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Casual Thoughts from a Semi-Retired Philosopher

I play MMOs as an alternative to TV. Sometimes it even turns into quality time with the girlfriend. Most of the time it's a distraction from doing something productive or meaningful.

Author: Hluill

Ahhh, Velious

Posted by Hluill Thursday February 24 2011 at 6:47PM
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So the new expansion is out.  All kinds of new features abound:  Two new open zones, More Alternate Achievements, A new race to play, more dungeons, more quests, more mounts, more gear, more, more, more!

Yep, SOE has really out done itself this time.  I get all this stuff for sixty bucks.  Ain't it great.

Wait, the new zones and all are for ninetieth-level characters...

I don't even have a hundred and fifty alternate achievement points yet...

The new race just looks like emaciated dark elves...

Oh, and meanwhile my quite little Role-play server has been merged with a non-role-play server...

I paid sixty bucks for this?

I did take advantage of the double-guild experience day.  My guild may soon see thirtieth level.  It will be my third time grinding a guild to thirtieth.  My main has over seven-million in reputation.  Half of that has gone into this guild.

So, I can't just quit.  I can't take advantage of the free server tranfers (not that I have anything against the folks on Crushbone).  And besides, SOE only gave me five free transfers.  So I can abandon the guild and half my alts.  And where would I go?  Back in time maybe.

Will it ever be like the old days?  The days when even in pick-up groups people actually participated in the digital world into which they had logged?  Dungeon crawls are runs, even sprints now.  It's not even about roleplay, it's about immersion.  It's about paying attention to the world around you, even if it is only digital.  But I guess I have to accept the fact that all that is gone now.  Naming filters, roleplay tags, heck, even chatting, seem to be things of a bygone era.

Well, as soon as the other members of my little guild get tired of the vampires, maybe we'll get together for an uninterrupted crawl through Crushbone... 

Back to Vanguard

Posted by Hluill Monday February 14 2011 at 10:03AM
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Several months, maybe even years ago, I tried out Vanguard: Saga of Heros and wrote a blog about it: Kickin' it Old School.  I wrote it with mixed feelings. 

It's the only MMO I've played that reminds me of the wonderment I experienced when I first played an MMO. 

Vanguard takes place in an open world.  There are no invisible walls.  If you can't climb it, you can rent a mount and fly over it.  There's all kind of places to explore.  I have to remind myself that I don't have to adventure from quest to quest, I don't have to search for next quest hub, I can just explore.

The Adventure, Craft and Diplomacy Speres are all unique and fun -- once you figure them out.  This is another plus for the game in my mind: It ain't easy.  One has to explore the game and figure out how things work.  The Isle of Dawn Theme-Park newbie-area helps.

But the Isle of Dawn also misleads.  The big world of Telon doesn't have that theme-park structure.  Resource nodes aren't easy to find or in abundance.  Quests, especially crafting and diplomacy, don't lift one through the levels smoothly.  And no one experiences the death penalty on the island.  One has not experienced the true joy of playing Vanguard until they've had to do repeated corpse runs for multiple corpses.  The experience-pointt loss is frustrating enough.

Vanguard is level driven, a personal pet-peeve in itself.  This issue is further inflamed because the tiers and the levels don't clearly mesh.  The best gear for a tier-two character are the tier-three items that are made by tier-four crafters.  So minimize your hopes of making your own gear.  And then that gear may only be good for a couple of levels.  No surprise, like every other MMO out there (and vast parts of the real world), the money is to made selling resources. 

As I've written before, Vanguard is an old-school MMO.  It was developed in a time when MMOs weren't focussed on being user-friendly.  It's a big world and one has to spend a lot of game time just travelling.  I spent hour crossing and recrossing one of the continents just to learn how to craft the next tier of weapons.  And that was only for that continent.  I have to do it two more times.  And that crafter is not skilled enough to complete any of those new recipes.

This challenge is further exacerbated by it's lack of support by Sony Online Entertainment.  They bought it from Sigil and then basically shelved it.  While many of its early bugs have been fixed, nothing new has been added for years.  Players might debate what kind of tweaking it may need, but the fact that it isn't being tweaked is inescapeable.  There's a blurry line between challenge and frustration.

My girlfriend loves the idea of building a house.  But one has have access to high-level crafters, vast resources and platinum just to think about it.  The process of having a house is so daunting that it is not inviting to casual players.  So she is sticking to EQ2.  Most of the fans of Vanguard would disdain her desire for an easy mode.

This game will never compete with World of Warcraft.  Nor should it try.  I like that it only has two servers.  I like how the fans of it go out of their way to show newbies how to enjoy the game.  But I regret that playing means that I neglect my easy-mode friends.