Interview with Lightning:
Administrator at Vanguard Fighters
Vanguard Fighters announced last week that the site would cease
operations on June 8, 2007. Lightning, the administrator for Vanguard
Fighters cited “differences of opinion with the publisher (SOE)” and
“lack of interest” as the reasons for bringing down the site. I asked
Lightning to spare some time to help fully explain the situation and to
provide insight into running a fan site.
Questions about the Closure
Ten Ton Hammer (TTH):
off, can you talk about the “differences of opinion” with SOE. I
understand that the founder of Vanguard Fighters (TheDrunkenDwarf)
turned over the site to you once SOE became involved. This was during
That’s correct. TheDrunkenDwarf had past
grievances with SOE, and had vowed to never again support one of their
products. To quote the article he wrote at the time:
I read all the developer posts and Brad’s reassurances. I
what he wrote, but none of that changed the fact that SOE was now
involved with the game. I felt like I had to be true to what I
believed, even if it meant that I would be missing out on what promises
to be a great game.
At this point, I had no problem with SOE’s involvement – I too had read
Brad’s statements and felt that the game still had the capacity to be
the world I wanted to spend the next few years in. My enthusiasm to
carry on led TheDrunkenDwarf to hand the reigns officially to me (I had
been running the site as the main administrator for several months by
then) and we carried on as normal.
Since that time, has the
SOE involvement given you any heartache?
Not from SOE, no. The main problems have been a lack of interaction
with the staff at Sigil. I cannot directly fault SOE.
When you say lack of
interest, who are you talking about: you, the VF staff, or the VF
All of the above. We started off with four members of staff: two
administrators and two contributors / moderators. Over time, after
TheDrunkenDwarf left, the other members of staff lost faith in the
game, leaving me to run the site on my own. At that point, my
enthusiasm was beginning to dwindle, so I kept the site running as best
I could, mostly moderating the forums.
At the same time, Vanguard made the transition from beta to live and
failed utterly to live up to what I hoped it could be, and what Brad
had hyped it to be. I think we’re all conversant with what came after
in the wider Vanguard community, but the number of posters dropped off
dramatically after the first month of live, and then steadily declined
to the point where I decided the site had no further purpose.
At it’s peak, we were getting 25,000 visitors a day. At the end, we
were getting about 500.
Will you continue to play
I have terminated my Vanguard account, but I intend to keep a close eye
on where it goes from here. With the money and people SOE are throwing
at it, I have a little faith remaining that this could be a truly
ground-breaking game. I’m giving it six months to grab my attention
again, and maybe then I will come back.
Questions about Running a Fan Site
As a Community Manager for
a gaming network, I frequently try to explain the difference between my
paid position and effort put forth by an administrator at a fan site.
Can you tell me a little bit about your experience operating VF?
• Do you work a job or go to school? If so, how did
you balance your time to be able to support VF? And did that factor
into the decision to close the site?
• You’ve told me that TheDrunkenDwarf continued to
fund VF even after he left. Can you give readers an idea of the expense
of running a site without the revenue generated through subscription
fees (like IGN) or ad sales (like IGN and TTH)?
work full time for a business Internet Solution Provider as a Windows
Server administrator. I am lucky that I have unrestricted Internet
access from work, so in my breaks I would log in and moderate the forum
or post news updates. Work time did not really factor into the decision
to close the site.
Without going into the exact dollar value of running the site, it rose
dramatically over the lifetime of Vanguard Fighters. We started out on
a small ISP with a shared SQL server that regularly got swamped by
other users – this was when we made the transition from static HTML
with a phpBB2 forum to a phpnuke based content management system. What
followed was a series of server migrations to more and more expensive
solutions as the site grew. With no income from the site whatsoever,
TheDrunkenDwarf had to meet this cost out of his own back pocket and I
am extremely grateful to him for continuing to fund the site when he
himself had lost all hope in Vanguard.
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