December 15, 2007

Festival of Glorian! (Update 3.2)

I *HAD* to get a reindeer! When I read that they had put in a flying reindeer mount named Randolph, my first though was….

……….my son is a developer for Vanguard! The reason why I say that is because both Vanguard and my son are looking at a flying, red-nosed reindeer, and getting the name wrong. It’s Rudolph! Not Randolph, and not Pluto, as my almost-two-year-old son insists. At this point, I know he’s not confused, he’s just pushing my buttons when he runs up to me, points to the reindeer, and says, “Look, Mommy, Pluto!” But I digress…

I love holiday events! Troy and I had a little debate about this on our last podcast, because he sorta feels like it would have been better to keep the focus on fixing the game, instead of diverting manpower to setting up this in game event. While I see his point, I feel like the Festival of Glorian is important, precisely because the community has patiently played through many roadbumps and issues in the game for the past year. They deserve a breather. They deserve some fun details. And in game events are the type of detail that I hope to see more of.

If you haven’t seen it, the in game items are gorgeous. By the time I logged in, Andaraiel had already decked out our guild hall with a beautiful Christma…er, Glorian tree, as well as several neat presents. I got a nice wreath later, as well as a smaller tree that I stuck by the fireplace. Maybe more than one tree will mean extra presents. Vanguard has always excelled at “the look,” and they delivered once again with the decorations.

Of course, Update 3 isn’t just about presents! Ancient Port Warehouse went live, and despite some issues with high ping rates when the shards reached a certain number of people, things went smoothly. I’m really happy they went with the idea of shards for this raid zone. You can argue about the purity of uninstanced content all day long, but the reality is that Vanguard is top heavy with guilds that have been ready to raid for months. Having just one location for APW on a given server would have meant meltdown. It’s great to see that guilds can enjoy the challenge of the content, rather than the disastrous effects of overcrowding, lack of content, training, KS’ing, and all those other fun things that can occur. Besides, it’s not really instancing in the true definition of the word anyway. Smartly done, and something I had hoped for long ago.

This Update also added optimizations to Khal, as well as a new setting called character occlusion. I checked out Khal, and it looks great. There was a real improvement in performance too, which is a nice sign of things to come down the road.

Anyway, I’m off to do a flyover with my new friend! Happy Holidays!

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Vanguard General | Comments (2)

November 19, 2007

The Revelry and Honor Guild Hall

This is a bit overdue, but our guild hall is finally decorated so it’s time for a little tour!

The Revelry and Honor guild hall sits atop one of the hills on Keejay Cove.

It’s a Qalian style guild hall, with a great view of Skawlra Rock nearby.

Construction lasted several long and arduous weeks.

It was a great feeling when we opened our doors for the first time!

Here is a view of the entry hall. I love the tilework in here.

A view of the heroes – Idaria, Jerric Targonor, and Elia.

Our version of carving initials onto a tree.

Here is the guild kitchen. Don’t ask why there is a bed in the background.

The guild bar. The tipped over cup is my fault!

Guild dining hall. Screenshot was taken from the stage. Dinner Theater!

Cozy dining areas overlooking the kitchen and bar.

The Guild Library

Here’s an interesting room. It’s the guild training room and test of agility. Those who can carefully hop from table to table, and reach the end of the course, can open a chest and discover a prize! (Guildies only atm) Thanks to Pawz for desiging this fun!

Here is the Revelry and Honor Council room, where we discuss very serious business. Very. Serious. What I really love about this room are the three maps of Telon that Dunthain designed. You can see them on the back wall of the room. Very creative!

Here is the study, where our diplomats hone their parley skills.

The guys’ barracks…

And the girls’ room! We win!

Here’s another shot of it, because it’s such a cool room.

This is my favorite room – the den!

Lastly, here are a few guildies during a recent “Name that tune – 80′s song” contest, organized by Weatus. The chandelier was a great hang out spot…until I sorta tipped it back and forth using the Move Item ability. I wish I had fraps so I could show the tumbling guildies.

There are so many who deserve thanks for their role in our achievement. We had many guildies contributing in the effort, from farming diplomacy pages, to harvesting, to donating coin for purchase and upkeep. We had a few who really made the difference, and deserve a big thanks. Drax was a real diplomacy hero, and we were lucky to have him not only help out with the diplomacy pages, but also come join our guild. Rancorr and Ciridan were our crafting heroes, both working tirelessly to gain the skills needed for crafting much of the hall – and then putting in a ton of time making stuff! Thanks also to the decorating skills of Andaraiel, Dunthain, Torradan, and Pawz. We also met a lot of nice guilds, and we appreciate working together with them as we combined our efforts to build our halls. Special thanks to Sacred Haven, The Burning Legion, Shadowfire, and Order of the Hammer. We were glad to have helped them out and we appreciate their help in return.

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Vanguard General | Comments (5)

November 12, 2007

Challenge, Frustration

Ah, yes, the question of all questions in the MMO world right now – how do you make a game that is challenging, but not so frustrating that you end up throwing your mouse (or worse) across the room in frustration.

