This Land is Our Land, this Land is Your Land
By Medeor

When we set out to discuss the many facets of a game, the one which impacts the game the most, but is discussed the least, is the land and all its glory.  When I talk to my buddies about a game and say that it’s graphically awesome, I’m typically speaking to the character, equipment, spell effects and movement graphics, not so much the pretty sunsets.  What glues the whole idea together, though, is the overall setting and whether or not you feel like you are just layered on top of it, or getting fully immersed into the surroundings. 

I’m somewhat of a Discovery Channel lurker, so I do notice things such as how a terrain fits with the physical impacts of things like rivers: are the banking slopes believable, and is there erosion, and do tributaries feed larger rivers, etc.?  I have heard of geographers being employed by game developers to help maintain the topographical integrity of the landscapes.  All of these wonderful visuals (the geography, the topography, and the weather) make up the intricacies that provide us with visual tricks and treats. 

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes takes place on two continents.  Each has its own diverse settings, from mild and medium to hot.  There are mountains and there are streams.  There are desert wastelands and lush jungles.  Let’s face it, there are only so many settings you can have in a fantasy game (a space battle would be fun, but might not fit in).  While each game tries to differentiate itself by its look and feel, the environment is an essential aspect of how the player reacts to the game.  Again, as you know from my previous editorials, I am more of a functional person than form, so I tend to look at mechanics first and beauty second, or third…or not at all. 

Land as a Character
I tend to think of the land as the overriding character of the game.  How does it interact with me, and I with it?  Can I destroy it, can it destroy me?  These are critical things to know when you want to stay alive.  The big question mark for me is the physics.  Does the geography let me do things in the game that I could do in real life, and does it make me pay for those actions (think of jumping off of high places, or just running up a hill).  Some games have horrific pathing issues and won’t let you jump off of a cliff, or maybe not even jump at all.  These games start with one strike in my mind. 

“The continent is one of extremes. Fierce sandstorms. Harsh sun-blasted deserts. Titanic mountain ranges that loom over the deserts. These define the landscape of Qalia.”

The above quote is from the Vanguard: Saga of Heroes website, describing Australia, I mean Qalia.  I’m guessing Qalia is not being over-run with tourists unless they are on “Survivor.”  While it doesn’t sound like a place for a summer home, the harshest of environments seem to breed some mean-spirited critters (I believe it has something to do with a guy named Darwin).  I’ll look forward to counting the numbers of shades of beige that they can create.  Mountains always present unique barriers within games (pun intended).  Are these mountains that we will be able to scale and find nooks and crannies where bad guys live, or will these mountains be barriers to forbidden lands that we’ll have to go around? Or, will they be both?

“Thestra is the birthplace of adventurers who cling to dreams of cleansing their land of danger, wresting ancient treasure from the grip of fearsome enemies, and restoring the land's lost knowledge, power and pride. The occasional survivors of expeditions into the depths of Thestra return with stories of jagged mountains, sheer cliffs, dense forests, stagnant swamps teeming with untold perils, and even islands rumored to hold precious resources and hidden treasures.”

As you may have guessed, this quote is from the official site as well, and it describes the other continent for our budding adventurers.  I could care less about cleansing the land (no, I don’t recycle), but I do like the idea of treasure.  This continent seems to run on the other end of the landscape pallet from Qalia and will undoubtedly illustrate every shade of green at the artists’ fingertips.  I just chuckled to myself thinking about the fact that in real life I hate snakes, and swamps seem to provide a perfect breeding ground for snakes.  Maybe Thestra will help me rid myself of a fear of swamps and snakes, or make me so scared that I won’t leave my house again.

“Explore two large continents and an archipelago riddled with dungeons and adventures.”

So after I looked up the word archipelago and found that it is in fact not a medical condition, I got excited about a game taking a different slant on land masses.  Namely it is making a land mass from smaller individual masses – some might call them islands, but that may be too technical.  So last but not least is the archipelago where “inhabitants of the tumultuous jungles of Kojan fiercely battle encroaching otherworldly fiends.”

The theme of Kojan has been described as Asian.  I sure hope that means that I’ll be able to craft sushi and General Tso’s chicken.  General’s chicken should be +200 yummy, but would not last very long and you would be hungry again…yet, I digress. 

The mysterious land of Kojan is staying somewhat mysterious because Sigil has not released much information about it.  I believe one cool aspect is that this is going to be the Waterworld where we will get to do all things wet – including boats!  No word yet on whether or not there will be a supersoaker level, but odds are that we can at least use the inter-island slip and slide.

Stay tuned for more information as the island gets less mysterious and more fiendish.

True to life confession time: I play in third person and panned back as far as I can go (which is why I don’t care what my character looks like) and when I’m in swamps and places with trees, I can’t see jack. Deserts suit me much better since they are wide open, but just like real life, jungles and dungeons are tough on my camera.

I have never been involved with a game developer (romantically or otherwise) so I don’t know how much of the code-crunching time is spent on the landscape, but I’m guessing that a majority of the developers’ time is spent creating the world in which we will laugh, cry and die.  The developers know that people will search every square millimeter of the landscape looking for a hole or an exploit, so they must be thorough enough for us wingnuts not to get stuck as well as keep people from doing things they are not supposed to do.  Balancing the look with the feel must be a very challenging task.  I’m glad they are doing it and not me.  If I did it, the setting would be as undulating as a basketball court.

We’ll keep you posted as new ground is discovered.  Are you a green thumb who likes the swampy, soupy stuff, or are you more of a desert dweller, or something completely different?

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.