Daily Archives: January 8, 2007

The 30 Minute Vanguard Impression

I got on this morning, made a character, and roamed around for about half an hour before I had to get on the road to work. 

I am not sure what I can add to what has already been said since the NDA was lifted.  My first impressions are echoes of oft repeated comments.

Yes, it kills my video card.  My 256MB ATI x800XL can barely clunk along at the highest performance setting.  Blizzard can breath easy on that front.  The competitors who will challenge World of Warcraft will have recommended hardware settings that include built-in Intel 3D graphics chips.

Yes, the user interface looks like it was lifted directly from WoW, with the decorations changed to protect the guilty.  I suppose you cannot fault Sigil on the “7 million fans cannot be wrong” front, but if they wanted to make the game more accessible to people coming from WoW, this was probably not the place to start.

Yes, it did look nice, but not in proportion to the amount of graphic processing required.  Even when I had the graphics set to “Balanced” and was enjoying the world updating at oil painting speeds, there was no “Oh cool! Loot at that!” moment.  Maybe I should have rolled something other than a dwarf.  In WoW, dwarves have the most bland of starting areas, so maybe that is true here as well.

Which brings me to the only real surprise.  My dwarf is ugly.

Not ugly in any grotesque sense. 

Not surprisingly ugly. 

Not shockingly ugly. 

Not Warhammer dwarf ugly. 

I could roll with hideous ugly.  No, this is much more banal. 

My dwarf is ugly, but in an entirely indifferent way. 

Life appears to have just passed him by when it came to looks. 

People see him and wonder if he is, perhaps, just a bit slow on the uptake.

He is “Slingblade” ugly.  Only shorter and with a big beard.

He started ugly in the character creator and just got uglier by turns as I tried to work with him.

Here he is:

Dwarf Like fight much!

I am not sure I can get excited about playing a character that is this “short bus” ugly.  I keep thinking somebody is going to hand me a sword with a green rubber coated handle, a rounded tip, and a blunt edge so I won’t hurt myself.

(Pixelated speech balloon created here. I felt it fit in with the graphic detail setting of the moment.)

The Downloading of Vanguard

Vanguard is in open beta and, because of the whole Station Access lure, I decided I wanted to give it a try.

I saw that it was available for download at FilePlanet, where I have an account.  I opened up Firefox because I had some oddball issue with IE and FilePlanet at one time, so I figured I would play it safe.  I started the download and it said it would take about 8 hours to move the 16 GB Vanguard_install.zip archive to my machine.

I let it go and went off to do other things.

A little over 6 hours later I checked the machine.  Firefox said the transfer was complete.  I went to open the archive.

And I could not find it. 

It wasn’t in the destination directory.  I did a file search on the machine for the archive name, then for files modified in the last 6 hours, and then for files greater than 10GB in size.  No joy.  The file was not there to be found.

So I tried to start the download again.  But, for reasons I do not understand, FilePlanet declined to send me the archive again.  No errors.  The download just would not start.

What to do?

I remembered seeing on the SOE site, when I got the beta key, that there was a link to download the beta.  I decided to try that route.

Via the SOE route, you download the basic game framework, about 3 MB, launch it, and then the patcher downloads everything else.

I kick off the application, got the very familiar SOE launchpad and then the very EQ2-like patcher application.  Once the patcher settled down, it reported 10 hours required to download the files.  I cancelled the download, played some EQ2 for a bit, then set the patcher running again before bed.

The next morning, as the patcher was finally counting down the last 5 minutes, with me there watching, it suddenly reset the progress bar and the timer.  Now it wanted an additional 13 hours.  Joy.

I let the patcher run for most of the day.  We are planning to move this year, so I have plenty to keep me busy around the house every weekend. (We’ve only been in our house for seven years, how did we collect so much stuff?)

I quit the patcher in the evening to do some other things on the computer. (I probably could have let it run.  In fact, I did let it run when I was in WoW for a little while.  Go figure.)  Then resumed it before I went to bed.  Only an hour remained when I turned in for the night.

This morning I got up and check my machine.  The patcher was done.  The button said “Play.”  So what did I do?

I quit the patcher and started it again.  Sure enough, there was another file update since I finished up.  But it was a small one, just a minute or two and I was back at “Play” again.

Vanguard was on my machine at last.  It only took 36 hours to get there.

The Journey is Half the Fun – Thundering Steppes

The third stage of the quest for the legendary Journeyman’s Boots and, in my experience, the first stage that groups doing the quest end up having to re-run.  It is also the first leg of the quest where I actually faced some danger.  Antoncia and the Commonlands were all grey to me at 31, but now, at 32, I faced a lot of green and a few blue aggros.

This leg starts with Lessa Gentare at the docks in the Thundering Steppes.  The first stop is Thundermist Village, home of Minty Frostbeard, Holley Rowen, and a few other notable quest related NPCs.  The direct route is straight up the dry river bed, through the skeletons, hooking right up and into the village for the update.  At 32 a lot of the skeletons were still green to me.  Still, they were all low green and were not any real problem even when I pulled my classic maneuver, running between two mobs trying not to aggro either and ending up with both of them chasing you.

After that you need the update from Deadview Pass, which is where the giants and the griffons meet.  You get back into the dry river bed and, where it turns to the left, you go straight, heading through the Shattered Gully and into the plain, hugging the mountains on you left until they open up into Deadview Pass.  A step or two into the pass should give the update.

Then it is on to the Shrine of the Sirens.  This is one of the two locations where somebody in a group is likely to miss an update.  You head out from the pass, playing hypotenuse to the right triangle formed by the mountains, ending up at the beach just past the Watcher of the Fields.  (I actually stopped there a second and turned in a quest.)  Then it is into the water and to the shrine.  I have run this leg of the quest at least 8 times, and every time I think I know exactly where the update for the location is, and every time I am wrong.  You do have to swim over and past the shrine a little bit, then dive down and swim around until you get the update. 

After you get the update, reverse course and head back to Deadview pass, through it, across the plain with the giants, across the bridge, and through the Skindancer gnolls to the Shrine of Decay.  This is where I almost bought the farm.  Deadview Pass had been cleared, but the giants on the plain were thick.  Rather than waste time with stealth, I just sprinted through.  Once to the bridge on the other side of the giants, I ran out of power just as I picked up aggro from a party of gnolls.  Now I could not stealth nor could I sprint.  I had to just ride it out. 

I tried to pick a path to avoid as much aggro as possible and pretty much succeeded in picking up as much aggro as possible without going 90 degrees out of my way.  I realize that, at level 32, these guys are all green to me, but the are all heroic encounters and have casters along, so I was under one bubble of health by the time I lost the last group on my tail.  If my imbued chest armor had not proc’s heal a couple of times I would have been dead.

Of course, as long as I got the Shrine of Decay update, death would not have been a big deal.  The respawn tent is at Coldwind Cove, the next stop on the run, so it might have put me a little ahead of schedule.  But I lived and the cove is right on the other side of the gnolls, so I grabbed that update and headed for the last location, the Grave Pool.

I wince when I hear that name.  So many group runs have go awry at this location.  Not getting the Shrine of the Sirens update has only ever fouled up one of the runs I have been a part of, but the Grave Pool… I have never been in a group of three or more that did not have at least one person not get this update.

From Coldwind Cove, you run up the gully between the gnolls and the centaurs until it dumps out at the end of a body of water with lots of skeletons roaming around.  That is the Grave Pool.  Where you get the update has been a matter of some discussion in the past.  The consensus seems to be that the best bet is to run straight across the grave pool to the other side.  Being the one person in a group running in a close pack that did not get the update that way on one run, I remain skeptical.

I went into stealth and ran up the gully.  I was still down to two bubbles of health, but I had a lot of time on the clock, so I could afford to play it safe.  When I got to the Grave Pool, I went straight across to the other shore.  No update.  I ran back.  No update.  I ran up the middle of the pool towards the island of rocks.  Finally, about half way there, I got the update.  I activated the escape skill and reloaded back at the beach next to the docks, ran up the steps and along the docks until I hit the finish line.

Time left was 2:23.  I ran back over to Lessa and updated the quest.

This was the first of the runs where I could see no real advantage to running it as a fae.  Still, having that much time left on the clock at the end was surprising, since the groups I have been with in the past have hit the finish line with under a minute to spare every time.

The next run is my favorite, and one where I believe being a fae will give me an edge.  Nekulos forest, here I come!