And They're Off!!
The Race to Keep Players In The Face of Competition
If you have been completely out of the loop, then you haven't heard that Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is releasing this week. Of course, if you are THAT out of the loop, you likely aren't even reading this, so me even mentioning that is just silly.
Vanguard's development and release has been a topic of conversation for years now, and annoyingly plastered all over the EverQuest II forums in regular intervals. This MMORPG has been made out to be, by all of those Vanguard fanbois, the ultimate gaming experience, the MMO to end all other MMOs. I've seen the same thoughts uttered about many other MMORPGs but never have I seen these grandiose exclamations come to fruition. Isn't hype grand?
So will Vanguard actually meet the hype? And if it does (or doesn't) what will this mean for EverQuest II?
What does Vanguard have that EQ2 does not? Personally, I think it has more challenge, and I love challenge! Unfortunately, in this current market of MMO consumers, challenging does not work for mass appeal. The old generation of gamers were used to the quirkiness of virtual worlds and the imbalance that just was, things that I think we can look forward to in Vanguard. Did we gripe and complain? We likely did occasionally, but since I don't personally see balance as the be all of gaming must haves, it was never a real concern for myself and those that I gamed with. In my little world of virtual reality, a berserker gnome cannot be just as good as a ogre berserker, and quite honestly, a gnome shouldn't even be able to try. So putting an end to this all race, all class business and bypassing all of the jumping through hoops to keep perfect balance, is just fine by me!
This same attitude doesn't bode well with the new generation of players who are less concerned bout the lore and integrity of any given game, and more concerned about the instant gratification and playability. Can Vanguard be picked up and played for a few minutes, then dropped just as quickly with some sort of mild feeling of accomplishment? No. It's not that sort of game, you'll still need to go to World of Warcraft for spoon fed gaming folks!
Anyone who even remotely knows anything about me, knows I'm a huge EQ2 fan, and have been since pre-beta. But even as a fan, I realize that EQ2 took a lot of shortcuts and wrote the lore to accommodate those shortcuts. Two starting cities were a total cop-out, but they made it work lore wise. I never liked the whole idea though, and I love seeing Vanguard use regions with natives to each of those regions, as would actually occur in real life. Things like that, that may not make a huge difference to most players, or even be noticed by the newer gen of gamers, will make a difference to veteran gamers who have very specific ideas about things should be.
EQ2 has made the corporate call to ever evolve EQ2 to sort of mold itself around what they think players want. I'm not sure that they actually accomplish this, but they did dumb up the game enough that even the newbiest of players can understand what they are doing. It seems to me that they have been working towards being a World of Warcraft with better graphics, but they still fall short because currently, the World of Warcraft phenomenon cannot be touched by any game. I fear that other games will make this mistake and try too hard to be the next big game, rather than just be the game they were meant to be.
So who is actually going to play Vanguard? Not unlike EQ2, Vanguard is going to appeal to a rather small group of players. Those that enjoy regular and solid grouping, and most definitely those that enjoy raid content will be drawn to Brad McQuaid's ideal world of real gaming. My hope is that McQuaid sticks with what himself and the development team wants, and bend less to what the gaming community "says" they want. As long as they keep true to their ideal, the right gamers will find them. Nostalgia will play a big part in Vanguard's success as well. I see a lot of the old Dark Age of Camelot and EverQuest I in this game, and for those of us that played those games, we are thrilled to see some of these ideas make a come back.
In all honesty, the players that I think will flock from EQ2 to Vanguard are those that have been wavering for a long while, and waiting for something else anyway, and sticking with EQ2 more out of boredom than an actual desire to play the game. There are a whole passel of unsatisfied players hanging out on EQ2Flames.com that REALLY need something else to do. Those that have made a career out of EQ2 hating perhaps will find happiness in Vanguard, and they just might as long as they don't get too sucked up in the hype and remember that MMO gaming is a breed of gaming unto its own that takes loyalty and patience to make the game truly great for any one person. Get excited about your choice of game, but for goodness sake, don't take too many steps away from reality. Nothing is ever perfect, not even virtual worlds.
I happen to have had the privilege of playing during the Vanguard beta. I really had lots of fun trying out their races and classes, and I will likely pick it up after release and add it to my gaming repertoire, but I can say already that it just won't replace EverQuest II for me. While I think that Vanguard is a good game, it is just not all that different than what is currently on the market, and with all of the MMORPGs out there right now, it's going to become lost in the long list of "something else to play". To be honest, I think that this will be the outlook for most of the gamers out there, so in the end, I don't think that it will effect EQ2 all that much. EQ2s problems span beyond other games being released onto the market, and other than smacking around the developers and yelling "HEY!! Your game is sinking here!!", I'm not sure that much can be done.
Stiff competition is going to be the norm now. Game after game will be released and our game of choice will always need to step it up a notch to keep their fanbase strong. SOE may be taking a weak approach on this front since they have their fingers in the Vanguard pie already, so why try too hard to keep people in EQ2 when it doesn't matter too much to them which game you purchase? They get paid either way.
To all of those moving on to Vanguard from EverQuest II, I'll see you there from time to time, look me up on the RP preferred server and please check out Ten Ton Hammer's awesome Vanguard site. They have worked hard over there to bring you the VG info that you need! To those that are dedicated EQ2 fans that won't be bothering to try Vanguard, you have my respect! MMORPG loyalty has become a rare thing these days.
Savanja's opinions are Savanjas, so please do e-mail me if you wish to comment, cheer, or perhaps send vile hate mail, regarding this article.
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