peal's heals – a swtor blog

three months in

Following in the brave tradition of Kristalys at All For the Wookiee and Shintar from Going Commando, I’d like to reminisce on the last three months of the game.

In the past three months I’ve leveled a whole lot of toons. A 50 Sorcerer, first and foremost, but the moment I hit max level with her I realized I needed an Operative. And on the way, I’ve made a Mercenary (got lazy around level 14), another sorcerer (got lazy around level 12), a Trooper (7) and a Sage (13). That’s on one server.

On another server (because for some reason I thought the people I went to high school with would be nicer than the random guys I met in WoW, oh god who was I kidding?! Now my librarian is my guild officer!)… Well, I made an Operative. Healing, of course, though this time I didn’t wait till mid-twenties to use the spec. Lux and I are leveling duo-operatives and spending quite a bit more time PvPing.

But, I… ahem. Already have a placeholder for a sorcerer. Quake was already taken on the Tarro Blood server, but (surprise) Peal was not. So if you ever see Temblor in a warzone, throwing darts of healing and shoving probes in your face, well, wave at me. 🙂

So that’s what I’ve done. In retrospect that’s a lot, though I never got into what I thought I wanted most: hard mode raiding.

Now I’m not even sure I want that. I’ve heard here and there that people leave because quite frankly the group play sucks. But I still don’t see it. I mean. The tank shortage seems to be a really big deal but at the same time we’ve got healers in abundance. Now I’ve enjoyed healing in games even when healing was awkward and clunky and resource management was a fickle creature, and in games like this healers/support were really rare. Remember looking for a bard or red mage simply to gain a level or two in FFXI?

Speaking of FFXI, remember camping HNMs for hours against several other guilds, only to lose the pop to a Japanese guild (lower ping) who would play with the boss for hours just to move its respawn timer to a more convenient pull time for that guild the next day?

At least we can run into an instance and play when we’re ready. I haven’t touched hard modes, like I said, but the normal seems well-tuned for casual play. As it should be. I’ve run flashpoints ad nauseum without actually having nausea. So I feel the content has decent replay value, if only for the satisfaction of knocking Captain Yelto to the floor again.

So… lots of healers means that lots of people find healing fun. And why not? The pace of healing is perfect, IMHO. As is the time spent healing -in new content where I’m undergeared it’s a challenge, sure, and it should be, but once me and the tank get a few upgrades I can throw out a grenade once in a while. And I love that. My DPS doesn’t compare at all to real damage dealers, but I still find it worthwhile to use a burst ability when there’s nothing else to do. Why not? Why should I be defenseless because I’m a healer?

(Explosive probe is my favorite when I have just a split second to help burst someone down in a warzone, because it’s so dramatically… explosive).

My biggest complaints are the interface (I get very tired of the bug where a player or two won’t load into my Operations frames, so I’m stuck trying to heal a warzone without an easy way to target them) and the lack of click-to-cast. But honestly after three months I’ve managed to forget. I logged enough gametime in SWTOR healing that I’ve just plain gotten used to it, awkward and clunky as it is.

Granted, it helps that I have a mouse with extra buttons on the side. And I hope that we’ll still see some upgrades on the interface for healers. Just because we forget something is broken doesn’t mean we wouldn’t benefit from it being fixed.

I’ve noticed (in my entirely limited experience) that warzone healers on my new server are rarer than my old one. More often than not, I’m the only one on my team… but I’m not complaining. I get a ton more MVP votes that way!

In the next three months, I look forward to more leveling, more PvP and maybe even a dash of raiding. We’ll see. But I’m definitely still excited about the game. How about you? Can you believe it’s been three months of SWTOR already?


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. 🙂

wtb community: link love
January 6, 2012, 12:00 am
Filed under: for fun, on gaming | Tags: , ,

I’ve never been in an MMO from day 1 like I have with TOR. It’s been exciting to watch the community spring up around me. So have some links! Most of these are on my blogroll, but I figure there’s no harm in highlighting some good posts now and again. – a SWTOR healing community. Need I say more? Check ’em out.

