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Status report: 25!

As I mentioned last week, my work schedule is back to pre-xmas level, so my gaming-time is rather limited during the week. However, I do get to play on the weekend and early on during the week, and other than doing the Ilum-dailies with Cravon, my tank-specced JK Halenor just hit level 25 today, while on Nar Shadaa.

I have to say: It is STILL fun. Sure, having leveled through those zones before meant a few less surprises, as I already had seen what happened during the quests. However, of course, the JK-questline is still new to me, and it’s fun to watch what happens in that one.

Also, I am able to spend a bit more money on crew skill-missions and gear this time around, as Cravon earns quite a bit during the dailies, and some of the profit is then forwarded to Halenor. It sure was nice to get the speeder-training right away when he got to 25… I remember Cravon running until, I think, Tatooine (or was it Alderaan) because he simply didn’t have enough money… well, he did, but it was spend on training new spells and spell-levels and crafting-missions.

Having a tank-specced char is fun as well. It is a different playstyle, since I of course tank myself while Kira is the companion of choice. Once again, the companion-system shows its big benefit for learning roles… I get to practice holding threat on groups of mobs and single targets, competing for threat with Kira. Any new talent and spell helps a lot, because I now have some of the main threat-generators plus threat-increasing talents and a taunt, plus the insanely useful Guard-spell (which lowers the target’s threat and transfers some damage the target takes to me)

The quest bosses, so far, have not been any problem, and dieing only happens when for some reason I accidentially pull more than one group. Earlier today, in the Nar Shadaa factory, Kira accidentially pulled a gold star-level mob on top of a group of a strong- and two normal mobs.
Using my cooldowns, and the occasional potion, it’s rather easy though to endure even big attacks and wear down elite bosses, and it’s great to have a chance to practice generating threat while questing… putting it into my “muscle memory”.

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Random thoughts on the 1.1 patch notes

Tomorrow, patch 1.1 will drop and, along with a new flashpoint and other new content, will bring us a bunch of bug-fixes as well.

Let’s go through a few of those patch-notes…
Before we do though, check out the list of additional changes for patch 1.1

In general

– It’s good to see that BW is dropping new content already. Very necessary as well, as new content is very important even early on. The game has been out for a month now, and many have leveled their first char to level 50, are doing the heroics and hard modes, their dailies on Ilum, but of course, want new content as well.

– The agenda “smaller content patches, but more often” is an interesting one and might just work. Sure, if you look at Blizz’s content-patch-schedule, there was half a year between 4.2 and 4.3, and by the time the latter brought the new Dragonsoul-raid, some people still were working on Firelands heroic (or normal). But more casual players (and non-raiders) or people who cleared Fireland very quickly were already waiting for new stuff, and you often get the “players taking a break until the new patch” phenomenom, which also might mean some WON’T come back.

– The storyline is centered around a new plague, transforming people into rakghouls

Frankly, even though I will not judge the whole storyline or the new content by the trailer, I feel a bit confused as this has a VERY strong Resident Evil-vibe to it =) Sure, Rakghouls are something a bit different than zombies, and have been in Kotor before, but the trailer really reminds me a lot of those RE-sequences…

“Kira Carsen

– Fixed an issue that caused players to be unable to progress in Kira’s affection conversations. Players previously affected by this issue can now speak to Kira and progress normally.”

I am very glad to hear this, and it was a bit overdue, because companion progress matters to a lot of people, and several JKs are at level 50 already. They missed out on the “companion storyline” for Kira, and also on a lot of XP while leveling from the conversations with her. I assume though that the amount of time it took for it to be fixed (when other bugs were fixed in hotfixes) was caused by the problem being rather complicated.
I hope that people will now be able to access all the conversations they missed, instead of having to go through a reset of Kira’s affection-level (I doubt that will happen, otherwise it’d probably have been mentioned)

“- Corrected an issue that prevented recently completed Crew Skill missions from showing up in the next list of available missions.”

I am surprised this was considered a bug, I thought it was a normal game mechanic, but it’s nice that there will be a change. I read this as “OK, when you have sent your companion on a mission for, say, level 2 power crystals, and you get the kind you need for crafting, you can immediately send out a companion on the same mission to get more”. Am I getting this right?

“- The Summit: The difficulty of the encounter with Sidone has been reduced.”

