August 26, 2007

Cribs – The Vanguard Edition

With the upcoming server merge, Telon will soon resemble that hideously cheesy movie “Far and Away,” with throngs of players running madly to plant their flag and scoop up a housing plot. Many probably already have an eye on a certain plot, but some, like me, are still up in the air on where to build. Luckily, there are plenty of great player-made resources out there to help make the choice easier. I figured I’d put them together here for anyone else who might need some tips. (Just don’t steal my plot!)

I’m one of those people who can spend hours and hours putzing around with my house decor, and when I was playing Everquest II, one of my favorite forums was the Norrathian Homeshow. With three different continental housing styles, tons of areas for plots, and scores of unique items, it’s easy to design and decorate a house in Vanguard that fits who you are.

Above: Torradan crashes the party at Andaraiel’s house in the Deebs.

Why build a house? There are two practical reasons. One is that your house gives you an additional recall button. If you are in a guild, by the way, any home can be flagged as the guild headquarters, and that allows every member in the guild to gain a recall ability for that as well. Of course, you could also work towards building a guild hall, which is a huge effort but rewards you with your very own castle! (Or palace, or den of ill repute) You can find a breakdown of what’s needed for each type here – Diplomacy requirementsCrafting requirements. The other reason to build is that you can place chests in your home, which allow you a lot more storage space. If you are a packrat like me, you’ll love having this!

For anyone making the foray into real estate, there are several tidbits of “must know” information. And the one stop shopping site for most of it is Vanguard Crafters. From housing maps, to lists of materials needed, to gallery threads of player made items and decorating tips, this site has the foundation for anyone aspiring to build.

Another amazing resource is the new plot database by Soresha. Soresha’s maps have customizable POIs that you can make into a .txt file for use on your in game map. Now, there is an option to see individual locations of housing plots. That’s an incredible amount of work, but extremely helpful – thanks to the efforts of Thalantyr, UnicornsLady, and Soresha.

Above: Rancorr “The Troublemaker” prepared a hearty dinner to welcome his guests.

Once you’ve selected a plot, and you start construction, one thing to be wary of is the “abandon constuction” button. If you’ve put in materials, and you click it, you lose everything you put in there. So don’t abandon unless you really want to start over from scratch!

When you complete your house, it’s time for the real fun – home decor! Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find housing items right now because there is no search filter for it. What I’d recommend is the same thing that’s recommended on the Vanguard Crafters forums – use keywords like: Kojani, Qalian, Thestran, Select, Standard and Prime.

Be careful though! For some reason, some of the generic grade stuff on the housing merchants, which sell for about 22 copper, are labeled as “standard,” and sometimes even “prime.” So some vultures will scoop it up and then sell it on the broker for 50-75 silver, luring unassuming home buyers into paying for items that are barely worth vulture poop. In those cases, make sure to look for the “crafted by” line in the item inspect, with a player’s name listed. That way you know it’s player crafted and not just fodder from the housing merchants.

Above: Dunthain makes use of a few well-placed tables to add a nice sturdy bar into his dwarven abode.

Once you put something in your house, you can pretty much move it around any way you like. To do this, just right click it, choose move, and then use the X,Y coordinates to turn it, tip it, rotate it, etc. It’s fun to experiment with this, and I’ve had fun overturning cups and leaning objects on my desk. I’ve even seen some creative use of tables with this method.

Above: Carefully placed flowers around two stacked beds makes Andaraiel’s bedroom a picture of grace.

You can also make objects “float.” If you take an item and put it on top of another item, then move the thing that was underneath it, the original item will still stay suspended in place. Using this technique, I have seen people make stairs out of shelves, lofts out of tables, and even strange postmodern pieces, as evidenced by Faunis’ latest attempts at home decorating.

Above: Words escape me.

Housing isn’t perfect – some items appear as cups because they don’t have a final graphic, some of the original ideas for player created cities are still in the idea phase – but there are a ton of unique, detailed housing items, and a lot of freedom in how you want to place them. Just don’t model your home after Faunis’ house.

