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State of the Game–2014/2015

The new year has come and gone.  We have seen an interesting twelve months with many additions.  But we will go over things from last year just briefly.

We started 2014 with Galactic Starfighter, ending 2013 with early access and seeing the public update come in the February.  This was the space combat game people wanted when they first started seeing what was going into the game the words “…pilot your own ship…” were thrown around, what we go Space Battles the on rail shooter was a fun feature to while the time away, but it was no way integrated into the story.  Neither was Galactic Starfighter other than with an interesting change on the flashpoints with the Kuat Drive Yards FP meant to serve as the starter to jumping into the action.

Was it right?  Yes, what the team at BioWare put into this was everything people wanted from the get go.  But was on vital element missing…

ship_defender ship_freighter ship_thunderclap
ship_fury ship_phantom ship_mantis

Enable players to pilot their Starship into the fray.  The introduction of the fighters, bombers, etc… we have seen throughout the story was good, but it would have been nice.  The models are there, use the one used for the Space Battles, I think there will be a massive take on this.  But that is my opinion.

Invasion

April gave us the first part of the story arc we have seen come to its conclusions at the end of the year.  The Korriban Incursion and Assault on Tython tactical flashpoints.  We had the end of the first official season, some PvP love was also bestowed with the a Starfighter Map, the Quesh Huttball bit for the warzones.

These flashpoints gave us a certain glimpse of the goings on in the galaxy and with the breief encounter of the Revanites on Dromund Kaas which has you determining if you are worthy and then needing to steal the mask of Revan from Lord Gratham.  Was the seeds of things to come sewn back then. 

Soovada

Hit us in June.  This was initially a way to bring into the game a credit sink for mainly PvP players as they really don’t have any mechanism for dumping their credits into other than minor upgrades to their gear.  Since most upgrades can be obtained through commendations.  So, what better way than spend credits than buying tokens to get some new gear.  The weapons were interesting certain the Kingpin Blaster Rifle, very Tommygun-esque in its appearance.  It is still sitting in my cargo-hold waiting for that perfect look to match, I think I am nearly there.

Why do I believe this was meant as a credit sink for PvP.  Because when introduced they offered double commendations for all PvP events AND you could purchase tokens for the machines using commendations, credits worked just as well.  This was a success and the community were asking for more events, so we have this one, we also got life day, which need to get expanded.   But I will talk more about this later.

Welcome to your Stronghold

We all had our ships, our home away from home.  Our crew always more open when on our ships, but now, we have the ability to have decorate our homes.  This was considered a much needed addition, especially for the large guilds and keen role players of the community but there was one small catch. 

Subscribers, got early access and a nice Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace and based on past, recordable achievements we received the trophies of our successes in Flashpoint and Operations.

But Strongholds and Guild Flagships are are massive expense.  I purchased all of the strongholds and proceeded to unlock the rooms, this was an expensive exercise and now, with everything unlocked there is little in the way some of them look.  But I am happy with just slowly build on them.

People, as always have an experience with what they want from player housing decorations etc…  Often these expectations lead to disappointment and constantly there is disappointment with much of the community.   I know with Guild Capital Ships there was so much more they wanted than parking a ship above a planet to help boost the conquest points achieved from performing conquest missions there.  More on Conquests and Guild Capital Ships later.

This patch also saw Manaan come back, the ocean world and the new Flashpoint with the Depths of Manaan.  But we were give a nice expansive area to roam but nothing to do, but going into a story instance, see a reputation vendor or medical droid and enter the flashpoint.  It looked like more was planned, but nothing happened… I will talk more about this later.

Alliances Forged

The final part of the Forged Alliances story arc was included and it again took us to a familiar world in Rakata Prime (The home world to the Rakata but not their true home world but when forging their Infinite Empire this force energy of the planet made this the best choice for the building of the Star Forges.  So we are then shown a familiar mask, at the end an a peek of what is to come, the return of Revan.  Legacy of the Rakata flashpoint a new PvP season nothing much else was included.

12 times XP

Yes, you could and many did, create new toons, complete the story only on those characters and they were at Level 50 and subsequently 55 before they could blink.  This saw a massive surge in the population of the game and was regarded as one of the more successful things they have done.  Even if people didn’t continue the influx into the game this bought was massive more than they anticipated and subsequently issues arouse from this with what was happening with the server.

3.0 Drops and the Ball is Dropped

Well, what can be said that hasn’t already.  The Shadow of Revan, Early Access was available, gave people new content, 2 new planets, dailies, 2 new flashpoints and operations and with the release of this they introduced a new mechanic of Solo flashpoints.  They did this to enable players who have not done the Forged Alliances story line to enjoy them before jumping into the new content.  This was a great addition, so much so that people are wanting to go back to use it for other flashpoints, but once you hit the level cap (60 now) you can go back and do all flashpoints, including the level 50 hard mode ones, solo (with some caveats).

Then the Ravager’s Exploit reared its reared its head, BioWare went underground or at least on holidays and those who would took full advantage of the situation.  192 and 198 gear for free, well almost free, though some servers is was common, others, no so, so much in fact that people transferred characters to servers, with lockouts and started selling it to players for credits.

This is what we are left with the stinking mess that is the community team at BioWare in their attempts to handle, fumble and deal with the situation and the subsequent fall out.  But this isn’t about the exploit or their handling of it it is merely how what was meant to be a great end to a year this happened.  But we are now in 2015 we can put the year behind.

Coming Soon

What is coming soon.  There was a community cantina, in which they revealed what was on the cards for 2015.  Two major releases a mid year and end of year. Talks of focus on story, providing a unique class story again but where the events make a difference to the outcomes of your story, an interesting take as ESO tried this and found people in groups when they choose different outcomes that had a baring on the instance they were in, they found the group members would spawn in different instances.  Not being able to help them at all.

There were elements I liked that carried over and made me feel that things were different in the stories.  I did like how the cross over of the stories were there in some instances small others significant.  But they are wanting to have more focus on that, they saw a massive influx of people into the game as a result of the Revan story so they must see this as a positive.  If they can make great stories for each of the classes I think they will find their population growing again.

No PvP Love

PvP is one of those things where many people love it, others hate it, but it was an area in this game and the story that lead it to be integrated better than with any other game in the past.  They did this in some degree with some of the warzones, but it gave a bite sized way to the game, they, I feel, improved it with 4v4 arenas which was a nice quick battle, Hutt Ball which I will talk more about soon and Galactic Starfighter space PvP.  Each of these need to be integrated greatly into the game and shown that PvP is just as important to the narrative as any other element.

Queues

Some servers are good, others not so.  So the only way to fix this would be cross server queues.  But this isn’t as saying, well let us implement cross server queues.  Here is why.

image

 

Here is a very crude map of the world with the locations of the data centres on it.  There are 3 servers on the West Coast of the US;

  • The Bastion
  • Begeren Colony
  • The Harbinger

5 servers on the East Coast of the US

  • The Shadowlands
  • Jung Ma
  • The Ebon Hawk
  • The Prophecy of the Five
  • Jedi Covenant

Europe has 9 servers, 3 in each languages

  • Tomb of Freedon Nadd
  • The Progenitor
  • The Red Eclipse
  • Darth Nihilus
  • Battle Meditation
  • Mantle of the Force
  • T3-M4
  • Jar’Kai Sword
  • Venjervalis Chain

So, players from all over the world played on these servers they often pick the server with the least network latency.  I played originally in Australia then was moved from there to Drooga’s Pleasure Barge and then finally to the Harbinger.  I play daily with a latency of about 170ms, which isn’t great but if it is stable I can deal with it.

Players in the Southern Hemisphere are the worst affected than most but I am sure that latency in other parts of the world with less stable connections are also an issue.  So, knowing there are people playing all over the world, we look at the cross server queuing. 

  1. Which server is picked to play the game one?
  2. How is the server picked?
  3. What mix of players from which servers are picked?

These are some of the questions regarding cross server queuing.  Some might suggest well, if 12 players from the 16 are from The Harbinger, why not play on the Harbinger.  Because the other 4 might come from countries like Eastern Europe where a connection to the US West Coast provide a 400ms latency and therefore making it uncompetitive against people who play with 40-70ms. 

Would a centralised server work?  Maybe if you could find a location that meant everyone could play with the exact same latency as everyone else, or with minimal changes to it. 

image

That is the only physical way to make sure everyone has the same latency, but then we have cooling issues, pressure, physical maintenance,  the list goes on.

The final solution would be to use the server with the least population where the majority of players are from.  Then artificially increase latency for all players to match that of the slowest.  To perform this task would need a change to the clients.

Currently all commands travel to the server is actioned by the server and is returned to the client to display the animation or other displayable elements.  When playing with players in a group those with the highest latency have also delays in where players are as these actions, locations are then synchronised with the other clients in the group or match.

So anyone who believe they play with “LAG” should feel for the people who are geographically more distant from the servers whose “LAG” will not go away with the implementation of a server upgrade or the like.

So, in these scenarios, we use a client acknowledgement contract on data.  A command is sent to to the server and all c

image

One client will send the command to all machines connected to that instance.  The computer above in Orange is “your” computer.  You are in a 4v4 arena match.  Every PC is sending the commands out too all others, including the server.  This server much acknowledge this command but it will not provide the appropriate actions until all clients have confirmed.

So, in this configuration the time it takes for the server to acknowledge the request is based on the slowest time to send a packet.  Now this person who is on the slowest link will still be at a disadvantage when the server says, yes.  If the slowest link is 400ms, this is a round trip, there for it is 200ms to the server.  The fastest is 40ms. So when the server sends the packets to the clients, this can send the data to the slowest first to the fastest.

The server will then wait a certain time before sending the request. to the others.  So, the slowest is sent first and the server knows it has received it in 200ms so, it should take about 200ms to send back.  It waits then 160ms before sending the packet to the fastest which is knows is 40ms.   Since this pertains only to actions, abilities, all locations can be updated through the client data packets being sent.

This create equality among the systems but creates an natural level of latency FORCED to uses.  Some might say this is nothing since there is a massive problem with lag.  But players who normally play 40ms complain about 100ms latency.  Forcing them will create an even further level of “unacceptable lag” as they call it to play a PvP match.  But the inqueality exists now, more so than those who complain know.

Downside to this method is;

  • Increased load on the local PCs network stack which, depending on the machine might already be under significant load and the network is possible the one area is often forgotten when it comes to increasing the speed of the PC.
  • The server code needs to be redesigned to not need to synchronise all of the data between clients and the initiator of the action will send the synchronisation data required.  Adding additional load to the client PC CPU.
  • Redesign to the client code to accept this data.  And since many of these components are linked in the way the application works it might be difficult to take this to the full advantage.
  • Rejected/Lost packets.  If the server is sending acknowledgement on packets to enable the client to perform the updates.  If one of these gets lost or needs to be requested again then we get into similar issues as would any normal multi-player scenario.

So given the complexities of implementing cross server queues where the latency issue would be a greater issue than normal.  Normal meaning if you play from Australia on The Harbinger then you will be used to playing with the latency you have change it to double or triple, and people will leave by the bucket loads.

Reduce East Coast

The East Coasts should be mereged into 3 servers like the rest of the English, French and German speaking world.  Since English EU, French EU and German EU as well as US West Coast have all three servers, what is the population numbers on the other East Coasts servers.  Complaints from this area about queue times would be reduced if they were on less servers and like much of the world who were reduced to a smaller number of “large population” servers then it is time the East Coast US was reduced to 3.

Win Trading

How do you deal with this.  Can you work who is trading wins?  Well from my understanding with comments like this;

…we can work towards finalizing our data review and assigning appropriate actions. We have a lot of information! We know who used it, who they invited, how many times they exploited, when they participated, credits gained, and whether they gained a crafting pattern from reverse-engineering.

means they should be able to get the metrics on it.  PvP is difficult enough let alone having groups artificially inflate the end of season figures.  So how can’t this be done.  It is a simple task of making sure that the teams (and you know the teams when the queues pop) get it so if they have played before in a certain period of time, pop it with someone else or another team they haven’t played.  My main issue here is a simple one, if they are all in on it or the majority of them are it then gets difficult to police.

This is the biggest thing outside of a lack of content the PvP crowd are wanting change in.  So addressing this will help alleviate many of the issues around the rankings.

Make it Integral

There have been suggestions regarding PvP and open world PvP.  Ilum was a complete debacle, their removal of it and moved to the PvP in the Gree Event made this much better but due to the instancing on planets to help with the performance, lead to some issues.  But that said, providing missions that were in the PvP area and could mean you were attacked by anyone at any time mean some tactics.  On a whole this work for my opinion.

So, including areas like this in the other locations in the galaxy.  Provide a familiar landscape but entering the area was Open slather PvP and having missions in there means unless people want to do it, attachment to the Conquest events which are often on a couple of planets I think you will have something as successful as the Gree event was and providing there was a decent incentive for those to venture in there, special decorations, mounts and the like means it will be good and makes the conquest feel that much more part of the battle at large.

Also provide any player from one guild get points for taking down someone from another guild but anyone who has been taken out, is detrimental, some amount of points come off.  Could win/trading be a part of it if guilds with Republic and Imperial versions could do it.  So getting the balance right is important.  But if you make it only minor but the number of kills for each missions as bonuses etc… can add. 

What about the Guild Flagship Raiding?  Something I have been thinking of for some time is, guilds have flagships now, we can now move them from planet to planet which then give us boosts for conquest events.  Provide Guild PvP raiding of other populated flagships.  This can make the conquests more person, provide the raiding only on a specific day, to enable the guilds to prepare.  Enable flagship decorations to be defences that can help your guild from being raided.  The issue with this is alerting guild members their flagship is being raided by another guild.

