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Taking the Ironman Challenge to a Whole New Level

Around the middle of last year Vrykerion and I came up with the idea for the WoW Ironman Challenge, for players to level a toon without using any type of stat boosting gear or consumables, no talent points, no professions, no glyphs, and no help from friends. Ironsally from Tome of the Ancient was our first Ironman winner, reaching the level cap with a Warlock of unmatched Iron quality.

Today we’re going to talk about a new kind of Ironman, this one going back more to the real roots of what it is to be labeled an “Ironman”.

There’s a new (to me, at least) blog out there called Iron Man Mode that’s collecting donations for the Child’s Play charity. The blog is aimed at having people play video games and blog about their experiences, but with the Iron Man catch – you play, and blog, only until your character dies. Once your character dies, the blog dies with it.

If you would like to donate to the cause of helping children, participate in the challenge yourself, or just help spread the word you can follow this link to get all the details.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Blog

 

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Companions List

Over the last month of playing SWTOR I’ve relied a lot on various sites for information regarding companions. However, there’s always something that I’m missing from each of those sites that I’m looking for that causes me to look elsewhere, and I still haven’t found a single source that gives me everything that I want in a single package. So for that reason I’m going to do something I don’t normally do, which is to jump in with the crowd and do my own post on companions so that I don’t have to wait on someone else to present this information in a format that I’d like to see, I can just gather all of my own information and have it there at my fingertips.

This post is going to look at all of the companions that each class gets, which crew skills they give you a bonus to, where you get those companions planet-wise, and the average level at which you’ll get them. I’ll be listing the average level because it’s possible for you to use the help of high level friends to power through your entire class quest by level 15, thus gaining all of your companions. While you might find it appealing to have all of those companions from an early level, how many companions you can actively use at one time is restricted by your character level.

In regards to companion romances, many companions will not start the actual romance until you get to Chapter 2, and in some cases they won’t even start flirting with you until Chapter 2. Some companions also require significant Affection scores (7,500+) before those options become available. As a general rule of thumb, if your romanceable companion is a Force user, having a Light/Dark score that conflicts with theirs reportedly requires higher Affection to start a romance.
Turn the page to find out more…

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Companions, Crew Skills

 

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Sage/Sorcerer Leveling: 1-20 DPS

Playing a Sage/Sorcerer
For the most part, playing a Sage/Sorc is much like playing a spell caster in any other MMO. In the world of SWTOR, they’re the only real spell casters in the game. While you can get a caster feel from some of the ranged classes (Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, Imp. Agent) most of what they do doesn’t really feel like casting, at least not to me, unless you’re playing their healing spec.

Concerning Sage/Sorc DPS, there are two primary trees available to you and they each have their own feel. The Telekinetics/Lightning tree is the turret casting tree, where you’ll spend the majority of your time remaining stationary while you simply turn left or right as needed while you spam-cast your spells. You do have some spells that you can use on the move, but you’ll have a loss of overall DPS if you use them without needing to move. The Balance/Madness tree relies on damage over time (DoT) effects and channeled spells for the majority of it’s damage and is much more mobile as most of the spells you’ll use in those trees are instant cast either by design or thanks to talent-based procs.

When you reach level 10 and take your advanced class of Sage/Sorcerer there’s going to be a complete change in how you handle combat. Out of all of the classes and advanced classes, the Sage/Sorc AC has the largest shift in playstyle because you’ve just spent 10 levels killing things primarily with melee attacks with some occasional spells thrown in (maybe) and now you’re never going to use another melee attack again. Some players do play low level Consulars/Inquisitors trying to focus on spell casting, but since both of your damaging spells have cooldowns you’re really better of just beating things up in melee.

In addition to the switch from melee to casting you’re also going to notice that your spells now actually have a decent range on them. Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning) jumps up to 30 meters by default as does Project(Shock), and your new spam-cast spell, Disturbance(Lightning Strike), is a 30 meter cast as well. You also get to quintuple your Force pool from 100 to 500, and your primary crowd control spell Force Lift(Whirlwind) goes from an 8 second duration up to 60 seconds. All of these changes combine to make one heck of a shift in playstyle, so you’ll want to find a few things to kill to get a feel for your new life as a real caster.
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SWTips: General Leveling

I’m getting ready to start posting some of the SWTOR leveling guides for each class, similar to what I’ve been doing with WoW for the last three years. But before I dive into those I wanted to go with a simple leveling guide that can be used as a general source for everyone. So today I give you tips for leveling in general. Things to keep in mind or consider for leveling your characters. I’m sure that by now everyone who has the game is already on the road to level 50 if they haven’t already reached it, so some of this may only be applicable to your alts.

Turn the page to find out more…

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Crew Skills, Leveling, SWTOR

 

Warzone Guide: Alderaan

In this post I’m going to go over the basics of the Alderaan warzone and list some of the strategies that I’ve found useful for victory. Since this is my first PvP post here I’ll go ahead and start off with some general PvP information to get everyone caught up with how PvP works in SWTOR, and then we’ll move on to the specifics of Alderaan.

General PvP Information

Expertise: A stat found only on PvP gear and PvP-related consumables that increases the damage and healing that you do, and reduces the amount of damage that you receive. Only works in PvP.

Valor: The PvP version of social points, this is a representation of how much PvP your character has experienced. Valor goes up very quickly when you participate in Warzones. Valor ranks are required for end game PvP gear. At this point in time there is no other use for this. You also earn titles for every 10 ranks of Valor that you achieve up to the current max of 100: Skirmisher (10), Duelist (20), Gladiator (30), Centurion (40), Champion (50), Battlemaster (60), War Hero (70), Conqueror (80), Warlord (90), and Elite Warlord (100).

Commendations: This is the PvP currency, similar to Honor or Conquest points for those of you transferring from WoW. These cap at 1,000 and build fairly quickly. These are used to purchase PvP gear, leveling gear, and PvP consumables. If you’re going to PvP frequently, be sure to spend your points before you hit the cap or else you lose any extra commendations.

MVP Votes: At the end of every match you have the chance to place a vote for the Most Valuable Player (MVP). Who you vote for is up to you and you can use whatever criteria you see fit for choosing that person. Each MVP vote rewards the recipient with 1 commendation. At this point in time, as far as we know, that’s all an MVP vote does. I’ve heard reports that during beta you got titles for having a certain number of MVP votes but nobody has seen the titles since launch so they either removed them or raised the requirements.

Badges: Badges are like milestone achievements that happen during every warzone. Each time you earn a badge you get 50 Valor and 5 Commendations.

Resolve Bar: This measures the amount of Crowd Control (CC) that a player has been hit with recently, and when it’s full the player becomes immune to all forms of CC. The Resolve bar will begin to drain once it has been filled, and the player remains immune to CC until the drain is complete and the bar has reset to 0. For a more in depth look at Resolve and how it works, I’ll direct you to [url=http://taugrim.com/2012/01/04/understanding-swtors-resolve-mechanic/Taugrim’s website[/url.

Alderaan Basics
At its roots, Alderaan is your typical assault and defend resource map. There are three nodes that need to be captured and then defended until the timer runs out. Bioware has done a great job with this map though by taking that concept and turning it into something that’s much more dramatic and understandable. In relation to WoW this map is very similar to Battle for Gilneas and Arathi Basin. The biggest difference is that rather than gathering resources over time while you control nodes you’re taking capturing turrets and using them to shoot down the enemy’s ship.

Your starting point and respawn location are both in your own ship. From there you will ride speeders down to to your spawn point on the field. Each team spawns at either the north or south side of the map on a ledge that the other team cannot reach. From there you have two sections that you can drop into – Middle or Left (note, that’s Left, not East or West). From Mid you can choose to run Right, but there is a wall that separates Mid from Left on your own side (see map below).

When you start the match there are only two speeders, one mid-left and one mid-right. Both of these speeders are always available, and they both lead to the spawn point where you can choose Left or Mid. The only difference between these two is which direction you fly around the map before settling at the spawn point. Mid-left circles clockwise while mid-right circles counter-clockwise. It takes roughly 10 seconds for the speeder to land, and which of these two you choose doesn’t really matter, it just lets you get a look at one of the two flags first and the other second to help decide where you should go.

When you control the East or West node you’ll have another speeder appear inside your ship that will take you directly to that node. This speeder takes 3-5 seconds (I never remember to time it while I’m there) to reach the node, making it much easier to defend. However, the amount of time it takes to you release, resurrect, get on the speeder, ride down, and then get close enough to an opponent who is trying to capture is usually long enough that you will not interrupt a capture unless your opponents were slow to click on the node in the first place, or you applied Damage Over Time (DoT) effects to them before you died (see Strategy, below).

Alderaan Strategy: Left, Right, & Mid
There are some pretty important things to note about Alderaan. The first thing you need to understand is how the map works so that you know where to go and how to get around. The image above shows you where each team spawns and the initial directional choices that they can make (Left or Mid).