Going Commando: Social – Shintar takes on the new heroics and group play.

Blessing of Kings: Shared Reality – Rohan discusses phasing in SWTOR.

TORHealbot: Setting Up An Effective Healer UI – Some tips to get your heal on.

Crew Skills: Drinking is Good for you – Got Spiced Nerf Milk? Mmmm tasty.

Scary Worlds: ESCing my companion’s affection – Apparently I’m not the only one who cares more about impressing Khem Val or Space Pirate Andy over the puny-human NPC giving me the quest.

Where are you finding your online community? Got links to share? Please, do!

link to Hawtness: Questionable Morality
December 30, 2011, 12:00 am
Filed under: for fun, gameplay, on gaming | Tags: , , ,

Hawtpants of the Old Republic takes on role-playing and morality choices in TOR. Quotey goodness:

The Asshole Rule

  • “Thou Shalt Not Suffer An Asshole To Live.” -Me

If you try to kill me, if you kill or try to kill my friends, or maybe just kidnap them, or betray me or mah friends, I will exterminate you IN THE FACE.  I could get a gazillion dark points and the -100 of SHAME and I’d still do it.

If I go really far to the dark side, that just means there are way too many assholes in the galaxy.

The other day I was questing in Alderaan (light spoilers) and I was tasked with bringing in a shock-collared noble to some more important guy. What really got me excited was when I had the opportunity to shock the d-bag (okay, so maybe he wasn’t really a d-bag, perhaps my pent-up frustration at some of the absurd light-side choices has finally gotten out of control), I could shock him without dark side points!

So I shocked him. With glee.

Then I got the chance to do it again!

I think the most telling part of this event was not that I did it when I could get away with it. When Lux got home from work, I nearly knocked him over with excitement. “I got to use a shock collar today! Twice!”

I suppose that makes me a terrible min-maxer, since I’m constantly measuring potential point gain with every button.

Which means, yes, I freed the ingrate Sith weakling who got himself captured because his daddy begged me to, even though he made fun of me the entire time. I should have earned dark side points for freeing him, since I made the galaxy put up with his bull longer than we had to. And yes, I tried to save the Mandalorian techs in the airlock (and secretly breathed a sigh of relief when another team member pushed ‘open airlock’ button for me).

But there are some times where it’s highly enjoyable to role-play the Light side:

  • Swift mercy. You’re still going to kill everyone, but you’ll do it quickly.
  • Preservation of knowledge and culture. Admit it, that mural never did anything to you and there’s no reason to put a light saber through it. Bonus that Khem Val will love you for this.
  • Lying for the greater good. “Why yes, Lieutenant, your son fought bravely and died with honor instead of crapping his pants at the beginning of the instance like the coward he was.”

But when there are no light side or dark side points to be earned, I tend to be a jerk. After all, puny humans tend to expect it. And I’ve gotten used to how lovely Peal’s Twi’lek voice sounds when she says “Murder and mayhem await.”

There will be no survivors... Even though I'm light side.

ten rats – dead, or more dead?
December 27, 2011, 7:11 pm
Filed under: gameplay, missions, on gaming | Tags: ,

I’ve been thinking about questing in SW:TOR.

Oh, oh, I mean doing missions. We don’t do quests in TOR, we do missions.

And at the heart of those missions is the dread “kill ten rats” objective. There’s really no escaping these ten rats. The best a game can do is to sugar-coat it, voice-over it, and hope we enjoy ourselves so much that we forget that we’re just killing ten rats over and over again.

I believe if someone had a better way to do it, we’d already have it. Most things are redundant in some form; games, jobs, hobbies, most everything we do has some form of ridiculously redundant elements. We like to either downplay the repetition or do things to mask it.

And I think Star Wars does a decent job of de-ratting their missions. Here’s why:

Why yes, I did just carry that enormous box across the desert and haul it up three flights of stairs to see you, puny human. Yet you still haven't told me why I should care.

The Illusion of Choice

Every time I’ve been given a special option to choose how to complete a mission, I’ve enjoyed the mission and remembered it. Deep down it’s silly to enjoy that mission more, it’s still clicking on 6 buttons after killing several packs of mobs. No matter which choice I make those 6 buttons and packs of mobs are non-negotiable if I want to keep doing missions in the area.

But give me a choice to make – poison those troops over the course of weeks or make ’em dead via overload here and now? Subvert the mad scientist by bringing the 6 quest items to his assistant to tamper with first or give him the actual results?

And suddenly I’m engaged in the game. I’m role-playing because I have to decide if my character is the subversive type. Or the merciful type. Or…

The conversations with NPCs don’t “matter” for the most part. The cut scene may play out a little different if you’re rude to the puny humans trying to bother you (and I do love how they quiver before me) but it’s still the same quest and maybe a little rep gained or lost from your companion.

But that’s another thing. I enjoy playing the mini-game of “What should I say to this dude to make Khem Val love me more?” My character has changed because of this companion. At its heart, this is classic min-maxing and power-leveling. And yet, I get way too much joy out of disrespecting those puny humans to get Khem’s approval. Way too much.

Freedom of Expression

When it’s all said and done, people love and value ways to express themselves. And for all the arguments to be made that there’s no real expression in a video game because there’s millions of people playing and only a handful of “expressions”, we still need them.

Going back to a real life analogy, it’s the same reason people spend excessive amounts of time personalizing their signatures, their websites, blog headers, gravatars, profile pages. Does any of that actually matter? It does because it matters to the person expressing him or herself, even if a signature or a template will look more-or-less like the other billion on the internet. We enjoy that stuff for some reason.

Though… There is one place where I’m consistently pulled out of the game to remember it’s just an RPG. It’s whenever I have to make the choice between light side and dark side. Sometimes, the light side choice is right up my alley. Others, it feels forced, for instance you let some d-bag live (who totally deserves to die) because it’s the “right” thing to do. I do feel like “choosing” light or dark at the beginning of character progression locks you in to stop role playing and always click on the black triangle or white star when it pops up.

So has SW:TOR given us enough self-expression and illusion of choice to make us kill those ten rats again? Time will tell, specifically, when we start getting closer to max rank (where it takes more and more quests) and making alts and end up doing the content again.

noob no more
December 19, 2011, 9:11 pm
Filed under: on gaming | Tags: , , ,

One of the biggest reasons I hesitated getting excited for SWTOR was that I wasn’t ready to be a n00b just yet.

That was also my largest complaint with WoW’s Wrath to Cataclysm changeover. Dramatic overhaul of healing systems and grouping mechanics. During Wrath I loved blogging about my learning experiences, posting helpful (to me at least) tips, and ranting. I wasn’t ready for Cataclysm.

When I discovered there were only three tiers to Cataclysm and that Mists would potentially be coming out in 2012, I was… so not ready to be a n00b all over again.

So, my hesitation to play TOR. I am a huge Star Wars n00b. I don’t know much about the universe. Droids, lightsabers, light side, dark side; okay yeah I know about those things. But that’s pretty much it. I knew to play this game I would (and will) have to learn a whoooole lot of things. Not just a new game. How to interact in that world. The lore. Oh, my god the lore.

I should have known it wouldn’t be a problem. Getting started was ridiculously easy (if you ignore queue times). The “what you need to know to jump in” is minimal.

And the quests are heavily story-based. Sure, I knew that SWTOR would be… But as far as user experience it’s ingenious. My journey started the way every story ever has started: with one character. Little by little, we’re fed the lore we need to understand what’s going on in the world. One quest, one conversation, one codex at a time. I’m sure loremasters find enough to keep them occupied. And for n00bs like me, there’s enough grounding to know where to go and see hints of what is to come. The iceberg is there, but I only have to deal with the tip right now.

My post title is misleading. I still am very much a n00b and I am okay with that. It’s great to be learning a new game again, to be at the start of something big and shiny and new. All possibilities.