Release Date: Q1 2006
The buzz around Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is immense. Sigil games is made up of some of the development team behind EverQuest, including CEO Brad McQuaid, former EverQuest producer. Sigil is designing Vanguard around the notion that today's MMOs are becoming too kind and gentle, so they want this game to be as hardcore as EverQuest. The bad-old-days of long corpse runs and xp loss (and possible de-leveling) upon death are back. To those who look back on EQ with nostalgic eyes I utter this warning: Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.
Now, I'm willing to concede that the death penalty in World of WarCraft is too light; there needs to be some penalty for dying other than a heartfelt "oh shucks." But harkening back to 13-hour corpse runs because some idiot wiped the group at the bottom of a dungeon? No 'effing way. Oh, yeah, long, boring boat rides are back, too; there will be no insta-ports here.
When I entered the meeting room I was expecting an hour-long presentation about the graphics, the class system or how great the combat system was going to be ... all the eye candy you expect to see at E3, especially from a "next-generation" game.
What they presented for the better part of the hour was the crafting system…
I'll say this much: they were certainly passionate about it. Those of you who get all hot and excited over crafting are going to be passionate about it. On the other hand, if the big thing you've always enjoyed about crafting was that you did it by your onesies, you're probably going to hate it. To chop down that uber birch tree is going to require a group (oh, get this, you can "debuff" a tree). If you thought it was a pain in the ass to get a group together to kill a mighty dragon, imagine the sound of silence that will follow a guild-shout of, "LFG to chop down tree, please!" I expect a new MMO phrase to follow: "Hey, he kill-stole my woody!"
Okay. I've made fun of them enough, and they do bring a valid point about crafting. Usually, crafting is a very "clicky" process: first you click on "create item" and then you click the TV remote looking for something interesting to watch while the computer creates the item. Vanguard has made the crafting as interactive as combat. You need to keep the fire hot enough and use appropriate tools to craft the item, but look out, because you might have a "complication" and need to react to that. It looks like it will be a very engaging and un-boring process. It also looks like it could be a pain the butt.
The crafting system is a good indicator of their overall goal with Vanguard: appeal to their core market, people who want a deep game with content that can't be done in six months (another complaint with WoW), and make the level progression fun. For me, a level progression that involves XP loss on death and corpse runs won't likely be fun, but we're still a ways off from seeing if it's still fun even with that. What they'll have to account for is the relatively short attention spans of MMO players these days - we are becoming a fickle lot - by making the progression very immersive.
There are a few interesting ideas they presented in terms of combat, and one is the idea of protection. The way it was explained to me was while the big, bad monster is trying to smack around the mage, the fighter is going "No you don't." What's not clear is how this is handled, but they promised that fighters are going to be very busy during fights.
Last year's E3 demo was just a tech demo that showed off the engine, and this year's demo was mostly the crafting system. Next year, the game should be staring a release date in the face, so hopefully we'll see more of the complete game then.
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