Friday, July 6, 2012

Crafters Guide to beginning "The Old Republic"

Have you ever become involved in a project and after investing a considerable amount of time and effort into it, you've thought back to how many things you could've done differently to ease the process? This has happened to me more times than I care to think about, and most recently I've been considering all the little mistakes I have made in regards to crafting in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) that, while not exactly game-breaking, have caused a few hassles along the journey. I am a software developer by trade and in that line of work careful planning is necessary before jumping right into the code. While the "measure twice, cut once" (or "design twice, code once") approach generally doesn't appeal to gamers who want to just jump right in and, well... game, I thought maybe this guide could help those who happen to be just starting the game... and mold their characters into the ultimate crafting team!

Note:  Although this starts with a brief overview of SWTOR crafting, this is not intended to be a crafter's guide. There are lots of resources out there (including within the game itself) to get you started. And there are many subtleties that would take an entire series of posts to go over them all. This is instead meant to be a way to start brand new players (or existing players who might want to start new characters on a different server) with an informed decision about which crafting skills to apply to which character from the start. It will help avoid having to redo your crafting skills and/or having to live with mistakes later on. If you are the kind of person who feels that mistakes made are part of the learning process and fun of the game, this guide is probably not for you.
</Obligatory Disclaimer>


1. A Brief Introduction to Crafting in SWTOR
2. So what class should I start with?
5. What should I do for the rest of the alts?
6. Alright, that's 7 characters down, and...?

1. A Brief Introduction to Crafting in SWTOR

"Well, what is crafting like in SWTOR?" you're probably asking. Well, like most other things about MMOs, the crafting approach is borrowed from several different existing MMO sources, but Bioware has thrown several of its own unique touches in, of course. Unfortunately, the only MMO experience that I have to compare it to amounts to Star Trek Online (STO) and Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). If you haven't played either of these games, I highly recommend you try them both. They're both Free to Play and very good games for different reasons. First the easy comparison: SWTOR's crafting is essentially nothing like STO's, except the one thing that all crafting has in common, namely producing items from raw materials. Obviously, I don't think one of those "reasons" to play STO is its crafting! However, if you're familiar with LotRO's crafting, which I love, I can give you a better idea of SWTOR's, which is luckily very similar.

Just like LotRO, your team of characters must work like a well-oiled machine to provide each other with the materials to succeed in making the best crafted items available (think about your typical corporate team-building retreat complete with trust falls and survival scenarios). Like LotRO's seven main professions, SWTOR has six that actually make the items of interest. They can generally be sub-categorized based on whether you are a "Force User" (Jedi Knight/Consular) or "Tech User" (Smuggler/Trooper). (Note: I will focus only on the Republic side in this guide, but the Empire side has direct equivalents of almost all aspects). Here is a basic breakdown of the six main SWTOR crafting professions:


Force Professions

 Synthweaving - Armor (Light Willpower, Medium Strength, Heavy Strength).

 Artifice - Lightsabers (moddable), Lightsaber Hilts, Crystals, Enhancements, Generators.



Tech Professions

 Armormech - Armor (Medium Cunning, Heavy Aim).

 Armstech - Firearms, Barrels, Companion Melee Weapons.



Neutral Professions 

 Cybertech - Armoring, Mods, Earpieces, Implants, Droid Parts, Ship Parts, Speeders, Grenades.

 Biochem - Adrenals, Stimulants, Health Packs, Implants.

*Note: If I didn't specify "moddable" for weapons or armor above, it means they can craft both regular and moddable.

There are of course, some exceptions to this categorization. For instance, although they craft lightsabers and hilts, the Artifice profession can almost be considered "neutral", as the other things listed - namely crystals, enhancements, and generators - are usable by both categories. Crystals can be used in every moddable lightsaber and firearm, and enhancements can be used in every weapon and armor piece! This makes its Tech complement, Armstech, inferior in my opinion, and I find myself thinking about all the ways they should redo the crafting distribution (although that's a post for another day).