Going Mid: When you decide to drop down into Mid you have another choice to make. Do you go to the middle node, or do you turn off and head to the right? Mid also has two levels, the lower level where the node is, and the upper half-ring level. The lower level offers a couple of Line of Sight (LoS) options for those of you who like to fight dirty/defensively. The upper half-rings each contain a Expertise buff and also offers LoS and Cover options. Another benefit of the upper rings (there’s one on the West side and one on the East, but they do not connect) is that each one has a drop off that leads to the node on its side. Those drop offs also have a Expertise buff when you drop down. On the map above, the West drop off is just below the arrow near mid, and the East drop off is just above the arrow near mid.

Going mid gives you the most options for changing your direction on the fly, which is why it’s often the most contested node. However, it’s also the hardest to defend because everyone already has easy access to it and enemies can come at you from both sides at once.

Going Left: When people use Left or Right in-game, always associate them with West and East respectively. When I mentioned the spawn point and that you could choose to go either mid or left, I’m referring to your relative options of left vs. right which is differs directionally based on where your spawn location is. If you spawn south, then left = West, but if you spawn north then left = East. Confused yet?

When you decide to “go left”, that means you’re taking the drop off that does not lead directly to mid. By going this way you cut yourself off from easy access to Mid. You have easy access to both East and West, but not Mid. Let’s assume that your spawn location is in the south, making Left=West and Right=East for the ease of explanation. By going left you lose your easy access to mid. The only way to get there is to run all the way to the north end of the field so that you can loop around and enter near the opponent’s spawn location, or to run under mid, come out on the right side and then circle back around to the south to come out near your own spawn location.

When you go under mid (there is a tunnel beneath mid where the two arrows are) there is a circular pathway with a large structural piece taking up the whole center. On the left and right sides of that structural blockage you’ll find a speed buff that will help you get faster access to the opposite side.

Going Mid, then Right: This is basically the same as Going Left above, except that directions are reversed. For example, if you want to get back to Mid you have to run to your own spawn location because you’re blocked on your opponent’s side. You still have the same easy access to the left side by taking the tunnel under mid.

Alderaan Strategy: Buff Locations
Every warzone has buffs that spawn throughout the match. They can only be used by one person at a time as using them consumes them, but they respawn over time. I’ve never bothered to stand there and see how long the timer is, but it’s probably somewhere around 15-30 seconds up to a minute if I were to guess. There are three types of warzone buffs: Expertise, Speed, and Healing.

Expertise: Expertise buffs are red, and using them increases your damage and healing output and reduces the amount of damage you take. There are four expertise buffs in Alderaan, one located on each of the half-rings in the upper level of Mid, and one located at the bottom of the drops from the upper level of mid down to the left/right sides of the field.

Speed Buffs: Speed buffs are a bluish-green color, and increase your speed by *mumble,mumble* percent for *mumble,mumble* seconds (I forget the specifics, it makes you faster though). There are only two speed buffs in Alderaan, both of which are located in the tunnel beneath Mid. One person can easily grab both speed buffs at once if they want, though most of the first buff is wasted by doing so.

Healing: Healing buffs are a greenish-blue color, and restore around 70% of your total health (I really should have researched that more…). There are four healing buffs in Alderaan, one located on both the north and south walls of both the East and West sections. I probably should have put those on the map…anyway, if your’e standing at the west node, look toward either the north or south walls at about the middle point and you should see them.

Alderaan Strategy: East versus West
For the most part East and West are pretty well equal. Both nodes have the same general layout, they’re both on raised platforms that allow for LoS, and both of them have four ways to get from the ground up to the node (three sets of stairs and one broken piece of something that acts as a ramp). Technically five ways if you count moving towards the back of the node where the ground slopes up to be even with the landing and you jump up.

However, West contains some rubble and some burning debris for who knows what proving limited LoS benefit, but leaving most of the field pretty wide open to see who’s coming at you and from where. East on the other hand has several bits of machinery that provide significant LoS opportunity. In neither case is this LoS from terrain a deciding factor in the capture/defense of the node itself, but it can be used to your advantage when assaulting or defending a node in order to keep people tied up fighting in useless locations rather than focusing on the objective. Distraction is a key strategy in MMO PvP.

This section is important to have, even with such a little impact as it can have, strictly because it’s important to be aware that the West (left) node is easier to defend than the East (right) node depending on which spawn location is yours. If you spawn in the south, then East is harder to defend because those in the north can use the terrain to partially hide their approach. It’s not a significant advantage, but it is something to be aware of so that you know to be more watchful if you’re defending that side.

Alderaan Strategy: Capturing Nodes
Capturing nodes seems pretty simple, and for the most part it is. You click on the node and stand there for 8 seconds while you channel to actually capture it.

If only it were that simple.

Capturing a node has a few requirements. First, you can’t take damage while you do it or your capture gets interrupted. Second, you can’t move (or be moved) or your capture gets interrupted. Third, you can’t take any action at all, or your capture gets interrupted. Fourth, you can’t come under the effects of crowd control or your capture gets interrupted.

In the thick of battle a lot of times you can’t do anything to avoid all of those potential interruptions. Yet sometimes in the thick of battle is the perfect time to capture the node because everyone’s so caught up in fighting each other that they forget to watch it. There’s long been a saying in PvP, “Fight on the Flag”. That saying holds just as true now as it ever did before. Fighting on the flag doesn’t mean just staying close to it, it means that the flag is the primary objective and you should be watching it at all times. Whether you’re watching it to defend it, or you’re watching it for the perfect opportunity to slide in there and cap it yourself, you should always keep the flag as your focus.

The most important bit of advice I can give you in terms of capturing nodes is to always capture it on your own side. The turret nodes in Alderaan serve as LoS pillars, so the people on the other side of it cannot target you. Because of this you want to make sure that you’re always trying to capture it on the opposite side from where your enemies spawn. So if you spawn in the south, then capture from the south, and if you spawn north then cap from the north.

When you’re trying to capture the West flag, do so from the south-west side since it’s furthest away from the enemy spawn location, and similarly cap East on the south-east side (unless you spawn in the north in which case you should replace south with north in those examples).

The one exception to that is when you’re taking the East/West node away from your opponents. In those cases you want to capture it on the straight north/south side because the speeder drops off directly north or south of node, whichever side they spawn on.

Also, don’t assume that just because your opponent is standing next to the node that he’s actually paying any attention to it at all. Ninja capping is what you call capturing a node right under your opponent’s nose. Sometimes you ninja cap by sneaking up in stealth and then capturing where they can’t see you, and sometimes it’s just walking right up behind/beside someone who’s looking the other way. If you’re approaching a node and the defenders are giving no sign that they see you, go straight for the node first.

Also, it’s important to note that many Alderaan matches are decided these days based on who gets to the first node the fastest. If you have speed buffs, use them. If you both put up a solid defense on one node and spend the rest of the match fighting over the third, then whoever capped first wins. Sending your fastest people to one node or sending some to interrupt the initial caps is a great strategy for solidifying a win.

Alderaan Strategy: Defending Nodes
The simple explanation of defending would be to say “take the above section, and reverse it.” But that’s not very helpful, so I’ll spell it out a bit.

First thing’s first – FIGHT ON THE FLAGS!!!

You should never let a node be captured simply because you weren’t paying attention, or because you allowed yourself to be drawn too far away from the node and can no longer defend it. If you’re fighting someone and they start pulling back, let them go. Another kill doesn’t matter, especially not when the main reason they’re running isn’t to survive but rather to get you away from the flag so that they’re stealthed buddy can ninja your node.

Second, DoT’s aren’t as plentiful in SWTOR as they are in WoW, but they can make or break you in Alderaan. Because taking damage interrupts node captures, applying DoT’s to all of your enemies can win you the match by itself. If they can’t capture a node, they can’t win. If you know you can’t kill off everyone there, or you’re out numbered, don’t bother with trying to kill people. Instead you should apply DoT’s to as many people as you can, use your CC if you have it, pull some of them away from the node if you can, and otherwise do as much as you possibly can to interrupt their capture for as long as you live. Even if you know nobody is anywhere close to help you, put them off as long as possible.

Third is targetable AoE. As I mentioned in the previous section, the turret nodes provide LoS which can make it harder to get someone off of a node. However, you can shortcut that by using targetable AoE. If you have an AoE spell that when you cast it it pulls up an icon and makes you designate where you want to cast it, you can break LoS using it. To do this, center the AoE so that part of its effect hits the other side of the node. AoE’s hit everything in their circle, regardless of LoS, so you can use these spells to hit people behind pillars, around corners, and so forth. If you can’t reach someone, let your spells reach them for you.

And remember, the nodes are the key to victory. There will be times that you’re so caught up in combat that you loose track of the flag and it gets captured right in front of you. Just do your best to always remind yourself to look at the flag. Don’t rely on the UI to tell you, make sure you’re actively looking at it. I was in an Alderaan match just two days ago where I was defending the West node solo and it was captured right in front of my face, with me looking at it the whole time, because there was never a pillar of light (which there usually is) indicating that it was being captured, and I never saw my opponent or his nameplate on the other side of it. Right in front of my face and I didn’t even know until it was too late.

How did I not see him? First he had chosen the smallest body type, making him harder to see/target. Second, he had a short name, a short guild name, no legacy name displayed, and no title which means his nameplate too up all of about three quarters of an inch on the screen. He was a Sith Assassin so he managed to stealth up to the node without me seeing him, but it was his decisions during character creation that kept him invisible even outside of stealth.

