Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New Dawn Rising : Vanguard

The recent, most welcome resurrection of Warhammer Online reminded me it's been a while since I checked in with the Vanguard Emulator project. Seems like a lot has happened since last I was there.

When SOE decided to "sunset" Vanguard I wrote that I'd be happy if the VG Emu team could just "get the world back up so I can wander around the streets of Khal when I'm of a mind to ". Well, they did that all right. The whole world of Telon has been there to wander at will for a long while now.

The plan was never just to leave a museum exhibit, though, worthwhile in itself as that would have been. As John Adams, driving force behind the project, says in his New Year message, "For us, our goals are simple: Continue to revive this much loved and beautiful game for players to enjoy for years to come."

It's happening. Yesterday I logged in to find a blank character screen. There was a full character wipe back in November. As we all know, character wipes are good news. They only happen when big things change.

Here's a list of some of the new stuff that's in testing now:

- All new world-wide NPC and Object spawning (still not a complete pop, but most named)
- New Spells/Abilities, with the following classes having (partially) usable abilities:
-- Cleric (level 1 - 10)
-- Paladin (level 1 - 10)
-- Warrior (level 1 - 10)
- Other class abilities:
-- Bloodmage, Dreadknight, Necromancer, Ranger and Rogue, spotty test spells :)
More spells to come, soon!

The plan for the rest of 2016 is both ambitious and reasonable. John Adams sums it up:

"This year we have 2 goals - ones I am giving the teams the whole year to sort out:
  1. Implement all spheres to at least a playable state (Adventure, Crafting, Diplomacy)
  2. Build playable content emulating the live game for all original starter areas as well as Isle of Dawn".
Honestly, as a lover of the low-level game in MMOs, and as a huge fan of Vanguard's many and various starting zones, that couldn't suit me better. I wonder whether the plan is to revive the original starting areas or the later, reduced and revamped ones. Either way works for me.

Of course, it's not me that's going to be doing the work. There's a call out for volunteers to help with the grunt work of Content Building but as John says sharply "I continually get offers from people willing to help, but as soon as we set them up, they disappear. That's not helping. Staying focused, getting the job done, that's helping."

I'd love to help but I know I don't really have the time right now so rather than be one of those guys I'm going to chip in with what little I can in the way of bug reporting and playtesting.

There is one little thing that anyone can do. I did it yesterday. It took a minute or two:

"Also, non-developers, if you have not done so already, be sure you register at VGOPlayers.com Forums soon. If you wish to help the project but cannot develop or build the world, this is the best way you can help - by rebuilding up the player community."

After that I made a new Raki Disciple and took him to Khal to test the broker. If you ever played Vanguard, if there was some amazing item you always wanted but never managed to get your hands on, your day is here. Every tradable item in the database is on the broker at the eminently affordable price of free! What's more you're encouraged to fill your bags because the interface and systems need testing.

I bought a Storm Griffin. I never finished the Griffin quest. I may be mis-remembering but I believe I'd done some of it and was stalling on the harder part when we got Randolph the Flying Reindeer to use all year round, as a mothball gift (later to be removed when development hiccupped back into life and the game lurched into F2P).

Of course, as it always is when I log into a game I haven't played for a while and want to take some screenshots, it was the middle of the night. Yet again, counter to Syp's Law, night in Telon is really dark. You can just about see the griffin but only because I tweaked the exposure in Paint.net.

In a nostalgic throwback to the months just after launch the game hung as I crossed a chunk line so I closed the client and started again. With the knowledge that other classes now have spells and abilities that actually work I made a Goblin Warrior. Then, because I'd read that there were actual quests up and running on The Isle of Dawn, I chose to send him there instead of picking the racial starting area as I usually would.

The Isle has its own nostalgia. It was added sometime around the middle of the life of the game, when there was still hope. As Tipa so eloquently describes it, as a come-hither to the masses the Isle had problems all its own. She was right on the money, when she concluded "Current Vanguard players will love it, but I can’t see new players coming out of this with a hot desire to buy the full game." We did and they didn't.

Mrs Bhagpuss and I were playing something else by then but we both rolled new characters and took them, together, through the Isle. It was frustrating and fun in the way probably only Vanguard and EverQuest have been. I can still remember whole episodes even now.

Some of that came back to me as I ran through the first few recovered steps. I love the way the first NPC now offers a tribute to the true Heroes of Telon, the coders and content designers who are giving up their own free time to save this treasure for the rest of us.

Like Tipa, I killed more than my share of Gatora Podlings to relieve them of their burden of newbie armor. Unlike last time I played, when Level 2 mobs were dropping random items from anywhere in the database, these are back to their proper loot table.

The quest line seemed to work. The kill fives tallied up. The NPCs recognized my mighty efforts and gave me stuff, then recommended me to their friends standing five yards away. One even spotted me in action and decided for himself I'd be the ideal gofer to get his lost tools back from the swamp. It was wonderful.

I was most excited of all to test the first stirrings of Diplomacy, the single feature of Vanguard I most miss and the only one which can't easily be substituted in any other MMO right now. Sadly it's a bit early yet. The interface works but I couldn't select any cards. Next time, maybe.

For now I'm just so happy to see the old place. It's starting to fix up real nice. 


  1. The question for the ages here is... can somebody piece together an emulation server that runs better and is more stable than the Sigil team delivered at launch? One of the key problems with Vanguard was that it needed another year of work when it launched.

    1. Trouble is, if Brad had had another year he'd have used it to expand the game even further. Sigil had two more continents built and waiting content already, supposedly.

      SOE did a lot of the boring but vital work that Sigil apparently found less exciting than world-building during their stewardship. Long before the sunset Vanguard was easily as stable and probably no buggier than any other SOE title. With a but of luck the slow pace and absence of deadlines that the EMU team are able to enjoy will mean not having to run before they can walk. Signs are looking good, anyway.

    2. The breadth of the project versus their ability to code was always my prime complaint, something that was revived in me when Brad started talking about all the things he wanted to do with Pantheon during his Kickstarter phase.


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