Friday, December 14, 2012

Surprises in the Mail

Recently, I expressed sadness that because Hikarinoko has reached the end of her story, she will never again hear from the Minister of Intelligence or from her husband, Vector.

I reckoned without considering the mail.

Today, for a lark, I decided to log on to Hikarinoko, to run a warzone and keep my fingers in practice for the time I raise my next agent.  I was surprised to see I had four new items in my mailbox.

One was from the Minister of Intelligence, a form letter to all former members of Imperial Intelligence, encouraging patience and perseverance.

And three were from Vector.  It was filled with the poetic way he would speak during the conversations with Hikarinoko and made me a little wistful.

See what I mean?  It reminds me of the things I used to write in my own journals (or in my young single days, in the letters to the guys with whom I would correspond, because I tended to write very long and very detailed letters, full of speculations or observations . . . or sometimes, even attempts at poetry).

Or this one . . .

/sigh . . . . I miss Hikarinoko greatly, but I also miss Vector.

You know, I am very fortunate in my RL husband.  He may not have as poetic a bent as Vector, but, knowing how much I love words, he does try to speak my language and sends me messages.  (Letters, e-mails, PowerPoint presentations . . .) 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guild Names, or the Length Thereof

As an unguilded player, I routinely get offers for guild invitations.  Usually people whisper me about it, but every so often a guild invite window will just pop out of nowhere, which immediately gets declined.

The other day, I almost accepted an invitation.  Someone very politely whispered me and asked if I would like to join their guild, Women of the Republic.  When I declined, she (?) offered to invite me on a trial basis, just so I could see if I enjoyed their company.

I felt a slight twinge inside and almost said yes.  What held me back was the length of the name.  Yep, you read that right.

Some years back, I was in a WoW guild called Disciples of Redemption.  Sounds like a noble name, right?  Worthy message?  Trips swimmingly upon the tongue?  Yes, to all of those.  But when a few of us got together for just about anything, there was a real mess on the screen.  (In a raid, the clutter was overwhelming.)

I realized in short order I did not want to cause that kind of clutter on anyone's screen, so when the time came for me to leave that guild, I put as part of my mental criteria in my guild search that the name had to be short.

The guild I found was called Tempest.  That's about as short as you can get, and I stuck with them for 3.5 years.

When I started looking for a SWTOR guild, before the game even came out, along with the various criteria of server type, time zone, and so forth, I instantly rejected any guild with a long name, even before reading their webpage.  The one I managed to talk my husband into supporting was Redeemed.  Again, only a letter longer than Tempest, and definitely short enough to not be terribly cumbersome.  (Redeemed, however, has died, due to all the machinations of server mergers.)

So when this very polite person asked if I wanted to join Women of the Republic, although I actually felt a little tempted, what finally tipped the balance against the decision was the 21-character name.

But how do you tell someone, "I'm sorry; I don't want to join your guild because your guild name is too long"?  You really can't, so I didn't.

I politely declined and went back to my Taris questing.  (Wow, so glad for my speeder!)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Legacy Perks

I've never really thought about Legacy perks.  I never cared to make a family tree, never worried about using Empire-only races to make Republic characters or vice versa, and so forth.

Until, that is, I spent an idle moment going over possible perks and discovered I could get my level 12 Annachan speeder piloting.

Be able to move around the interminably huge and boring Coruscant at higher speed?  Not only yes, but . . . well, you get the idea.  I sent her a bunch of credits from Anachan and immediately signed on the dotted line.

Coruscant is so much more pleasant when you can skip all the running . . .

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Anachan, Part II

This is my new baby Jedi Consular.  Does she look familiar or what?

When I first made my second Consular (with the unimaginative name of Annachan), I made her a Miraluka, with a purple veil.  It took me about five levels to figure out it simply wasn't going to work.

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, the eyes are also what help me feel a connection to my character.  It might have been somewhat mitigated if I could have used the same hairstyle, but it was unavailable to that particular race.  Long story short, I just couldn't connect with her.

So I deleted her and made . . . Anachan, part II, also named Annachan.  I think I got about as close as I could to my original Anachan, without knowing if I actually chose the right face shape or complexion, which are more difficult to identify.

Below is my Anachan from the Beta, whose feature numbers I recorded and used to make the Anachan I played to level 50.  If they aren't identical, they're pretty close!  I guess I spent enough time staring at my original consular's face, I could recognize her, more or less, while I tweaked the settings the second time around.

But before you shake your head and wonder why I'd play the same character twice, remember--I'm the kind of person who reads stories over and over and over . . . I just recently started Lord of the Rings again . . .

I miss my agent Hikarinoko greatly, but I want to save my other agent until I can play with my husband.  I've gone the entire path solo once, with the exception of one boss, so I know I can do it.  Now it's time to let him experience the story, as we level characters together.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Slightly Off-Topic Repost

Two years ago, I entered (and won) a WoW holiday song parody contest, about which I posted on my now retired WoW blog.  While some of the references are definitely Restoration Druid- or generally WoW-related, a lot of the sentiment is fairly universal to any healer who has found themselves following a tank who thinks he is one step shy of deity.

Just for the giggles, and because it is the right time of year for this tune, here it is!

Sorry for the poor quality; I was recording it on a webcam while at work.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Bittersweet Moment

There always comes a moment when a well-loved story ends.  Whether it's a matter of decades, as Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series, or only the matter of a trilogy, as "Lord of the Rings", sooner or later, the story has to end.

Reminds me of this parody:


Hikarinoko finally finished her class quests.  The story was satisfying all around, with surprises to the very end, an emotional roller-coaster of events.

But although she is not level 50, I feel no incentive to finish that last level.

The strength and the weakness of SWTOR is, I believe, the system of class story lines.  The strength of those story lines is what propels a player to continue leveling, despite times of plateau where the player may find themselves running warzones or grinding less interesting quests, just to reach the point where he can once again progress his class story line.  But after the story line is complete, what incentive is there for the player to continue playing?  (Hmmm, I think I've said this before . . . or was it the complaint that if one didn't have friends, there was little incentive to remain in MMOs . . . well, that's the complaint at max level, anyway, after the story line is completed.)

Never again will Keeper or the Minister of Intelligence speak with her.  For that matter, never again will her husband, Vector, speak with her with any sort of personal touch.

It's kind of lonely at the top . . . of the leveling chain, that is.

So now what?  Well, the only real cure for the loss of a good fantasy is another good fantasy, or reliving the one lost.

If I can get my husband to log on, I may level Kaminoko, my other agent.  (Which I'd actually really like to do . . . and see how that one big choice I made in chapter 2 which was different than Targeter's would really change the ending, because I suspect it may have been significant.  I've already changed one choice I made early on in Hikarinoko's chain, and I'm wondering how that will change the story line in Chapter Two, if at all, given that it was cited as the reason for certain events . . .)

If not, I may find myself leveling Karinoko, the bounty hunter, or the baby Annachan (yes, another consular) I created on the Republic side on the off-chance I actually find myself logged on the same time as my old guildies from WoW.  (Side note:  They have so much more time to play than I do that they charge past me in level while I'm waiting for time to log on . . . One minute they're my level, and in a virtual blink, they're 10 levels ahead.  So I really have to be playing for the personal joy of it all, because if I'm playing for other people, it will end up in frustration.)

I am subscribed until a bit beyond the end of Christmas break, at least.  We'll see what has happened by then.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ooooo, Shiney . . .

I guess "Oooo, Shiney," is not exactly what most people would say when they are riding on the trams on Corellia.  But I find myself just as mesmerized as the tram follows its path.

While other modes of in-game automated transportation merit an alt-tab out while I wait to arrive at my destination, I can't help staring at my screen in brainless delight as the tram progresses, feeling ever so slightly like a child on a roller coaster.

The little things are what make the difference, right?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Surprises Never End

Oh, my goodness . . . Now I remember why I loved the Agent story so much . . . I've just had my world turned upside down . . . Finding myself wanting to play longer than I should, to see if I can progress the story . . .

At least, as I run primarily with Vector, one of the twists didn't affect me as much as it might have done.

My most recent slight setback was the Eve of Destruction quest chain on Corellia, or a part thereof, at any rate.  This part involves going into a building, making my way through it, and accessing a target at the opposite end.  The trouble was that if I tried to pull a single group in a large room, I ended up with multiple groups, and Vector and I had a difficult time dealing with eight opponents at once.  One of the members of most of the groups was a watch robot, so I figured perhaps it was the one sending out the alarm, but even when I tried slicing it, the next group came over.  Unfortunately, I couldn't just stealth my way through the quest--which I tried to do--because the target I had to access is right by one of the groups.  I logged off late that night, deciding I needed more sleep to figure out how to overcome this situation.