Alderaan Strategy: Winning
So how to you win Alderaan?

First and foremost, you fight on the flag. Nodes are the only thing that matter here, so forget about topping damage/healing charts, forget about racking up the most kills. If you’re not working with your team to capture, defend, or recapture nodes then you’re doing it wrong.

As people become familiar to Alderaan and start to develop different strategies it’s becoming more and more common for this map to be decided within the first 15 seconds. If both teams are equally matched in terms of capturing and defending nodes, then the first team to capture a node wins. For this reason, sending players with speed buffs to either the East or West node, or sending smaller groups to intercept and delay the initial captures of all nodes can be a winning strategy. Capture a node as quickly as possible and defend it.

Turrets deal damage at a consistent rate, and once you reach a certain amount relative to your opponents it becomes mathematically impossible for them to win even if they get control of two of the turrets for the rest of the game. I won’t bother breaking down the math for you, this is just another example of why it’s so important to maintain a solid defense. Even if all I have to fight you is a needle and you’re dual wielding swords, if you can never manage to hold those swords long enough to attack me but I can poke you with that needle every second, you’ll be the first to die….eventually.

There are a lot of strategies still evolving for Alderaan. People like to play numbers games and say things like “3 left, 5 mid” or “4 left, 4 right”. Numbers are all fine and good, but they aren’t the deciding factor in a game where not all things are equal. The only rule that holds true is that you need to capture more nodes for a longer period of time than your opponents in that same amount of time. If you can capture two or even all three and hold them then you win. But if you can capture one and your opponent can’t capture any then you still win. That’s why it’s all about the nodes and why fighting on the flags is so important.

Right now the most common strategy is for people to send the majority of their players to mid and 1-3 off to the flag to their left. With groups made of random people it’s still pretty common to see teams where all eight go straight to mid, too. But be prepared for anything and always do your best to be aware of what your opponents are doing. If you see a lot of red nameplates rushing off to the left while you’re charging into mid, let your teammates know that you see people going left.

Communication is a big deal as well. If you have time, always try to communicate when you see people coming towards your flag. “inc left, inc mid, inc right” will suffice, though the more detail you can give the better. “INC LEFT – 3+, at least 1 stealth” tells your team that not only is there a significant threat on the way, but with at least one of them being in stealth there’s a good chance that the node will get ninja capped even while you’re defending. The more info you can give, the better, just make sure you’re using the important words rather than throwing out a full paragraph for people to read. “I think I see a couple of people coming over here, one of them looks like it has a blaster of some kind and the other I think was using two lightsabers. There may be a third too, with a dual lightsaber, but I couldn’t see for sure before he went into stealth” doesn’t work quite so well because it takes too long for someone to read that and then react to it.

Once a threat has passed, communicate that as well. “Left clear, great job defense”. If you see a chance to complement your team, do it. Positive reinforcement goes a long way to building teamwork and trust. Don’t be sarcastic when things don’t work, keep it honest. “Clutch heals, Jent. ty”

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Player vs Player, SWTOR

 

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SWTips: Crew Skills

Before we get too far into the actual post, I wanted to address the content of this blog. Up to this point, Psynister’s Notebook has been almost entirely about World of Warcraft. I made a few exceptions for personal posts and a couple of Rift reviews here and there, but otherwise it’s all WoW all the time.

That’s going to change.

I have found that I very much enjoy playing Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), and with in its current state WoW isn’t exactly thrilling me. I haven’t given up on WoW entirely, but I’m not too far off. If you’re only a WoW player and have no interest at all in seeing posts about other games, then you’re not going to be happy with me for the next few months. There’s a good chance that I’m not going to put any serious play time into WoW until Mists of Pandaria, which means you aren’t likely to see me blogging about WoW until then either (unless they release new heirlooms, ’cause I’m a sucker for heirlooms).

To express my official position, I don’t have anything at all against WoW right now. I might not love everything about every aspect of the game, but it’s done nothing but treat me well since the day I rolled my first toon. Personally, I just don’t feel a lot of drive to play WoW right now. I have fun doing a lot of things there still, I’m just finding more fun with another game at the moment.


Now, back to SWTOR and on to Crew Skills.

Crew Skills are to SWTOR what Professions are to WoW. You’ll see me refer to them often as professions rather than crew skills because I’m still trying to make that mental switch in my head. Just know that when I’m using either of those words/phrases I’m referring to Crew Skills.

Crew Skills are SWTOR’s version of professions, and for the most part I love them. You, as the player, select three Crew Skills that your Companions will have access to. You get three, and only three. Of those three, only one of them can be a Crafting skill (you don’t have to have a crafting skill, you just can’t have more than one on the same character).

Crafting Skills: Armortech, Armstech, Artifice, Biochem, Cybertech and Synthweaving.

These professions all craft gear, consumables, and/or item mods. You can only have one of these per character. You don’t actually craft anything yourself, your companions do all of the crafting for you. You can never do your own crew skill crafting, no matter what your character level or crew skill level happens to be. If you want to craft something, you have to have companions available to craft it for you.

While crafting, each companion can have a crafting queue of up to 5 items at a time. The number of companions you can have crafting for you is based on your level and how many companions you currently have access to. You can only have 2 companions actively “deployed” at a time until level 25. Deployed means they are either crafting or running Mission quests for you, the one you have running around with you doesn’t count as being deployed. At level 25 you can send out your third, and I don’t have any characters high enough to deploy a fourth yet so I can’t confirm for certain when that slot opens up just yet. [Update: I've been informed via twitter than level 41 is required to deploy your forth companion.]

Gathering/Mission Skills: Archaeology, Bioanalysis, Scavenging, Slicing.

These professions are all used to gather items while you’re out questing, and they can be used as mission skills to get specific types of items. Both you and your companions can gather nodes while you’re out in the world(s), but only your companions can go on the Mission quest portion. With the exception of Slicing, these professions all give you the basic materials required by the crafting professions. I’ve heard that during beta they restricted you to a maximum of 2 gathering professions as well, but my main has Archaeology, Scavenging, and Slicing so I know that is not correct in live.

Concerning the Mission portion of this skills, refer to the last paragraph of the Crafting section up above to see the limitations of how many companions you can have actively doing missions for you at one time.

Mission-Only Skills: Diplomacy, Investigation, Treasure Hunting and Underworld Trading.

These crew skills, to my knowledge, do not have any nodes that you can gather from, and instead require Mission quests to level. These crew skills are required if you want to be able to make Blue or Purple quality gear with your crafting professions as they are the only reliable method of obtaining the rare materials required to craft them.

That last sentence isn’t entirely correct since you can get the crafting mats you need for blue+ items from buying them off of the Global Trade Network (GTN), which is SWTOR’s version of an auction house. If you want to be self-reliant though, you’ll need to pick up a mission skill.

Refer to the last paragraph of the Crafting section up above to see the limitations on how many companions you can have actively doing missions for you at one time.

To get a visual idea of when each class gets their companions, I refer to you the chart below (click to enlarge of course) given to me by the infamous @Suzushiiro of Big Crits.

In order to help you navigate this beast of a post, you’ll find links like the following to help you bounce around as needed.

CRAFING SKILLS GATHERING SKILLS MISSION SKILLS
Armormech Archaeology Diplomacy
Armstech Bioanalysis Investigation
Artifice Scavenging Treasure Hunting
Biochem Slicing Underworld Trading
Cybertech
Synthweaving

Perceptions of Crew Skills
A lot of players right now feel that leveling a crafting profession is a waste of time because the gear you craft doesn’t compare to what you can easily obtain at level 50. There is some validity to this, though how important it is depends on who you’re asking. Everyone has their own opinion about what professions should or shouldn’t do, and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

The professions causing the most problem in this area are Armormech, Armstech, and Synthweaving. There’s not quite so much of a stir about the ones that craft mods since they’re good for leveling, but there’s still some concern there since most of what you can craft is outmatched by mods you can purchase from commendation vendors in the area you’re questing in. Some people like to mod their gear while others do not, so again it comes down to personal preference (at least to some degree).

Personally, I’m more interested in how my professions can help me throughout the leveling process than I am about what they do for me at end game. I don’t expect a profession to give me better gear than I can get from actually playing the game, though I would certainly hope that I could craft a set of starter gear to help me get to the end game. What I do expect from my professions is that they allow me to make gear upgrades for multiple characters, and for that I think they’ve done a great job on the majority of them. I’m not thrilled with Armormech or Synthweaving, and Armstech isn’t too far behind those, but otherwise I like where we stand overall considering the game was just released.

I also like for my professions to provide income, and I’ve got mixed feelings on that. I think right now the Global Trade Network (the auction house) has a horrible interface and I really don’t like using it. Buying things is a pain, and selling things can be a nightmare (especially if you’re trying to sell several stacks of mats that you want broken down into smaller sizes). Since I’m not willing to spend a great deal of time at the GTN in order to sell all of my goods, my primary source of income is the Slicing skill.

