peal's heals – a swtor blog


we didn’t try that hard: 16 man operations
February 28, 2012, 9:04 pm
Filed under: gameplay, on gaming, operations | Tags: , , , ,

Last week, my guild journeyed into our first 16-man operation. We filled out the raid with 11 guildies and 5 pugs. Further, we use Mumble which tends to be the rarest of voice-type programs and it’s too much hassle to get people who are unfamiliar with the program into the channel. So we didn’t bother.

Heck, in our WoW guild we used to joke that’s a secret part of the trial. If you can’t figure out how to get into Mumble before your trial is up, you don’t get to stay in the guild. =P

Now please understand. The list that follows is entirely based on my anecdotal experience. It’s opinion.

I really hope I’m not done with 16s permanently but for right now this one experience was enough to scare me away until things get patched up.

16-mans: The a-Peal:

  • Large groups feel more epic. More coordination. I felt like a healer-team lead instead of just the one healer who bosses around the other. I love large group play.
  • Damage happens hard and fast. I was a dedicated tank healer and it was fun to feel like my Operative was really filling a unique niche role in the group. It didn’t even bother me when we had to stack up for AoE heals and mine ended up being pathetic; I’d saved the day several times with my big, fast single target heals before the last phase. Healing class uniqueness really shines in 16s.

16-mans: The Appall:

  • Lag-fest. My computer was less penalized than I expected, but I saw just about everyone else grind to a painful halt with all the extra stuff going on. Apparently it’s a known issue and it isn’t a matter of your computer being “good enough” or not.
  • Trash is ridiculously hard. Things hit so much harder so it’s highly important for tanks to be taking every hit. But then you have 10 DPS and 4 healers doing their thing so the odds of someone getting one-shot are pretty good. Twitch reflexes seemed necessary, but did I mention the part about lag?
  • The one boss we did felt well-tuned enough but battle rezes work the same in 8s as they in 16s. So it feels like in 16 you are penalized. Not only do people die faster and suffer from computer lockup, you only get 50% forgiveness (Okay, that’s not true at all. That’s just how it feels).

All these things combined made our one 16 feel at least four times harder than our experiences in 8. We poked our heads into 8-Hard last week and while we hit the enrage timer at 30%, it felt more achievable as a long term goal than 16-normal. And seriously, why would anyone want to bang their head against the wall on 16s for normal gear when those groups could split and focus on 8-hards?

But then, like the title says, we didn’t try all that hard. We spent about 2 hours actually raiding of a normal 3 hour session (1/2 hour to filling the raid with pugs, called early when one of those pugs “ran into bad weather and may lose internet”. Except, pro tip: If you’re going to fake DC, don’t log out… It removes you from the raid and we know you logged out. To convincingly fake DC, you have to alt-F4 the game).

I’m a bit sad since I do enjoy the larger group sizes. It just feels more epic when I’m a part of an army and with 16 players, odds are good that all advanced classes and specs are well-represented. It’s group diversity at it’s finest. I hope that Bioware makes the changes they need to make to encourage more 16s so I can dip my toes in again.

Till then, I’ll enjoy being the only Operative in the raid. 🙂

Advertisements


the 6 meme
February 25, 2012, 10:49 pm
Filed under: for fun

Hawtpants of the Old Republic tagged me for this meme.

Okay, so there weren’t exactly 6 subfolders. I guess I’m cheating but this is the sixth image in my SWTOR folder:

I took a bunch of screenshots when I first started playing to come up with a suitable header image for my blog. As you can see, I still haven’t found one.

I was (and impressed) with the slick, high-contrast beauty of Imperial design. I’m in awe every time I pass through Drummond Kass, overwhelmed by the newness and homage to ancient history.

And since I went through my screenshots folder to see what else I had in there, I thought I’d share this story. I don’t know how it started, but Lux and I have this ongoing joke where we name random monsters in SWTOR universe. Shaclaw and Uxibeast are perennial favorites, because, well, say them aloud and you’ll understand what I mean. I started taking screenshots to use as desktop images. Silly, I know. So here’s an uxibeast for you:

Isn’t he cute? I may or may not have taken this screenshot from my Jedi alt who may or may not have been abandoned some weeks ago.