This is kinda strange… SIdone was nerfed, yet no word on Stark? Don’t get me wrong, I like challenges, but according to what I saw in forums, and based on the logs of this very blog, a LOT of people seem to be struggling with it, and I am sure some are very frustrated with the difficulty of this fight. I don’t know if it is much easier for Shadows, but as a Sage, this is probably the hardest of the “questline bosses”, and I do think it SHOULD be nerfed. So I wonder why they make Sidone easier yet leave Stark alone.

I read somewhere (I dont remember) that the last boss of the JK-questline will be nerfed as it is pretty much undoable without at least 2 players now, which is not intended by Bioware. Now, I am rather sure that a LOT of Sages ask guildies for help with Stark, and so I think he is right up there on the list of bosses that should be nerfed. It’s hard to hit the golden middle, but there is a difference between “very hard, feels like a true achievement when you kill him” and “so hard it makes you wanna log out and quit playing for a bit as you can’t even get close no matter how hard you try, and you already have a repair bill of 24K”

“- Back Alley: Players now receive credit for defending the point with the turret.” (from the additional patch notes)

So glad to hear it is being fixed. On both my chars that leveled through Nar Shadaa, this one still is in their quest log as the quest simply didn’t complete no matter how often I tried.

“- Vivicar Awaits: Lowered the amount of enemies that attack the player during the step “Find a Way Past the Force Field.””

That is nice…I think, because I don’t remember struggling with them too much. What was MORE of a problem in Vivicar’s ship was a) erratic behaviour of my companion, who for some reason suddenly ran ahead and aggroed a whole room full of mobs and b) mobs running in (nice idea, sure), but much too late, so you have walked past the point where they stop running, THEN they run in, run by, and immediately aggro you without you being prepared. I hope those bits were fixed too.

” Corrected an issue that caused the indicator that a companion wants to talk to you to disappear.”

Nice to hear! I thought it was just a bug that had the icon appear without the companion wanting to talk, but apparently, it was the other way around. This will help, because at first, I rushed back to the ship, all the way from my quest area, just to see that icon disappear again, and for a while I thought my companion had this evil plan to drive me nuts…

COnclusion

As you can tell, my random thoughts were rather questing/Consular/JK/republic-based. Of course there is a lot more in those patch notes, but I focused on those that caught my attention right away…

I am personally looking forward the most to the fixes to Kira, especially because I am leveling a JK myself, and also, one of my good friends in The Sanctuary has often mentioned that she is bugged, and therefore has missed out on the companion progression, so both him and me will get to see that now, hopefully.
And I do hope that some other encounters will be nerfed, as the stats of this blog show me every day how many people are looking for help with Stark, and I know it must be quite frustrating to them, so I hope Bioware will nerf him at least a bit…

Some advice for new healers…

…or “Typical healer mistakes”.

Let’s face it, whether you’ve healed in other games and wanna start doing it in SWTOR now, or whether you have never healed before, it can be an intimidating task to even get started. You wanna get your gear and talents right, have to think about the layout of your action bar, have to practice different strategies, and even when that is done, it’s still kinda scary to run your first flashpoint or heroic as a healer.

Now, I have talked about the Sage-spells and talents before, but I would like to add a bit more “overall advice” for healers. Some of this you sure are aware of if you have healed before, but maybe this will help you succeed…

1. Stay calm!

One of the worst things that can happen is if you panic. Yes, there can be scary situations, but if you flip out and panic, your chances to make it will not increase… they will probably decrease if you’re stressed out.
Face it, what is the worst that can happen? If you run with friends and guildies, dieing will not be the end of the world. If you are in a PUG, someone may complain, but you know what? People always do in MMOs. It’s normal, unfortunately, and something we have to deal with (same goes for tanks, and, as soon as a DPS-meter is involved, DPS-classes too). Whether it is your fault or not, people sometimes flip out when a wipe happens or they die, as if it is the worst thing ever. Get used to it, or quit the group… it really isn’t worth it putting up with those who act as if a death in an instance is like a personal catastrophy. YOu will have to grow some thick skin. No, it is NOT fun to have the extra pressure, having to worry people will call you stuff if you fail twice, but it’s the state the MMO-scene is in these days.
I am not suggesting that you should be careless, I am just saying that, even when you do everything right, people will complain. There are some awesome people you meet in PUGs who are totally cool even when things go wrong, but there are also the nerdragers/ragequitters who take stuff too seriously.
Back to my point: No matter what, don’t panic, it won’t help. Stay focussed, and don’t throw up your hands in the air and go “I can’t do this”
It’s important to stay concentrated, because once you panic, mistakes are more prone to happen.