To illustrate how bad the Armstechs have it, here is an analysis I performed on the effect each crafting profession has on a dual-wielding Force User (Jedi Sentinal) and a dual-wielding Tech User (Gunslinger). This analysis is assuming the player in question is obtaining all crafted gear and every gear item is moddable and augmented as much as possible... and those are crafted as well! Also, while not entirely accurate, it counts each item once, thus giving the same weight to an enhancement as it does to a barrel. It still gives you an idea how many pure "items" each profession can provide to a player.
The Armstech is greatly outmatched in not only Force (by everything but Armormech)...
...but also in Tech, which should be its strong suit.

In Tech, Armstech only outweighs Synthweaving, and is even outperformed by Artifice which is supposed to be a Force-leaning profession. If you want to see how I came to this analysis, you can verify the raw numbers here.

This drawback makes LotRO's crafting a little more balanced in my opinion, however SWTOR is quite similar in many ways. Like LotRO, SWTOR allows each character to have 3 different crafting skills. The caveat is that SWTOR limits you to just one profession per character, whereas LotRO has some configurations allowing 2. As a reminder, "professions" are the ones listed above that allow you to make a certain item, whereas "skills" is a generic term for all crafting mechanics, including resource gathering.

Also differing from LotRO's approach, SWTOR lets you mix that one profession with any other resource gathering skills (whether it makes sense to do so or not). Additionally, you can go purely gathering with a character if you so choose. I like this approach because once you have created characters in all the different professions, it makes sense to have the rest just gathering resources to give to those characters. In LotRO, once I was done claiming the 7 crafting professions, the other 2 characters I created could be delegated to "Explorer" which allows you to collect both metal and wood resources, but the third skill was wasted on the Tailor profession that I already had.

Resource gathering in SWTOR is done via crafting "nodes" that you can pick up in the course of your normal gameplay if you have the appropriate skill. LotRO has 3 of these such skills and SWTOR has the following four "gathering" skills:

 Scavenging: Metal and Alloys for Armormech, Armstech, and Cybertech.

 Archaeology: Artifacts, Power Crystals, and Color Crystals for Synthweaving and Artifice.

 Bioanalysis: Genetic Samples for Biochem.

 Slicing: Lockboxes (full of credits!), Sliced Tech Parts, and Schematics for all professions.

Scavenging and Bioanalysis can also sometimes gather materials from dead droids and lifeforms, respectively.

One unique advantage Bioware added to the crafting in SWTOR that doesn't exist in LotRO is the ability to send companions on "crafting missions". The gathered material above can also be obtained through missions that you pay credits for. The higher level the resource, the more credits it takes. This approach is convenient as it allows you to send money from your main and still get that highest level material on your other characters! In LotRO, you can use this approach with only Farming and Cooking. Everything else requires more than just money to be passed down. But in SWTOR I have a level 33 character with crafting maxed already purely done by that one character with the money provided by my main.

In addition to the four "gathering" skills above, there are also four "mission" skills. You cannot collect these in the normal course of gameplay. Rather, they are obtained solely through sending companions on missions. They are:

 Underworld Trading: Luxury Cloth for Synthweaving and Underworld Metal for Synthweaving, Armormech, and Cybertech.

 Treasure Hunting: Gemstones for Artifice, and Lockboxes.

 Diplomacy: Medical supplies for Biochem. Provides Light- and Dark-side points depending on which mission you pick.

 Investigation: Researched Compounds for Armstech.

Additionally, all four mission skills have the ability to obtain Companion Gifts.

Another nice thing about SWTOR is the ability to queue up crafting of the actual items from anywhere. You simply tell your companions what you want to craft and they go do it, leaving you free to play the game. In LotRO you have to dedicate a substantial amount of time to standing at a forge or workbench, which cuts into your game time.

My definition of "Multitasking":  Crafting and owning at the same time.

2. So what class should I start with?

Short answer: anything! The great thing about this guide is that you can start with any class. The choice of crafting to start out does not in any way infer which class or Advanced Class (AC) to choose first. The three skills that I will tell you to pick are supported by every class' companions (see part 4). However, it should be noted that this assumes you will be trying out each main class twice and each AC once, because there are 8 ACs and 8 slots on the server (as of when this was posted). Either that, or you can mix and match Republic and Imperial on one server and try out all 8 main classes. Here's a nice diagram that shows all the classes, ACs, and how Republic and Imperial versions are mirrored.

