Saturday, December 31, 2011

Corellia: 50 at last!

Corellia is (essentially) the last class storyline planet for now. Sure Ilum has some quests, but none of those are really about YOU as a person. As expected for the culmination of such an epic story, Corellia is quite long and involved. I didn't mind this one bit because I LOVE urban environments. It is much like a war-torn Nar Shaddaa only with more sunlight and less chance of falling to death. I started Corellia at level 48 and got 50 a fair bit before the end of the planet by doing every quest. If you come here at level 47 you may find yourself a little short of 50 when you leave for Ilum. This planet is amazing for gathering (at least for scavenging and slicing). Nodes are EVERYWHERE so make sure to grab those while you quest. As for world PVP, I can't say whether there are even any areas where we are thrown together with 'Pubs. All I know is that I never saw anyone from the Republic in my whole time questing here, a good couple days.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Voss is quite reminiscent of Hoth. It is a planet consisting mostly of wide open spaces, it has long and interesting stories, and you will be stuck here for quite a while. I started Voss about two levels underleveled. Apparently just doing all of the quests and sidequests on the planets is not enough to stay on target with levels without doing warzones, group quests, or a lot of flashpoints. By the end of Voss's bonus series I had completely caught up for Corellia. There is A LOT of experience available here. Also, if you are the sort of person that likes customizing gear, you should make sure to collect a lot of commendations here. Voss sells matching custom glove/boot sets for you to accessorize with.

Something strange that happened to me on Voss was that I ran into world PVP. A lot of world PVP. I ran into at least six Republic players during the day or so I spent here. I get the impression that Voss funnels 'Pubs and Imps together for a whole lot of zones, so stay on your toes. Only a couple people actually wanted to fight though. Most were happy to just ignore me and continue questing.

Sorry for the delay in posting, but this week has been hectic with family and leveling. Just one planet to go now and then I can move on to interesting topics :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Belsavis: The prison planet

After some plot antics, you'll find yourself on the secret Republic prison planet of Belsavis. This planet has extremely interesting scenery (as seen above) and a great plot. Well, I wasn't crazy about our class plot, but the Imperial stuff was very good. There's also lots of ancient secrets, as is to be expected on a planet that the galaxy as a whole basically wasn't aware of.

All of the things I just mentioned are completely counterbalanced by the fact that it is VERY FRUSTRATING to get around Belsavis. The first few zones are remnants of prisons, with mazes of half-finished walls and random rubble. It takes at least twice the time you'd expect it to to get from point A to point B. The gaps between walls are always, always filled with mobs too. Once you are out of the first couple maps it gets a little better, but it is still a hassle to just get to where your quests are. There's a light at the end of the tunnel though: your last companion! Yay!

I hate him.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Level 40 tanking: I feel all toasty inside

Level 40. Heat Blast. THIS is the point in the game when you should start getting a visceral feel for your heat level. Heat management is the hallmark of a good Shieldtech and will determine whether you hold aggro or your group wipes again and again.

Single target ability priority:

Rail Shot > Rocket Punch Combust Explosive Dart Heat Blast Unload Flame Burst Rapid Shots

Heat Blast comes after Explosive Dart because ED is actually very high damage and aggro. Also from a QoL perspective, having HB further down on my priority list means that I will be less likely to accidentally use it at a time I cannot benefit from its heat dissipation. After some comments about channeled abilities when I posted level 20 tanking advice, I decided to just include them in the main priority list. I feel that on average I get approximately 2/3 of the channel off and this is the estimate I used when making this list. If your target is incapacitated and you can get a full duration Unload off, prioritize it above ED. Flamethrower is the same damage as Unload but costs 50% more heat. I really would not use Flamethrower in a one target scenario.

AoE ability priority:

Death From Above Flamethrower Combust Explosive Dart Flame Sweep Heat Blast Rapid Shots

Obviously, feel free to single target at your discretion. This list is only for times when all of your DPS are AoEing as well. NEVER OPEN WITH FLAMETHROWER!!! Flamethrower does not tick instantly, it ticks after one second. That may not sound like a lot but it is PLENTY of time for mobs to walk out of range of the channel. Always use Flame Sweep or DFA first and make sure you have control of the mobs before you use Flamethrower. And remember, AIM. Get used to Flamethrower's range because if you don't hit a mob with it, guess what? You get no aggro on that mob. Yeah, THAT one. The one over there eating your healer's face.

