Updated Wed, May 27, 2009 by Ralsu
The journey has been tough for Vanguard 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 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.
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 wasn’t 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 Vanguard player is (raider, solo, casual, etc.)?
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:
I think the typical Vanguard player tends to be a casual small to large group player.
Late in the development of 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 won’t see much additional support for PvP at this point. What do you think went wrong with Vanguard PvP, and how would you repair it in a perfect world with unlimited resources?
MMO gamers tend to think of EQ2 as a stable game in its current state, but the stigma of a shaky start remains with Vanguard.
SG: There are plenty of things that went wrong in Vanguard’s 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 group’s focus would be making sure that content changes and such accommodated the PVP server and they would produce content that focused on the PVP community.
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?
SG: 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.
It’s no secret that 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, EverQuest II?
SG: 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 stability.