Sunday, January 8, 2012

Guardians are SEXY AND I KNOW IT! Do you?

Ften's Progress Report:
Class: Jedi Knight
Advanced Class: Guardian
Current Level: 39
Mood: 5 hours of sleep and a 12 hour shift of overtime on a Sunday! Oh and I guess the real answer would be...FUCKING ECSTATIC!

***I know I promised a video blog however I don't have a webcam yet(I know I know, like 12 bucks, I'm getting one!).***

So it has been a good week and I had quite a chunk of time, according to My profile on, I played 42 hours of SWTOR in the last 7 days. That number must be taken with a grain of salt because I spent a good 4 hours in the queue to get into "The Swiftsure" over the course of those 7 days.

So what people have kept saying to me is that Guardians get harder into their 30s. I keep hearing, "Oh well just get doc, things take forever to kill but it is the only way to level because we are so bad, blah blah blah, bloated skillset, blah blah blah underpowered, blah blah blah, QQ."

So what I decided is that I AM NOT GOING TO USE DOC AT ALL.
I might be stubborn, but I think that many players just do not know how to play video games. I spent about 30 minutes Thursday and recorded a quick stream in order to show that you can level without Doc, That you can use Kira, as a Defense skilled Guardian. That you can quest quickly, very quickly. Without further adieu here is the video.

DISCLAIMER: This video contains explicit content, quite a few vulgarities and a terrible accent. 

---Skip to about 1:55 if you want to go past the part where I set up the stream and junk---

Transcription: A whole bunch of Boston speak I can't understand even though I said it. Something about a cah, bah, hahvahd, swearing, strange sounds. The end.
Random Monty Python Reference: Those who have written this transcription have been sacked. 

So what should you take away from this? 
  1. The more things you can interrupt/stun the less damage you take, the more killing you get done. (IMPORTANTE!)
  2. You need to use cooldowns constantly. On a consistent basis. 
  3. You need to plan out each pull when you start out, until you know exactly whom is going to cast what.
  4. As a Guardian, you are not underpowered. 
  5. You should always have Stims/Medpaks. Always. Either get friends or spend the extra few thousand credits. 
  6. Let Kira take some damage, she's not a paper towel, she can definitely handle herself. 
  7. Directly after streaming this I had three occasions where Empire players of equal level jump me(including a damn inquisitor) and I won each 1v1 encounter with more than 50% of my HP left. 
  8. ALWAYS STAY POSITIVE. The worst thing you can do is get down on yourself. If you get frustrated ever, take a break, or meditate, Fos Rah Do something. What we do is only fun if you are positive about your experience with an open mind. 

What now? 
  • Well I am level 39 now, was 38 in the video, and I am done with Quesh and moving onto my next big thing tonight, whatever planet that is.
  •  I had zero issues at all thus far. 
  • I am now 8-2 in my Warzone history on live.
  •  I have only lost one open world pvp encounter and it was a 3v1 where I still took out their healer before I went down. 
  • I have tanked multiple flashpoints and find them all completely enjoyable and the layout is some of the most enjoyable instances I've ever done from a story/artwork/logistics standpoint. 

Overall, I have to give my Guardian a fun factor of about ~200.33(repeating of course)%. I am a tank. It is what I do. I have never played a game, where a tank class, was this fun to level, on launch. Usually tanks start out very weak in leveling. In Warcraft I leveled a Protection Warrior straight out of Vanilla launch and it was painfully slow, boring and just mind-numbing. The Guardian however is none of those things. I have CC options, I have a very powerful companion, I have great survivability and plenty of burst damage if I need it. 

If you are still on the proverbial fence about the Guardian, get off. We are awesome. I want a bit more AOE aggro that I can frontload on mobs. I would also like a few skills moved around(LOOKING AT YOU from the Vigilance tree. I would like to see my resolve bar affect snares/slows along with CC abilities so that I don't get CC trained when I should not be in Warzones. I hope I have been helpful to everyone out there and I want to tell you to remain positive about it if nothing else. Always take the things you read on forums lightly as most of the time people only go there to complain, and not help. How many people are happy with something and run to the forums to tell everyone about it? Fewer than the vocal minority, that is how many. 

Good luck all you sexy people and Je promets semaine prochaine vlog! (little french there for you in case you feel like translating. 

And just because I feel like it is hilarious, I leave you with perfidious man-junk hilarity. 

Seriously, five of us sat at work yesterday morning doing the wiggle for 10 minutes. Shit is hilarious.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Community Misinformation and Filtering the Noise

Ften's Progress Report: 
Class: Jedi Knight
Advanced Class: Guardian
Current Level: 23
Mood: Far too much Monster Energy for a slow day at work.

Now I know exactly what you are thinking,
You: "Ften, I could have sworn you were dead."
Me: "Exactly, so did I! "

However I am not, and the rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated(Thanks MST3K's "Killer Shrews episode for introducing me to that quote, actually by Mark Twain but much less impressive) and I have been playing SWToR(that is Star Wars The old Republic, if you don't know that what are you even doing here?) and really really loving the game.

I have not burnt out yet due to not playing enough to burn out but I think I have gotten a good 24 hours of game-time in and have worked my way up to level 23 on a Jedi Guardian.

Thus far I have had much more time on the forums rather than playing and have observed a very disturbing trend of threads regarding our Advanced Class, The Guardian, and one of it's intended roles, Tanking. The trend is that Guardians are under-powered, clunky, and boring.

So fellow Guardian, SWTOR player, or anyone at all, take a seat(if you happen to be reading while standing), and listen to Uncle Ften, I'm gonna make you feel just all better inside.

What this stems from is "grass is greener syndrome." What this means specifically in this circumstance is that Troopers and Jedi Shadows are also able to tank. Though the people on the forums think their classes mechanics, mitigation or balancing is all-together worse than the other classes whom can fill the same role.

Now I have been playing MMOs for a long time, nearly 10 years to be exact. So let us go through a short history in MMO tanking history.

 In Everquest Shadow Knights were cool, and then they weren't.
 Paladins were cool, and then they weren't.