Positioning: Awareness is key to tanking. Grapple and Jet Charge should be used to move mobs wherever you want them. Use them to open on targets, peel straying mobs off of group members, and gather mobs for easy AoE tanking. Positioning is the tank's job, no one else's. Don't worry about where the DPS or healers are throwing down AoEs, just get the mobs where you feel they should be and let the other group members readjust to that. If a DPS misses an AoE it means the fight will take roughly 3 seconds longer. If you miss an AoE it could mean aggro loss and a wipe.

Heat management: Unload will break even on heat for a full channel. It's 15 heat cost is offset by the three seconds of passive heat dissipation you'll get during it. Expect and anticipate this. Flamethrower costs 25 and dissipates 15 over the duration, so expect to end up with about 10 more heat than you started with after a full channel. Unless you have a very good reason not to, always skip down the list and use the first ability you can that won't bring you over 40 or under 16 heat. Rail Shot, Rocket Punch, and DFA are exempt from this rule because they are just so damn strong.

You'll notice I added a recommended minimum heat level there. 16 is the about the amount you dissipate in one GCD if Shield Vents procs. It is roughly the line between quickslots 1 and 2. QUICKSLOT 2 IS NOW YOUR HOME. LIVE THERE.

Always remember that being a Shieldtech is all about maximizing heat usage over a fight. You never want to fritter away heat dissipation unless you have to. Use Heat Blast, Rapid Shots, and Flame Burst to control your heat level and stay in the target zone. But don't stress out over losing some heat dissipation; we're only human. Lastly, HAVE FUN! Tanking can be stressful business and even feel like work on occasion. A happy, relaxed tank is a good tank.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quesh and Hoth: Even more barren worlds

Quesh is a very small, very dull planet. Good thing its so short or you'd probably develop lung cancer from the polluition (if your species even has lungs). Because I wondered this: when your class quest tells you to go back to the ship, yes, the class quest on Quesh is over. It is very short and felt quite random to me compared to the rest of the storyline. There was one thing I liked about Quesh. I FINALLY got to see a hutt move on its own. It was totally worth the wait! They scrunch around kinda like slugs, but when they want to move fast they do it while pumping their arms like joggers.

Hoth is like Tatooine 2.0. It is a humongous planet almost completely covered in snow and ice. Hopefully you don't mind the cold because you are going to be here for a while. I spent an entire day roaming around the icy plains. There are tons and tons of quests here, most of them fairly interesting (even if the majority of the Imperial quests involve saving them from starving or freezing to death). Plus, after Hoth you get a new companion!

On a side note, sorry for the short *cough*bad*cough* posts the past few days. I'm just finding the leveling process and story really engaging at the moment and its hard to tear myself away long enough to sit down and write about the game. Hopefully I'll hit a lull and will get to delve more into tanking again soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Taris will always hold a special place in our hearts as the starting world of KotOR. Now Taris is but a shadow of its former self, a giant pile of rubble slowly being consumed by the swamp. Our class quests here are really interesting IMO, involving tracking our quarry through the swamp and Mandalorian war games. Like Tatooine, upon completion of this planet another noble soul flocks to our cause.

I had a lot of trouble with Taris because at the time of me writing this, Taris suffers from some kind of game issue leading to MASSIVE FPS drops. I was routinely going under 10 FPS, which makes play extremely difficult. For those of you new to Bounty Hunting, this likely won't be a problem because a fix is on the way.

Because of this, I actually skipped some bonus quests (gasp, shock, horror). It's too bad, really. I'll have to play through on an alt at some point so I can enjoy Taris without it being tainted by stuttery gameplay.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Alderaan and the Two Ships

Politics. Intrigue. A wild tale about one planet's struggle to find the rightful heir to its throne. If you play SWTOR for the plot, Alderaan is sure to have something just for you. This was definitely one of the most enjoyable worlds I have been to, right up there with Nar Shaddaa.

Once you finish up playing kingmaker on Alderaan, head on over to the Aurora for the exciting climax to part I of our class story! This is pretty straightforward, although I do have to mention one strange thing that happened when I fought the target. Every time I dropped him below half health, he would instant cast a HoT on himself that FULL HEALED HIM. I have no idea if this is intended or if I was screwing up the fight somehow. Either way, this fight ended up lasting 7 minutes because he just couldn't damage through my DR and Mako's heals :)

The Spirit of Vengence doesn't really have much in the way of content on it. It just gives you a short quest to continue your class story.

