Hanging Out in San Francisco: Drios & Swtorista

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On my very short trip to the Bay Area this week, I didn’t have a lot of time to do things outside of the EA event, but I did still have a little fun!

When I arrived in town, I used Uber to go to downtown San Francisco, where I met up with my SWTOR operation leader, Drios, who is also one the officers in my guild Despair. I walked for quite a bit in the wrong direction (away from where we were meeting up), but I saw Union Square and went to a few different shops while I waited for him to arrive. I realized I had forgotten some essential toiletries (pouf and toothpaste), so I stopped into Walgreens to buy some travel sized items. I know I probably could’ve just gotten toothpaste from the hotel and used the hotel soap instead of the body wash I brought, but at least I have the items for my next trip. I also realized here that the sales tax rate was 8.75%. In comparison to Nevada’s 8.1% sales tax, I decided I didn’t need to buy anything else since I could get everything in Las Vegas. However, I still walked around for quite a bit and browsed!

Here's a picture of where we went, but not the crappy picture I took.

Here’s a picture of where we went, but not the crappy picture I took.

By the time we met up, I was pretty hungry from walking around! We went to the top floor of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, which has a cocktail lounge and bar with fantastic views of the city. In the dark, I don’t think I took very good pictures, but I’ll include a picture on the blog of what it looks like in the daytime also.

We ordered a few finger foods, some sliders and shrimp (both of which I forgot to take a picture of), and I ordered a Sam Adams. We tried to talk to one of our operation group members in Mumble (which I have on my iPhone), and we chatted about the game and real life! It was his first time meeting someone from the internet, but for me, it was not as daunting since I’ve met many people from the internet a lot lately.

Drios and Dianah!

Drios and Dianah!

He had to work at 6:00am the next morning, so we parted ways! It was fun getting to meet someone I played with in-game several times a week, and now I’m able to put a (better) face to the name. (The only picture I’ve seen of him was of him taped to a tree.)

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The next day I attended the EA event and met Victoria of swtorista.com! After the event was over, we headed downtown. The night before she had also been downtown, but we had not known that the other was going to be in town, so we didn’t hang out. However, we had some time before our flights later that evening to play tourist!

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She had not seen Union Square yet, so on our way there we stopped in Ghiradelli for some drinks. The employee gave us free samples of the Peppermint Chocolate, which was excellent! Victoria purchased a hot chocolate with the melted Peppermint Chocolate in it, and I chose a Pumpkin Pie latte!

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We made our way to Union Square and took a few pictures! I really liked all of the Christmas decorations. We also did some light shopping, but we didn’t have enough time to do anything but impulse purchases. I found a Madewell inside the Westfield mall on Market St., which I was both excited and bummed about. Excited, because I really liked the store and don’t have one to go to in Las Vegas, and bummed, because I didn’t have enough time to take my time, try things on, and evaluate whether or not I wanted to buy anything. Since the sales tax was higher, I guess I can just buy it online now that I am home, but it was nice being able to see and touch the merchandise in person.

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We took the BART back to the airport together, where we had to fly out in separate terminals! It was a pleasure meeting her since I’ve listened to her interview on OotiniCast. We haven’t communicated much online since I prefer Twitter (she doesn’t have an account) and she prefers Reddit (which I haven’t really posted to). However, I’m glad we met and hung out, and I hope we can present some useful information to the SWTOR community about the EA event once the embargo is lifted!

Trying Uber For the First Time

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A few days ago, as some of you might know, I flew into San Francisco for an Electronic Arts (EA) press event for the new Star Wars: The Old Republic Shadow of Revan expansion. I cannot release any information about it yet, but I can write about my experience using Uber while I was in the Bay Area!

My hotel had a free shuttle to and from the airport, so I rode on that when I arrived at the airport. That night, however, I was meeting up with one of my Despair guildies in downtown San Francisco! I had planned to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train, but there wasn’t a station within walking distance, and I didn’t want to take a car to the stop and then the train! I asked the front desk employee as I was checking in the best way to go downtown at that time, and he suggested that I try Uber.

What convinced me to give it a shot instead of calling for a taxi was that he said it was faster (within a few minutes), more convenient (don’t have to fumble with payment at the end of trip), and cheaper than a taxi. I was a bit wary since Uber has had some legal battles in Las Vegas on whether or not it could operate in the city, and additionally, I have no use for it since there is free parking everywhere and I have my own vehicle. On vacation though, away from any sort of public transportation and without a car, I decided to try Uber.

I downloaded the app, which was easy enough, registered with my name, phone number, e-mail address, and credit card information. There was an option to add a profile picture, but I thought it was unnecessary at the time. (Later, I realized the value of adding a profile picture to your account, so that the driver can identify you as the correct person.) I selected my pickup location at the hotel and chose a destination close to Union Square in downtown San Francisco. Nearly immediately, it said I had a driver nearby that would pick me up within 5 minutes, so I hurried downstairs and waited in front of the hotel. The app shows you who is picking you up with their profile picture, name, a rating (out of 5), and the vehicle type and license plate number. My first Uber driver, Adam, was on his way in a Ford Focus!

His car was very clean, and he had GPS and phone screens all over the dashboard. He was very friendly and engaged in entertaining conversation about what I was doing in San Francisco, the Las Vegas housing market, and my gaming hobby. At the end of the trip, I got out of the car, the amount for the trip was displayed on my phone, and a request for me to rate the driver. I gave him 5 stars.

For the duration of my short trip, I used Uber 3 more times. Some drivers I thought were more talkative than others (one gave me a WWII history lesson), and one vehicle was not as spotlessly clean as the others, but overall I had a positive experience using the service. The trips did seem cheaper than a taxi, especially for the long distances that I was driven to. I was happy not to have so much cash. I dislike not having the correct denominations of bills and then having the taxi driver give you change. It was much easier just to leave the car and have the trip charged to my card, which they don’t ever see or have access to. I also was very happy that the drivers arrived quickly to pick me up, within 5 minutes every time I think, aside from the last one that was a bit lost navigating the EA headquarters.

I probably won’t be using Uber anytime soon when I’m home in Las Vegas, but if I visit another city where Uber is available and I don’t have a car, I will definitely use it again!

If you would like to try out Uber, I have a promo code that you can use: heathern184. You can redeem it at https://www.uber.com/invite/heathern184. This will get you $30 off your first Uber ride (and also give me a free ride up to $30 next time I use it).

The Republic Episode 192, CRR News, and More

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The weather is finally cooling down here in Las Vegas! I’m actually wearing pants (normally I only wear dresses/skirts), and a scarf. Yesterday when I was dressing for a jewelry party, I realized I have the same sweater in at least half a dozen different colors, and they were all, inconveniently, thin and quarter-sleeved.  I will have to go shopping for more differently designed, warmer sweaters.

The display at the jewelry party I went to!

The display at the jewelry party I went to! I bought more than I probably should have…

I’m really excited to pack tonight for my trip (even though it will be very short) to San Francisco/Redwood City for the EA press event about the new SWTOR Shadow of Revan expansion while I represent Corellian Run Radio! I will be flying out tomorrow afternoon and coming back on Wednesday night. I cannot release much of the information that I learn at the event right away, but I will post something as soon as I’m able to.

Corellian Run Radio

Additionally, we have begun to livestream our Corellian Run Radio episodes! On Sunday we streamed our first episode on Twitch. The video/podcast won’t be out until tomorrow, so look out for another post with the video and links to the podcast. Our episodes are released every two weeks, so follow us at twitch.tv/corellianrunradio so that you’re ready for our next episode!

In other news, I was on another episode of The Republic last week for GAMEBREAKER.tv. I think I did better with the lighting this week, since I made a makeshift diffuser (more like me just taping a piece of paper over the lamp, LOL). Here’s the video of episode 192 of The Republic:

SWTOR Las Vegas Community Cantina Tour 2014

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Tonight I attended the SWTOR Community Cantina here in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center! I arrived a little over an hour early, and there weren’t a lot of people there yet. I sat down by GasGuy who I’ve met a few times at Ootini events, and also Terry, a reader of the blog. There was plenty of seating around where the ballroom was located, so most people hung out until Community Manager Eric Musco showed up and said we could get in line! I ended up towards the front, but unlike the Seattle Cantina from 2013, there was plenty of room for the attendees.

