The Founding Father of
Vanguard

A
Chat with Brad McQuaid

By Shayalyn



It was Vanguard
Gamers Day, a
press event in sunny San Diego, California, and I had just sat down to
a hands-on demo of the upcoming massively multi-player online game
(MMORPG), Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Just after I’d taken my
seat
and started fiddling with the game’s character creation
tools,
one of Sony Online Entertainment’s (SOE) PR reps tapped me
and
asked if I was prepared to enter my interview with Brad McQuaid in a
few minutes.



Was I ready? Well, yes and no. I had questions--lots of them. But it
occurred to me at that moment that, despite my best intentions, I was
fighting a case of nerves. As a gamer, I’ve been hearing Brad
McQuaid’s name since the beginning of my adventures in
EverQuest
6 years ago, and now I was going to meet the man who has declared that
he hopes to one day be numbered among the “founding fathers
of
interactive entertainment.” (Many gamers already consider him
a
member of those ranks.) Whatever your feelings about Brad McQuaid, like
him or not, you have to give him credit for all that he’s
accomplished when it comes to MMOGs.



And now McQuaid has become founder and CEO of Sigil Games Online along
with partner (and Sigil’s president) Jeff Butler. Both men
serve
as executive producer of the development company’s ambitious
premier title, Vanguard, which is now in it’s third stage of
beta
(dubbed Beta 3).



I took a seat across the table from McQuaid and next to another gaming
reporter who shared our interview time. (There’s only one
Brad,
and there were approximately 20 of us.) He looked tired, and perhaps a
bit distracted, but after a moment it was clear that he was still eager
to talk about his game. (In fact, he’s always eager to talk
about
his game, a point I’ll address a little further into the
interview.) We all chatted for a moment, and then dug right into the
meat of things.



href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=Vanguard-In-Progress-Screenshots&id=MidLevelBattle009&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 94px; float: left;"
alt="mid-level grouping in Vanguard"
title="Mid-level grouping in Vanguard (click to enlarge)"
src="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/Vanguard-In-Progress-Screenshots/MidLevelBattle009.thumb.jpg"
hspace="4" vspace="2">I
asked McQuaid to talk about end game plans for Vanguard.
“Players
are concerned,” I said, “about what awaits them
when they
reach the level cap. There’s talk that Vanguard will be all
about
end game raiding, like EverQuest and World of Warcraft.”



“There’s always that hardcore group who will
consume
content,” McQuaid said. “No matter how big the game
is, no
matter how long you think it’s going to take to get to the
end of
the content, there are going to be those people who’ll burn
through it faster than you thought, and there’s not a lot we
can
do about that except try to give them a good experience.”



On the topic of expansions, McQuaid said, “We’re
going to
shoot for monthly content updates, and we’re planning on
expansions about once a year.” He went on to explain that
Vanguard will have two teams at launch, the live team (which will focus
on maintaining and updating the live game) and the expansion team
(whose focus is on producing the content for the next expansion pack).
“Launch is almost an arbitrary date,” he said.
“It’s a big day, because it’s the day we
let the
public in to play Vanguard, but development doesn’t stop
there.”



“How do you decide which content will go into a live update
and what’s worthy of an expansion pack?” I asked.



“It’s all planned out,” he said.
“We have it
all mapped out for the next 7 or so years.” In the game
preview
and href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=Vanguard-In-Progress-Screenshots&id=MidLevelBattle001&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 94px; float: right;"
alt="Taking aim" title="Taking aim (click to enlarge)"
src="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/Vanguard-In-Progress-Screenshots/MidLevelBattle001.thumb.jpg"
hspace="4" vspace="2">
group interview session earlier McQuaid had said, “My dream
one
day is to create the never-ending MMO. People talk about a game where
it could take you years to see everything. How about if
there’s
no flippin’ way you could see everything?” He
explained
that when he plays the Vanguard beta himself, the scope of the game
still surprises him. “I’m going to be experiencing
things
at the character level where I go, ‘Oh, cool! We put this in?
That’s awesome!’ And so...I want to create the
never-ending
MMO. I think it could be Vanguard.”



My fellow reporter asked McQuaid about potential in-game benefits for
beta testers. “Sure,” said McQuaid,
“We’ll
definitely give them something. It won’t be imbalancing; but
it’ll be cool.” The reporter asked if the reward
might
change depending on how long the player has been a beta tester. McQuaid
became animated. “That’s a great idea,”
he said,
“Thanks for that. I want to make a note of that.”
He
snagged another developer and asked him to take note of beta reward
items that change depending on how long the player tested the game.



“Yes,” said the dev. “We’re
already working on that.”



“See what I mean that there’s no way I can keep
track of
everything we’re putting into the game,” McQuaid
mused.



“Are you satisfied with the quality of the beta testing
that’s going on right now?” I asked. “Are
you getting
what you need from this crop of testers?”



“It’s okay,” he answered honestly.
“I wish
there were more people submitting bug reports, but that’s the
way
it goes with beta, and we’re still finding them regardless.
Besides, I need all types [of players]. I need the exploits so we can
find them...I need the jerks.”



He acknowledged that there were some beta testers who tested to the
extreme and exemplified what beta testing is all about.
“It’s such an honor how committed people
are,” he
said. “And we get these people in the fan community who are
just
so [into helping]; creating mini videos, and hosting them for us, and
writing beta stories. It’s great...a great
community.”



href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=Vanguard-In-Progress-Screenshots&id=dragon_mount&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 94px; float: left;"
alt="High-level dragon mount"
title="High-level dragon mount (click to enlarge)"
src="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/files/gallery/albums/Vanguard-In-Progress-Screenshots/dragon_mount.thumb.jpg"
hspace="4" vspace="2">“Speaking
of the community,” I said, “You’ve really
made an
effort to extend the game’s reach beyond the existing fan
base.” I was referring to the fact that McQuaid has spent a
good
deal of time sharing screenshots and videos and conducting question and
answer sessions with the Fires of Heaven guild site, as well as making
visits to the vocally Vanguard-bashing community at MMORPG.com.



“Yes, yes.” McQuaid nodded. “I think
it’s
important. The grass roots marketing is important. And sometimes it
might be controversial when I do that...but you have to get the word
out on places like Fires of Heaven where they might have questions or
misconceptions about the game.



McQuaid is certainly not without his critics. Some have argued that the
inordinate amount of time he spends with the gaming community could
distort his original vision about the sort of game Vanguard should be.
Others view his attempts to bring the game to a wider audience--and
correct what he perceives as misconceptions that the game will be all
about hardcore content, grinding, and raiding--as pandering at best, or
insecurity about his game at worst. But a forum persona can be quite
different from the face-to-face persona, and I saw no hint of pandering
or insecurity in this interview session. If anything, Brad McQuaid is
supremely confident in his vision for Vanguard, and the Sigil
team’s ability to deliver it to the gaming community in the
first
quarter of 2007.



  • We've got a
    strong and growing community at the href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=38">Vanguard
    Ten Ton Hammer forums. Head on over to href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=335">share
    your thoughts on this article!
  • The
    screenshots in this article were originally posted by target="_blank" href="http://www.bradmcquaid.com">Brad
    McQuaid on his personal website and on the target="_blank" href="http://www.fohguild.org/forums/index.php">Fires
    of Heaven forums. href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=Vanguard-In-Progress-Screenshots&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_album.php&page=1">Click
    here for a gallery of McQuaid screenshots.







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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.

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