Monday, September 20, 2021

Vanguard Gives A Crafting Masterclass - Again.

 

This is by way of being a placeholder post about crafting in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the game I would contend had the best overall systems and mechanics of any I've played in the mmorpg genre when it came to supporting crafting as a genuine, full and complete playstyle the equal of adventuring (And when I say "crafting" I mean just that. I don't mean manufacturing. That's a different activity altogether.)

The post is a placeholder because, having just worked my way through the crafting tutorial, I realize just how much I've forgotten and how much there was to remember. Vanguard crafting is deep and complex, considerably more so than the runner-up in my personal poll, EverQuest II.

I'm very familiar with EQII tradeskills, which had a glorious flourishing after several years under the guiding hand of Domino but even those don't reach the standards set by Brad McQuaid's team at launch. SOE/Daybreak outpaced Sigil in the way they adapted narrative storyline techniques from adventuring and refomatted them to work for crafters but in doing so they turned crafters into non-combat adventurers. In Vanguard every questline teaches you to be a better crafter and that's that. No saving the world with your needle and thread.

This is the very basic start-of-the-tutorial version. It already has four stages, one split into two parts, four different reagents, tools, action points and a choice of crafting station. It gets a lot more complicated than that...

 

In Vanguard, tradeskill progression is about two things: learning and perfecting practical skills so as to make better items and travelling the world to find and meet master crafters willing to share their secrets. The former is something the player needs to do in much the same way a player of an adventuring character needs to perfect their rotations and develop muscle memory. The latter expands and increases the range of options available to the character, allowing them to make more things.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I can write a post about the subtlety and sophistication of crafting in Telon I need to refresh my memory on the way it all worked. How am I going to do that with the game long gone and all my crafters with it?

Sound simple? No, not really. And it's not even as simple as it sounds!


I'm glad you asked! And I'm even gladder some thoughtful ex-player chose to stop by the comments on a two-year old post to let everyone know that "As of now crafting and harvesting up through tier 1 has been implemented and is working well."

Working well where? On the wonderful Vanguard emulator, of course. I knew harvesting was in but last time I checked crafting wasn't. And now it is!

I logged in this evening to take a look. I ended up running through the tutorial in the Crafter's Forum in Khal. It took me the best part of an hour and it really was just the basics. It reminded me how much time and energy I put into learning to craft the first time around, how challenging it was and ultimately how satisfying.

As I recall, crafting in Vanguard was reasonably simple at the start but became increasingly more difficult in the low to low-mid levels. I seem to remember the high teens being particularly "challenging". Or maybe it was the high twenties. Whichever it was, a lot of people faded at that stage. Certainly I remember hearing a lot of complaints and I had some tough times of my own. 

Complications? Recurring nightmares, more like!


If you stuck at it, though, things slowly improved and I seem to remember that by the mid to upper-mid levels I was finding crafting comfortable and reasonably reliable. I could make good stuff for myself and I made good money selling things I made at the auction house. 

If I remember correctly, by the time my Outfitter hit level 47, he could make everything he could get recipes for, to the best quality, with almost no failures. That was why I never finished off the last three levels to hit the fifty cap. There didn't seem to be any point.

All of that is feeling a bit vague now. Some foggy recollection of a time long gone. Rather than eulogize about how great I think the crafting was based on memories a decade old, it might be better if I levelled up again. Not only should that give me some incontrovertible facts to work with (and some screenshots) but it might jog loose some definite, detailed memories.

That certainly seemed to be happening as I worked through the simple tutorial recipes today. I was getting flashbacks to the bags and bags of powders and crystals, the flasks and pouches, tools and trinkets, all the manifold means and measures I needed to make the best jerkins and claws. (Did Outfitters make martial weapons? I think they did. They're just gloves with spikes in, after all.)

If I'd known there was going to be a test I'd have taken notes. Also, the guy with the blur over his head is the player who guild-invited me. I've anonymized him out of courtesy but I'm pretty sure he'd be happy to add anyone who wants to play to his guild.

 

The implementation seems solid. The Vanguard emu is still supposedly in "early pre-alpha" but there's a lot there now and a lot that works. There were great chunks of flavor text missing, replaced by placeholders asking anyone who remembered what the NPCs used to say to get in touch but the stuff that matters, the mechanics, the rewards, the progression - all those seemed to be working perfectly.

I'm going to keep this short because I do hope, some time, one day, to give a more thoughtful, informed overview of the gem of the genre that was - IS! - crafting in Vanguard. Before that happens (if it ever does) I recommend, as I always do, anyone curious to know what this game was like install the emulator and take a look for themselves. There's already more to do there than some games that are taking money.

"Go find them" is the least of it. Survive the journey, persuade them to talk to you, prove you're worthy, basically live the life of a trade guild journeyman of the fifteenth century. Then go to another continent and start over from scratch.
 

You'd probably need to be the sort of mmorpg player who thrives on going it alone. It's hardly a seething mass of players. There are people playing, though (Five, not counting me, when I logged in today!) and they're very friendly and helpful. I got a guild invite this afternoon from someone  standing next to me at the crafting tables. 

Even as a single player game, though, Vanguard still shines, and crafting was always something best done alone. In fact, it may have been the only thing in Telon best done alone, now I come to think of it; group harvesting got you the best mats and civic diplomacy the best buffs.

I wonder if there was group crafting too and I've just forgotten?

3 comments:

  1. I am amazed at how far these EMUs have made it. There are now EMUs for WAR, SWG, PSO BB, and COH that are better than the live games were. It's also fascinating to think that there was so much going on in Vanguard that it has taken years just to get most of the old systems up and running. I fully intend to stick my head in at some point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does make me wonder whether the live games might not be better off with smaller, more focused development teams that concentrate on specific, iterative improvements rather than the sprawling, over-ambitious, over-managed messes we see in some (although not all) of the bigger titles. Also, if you cast your mind back, some of the volunteer projects that ran under the Neverwinter Nights banner were very impressive. Just throwing money and bodies at a game doesn't seem to be the way to go, sometimes.

      Delete
    2. My take is that absolutely there should be more games where most of the revenue gets folded back into the game itself, and that focus on steady updates rather than massive revamps every year or three. Project Gorgon is one good example of the former, but I can't think of too many others off the top of my head.

      Delete

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide