The Grouchy Gamer

Yeah, I'm cranky. That's kinda the point...

Tag: Sigil

Good Night, Vanguard

So it has been a really long time since I have been in this chair.  Writing a blog post that is.  With where I work, it’s best to be silent and thought a fool rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt. Vanguard Collector's Edition This  way I don’t accidentally say anything that gives away any company secrets accidentally.  So I have been silent.  I would imagine that this blog has fallen off most if not all of the blog readers, what with me posting every 3 or 4 years lately.

It came to my attention today that at 8PM Central tonight, Vanguard was closing down for good.  I knew it was happening.  Honestly, I had thought that it had already happened.  But when Nick Parkinson posted a Vanguard box as his Facebook avatar today I had to ask why.  And he let me know that today was the day.  I’ve long since stopped playing Vanguard.  I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for most of the ten years it’s been online.  I still thought about Vanguard from time to time through the years.

I’m having a ton of mixed emotions to be honest.  Vanguard was the game where I went from being just another gamer to just another gamer with a fansite.  The time that I spent on that site was incalculable.  I was working at a job that kept me on the road a lot and whenever I was in an airport, or a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or a hotel room I was working on that damn site (vanguardcrafters.com). There were volunteers that I was never really able to do much for if anything who put in that kind of time too.  Moderating, writing, and managing was my job.  The volunteers also did a ton of moderating and also maintained the always-under-cyber-attack wiki.   Vanguard was going to be my next game home.  At it’s peak the site had about 60,000 users.  Even after the game was obviously failing I kept the site open for a while and it was one of a small handful of sites still running farther into Vanguard’s life.

The stuff that happened with Brad McQuaid is well documented both here and elsewhere so I won’t beat that dead horse again.  That is, other than to say that it floors me that there were still people throwing money at his Kickstarter campaign in spite of what we know about his business challenges.  Thankfully for them, there wasn’t a critical mass of people foolish enough to get it funded.

The time that I did get to spend getting to know a lot of folks at Sigil really was a highlight of my gaming life in a lot of ways.  I really believe that without that experience I wouldn’t have ever come to work at Blizzard, even though what I do isn’t related to game development.  Those countless volunteer hours prepared me for how to work with, and how to speak to game developers.  I’m thankful for all of the access that I was granted to the developers at Sigil and for the opportunity to work not only around them but also with them in many ways.  I went to E3s (the old ones) and lunches and dinners with my friends at Sigil.

That team has long since been scattered to the wind.

To all the folks in community at Sigil (Cindy, Nick, and James in particular), and all of the development folks (especially Salim and Justin) I thank you.  You guys were always open, friendly, inclusive, and fun.  Those experiences literally changed my life.

As of this past June I have been working in the game industry for 4 years.  My career wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for my Vanguard experience.  So thanks to all of you who have read my rantings or my news articles or my fansite.  I miss you guys.  And I’m thankful for being able to spend all the time together we did.

MMO Elitism and You!

ElitistLast week, Wolfshead’s thoughtfully written and nicely crafted article about Why the MMO Industry Needs a Real Cataclysm set me to thinking.  First of all, I don’t have nearly the industry pedigree that he has.  Second of all, he took an idea from mid air and fleshed it out with cogent arguments.  Third, it was thoughtful and passionate.  Good on him.  Let me tell you why he’s wrong.

He’s not wrong for the same reason Tobold says he is in his rebuttal Blizzard and McDonalds.  Tobold’s rebuttal is also well written and uses an analogy that is very apt to rebut the ideas that Wolfshead presented.  Don’t misunderstand, Tobold is right on, but his analysis is different from mine and is largely from the company’s point of view.

I wanted to address this even before Tobold did, but his article got me wanting to post.

Let’s look at this from a player’s point of view first.  Then I’d like to address the evident contempt that is out there for Blizzard from others in the development community.

