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Hyperspace Beacon

Hyperspace Beacon: First impressions of SWTOR's Galactic Strongholds expansion

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Roleplaying, First Impressions, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: First Impressions of SWTOR's Galactic Strongholds expansion
It's been an exciting weekend: I've spent many hours just absorbing the contents of the new expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Of course, the largest part of Update 2.9 is Galactic Strongholds. I'll come right out to say that the SWTOR livestreams do not do it justice. I'm finally glad that I could get my hands on it to see exactly what the hook system feels like, where I can find all the furniture, and mostly importantly, how much it is going to cost.

Beyond the strongholds themselves, BioWare also introduced a new planet and flashpoint this weekend. I took some time to also visit Manaan, and I know I'm going to sound like a fanboy when I say that it blew me away. I was absolutely not expecting something that gorgeous for a simple flashpoint.

We have a lot to talk about, and if you've spent some time on the SWTOR PTS, I'd like to read your opinions in the comments. But first here are a few of my thoughts.

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Hyperspace Beacon: 250 reasons you don't want to miss SWTOR Galactic Strongholds

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hyperspace Beacon, Housing, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: 250 reasons you don't want to miss SWTOR Galactic Strongholds
When I first hopped into MMOs way back when Ultima Online hit the scene, I believed that the best thing about the game wasn't the gamey side. I wasn't interested in the monsters that I could kill nor the mechanics of taking down a daemon or a lich lord. I was most interested in living in the world of Ultima with Lord British and the town of Trinsic then. Although my tastes have changed in the 14 years since, I still feel the longing to live in the world created online.

The next expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic gives me nostalgic feelings of when I first stepped into Ultima. True, owning a house in UO was more complicated than what Galactic Strongholds gives us, but there is a great level of complexity all the same.

In the livestream last week, the developers gave us a tour of the Nar Shaddaa stronghold and layout many of the decorating tools. The "hooks" on the floors, walls, and ceilings can be configured into many different configurations of large, medium (column-like), and small areas, with a couple of large exceptions, like centerpiece and starship hooks. Developers Troy McCall, Jack Wood, and Eric Musco dropped many items on the floors, walls, and ceilings of the stronghold, showing over 250 items in the various menus. Even if you watched the livestream as it was happening, you couldn't have caught all 250+ items. Let's look at some of the most interesting.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Fixing SWTOR's community representation problem

Sci-Fi, Classes, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, Subscription, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Fixing SWTOR's community representation problem
You might be aware that I was once a community representative for Star Wars Galaxies. The player governing body was called the Senate. I don't remember who started it, but I do remember the formal revamp during the time Kelly "Valara" Knox served as Community Manager. It was during that period that I represented the roleplay community in the SWG Senate.

Because of my time serving as an MMO community representative and my vested interest in the Star Wars: The Old Republic community, I can say that the representative system employed by BioWare is ineffective. But I don't solely blame the BioWare community team for its shortcomings. Indulge me as I discuss how it could be better and how we could better utilize the current system.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Beating the system in the new SWTOR event

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), Patches, PvE, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Beating the system in the new SWTOR event
​I'm not a huge fan of gambling in general. "The house always wins" isn't a motto, it's the truth. But if you have fun while you're doing it, then it's fine that the house wins. However, I don't have fun playing most gambling games, especially the overly simplistic ones like slot machines. Some gambling establishments will claim to have the loosest slots in the business, but I can tell you that the slot machines in Club Vertigo and the Star Cluster Casino are not that loose. But there is a best way to play the game.

On June 10th, Star Wars: The Old Republic launches Update 2.8: Spoils of War, and the casino event called the Festival of Splendor along with most of the patch already resides on the public test server. Over the last week or so, Voidmynx (a.k.a Laura Williams from Gamebreaker's The Republic and HSB Sci-Fi MMO Show) and I have tried multiple methods to beat the slots. And I believe we've found a decent one.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's plan to survive 2014

Sci-Fi, Business Models, Culture, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, Housing

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's plan to survive 2014
Star Wars: The Old Republic launched successfully but ran into issues shortly thereafter because of its unpolished endgame. Despite this, even the loudest haters agreed that the personal story held the game together. Although thousands of people played through the same questlines, players latched onto these stories because they felt personal and unique to the individual player. Unfortunately, the MMO could not retain that individual feel for a number of reasons, including a focus on larger storylines and a considerable staff reduction.

This year in particular, BioWare wants to turn things around so that it focuses on core ideas that made the game enjoyable in the first place. But how does the development team plan on doing that without creating new personal story arcs? Are there ways to keep the players connected and immersed without class stories? BioWare is going to give it a shot.

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Hyperspace Beacon: The end of a SWTOR season

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: The end of a SWTOR season
Uncle Owen talked about Luke staying on for another season, but when you're on a desert planet, what does that mean exactly? More importantly, can you imagine what would have happened if Lars had allowed Luke to leave for the Academy -- the Imperial Academy, I might add -- with his friend Biggs Darklighter? We would have a completely different story and certainly a far different Luke Skywalker.

