Friday, 11 May 2012

Gauntlet = Thrown

So my blog has stayed quiet the past couple days, and for a specific reason. I wanted to share what's been happening with me and explain why I won't be able to continue updating this blog.

Last week, I applied for a position as an editorial contributor with Darth Hater.

I am happy to report that I am now a staff writer for them, and have been working the past couple days on some writing for them. Since writing in the gaming industry is what I ultimately want to do, this is an exciting step forward for me, and I can't wait to see where this opportunity takes me.

The downside is that while working at Darth Hater I am not able to maintain a competing website. As a result, I will not be updating Thrown Gauntlet for the duration of my position with Darth Hater.

I will continue to be active in the SW:TOR community, though. I'll continue to weigh in on the posts, guides and videos of others, and help out where I can. If you want to see more of my writing, you'll just have to see it on Darth Hater. I will still be very active on Twitter and in the comment fields of your blogs.

I want to thank everyone who ever commented on this blog or featured it, started a discussion on Twitter with me, RTd one of my posts, or helped to improve the SW:TOR blogging community. You guys and gals are a big  part of the reason that the community of this game we love will remain populated and healthy for a long time to come.

Peace is a lie, there is only Tanking.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Augment slot creation confirmed for Patch 1.3

"I should probably get Vette an ergonomic chair or something..."

The first episode of the Official SWTOR Podcast has been released, and in it we have a fairly important confirmation! Besides the group finder and expansion of the legacy system (which we knew already), we have confirmation that you will be able to add an augment slot to any piece of custom armor in Patch 1.3.

This is exciting news for people like myself that have whole cargo bay pages devoted to old orange gear! What we know for sure is that you will need to use a modification table in order to add the augment slot to the piece of gear. I would be very surprised if there was not also a substantial cost in credits or maybe some materials required, or else this will really hurt armormech/synthweaver business.

In addition, since the armor levels of social gear will be scaling with the wearer's armor proficiency, the options you have for customizing your look are even more varied. If you haven't already checked it out, you should take a look at my Darth Revan Appearance Guide so that you can look like the legend himself when the patch drops!

Another thing to consider is that the cost of augments will likely go up substantially in price as soon as Patch 1.3 lands. If you can get them cheaply, you may want to stock up now. I recommend keeping a close eye on this and speaking to any guild crafters about what they normally pay for augments or materials.

With this news, I'll likely post some of what I consider to be the more attractive appearance options for Sith Warriors in a future post, so you can get stocked up in advance and be ready for when the patch drops.

My feelings on "The lost 400,000"

Since EA's Q4 2012 Earnings Conference Call earlier today, the SW:TOR community has basically been in a state of constant discussion. Battle lines were drawn on Twitter, with those already leaving the game pointing to this as a sign of the game's imminent demise while some on the other side basically said "We won't miss you and don't care how many people leave with you".

I'd like to point out a few things about SW:TOR's current situation that I think are worth considering in this discussion:

A matter of numbers

The problem with the numbers we're given here though is that as far as we know, the 1.3 million active subscribers includes those who are on a free month because of the April promotion. How many of those are planning on re-subscribing is not something anyone can know at this point in time, but it will be interesting to see come the end of May.

Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that the numbers we've been given are not very useful for judging the health of the game. Having got that all out of the way, with the information we've been given...

Not the end of the world

The game still has 1.3 million subscribers. Just think about that number for a moment. Yes, it is less than "that other game". It is also more than every other MMO besides that other game. This game, by average industry standards, is a runaway success.

This makes the game profitable and means that it will continue to be supported by Bioware. If you like SW:TOR and are going to be continuing to play it, this news doesn't mean much besides whatever impact this has had on server population. In any case, the impact to server population had already happened when the population numbers were announced, so it's bascally moot.

The coming storm

As you may or may not know, patch 1.3 is slated to be mostly a "game systems"-type patch. We'll get a dungeon finder, and possibly other quality of life features. We'll get an expansion of the legacy system. There won't be any new content in terms of PvP or PvE, though.