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When we were finally let into the Cantina, I was excited to see that in addition to the pet code, flash drive, and free drink ticket, Lead Community Coordinator Courtney Woods was passing out thick black wristbands that read, “Star Wars The Old Republic: Shadow of Revan.” I was super giddy about this, since it was my third cantina and I had not previously gotten something like it before.  I used (perhaps wasted?) my drink ticket on a bottle of Bud Light, made my way to the front, and sat down with some players from WOOK, a great guild on the Shadowlands, who I was told were going to be there from Cyberelf!

WOOK Guildies!

WOOK Guildies!

I would like to preface that I went in with very good intentions, to record the Q&A session on video and audio for the developer interviews. That is not what happened. My phone ran out of space for videos about three minutes into the Cantina, and the first question was barely completed.

However, I do have some excellent news. I was the second person to ask a question during the Q&A session (as you may have seen from the video, Musco said that I would get to ask the second question, followed by some giggles). My first question, above everything else, was for my guild Despair, because they make the game worth playing for me. I asked:

“What future development do you have planned for Galactic Starfighter? Will there ever be an infiltration ship? Ranked GSF? New game modes/maps?”

Eric Musco passed the microphone to Producer Andrew Horowitz, who saw my paper filled with questions and asked to see it! He ended up giving a pretty diplomatic answer, that there was nothing currently in development for GSF but they do want to work on it.

Producer Andrew Horowitz and me

Andrew Horowitz and me

I tracked him down once the Q&A was over, since he asked about my long list of questions, and I told him that I would be attending the EA press event next week. He said he would be there too (along with Eric Musco), and that he could answer all of the questions on my list at the Cantina, but they wouldn’t be “real” answers. He advised to hold them for the press event, and that’s what I’m going to do. So, stay tuned for some really good answers from me next week!

I did pay a bit of attention to what was going on around me concerning the other Q&A questions that were asked.

Is there a possibility of a crew skills app? – Unlikely, but they do want to create something for the website to engage the players, keep them thinking about the game, and able to do things in the game without actually being in the client.

Will there be more class stories? – I was a bit perturbed that someone asked this question because it’s “known” that Shadow of Revan will have individualized class stories. Obviously the answer was yes, there will be more class stories in 3.0, but since there is so much involved in class stories, any more in the future would be very small.

Is there a way that we could see some class demographics info? – Someone asked if we would be able to see some demographics information about what classes people were playing and how many, and the Bioware representatives said that this could definitely be released sometime in the future.

Will there be any more on-rail space missions? – By the dev’s answer, this seemed to be a big “NO.”

Can the guild ship key interface be fixed? – This was also unlikely, but they can try to make it a higher priority. The Bioware representatives said that anything we talked about that night becomes more important in their minds because we asked for it.

Will there be more classes in the future? – This was kind of a “Wall of Crazy” question, and I even think one of the developers joked that they will add 14 new classes.

My friends in WOOK asked one of my other questions during the Q&A session, which was,

“Can you elaborate on what you are developing that is “better than cross-server” for ranked PvP? What can we expect in the future regarding PvP?”

Musco immediately said that technically he did not say that! The answer, coming from Development Director Ben Irving, was that they were “working on something that will fix many of the queuing issues.” And that was all they could say. However, he did say that they will try to tell us more about it in the next two weeks. Musco was quick to correct him, to avoid definite deadlines, they will give us more information by the end of the year (maybe?).

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There were also many prizes given out for answering SWTOR trivia questions, including four Revan books, one SWTOR encyclopedia, two t-shirts (one Republic and one Imperial), a Star Wars lego set, and a GSF poster signed by the developers! The poster  was the big prize since there are not a lot of people outside the studio that have the poster (maybe 150 I think they said), and even less that actually have it signed. I wanted to try to win it for my guild master, but I didn’t know what the answer was anyway.

Eric Musco and me

Eric Musco and me

Courtney Woods and me

Courtney Woods and me

A question I asked Andrew Horowitz after the Q&A was about being able to toggle the graphical effect lighting up an ability with gold trim when their relevant proc came up in 3.0. I personally found this distracting, and we have other similar preferences that we’re able to turn on and off. He said this wouldn’t be a problem at all, and should be something easy to implement. I also asked about whispering from the guild menu, and this is definitely on their priority list!

