Vanguard: Summit Journal

Well, I’m tired as can be, but I have a lot of information to get out, so I will start typing and see how far we can get.

Vanguard is in discussions with an undisclosed entity about Vanguard novels, comics, and even possible PnP games to truly bring the lore of Vanguard to life. That is nothing but great news for those of us looking for immersion into the new world we call Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

We got to the game right away! Three computers, side by side in a room filled with seating for as many of us as we could get, were ours for the day. I quickly grabbed the first seat, luckily standing next to it when they asked who wanted to go first.

The game is beautiful, more so than any game currently on the market or that I’ve seen yet! As we waited for the art team to come by, Brad stopped in and said hello. Various staff members piled in, taking turns checking us out and saying hello. I noticed the trees right off the bat and then the various characters already logged in, ready for us to move around. I was an Elf female.

The developers took the first 3 of us by the hand and explained game-play. We started with movement and killing dirty rotten stinking badgers! Well, that’s what we called them, but they were just normal badgers.

Fighting was pretty different, with various stances and skills available. As a newbie fighter I could choose to fight more offensively or defensively. I clicked on Stance of the Furious, and then clicked on one of four attack options. I kicked and swung in a slicing motion, then continued down the list to see what damage I could do. The sword was long and added nicely to my very Elf looking, tall and graceful character.

After killing a few badgers, I stood there or a moment staring at the sky, just taken aback by how incredible the trees look in this game. The closest I could compare them to are a few movies that used computer graphics in their backgrounds. They are so realistic I couldn’t do them justice with words, except to say it is on par with many animated movies that push for a very realistic look.

I was satisfied seeing a few badgers die and gaining some skill increases with my sword, so I decided to see what else I could find. I ran ahead through the woods and noticed some creatures flying in the sky. Gryphons were up circling high above. The Dev team let us know that if we could shoot an arrow far enough, we could attack them. They aren’t just scenery.

I noticed a village off in the distance with tall, beautiful buildings. The Devs said it was the Village Lethnurae, the starting Elf city.

Populated with a few guards and many, many buildings, it was not quite a city, but definitely a well-populated and well-established town. I opened a door and walked in. There were a few NPCs scattered about. Some NPCs even greeted you when you came near and told you to come back soon when you leave. Voice-overs will be a part of this game as well to bring full emersion.

Training will be through NPCs and quests. You will attain skill points as you level up that you can spend on your class’ various skills. As you skill up, your modular bar fills up with skills. The skill pool limits the coverage of skills. If you want to be proficient in shield and sword to create a more defense oriented tank, you can. Maybe you would rather be a more aggressive tank with 2 swords for maximum damage per sec. You will have a full range of skill choices to make yourself the unique character you want to be. However, classes will still specialize in their abilities. Rangers will always out damage Warriors and Warriors will always mitigate damage faster than any others, being the best option for taking damage.

The bridge between a Ranger who skills up his defense and the tank who works on his damage will be less than most other games, but there will always remain distance enough to make them unique to their class. Darren McPherson, a game designer, did a fantastic job explaining all this and answering our questions.

Vanguard will not have any mezzing at all. This game will rely heavily on team strategies. If you have an encounter where 3 mobs come when agro’d, then you would do best to make sure your team has a plan. There will be no more breaking groups of mobs one by one without worry. You may fight all 3 at once, root one or two, or maybe have a team member distract what is not being fought and run around while the team offs the other one. There are many options, so you will have to decide what your team can effectively do to handle adds, rather than simply mezzing them. There may be stun and other methods to slow progress of mobs, however.

All encounters will vary and some may come at you in a team of 5 with 1000 hitpoints each, or maybe it’s one with 5000 hitpoints. Just know that a con equal to you is not necessarily going to fight and react like the others that con equal. There will be serious thought involved when taking on an enemy in Vanguard!

Advanced mobs will react with a higher level of intelligence or maybe they will be a tougher fight, but sort of basic in their actions. For instance, the basilisk is not a smart fighter but a Human Brigand is — both are the same level. However, for example their other stats will balance their low stat’s deficit.

Maps in-game will reveal themselves as you lift the undiscovered fog by traveling. Waypoints will be available to mark where you want to go and even where you want your team, raid, or guild to go, as long as you’ve been there before, but only those who have been there before will see the waypoint as well.

