Archive for February, 2013

Last week BioWare published Game Update 2.0 to the Public Test Server for Star Wars: The Old Republic. This major update includes changes that go hand-in-hand with the upcoming “Rise of the Hutt Cartel” digital expansion. Among the new features found on the PTS are:

  • A brand new Achievement system.
  • Max Level raised to 55.
  • New end-game armor models.
  • New Level 55 Operation “Scum and Villainy.”
  • Several new Level 55 Hard Mode Flashpoints (basically the existing dungeons that didn’t previously have Hard Mode).
  • New class abilities and talents.
  • Revamped commendation system.
  • Ability to transfer live characters over to the PTS.
  • Terminals to instantly raise a character to Level 55.

What I’m going to take a look at today are the specific class ability and talent changes for the main spec I play – a healing Medic-specced Operative. (Note that a Sawbones Scoundrel will have identical changes to their mirror abilities and talents.) While I haven’t gotten much of a chance to give these a try in PvP (the infamous bolster bug is making Warzones pretty much unplayable right now) or large scale PvE, I’m going to take an initial look at what has changed and offer some thoughts.

UPDATE (02/25/2013 7:45pm EST): I’ve added the names of the mirror Scoundrel abilities. Thanks to SWTOR-Spy for providing an updated 2.0 skill calculator for reference. Shoutouts to therealkami for suggesting it and TheWanderingSpirit for pointing out Samaire’s really awesome skill translation tool

New Abilities

Exfiltrate/Scamper
Patch Note: Operative/Scoundrel: A new ability, Exfiltrate/Scamper, has been added. Exfiltrate/Scamper will roll the player forward up to 12 meters. When slowed, players will only roll forward 6 meters. While rolling, defense is increased. Exfiltrate/Scamper does not break stealth, costs 25 Energy, has no cooldown, and is trainable at level 51.

Comments: Playing around with this a bit on the PTS, I have to say I love this ability. The fact that it doesn’t break stealth and has no cooldown makes it a very interesting ability for PvP where covering distance quickly is crucial. Exfiltrate/Scamper works well in both offensive and defensive situations – it gives the Operative some extra survivability by providing an additional way to create distance between their attacker and themselves; it also can be the “gap closer” that so many other classes have but Operatives have always lacked. Thumbs up.

Preparedness/Street Tough
Patch Note: New passive ability, Preparedness/Street Tough, has been added which increases Energy regeneration rate.

Comments: It’s hard to quantify this on the PTS and how it increases Energy regeneration over what it currently is on live servers, but anything that is going to increase energy regeneration rate without any drawbacks is a good thing. The question here is whether this fully compensates for the change to Stim Boost/Pugnacity. (More on that below.) Thumbs undecided.

Removed Ability

Avoidance Training/Lucky Dodge
Patch Note: Avoidance Training/Lucky Dodge has been removed from the game. This effect is now incorporated into Evasion/Dodge by default. Evasion/Dodge also removes all hostile removable effects when used.

Comments: This change effectively combines two abilities into one. So although it is technically an ability that is being removed, its benefits have been rolled into the base Evasion/Dodge ability. This removal shouldn’t have any impact on Operatives other than saving them a few credits having to train it. Thumbs up.

Ability Changes

Stim Boost/Pugnacity
Patch Note: Stim Boost/Pugnacity is now trainable at level 16 and has been redesigned. This ability no longer requires and consumes Tactical Advantage/Upper Hand. Instead, this ability now has a 2-minute cooldown, grants Tactical Advantage/Upper Hand, and increases Alacrity for a short duration.

Comments: The previous version of Stim Boost/Pugnacity was something that all Operatives were taught to have active as often as possible. There was really no excuse to not always have Stim Boost/Pugnacity active. In fact, it pretty much became part of the Operative’s “rotation” to make sure they always used a Tactical Advantage/Upper Hand stack to refresh Stim Boost/Pugnacity as it wore off. It seems as if BioWare may have realized that this “always on, but needing to be activated by the user” type buff isn’t incredibly user friendly, and that some (but not all) of its benefit was put into the new Preparedness ability mentioned above. Stim Boost/Pugnacity is essentially gone as we knew it.

