vanguard

Official Site: Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (Wikipedia)
Studio: Sigil Games/Sony Online Entertainment
Launch Date: January 30, 2007
Sunset Date: July 31, 2014
Genre: Retro Fantasy Sandpark
Business Model: F2P (Optional Sub, Cash Shop)
Platform: PC

Global Chat: Fare thee well, Landmark

Believe it or not, there were actually people who played and enjoyed Landmark -- and were saddened to see it taken offline. To kick off this week's roundup of interesting MMO blog posts, we turn to those who knew and remembered Landmark with their words.

"The game, once just a bullet point on the EverQuest Next announcement at SOE Live, has been shut down," The Ancient Gaming Noob said. "The web site and forums have been hidden away and the domain resolves to the Daybreak main page. The few remaining fans have had their final look at the lands of… erm… <does Google search>… Lumeria! That was the name of the place."

Superior Realities took a tour on its last day: "That, really, is what was special about Landmark. You could go to any map, walk in any direction, and in no time flat you’d be sure to find something beautiful, fascinating, or awe-inspiring. The traditional wisdom is that if you give players the tools to make their own content, the vast majority of it will be utter crap, but Landmark was stunning refutation of that notion."

Continue our roundup as bloggers dissect problems with The Secret World's combat system, share tips on how to grind LOTRO points, mull over why it's hard to go back to the "olden days," deliver an early access review of Revelation Online, and pontificate on why theme park MMOs simply work.

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Jukebox Heroes: Your favorite MMO themes, #24-19

What are the best and most popular MMO theme songs of all time? A couple of weeks ago I posed this question to the Massively OP community and encouraged fans to submit their own list of music themes in response. We saw a healthy amount of email votes and comment nominations since then, and I was able to compile a nice list of the top 24 MMORPG themes from it.

There were several surprises, at least to me, in the final results. I thought some games would've gotten more nods, while others seemed to come out of nowhere to demand a spot on the list. Each of the themes on this list was put out there by at least two fans, which is why we're going to start with number 24. I'm thinking we might have an honorable mentions column as a post-script, but we'll see how it goes.

Today we will begin our countdown to number one, looking at your favorite MMO themes with my own take on each. Let's get started!

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The Exiled outlines early access packages, denounces pay-to-win

With just a week to go until its early access launch on February 23rd, indie "social sandbox" The Exiled -- formerly known as Das Tal -- has nailed down the fee structure of its game packages.

"Everybody gets to play for free for seven full days," Fairytale Distillery's Alexander Zacherl told us. "Then it's a one-time fee of $19.99 to continue playing as long as you want. If you want to get some cool skins, titles, pets or the art book and soundtrack, then you can pay more. But you can never buy in-game power, which has always been super-important for me."

The Nomad Pack ($19.99/€19.99) is the cheapest buy-in, with one character slot per season, one permanent character name reservation, plus perks like an avatar, title, frame, unique skins, and dance animation. The Seeker Pack ($39.99/€36.99) adds to that package an additional character slot and name reservation, plus a 15% fame gain boost and an extra daily challenge slot.

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EverQuesting: Ten things to do in Landmark before it's gone

T minus 11 days and counting. That's all the time Landmark has left. That's not a lot of time. If you haven't built all your intricate ideas yet, chances are you won't be able to bring them to completion in such a short span. I've resigned myself to never seeing some of mine come to life. And if you want to try to visit and experience all the great creations out there, you're going to be hard-pressed to pull that off. There just isn't enough time; it is all going away much too soon.

You may not want to do anything at all as the sunset creeps closer. Perhaps you feel you have done all you can do in the game, and you feel secure with closing this final chapter. Perhaps it just pains you too much to log in knowing it will all be gone in less than a fortnight. I know some folks that have even uninstalled the game already. Me? Thanks to a video card fire, I am actually installing it now! I am getting it on my new laptop so I can enjoy every last minute I can squeeze out of my favorite building game because even if I can't do all I want to do as far as creations, there are still things to do.