We then went on a tour of the office. Walking through the art department was a huge excitement with the amazing art team here at Sigil. I have to say, they had a lot of amazing art for their own fantasy gallery. Senior Artist Den Beauvais was kind enough to let us look at a mob on his screen, a Manfibian – a half lizard half man swamp creature, and showed us some of its death animations and fighting animations.

The movement on the main PCs were created by using motion capture with actual actors, creating beautiful and flowing motion in movements and combat, as opposed to the usual jerking motions we are used to in our MMOs.

Then we talked with Ryan Elam, Lead Programmer and Jeff Damron, Associate Artist. I stopped to look at some Elven ruins, designed from Keith Parkinson and Ben Thompson’s pencil sketches, but Cindy shuffled me along. *smile*

We saw how plots were laid out and some statue placements were being discussed as we walked by.

Back at the conference room we got back to talking. I grabbed on to Senior Game Designer John Capozzi and asked about many things:

Crafting will be revolutionary and will be like no other game before it. I know, we have all heard that tale before, but this time it’s real! I’ll explain. Crafters will choose to be one of 4 types of resource gatherers; Foreman: Enhances the team’s ability to work together and perform at their peak gathering ability. Reaper: Deals damage to the object. Prospector: Identifies the resources. Gleaner: Extracts secondary resources.

Confused yet? Ok, I will explain.

Say you want to go gather resources, because you’d like to craft and work up your crafting skills and, well, make some super nice gear in the process.

Crafting will be sort of like combat with a tree, or rock, or whatever you are searching for. No, I don’t mean a tree will grow feet and run around fighting you, but it may drop a branch on you if you don’t have the skill to know what to do or it may break your axe if you are lacking skill to chop wood this hard. It may actually even cause you damage and, in some cases, kill you if you botch your effort to extract the item. You can gain some sort of negative experience, or loss of progress for this but you will be warned that you can’t do this far before it happens. In other words if you keep attempting to force the issue, you may just get the item you want extracted but well you might also topple the tree over onto you. Crafting also has its own set of animations to keep things exciting and fun while you watch the progress.

Ok. Go ahead and gather some resources, but group together with some other crafters! Now you can gather higher tier resources as well as do it much more efficiently than if you were doing it alone. Yes, there are huge bonuses for groups of crafters working together! Not only that, but as you go out to get more resources (which will be more of an event than repetitive grind) you will have to find specific resources, and they get harder to find as you get up to better items. They may be guarded by mobs, which means you may have to get those guys who keep asking you to make their weapons better or finish that house you promised them to come over and help kill the mobs in your way so your craft team can swoop in to get that giant tree down, chopped up and loaded onto the pack mule.

Wait, you said houses, pack mule and team crafting all at once. This is too much!

It’s all true! Everyone will be allowed housing, with limits on how many you can have per account and how many can be built on per server. That’s right. You cannot over build in this game. If there is no more room, well, then you will have to rent a space in town. Of course, some just plain want the city life and already have that planned. There will be multiple house sizes as well as city dwellings and shops that you can own and sell your wares at. Crafters will not be able to harvest while offline. As I said, crafting in Vanguard takes on the feeling of an event not to be taken lightly. Merchants you have set up to sell your products will remain while you are offline though.

Another aspect to fighting and crafting is the widely varying items. Your friend’s maul might be best bought from a crafter at 10, found at 15 and enhanced at 16, so you always have a need to buy from crafters, improve gear by hunting, and help get crafters to their resources. Some items will be modular where you can even interchange parts of it like the blade can be improved or the hilt changed again and again and so on. They call this layering the needs of items, so that at all times you will need something from crafters, mobs, and also a need to support the crafting efforts to get items they can use to enhance your stuff or other’s.

No longer will you be able to have 10 backpacks somehow hidden under your robe. You will have to be very aware of how much you can hold. You cannot hold all your weapons, all your tools, 2 full sets of gear, etc. You will have to plan which 3 tools or so you need for this resource and put on your crafting armor before you set out to get your resources. Mounts will be in-game to help with this, but you won’t be able to switch items while you are actively doing something. Also, mounts won’t be able to carry everything.

Your sources of storage will be housing, boats, mounts, a (small) bank account and your inventory. Crafters will also be able to build boats, furniture, and even enhancements for boats and mounts.

Banks and houses will be shareable with a permission system that allows you to make a house a guild hall by inviting everyone in if you wish. You can also allow others access to your bank account, making it possible for guilds to have guild banks. You can even set up who you allow to deposit, who can withdraw money, who can withdraw items and even keep an in-game record of all the bank transactions, so you know who has done what at any time.