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Getting Started in Vanguard,Vanguard General | Comments (23)

February 25, 2007

Telon – The Real Star of Vanguard

I have a confession to make. I am becoming a lore junkie. There I said it.

I never followed game lore very much in the past. If a certain questline or storyline hit me in the face then I appreciated it, but usually I have been guilty of clicking through quest text faster than a 13 year old playing a FPS game. I remember doing a few guild runs on Sir Lucan in Everquest, and wondering why we were trying to kill a Freeport guard, because the only other people crazy enough to kill Freeport guards were anti-social necros. And when we’d enter a new zone or see a new mob, I’d always brace myself for the long and detailed account of the lore from my friend Xenoa. A lot of it went in one ear and out the other, but I now regret that I didn’t pay more attention!

When I was playing Everquest 2, I did start to have a casual interest in the lore of the game, because I thought it was neat how they incorporated memorable stuff from Everquest into the game. I think Everquest 2 also does a tremendous job of blending lore into gameplay, so that it’s not some geeky little cultish hobby, but something that meshes with the quests and content. I found myself a regular visitor to the EQ2 Lore forum, and I was particularly impressed when I heard about a quest that had been put into game, that was entirely based around knowledge of lore.

WoW has some lore, but we all know it didn’t sell 8 million copies because of its lore! If anything, the lore gives people a storyline to follow as they level up, and makes it a little more fun to get into the spirit of Alliance vs. Horde. I didn’t meet too many roleplayers in WoW though.

In Vanguard, the world of Telon is so rich with sweeping landscapes, amazing landmarks, and fascinating structures, I have found myself constantly wondering what the story is behind much of it. I’ve been surprised, however, how little there is out there as far as lore goes. There’s a nice amount of “official” published lore, which is collected and organized at The Safehouse as well as Silky Venom, but I haven’t found any active site where players are sharing and updating in-game lore that is discovered.

I was also surprised to find that there is no real lore to speak of in the player materials sent with the Vanguard retail box. Years ago, when I first opened up that old Everquest box, I fondly remember a large section in the player booklet that introduced all the gods and gave a detailed storyline behind each of them. I found myself missing that when I opened the Vanguard box. Having said that, it’s pretty clear that the star of the show in Vanguard – the “7th player,” is the land of Telon.

Everyone is always talking about the cloak as the best part of the collector’s edition, but my favorite was the art book. Even though there is no storyline or background, there is a treasure trove of eye-candy from the art book that is included, and it makes you appreciate the care and attention to detail that was put into creating the world of Telon. If you are going to play Vanguard, you have to have some sort of appreciation for the fact that it’s a world made through the eyes of Keith Parkinson. If you know him, you will love Vanguard. If you don’t, you will love Vanguard AND him.

Sadly, even though I played Everquest and probably saw that loading screen artwork about 40,000 times, it wasn’t until recently that I really appreciated his talent. The in game depiction of Parkinson’s concept art is spot on, from the land, to the structures, to even the mobs and the player characters. This is the first game where I’ve heard groupmates remark on more than one occasion about the terrific mob skins that are in game. I’ve also seen several posts on fansites noting that some of the “newbie” dungeons are more impressive looking than end game dungeons in other games, and I have to agree with that. The world that the Sigil team created is a wonderful tribute to Keith Parkinson.

Back in beta, I got a chance to do a few griffin rides, and I took several screenshots…ok hundreds of screenshots. The following are places that made me pause when I saw them, and felt like the stuff of legends. Some of them are of places that I probably won’t see for a very long time, but I look forward to seeing them on foot. I have been able to scrape together some background on several of the locations, and figured I’d share some of them here. I can’t confirm that all the locations are 100% accurate, so corrections are welcome. And if anyone ever gets an in game screenshot of the Kraken that’s depicted in the artbook, please send it my way!

The following are some of the sights around Qalia. I have lots of shots from Kojan and Thestra, and will cover them at some point down the road.