Operating under the assumption that anything in a class quest can be soloed, even if it is a little difficult, I decided there must be something I was missing to make this work.  I considered gearing up my robot tank . . . But what I finally did was check Vector's abilities for anything at all dealing AOE effects, even if it didn't seem to deal any damage, just in case he was breaking the CC on the watch robot, thus causing it to call for help . . .

Accordingly, Vector and I found ourselves back at the Aegis base the next evening.  And this time, I sliced the robot repeatedly (ie., even when the previous slice hadn't worn off yet), while Vector and I took on every single group we could find, in order.

Amazingly enough, we didn't pull multiple groups, and we successfully completed the quest.  Looks like we found the problem!

Incidentally, some time ago, one of the clients where I worked was a company named Aegis which dealt in security . . . Anyone want to let them know Hikarinoko destroyed their base?  /giggle

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Subscriber For a While

I really do have the sweetest husband . . .

When he saw me glaring at my action bars, he sighed, sat down at the computer, and subscribed me for 60 days.

"See?" he said.  "It doesn't auto-renew, so you can feel better about it."  (I knew there was no use protesting the action after my first attempt; twenty years of marriage lets you know when it just isn't worth the argument.)

How refreshing it was to have my skills all properly placed on bars and to be able to keybind frequently used abilities!

I've managed to remember Hikarninoko's abilities well enough to continue her adventures on Voss, even remembering some of the "tricks" I used to have to do to help her be able to solo most things with Vector.

It's good to be back on board, if only for a little while.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Took Another Peek

This time, I made it all the way to Belsavis on my agent before becoming annoyed and logging off.

It took me a while to figure out what all my abilities meant again, slowed down by the sluggish mental state of illness, which is why I decided to head to Belsavis, a bit lower than where I would have headed if I was in top form.

I discovered exactly what I had on that right side bar which I was now missing . . . things like Recuperate, Heroic Moment (most of my other "oh bleep" abilities, as well), or my speeder.  I managed to juggle some things around (who really needs medpacs on their action bar, anyway, right, when they're a healer?) but soon enough, I realized if I juggled enough to get all three of these included in my two bars, I'd end up bumping off something else I really do need . . . like stuns or heals or damage dealing or energy recuperation.

Luckily enough, I already had "Take Cover" hotkeyed, so that didn't need to be on any bar . . . I searched for ways to hotkey some of these other things, but as far as I could tell, it couldn't happen unless they were on an action bar already.

What's the point of gaining level and gaining abilities if you can't access most of them?

I have heard other bloggers say they think it is unreasonable to require those who originally purchased the game and return under the umbrella of Preferred to lose some of their UI, and I have to say I agree.  I can live with the fact that I neglected to purchase the next level of speeder training at level 40 and now will have to do without it.  (I figured it wasn't worth purchasing until level 50.  Oh, well.  My bad.)  I can live with restrictions on warzones and such, but I don't think I can even enjoy the warzones I am able to play if I cannot access my abilities.

When my husband gets his computer back and we can log on together to play our lowbie characters, maybe I'll be able to settle back in and have fun.  (Of course, as an altoholic, he's going to have a much more difficult time than me figuring out which two characters to play . . .)  Or maybe getting over this crazy illness will help change my state of mind; perhaps I'll figure out which abilities I can manage and which I can throw away.

Part of me figures I have no right to complain.  After all, I'm not paying for the privilege of playing right now.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Took a Peek

Before heading to work, I kicked off the patch for SWTOR, hoping that, in spite of my slow download speed, it would manage to succeed without mishap.

When I got home from everything I had to be at Thursday night, I checked to be sure it had succeeded.  Hopefully, I told myself, SWTOR will be all updated, and I will be able to take a peek at what is waiting . . .

I made it as far as the character screen.

It wasn't because of any game malfunction, in point of fact.  It was because, as I logged on, I encountered a scary message about the difference between Preferred status and Subscriber status, and I found myself unable to force myself to proceed without doing some research.

Would I have to select my characters on the first login?  Would I be limited to two characters total, or two characters per server?  What other things would I have to decide right this minute?

After some serious digging, I finally found that I would be able to access all my characters for now, but would have to select two later on.  With that, I felt comfortable enough to click past the scary message.

And, after some more looking, it seems it will actually be two characters per server.  (At least, on my screen, it gives the numbers of my characters as X/2 for each server, so this seems to be the case.)  As one of my servers has had 15 characters crammed onto it and the other has 9, this could be interesting . . . (Remember, most of those are my daughters' . . .)

(I'm going to have some very unhappy daughters . . . unless we can make them their own F2P accounts . . .)

By the time I'd searched out some answers to my questions (what? no side bars??) and taken a glance at the character screen, it was bedtime.

I'll deal with the more difficult decisions tomorrow.

. . . I wonder if I'll have a Legacy on the server where my daughter and I never could agree on a Legacy name and so put off the decision . . . No biggie.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

FTP Coming Soon?

It seems SWTOR is going free to play (ftp) on November 15th.

I realize for some people, it may seem the final nail in the coffin for the game . . . and perhaps, in their more enlightened evaluations, it is.  But for me, it's an opportunity.

Face it, between the time demands of my current job and the monetary demands of the current economy, I have had neither the time nor the money to subscribe to any game.  (Ok, ok, given that we are subscribed to Netflix and Audible, I'm sure we could have found the money.  But these two subscriptions provide entertainment to the entire family, while a SWTOR subscription for me would have provided entertainment for . . . well, mostly me.)  I confess there was a time and there is still a temptation to reopen my WoW account, just to talk with my old friends, even though there is no way I could raid and would probably end up spending all my time fishing or farming stuff to help out the guild, because mindless repetition does not annoy me as much as some other people, but I simply cannot justify the cost, given the small amount of time which would be available to me for play.

Most evenings, I stare through my computer screen at a formerly inviting virtual world which now seems rather blank and empty and go to bed early out of sheer boredom.

But come Saturday, two of the three teaching endorsement examinations I am taking will be finished (now you know what I'm doing the other evenings), so having the free to play model of SWTOR come out on the 15th is perfect timing for me.

Some evening when I have an hour or two, I'll be able to wave hello again to my agent, relearn what all her abilities are, and continue the adventure at least until her story line is complete.  My husband and I will be able to play together during the upcoming long weeks when he will be traveling and I will still be at home.

They tell me that warzone access will be limited, which is kind of disappointing, as I'd probably like to spend quite a bit of time in warzones.  However, given that I am unlikely to have nearly as much time as I'd like, perhaps the default access will prove sufficient.

They tell me that as a former subscriber, I will have certain  privileges unavailable to new free to play customers--more action bars or something.  While I'm glad of that, I have to wonder if what they are taking away will end up reducing my enjoyment to the point where I simply stop playing, because at this point, subscribing is not an option.

It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.  Will the satisfaction be sufficient to fulfill my hopes, or will I be forced to conclude that in ftp SWTOR, as in so many other aspects of life, you "get what you pay for"?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Or not . . .

Well, Hikarinoko made it to Voss before my subscription ran out.  I had hoped to have her finish the Agent storyline before this happened.

Unfortunately, I've got so much going on at work, I can hardly play at all . . . so I guess it's not worth paying the money for the subscription right now.  I had hoped I would have more free time, which might have made paying the subscription worthwhile.

But at this point in time, Real Life is rearing its ugly head, and one of the things he (it?) is saying is, "You've got to watch your pennies right now."

When free to play comes out, I expect I'll be able to reacquaint myself with my agent.  Until then . . .

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More Adventures?

The other day, I expressed the concern that once Hikarinoko (now 45) hit level 50 and finished her class quest chain, I might find myself in a dilemma similar to that which surprised me as Anachan reached max level:  boredom.

"I'm worried that once I reach level 50, I won't have any reason to play anymore," I told my husband.

"Why don't you make another character?" he responded.

I rolled my eyes.  "Which one?  I didn't enjoy the Smuggler story . . . 'Hey, let's all go treasure-hunting' . . . I saw the Trooper story when I played with your Trooper, and I have no interest at all in playing Jedi Knight (not a healer).  And I've already discovered I can't stomach playing a Sith.  Should I just make another Agent?"  (After all, the story's good enough.)