Slicing got a recent nerf that made the Mission portion of the profession much more hit and miss and slimmed down the profit margins of the top 2-3 tiers worth of missions. However, they also increased the amount of credits you got from the gathering portion of this crew skill by almost 100%. While it’s not quite as easy to get a lot of credits at low level as it was prior to that nerf, this still gives us an option for earning a steady amount of credits while leveling without having to go through the potential hassles of playing the auction house.

Matching Crew Skills to Class Choice
Typically, people like to choose the professions that match their character class or the concept of their character. You’ll often see tanks who like to build their own armor for example, or altoholics who like professions that can benefit all classes like one that makes potions or enchants gear to make it better, or you may find a PvP oriented character who goes for the profession that offers him the most versatile or surprising options.

What you don’t often see is people taking professions that completely conflict with their character, such as a WoW Paladin having Tailoring back before they gave professions bonuses that impacted game play (I did that). That’s the basis for this section of the post; which classes match which crew skills the best.

[Index]
Armormech (Crafting)
Linked Gathering Skill: Scavenging
Linked Mission Skill: Underworld Trading
Primary Classes: Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, Imperial Agent
Mods Produced: None

Armormechs make Medium and Heavy armor for the tech-based classes (those that use Aim and Cunning). The only benefit you get from this as a Force using class is being able to make gear for your non-Force Companions. Armormechs do not make any type of mods for gear, though they can make gear that can be modded. In that way Armormech can be utilized by Force using classes to make the blank armor and then fill the slots with applicable mods, but this type of armor is the exception rather than the norm.

There’s not a whole lot more that can be said about this profession. You build armor for tech users and that’s about it.

[Index]
Armstech (Crafting)
Linked Gathering Skill: Scavenging
Linked Mission Skill: Investigation
Primary Classes: Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, Imperial Agent
Mods Produced: Barrels (Tech classes only)

Armstechs make all form of blaster-style weapons and Barrel mods for them. Force classes do not use blaster weapons and Barrels work only in blasters. That being the case, this definitely isn’t your optimum choice if you’re not playing one of the classes listed above. As with Armormech, the only benefit you get form this as a Force user is being able to make weapons for your non-Force companions.

While Armstech does build Barrel Mods, that mod slot is only used by Tech classes (or Tech companions).

[Index]
Artifice (Crafting)
Linked Gathering Skill: Archaeology
Linked Mission Skill: Treasure Hunting
Primary Classes: All
Mods Produced: Color Crystals (all classes), Enhancement (all classes), Hilts (Force classes only)

This one skill is the reason why I decided to write this post in the first place. Literally every guide I’ve seen written regarding crew skills lists this as being a Force class profession and that it builds “lightsaber color crystals”. Let me fix their faulty information for you right now.

The Artifice crew skill makes 4 things: Color Crystals, Hilts, Generator/Focus, and Enhancement mods.

Of those four things, three of them are used by every class in the game. The only Force-specific items that they build are Hilt mods. Unlike Armormech and Armstech where there’s virtually no reason for a Force-user to take them, the presence of Hilts is in no way a reason for Tech classes to avoid this profession.

Color Crystals are used in both Lightsabers and all forms of Blaster weapons, meaning they’re great for every class in the game. Hilt mods are only used by Force classes which does restrict their usefulness a bit. Generators and Focuses are used by all classes as well. Enhancement mods are also used by every class, and are used in both weapons as well as armor making them one of the more versatile mods out there.

[Index]
Biochem (Crafting)
Linked Gathering Skill: Bioanalysis
Linked Mission Skill: Diplomacy
Primary Classes: All
Mods Produced: None

If you were to relate Biochem to World of Warcraft, you’d end up with a mix of Alchemy and Inscription. Overall Biochem is tied with Cybertech as the single most versatile crafting profession in the game. Biochem makes Stims (similar to Scrolls, Battle/Guardian Elixers, or Flasks in WoW), Adrenals (similar to short-term buff potions in WoW), Medpacs (similar to health potions in WoW), and Implants (roughly equivalent to the Relic slot in WoW).

Biochem is a great fit for every class since everything it can build can be tailored to your class, your companions, and your situation. If you rely on a companion for soloing but your companion is always dying and you have no means to heal them, Biochem gives you medpacs that heal both you and your companion. If you like buffing yourself with Stims but hate how many credits you waste because the effect wears off when you die and you need to apply another one, Biochem has you covered with reusable stims.

From my experience with Biochem (my first profession), I wouldn’t hesitate to say it’s the best crew skill to take for the solo leveler. It isn’t going to make you rich by any means, and it’s quite capable of making you broke if you’re going to chase down every schematic out there, but it’s also going to give you more lasting benefits and more survivability than any other profession. With reusable medpacs providing heals every minute, stims that persist through death, medpacs that heal both you and your companion and apply an additional heal over time effect for you both – it’s just hard to beat this for the solo player.

Biochem also has another neat little feature that most other crafting professions do not, which is that the majority of the items you make are able to stack. That’s not just good for saving your inventory space though. Another benefit of stacking is that you can Reverse Engineer an entire stack with a single click. This makes getting new patterns faster and easier as you can craft stacks of 3, 5, 7, 10, etc and then RE the whole thing to get the full amount of mats back and an equal number of chances to roll for that new pattern.

[Index]
Cybertech (Crafting)
Linked Gathering Skill: Scavenging
Linked Mission Skill: Underworld Trading
Primary Classes: All
Mods Produced: Armoring (all classes), Mod (all classes)

Cybertech is the odd duck of the crafting world, similar to Engineering in WoW. It’s useful for all classes and offers the pieces of gear that don’t necessarily fit into the other crafting categories such as Droid armor, Earpieces, Starship equipment, and explosives.

Cybertech is the sole source of craftable Armoring mods as well as Mod mods (I really wish they would have called Mods something else, like Modular, so we didn’t have mod-mods). Both of these mods are used by every class.

The explosives are similar to the explosives from WoW’s Engineering profession. All of them have a secondary ability (I believe) so that in addition to dealing AoE damage you’ll also Stun, Slow, Root, or apply a Fire damage over time effect to those within the blast radius. Explosives are great for leveling any class whether you’re using them for the added damage or for their crowd control effects, and with SWTOR’s enemy NPC’s almost always being in groups of 2-5, having AoE damage on demand is pretty nice.

[Index]
Synthweaving (Crafting)
Linked Gathering Skill: Archaeology
Linked Mission Skill: Underworld Trading
Primary Classes: Jedi Consular, Jedi Knight, Sith Inquisitor, Sith Warrior
Mods Produced: None

Synthweaving is the Force users’ version of Armormech. You make gear with Willpower and Strength which are used by Force classes and that’s about it. Synthweaving does not make any type of mods, though it does make gear that can accept mods.

As with Armormech, I would not suggest using this skill on a class that cannot directly benefit from it, though there’s certainly nothing wrong being a Tech Synthweaver if that’s what you’re really into. Synthweaving is SWTOR’s Tailoring except that it can’t increase your inventory with bigger bags, nor does it provide any direct benefit to non-Force users save crafting gear for the odd companion.

Gathering Crew Skill Special Notes
For the most part, gathering professions are pretty straight forward. While you’re running around the world you’ll come across gathering nodes that allow you or your companion to gather items related to your chosen skills. You also have the option of sending your companions on mission quests that will both increase your skill and give you varying amounts of materials.

When you’re killing monsters or NPC’s out in the various worlds and you see one with an icon of some type beside their name, there’s likely a chance that you can also farm the mob with a relevant gathering skill after the corpse has been looted (unless it’s a humanoid). For example, most Droids can be farmed with Scavenging and most beasts can be farmed with Bioanalysis. I haven’t found a farmable enemy that gives Archaeology nodes when you kill them, but I would be surprised if they don’t exist somewhere. I haven’t seen a Slicing node mob yet either, though I don’t expect them to exist with the nature of Slicing.

[Index]
Archaeology (Gathering)
Linked Crafting Skills: Artifice and Synthweaving

Archaeology is useful for gathering Color Crystals, Artifact Fragments, and Power Crystals. Of those three materials color crystals are used only by Artificers, where artifact fragments and power crystals are used by both Artificers and Synthweavers.

When doing Mission quests with Archaeology you can also find each tier’s vendor material. Each tier of crafting has at least one white quality item that you can purchase form a vendor and will be used in at least some of the patterns for your skill range. Running missions for these vendor items saves you an average of 10% credit cost compared to just purchasing them from a vendor. If you have companions with +Critical to the this skill then you can occasionally proc additional mats and save significantly more credits.

[Index]
Bioanalysis (Gathering)
Linked Crafting Skill: Biochem

Bioanalysis is somewhat unique because it’s the only gathering profession that has only one crafting profession that utilizes it (Biochem). Gathering nodes will yield all kinds of biochemical samples and compounds used to craft biochemical items; all of which are used in Biochem. You will often find the corpses of beasts that you kill allow you to use Bioanalysis on their corpses after you loot them.

When doing Mission quests with Bioanalysis you can also find each tier’s vendor material. Each tier of crafting has at least one white quality item that you can purchase form a vendor and will be used in at least some of the patterns for your skill range. Running missions for these vendor items saves you an average of 10% credit cost compared to just purchasing them from a vendor. If you have companions with +Critical to the this skill then you can occasionally proc additional mats and save significantly more credits.