2. Don’t give up

This is related to the point above. “If you fall down, get back up and try again”. Failing or making mistakes is an important part of learning. Believe me, I know what I am talking about. When I first got into healing, or returned to it, in another MMO, those first few instances that I healed in were BRUTAL. I was about to give up after the 2nd or 3rd wipe. It didn’t matter that most of that wasn’t even my fault, with people standing in void-zones, “in the fire”, taking damage impossible to outheal, didn’t matter that the DPS didn’t watch their threat and got aggro… I didn’t pay attention, I just thought I sucked.

Good healing requires experience and good reaction-times, and in many cases knowledge of how certain encounters go (eg. knowing at what time a certain boss starts to unload huge damage). All this is a question of practicing, and if you give up right away, you won’t get anywhere. Ask any good healer and they will tell you that they failed many times, but that they learned from that, had to come up with new tactics, and that it was an incredibly rewarding feeling to finally heal through a whole instance or a very demanding boss-fight.

Don’t. Give. Up.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk

If it is the first time you heal, it might be a good idea to say so. Some people expect the healer to be experienced, and might start bigger pulls than you have seen before, so let them know it is your first attempt. If you are honest about it, people might be a bit more careful, and if things go wrong, be more patient. If some jerk uses some of the typical WOW-vocabulary on you “LOLWUT, n00b!”, consider leaving. Not giving up, but maybe considering doing this with guildies, friends, people who accept that everyone has to learn at some point, and deserves to be given the time and chance to do so.

This also refers to letting people know if you need them to watch out for something. If someone keeps standing “in the fire”, taking unnecessary damage, if someone constantly attacks the wrong mobs and gets aggro, if people constantly go out of LOS, let them know! Don’t take the blame for other people’s mistake, but ask them to do it differently, as some really don’t know sometimes.

4. But keep it civil

You know the deal… “treat others the way you…” Don’t start cussing at people, try to be polite in your requests or directions. “COuld you please make sure you don’t rush ahead to much/go out of LOS?” works better than “Hey, you frigging n00b, if you die its your fault lolz”

5. Tunnel Vision I

Your job is to “care” for other people, to keep them alive. But that also means you have to keep YOURSELF alive. That has nothing to do with being selfish. It’s simple: if you die, the others will too, as there won’t be any healing anymore once you are dead. I have seen so many healers try so hard, while ignoring their own health bars. In the most ideal case, you shouldn’t take damage at all, but remember that there are encounters where everyone takes damage, so even with an awesome tank, it’s possible you take damage. Keep everyone alive, including yourself.

6. Tunnel Vision II

You have been given more than just healing spells. You can CC, debuff a mob, do damage. Of course, healing is your first priority, and if there is a lot of damage, you should focus on that only. However, you can also make fights easier. If there are big groups, you can force-lift one of them to remove them from battle for one minute. You can stun and interrupt mobs, which is insanely important for some encounters.
That does not mean that you have to compete with the DPS-players, but if you have some time to breathe in between healing, and you see the boss cast a high damage-spell, use your interrupt, stun adds, or force-lift one mob before the pull.

7. Come prepared

Even if you are a healer, having a health potion at hand can be a life-saver. If the whole group takes damage, and you are getting dangerously close to dieing, using a potion might help you stay alive, while giving you time to keep healing the others. Stims should be a no-brainer. Having your gear up to date and correctly modded is essential as well… even if you are doing a great job, do everything right, if you are level 50 and wear level 30 gear with same level-mods and enhancements will weaken your heals tremendously.

8. Experiment

Your companions are a unique way to practice healing “mini rotations” and practicing what to do in certain situations. How to heal a lot of damage quickly. What to do when you get aggro. Getting used to dispelling debuffs.

9. Read your talents

I am serious. There are so many people who never read the descriptions of their talents, and miss out on a lot of important information. Those talents are not always actual spells or increase your willpower or whatever… they might add procs to some of your spells, or suggest a certain order of spells that will increase your healing output a lot. Read them, and keep in mind what they do!

10. Challenge yourself

This will most likely require the help of guildies or friends. Test your limits! Try out how you do in extreme situations. Grab a tank and a DPS-char, head into some 2+ place, and ask them to go nuts. How can you handle the output of big pulls (they might accidentially happen in “real circumstances”? What to do when you get aggro? What to do when the group is attacked while you are still building up your Force again…can you survive even if you have only half your Force at the beginning of the fight?
I sometimes do this with friends and offer to cover their repair bills if stuff goes wrong, but many of them have declined that offer, and went in there to help me, or maybe there was some good rewards to get, or maybe just for the fun of it.
Conclusion

Being a healer can be very rewarding, but also very demanding. If you really wanna do a good job, you’ve got a great foundation to build on. Try to get the most out of your class and spec, give yourself time to practice and develop “skillz”. Don’t panic and don’t give up when things go wrong!

