Defeat at the hands of Isa Lao, the Skull Lord

In the words of my groupmate: “Damn, that bitch hits hard”. Here’s a picture from happier times:

This was after a good 20 minutes of fighting our way into the newbie island’s final dungeon: the Temple of the Ancients. This dungeon is only reachable by pegasus (whee!) and the guy next to the pegasus rental spot actually asks you if you want to do it. I believe the other option would let me finally get off the island.

But I chose this fate, and first marched into the dungeon all on my own, even though it was marked “small group”. Up to here, that works well:

But one corner later I died, then I died, I died and then I died some more. It was pure luck that this guy came along. Group picture with pet!

Of course the pet’s sticking its arse into the camera. Sorry, Drayvexx, that we had to die down there. Better luck next time. I refuse to leave the island unless I can make it through that place.

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A mysterious figure

When running around newbie isle, I ran into Mister Lightbulb-for-a-Face here:

The guy is related to that big glowy lipstick next to me. He’s a rift keeper (well, it also says so above his head). He doesn’t want to let me off the island yet, becaue I haven’t finished helping the local populace, presumably against a bunch of hobgoblins.

The riftway is Vanguard’s fast transport system, and since I don’t have access to it yet, I have no clue what it looks like or how it behaves. More on this later, when that robe with no hands lets me through.

PS: See how that other player is flying towards me out of the sun on his pegasus? That was totally random. Awesome photography skills!

Equipment options, clothing choices and instant preview

I had a picture somewhere that shows my character’s rack from below, which looks really grotesque. Ah, there it is:

This happened while I wanted to find out whether that’s supposed to be skin around the tummy area or whether the renderer’s simply blanking out the front of that robe. It turns out it’s actually supposed to look like that. Creepy. Remember my old robe? Check out those robe-stretching effects!

This reminds me of EverQuest, where the robes were also made of cardboard, only ten years earlier. Anyhow, the new one, while leaving my character’s tan little tummy out for the world to disembowel, looks a lot better.

While shopping for robe upgrades I noticed that Vanguard’s preview feature is pretty nifty. Just hover your mouse over any item while looking at your character, and the char immediately shows the new look:

That’s streamlined and nice. And the game also has its own inventory for appearance-only items, so in theory I could put my old smelly robe in there and perhaps save my character from pneumonia.

Here’s some money for you, SOE

God darnit, they got me. I want to ride a pony (or some butt-ugly beetle if that’s the cheapest option), so here you go:

I did that some time ago. That’s 2500 bits of Station Cash in my inbox, that seems to be the best bang for the buck right now. Let’s see if I can resist buying useless crap, let’s see whether this amount of Station Cash (roughly US$ 20) lasts for more than a month, and let’s see if the pessimistic prophecies of F2P haters come true.

Wheeee, I can fly!

Well, at least for 10 minutes at a time, and that costs 25 copper. Because you can rent pegasi in Vanguard! Check it out:

Nice, eh? And 25 copper isn’t even that much. In sharp contrast to EverQuest II, where the only flying mounts you have in the beginning are on rails and can’t be controlled by the player, Vanguard gives you full control at a reasonable price.

In the 10 minutes I had, I had to fly to various checkpoints in the sky (that’s an introductory quest), but in the end I took a detour over the marshes I’d visited for my very first quest in Vanguard. Already, there’s a bit of nostalgia building. The places can be recognized from the air, and Vanguard is built in a way that doesn’t have invisible walls like e.g. Guild Wars 2. If you can see it, you can walk there. If you can’t walk there, you can fly there.

And when you get there, it’s probably full of hobgoblins.

Why I will never be a crafter (and Vanguard is innocent)

It’s surely not easy to create a good crafting system for an MMO. As a developer, you need to balance so many things: You want to create a moneysink with materials, special equipment and the like, you need to create a timesink with harvesting resources and yet you shouldn’t insult your players’ intelligence by making something repetitive and boring. You should make crafting itself interesting and perhaps even fun.

Considering how hard it is to keep all these factors balanced and how many games I’ve played in this genre, I still haven’t found any game that really pleases me. I’ll blame myself for it: I’m not a crafter, probably never will be. And that’s why I’m the wrong person to judge Vanguard’s crafting.

It seems interesting on the surface. Vanguard gives you separate experience tracks for harvesting, crafting, diplomacy and adventuring. Each of these also have separate equipment sets, so that you don’t have to saw wood in your evening robe or flirt with aristocrats in sweaty pants and a hard leather apron. So I donned some artificing gear and did some crafting starter quests, which happen in this room:

Check out all the crafting nerds!

The actual act of crafting is done through a sort of mini-game. For each stage the thing you’re crafting progresses through, you need different activities. For example, you need to polish some things towards the end, and you get to decide whether you do that just briefly or really thoroughly. Depending on how effective the actions are that you use, you will have to pay higher or lower action point prices. It seems I have 2500 action points I can use for each item I craft. This is what the mini-game looks like:

You can also run into complications while crafting. During this one, I cramped up and had muscle pains! The only thing that helps is relaxing, which costs action points. So if you run into a lot of complications, your original strategy for investing your action points might become impossible and you have to settle for creating a lower-grade item.

I don’t quite understand the system yet, but it makes more sense to me already than EverQuest II’s, and it’s more interesting than the “click on the recipe and you’re done” approach of Guild Wars 2.

There seem to be a bazillion recipes and half a dozen crafting disciplines, but I know nothing about those, or how the balance of crafted vs. dropped vs. purchased gear is in Vanguard, or how much time it might take to be a good crafter — and I will never find out. Because I realized, one more time, that I’m not a crafter. Sorry, Vanguard. It’s not you, it’s me!