Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Noobs Simple Guide to the SWTOR Outfit Designer

The SWTOR Outfit Designer feature added into SWTOR allows the player characters - not companions - to benefit from the appearances of wearable items - not weapons - regardless of the statistics of the items. This separation between appearance and statistics opens up many options for character appearance because without this many unique clothing items with poor stats would only be sold to vendors and never seen. However the outfit designer and its slots and stamping would benefit from a little more explanation than the in-game help provides. So this blog post just explains the basic capabilities that I have found in my experience with the feature.

Basic Feature Explanation:

You have gear and you have outfits. Gear is what you actually wear and all statistics are inherited from the gear. Gear is restricted based on armor type, class, etc. Outfits are appearance only and are created by "stamping" items into them. The statistics of stamped items do not matter at all.  So generally, if you like the look of an item you stamp that item into an outfit and activate that outfit.  If you like the statistics of an item you put that item in the gear slots rather than an outfit. If you like both the appearance and stats of an item then you might put it into the gear slot and not use an outfit at all, or you might put it into both an outfit slot and the gear slot.

Restrictions of the Outfit Designer (note - I am a subscriber so there may be additional restrictions for F2P and Preferred)

- Companions do not get outfits. Only the player characters.
- Only wearable items can be "stamped" into an outfit, not weaponry, carried items, or earpieces.
- Each character gets one free outfit slot. Additional slots can be purchased. If you really like characters having multiple outfits you may want to purchase the additional slots for your legacy rather than just one character. Stamping items into an outfit also costs credits.
- There is no means to duplicate an item in an outfit into another outfit. So if you think you will want the same item in multiple outfits make sure you retain the original item. If you sell it you will not be able to add it to any new outfits.
- An outfit does not need to have each piece filled in order to be applied. However, if you leave a piece out (for example, you do not include a head piece) then whatever is actually being worn on the body (referred to as "gear") will be shown. This can be worked around for the head slot because of the ability to hide what is on your head (each outfit has this option independently), but for other body pieces this can be a problem. Say for example, that you want to have your character's hands showing, then that would require that in the outfit you do not stamp any gloves and ALSO that in the gear you do not have any gloves. Because stats are applied only from the gear slots that means you will not have the benefit of gloves.  For this reason the Energy gloves and other items that are invisible have gone up in price in the Galactic Trade Market.

Some things that surprisingly are NOT restrictions:

- Clothing that is a type that you cannot normally wear can be used in an outfit. For example, a Sith Inquisitor who can only wear light armor can use a medium or heavy armor item in an outfit.
- If an item has a dye in it when added to an outfit, then the outfit inherits that dye. Once an item is in an outfit there is no connection between the original item and outfit "stamp", so you can freely change the dye in the original item or apply a dye to the stamped item in the outfit.
- Items that do not take dyes normally, can be dyed when part of an outfit.

Demonstrations:

Here is Natiri, a Jedi Knight wearing the fetching Aspiring Knight clothing. She has all of the pieces that can be stamped into an outfit: chest piece, gloves, belt, pants, boots, and gauntlets.She is also wearing a helmet with the option to hide the head piece enabled so that it does not appear. At the top of the character dialog it says "Active" which means only that the clothing shown in this panel is what is appears on her character in the game. Important Note: The statistics of the items on this body panel are always what is actually used to determine the character statistics even if an outfit is active.

Showing what Natiri is currently wearing



At this point in the game I have decided that regardless of what other clothing items I find and choose to use, I want Natiri to continue looking like this. So it makes sense to create an outfit with these items. The ifrst thing to do is decide which outfit tab I want to use. So I click on the first outfit tab labeled "1".

Showing that Natiri's outfit 1 is empty


The information on the left indicates that I am currently looking at outfit 1 and what is currently active is the gear outfit from the earlier body panel. That the body pieces are all grayed out means that they are empty. The grayed items are shown only to indicate what appearance will be inherited if you do not put something else there when this outfit is activated. Note that the Customize Appearance options are specific to this outfit. Now that I can see that this outfit is available I need to put the individual clothing pieces I want to use into it. So I need to return to the original panel and do the first totally non-obvious thing, take off all of her clothing. This is necessary because you can only add items to an outfit from your inventory.