In World of Warcraft, Warriors were cool until the game hit TBC.
 Then Paladins were the bee's knees.
Then we hit LK and Death Knights were amazing and cheesy!
 Then Ulduar came out and everything was amazing(oh rose colored glasses, how you get so much more rosey when I'm on caffeine).
Warcraft released Trial of the Champions and guess what, Paladins and Warriors were awesome and everything else sucked(at least if you were doing things that actually mattered aka hard mode Anub-Rekhan).
ICC: Yay everything is easymode and nothing matters but people still want to abuse Paladins and Druids and Warriors are 'meh' and Death Knights are 'meh.'
Everything sucks compared to druids to start, then things were as close as they have ever been until block-capping became capable. Then oh no, things are in flux again!

The point of this mini-ridiculous-history lesson? Almost all of this information is driven by community perception and personal bias on the news of what very hardcore guilds do in order to beat insanely hard content.

Community perception is based on that grass is greener theory outlined above. If someone can reasonably prove there is the slightest imbalance towards any class, they can sway an entire forum in a few short posts and examples. Yes, there is an imbalance of course, however the forums and the players in the game itself actually are affected greatly by this because it causes them to believe they are playing an inferior class. Is inferior the truth? In the most black-and-white sense, yes. In real examples of gaming? Not by a long shot.

Theoretical maximums and actual implication of executing theoretical maximums by greater than 90% of players are two different things. I'm a damn good tank, I have skills. Intense skills. My reflexes are off the proverbial chain. My knowledge of encounters is explicit.
To quote a song I love, "I designed the Sears Tower, I make two grand an hour, I don't need these lines to get laid."  -Dropkick Murphys, 'Kiss me I'm Shitfaced'
 I still make mistakes. You can know your priority system without looking at it, continually be on top of every environmental malady in an encounter, be the best geared and talented player, you will still make mistakes.

The community bias towards class-inferiority is used as a scape-goat to fill in most player's desire to not think they are deficient in their execution of the class, their lack of preparation or overall skill. What this leads to is long-winded posts of people who blame their own deficiencies on the designers and everything they did with the game.

Now we have Irae AoD right now(european raiding guild) and other high level guilds in SWTOR who are blazing through content and many are saying that Guardian tanks are simply not worth using compared to Troopers and Jedi Shadows and bring nothing unique to the table that you can't get from another class. Major note;

  • These guilds are some of the best in the world and they are capable of playing at a higher level in very terrible gear on very hard encounters with nearly perfect execution.
  • What the community hears is, "Guardians are dead! We are making all our Guardians reroll other tanks and you guys all should too."

Realistically these guilds are min-maxing to the utmost level and things are being troubleshot on-the-fly and if something works, they are going to do it. If they kill a very difficult boss with a good composition, and then that composition doesn't work optimally for the next boss, they will switch it up. Right now, Guardians don't really fill any special niche that isn't done just as well or slightly better by the other two tanks available. So you don't have anywhere for the Guardian to shine. Now that might be because Guardians aren't ranged tanks(Troopers) and they're not capable of great damage during a tank-swap fight or tight enrage timers(Shadows on Hard-Mode Eternity Vault), but players see this and immediately over-react.

Now based on these very realistic and theoretical ideas in this blog, we have established that;

  1.  Through MMO history, tanking preference fluctuates with content and the community established most suitable tank to take advantage of the specific encounters.
  2. High-end guilds comprising some of the most skilled players drive the community established ideas and standards, even though 90% of players are nowhere near the skill level of them. And the imbalances that players perceive do not apply to them in the slightest. More than likely they would be better off learning how to interrupt a cast quickly or refine their priority rotation and cooldown usage. 
Right now on the forums we have multiple posts on the various forums around the web saying that Guardians are inferior. I wish I had the time to respond to all of these with my long diatribe that they have been dissolutioned to the point of thinking that they can not play well due to things out of their control. That because they rolled the dice and played the Guardian class, they are suffering while they play. Which of course is preposterous. 

The main concerns
AOE Tanking is very difficult on a guardian. 

  • We realistically have one AOE tanking move at the level I am at(23) and it's on a somewhat long cooldown. I believe it is 15 seconds but it may be 12. How many elite mobs are realistically in a pull that need to be tanked? 3? maybe 4 if you're really intent on taking all the damage of the group? Many mobs I've seen thus far are casters which can be interrupted. Yay, that means you don't need to tank that mob at all. Many of these enemies are very weak when they're not casting and don't need to be prioritized to be tanked full-time. Also they should be marked with a high kill order so they are dispatched quickly. 

  • With force sweep(our AOE monster move) you can maintain initial aggro very easily. After that it's all about prioritizing the mobs in the group and what abilities you should use on each one. This idea is reminiscent of Warrior tanking in WoW's first expansion The Burning Crusade. You have the tools, you just have to use them the right way. 

  • If you don't know how to recognize what your group-mates are hitting, or have not had an established kill order, or just don't know how to tab around quickly or select different enemies quickly even if they are grouped up, you will more than likely find AoE tanking difficult. This is not a class deficiency, this is a "YOU" deficiency. 

Focus generation is atrocious on a Guardian. 

  • Now I've played all sorts of tanks. Tanks with mana, tanks with rage, tanks with runes, all these systems are put in place to moderate your skill usage and increase your skill level and help you figure out how to make the most out of the system. Focus is no different than this. Right now I have Sundering Strike bound to my 1 key, Strike bound to my V key. My rotation revolves around using Sundering Strike on cooldown and then planning ahead at least 3-4 moves in order to use Blade Storm, Master's Strike, Riposte, and Force Sweep on cooldown. The way you do this is to make sure you are maxing out your Focus generation and beyond using Sundering Strike on cooldown to use Strike usually immediately after unless one of those previous important abilities are off cooldown. Up to level 23 so far, I have had zero point zero difficulties generating Focus. In fact it's much easier than managing many other systems I have used in the past. 

  • Guardians even have an ability to generate 6 focus once a minute on command. How easy can they really make it on you? Pretty damn easy. If you find this difficult, "Get the fuck off my porch fatty!" Fight Club might just not be for you! Seamless segue to Fight Club picture.

