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12/31/2006 - 01/06/2007

The Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Beta is Here!

January 05, 2007


I have Wii Tennis Elbow. ...and the feedback is rolling in. You can join the beta on FilePlanet.com. I've been checking out the Vanguard Vault Site and the associated forums to get a feel for what people are saying. Here's the general vibe:

1. Graphical Performance is a Beast: Do yourself a favor and turn down the graphical options when you start up the game. Even the beefy machines here at GameSpy begin to stutter with all the details turned on. Once you turn the options down, you should be able to play, even if you don't get all the eye-candy.

2. The Crafting System is a Hit: Really deep, entertaining crafting systems have been hard to come by -- most MMOs focus on combat and have a very basic crafting interface. Several people have commented that Vanguard actually makes it fun to be a crafter. Aside from equipment, you can also build homes and even ships -- most of the players in the beta love it.

3. Character Creation is Deep: Aside from a staggering number of race and class combinations, you can tweak every aspect of your facial appearance. Not everyone will bother but some players (including me) will spend an hour tweaking a character to get him to look just right. That, combined with the variety of clothes and armor in the game, will really help make every character unique.

4. It's Definitely Solo-able: ... but, the game generally favors group play. Especially because good old-fashioned corpse-runs are back (which most players hate, even though some people have commented that it's nice for the world to feel dangerous again.)

5. But is it Ready for Prime Time? Despite being close to release, the Vanguard beta definitely feels like a beta. People on the forums wonder if all the little details will be cleaned up in time for the game to ship. Debates in the forums are raging around this point.

What do you think of the game so far? Join the closed beta on FilePlanet, then Mail me! (The beta is open to FilePlanet subscribers. Unfortunately, it is currently limited to players in the U.S. and Canada only.)

Today's Geek Stuff:

Posted by at 10:50 AM PST
Edited on: January 09, 2007 3:45 PM PST
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A Good Semester for Students of Game Development

January 04, 2007


I have Wii Tennis Elbow. I'm embarrassed to admit that back when I was in college, there were no game development courses. You couldn't even find a web-development course. These days it's a different story for students looking to break into the industry. It's stunning to see the number of ambitious new programs being offered by universities around the world. Check out Game Career Guide's Semester-in-Review for some examples! Getting a job in gaming is now a widely accepted career path. It's a huge industry with a variety of specialized disciplines and lots of placement ... Though I'd point out that salaries are often low and the hours are long.

Want to study games? Be discriminating and look for a really solid school program. Here's what you want to look for:

1. A program with depth across all disciplines. Lots of schools offer degrees in one facet of the industry -- say, animation -- but you're a much more valuable candidate if you not only focus on one field but also have an innate understanding of the entire process of development. Look for comprehensive programs so that you'll spend a few years rubbing shoulders with programmers, artists, sound guys, and people from all facets of the industry.

2. Concentrate on building a strong portfolio. Look at the works of previous students. Your goal at the end of the program is to shop yourself around developers with an absolutely killer portfolio of work. Check out what previous students have done. Would you hire them? If the school in question isn't focusing on helping people produce portfolios of incredible work, it's probably not going to help you, either. This industry is competitive!

3. An open curriculum with lots of time for exploration. Despite the abundance of school programs, most successful people in the industry are still self-taught to a great extent. Good grades won't make you a great game developer. Sweat and tears do! Don't go to a school that will load you up with non-related coursework and busywork. Give yourself time to develop side projects, to learn skills on your own, and to go above-and-beyond when it comes to teaching yourself art techniques or programming tricks. Nobody is going to hand you a job because you have a diploma -- you're far more likely to score a job because you've spent your time at school creating a wickedly cool flash game with some fellow students on the side. Use your time well!

To be honest, it's a tough industry. Lots of people want to make games. But on the plus side, really talented people with great skills always seem to land work -- so make sure you get the most out of your time in school and you'll land on your feet. Are you a current or former student of the industry? Mail me your stories!

Today's Geek Stuff:

Posted by at 3:15 PM PST
Edited on: January 09, 2007 3:46 PM PST
Permalink

Why Vanguard is an Important Milestone

January 03, 2007


"Will a U.S.-Developed MMO Ever Break the One-Million Subscriber Mark?" people used to ask. That was back in early 2004, when EverQuest was the top-of-the-heap for U.S. games with over half a million subscribers. Back then, those numbers seemed astronomical. In one way or another, most games tried to copy EverQuest ... Then World of Warcraft came along and the landscape changed. WoW already has over seven million subscribers Worldwide, and numbers are expected to climb even higher with a coming expansion.

Needless to say, since its release at the end of 2004, most developers have been looking at WoW's game design as a model for how to build a modern MMO. Venture capitalists and publishers are surprisingly eager to fund projects that play "Just like World of Warcraft..." The clones, they are a-comin'.

But then there's Vanguard.

It's ballsy nowadays to push forward with a massively multiplayer game that's different from World of Warcraft in almost every conceivable way, but Vanguard is aiming for a very different experience. Like EverQuest, it's a serious game for hardcore players who aren't afraid of lengthy adventures, brutal PvP, and complicated raids. And like Ultima Online or Star Wars Galaxies, characters are able to deeply impact the game world: building their own houses, shops, and even ships. Building up a successful crafter is as intense as creating a combat character.

Will Vanguard be a huge success? It's definitely aimed at a more serious crowd looking for a deeper online roleplaying experience. That might limit its mainstream appeal. On the other hand, if it's even a tenth as popular as World of Warcraft, it'll still have more subscribers than the original EverQuest. Hardcore gamers are eagerly looking forward to this one.

As you can see from today's lead story, The Beta-Test of Vanguard is About to Kick Off on FilePlanet, so gamers will get to see for themselves what to expect.


Posted by at 2:39 PM PST
Edited on: January 08, 2007 11:48 AM PST
Permalink

What people are Talking About

January 02, 2007


I love cheese.There's always a sinking lull right after the holidays. All the big games we were expecting have been out a few weeks -- people have played them, and they've spent the holidays arguing over 'em... and, at least in gaming circles, everything goes quiet. It's times like this that I like to surf the forums to see what's going on in peoples' heads. Here are some choice threads:

If Your PC Was a Car, What Would it Look Like? - This clever thread by Budo has people comparing their beat-up reliable Hondas with fast Porches that tend to crash a lot.

The Best Game Music of All Time - This thread really takes me back. Game graphics change over time, but good music remains strong year after year.

Game of the Year is a Crock! - We get one of these threads every time a Game of the Year Winner is Announced. But lively debates over which games rock hardest is always a good thing.

Happy New Year (Of Gaming) - Capo wants to know what games and trends you're most looking forward to in '07... and which trends you hope go away.

Posted by at 9:28 AM PST
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