Zone review: Corellia


Design/Atmosphere:
I love the design of Corellia. It IS a bit repetitive, but you can tell the differences between the different city zones (check out the zoo for example), and its a subtle change, not like “OK, purple part of the town, here is the wacky magic-like part” or something. I love the mixture of futuristic city, industrial pollution and warzone. Guess I am a bit biased too because I like city zones a lot anyway.

Quests:
The quests themselves are very nice, especially since you get that feeling or urgency…fighting the Imperials that have done the unthinkable, invading a core-world! On top of that, a very very essential part of the Sage-questline happens here, ending in a climatic battle, and that alone was…well, worth the prize of admission I guess =)

In general:
Corellia is another “classic world”, we have known the name for a long time. Its another place that I always tried to imagine, and I was not disappointed, as you really feel like you’re in a gigantic, slightly polluted city that has recently become a dangerous warzone. A nice place to end the storyline, right in the middle of the Galactic Core

A look back

Now that Cravon is level 50, it’s time to take a quick look back. I have to say that the time i have spent in game so far has been pretty much the most fun I had in gaming in a long time, especially when it comes to an MMO.

I loved leveling the Sage, for several reasons:
1. Yes, there are lowbie quests and boring clothes at first, but BW did an amazing job at making you feel powerful even early on.

2. This relates to the storyline as well, as you are given the feeling you really are some kind of Jedi-prodigy, working on this important, dangerous mission to fight a really tough villain.

3. The storytelling is great. I love how the class-questline leads you through those worlds as some kind of a red thread, and experiencing the story was almost like watching a movie or reading a book. When I had to take a break from playing, I felt anticipation to come back into game and see what happens next…it’s been quite some time since I felt that.

4. Even though of course a lot of things are borrowed from other games (let’s not get into that or how some other games took tons of stuff from their competitors or predecessors too), there are some fun new elements here…the companions, the way you work on crafting, the story-heavy flashpoints, etc.

5. I felt VERY immersed in the storyline, and I soon felt quite attached not only to my char, but also to my companions. Quyzen is the tough hunter with a simple, yet very honorable agenda, brave and fearless. Nadja is the young Force-sensitive finding her way, dealing with grief… and I could write about all of them at some point (and I will, too!), and it just amazed me how much you start to like and care about your companions.

6. A lot of the fights were fun as you had to (or could) use different strategies, different companions etc. Sometimes, you had to think or experiment to find out how to beat a boss, sometimes you had to pull very carefully or use all your abilities to stay alive.

There is SO much more I could say, but right now, I am happy at 50, am looking forward to another char, and am grateful I was able to experience this. So…once more, cheers everyone!

Replay value

Meet Halenor, my second char. Now that Cravon is level 50, I started working on building this alt, and he is already specced for tanking (Jedi Guardian, obviously).

Cravon of course is doing his dailies, runs heroics or FPs with friends and guildies, and I am working on gearing him some more. Once more of my guild-mates reach level 50, there will be more guild-activities, so he will see more use, but also, I wanted to level a tank too.

Why? Well, I do like all roles, whether it’s tanking, healing or DPSing. However, by now I enjoy DPS the least. I don’t know if I burned out on DPS in other MMOs, or whether it’s just that I simply enjoy both healing and tanking more… I have for a long time, and so it was obvious I’d roll a healer and a tank in SWTOR.

One thing that worried me before I actually tried the game was: “How is the replay value”. After all, the game kinda designates the order of planets you move through, and there aren’t alternatives there. In WOW, if you don’t wanna level, say, from 10-15 in Westfall, you head to Darkshore and Ashenvale, or Dun Morough or the Draenei zones. At the same time, Blizzard implemented their new “do this one quest, unlock one more, then do that, and you get 2 more, which you have to do in order to get the third” system with Cataclysm, and for many altoholics like myself, it sucked the fun out of replaying.