  • Now I have played a Trooper, I have played some Jedi Consular(that turns into a Shadow), they have very easy utility generation mechanics. It's different than Guardians, but it's clearly more simple. However does that make Guardian mechanics difficult? No, not at all. 

Guardians bring nothing unique to the table!

  • Now this is a big thing for many people. Balancing an 8 or 16 man raid composition as a raid leader can be tricky especially when everyone in your raid is screaming about the best class for this and that. However Guardians can tank and based on work at Guardians have the second most passive mitigation just behind(1% or so) of Troopers and beat out Shadows by quite a bit. Guardians also have the best defensive cooldowns available. 

Guardians are boring!

  • Really? This? If you can find the playstyle boring, with all the lightsabering, flipping through the air, stuns on groups of enemies, and button-mashing playstyle, sure it might be boring...I certainly do not find it at all boring. Though really you can find anything boring if you do it for hours and hours and hours on end.

How to agree with people you disagree with
Now there is something I will say and agree with the "Sky is falling" crowd; Jedi Guardians are not the most powerful tank. They have minor issues and do too little damage compared to the other tanks. Guardians right now are the theoretically weakest tank having to do with overall utility in the current aspect of hard-mode raiding. However all it takes is one Guardian to do it right, and show everyone that they can do something no one thought they could and all of a sudden Jedi Shadows, or Troopers will be the community perceived weakest tank. All it takes is one player, one high level guild, one encounter designed just right, and the perception completely changes.

Everything is in flux with tank balance and community perception. There is no reason to run away from your Jedi Guardian. Bioware has gotten things pretty damn close in this iteration and just out of launch is damn impressive.

TLDR: No you're not getting one of these you lazy fuck, go back and read the blog and at least try to comprehend something other than people screaming on forums and your guild mates telling you things that have no basis in reality.

You can do it, I believe in you, The Force is with you!

PS-new rig next week, next entry will be vlog entry with my pretty self! <3

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Press Embargo? ON YOUR UNFORM!?

I don't know why it makes me think of this

An embargo? I love when that word is used in regards to information. As if the press was going to launch nukes on SWTOR from some Soviet installment in Cuba. Wonderful imagery there. Negative connotations you ask?

Whenever someone is withholding information from the public, the public will always think there is a negative reason for that. Especially with game information. All it takes is one person to ask the question, "if there's nothing wrong with it, why wouldn't they just tell us?" and you're going to have threads hundreds of pages long with speculation ranging from delays of launch dates, to the quality of the game itself being just awful.

We're going to take a look at what IGN, Massively and MMORPG thought in their first-installments of impressions. There was an obscene lack of guardian playing in these reviews and it is upsetting to say the least. We're also going to poo-poo the larger websites who skipped the JK class and praise those smaller sites who did play them. Bear with me as we go through this! No, we're going to try to be as objective as possible! #OCCUPYSWTOR!

Isnt Gaming News(made up title)
IGN has put four reviews up and will supposedly have five more released this week. None of them really interested me, we know a lot about pvp and the intricacies of Huttball and the Alderaan scenario. Companions, meh, we're not here to talk about that. Troopers are just ranged wanna-be tanks with guns(what, can't get your lightsaber up anymore?). Their impressions column was the only thing that had anything worthwhile in it.

Though what did they say?
"it's really solid. From what's been seen, there's a lot of early-level content, ranging from quests and dungeons to exploration and politics. Crafting introduces an interesting random element that makes it like an addictive slot-machine, and the dialogue and story sequences are pretty darn cool. There's some neat group content in there too, both in the form of interesting boss encounters and story situations where one person's choice affects everyone's path." ( The Article )
That is pretty much it. That is all you need to read. They said it was good. Great? Thank you a metric-ton IGN. I know this was a quick write-up but I am quite sure I could write something more compelling than that in about 10 minutes sitting at starbucks while complaining they somehow got my Quad-Espresso wrong and I am losing my mind from all the caffiene! 

IGN, you have some 'splaining to do. Now I may be less reserved in my commentary because I do not have corporate goons hanging over my shoulder and three editors red-penning all my bitching and moaning but this week you are going to have to do better than that. Not that I expected much from you to begin with. 

Now let me say something, I really respect massively and their whole blog-o-sphere they have over there in the domain. 
****Innocent Disclaimer Aside****
Are you guys kidding me? Larry Everett I can get along with. He is not anti-MMOs right now. Though I am  disappointed that he didn't choose to play any kind of Jedi Knight. Which is a small red herring we keep seeing show up here in the major articles. He mostly touched on things we already knew. 
  • The character stories are expertly crafted. 
  • Companions are worth their weight in credits. 
  • Companions can be frustrating in combat due to lack of smart AI
    • ex: Your ranged tank companion decides to grapple the enemy, except he's standing right next to you. D'oh!
Jef Reahard however is not the person I would want to review a themepark MMO like The Old Republic. He obviously has a negative outlook and though I do not particularly agree with him on some of his views, we both have opinions that are based on our differing perspectives and there is nothing wrong with that. However he is viewing the game from his own perspective and that will definitely increase the abrasiveness in which his review comes across. 