First Wolfshead starts out with a section called The Farmville Curse.  I couldn’t agree with him more on that point.  Those aren’t “MMOs” and I think I would say that Facebook games in general are pushing the definition of “game” to it’s limits.  I have no argument with him there.

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Sigil Dirt Finally Hits The Street

For about 8 months now, I’ve been telling you what I can get substantiated about the demise of Sigil and what led up to the spectacular failure that was Vanguard’s shipping. I hate to publish without some substantiation. There have been some other things that I have heard from people that worked there about what happened that I have never blogged about or even talked about with Tarkheena.

Until today.

Over at Fires of Heaven, former game designer Vince Napoli, known at FOH as Teclisen lets loose with a torrent of information that hasn’t been discussed publicly up until now. I’ve been dying for some of this stuff to see the light of day, and now that he’s spilled at least a good-sized portion of the beans let’s do a little postmortem. Not something for the kids to read, probably. The complete post follows, broken out and commented on.

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Vanguard Launch Disaster a Fluke, Shouldn’t Hamper Newer MMO’s

I was reading a blog post by Tipa over at West Karana tonight and it got me to thinking about what it was that made Vanguard thud so thunderously and why that shouldn’t affect competent publishers that are going to publish a new MMO. I really respect Tipa’s opinions on MMOs although I don’t always agree with her prognoses. I’ve known Tipa forever, as we were guilded together in EQ and remember even then her zest for the game and that is evident in her blog. But I digress…

So why shouldn’t we be concerned that Vanguard pissed in the MMO bathwater? Because it was an anomaly. Now I can’t speak to the other MMOs that have failed to launch or stick over the last couple of years, but I can speak to Vanguard. The problem with Vanguard and Sigil wan’t a lack of ideas or a viable idea or design. It wasn’t a poor implementation of the art department’s vision. It wasn’t that Brad’s Vision <TM> was flawed or that Jeff Butler didn’t have great ideas. I spent 45 minutes at the last real E3 just talking with Jeff about what he wanted to see in the game. Not only was the stuff cool, but you could see that even at that late date, he had a real passion for the game and what he wanted to make it be. Did they bite off more than they could chew, design-wise? Probably. They could have let the cool stuff out in dribbles, giving us updates and awesome new stuff in expansions. Were they overly ambitious? Probably. Were they in over their heads? Definitely.

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Vanguard in for Big Change of Direction

Everyone in the gaming and MMO business and most gamers who follow MMO’s already know that Vanguard: Saga or Heroes launched to a disastrous start. While few thought that it would be the legendary “WoW-killer,” a lot of people thought that it would hit an under served niche; what Sigil coined as the “Core Gamer.” When the game launched, it was at least 6 months early, and lacked the technical and game play polish that today’s gamer has come to expect. But that is all review at this point. Most of you already know that Sigil and SOE didn’t produce the game that gamers expected.

Over the last several months, SOE has made some strides in resolving the technical issues plaguing the game. The game’s problems continue to run deeper than the mere technical issues, though. Gameplay fixes are lagging behind the technical ones, and it’s likely that they will continue to do so, as by many reports 14 of the remaining 50 or so staffers were let go a couple of weeks ago. It’s going to be hard to make traction against these issues with the miniature team that is still there working.

When the staffers were let go, SOE also changed the manager of the project. This manager wrote in his introductory newsletter that he didn’t really know too much about Vanguard. He pledged to work on getting to know the product, which is a start.  Thom Terrazas is the new project manager.

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It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

With all the crap hitting the fan over at SOEigil the other day a lot of old laundry is being dredged up. In light of some of the things I have heard from former Sigil employees (when they were still Sigil employees) some of the things that I had heard about in the past but dismissed now seem to be given added credence if not corroboration.

In this post from The Safehouse in 2001, some of the same or similar types of observations were made about Brad McQuaid’s management “style” as are being made today. In particular, this quote caught my eye;

Things weren’t coming up roses at 989/redeye/verant. Brad himself had basically done no work whatsoever since Everquest’s release, and many (including Kelly Flock) think he didn’t do anything *before* its release. Brad thought of himself as infallible, and Everquest’s incredible success, his millions, and his ferrari were all proof of his greatness. Being crowned a “Game @#%$” by PC Gamer didn’t help either. His self-aggrandizement cannibalized Verant’s customer relations for its entire existance. He insisted on being the sole point of contact with the public to promote his own name, and he did a miserable job.

Overall, it’s an interesting post-mortem about how Brad allegedly left Verant/989/SOE back in 2001. If you look at that and also look at the recent posts to f13 and here, I think you’ll see some staggering similarities. Where I come from, if something happens once, it’s a happening. If it happens more than once, it’s a pattern.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on this one but to me it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.

Brad McQuaid “Clears the air”

In this interview with f13, Brad McQuaid tap-dances around the reasons for his specacular failure, Sigil Games Online. He seems to lay a large part of the blame on Microsoft and it’s “Zoo Tychoon” management team. Classic. Here is a little snippet where Brad justifies his decision-making on the story we broke here the other day;

f13.net: Right after the split and before the tragedy the other day, that’s when people claim you started to be in the office… not quite as much. Can you explain why?

Brad McQuaid:: We need to back up a little bit. After we split from Microsoft – because obviously we couldn’t ship the game in an unready state – we had to go out and do something. Find money to make the game that we could and all dreamed about. We cut a deal pretty quickly so that we could get into SOE’s E3 kiosk. We ended up having to meet payroll and to pay the bills. We needed to raise money. We went out and found some people who specialized in venture capital and I worked with those people immediately following the deal coming together. I started working with them on putting a deal together to fund the game to completion and fund the company post-completion and to possibly start a second title. It was basically “get money that we needed.” So I started working with these people, it was a learning experience – I’d never really been in the private investor/VC world – and we started that process. I was in and out of the office quite a bit. Demoing the game, showing it to potential investors and putting together the documentation. All sorts of stuff you have to do for that kind of money.

f13.net: So that time being out of the office was business?

Brad McQuaid: It was a bummer. Even going back to SOE, I want to make games. The executive producer side of things is more fun than the CEO business side of things. But it had to be done, right? So it was a bummer leaving a lot of that behind and it simply had to be done.

So I guess the only other thing I have to ask Brad is; When did it stop being you out of the office drumming up non-existent financing and start to become “a bummer?”

I guess my personal feelings about this whole thing are getting the better of me, but my bullshit detector was going off all through that story. What do you guys think?

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The Other Shoe Drops at Sigil

Today the other shoe dropped at Sigil. According to John Smedley,

“Today I would like to formally announce that SOE has acquired the assets of Sigil Games Online, including Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. As a part of this acquisition, we are bringing on approx 50 people from Sigil in order to insure [sic] that Vanguard continues to grow. SOE is dedicated to making sure that Vanguard is well taken care of and that we provide the same level of service we do for our other titles. In the near future we will come out with a publishing plan that will largely be driven by the strong player community that Vanguard has already built up. We plan on supporting Vanguard for many years to come, and you can expect many content updates as part of your subscription. Down the line we will of course be coming out with new expansion packs, but right now the focus is on making sure Vanguard is running the way it should be.”We are also officially opening up forums. In the past, our deal with Sigil didn’t allow for this, but as with our other games we feel this is an important part of communicating with the playerbase. You can expect a strong presence from our community team as well as the development team members. While we realize that Sigil had said they wouldn’t open up general forums, at SOE we feel this hampers our efforts to communicate effectively with the players. We will continue to support the fansites in a big way, and will be contacting many of them directly to discuss what this change means. By no means do we want to lose the strong fansite support by making this change, but we do think it’s important to have a forum for players to communicate directly with SOE.

