22/10/2017

A Return to Sniping

When it comes to Alts, I have a distinct system in-mind. If I enjoy them and believe that they're able to hold their own in harder Group Content, they're going to get some gear and love. It's why my two designated Mains on both Factions are Gunslinger/Sniper and Guardian/Juggernaut; as much as I love Balance for Sage, I don't think it's at all viable for content like Operations, and whilst it does have good damage output I currently don't know Vanguard DPS well enough to even want to risk taking it into anything of the sort for the moment.

For Galactic Command this makes things very simple. The designated Mains are the only ones who'll be working towards getting the full endgame gear (not that the Imperial equivalents actually need it; I just want to have characters on both Factions with full endgame gear at the same time for once, is all), and everybody else will just be staying at Command Rank 300 with their gear frozen in a state of permanence until the next expansion. Currently this system has proved somewhat successful, with both Calph and Miora on the Republic side already having done the hard work and being in full 248 while their Imperial equivalents have only a small amount of catching-up to do thanks to certain spare items which they had earned.

Since the announcement that items from all Crates earned up to 5.6 will have items within that can be disintegrated into Unassembled Components, I've taken this one step further. I will be keeping the four 'background' Alts exactly where they are with their current gear - no longer upgrading as they progress as had been done previously - and everything they get will simply become Components. In the case of the Vanguard and Sorc, this means that there's 353 Crates of Components between them (199 for the Vanguard, 154 for the Sorc). This also carries over in some form to the Mains; any gear they get that they can't upgrade to something which they themselves can use will be similarly disintegrated.

This has a twofold benefit; first, it allows the Imperial Mains to quickly get 248 rating versions of their peripherals (assuming they get at least one Legendary version of each from their Crates when they eventually become eligible to receive them) and second, should Tier V be released next year with Master Mode Gods then I will hopefully have enough Components stored up by then to negate the grind completely for at least one of the Mains, with Calph as the highest priority, and just buy as much 254 (gear rating only assumed based on the gap of 6 seen between the other ranks [230 > 236 > 242 > 248], so there is a chance that I'm completely incorrect) gear as possible.

I like being prepared even if that which I am preparing for never comes.

But anyway, that was just background noise.

Over the past few months, my Sniper Pippera had been very much left behind. My Juggernaut received the bulk of the Imperial attention gear-wise since she was actually doing something regularly (in this case her Class Story) whilst Pip was doing absolutely nothing but sitting on her backside in the Tatooine Stronghold and occasionally being required to Craft something. To summarise, while she could benefit from Calph's Master Mode-quality armour, everything else was left at either 224 or 220.

The news that my Guild would finally be returning to doing a couple of one-off Ops on the Imperial side finally caused me to pull my finger out and fix Pip some decent gear for a change. She now has her own 246 Crafted Earpiece, Implants, and Relics.

As for her weapons, that solution presented itself very nicely. You may (but most likely will not) recall that in a previous post talking about Tier IV in its very early days I mentioned that I had upgraded two 242 Mainhands into 248 ones for Calph only to then receive a third from a Crate that very same day. This is something which continued to repeat itself not once but twice; she now has five GEMINI MK-5 Mainhand Blaster shells in her Cargo Bay.

Since 5.0 did away with the whole "Barrels/Hilts/Generator Armourings being bound to specific slots", that meant it was possible to gift two of these three spare weapons in their entirety to Pip, meaning that before she's even left Tier I she has a total gear rating of 247 and now only needs her Earpiece, Implants, and Relics at 248.

It wasn't just her gear needing work, either; I decided to give into my recent "make everyone look distinct" overdrive once again and give her a slight makeover. I had noticed that even though I had finally been making headway with giving everyone their own different hairstyle (basically, four characters used the Jaxo-style prior to the release of the "goth mop", Shae-cut, Lana-bob, and Senya-bun enabling me to diversify things while still adhering to my policy of simplicity over elaborateness) there was still a fair amount of repetition; five of my characters were female body-type-ones while one of these and a further three individuals used the Bright Blue eye colour.

Whilst Bright Blue is a beautiful eye colour, I decided that it was time to change things up. The only one of my characters to possess the colour now is Guardian Miorahna, while Calph has changed to having the greenish-blue option since it's closest to my own and Ziodus has been completely retired so doesn't count.
Since Pip was the only one of those who was both BT1 and utilised Bright Blue eyes, she upgraded to once again be body-type-two and now has dark green eyes. She still has the Jaxo-cut, but since she's the only one now to possess the style it does at least mean that she is different rather than another follower of some bizarre hair cult. I did try to change her hair colour to go one step further but I've grown so attached to that orange colour over the years since first using it on one of my male Operatives that I just couldn't eliminate it from my Legacy altogether.