"Well," he said, "why don't you try a Bounty Hunter?"

I was skeptical.  But I remembered hearing from other bloggers that the Bounty Hunter playstyle could be very customizable, from a Light/Dark perspective, as well as the choices in general, even if the general idea of "The Great Hunt" hadn't yet caught my imagination.

Just in case I ended up concluding it was a good idea, I decided to go create a Bounty Hunter and think about it.  She's a Chiss, skinny--as I like to make most of my characters and wish I looked like, myself--with mid-length hair loose around her face.  Following my more recent trend of character naming, I pulled out my Japanese dictionary . . .

A couple of page flips later, she had her name:  Karinoko.  Yes, it's a lot like Hikarinoko, but the meaning is different.  While Hikarinoko is "Child of Light", Karinoko is "Child of the Hunt".  I figured it was appropriate.

So now I have a level 3 Bounty Hunter to stare at on my character screen.

Poor girl . . . she probably won't get much attention until Hikarinoko is level 50 . . .

Update:  Incidentally, I did make another Agent, because my husband decided he wanted me to make a new character for him to run around occasionally with his baby Bounty Hunter.  He's still amazed I want to make this one an Operative, too, but then, I'm the kind of person who reads books over and over 20 times, too . . . while he's a serious altoholic . . .

Her name is Kaminoko, "Child of God."  (One letter is all it takes to change it from "hunt" to "God".)

Yep, I like a certain look, don't I?

Interestingly enough, although I know the story already, I still don't want to skip the voiceovers in the class quests . . . They're still that good . . . (And I'm occasionally making slightly different choices than I did with Hikarinoko . . . Darth Jadus didn't kill me this time.)

The one complication with this arrangement is . . . will I still decide to play Karinoko when Hikarinoko hits 50?  After all, I'm now seeing the BH story, too . . .

We'll see if I have any time at all by then, with all the preparations needed for my new job.  (If you've never done student teaching, you have no idea how much time outside of school teachers actually work . . . We've just started school, so I don't have my pace set yet, but right now, I leave at 6:00 am, return at 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening--remember I have an hour commute--and work until 9:00 or so, planning lessons and stuff.  Oy vey.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How Does Free Work?

/trumpet fanfare . . . Hikarinoko, Imperial Agent, is now Light Rank V!

The other day, my husband pointed out to me the announcement that SWTOR would be transitioning to a Free-to-Play (F2P) option sometime in the future.

(This is not something we have told our eldest daughter . . . You see, she'll be heading to college in a couple of weeks, and she's got a shiny new laptop . . . The last thing we need her to do her freshman year is jump into SWTOR F2P when it comes out . . . This means, of course, I will not be asking her to read this through before I publish it and tell me if it makes sense.)

Right now, when my daughters play, they use either my or my husband's accounts.  There's no way we can afford accounts for all five of them, especially when we only have two desktops in the family which can run the game, so some of those accounts would be used very little, indeed.  This means, of course, that some of my daughters can't play with me, some can't play with my husband, and some can't play with each other.

But with the proposed F2P format as currently listed, each of the girls could have her own account.  None of them play enough to reach any restriction caps on warzones or flashpoints, and this way, they could play with either parent (or any other sister), without worrying about which accounts they are using at that moment.

As a completely casual player, not running Operations, not running m(any) flashpoints, not on the cutting edge of content, and only running a couple of warzones a day, the F2P option would even work for me.  I'm not so hung up on vanity items that I have to plunk down a bunch of money for points to go get them.  I also don't use the auction house terribly much.  The only really annoying things would be the limited travel capabilities and the constant advertisements, if it is anything like the LoTRO I tried out and which quickly bored me.

(A side note about the auction house restrictions . . . In a way, wouldn't this penalize the subscription players, who are trying to make a few credits, by limiting their potential purchasers?  Just a thought.)

I'll be honest:  I'm not sure what I will do when the game goes F2P.  I figure if I am playing a game often, it is worth supporting, and therefore maintaining my subscription would be the better way to go.  But another part of me recognizes that unless something captures my imagination sufficiently between now and that time, I may not be playing enough to justify the subscription, and perhaps, from Bioware's point of view, having someone play infrequently on a F2P account is better than having them completely quit playing.  (Because, after all, as long as they are in contact with the game, the chance is still there they may pay money for points or resubscribe.)

There is still so little specific information out about it, there is no way to make a decision now.  Time will tell . . .

(Postscript:  I've never mentioned in a blog before now about my minors sharing my account, because I used to worry that game companies would end up banning my account if I did . . . not like any of them ever read my blogs.  But if Bioware is making SWTOR F2P, they have no reason to ban me, at this point.  It wouldn't be a good idea to alienate a wavering subscriber--one who, if it happened, would simply walk away, taking her husband with her--over something so trivial as this, when their subscription numbers are already so low.  It might be the one thing which would make me tolerate WoW pandas . . . /pained expression . . .)

Friday, July 27, 2012

RPer at Heart?

I have never considered myself a role player in games.  I don't hang out at the cantina, pretending to drink while chatting with other cantina patrons.  I don't usually make up a back story for my characters.  And I don't attempt to write my own version of "fan fiction" based around the adventures of my consular or agent.  Even in WoW, as a Druid who would never attack another Druid and viewed the Moonglade as more or less sacred, I was never an RPer.

That said, with the format employed by SWTOR, I'm finding myself with more of an RP spirit, even if I do not have all the conventional role play trappings.  I think it's because the connection between the player and the character in SWTOR is strengthened by the power of the player to make choices and affect outcomes in the story.  (That and probably the fact I only pick characters to play with whom I can form a connection . . . but that isn't new to SWTOR.)  I can tell myself logically that whatever happens is just pixels and doesn't matter, but when it comes down to it, I find that staying true to my character's values actually ends up being important to me.

Sometimes I will check out the outcomes of each response to a choice and ESC out of it before it completes, just to see the options and figure out which one would really be appropriate for my character.  The other day, I found one situation where each of the three responses brought such disparate results, I was stymied for several minutes before finally committing to one.

Yea, that one.  You can tell which answer I ended up choosing.

All roads might eventually lead to Rome, so to speak, but the scenery can be very different along the way.

I hadn't realized how much of an RP mentality I had developed until I attempted to start the bonus quest series on Alderaan to gain another level and change a class quest to yellow . . . 

Picture this:  I'm running around with Vector, with whom Hikarinoko is romantically involved, and who is trying his hardest to form an alliance between the Empire and the Killiks, and the entire quest chain is about . . . killing Killiks?

Now wait a minute, people.  You've got to be nuts if you think this is going to sit right with either Vector or me.

I started on the first few steps of the quest chain (the ones which didn't actually kill any Killiks), and it became obvious the entire thing was making me terribly uncomfortable.  There was no reason for it, really . . . just that the attachment Hikarinoko has with Vector and the attachment I have with Hikarinoko made me feel as if I was betraying someone's nearest and dearest desires.  Duty as an agent be hanged; I was far more concerned with the relationship between Hikarinoko and Vector.  (Illustration A why it is probably a good idea for an agent to not be involved with anyone.)

And so with a sigh, Hikarinoko told Vector they would just skip the Alderaan bonus series.  After a quick nostalgic look at the mountains of Vector's former homeland, they headed off toward Belsavis.

After all, they're a good enough team to handle orange-level quests.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fashion Statement

So the other day, while turning in the PVP daily, I happened upon this sight which made me more or less want to scream:

If I recall correctly, this was a level 50 Sith Sorcerer.

I understand that this person probably put a lot of effort into getting this clothing; I didn't inspect him, so I do not know the source.  But all I could think was, "Run away! Run away!"

Maybe that was his intent . . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Personal Update

Some good out of game news:  I really do have a job lined up in a few weeks.  (My contract arrived in the mail.)

When I graduated from college, roughly 19 years ago, it was with a BA in physics and an emphasis in secondary education.  (i.e., I got a teaching certificate when I finished my course of study.)  But with one thing or another, I never did end up teaching.  Oh, sure, I did some substitute teaching, but the biggest benefit I saw from my degree was a certain amount of self-confidence when I had to homeschool my autistic daughter.  (That and being able to watch potential employers' jaws drop when they saw I studied physics . . . always a quietly amusing sight.)

