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A New Saga Begins – A Fresh Look at Vanguard Pt. 2 - Page 2

Posted Tue, Aug 18, 2009 by Ralsu


Rental Griffin

The new Vanguard player in me doesn’t know all of that junk about the third party UIs. He doesn’t notice that the new character models are a little blander than the old ones. What he does notice is that the world is gorgeous and seamless (in theory) but does not run as smoothly as many others. Despite SOE’s assertion that it is both unfair and unwise to compare performance of one game against that of another, the new gamer in me can’t help but notice that the Aion beta runs smoother for him. He notices that it’s possible for a pretty game to run smoother.

My final schizophrenic conclusions arrived in the same place about the performance of Vanguard. First, the game is good enough to forgive some of the hiccups. I’ll get to the why behind that in a bit. Next, the Unreal Engine must be one of the most inefficient templates in all of gaming if this level of performance is the result. To have needed in early 2007 a machine beefier than the average retail computer on sale today and still get ragged functioning indicates a severe limitation of the engine. It excludes a huge chunk of potential users from the outset and alienates even more after they experience some of the troubles running the game. Finally, the seamless world concept is simply too ambitious with the beauty of Telon. Moving from one chunk to the next still takes roughly as long as it does to zone in EverQuest or EverQuest II. Instead of a load screen, players get to see their characters freeze on the screen. The seams are visible in the seamless world. The fact that my graphics card is constantly loading up a lot of landscape on the horizon that may be a chunk away makes it work harder than it needs to in order to impact my immediate gameplay experience.

The selection of the Unreal Engine and the decision to use a world without zones were not up to SOE. They got the game way too late to impact those choices. It would be unfair to SOE for me to focus on those aspects to the point of excess now. Meanwhile, it would be unfair to gamers not to at least mention them. Both elements contribute to some of my favorite things about Vanguard, so I’m torn on the matter anyway.

The Player Base

Telon’s current inhabitants are as fiercely loyal as the fans who followed Vanguard in development. The old Sigil forums were renowned for being very unfriendly to posters who had anything negative to say about the game. Likewise, the current player base staunchly defends the game when given the chance. For instance, when I did my State of the Game interview with SOE in May, a subscriber criticized me for asking questions about the old problems that drove away players. That gamer was right that the issues addressed were old, but those issues still resurface. If you don’t believe, check out last week’s Premium article, Bait and Switch: Ethics and Values in MMO Marketing. Trust me when I say MMO fans remember the broken promises and disappointments with Vanguard. SOE needs all the help it can get in getting people to put aside their prejudices and focus on the game for what it is today.

The good news is that I have encountered a very friendly community in my recent play time. Every question I ask in region chat is answered promptly and politely. Good discussion goes on at peak times though it gets quiet in off hours.

Current Vanguard players also seem very casual. They tend not to focus on PvP or raiding (more on that later) as the launch players did. This suits my gameplay style perfectly. People understand if I say I have only the time to run this one dungeon before I need to go do some laundry. Most people I have come across also share my nostalgia for the old days of chatting within the group, of getting to know the players behind the avatars.

In short, the pace set by today’s Vanguard player is very casual friendly. It is friendly and helpful. Finally, it is mature and patient.

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