“A few other items I wanted to mention:

1. Brad McQuaid will be consultant to SOE as a creative advisor for Vanguard. Dave Gilbertson will be the person directly responsible for the day-to-day management of both the Sigil Carlsbad office as well as Vanguard.

2. We do not plan on making any major changes to Vanguard. Any changes are going to come from the team itself. We aren’t mandating any big changes to the game. We’ve learned a thing or two with our experiences with the NGE and don’t plan on repeating mistakes from the past and not listening to the players.

3. We do plan on spending a lot of time cleaning up legacy issues with Vanguard and making sure the game’s performance improves.

“By way of comparison, this team is approx. the same size as the EQ2 team and I feel like that team has done an amazing job improving EQ2 since its launch. We intend to do the same thing for Vanguard and it is our hope that the players feel like we’re doing right by them.”

Just for clarity, the Sigil team was near 100 before these actions were taken.

As far as the central forums are concerned, let them have them. They are already a festering sewer, and will only get worse. The funniest things I’ve seen through all this was one of the SOE forum slaves over there proclaiming “This is the place to come for answers!”

Yeah, good luck with that.

I have some seriously mixed emotions about this. First of all, some people that I know and care about lost their jobs. Some good people stayed. As the site admin for Vanguard Crafters, I can tell you that the crafting team was in a no-win position. They were going to cut the team in half, and there was no easy choice I’m sure as the crafting team was strong, in my opinion. Salim Grant and Justin Deebs ended up staying, and they are both exceptional in what they do. Losing Kurt Wagner and Daniel “Steve” Newman hurts though, as both of those guys had some skills that won’t easily be replaced.

According to my sources at Sigil, some of the people who originally acted as boat anchors to the project remain, and they have less optimism about the ability of Vanguard to recover quickly as they would have had if some of the “disruptive forces” would have been removed at this opportunity. SOE is bound to make some mistakes as they sort out who they should have on the team and who should go.

Overall, I think the businesslike approach that Sony is going to bring, and the needed structure will help get the Sigil team back on track. As I have alluded to before, I don’t think it’s the working people at Sigil that got Vanguard all balled up, but the leadership or lack thereof. SOE’s leadership should help the new smaller team get some things done.

This should be the extent of the drama for now. As the new smaller team gets settled in and the community gets it’s feet back under it, we’ll see what happens next. For now, we’ve lost some friends at Sigil. Here’s to hoping that they find something better soon.

Brad McQuaid Abandoned Vanguard, Sigil

This is the blog post that I hoped I would never write. I recently became aware of some “things” about the internal goings-on at Sigil, but for the sake of the people that I know that work there I’ve kept them to myself. Or should I say “worked” there. According to f13.net, “at approximately 4:30PM today, Sigil employees were told to meet outside. At which point they were terminated. On the spot.” You can see the article at www.f13.net.

I was able to get confirmation on this tonight from a couple of very reliable sources. So the company has now officially been driven into the ground. Here is what most people don’t know, outside of Sigil.

Brad McQuaid has been an absentee manager at Sigil for months. Not only has there been a leadership vacuum at Sigil, with the employees there left twisting in the wind, but I have been able to confirm that Brad hasn’t even bothered to be at the office.

Since last year.

Reliable sources confirmed to me that Brad hasn’t been at the Sigil offices save a couple of brief visits since December of last year. Whether or not he was supposed to be the creative force behind the game as we were lead to believe, he was the leader of Sigil and at a time when the game was under a deadline and his people (many of whom left promising or lucrative positions elsewhere to hitch their wagons to his star) were left to fend for themselves. That’s right. When the shit was hitting the fan, and the game was under crunch, Brad went all Brian Wilson on his people. I’m not sure what the psychology of that was, or whether the producers there didn’t want him around. Whatever the case, he wasn’t able to show the leadership to rally the troops, or even to keep them up out of the dirt. To their credit, the people working at Sigil remained professional even in the face of the lack of professionalism from the top.