After your shenanigans on the Aurora, guess who wants to meet you? MANDALORE! That's right, the coolest damn bounty hunter in the entire galaxy wants to see YOU! And then after a short quest HE INDUCTS YOU INTO HIS CLAN AS A MANDALORIAN!!! I'm not gonna lie, I squealed like a girl from excitement, then went on to annoy my guild by going on about how cool Mandalorians are for a good 20 minutes.


Welcome to Arrakis Tatooine! Before I begin, let me just say something:


This planet was CLEARLY designed with the player having a speeder in mind. The maps are humongous! Even Mos Ila (the first city) is frustrating to get around on foot. Do yourself a favor and go do a bonus series quest or run a flashpoint first if you aren't 25 when you finish Nar Shaddaa.

Once I had a speeder, I thoroughly enjoyed Tatooine. There is something quite majestic about its towering cliffs and dune seas. Who knows what secrets may lie hidden beneath the sands? (I DO :D) Another thing to look forward to is that you get your third companion after Tatooine! Yay! Don't forget to keep sending your unused companions on missions while you quest. Those rewards really add up.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tanking in the Twenties: Hammer Station and Athiss

We are now getting up to the level where tanks are actually useful. Both of these flashpoints would be fairly difficult to do without having someone in the group built to soak damage. For the most part, these are pretty straightforward missions. Make sure to note that Battlelord Kreshan, last boss of Hammer Station, continuously spawns adds during the fight. Don't get overwhelmed. Also, the Prophet of Vodal in Athiss will vanish and summon indestructable, slow fireballs occasionally. Simply walk away from these and they will disappear shortly.

Here are some general tips for tanking at this level:

Don't stress over aggro: Before Flame Sweep, it is incredibly difficult to hold AoE threat when the DPS don't single target. Remember that silver-bordered "strong" mobs are the sort you routinely solo while questing. If a DPS pulls one of these off you it is not a big deal. They are easily soloable. Just keep the harder mobs on you and always STAY CALM. A panicking tank has led to many a group wipe.

Single target ability priority: Assuming infinite heat, your single target priority list should look something like this:

Rail Shot > Rocket Punch > Combust (Flame Burst debuff) > Explosive Dart > Flame Burst > Rapid Shots

Flame Burst's debuff should have as close to 100% uptime as you can afford. A free 4% damage reduction is nothing to sneeze at. Explosive Dart is an easily overlooked ability for single target because its damage is delayed. Surprisingly, it does more damage when it goes off than Flame Burst, so use it when the target will actually live for the duration.

AoE ability priority: AoE priority is very straightforward:

Death From Above > Combust (Flame Sweep debuff) > Explosive Dart > Flame Sweep 

Death From Above to open. While Explosive Dart is both more threat/GCD and more threat/heat than Flame Sweep, it is delayed and will not provide snap aggro. If you need threat immediately (add spawns for example) use Flame Sweep over Explosive Dart. Remember that Flame Sweep does have quite a high heat cost so don't just spam it! If your DPS are single targeting a mob in a group, it is preferable for you to single target that mob as well. Your job is not to kill enemies, it is to hold aggro and keep your heat low enough that you can be flexible if something goes wrong. What I like to do in that kind of situation is simply replace Flame Burst in the single target priority list with Flame Sweep.

Channeled abilities: Flamethrower and Unload are of debatable value for a tank. When used optimially, they are two of the most heat efficient abilities available to tanks. Flamethrower beats out Flame Sweep by a lot if you can line up a couple targets, while Unload is considerably more damage per GCD than Flame Burst. The problem is that tanks suffer from pushback a lot. Everything is constantly wailing on us, greatly diminishing the value of channels. Don't dismiss these abilities out of hand, but use them sparingly and only when you can be sure of getting almost all the channel off. 25 heat is far too much to spend on a Flamethrower or Unload that only ticks once. Death From Above, while being a channeled ability, is basically only used during the pull so suffers minimally from pushback. It is also so damn strong that it would be worth using even if you only got one missile volley off.

Heat management: ALL OF THESE PRIORITY LISTS ARE ASSUMING INFINITE HEAT!!! In reality, you cannot always simply choose the highest priority ability. Keep tabs on your heat levels throughout everything you do. Most of the time you will find yourself choosing Rapid Shots over Flame Burst in order to keep your heat low enough to be able to Rail Shot, Rocket Punch, and Explosive Dart. 40 heat is the magic number, but it isn't a huge deal if you go a little over. I will go into heat management in much, much greater detail at level 50.