Natiri with her clothing moved into her inventory
Natiri with her clothing "stamped" into outfit 1
Last warning before charging the credits
Once the clothing items I want to "stamp" into an outfit are in Natiri's inventory I can return to the outfit appearance tab "1" and add them to the outfit.  There is no need to take off her helmet because I do not intend to add the helmet to her outfit. I instead leave the helmet spot in the outfit empty and hide the helmet using the hide head piece option.  If I later find a head piece that I like then I can add it to her outfit at that time, but there is no benefit in paying the credits to add a head piece I do not like to an outfit. Note that there is a cost in credits to stamping items into an outfit. Clicking "OK" in the last dialog will create the outfit and charge the credits. The "Activate on Modification" checkbox means only that the character should immediately be shown with the outfit changes you have made. Note that adding items to an outfit DOES NOT remove them from your inventory. That is because it is only copying the appearances of the items. Once an outfit is made you can do whatever you want with the items it is based upon.  They will however be bound to the character by the process of adding them to an outfit, so you will not be able to give them to another character.  You can add the same item to multiple outfits for the one character though.

Natiri now has an outfit created and activated based on the Aspiring Knight items
While it is tempting to think that at this point everything is finished, that is not the case.  The reality is that because I had to take off all of the clothing to move it into her inventory prior to creating the outfit, Natiri is still in fact naked and is not getting any of the statistics bonuses she would have from actually wearing these items, even though because of the outfit being activated she appears to be wearing them.  So after creating an outfit it is important to return to the body tab and put any items back on that are desired based on their statistics. Note: There is no need to press the "Apply" button after putting the clothing back on. Doing so means that you want the appearance to be based on the actual gear worn rather than the outfit.

Appearances can be deceiving. She is naked but looks clothed. Gotta fix that..

Her clothing is now back on. No need to press the "Apply" button!

At this point Nariti is wearing the gear that I want and also has the active outfit that I want so I am good to go. When I find gear with better statistics I can simply put it on in the body slot and her appearance will remain unaltered. When you look at gear the statistics comparison is always with what you are actually wearing not based on the outfit that is active.


Items that cannot be dyed normally, can be dyed when in an outfit


Items that cannot be worn due to armor type restrictions can be used in an outfit

Over all the Outfit Designer provides some interesting options for character appearance. This is all at a cost in credits of course and if you enjoy having multiple outfits then the cost can get high.  I have found that it is far more convenient though when finding items because even if an item doesn't look good you may want to use it because of its better stats and that is easily done as long as your character is using an outfit.

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If you found this article useful and you choose to begin playing SWTOR or are already playing but have not yet indicated that you were referred by someone, then you can show your appreciation by using my personal referral link.  This will give both you and me in-game rewards as documented at the Friends of Star Wars site here.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thoughts on SWTOR 4.0 and 4 Years of Playing the SWTOR MMO

Load screen for SWTOR 4.0 Knights of the Fallen Empire

It has been just over 4 years since November 2011 when I began playing the beta release of the MMO Star Wars the Old Republic. Bioware has been actively updating the game and recently released version 4.0 Knights of the Fallen Empire which extends gameplay to level 65.  Players can continue using their current characters and begin the new content when they get to about level 60 or they can shortcut right to level 60 by creating a new character that begins at level 60. A level 60 character begun in that way starts with some 60 level unmodifiable gear that is fortunately legacy equipment and so can also be used by other characters of that player on that server as long as they are in the same legacy (why wouldn't they be?) and are level 60.
Sith Lord Siskin'lar contemplates the Universe


Siskin'lar Faces Challenges with Two New Friends?
Along with the new content which basically is designed for solo players to continue with an epic conquest or defense of the galaxy storyline (unfortunately the same storyline for every class, not unique class stories as there are for levels 1-60) there were also many changes made that affect all SWTOR players, primarily in an effort to further simplify the game and lessen the need for playing in groups. Not all of these changes have been welcomed by long time players and PvP players are especially disappointed, thus continuing the decline in the number of active PvP players.

The most significant changes made in 4.0 affect the unique class attributes and the companions. In my earlier blog posts on this I described the class system. In short each class had a key attribute that was most important to them for both offense and defense, so it was important to select gear for your character and his/her companions that matched the key attribute for their class: for Consulars and Inquisitors that attribute was called Willpower; for Knights and Warriors the attribute was Strength; for Smugglers and Agents the attribute was Cunning; and for Troopers and Bounty Hunters the attribute was Aim. Many objects in the game were designed around these key attributes, with drops, crafted items, special items like the datacrons, and vendor items all being affected by them. With 4.0 all four attributes were replaced with a single common key attribute named "Mastery". Because all the release did is change all references to Willpower, Strength, Cunning, and Aim to Mastery there are many duplicated vendor and crafted items in the game now and some rewards also make little sense. Honestly I'm not sure why this was done other than to make it simpler for new players at the cost of removing a lot of uniqueness and player choices (like, for example, a choice of spending limited credits on a Willpower based item for my Consular or an Aim based item for his companion; or the choice of whether to use limited craft resources to craft items for one attribute or another.)

The new Combat Support Droid in a Heroic mission
The second big change was to allow solo players to play most heroic missions, which typically required a group of players before.  Now a combat support droid will be available to assist your player in the heroics and there are also shortcuts on each planet to get right to the heroics. This seems to be an aid for people who enjoy farming heroics for credits and gear. There are still missions I have found though that mandate multiple players to participate, so this change does not affect all missions, but certainly most of them.

The third big change was to alter companions so that their statistics are all the same and are no longer affected by the gear that they have equipped. All companions can now be shifted among the standard Healer, Damage (DPS), and Tank play styles and so players no longer need to accommodate the proscribed play style of the companions they have. While this does allow some new choices for play style for the player character, (some really bad ones since the player class abilities remain designed for certain play styles) it removes most differences between companions.  The companions still have their own  unique storylines appearances, but otherwise they are completely replaceable. Because the statistics of gear is no longer significant for companions you can equip them in anything their class allows them to wear and you do not have to be concerned that the gear is better or worse for statistics. This opens the door to more variety for companion appearance because good looking items with low statistics that were typically just sold to vendors can now be used on companions instead with no adverse affect.

Jedi Landrus Wields the Force
This actually seems like a good thing and a Bioware developer stated that more variety was something they wanted to encourage with this change.  However, oddly enough, the new group of companions that are introduced as part of the 60+ KotFE storyline are exempt from all of this variety because you cannot change their appearance at all. They look exactly the same for everyone and the only item you can equip for them is their primary weapon. This seems like a very odd decision to make considering what they did to the class-based pre-level 60 companions.

The last big change I will talk about is the level synchronization that is now done on every pre-level 60 planet.  This means that players that are higher level than a planet is designed for will find themselves significantly reduced in hit points and damage capability when they are visiting. This prevents high level characters from going back to low level planets and wiping everything out, which is a good thing, but also means that if you are going back to a planet to do a mission you have to deal with local creatures fighting you again rather than ignoring you because of your high level, and this is a time waster and nets you almost nothing because their drops will be items that are too low for you to care about and worth little. It would have been better I think if they had made this leveling restricted to only when a player is not on a speeder. That way you could travel the planet quickly without being interrupted by local creatures unless you wanted to dismount and fight them for some reason.

Golfing in the Fallen Empire
Fore!


I continue to enjoy the game and believe that even as a subscriber it has been entertaining enough to be well worth my investment as a subscriber.  However I do think that the changes they have been making, other than reducing group requirements, have not really been a good match for my interests.



Cruising Aldaraan
Imperial Agent Dakton Taking Names
Imperial Agent Dakton in an alternate costume
Below are several of my over 40 characters, representing all 8 classes and several of the playable races.