What are they? I'll tell you: Here are 10 things you really should experience in Landmark before it's gone. And if you have already done these, do them again to relive the experience -- because once those servers shut off, it's lights out for good.

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Chronicles of Elyria hires SWTOR programmer, works on PAX East demo

The small but scrappy Chronicles of Elyria continues to pick up experienced MMO devs for its ambitious sandbox project. Earlier this month we reported that Soulbound Studios had hired on a previous City of Heroes animator, and now the studio announced that it has snapped up Steve Hoelle, a programmer with experience on SWTOR, Vanguard, and Warhammer Online.

Soulbound said that work is progressing on the offline prologue with an eye for the future of the online game: "The team is focused on the playable demo for PAX East, which is ultimately a subset of things that will be available in the Prologue [...] Something else that is in progress, but without an obvious way to show it, is our integration with SpatialOS. We are crafting an online game, and we are building our foundations now."

A nice surprise for fans is that even though the stretch goal was not reached for a map feature that will allow players to dig and bury, the team is going ahead and including it anyway.

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The Daily Grind: What is your favorite MMO magic system?

While there are plenty of similarities among magic systems in MMOs (hey, how about you cast another fireball? There you go, champ!), there is a lot of variety as well. I'm always attracted to systems that put some though into their design, such as Guild Wars 2's illusion-based Mesmers, the mix-and-match Necromancers of Vanguard, and Lord of the Rings Online's wordy Rune-keepers.

At the very least, I have to applaud developers who at least put in the effort to gussy up the same mechanics in a new outfit. But when a team eschews the tired magic tropes and starts to get imaginative with spellcasting? That's when I perk up and pay attention.

What's your favorite MMO magic system and why?

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Jukebox Heroes: Six MMOs that need official soundtrack releases

For an avid fan of video game soundtracks, and of MMO soundtracks in particular, the most frustrating aspect of collecting and listening to these scores is how shabbily the OST is often treated. For every game like World of Warcraft or Aion that gives great respect to its music by creating and selling albums, there are two or three titles that have never seen a single official release at all.

This is such a shame and an aggravation that I need to call some of these titles out this week. I need to wag my fanboy finger in their direction and ask, "What gives?" There's so much great music that is put into these ever-expanding games... and the fact that only a fraction of it is ever made widely available to the public to purchase and enjoy outside of the game is a loss (moreso if the game shuts down). I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the composers to see their work bottled up in a product that might go offline forever at any time.

Here are six such MMOs that drive me nuts every time I think about how awesome it would be if their studios would ever consent to an official soundtrack release.

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EverQuesting: Welcome to the Daybreak family, LOTRO and DDO

Sometimes there's news that just makes you go, "Huh?" At times it happens because said information makes no sense whatsoever; other times it surprises you so thoroughly you have no words as you look around wondering where on earth it came from. Last week we got smacked with the latter. Turbine’s announcement that Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online were breaking off under a new independent studio wasn't so far-fetched, especially with Turbine's professed focus on turning into a mobile studio. I heard that and didn't really bat an eye, I just nodded my head and thought, sure, that makes sense. What was a jaw-dropping surprise was the announcement that Daybreak would be the new publisher. Who ever would have envisioned Norrath and Middle-earth (and Eberron!) becoming family, romping together in the same backyard and sharing a swingset? You never thought they would actually meet. No, we certainly didn't see that coming.

But once I had a moment to digest the news and think about it (and after we finished with a few jokes, like Justin's query on whether we should combine our columns to make EverLording), it made sense. And I can see it as a good thing for both parties. (Talking about the pairing of companies, not the columns!) Standing Stone Games and Daybreak both stand to benefit here, meaning their games benefit. Thankfully I don't see any cross-pollination between the IPs, but I do see two studios growing and see two games continuing on instead of being shut down.

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Pantheon shows off Unite demo, talks grouping and crafting

Fresh off its demo of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen at Unite 2016, Visionary Realms has just posted its November newsletter for followers of the old-school MMORPG. "Many of you reading this letter will already be familiar with some of the areas that were shown in the demo, but we bet you haven’t seen the new player model that was shown in-game," writes the team. We've included that video demo below.