Now go forth and tank!

The good and the bad and ugly (Nar Shaddaa and Balmorra)

Ah, Balmorra. A once-beautiful land marred by bloody warfare. I hated it. For me, Balmorra ranks about as far down as Hutta on the list of planets I enjoy visiting. The place is a barren wasteland. Expect a LOT of walking. On top of that, one of your main Imperial contacts there is extremely irritating and full of himself (moreso even than most Sith lords!).

Nar Shaddaa, in contrast, was one of my favorite planets ever! The plotlines were captivating and I felt the scenery and feel of the place were perfectly spot on. Standing in the Promenade was like standing in downtown New York or Beijing. Huge signs and ads, glowing lights, savvy vendors, and people everywhere. Plus there is a sidestory relating to Revan (not like those crazy Revanites) which KotOR veterans will appreciate.

For those of you on PVP servers, this is about when you will need to start watching out for the opposite faction. Some zones are shared by both sides so keep your eyes peeled for those Republic scum. Sorry for the short post but there isn't too much to say about these places without spoilers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sith Space: Dromund Kaas and the Imperial Fleet

I get the feeling that a lot of this game must be completely different if you play as a Sith class. As a Bounty Hunter, questing in these worlds left me with the impression that the majority of Sith are completely insane. They just never seem to have problems us normal people can relate to.

Anyway, as soon as you get to the fleet you get a quest for the Black Talon, the first flashpoint. Hold that for a few minutes and head off to choose your advanced class. I think we all know what I chose: POWERTECH, THE FIRE OF COURAGE! There isn't any switching of ACs later on so make sure you get the right one. Train Flame Burst once you are a Powertech. After that, go over and get the crew skills you decided on. Note that for non-crafting professions you can start sending your companion on missions right away (if you don't need her) by bringing up the crew skills window and clicking on that profession's icon. This may seem obvious to most people but I didn't realize it until almost level 20

Now you can finally run your first flashpoint! This flashpoint can easily be done with two people and two companions. It is designed to not really need a tank or healer, which is great because we don't get Ion Gas Cylinder until level 14. This place drops a lot of gear that is nice up until about level 20. It also drops a custom (orange) quality chest and blaster, so if you like the look of them you can just keep upgrading their parts and even use them into endgame if you so desire. Black Talon is short, sweet and straightforward. The only real piece of advice I have is don't bother trying to tank (no aggro without IGC). Also, when fighting Yadira Ban she will occasionally do this move where she stops attacking, swirls start appearing around her, and your movement speed is sharply cut. Walk out of melee range or you will get CC'd when her channel finishes.

PVP is available at this level as well. Click on the icon by the minimap to queue up for a warzone. Don't worry about being low level. What happens in this game is that after the players for each side are chosen, the lower level players in the warzone have their stats artificially boosted to be on par with those of the highest level player. It's not a perfect system but it is a significant improvement over some OTHER games where you effectively can only PVP every five levels because of stat differences in your bracket.

On Dromund Kaas, I decided to just start skipping the heroic quests because I was having trouble assembling groups. I completed every single player quest though, finishing at about level 18 with a couple Black Talon runs. It is quite a depressing planet, what with the overcast sky, large jungle animals, and crazy Sith everywhere (Mako feels my pain). Can't say I was sad to see it go. Plus, after Dromund Kaas you get your first starship (and second companion) so who could be sad about that? Once you have 2V-R8, always be sending the companion who isn't with you on crew skills missions. Your wallet will thank you later.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hutta: And so it begins...

Don't worry, there won't be any plot spoilers in any of these log posts. I enjoy the story far too much to potentially ruin it for someone else. Today, my journey as a Bounty Hunter began anew in the stinking swamps of Hutta. Since I'm not going to talk about all the amazing adventures I had and friends I made, there are only a few things left to say about this acrid planet.

As soon as you start, go to your menu and turn on auto loot and area loot. This will save you a lot of time in the long run. Make sure to pick up every taxi point and quick travel point you find so you don't end up having to walk 10 minutes for one random quest later on.

At level 2 you get Rocket Punch. We will be using this move about once every 10 seconds for the rest of the game so learn to love it. For the amount of damage it does it is very heat efficient. Speaking of heat, I found a good estimate of 40 heat (which is the point you want to hover under) to be the line separating quickslot 2 and quickslot 3.