Another question that I asked was concerning legacy levels being increased to encourage people to keep playing, or to reward people that were already at level 50, such as having a 12x experience boost bonus option. He said it was unlikely that the legacy level (and crew skill levels) would increase, but the idea to reward people who achieve legacy level 50 is a good idea.

Again, I didn’t go hard on the questions because I knew they were going to give me better answers a few days from now, so I relaxed and had some fun! I don’t know if I should repeat what Musco said about what happened the night before when he and the other Bioware employees went out, but I can say that it was his first time in Las Vegas, and he said the city rocks!

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Other random factoids:

Courtney Woods is from Georgia and the dress she was wearing is from Kate Spade.

Ben Irving is from Australia and his wife is also named Heather.

Eric Musco has not shaved his beard for 12 days. I asked if he minded people talking about his soul patch, and he said that in real life no one noticed he shaved it, but the internet sure did!

Finally, here are the flash drive contents from the cantina! I will absolutely get more exciting answers when I visit EA next week, but I’m glad I had a little fun tonight hanging out with SWTOR players and Bioware employees.

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Ootini Cantina 2014

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—except maybe what was live broadcasted on OotiniCast last weekend!

Last week I spent some time with the men and women of OotiniCast and Ootini Knights/Rage, and it was a lot of fun! I reunited with the friends that I made earlier this year that visited Las Vegas and met some new ones as well.

On Friday night a group of us went out to eat at Table 10, a restaurant by Emeril Lagasse, at the Palazzo. At the table we had Chong & Stephanie, Teo & Aaree, Mosq & Canaan, Bill & Cathy, Turg, Dunedai, Redna, and me. I had a large lunch that day so I only ordered a salad, but others ordered off the four-course menu, and their food looked really great! I sat next to Dunedai, and he ordered an entrée with giant prawns on it. Because I’m the worst blogger ever, I didn’t take a picture of it, but it definitely looked awesome.

Table 10

The next morning we went out to Hash House a Go Go (my first time) at The Linq, and that was probably the craziest wait for a table I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully, the company I was with was fun and interesting, so the wait didn’t seem long at all. During our wait, a woman went up to Redna (who was wearing the original OotiniCast t-shirt) and asked if he was Teo. Obviously he wasn’t, but she was actually one of the guildies in the Ootini Knights who traveled down from Reno with her family! I would like to point out that she said she knew she had the right group of people because she recognized me from my blog profile photo, heh.

Hash House a Go Go Table

Hash House a Go Go food

If you’ve never heard of Hash House a Go Go before, it’s known for its very large portions. The restaurant has also been featured on the television show Man vs. Food. I did not intend on eating something entirely on my own, so I ate a small share of Redna’s “Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Benedict w/ maple reduction, 2 eggs, bacon mashed potatoes & biscuit,” an entrée that was featured on Man vs. Food. Hopefully I didn’t take up too much of his meal! Chill also arrived straight from the airport, so all the hosts were present for brunch.

OotiniCast setting up

After brunch we made our way to Trump Tower where the Ootini Cantina was being held in Bill and Cathy’s suite. It was all the way on the 60th floor with large windows, so the view was really great! There were snacks and various types of alcohol, and I took just a few pictures while the OotiniCast hosts set up for the livestream. Two cameras were set up, one on the hosts and one viewing the audience. I was tasked with watching the chat on Redna’s Twitch channel, which was broadcasting the audience camera. I hadn’t needed my external battery for my iPhone at all that weekend, so I didn’t bring it to the Cantina. Unfortunately, my phone did end up dying. I enjoyed chatting and interacting with everyone on the channel while it lasted! Later on after the show I chatted a bit on the laptop, but I would’ve preferred to use my own Twitch username.

Aaree and Heather

Prizes from Bioware were distributed to the attendees, including SWTOR flash drives, a couple of t-shirts, a signed poster, and pet codes! It was a ton of fun getting together with everyone, and hopefully another Ootini Cantina will be organized somewhere next year!