The new version of Stim Boost/Pugnacity actually grants a stack of Tactical Advantage/Upper Hand rather than consuming one, which is nice. It provides a boost to Alacrity, which becomes more valuable with the 2.0 changes, which seems good. (More on that below.) Lastly, its cooldown has been increased significantly, to 2 minutes, which means it won’t have the constant uptime that the previous version had. It remains to be seen if this ability will be “use as soon as it’s available every single time” or “something to save when you need some big heals fast.” Thumbs undecided.

Kolto Infusion/Kolto Pack
Patch Note: Kolto Infusion/Kolto Pack has been redesigned. This ability now heals for a moderate amount up front in addition to a moderate amount over 9 seconds.

Comments: This is often the forgotten ability for healing Operatives/Scoundrels, as its consumption of Tactical Advantage/Upper Hand, energy cost, and cast time seems not to be worth it when the instant cast and energy free Surgical Probe heals for a comparable amount. The new version of Kolto Infusion/Kolto Pack has a HOT attached to it, which could make it more attractive on targets that need additional healing but aren’t in immediate danger or in situations where you’re healing multiple targets. At the very least, this change puts the ability back into consideration for becoming more commonly used. Thumbs up.

Changed Talents

Med Shield/Med Screen
Old Version – Increases all healing received by 7.5% / 15% while Shield Probe/Defense Screen is active
New Version – Your Shield Probe/Defense Screen has a 50% / 100% chance to heal you for X when it collapses.

Comments: I like this change, it’s like an extra free heal. Typically, I use Shield Probe/Defense Screen when I’m taking damage, both in PvP and PvE. In PvP, it’s more for those situations where I’m getting focused by more than one player or Cloaking Screen is on cooldown. In PvE, I usually use it when there’s some unavoidable damage incoming, often on boss fights with large AOE. In the both situations, I’m not necessarily receiving healing if I’m making sure other people are on my side don’t die. This is especially true in Operations where I at least have Shield Probe/Defense Screen absorbing some AOE damage, but others in the raid may not. So if I’m not receiving any healing at all while Shield Probe/Defense Screen is up, this bonus did me absolutely no good. At least the new version is something that I’ll always passively benefit from. Well, as long as I’m not at 100% health. Still, I like the change. Thumbs up.

Evasive Imperative/Scramble
Old Version- Evasion/Dodge increases movement speed by 10% / 20% while active.
New Version- Every time you get attacked, the active cooldown on Evasion/Dodge is reduced by 1.5 / 3 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds.

Comments: Another change that seems to provide some more survivability for Operatives. The old version provided a short speed burst while Evasion/Dodge was active, which did give a small benefit when trying to escape sticky situations. However with CC and snares all too common in PvP, and players not generally running for their lives from NPCs in PvE, this talent had limited upside. The new version is a definite improvement, although it seems to be more attractive for PvP. Be able to have Evasion/Dodge up more quickly when multiple players are attacking could very well be the difference between life and death. In group PvE, well, an Operative really shouldn’t be getting attacked very often. And if they do, something like Cloaking Screen or Countermeasures are better tools to avoid dying until the tank can regain aggro. Thumbs up for PvP. Thumbs sideways for PvE.

Chem-resistant inlays/Scar Tissue
Old Version- Reduces all damage taken by 2% / 4%.
New Version – Increases damage reduction by 2% / 4%.

Comments: Subtle change to the way this talent is described. Interpreting exactly what this means is a bit trickier. An Operative isn’t a tanking class, so we aren’t going to be stacking a lot of stats that reduce damage. There will be some natural stats earned via armor and whatnot of course. The old version seemed to apply a blanket reduction, regardless of what the Operative was wearing. Totally naked or decked out in the highest end armor, the damage was still reduced by the same amount. This shift appears to consider what is actually equipped, which makes sense. While this could have some value in PvP, there are more attractive ways to spend skill points. And taking this talent doesn’t make much sense for PvE. Thumbs sideways.

Deadly Directive/Black Market Mods
Old Version – Increases alacrity by 2% / 4%.
New Version – Increases alacrity by 1% / 2%.