I’m supposed to tag people but, um, *points at Lyeri* Summertime on Hoth didn’t tag people so I don’t have to either!  But you know, if you do this meme and want to give me credit for socially pressuring you to join in on the fun, well, I won’t stop ya. 🙂



what’s your format?
February 21, 2012, 9:38 pm
Filed under: gameplay, operations | Tags: , , , ,

8-man, 16-man, normal mode, hard mode, nightmare mode. There’s a ton of different options to keep us occupied.

8-mans are (logically) the most accessible. Smaller group sizes are easier to put together on a whim.

I haven’t set foot into a 16 yet but I think that was always the goal for me, the larger size. A vicious rumor is going around that I can’t verify: that 16-regulars are actually tuned harder than 8-hards. Whether or not this is true, it makes us reluctant to pug and my guild is growing. We’re a bit bigger than an 8 but definitely not big enough to be 16. Growing can be difficult.

I’ve cleared EV 8-Regular (that’s a lot of information, isn’t it, just to say I completed one Operation?) twice now. I don’t want to call it “easy” because that isn’t the right word. It’s accessible. It’s puggable. It’s doable without vent or mumble. And it should be. As a first hurdle to large-group play, I think it’s tuned well. Fights are involved but not pinch-point twitch-reflex OMG SPAM SPAM SPAM *tank death.* For those that just want to spend a few hours every week playing, regular mode raids are going to be fast and fun.

That said, we toggled to Hard mode and got our butts handed to us over and over on just the trash. We got two pulls on the boss and survived… to the enrage timer. We only got the boss down to 35% health. I look forward to banging our heads on that while we gear people up for it.

Another big thing my guild needs to get set up is attendance and roster-stuff. Since regular ops assign loot via computer we haven’t implemented an EP/GP like system though we would like to. In the spirit of full disclosure, I love EP/GP systems because they reward recent activity and, um, I’m a huge nerd with 100% raid attendance. But one thing I wonder about will be the popularity of alts. Once we get into hardmodes I see it being less of a potential problem but last night our ops leader rolled randomly to see who sat and one person’s “main” lost out to an “alt” (because their main was a healer and we were already full there). It worked out in the end; another person dropped out to do some RL stuff, but I’m curious how other guilds are handling things like this. Until we get dual-spec (and even once we do, to a point) it’s easier to bring an alt to stay flexible than it is to change the role of your main.

Especially with the prevalance of tier gear. If you want to optimize, you’ll be carrying around two sets of tier gear. It’s a lot to ask of, say, tanks, for some fights are one-tankable and others aren’t.

These aren’t new complications, though. MMO-players have been wrestling with roles, gear, and whatnot for years. TOR may end up working out socially like top-end raiding guilds in WoW. Or it might not. We’ll have to see how it shakes out.

Have you jumped into Ops yet? What kind of raiding have you done/do you want to do?



do operatives get better?
February 17, 2012, 10:05 pm
Filed under: gameplay, strategy | Tags: , , , ,

The wordpress stats page has got to be my worst timesink outside of TOR. I’m always so amused at some of the search terms that bring players to my blog. Some probably don’t find what they were looking–sorry, my Twilek Sorcerer is light side so my screenshots won’t show Sith corruption.

But the question “do operatives get better?” and “healing and leveling operative solo” came up and I figure, hey, I can answer that.

Do Operatives get better?

Leveling Operatives is a strange experience. I was confused early on by the importance of cover (it’s a bigger deal for Snipers) and in the early stages of leveling, our core abilities are split between range and melee. With the Energy system, we have free things we can do as “filler” and cost-things we can do that if spammed will drain us dry. Early on, it’s tricky to balance. Oh, and not having a movement help – closer/leap/grapple – sucks.

And are we ranged or are we melee? Both DPS trees offer perks to both ranged and melee abilities. Cover helps mitigate damage if we stay ranged, but then we lose out on some really great abilities. And interrupts. I made the leveling process harder on myself; I knew I wanted to heal so I focused mostly on ranged abilities. You can learn from my mistakes.