I personally wonder if this isn't a huge gamble. The dungeon (or flashpoint) finder is definitely a highly-requested feature, but is it enough to pull people back into the game and/or retain existing subscribers? Will being able to find groups easily suddenly make people want to run mostly-outdated content (Lost Island and Kaon excepted)? Again, I will be interested to see it.

In any case

I personally love this game, and will be sticking with it for a long while. Even if the game were to lose another 400,000 subscribers, Bioware would still be deriving a profit from it, and we'd still see updates. Still, it does worry me a bit that subscribers have dropped off as much as they have. What do you think?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

PvP Tank Basics: Using your AoE Taunt Effectively

PvP Tank Basics is a series of articles in which I'll examine the baseline PvP tank abilities and discuss strategies for maximizing their effectiveness. I will keep these articles up to date, so that they can be referenced at any time by new PvP tanks. Today, we're looking at your AoE taunt.

Your AoE taunt is a highly effective tool for turning the tide in a heavy pressure situation. The word "game-changer" literally applies here. Here's the ability for Juggernauts:

Threatening Scream
Taunts all enemies within 15 meters, forcing them to attack the Warrior for 6 seconds. Player targets deal 30% less damage when attacking anyone other than you. Lasts 6 seconds.

This ability is named Challenging Call for Jedi Guardians. For Sith Assassins and Jedi Shadows, it is called Mass Mind Control. For Powertechs it is named Sonic Missile, and for Vanguards it is called Sonic Round. All these abilities function identically, except that Sonic Missile and Sonic Round are targeted on an enemy instead of being centered on you. You do not need to be in your "Defensive Stance" to use your AoE taunt ability (see the section below called "What if I'm not a tank?").

The ability is useless if used on someone who is attacking you. It has a fairly long cooldown compared to your other damage-reducing abilties, so it's important to use it appropriately.

AoE Taunt Usage

My personal guidelines for using an AoE taunt are as follows:

1. Is heavy pressure being applied to a healer or ball carrier? If so, get into a position to hit as many of the attackers as possible with your AoE taunt. You can easily save a healer's life with this ability while racking up a lot of protection.

2. Does stalling here make sense? If one of your allies is being attacked in a position which is advantageous for your team, you can use your AoE taunt to stall them, keeping them in this position longer. A good example is in Voidstar - you want to keep enemies away from the doors. If multiple enemies pile on one of your teammates in a bad position, it usually makes sense to use your AoE taunt.

3. Are more enemies about to join the fight? For example, maybe you're defending a turret on Alderaan Civil War. You and a healer are fighting two enemies, but you see another enemy inbound as well. As long as your healer is okay, it makes sense to wait until the third enemy joins the fight to use your AoE taunt, to cut down on potential burst.

4. Are enemies likely to be attacking me right now? For example, if you have the huttball and are carrying it across the middle, you likely are being attacked by almost everyone on the other team, so your AoE taunt could just be wasted.

The Psychology of your AoE Taunt

Your AoE taunt only lasts 6 seconds, and few opponents will be perceptive enough to see that they've been taunted and switch to you. It does happen sometimes, so have those defensive cooldowns ready.

Using your AoE taunt at the right time can literally save your team. The damage reduction can give your healers time to catch up or at least stall long enough for your DPS to win the day. If enemies notice you taunting repeatedly, you could find yourself the target of focus fire. Don't be afraid to break line of sight to enemies trying to focus you - it buys your healers even more time.

What if I'm not a tank?

Not primarily a tank, but your advanced class has access to an AoE taunt ability? No problem. I'd recommend you still use it.

If you are DPSing in PvP, you often find yourself in the thick of combat. Feel free to throw out your AoE taunt during a big pile-up: you'll be helping your team and getting free medals, assuming you aren't being attacked by everyone on the other team. I would argue that if you play an advanced class that has access to an AoE taunt, even if focused on damage, you should be using it. It is a unique and highly-effective part of your toolbox which often becomes forgotten. It is part of what separates a good DPS-specced Juggernaut/Powertech/Assassin from a great one.

