[SWTOR] New world event rumours, LFD, and other patch related chatter

First up, there are rumours flying around the fleets of a new world event. I believe the source of the rumours was from someone datamining the new patch but since the website is down for maintenance at the moment I can’t provide a link for that. What I do know is that people on guild chat last night were guessing it might start today. So not long to wait to find that out, at least.

If true, t would be a welcome addition to a patch that is otherwise strong on functionality but weak on content.

What I’ve been up to

I have been quietly levelling my consular this week, and have rather enjoyed Act 3 of her story. Also the romance is quite sweet; it comes late in the game for female consulars, with Lieutenant Iresso. He actually has a first name, unlike Lieutenant Piece (Sith Warrior companion) which you could take as a sign that he was always going to be more fleshed out, so to speak.

The consular story is curiously impersonal compared to the agent or sith warrior, it’s cool but I never felt a personal link between my character and most of the NPCs. I think that sense of emotional distance, together with a slow Act 1, go a long way towards why it’s considered not to be one of the better stories. I have enjoyed it though, and it does come together neatly at the end. You also get to be quite heroic and have a nice “everyone loves ME!” scene at the end where Satele Shan tells you and your companions that you saved the Republic. It is a cognitive dissonance that no one else seems aware of this; the jump between single player storyline and endgame on this class is very weird for that reason. (The warrior came out top from some secretive Sith infighting and carries on serving the emperor, the agent makes some career choices but basically is still doing his/her thing, but where do you go after saving the Republic exactly?)

I will also miss having the squabbling diplomats on my ship. My other comment on the consular storyline is that there are a lot of tough fights. I don’t remember finding so many of the bosses this tough on alts. They aren’t unfair, the fights are doable if you’re careful and use all your crowd control abilities, but just something to note. There was at least one occasion where I wanted to try using a different companion but of course they weren’t very geared up.

My new guild continue to be a friendly bunch, and are also usually quite busy with flashpoints, warzones, and operations. I am not used to being in this size of a guild (it’s not HUGE but bigger than I’m used to) so trying not to find it intimidating. Since hitting 50, I’ve already been joined by a guildie to do dailies together and invited by someone else to come for a guild hard mode run. I did say that I doubted my gear but they said “don’t worry about it” and we headed off to whomp Taral-V, which I’m assured is the easiest hard mode on Republic side. So they’re all quite keen to help newbies, and I’m hoping to gear up a bit, get to know people and be less carried in future. I’m also toying with signing up for a story mode EV run, as soon as I decide if I want to play as dps or a healer.

I have successfully tried out the new LFD tool. Finding groups for levelling characters can be slow, although I’m told it’s fast for tanks (as you might expect) and the tool can be a bit restrictive as to which flashpoints it allows you to queue for based on level. Still, I healed through a Fallen Emperor run at level 48 that went well. Since hitting 50, I have upgraded some mods in my gear via daily commendations and queued for one hard mode via LFD. It threw us into Maelstrom Prison (one of the other republic-only flashpoints) and the group managed it fine. The tank left in the middle but we were able to requeue for a new tank and someone came in and neatly finished the run.

The other bonus is that I’ve now seen all the flashpoints and have the Republic half of Revan’s story. It is at this point clear that Taral-V/Maelstorm happen before Boarding Party/Foundry. Also Republic don’t get to fight HK-47 before the Fallen Emperor instance (he features in The Foundry), but they do get to kick the shit out of Grand Moff Kilran, which makes up for a lot.

So that’s 2/2 random groups which have been perfectly fine for me. I do find it strange that you can pick multiple roles to queue for, given that there is no dual spec in the game. For levelling flashpoints this is fine, and I’ve tanked plenty of instances in SWTOR on my warrior in dps spec, but I can’t see that working too well for a healer. And while I suppose you could run off and respec between finding a group and porting to the flashpoint, that could be a long delay depending on where you are.

I am also told that LFD may not work well if you have the breadcrumb quest for a flashpoint in your quest log. Daily or weekly quests are fine. I haven’t experienced that personally though.

The other thing of note in the LFD is that after the instance is complete, it doesn’t port you back to where you came from. You will end up outside the instance.