Corellian Run Radio Visiting EA Corporate Headquarters to Preview SWTOR: Shadow of Revan

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I have some fantastic news to tell everyone! Corellian Run Radio has been invited by Electronic Arts (EA) and Bioware to visit their corporate headquarters in Redwood City, California for a special hands-on preview event highlighting Shadow of Revan, the upcoming digital expansion to Star Wars: The Old Republic. I will be flying out next week to check out the game and also meet some of the development team!

Stay tuned for more information about this exciting opportunity for Corellian Run Radio!

Status Update! Plus Star Wars Parody Video

I’ve been really busy this week entertaining some out of town guests and going to the Ootini Cantina! I’m trying to get some SWTOR gameplay in tonight, so here’s a little video to hold you over until I can write a full report on my Vegas Ootini Staycation! I also have some very super secret, exciting, game-related news to tell you about sometime soon. I actually watched this video last week, but I thought it was very cute and a great parody of a Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.”

Halloween 2014

How was everyone’s Halloween? I dressed up for quite a few different events, and I thought I’d share a few with you guys! (Currently on a break from raid and have a few minutes to spare to blog!) My first costume was Uhura from Star Trek! I had to wear something appropriate for work, and this was perfect.

Uhura Costume (Star Trek)

Since I live in Nevada, I had Friday off for Nevada Day, so we dressed up in costume for work on Thursday. Later that night, I dressed up as Wonder Woman for a house party. While dressing, one of the zippers on my red boots actually broke! Luckily one of my friends was able to fix it when I got to the party, so my outfit was still complete.

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The next day was Halloween, and I decided to go to “Town Scary” at the Town Square Mall here in town with my sister, her baby (my nephew), and one of her friends and her baby. It’s specifically made for kids to go around to the different shops and trick or treat, but it was really busy.

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SO MANY PEOPLE.

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My third costume: a pirate! I would’ve worn the hat too but it was pretty hot that day!

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Later on Halloween night I hung out with my family, had dinner and gave away some candy. Very low key, but still fun and festive. I’m really glad I got to wear several different costumes this year, because I haven’t worn a lot of different costumes or had events to go to for the past few Halloweens.

Why I Missed Raid: Life Is Beautiful Festival 2014

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I only ever skip ops nights if I’m on vacation, if there’s some kind of national holiday, or if there’s some kind of emergency family event. This past Friday I attended the second annual Life Is Beautiful Festival here in downtown Las Vegas, and I thought it was a great way to spend my time, despite missing out on ops!

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I met up with a few friends, and we ended up parking at a nearby church! It was only a couple blocks away, but it was free parking for a few hours. The parking rates for the hotels downtown and other nearby areas were about $20, so I thought it was very smart! At first I was worried it was going to be too far away when the driver decided to start heading to the church, but then, once I realized how close we were, I was impressed by the smart and financially savvy idea, though I was still prepared to cough up some cash for a potential parking fee.

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Because we all loved to eat and there were fantastic gourmet foods at the festival, the first thing we did was buy some food! Though I would’ve preferred something more “fancy,” we went to the Aloha Kitchen booth, which serves Hawaiian cuisine. I’m surprised I didn’t take a picture of the rest of our food, but we downed it too quickly! We shared the BBQ Kalua Pork sliders, BBQ Chicken Sticks, and the Tokyo Honey Toast, which were all $5 each. I thought this was a fair price for the festival.

On our quest to find the beer garden, which was a grassy area with all craft beers, we passed the Nobu tent, and of course I had to stop by and order the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno! Of course I am the worst blogger ever and didn’t take a picture of it, but it was delicious. I’ve had this dish quite a few times at Nobu and other Japanese restaurants, and it’s one of my favorite things that I don’t get to eat very often. Unfortunately it was $8 for three, small pieces (which seems like a lot for three pieces but actually cheaper than the restaurant itself), but I was still happy that I got to savor the taste of that dish, and it’s been a long while since I’ve had it. (For reference, at the Nobu restaurant, it’s $24 for six pieces I think.)

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After looking at a few of the different craft beer stands, I chose the Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale (5.5% ABV). I prefer ambers over pale ales or anything that tastes too hoppy, and this one was great!