Well, one of the two high schools in this rural county lost its entire science teaching staff to retirement, and finding replacements proved to be difficult.  With school only about a month out, they were starting to become very worried.  Hearing about the openings, and recognizing that rural school districts may be able to waive some requirements in the short term, I decided to take a long shot:  I walked in to the Human Resources department and told them I was going to apply as a science teacher.

Amazingly enough, I was interviewed and verbally hired the next day, despite the fact I was completely upfront about my lapsed license, I didn't worry about whether or not my interview answers were the "right" ones, and I went into the interview figuring I was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me.  (Which meant I was really "me" and not "this is me trying to impress people".)

I'll admit it:  part of me is scared to death.  (/inner scream of terror)  But I know I can do this.  It might take me a little more thought and preparation, but I've been a teacher in one form or another almost all my adult life, if you include homeschooling for years (which, I might add, involves much research), tutoring my kids, teaching everyone from young children to adults in church, or training employees at my last job.  (Enthusiasm, Anachan, remember enthusiasm . . . Science is exciting, after all.)

What this means, of course, is that my time to play SWTOR will most likely be extremely limited.  Between commuting to work an hour each way, preparations for classes (at least three varieties), any grading I might have to do, my normal "mom" duties (dinner, laundry, etc.--thank goodness for slow cookers), helping my kids with their schoolwork, still giving my 16-yr-old autistic daughter her homeschool assignments (under the supervision of her dad, who will be trying to get the "self-employed" thing going), trying to put together my house after moving, and studying for the required tests to complete my state license, I'm going to be one busy person.  (To be honest, I've found myself reviewing teaching strategies while hanging out in warzone queues or waiting for loading screens.)  On the flip side, Bioware may be thrilled, because it means I'll take longer to finish the Agent story . . . especially if on most nights, I only have time for a warzone or two.

Incidentally, it's a good thing I'm getting a job, because I totally fail at collecting unemployment insurance . . . who knew there were so many hoops through which to jump?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Singing a Song of Vector

I had always been under the impression that a healer should solo quest with a tank companion, a tank should quest with a healing companion, and a dps . . . well, I'm not sure what a dps should quest with, but as I don't play pure dps characters, it hasn't been a real concern.

So I kind of thought I was being a rebel when I decided to run Hikarinoko with Vector, melee dps, instead of Kaliyo, tank, . . . because he is more like someone I would want to know in real life.  After all, his past is squeaky clean (i.e., nobody is trying to chase him down and kill him from halfway across the universe), he speaks gently, he never condemns what I do (even when he doesn't agree), and I don't lose points when questioning the sanity of certain missions or expressing sympathy . . . What woman wouldn't want to hang around someone like this?

Ok, so he shares thoughts with a bunch of bugs, his eyes are completely black, he speaks of himself in the Killik collective mentality plural, and he's still relearning a lot of human interaction.  I realize this might increase the likelihood of his being judged creepy.  But he's something of a poet, and in addition to all the admirable qualities listed above, a good turn of phrase can go a long way toward winning my affection.

My husband gets a kick out of hearing me giggle when Vector says something which tickles my fancy.  For example, the other day, when Vector was told by a Minder to accompany her for debriefing, he replied, "We'll sing you our journey's song, but we'll need the main hall for the acoustics . . . "  (Gotta love the imagery!  Well, it was a rather epic tale he had to tell.)

And when I suggested we needed to do something about some potentially threatening missiles, he showed his rarely seen sense of humor . . .

"We see your point.  Maybe we should call the nest--a line of two hundred Killiks, each with a missile on its back . . ."

(At least, I think it was his sense of humor.  He might have actually been serious . . .)

To top it off, we haven't really had any trouble tackling our challenges, despite not having a "tank", so to speak.  He kills things quickly enough that I can juggle healing, tanking, dps, and cc and keep us alive, even in somewhat less-than-perfect gear.  (Usually.)  The other night, we took on a gold elite two levels above us and managed the encounter with no real difficulty.  (This might not impress some of the really good players, but remember, my husband says I play like a scared rabbit.)

When I mentioned the opening point of this blog to my husband, he told me, "Well, Honey, it's all about playstyle.  If his playstyle works with the way you like to play, and you're doing fine, then there's no real reason to change.  Besides," he said with a grin, "you seem to enjoy playing with him.  He suits you."

It's a good thing my husband doesn't mind me being somewhat madly in love with a figment of a game designer's imagination . . .

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Have Time . . .

This evening, I found to my surprise that I arrived too late upon the scene of my quest.  So I alt-tabbed out and decided to blog while I wait.

See?  No spice boxes to destroy.  Nothing to do but sit tight and twiddle my thumbs.

But that's ok:  I have time.  I am still unemployed, although I did have an interview, and with any luck, I should be receiving something in the mail in the next two days.  (At least, they said they'd be sending it.  I'd just say I have a job lined up, except I hate to say anything until my signature is on the page making it official.  So I'll hold off and tell you when it's certain.)

Pardon me while I return to the game and see if there are targets for me . . .

/destroys spice boxes

Ok, now that that is over, take a look at this!

Vector finally replaced his admittedly very nice Alderaan chest piece.  Now, we look something rather like a cou . . . I mean a team, now.  Aren't we adorable?  (Ok, so that might be a stretch . . .)

Friday, July 6, 2012


Next week, while my family and I will be at our reunion, this blog will reach its half-year anniversary.  Normally, I would not think to mention it, as it is not the full year, but for one thing:  it corresponds with another important day for me.

That same day, my husband and I will have been married for 20 years, after a courtship of 3-5 months, depending on whether you count the start date when we met or when we went on our first and only date before becoming engaged.  To those more familiar with the modern culture of relatively short marriages, who wonder how people can possibly keep a marriage alive this long, I offer a few insights from our experience:

1.  It's not easy.  For the first 8 years of our marriage, we were not sure we were going to make it.  Something happened around the 9th year (4 kids in), and we realized we actually did want to stay married.  Even then, a marriage can always be improved; we're still working on ways to make our partnership better.

2.  Commitment is what counts first; love is second.  I know you are going to think this sounds backward.  "But wait!  Isn't a marriage supposed to be built on a foundation of love?"  Ideally, yes.  But what do you do when the trials of life buffet your marriage, and you are not sure you really love your spouse?  (Or when you are just about absolutely positive you do not love your spouse . . .)  That's when commitment kicks in . . . and most of the time, it can carry you past those trials until the flames of love can be fanned up again.  (Disclaimer:  this does not apply to cases of actual abuse, which are an entirely different discussion.)  The only thing which kept my husband and I married during a good deal of those first 8 years was the determination by each of us, individually, that we were not going to be the one who broke the commitment--the one who "quit".

3.  It is important to have common interests (like SWTOR!), but it is also important to value differences.  On the Myers-Briggs survey, my husband and I are exact opposites.  I'm not kidding:  I'm an ISTJ, and he's an ENFP.  (Not a single letter in common!)  I've had to learn to deal with a husband who takes many more risks than I do, and he's had to learn to deal with a wife who needs quiet time alone, instead of wanting to go out and "do something".  I suspect our personality differences may have greatly contributed to the strife of those first 8 years, but we've each since grown to recognize and appreciate the other's strengths.  It means we can delegate tasks according to who would be best suited to it, or it means we can help and coach each other on our various weaknesses, if needed.  (Very Important Note here:  criticism is not help!!  Helping is when you take the other person by the hand, only after they've requested it, and guide them through what needs to be done.)

With the foundation we have managed to build thus far, we have every expectation that our future years will be even better than our present ones.  And that's a good feeling to have.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Maniacal Laughter

The other day, I met up with an old friend from my WoW guild, in SWTOR.  (The name was unique and unmistakeable.)  After waving and exchanging the usual pleasantries, he commented he had operations that night and asked what my plans were for the evening.  I told him it was going to be a PVP night for me--run a few warzones, have some fun.

He surprised me by saying that on his character, he had not run a single warzone.  Not one.

Now, to be fair, Hikarinoko had only run one instance at that point in time.  The server on which she had been playing was, to put it mildly, pretty dead.  It's difficult to find a group when there are only three people on the entire planet.  (Full disclosure: she still has only run one instance . . . I need to gain the confidence I can heal a group well enough in unfamiliar territory before queueing in the random group finder.  But, hey, if I can keep Kaliyo alive over something like 20 minutes while we're beating our heads over a gold elite, I can probably manage to keep an actual geared player tank alive . . .)

We found ourselves on the opposite ends of the spectrum:  him focusing on the PVE instance side, and me focusing more on PVP.  (Of course, I quest, so that's PVE, but you get the point . . .)