[Index]
Scavenging (Gathering)
Linked Crafting Skills: Armormech, Armstech, Cybertech

Scavenging is the most widely used gathering skill of them all as it has three crafting professions that it feeds (see above). Gathering nodes appear around the worlds and your primary source of kill farming comes in the form of Droid “corpses”.

When doing Mission quests with Scavenging you can also find each tier’s vendor material. Each tier of crafting has at least one white quality item that you can purchase form a vendor and will be used in at least some of the patterns for your skill range. Running missions for these vendor items saves you an average of 10% credit cost compared to just purchasing them from a vendor. If you have companions with +Critical to the this skill then you can occasionally proc additional mats and save significantly more credits.

[Index]
Slicing (Gathering)
Linked Crafting Skills: None

Slicing is the king of odd ducks in the gathering world because it has no related crafting or mission skills at all (except itself). Slicing allows you to farm various lockboxes while you’re out in the world, which will contain credits.

Another thing that sets Slicing apart from the other gathering skills is that it has the chance to proc additional goodies when you’re farming nodes or doing Slicing missions. Slicing procs include special Mission quests for every gathering/mission crew skill (including itself) which take significantly more time but also return significantly higher or larger quantity rewards, Cybertech crafting schematics for Ship items and vehicles, and additional lockboxes with even more credits. You can get multiple procs for each mission/gather as well. The best I’ve gotten so far is the base lockbox that gave me 140% profit above the cost of the mission itself along with two purple mission quests.

And in case Slicing wasn’t already unique enough for you, it also has a unique Mission reward. Slicing missions come in two varieties: lockboxes and augments. Lockboxes work just like the gathering version I just described in the paragraph above. Augments are a special type of item mod that comes only from Slicing (and quest rewards and such). Augment slots often appear in crafted gear that, when made, is made critically so that it comes out as an Exceptional version of the item which will have all of the same stats but include an Augment mod slot as well. I believe there are some higher level pieces of gear that come with Augment slots already, but for leveling I think only the Exceptional crafted pieces will have the slot.

Mission Crew Skill Special Notes
Mission skills are an interesting addition to the professions world to me, as someone who has MMO experience only in WoW. Mission skills require you to send your companions away for a period of time to complete a quest that gives you certain rewards. There are no nodes for you to gather from and no other way to level these than sending your companions off and burning the credits it costs to do so.

Mission Skills are the only means (other than the Global Trade Network) of obtaining blue and purple quality crafting mats which are required to craft all non-green patterns for the crafting professions. If you want to be able to craft everything with your crafting skills you MUST have the linked mission skill unless you’re willing to spend the credits buying them off of the GTN; there’s no other way around it.

If you’re just starting out, be careful about sending your companions out on too many mission skills as it’s very easy to find yourself nearing level 25 about to buy your first mount (40,000 credits) only to find you only have 4,000 credits to your name. I made that mistake on my first character with Biochem/Bioanalysis/Diplomacy as I was crafting like a fiend right up until I found myself broke as a joke.

NOTE: ALL mission skills give you an option to farm Companion Gifts. I’m going to say that here and now so that I don’t have to bother repeating myself on every listing below.

[Index]
Diplomacy (Mission)
Linked Crafting Skills: Biochem

Diplomacy is a really cool mission skill because it offers you something beyond just simple mats and companion gifts. Each Diplomacy mission also comes with a Light or Dark rating and running that mission will result in you gaining those Light/Dark points. If you’re really looking to maximize your Light/Dark standing in game then this is your ticket.

Diplomacy missions typically return either Companion Gifts or Medical Samples which are used in high quality Biochem recipes. Diplomacy can also proc the occasional Synthweaving Schematic from what I’ve read, though I never saw that in my own experience and I’m not currently playing any of my Diplomacy alts to test that for you.

[Index]
Investigation (Mission)
Linked Crafting Skills: Armstech

Investigation is the mission skill of the Armstech world, allowing you to research new and improved ways of shooting things in the face. It’s considered to be the Tech user’s mission skill because it ties well into the Armstech and Armormech crafting skills by providing mats and/or schematics for the two.

Investigation missions allow you to find rare metals used in Armstech, and occasionally you will also find schematics for Armormech, Armstech, and Synthweaving.

[Index]
Treasure Hunting (Mission)
Linked Crafting Skills: Artifice and Synthweaving

Treasure Hunting is the Force user’s version of Investigation, and provides the rare mats required for blue+ schematics in Artifice and Synthweaving.

Treasure Hunting missions also have a chance to proc schematics for Armstech, Cybertech, and Artifice.

[Index]
Underworld Trading (Mission)
Linked Crafting Skills: Armormech and Cybertech

Underworld Trading is the Chex Mix™ of mission skills. While it only provides materials for Armormech and Cybertech, the missions skills have a chance to proc schematics for every crafting profession in the game.

If you want to make money by selling schematics on the GTN, then this is one of your best options because it has such a large array of schematics to pull from. It’s also the only way to get additional Biochem schematics outside of vendor training and reverse engineering.

Companion Efficiency and Critical Bonuses
The section above goes over which crew skills match up with which classes from the standpoint of who will use what that skill is capable of making. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those classes will be the best ones at using those skills. So in this section we’re going to look at optimizing your skills based on which companions are available to each class.

I know some of you out there don’t really care how a profession relates to a character, you just want access to a certain profession and you happen to have a character to stick it on so away you go. If you don’t care that our Force user can only build Tech items as long as you get some kind of bonus for doing so as that Force user, then this is where you find out what your best options are.


The following values are brought to you by the swtor-spy.com companions database with the assumption that “Research” actually refers to Investigation.

Efficiency Bonus by Crew Skill Crit Bonus by Crew Skill
Bonuses By Class
Bounty Hunter Imperial Agent Sith Inquisitor Sith Warrior
Jedi Consular Jedi Knight Smuggler Trooper

[Index]
Efficiency Bonus By Crew Skill (Reduced Crafting/Mission Time)
Archaeology: Consular +15, Smuggler +10, Knight +10, Warrior +5
Armormech: Bounty Hunter +15, Smuggler +10
Armstech: Trooper +10, Knight +10, Warrior +10, Agent +10
Artifice: Inquisitor +15, Knight +10
Bioanalysis: Trooper +10, Knight +10, Inquisitor +10, Agent +5
Biochem: Agent +15, Trooper +10, Consular +5
Cybertech: Smuggler +10, Warrior +10, Agent +10, Consular +10, Trooper +5, Bounty Hunter +5
Diplomacy: Smuggler +15, Warrior +10, Consular +10, Inquisitor +10
Investigation: Consular +15, Agent +10, Trooper +10, Bounty Hunter +10, Inquisitor +5
Scavenging: Agent +10, Knight +10, Smuggler +10, Bounty Hunter +10, Warrior +10
Slicing: Bounty Hunter +15, Trooper +10, Consular +10
Synthweaving: Consular +10, Inquisitor +10
Treasure Hunting: Inquisitor +5
Underworld Trading: Smuggler +10, Bounty Hunter +10, Knight +5, Smuggler +5, Warrior +5

[Index]
Critical Bonus By Crew Skill (Chance to proc extra quantity or higher quality)
Archaeology: Inquisitor +5
Armormech: Trooper +5, Agent +2
Armstech: Smuggler +5, Consular +2, Bounty Hunter +1
Artifice:
Bioanalysis: Smuggler +2, Bounty Hunter +2, Warrior +2
Biochem: Knight +5, Bounty Hunter +2
Cybertech:
Diplomacy: Agent +5, Trooper +2, Consular +2
Investigation: Warrior +2
Scavenging: Trooper +5, Consular +2, Inquisitor +2
Slicing: Knight +2, Agent +2, Inquisitor +2, Smuggler +1
Synthweaving: Warrior +5, Knight +5
Treasure Hunting: Warrior +5, Smuggler +2, Bounty Hunter +2, Knight +1
Underworld Trading: Agent +2, Inquisitor +2, Consular +1, Trooper +1

By Class
Each of the following listings is grouped by bonuses that belong together if you’re considering going with the full Crafting + Gathering + Mission lineup. As such you’ll see a full listing of available bonuses, but if there’s a bonus to Scavenging for example and they have a bonus to two or more crafting skills that use Scavenging then you will see the bonus to Scavenging listed multiple times.

[Index]
Bounty Hunter:
+15 Armormech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+10 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+1 Armstech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+10 Investigation Efficiency

+2 Treasure Hunting Crit

+2 Biochem Crit
+2 Bioanalysis Crit

+5 Cybertech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+10 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+10 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+15 Slicing Efficiency

So if you’re looking to maximize your potential crew skills with a Bounty Hunter you’re best options are Armormech (efficiency bonuses all around), Armstech (efficiency bonuses all around), or Cybertech (efficiency bonuses all around). You have solid bonuses for Biochem as well.