What now?

Check out my PvP Tank Video Guide on using your AoE Taunt:

Saturday, 5 May 2012

An idea for SW:TOR's next May the 4th

I was a little disappointed that Bioware's celebration of Star Wars day basically consisted of a Fan Friday and a sale on the game. As someone who has owned the game from the moment it became available for purchase, buying a copy obviously doesn't interest me. The Fan Friday was cool I suppose (and grats to Dulfy for the community feature) but they've done it before, so it isn't something all that special.

I got to thinking: how do you celebrate something like Star Wars day in-game, anyways? I had a small discussion on Twitter with Psynister and B.J. Keeton about what would be a cool thing to do for it. Ultimately, I propose the following idea. Please bear in mind I have absolutely no background in game development, so this is just my own opinion of what I think would be cool.


An NPC on the fleet alerts you to a matter requiring your attention. A particularly-strong Dark Side nexus has been discovered on some backwater planet called Dagobah.

  • If you're Empire, you probably have an interest in acquiring greater power and it makes sense to check this out.
  • If you're Republic, perhaps the NPC suggests that you try to eliminate the corruption, or if you're a smuggler maybe indicate there might be valuables present.

You go to Dagobah on your ship. It need not be an entire planet. In fact, make it an instanced story area, in my opinion. This is something you should have to do alone. Make sure to have the eerie music, taken directly from Empire Strikes Back.

Then, you go into the cave...

"Only what you take with you."
This is where my idea gets a bit fuzzy. I propose:

  • If you aren't level 50, you face a force apparition of a prominent character from your storyline. Won't name names here since this would be spoilers for basically any class, but every class story I've played has a nemesis of some sort at any given point in the storyline. If there isn't a good one at a particular point in a character's storyline you can substitute a major faction leader like Satele or Malgus or something, or use the level 50 option below. The fight will scale to your level.
  • If you are level 50, you face a copy of yourself which is the opposite of your alignment. So if you're Dark side, you fight a Light-sided you. If you're Light side or Gray, you fight a Dark-sided you.
  • Before the fight begins, maybe you get some dialogue options to help you understand what is happening.

After the battle, you get a Force Ghost vanity pet! Perhaps, to make it unique, give it a limited duration and/or cooldown. 

I'd recommend making it a quest you can only do once, but let people have a couple days (starting on May the 4th) to complete it.

Why this?

I think this is one of the iconic moments from the series. It is a moment of introspection, mystery and darkness. It is a good example of why the mysteries of the Force are often seen as alien to normal people. 

In addition, since May the 4th plays off the word "Force", a force-focused event seems natural.

So what do you think? Would this be a cool in-game event? Do you have anything to add? Please leave me your comments below!

Friday, 4 May 2012

What has SW:TOR done for Star Wars?

I figured there was no better time than May the 4th to write this article. It's something that's been occupying my mind in some way or another since the game was first announced, but until now I haven't really felt comfortable writing it. My question was: What will this game do for Star Wars? How will it expand upon and lay the groundwork for that which has already been written, filmed, and produced? What will its legacy within the Star Wars IP be?

The game having been out for a while now, and having experienced multiple class stories, I feel finally comfortable attempting to address this question.

A galaxy at war: The Setting

A duel on the shattered doorstep of the Jedi Temple. Yeah, that's not dark.

The most obvious contribution is that the writers at Bioware have written an entire time period for the Star Wars universe, complete with their own characters and events. The imagery and themes are, in many ways, unique. Yes, the galaxy is at war, but this isn't your standard galactic warfare plot. The setting itself is incredibly dark when compared to many other time periods in the Star Wars universe. Some examples (none of these should be spoilers, really):

  • The Jedi Temple on Coruscant is utterly destroyed, and the Jedi withdraw to Tython. 
  • Coruscant is occupied and then bartered back to the Republic. 
  • Alderaan, Corellia and Balmorra all become warzones. 
  • The Mandalorians more or less side with the Sith Empire.
  • As a result of the Sith Empire, slavery becomes a common, accepted practice in a large part of the galaxy.
  • An ancient Rakata Warlord awakens.

I could go on, but I think that's sufficient. I could point to many things that are definitely spoilers to enhance this point, but I won't. You should experience all the class stories for yourself.

In essence: things are bad for the Republic, and their survival isn't the only thing at stake. In fighting this war, they could lose the essence of what the Republic really is. This theme is very common on the Republic side of things, but I feel it is done very well here.

You also get a real sense of vulnerability from the Jedi Order in this period. In Knights of the Old Republic 2, the Order is almost completely decimated. We're talking about what is almost a "starting from scratch" scenario. By the time SW:TOR starts, the Order has bounced back somewhat, and they are looking to rediscover their past - but they are immediately thrust into a destructive conflict as some of the first casualties.

The setting as a whole fills a large gap in the timeline, but also manages to be unique and compelling. In a sense, it's a wonderful sweet spot for Bioware: they are still close enough to the Great Hyperspace War for those events and the Ancient Sith to be relevant and compelling (hence the historical analysis of Master Gnost-Dural's journals), but they still draw on their Knights of the Old Republic storylines and expand on what, exactly, the Republic has been through in the thousands of years before we finally get to the movies.

One last quick mention that goes along with the setting is the music. A massive amount of original music was composed for the game, and all of it is fantastic. It is recognizable as Star Wars, but maintains a uniquely dark feeling. You can find the game's music on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic Youtube account. 

Agents of change: The Characters

The characters that have been written for the setting are, in standard Bioware fashion, thought-provoking and convincing.

Darth Malgus is perhaps one of my favourite Star Wars characters of all time. I'm talking Top 10 material. Hate me if you must. Simply put, he is in my opinion one of the most interesting Sith characters ever written in the Star Wars universe.

His anti-racism stance and rejection of Sith Imperial decadence is a refreshing change. His theory that the Force is conflict, and that the existence of a Light and Dark side are evidence of this are extremely insightful and lead to a very unique philosophy.

In a strange way, you see how one could admire Malgus's viewpoint. He demands that passion be allowed to run its course, regardless of race. He demands that inhibitions be stymied, and that conquest be allowed to continue - because the survivors of the conflict become more powerful, and move closer to a perfect understanding of The Force.

I don't want to spoil too much here, because if you didn't read Deceived by Paul S. Kemp, you really should. Here are his words on Malgus:

"He's definitely not a hero, and he's not an anti-hero. My goal was to create a character that readers can respect but still abhor. I very much enjoy writing characters who live in a moral twilight."
―Paul S. Kemp, on developing Malgus for The Old Republic: Deceived

Besides main story arc characters like Malgus, though, are another important contribution: companions.

"Have I ever told you that you meet the most wonderful people?"
I think that the writing for the companions in the game is simply inspired. Most of these companions are interesting enough to be the focus of their own stories! I, for one, would totally read a story about Gault. I'm interested to see if these companions end up popping up in related fiction, and what is in store for them in the future.

The stories seldom told

I think that one of the great legacies of this game will be that it told stories that had been neglected, to varying degrees, throughout the Star Wars Universe. More specifically, while some of these stories had been told in other media, most of them were under-represented in video games.

An example is the Smuggler class. The Han Solo Adventures books by Brian Daley were some of my favourites as a youngling. However, in video games, there really was no equivalent that felt like you were in charge of your destiny as a smuggler. 

Yes, there were games where you played as a Smuggler. One of my favourite expanded universe projects, Shadows of the Empire, had an N64 game where you played as Dash Rendar, a smuggler. The story's focus really wasn't on Rendar though, but rather the Empire and Xizor's hunt for Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance's acquisition of the second Death Star plans. Even though you were playing a character who happened to be a smuggler, you didn't get the feeling that your status as a Smuggler mattered in the story at all.

The Imperial Agent is perhaps even a better example, with almost nothing having been produced about intelligence operatives in the Star Wars universe. I guess you can count the Dark Forces games, but even then, we know how that storyline turns out.

