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MMO Chronicles

My adventures, experiences, and general thoughts about MMO's as I encounter them.

Author: Baldur

Vanguard - Building of the Guild Hall complete!

Posted by Baldur Wednesday October 31 2007 at 5:56PM
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Lo again! Well, I wanted to make a quick post just to celebrate the building of the Guild Hall for the Black Sun guild. I've only been a member for a few days, but it's been fantastic to watch all the teamwork as the crafters and harvesters pull together to get the hall completed.

I have some screenshots and a bit of commentary to let you all see how the last few bricks were laid and the hall completed!

Some of the guild members getting together outside the guild hall construction site

Another shot of the members, this time with the guild hall construction site in view

Guild members in front of the construction site, getting ready to lay the last brick

Another shot, with more members showing up (the last brick is laid soon after this shot)

And now the guild hall is completed! It was so big, I had to actually run far back up the hill to get the whole guild hall in view

Inside the guild hall with some of the guildies! Theres a _lot_ of decorating to do - and there many, many rooms all throughout the hall that are empty as well

And that's it! It's really awesome seeing the guild halls come together - I believe ours is the second one on the island we are living on. There's also quite a few smaller player villages that have been cropping up... so it'll be interesting to see how the whole island comes together for a really nice player community.

Return to Vanguard - A closer look at the interface and questing

Posted by Baldur Monday October 29 2007 at 10:37PM
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Hello again! This time around I wanted to explore (more in-depth, mind you) the interface and questing in Vanguard. I had a lot of feedback from my first entry, so I thought to myself that the next logical thing to do would be to show everyone more about the inner workings of the game.

The Interface
Let's get right down to it - the first thing I wanted to show people is how the interface works. It's pretty complex in Vanguard (like many other things) so there's a lot to take in. As a side note I'd like to say that I am using a UI different then the default, however the base elements are the same and that's all that matters!  I won't be explaining every little bit, instead I'll let the screenshots do the talking and I'll hit on points that I really like.

Inventory, General GUI - Here we have a shot with my inventory open. The bags are all draggable (by default). The bag on the furthest left is actually my horses saddlebags (you can equip your mounts with varied equipment in Vanguard).  Chat windows can be created and dragged anywhere, as well as have filters applied, font sizes changed, etc. Hotbars can also be added, removed, dragged, and positioned.

Tooltip Comparisons - Another little added feature I love is tooltip comparisons when mousing over items. Nothing beats being able to mouse over an item and immediately see how it compares to what your wearing. Some may say this is nothing much, but there are many MMO's without this feature and when it's not there... you really notice.

Character Equipment Management - This part about Vanguard was really new to me - I had never played an MMO where you actually have 5 sets of equipment you wear at any time. What I mean, is that you have your normal Adventure set, your Crafting set, your Harvesting set, your Diplomacy set, and your Mount set. Sets change automatically depending on what you do. If you go to harvest a node, your harvesting equipment is automatically equipped to maximize your harvesting abilities. The same goes for every other type. Here's some shots of the adventure, crafting, and mount equipment screens (notice the tabs on the left, they let you view and manage your sets).

Adventure Set

Crafting Set

Mount Set

Quests and Tracking
I had briefly touched on the questing in my last post, however I wanted to explain a bit more about it. Quests are picked up from NPC's, drops, or from special events that may trigger them. Managing the quests is pretty simple with the quest book. After accepting a quest and reading a bit more in-depth with what your quest book has recorded, you can see that almost all quests in the game contain "location" tracking. This is great for people like me, as it gets you set in the right direction. Selecting the location pops a red marker on your compass (and a blip on your map) for you to follow.

Quest screen with Location tracking

As you learn locations and explore, they get added to your Locations book - which is great as you can simply select a location and it'll point you in the right direction!


Locations screen


Wrap-up and Random screenshots
I didn't go into much detail, but I hope the screenshots help you explore the interface visually. I also wanted to hit on crafting and harvesting with this entry, but I'll save that for later. For now... please enjoy these random screenshots of some in-game action and posing!

Fighting a Jin Fiend

Mining some Copper
(notice how the game put me in my harvesting clothes automatically!)

Casting a buff

Sniping an enemy

Posing Indoors with some Trainers

Posing Outdoors near a tree village

Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for stopping by!

Return to Vanguard - First thoughts and experiences

Posted by Baldur Saturday October 27 2007 at 3:40PM
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Let's get right down to business - I played Vanguard the first day it was released, and cancelled within the first month. It was buggy, poorly optimized, and lacking in many areas. With the latest updates to the game, I decided to give it another shot. Below I'll outline how things went and what I think about the game so far. For some images from my travels, scroll to the bottom :)

Installation and patching~
This was a breeze. Installation took about 20 minutes (I had the original installation discs), and patching the game took about 2 hours (I'm on a 5mbps cable connection). Before patching I had to re-activate my account, and much to my surprise SOE had revamped this part of the process. It was much easier and smoother then the last time, so that was nice. All said and done, it was about 2 hours 30 minutes from installing the software to logging in for the first time.