Comments: A slight nerf to this talent by reducing the amount of alacrity it provides. However, with alacrity becoming more valuable, this could actually be a buff to the talent as a whole. (More on this below. Yes, that’s the second time I’ve teased the section on alacrity. It’s coming soon, I swear.) Thumbs down that they decreased the actual numbers, thumbs up that alacrity will suck less.

New Talents

Every talent tree has had new talents added to it, actually placed in a brand new “tier” of talents right below the highest placed talent. This means that reaching the highest talent in any given tree will actually require more points – Previously it took 31 points to acquire the highest talent. With 2.0, it will now require 36 points to acquire the highest talent. This also means change the minimum level you must be before you have enough points to reach that point in a given tree. Currently, you can get there at level 40. In the 2.0 world, it won’t be achievable until level 45.

The good news for healing Operatives is that the two new talents seem very attractive. So the 5 new talent points earned from level 50 to 55 can go into these new abilities without much of an impact on the “popular” specs. (Of course, some of the changes to abilities mentioned here might have an impact on which specs are considered popular, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Surprise Surgery/Smuggled Med Delivery (2 points) – Exiting stealth mode grants 1 / 2 stacks of Tactical Advantage

Comments: Start every fight with 2 stacks of Tactical Advantage/Upper Hand? Yes please! Maintaining high uptime of Tactical Advantage/Upper Hand is one of the most important mechanics of playing an Operative/Scoundrel. This basically gives us a new and simple way to get some additional stacks. The only downside I see to this is feeling compelled to stealth after every fight, particularly in PvE situations where you wouldn’t usually stealth between pulls. I can see it getting annoying during Operations having to go into stealth between every trash pull in order to fully take advantage of this ability. One thought is that even if stealthing between pulls slows you down, there’s always Rocket Boost and Exfiltrate/Scamper to keep up with the rest of the group. In PvP, where Operatives often enter stealth when out of combat anyways, this seems like a great ability. Thumbs up.

Durable Meds/Puissant Pultices (3 points) – Increases the healing done by Kolto Probe/Slow Release Medpac and Recuperative Nanotech/Kolto Cloud by 3% / 6% / 9% . Additionally increases the duration of Recuperative Nanotech/Kolto Cloud by 1 / 2 / 3 and reduces the energy cost of Kolto Probe/Slow Release Medpac by 2 / 4 / 6.

Comments: Up until now, we hadn’t really seen many changes to actual healing numbers, outside of maybe the buff to Kolto Infusion/Kolto Pack. Durable Meds gives a straight buff to those healing numbers, particularly making Recuperative Nanotech/Kolto Cloud more effective and less costly.

Stat Changes

Alacrity
Patch Notes: Alacrity has been redesigned to be a more universally useful stat. Now Alacrity reduces the activation time of all abilities, including instant abilities. If such an ability is reduced below the global cooldown, the global cooldown is reduced as well. Alacrity now also increases resource regeneration for all classes by the same amount that it increases ability activation speed.

Comments: Players of all classes have had an interesting relationship with alacrity so far. On one hand, it reduced cast times, which means being able to use more abilities in a shorter amount of time. On the other hand, being able to use abilities faster also means burning through resource pools more quickly, which isn’t such a good thing. Consider also the variable regeneration rates for the resource pools of many classes, and you have a stat that becomes less attractive. Finally, throw in the fact that from a sheer number crunching point of view, other stats offered a bigger “bang for their buck” with the way alacrity was itemized.

The revamped alacrity is designed to directly overcome the “casting faster means using energy faster” problem by increasing the energy regeneration rate. That’s good. Furthermore, not only does it reduce the cast time of abilities that have cast times, but it also reduces the global cooldown. That’s even better. The number crunchers and spreadsheet gurus haven’t quite put together what this means for alacrity compared to other stats, and we haven’t taken a closer look how this affects the itemization value placed on alacrity, but it’s a definite improvement on a stat that had been widely considered undesirable on most gear. Thumbs up.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d have to say I’m pretty happy with how healing Operatives are shaping up in the 2.0 game update. Some interesting adjustments to existing abilities, the new skills, and the changes to alacrity give us some new things to consider and tactics to adjust. Survivability and “gap closing” seem to have been improved, which some new means of generating the valuable Tactical Advantage buff are other key changes. Oh, and I almost forgot one thing – the characteristic “giggle” audible cue for when Tactical Advantage is applied is back, though it’s been made less frequent by only occurring when the first stack is applied. Even if these changes don’t turn out to dramatically improve or upgrade the effectiveness of the Operative healer, just think how much fun we’ll have doing somersaults around the fleet, giggling the whole way.