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If you found this article useful and you choose to begin playing SWTOR or are already playing but have not yet indicated that you were referred by someone, then you can show your appreciation by using my personal referral link.  This will give both you and me in-game rewards as documented at the Friends of Star Wars site here.  
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Jedi Consular Sage
Jedi Knight
Republic Trooper
Sith Warrior
Smuggler
Jedi Consular Shadow
Jedi Consular Sage
Sith Warrior
Sith Inquisitor Sorcerer
Smuggler
Imperial Agent
Jedi Knight
Bounty Hunter
Sith Inquisitor Sorcerer
Republic Trooper
Sith Inquisitor Assassin
Sith Inquisitor Sorcerer
Jedi Knight
Sith Inquisitor Sorcerer

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Installing NWN2 Complete from GOG into a Wineskin Wrapper

Installing NWN2 Complete from GOG.com in a Wineskin

Playing the Windows version of Neverwinter Nights 2 on a Mac without the use of Boot Camp or a Windows OS installed can be done through the use of a Wineskin.  A search on Google will result in several Wineskins that have been created for NWN2 as well as my own created in 2012. In 2012 I installed NWN2 Platinum from DVDs into the Wineskin.   Nowadays though it is far more likely that anyone purchasing NWN2 will purchase NWN2 Complete from GOG which includes the NWN2 expansions and is fully patched which simplifies installation significantly.

These are the instructions for creating your own NWN2 Wineskin and installing NWN2 Complete from GOG into it using the current version of Wineskin Winery.  If you do not want to use my wrapper then you will need to download Wineskin Winery so you can create your own. Either way you will need to purchase and download NWN2 Complete from GOG.com.  This will be enough to run NWN2 the game, but unfortunately the NWN2 Toolset will not be able to be used because it remains incompatible with Wine (the underlying technology used in a Wineskin).

If you do not want to bother with Wineskin Winery you can download the Wineskin I created for NWN2 from Google Drive and unzip it and skip Step 1 entirely.  The file is 265 MB zipped and does not include NWN2.

Note: The current version is from August 2016 and uses engine WS9Wine 1.9.15. If you are using the 2015 version (which used engine WS9Wine 1.7.55) and are having crashes when opening the console then you may want to upgrade to the 2016 version.

Step 1: Configuring a new Wineskin wrapper for NWN2

First create a new wrapper using Wineskin Winery. I used Wrapper version Wineskin 2.6.2 and Engine version WS9Wine 1.9.15.

When creating the new wrapper you may be prompted to install mono and gecko. You can if you want but I do not believe they are required for NWN2. Unfortunately installing mono afterward is problematic if you choose not to install it now.

After the creation of the wrapper has completed you can find the wrapper in the Finder and then double-click it to open it.

Click the Advanced button to see the Advanced options.

Go to the Go to the Options tab and uncheck the option "Map User Mac OS X folders in wrapper".  Leaving this left checked would result in the NWN2 campaigns installed in the wrapper being ignored in favor of whatever you have in your Mac OS X Documents folder. Also check the "Option key works as Alt" option so that the Alt key will work properly.

Then go to the Tools panel and click the Winetricks button.  Winetricks allows you to install whatever Windows packages and libraries into the wrapper that may be required for the application being used.

Using Winetricks search for and install:
directx9 (you will be told by Winetricks that you can and should use other versions such as d3dx9_36, but for NWN2 I found that the others do not work, so install directx9)
dotnet20
vcrun2005

Close the Wineskin.

This step should not take more than 15 minutes or so. The Wineskin wrapper created should be about 670 MB.  You can also just download and unzip my wrapper and skip step 1 entirely.

Step 2: Installing NWN2 Complete into the wrapper

Put the wrapper that you created in Step 1 above or downloaded and unzipped from my site in the location that you want the application to be.  Bear in mind that the Wineskin wrapper will contain files that change as you play, so it will not remain static.  Also it will be over 13 GB in size initially and probably grow with usage.