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We ended up seeing a few different musical artists, including Baauer, Girl Talk, Switchfoot, The Weeknd, Neon Trees, RAC, and Kanye West. I’m not really that impressed by the talent of DJs or EDM artists, but they were entertaining all the same. I enjoyed RAC, and while I didn’t know who they were when one of my friends brought us to their stage, I did recognize one of the songs they played, so I will have to look them up later and listen to more of their music when I’m not trying to listen to hours of podcasts!

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During the Bauuer show, my ops leader left a comment on the blog saying “Get to raid!” It’s probably my fault for not reminding the operation leader that I had a music festival to go to this past Monday, but I did let them know about it a week or two ago. I texted my guild leader to remind them that I wasn’t going to be there, because I had told him previously also! I still felt a little guilty (because being dedicated and reliably showing up on time is very important to me), so I opened Mumble on my phone during the show. Of course, I couldn’t hear them, and all they could probably hear on the other end was probably booming EDM music and me frantically apologizing for not reminding them that I wasn’t going to be there.

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Later in the evening I ate a Mashed Potato & Bacon Burger from the Hash House a Go Go tent, a restaurant that I’ve still never been to. I was pleasantly surprised that for the portion that was served, it only cost $5, but the restaurant itself is known for very large portions. I also rode the ferris wheel, right before The Weeknd performed.

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The last show of the night was Kanye West. I originally didn’t care to see him at all, but my friends convinced me that seeing his show would be the most cost-effective choice versus Panic! at the Disco, which was scheduled during a conflicting time slot. The reasoning was that it costs hundreds of dollars more see Kanye West in concert while Panic! was a bit more affordable. For the most part, I didn’t really enjoy myself. I don’t like him or his music, but I knew some of his songs because they are played frequently on the radio. It was danceable though, so it last least has that going for it. In the middle of the show Kanye started talking and talking about nonsense, which was really annoying. It felt like it lasted for maybe 5-10 minutes. However, his show did start with a version of the Imperial March (Darth Vader theme song from Star Wars), so I geeked out a bit when that played!

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I actually had a 3-day pass, but I was so exhausted and sore from the first day that I didn’t attend the rest of the weekend. (I know–I wasted money!) I would definitely still attend next year, but I will wait for the musical lineup and the schedule before purchasing a pass.

Leveling a Trooper

I finally started leveling another character! This is something I rarely do, but the 12x Class Story experience bonus is motivating me to play through more class stories. I had never tried the Trooper class story in Star Wars: The Old Republic, so I rolled a Trooper. I’m attempting to unlock all the different playable races in-game, so I chose the Zabrak race!

I originally rolled a female toon, but after listening to the first conversation that the Trooper has in the story, I didn’t like the voice. I thought it was a deep voice, and I also didn’t like that I chose this tiny female to fight in the Republic military.

I ended up rerolling a male Zabrak instead, body type 2, and I was much happier. I thought that, as a male, the story seemed to make more sense. I couldn’t imagine Aric Jorgan (the first Trooper companion) talking to a female the way he did on Ord Mantell. I even like the side story with Sergeant Jaxo, which I would not have gotten to enjoy had I continued with the female toon. This is more motivation for me to play through characters of opposite genders than what I originally chose, to see more parts of the story.

As for my advanced class, since I already had a Mercenary on the Imperial side, I chose the Vanguard so I could learn how to play that. A few abilities were familiar, such as the one I identified as equivalent to Flamethrower on Imp-side! Otherwise, I’m enjoying playing another melee class that has a few range abilities (like my Assassin). I didn’t want to tank, so I chose the Assault Specialist tree (the one on the right).

At the time of writing I’m at level 40 on Hoth (which burns my eyes!). Hopefully by Wednesday night I’ll be at 55. Since I’m simply playing this toon for the story, I don’t think I will be doing any end-game operations or PvP with it. This makes gearing a bit easier, and I can probably just run through Oricon to get a basic set of end-game gear.

Someone told me that if I’m enjoying the Trooper story, I should trying playing Mass Effect, because the story seems very similar. Additionally, Mass Effect is also a game produced by Bioware. I have not played any of those games yet, so maybe when I get a bit of free time from leveling SWTOR characters I will try those out! I’ll be sure to write all about it for you guys!