The Grouchy Gamer

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

Tag: Vanguard (page 1 of 2)

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.

Vanguard Crafters is Closed

Since March of 2005, Vanguard Crafters has been operated by me or by other volunteers to serve the community and the developers in Vanguard and the associated crafting community.  I have not been actively involved in it’s operation for quite some time.  The amount of link spam and the attacks on the wiki recently,  paired with the decline in the size of the Vanguard community have led me to the difficult decision to shut it down.

If we are all honest with each other, the site is a shell of it’s former self, and the amount of effort by unpaid volunteers to keep it up has become unconscionable to ask for.

I want to apologize to those of you who still used the site.  I know there are a loyal few.  Please understand that the whole episode is very heartbreaking for those of us in the community that had hoped that Vanguard would succeed.

I’ve temporarily redirected the site’s traffic here for an explanation.  I’ll be taking this down and shuttering the site permanently in the coming weeks.

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed over there over the last 5 years.  I’m really sorry I let you all down in the end, but it was very much fun while it lasted.  Best of luck to all of you and many happy loot drops!

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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A Vanguard Retrospective, Part Three

This is the third and final installment in this series.

After E3, Sigil actually started to market Vanguard.  There had been a cover story on Computer Gaming World, but now there were trickles at other web sites.  Also in 2006, the beta began to grow.  At least Sigil tried to grow the beta.  I was in beta starting with stage 1.5 (which was right after friends and family) and there were a couple more stages after that.  One startling thing was this:  Sigil put the number of active players on the front page of the sign-in.  Even after thousands of people had been invited to the beta it was very rare to see more than a hundred people signed in.  This is when I started to get worried.

Before too long the beta leaks started.  I saw them at several different sources.  All of them had one thing in common.  Beta leak stories were not positive.  I’ve been around long enough to know that those types of leaks are not going to come from your happy customers.  One thing about the leaks made them hard to ignore.  They were right.  At this time we (the beta community and the public) didn’t have much of an idea about what was going on behind the scenes.  I was starting to get the message, though.  I decided not to fund the database development for VC, because it looked like I would be throwing good money after bad.  Why did I make that decision?

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A Vanguard Retrospective, Part Two

In Part One, we left off with beta under way and some signs of trouble.

As beta wore on, it was obvious that there were issues with how the game was developing.  Months into the beta, only the continent of Thestra was on line.  None of us had seen Kojan or Qalia, or tested any of their content or systems.  Wholesale changes were being made, and behind the scenes, the designers were getting antsy.

I got to know the crafting design team pretty well during this time, as well as the community team.  I can tell you this;  my impression of them was always that they were a confident, competent, and likable group.  They were always pushing forward and evaluating and trying to make the game better.  They were not afraid to throw out what they had done if it didn’t work and replace it with something that did.

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A Vanguard Retrospective, Part One

Sigil Games OnlineOne year ago today, Operations Manager Andy Platter asked everyone to come out to the Sigil parking lot and fired basically everyone who worked for Sigil Games Online.  Sigil, who was to be the savior of the TRUE MMO fan, would be laid to waste.  The next day, about half of those people would be hired by SOE to work on their newly-acquired property.  Brad McQuaid would be put out to pasture, presumably at a nice stipend, to not mess with any of their games.  I’m going to attempt to chronicle some of the events leading up to and following that day, and see where Vanguard is now.  This is mostly going to be written from the perspective of a community manager/fansite operator, because that is what my involvement was.  This is going to be a little long, even broken into three parts, so be forewarned.

January, 2002 – Brad McQuaid leaves SOE and his position as Chief Creative Officer to found Sigil Games Online.  According to McQuaid at the time, he left SOE because of his lack of day-to-day influence over what was happening there. According to other accounts , McQuaid had already well-overstayed his welcome at SOE.  In the article linked above, it’s already a foreshadowing of what are reported to be issues that came to the forefront at Sigil.