Jef played the Trooper and said a few things that I will not refute because they are his opinion but is contrary to other reviews just because he does not like the genre. I will however mock with great sarcasm. 
  • All the quests on the Troopers origin world are fedex or kill quests(/yawnworthy)
  • Combat is bland as you've heard
  • Stories are boring if you're not interested in playing the game. 
  • Game is pretty, will run on "the Commodore 64 collecting dust in your attic"
  • Plenty of exploration to be had, even on the origin worlds. 
  • Very good soundtrack
What Jef says, "At the end of the day, TOR surpassed my expectations a wee bit" which I was surprised to hear. That means through all his negative feelings drawn from his personal experiences, he was still able to garner a positive experience. Kudos Jef. I am surprised to hear you had a positive experience in SWTOR. Even though it is not what you specifically are looking for. No further bashing needed! ( Jef Reahards Impressions )

MMORPG(not that they really know much on the subject)

MMORPG, had the same variant of entries up. They had the impressions which was quite a bit different from Massively and much closer to the fanatical Star Wars(TM, last time I am doing that, sue me). MMORPG, more specifically Michael Bitton, loved the story-telling on the Trooper's home world of Old Mantell and did not find any of the questing repetitive or boring. The best example of this was, 
"The addition of story really spices up the formula, however. I certainly can’t stress that enough. If I never see another text box, it wouldn’t be too soon!"
Michael also goes on to say that once you get off your origin world, things really open up. One thing he noted is that when you finish your origin world story-quest you can opt to go to Coruscant by way of the Essels flashpoint. Which is great to hear that flashpoints are not just dungeons. They are actually part of the story. I wish other developers,( BL******!), had thought of that!  After that Michael goes off into Light vs Dark, changing morality and the nature of the Trooper, which we all know is just boom boom, shoot this, blah blah boring. If you are looking to read on to the Morality portion or the Trooper section it is available here!

So what did we learn here? Really not a whole lot. We knew the storytelling would be good, it is Bioware after all. We knew what PvP was going to look like as we've all seen the youtubes. We knew that everyone was going to play Troopers, we don't need that.

Though what we have here are three really positive reviews, there are some negatives, certain aspects each reviewer might have found lacking or less-than-functional. However what we can take away is that so far, Bioware has pulled off the game we all knew they could. Though I am selling it short I am sure, let us get to the part we really care about, Jedi Knights!

Ars Technica
Ars Technica is a website I don't frequent. I am sure I should. It seems they actually wanted to use Lightsabers in a Star Wars game! Joking aside they did an article that is a great read on Jedi Knights and the overall game itself. Really nothing new here for those of us who have read my previous blogs. We know Jedi Knights use lightsabers, get force leap and get a sweet droid named T7 as our first companion.

One little thing I would like to point out is what Casey Johnston stated about your battle stance as a Jedi Knight as you progress,
"One of the cooler touches I noticed was that as your character levels, your combat ability evolves visually. As a Jedi knight, you begin by cautiously waving your practice (plastic?) light saber at the bodies of enemies, executing the occasional sequence of choreographed moves."
Now that is a great touch. I bet on my third or fourth Jedi knight I will not even notice, but the first time through I know I will be looking for this. That is one way to get more progressed through something other than gear. Your battle prowess visually becomes more confident and effective. (Ars Technica Article)
 Two lightsabers way up! 

Ten Ton Hammer
I have been to TTH a whole bunch of times. Usually it's been for a powerleveling profession guide in warcraft. I'm not going to lie. Their website is all usefulness and not much fluff. Their Jedi Knight article is no different. We have the breakdowns in neat little blocks with very little left for interpretation until the last four paragraphs for the overall impressions. So, if you are looking at getting some actual tangible information you might not have known before, it is all in this article!

First of all Jedi Knights need to build Focus in order to use other moves. If you look at my previous blog you can see the screenshots of many abilities. These abilities cost Focus. The way we build focus is to use Strike, or Sundering Strike in our(Guardian case). We do not know if there is any benefit to using Sundering Strike once we have 5 sunders up(that is all the armor debuff stacks to). 

Also there is Jedi Might, which increases damage and healing by the party for a period of time. I am excited to see the Jedi bringing some group utility to the table! Though if you are at all familiar with Tanking metrics, this kind of thing for one tank can lead to a proverbial arms race(See: Raid Cooldowns in World of Warcraft) and things get out of hand quickly. 

Halfshell is our writer here for this at TTH and I am somewhat disappointed by the conclusion he or she wrote. The article's conclusion is a very good place to start if you don't know anything about the Jedi Knight. Maybe even the game in general. Though I think most of us who are even anywhere near this blog have read anything and everything we can. This article comes quite a bit short of my expectations of what the expose of gameplay styles of the Jedi Knight and their story should have been. Disappointed but there are still a few good tidbits in there. If you're looking to take a view yourself, head on over to this place right hurrr

My own worst enemy is knowledge
My problem with the recent release on this press embargo is that we already know basically everything they're saying. I have read through the articles, the stories, the blogs, and yeah, we know, cool story, fluid gameplay, and the Jedi Knight has a lightsaber. Thanks for the compelling writing guys. 

Personally I spend a lot of my time on sites that violate the NDA. I know things are going to change. I am a mature gamer who can accept that features that might be the way they are now may change completely overnight. That is fine with me. Your NDA Bioware I just do not respect this close to launch. 

Moreover the press were only allowed Republic side and the first twenty levels. No thanks. That's barely part of the game right there. I work seventy hours a week, spend five days at the gym, and could still have gotten in a good thirty hours of game-time in two weeks to get past that. I hope Bioware lets us see some end-game before launch. I know I will play it regardless, as a Jedi Guardian, however I want to know that there will at least be something past level twenty that is engaging and worthwhile. 

We did not learn a whole lot through this embargo. They might as well of kept the nukes in Cuba and just left it there with the NDA. Until we hear something compelling from the press, or gamers about the latter half of the game, more specifically every-day life at level fifty, I'm not going to give them my seal of approval. 

***DISCLAIMER*** All logos and trademarks are not mine and are copy and pasted terribly. I do not own or endorse any information disseminated within this article and if George Lucas or his Lawyers have an issue with it get in line.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Blog Entry that IS NOT 16 Pages Long

So here I sit. Sunday afternoon, been at work for 4 hours. Doing my job, having fun. Hurting immensely from my personal training session on Friday afternoon and my 5k run yesterday.
Starcraft 2 is streaming, Idra just took down Boxer in an amazing best-of seven series that it gave me nerd chills, OH THE BANELINGS!
Patriots pre-game is on the radio, as only can be heard on Sundays.
NOS Energy in my hand
And here I sit to write a blog entry on the latest happenings of the week. 

Over the last week on certain forums I have noticed a new build that basically invalidated all my choices on the last immensely long blog entry! Oh well, I had a blast writing it and look forward to getting a full guide out for all of us tanky types in the future once the NDA is lifted and I get some real testimonials with the beta-tanks and how they did what they did and why. 