I've run enough instances in other situations to know they can be a thrill, especially when the encounters are new and you're still figuring them out, or when something goes wrong.  Once the instances become very familiar, they can end up feeling more like a grind, unless you are playing with friends.

But with PVP, you never quite know what to expect.  Unlike working your way through groups of mobs as you go up a pathway on a hill or even facing off against a boss, nothing is entirely predictable.  You may end up opposing an extremely well-organized group which completely trounces your team into the dirt.  You may end up dominating the other team, an unspoken synergy flowing through you and your teammates, as you figuratively high-five that bounty hunter who teamed with you to defend a capture node.  Or you may find the battle fairly evenly matched, with the balance of power trading sides and the outcome anything but predetermined.

The other day, while on a Novare Coast battle, I found myself solo-defending the east node.  A smuggler ran up as I waited in stealth.  Knowing I am not a very good one-on-one duelist, I called to my teammates in Ops chat, telling them I had someone incoming and that I was alone.  (Even if the defender is a good duelist, it's better to have another player assisting, just in case something goes wrong, so I felt no shame in communicating with my teammates.)

By all indications, however, nobody seemed to have heard me.  I ended up running in circles with this smuggler--thankfully not a healer--trading off dps, while I hit Evasion, my shield, and stacked HoTs on myself, occasionally dropping to cover to toss a bomb or Snipe.  I kept expecting to be dead at any moment, but somehow I kept living . . . and after a few more heals and another Snipe or two, I found myself standing over his dead body.

I think it is the first time . . . ever . . . I have faced a character in a PVP situation one-on-one and emerged victorious, in any game.  I couldn't believe it!  A small glow peeked out of my cautious and slightly puzzled heart as I accepted the realization I had actually been successful.  (I knew, however, not to press my luck, and the next time he came around, apparently rather mad, if the way he attacked was any indication, I did manage to get someone up there to help out . . .)

I know my old friend is enjoying himself hugely, running his guild and organizing their operations.  And in the past, (*cough* 3.5 years in WoW), I have greatly enjoyed being a cog in the machinery of a raid, helping to ensure the group ran smoothly and saw success.

But there is something about organized PVP which keeps drawing me back.  Maybe it's the (possibly misguided) notion that every player counts . . . that the decision of a single player can turn the tide of a game.  For example, a player may make the decision to watch a node for stealthers instead of running back into the fray . . . or he might take the opportunity to sneak up and capture a node while one's teammates have distracted the foe away from it.  (Did that the other day, and it changed a loss into a victory, as my teammates rallied around the newly captured node to defend it from the enemy.)  Maybe it's the active and constant pace, which requires "thinking on one's feet" or the determination to get back up and get back into the action instead of becoming discouraged.  Maybe it's the adrenaline rush, which heightens my overall sense of well-being.

At any rate, every time I jump off safe area platforms after rezzing, arriving just in time to keep a teammate from falling over or firing a single shot at that enemy player trying to plant a bomb or capture a node, I feel like bursting out in maniacal laughter . . .

(. . . . of course, part of that maniacal laughter could be because I'm still moving, and the whole thing is stressing me out terribly . . . good reason to seek out the catharsis of PVP . . . brb, gotta kill something . . .)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unofficial Agent Trailer

Some time ago, when I still had a job (seems eons ago, and yet, it was only two weeks), I had a day when I was bored . . . I was bored enough to go read on the SWTOR community forums, which is not something I spend a lot of time doing on a regular basis.

There, I found a thread wherein players were stating their reasons for choosing an Imperial Agent over a Smuggler.  A lot of people cited PVP or the story line as their reasons, but one person cited his reason as a reaction to a video.

This video could legitimately be considered a spoiler, if you consider movie trailers to be spoilers.  I think the creator did a pretty good job of piecing things together, and, to be honest, the biggest possible spoiler point in Chapter 1 is not even alluded to in the video.


By the way, Hikarinoko is now running around in Chapter Two.

I'll confess:  unlike my Consular's experience with Lord Vivicar, my Agent fell flat on her face at her end of Chapter 1 quest.  After a few times of this, I went so far as to read about the encounter and try to implement the suggestions given.  But although I attempted it many times over several days, my efforts were in vain.  In desperation, I finally managed to talk my husband into bringing his slightly lower-level Sith Sorcerer and healing, so I could keep my full attention on the boss and his various casts.  (This, by the way, was only made possible by the incredibly good fortune of having both our transfer origination servers directing to the same destination server.)  With someone else, it was so simple, I felt sheepish for not having been able to do it solo . . . but some quests are like that.  (Note to self:  next time, set a Focus.  It might help.)

I did wonder how the writers could possibly make something to rival Chapter 1 as I headed into Chapter 2 . . . But you know, so far, I think they have risen to the challenge.  (When I find myself staying up later than I should be doing, after a physically exhausting day of packing/loading boxes and furniture, and unpacking them all again at the destination, just because I am caught up in the story . . . . well, that's success.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Alt-Tab Blogging

Sometimes I get so excited about an idea for this blog, I just can't wait to go ahead and start writing.  So I alt-tab out and start tap-tapping away.  As I play in windowed, full-screen mode, the transition time back and forth is minimal, making it simple for me to take a screenshot, then pop over to the blog window, write a thing or two, edit the picture, etc., then return to the game.  But there is a problem with this:  when I return to the game, sometimes a few keystrokes end up carrying over and being interpreted within an in-game context.

Often, when I return to the game, I find my character running in circles or spinning wildly, with the companion screen or the character screen or some other such screen showing.  Closing the windows is harmless, if only a little bothersome, but dealing with the movement is a little more tricky.

I've learned that pressing the key associated with the direction of movement, as if it is stuck and needs to be hit again to be unstuck, solves this problem.  For example, if Hikarinoko or Anachan is spinning clockwise, hitting the "D" key will take care of that.  If she is running forward into a wall, pressing "W" will end that motion.  It is annoying, but not annoying enough for me to stop blogging while alt-tabbed out.

And then came the time I went to Nar Shaddaa to pick up the RD-03B Coordination Jacket which Targeter so kindly recommended to my notice . . .

After I had completed the transaction and was on the shuttle back to the spaceport, I alt-tabbed out to put the finishing touches on a blog entry.  Because the shuttle ride was short, I was fairly sure some of my keystrokes would carry over into the game.  Not really a big deal; I simply wondered which ones they would be.

It wasn't a big deal, that is, until I actually returned to the game and found Hikarinoko going backward . . . off the edge of the platform by the shuttle point.

Yep, you can fall off the platforms of Nar Shaddaa, and you will die.

I am not sure there is anything I could have done to prevent her falling.  By the time I recognized she was moving backward, I had no time to place my hand on the keyboard and hit "S".  All I could do was laugh with mild chagrin.

In spite of this incident, I have no plans to quit alt-tab blogging, but I guess I ought to focus on being more mindful of her position when I head out to write . . .

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stealth Technology and Vector

After so many levels of questing with Kaliyo, I was looking forward to taking someone else along for a while.  And I find that, although he's not a tank, I do enjoy questing with Vector.  As fast as he kills things, I find I can usually tank just fine, and with my personality, it's easier to pick up affection points.  (The only way I can stay ahead of all my negative points with Kaliyo is to shower her with gifts.)

But when we go into stealth mode, there is a slight problem with whatever technology we are using to accomplish this feat . . .

I'm sure you can see what I mean.  Anyone looking in our direction would be puzzled to see his electrostaff apparently floating in mid-air.

Interestingly enough, I did find one instance in which his electrostaff was also included in the stealth coverage . . .

This evening, I ran a couple of warzones.  While I hate to depart in the middle of a warzone, even if it is going badly, I found I had to answer the call of my kitchen timer and figured the team needed the opportunity to have someone else join who could pay attention.  (I was making yogurt, and it's very temperature-sensitive, so certain points in the process are time-critical.)

When I returned from my kitchen adventures, I found Hikarinoko had entered her ship in stealth, which is the state she was in when she left the warzone.  As I headed toward the exit door, I was startled to see this sight:

Yes, my dedicated, peaceful 2V-R8, whose only excursions outside the ship are on diplomatic missions, was in stealth.

Huh?  Why would he be in stealth on my ship?  I wondered if it was because I had zoned back from a warzone while in stealth, and if so, were my other companions also stealthed out on the ship?