So once you decide on a class and level to 10, the choice of which crafting skills to pick up become available (actually if you fly up to the Republic Fleet early, you can pick them up and get a head start).

The first thing you want to get is Slicing. I've made some mistakes in my choices in SWTOR, but the one thing I believe I did right was getting Slicing on my main. I can't tell you how many times I've had more credits than I needed while my friends and guildmates were scraping along. Slicing will make you a rich man or woman early (although selling on the GTN is where the real money comes in later).

The government of Taris can not be held responsible for lost or sliced items.

The big mistake I did make, however, was to get a crafting profession. If you take anything away from this guide, it is this:

Do not, under any circumstance, get one of the 6 crafting professions on your main!

As you level up, the main should be reserved for collecting resources and money to be used later. I ended up wasting a lot of time and resources on my chosen profession, Armormech. While it benefited me a bit to make armor early on, I would say that in the end it could've been better to save up resources for the skills to be explained further on in this guide.

You might be asking me, "But how am I supposed to craft the best gear for my main then?" Well, for one thing, you can. Remember how I said earlier on, you can send resources and money to your alts, who then can craft to their hearts' content, even up to max? If you keep up crafting on your alts at a comparable or better pace than what you're leveling your main, you can supplement him or her with all the gear they need! The other thing is that mains are always the easiest and fastest to level up. They're the most exciting to get to max and there's less distractions than when you're trying to level alts. Therefore it makes sense to get all the crafting maxed and out of the way early on, so that you can level an alt and simply have the resources to make their gear for them as they level.

The one caveat to this approach is that at higher levels you have more companions and can send more out on missions. However, I maxed crafting on my first alt (who is currently level 33) with only the ability to send out 3 companions at a time right now (max overall is 5). If you keep a daily routine of sending out companions on all your alts, you'll realize in a few weeks that your crafting will in no way be hurting. I would recommend leveling all the alts up to the point where you receive your ship (around level 15), at which point you can send out the ship droid, C2-N2, along with your original companion(s). Then, if you're really not getting a good pace at crafting, you can make it through to Taris or Nar Shaddaa where many of the 2nd companions are located.

3. OK, so I trained in Slicing. What other skills do you recommend?

The remaining two skills to get on your alt are pretty obvious to anyone already familiar with the game or even anyone studying the above skills I listed in this guide: Scavenging and Underworld Trading.

They are the only two skills to provide resources for three professions each. My big mistake when I went through at first was to not pick Underworld Trading as indicated for Armormech. While Slicing was  a good choice, it completely sacrificed my ability to be a successful Armormech, because resources obtained from UT is needed for all the Blue (uncommon) and Purple (rare) items. You also need to make a ton of the uncommon items to even learn the schematics for rare items.

You'll need a big bank to store all those items, but luckily with Slicing, you'll eventually have more than enough creds to purchase at least that second Cargo Hold bay. Also, when you get your alt crafters to the point where they need those resources you'll be doling them out and using them up quite fast.

4. Alright, I want to make an Alt now to do some crafting. Does class matter now?

Yes, class matters now, somewhat. You want to find a class that is compatible with not only the crafting you will choose, but also the companions. The companions have certain crafting skills that they are better at, and you will want the first one or two companions you get to complement the skills you choose.

There are two different companion bonuses when it comes to crafting: Efficiency and Critical. Efficiency improves the time it takes to complete the mission or craft the item. Critical determines the likelihood that a mission will grant extra resources or rare items and, in the case of a crafting profession, will increase the likelihood of creating more than one item, or a critical (augmented) weapon or armor piece.

This page contains a list of all the companions at a glance, and you can see which crafting bonuses they have. Note: The companions for the Trooper are not in the correct order. It should be: Arik, Elara, M1 4X, Tanno, Yuun. In other words, switch Elara and Tanno swtor-spy!