-Jaspor

BioWare has published Game Update 2.0 (also known as the “expansion update”) to the Public Test Center for Star Wars: The Old Republic today. The patch notes are significant, including descriptions of brand new abilities for all classes and tons of changes to how many aspects of the game will function. Among the enhancements coming with 2.0 is a brand spanking new achievement system, the kind of achievement system many players believed should have been in when the game launched. Coupled with the newly introduced reputation system, these new achievements give those “completionist” type players tons of new content to work towards.

The first thing to notice about the new Achievement system is that it is indeed Legacy wide, something players had hoped for and maybe even expected. Many (though not all) of the achievements do seem to be retro-actively granted at this time, while many others are not. Accomplishing achievements also grant certain rewards, typically in the form of a new title. (My PTS character got the “Wealthy” title for having over 10 million credits. I’m rich, bitch!)

UPDATE (02/21/13 9:10AM EST): Added a “Rewards” section to the bottom of the post.

UPDATE (02/21/13 9:13PM EST): Confirmed that Datacron stats are not being shared among characters within the same Legacy, despite the shared Datacron achievements.

UPDATE (02/22/13 6:05PM EST): As a few commentors pointed out, the previous attempt was for a Republic-only Datacron (on Ord Mantell) and I was checking to see if the stats applied on Imperial characters. So there was a possibility that was why they weren’t showing as shared stats. I just tried this with two Hoth Datacrons that are common for both factions. I grabbed the + Endurance and + Cunning ones on my Imperial Agent. I then checked my Sith Warrior and Jedi Knight- no stat changes. So I think it’s totally safe to say that the stats are not shared Legacy-wide, at least not in the version on the PTS.

UPDATE (02/27/13 10:15PM EST): Added a few more rewards found in the latest PTS update that was released today. Tagged them with *NEW* below to differentiate.

Let’s break these down by category while putting my bullet point usage skillz to good use:

Categories

Achievements

  • Companions
    • Each of the 8 Classes.

AchievementsCompanions

  • Flashpoint
    • Each of the 17 Flashpoints.
    • A “General” subcategory.

AchievementsFlashpoint

  • Legacy
    • Advancement
    • Alignment
    • Currency
    • Level
    • Possessions

AchievementsLegacy

  • Location
    • Each of the 19 Planets, including Makeb.
    • A “General” subcategory.

AchievementsLocation

  • Operations
    • Each of the 5 Operations.

AchievementsOperation

  • Player vs. Player
    • Each of the 5 Warzones.
    • A “General” subcategory.

AchievementsPvP

  • Space
    • General
    • Imperial
    • Republic

AchievementsSpace

So what kind of achievements are under each category? Almost everything you can imagine and hope for. It’ll take many hours to document all of it. For now, here are some highlights I noticed:

  • Datacrons – Appear under the Location->Planet subcategories tracking how many you have found on each planet. Does this mean the actual stat bonuses for finding a Datacron is shared between all characters on a Legacy? I couldn’t confirm, but I’m hopeful.
  • Makeb – Speaking of Datacrons, it appears as if Makeb has 2 new ones.
  • The new “Scum and Villainy” Operation has 5 bosses – Pretty standard for SWTOR raids. Their names are available through the achievements too, but I won’t spoil that here.
  • Cartel Coin Achievement Rewards! – Whoa, this one almost slipped past me. But sure enough, it looks as if several achievements actually grant Cartel Coins when you complete them. The first one I noticed was 20 CC for completing each Act for each class. So by finishing all 3 Acts, you’ll earn 60 Cartel Coins. Multiply that by 8 classes, and that’s 480 Cartel Coins you can earn just by playing through class stories. Not too shabby!
  • Cathar? – While I haven’t found any direct reference to the Cather species, there is an interesting reference to a “Cathar Honor Sword” under the Legacy->Possessions->Weapons subcategory.

