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AGC: Jeff Butler on Diplomacy

Laura Genender Posted:
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Vanguard: Saga of Heroes - Interview from AGC

Sigil President and Exec. Producer Jeff Butler and PR Guru April Jones talk crafting, diplomacy and more.

On Thursday I met with Sigil’s President/Executive Producer Jeff Butler and Senior Manager of Marketing/PR April Jones to talk about the highly anticipating upcoming MMORPG, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

I took this opportunity to talk to Butler and Jones about one of Vanguard’s unique features: the presence of an in-depth diplomacy system. According to Butler, this system is complete and is being integrated into Beta 3. All that is left between now and launch - which should be some time this winter – is for designers to flesh out the depth of the system.

As much as I fear getting my hopes up, if the diplomacy system is as complex and engaging as Butler described, Vanguard might be the game to bridge the gap between social gamers (There, The Sims, etc.) and combat types. The diplomacy system, paired with crafting, should provide more than enough content for players seeking a non-combat experience.

So, how doe it work? Butler describes cities in Vanguard as being “diplomacy dungeons.” In most games, he explained, you don’t do much in cities, despite the incredible amount of time and resources that is sunk in their creation. Vanguard hopes to change this, giving players a reason to remain in cities for hours on end.

For example, the Dwarven city won’t let human foreigners just waltz into the throne room of their ruler – should a human hope to get out of the foreign quarters, they need to schmooze their way through the Dwarven ranks.

Some diplomacy will be simple tasks such as running errands, etc. but the majority of diplomacy uses a unique mini-game modeled partly after Magic: The Gathering. Players will begin their diplomatic with a small arsenal of responses: intimidation, jokes, compliments, etc. By completing quests and moving upward in the diplomatic ranks, players will earn new cards to bolster their ranks.

When approaching different NPCs, players will have to use different deck constructions. For example, if a Dwarf were to head to the Dark Elf capital and come across an angry guard, they would need to use different cards to put their partner at ease. Different cards will have different uses and strategies – for example, Funny Joke might have less of an effect than Funnier Joke, but have a longer recharge time (unlike MTG, these cards are reusable). Butler also mentioned that the team working on the Diplomacy mini-game had a wonderful time coming up with appropriately corny jokes for use in the above example.

Having varied decks is imperative- if you tried to approach a jolly opponent with a deck built to handle an angry one, you’d likely come away a failure. Butler said that they have not yet decided whether they will let players con their target’s emotional state, which will be fairly static.

Diplomats, like adventurers, will also need special gear to deal with special situations. One can not show up at the castle wearing spun wool, and tavern crawling in silk is unlikely to make you many friends.

Diplomats will be able to have an effect on the world, if not a permanent one. For example, a town might be full of angry guards, and each one complains that they are angry because their Captain is in a foul mood. Eventually, you will want to approach the Captain, find out why he’s in a bad mood, and remedy it. For a time, the captain and his guards will then become less angry.

On a larger scale, players will have some effects on the actual state of the city – this system, Butler confided, is also a building block for post-launch plans – though Butler could not share what these effects will be.

Speaking of post launch plans, Butler shared with me that, while mounted combat will not be available at launch, players should expect it in the future. Horrah!

Butler also gave me some insights into the upcoming crafting system. Crafting will be min-game style as well, a bit like EverQuest 2, but more simple and fun. One system that Butler and Jones were very excited about is how one levels crafting up in Vanguard.

In normal games, Butler pointed out, you find the cheapest combine that gives you experience, do it over and over, and then compete against the other hundreds of crafters who are hawking the same wares. In games where quality is affected by skill level this system is even harsher, as a new crafter can never compete with a higher level one.

In Vanguard, certain crafting NPCs will give work order quests – for example, they might ask you to make 10 bronze swords for the town watch. Players will be given the majority (not all) of materials needed, and will be given a reward on completion of the quest. While the swords made with the materials given to you by NPCs cannot be used or traded, this ensures a seller before you even start making your items.

Normal crafting materials can be obtained from adventuring drops, NPC vendors, and harvesting. Harvesting in Vanguard is fairly simple- equip an axe, mining pick, etc. and enter combat with a tree, ore deposit, etc. To encourage teamwork, two people chopping down a tree will have more success than one.

Then of course there’s the actual crafting process. Butler used smithing for our example – players will participate in one smelter mini-game, than another to pound out the finished product. Quality of the final product will be based on the materials used, the tools (smocks, hammers, etc) used, the player’s crafting skill, and the player’s success at the mini-games.

Crafters in Vanguard really have no need to adventure if they do not want to – though a few materials are drop only; these can be purchased from player suppliers. Crafted items in Vanguard will be at least comparable to equipment obtainable through hunting, however, the most powerful items will be a combination of adventuring and crafting, such as a dropped sword augmented by crafting.

Crafting and Diplomacy have some tie-ins with each other, and the most successful crafters will have to be diplomats. Cultural recipes in Vanguard are obtainable by all races, as long as you are on friendly terms with the given culture.

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Laura Genender