As you'll note, and as I said earlier, every class has companions with bonuses in Slicing, Scavenging, and Underworld Trading. This is another reason I chose those three. However, you should now be careful to pick your first crafting skill based on which class you want or vice versa. The primary three professions I would recommend to start with (in order from best to worst) are:
  1. Cybertech. The reason I list this first is because it is neutral. You can improve moddable armor and weapons for both Tech and Force users (so if your main and first alt are in different categories, this is key). They also have the ability to create your Earpiece and Implants, as well as any droid parts you need for T7 or M1 4X.
  2. Amormech. It uses the 2 resource gathering skills you put on your main and if you have two tech users to start out with (i.e. Smuggler and Trooper) this would be useful.
  3. Synthweaving. It uses Underworld Trading, but not Scavenging, so unless you've really got your heart set on starting out with 2 Jedi, I would avoid this one.
If you're going with Cybertech, I would choose either Smuggler or Jedi Consular for the class. Both of their second companions have Cybertech bonuses. The Trooper's Cybertech bonus isn't until the third companion and the Jedi Knight doesn't have a companion with it at all.

For Armormech, it doesn't really matter if you choose Trooper or Smuggler, as you're not getting a bonus for it until the fourth companion in either case, and really depends as to whether you want Efficiency or Critical.

For Synthweaving, choose the Jedi Knight, as Kira Carsen is obtained earlier than any other second companion in the game, and the Jedi Consular doesn't get a Synthweaving bonus until the fifth and final companion.

As far as picking the gathering and mission skills to support this profession, just go with what is recommended. Don't worry about doing Scavenging and Underworld Trading a second time (you need LOTS of that stuff!) This is a good rule in general for the rest of the companions, unless you want to occasionally throw in Slicing again to get some more moola!

5. What should I do for the rest of the alts?

For the most part it's really up to what you feel like from here on out. You'll have the bases covered and as long as you read and follow the codex guides obtained when speaking to the crew skill trainers (and study the links I provided in this guide) you'll do fine.

However, beyond the first three professions listed in part 4, here is the order I think it would most benefit you to choose for the rest of them:
  1. Artifice. This is important, as it is semi-neutral. It provides the Crystals and Enhancements for all moddable weapons and armor, as well as generators. In fact, if you have a strong Cybertech, you may want to consider choosing this before Synthweaving, since the Cybertech can improve Jedi armor. The best class to use for this by far is the Sith Inquisitor, but if you're going Republic only, I would use the Jedi Knight before the Jedi Consular, which has no companions with Artifice bonuses.
  2. Bioanalysis. Once you get into the high level raids and group missions (flashpoints), stims are a must. I've slacked off on bio and am hurting for it, so make sure this is taken care of early on. The best class to use for this is Trooper, followed by Smuggler, Jedi Consular, and finally Jedi Knight.
  3. Armstech. Last, and also very least, is the Armstech. Eventually you may want to supplement some of those offhand weapons that you don't primarily get during missions. Also if you make a really nice rare barrel, it will be quite a bit of an improvement, but by far it seems to be the least necessary of all the professions. You might even want to use this character to get another Slicing skill in, in place of Scavenging (which you should have plenty of by now). Don't skimp on the Investigation, though, as this will be the only character that will have it. The best class to use is the only one with an Investigation bonus, the Smuggler. After that, the Trooper, followed by a complete toss-up between the two Jedi.

6. Alright, that's 7 characters down, and...?

Your eighth and final (as of this post) character can be another pure resource gathering one. Maybe do Slicing for yet more money and Treasure Hunting for the same. Or choose Diplomacy to support your Biochem while also getting to that Light V or Dark V status faster. This is where you can really be creative and assess your needs to determine which 3 of the 8 supporting crew skills would benefit you most.

So that's about it. Hopefully this guide helps new players to lessen those moments I often have where I really want to do some intense crafting and create rare purple items, but find I don't have the resources necessary to really be effective.

If you end up following this guide at all drop a line in the comments and let us know how it turned out, and if you have any additional insights or suggested alterations to the plan!

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