Game designers are always trying to find the limit of how long players will stay with something that’s difficult before expecting to see progress. Go to any MMO forum and you’re bound to see a thread or 12 that debate this very issue. But while players will discuss it to no end, you rarely see any specific comment about it by those in the industry. Sure, they tweak and adjust the games in order to address the balance between challenge and frustration, but rarely expound on it.

So it was curious to say the least when Brenlo and co-host lifted the cork right out of the bottle during their discussion of the Vanguard Producer’s Letter. Here’s the transcript (thanks to this thread at Silky Venom), but I highly recommend listening to it. Zip over to the 32 minute mark for the Vanguard piece. (I bolded certain parts)

She: They’re talking about making the death penalty not so severe, which I’ve heard is big a controversial topic…
He: It is a big contro – oh, sorry – ah well, you know.. that game is an interesting game, ahh… interesting, interesting game *old man’s voice* we can do many psychological studies on the impact of that game *normal voice* but that’s a hardcore crowd, it’s a crowd that kinda grew into the MMO back in the old days of Everquest. You know, a lot of those people are the faithfuls from the early days of Everquest when the game WAS very difficult. What some people call a challenge, others call frustration and that’s kinda why these games have evolved to remove some of those frustrations for the mass audience and Vanguard is gonna logically have to follow that route as well, they’re going to have to remove those frustrations.
She: Or they’re not gonna see any new blood.
He: Right. And I know as much you guys love your game and you want it to be your game – in order for the game to grow, you have to make it appeal to as many people as possible. And I’m not saying that it’s gonna become a WoW and I’m not saying it’s going to maintain its Vanguardyness or whatever you wanna call it-
She: The Vanguardyness
He: – but they have to do things to try to allow other people to play and one of those is – that’s a very steep death penalty in that game and making that a little friendlier can get some other people interested, because it is a huge expansive world with a lot of content, lots of challenges, a beautiful art style and we WANT people to enjoy that.
She: We do, we do.
He: We do, we do.
She: Very much so. Well, they have a whole list of stuff here that they’re looking to add in, evaluating for change and improvement as the wording is here -
He: But, check out Thom’s podcast, give them your feedback -
She: His Producer’s Letter…
He: Thom’s Producer’s Letter, yeah. Thom’s doing his own podcast, it’s the Thom Therazzas “I eat donuts podcast”.
She: *laughs*
He: What was that, Cat?
She: *muffled* I hope they didn’t get any of that. *laughs*
He: Cat says she hopes she’s not recording that one.

This is just a snippet, and it follows Brenlo’s impersonation of the old, crochety, EQ gamer, which is a whole other blog entry.

There are several things I found to be surprisingly interesting. First of all, from the comments, they seem to feel that the death penalty in Vanguard is “steep.” For argument’s sake, let’s look at what the death penalty actually is.

If you die in Vanguard, you leave a tombstone at the point of death. Any gear you have on that’s not soulbound is left on the stone, and you lose some experience. If you can get back to your tombstone, you can loot it for your gear plus much of your lost experience. But you can also summon it at any altar, which gives you back your gear but you don’t get the exp. In all my 50 levels of playing, doing plenty of soloing and dungeon crawling, I have not had a time where I worried about dying, and believe me, I’ve taken plenty of chances. Steep would be rotting corpses, lost gear, (stolen gear!), and multi-night corpse recoveries. I endured all of those in Everquest. Vanguard is not Everquest.

It’s arguable whether the death penalty is actually steep in Vanguard. I’d argue that it’s not, but that’s not the real meat of the podcast discussion. What is most curious is that they seem to think that the death penalty is the reason why subscriber numbers are so low. At least, that’s what I inferred from the ultimatim that old, grouchy, gamers of Vanguard need to get used to a milder death penalty or we won’t see any new blood.

Look, the death penalty isn’t why people left Vanguard. People left because they couldn’t run the game, even on an 8800 with Vista. They left because they’d spend days and days trying to kill thousands of ants, click things, and do handstands to spawn the ant queen, only to find out that it wasn’t working/wasn’t in the game. They left because after having two consecutive double experience weekends, they had bumped into the edge of content, and discovered that there was a lot that was completely unfinished. They left because they were falling through the world, they were stuck in combat, they saw rampant hacks and duping, and they got tired of seeing something as simple as a door to the Beranid Hills quest hub be broken, months later. If you want to talk about things that are frustratingly difficult in Vanguard, the death penalty would be pretty far down on the list.

People *are* looking for a challenge – 200k were looking for it the day Vanguard went live, and that’s even after all the scuttle about it being troubled. I’ve said it again and again, but there are lots of gems of content in this game that are challenging – and lots of fun. What drove people away is that the frustration of having to try to wade through all the issues with the game to see those gems. To say that people left because the death penalty was too stiff is oversimplifying and shows a lack of understanding about the game, which I’m realizing I probably have a little too much of right now.

/steps slowly away from the keyboard.

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Vanguard General | Comments (14)

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