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Vanguard's Release: Both Hardcore and Not

Today I saw Vanguard reveal some Hardcore Web Features, and Not So Hardcore Account Server Issues

Here's the hardcore bit: Vanguard's old URL now forwards to a brand spanking new website. However, this website isn't just for looks, it actually performs some vital game functions. Case in point: My totally kickass automatically generated Vanguard Blog.

The Blog includes a screenshot of what was on my screen whenever I made a major achievement (such as uncovering a new item or gaining a 5th level increment). Here's the interesting thing: I didn't take those screenshots. Does this mean the Vanguard client actually takes and uploads screen shots every time one of these events occurs?! If so, that's awesome. Sure, some people might find that an invasion of privacy, but I have to say that I'm stunned to have this kind of functionality built into the game. Automatically taken, uploaded, and web served screenshots of achievements must be a MMORPG first.

Of course, the Blog is just one tiny part of the overall website. I haven't explored the whole thing in its entirety, but I see that my character information is robustly published. (Though you probably can't see it because it's set private by default and I don't know how to make it public.) I've noticed that there's semi-interesting information along the lines of what my character is wearing, what rank he is on the server in various aspects, and so on. It's pretty cool, but then, statistics are just that. I prefer game play... which Vanguard possesses as well, if you know how to look. Nonetheless, this level of robust character to web linkage is a feature WoW doesn't have. Nicely done, guys, maybe hooking up with SOE wasn't such a bad idea after all.

On a less hardcore note, SOE's billing servers are somewhat hosed, preventing players from registering keys. What's more, rumor has it that beta players are still able to play.

Sony's account page was lagged down from severe new-release traffic today. There must be a lot of interested Vanguard players. Either that, or maybe SoE's account servers are a lot less robust than they used to be. One more possibility: maybe Blizzard or WoW fanboys are DOS attacking it in panic. Regardless, I couldn't get in until about 10pm PST.

Was the beta player thing deliberate?A script was run today that booted all the players with an invalid subscription error. This might have removed the merged preorder/beta accounts that allowed them to play in the first place. Yet, afterwards my Direct2Drive Pre-order key worked just fine. Perhaps they realized that, in light of the registration server problems, it'd be better to leave them functioning.

It was during the registration process I discovered that I was considered to be on a "trial" account. So here was have another possibility: all the preorder/beta players are considered on "trial". Upon registering my new key, I was able to put a credit card file on the account. So there must be a lot of accounts out there on "trial" mode without a CC# on file.

Well, problems aside, at least the game worlds seemed to have stayed up. In fact, it looks like they're preparing to raise more servers. The worlds weren't too busy tonight, but with registration server difficulties and this being the middle of the work week, it's hard to say why that is. In the end, it was a pretty lukewarm launch, but no more a train wreck than WoW (which also had registration server issues at launch).

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