Outpost Attacks

One of the things I liked with World of Warcraft is, when the opposite faction raids an outpost.  Messages would appear telling players this was happening.  This it is up to the player to determine if they wish to join in.  Link this to the Fleet and have those sitting around on fleet, hear an audible announcement that players are attacking the Organa Palace all able members to respond.  Make them sound like the warnings at the time of the Rakghoul events.  It is a buzzer, it audible and then people can jump into their ships on mass to attack the raiders, or repel them. 

This is how it would work;

  1. An imperial invasion force would attack a settlement on a planet.  These are the “PvP” zones, areas where you are flagged to attack anything within them.
  2. An announcement is then broadcast in general chat on the planet.  Then an audible broadcast is sent out on the fleet.  “Attention.  Imperial forces have attacked “Castle Organa”.  We require all available, to proceed to “Alderann” to repel the invaders.
  3. Players can then take their starships or guilds can pilot their flagships into position above the planet.
  4. They can then travel to the location that is being attacked.
  5. Any player that is a member of a guild partaking in the attack and they have their flagship above the planet, they would receive some boost similar to the healing of that done by the GSI satellite on Makeb.
  6. Any guild flagship can also deploy a temporary medical station where players of that faction can respawn when they are felled in battle.  (This is crucial as the attacking side is put out by the distances they must travel to get back into the fray.  But put some caveats around it in that it can’t be within the enemy zone and can’t be within attacking distance of enemy NPCs.
  7. If this planet is one of the conquest planets anyone participating in this action would also get bonus points for the conquest objectives.
  8. Low level players against high level players, the greater the level gap between the players killing another the less bonus points.  So this means it is more beneficial to attack players of similar level.
  9. Provide special mission items that can be retrieved from special locations that enable the deployment of manned turrets similar to those used in Kaon Under Siege or Collicoid War.  Low level players can then man the turrets, they are provided some level of additional defence while manning the turret They do the damage based on the player they are attacking.  level 60 higher damage than a level.
  10. What is the end, in each outpost there is a high level NPC that needs to be killed.  They are similar to many of the champions in that region of the PvP and once defeated then the battle ends, all players partaking will receive extra rewards, achievements, etc…
    1. The objective at the end can be healed and guarded, they do not put out much damage (but this might not always be the case) but they are reliant on the defenders to protect them.
    2. These end objectives must be difficult to get to and difficult to kill. 

There would be a question on what about, going in what about a bunch of stealth characters sneaking in to take the objective, not entirely possible.  It would be any NPC close to the objective would have advanced stealth detecting abilities.  They could sneak into part of the way but they couldn’t.

What about mid fight, stealth out and advance, that could be done much like it is in normal PvP.  But this is greatly hindered. 

What about instances where there is low populations.  Switching instances after a player stealths out.  All players who begin an attack receive a special debuff this debuff only cools down when a player is not in battle.  This debuff prevents players from switching instances or using quick travel,  iIt is 5 minutes.  Players defending do not receive this debuff.  If attacking players decide to all stealth out, hide for 5 minutes for the time to wait for the debuff then Quick Travel or Change instances they might be seen by NPCs or enemy players.

Then the defending team could switch instances to determine what the happenings, if there are no additional instances, then this is not an issue but the debuff will still be present while in enemy territory.  

Bring the PvP into the game’s greater conflict would help immerse players greater into the galaxy of SWTOR.

Hutt Ball

This is an area which can be a major problem for some people.  There are those who like it, others who hate it.  Me I am neither.  But something I have always felt is Hutt Ball should be a competition on its own.

There is a couple of ways to do this.  Follow the seasons for the normal PvP, which is 8 weeks.  So, in 8 weeks, you are to have all teams face off in a best of 3 elimination.   Then it culminates into a final with a best of 5 can play for the title of Hutt Ball champion.

The systems are in place to record results from games and the games are held at certain times of the day and this is to make sure you get through the number of games.  Is it possible.  I am sure it is as many of the mechanics are in place in the back end there would be a need for some tweaking.

But then enable players to enter and watch the matches going on.  The games going on are in separate instances so this is achievable, enable a selection of which game to watch.   I could even go as far as provide a simple betting system as well.  Get players more involved in it, make it a proper competition and bet on the winner.  I know this could open up all sorts of issues but even if you don’t allow it.  I think it would add to a more immersive galaxy. 

Sabacc and Pazaak

Something called by the community since launch.  BioWare placed a wonderfully addictive game in Knights of the Old Republic called Pazzak.  People have called for this to be included into the game in some form.  There is even a Sabacc table on the Esseless, you can interact with the table but it says, it isn’t taking players at this time..

One on One games, player v player.  Finding cards throughout the galaxy and also from drops from major bosses.  Another PvP experience and one that is not like other games.  I say work it out.

Finally

These are just some of my suggestions for bring PvP into the fore.  We know that BioWare can delivery story, we know they have the mechanics in the game to deliver it but I believe there is one thing that the crowd, all, want more than anything else.  A performance upgrade, moving to DirectX 10, 64 bit clients, or at least making the game perform consistent across the board and not be impacted like it is dependant on the goings on in the world.  When I hit ATL + Z and I get a 10-15 fps boost in performance there is a massive issue.  We want updates but I believe BioWare would by some leverage if they came out and said, guys, we are working on Migrating to (an example) Frostbite 3, we will be releasing a version on the PTS come June.  We will not release anything else until this is done. I feel everyone will sit back and say “finally”. 

But the state of the game is open for debate.  We are getting story, more story and some additional minor quality of life issues.  The state of the game as of this day is healthy and it is growing by the day.  But they need to get their arses into gear and look at what is hurting the game the most.  It isn’t the current content out there, it is the performance, the bugs the little things.  Once you have a stable, well performing platform then what you can release the sky is the limits at the moment, the limits are very much imposed on by the very dated and dogged Hero Engine they have used, butchered and hacked to pieces to get it to work.  It performs well, but it is prevalent that the more they add to this engine, the more issues that come from it. 

The Cartel Market gets the most love, new packs new items, items on sale.  The one that gets the least love is performance.  Yes this is lower than PvP but PvP is not far from it.  Is what they have restricting their growth, time will tell.  But for many in the community, time is not a luxury.  They will leave if things don’t improve.

Why the Hatred?

swtor-logo-256x2561OK, this is a strange post.  Many who might read my writings would see that I play SWTOR, many would also see that I write that at the top of posts that are a little bit of a social commentary about something in game.  Recently in the game there was a bug that enabled players to receive free rewards without the need of completing the content.

Operations are large scale battles between a boss and a number of people with a goal to take down the boss.  Each operation has 4 or 5 bosses and any number of mini bosses.  At the end of the fight you receive reward in the form of Credits, Commendations and a random dice roll on allocation on new gear and crafting materials.

I have done many operations, many bosses over my time in the game.  You can only do one operation boss once per week.  With 8 or 16 people partaking in the madness the chances of getting something of worth from these operations is low.  Below is a video of me in a boss fight just to show you what can go on.

Dreadtooth on Nightmare difficulty. (24 person)

So an 8 man fight gives the change of getting 1 piece of gear, so that is a 1 in 8 chance.  Some might say that is OK.  Then there is a Need/Greed system in which those who need are give precedence over those who greed, but there are some who take no heed and just need on everything.