BioWare developers slated the end of Star Wars: The Old Republic PvP season one to coincide with the launch of Update 2.7, which hits servers on April 8th. With that, the SWTOR leaderboards will reset and bring a few other changes. I think the biggest surprise for everyone is the ranked rewards for the end of season one. These rewards have hit extremely late in the season, which could give some players an unfair advantage in ranked warzones, sparking the question, "Should I stay on the moisture farm or try to jump into PvP to nab these rewards?" Or maybe there's another option -- a Ben Kenobi out in the Dune Sea, if you will.

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Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR Sith beliefs

Sci-Fi, Culture, Lore, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR Sith beliefs
Peace is a lie; there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.


Although this statement is considered the Sith Code, the guide by which all Sith live their lives, it's more a counter to the Jedi Code than anything. Because the first Sith Lords as we know them in Star Wars: The Old Republic were former Jedi, it only makes sense that they would create a code intended to be the antithesis of the Jedi's central theme. Not all Sith follow the Sith code, but most believe in its credence.

If the Sith Code isn't central to the Sith beliefs, what is? That's the interesting thing: There doesn't seem to be a central theme other than to be the opposite of the Jedi. Some Sith believe in an Empire. Some Sith believe there can be only two. Yet the Sith existed long before there was a Sith Code. Before there was a Sith Order, there was the Sith Empire on Ziost and Korriban, and that is where the SWTOR Sith come from. That is where my Sith characters come from. I don't believe I have all the philosophical answers, and clearly, my way is not the only way to roleplay a Sith, but perhaps I can give you a launchpad to start your own storylines.

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Hyperspace Beacon: The 2014 spring roadmap for Star Wars: The Old Republic

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Patches, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, Dungeons, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: The 2014 Spring roadmap for Star Wars: The Old Republic
Late is better than never. The producers of Star Wars: The Old Republic have finally let players know what their plans are for the next couple of months. Senior Producer Bruce Maclean jumped onto the producer's blog and dropped some tidbits just before Update 2.6 launched. Although it would have been nice to have this info last month when everyone was making new year's resolutions, Maclean did give us some really nice items to look forward to. Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether it's enough to change my resolution to play less of SWTOR.

I recently started a series of articles about roleplaying a Sith, and I promise that I will get back to that, but this producer's letter gave us too much timely news to pass up. The biggest piece, of course, was buried at the bottom in a paragraph that would likely be skipped if a person just skimmed the article. "We are moving to a 9 week cadence for the major content updates," Maclean says. He explains that this cadence will be more beneficial to the game because it gives the team more time to squash the bugs, but I suspect it's more that his team just cannot produce what it wants to this year without a bit of extra time. With SWTOR earning $139 million last year, you'd think that EA could toss in an extra developer or two to help keep up the current six-to-eight-week cadence.

Where is that six weeks or more of extra time going this year? For that, we turn back to Maclean's roadmap.

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Hyperspace Beacon: The official launch of SWTOR's second expansion

Sci-Fi, Galleries, Screenshots, Trailers, Video, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Interviews, Launches, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Announcing the official launch of SWTOR's second expansion!
Today, Galactic Starfighter officially launches in conjunction with Star Wars: The Old Republic Update 2.6. Free-to-play players as well as preferred and subscribed players can now jump into 12v12 freeform space battles. All players can choose to pilot one of four Starfighter archetypes: scout, strike fighter, gunship, or bomber. Two team deathmatch maps joined the pre-launch domination maps, giving pilots four possible arenas to dogfight. But if space isn't your thing, BioWare also introduced a new dynamic flashpoint called Kuat Drive Yards that changes every time you run it.

It's not often that the Hyperspace Beacon coincides with the launch of a SWTOR update let alone the official launch of an expansion. This week, I intend to give you all the juicy details of the new type of starfighter, the new Starfighter PvP maps, and the brand-new flashpoint. I also had a moment to ask a few of questions of Producer Blaine Christine and GSF Lead Designer Michael Backus. But first, let me show you a few screenshots from the new content below and a launch trailer after the break.

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Hyperspace Beacon: How do I play a Sith in SWTOR?

Sci-Fi, Culture, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: How do I play a Sith in SWTOR?
This is another one of those questions that I get asked a lot: How do I play a Sith in Star Wars: The Old Republic? I hope I'm asked because people like what they see and that I am also a good player as well as roleplayer, but I don't by any means believe that I have a grasp on everything that it takes to play a Sith. And I also believe that other people have a great -- if not better -- gasp on the nuances of the Sith personality. On top of that, many people don't play a Sith the way I do, so I don't want to discount that either. When I play SWTOR, I intend to have fun, and what I consider fun isn't the same as what other people call fun.

I should give fair warning before diving into this outline: I'm not going to teach you the basics of roleplay; I'm going to hope that you already know that or that you've hopped over to Storyboard a few times. Secondly, I will use terms like "proper" or "best." Understand that I use those words from my perspective and that other players have a different and equally legitimate perspective, too. Lastly, this is far from exhaustive, and if you have any questions, I will spend some time in the comments answering them, or you can feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

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Hyperspace Beacon: How do I play my SWTOR class?