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Vanguard Impressions From the Free Activation Period

So as promised, I gave Vanguard a little more thorough going-over this past weekend. I wanted to see how it performed and what the state of the game was. I had an idea what to expect, but I wanted to keep an open mind about the overall game and see where it stood. My observations follow.

First of all, I now know how much machine it takes to run Vanguard at full resolution and highest quality video settings. I have just built a new gaming rig with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 processor (2.66 Ghz), 2 GB of ram, an ASUS gaming mobo, BFG 8800 GT overclocked graphics card, and a 22″ LG wide-screen monitor. With that gear, I was able to run Vanguard at it’s highest settings. It wasn’t without complaint from the machine. I don’t know if more memory would have helped, but each new area I entered caused a high level of hard disk activity, along with the attendant hitching. Once the are and it’s inhabitants were loaded, it ran pretty much like a champ.

The world does look great. The art direction for the world (as opposed to the character design) is wonderful. There are items that still look a little “plastic” for my taste, but overall the feeling of the environment is very good. The characters still look stilted and the running animations are pretty average, at best. There is nothing to distinguish the races one from another, something World of Warcraft did pretty well.

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Vanguard Trial Not Enough to Rekindle Desire to Play

I’m letting my resub to Vanguard Lapse.

Most of you know that I’ve been involved with Vanguard in some way for almost 5 years.  I still own a fansite for the game, and I have spent a lot of time getting to know some of the guys who work(ed) there at SigilSOE.  I WANT Vanguard to be successful and to thrive.

A couple of weeks ago I took advantage of the free reactivation of my account by SOE to try the game out again.  I hadn’t played since late last April.  I was anxious to see if all of the reported improvement in the game made it any more fun or playable.

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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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OMG, I Resubscribed to Vanguard?

Well, technically I suppose I did resubscribe. But technically I didn’t. Huh? you say?

SOE is running a free holiday for Vanguard and has reopened all accounts which had been closed for at least 60 days. That would include me. So I’m going to give it a little run.

My first impression is that it looks a lot like I remember it. While it runs better than it used to, it still doesn’t run great. I haven’t seen another player yet. The quest system/NPC communication still seems stilted by today’s standards. I’m not blown away, but I’m still going to give it a look.

Stay Tuned.

Vanguard at a Possible Tipping Point

This week, SOE released the third update to Vanguard since it’s shaky initial release early this year. In Game Update 3, Vanguard finally gets both raid content (Ancient Port Warehouse,) and it’s raiding tools. During the last 10+ months, a lot of players that have stuck with Vanguard have been anticipating this time, and a lot of players are on the sideline waiting to make a decision on whether to jump (back) into the game or not.

This really looks like a tipping point for Vanguard on two fronts.

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Vanguard Producer Waffles on Fundamental Changes

Last week, I wrote about the proposed changes to Vanguard that were gleaned from the Producer’s Letter published on the Vanguard Official Forums. I was concerned that they were getting ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. Apparently I was not alone. As of this writing, there are 57 pages of comments and responses to that original post of the letter. Many of them are saying the same thing; “Please don’t make this game trivial.”

I’m sure they have great intentions. As my grandmother used to tell me as a child when I messed things up but had good intentions; “The road to hell is paved with ‘good intentions’.” I’m not sure that they have the proper context to make the design decisions for this game vis-a-vis the user base. Now, Salim Grant is still there from the original team and I trust him implicitly. I think he knows how to design a game. My concern is that Thom Terrazas doesn’t have any history with the game, and he never read many of the 1.9 million or so posts over at the original Official Vanguard Forums. That’s all fine, but if you are going to make fundamental changes to your game I believe that you had darn well better know exactly how to take the user base’s temperature.

I don’t think that has happened. I haven’t seen any user surveys or heard of any that have been performed by SOE to gauge the community’s opinion on the proposed changes. That is why I opined that this was similar to the arrogance displayed when the NGE was rolled out for SWG.

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