Over the time of me completing operations I have rarely received gear for it, bits and pieces here and there and the way I have had to gear up my characters has been with commendations which isn’t as good as earning it in operations.

So that is the prologue to all of this.  This exploit enable people to get the gear from the last boss without needing to do the boss, people thought it was a win, win.  They received the gear alone, no need with the competition.  You could only do this once per week.  This post isn’t about the bug that enabled people to exploit the mechanic of the game it isn’t about the people who used the exploit, it is about those who want nothing but extreme prejudice taken against those who exploited.

Here is some quotes from players who are reacting to the information regarding the response to the exploit;

  • i hope they do perma ban you, people like you are the problem with this game.
  • All I see up there is “It’s Bioware’s fault I exploited.” If you get banned, good riddance.
  • Ban them, ban them all.
  • Cheating has become a national pastime, it seems, and morals are so relaxed nobody can see the line anymore. Makes me sick.

Also there is 1730 replies to this post in the forums.  Many people have many views but I am wanting to know why is there so much hate.  There are large grey areas when it comes to using bugs to gain advantage, many people will and do argue this very topic and to many some might find the temptation just too great. 

So, firstly I can say those who are crying for blood to be spilled or;

witch

Them to be burned , why?  Is it because of the advantage they gained, or is it a because I didn’t get it no one should therefore those who did should be banned.

Many who stand the moral high ground in this issue say, it is a choice, you chose not to, I chose to do it, I therefore am more pious than thou and therefore I should bring down the wrath.

This situation reminds me very much of the drugs in sport.  Professional athletes using any methods, legal and not legal to get the most from their bodies to excel in their chosen field.  Those who stand the moral high ground are once again saying if I don’t need to do it, therefore you don’t.  But we have, throughout our lives been subjected to choices some innocuous others not so, some have no consequence other have tremendous consequences or worse.

“This is a video game”  I hear, but people take various aspects of their lives very different do the screaming fans of a sporting club any different to those who push themselves to run personal marathons on a weekly basis even if they do not partake in them.Collingwood_Fans_Port_Adelaide_Finals_628

What I find in these cases is how many of those calling for blood on those who exploited the game, that a game is fun and cheating isn’t fun must fail to see the irony of being all serious of a matter that is, in the grand scheme of things very trivial.

Was it wrong?  Yes.  Should they have done it?  No.  They did, the developers know who did and who gained from it.  But the developers, when or if they hand out the punishment will not make any comment on it other than “we have decided the fate of those who we deemed, gained the greatest advantage from enacting on this exploit.”  They will not say, we have banned them for x days, week or permanently, nope and I am sure that the pitch forks won’t go away until they are satisfied that those who did wrong have suffered.

If they find it was a temp ban it will never be long enough and they will redirect the pitch forks in the direction of BioWare and EA for failing them.  These people will never be happy until their idea of sufficient punishment has been served and then, what next…  Will there be another they can point their rage at, someone else to go after someone who might be more innocent and less deserving of the ire of the mob.

There is a saying, “to err is human” which says, we all make mistakes and I am sure anyone who has been caught speeding will complain that they were only going just over a little or it was unfair.  I know I have been targeted by the unfair machinations of the public revenue machine that is speed camera offences. But each time, I pay my fine, cope the demerit points and carry on my life, just as well we don’t have those righteous coming out over those who speed should be locked up for life in gaol.  Thankfully.

Additional Information on the SWTOR Story

swtor-logo-256x2561I saw this addition on the Star Wars: The Old Republic site.  It seems that they are releasing a little more information but not a lot of information.

At the start of the year two new flashpoints were introduced, where either faction can storm the others home worlds, well sort of.  The story line “Forged Alliances” sees the Empire taking the fight to the Jedi on Tython and the Republic flying head long onto conflict with the Sith on Korriban.  Then the second part of this is, both parties take back Tython and Korriban from their enemy. “Korriban Incursion” and “Assault on Tython” are the flashpoints.  You can find out more information here.

So, there was an update on the direction the story is taking.  They provided a “teaser” of this;

Some teaser, that aside.  What does this show?  This came after a Developer Blog post where they were providing an “extract” from a Personal Datalog from a Selkath named Shuuru.  Where it speaks of the happenings on Manaan after Revan arrived in Ahto City to the eventual driving off, of the Sith Empire.

Reading this, it seems that they are setting up for more with Manaan.  As they have spoken of a new settlement, Mercantile Plaza, and the image above shows a Manaan Research Facility, which could have been the one below the surface that Revan visited to seek the Star Maps for the enigmatic (at that time) Star Forge.

Will the Selkath regret, once again, trusting outsiders to not bring their conflicts and prejudices to Manaan.  Time will tell.

What could be coming, well, tough to say.  What I can de3duce is, there is a new area, called Manaan Research Facility.  Is this an area on a planet or a Flashpoint my guess it is a Flashpoint.  Who is the Wookie in the picture, a new playable species?  Unlikely but I will be happy to say I am wrong if it is. 

Another point to note is this is the biggest expansion since Rise of the Hutt Cartel.  Which gave us a new planet with increase level cap from 50 to 55, with faction specific story content, new story arc missions, Microbinoculars and Seeker Droids a new Operation Scum and Villainy, Hard Mode Flashpoints.  So, what could this include, we know that there will be some Flashpoints, will there be an Operation, is this Manaan Research Facility a new Operation, would be nice.

There are people wanting a new planet, but it is unsure what is classed as a new planet, since Oricon and CZ-198 areas were new “planets” (yes CZ-198 is a moon).   But we would look at a new planet as new world missions additional daily missions, some faction story arc (though they won’t have class specific stories anymore) and a level increase.  So if Rise of the Hutt Cartel is a bigger expansion, there will be cuts.

The SWTOR Helper

swtor-logo-256x2561As many of you who read my blog might know, I am an ardent player of SWTOR.  I am also a software engineer/software developer/computer programmer or anything else that has to do with making bespoke software.  For ages I have been looking into ways to help the SWTOR community, more often myself get better use out of the game.  I have come up with, an idea for a helper.

Now, SWTOR doesn’t enable extensions to the game, they have done this possibly for the reason of preventing exploits.  When you open up your API for others to use, they will not always use it for purposes of good.  Which is OK, there is much that I am sure many people would like to do, but we are restricted.

That said, I feel that we can have a helper which I will be working on.  One such helper application is the SWTOR Unleashed (exca, 2012)application, this enables the moving of some files into a RAM Disk to help increase the performance of loading some areas. It works BUT has consequences when updating the files on patches.  So, I have decided, so sometimes to think of a way.  But I have had mixed success as it seems to stick out.

Upon looking into WPF the other way, I have found a way to help make this look like it is part of the in game experience but it is not.  This is my initial test, I will be adding more into it to make things better, I will put down information I will be planning on expanding on as well.

image

Well this is it for now.  What is the purpose of it.  Well right now it is very much a test for me to add more and more things.  It shows the current server time (this is based on the last played server, which while playing will be the current server).  It will also have a latest news link to the SWTOR site, which updates to the latest item on the news feed.

