The journey has been tough for
from its wildly-hyped development to its rocky launch. Even though Sony
Online Entertainment has poured the man hours and resources into the
title it purchased from the now defunct Sigil Games, the stigma of
stability issues and not fully substantiated hype still plagues the
game's buzz on the web. Current Vanguard
subscribers know a good thing when they see it, but will SOE ever be
able to overcome the bias of the general public?
Salim Grant, Senior Game Designer for
style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard, fielded
an array of tough questions from Ten Ton Hammer's Danny "Ralsu"
Gourley. Grant's answers address SOE's commitment to the title, outline
the priorities of the development team, and reveal a little about the
future of Vanguard.
style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard has
changed quite a bit from the pre-launch product to the game that
players enjoy now (e.g. so-called meaningful travel that wasnt very
meaningful has been replaced with teleporters). Can you highlight some
of the major features of Vanguard
in its current state and help identify who the typical style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard player is
(raider, solo, casual, etc.)?
style="font-style: italic;">A large
seamless world is even more impressive when a player travels ten levels
below ground without a single load screen.
Salim Grant: The
various features of the game have not really changed save adding an
enhancement system to the list. Our major features would be:
- Large seamless world
- Large selection of races
- Many classes, some very unique
- Diverse character customization system
- Flying mounts
- Overland raid encounters
- Item enhancement system
- Racial mounts
- Chain based reactive combat system
- Diplomacy system
- Involved crafting system
- Player housing
I think the typical Vanguard
player tends to be a casual small to large group player.
Late in the development of
style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard, a vocal
group on the official forums (then run by Sigil) made a lot of noise in
favor of PvP. The game then launched with quite a few PvP servers,
which have been consolidated down to one. Several forum posts from SOE
staff have indicated that we wont see much additional support for PvP
at this point. What do you think went wrong with style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard PvP, and
how would you repair it in a perfect world with unlimited resources?
gamers tend to think of EQ2 as a stable game in its current state, but
the stigma of a shaky start remains with Vanguard.
style="font-style: italic;">There are plenty of
things that went wrong in Vanguards
development but I think that has been aired out enough at this point.
With unlimited resources I would recruit PVP oriented designers and
place them side by side with content designers. This groups focus
would be making sure that content changes and such accommodated the PVP
server and they would produce content that focused on the PVP
Speaking of official forums,
Sigil had planned to run without official forums. Soon after acquiring
the rights to Vanguard,
SOE launched official forums anyway to give players a central location
for interaction with the developers and support staff. Do you
believe any MMO can ever get by without official forums, and how would
you illustrate to gamers that SOE has lived up to its pledge to
interact with its subscribers?
I think that the affiliate set-up Sigil had was a great system as it
let the players get some benefit for helping to grow community and word
of mouth advertising. I think SOE has done fine interacting with
players on the forums. The Vanguard
dev team spends a lot of time on the forums talking to players and trying
to resolve bug issues.
Its no secret that
style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard suffered
from optimization and performance issues at launch, something SOE has
worked to improve throughout the life of the title. How would you rate
the performance and stability of Vanguard
now in comparison to another popular SOE game, href="http://eq2.tentonhammer.com/" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest II?
style="font-weight: normal;">I would rate the performance as
very good. The recent release of Pantheon has shown that the
optimizations over the past 2 years have greatly increased our game
Major content updates to
style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard have
offered raid areas. Early in Vanguards
raid history, the client wouldnt really support groups bigger than 12.
Then raid parties reached 18 with some success. Raids are purported to
fully support 24 players from here on out. How have optimization fixes
enhanced raids and your ability to design new content?
style="font-weight: normal;">Game optimization has not
affected our ability to design content outside of allowing us to have
24-man raids. Multiple optimizations to server performance have reduced
sluggishness when multiple raids are in a dungeon but these
optimizations were not done exclusively for raids they were done to
enhance the games performance.
On May 8, 2009, SOE revealed
target="_blank">Naratoz Focus of Chaos, a sort of
epic weapon for the Psionicist class. What other traditional end game
content will Vanguard
players see? Will we be getting epic quests or alternate advancement?
style="font-style: italic;">We are planning on
releasing alternate advancement, and the epic weapons will be released with
forest went quiet when Silam Grant said "alternate
In that May 8 Telonian
Tribune, players also got some glimpses of Narcanos, the final boss in
the Pantheon of the Ancients raid area. How has that raid encounter
gone in testing? Can you give us any hints about what this boss will do
that makes it challenging?
of Halls of Shattered Souls has not begun as of yet, so unfortunately
there are no details we can give.
A popular rumor on the web
is that Vanguard
is still running only because it is part of the Station Access plan,
and many new gamers are reluctant to invest their time in Vanguard for
fear it is not fully supported. Ten Ton Hammers Eric Dalmarus
Campbell saw target="_blank">a very different picture at Fan
Faire 2008. What can you say to alleviate fears or clear up any
I think that article clears things up. SOE supports this game very well
but the company has other games and employees to worry about. We all
get the attention we need, and in the end it is about the team itself
and how much we want to move things forward.
As a follow-up to the
previous question, href="http://forums.station.sony.com/vg/posts/list.m?topic_id=47019"
target="_blank">a recent Ask a Dev feature
released on May 6, 2009 noted that SOE will probably never add another
dev for crafting and diplomacy specifically. Diplomacy was one of the
most unique features of Vanguard.
Does this statement mean that development of that feature is done or
merely that there will never be a person who does nothing but
diplomacy, that all developers work on all aspects of the game?
style="font-weight: normal;">We have a developer that does
nothing but diplo and crafting. He does an excellent job and if we add
anymore designers in the future they will not be hired to work
exclusively on either of these spheres.
Finally, that same Ask a Dev
feature notes that most bugs in the game are quickly corrected, but it
also says we have many other things to do and very few resources.
What else is the development team doing? Is the team working on new
content for Vanguard
or other games? And what does this mean for the future of style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard?
We are a development team. We need to get content out to keep people
interested. We only work on Vanguard,
and when we are not fixing bugs we are working on new content or
systems we would like to see in the game.
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