Double-click the Wineskin wrapper you created in step 1 or downloaded from my site. Click the Install Software button.  Click the "Choose Setup Executable" button and navigate to the setup...exe that you downloaded from GOG.com (mine is setup_nwn2_complete_2.2.0.10.exe) and click the Choose button to begin the installation of NWN2 into the wrapper.

In the Neverwinter Nights 2 Complete Setup dialog click the "Options" button in the lower left corner. Uncheck "Create desktop icon" and check "Check file integrity before installation". Check the checkbox at the bottom for accepting the EULA (if you want to see it first just click the Install button without first checking the EULA acceptance) and then click the Install button.

The install will first verify that the GOG files you downloaded are not corrupted. If they are then it will fail and you will have to download them from GOG again before retrying this step.

This step will take a while depending on the speed of your computer and hard drive. On my 2010 Mac mini it took about 30 minutes for the installation to complete.

The step completes with a Runtime error which can be ignored.  Then exit the install by clicking the Ext button. Wineskin will then prompt you to specify the startup executable for the wrapper. In the pulldown select /GOG Games/NWN2 Complete/NWN2Launcher.exe and then quit the Wineskin wrapper.  (From then on when you double click the wrapper it will launch NWN2, so if you want to change the wrapper configuration you will need to right click on the wrapper and select Show Package Contents and then double-click the Wineskin.app icon.)

Because the NWN2 Complete package comes fully patched there is no need to update or patch the software after installation.  It will be on the last version of Windows NWN2 which was 1.23.

Double click the wrapper icon to play the NWN2 original campaign, Mask of the Betrayer, Storm of Zehir, or Mysteries of Westgate.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

NWN2 Mac LAN Multi-player Instructions

Playing Neverwinter Nights 2 with friends over a network was never easy, but as the game has aged it has been getting harder, and for Macintosh users nearly impossible. Both the Bioware account registration/authentication feature and the GameSpy functionality no longer work due to Bioware being hacked in 2012 and GameSpy dropping NWN2.

Some community solutions have been developed for Windows users, but there are no community solutions for Mac users. For Windows users the Client Extension by Skywing (<http://www.nynaeve.net/Skywing/nwn2/cliext/ClientExtension_Latest.zip>) is a Windows executable NWN2 pre-launcher that replaces the broken GameSpy functionality so that servers can be accessed over the internet, allowing access to Persistent World servers.

This document describes what is needed for Macintosh users on a local area network (LAN) to play NWN2 multi-player with one another. For Mac users there are two versions of the game available, the Aspyr DVD version and the non-DVD version that was temporarily sold in the Apple Store. Theoretically it shouldn’t matter which version is used for either the hosting server or client, but these instructions were developed and tested in two configurations: (1) 2 Macs running the App Store version on Mac OS X 10.9 and (2) one Mac running the DVD version on Mac OS X 10.6 and another Mac running the Apps Store version on Mac OS X 10.9. Other configurations may have different results.

Note that it is also possible to have a Mac on the LAN playing the Windows version of NWN2 using Bootcamp (or a Windows machine playing the Windows version) and participate in a multi-player game with a Mac that is using the Mac version.

Requirements and Preparation


The first requirement is that each machine playing NWN2 on the LAN must have NWN2 installed and patched to 1.23 (the Aspyr Mac patch for the DVD version of NWN2 can be downloaded from mac.Softpedia.com here; the Apple Store version was fully patched) and its own unique CD-keys listed in the Key1=, Key2=, and Key3= settings in the appropriate nwncdkey.ini file.
For DVD version users that file is:
Users/[username]/Documents/Aspyr/Neverwinter Nights 2/nwncdkey.ini
For users of the Apple Store non-DVD version that file is:
Users/[username]/Library/Application Support/Neverwinter Nights 2/nwncdkey.ini

The second requirement is that the servers need to be able to communicate with one another.  This requires adjusting the settings of the Apple Mac OS X firewall on each machine. This can be done through the System Preferences Security & Privacy control panel (on Mac OS X 10.6 this is called the Security panel). If you are using a version of Mac OS X that allows you to add an application to the firewall allow list in the advanced firewall settings (10.6 and later allow this, I'm not sure about earlier versions), then adding the Neverwinter Nights 2 application to that list should be sufficient and you can keep the firewall on. If you do choose to turn the firewall off then I suggest you turn the firewall back on when you are done playing.

The third requirement is that any campaigns or modules that are going to be played must be installed on each computer that will be playing.

Originally when playing online each computer was supposed to have a unique account registered with Bioware. Bioware no longer allows accounts to be registered however, but for LAN use all that is required is that each computer use a uniquely named account. The accounts do not actually have to be registered with Bioware and are not in any way related to the character you play. If you are going to use a computer multiple times, then you should probably use the same account for it each time. That has been my practice although I do not know if that consistency is a requirement or benefit.

The deprecated GameSpy functionality allowed hosted games to be advertised on the GameSpy servers so they could be found by browsing. The Client Extension replaces that functionality for Windows users but is Windows only. Fortunately for playing on a LAN this functionality is not required. Just in case the Direct Connect option will be required (it hasn’t been for me) you should make a note of the IP address of each computer that will be playing. Here are two methods to get the IP address:

  1. System Preferences Network control panel should show IP address
  2. Use the Terminal utility and type the command “ping hostname” without the quotes and replacing hostname with the name of your machine, which is the part before the colon on the Terminal command line. The ping command will show the IP address in parentheses on the first line. Press control-C to exit the ping command.


Starting (or loading) the game on the host server


The machine you are going to host the game on will be doing the most work, so for best performance it should be the Mac with the fastest CPU and most memory. (Check this using the Apple menu About This Mac option). If you are planning to play the NWN2 OC or MotB then this would be the primary player’s (“shard-bearer”) computer.

On the host machine start NWN2. At the initial menu select the MULTIPLAYER option. This should take you to the Bioware Community Login screen.


On the Bioware Community Login screen enter the Bioware account and password you will use on this machine and if this is your personal computer check the Remember Password option. If you do not have a registered Bioware account then just fabricate an account name and password because the create account name feature stopped working in 2012. Click Sign In. This should eventually take you to another menu although it may take several seconds and you may have to click through an authentication failed error message. (Reminder, each computer participating must use its own unique account.) If you do not check the Remember Password setting, then either pick a very easy to remember password or write it down someplace.


Select NEW GAME (if you are resuming a game you would select the LOAD GAME option). This should take you to the Server Info screen.

On the Server Info screen first UNCHECK the Post Game To Internet option and then click NEXT. (You can also change other options if you like, such as allowing illegal characters.)

At this point the screens are essentially the same as they would be for playing a single-player game allowing you to start a game with a new or existing character. Select NEW CAMPAIGN to start a campaign or NEW MODULE to start a module. (In this case I am starting a campaign). This will take you to the Select Campaign screen.


On the Select Campaign screen select the campaign you wish to play and click START GAME.

As the game is starting you will briefly see a Connection Status screen that will display your IP address. After that you will be able to create or select a character.



Joining the game with a client

Note: These steps can be repeated for multiple clients.

Start NWN2. At the initial menu select the MULTIPLAYER option. This should take you to the Bioware Community Login screen.

On the Bioware Community Login screen enter the Bioware account and password you will use on this machine. If you do not have a registered Bioware account then just fabricate an account name because the create account name feature stopped working in 2012. Click Sign In. This should eventually take you to another menu although it may take several seconds and you may have to click through an authentication failed error message. (Reminder, each computer participating must use its own unique account.)

Select JOIN LAN GAME. This should take you to the LAN Browser screen.

On the LAN Browser screen, after a few seconds, your host server should appear. Click on the host server line to highlight it and then click the CONNECT button. If the host server is not listed then make sure that the firewall settings on both machines are either set to allow connections with the Neverwinter Night 2 application or the firewalls are turned off. (Alternatively you can cancel and try the Direct Connect option which will require the IP address of the host server, but this is not something I have needed to do as long as the firewall settings are correct.)

You will then be able to create or select a character to play the game.


Enjoy playing NWN2.