Rewards

Several achievements grant rewards upon completion as follows:

Titles

    • Republic Squad Leader – Reached maximum affection with all Republic-class companions.
    • Imperial Squad Leader – Reached maximum affection with all Imperial-class companions.
    • Master Craftsman – Completed all the listed crew skill achievements.
    • The Benefactor – Reached Legacy level 10.
    • The Dedicated – Reached Legacy level 20.
    • The Prolific – Reached Legacy level 30.
    • The Historic – Reached Legacy level 40.
    • The Living Legend – Reached Legacy level 50.
    • Wealthy – Earned 10 million credits.
    • Tauntaun Wrangler – Acquired all listed Tauntaun pets.
    • Beastmaster – Completed all of the listed bestiary achievements.
    • Loremaster – Completed all of the listed  lore achievements.
    • Galactic Explorer – Completed all of the listed exploration achievements.
    • Datacron Master – Completed all of the listed datacron achievements.
    • Galactic Hero – Completed all of the listed heroic missions.
    • Big Game Hunter – Defeated all heroic world bosses on all planets through Chapter 3.
    • Manhunter – Defeated 50k other players in combat.
    • Republic Ace – Completed all Republic space missions.
    • Imperial Ace – Completed all Imperial space missions.
    • Meatbag – Defeated the Assassin Droid 25 times each in “The False Emperor” and “The Foundry” flashpoints on hard mode. *NEW 02/27*
    • Gearhead – Completed all the listed vehicle achievements. *NEW 02/27*
    • Sharp Dressed – Acquire all the listed gear sets. (18 of them.) *NEW 02/27*

Cartel Coins

Each of the following achievements award 20 Cartel Coins each:

  • Flashpoint Master – Cleared all listed normal mode flashpoints at least one time.
  • Flashpoint Master (Hard Mode) – Cleared all listed hard mode flashpoints at least one time.
  • Taloned – Defeated all bosses in The Black Talon flashpoint.
  • Ironed Out – Defeated all bosses in The Esseles flashpoint.
  • Act 1 – Finished Act 1 on each class. (8 instances of this reward, one for each class.)
  • Act 2 – Finished Act 2 on each class. (8 instances of this reward, one for each class.)
  • Act 3 – Finished Act 3 on each class. (8 instances of this reward, one for each class.)
  • Warzone Neophyte – Played 10 Warzone matches of any type.
  • Warzone Veteran – Played 50 Warzone matches of any type.
  • Warzone Expert  – Played 100 Warzone matches of any type.
  • Champion – Reached Valor rank 50.
  • Friendly – Reached Social Rank 1.
  • Coordinator – Reached Social Rank 3.
  • Guide – Reached Social Rank 5.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m going to keep digging through here to find interesting tidbits as well as getting a few screenshots up. Be sure to check back later for more info!

-Jaspor

Overheard During Lunch

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Unknown Regions

I was having lunch the other day at a Boston Market near my job, just minding my own business, catching up on Tweets and Reddit and whatnot, when I happened to overhear the conversation going on between two gentlemen behind me. Actually it wasn’t much of a conversation, it was more like one guy talking and the other guy listening. It went something like this:

“I just wanted to have a chance to speak with you a little bit about that incident the other night. I was a little disappointed in how you reacted, to be honest. As an Elder, people look up to you and respect what you think and pay close attention to how you act. Yes, it was disappointing that Bob and Mary decided to leave the group, and I can understand you being personally hurt by their decision. They are great people and had a lot to offer us, and they’re going to be difficult to replace. But I can’t have you going on a rant like that in front of the other members. We’ve still got a great core of people, people we get along with and who are dedicated to what we’re trying to do. I just need you to set a better example for the rest of the group so they have confidence in our leadership so that we can continue to grow and succeed.”

At this point, I turn around casually and take a peek at them. They definitely fall into the typical MMO demographic, so I start to wonder which game they’re talking about. It sure seems like it’s the GM having a little chat with one of his officers about how he reacted to some of their members leaving for another guild. And then he drops this:

“It’s going to happen. People will leave our church and new people will join, it’s just how things work.”

I thought the similarities were pretty amusing, but I guess any group of people trying to work together to accomplish something can sound like a gaming guild. But here’s the question I leave you with – Does this mean MMOs are the religion and Guilds are the different churches?