[Index]
Imperial Agent:
+2 Armormech Crit
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+10 Investigation Efficiency

+10 Armstech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+2 Underworld Trading Crit


+15 Biochem Efficiency
+5 Bioanalysis Efficiency
+5 Diplomacy Crit

+10 Cybertech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+2 Underworld Trading Crit

+2 Underworld Trading Crit

+2 Slicing Crit

The Imperial Agent is one of the most well rounded classes in terms of bonuses. From a maximization standpoint you should go with Armormech (crit crafting and efficient gathers), Armstech (efficient craft/gather with a crit to your rare mats mission skill), Biochem (efficient craft/gather with crit to rare mats missions), or Cybertech (also with efficient craft/gather and a crit mission for rare mats).

[Index]
Jedi Consular:
+2 Scavenging Crit
+1 Underworld Trading Crit

+2 Armstech Crit
+2 Scavenging Crit
+15 Investigation Efficiency

+15 Archaeology Efficiency

+5 Biochem Efficiency
+2 Diplomacy Crit

+10 Cybertech Efficiency
+2 Scavenging Crit
+1 Underworld Trading Crit

+10 Synthweaving Efficiency
+15 Archaeology Efficiency
+1 Underworld Trading Crit

+10 Slicing Efficiency

Jedi Consulars have a decent grouping of bonuses that allow for flexibility. If you’re looking to maximize then you’ll want to choose Armstech (crafting/gathering crit for higher quality and larger quantity with mission efficiency), Cybertech (crafting efficiency and gathering/mission critical for extra materials), or Synthweaving (efficient crafting/gathering with mission crit for rare mats). You also have decent bonuses to Armormech and Biochem.

[Index]
Jedi Knight:
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+5 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+10 Armstech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+1 Investigation Crit

+10 Artifice Efficiency
+10 Archaeology Efficiency

+5 Biochem Crit
+10 Bioanalysis Efficiency

+5 Synthweaving Crit
+5 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+2 Slicing Crit

Jedi Knights are a bit odd considering the only grouping they have full bonuses in is Armstech (craft/gather efficiency with mission crit for rare mats) which they don’t use at all themselves. However, they do have a solid bonus to Armormech, Artifice, Biochem, and Synthweaving of which all but Armormech are directly usable by the Knight.

[Index]
Sith Inquisitor:
+2 Scavenging Crit
+5 Investigation Efficiency

+2 Scavenging Crit
+2 Underworld Trading Crit

+15 Artifice Efficiency
+5 Archaeology Crit
+5 Treasure Hunting Efficiency

+10 Bioanalysis Efficiency
+10 Diplomacy Efficiency

+10 Synthweaving Efficiency
+5 Archaeology Crit
+5 Treasure Hunting Efficiency

+2 Slicing Crit

The Sith Inquisitor fits in right about where I would expect them to. Optimal professions are Artifice (crafting/mission efficiency and critical gathering for extra base mats) and Synthweaving (again crafting/mission efficiency and critical gathering for extra base mats). They also have a decent pairing of other crew skills allowing them some advantage as an Armormech, Armstech, or Biochem.

[Index]
Sith Warrior:
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+5 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+10 Armstech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+2 Investigation Crit

+5 Archaeology Efficiency
+5 Treasure Hunting Efficiency

+2 Bioanalysis Crit
+10 Diplomacy Efficiency

+5 Synthweaving Efficiency
+5 Archaeology Efficiency
+5 Treasure Hunting Efficiency

+10 Cybertech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+5 Underworld Trading Efficiency

The Sith Warrior is pretty well off overall with their bonuses. Maximizing professions shows that Armstech (efficient crafting/gathering with critical mission for rare mats), Synthweaving (full efficiency bonuses), and Cybertech (full efficiencies) are your best options. If those don’t thrill you there are still solid bonuses to Armormech, Artifice, and Bioanalysis.

[Index]
Smuggler:
+10 Armormech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+10 Underworld Trading Efficiency
+5 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+5 Armstech Crit
+10 Scavenging Efficiency

+2 Treasure Hunting Crit

+2 Bioanalysis Crit
+15 Diplomacy

+10 Cybertech Efficiency
+10 Scavenging Efficiency
+10 Underworld Trading Efficiency
+5 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+10 Underworld Trading Efficiency
+5 Underworld Trading Efficiency

+1 Slicing Crit

Smugglers are unique in that they have two different companions with efficiency bonuses to Underworld Trading. That doesn’t surprise me at all given the class concept, but it’s odd to see something like that which is almost tailored to the class when you look at some of the other classes and their lack of relevant bonuses.

From a maximization standpoint you definitely want to shoot for using that Underworld Trading which means Armormech (full efficiency with dual mission efficiency) or Cybertech (full efficiency with dual mission efficiency). Armstech and Bioanalysis have some decent bonuses as well, and that dual UT efficiency could help with rare mats for Synthweaving as well.

[Index]
Trooper:
+5 Armormech Crit
+5 Scavenging Crit
+1 Underworld Trading Crit

+10 Armstech Efficiency
+5 Scavenging Crit
+10 Investigation Efficiency


+10 Biochem Efficiency
+10 Bioanalysis Efficiency
+2 Diplomacy Crit

+5 Cybertech Efficiency
+5 Scavenging Crit
+1 Underworld Trading Crit

+1 Underworld Trading Crit

+10 Slicing

Troopers are another fairly well rounded class, and they fit in right about where I would expect them to on their bonuses. Optimization shows that Armormech (full crit bonuses), Armstech (crafting/mission efficiency with crit gathering for extra mats), Biochem (craft/gather efficiency with crit mission for extra rare mats), and Cybertech (efficient crafting with crit gathering/mission for extra mats).

Making the Decision That’s Right For You
When it comes to crew skills in SWTOR, or professions in any other game, remember that this choice is yours to make. You can choose whatever you want and so so for whatever reasons you want. Unlike WoW, SWTOR professions do not give specific bonuses that increase your performance stats in game, so there’s no reason to worry about a +2 Aim difference between maxed Arsmtech versus maxed Biochem because such a bonus does not exist. [Update: Had that last sentence worded as "performance" which isn't actually true if you consider the explosives of Cybertech in terms of PvP since they can have a definitely impact on your performance there. Thanks to @aggrazel for pointing out the bad wording for me.]

If you want to be self reliant then you want to pick up three professions that match up together. In all cases that is 1 Craft + 1 Gather + 1 Mission, and in none of those cases is Slicing an option.

If you want to be able to make gear upgrades for all of your alts, then your best bet is to go for one that crafts mods. The top two mod crafting professions are Artifice (Hilts, Crystals, Enhancements) and Cybertech (Armoring and Mod mods).

If you want to maximize your earnings, then you definitely want Slicing (for the gathering aspect more so than mission runs). Crafting is very hit and miss and varies wildly from one server to another, so I won’t make any suggestions there.

If you just want to gather, then by all means grab yourself some gathering professions and go to town. Of the four gathering professions, only three of them provide materials (the fourth being Slicing). Of those three, Scavenging is the most widely used since it feeds three professions, Archaeology next feeding two professions, and Bioanalysis last feeding only one. In some cases Scavenging will be the most lucrative because it has the highest supply and demand, while in others Bioanalysis will top the charts because it has the lowest supply and lowest demand. Archaeology is the invisible underdog since it rests right in the middle, which means there will also be times that it comes out on top as people fight over the other two.

So take what you want, and do with it what you will.

As for me? Gotta catch ‘em all!

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in Companions, Crew Skills, SWTOR

 

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SWTips: Part I

The last few weeks I’ve put a lot of time into playing Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) and today I’m finally getting around to sharing some of my experiences with you.

I know that most of my readers come here for WoW related information on leveling and heirlooms, but for the immediate future I’m shifting gears over to SWTOR. I signed up for WoW’s annual pass so I’ll still be playing WoW at least until October 2012, and hopefully we have a chance to experience Mists of Pandaria by then to see whether or not there’s a chance that I’ll continue longer. For the time being I’ll be breaking my first rule of MMO gaming, which is that I never play more than one game at a time. All of that is for another post and another day.

This is going to be the first SWTips (SWOH-tips) post in which I share all of the nifty little tricks that I’ve found that can help you. This first post is going to be a bit of everything that I’ve found so far instead of being directed at a specific activity or something because I’m more eager to just share some information with you than I am to break this up into several posts.

Also, I’ll apologize in advance for the poor selection of screenshots. Apparently I’ve only taken seven since I started playing, and six of those are of PvP scoreboards. I’ll…try to fix that.

Classes & Advanced Classes
I wanted to start off with this one because it’s probably the hardest thing for people to wrap their heads around if they’re coming from other MMO’s.

SWTOR has 4 base classes per faction. Each faction’s base classes have unique names, but they’re actually the same classes on both sides with different names for everything.

Republic Trooper = Empire Bounty Hunter
Republic Jedi Knight = Empire Sith Warrior
Republic Smuggler = Empire Imperial Agent
Republic Jedi Consular = Empire Sith Inquisitor

Each of those base classes holds the key to the confusion, because at level 10 you choose to take an Advanced Class (AC). Each base class has two advanced classes, and choosing one prevents you from ever having access to the other. So basically the base class is like a tutorial to give you a feel for two different play styles at once. Once you reach level 10 you drop your base class and move on to your advanced class – for ever.

With 2 AC’s for every base class we’re really left with 8 unique classes for people to be. You’ll always be a Sith Inquisitor if that was your base class, but you’re actually either a Sorcerer or an Assassin as far as what your actual class is because it’s your Advanced Class that defines your character.