Energy gets easier to manage. It does. As a healer, there’s a sweet spot in the low 30’s where you get Tactical Advantage procs like crazy and life gets better. Having played mana-style healers for more than a decade it took me a long time to train myself not to panic when I ran out of Energy. The bar fills up pretty quickly, especially if you constantly roll Stim Boost (which you should).

Short answer? Yes, it gets better. I don’t even need to know what level you are, I’m sure it does.

Landmarks for Operative Awesomeness:

  • Adrenaline Probe (14). Energy every 2 minutes. BTW, 2 minutes is faster than you might expect in-game. Use early. Use often.
  • Sleep Dart (level 20). Amazing utility for sneaking around and even CCing pre-pull.
  • Cloaking Screen (22). Vanish. Poof. In combat no more. A bit buggy in caves or story areas if you’re in a group… but what a time saver. Ever had some meanie try to steal your gathernode/quest clickie while you’re fighting? Screen, they pull aggro, then you get the node. Not that I’ve ever done this, of course! (The more honorable use for Screen is nabbing a quest-clickie–you can disable/attack some things in combat–then dropping Screen).
  • Sneak (22). Makes you sneakier to get through tight hallways. Great if you finished your quest and don’t want to fight your way out. And for droid hallways, because droids can’t be Slept.
  • Evasion (24). Less damage taken, hurray!
  • Orbital Strike (48). Words cannot do this ability justice. Why yes, I did just use my walkie-talkie to order an orbital strike. That tremor shaking the ground? My power.

Leveling as a Solo Operative Healer

I have to admit, I only did a handful of levels solo post-30. I spent much more time running around alone on my Sorcerer. My initial thoughts are: it may be a bit easier to level solo as a healer as Sorc, but only because they have spammable AoE and the bubble is just so freaking good.

That being said, I don’t see why an Operative can’t do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, however she wants to do it.

Kaliyo is an alright tank and if you focus on keeping her geared up (if you spend most of your time solo, you’ll probably use her exclusively). If you do swap companions, go through her quickslot and make sure all the things you want her to use are still selected. Perhaps they’ve fixed that bug, but her tanking abilities got turned off each time if I summoned Kaliyo after I’d been running with Vector. When she isn’t guarding, she’s quite squishy.

You can either send in Kaliyo to tank everything or you can send her to one side of a pull while you yank aggro on the other side so you split the damage and (in theory) need to heal less in-combat. What I did was send her after the toughest guy in the group (the strong/silver) and I choose weak/standard target(s) to finish off as quickly as possible.

Sleep Dart lasts for a long time. This is a very good thing, since mitigating damage means you spend more time dealing damage and less time healing you and your companion. Sleeping the guy furthest away from pack where you plan on sending your companion will ensure Kaliyo doesn’t break it (well, sometimes at least).

As a healer, your AoE options are pretty limited. But snipe is decent damage and Operative heals are quite strong to keep Kaliyo up through whatever you send her into. A word of caution: it’s hard to go full-tilt damage mode then switch on the fly to spam heal. As a healer, you get efficiency for healing but not for your damage spells. I try to weave the free stuff in to my rotation and use Rifle Shot to pick off targets once their health is low.

Kolto Probe is pretty awesome. 2-stacks on your companion, rolled well, will do a brickload of healing.

Be prepared to sneak around a lot. If it doesn’t need to be killed for a bonus, a drop, or a count on your mission, it doesn’t need to be killed. Period.

Quest rewards often give you a couple of choices in gear: an item with more cunning and less endurance, or one with more endurance and less cunning. I chose “more cunning” all the way through but if you’re having trouble taking too much damage, a healthy mix couldn’t hurt. Be willing to experiment till you find both a gear style and a playstyle that keeps you questing. What works for me might not work for you. Heck, I’m known for missing obvious things so you may already be playing so much smarter than me.

And for elites, if you can’t keep a companion alive, you can often kite. Only group events have enrage timers and in story areas, the surrounding mobs don’t respawn. It’s a long fight, that way, but when that mob dies, it’s a good feeling.

How do you survive as a healer?



gearing up
February 16, 2012, 12:00 am
Filed under: for fun, gameplay | Tags: , , , , , ,

Results Not Typical.

I’ve had a very easy time gearing up my Operative in the short time she’s been 50. In less than a week, I had a 2-set Columni bonus. In less than 2, I had a 4-set. In that time, she also took other upgrades-mostly 136-level with a smattering of 126’s.

And before it sounds like I’m bragging, I’ve been trying to place if I’m just lucky or if I did all the right things and gearing up really can happen that quickly.

Dailies – Belsavis every day. Mmm mods, sweet mods.

Flashpoints – lots of ’em. One or two every night, up to 4 daily on the weekends.

Operations – I’ve cleared Eternity Vault once and done the first 2 bosses of Karragga’s Palace. I think I got 2 pieces of loot in EV and 1 (that I already had) in KP.

In flashpoints, I’ve had very little competition. I spend most of my time with an assassin tank and 2 dps mercs. All cunning is mine.

In Operations, I feel like the normal modes are tuned to be fairly easy. We ran into enrage timers but in all fairness we also had some cobbled-together groups. Fresh 50s and a couple of “sure I’ll respec and play a new role for the first time to get this group going” kinda things. And after a few pulls, we got bosses down.

I’ve watched Sorcerer Force bars with insane jealousy. Even Enrage timers can’t run ’em dry. Every time I see purple goo on the ground I wish I had something half as nice. QQ

But at the same time, my single target heals are pretty great. I’ve fallen into the role of tank healer quite nicely without doling out assignments or calling it out.

Oh, and the Operations bosses? With the exception of the puzzle fights, I really really like ’em. The banter, the mechanics, the teamwork. They aren’t so hard (on normal mode) to keep us banging our head against one thing all week. Two nights a week should be more than enough to clear both Ops and after coming from a 4-night WoW raiding schedule it’s a nice change of pace. I look forward to them now more than I used to and it’s not just because TOR is the new shiny. I dare say the new-shiny for me wore off a few weeks ago, and that’s not a bad thing.

Our raid team still needs some filling out, but not everyone we expect to play with is 50 yet. We’re a little bounty-hunter heavy (though if I had stayed Sorc, we’d be Sorcerer heavy too, so I haven’t regretted that at all). Our biggest void? Warriors. My pocket tank started out one (it was fun to do both Sith storylines together, had some nice synergy) and we both leveled our Operative/Assassin together (which has amazing stealth synergy; I absolutely recommend this combination for team characters for the sheer fun of double-sap double-vanish).

Altitis is getting to me a bit, though. Now that I’ve got my Operative geared up past Flashpoints I want to see if my grass-is-greener syndrome is really deserved. Besides, I haven’t posted about Sorcs in some time, so I probably should give that a go. Ya know, for the sake of research. 🙂

How are you progressing?



kolto graffiti: enjoy your probe
February 9, 2012, 8:07 pm
Filed under: for fun, gameplay | Tags: , , ,

I’ve heard a couple of times in general chat that Operatives are “hot-based healers” and at first I wanted to disagree. Call me a WoW noob, but when you say hots, I think druids. And Operatives only have one hot; as do Sorcerers.

And yet… Kolto Probe is 8 kinds of awesome. It is a vital part of Operative healing. It’s a different kind of hot than any I’ve seen before and when I tried to describe it to my pocket tank I realized… It’s not easy to explain all of the things that Kolto Probe does for the healer and the person it heals.

Here’s the tooltip:

Kolto Probe
Instant
Energy: 15
Range: 30 m
Summons a droid that heals a friendly target for X over 18 seconds. Stacks up to 2 times.

Sounds simple… But here’s the misleading part: You can cast Probe 3 (and more) times on a player, and 3 Probes hover around them. It looks like they are getting the benefit of Probe 3 times, but the number ticking over their head is limited to 2 Probes.

I had previously believed it doesn’t roll, but after experimenting I realized I was wrong. It does roll. So long as you cast 2 before the first Probe wears out, and continue to cast 1 Probe before all Probes fade, the hot will continue ticking at 2-Probe strength. The duration on the tooltip represents the timer of the most-recently-cast Probe.

lean, mean and green

For the Operative, Kolto Probes have the chance to proc Tactical Advantage, a secondary energy source that gives the Operative more spells to cast, one that costs no Energy, and one that costs some Energy, and a self-buff that gives Energy back over time. All are pretty important to make sure the Operative doesn’t run low on Energy.