Like me, you may notice yourself slowly amassing commendations. It took me almost until I left the planet to find out what they were for. Take them to Specialty Goods vendor Yerk and you can trade them in for a piece of chest armor for yourself or for Mako.

I'm a pretty big completionist so I refused to move on until I had completed every quest in the area. I did them all solo (well, Mako helped) and ended up about 1/3 of a level above 11 when I left, with about 8k creds. The elite group quests were a little difficult, but Bounty Hunters are lucky enough to start with their healing companion right off the bat, making it MUCH easier. Also remember that Recharge and Reload has no cooldown so you can go into every single fight with full health and empty heat.

Datacrons: Datacrons are an item I completely forgot to mention in the leveling tips post. For the most part, datacrons resemble glowing boxes. Clicking on one will usually give you +2 to a stat predetermined by the datacron. I feel it is worth gathering these while leveling because that is when the stat bonuses will be most noticeable. Check the link in the Helpful Sites section to see how to get the datacrons for each planet. There may still be some undiscovered ones out there.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Leveling tips

Less than a day until TOR's early access program begins! Ha, maybe then I'll have some actual content :)

*ahem* Anyway, I was talking to a guildmate the other day and he brought up how much he always hated the leveling process in MMOs. I realized that I always leveled pretty quickly and had a lot of fun doing it so I thought I could share some tips about how to make leveling fly by.

Immerse yourself in the story: This may feel kind of stupid and pointless for a lot of us who don't RP, but it actually helps a lot with the tedium of leveling. At its core, TOR is just an MMO like any other and there are only so many different ways that quests can be set up. BioWare spent a great deal of effort making the storylines engaging. If you let yourself really start feeling your character and his story you'll be a lot less annoyed when you turn in 50 bear livers for a quest and get a follow up asking for 60 bear asses.

Level crew skills as you go: Some people like to skip crew skills while they grind their way up, figuring they will be able to level faster if they put off crew skills until 50. In my experience, these people do not level significantly faster than your average craftsman. In fact, they often level slower because they get bored more easily with the whole leveling experience and then get bored AGAIN when they try to just sit down and rush their crew skills at level 50.

Use companions you genuinely like: Anyone who played KotOR will understand this tip. Running around with companions you hate makes you want to tear your hair out every time they interact with you in a cutscene or try to talk to you. NO JUHANI, I DON'T CARE THAT YOUR PEOPLE WERE MASSACRED! JUST GO KILL THINGS AND STOP TRYING TO TALK TO ME! On the flipside, having companions that you really like will make you want to play more just to find out their backstories and build friendships. I would play for hours extra just to unlock the next dialogue with Mission Vao or Carth Onasi without feeling bored in the slightest.

Change up how you level: While I will happily quest all day long, I know not everyone enjoys it as much as I do. If you find yourself hating all the quests you are doing, take a break! Go queue for a warzone (little icon next to the minimap) and get some PVP action going! Warzones are fairly short, a lot of fun, and can reward you with experience and gear for doing them. Or if there is another planet you could quest on, go there and quest instead! Some areas just rub people the wrong way. I was not a fan of Balmorra when I went there, but I was a huge fan of Nar Shaddaa. There are enough sidequests in this game that you can drag out the planets you like and rush through the ones you don't without hurting your leveling speed.

Tank when you can: If you are reading this blog, you are probably one of us martyr-types who actually likes taking a beating for your comrades. Go out and tank flashpoints whenever you are on level for them. Group with guildmates if you want a low stress and fun run, with randoms if you want to build tanking flexibility and skill. The Black Talon flashpoint is available to us in the same zone we get Powertech training and it offers a lot of very nice gear for Bounty Hunters.

Practice heat management: Heat is a strange resource. It is better to get used to how it works during leveling when you have fewer abilities to manage. For those who have not experienced heat, you start with 0 heat and gain heat with every ability you use. If you hit 100 heat, you overheat and cannot use any abilities for a few seconds. Heat dissipates at 5 heat/second as long as you stay under 40 heat. This rate drops to 3 heat/second between 40 and 80 heat, and goes to 2 heat/second above 80 heat. Try to hover around 40 heat while you play for maximum damage output. Make use of Rapid Shots to control your heat gain. Spamming abilities and stacking heat will build bad habits for you later on.