Each AC has it’s own set of three talent trees to spend points in, and even though one of the three trees is “shared” between both AC’s for every class, the talents themselves often change between the two AC’s. So while both the Sorcerer and Assassin have access to the Madness tree, the talents within that tree work differently for both specs because they’re completely different (caster vs. melee).

As the game stands right now you can pay to reset your talent points, so there is an option to repsec. However, there is (currently) no dual spec option so if you want to switch roles you’ll have to respec. Bioware has discussed, but so far declined, the possibility of changing your Advanced Class. At this time you cannot change your AC once you’ve selected it. So if you decide to be a Sith Assassin, you cannot become a Sith Sorcerer without rolling a new character. While I would personally like to have this ability, I can understand why they would not allow it and I will support their decision on how to handle it either way.

A lot of people get a bit upset at not being able to switch their AC, and that’s perfectly understandable. With the way that classes are handled though, if you were to relate this to WoW you’re basically asking for the ability to class change your Mage into a Rogue, or your Druid into a Warrior, your Death Knight into a Priest. Advanced classes are like classes unto themselves, and asking for the ability to change them on the fly is a bit much.

That being said, with how AC’s are handled in the first place, it can really suck for people to invest time into a character that could be either a Rogue or a Priest only find out at level 20 that you really wish you would have chosen the other AC, or you find that your guild needs a healer but you chose an AC that can only tank and dps and your only option is to reroll another character.

Free Experience
There’s a lot of “free” experience to be had in SWTOR. “Free” meaning that all you have to do is click on something and you get experience for it. These are typically called Codex entries which basically means that you’re exploring and learning about the galaxy.

You get codex entries for all kinds of things. Killing strange creatures, clicking on glowy blue objects, accomplishing objectives in PvP warzones, or talking to special NPC’s. Your character will make codex entries for those which gives you experience and gives you a place to look up information about the subject.

Glowy Blue Items: if you see something in the world that’s glowing with a dull, blue light – click on it. It’s either a quest item that you need anyway, or it’s a lore item that’s going to give you experience for a codex entry. These things come in all shapes and sizes from little datapads the size of your hand to massive rock formations. If it’s glowing, click it.

Monster Codex: If you’re out exploring and you see a strange creature roaming about – click it. In some cases you just need to be close to it and click it, and others you have to attack and kill it. If clicking doesn’t do anything, try to kill it. If you get an entry you get more experience, and if you don’t then just move on and ignore those creatures unless you have a quest to kill some more. Don’t just go for monsters that have health bars though, you can also get entries for friendly beasts.

Datacrons: These will have their own section further below since they’re kind of a big deal, but these are a great source of free experience with the added bonus of also increasing your attributes. Datacrons can be found on (I believe) every planet in the game, and there’s anywhere from 3-6 datacrons on each one. Some datacrons are incredibly easy to reach while other require extensive amounts of jumping, running, navigation, and even team work in order to reach them. I’ll give you some links for how to find these in the Datacrons section down below.

Training Crew Skills: When you first arrive at the Imperial/Republic fleet for the first time on a new character you’ll receive a quest to go train your crew skills and to talk to one of your trainers a second time after choosing the profession. However, since crew skills give codex entries, you’ll get free experience from talking to every skill trainer regardless of which three you’re going to choose and whether or not you’ve already chosen/accepted them. Take a peek at the Crew Skills section below for a tip on how to gain three levels just from talking to these guys.

[Update: Added] Companion Story/Dialogue Quests: As you start to gather your companions you’ll notice that every now and then they’ll want to talk to you someplace private. These take place in either a cantena or on your ship, and your companion will have a quest marker when they’re available. These quests allow you to get to know your companion more, build affection (or lose it) with them, and sometimes assign them special positions or roles within your character’s story. Every time you complete a portion of your class quest that’s somewhat significant, there’s a good chance that at least one of your companions wants to have a chat with you. Quests are quests, and that means experience.

PvP: Player versus Player Combat
PvP is something that I’ve been a huge fan of in WoW for the last 2-3 years and something that I’ve really enjoyed in SWTOR so far as well. In fact, I think I might even go so far as to say that I prefer SWTOR PvP to WoW PvP and that’s actually saying quite a bit.

No Brackets: Right now there is only one PvP bracket, meaning that all characters that can participate (level 10-50) will face each other in the same bracket. There is a mechanic in place, Bolster, which evens the playing field stats-wise (for the most part) so that the only difference between a level 10 and a level 50 is that the level 50 has access to 40 extra levels worth of spells. Don’t let level differences fool you though, it’s entirely possible for a level 10 to kill a level 50 in a 1v1 fight with Bolster. It’s not necessarily likely, but it is possible.

No Cross Server Queues: Because there’s no brackets, there’s also no cross server grouping. Instead, every time you step foot into a warzone, you’re facing other players on your server. Their main reason for doing this was to establish a community. When you’re facing the same batch of people over and over in PvP, you start to recognize names. This was something that had me a bit concerned when I first saw it, but after having experienced it I find that I actually love this feature. This is the one saving grace of Huttball after I got burned out on it, because you can face your own faction there. There are two people that I’ve developed a relationship with in SWTOR PvP because of these two features combined.

One of them I’ve only ever been teamed up with, but as we’re both healers we’ve done some of the most amazing node defense and defending the ball carrier that I’ve ever seen. The other is with an Imperial Agent who I frequently have both on my team and on the opposing team. When we’re working together we can take down level 48′s while we’re in our teens, but while facing each other we’re both the number one kill target for the other. Unfortunately for him, I have stealth.

Bolster: This is a buff that raises your stats to be comparable to those people who are higher level than you in the warzone. Bolster’s buff is percentage based, so it increases your current stats by the percentage associated with your level. What that means is, when you’re in gear that’s appropriate for your level, Bolster will make you as strong as a level 50 character in level-appropriate gear. If you’re undergeared though, that percentage doesn’t increase itself to make up for your lack of gear, it just increases your weaker stats. So if you’re level 14 in level 14 gear, you’ll be about the same as a level 50 in level 50 (non-PvP) gear, but if you’re a level 20 in level 15 gear then you’ll be roughly as strong as a level 50 in level 38 gear.

Resolve: Is a bar that shows up under players’ nameplates that marks how much crowd control (CC) they’ve been hit with recently. When that bar is full (it’s a whitish-bluish color) that player is immune to CC. There is a lot of CC in SWTOR and almost every class has several CC abilities by level 10 (melee force users don’t get reliable CC until level 24). Watch your opponent’s resolve bar carefully when you’re trying to decide whether it’s best for you to CC them or go for the kill as you may find that going for the kill is your only option and that one wasted global cooldown on CC when they’re immune can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Rewards: PvP is actually incredibly rewarding, especially at lower levels. Each victory will earn you roughly 1,000 credits, 40-90 commendations which can be used for gear upgrades, and experience that’s pretty close to what you would get from on-level quests. You can get your first PvP weapon at level 14, and it will take you 5-10 warzones worth of commendations to purchase it, but it will be significantly better than anything else you can get your hands on at that level. Level 20 is when the first set of armor becomes available which is also extremely powerful. Now, just to clarify here, this gear does not have the PvP stat Expertise on them, they’re just gear pieces that you can get only through PvP. Expertise is only available on level 50 PvP gear.

Expertise: This is the PvP stat, the one that increases your performance in PvP-only, and has no effect at all on PvE. This is only available at level 50, and it’s the one thing that make level 50′s harder to kill in PvP than anyone else. Right now a level 50 with full PvP gear on can defend a node form 4-6 people by themselves. BioWare is working towards splitting the level 50′s off into their own bracket once there are enough 50′s to actually have a bracket, but until then this is the major source of imbalance in PvP right now.

PvP: Warzones
There are three warzones in SWTOR at this time, and they should all have at least some amount of familiarity if you’ve done PvP in other MMO’s.

Alderaan: This is a resources map similar to Arathi Basin or Battle For Gilneas if you’re a WoW player. There are three nodes (left, right, and mid) and you need to stay in control of any 2 of those for the majority of the fight in order to win. You can see who controls which nodes as well as the current standing of each team by looking at the icons in the top-right corner of your screen. Your turrets and your bar are colored green, your opponents’ is colored red, and uncontrolled turrets are grey. The longer you control the turret nodes, the more damage they deal to the opponent’s ship, and the faster you win.

The best tip I can give you for this warzone is to always cap the node from the opposite side of the enemy spawn locations. The nodes themselves grant Line of Sight, so unless the opponent has an AoE that they can target to get around the node, they have to spend extra time running in order to get to you and that extra time can be the deciding factor in capping a turret. People are constantly trying to capture these nodes at the wrong angle and letting the enemy hit them with a basic ranged attack to prevent a capture that they could have easily had if they would have taken 2 steps to the side.

Actually, the best tip I could give you is something that’s been chiseled into the foundation of the world since PvP became PvP – FIGHT ON THE FLAGS! Always, always, always fight on the flags. Never let your flag be captured because you weren’t paying attention or weren’t able to react in time because you were too far away from the node.

