Tour of Telon
by Karen "Shayalyn" Hertzberg
I remember getting
very excited back in the day when news about EverQuest II first started
to break. Say what you want about Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), but
you can’t say that they fail to pack a punch in the marketing
department. SOE pushed out a tremendous deal of hype when SOE was in
its pre-launch stages. Although the game has grown and improved vastly
since the days when it was launched to much fanfare and noise about
innovative features and celebrity voice-overs, EQ2 may have missed its
chance to really shine due to over-hype and initial under-delivery.
Enter Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, a game poised for publication by SOE in
the first quarter of 2007. SOE has just begun to fire its heavy-duty
marketing engines where Vanguard is concerned, but the fact that the
game is being published by SOE begs the question: will Vanguard be all
flash and no substance?
Here’s the essential difference: while EQ2 was both published
and developed by SOE, Vanguard has a slightly different pedigree. The
development team, those in complete creative control of Vanguard, is
Sigil Games Online, a company founded by two of the driving forces
behind EverQuest Live, Brad McQuaid (CEO of Sigil Games Online and
Vanguard’s executive producer), and Jeff Butler (President).
And while SOE may be driving the hype machine, it’s very
evident that Sigil is firmly holding the reins when it comes to
building the game they envision. Here’s how I know...
I attended a press event for Vanguard in San Diego on October 6, 2006.
Jeff Butler and Brad McQuaid led a press tour. Butler explained about
the three continents that make up the vast area that is
Vanguard’s world of Telon. There’s the Eastern
European and Arthurian-themed Thestra; the Middle Eastern, Arabian
Nights-themed Qalia (pronounced KAY-lee-uh); and the Asian-inspired
archipelago of Kojan (pronounced KOH-jan).
“Now remember,” said McQuaid, “This world
is completely seamless--it’s massive; it’s not
zoned. It goes back to the days of Ultima Online where you can sail
anywhere...you can fly anywhere. Just about anywhere you can see you
can go. The only reason we would stop you would be for gameplay, like
if you had to quest to gain access to a certain area.”
A Tour of Kojan
“This is a new area that we’re going to
show,” said Butler. “It’s something our
beta testers haven’t seen yet, and some of our people
internally haven’t even seen. People have been asking a lot
about Kojan and how it’s going to look, and we’re
pretty enthused about showing it today.”
We began our fly-over
with Butler’s character atop a griffon, sailing through the
skies above the wood elf city of Youngtree Harbor; one of the starting
areas in the archipelago of Kojan. The city was lush and beautiful,
like a picture straight out of Oriental art. The landscape was framed
by mountains (although not the sort of mountains that would have boxed
players into a zone back in the EverQuest days), and decorated with
buildings and temples featuring Oriental-style architecture. When we
saw Kojan there were no NPCs lurking just yet. “When this is
populated,” said Butler with a grin, “I’m
not sure what will be here, but I’m sure it’ll
start killing the players.”
The wood elf city should feel somewhat familiar to those who played
EverQuest back in the day. Once again, it’s a city in the
trees. “But there are rails,” said McQuaid, noting
the railings running along the city’s many ramps.
“No newbies falling to their deaths.”
“Yeah, but for the advanced player, you can still jump
off,” mused Butler.
Other areas of Kojan were just as mesmerizing as Youngtree Harbor. We
saw floating islands in the sky, glorious temples, lush vegetation, and
even a shimmering waterfall. "That's the wood elf Jacuzzi," quipped
Ships in Vanguard
Butler showed us his ship, docked in Youngtree Harbor. The sailing
vessel was huge and ornate. Butler told us that it would require an
entire guild to work together to build a ship of that size. The first
ships are available to players at around level 20.
“Can a ship be hijacked by another guild?” asked
“In PvP that would be pretty cool, wouldn’t
it?” said Butler, answering with a question.
I suspect we’ll have to wait to see guilds attacking one
another at sea. At this time, although Sigil is committed to bringing
ship-to-ship combat to the game, it’s going to be the stuff
of expansions and won’t be available at launch. However,
there will be combat on board ships. You will be able to be attacked on
the high seas.
We got a peek at the map that helps players navigate their way around
Telon. Light colored trails on the ocean
travel corridors on which adventurers can sail their ships from
continent to continent. There will also be teleporters to transport
ships from one continent to another. “Otherwise it would
literally take you an hour on a ship to get from Qalia to
Kojan,” said McQuaid.
Let me just add a word here about the map in Vanguard. At this time, it
doesn’t appear to be highly detailed. While it will help you
navigate from area to area, and may even point you to some cities or
important NPCs, don’t expect to be able to find your way
around Telon easily just by viewing the map. There’s much
you’re apparently going to have to discover and explore on