The main thing idea that I want you to come away from this is: if you get bored, go do something else for a while. There are many different ways to level and they are all productive. Don't feel like you have to complete every quest in an area you hate, max your professions are level 20, or get every item from every flashpoint. Spread things out, keep yourself entertained, and you'll be level 50 and running operations in no time flat.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crafting and you!

As we slowly approach launch, you've probably found yourself asking "What crew skills would be best for ME to take?" Since only one out of our three crew skills can be a crafting skill and actually make us gear, it makes sense to pick the crafting skill first and then pick the other two skills to compliment it. BioWare has made clear their intent to have crafted gear remain competitive through the endgame, so don't immediately discount weapon or armor crafting skills thinking that they will soon be obsolete. While there are six crafting skills, only four of them are really useful for Shieldtechs: Armormech, Armstech, Biochem, and Cybertech.

Before we take a look at the crew skills, I feel a brief explanation of the item modification system in TOR is needed (mostly because I found it confusing myself when I began looking at crew skills). Every weapon and piece of armor can be thought of as a single item composed of a bunch of different components, as follows:

Blaster: [color crystal] - [barrel] - [enhancement] - [mod] - [augment]

Armor: [armoring] - [enhancement] - [mod] - [augment]

Barrels determine the damage that a blaster does. Likewise, armorings determine the armor rating of an item. Color crystals change the color of the blaster bolt and can have other stats on them as well. Mods are socketables with primary stats, while enhancements are socketables with secondary stats. Augments can have a single stat, primary or secondary, on them. Not all items will have all of these slots available for socketing. For example, you may find a blaster pistol without a barrel slot. This basically means that the barrel is an integral part of that blaster and cannot be removed or upgraded. Also, augment slots are for the most part only available on critically crafted items (i.e. Armormech crafts some boots, gets a critical on his crafting roll, ends up with an augment slot on those boots) or high end gear. With this in mind we can get on to the crafting skills:

Armormech: This skill will make us heavy armor for every armor slot. Helm, chest, boots, gloves, wrists, belts, all of it! For those of us out there who care about always having the best defensive items we possibly can. Typically paired with Scavenging and Underworld Trading.

Armstech: Guns, guns, GUNS! If all you want is to have a bigger and better blaster than the next guy, this is the skill for you. You can craft powerful guns along with barrels to upgrade your existing guns even further. Good skills with this one are Scavenging and Investigation.

Biochem: The typical potion-crafting-alchemy skill. Lets you craft short duration adrenals, long duration stimpacks, healing medpacks, and implant slot items. At high levels your consumables will not go away after use. This skill has good synergy with Bioanalysis and Diplomacy.

Cybertech: A skill for the technophile within all of us. Creates earpiece slot items, mods, and armorings. Also creates grenades that can be used in order to AoE damage and CC targets. The secondaries for Cybertech are Scavenging and Slicing/Underworld Trading.

The other two crafting skills are more aimed at the Sith classes. Artifice makes lightsabers, hilts (the lightsaber equivalent of barrels), relic slot items, color crystals, and enhancements. Synthweaving makes armor itemized for force-using classes. Needless to say, these are surpassed by the other crafting skills for our purposes.

While I only list a couple crew skills to go with each crafting one, the system is actually pretty flexible. Although each crafting skill really needs its corresponding gathering skill (Scavenging or Bioanalysis) to work well, your third skill could be anything you want. You could easily take another gathering profession to get mats to sell or take Slicing or a mission skill to earn more money. The crew skills I listed here are simply the ones to pick to maximize the amount of raw materials you have for crafting.

All of these crafting skills are perfectly viable and useful for Shieldtechs. You should choose the one that you feel suits you the best because they are pretty well balanced. For me, I will be going Cybertech with Scavenging and Slicing. Why? One, my guild has no one to make mods yet; and two, I think that CC grenades could turn out to be handy for raiding. Will that advantage outweigh raw stats I'd get from another crafting skill? Only time will tell.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Preliminary look at tanking specs

Without having much hands on experience with the game, I can say with about 98% certainty that this is the spec I will be running for PVE tanking:

This is looking to be the "cookie-cutter" tanking spec for us Shieldtechs. Since all the talents taken pretty much speak for themselves, I'll just take a look at the thought process that went into skipping the ones I did.

