When Whats Missing
Becomes Whats Next
Every MMO has its trials when it comes to getting the right content
into the game at the right time. For example, when href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com">Dungeons & Dragons Online
(DDO) launched this February it was without any solo content. Turbine,
the games developers, soon found that, despite the fact that
pen-and-paper D&D is rarely played solo (or with one player versus
a dungeon master), gamers want a game where they have something to do
between groups. Just a couple months after its release, Turbine added
some solo content to DDO, quite possibly in an effort to retain players
who were quickly growing restless and looking for greener MMO pastures.
DDO added content to meet player demand after launch. You might think
that a game in development, like Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, would have a
golden opportunity to read the needs of the community and create a game
based around those needs. The problem is...the community doesnt always
know what it wants. Also, the developers sometimes find that what the
community seems to demand doesnt exactly fit with their vision for the
game. Im going to offer up my best guess as to what could be missing
from Vanguard at launch, and what might be added later due to popular
Okay, lets just lay it on the line--Vanguard is going to be a
group-centered game at launch, whether fans like it or not. While there
will definitely be some solo content (unlike DDO at launch), it wont
be as plentiful as it is in, say, World of Warcraft, where players can
solo right up to the level cap. The rationale for this? According to
Brad McQuaid, Executive Producer of Vanguard and CEO of
developers Sigil Games Online, Vanguard will encourage grouping to help
foster a sense of community. Rather than having thousands of players
running around on their own, McQuaid and his team envision a world
where people will communicate with one another while enjoying gameplay
as part of a cooperative group.
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 142px;" align="left"
hspace="4" vspace="2">World of Warcraft earned its supremacy (a
massive subscriber base of around 6 million) in part by offering
solo-friendly gameplay. Is Sigil missing the boat by making Vanguard
less soloable? To my mind, some solo content is crucial to the success
of a game--DDO proved that subscribers end up restless and bored
without it. There are times when a player with limited time wants to
log into their MMO of choice, run a few quests, slay a few monsters,
and feel that their progress is meaningful. Vanguard will have solo
content, but how limited that content will be, particularly at higher
levels, remains to be seen. Its also quite possible that, as was the
case with EverQuest (a game built in large part by Sigils principles,
Brad McQuaid and Jeff Butler, President), some classes will solo better
Best Guess: If Vanguard doesnt
have enough solo content at launch, solo content will eventually be
added and tweaked to find a balance. A thriving community through
group-centered play is certainly an ideal to strive for, but other
games have proven that without some solo playability, gamers tend to
find themselves bored between groups, and boredom leads to apathy,
which in turn leads to a dropped subscription.
Lost - Berserker and Inquisitor. PST
Right now, it looks as though the Berserker wont make it into Vanguard
for launch. The Inquisitor is also suspect, although it may have a
better chance than the zerker. Major trauma? Probably not. Even
without the Berzerker and the Inquisitor, Vanguard could launch with 15
classes, which is more than enough to keep adventure-hungry and
alt-happy gamers occupied.
Best Guess: My guess is that
the Berzerker wont make it into the game by launch and will end up
being the stuff expansions are made of. The Inquisitor, however, seems
more likely to appear at launch, rounding out the group of Protective
Fighter classes. It appears to me, from what we know of the current
Vanguard set-up, that each archetype will likely have four classes at
launch. In order to accomplish that nice, evenly distributed lineup,
Sigil will likely hold off on the Berzerker (an extra in the Offensive
Fighters group), and push to have the Inquisitor (the fourth member of
the Protective Fighters group) in at launch. I may just be projecting
my need for symmetry, though.
No, You Cant Book a Flight on Druid
How does one travel around Vanguards vast world of Telon? Not
instantly, thats for certain. You wont find druids and wizards
portin for platz. Nor will you be able to touch a portal stone or
click on a ships bell to ring up an instant zap to the location of
your choice. You wont even be able to hop a random griffin.
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hspace="4" vspace="2">What you will be able to do, however, is get
your own mount to travel around on, a feat which you should be able to
accomplish at an early level (unlike some other MMOs where mounts are
only for those players with lots of virtual cash to burn). Youll also
be able to travel by boat; but instead of a boring and lengthy trip
across the waves on some NPC boat, youll be able to own your boat. And
your ship will also be vulnerable to attack on the high seas, making
ocean travel far more interesting. Caravans will be yet another travel
option. Join a caravan of friends, and wherever they travel, youll
travel, even when logged off.
Best Guess: Sigil has held a
hard line against instant travel. I find it very unlikely that instant
travel by means such as portal locations will make it into the game at
all, via expansion or otherwise. What seems a little more plausible is
the idea of a few classes having special teleportation abilities. It's
unlikely that teleportation spells will make the game at launch, but
Sigil may rethink their travel stance eventually and grace some classes
with special travel powers. Still, look for travel to be part of the
adventure, and not an instant zap from point A to point B, for a
long time to come.
To the Death! Or is it To the Pain?
What happens when you die in Vanguard? As it stands right now, youll
find yourself naked at your bind point and facing experience debt. Too
harsh? Sigil doesnt think so. In fact, part of the Vanguard vision is
for experience debt and corpse runs to be part of a dynamic that makes
the game challenging and--yes, really--fun. Sigil believes that players
should fear death, so much so that theyll work hard to avoid it.
Despite the experience debt and the need to run back to your corpse to
recover your equipment (unless theres someone around to resurrect
you), Sigil doesnt want death to amount to torment. Youll have some
sort of directional beacon to lead you to your corpse (perhaps a
silvery cord, or a point on your compass). Youll also rarely have to
make a corpse run without your gear, as additional sets of gear should
be stored in packs on your mount.
Best Guess Death is another
something thats unlikely to change either before or after launch.
Sigil may eventually find other ways to soften the blow when you
succumb to some vicious beast in a dungeon, one of those things being
the scalable experience loss Brad McQuaid spoke of recently, but I
believe there will always be a death penalty and corpse retrievals of
some form or another.
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hspace="4" vspace="2">When it comes to Vanguard, its certain that
the team has a strong sense of direction. They know what they want to
accomplish with this game, and they hold fast to their ideals. While
every good game developer knows that some degree of flexibility is
essential to making a great game, those developers also know that
drastic changes of direction, either before or after launch, have
historically proven disastrous for MMOs.
As for the Vision , love it or hate it, love me or hate me, it is
what it is, says Brad McQuaid. We do listen. [The Vision] does change
when it needs to. But what it doesn't do is radically transform into
another vision. It adapts. It expands. But the core is the core. In
other words, to be more blunt, we're not going to suddenly decide we're
taking on WoW directly and making a WoW clone, nor a DDO clone, nor an
EQ 2 clone (although many have pointed out the obvious related
heritage). Vanguard is its own game, built on the Vision, which comes
from both EverQuest and from the MUDs we played before that. To that
extent it is very consistent.
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