Vanguard: Saga of Whispers

I’m going to break with tradition and say something unusual. I’ve been hearing some good things about Vanguard. If Vanguard is a saga, then these whispers and annecdotes are novellette at best, with the tale of “broken” as bookcovers. At the very least, beyond the new-player areas these have been sightings of some non-rote quests, some of which actually sound like they’ll be fun when they work.

For instance, Granik related to me the tale of a quest to befriend an Ogre tribe, which had some well thought out storyline and a couple of quite interesting sub-quests. Unfortunately, the Ogres are agro to you, and so the storyline was interspersed with nasty deaths flaunting Vanguard’s masochistic death penalty.

Although I’ve played Vanguard, the things I’ve heard since then tell me that Work Has Been Done, and it would be unfair to use my experience to comment on all but a few areas that appear to have remained constant:

Vanguard does have zones, but they are done in such a way as to appear zoneless – you can see the terrain in the surrounding zones and beyond, and aside from actually entering a contained zone like a dungeon, you didn’t see cheesey zone “corridors” or “gates” like you do in other games. (The zones in EQ2 didn’t seem cheesey to me after EQ1, until I played Vanguard)

They’ve also chosen some strange deviations from “The Vision” that attracted many of us in the first place. For instance, at one point, we were lead to believe that Vanguard would be laying the smack down on inventory, making what we carried somewhat more realistic. But you have four inventory modes: Adventuring, Gathering, Crafting and Diplomacy. By switching modes, you instantly switch clothing, equipment, etc. So you are actually carrying or wearing four full loads of gear. And, each mode has its own packs. Your gathering mode has bags full of wood or stone and bags of picks, axes, saws, etc; your crafting mode, meanwhile, has a bag of tools like sieves, hammers, planes, tongs, etc, etc, bags of crafting neccessities like oils, salves, thread, etc.

This is actually kind of cool, but its the kind of upgrade I’d look for in WoW. Its not roleplay immersive, it’s gaming immersive.

On the other hand, the Vanguard “caravan” system means that if you get a regular group together, you can share exp so that its easier to keep co-level and together (since I’m hearing claims that you can easily spend upward of a real-time hour travelling between parts of the gameworld, I imagine this would be vital).

Vanguard did something smart in their beta. Every time you completed a quest, it presented a dialog asking you to rate the quest. When I first played, the newbie area I started in had just been released, and the quests were mundane. Others then have said they’re not bad but they are very, very generic. And I found them to be full of tediously “go and come back” stuff. You can’t put your crown jewels up front, but these quests were boring.

I played another month later, and the quests were slightly more polished, but I got the feeling that Sigil had set the bar for the 1-5 votes at 3. Those of you who have netflix or gamefly or something similar, when you rate videos on a 1-5 scale, do you use “3” to indicate “nuh, it’s ok I guess”? 1 being the lowest, I rate a quest 2 if it actually bothers me or I have problems. 1 if it really sucks. 4 is if a quest actually wakes me up off auto-run-here-and-back-pilot, 5 if I will be doing that one again on my next character.

But a zone full of 3s is a zone that reminds me I haven’t finished that Heritage quest yet…

Vanguard has flying mounts and, to its credit, it has vertical content to match. There are rumors of little flying islands and areas only flying mounts can reach. But there’s a general bug with mounts in vanguard that causes you to be dismounted on zoning. This includes flying mounts. As such the players who’ve flown them have worked out you need to either fly low enough not to die from falling damage, or very high so that you have time to remount before …. impacting.

I’ll be interested to see Vanguard in 8-12 months. The reports of brokeness are consistent with those that surrounded EQ1. Not counting Meridian 59, etc, EQ1 was the first MMORPG that I really got into, and I was too caught up in being a bard and exploring the lore, well and the lack of any other similar game to play, to be overwhelmed by its early brokeness.

I had a hard time trying to figure who the Vanguard player is. I hear lots of rumors of experiences of things like player-owned boats for travel, flying mounts. Now I’ve heard some details from players who’ve experienced these first hand in stress tests. But otherwise these reports seem to come from the ether. They’ve borne true in the light of stress tests, so people weren’t making them up. But who were these reports coming from? The answer seems to be hardcore powergamers. Aren’t they supposed to be the ones who ruined EQ1?

My hunch is that day 1 V:SoH is going to be primarily populated by the worst kind of players – the people who believe it was other people who ruined EQ1 (or AC, or …). The highly outspoken community that has surrounded V:SoH since day 1… Well stop there and analyze that for a moment. EQ1 is supposed to have been ruined by Verant/SOE listening to the highly outspoken whining of … well you see where I’m going with this?