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?

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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. 🙂



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?



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?



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.