peal's heals – a swtor blog

i’m level 11 and muckin up your queue

In an attempt to fight the problem we have with 6-8 people wanting to queue and dealing with how we split up our parties, how we stagger the queues (which ends up being time consuming, less games for one team), or if we’ll fight against each other, well, we thought we’d all roll lowbies so we could get a group of 50’s playing and a group of lowbies and it’d all be good.

Except we’re all kind of in love with our lowbies so we’re stuck with the same problem: 6-8 wanting to run together.

I made a sorcerer to heal. Of course I did. I love them. I miss my sorcerer. And the lowbie queue is really fun. It’s average faster queue times, and for some reason crushing losses are funnier when you’re level 11 with only 1 heal than when you’re 50 and still 2k points from your next War Hero upgrade.

We do experience crushing losses. When four of us level 11-12s join and the highest level person is 33 on our team, well, we realize we’ve kinda gimped everyone. But I don’t care, it’s still fun. It’s not all losses, and sometimes even at level 11 you can lead the scoreboard (in places like Voidstar where everyone can get face time) and still feel like you did good things.

I’ve even scored in Huttball. And here I thought I wouldn’t get the chance to score till I had Force Speed. Can’t wait for that, btw, and bubble, and Innervate… The nice thing about leveling this way is there’s so much to look forward to. I think most of us will do class quests but mostly focus on leveling PvP. And this time? Dark side all the way.

Seriously, though. BioWare, we need 8-man queues. Right away. We can’t be the only guild that’s suffering with this awkward size thing. Oh, and I’ve had a ticket open since 4/21 that no one has touched. Some customer service would GREAT.


why you don’t want to play an agent
April 10, 2012, 4:12 pm
Filed under: for fun, pvp | Tags: , , , , ,

I have this embarrassing confession to make…

I prefer warzone groups that have exactly two Imperial Agents: me and Apparation.

There are a few exceptions, of course, but at the same time I see other snipers and operatives and think “sheesh, if only we had this many Sorcerers instead.”

And I could trot out some wonderful-sounding excuses like “well, Agents are hard to play properly” or “bounty hunters and inquisitors are just so gosh-darned good right now” but the long and short of it is, there’s this preconception that Agents are the weakest class.

If I’m being honest with myself, they are.

5 Reasons Not to Play an Agent in PVP

1. All the other kids in the playground (er, players in the warzone) groan when you hop into their game. No really, you could have rolled a mercenary or a sorcerer and everybody knows it. At least you can be bad and still do a decent job if you play the overpowered classes.

2. No freaking closing ability. Seriously, when we start talking about awesome movement utility the Agent gets left in the dust. Force speed is ridiculously amazing and that’s not all: Sorcerers also get Extrication (think life grip) for double the ball-carrying speed action. Then Powertechs get grapple, Warriors can Charge and Juggernauts can Intercede. So why do Operatives (a melee-only class) get… nothing?

3. While we’re ranting about what Agent’s don’t have, I should mention this other minor thing… KNOCKBACKS. Inquisitor’s Overload is awesome. Sure, it’s self-based but some can talent it to stun and man that stun always lasts forever when you’re on the receiving end. And whatever that thing that Bounty Hunters can do like all the freaking time- yeah, I hate that. Stupid bounty hunters.

4. See that Merc over there, spamming Tracer Missle like there’s no tomorrow? And that Sorcerer throwing out lightning? Sustained burst is not for you, Agent. You get to cast a whole three abilities (slight hyperbole warning) and then you can run around waiting for your energy to come back. Enjoy!

5. Speaking of sustained burst, a sorcerer healer has a lot of different offensive abilities they can use to keep busy when no healing is needed. Sure, their Lightning and all isn’t quite as powerful as going with a DPS spec, but they can still do a whole rotation of things and have some Force to spare for healing. I can’t speak for Mercs but considering some of the damage and healing done in warzones by Mercs I’d say they can stay busy, too. Not so with the Agent. Our Operative arsenal is pretty pathetic (you have to spec into the other DPS trees to get more key abilities) and not-at-all sustainable if we want to heal, too. Let’s face it, Overload Shot just costs too much for what it does. And that’s about all we have when Shiv and Backstab are down.