Accordingly, I headed toward the back of the ship.  Sure enough, there was Kaliyo . . .

And finally, Vector . . .

Notice something different about him than in the first picture above?  (Aside from the fact he is stealthed and I am not.)  Yep, here on my ship, where being in stealth does not give me one iota of advantage, his weapon is actually hidden, as well.

I think I'm going to have to have a little chat with the technical folks back at Imperial Intelligence Headquarters . . .

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sometimes Random Is Good

When given the choice of a quest reward, I usually choose the gear, the companion gear, or the commendations.  I almost never choose the random box.

But last night, I decided, just for the giggles in my limited time, to head to Tatooine and hit an Heroic 2 quest I hadn't done yet.  As Hikariniko is level 32, it wasn't terribly difficult.  Stealth in, take out the group guarding the objective, get the objective, take out the group suddenly appearing to defend the objective, QuickTravel home.

The quest rewards offered were a head piece which was much lower level than her present one, unneeded Tatooine commendations, and a blue quality random roll box.  I picked the box.  (After all, the worst that could happen would be I'd end up with something to sell.)

Lo and behold!  Something useful actually came out of it.  To my great surprise, a chest piece which was a distinct upgrade appeared, and what is more, it was cute!

So here she is in her not-too-terribly-hard-won new bit of Agent fashion.

Not too terribly bad, hm?
Now if only I could find a moddable piece of Agent gear in a style I liked enough to just upgrade mods . . . (I prefer a more streamlined, short piece look.  I  don't like the long-coat looking things which seem to be more appropriate for the Smuggler than the Agent, in my opinion, and I don't like something which makes it look like there are lumps all over my body in odd locations.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Crisis Management

Agent Anachan is on a mission in real life:  Operation BePositive.  Friday, her and her husband's place of employment experienced what is known as a "Reduction In Force", and every person employed by the main employer (as opposed to a subcontractor) was impacted.  You heard me right: 100% RIF, effective upon notification, and none of us knew we, personally, were going to be impacted until the day itself.  (Yea, they handled it kind of badly.  Scratch that--they handled it very badly.  I could go into more detail, but it would do no good.)  This post is a cathartic pick-me-up to remind myself that, really, who knows?  Our future may even be better.

Things learned in games about handling a crisis in real life:

Don't panic.  Think.  The patrol and an extra group were pulled accidentally because you were the victim of a knockback attack or something . . . You know you're in trouble.  Should you run away?  In some situations, this might make sense, but if you open up your mind and think about it, you just might be able to handle the situation.

Often, many people who die in crisis situations do so because they panic instead of think.  This is why you may find a mother and her child frozen in a Minnesota winter, a half mile away from their stalled car, even though the mother was born and raised in the area and should have known better.  Cory Lundin starts his books with the basic idea that the biggest enemy you have in a crisis is your own emotional state.  If you can decide to banish panic and simply think, you have a much higher chance of making it.  In other words, half the battle is the mind game.

Take everything a bit at a time.   Suppose you've got to make it from the roadway across a field of groups and patrols, all the way to the tent at the far end.  Take a deep breath and pull a group at the edge.  Pull them back, away from the patrols, if possible.  Then take the next group, or the patrol.  Bit by bit, you'll work your way across that field.

I heard once that "anyone can eat an elephant if you cut it up into small enough pieces".  And, likewise, crises are simpler to decipher and solve if you take it a portion at a time.

Handle the easy stuff first.  Is there a probe droid with a smaller amount of health which can be quickly knocked out?  That's one less thing beating on your tank companion or yourself, if you're the one doing the tanking.

Staring at the possible loss of our health insurance, one of the first things I knocked out of the way was to make annual doctor check-up appointments for all my daughters, before that coverage disappeared.  With that out of the way and immunizations brought up to date, we can wait a while before worrying about it again, if needed, thus removing one potential source of stress.  Easy stuff.

When facing an obvious threat, prepare an attack.  Offense is simpler to win than defense.  Sure, you might possibly be able to skirt around that group, if you hug the opposite side of the corridor.  But if you aren't successful, it will be more difficult to manage the situation advantageously than if you just got them out of the way at the start.

It reminds me of the time in college when my dermatologist gave me a prescription for worry. "First," he said, "imagine the worst that could happen." What? This is supposed to help me? "Then, accept the worst. Think in your mind it has already happened. What would you do? How would you deal with it?" Oh, I get it. If you have some kind of idea what you would do, you realize you can manage. There are options. It might not even be as bad as you anticipated. "Finally," he continued, "work to improve on the worst." So that, perhaps, the worst won't actually happen.  In other words, go on the offensive.

Remember all your resources, even the ones you don't use often or the ones you would rather not use.  Remember your interrupts, your stuns, your stims, your medpacs, and your crowd control abilities.  Do you have skills or abilities you don't use on a regular basis, but you could use if needed?  Pull them out, dust them off, and use them.

I have skills to be able to reduce living costs or help sustain my family in an emergency, such as baking, sewing, and growing just about any vegetable which forms on a vine.  I can make yogurt and fresh cheese, and I can harvest the juice from wild prickly pears.  And in accordance with the teachings of my religion, I have a certain amount of food storage in my home and garage.  (Which I know how to use.  It does no good to store wheat or dehydrated strawberries if you don't know how to make it into anything.)  It's good to know I have ways to take care of my family or reduce our costs in times of trouble.

Take care of yourself.  Keep up your buffs; keep up your life bar.  Pay attention to where you are standing and what is hitting you.  If you can stay out of the fire, that's that much less healing you're going to have to do.

Just because things have fallen all to pieces doesn't mean you stop wearing sunscreen or a hat in the hot desert sun.  I confess to having to remind myself to eat, but having kids helps with that.

Take care of your partners.  Healing Kaliyo is one of the best things you can do for your own survival as an Agent.  As in the Aesop's Fable, united, you can stand much better than divided.  It's good to have someone "watching your 6".

In spite of the crisis, take care of others and try to maintain a cheerful countenance.  It is likely your smile may be contagious, and the goodwill you spread will linger and perhaps come back to bless you when you need it.  (And remember, a well-timed homemade cinnamon roll on the desk of someone under great stress never goes amiss.)  There is nothing like a shared crisis to bring people together.

As long as you are alive, there is hope.  It might be a pretty close fight, but as long as there is a sliver of life left, you are still winning.  A cooldown might pop up, you might regain just enough force/energy for that necessary heal, or a hit might finally crit just enough to see the mob fall before you do. 

Enjoy the journey.  Even when you're in the middle of a jumbled mass of chaos against seven attackers, the mountains of Alderaan are still beautiful.  (As are the faces of my daughters.)

By the way, now that I'm not working there and you won't know where I live, because we have to move, I can now post that "Good Morning America" video I mentioned before this.  This is my family, back in 2008, when I was still working as a role player (I'm the blonde in blue grinning foolishly):

You can tell this place was a real "labor of love" for the people who worked here, which makes the current situation all the more painful.  It took a certain kind of mildly crazy person to put up with living in the middle of nowhere, where you might hear explosions or gunfire at all hours of the night or have a military helicopter buzz your house.  We had a lot of fun doing everything from role playing to wrangling goats to pitching in during an emergency to accomplish what seems to be impossible with the limited resources available in a rural setting, always with a smile and the feeling we were among friends and family.  I'm proud of our success, and I'm sad that the main employer will most likely end up throwing it all away by their "restructuring".  But it is what it is.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Another Good Reason to PVP

A while ago, my agent Hikarinoko attempted to complete the quest "The Thing Czerka Found".  As soon as I started the event, I realized I remembered this one.  (I can hear you now . . . "Anachan, you said you were going to talk about PVP in your title.  Why on earth are you talking about a Tatooine quest?"  Bear with me.)

When my consular Anachan and my husband's trooper had done it together, it had still been a little tricky, because of the adds which kept coming.  But we had managed because . . . well, face it, Trooper tank and Consular healer, along with their pets, can manage a whole lot.

Not terribly unexpected, then, Hikarinoko failed miserably while attempting this at a level one below the quest level.  I rezzed her at the medical center and decided to return at least one level later.

One level later, she headed back into Czerka's underground building again.  But before she could reach the final encounter, her PVP invitation popped up, and off she went.  (Don't ask me which warzone; I don't remember.)

Upon returning to the cavern (thankfully in stealth), she made it to the final encounter and engaged the elite waiting for her there . . . along with the myriad adds which shortly appeared . . .

