Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is a fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created by Sigil Games Online, and now developed and run by Sony Online Entertainment. Originally, the game was co-published by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), and the company producing it, Sigil Games Online. The game was released on January 30, 2007, with an early access date of January 26, 2007 for pre-order customers. On May 15, 2007, it was announced in a press release that Sony Online Entertainment had completed a transaction to purchase key assets of Sigil Games Online, including all rights to Vanguard.
The game initially sold around 250,000 copies, while the number of active subscriptions (those who play longer than the free month included when buying the game) was estimated to be around 130,000, to drop in the next months to about 40,000. Current subscriptions are estimated to be around 60,000.
Following the aquisation by SOE, the developers began focusing on bug fixes and performance and gameplay improvements. In July 2008, the developers announced they wanted to attract old and new players as the game had reached a much more presentable state. On September 10, 2008, Game Update 6 finally introduced the long awaited trial island, the Isle of Dawn, which also quickly became the standard starting area for new regular characters. On October 8, 2008, the trial program was launched, allowing non-subscribers to try out Vanguard for free for 14 days, for the first time.
The game is packaged on PC DVDs, and though the retail price varies, it can be typically seen for $10–20 at retail stores. As of June 2008, there are eBay sellers selling the collector's edition for $10 or less, plus the cost of shipping. This pricing may not last long due to rising interest in the game, as subscriptions increase and lapsed players return to the game. Vanguard is also available for purchase through download from SOE or from third-party web hosts.
There were two different versions of the game released. A standard version, and a more expensive, feature-rich collector's edition. The special collector's edition contained a Guild Kit, art book, cloth map, soundtrack CD and 3-month Station Player subscription, plus a special Hero Card and in-game player item. The collector's edition also contained ten buddy keys, or free trials, which could be given to friends, allowing them to test the game out for 10 days. If they decide that they wish to continue playing, they will not lose their character, and can opt to purchase the game and continue their account.
Like many large-scale MMORPGs, Vanguard has a monthly fee to pay for bandwidth, server maintenance, and new content. A one month subscription costs US $14.99 as of November 2008. Users can pay an optional premium for access to additional web-based features. Vanguard is also part of the Sony Online Entertainment Station Access package, for which users can pay a single $29.99 monthly fee for access to several SOE online games.
As with any MMORPG, Characters in Vanguard are a player's avatar in the game environment. Twelve characters can be created on a regular account (increased from 8 in GU6). At creation, the name, gender, race and Aadventuring class of the character are chosen and will not be changeable later. The character's appearance is also chosen, but can be modified by the player at any time thereafter, from the character selection screen. After his or her creation, the character can start play either in the starting area of his or her chosen race or in the trial zone called the Isle of Dawn. The character can pick a crafter class and two harvester skills within the game, but is not forced to do so.
There are 19 races, listed in the geography section below. Races differ in appearance, special abilities, diplomatic affinity, and adventuring class selection. To help distinguish the races (aside from looks), every race has also one special active ability that unlocks at a certain level (between level 1 and 12, depending upon race).
The Three (Four) SpheresEdit
Vanguard offers three primary arenas of play: Adventuring, Crafting and Diplomacy. The maximum level in each of the three spheres is 50. These spheres are mostly independent of each other, even if that independence is now less than in the very beginning. There is also a fourth, very limited sphere, Harvesting, which knows no level, and has no quests, except for the initial one. There are no restrictions on the spheres other than adventuring due to race or adventuring class.
Each of these four spheres has its own equipment tab on the character window, which allows the player to equip the gear set appropriate to the activities they wish to perform without carrying around different sets of gear in their bags. Once a character performs an action in a sphere, he automatically switches to the corresponding equipment set, and his visual display changes likewise.
The Adventuring sphere features the traditional set of MMORPG activities: completing quests, exploring dungeons and killing mobs. Quest rewards are usually more significant than killing mobs or grinding. Advancement is achieved through obtaining adventuring experience points. Solo and casual advancement is possible, but the quickest progress and best rewards come from group content.
