that’s a lot to type!)  And I wasted no time starting the old content.

Readers may recall that I never purchased the Shadow of Revan expansion, feeling somewhat burned with what had been done with the Rise of the Hutt Cartel one and its extremely fast turnover from purchase to free.  Sticking to my guns on that has actually proven somewhat beneficial, as the first character I’ve run through it all got very close to level 65 (the new maximum level) before finishing the storyline for Revan.  It helped that this character was effectively sitting at 1 xp before level 56, the previous maximum level available to a guy who hadn’t purchased Revan, so when I killed a bug, I leveled up.  (That’s an exaggeration-but not by much.)

So here it is, extremely belated:  my thoughts on the Shadow of Revan content.  Don’t worry:  a future post (and likely to be the next one) will cover my thoughts on KotFE.  There may be spoilers in this post, so if you want to remain unspoiled as to the secrets of Revan…hit that “back” button on your browser now-or at least, don’t click “read more” below.

It's never a good sign when you see lots of ships flying so low....

It’s never a good sign when you see lots of ships flying so low….

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Eve of the Fall

Why yes, this IS a photoshopped image....

My Main Republic Heroes, ready for Revan!

As I write this, it is approximately one day before early access to the newest expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Knights of the Fallen Empire will be hitting computers at some point tomorrow, and as a subscriber who’s been with the game throughout the promotional period, I’ll be one of the many with that access.  Hopefully, I’ll also get the toys that go with it, such as the Nico Okarr companion, the Nico duster, the Nico guns, and the Knights of the Old Republic-inspired speeder.  Gee, sure sounds like they’re pushing Nico hard, aren’t they?

No matter.

With the early access comes the end of the 12X xp for class missions plus Makeb.  And I’m happy to say that I made my goal of completing the class stories of all sixteen advanced classes-and more importantly, got my eight “main guys” geared up to level 55 gear so they can reap the side benefit of the expansion:  the opening up of the Shadow of Revan expansion at no cost.  Which makes a certain amount of sense, since you can’t get to higher levels than 60 if you can’t get to 60.  So I’ll finally get my shot at doing that content about a year later.

It was worth it.  The time I’d have spent messing with Shadow earlier would’ve been time I couldn’t have pushed all those characters to the end of their respective roads-including some of the main guys.

Things I’m going to be interested in seeing:

  1. How companions will be handled.  The devs have been hedging their bets on revealing much on this.  Still, what I’ve heard sets me at some ease:  old companions will still be around, just not in a “story” context.  Or so that’s the way it sounded to me.  On the other hand, one wonders what will happen if one gets killed.  (There is one or two of them who I’d certainly not mind killing off.  Many Sith Warriors may agree with at least one of my choices.)
  2. Flashpoints.  At one point, the devs indicated that some “story critical” flashpoints will receive a solo mode.  Depending on what they are, I may actually see some for the first time.  I’ve done some of them, of course, but some have been pretty much on the list of “not happening” for an assortment of reasons.  Group finder only helps so much…
  3. Shadow of Revan.  This really shouldn’t even need to be said.  If I recall correctly, the missions involved also include bits where character classes clean up “old business” with their class stories-nothing major, but I’m interested to see the effective grand finale for the classes-and the effective finale of the pre-KotFE game

Things I’m “eh” about:

  1. Crafting.  Crafting is being hammered like crazy with changes in schematics and in materials.  A lot is going away, and a lot is transmuting into something else.  I’d be more angry about it if I did a lot of crafting.  But I never did max out Synthweaving, Armormech, or Biochem, and the only things I really put time into making on occasion have been the assorted mod parts for armor/weapons that could use ’em.  Cybertech sounds like it’s going to get hammered with its desirable crafting results being migrated or removed.  So honestly?  I’m not sure I will really be that sorry about the changes-or interested in further development of my craft skills.  That said, the changes being done with Companions making their gear effectively “appearance only”, I may take a second look at where things stand with my Synthweaving and Armormech guys and see if any of the gear they can make looks interesting enough to use.
  2. Level Sync.  On the surface, it sounds like a great idea.  You go to a planet, and your level is “synced” to the max level of the world if you are higher level.  You get commensurate xp to go with it, making it practical for a level 50 guy to help out a low level guildie, for example.  It’s good for team-ups.  Not so good for soloists looking to finally deal with a heroic that a high level guy can solo, but a matching level guy can’t.  One can argue the value of the heroics, but completionists might be a bit miffed that they can’t go back and solo this.  While you can argue that it’s an MMO and meant for grouping, there’s a segment out there who prefers to do things without having to wait on people-and that’s a debate I’m not really interested in rehashing, since there isn’t a “right” answer for all people here.  If the sync was an optional thing, I think you’d find few people arguing against it (there will always be a few who argue against anything).

My basic plan is let my Smuggler get first crack at the content on the Republic side, followed shortly after by my Imperial Agent.  Both will first work on any story-critical Flashpoints that they have missed for one reason or another (particularly if they’re soloable now), then move them onward to Shadow of Revan content.  Once I’ve gone through all of that, then it will be time to leave behind the old story and move onto the new-and see how a few years locked in a carbonite slab has changed the galaxy far, far away.

Why yes, this is a photoshopped image, too!

It’s a safe bet these guys won’t be happy about it, though.


Sometimes I feel like I could take a job in fortune telling.  In the previous post, I predicted that the next Season for Star Trek Online would be late October or early November.  A post today on the STO site indicates that release will be on October 27.

(Of course, the prediction was a wide enough net that I really couldn’t get it wrong, right?)

Aside on New Dawn

The Iconian War: Looking Back on Galactic Armageddon, Part Three

The last couple of posts have looked at the Iconian War in Star Trek Online, episode by episode.  What I’m going to do in this post is talk about my thoughts about the War in a larger scope.  As with the previous posts, there will be spoilage here, so don’t click on the linky below if you still haven’t done the missions and don’t wan’t to know the spoilage stuffs!

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The Iconian War: Looking Back on Galactic Armageddon, Part Two

Last post, I covered the beginnings of open hostilities between the Iconians and the alliance of the Romulans, Klingons, and Federation.  When I left off, we’d wound up with an injured and pissed-off Iconian and a casualty of war.  You’d think things couldn’t get much worse, right?  Well, things are NEVER so bad that they can’t get worse!

As with the last post, slapping a “read more” tag on here, so that those who wish not to be spoiled about the back half of the arc can remain blissfully ignorant until they do the content themselves.  All others-read on!

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The Iconian War: Looking Back on Galactic Armageddon, Part One

I kept meaning to make remarks on it as it happened, and kept getting sidetracked again and again and again.  And before I knew it, we’d gone through all of it.  Oops.

So now I’m gonna take a look at how it all hung together.  And by “it”, I mean the Iconian War content that closed out the massive storyline that’s been interweaving throughout the history of Star Trek Online.  Hang on to your hats-we’ll be covering the first four episodes in this post, with a future post (possibly the next?) covering the back half, and maybe another separate one to remark on the queues.  Note that due to the nature of this post, there may be spoilers.  Beware!  Continue at your own risk!  (Yes, this means for the first time on this blog, I’m slapping a “read more” tag so that the innocent may maintain that innocence for a bit longer.)

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Racing to the Finish Line

We’re about a month and a half away from the big Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire.  But just as significantly, we’re about the same amount of time away from the end of 12X xp for class missions in that game.

Right now, subscribers get some pretty sweet perks in this period of time.  In addition to the xp, they also get a heap of Basic Commendations, which can be used to purchase modifications to armor/weapons at Fleet-which are discounted to 2 per modification.  If you have a full set of armor and both hands with equipment, that comes up to a total of 50 commendations to kit out a character as they level for each upgrade.  You can make equipment last fairly long, so by the time you finish up leveling, you should still have a decent amount of commendations to finish kitting up to level 55 mods.