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Well this doesn’t sound like much of a helper, and I guess in the current context it isn’t, but it has enabled me to look at the timers and use in WPF, knowing that the UI and application components are on different threads in some contexts.  It got me reading URLs to read some data and then also learning WPF which is the most important aspect of it.

So what are my plans?

I want this to be a helper.  Sure the latest news is handy but I want to monitor the SWTOR twitter feed to get updates there, especially around the maintenance patches.  I want to show the server status of your last server, which will get this from the SWTOR site. 

Include a timer/alarm which can notify players, who are grouped (which I need to look at as well, similar to the way the parsers work with raids).  But it can enable the setting of a guild alarm, E.g.  Raid at 2pm Server Time, or UTC.  Have the clock convert between all server times, East, West, England, West Europe and UTC.    This way it will prevent the constant questions, “is there a raid tonight?”

Number of Kills.  This is just informative.  Throughout all of your characters, how many have you killed?  Well I will include that, and the idea is to have that Tally as a scoreboard, see who has killed the most and even break it down into All, Elite, Champion, Boss and so on.

Links to the tips.  This means I am going to link to walkthroughs and videos of the major fights, World Bosses, Ops Bosses, Flashpoints and so on.

Guilds this is something that will get there, I am wanting to eventually put down a list of all guilds, link them in for their sites or Facebook pages and/or twitter accounts.  Provide people with in game contacts based on the server you are on, including the recruitment restrictions and so on.

Short cuts to DirectX Diagnostic Tool, Trace Route application, things that might be handy when having issues with the game.  But these will also include some checks to make sure you have the right versions of DirectX and provide a link to install them

The idea behind all of this is a genuine helper.  Since we can’t hook into the game, make it so there is more than enough reason to have people want to use, avoid the need to search for these tips or information only to be bombarded with all manner of information of which much of it might be useless.  Or have people in general chat tell you see Dulfy’s site, unsure why, since as thorough as this information is, it is still not that helpful, why should I stack this over this, rotations, why, do I just step 1, 2, 3, 4 and repeat in the fight.  There might be other tips that can help, I will hopefully be able to find all I need to and link it in.

But I will be adding in a few more elements and I will provide updates on it too.  But this is a work in progress and it is something I am hoping people will use or find useful.  But the first element I want to include is that scheduling, since in my guild, we are often seeing people ask, do we have a raid, when are the ops.  So, stay tuned.

References

exca. (2012, 07 09). SWTOR Unleashed (game files in RAM to improve performance). Retrieved 05 05, 2014, from http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=529567

Delays for Galactic Strongholds, but Great.

swtor-logo-256x2561I have a SWTOR post, this one is information on a new release in SWTOR called Galactic Strongholds.  This was set for release in June, but through I am sure the increase in complexity, they have removed it from the 2.8 release which will still contain a host of fixes, include the Nightmare Mode Dread Palace.  So now in August 19 2014 will see the release of 2.9 Galactic Strongholds.  The official news article, Producer Letter – Galactic Strongholds

A Home away from Home

So, many MMOs have had housing, and now, SWTOR is no different.  Our ship was once considered the home we had it had mailbox, guild bank, cargo hold, GTN access and training dummies (if you unlocked the legacy items).  But, there seemed to be something cold about this.  We are all earth bound creatures so having terra-firma underfoot gives a sense of belonging.  So, housing, sorry, strongholds will hopefully give us that feel and like so many homes in MMOs we will be able to make it our own.

  • Access to the strongholds on Nar Shaddaa, Coruscant and Dromund Kaas
Planet - Nar Shaddaa Planet - Coruscant Planet - Dromund Kaas
  • Legacy Storage
    This is one of my personal favourites.  I like the crafting in SWTOR, but I have 9 level 55 characters catering to a wide range of crafting, gathering and mission skills.  You get your alts to gather, get rewards for missions then, put it into the Legacy Storage facility, and hopefully, any player of your legacy with a crafting ability can use those materials without using their own cargo hold.
  • Prestige
    Unsure what this is, but to have this displayed for all to see.  This will have links to the Cartel Market, maybe.  Unsure at this stage, could also be based on the decorations and the quality used within the stronghold.  Which could lead to ultra rare decorations being dropped by bosses from Operations, Hard Mode and Nightmare Mode.
  • Decorations
    I believe this will operate like reputation trophies, in your daily questing you will receive potential decorations, they will have some available on the Cartel Market and also within pack from the Cartel Markets.  Bosses will possibly drop the rarest and more prestigious of the lot.
  • Guild Flagships
    The republic guilds have available the Valor (or Valour) class cruiser.  The Empire gets the mainstay of the Imperial fleet, the Harrower class Dreadnaught.

These were the initial announcements, but due to the delay a few more things were revealed and I am sure this got a lot of people salivating at the prospect.

  • Conquest Events – These are PvE based events according to Eric Musco on the SWTOR forums, see below.  “Conquering a planet is done through completion of Conquest Events, which are PvE Missions.”  Sound interesting am wanting to know more about these.
  • Strongholds are legacy wide, not a single character thing.  Which gives more credibility to the whole Legacy advancement.  There are good things and I am also thinking that some unlocks in the stronghold will be dependant on legacy level as well.
  • Flagships, will enable buffs to their members while down on a planet they are orbiting.  Transport the entire groups of peoples to coordinates and also perform the Conquest events, massive guild PvE events which based on similar to I am sure the stronghold ones but provide benefits to the guild.
  • You will be able to quick travel to your stronghold at any time, just like quick travel now, and subscribers might have options to quick travel back to the previous location, great for emptying the inventory into the legacy storage.

So, much to look forward to, but looking at answers given my Eric Musco in the forums, see below, means we have some more information to give.

“We want Flagships to be something that Guilds strive to acquire”

So this means it is going to cost a lot of money, one of the first missions will be to secure a flagship, though a conquest event, that will require an 8 or 16 man operations of sorts (which would be good).

Having guilds conquering planets.  There will be Leader board which will list the guilds.  Based on the points earned in the conquest missions will place the guild onto this board, and therefore if you are at the top, you have conquered the planet and will receive special perks and rewards, possibly like the ranked PvP perks.  Things like titles, decorations for the stronghold to show off that you have conquered the planet.

So, what is this going to do.  It is expand the game greatly and I am sure many people playing are looking forward to it.  But, on a guild point this looks like a have and have not situation, I will explain.

Current we have a top set of guilds, they are the ones, on the public test servers (when available), trialling the new operation mechanics.  When the time comes, the operation is live, they can do it, almost beat it in one, and they can start farming for the best gear.

Dependant on the missions involved (if any) on getting the capital ship for the guild, or even if it is money, these top guilds will often have millions of credits at their disposal.  They get the ship, they can enter orbit and complete the conquest missions first, get the points, get the buffs, etc…  We have a situation here that for anyone else trying to get over this hill would require a mammoth task.  The top guilds only will have the ability to get there and stay there.  I know what you are saying, if they are the first, they are the best, they deserve to be there.

