Daily Archives: January 21, 2007

Vanguard – Some Polishing, More Needed

I ran around Vanguard one last time yesterday to see how things looked.  They have been working hard on it, that much is obvious.  A number of things look better.

Looking Better

Character Creation

The most immediately apparent change is in the character creation tool where there have been a number of updates.

First, they have set ranges for attributes in the character creation tool for each race.  The sliders for attributes are all the same length as before, but have areas at each end in red, into which you cannot stray with a give race.  Now, for example, you can no longer endow your Raki (a fox-like humanoid) female with a chest quite as big as Dolly Parton’s.  However, they also put a minimum on the attributes, so if you felt that, perhaps, a Raki should not have hominid-like breasts, you’re out of luck. 

They have also added some basic clothing choices which range between utilitarian to trashy, with very little choice in between. This is no doubt part of Brad McQuaid’s pledge that in Vanguard you will look good from day one.  These clothes only show up when you have nothing else on, so when you add equipment to a character, all of this starts to get covered up. 

For females you have the following looks:

  • high collar long sleeve shirt, long pants, and sturdy boots
  • Cleavage revealing Ren Faire low collar long sleeve shirt, pants and sturdy boots
  • Cleavage and mid rift displaying top, shorts, and sandals
  • Sports bra, shorts, and sandals

For males there are:

  • Tucked in high neck short sleeve shirt, long pants, and sturdy boots
  • Untucked high neck long sleeve shirt, long pants, and sturdy boots
  • Tucked in high neck short sleeve shirt, vest, long pants, and sturdy boots
  • Tucked in high neck long sleeve shirt, long pants, and sturdy boots

No showing off flesh as a male.  The clothes have two different colors to them and you can set the colors with sliders. And, for some odd reason, you choose your clothes under the “Head” setting in character creation.  Fashion is a state of mind I guess.

Finally, they have also added a couple of hair styles to some of the races, so each race now appears to have four different hair looks each.  Since hair style and color are one of the more distinctive things on a character, I am surprised at the limited choices.  The slider interface also shows its limitations when it comes to color selection.  I could not tell you how many choices you have for hair color, or clothing color for that matter.  There are a lot of colors shown when you move the slider (in an order I cannot decipher… alphabetical maybe?) that ends up making you wish for fewer choices or a nice color picker like they have in EverQuest II.

Have I beat character creation to death yet?  Yes, I think so.  So I will wrap it up with where I started when I first brought up character creation in a previous post:  You can spend a little time or a lot of time on your character and get him or her into the ugly-to-average bracket.  Handsome, hot, or heroic, however, seem to be beyond the means of this tool.

New Player Areas

In game, in the new player areas, there have been considerable improvements as well.  There are a lot more NPCs with a lot more quests.  A number of the quests have been tuned or updated so that they are easier to read and follow.

The new player areas I ran through a second time have been polished up physically as well.  For example, places where I easily got stuck in the dwarf starting area in the past now seem to be much more forgiving.

They have also added in a new quest indicator over the heads of NPCs.  You now have a total of four, analogous to those found in World Of Warcraft.  They are:

Shield with Yellow Highlight – Quest available from this NPC – Equivalent to WoW’s yellow exclamation point and EQII’s glowing feather

Quest Available

Shield with Blue Highlight – Quest in progress from this NPC, but not complete – Equivalent to WoW’s greyed out question mark (EQ2 does not flag this state)

Quest in Progress

Shield with Green Highlight – Quest to be turned into this NPC – Equivalent to WoW’s yellow question mark and EQ2’s glowing red book

Quest Done

Shield with Red Highlight – Quest available for you in another level or two – Equal to WoW’s greyed out exclamation point (EQ2 does not flag this state)

Quest Available Soon

To Be Done

Maps

The Map system is very crude at the moment.  The only map available is comparable to the big map in World of Warcraft.  However, there is no mini map or other tactical orientation tool available.  This leaves local navigation something of a hazard.  Once you know your landmarks, you are fine, but new players will end up lost or disoriented in a very big world without some way to get their bearings.

Consider

On of the problems I have had is determining whether I can take on a given mob in game.  In the beta you can use the /con command to get the traditional rating as to whether you can handle a given opponent, but there will be nothing in the release version to give you that sort of information.  I do not think there needs to be anything as complicated as EverQuest II’s elaborate con system (colors, arrows, borders, name), but something as simple as World of Warcraft’s level and elite flag seems to be in order.  I know it is not immersive, but I have had me hat handed to me a number of times in the new player areas attacking mobs that are only yards away from the starting point.  I can only imagine this getting to be more of a problem as you get into more complex content.

Performance

They have to work on performance.

Playing Vanguard with my x1950 Pro card at 1600×1200 at the High Performance settings, FRAPS rarely ever reports a frame rate at or above 20 frames per second.  I compare this to EverQuest II at the Very High Quality setting, where I average around 20 frames per second, and World of Warcraft, where I never dip below 30 frames per second and frequently see 60 frames per second.

This level of performance makes the game feel sluggish and awkward to play.  It detracts from the potential depth of the content.  And it makes the game look bad relative to its direct competition, World of Warcraft and EverQuest II.

I do hope there is something they can do on the performance front, because all of the content potential of Vanguard is marred by this one fact.