With everything going on, NYComic-Con, the NDA still in effect, and builds changing, it might be tough to find topics for a blog entry. Well, not for me! Today we're going to discuss tanking and how it has evolved this tank's experience over the past seven years through Everquest, City of Heroes, and World of Warcraft.

Everquest(the original)
Seven years ago I was fresh out of Everquest which I had played for nearly two years. I had tanked and healed in the Planes expansion and the one directly after that. What I remember about tanking in EQ will last  forever. You had to be careful. Everything from grinding AA's to farming materials was Dangerous! As a tank, one had to express caution and control above everything else. Wrong pulls: pulling an entire room accidentally would set you back hours and possibly get your camping spot taken by others waiting for their chance to grind AA's or mobs. 

This led me, as a tank to know when things were linked by 'social aggro,' discovering that four mobs come when you hit one is a good thing to know. As a tank it taught me to know the layout of every area in the game. It's your job to know how groups of monsters or bosses will act. Where the best places to take them to. Patrol patterns. You're job as a tank is to know these concepts, Everquest made this a need instead of a quality of life trait in a tank. 

City of Heroes
What CoH lacked in very serious content, it made up in flash and fun. What it lacked in need for specific execution it made up in mashing buttons and controlling tons of enemies at once. As a 'Tanker' in CoH(which was her-der the Tank class) your job was to mash your buttons that hit a lot of things. Many times you would find yourself in charge of 20 or more mobs all at once. The Holy Trinity we know and love(and hate) existed in many ways in CoH, but was much less stringent at all but the very highest levels. 
Moreover, the adds which you would get during a typical instance in CoH would stream in, or be ranged. A tank would have to use all of their mobility and awareness in order to grab these and keep them from killing your control, damage or healing classes! It was a big game on action and really taught me, as a tank, that awareness of individual mobs in a group is immensely important. Even if there were 30 enemies on the screen, a tank has to be able to identify what each one is hitting

World of the Warcrack
Funny aren't I? We have all heard that term. Why is it called that? Why was there a South Park episode about it? Why did we all play it for basically a decade? Because it was the most complete and fun MMO ever made. The polish out of beta was not perfect, iterations came fast and things changed quickly even after Launch. November of 2004 was a time for the ages. I loaded up my game on launch day and rolled a tank, a Gnome Warrior. We had the largest guild on a launch server. Many server firsts while leveling and after. When a tank hit 60, or any player for that matter, his fourteen hour days of grinding were just beginning. A tank needed his dungeon set 1. NEEDED. There were no options in early 2005 for optional ways to gear. Blacksmithing gear was pretty terrible compared to Valor(the warrior dungeon set one), and Molten Core was a giant scary place where everyone shouted about looting dogs and skipping pulls and wiping constantly for months. First you had to tackle the dungeons. 
As a tank, you started at the high level dungeons, which were Stratholme, Scholomance and Upper Blackrock Spire(I'm sorry lower black rock spire, fuck you and your six hour clears). These dungeons had no player cap at first so you could conceivably bring an entire 40 man raid in each one which was pretty hliarious, even if you did still wipe in Stratholme with 35 people like yours truly. Eventually they were iterated and were whittled down to 5 player limits in Strat/Scholo and 15 players in UBRS. These dungeons were long. It took hours and hours to slowly clear each one. The trash in them was plentiful and abusive. Massive amounts of random stuns(how do you prepare for random stuns!?), fears, mind controls and various hilarious mechanics such as rat traps and stealthed patrols really made you execute perfectly. 

Each one of these took likely a minimum of two hours and a maximum of six hours or more. It was just that long and hellishly punishing if you made mistakes. What I learned from all of this that being prepared for an instance is more important than anything else. If you simply did a few hours of research and knew what you were in for, you can shorten the time investment considerably and make it a more enjoyable for everyone. 

Raiding through what we call Vanilla WoW was an arduous process. It was slow, it took time, and it was difficult. It wasn't simply difficult because of mechanics(encounters in any raiding today dwarf anything seen in Vanilla WoW minus the original Naxx/Late bosses in AQ40) it was difficult because it's not easy to control 40 retards most of whom were watching tv or yelling about how they grinded(ground?) High Warlord and are better than everyone else because they can be online 22 hours a day in Warsong Gulch. 

This lead me to leading many of my raids. My previous experience and knowledge built onto this, having awareness, and preparing for the instances. I was able to identify and micromanage a lot of problems within 40 man and later 25 man/10 man raids. A leader role is something every tank SHOULD be capable of. You have to be able to identify problems not only in your raid strategies in execution, but you should also be capable of identify problems within your raid group. Don't just say, "Look Consular, your healing sucks, look at recount. You are 20% behind. We need a better Jedi Consular obviously and we win."


Leading a raid is to work with each member, to make sure they know how to do their best, and identify with them, as a friend and leader, what they could do better. Not just what they are doing wrong. It is a tank's job to do this. You have to be a leader. Do not want the responsibility? Why do you think there are so few tanks?

Warcraft has gotten more accessible and less stringent. Less time-investment is needed these days and often I just do not log on simply because I've done my time and seven years is long enough I think to play in there. I love the game and everything it did for me as a writer, a group leader and raid coordinator. As a Tank I love what it did for all the iterations. From having to have your rotation planned out 5-7 abilities in advance in Heroic Shadow Labs with little CC, to executing difficult strategies with 9 or 24 friends whom I helped personally get where we were on Heroic Lich King, or through Cataclysm. 

What I took away from Warcraft is that to succeed, a tank must invest in his group mates. A tank must be able to identify problems quickly, not just in the strategy, or the execution thereof but in the group he/she runs with. 

So Ften, you are saying in order to tank successfully I need to do these things? 
No absolutely not. You do not have to know everything about your group, the dungeon, and mechanics before you enter a high level flashpoint or operation. A tank can depend on his group mates to carry this knowledge and the load to explain to him about how to do things. 

However, you will be better off if you do. You might not be a high-intensity tank who has the time to spend reading countless pages on forums, theorycraft and spreadsheets. If you do, you will have a more enjoyable time in the game, a more cohesive group/raid, and a more successfully experience as a tank. 

I love you all and for the love of the Force comment and tell me how much you hate me and my writing and how much you disagree with me! <3
What have you learned through the years of tanking? What do you want SWTOR to do right with tanking?

Next week's installment will talk about the Eternity Vault and what we can derive from what we know so far! 

P.S. You made it this far? Here's a cookie, my new build with the latest beta build. Still going Focus tree, your options in Vigilance are pretty dismal from a tank's perspective!
Beta Tank Build as of 10.16.11

Oh did you want a pvp focused build?
Here you go! One floating point
PVP Hotness 10.16.11

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guardian Skill Trees, Abilities, and Rotations! This is gonna be a long one

99 topics but a beta invite ain't one
What I have for you this week everyone is a whole lot of speculation. We are going to discuss leaked things, things that may contain spoilers for, but is not limited to, playstyle directions, skill choice, ability usage and threat thresholds. We are also going to delve into how the Skills present in our Defense(Guardian) skill tree can tell us how you can expect to play optimally when release comes around and we're all shiny level 50s!

Without further ado I think it is time for us to do some beta necropsy from a recent build, if you do not wish to spoil any information about the game or it's prospective skill tree choices or playstyle choices, DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ PAST THIS POINT


Skill Trees!
Oh what do we have here ladies and gentlement? Oh some viewtiful skill trees!? I think so! Note, a few of the pictures are different from the others, I needed to seek out the true skills due to some typos!

Defense Tree
Tier 1

  • Victory Rush(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Dust Storm(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Wind Force(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 2
  • Guard Stance(Passive, 3 ranks)

  • Lunge(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Solidified Force(Passive, 2 ranks)
Tier 3
  • Barricade(Passive, 3 ranks)
  • Hilt Strike(Focus cost: 3, Instant attack, Cooldown: 60 seconds, 1 rank)

  • Resolute(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Pacification(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 4
  • Shield Specialization(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Courage(Passive, 2 ranks) 
  • Command(Passive, 2 ranks)

Tier 5
  • Stasis Mastery(Passive, 1 rank)

  • Endure(Instant cast, Cooldown 180 seconds)

  • Force Clap(Passive, 1 rank)

  • Energy Rush(Passive, 2 ranks)

Tier 6
  • Inner Peace(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Cyclonic Sweeps(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 7
  • Warding Call(Focus cost: 5, Instant cast, Cooldown: 180 seconds, 1 rank)

Focus Tree
(This is where I have chosen to put my other points after the defense tree, for this article that is what I will put out)

Tier 1
  • Master Focus(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Insight(Passive, 3 ranks)

Tier 2

  • Second Wind(Passive, 2 ranks)

  • Force Training(Passive, 1 rank)

Important Abilities with these skills in mind
(These abilities were transcribed from their Sith Juggernaut counterparts, both ACs have identical mirror abilities and skill trees).

Sundering Strike
Cooldown: 4.5s
Strikes the target for weapon damage, and reduces the targets armor by 4% for ? seconds. Stacks up to 5 times. 

Soresu Form
Enter a defensive lightsaber form, reduces all damage taken by 6%, increasing armor rating by 60% and increasing all threat generated by 50%. Soresu Form also increases shield chance by 20%. While active, taking damage builds 1 focus, but all "assualt(not correct term for Guardians)" abilities generate 1 less focus. This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds. 

Instant, Focus cost: 2, Cooldown 6s, Range: 4m
Riposte against the target for 147-167 weapon damage. Riposte can only be used after a successful melee or ranged defense and does not respect the global cooldown(R-E-S-P-E-C-T, global cooldown you don't know about me). Cannot miss or be parried or dodged.

Force Leap
Cooldown: 15s
Range: 10-30m
Jumps to a distant target, dealing 129-147 damage with the main hand weapon, immobilizing the target for 2 seconds, and interrupting the target's current action. Builds 3 focus. Cannot be used against targets in cover.

Force Sweep
Instant, Focus cost: 3, Cooldown: 15s
Sweeps up to 5 nearby enemies for 174-201 kinetic damage. Also stuns weak and standard enemies for 1.5 seconds. 

Blade Storm
Instant, Focus cost: 4, Cooldown: 12s, Range 15m
Blasts the target with a force-enhanced scream, dealing 246-273 kinetic damage. In addition, standard and weak enemies are stunned and deafened for 4 seconds(Sith Warrior description which is incorrect in the wording but mechanics are similar). 

Instant, Cooldown: 2 mins
Breaks you free of all incapacitating effects. 

Force Stasis
Channeled: 3s, Cooldown: 1 min, Range 15m
Places the target in stasis, crushing and stunning it while the ability is channeled and dealing 117 kinetic damage every second. Builds 1 focus per second. 

Cyclone Slash
Instant, Focus cost: 3, Range: 4m
Slashes up to 5 enemies in front of you for 322-356 weapon damage each. Attacks with both lightsabers if dual weilding. 

Freezing Storm
Focus cost: 2
Freezes nearby foes, reducing their movement speed by 50% for X seconds

Challenging Call
Instant, Cooldown: 45 secs, Range: 15m
Taunts all enemies within 15 meters, forcing them to attack the Jedi for ? seconds. Player targets deal 30% less damage when attacking anyone other than you. Lasts ? seconds, and does not respect the global cooldown. 

Saber Ward
Cooldown: ?, Focus Cost: ?
Increases Parry and Deflect by 50% for ? seconds

I think that's it for really needed abilities in order to talk about talent choices and playstyle implications and the overall worthfullness in raid encounters and boss encounters. 

The Build
So here we are. We want to put in at least 31 points in Defense to get our major cooldown, 40% damage reduction ability, Warding Call. This is the following build I would prefer for PvE (Flashpoints and Operations) that will involve tanking both bosses(hard hitting single mobs), and trash/adds(lighter hitting mobs that need to be kept under area of effect control by the tank.

Tier 1
Victory Rush (2/2)
Dust Storm (2/2
Wind Force(2/3)

Tier 2
Guard Stance(3/3)
Solidified Force(0/2)

Tier 3
Hilt Strike(1/1)

Tier 4
Shield Specialization(2/2)

Tier 5
Stasis Mastery(1/1)
Force Clap(1/1)
Energy Rush(2/2)

Tier 6
Cyclonic Sweeps(3/3)
Inner Peace(0/2)

Tier 7
Warding Call(1/1)


Tier 1
Master Focus(2/2)

Tier 2
Second Wind(2/2)
Force Training(1/1)

But what does it all mean FTEN!?!?!
Ok, what we have here is a whole lot of information and not a whole of of sense to be made, here's the breakdown and key points. 
Good points:
  • Blade Storm on cooldown when tanking(multiple talents for +damage/+crit and a heal on top of that)
  • Resolve cooldown reduction + 10% max HP heal on demand
  • Reasonable Passive Mitigations taken.
  • Force sweep to keep accuracy debuff up on the boss/mobs. 
  • Force Stasis becomes at least a Focus build ability if the boss is immune to the effect(3 focus over 3 seconds). 
  • Hilt Strike on cooldown. This is a high threat ability with talents affecting it's cost and damage. This one will keep you ahead of those good crazy dps. 
  • Endure is your emergency cooldown along with Resolute with this build. Use this before Resolute in order to get a larger heal off and make you that much more difficult to put into the Medical Pavillion. 
  • Saber Ward cooldown reduction. I don't know the cooldown of it, so we're going to have to wait to figure out how good it is. More than likely a long cooldown with the ability being so potent as an added 50% avoidance. 
Bad Points and Questions: 
  • No "Inner Peace" skill taken. We don't know how prevalent Elemental and Internal damage is going to be at high levels, so until we do, this is a situational at best talent, if you're ever tanking something that doesn't do these, it's worth nothing. 
  • Lots and Lots of things to keep on cooldown. 
    • We will want to use Force sweep, Cyclone Slash, and Sundering Strike as well due to the skill point propping up their strength.
    • Not many worthwhile tanking choices after the first 31 in Defense. 
This bring about another discussion, Active models of Mitigation and difficult playstyles. 

Now I am well versed in active mitigation. You keep X ability on cooldown and boss won't kill you, think shield block or holy shield in Vanilla/TBC WoW. You either have these things on cooldown all the time or you get hit by a Bus riding a meteor getting pushed towards earth by a supernova. Do we have a real active mitigation model here? The answer is clearly no. We have the standard tank cooldowns, a heal, a damage reducer, an HP increaser, and an avoidance buff. I would not call these active mitigation design. It doesn't look to me like bosses will have times where you absolutely have to have a buff up due to the long cooldown  on these life-saving abilities. 

The skills and abilities also point out the Guardian rotation is going to have some spaces in it. Many of the elements we see here have great than 10 second cooldowns. So here we go, streaming adds encounter? What do we do?

  1. Force Leap if not on cooldown and have range(12s CD).
  2. Force Sweep to get initial aggro and accuracy debuff up(15s CD).
  3. Blade Storm for additional aggro and small heal(12s CD).
  4. Cyclone Slash, no idea about the CD atm. 
That gives us 4 GCDs in a row, so a minimum of 6 seconds. That means we're only halfway to our first CD coming back up. So once we establish aggro on the adds, we might find we have more adds appearing on the battleground. Maybe there will be add waves which have sub-12 second spawn timers. Maybe adds waves will take longer than 6 seconds(4 GCDs) to fully spawn. Now the former idea of short spawn timers is definitely out of the question. That's far too quick to burn anything really and in the first few tiers of operations/flashpoints we will just be getting our feet wet. 

What about a standard boss encounter being single tanked? You're move hot shot!
  1. Hilt Strike- Get that CD(ugh 60 seconds) rolling and establish 'initial aggro.' This should enable your dps characters to begin killing it as soon as it lands(provided you hit it). 
  2. Sundering Strike- Will let you do more damage and more threat more quickly, and the rest of your group.
  3. Force Sweep- Accuracy debuff is needed while tanking Bosses, unless the boss is immune.
  4. Blade Storm- 3% heal. 
  5. Sundering Strike again.
  6. Riposte if up.

Blade Storm No Matter What!?
Now does it bother me that we will be using Blade storm on both single target and add packs? It does. I have to use a multi-hit skill no matter what on cooldown while tanking just to increase my survivability? Obviously I'll live. A button press is a button press and the end goal(killing the big bad guys) justifies the means(pressing whatever necessary). It's not just Blade Storm. Force Sweep also has to have it's debuff applied to anything that can have it up. Does two button presses bother me. YEAH! IT DOES! 

Sure I might be able to grasp these concepts very quickly and the implications of Bioware's intuitive design into how encounters and flashpoints will have to be balanced around them being used. I know Bioware knows I know how to use these. So they're going to know, they have to make it so I'm not absurdly easy to keep up, so guess who's going to hit for a ton to make healers work? Bosses. Get all that? 

Here is what I do know will happen. Bioware is going to iterate these skills. There is no way a player who is new to this whole 'mmo-tanking' thing is going to be able to grasp these concepts easily. They might get that they need to hit their Blade Storm every time it's off cooldown and they do not have full HP, but they won't know why they do, or maybe they will. The average player can not keep a great rotation up in many MMOs. They're difficult things.

I am completely astonished after studying this and the build. We will be able to aoe tank like a Boss(Pronounced Tyrannosaurus Rex) however. We have those rotations above that shows us even with the few skills we know, we can still get the job done. The few skills that I outlined above are as many tools as any tank in other games. Though of course there are some longer cooldowns in there, which will dictate importance of using the skills at the right time. 

One thing I can say for sure though, the one truth we've discovered through this circumlocute, probably-innacurate, dribble; This is going to be fun

Thanks everyone and check in next Sunday for our next installment!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pre-launch Guilds and Information Inundation Rambling

As my inaugural entry in this blog I've decided to write about the two things which have happened so far in the wait for SWTOR.

  1. Finding a stable launch guild. 
  2. Absolutely flooding myself with information about the game, the class, the world. 

A bit of background on me to illustrate what I would be looking for in a guild:
Now I may not be an immensely knowledgeable Star Wars(TM) fan as some others, but what I do know is MMO's. I've played everything from EQ, to Rift. Something around 10 MMOs have had me present in their persistent open worlds, or instanced incarnations, and I've run a tank archetypal character in all of them.

My resume for writing includes two years writing professional guides for The Azeroth Advisor, a subsidiary of 38 Studios along with straight A's in seven college literature, mythology, folklore and writing classes.

I have an extensive background in contributing to gaming communities. I was a very vocal and knowledgeable member of the Bear Druid community during World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and before that the Protection Warrior community. I have been present on the official forums,,, and various others.

If I were to tell you I care deeply about tanking in video games, and that third of the Holy Trinity thereof I would be greatly understating the sentiment.

Pre-Launch Guild?
This type of guild is a funny thing, they can seem so stable, so put together, and so ready to rock until you get in-game. I ran a pre-launch guild back in 2004 after Open Beta in world of warcraft. We actually succeeded and did very well through vanilla until things fell apart due to myself having other things in life to attend to! With that said I give you;

4 Things to look for in a pre-launch guild: 

  1. Close-knit Leadership- you want your guild to have a family feel to it. You want to find people who are invested not only in the game, or in the guild, but each other. 
  2. Singular visions- this can be difficult but in order to build a cohesive roster, you need to find people who want to focus on the same thing.
  3. History- it can really help if the guild you find has played through previous games together, you can look back at the decisions they've made and the milestones they have accomplished. 
  4. Activity- if you're guild members communicate on VoIP programs, and get involved in the community, they will be more likely to stick around after launch if they are invested in the community.

On to the guild search! 
I've only recently come to the realization that I want to play SWTOR very much. I've loved the Mass Effect series very much and have dumped hundreds of hours into it and the storytelling is amazing. I also think that Bioware has created some very amazing PvE in that game which I look forward to testing in the MMO space.
I wanted a guild which would do some casual PvE, and have my back in a PvP environment. I don't normally do a lot of PvP, though I did have a High Warlord Rogue, and a Blood Guard Priest in Vanilla WoW. The reasoning is that my work schedule is very hectic, I work 60+ hours a week, 7 days a week and get very few days off. I also work second shift East Coast which means I get home just before Midnight every day. Thus I need a West Coast guild, check!
I found many suitable guilds for this. I read through pages, pages, pages of threads on the official guild recruitment forums.
I found Empire Guilds, I found Republic Guilds. I found PvE guilds, I found PvP guilds. I found a little bit of everything. Hours I spent scouring the forums, the websites, the forums again and everything seemed to blur into one gargantuan sarlacc of information ready to devour me.

Finally I saw a new hope, I found a guild who would do some PvE that accommodates my schedule, gives me the PvP I can handle, and is the stable guild with personality I can get behind and call my home.

Enter, Indignation *Shameless Plug*
After joining I attended a guild meeting that lasted over an hour and covered some great things like prospective guild alliances or adversaries, ways to rank up within the guild and who is in charge of what!
We had a great time and I'm hoping I can push them into getting a mumble server, even if I have to pay for it!

If you haven't heard of Mumble, I don't want to go into it now, but it beats the heck out of vent, teamspeak and all those. It is completely superior to every VoIP program I have ever used and highly recommend.

Information? More like...
Ouch this hurts my head. Now the NDA has yet to be lifted. That doesn't mean I haven't seen plenty of stuff about the game. I've read what we've got so far on tanks, which is very little. I've inferred a bit more than what has been said.

What I've learned is that the Jedi Knight is the kind of tank I want to play. What I haven't learned is how these two tanks(on the Republic side of things) are going to play compared to one another. I've seen that Jedi Knights(both ACs) have a great gap-closer in Force Leap. Sweet, a heroic leap that actually works? Sign me up!

The Trooper doesn't really need the gap closer. He's a ranged tank.
This is just one subtle difference but it's definitely a difference in game-play. One of many distinctions I think will be made between these two tanks.

Now, tanking will be a bit different in SWTOR, we won't need the Holy Trinity as much as in other games and it seems like we'll see a lot of "bring the player not the class" mentality that has spread through certain other games recently. Tanks do their job, but they also do their job by protecting others, not just holding aggro and tanking hits in the face by the bosses crotch. That doesn't stop me from wanting to be the best 'tank' I can be.

I've spent the good part of the last three days absolutely ripping up every last piece of information regarding the Jedi Knight and it's Advanced Class Guardian that I can get my hands on.
I get a sweet looking Corvette class Defender ship, check.
1 handed lightsaber which I can change to a few colors, check.
Heavy Armor, check.
Flashpoints, look awesome, check.
Operations, want to see more.
I get a droid as my first companion? Awesome.
For any other Guardians(or Jedi Knights) looking to read some more about the Class/AC I recommend clicking me right now


People aren't happy on forums? Big Giant Check.

So I, along with everyone else in the world got two fallacious emails from Bioware accidentally asking for my input on the beta and yeah I was disappointed. Though the rage and entitlement I saw on the forums due to the forum go-ers "mental anguish" due to these emails is quite hilarious.

How can you really think you're entitled to beta test if you got an accidental email? It's coming out in December, just like everyone else you get to play then(and a bit earlier if you're in early access), you're not a special snowflake, you're too fat, get the fuck off my porch fatty.
I'm not going to say I wasn't disappointed but the sheer entitlement of some people just make me completely sick.

With that said, I think I'm done ranting about everything going on right now on the forums and just want to say one thing;
I fully look forward to maintaining a great blog for all you readers out there about being a high end tank in SWTOR. It might not look possible as we're all guessing at the moment what real tanking is like in FPs and Ops(I'm starting the abbreviation train right now, CHOO CHOO). What I do know is that there is always a way to do things better, a way to push the limits, and I'm going to do just that. Thundercats HOOOOO!!