Since restarting my focus on Pip, she has become the sixth-highest in terms of Command Rank once again, having just surpassed Ferok'ia's Rank of 71 yesterday afternoon. Those two seem to be having a tug-of-war between themselves, since at the time of my previous post, Pip was ahead of Ferok'ia only to be surpassed since I decided rather impulsively to focus on the better-geared one rather than take things slowly and rationally, which has led to things being where they are currently.

Over-impulsiveness is an especially-aggravating trait of mine these days. I really need to get that fixed.

~~~

I'm pleased to have finally got over my apparent-aversion to devoting attention to Pippera. I don't quite know why exactly I was so determined to just abandon her (especially as her Republic equivalent is my full-time Main), but hopefully it shouldn't happen again.

15/10/2017

300s #4 and #5

Since the last time I provided an update on my Legacy, two more Characters have joined the 300-crowd: my Sorcerer Vahnora and my Vanguard Jehnira.

When the new changes to the Commanding Legacy Perk were announced the week prior to 5.5’s launch, I decided to break my vow of inactivity and farm those Dailies. I’m very pleased that they’re back to normal now, though, and I am doing them again with the same enthusiasm I had from before that annoying bug.

Anyway.

I decided to focus on Vahn for this, because unlike Jehn she had immediate access to all Daily zones. Jehn is still partway through the Shadow of Revan storyline and has yet to touch Oricon or of course Ziost, so while she was fifty-one Command Ranks higher I felt I had to start with Vahn just because of this convenience. For some additional context, I started this farming endeavour two hours before the Weekly reset on Tuesday, and had managed to complete all Daily areas save for Section X before the new week began.

To cut a long story short, Vahn hit 300 last Sunday and I believed that I was a-okay to receive that lovely new 75% extra CXP since she was my fourth CR300 character.

Cue Tuesday; It’s revealed that you need one of each mirror Class (Consular/Inquisitor, Knight/Warrior, Smuggler/Agent, Trooper/Hunter) to receive the full boost, something which the Roadmap aggravatingly miscommunicated. Since Vhiallia and Vahnora are a Sage and Sorc respectively, that meant that instead of four characters I technically only had three at CR300.

So, Jehnira needed to step up to the plate. I had always been saving up CXP Packs for this week; I was just hoping to be able to squeeze the highest amount of CXP outta them before I used them, but alas it wasn’t to be. Still, she managed to get from CR101 to CR233 just by popping several cargo bays’ worth of Packs at the first opportunity, and after running nine Flashpoints over the past two days (including two selarate bouts of three FPs yesterday), she hit CR300 yesterday, finally fulfilling that pesky requirement and meaning that I had a representative from each Republic base class at 300.

So, who now? I have no exact idea, and I have three candidates to choose from.

I’m currently taking my new Powertech Phirella (the third) through her Class story, with her having gone from Level 1 - Level 70 in eleven hours on Friday, so she’s currently the most active character of the three.

There’s my Juggernaut, Ferok’ia, who - should anything happen with my Guild group-content wise Impside, has access to the highest-quality gear in general (borrowing my Guardian’s 248 Armour and Offhand and having Crafted 246 peripherals and her own individual 248 Mainhand), so she’s the best candidate to keep constantly doing stuff with of the three.

Then there’s my Sniper Pippera, who has the highest CR of all my non-300s (CR45) yet presently has the worst personal gear (peripherals, Mainhand, and Offhand) of all my characters, so she needs the most ‘help’ of the three. Then again, with the way I’m handling Crates at the moment - storing them with intent to disintegrate the Armour/Weapons inside into sweet, sweet Unassembled Components when 5.6 hits on November 28th - I don’t think she’s going to get that help she needs for some time.

I think I’m going to play it safe and go with the Juggernaut, since she can ‘carry herself’ through the Tiers without my feeling guilty about Disintegrating stuff she gets, since the Legendary Tier III version of each of her Peripherals would be the earliest ‘viable’ replacements for her Crafted 246 stuff.

11/10/2017

5.5: The Cosmetic Touch-Up Patch

There seems to be a common trend in several of the 5.5 changes. Outside of Class Balance changes and the GSF changes in particular, the majority of the changes made relate to cosmetic changes. The Cartel Market and Inventory got a visual update, more Companion Customisations were made available, and of course the server list got its new truncated look a few weeks too early.

Just in general, there's a lot of changes to talk about with 5.5, so let's get started.

09/10/2017

Starfighter Assault: Galactic Starfighter By Another Name

Today we'll be learning what changes will be coming to Galactic Starfighter in SWtOR. It's been a long, long time since this mode received any love, and tomorrow's 5.5 patch will be changing things extensively. I fully-expect them to nerf Repair Probes and Charged Plating in particular, because ships like the FT-7B Clarion - albeit one of my favourite ships - just has a shedton of defensive potential without really trying.

On a similar subject to Galactic Starfighter, I've been indulging in the Star Wars Battlefront II Beta since Wednesday, and have been having an absolute blast in the game's Starfighter Assault mode. To summarise its mechanics, it is basically a significantly simplified version of Galactic Starfighter.

To start with the similarities:

Targeting an opponent is the exact same as in GSF; you need to aim for a small circle in front of your target which is showing which direction they're heading if you want to deal maximum damage or lock-on to them. There are some exceptions to this which we'll get to in a moment, but on the whole if you know how to dogfight in GSF you pretty much know how to play Starfighter Assault.

Indeed, to make the transition easier you can of course remap controls to fit your GSF playstyle. For example the Right Mouse-Button by default is a "Zoom" while your abilities are initially keyed to Q, E, and F, with the third ability being your missile. I personally prefer to scrap the zoom entirely (it's pretty useless) and remap the missile to it instead as an alternate key (since you can remap to a keyboard and to a mouse simultaneously) and remap the other two abilities to 1 and 2 respectively since I use those far more frequently than keyboard letters due to having a programmable mouse.

That's pretty much it for the similarities. Yes, there's only one. I did say it was significantly simplified!

The differences are more than a bit extensive:

By default, a system known as "auto-levelling" is turned on, which rights your ship to the 'proper' level automatically should it become too tilted. This makes no sense in space and can thankfully be toggled off via turning on "Advanced Flight", and this drastically improves flight in general and makes it more akin to GSF flight.

In GSF there are only a couple of missiles which can be fired unguided without requiring a lock-on. In BFII, every missile has both unguided and lock-on capabilities; holding (or toggling, waiting, and then toggling again, which is another option) the button will cause it to lock-on, while tapping it twice in quick succession will fire it off unguided in a straight line. This is good for quick fly-bys of objectives provided you can be sure that your missile(s) will hit.

Health automatically regenerates for everybody after a while of not being hit. Whilst some ships do have ways to repair the damage taken, you don't need to have these abilities to restore health in general. This means that you can keep fighting for longer, even if you have to dip in-and-out of combat just to heal back up again. On a similar subject, there is not the option to prioritise shield, weapon, or engine strength. There isn't even a directional deflector shield, which is somewhat surprising considering that they're audibly made use of in the battle of Yavin in Episode IV.

There are only a handful of ways to evade missiles. Only a couple of ships (at the moment) can break a missile lock entirely, while everyone else either just has to outrun them or hope that they can not only survive the hit but avoid taking damage long enough for them to heal straight back up. On a similar note, only a few ships (AKA Fighters which don't have an Astromech heal and all Interceptors) have a speed boost, which then goes on cooldown. The most that can be accomplished at any other time is pushing throttle to full, and it is worth noting that the acceleration key does not need to be held down; your throttle will remain the same speed you push it to at all times unless you turn or deliberately slow down.

Similar to Domination, each side has offensive and defensive objectives as well as the opportunity for dogfighting and you ideally need a good balance of both; the dogfighters need to eliminate opponents so that other team members can focus on objectives without interruptions. However, the differences here are that the objectives aren't necessarily to capture, but rather destroy, and one faction has a clear-cut advantage in that if they eliminate all of the reinforcements in a single phase the game ends immediately with their victory. In the thirty or forty games I've played, I've only seen the Rebellion win six times often due to priority errors, some of which will be highlighted in a video at the end of this post.

While each side can have a maximum of 12 players, in actuality there are far more ships flying around than the supposed max of 24. This is because AI ships are flying around on both sides as well, some of whom are generic pilots while others are objective-NPCs for the defending faction to kill. Destroying the Objective NPC ships - be they Cruisers, Corvettes, or Bombers - has a significant impact on the team they support; either the phase progresses or the attacking team loses reinforcement points per each successful complete destruction.

All ships have good offensive capability, although it is worth stressing that time-to-kill itself in Battlefront is significantly lower than in GSF. The ship classes themselves are fairly similar to GSF; you have the fast light Scout/Interceptor, the middle-ground Strike Fighter/Fighter, and the spongy Bomber. However, unlike GSF where the Bomber is the weakest in terms of general attack, in Battlefront it's as good as - if not sometimes better than - the other two ships. For example, the TIE/sa Bomber has access to a multi-missile ability which targets three random targets in its flight path, while the BTL-A4 Y-Wing has an ion turret which both weakens and damages its target.

As you have probably already guessed from the above paragraph, the lack of mention of Gunships means that there aren't any in Starfighter Assault. The only Gunships which exist are slow-moving on-rails ships available as reinforcements for the ground Galactic Assault mode. The lack of an at-range sniper ship means that fighters have the opportunity to get up-close and personal and engage in some proper dogfighting, and it's amazing how much difference it makes.