What else is in the newsletter? There's an interview with Senior Designer Corey LeFever, whom some of you might remember from his work on Vanguard. While he does say that a "meaningful cooperative group based experience" is the best predictor for the game's successful, crafters should take note: His favorite part of the game is in your wheelhouse.

"I’ve been a crafting junkie in every game I’ve played, whether it’s been driven by profit or need for items, I love to craft. When I was approached about being on the team for Pantheon, one of the big needs was a champion for crafting, and knowing my love for it, it was a perfect fit for me to take up that banner. The concept of swinging the hammer and creating something has always appealed to me since I usually play a tank and by extension I’m a blacksmith. There is probably even a portion of it that’s rooted in my love for paleontology, at least in so far as extracting something from the environment."

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Star Citizen dishes on alpha 2.6 progress and procedural planets

This week's Star Citizen Around the Verse is ostensibly a check-in with the Frankfurt team, but there's quite a bit of teasing for 2.6 as well.

"Alpha 2.6 has been making some great progress," says CIG's Forrest Stephan. "The Evocati have been hammering away with the new flight balancing so watch out, design has been wrapping up a few new missions for Crusader. The music logic system is pretty much done. The ship team have two new ships [the Herald and the Vanguard Hoplite] that are feature complete and ready for release. [...] On the Arena Commander, art had been polishing up some new item pickup system and the pirates have been starting to really swarm about, so be careful. New cameras are in showing off new sweet camera angles. There’s just so much stuff."

From Frankfurt itself, there's a deep-dive into procedural planets and the Homestead demo once again. Early on in the development, there was no diversity -- "it was either a big, rocky planet or a jungle planet or a desert planet" -- so the team built what it's calling ecosystems to flesh out the assets being created and deposited. The planet stuff begins around 10 minutes in, and you can watch it all below.

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Battle Bards Episode 85: Desert Calling

The desert is calling the Battle Bards, but are they willing to make the trek across these vast wastelands to see if the music is worthwhile or not? Guest co-host Scott joins Syl and Syp for a listen through several desert tracks to see what can be sifted from the sand. Is there treasure below or sun-bleached boredom?

Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

We’ve got Episode 85: Desert Calling and the show notes for you after the break!

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MMO publisher gPotato suffered a major account data breach in 2007

Think back to 2007: Statistically, you were probably playing World of Warcraft's The Burning Crusade, or maybe even Lord of the Rings, Vanguard, or Tabula Rasa, all brand-new that year. Me, I was deep in classic Guild Wars. And some of you maybe have been playing gPotato games like Flyff or Rappelz. I'm not judging you! But I do have some bad news for you all the same: Hacker watchdog Haveibeenpwned.com reports that gPotato suffered a major account data breach in 2007.

"In July 2007, the multiplayer game portal known as gPotato suffered a data breach and over 2 million user accounts were exposed. The site later merged into the Webzen portal where the original accounts still exist today. The exposed data included usernames, email and IP addresses, MD5 hashes and personal attributes such as gender, birth date, physical address and security questions and answers stored in plain text."

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Perfect Ten: Comparing Druids across MMORPGs

If I asked you what a Mage is in an MMORPG, what would you say? Some cloth-wearing gal who lugs around a long staff and flings fireballs (or other elemental chunks) at bad guys. What about Rogues? Stealthy sneaks with twin daggers and lightning-fast attacks. Warriors? Big lugs with shields and swords larger than most compact cars. Fantasy class tropes are so ingrained that even developers seem powerless to go against them.

But there always seems to be this weird exception when it comes to Druids. A Druid in one MMO isn't quite the same as one in a different game. Sure, there are usually some common threads -- most notably an attunement to and use of nature -- but each team has more freedom to interpret and design the Druid concept how it likes.

I thought it would be fun today to riffle through some of the current and past MMOs that have boasted a Druidic class (if not always in name) and see where the similarities and end and the wild notions begin.

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