I do not argue any point in that.  I simply say that it is going to cause a disparity as it does now.  More details will have to come out about these and what effect they will have, good bad or indifferent.  In many ways we are going through this in the Australian economy, haves and have nots.  But at least you don’t need to be a homeless bum sleeping the streets of Dromund Kaas, waiting for some upstart sith to attempt to kill you for sport. 

References

Maclean, B. (2014, April 4). Producer Letter – Galactic Strongholds. Retrieved from Star Wars: The Old Republic: http://www.swtor.com/info/news/article/20140423

Musco, E. (2014, April 4). Forums – General Discussion – Producer Letter – Galactic Strongholds. Retrieved from Star Wars: The Old Republic: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=737151

Tolerance in the MMO

swtor-logo-256x256World of Warcraft set a very nasty trend in the world of MMOs, though it has been in gaming for sometime, elitism.  In gaming it is specifically the exclusion of those who the “elite” deem unworthy.  This is everywhere in society but for a game that promotes itself as being inclusive for everyone and being social it is incredibly unlike that in reality. 

Why am I bringing this up?  I experienced this to a certain degree last night, a couple of nights ago and I see it in general chat on both Imperial and Republic fleet in SWTOR.  The game released, everyone is on a level playing field and as the game progresses it shows the casual, dedicated and the down right obsessed players as the gap widens.  Free to play launches and a massive influx of new players waddle in, getting feet wet and the gap again widens, like that between rich and poor you start to see the quality of gear difference, money and so on each of these make this gap, and it is there, get wider.

Ejection

golden_fury

Daily questing on Makeb.  The call goes out to dish out some hurt on the Operation Boss (and unofficial world boss) Golden Fury, Toborro’s “golden” child.  This is an interesting fight, not very difficult but a few things to be mindful of, placement in the fight and so on.  But that is me going off on a tangent. 

The call was for DPS, I put my hand up after checking my gear, it was SM so I wasn’t greatly concerned since I had on average 156 gear (few pieces higher) so I was beyond the recommended gear.  One thing I have never done on any of my toons is stack endurance.

Endurance Stacking

MOST armour comes in 2 flavours, an endurance heavy version and a stat heavy version.  The idea is Tanks can use the endurance heavy version and the others can use the stat heavy, but they are there to mix and match to a personal taste.  My total health on my Mercenary, Bounty Hunter is about 32K, decent, my output for damage is very good, I can output anywhere from about 3K to 10K damage a second based on various circumstances (this is all that it states in MOX).  So.  I am well geared for SM, I have done it before on this guy and feel confident.  Because I don’t stack endurance and look at ways of boosting my power and critical chance and multiplier, to the untrained eye it might seem I am a little under-geared, especially in comparison to to those with 35K, 40K health.

OK, I was in the instance, ready to go and someone invited one too many DPS to the party.  No problem, then I get kicked from the group.  I asked why, they said gear.  OK, I looked at the others and out of the other DPS I had lower Endurance, since they weren’t in the instance they couldn’t inspect my actual gear so it was purely based on endurance.

I told them that and then the one who kicked and invited me is on my ignore list.  To not look at the whole picture and simply look at the amount of health does not mean I am lousy at DPS.  My Sentinel was testament to that simply because I was very picky about where I allocate my points in everything.

Request for Leaving

The next item I have seen for wasn’t as bad as before but it is certainly one of the lower forms of it.  I was running Eternity Vault, Hard Mode and I was working on the Puzzle that happens after you beat Gharj.  Normally I am not the one who is on the Pylon duties.  Reason I have heaps of DPS more often than note and am better to simply attack and not have my time clicking the puzzle.

So, the puzzle was running but suddenly there was a reset in the middle.  Reasons people were complaining about things going to slow.  OK.  Then it came out, those who do not know this, please leave.  An interesting statement considering firstly the Operation was Hard Mode most players were Level 55. 

So, I was told to get into the fray and begin turning the puzzle, that is fine, since I was playing my sniper I was able to still be useful.  But there was another sniper not doing anything in the group and certainly was level 52 so DPS output was far lower than mine. 

We then halted a second time due to the other team being slow but I felt the finger was being pointed at me.  We continued and we got through no wipes.  But the tone of comments, the accusations of not knowing what was going on smacked of this elitism becoming more prevalent.  We continued and strangely when we get up to Soa, the one complaining about not knowing the fight and people should leave, died on the second set of crumbling floors.  Strange no comments were made then.

General Chat

The final element of this elitism case I am putting forward is things seen in general chat.  Guilds posting ads there are not uncommon.  Often each guild I have seen is Causal, Laid Back, etc…, but this one was after highly geared players for all Ops, etc.. will only be allowed if they have gear over a certain level.

I have seen people looking for groups for ops, then requesting saying, please be geared.  Another was asking about wanting to do Dread Fortress, Hard Mode and wanted proof of completion of Story Mode achievement. 

These are now starting to tell me of this once World of Warcraft elitist ways are creeping in more and more, exclusions by way of “my” choices.

It reminds me very much of an old situation I once found myself in when I was first looking for work.  It become a matter that no one would give me a job as I didn’t have the experience, but, how can I ever get experience if no one gives me a job.  So, specifically asking for people who know the fights, who are properly geared places a massive burden on people, why.  How can I work out a fight if I have not run through it, if I go into a fight with other people who don’t know it.  When you have experienced people going into operations to determine the mechanics there are many wipes, as you determine the best time to swap tanks or to kite the tank.

E.G.

The first time someone goes into fight Soa.  We all went from the western side.  The tank taunts, takes the agro and the fight begins.  The Melee DPS jump into the fray and every else begins the bombardment.  Now, if you don’t know, when Soa’s health reaches a point, he shields himself, which makes him invulnerable to damage and he drops items from the roof which causes the floor to fall away. 

So, if you one of the ranged members of the party in the right location you would be safe and sound, watching your melee counterparts fall to their demise causing a wipe in any doubt.  So, you try again, you manage to escape but now you might wait, only to find the platform you are on also falls away and you have to begin descending down the long way, jumping, healing and so on. 

Then the next platforms and the fight goes.  If you are learning the mechanics you may wipe many times in each fight, costing you lots of money in repairs costs.  So, to then force people to learn the fights with unexperienced people makes it even more difficult, you have one person who knows the fights, you can send through 7 people inexperienced with minimum gear and you will get through with minimum wipes. 

Is there a reason for being elitist, no.  So you were the first ones to complete nightmare mode Eternity vault with no wipes in under 2 hours, were you?  How do you know?  If so, who cares, it seems you could be one of a very small minority who do.  Help teach those who don’t know to reduce those who don’t know.  The more people you can include the more fun you could possibly have.

SWTOR and the Road Ahead…

swtor-logo-256x256

BioWare released an article that describes, not in great detail but essentially what is happening for releases up to the mid year point. 

Producer’s Road Map 2014, and they are setting the stage for what I believe is the 3.0 expansion pack which is possibly coming at the end of the year.