Free credits/ PvP gear for level 50s, and upgraded tutorials

I am not sure if this is new in patch 1.3 or if I had just not noticed it before, but when you hit level 50, you can pick up a quest from the PvP quest terminal on the fleet which will give you a free set of starter PvP gear, some of which is probably also better for PvE than your levelling outfit. If you don’t want this gear, or have some PvP gear already, you can opt for an alternative quest reward which is a token that you can sell to a vendor for the equivalent cost: 320k credits.

swtorcredits

This is a screenie of the quest, and of the quest rewards. You can also pick this quest up on an old level 50 if you haven’t taken it yet, so there’s free credits out there for the taking!

The in-game tutorials have also had a reworking, and are now much more graphically appealing. They show screenshots as examples of how to do things, and are context sensitive (eg. the first time a new alt ran through a fire, I got the tutorial about hazardous environments) which they also were before. As a newbie I think I would have liked these. MMOs are so deep that it probably wouldn’t be possible to provide up to date tutorials for everything, but I appreciate the attempt.

groupfinder

This is the tutorial on how to use the group finder, for example.

[Diablo 3] In which I avoid all difficulty and reach max level

d3barbaxe

This is a barbarian warrior with her natural weaponry, a massive 2 handed flaming axe.  (If you are already bored of the D3 posts fear not, this is likely to be the last for awhile.)

What I love about this screenshot is that even after being zoomed in a few times, you can see the attention to detail in the graphics. Her fingers even close around the axe haft as if she’s taking the weight and stands ready to swing it at something (probably a demon), and when you think how small the character models are in D3, that is a lot of attention to detail. It’s also far better graphically than WoW, where I’m sure my warrior’s skeletal fingers did not always close around the weapon she was wielding.

So – level 60

I’m currently on Act 3 of Hell and my barbarian reached level 60 recently. The way difficulty works in D3 is that your character has two main attributes: damage and survivability. Your goal is to have enough survivability to stand toe to toe with monsters long enough to either kill them or land a few hits and then run off again. So I found I tended to swing between high survivability builds and high damage ones, depending on what type of gear I had available and whether I’d just switched up an Act. In a new Act (or difficulty) typically you have to raise your survivability as a priority before you can start focussing on bringing the damage up to match, otherwise you just die all the time. This is also a bit dull because chipping away at mobs slowly is not as exciting as big numbers and fast kills.

High enough damage will pretty much negate any combination of elite mob suffixes by the simple mechanic of CLICKCLICKDEAD.  Even those charming molten/vortex/firechains combos.

Hence my current 2 hander. Level 60- weapons with high damage are EXPENSIVE, going way beyond any interest I have in farming cash. Blue weapons, and particularly 2 handers, are far more affordable. With this setup I am barging my way nicely through Act 3 of Hell level and suspect I’ll be fine through Act 4 as well. The weapon made a big difference as I was getting bored of poking mobs politely with the equivalent of a knitting needle, at least they die fast now. I may not bother with Inferno.

The end game, such as it is, involves farming for gear or for gold to spend on gear in the auction house. If this is not of great interest to you, then really you might as well roll some alts, focus on achievements, or play with friends. (Or play something else.). There’s no special point having great gear unless you want to a) finish Inferno mode and/or b) farm more gear. I imagine the RMAH will see lots of use from people who do want to buy stacks of millions of gold so that they can buy high end weapons off the gold AH (expect galloping inflation at the top end once that comes online) but I’m honestly not sure I see the point. It’s not going to unlock new and brilliant gameplay or content. Meanwhile my blue 960dps 2 hander is perfectly good for Hell Level – better than good really – and cost me about 25k.

The other mechanic that helps you farm gear at level 60 is a buff called nephalem valour which only level 60 characters get. You get a stack of NV every time you kill a pack of elite mobs, it can stack up to 5 times, lasts 30 mins, and increases the chance that mobs will drop magic items. What was far more surprising to me is that NV doesn’t drop off when you die. I feel this goes against the whole ethos of roguelikes, but what do I know?

