Carolyn Koh, our intrepid reporter on the ground in Las Vegas, met with the big cheese Brad McQuaid and Paul "GM Vladimir" Luna from Sigil to discuss the upcoming Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. This article takes a look at what's coming through conversations with the two men.
Interview with Brad "Aradune" McQuaid and Paul "GM Vladimir" Luna
Artilce by Carolyn "Sylvene" Koh
I met for the first time on Tuesday in Las Vegas, the famous Aradune Mithara of EverQuest, otherwise known as Brad McQuaid, current CEO, Founder, visionary and self described chief cook and bottle washer of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. With him was Production Assistant Paul Luna, otherwise known as GM Vladimir.
What did we wish to talk about? Given that the launch of Vanguard is February, we could have spent an entire day or two just going over the features and exploring the game - if we could log in - we were having troubles, but given that the game was already in open beta and the NDA had lifted, I wanted to talk about more than just what's out there and focused on the unique features of Vanguard.
Player built housing and the ability to eventually build guild houses was one such unique feature. Areas in which to build these houses and architectural style was carefully planned to prevent over-crowding and odd juxtapositions of mouse-sized houses beside elephantine structures.
Mounts are obtainable at a low level and players can build ships to sail the oceans.
"Not since the days of Ultima Online [have] players [been] able to command a ship and sail where they choose," I was told.
Many a time, players go through certain steps to complete a quest only to have it ruined when a specially spawned NPC attacks a hapless player who happened to be in its path or an opportunist ganks the mob. In Vanguard, the entire series of encounters or route of a quest will be locked to the player or group that is working on it.
"Other players will be able to see the mob, but won't be able to select it to hail, attack or otherwise interact with it," said Brad.
Another unique aspect of Vanguard is the Caravan system. Players joining a caravan may log out at anytime, and when they log back in, have the choice of logging in where they last camped out, or where the caravan leader last camped out. It is basically a form of offline travel.
Vanguard is essentially a game of choices. It is designed as a social game much like EverQuest was and provides incentives to players to do things together, but also allows a player to solo if they choose to. Some adventure and quest content will require a group or groups of players to defeat, likewise players working together to gather resources, for example, open up opportunities with the combination of their skills to obtain better raw materials that they as a solo harvester may not be able to do.
The death mechanic also provides a player with choices.
"There's a misconception out there that Vanguard is a hardcore game, but you make it as hardcore as you want. Vanguard isn't about walking uphill in the snow, both ways. We recognize that we will have Casual, Core and Raid players," Paul took the death mechanic as an example; there are three ways to deal with it. One can choose to pay a little money, wait a little while or fight your way back.
Hold on here... "Define what you see as your Core players," I demanded.
Brad informed me that 50 to 60% of Vanguard content is geared toward the Core player. That Core player, he opined, made up 80% of any MMOGs. Those are the players that would play 2 - 3 hours a day, 3 or 4 days a week. Perhaps they would play longer sessions on weekends and would plan a day to dedicate a larger chunk of time for a raid. To that end, zones and dungeons were designed to have safe areas for players to rest and camp out in.
There are three different aspects of gameplay that players can access: adventure, crafting and diplomacy. Although players can choose to focus on crafting and diplomacy, the core game is still adventure and leveling, as some resources are only found in dangerous, high level areas.
As to choices. Can players decide to learn every tradeskill there is? No, you can't be a Jack of all trades, but you can choose to learn another tradeskill at the cost of the old. It's harsh, but not unusual.
Housing was mentioned again for choice. Players will eventually outlevel their city and can choose to sell their house and house plot and then move to a higher level area. They can also choose to build in safe areas or dangerous areas to indulge in a little more challenge.
"We wanted to recreate the experience for the old school DAoC and EQ player. The player who wants to be challenged, but we also did away with the tedium," said Brad.
"Also the WoW players who wants more immersion and challenge. Those are the players that Vanguard will appeal to," Paul added.
As Brad stepped away to call someone to figure out why we could not log into the game, I took the opportunity to grill Paul a little, asking him about Brad's vision for Vanguard. What's important? "The community," was the firm answer.
"We've learned to listen to the community."
He reminded me that Vanguard was six years in the making and described any number of anecdotes of Brad listening to and responding to the community.
We spoke of the ability of a player community to strengthen or weaken games and Brad agreed on the importance of vertical integration. In Vanguard, trading, tradeskills and diplomacy are city based, as are safe housing areas to encourage players of all levels to return to cities.
To wrap up the visit, I asked, "What's the hook?" Paul deferred that question to Brad, who thought for a moment before telling me.
"Freedom of choice. The freedom to do what you want, go where you want. The freedom to play the game the way you want."