SWTOR is like that to a certain degree. If you start a Jedi, whether it’s a knight or a consular, you start in Tython, then it’s Coruscant. However, the main quest-line, your class-quest, is different every time. Sure, if you first level a Sage and then a Shadow (both Consulars), you will have the same class-quests, BUT: So far, I have enjoyed the heck out of leveling my second char, and it doesn’t feel like “Oh sigh…again…argh, level 50 pls hurry up”.

Sure, a lot of quests are the same, and the stuff that wasn’t as much fun the first time isn’t much better the next time. For example, I did not like questing in “The Works” on Coruscant that much, and was glad once I was through with that the second time.

However, of course I can now benefit from the experiences I made with Cravon… I can avoid certain mistakes (like putting more emphasis on gathering mats and leveling my crew skills, or keeping my companions geared), I know the “standard” quests and know what to do. But the different class-questline makes a BIG difference… it’s like a different story, a different movie, and it’s fun to watch. And just like the first time, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

And there are some differences too. With the Sage, right after being done in Coruscant, I was sent to Taris. With Halenor, I was sent to Ord Mantell (which is where I am right now), so it’s not quite as predictable as I thought… very nice.

It seems like BW actually put some thought into this, trying to make sure that it wouldn’t feel like “same old same old”…and I salute them for it. They did great on the leveling process itself, but making sure people wouldn’t be totally bored the second time around shows quite some foresight.

So… even though I can invest less time (due to work and the fact I wanna do stuff with my level 50), I am looking forward a lot to leveling the tank as well, and I am not worried about being bored…I am pretty sure there will be some surprises coming up soon =)

How to beat Councillor Saiak and The First Son (the Sage-way)

I know I have been posting a lot of these guides recently, but according to my website statistics, apparently a lot of people look for them, too. There just isn’t as much info as you may be used to from other games around yet, and also, some of the comments and “how tos” I have seen were Shadow-centric, and therefore suggest other strategies than you would use as a Sage.

SPOILER ALERT: I will not mention details on the story behind the First Son or who he is. Still, if you really don’t even want any chance of it being spoiled, skip that part until you actually have to fight him and know more. =)

Here are two more from the Sage-questline. Let’s start with…

Councillor Saiak

Of course, part of the trick again is interrupting… that is an important thing to do almost ALWAYS, right? However, what is the key to this one is RANGE. Saiak has several AOE-attacks and you want Quyzen to be the only one to take that damage, so simply keep as much range as you possibly can while still being enough in range to heal your companion.
If you notice Saiak cast and you have a sec, TAB to target him and interrupt or stun.
As you can tell from the screenshot, I was actually able to do some damage in between, so it really wasn’t that tough

In a nutshell:
Recommended companion: Quyzen
What to watch out for: Step out of stuff on the ground and keep maximum range to that and the boss himself. So keep changing positions, and you will have plenty of time to heal Fess.
The First Son

This fight is one of the harder ones for sure. It still isn’t as tough as Stark (I guess it’s safe to say that that one is the hardest, at least for a sage) but this boss has about 60K health, which is about 30-40K more than the previous bosses. Also, he has a one-shot-ability which will kill you if you don’t stop him, AND puts quite a bit of damage on your companion… and did I mention his throwback-ability which will interrupt your casting if you’re too close?

Well, here we go:
Use a tank companion, and you will spend most (if not all) of your time healing that companion. I am talking constant healing, and no, you will hardly overheal. When I did it, there were several situations where I was praying for Force Armor to go off CD so I could cast it again and get my pet up to 100% (or at least close).
The boss will constantly cast stuff, abilities similar to yours: Disturbance, Telekinetic Throw etc. DOn’t bother interrupting those, because at some point, he will start casting a LONG cast. Even if you don’t have him targeted, you will know because the ground and everything else will begin to shake a lot.
When that happens, stop EVERYTHING you are doing, target him and spam your interrupt or stun to stop him. This cast will bring down the roof of the cave onto your head, which can deal something like 40K damage, so don’t let him finish. Interrupt as quickly as you can.
He will do this more than once, so you might have to use Channel The Force to reset your stun (the HoT it gives won’t hurt much either!).

You will probably take damage yourself, and if you do, you have to consider whether you wanna try to heal yourself back up or use a potion. The damage on you will be considerably less than that on your companion, so I got by with one potion, an occasional Rejuvenate and FA (all insta-casts). This fight will take a while, but if you interrupt his long cast and keep your pet healed up, you will be ok!

Recommended companion: Quyzen
What to watch out for: Heal a LOT. When he casts his long cast, when the ground shakes, TAB to target him IMMEDIATELY and spam your interrupt or stun.