The Bounty Hunter and Trooper have had video games with them as the focus, but they are almost singular examples and, in my opinion, are not very exceptional games.

Igniting the blade of Fandom

Finally, one thing that I think that SW:TOR did that may not have been highlighted: it brought people back to the Star Wars Universe. 

Whether we're talking about long-time fans who had never considered an MMO before, estranged Star Wars: Galaxies communities re-uniting in the next iteration of the Universe, or even MMO fans who had never enjoyed Star Wars, one thing is clear - Star Wars is back on the map, and it's here to stay.

Feel free to share what you think SW:TOR has done for Star Wars in the comments! May The Force be with you!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Community Spotlight: Galactic Public Radio

Available in the Sith Empire as "Radio Free Korriban".

Welcome to another installment of a recurring feature on Thrown Gauntlet, the Community Spotlight. Each week I'll be looking at a site that supports the Star Wars: The Old Republic community, be it a blog, podcast, information database, or otherwise. My hope is to point people to other websites they may also enjoy and to bring the SW:TOR fan community closer together. 

Galactic Public Radio is currently my podcast hub of choice (though I do obviously listen to others as well), and you owe it to yourself to check it out. They have a number of programs which I listen to regularly. I'd like to go into detail a bit on each of them, and why you'd be interested in listening to them.

Consider yourself educated.

All Classes Considered is a fun and informative show hosted by the fantastic Porter Williams. Each week he focuses on a new Advanced Class, going over all the skill trees while highlighting the class's key ideas and concepts.

Even if the ACC Episode this week is about the class you play, I recommend you tune in. There is a strong chance you will still learn something. And, if it's a class you don't play, you're guaranteed to get a good idea of how another class plays. It could help you decide to play that class, or it may just give you insight in to how best to counter that class in PvP.

I was given the opportunity to help with the Juggernaut episode which came out last week, and it was a lot of fun. 

Porter himself does a fair amount of prep before the show, too. The resulting discussion is engaging enough to come back to week after week.

Porter is also looking for class experts (most recently a Shadow, Sentinel, Guardian or Sage expert), so if you think you're cut out for this, please lend him your voice and your talent!

All the news that's fit to... holobroadcast, I guess.

Talk of the Galaxy is GPR's weekly news podcast, bringing you up to speed on the happenings in the galaxy over the previous seven days. The program has the news of the week, but it also has a weekly discussion topic. Even if I don't always agree with 100% of the opinions expressed, it always gets me thinking - and that's the point. It's an enjoyable listen.

One thing I really like about the program is their "Around the Community" feature, which features blogs and fansites from the SW:TOR community. I've found a lot of new and interesting blogs and podcasts this way. Obviously, since this article is a Community Spotlight, I believe very much in highlighting the work of others. I hope they continue to include this and maybe even spend more time on it in the future!

It probably won't, but don't let that stop you from trying.

Wait...wait... The Force will tell me is formatted like a game show, and is a lot of fun to listen to. The show normally has a guest from somewhere in the SW:TOR community (this week it was Stephen Reid, Senior Community Manager, and is definitely worth a listen. Stephen Reid never disappoints, except apparently when being quizzed about Punch-Out!). Questions are answered and fun is poked at the loser.

This is a great podcast to listen to to unwind. The guys are all really funny and the questions are well thought out. It's more of a casual, fun listen.

Other shows:

There are other shows on GPR which seem to have fallen inactive for the moment. Having said that, you can actually submit a segment to GPR. If you have a great idea, go to their website and submit it!

To Conclude:

So there you have it: Galactic Public Radio! You can listen to these podcasts on their website, or you can subscribe via iTunes or RSS. If you like the show you've listened to, I recommend voting for it on iTunes. This data is important for the success of their show!

Have a website you think I should look at, or that you think should be in the spotlight? Let me know at, or contact me on my Twitter account, @ThrownGauntlet. I'm always looking for new blogs, resources and fansites to review!