Whilst there aren't Gunships to worry about, there are exclusive Hero ships which can also be seen flying around the place. Some of these are only a tiny bit bigger than standard ships, so the normal hitbox and targeting mechanic applies, but others - notably Slave I - have got a far bigger hitbox because the ship itself is a lot bigger and thus easier to hit. In the previous game, Heroes could only be found as a pick-up, whereas in this game you earn them by playing the game and being good at various things, which is a significant improvement because it means that - theoretically - everyone has a chance to become one rather than have to solely rely on chance alone.

The worst difference - by far - surrounds the method of progressing through individual ship levels and acquiring upgrades. In GSF, it makes sense. You play the game, earn currency, and spend it on purchasing individual upgrades, thus improving your ships slowly and deliberately as you play more of the game.

Battlefront II's system in general makes Galactic Command - even in its original state - look good. In order to get your ships higher in level or with the right upgrades, you need to be lucky with RNG Crates which can give you anything for any one of your four ground soldiers, three ships, four reinforcements, or twenty-odd heroes (although range-specific crates can be purchased, this supposedly only guarantees you one item of the three for your chosen range and even then this isn't a certainty - I once got two sets of Crafting Parts and a Han Solo MvP victory pose from a Starfighter-only Crate).

Playing the game only raises your overall level, not the level of your chosen ship or soldier. Considering that it will be possible to buy these Crates with real money at-launch, some people will be going into any mode with several additional character or ship levels and upgrades over other players should they decide to inject money into it. It doesn't matter how much you play your ships; you may love Fighter and play it most of all, but due to the 'progression' RNG your highest-level ship might be your Interceptor even if you haven't played a single match with it.

This isn't right, and ideally it needs fixing. However, we're only a few weeks away from launch now, so it is exceedingly unlikely that anything significant will be changed between now and then, but a lot of people are making noise about it so hopefully things will improve at some point even if it isn't immediate.

Then again, this is EA we're talking about.

Anyway. I've prattled on for long enough.

To conclude, it's clear that both GSF and Starfighter Assault, while similar on a fundamental level, both do something better than the other somewhere along the line. Assault is far better at allowing proper dogfighting and balance between ships is pretty damn good, while GSF has a significantly better progression system and all of the ships do have their own identity.

Such is my love for Starfighter Assault that I recorded a few matches earlier this morning and uploaded one to my now-rather-bereft YouTube Channel. I fully-intend to continue doing so when the game launches properly since this is probably the most fun mode I've played in a game for quite some time.

Earlier in the post I mentioned that a balance was needed between dogfighting and objective-completion. This first video highlights two dangers of focusing too much on the former personally and not doing enough to help with the objectives; firstly, that the match itself was a close defeat in the second phase and secondly, that accomplishing a lot of kills can of course have a negative effect on relationships with individuals on the enemy team.



We here at Galactic Antics would like to apologise to any individuals whose feelings were hurt during the course of this match. Your feedback is appreciated and will be taken into account for future renditions of your Galactic Antics product.

11/09/2017

The Vanguard Experiment: Secondary Results

Monday seems to be Vanguard day on Galactic Antics now. Yay, I guess?

For the past two weeks I've been documenting my progress with new-Vanguard Jehnira in a plan to see whether I could actually have a Trooper I considered "fun to play" since I realised how tedious I was finding Commando.

If you haven't read the previous entry, the current feeling is that this 'experiment' has been successful; I was finding Plasmatech much more fun than Gunnery, and doing the Trooper storyline and all Republic Quests again has allowed me to indulge in a game-long desire to see a Companion get from 0-to-max Affection/Influence solely through quests.

So, a week later, has my feeling changed or are things still on the up?

04/09/2017

The Vanguard Experiment: Preliminary Results

Last week I wrote about how, having realised how tedious I was finding Commando, I decided to give the Vanguard Class another go with new-character Jehnira. Just to emphasise again, she is approximately the seventh Vanguard to have been created; the previous six had all failed to 'stick' at some point in their careers.

There are a few potential reasons for this. Either I didn't think there was a need to dedicate much time to a Vanguard due to the Commando's existence, or I just didn't like the playstyle as I had perceived it as being. The story being very memorable to me due to it being my first SWtOR story endeavour might also have had a part in it; certainly beyond the very first only one had reached Tatooine whilst the rest had stopped at Nar Shaddaa or earlier.

However, because I was unsure about the future of my Commando, this first potential issue had all but disappeared. This largely only left the playstyle and story issues, both of which are joined hand-in-hand in some ways; if I enjoy the playstyle of a character I tend to take them through as much of the content as I can instead of just skipping to the end and being done with it.

So, how have things been turning out?

Long-story short: so much better than I was anticipating.