It has been some time since I produced any meaningful content about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Aside from my usual approach of “don’t blog unless you have something to say” principle, there are other underlying reasons why this has been the case. I want to explain this to you, and to BioWare Austin (if they’re listening) – and it’s not because I’m playing the game less. I hope this post can help to raise awareness for game creators about a gaming contingent who may not be served as well as they could be.
Where My Fibromyalgia is Worse
As I wrote in my Everything Update, generally my Fibromyalgia symptoms are worse. This has not been helped by the Pain Management Clinic only just having given me a date for my second appointment – a full 6 months after my first one. But that’s a rant for another day. My hands are still as bad and my neck and collarbones are generally terrible. Anything close to stress or tension leads to a rise in pain levels. It’s that which is mostly preventing me from taking up self-employment again.
How my Pain Levels reacted to SWTOR’s KotFE and KotET
It’s into this picture – a worsening of my chronic pain – that the events surrounding Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne come into play. As the last 2 or so years have seen a rapid decline in my health, so has the newer content been released by SWTOR.
“Stress” and “Anxiety” in gaming (summarised by “I don’t want to die”) is actually a key trigger used by gaming creators. It’s the reason some people love horror movies (adrenaline rush) or rollercoasters (feeling the perceived danger). If a game can’t be a challenge or get us emotionally involved it has fallen short. But that key principle is what doesn’t work with my set of Fibromyalgia Symptoms. Let’s look a few key moments.
KotFE: The GEMINI Deception & Battle of Odessen
I managed most of KotFE without too much incident. The initial battle with Arcann on Asylum is pretty straightforward. The first major challenge came during Anarchy in Paradise and the fight with Tayvor Slen, the Overwatch Administrator. You can’t just beat him down – you have to interact with certain terminals to turn the big guns on him. And if Kaliyo wasn’t in your original set of companions, you have a low-influence support. That caused me tension – along with difficulties with a few Zakuul Knights in that chapter.
But the worst-case scenario presented itself in The GEMINI Deception chapter. My reactions in gaming can be…slow. In that chapter there are traps you have to avoid. Most of them are fine – but there are a couple of gas chambres that really get me stressed. So much so that various characters got stuck on that chapter. Thankfully some guild mates have helped me through before but these chapters are supposed to be soloable. Most people can, but certain game mechanics actually put me in pain – and the gas chambres fall into that category.
And lastly under Knights of the Fallen Empire, the complicated mechanics surrounding Arcann during the Battle of Odessen. I have yet to die in this fight, but the use of the shield is something I regularly get wrong and I get beaten down by Arcann when I do. The only saving grace in this is the Attuned Weapon which grants periodic healing and other abilities. (Thanks to @ShintarCommando for prompting my memory on this).
KotET: A Generally Painful Expansion
I was glad that we could wrap up the story of the Immortal Emperor and get Valkorion out of your mind. But, BioWare responded to players’ demands for challenges – so hats off to them for that. But these things actually gave me more pain.
- The walker combats in Wrath and Ruin and End Times.
- The 3-Minute Timer aboard the Gravestone in Dark Reunions.
- The multi-stage fight with ARIES (which I found particularly difficult on ranged character) during Ascension.
- Fights where you’re required to “keep someone alive” during The Dragon’s Maw.
- The fight with Vaylin during End Times, where I not only had to defeat Vaylin but also not fall over the edge, thus resetting the encounter.
- The hideously awful Solo fight with Vaylin’s Spirit during The Eternal Throne.
Into the War for Iokath
I was really glad when BioWare announced a new Dailies area with a similar model to the Oricon (Dread Masters) Arc. But in reality I can’t do this on many characters. Even during the storyline, foes have complicated mechanics, there is yet another walker encounter (twice, actually) and I’ve always struggled with swarming mobs. Iokath has a lot of those and I can’t easily focus, making it tricky. I use hotkeys for quick bar abilities, but when you have 5 or 6 swarmers I end up with both hands hurting!
Part of me really wants to do Iokath, but the other part just tells me it will hurt.
Story Mode does not mean ‘Easy Mode’
To most gamers ‘Story Mode’ does mean ‘Easy Mode’. But for me with Chronic Pain this is not always the case. My only hope is that I can get my head around crafting 246 Gear and see if that helps my survivability in KotET and Iokath.
I would love to see an “Easy Mode” added. Halve the quest rewards, DvL gains, credits, reputation – whatever. I would rather enjoy what I’m playing rather than do it for rewards. I know I’m a minority voice, but the increased difficulty, along with increased complexity of certain encounters actually gives me pain. That’s not what I load SWTOR for.
Yes I can get help from guild mates, which is great, but I shouldn’t have to.
What This Means for my SWTOR Gaming
So I’m at a cross-roads. I’m producing less SWTOR content because I can’t fully engage with the latest and greatest to come into the game. I need to find peace with that. What my SWTOR gaming time is likely to look like is:
- Starting new characters and taking new choices I haven’t done before
- Taking my time over planets like Ilum, and Makeb.
- Getting back into doing GSI Missions, even though they have little or no reward any more.
- Only embarking on KotFE/KotET when I have a compelling reason (i.e. not just because I’ve run out of content).
- Trying to do more Solo Flashpoints (but that’s dependent on the noise level of my child!).
- Maybe going after achievements I’ve not focussed on before.
I think I should be okay with re-playing content I know I can do, but it saddens me to think that a game I’ve spent years playing is becoming too hard to play with my Fibromyalgia.
TL;DR Fibromyalgia and SWTOR – Where to Next?
In once sense this is an incomplete blog post. I don’t know how to process this really. I know that if I can’t write about new content on SWTOR that my website traffic will drop over time. I have to be at peace with that. I know I have tons I can write about LOTRO, so there will be more posts about this over the coming weeks and months. I only hope that the folks at BioWare can listen to the silent minority and consider how myself and others who effectively have “disabilities” struggle to play what they are producing.
Because for me, life with Fibromyalgia is hard enough without my forms of escapism making it worse. Thank you for bearing with me.