First login, and character creation~
Upon first logging in, I noticed my old characters were still there. Their servers had changed after the server merge, but that's no big deal. I have an 18 Sorcerer and a 23 Bard - but I decided to roll a new character to really experience the game fresh again. Creating a new character is easy - this time I decided to make a Wood Elf Ranger (Wood Elf for the extra +Dex per level, as well as the fast wolf transformation runspeed buff they get). Rangers just looked like a lot of fun, as they are categorized as an offensive fighter in the game. Vanguard gives the player a ton of options when customizing your character. Every single aspect can be changed, from sizes to weights, from cheekbones to ear widths, heights, locations, etc. You can even change things like arm size in respect to leg size, neck length, and more. All in all, your guaranteed to make a character that is very different then anyone else.

Entering the game for the first time - first thoughts~
I entered with my newly made Wood Elf Ranger, Torax. This time around I am playing the game with all graphical settings maxed out (16x AF as well). Sadly the game does not support AF yet, but this is in the works for a future patch. Upon entering the world, I was blown away... there's no other way to put it. The shadowing, the landscapes, the view distance - amazing. I had completely forgotten how majestic this game really does look.. Travelling around is a real treat, the landscapes have so much to show and there is always something you find while exploring. I finally uploaded some ingame screenshots I took - look at the bottom of the blog to find them.

Questing, Leveling, and the GUI~
I began by picking up the starting quest line and running through it. It's pretty straight forward and I really enjoyed the story it told. One thing I had forgotten was how slowly you level in this game. That's never a bad thing, as you really feel like you earn each level. Every even level you can train new skills at your respective trainers, and they usually have quite a few [skills] for you to learn. The quests give decent equipment as you work your way through them, and after the first 4-5 levels I was really getting into the game. The GUI is pretty simple, so I decided to use a customized GUI to really expand the information shown onscreen. I went with DroxUI as it has a lot of features and is pretty much bug free.

Guilds, groups, and other randomness~
The next big thing I wanted to do before I got past level 5 was join a guild. The new socials panel really helps ease players into that process of finding the right guild. Un-guilded players can load up the guild section of the socials panel, and get a quick overview of ALL guilds on the server currently seeking players (similar to the EQ2 socials panel). Each guild listed is selectable and shows a list of officers currently online and offline. I was even able to set my options for what type of guild I wanted out of a list of around 20. Things like casual friendly, chatty, raid oriented, group oriented, crafting, adventuring, etc. I found a guild very quickly, struck up a conversation with an officer and within 20 minutes I was a new recruit to the Black Sun guild. This is a big step for me, as it helps me to meet new players quickly and really get into the social aspect of the game. The guild, with around 380 members at the time of this writing, has 10-30 members on at any given time and is very active. It's great as the first thing one of the officers did was craft me some great weapons. I also grouped up from time to time as I quested, and it was easy and fun. The new LFG tool in the game is fantastic and makes finding groups a snap - you can specify what type of group you want (dungeons, questing, adventuring, etc) and then even specify which quests or which dungeons you want to explore. The tool even shows you how far from each dungeon you currently are and their level ranges - making it very simple to isolate the closest, in-level-range dungeon you want to explore with others. I would also highly recommend installing a map mod like InfoMap Advanced. Not only does it add a mini-map to the game, but it updates all the game maps with new, detailed ones that contain many more POI's and locational information (harvesting nodes, binding stones, etc).

Optimizations and enhancements~
I'm sure many of you are curious about this - the game engine is much better now. The chunking problem is non-existant. The animations for running, walking, and fighting are a lot smoother now as well. Overall the game engine is much more responsive and the framerates are higher all around. With all the settings maxed, I get on average 20-60 FPS depending on where i'm at. Huge cities bring me down to the 20's, other places I run from 30-50 usually. Remote locations I can get up to 70+ fps. The vanguard team is working on a new NPC structure that should greatly enhance the npc's of the game, and improve performance at the same time. They are also working on revamping the city of Khal, streamlining it and overall making it a better place to stay.

Final Thoughts~
Well, I'm loving the game. I'm level 9 currently, and i've been playing for 2 days. I've accomplished a lot so far, from joining a guild to exploring the land to grouping and adventuring. I find myself getting pulled into the quests due to the immersion of the world around me. I can't wait to get a mount and a ship at some point - and who knows, maybe even a house! Our guild is currently working on a guild hall, and once that's complete we will all have a place to congregate and hang out together. It's exciting times. I'm impressed with the vanguard team as well - even though we've all heard that they have been decreased in size, they still manage to really put out quality patches that are quite big in scale. I believe they plan to have a trial at some point, and this is when I recommend everyone to come give the game a try again - you'll be thoroughly impressed. If you can't wait, then come on down and join the Seredan server... shoot Torax a tell and let's strike up some good times :)

Screenshots from my travels~
(Images are compressed from 1680x1050 TGA to 1260x788 JPG)