Fortunately, there are some good reasons to play an Agent in PVP:

1. You are the only healer who can stealth. So when those jerks on the other team put a giant flame target on your head (it’ll happen), you can actually get to the brawl and help your team before you get ganked. There’s also the chance you’ll survive, too, since you’re always with a group. Being able to choose your fights is priceless.

2. Sorcerers aren’t the only ones who can have fun on ledges, picking players off one by one. Snipers can, too. And cover makes you immune to Grapple and a couple other movement devices.

3. Agents are the minority. Which means playing an agent, you’ll round out the group. And here’s this other potential benefit: your other team may have less experience playing against you than they do Sorcerers and Sages. Seriously. Even as a healer with pathetic damage output, I’m able to solo players who don’t understand how Operative healers work (killing a n00b DPS is highly satisfying, give it a try) (and if two people are dead-set on killing me anyways, I try to lure them away from the rest of their team as far as possible and leave them in the wrong pit for maximum travel-time wastage. Most the time they really think I’m trying to flee and chase me all the way).

4. So maybe we don’t get cool toys like the other kids but you know what we get? Hots. And as much as I really think Probes should stack higher than 2, being able to spread them out over the group (watching the energy bar, mind you!) makes for some awesome zerg parties. Being able to move while I’m spreading the love is pretty great, too, so I can position myself to pillar-hump once some Merc thinks he has a shot of killing me. Dream on, dude. I got instants to spare.

5. Us Agents are patient folk. In 1.2, guess who’s getting nerfed? That’s right… everyone BUT Agents. As much as I think Agents (mostly Operatives, can’t speak for Snipers) don’t have all the utility we need, we’re being watched and I’m certain developers will keep nerfing and buffing till we have a shot at staying competitive.

6. The healing and damage done metric can be overrated. Sure, I’d do a hell of a lot more dps or healing as a Sorc or a Merc. I’m sure of it (and I’ve played Sorc to know). But at the end of the day, winning a warzone takes more than that. Fighting in the middle nets you good numbers but does it matter if the enemy claims the other two turrets or if the other team has the ball near the goalline? Any player sacrifices “numbers” to be in the right spot at the right time. It is trickier for Operatives because our interrupt, stun, and group CC are all melee-only, but with Stealth/Vanish we have a shot at getting to the ball, the turret, wherever we want to be, to do the most good. Not the most healing.

7. Our gear is so sweet. See that sissy running around in a robe frayed with purple fuzzies and feathers? Or that dude who thinks wearing a tin can is awesome? Not so, dear Agents (Scoundrels, too). We got style in spades… and the coolest sunglasses.

8. Oh, and the Agent storyline is the best. That is all.

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.

catch me if you can: sorcerer kiting rehash
January 11, 2012, 12:00 am
Filed under: gameplay, strategy | Tags: , ,

I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, here. But I have to be honest, for fighting a lot of the big bad guys in my Inquisitor class missions I ended up kiting. I’m sure I’ll still get pwned the first time I try PvP, but one thing at a time.

1. Can not stress this enough: know the world around you. There may or may not be catwalks specifically designed for you to Overload people off of. IE, you hit the button and the “congrats you killed this dude” cutscene is loading before the body hits the ground. The developers have given us a world to play in, and I mean the word play in the most traditional (and enjoyable) sense. Play in the whole world. We’re supposed to.

While I’m annoyed that line of sight is so finicky out in the world when I’m trying to hit that droid behind the thing, it’s sure handy when you’re on the receiving end. Pillars and corners and nooks and ramps! My new title should be Peal The Pillar-Humper. Forcewalking is so passe.

2. Interrupting: socially acceptable once you’re Sith. Most elites have one or two abilities you wanna interrupt. We have three ways to frustrate the big bad dudes: Jolt, Overload, and Electrocute. I’ve found that if the big bad dude tries to heal, that healing should be interrupted first. But occasionally they’ll have an attack that just hurts too much if they can finish casting.

Even with three interrupts there may not be full coverage. But I’ve found leading with Jolt and using Electrocute second (long cooldown, using it early in the fight to squeeze in a second or third use) will make sure Jolt is up for the third. And the fourth? Overload. Once you get a feel for the timing of the big bad dude’s cooldowns, you’ll know when to either let him get close to you or when to run in.