Lost Mordebi Empire

This is a shot of the Temple of Tahatamani, which towers over the ruins of the Lost Mordebi Empire. The Mordebi resided here in the Gahren Plains until The Breaking, a cataclysmic event that destroyed much of Qalia. Earthquakes split the land, while floods swallowed up empires. The Mordebi eventually tried to resettle here in Southwest Qalia, but after another round of earthquakes, they feared it was a sign from the gods and abandoned their empire. The Mordebi and their rivals, the Qaliathari, had a long period of violence afterwards, but eventually made peace and established a center of power in Ahgram.


Rock Forest

This is the area just north of the Lost Mordebi Empire, and south of the Shidreth Mountains. On the retail map it’s the area labeled “Varsul’s Precipice,” and it’s an amazing jungle of stone. What caught my eye was that there are carved out structures within the stones, which sort of reminded me of Petra. You can see examples of these in the screenshots. I don’t know much more about the area, but I’ll update if I find out any background.

Rahz Inkusha/Rahz Inkur

This city stands proudly amidst the barren orange sands of the Qarath Desert. Once again, I don’t know any lore behind this city, other than the fact that it’s high level and found in the southeastern part of Qalia. This place is about the same size as Ahgram, so if it’s a dungeon type zone, it’ll be quite a crawl.

Vhadiz Crossing/Isle of Garnz (a.k.a. Bridge of Destiny/Island of Garuzamut)

Just south of Rahz Inkur is an incredible bridge that links Qalia to the Isle of Garnz. The bridge is very long, and is about the length of the city of Khal. In the center of the bridge was a mysterious orb, which I’d love to know more about. On the island is a structure that looks as if it has been torn open by something, and my guess is that it’s nothing good. Once again, I’m dying to find out more about who Vhadiz and Garnz are, and if I do, I’ll update.

Karrus Hakrel (Liath Desert)

I believe this area is a bit lower level compared to the other spots I have listed, but I had to include it because when I did a flyover of Qalia, this was one of my favorite spots. It’s located on the east side of the Qa River, just east of the Jharru Flats. I flew over the area at night, and as I approached it, I kept noticing bursts of glowing light. As I got closer, I realized that the light was actually electric currents that would travel from one tower to another, like giant spark plugs. The screenshot I posted doesn’t do it justice, but you can sort of see an example of the nice little lightshow I got to peek at from my griffin. Again, I searched in vain for any background on the area.

Mount Stiirhad

From the bowels of Great Stiirhad arose the under-dwellers. The black lands about the slumbering giant became hosts to towering fortresses that housed the tainted fey. A new kingdom arose, vile in its existence and a threat to the mighty Ahgramun and Mordebi. — The Stiirhad Fragments (official Vanguard Lore)

I saved this one for last, and for good reason. It’s incredible. From my griffin, it probably took me a good 15 minutes of flying to reach the top of the mountain, so on foot I can only imagine what it’s going to be like trying to battle and climb to the top. I also didn’t go inside the huge gate in the mouth of the volcano, but if it’s anything like its surroundings it will be very memorable.

Mount Stiirhad used to be fertile, and home to the Ahgramun and Mordebi humans. It was so important to them that they viewed the Great Stiirhad as a god. Howerver, the “tainted fey,” or Dark Elves, eventually drove the humans out, and despite several attempts by the Mordebi and Ahgramun to reclaim it, the Dark Elves successfully made the mountain their home. As time went by, the surface of the mountain grew more and more inhospitable, but the real danger came from within. Elementals rose up from the depths of the volcano and force the Dark Elves to leave Mount Stiirhad and seek refuge in the valley of Hathor Zhi. The Dark Elves still talk of recapturing their homeland, but for now, Stiirhad is a place of great danger.

I put this together so that I could get a handle on some of the places I glimpsed while in beta, but while I did put some names to the places, I know I lack a great deal of information on the history of these spots. I gladly welcome any help on filling in the gaps.

I want to add that while these spots are higher level content in Vanguard, there are many lower level areas that are as visually stunning as these. I have had an amazing time over at the Fallen Lyceum in Thestra for the past couple of weeks, which is a dungeon crawl designed for groups around levels 15-20.