Ways in which I personally have made the game easier for myself so far:

  • Using the auction house
  • Grinding a couple of levels in a lower Act when I was having difficulty with one Act.
  • Hopping into a public group to get my kill of Belial in Hell mode. The group was actually really friendly, everyone was helping and ressing each other, and everyone  thanked the group afterwards. But if I hadn’t gotten frustrated after wiping to Belial ONCE in solo mode, I might not have done it. I do not think this is a testament to my patience.
  • Changing my abilities in combat. I didn’t realise you could do this until I tried it. Apparently you can change your gear in combat too (ie. haul on some +magic find gear just before a boss is about to die.)
  • Changing the batteries on my mouse when it started to get sluggish.

The auction house is the greatest of all these difficulty changers, because of the effect higher dps and resilience has on the gameplay. The AH also makes it easier to try out offbeat builds – I had one going for a while where I took abilities that increased the chance of mobs dropping health globes and wore a lot of gear which gave extra health on using health globes. It actually worked quite well.

It’s hard for me to gauge the longevity of the game. It is fun. It is fun when playing with friends or random groups. It does not require much thought. So even if you don’t have the stomach for farming Inferno Level (which I don’t) it may continue to be a cheerful device for chatting to friends over a few dead demons.

Farmville

The big issue with ‘endgame’ for D3 is that endgame for D2 was, frankly, tedious as all hell. It involved endless boss runs for loot. And they’ve sort of copied it but not exactly and with an auction house tacked on. The auction house effectively means that farming areas you are able to easily farm for magic items will never feel worthwhile (unless you are able to farm Act 3/4 Inferno). This was clearly not the intent, and players were probably intended to farm the areas they could manage until they got the occasional lucky gear up that would eventually let them progress. So I assume there are small chances of higher end loot dropping an Act before you’d actually need it.

But who is going to farm an area endlessly waiting for lucky drops if they can cash in and just buy something better instead? Someone with more willpower than me, for sure.

Instead, people will farm for gold, which is a lot easier and less random. But because it’s less random, it lacks the spikes of excitement that good loot drops provide. I think Blizzard could at least have tried to innovate an interesting item farming model. Let players unlock different areas in which to farm different items. Let them have more crafting drops to transmute existing items or rearrange their stats. Let them learn by trial and error which areas or mobs in the world are more likely to drop which types of items.

What patches will come?

Blizzard have a dev blog post up discussing Diablo 3. Interesting snippets are that 54% of hardcore players picked a female character (they don’t say what percentage of those are female demon hunters), and they’ve listed the most common runes used by level 60 characters, which include some head scratchers but what do I know?

They discuss their criteria for making tweaks and changes, including some of the nerfs that already came down the line.

Regarding the changes to Lingering Fog, Boon of Protection, and Force Armor: we determined these skills were simply more powerful than they should be, and we felt their impact on class balance and how each class was perceived warranted hotfixes as soon as we were able. However, we don’t want you to be worried that a hotfix nerf is lurking around the corner every day. If a skill is strong, but isn’t really breaking the game, we want you to have your fun. Part of the enjoyment of Diablo is finding those super-strong builds, and we want players to be excited to use something they discovered that feels overpowered

There is also some discussion around the difficulty of Inferno level and whether Legendary items are good enough or not. Of interest to anyone considering levelling up their blacksmith is also:

we’re looking to adjust the Blacksmith costs for training (gold and pages) and crafting from levels 1-59, and reduce the cost of combining gems so that it only requires two gems instead of three (up to Flawless Square). Both of these changes are scheduled for patch 1.0.3.

I think the main issue with Inferno (not having run it myself) is that the difficulty is similar to the difficulty in other tiers when you’re a bit undergeared. I remember thinking I was dying too quickly in Nightmare mode too until I hied me to the auction house. Just it’s much harder to overgear it at level 60. So really the problem with Inferno is not that it’s radically harder compared to the rest of the game, it’s that the difficulty is posed in exactly the same way as the rest of the game when endgame players might have preferred a more skill based challenge.

Farming Locations

A few thoughts on where is easy to farm for cash/items/xp in the game.

The Frugal Gamer has some ideas for places to farm in Act I.

In Act 2, I farmed xp in the Black Soulstone quest (lots of pacey dungeons).

In Act 3, I like the Rakkis Crossing area just before Siegebreaker (Siegebreaker Quest) as you get Tyrael along with you.

Finally some words from our sponsor

I have far too much fun reading the companion chat, even if it’s not especially stunning in itself.

scoundrelchatact3