As a fansite operator, I can testify that Brad wasn’t around for us either. As a matter of fact, Brad never showed support for the affiliate program. Whether you believe that the Affiliate Program was a good idea or not, the CEO of the company should probably support it. When we challenged Brad on his record of (lack of) support for the program, he let us know that he thought it was better spending his time posting on sites like FOH and MMORPG.COM, to evangelize the program. Evidently that took a lot of time, or it just wasn’t possible to cut into his Hero-Clix schedule.

It would be amusing how fast the denizens of FOH are throwing dirt on Sigil’s grave were it not so tragic for the lives and careers he’s irreparably harmed. Irony at it’s finest.

The bottom line for me is this;

I can’t believe that the CEO of the company can’t make an appearance at his own company for 4 or 5 months if to do nothing more than lend moral support. I have heard that Brad is worthless for anything important, and a lot of people probably found him an irritant. I know that most of my later interaction with Brad wasn’t positive. His fansite presentation at E3 2006 left me cold. Jeff Butler had a ton of energy and told us a lot about his vision for the game, but Brad couldn’t have looked less interested in being there. On one of my visits to Sigil, Brad was overheard telling someone in a customer/community position not to give an answer to a question, and if someone asked why, just to “tell them I’m eccentric.” The best he had to contribute was dismissive. So Mr. Eccentric, how does it feel to have a mud-hole stomped in you by effing Turbine?

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’m pissed that I wasted 2 years on developing a community at my site for a game that is nothing more than a steaming pile of shit. I’m pissed that the good people (and good developers) that I care about at Sigil are now in the street, and Brad still has millions and Jeff Butler a job. I’m also pissed that the game was so badly mismanaged and allowed to get to this point. I’m also pissed that the good people at my site have dedicated so much time to help each other only to see this happen.

I truly hope that all my friends at Sigil will land on their feet. I also sincerely hope that no one ever gives Brad another cent to make a game or to start a company and put other’s livelihoods at risk. It’s evident that Brad lacks the skills, dedication, or maturity to handle that situation.

In the end, this game may someday be good. Tomorrow, when this news is announced a lot of the SOE haters will just jump ship, whether SOE had anything to do with this game failing or not. Fact is, it has (failed.) And fact is, it’s not SOE’s fault. The blame for this one falls squarely at the desk where the buck should stop. The CEO’s office. The empty one in the corner.

Brad McQuaid Thinks you Screwed Up Vanguard

I was cruising through Fire of Heaven’s web site today, and much to my surprise I came across this little gem from Aradune, AKA Brad McQuaid, regarding people’s expectations and how much like EQ1 Vanguard might be…

Like I said, that message resonated with a lot of people in a positive way, but it also did harm in that those people who don’t want another EQ 1 were turned off when they heard about Vanguard but not all of the details behind the game. There were and are also a lot of ‘Vanbois’ who spread the word that this game was not for WoW players and that people who like a more casual game like WoW were not welcome in Vanguard. In that sense, the messaging backfired and many people aren’t even giving the game a chance.

So THAT is the problem with Vanguard. All the negative press and all the dunning that they are getting about the half-baked game they shipped is actually the fault of all the people who have been supporting him over the last few years, the “Vanbois.”

I’m having a hard time deciding if this is Brad kissing FOH’s ass or if it’s just him being an ass. Either way, my opinion of Brad as a person, manager, and steward of this game just went down another notch.

Brad, first of all, if you feel like that, come to the community and post it. And no, FOH is NOT the community. FOH is the retard rickshaw and a place for pricks to stand around and flaunt their e-peens. The community is the people who actually bought your half-finished pile of steaming shit and are trying to play it, and the Affiliate community that is trying to help keep the group focused on the positive, but you don’t have the time of day for. You have officially lost touch with your community.