This bonus also applies, incidentally, to the Makeb missions, if memory serves.

The upcoming expansion will be changing things, streamlining the content-and based upon what I have been reading since, my biggest fear of content removal is not going to be happening; it sounds more like xp rebalancing a bit, so maybe you don’t have to do as much on each world-but the option to do all of it is still there.  (I’m sort of guessing on that one; I still don’t have solid info.)  I doubt that it’ll be as sweet a deal as what’s going on now, however.

Which is why I’ve been pushing hard to hit my personal goal of getting all sixteen advanced classes through their class stories.  I had considered pushing them to level 55, too, and even finishing Makeb’s story, but that’s just too much abuse for me to deal with.  As it stands, I’ve completed fourteen of the sixteen-and I’ve made great progress on my Jedi Shadow, who is presently on Hoth.  In comparison, my Jedi Guardian is on Coruscant.  So figure maybe six weeks to get both characters to level 50.  I think that’s doable, even with the amount of time I spend on the game.  (If I were more hardcore, it’d be easy as sin.)

Once I get that done, it’ll be just in time for the new expansion.  In theory.  It’s a race, but it’s one I feel I’ve got a fair chance of winning.

I don’t really have much to say on playstyle of these advanced classes; I’ve already done them for the most part, in the form of their mirror classes.  The exception was the Sith Warrior and Jedi Knight, where I did both mirrors almost identical, so when I was doing the Sith Juggernaut advanced, it was completely new.  I’ve also tried to use different specializations for the perfect mirrors, so I could at least have a new style of play with each.  They’ve all had their hits and misses, but all of them have been doable.  Ugliest moment was with the Counselor mission on Quesh (I can almost see other Counselor players nodding their heads-they know the one), but the Shadow did a lot better with it than my Sage did; I didn’t faceplant at all during my Shadow’s run.  My Sage sure couldn’t say that.  (The ability to disengage from a fight helps a LOT.)

Over to Star Trek Online, where the Crystalline Catastrophe run is over, and my characters got a heap of dilithium and marks to help out with projects, leaving other resources as my current roadblock.  And amusingly, that resource is energy credits.  I’d burned through most of my reserves to help push the fleet starbase to tier 3, and they’ve never really fully recovered.  Some of this, of course, can be blamed on my stronger emphasis on my KDF characters, particularly the newer Talaxian one who is still in the process of leveling; he sort of got put on hold while the massive push to run Crystals was going on.

I’m also thinking to run some older missions at higher difficulty with my mains; their equipment can take it.  My KDF main recently took advantage of completing the Iconian Reputation to purchase himself a full set of radiant antiproton weapons, which can proc additional health to a starship in a fight-my Bortasqu’ is a nice, tanky sort of ship.  It’s the next best thing to fleet weapons, which he can’t get, so all’s well.  At some point, I’ll start considering kitting out my main Romulan, too, but that’s no hurry.  Especially since the final episode for the Iconian War is coming.  I sort of doubt it’ll be tomorrow, but it’s possible.  I’m suspecting that next Thursday is the most likely date for it to hit.  (Stay tuned-I won’t be shocked if they announce later today that it IS tomorrow.)

Also worth noting:  Champions Online is celebrating six years, and one of the missions being made available will award unlocking a few low-selling C-store costume sets and a vehicle.  I took advantage of that mission for a few characters for whom it made sense to use those vehicles; the vehicles are character unlocks, while the costumes are (I’m pretty sure) account unlocks, and some of my characters already had a special vehicle from a previous giveaway (and two had one from other means, like a lockbox one unlocked via in-game currency and one gained from the original Bleak Harbinger event).  I hope to get back to some CO at some point to at least finish my Awakened Automaton character, but like the last post said, only so much time in a day.