Last night, my group made it up to the Oculus, which is the building that floats on a chunk of rock over the Lyceum, and which houses the headmasters of the school, as well as the overall leader, Ghaldrid. Finding the Kaon Portal and clicking up was as thrilling as any end game raiding moment I’ve experienced.

I’m sad that I have already outleveled a few dungeon areas that I wanted to see. Honestly, I still might try to visit them, just for the experience of seeing them. It seems that there’s a mentality in gaming that you won’t have fun till you grind and race to the level cap. I think it’s something that has been around in all games, but has probably been reinforced with the popularity of WoW, where many players have powered through 1-60 on so many toons that the content is viewed more as a grind than as content. To really enjoy Vanguard, you need to adopt a completely different philosophy. I’ve enjoyed the snippets of Telon that I’ve experienced so far, and can’t wait to see more of Vanguard’s “seventh player.”

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Getting Started in Vanguard,Vanguard General | Comments (3)

February 8, 2007

Weaknesses

You may or may not have noticed last night that there is a new ability icon in your book. It’s called “Using Weaknesses,” and the tooltip has a long description of a nuance in the group combat system that I am extremely excited about.

If you look above (click to enlarge) you’ll see the overview of the Weakness system for group combat. If you tooltip over your abilities, you will see that some have the little red arrows, some with the plus sign and some without it. Next to the arrows is an icon with a description – those are the weaknesses. If you have a weakness that has a red arrow with a plus sign, it means that you “add” the weakness. A successful attack with that ability will lead to a small icon of that particular weakness showing up under the mob target window. It will stay there for a short time – up to 8 seconds according to the description – and during that time, anyone can exploit the weakness.

To exploit the weakness, you have to have an ability that has a plain red arrow and a matching icon. If you coordinate your attack and trigger it successfully during the time a weakness is on the target, you gain a benefit, which is usually in the form of increased damage.

Let’s look at an example. There is a great chart over at Silky Venom that organizes all the weakness by icon. I have an ability called Deadly Shot, which adds the weakness “Dazed.” Based on the chart, if I am grouped with a bard, monk, or psionicist, they have abilities that can exploit that weakness. To find out the specific abilities that compliment each other, there is a terrific site here at Vanguard Vulnerabilities. By clicking on the classes that you are grouped with, you can see which abilities add specific weaknesses (labeled in green), and which ones exploit them (labeled in red).

An interesting dynamic forms when you start to look at various class pairings. Some pairs share more weaknesses than others, and several of them are pairings that are rather non-traditional. There is a very nice chart of the class combs here at Vanguard Spheres. They also have a good link explaining the weakness system listed here. It seems that even if two friends don’t play the most efficient duo combination, with a little skill and attention, you can use the weakness system to make a successful group. I would also assume that coordinated PvPrs would really benefit from making use of this system.

In short, this group combat system is similar to Everquest 2′s Heroic Opportunity system. The upside is that smart players and coordinated groups can really do well in the game. The downside is that if you are a good “weakness” exploiter and do a lot of pick up groups, you probably won’t get to do much exploiting. This system is a lot more subtle than EQ2′s, and it’s easy to miss the weakness icons if you don’t know the system or aren’t paying attention.

The main difference I notice between EQ2′s group combat system and Vanguard’s is that while Vanguard’s system is more subtle, it also is more flexible. In EQ2, a mistimed nuke or attack could throw a wrench in the HO chain, and I don’t see that happening with the weakness system. Basically, once a weakness is added, it’s there for anyone to exploit while it lasts.

I’ll be driving my guildmates crazy over the next few days to try to get more specifics on how it’s working, and how much of a benefit it provides. I’m very excited though, because it adds an extra layer of group combat, and makes it much more challenging — if you choose to use it.

I wanted to add a quick update also. Last night they patched some new missive locations, in Veskel’s Exchange and Qa Riverbank. I had the fortune of being the first on the server to complete the bark collection missive from Veskel’s! I get so amused by small achievements.

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

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