There’s a lot I could talk about in regards to the layout of this warzone and how to get around quickly and such, but I think I’m going to leave that for an actual Alderaan-specific guide that I’ll write later.

Voidstar: This is a defend and assault style map where each side gets a chance at being both offense and defense. It’s basically Strand of the Ancients for you WoW players. There are three walls that you have to get through in order to reach a computer terminal which is the primary objective. You get through the walls by planting bombs (8 second timer) which then have a 20 second countdown before they explode. The defenders are trying to prevent you from planting bombs in the first place, or defusing them (3 second timer) once you do get them up before they blow the doors open. Once one door is opened in a section, all the doors in that section open and push combat into the next section.

The second and third sections each have another gating mechanic that requires another 8 second timer to open the gate to reach the doors in the first place, but those happen instantly if you get the 8 seconds completed. There are two gates in the second section, and three in the third. Gates are opened singularly, so if you open only the left gate in section 2, the right gate stays closed. As an attacker, you want to open all of the gates, where the defender wants to keep all of them closed only until one is opened at which point their focus should be strictly defending the final doors.

Stealth classes have an edge in this map because they can maneuver around the map and plant a bomb while the defenders are away. That’s why defense and fighting on the flags is so important in this match. You should never leave the doors unguarded if you’re defending. Zerg tactics can sometimes work on this map, but team composition can make a huge difference as well. The team that the most AoE and/or the most CC typically wins.

Huttball: This is the capture the flag map, but with a twist – the flag can be passed around. There isn’t really a true enough equivalent to this warzone in WoW, the closest being Warsong Gulch, but I’m told there’s a somewhat similar map in Rift. I did play Rift, but I never did any PvP so I wouldn’t know. The point here is to grab the neutral ball from the middle of the field and carry it to your opponent’s side of the field to score a point. Killing the ball handler will cause the ball to be passed to a nearby member of your team (I think the person who gets the killing blow gets the ball, but I’m not positive), otherwise you’ll pick it up from the spawn point in mid.

There are 4 levels in Huttball. Ground level which has access to all of the other three and contains two acid pits which deal damage and apply a slow effect to anyone inside them as well as two air traps which launch players in random directions around midfield. The Pit, which is the lowest level and is located in front of the goal area by with no immediate access to the goal. Middle Ramp which has one entrance from the ground floor and then two exits onto the scoring portion of the ground floor, and also contains two fire traps on both sides of the field that deal significant damage. And the upper/outer Ramps that are accessed on the outer edges of the ground floor in midfield, which also contain two fire traps on both sides, and has a single exit onto the scoring side of the pits on the ground level.

Because of the multiple levels and the damaging terrain of this warzone, ranged classes have a definite advantage here. Crowd Control is even more deadly on this map than raw DPS thanks to the hazardous terrain, and knockbacks can really screw with your clutch flag captures.

My most important tip for Huttball is to put the spell to throw the ball somewhere on your action bars where it’s easy to get to. The spell name is “Throw the Huttball” and it does just that. It should show up on your bars by default when you entire Huttball for the first time. If your bars are full though, you can find it on the General tab of your skills window. I have my Throw button assigned to my ‘R’ keybind because I want it as accessible as possible when I’m playing Huttball. If you have the ball and you’re low on health, pass it off to a teammate. If you’re in a bad position and someone else is near the goal, pass it. Do not try to be a hero in Huttball. It’s better to pass the ball and get a point than to try to force your way through four opponents only to die with your face on the goal line and the ball in enemy hands.

Throwing the Huttball does require you to click on a target area when you activate it, you can’t just pass it directly to another team member. If your team is in the AoE they should receive the ball so long as they’re not in stealth. If you’re going to die and there’s nobody on your team to pass it to, you should do your best to pass the ball to an open spot on the map so that it’s reset to the middle of the field instead of falling into enemy hands.

If you’re still confused by all of that, just wait for my post on Huttball where I’ll go into a lot more detail and include screenshots and such.

Companions
Companions are sort of like pets/minions from other games, except that every class gets 5 (6) of them throughout the the game. Each class gets specific companions and they are given to you at specific points in your class quest storyline. You’ll get your first companion between levels 7-12 depending on which class you are and how strongly you stick to your class quest versus every other quest out there. Your second companion, the one who’s only a partial companion (no combat skills) comes with your ship which you’ll get someone in your mid-to-upper teens. The third and fourth companions vary somewhat between the classes as far as what level or what stage of your class quest you get them at, but you should get them in your 20′s. For example, my Trooper has 3 companions while my wife’s Smuggler has only 2, even though we’re at the same stage of our class quests.

You can have only one companion actively helping you in combat at a time. The number of companions you can have sent out on Mission quests (see below) or crafting items for you at one time is based on your level. You can only have two companions crafting/questing until you reach level 25 and open up the third.

Remember, companions are tied to your class quest, so if you’re eager for more companions you should consider cutting back on all of the other quests in the area and focus just on your class chain. There are way more quests available than you need to level to 50 anyway, so don’t feel like you have an obligation to do every quest on every planet before moving on. You can always come back later.

For a great source of companion information, I direct you to swtor-spy.com.

Presence: This is a stat that you’ll find on some pieces of gear which gives no direct benefit to you. This stat instead increases the health, damage, and healing abilities of your companions. If you like to play solo, then this is a good stat for you to stack if you like having your companion out to give you a hand. If you’re more of a group player this you can ignore this stat since companions count against your total group size.

Affection: Is a rating of how well your companions like you (or how much they hate your rotten guts). This increases (or decreases) the success rate of the companion’s Mission quests and impacts the roleplay options you have with that companion, including a chance for romance where it’s available.

Skill Efficiency: This increases the companion’s success rate with a certain skill and also decreases the amount of time it takes them to accomplish it. A mission may say it will take 4 minutes, but with a companion with high efficiency in that skill it may only take 3.5 minutes. Each companion has their own efficiency/critical scores that are already tied to specific crew skills and you cannot do anything to change which skills or what type of bonus they have.

Skill Critical: This increases the chance that your companion will have extra or increased rewards when utilizing your Crew Skills.

Crew Skills
Crew Skills are SWTOR’s version of professions, and for the most part I love them. You, as the player, select three Crew Skills that your Companions will have access to. You get three, and only three. Of those three, only one of them can be a Crafting skill (you don’t have to have a crafting skill, you just can’t have more than one on the same character).

Crafting Skills: Armortech, Armstech, Artifice, Biochem, Cybertech and Synthweaving. These professions all craft gear, consumables, or item mods. You can only have one of these per character. You don’t actually craft anything yourself, your companions do all of the crafting for you.

Gathering/Mission Skills: Archaeology, Bioanalysis, Scavenging, Slicing. These professions are all used to gather items while you’re out questing, and they can be used as mission skills to get specific types of items. Both you and your companions can gather nodes while you’re out in the world(s), but only your companions can go on the Mission quest portion. With the exception of Slicing, these professions all give you the basic materials required by the crafting professions.

Slicing gathers lockboxes which most often contain credits, though it can also give you access to schematics and mission quests for all of the other professions. Slicing received a nerf in the most recent patch 1.0.1 which significantly reduced the amount of credits you can farm with it. Prior to that nerf, I was able to farm 100,000 credits on my level 23 Trooper. After that nerf I get about the same amount of credits from a day’s worth of farming that I used to get in about 3 hours. Exact numbers are still being tested, but it looks like the nerf was fairly significant.

Mission-Only Skills: Diplomacy, Investigation, Treasure Hunting and Underworld Trading. These crew skills, to my knowledge, do not have any nodes that you can gather from, and instead require Mission quests to level. These crew skills are required if you want to be able to make Blue or Purple quality gear with your crafting professions as they are the only reliable method of obtaining the rare materials required to craft them.

Datacrons
Datacrons are shiny little cubes that you can find throughout the various planets of SWTOR. Clicking on them typically gives you a bonus to one of your attributes of +2, though some can give +3-4, while others will give you a Datacron Fragment which you combine with others in special locations to form more powerful datacrons. I haven’t done the combining yet so I don’t know the details for those, but I do know you can do it and have found two of the stations that you do it in, so I’ll know more about it once I find some more pieces and can put them together.

For the best resource I’ve found online for datacron locations, I direct you once again to swtor-spy.com. You can also search for them on YouTube. I prefer video walkthroughs to written instructions and screenshots, so if I can’t find what I’m looking for on one site I’ll try out another.

There are two reasons why you want to hunt these datacrons down. First, because they are permanent increases to your attributes so by not going after them you’re making yourself less powerful than you could/should be. Granted, not all of them are useful for every character, such as +2 Aim on a Force user, but you should at least go for the ones that you can benefit from. Second, these are also Codex entries, meaning you get more “free” experience just from finding them.

More to Come
I’ve got plenty more tips for you, but we’re already pushing 5k words on this one and it’s a big mish-mash of all kinds of stuff thrown together as it is, so I don’t want it to get much bigger.

If there’s anything in particular you would like for me to cover, feel free to leave your suggestion in the comments below. Otherwise I’ll just keep on keeping on with whatever happens to be peaking my interest at the moment when I start writing the next one.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Crew Skills, Leveling, Player vs Player, SWTOR

 

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