Speaking of this brings up guilds. Robust guild tools makes managing guilds easy in-game and greatly enhances guild play. Raids are going to return to MMOs as they always should have been. We watched as one of the Devs ran us through an intermediate level dungeon called Deriken’s Tower, which reached far into the sky, through the clouds floating by. The tower is a giant mechanized-looking black metallic building. It is something you would expect from a Tolkien book with a glowing blue beam of mana shooting through its middle. The size itself is impressive, but the metallic runes and etchings were vast and beautiful, covering every inch of the building as you would expect to see in an old medieval church.

The tower was a raid dungeon where several teams need to unlock mechanical levers that send stairs down to their other guild partners waiting to do their parts of the raid. Several groups will have to do their parts in turn, each receiving group sized uber loot and advancing up, until the whole raid enters the throne room at the top. It’s a stained, circular room with every inch filled with detail. You could walk through this game for weeks and never get too far if you stopped to check out each interesting detail there is to see. Atop the tower you will face Deriken himself, but for what reason I don’t know. Perhaps to open up quests? Perhaps you will face him until your death? Perhaps you will take his life, ending his plans of destruction? We all have to wait to find out the answer to that one.

As you advance in the game, your actions will decide your alignment, which will have a direct effect on which quests are open to you down the road. If you fail a quest, some you cannot attempt again, some you can. Some will replay the same, while others may be different if you fail and try again. Also, actions of others on the server may open areas that need to be maintained, if no one keeps the vermin or pests that find their way back and scare off the townpeople out.

Some miscellaneous info:

There will be no radar, but arrows on your compass will guide you to your teammates and the waypoint system will work if you have unveiled the area already.

Also, mobs will react differently to you, depending on group size, including a solo player as a group of 1, so AI will pick up on just how much a threat you are. If you are too high a threat, they may simply run away from you. To keep farming and griefing from higher level players at bay, if the mob is to low it will not reward the player in any way.

There will be teleports in dungeons, possibly to keep teams together, but not to assists in travel out of them.

You will be able to wage combat from your ships and mounts, but don’t expect your pet to help fight, run fast, and carry everything you own all at once. There will be pets that can do them all, but not very well and at least maybe not until the very high levels and even then maybe not.

The game is being built with cone sound technology, where sound will be broken into cone areas around you so you can actually not only hear that something is behind you, but actually from a more specific direction like far behind and left of you! The sound will work well with the 7.1 Creative Technology.

We also saw:

New Seaabay Necropolis in Qalia – An Egyptian-style sandstone dungeon with runes scribed into the stone pillars and walls. It is old and ancient with sand floors, just waiting to be filled with various undead creatures and echoes of a boss mobs’ voice filling the halls.

New Targanor – The largest virtual city in existence in any MMORPG! It covers a 2k by 2k grid with 70% filled with buildings that reach up into the sky in the tallest of its castle towers. You may have seen it in some of the concept art as it was modeled to be exactly as Keith Parkinson envisioned in his sketches. All doors and rooms will be accessible and furnished with over 175 buildings within the city walls. The city itself resides on the Northern Coast 4 to 6k of two starting areas. They expect you to reach the castle on average at about level 12 and there are thousands of things available to do. Don’t think of the city as just a place to trade, but as a dungeon with tons to explore and do. They said it was impossible, but today we all saw it is real.

There is even an underground city, complete with a hidden harbor and even a mini dungeon.

Next to the castle is the harbor where crafters will be able to craft their first fleets, anything from a shore hugging skiff to an ocean faring ship that multiple players can be on. You can even battle with other ships by jumping aboard and attacking. Ships will take damage and will need to be repaired if too much damage is taken, which crafters can do as well.

You will be able to climb and even become an Assassin, but the two are not necessarily rogue only skills.

Lastly, before I fall asleep as I sit here. You can get back skill points by using new items and losing advanced skills on old skills you no longer wish to use.

There will be hybrid dungeons, where both adventurers and crafters need to go. Crafting and adventuring will be very interdependent.

Well, the weekend has been long, but very enjoyable and I look forward to hearing all your responses to this heap of info and answering the many questions it brings up. We have opened a thread on our Vanguard forum to answer questions about this article, but do know some things are forced to remain vague, as we are still under the NDA.

I personally had a great experience on this trip and met some very great people from Sigil and the Vanguard community.

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