Rail Loaders: Yes, Rail Shot is an extremely powerful ability. However, tanking is not about having strong burst damage. Tanks need to keep up consistent threat generation because if aggro gets lost it can be difficult to gain it back. The only place points could really be taken from to pick up Rail Loaders would be Intimidation. Since Intimidation benefits ALL of our incendiary attacks (Flame Burst, Flame Sweep, Heat Blast, etc.) it provides more of an overall damage (threat) increase than Rail Loaders does, especially considering that the cooldown on Rail Shot is a lengthy 15 seconds.

Neural Overload: Most of our threat output comes from abilities that require either melee or short range. Having targets close on us slowly is not good from a tanking standpoint. Leave this one for the PVPers.

No Escape, Jet Speed: These are nice mobility skills but all of the other skills in their tiers directly impact threat gain or survivability and thus take precedence.

Prototype Electro Surge, Advanced Tools: More good utility skills that are skipped over for skills directly impacting tanking.

Hot Iron: The points for this skill could only come out of Iron Fist. Rocket Punch is already a much stronger ability than Flame Burst and gains massive crit chance, crit damage, and a proc for a cooldown reset from talents in the Shield Tech tree. 8% more damage on Rocket Punch works out to be a much better damage increase over the course of a fight than 6% on Flame Burst.

Integrated Cardio Package: This skill is arguable, but I feel it gets outclassed by other choices. 3% endurance is not a large enough health difference that healers will really heal you any differently. The only time it would really be useful would be if you are in a situation where you get hit so hard so suddenly that you would die without this little extra health. Since I do not forsee this ever happening I choose to pass this skill up for more threat generation.

While I will be running this spec, there are a few alternate ones that could be argued for.

If you want maximum threat generation, you can drop Power Armor for Rail Loaders. This should ONLY be done if you have large problems holding threat or if your healers have no trouble keeping you up (i.e. you outgear the content you're running).

If you want maximum survivability, you can drop Prototype Cylinders and Iron Fist for Integrated Cardio Package. Since this will actually result in quite a bit less threat, make sure beforehand that you can solidly hold aggro without the extra damage from these skills.

For the majority of us, the cookie-cutter spec will work the best. If you want to use a different spec then by all means try it out, but always have a clear cut reason to do so. A tank choosing a spec just to be a unique little snowflake usually doesn't work out well for the rest of the raid.

A note on hybrid specs: Don't tank as a Shieldtech with a hybrid spec. Our end of tree talents are very good for tanking. Empowered Tech is a large increase in our chance to block, while Heat Blast is so heat efficient it actually REMOVES heat on use.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas is coming early this year!

In just a few short days SWTOR will be opening its doors to the many of us who preordered the game. With that in mind, I figure I should go ahead and write this introductory post now before all the distractions hit. Like many of you, I was drawn to this game as a huge fan of both Star Wars and BioWare. KotOR was an incredible game and it excited me to no end when an MMO in the same vein was announced. I have only really played one MMO before this: the ubiquitous World of Warcraft. I played off and on through vanilla and Burning Crusade, only starting to play seriously during the middle of Wrath of the Lich King and on through Cataclysm. I mostly filled the DPS role in those games because I enjoyed how competitive it was and how I could excel by researching and practicing my spec and rotation. However, I always secretly wanted to tank. Something about staunchly defending my allies and shielding them from hard just appeals to the hero fantasies within me. Before I had ever heard of TOR I had already decided deep down that I would main a tank in the next MMO I played.

Skip ahead to TOR. A bunch of friends of mine have also been looking forward to this game's release and decided to form an Imperial guild, leaving me three ACs to choose from if I wanted to tank: Juggernaut, Assassin, and Powertech. Needless to say, Powertech was my instant favorite. In addition to having the most rugged gear and a flamethrower, they also have the same badass-factor that Batman has by virtue of being just a regular guy who manages to keep up with these superhuman fighting machines through discipline, gadgetry, and guile. Give me a smoking blaster and a thermal detonator over some mystic mumbo jumbo and a glowing stick any day.

I decided to start this blog because of my own love of reading things like this. In basically every game I play, I spend hours online each day meticulously poring over every guide, every changelog, every scrap of information I can find about the character I'm playing. As we stand on the brink of TOR's release there isn't a huge amount of information out there yet about specific character specs. It really excites me to think that maybe, just maybe, I could be one of those helping to spread information to the community and teaching players how to do what they do better. If just one person reads this blog and comes away from it with something useful, it'll make it all worthwhile.