Sci-Fi, Classes, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: How do I play my SWTOR class?
I understand what some Star Wars: The Old Republic players are seeking when they ask how I play my class. They want to play the game better! If they ask me, specifically, then they want to play a Marauder better. I like these guys, and I welcome any questions they have.

The other kind of SWTOR player who asks how I play my class looks for the faults in my playstyle. Well, there are many of them, but that doesn't mean that some of my choices are completely bad. And like most players, I didn't learn how to play my class completely on my own. I am, like most of you, an amalgam of several different teachers.

Today, I'd like to take a moment not to look at the specific ways I play a Marauder (although I might use the Marauder as an example) but to examine methods for learning and elicit tips from players who are damn good at playing MMOs.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Entering the SWTOR Kuati Drive Yards

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Lore, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, Dungeons, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Entering the SWTOR Kuati Drive Yards
You all remember the very first scene from Star Wars. A tiny ship carrying very important cargo was fleeing an imposing mammoth of a battle cruiser. The gigantic ship eventually swallows up the smaller one. We eventually learn that the Empire owns fleets of these Star Destroyers, but we never learn where they all came from. In the Expanded Universe, we find out that the Empire-loyal planet of Kuat manufactures these behemoths in the Kuati Drive Yards.

During the time of Star Wars: The Old Republic, we really haven't heard much about this planet or its starship manufacturing. We know that Grand Moff Vaiken created the first dreadnaughts the Sith Empire uses now on Dromund Kaas. We could only assume that Kuat was a member of the Galactic Republic. And we had no indication whether the Drive Yards existed at all until the latest expansion and the flashpoints that hit the SWTOR test center this week.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars: The Old Republic predictions for 2014

Sci-Fi, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Rumors, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, Housing, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars: The Old Republic predictions for 2014
Knowing my luck, when I finish writing this, the marketing team for Star Wars: The Old Republic will release a huge announcement about 2014 that no one saw coming. And it wouldn't be hard for BioWare to release something unknown to the community at large because it's said next to zero about what we should expect for 2014. Normally, BioWare promotes the upcoming features to death. We knew about the Cathar coming at least a year before they actually hit the live servers. Players and fans (and enemies) of SWTOR have speculated wildly as to why the developers have remained silent on the subject, my favorite being that BioWare has run out of content to produce, which kind of reneges on the 10-year plan it touted before launch.

Whether or not BioWare has new content in the works, we do know a few things that will be coming, and we also have some super-secret things we can speculate on thanks to some intrepid SWTOR fans. So let's talk about what we do know, what we don't know, and what we think will happen.

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Hyperspace Beacon: The rest of SWTOR's year-end report

Sci-Fi, Culture, Expansions, Patches, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: The rest of SWTOR's year-end report
The end of the year is nigh, and as I promised, I will give you my final thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic and its achievements for 2013. I wanted my assessment to be based on something other than squishy feelings. Of course, opinions are extremely subjective, but that doesn't mean they cannot be based on something a bit more substantial. In July, I created a mid-term report card for SWTOR using Dr. Richard Battle's studies as the starting point. Bartle's study allowed me to step out of my normal playstyle and observe the game from the standpoint of different types of MMO players.

Some players find discovery and exploration to be the most important part of an MMO. Others want to achieve the highest scores or defeat the biggest bosses. Some want to prove that they are better than other players in direct combat, and yet other players want to use the game as an interactive chatroom or work with a group to achieve a goal. Few people fall neatly into one category or other, but nearly everyone will have a dominant motivation.

A couple of weeks ago, I graded the game based on the perspective of Bartle's Killer type, giving SWTOR a C- in the category. Because of Galactic Starfighter and 4v4 arenas, I raised the grade from the F I gave it during the mid-term report. I gave the game an A- for Achievers, B for Explorers, and C for the Socializer earlier this year. Has SWTOR been able to raise its grade in these other categories?

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Hyperspace Beacon: 'Twas the night before Sithmas and all through SWTOR...

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: 'Twas the night before Sithmas and all through SWTOR...
If you've not been in game since last week, then you don't know about the snow problem that Carrick and Vaiken station have had since the Master of Ceremonies stopped by Star Wars: The Old Republic. Everyone, for no good reason at all, has been pelting each other with snowballs. They all think they are special snowflakes or something -- something I knew I was before this event began. But perhaps I should start at the beginning.

The Life Day event actually started when the Cartel Market began selling Life-Day-related items on the week of the 10th. The items were the exact same items that were on sale last year. Many people, including me, were concerned that the whole event (if you could call it that) would be a complete recycle of last year's. Of course, we had the tensile bomb, the Life Day orb, the Life Day robes, and everyone's favorites, the festive snow-blowing speeder. (That was sarcasm, in case it didn't come through the text.) Fortunately, this year's SWTOR Life Day festivities didn't end there.

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