We knew 2.6 was coming, as this was the official release of Galactic Starfighter (GSF) which has at this point garnered wide praise, so with more ships and battle zones coming this looks set to go from strength to strength and certainly sets this MMO apart from many others in terms of variation in gameplay.  The one area I am looking forward to is new “Tactical” flashpoint which is coming in 2.6.  Suffice to say it is scalable, and they performed that test on scaling content very well with the Rakghoul plague on Alderaan in January.

2.6 is coming 4th Feb I believe which is the day of this post, so, there will be another influx of players as people who only play the game for GSF jump on board and since you can play it from level 1.  It means that there will be people who just play that. 

Is there a benefit to playing the game proper if I only want to play Galactic Starfighter?

Yes.  But it isn’t needed.  What the ground game will give you is access to more companions.  The GSF game comes with its own set but there are also advantages of having use of the ground game companions.  But if you are happy with the companions you have then enjoy the game.

DOUBLE XP

These are always great, but they get very busy as perhaps new Alts are created to take advantage of this double XP.  Be wary of those who are free to play, queue times might be lengthened as the number of people who log on go up substantially.  And as preferred access got into Galactic Starfighter I did notice that on the weekends the number of players has grown substantially and across all planets there is a massive surge in population in the game. 

But the double XP also helps out players legacy too.  So, even if you have reach level 55 working on dailies or flashpoints will help the legacy experience along as well.  I only have Alts to level during this period.

Double XP is slotted for the weekend March 14 – March 17

New Flashpoints

These new flashpoints are going to be the direction the game is going to take for future flashpoints, operations and the expansion at the end of the year.  Two different (though I think they won’t be that different) flashpoints on Korriban (for the republic I am guessing) and Tython (for the Empire) where they are going to attack each other directly.

It is unsure if these are going to be a scaled flashpoint of a level 55 one, since they are looking at the Empire and Republic attacking each other the ground story of the game looks like it should be played through to understand most of the background.

They did this with the story thread about the Dread Masters, with the Empire and Republic coming across these ancient Lords of the Sith on Belsavis.  Which also shows through the Dailies in Section-X and Oricon, also the Operations that have been released, The Eternity Vault (which is on Belsavis).  We see the influence the Rakata had on the galaxy and we also see why not only the reason for the prison on Belsavis but also the reasons for them keeping these worst beings in there.

Karraga’s palace I feel lent the Rise of the Hutt Cartel Expansion and the Battle of Makeb and we see that god awful bell end hat that though a worthy prize from the operation, though it isn’t the only one, it looks as silly sitting atop Karraga as it does any player who wear it.

We see the seeds of the Dread Masters in Explosive Conflict as we find details of why the Trandoshian armies have been sought for this conflict and we come up against some of the toughest enemies to date with the Warlord Kephis unleashing not his plan but the one ordered by him.  Though I do like Denova, it is a very nice looking place.

Terror from Beyond where we see more influence of the Dread Master’s plans as we head to one of the worlds controlled by the Gree and see the wonderful technology and the terrible horrors that await as you fight in one of the most interesting boss fights every, and a friend returns more powerful than before.

In Scum and Villainy we are told there is a massive arms sale going down on Darvanis and as you battle through the hordes of scum and villainy you understand the purposes of this as you get our first taste of the power of just ONE of the dreaded Sith Lords, Dread Master Styrak.

Oricon-Flyby

And now the location of the remaining masters have been found and all players Imperial and Republic alike descend into the despair that is Oricon. We battle through the inhabitants or corrupted soldiers from either side, and beasts of one ilk or another to reach the Dread Fortress and Dread Palace to hopefully throw down this menace in the galaxy.

With that aside you can see the depth the story has gone into to just for the Dread Masters I hope they put they same level of story telling into the new series of operations and flashpoints that will be coming soon.

In June they are proposing release 2.8 coming.  There is this one line in there.

And much more… this is going to be the biggest update up to this point – we will reveal more once we are a bit closer to June

Doesn’t mean much in the scheme of things but it is also they are mentioning 2 digital expansions one being one like Galactic Starfighter in scope which is to my understanding will be in release 2.8 or 2.9.  Then what it sounds like a new planet, level cap rise and more in one similar to Rise of the Hutt Cartel.  So release 3.0 will be either in September or October, OR from a gut feeling, will be with the 3rd Anniversary of the game in December.  But my gut is only ever right when it comes to food.

So, much is happening in 2014 for the game and I think we might know more about release 3.0 at E3 this year, since SWTOR was fairly absent from the event though they did have their community cantina on around the time of the event and in LA as well.

Changes in the release schedule this year which has been noticeable but if it is true they are planning on increasing this to help in removing some of the more pesky but I might say plaguing issues in the system it can only be a good thing, if that is what they do.  So I hope they stick to their plans and that we have a great SWTOR year.

No Servers displayed in SWTOR

swtor-logo-256x256

The real reason for this is unknown to me, but I was reading a post on the forum regarding the improvement in performance by simply setting the Compatibility checkbox on the executable properties to be that of Windows XP SP3.  Their reasoning behind doing this was changes to the way VRAM and texture allocation in memory and so on.  All of this was garbage but out of testing this, since I am always one to try and find ways of pushing the limits of the game to get better performance I found one unintended consequence.

While testing this out, I set the Launcher and the EXE compatibility options to be Windows XP with SP3, see below for where to set this, it can be set on the Shortcut that you launch the game from or the EXE for the launcher but for the SWTOR.EXE it needs to be on the EXE since the launcher isn’t starting the game from the imageshortcut.

The compatibility tab in Windows 7 and Windows 8 are a little different, the additional options in Windows 7 that are there relate to the use of Aero interface elements which aren’t in Windows 8.

But when testing it I set both of them to Windows XP (Service Pack 3) and everything was OK (and no improvement in performance) so, when finished my testing I also switched them back but I switched the launcher and not the EXE.

OK, now what this did and I have seen it before but as a consequence of something else.  Was when I logged in the launcher took a little longer to verify what is happening.  Play enabled I then continued. 

The process then took longer than normal and then instead of the last character I logged in with showing up I was looking at the server list screen but it was empty.

As mentioned I have seen this before, I used a latency reduction service called BattlePing.  It doesn’t as much lower my ping but provides me with a stable and fairly unfaltering connection to the servers.  Though there are some issues that are outside of my control, but I won’t go into that at this time.  That said, sometimes the connection can be a cause of problem, I change from Connection 1 to Connection 2 (I think it is the NIC at the proxy end personally) and it worked, then.