I’d say that when I run myself out of Energy, it’s because I’d let all my Probes fade. Keeping them going on the tank ensures I have at least one TA proc every few seconds.

I have a feeling I’ll learn by doing once my raid team is doing Operations on a regular basis, but 18 seconds is a hard rhythm to learn.

And yet, I love the Probe. It’s a great spell, it’s fundamental to Operative healing, and there’s no other hot like it. Besides, it’s a tiny glowing probe spraying green gunk on your target. That’s just awesome.



first thoughts on classes

In my about page, I poke fun at my blog name because I didn’t know what to name it and my first character (Peal, in this case) is often not the one I end up with long term.

It took less than two months for that to happen. I’m a little sad about it because I really love the sorcerer. I love bubbles, Force Speed, hots, channeled heals, being a Force user, being Sith, shooting Lightning, the whole Inquisitor thing. It’s awesome.

That’s not to say that I don’t love Operatives. I do, oh yes. When I cast Kolto Injection (healing dart) on myself, the graphic actually shows me stabbing a dart into my own thigh. And after 17 levels and four days of flashpoints, my diabolical giggling hasn’t gotten old. Better yet, it creeps out the guildies. I love that.

For fun, I spammed some heals on myself and jotted some notes down to compare my healers. And I do mean “for fun” because they have different gear levels (my Sorcerer is worse geared already) and because I don’t feel like I understand Operative as well as I understand Sorcerer.

An example: For the longest time I had assumed that Kolto Infusion (the single target direct heal that costs both Tactical Advantage and energy) was my big heal. It’s a nice heal, but it’s not my big heal. Infusion is great because it’s cheaper, it’s fast, and it’s a moderate-sized heal.

My best heals (in terms of amount healed for time spent casting) are still the ones that cost Energy. The stuff that costs TA is great but when the stuff hits the fan… I’ll want to use Injection and Probes. At first blush, my thoughts are that Operatives are less constrained by cast times. I can burst like nobody’s business, but I absolutely cannot sustain it, and I don’t think that Operatives are designed to ever sustain.

However, in all the encounters I’ve seen so far, sustained burstiness is not required. The fights are dynamic with lulls and pinch points.

I should stop rambling and do a bullet list, huh?

Sorcerer – Pros

  • Sorcs are boss AoE healers. Revivification is just amazing.
  • Force Speed. Oh, man.
  • So many spells to cast. I love toolkit healing
  • Bubble. Seriously, bubble.
  • Gear itemization prioritizes power/ala over crit/surge so base heals are more powerful, reliable
  • Force management works like mana in other games, so the paradigm is a familiar one
  • Synergy comes naturally from using variety of spells
  • Sorcerers are SITH.

Sorcerer – Cons

  • Best heals on cooldown/constrained by debuff.
  • Slow-ass cast times on spammable heals
  • Everybody loves the reliable healer. But who wants to be the reliable healer? Also, with no logs I think many non-Sorcs will underestimate how powerful bubbles are.
  • Sorcerers are a popular class, may have to share gear and compete for Sorc healer spots in the Ops team

Operatives – Pros

  • Nothing is on cooldown
  • OMG the crits. I crit a lot, I crit for so much.
  • Any lull in the fight will fill up Energy bar again
  • Fast cast times
  • Strong single target heals
  • The hot is sooo freaking good
  • Energy cooldown every 2 minutes. That’s a lot of burst potential

Operatives – Cons

  • Little spell selection until TA procs extra choices
  • RNG with TA procs can be a fickle mistress. Synergy relies primarily on rolling one spell
  • With no spells on cooldown, it’s up to the player to moderate Energy consumption
  • Diagnostic Scan (free heal) is still pretty wimpy and I use it only as filler/for extra energy
  • Not critting kinda sucks.
  • No in-combat speed buff

Tomorrow my guild gets into our first Operation. I am very, very excited.