Yes, I’m pissed. Brad, I think you owe the community an apology. If you wanted to start at vanguard crafters, that would be ok with me. Sense of entitlement? Fuck yeah. I’ve been paying for and operating a fan site for your game for 2 years, and I think we’re entitled to at least as much love as you give those catasses over at FOH.

Sigil and Shipping Early

There’s a lot of howling out in the Blogoshpere about how we are being forced to play a beta of Vanguard. The basic premise of that is nonsense, since this is a game, and no one is making you play it. That aside, there are some reasonably cogent points that are being made that I would like to counterpoint.

The foremost among those is the one that asserts that we are de facto financiers for Sigil, since they have said that basically they would have preferred to ship the game later but lacked that option due to some financial realities. So let’s review a few things;

1. Everyone loves to hate on Sony, and for some good reasons. I’ve opined on these pages that there are much worse options than Sony out there to help you with a game. On the other hand, let’s just say I don’t own any Sony stock, either. That aside all the “$OE” hatebois out there instantly ascribed all sorts of sinister motives from Sony for “forcing” Sigil to ship early. I’m not privy to all the financial inner workings of the Microsoft/Sony/Sigil deal. I do know a couple of things more than most. I’ll get to that in a minute. Suffice to say that I don’t believe Sony pushed this out the door, at least not for selfish reasons.

2. We all want deep, detailed, developed and polished games to play. We don’t seem to want anyone to pay to make them though. Here’s the reality of the situation; It takes 10’s to 100’s of millions of dollars to make a first class MMO. If it’s your first one, even more. I’m not sure if or how much personal money Brad McQuaid has at risk here, but assuming it’s a (relatively) modest amount someone needs to be financing this. As a community, there are a certain number of us who don’t want to pay for anything other than exactly what we want. That leaves it to the Sony’s and the Microsoft’s of the world to capitalize these studios and get them up and running. When these companies try to recover their investments, we often characterize them as “greedy” or “only in it for the money.” I don’t know about you guys. I like my job, but if there isn’t any money in it’ I’m not going in tomorrow.

Problem is, MMO’s always cost more to make and take longer than the investors are told. This may or may not be on purpose. The point is, Microsoft lost it’s corporate patience, and when Sigil said they couldn’t ship July 2006, Microsoft started looking for ways to divest itself. It found that way in early May.

Here’s the deal… Name an MMO with a chance to ship completely developed and with a chance to survive, and one of a handful of very well heeled companies is behind them. Warhammer? EA. Conan? Microsoft. Tabula Rasa? NCSoft. I could go on, but you get the point. And who is the ownership behind Sigil and Vanguard? Sigil is. I believe they found some “Angel” venture financing for the deal (outside of one of these major companies,) allowing them to keep ownership and only having to contract with Sony for the parts that they lacked core competency to handle. It’s a deal that makes sense, and the crux of it is that they are now in the position of needing to generate cash flow. If all that requires is the game shipping early, I think it’s a relatively good price to pay. At least now, they don’t have one of the 800 pound gorillas in the room. Granted, there is one in the next room, but all in all I think it was a good trade.

I AM Brain-Damaged.. SOE is OK?

I must be losing my mind. You all have seen my posts here and you can tell that I am obviously no fan of Sony. I own a lot of their products, true, and have subscribed to some of their services and will again. As most of you know, SOE, the mutant child of Sony will be co-publishing my beloved Vanguard: Saga of Heroes when it ships. Here is the weird part. I’m OK with it.

Here’s why; All of my problems with SOE as a company are related to game design issues. While I have heard the hue and cry of others in the community that decry SOE’s “horrible customer service,” I have never experienced that myself. What I have experienced are wholesale changes in game play, multiple times, to the same game. Since it’s the most glaring example lets look at SWG.

