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Sony Online Entertainment
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 01/30/07)  | Pub:Sony Online Entertainment
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Vanguard: Taking a Look at the Diplomacy System

MMORPG.com Vanguard Correspondent Warren Bennett takes a look at the unique diplomacy system in SOE's Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

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Diplomacy in Vanguard is an interesting type of MMO play. It takes a concept of the physical collectible card game, games like Magic: the Gathering, and turns it in to a new way to interact with the world of Telon. Yet this isn't just a card game, your choices and how well you perform may actually effect the entire zone you are playing in.

What is Diplomacy exactly?

di•plo•ma•cy [ di-ploh-muh-see ]

  • -noun
    • the conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations.
    • the art or science of conducting such negotiations.

This is a term you hear bandied about in the news as one country sends diplomats to another to try to help their cause in whatever issue is being discussed. This idea is the same in Telon, the world of Vanguard, and you are the diplomat.

Diplomacy is a part of Vanguard that I had never really tried; I knew it existed but it seemed a bit foreign to me. In preparing for this article, I started to go through the tutorials so that I could actually play as a diplomat.

One thing that you need to remember: Parley is where it is at. Everything in the diplomacy sphere revolves around the parley, the back and forth card game that works as a sort of conversation. Your goal is to win the parley, showing that you are the superior diplomat. Unlike the adventuring sphere, you cannot tea bag your enemy after you down him; instead, different rewards will be granted for your victory in the field of diplomatic conversations. These range from items that you can use, to buffs that affect the whole zone or area where are you attempting to parley.

I have found that as I move through the sphere of Diplomacy it open up more and more information about the world and what’s going on there. This is the sphere you want to go through if you want to find out more about the lore of Telon. The two other spheres do tell you something about the historic and current state of Telon, but Diplomacy is where it is at if you really want to delve in to the depths of the story.

Diplomacy, just like any physical Collectible Card Game, has a type of resource attached to it called “expressions.” You need a certain type and number of expressions to use your Statements, or Statement Cards, that form the meat of the Diplomacy game. Each race and class has an affinity for certain expressions, which tend to influence how you build your deck.

The Expressions are: Flattery (yellow), Demand (red), Inspire (blue), and Reason (green).

There are different conversation types that can block a certain expression from being used during that game: Entertain blocks Demand; Incite stops Flattery; Convince blocks Inspire, and Interview conversation type does not block any expression.

So, if Expressions are the resource you use to activate your statement cards, what are the Statement cards exactly?

Statement Cards are abilities that you use during each round. Each statement card has a different use, of course, all centered around the idea of a conversation. If you have built up enough of a certain expression type, you can use one. Each statement card has a coast associated with it, but also helps to build up expressions. Each card gives a certain amount of expression to both the speaker of the statement and the person that is doing the listening (your opponent). In the upper right hand of each card is a number on a small seal of wax: This represents the influence that you are gaining (or losing) in this conversation.

You speak by putting down your statement cards and listening as your opponent takes his turn and puts his own cards down. The goal is to bring the influence bar in the middle of the board to your side and keep it there. If you have more influence then your opponent does when the game ends, you win.

This, of course, is just a very brief overview of the diplomatic process in Vanguard.

Some thoughts I have had while going through the very beginning of my Diplomatic career:

The lore should be more spread out. I appreciate that in a world such as Vanguard, the people that are more “learned” and essential to governing of any “medieval high fantasy” type of nation would have more an idea of current, past, and future events than the common citizen, I wonder if an adventurer would be so clueless as to the events leading up to the present. They are going to and fro in the land fixing ills and digging up long lost treasure, you would think a portion of them would be educated. So spreading out the lore among your adventuring companions (IE: NPC's that give you quests) would be a logical step, I think.

Diplomacy, although very unique, isn't a required sphere. I'd like to see the three spheres of Vanguard work together a bit more. I don't understand why Diplomacy feels so cut off from the rest of the game. I'm not saying that being “just” a diplomat should not be a viable option, but the three spheres just do not feel connected when it comes to in game content.

I like the idea of Diplomacy, yet the execution needs to be refined. The beginning tutorials are, at least to me, a bit vague. I had to read through them a couple of times before I got the gist of what they were trying to tell me. I love the idea of a CCG inside an MMO and Diplomacy was one of the first. I know that the development team is working hard on various updates and changes to Vanguard: Here is hoping that they decide to give Diplomacy a revamp in the coming year. It would be nice to get those seeking a new and unique experience a reason to try this dark horse of an MMO game; diplomacy could be a Trojan horse to bring people in to the game. It is a unique aspect that none of the other Massive games I have played has implemented.

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