I tried this to no effect.  But then I remembered that I had just changed back the compatibility setting on the launcher but not the EXE.  I turned off compatibility mode for the EXE, started it and the application went through its normal start-up routine and did so at the normal speed.  It logged me in an showed me the list of characters and my last logged in character available for play.

servers

Now why did the application have problems simply because of the launcher having a different compatibility mode to the executable.  Well one area would be regarding the way the networking stack is set up and how an application will use it.  The launcher performs the log in, then when it fires the EXE off, there is something that is passed into the EXE to indicate that this user is logged in and should proceed, but I also launch the launcher with elevated permissions using UAC, Windows XP has no concept of UAC, but Windows 8 still requires it.

image

Above is a process of this.  This is only a guess as to one reason.  But another reason is the fact that application compatibility uses a set of Shims, which is a set of shunting APIs.  Due to the changes in the network stack between Windows XP and Windows 8, when it has been created under Windows 8, then when the EXE runs under compatibility mode, there call to the API is then redirected by the Shim to access network protocol APIs that return not the information require.  If the structure of the return data has changed then this will cause problems.  But there are also restrictions accessing code that runs in Kernel mode (like device drivers), so DirectX does this and therefore the differences between the Windows 8 and Windows 8 + Shim + Windows XP (Service Pack 3) is not compatible

Networking: TCP/IP Stack and the Windows Filtering Platform. The networking stack was completely rewritten for Windows Vista. Instead of the dual-stack model that exists in Windows XP (to support IPv4 and IPv6), the networking stack in Windows Vista implements a new architecture in which there is a single transport and framing layer that supports multiple IP layers. The new stack is modular, flexible, and extensible. While all attempts have been made to maintain application compatibility with the existing applications that interface with the stack at various layers, there are nevertheless changes (that are mostly side effects of the improvements) that might cause potential application-compatibility issues.1

Application compatibility is a last result to get applications to work on new operating systems.  By nature they were created due to the changes and optimisations made in newer operating systems.  They can resolve a lot of issues by redirecting or injecting code to enable the application to receive data from the OS or talk to the OS like it is the OS intended to run on. 

NOTE:

Remember the launcher and the client EXE need to run at the same level of application compatibility to work properly.  If it is in Windows XP mode or Windows 8 or Windows 7 mode.

1.  http://technet.microsoft.com/library/ee449431.aspx – Understanding Application Compatibility, TechNet, Microsoft

The “Lag”acy of Star Wars The Old Republic

This is a difficult one to ever solve.  If you have not known I visit the forums a bit help people with issues where I can help.  Provide information to people who perhaps are lacking.  But Lag, I can provide some information and I have here in previous posts.

I hear stories about other online games, etc… but MMOs are a different beast and the internet is a terrible one at that.  In the previous post I have mentioned ping powering services like BattlePing (which I use) but if your ping is already good then these can’t help lower it, but they do, I find, is stabilise the connection and prevent those massive lag spikes.

Even players in the US could benefit from using these services but this is not what this post is about.  This one is how to get information to help the Developers and Engineers at BioWare to find the issue.  You can use an application called Ping Plotter, but even tracert works to a point.

 

image

There are options to save the text to save the image.  Which is handy for a snap shot.  In the above you can see that there is a server that has 100% packet loss.  Interesting though it is still able to get to the server at the other end.   

But a snapshot though good can not tell the true extent of the problem.  So I will tell you how to capture a log of it.  Then when you play your game, start up ping plotter point it at one of the servers, which I will provide information on, and wait for your connection to fail.  Then post it into the forums or create a ticket with the information.


NOTE
Something to know is.  The support officers on the forums and in the game have a lot of people to tend to, respond to.  There are reasons for canned responses and providing no feedback once submitted.  This is often standard affair.  Don’t rant or get upset that you posted information about it and no one got back to you OR all you got was a canned response.

Understanding will help everyone get along better and also make sure they are less likely to ignore you.  Also posting information saying I get lag spikes, fix it.  I have had massive lag spikes then disconnection since this patch fix it.  Post information members of the community might help and you never know the outcome.


Now I have had my piece.  Logging.  Install Ping Plotter.

Once installed launch it.  Once you launch it, you will be presented with the following screen.

image

Click Edit | Options, this opens the Options dialog.  Then Click the Auto-Save item.

image

Check Auto-save.  Keep the standard options unless you want to record the data.  Click OK.  In the sampling area under the IP lists (servers) there is the # of times to trace and the interval.  Set these to 1 second of the interval and unlimited as the number. 

Enter one of the IP address below;

  • If you play on an East Coast server: 159.153.92.28
  • If you play on a West Coast server: 159.153.68.252
  • If you play on a European server: 159.153.72.252

Then Click Trace.  You will see the graph update the server names etc… are populated.  Then start Star Wars The Old Republic.  This will impact the network side of it and you might see some additional lag, but the packets it is sending a minor in comparison to that the game sends.  Since the purpose of it is to see when it disconnects and where.

It creates a file with the IP address for my test it is the west coast server, the date (YYYY-MM-DD) format and the hour  it started (1100) for me.  It is a PP2 file which will show anyone who loads it, including yourself the pings over the course. 

You could upload this to you favourite file hosting site, link it to the forum post.  That is a good way since there is a lot of data that is contained in the PP2 file and if you open it in Notepad you will find you can’t read it.

Or you can click File | Export to Text File

image

Click All Samples and 1 Column per hop.  Click Export.  Create the file and the data is saved as a text file.  Which can then be pasted into the forums, using the Spoiler tag to hide it.  Since if you were recording it for the 30 minutes and recording it for 1 second intervals that is 1800 lines of the test file that is the data. 

I recommend refining the data in the forum to be that of the samples where the issue happened.  Then saving the PP2 file to SkyDrive or drop box and link that in.  Then people can see where the issue is.

Once people are equipped with this data, we can determine if it is something you can do (contact your ISP and yell abuse).  At the Data Centre enter (BioWare can hurl abuse at them) or somewhere in the middle that no one can really do anything about.

The one thing you can certainly drawn from this is, the number of places it routes through on the internet.   Most of which are out of our control and for the most part work fine.  But there is any number of reasons why things get all messed up. 

“28/11/2013 11:27:49 AM”,0,0,1,4,101,84,185,200,195,341,327,*,285,285,271,323,306
“28/11/2013 11:27:50 AM”,0,0,0,124,117,120,113,125,91,169,161,*,163,164,164,209,203
“28/11/2013 11:27:51 AM”,0,0,0,4,6,23,23,23,26,164,161,*,193,178,168,221,203
“28/11/2013 11:27:52 AM”,0,0,0,3,6,28,65,86,94,291,304,*,332,320,406,427,207

A World We Never See

I want to dedicate this post to the developers of games.  They will get so much flak from us the public and some of us believe that we have a right, some believe a constitutional right, despite in Australia our constitution is how our government is run and has nothing to do with the people and their rights.  But there are times we don’t get to see everything, where we perhaps fly past it at a great rate of knots eyes on our objective than gawking around to see what is there.  After all it is about the mission isn’t it.

The other day I managed to get onto the Rocket Tram tracks and started running along them.  Despite that my journey to Axial Park on Corellia took a lot longer than it would have on the Rocket Tram, I managed to see this, which flies past when you are on the Rocket Tram.

swtor 2013-10-27 12-34-56-81

Everything is in there, like it would have been had the players been able to go down into that area and fight mobs complete missions.  It isn’t spectacular but considering they never meant for people to do anything other than zoom past on the tram they have put in a fair bit of detail when they didn’t need to.  So, to all of the developers out there who build their games and add detail in there that they don’t need to.  This is a big thumbs up for you.