Amazingly enough, although it was "touch and go" a couple of times, she and Kaliyo finally stood victorious, relief obvious upon their foreheads.  (Hey, even Kaliyo was worried a couple of times!)

As she quick-traveled out, I thought, "That wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  I'm amazed we were successful."

And then I looked at the top left side of my screen, wherein Hikarinoko's icon sits.  (Yes, I use a variation on the "Retro" interface.)

I laughed.

There, under her Energy bar, was a whole line-up of buffs, left over from her warzone match--buffs I had no idea she had received.

A few extra stats can make a big difference, can't they?  Lucky that warzone queue had popped!

So not only does playing in warzones accomplish the daily, bringing more xp, more rewards, and so forth, not to mention being a lot of fun and an adrenaline rush, but they can help provide much-needed buffs when facing a challenging encounter.  Win-win-win!  (Even if you lose the warzone.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Plugging the Leak

Sometimes, it's all too easy to get into a rut when questing.  Now, there's nothing wrong with working out a routine which seems to be effective for yourself and your companion, but it's a good idea not to get too complacent.  The other day, I had a wake-up call on this point.

On Tatooine, there is a quest chain entitled "Plugging the Leak."  (I'd like to give my readers' intelligence enough credit to believe they would understand by this statement that I will be talking about a quest, instead of having to holler, "Possible Spoiler Alert!")  Basically, you've been tasked with drawing smugglers, who have been trying to sell explosives to the Republic, into an ambush.

All went without a hitch when Hikarinoko faced this task, until the final step of signaling and defeating the smugglers.  Two regular level smugglers appeared, who were quickly beaten, and then a gold star level elite smuggler showed up on the scene.

No problem, I thought.  By this time, Kaliyo and Hikarinoko had faced many an elite mob and managed to work out a system, although it focused more on survival than speed of killing.  Accordingly, with my eyes half-closed, I started on our normal routine.  Hit the elite, heal Kaliyo, hit the elite, heal Kaliyo, lots of Rifle Shot, Kolto Injection, Kolto Infusion . . . check Energy, time for Adrenaline Probe . . .

It was a few minutes before I realized the life bar on this elite had hardly changed.

With a sigh, I figured this one would simply be a long fight . . . just keep swimming, just keep swimming . . . If I managed my Energy and kept plugging away, surely this elite would end up falling, even if it ended up being a 10-minute fight or something.

Roughly 8 minutes or so later, I revised that estimate to 20 minutes.  Kaliyo and I were fine and in no danger of dying or running out of Energy, but the smuggler was simply not dying!  Something was definitely wrong, and it was time to start engaging my brain.

I wondered if his shield was giving him too much advantage, so I pulled Kaliyo into the room with the idea of "line-of-sighting" the smuggler and forcing him to move away from his shield.  I figured even if he dropped another one, I might be able to get an idea if it was a useful thought.  He came in, all right, and he didn't drop another shield, but his life bar still wasn't moving much.

And then I saw his life bar go up.

This elite had a heal!  (See that Med Scan cast bar?)

What is cast can usually be interrupted, so I frantically scanned my ability bars to remember what on earth my interrupt was called.  (You can tell how often I depart out of my "normal" mode of operations . . .)  Here it is!

Distraction worked like a charm to interrupt the Med Scan.  I wish I could say it interrupted every one, but the cooldown only permitted me to interrupt every other Med Scan.  Regardless, it was enough.  After what was still a reasonably long fight--not willing to admit how long--the smuggler was defeated.

Luckily for me, the encounter ended up being worth it!  New boots!  (Might be green, but an upgrade is an upgrade.)

The entire experience was a good reminder to stay awake and be situationally aware.  The game may still toss in some surprises, even in what seems to be a fairly normal kind of quest.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mobility, Hooray!

As you know, Hikarinoko managed to first make it to Tatooine when she was level 23, then turned around and ran away for more level.

I returned at level 24, which was a reasonable level at which to attempt the first few quests.  BUT it presented a different problem.

Have you realized just how far everything is on Tatooine?  Simply going across town is a matter of a couple minutes' running, and some of those bonus quests require you to run everywhere, in several parts of the town, searching for people who may not even be out in the open air.  (I figured out that last clause after I finally finished the bonus quest, using the same person every time he spawned, because I couldn't find any others.  Didn't think of looking inside the buildings.)

So as I exhausted myself running up and down and around on the sand, I commented to my husband, "Word of advice.  Don't go to Tatooine until you are level 25.  Just don't."

Those in-town bonus quests finally did the trick, however, and it was with great relief I pulled her speeder out of her mailbox.

Now she's ready to take on anything . . . or just about anything.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Leveling Plateau

The hardest part about playing the Agent is trying not to write blog posts with spoilers.  As a matter of fact, it's almost undoable, because the story line is just so cool!  (Yes, yes, Cipher Agent Targeter, I know you're grinning . . .)

I find myself taking screenshots from cut scenes, hoping to blog about them, but, recognizing that most people really don't want to hear about the story line, setting them aside. It's probably better, anyway, to let them just go make their own Agent and experience it all for themselves.

Luckily for me, I have my eldest daughter to whom I can gush about the story.  (The daughter who, the other day, laughed at me and said, "Mom, you're such a teenager!" Wait, what? Is that a good thing? /looks at daughter suspiciously.)  She smiles, shakes her head at me, says, "Glad you're having fun, Mom," and watches bemusedly as I walk back to my computer.  I guess teenagers can be good for something.  ;)

This last weekend, I had the chance to progress through the story line on Nar Shaddaa, thanks to a nasty cold I think I picked up on that return flight from London keeping me at my computer desk instead of doing landscaping outside in the wind, which meant I found myself on Tatooine at level 23.

Level 23 on Tatooine is not impossible, but it is slightly difficult.

Because I had skipped all the Heroic quests, not wanting to try to find people to run them on a server where I was one of 7 on the entire planet, I had missed out on a substantial amount of leveling potential along the way.  Running daily PVP quests helped, but the xp gained from two warzones plus the completion of a quest wasn't terribly significant.  (Oh!  Interestingly enough, running both rounds of Voidstar apparently completes this quest all by itself.  It counts as two warzones.  Go figure.)  So I found myself staring at the bright desert sands, wondering how to gain at least another level and turn those starting quests from orange to yellow.

Checking my quest log revealed there were a couple of normal quests on Nar Shaddaa I had not completed, so I turned around and flew back to that haven of depraved behavior.


Unfortunately, after completing the quests, my poor little Agent is still at level 23.

Sooner or later, in every character I've tried to level solo so far, I've found myself at a leveling plateau.  These are situations where I find myself needing level, but not having soloable quests, and they can be rather annoying.  With my Inquisitor, it was mostly my own fault, as I had a difficult time connecting with her situation and kept refusing quests, but I found I was not motivated sufficiently by her main story line to push through by chaining warzones.  (Why would I want to sacrifice myself for the sake of a completely unlikeable and untrustworthy Sith master?)  My Smuggler, while not strictly on the same kind of plateau, also didn't have a story line compelling enough to inspire me to push through the sheer boredom of doing Republic Nar Shaddaa quests for the second time, playing a style I found less enjoyable.  (Ho, hum . . . treasure hunting.)

But here is where playing an Agent is working to my advantage.  While I am frustrated at this leveling plateau, the story line is intriguing enough, and I've developed enough of a relationship with the main characters involved, I am willing to do what it takes to persevere through this minor difficulty.  If chaining warzones is what it takes, then chaining warzones is what I will do!

So tonight, Hikarinoko will either have a date with warzones, or she will be checking out her ability to run green Heroic quests on earlier planetary zones.  (Unless of course, in the unlikely event my husband has created a character on the same server and wants some help leveling.  He asked me this morning, most mysteriously, upon which server I was playing . . .)

One way or another, the story must go on.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sleeping In Warzones

Just to get the record straight, I was not sleeping in warzones; I was sleepy in warzones.  But I think the former made for a better title.

Given that I was still severely jet-lagged, I wondered if I should really log on after I returned home from going with my teenagers to their weekly activity at the church yesterday evening.  (No, I didn't drive in that condition.  My 15-yr-old is reasonably proficient by now, with something like 42 hours of driving under her belt, so I let her drive, and I tried to relax and veg in the passenger seat.)  But I decided that staying up a little later would actually help me recover from my jet lag, so, blinking blearily, I stared at Hikarinoko and logged her on.

"Just a couple of warzones," I thought.  "I'll just do enough for the daily, and then I'll call it."