Branyanu and I started SWG pretty much at launch. We’d messed with it a little during beta, and there were a lot of things that we liked. Let me start off by saying that the game was obviously broken at launch. We didn’t start out doing a lot of adventuring but instead took to crafting at the outset. The first time we went adventuring with our friends I could see that something was, to use a Texas phrase, bad wrong with the game. Our friend had a character that was low-level. In a level-based game he would have been the equivalent of a level 9 or so character. He was a Creature Handler (CH) and when we went hunting, he ripped out his 2 or 3 (I don’t remember the details) Rancor pets. These things were as big as my house and bad-ass.. and we tore through content with them. Of course, SOE nerfed the CH. This brought an outcry from the community (“I thought this game was supposed to be solo and casual friendly!” ”How can I survive without all my uber-pets?”) I thought the complaining was ridiculous since it was the most obviously broken class I had ever seen in any game. So good job, SOE, right? Well not so fast.

SOE followed up the needed nerfage with unneeded meddling with the game. Maybe the game was underachieving and they felt that they needed to do something. I would have suggested adding content and new ways to interact with the existing world. I would have suggested fixing bugs. I would have suggested more aggressive marketing. SOE gave us the combat “upgrade” (CU.)

After the CU, I logged in one day to find my beloved Wookie being owned by a very low level bug in the grass. I tried to shoot him, but my weapon was not equipped. When I tried to equip my pistol, which by the way was customized and had my name on it thanks to my favorite weapon smith, I was unceremoniously informed that I lacked the skill to wield that weapon. Turns out everything I knew, combat-wise, was in the toilet. OK, I always have my crafting to fall back on. Now for a long time I was a Master Architect. I made harvesters which required a massive amount of resources to build. These were used, in turn, to gather more resources. I spent tons of time and I forget how many credits getting them all built. At the time I made them, there was no way that you could influence the quality of the harvesters so I made them with whatever resources were available. SOE changed the rules and made quality of construction count on harvesters, rendering mine inferior and basically forcing me to start that part of my career over if I wanted to stay competitive. This was a design decision that could have been foreseen and should have been made, in my opinion, pre-launch. Worse, in my opinion, they made it so you could grind your way to Jedi status. This broke the game further by breaking it into 2 classes; Jedi and non-Jedi. The differences were glaring and if you didn’t want to do the “Jedi grind,” as it came to be known, you were further devalued in the game. Regardless, I took advantage of my opportunity to respect my character and made a non-crafting Wookie out of him. Then came the New Game Experience (NGE.)

The NGE was purported to make the game more attractive to new players. Evidently, the game had continued to under-perform, in spite of SOE’s “adjustments.” This made more changes necessary. This time, all the classes in SWG were reduced to a few, and all of the “support” classes were eliminated. This disenfranchised thousands of crafters and dancers and other classes that had enjoyed the game at a different level. Tens of thousands reportedly left the game.

At any rate, I’ve begun to ramble but the point is that SOE as a game design company has demonstrated that they don’t “get” MMO gamers. We pour tons of hours and care into our characters and that has value to us. To rip those from us in the name of gaining new subscribers only alienates us, the people that HAVE been paying to play. New players often come and go, and are more transitory in nature. Now SOE has eroded their core base and subjected themselves to the whims of a much more transitory “twitch” gamer, who notoriously moves from game to game just looking for something new and hot. I guess they forgot about how MMO gamers stick with games for years at a chunk instead of weeks.

So how does this relate to my being OK with SOE hosting the Vanguard servers? Well, Brad has always been very honest with us, and he looked me in the eye and told me “never” when I asked him when SOE might have control over game play. That is good enough for me. Brad has occasionally stubbornly stuck to his guns when he needed to make a concession, but he has never lied or intentionally misdirected the community that I have ever seen.

So as much as it will pain me to see that SOE logo on the Vanguard box, you can bet that I will be there when the doors open at Fry’s and I’ll be among the first to be on Vanguard Live. Sometimes the devil is entertaining when you put him in a little box, anyway. If nothing else, this should make for some interesting observation over the next few years.

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