The Founding Father of
Chat with Brad McQuaid
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
and started fiddling with the game’s character creation
one of Sony Online Entertainment’s (SOE) PR reps tapped me
asked if I was prepared to enter my interview with Brad McQuaid in a
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
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
interactive entertainment.” (Many gamers already consider him
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
as executive producer of the development company’s ambitious
premier title, Vanguard, which is now in it’s third stage of
(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
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
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.
asked McQuaid to talk about end game plans for Vanguard.
are concerned,” I said, “about what awaits them
reach the level cap. There’s talk that Vanguard will be all
end game raiding, like EverQuest and World of Warcraft.”
“There’s always that hardcore group who will
content,” McQuaid said. “No matter how big the game
matter how long you think it’s going to take to get to the
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
do about that except try to give them a good experience.”
On the topic of expansions, McQuaid said, “We’re
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
public in to play Vanguard, but development doesn’t stop
“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
group interview session earlier McQuaid had said, “My dream
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
no flippin’ way you could see everything?” He
that when he plays the Vanguard beta himself, the scope of the game
still surprises him. “I’m going to be experiencing
at the character level where I go, ‘Oh, cool! We put this in?
That’s awesome!’ And so...I want to create the
MMO. I think it could be Vanguard.”
My fellow reporter asked McQuaid about potential in-game benefits for
beta testers. “Sure,” said McQuaid,
definitely give them something. It won’t be imbalancing; but
it’ll be cool.” The reporter asked if the reward
change depending on how long the player has been a beta tester. McQuaid
became animated. “That’s a great idea,”
“Thanks for that. I want to make a note of that.”
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
everything we’re putting into the game,” McQuaid
“Are you satisfied with the quality of the beta testing
that’s going on right now?” I asked. “Are
what you need from this crop of testers?”
“It’s okay,” he answered honestly.
there were more people submitting bug reports, but that’s the
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
said. “And we get these people in the fan community who are
so [into helping]; creating mini videos, and hosting them for us, and
writing beta stories. It’s great...a great
of the community,” I said, “You’ve really
effort to extend the game’s reach beyond the existing fan
base.” I was referring to the fact that McQuaid has spent a
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
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
quarter of 2007.