At level 19, it was a little risky to go try to start the class quest on Nar Shaddaa, anyway, so while waiting in the queue, I juggled sending companions on Diplomacy and Slicing missions (the latter always a roll of the dice) with checking out the level 20 pvp gear available.  (Who on earth thought up that horribly ugly orange chest piece?  I don't just mean it's moddable; I mean it's the color orange!  I keep postponing replacing my chest piece because they've all been so ugly.  I think Njessi's fashion awareness has been rubbing off on me.)

The first warzone was Huttball, and I'll be honest:  my memory of that run is so clouded I don't even remember if we won.  But it was a good way to relearn . . . again . . . where all my buttons were located.  (Oh, yeah, I can stealth . . . /sigh . . . how many times do I have to have this revelation?)  At least my brain was finally awakened to the point where I could remember I was supposed to be following the ball-carrier . . .

One down, one to go!  I requeued and sent my companions off on more missions.  (Well . . . I was resending them on missions all through Huttball, too . . . just not reading the missions very closely.)

The next one was Novare Coast, which was fine by me.  Remembering my daughter saying the east node was simpler to get at the beginning, I headed out that direction with another teammate, and together we picked it up for our side, unopposed.  He ran off to the southern node, while I stealthed and kept an eye on the hut with the controls.

I have to hand it to this team:  their responses were excellent.  The moment I saw someone unstealthed and trying to cap the node, I lobbed a bomb in his direction and called in Ops chat, "East help."  Soon, I had several people running my direction, which ended up being a good thing, as a few enemies suddenly appeared, as well.  (Whew!  Not overkill, after all.)

This happened several more times during the course of the encounter.  Every time I called for assistance, people arrived almost immediately.  The eastern node was never captured, some people made feints toward the western node just to keep the enemy busy, and the main group kept defending the southern node.  We won with no real difficulties.

I dinged 20 while turning in the daily quest, and one of my teammates from that last encounter clapped wildly.  Two implants and a belt later from the pvp vendor, I sent out the companions one last time and logged off.

My sleep was sweetly sound, indeed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back In the States

Not SWTOR-related, but I can now tell you where I've been . . . London!  (I never mention my travel destinations on the Internet beforehand--poor Operations Security.  /wink.  I don't even post things on Facebook until they are all finished.  Technically, it was poor OPSEC to tell you I'd be out of town at all, but we have a roving guard patrol over here, and I had teenagers watching the house, so it was a reasonably low risk.)

I'll be back in the game possibly tonight, if I'm awake that long (spent 25.5 hours yesterday traveling or sitting in airports, and only ended up with about 5.5 hours of sleep after crashing in my bed upon returning home, before I had to get up to get the kids to school), but for now, just a few thoughts.

15 Trivial Things I Learned While Traveling in London

1.  For a place which insists you throw your rubbish in rubbish bins, the Underground has a deplorable lack of said bins.

2.  "Mind the gap" means, basically "Watch your step", in American.  It's what they print on the platforms of the Underground to remind people to be careful as they enter or exit the trains.  Oh, don't look for the "Exit", by the way, if you are trying to get to the street after disembarking from your train.  The signs will all point to the "Way Out".

3.  Most Underground trains will have the poles for passengers to hold on to painted the same color as the train line.  For example, Circle Line trains (yellow on the map) will have yellow poles.  The one exception I found to this was the very last Underground train I took to Paddington station on my way back to the airport.  It was a District Line (green on the map), but it had yellow poles.  (It didn't matter, as either one would have taken me to my destination, but the train did identify itself as a District Line train.)

4.  Having words printed on the crosswalks to tell you which way to look for traffic is kind of handy.

5.  I actually make scones correctly.  They taste just the same as the ones there.  (Chalk up one success.)  Now, to learn how to make clotted cream and Victoria Sponge . . .

6.  If you order water in a restaurant, the wait staff will ask you, "Still or sparkling?"  The first couple of times I heard it, I had absolutely no idea what they were asking, especially as the vast majority of wait staff I encountered did not speak English (either British or American) as their first language, and I couldn't understand the word "still".  And when I did finally understand, I was puzzled.  What on earth would be "still" water?  What they are offering is bottled water, either sparkling or . . . not.  If you want tap water, you have to outright ask for it, as they will not offer it in their initial question.  If you look at them like an ignorant foreigner (or a blonde), they will finally get around to mentioning it.

7.  The restaurant prices are all reasonable . . . if you think of them as being in dollars.  Unfortunately, they are not in dollars, and the dollar is not showing very well against the British pound right now.  Ouch.

8.  It takes my husband and me three times as long to make it through an attraction as it does other people, because we read and examine everything.  We're the kind of people who, instead of saying, "A suit of armor, that's nice," end up staring at the tiny detailing the craftsman put into the border, wondering how he could have managed to make it so even.  (Or marveling at how fine the threads were spun which were used to create the incredibly delicate lace on some of the gowns.)  In Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London, we barely made it out by closing time. 

9.  You can spend seven hours going through the Tower of London and still not see everything there is to see.  Go past the royal jewels twice, as the moving walkway by them moves too swiftly to see everything well the first time.  (Most everyone else will just move on, so it really doesn't cause a lot of extra traffic if you do.)  And do get involved in a reenactment, if you happen upon one.  (We were some of the few adults who jumped right in when a soldier reenactor called for volunteers to join with the King's forces to help escort a prisoner who was threatened with vigilante justice safely to his cell to be tried according to the law.  Other people joined those who were yelling for his death.) 

10.  Joining a walking tour with a guide is very worth it and usually reasonably affordable.  In addition to a vast store of tales, legends, and other stories, the guides have a way of pointing things out which may otherwise have been missed.  (This includes the Yeoman Warders in the Tower of London.)

11.  "Bespoke" means "custom" in American.  For example, what we might call a "custom" suit, they would call a "bespoke" suit.  I would never, ever have guessed that one if our guide hadn't mentioned it (well, more than merely mentioned it) as we passed by an elite hat shop in Kensington and its neighboring men's clothing store, specializing in "bespoke" suits.  (I actually had a lot of fun trying to figure out the many differences in vocabulary usage. As a dabbling writer, it's really rather fascinating.  I'm sure my husband became wearied of my giggling every time I made a connection about the language, however.)

12.  It is entirely possible to become sunburned at low elevations in humidity, under cloud cover.  Yea.  It just takes longer and is less severe.

13.  If you walk down a street and see a house with a blue circular plaque on the front, it means someone famous or noteworthy lived there/was born there/etc.  In some neighborhoods, you can hardly get away from blue circular plaques, but it was fun to go read then when we saw them.

14.  221b Baker Street is between 230-something and 240-something.  Yes, the numbering was changed.  You see, what would normally be 221b is a larger building, taking up the space which would comprise several numbers.  The place now numbered 221b was actually a 19th century boarding house, with a floor plan very similar to what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described in his Sherlock Holmes stories, so it works beautifully in its present function:  the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  Obviously to my family, but not so obvious to you, because you would not be aware that I've probably read all the Holmes short stories and most of the longer ones, I absolutely had to go inside.  (They sure had a lot of fun recreating things, down to the "VR" on the wall which Holmes made one day by shooting bullets out of his revolver.  My husband, of course, analyzed the kind of weapon likely to be used at that time period in London, including the powder charge and why the bullets would not have simply gone through the wall, hehe . . . Yes, we are sometimes enamoured with details . . .)

15.  Not all people consider American travelers rude.  You hear all the time in the media the condemnation of American travelers, who are said to be arrogant and rude.  As I stood in line to receive the recording for the self-guided tour at Westminster Abbey, the friendly black man who was handing them out, programming them to the appropriate language as needed, asked, "What language?"  I said, "English."  And he immediately burst into a broad grin and exclaimed, "An American!  See how she's smiling at me!"  (Of course, that made me smile more--how could I help it--as I blushed a little.)  As he picked up the device, he said, "I love Americans!  They always look so bright and shining."  I thought it was a marvelous compliment.

All in all, the visit was a lot of fun.  I don't think I saw sunshine more than an hour or two the six days I was there, and my husband and I ran ourselves absolutely ragged, walking hither and yon.  When you look at it, we could have seen more places, but considering point number 8 above . . . I'm not sure we would have enjoyed it any more than we did doing it our way.

For us, the spring weather was kind of like winter . . . highs in the 50's.  Brrr.  Sometimes I wished I had brought my gloves.