That is, if you’re not using Overload to throw people off stairs and around corners. Some planning may be in order. Overload can be finicky as an interrupt. If you cast it too late the big bad dude will finish the cast before he goes flying and sometimes he won’t get interrupted.

3. Kiting: It’s not just for healers who can’t nuke. Sometimes you just need a second to let that hot heal you back up, an ability to come off cooldown, or the Static Barrier debuff to wear off. You don’t need to kite the whole fight to make use of the breathing space afforded by making the environment your slave. You can kite/use LoS at the pull to avoid the patrol (though keep your minion in check). Or kite to get enough Force to finish the mob off. Or duck behind a corner to get all the mobs into one neat little pack so you can Force Storm them to pieces.

Am I the only one who gets a kick out of the way weak targets writhe while caught in my wrath? This Light Side thing is a ruse.

sorcerer kiting
January 3, 2012, 12:00 pm
Filed under: gameplay, missions, strategy | Tags: , , , ,

I had the opportunity to, ahem, teach myself how to kite.

Normally Khem’s a pretty good bodyguard but once in a while there’s a melee-class elite that roflstomps him. Completely. In situations like this no amount of healing can save him. He falls over like a big dumb rock, crying “Heal me little sith!” while I’m spamming him.

Andronikos is even less sturdy, though I appreciate his attempts at humor in the face of death.

After way too many attempts to keep these companions alive and barely burning the elite to 75% or so, I considering waiting and begging someone for help but that isn’t very sith-like. And I was sick of dying, so when Andy fell, I refreshed my dot on the elite and ran like hell for the instance. The craziest thing happened…

I lived.

The spark of an idea was born.

I decided to let my poor pirate go without any help. He died quickly and I kited the elite. A long fight, very long, yes, but I did it.

Then further down the quest chain I had a surprise elite jump me. I managed to kite him from 80% without any problems at all. I felt liberated; sometimes leveling healer-spec can be thankless and suicidal, but if I can kite, then new worlds (or is it galaxies?) are opened up to me.

And upon further reflection, I’m a complete and total n00b. I forgot to utilize two abilities… ya know, ‘minor’ things like Force Slow and Electrocute. *sigh* But that’s okay! Learn from my mistakes.

Kiting As A Sorcerer Healer – The Path to Awesome

  • Clear the area. Extra pulls will kill you dead, so give yourself plenty of space. CC the elite and wipe out his bodyguards. If you get a few seconds remaining on Whirlwind to top up your health and Force, use it.
  • Get to know the room. Look for line-of-sight nooks, corners, ramps to jump off of, and straightaways to maximize your Force Speed.
  • Instant casts are your friend. Affliction can be cast while facing away from a mob. To cast Shock, however, you’ll need to be facing him. With Overload, you will want to get the hang of when to best use the knockback. If you’re too close to a wall, you won’t get its full range. If you’re running in the same direction, you won’t put as much space between you and the elite. I had the best luck putting the elite behind me and then knocking him away.
  • Did I mention instant casts are your friend? Static Barrier and Resurgence should be about all the healing you need (though I am trigger-happy with the med packs. When else am I gonna need ’em?).
  • Force Lightning is great because you can clip it and still get a couple of ticks of damage. Though I found myself relying more on Affliction and Shock. I’m sure the same holds true with stealing ticks of Innervate, but again, you’ll probably want to keep moving and allow Resurgence to tick instead of taking damage.
  • Kiting an elite as a healer takes a long time compared to many other fights you’ll encounter while questing. Think more about survival, avoiding damage, and refreshing Affliction. Keeping abilities up and knowing what you want to use next and where is more important than nuking.
  • You’ll be running your ass off. Stay moving.

And there you have it. Have you tried kiting yet as a solo healer? How’s it working out for you?

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.

a christmas wishlist
December 22, 2011, 12:00 am
Filed under: for fun, gameplay | Tags: , ,

Here’s what I want for Christmas in TOR:

  1. A click-to-cast heal interface
  2. a speeder
  3. for Khem Val to stop -1(ing) my fairness and even temper
  4. faster-loading conversations

What are you wishing for this week?