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.