In general, the majority of the classes in Vanguard are hybrid classes (as compared to the initial classes made famous by Dungeons & Dragons). Most classes have some healing ability, magical spell casting abilities or the ability to "buff" themselves and other group members with enhancing spells. One result of this is that successful dungeon exploration groups can be formed out of many different combinations of classes.
The hybrid nature of many classes makes them more complex than classes in some other MMORPGs, with an abundance of abilities to learn. To the casual gamer this complexity can be challenging, at least compared to the most popular MMORPG World of Warcraft.
In combat the different classes have abilities that depend on other classes to achieve maximum results. Every class can use abilities that cause one or more brief vulnerabilities to be applied to the target. Other class-specific attacks or spells take advantage of specific vulnerabilities and inflict extra damage. Although this system is both fully implemented and highly effective, most world content is not challenging enough to require that it be used, and some players disregard it. While the game certainly does not require that attention be paid to it, some dungeon and much raid content is difficult enough to make it desirable to utilize.
Characters have attributes and skills which can be increased with leveling. All classes have reserves or 'pools' of health, endurance and energy which they rely on to survive (save monks and rogues who do not have an energy pool). Health and energy increase with levels and attribute increases, but base endurance is locked at 100 points throughout the game.
The game provides for class customization to some extent. Starting at level 10, characters are rewarded with points which can be spent to increase their attributes. Some classes are given specialist paths at certain levels (usually 15 or 30), which influence the way they play the game by offering them new abilities and encouraging them to alter their equipment and attributes to take advantage of these. There are also 'learned abilities' to be acquired by studying certain mobs, and some from dropped items looted from high-level mobs.
There are currently 15 adventuring classes to choose from:
- Protective Fighters (tank, wears heavy armor)
- Offensive Fighter (melee damage dealer, wears medium armor)
- Ranger (dual weapons, bows, stealth, some druidic magic)
- Rogue (dual weapons, some abilities based on use of daggers, stealth, poison)
- Monk (a class designed around the build-up and expenditure of "jin" points in battle, feign death, 3 subclasses)
- Bard (group buffer, crowd control, general utilities such as great speed of travel, invisibility, and levitation)
- Defensive Spellcaster (healer, has ability to summon others from a limited distance)
- Cleric (healing over time, wears heavy armor, some tanking ability, 5 subclasses)
- Shaman (healer and damage dealer with damage-over-time spells (dots), wears medium armor, some fast heals, 3 subclasses)
- Disciple (monk healer, able to use endurance to heal instead of energy, wears medium armor, feign death)
- Blood Mage (healing and crowd control, able to drain own health in exchange for magical energy, wears light armor)
- Offensive Spellcaster (magic damage dealer, wears light armor, has escape teleport)
- Sorcerer (by design they are supposed to inflict the most damage per second, invisibility)
- Druid (snares, runspeed, damage-over-time spells, limited healing abilities)
- Psionicist (mind and crowd control, illusions, damage-over-time spells)
- Necromancer - (pet, damage-over-time spells, feign death, 2 subclasses)
Two rumored classes are as yet not present in the game: the Inquisitor (protective fighter with crowd control abilities) and Berserker (offensive fighter that does higher damage the lower his HP gets.) However, in a recent post on the Vanguard Official Forums, Silius, the lead game designer of Vanguard, has stated that, "There are no plans to do inquisitor or berserker anytime soon if ever. We have much more important things to resolve and polish before we can start thinking about anything in regards to new classes or races, one of those being our current classes."
Vanguard's class system is designed for group content. All of the classes can perform one of the three major MMORPG roles: tank, healer, or damage dealer. All tanks and healers are supposed to perform their job about as well as their peers, although in specific situations one class will be better than another. DPS classes vary in their roles: for example the Bard, while it belongs to the offensive fighter group, is more of a support class and crowd control specialist than a pure damage dealer.
Solo play is possible, but, as in many MMORPGs, the classes differ in their solo performance because of the unequal distribution of crucial abilities. Typical soloing strategies, such as self healing, kiting and fear kiting, are only available to some classes, likewise controlling fights with crowd control, avoiding fights with stealth or invisibility, and terminating lost fights with fake death or emergency evacuation teleports is not possible for all classes. Some classes, such as the Necromancer, have more soloing options, while others, like the Warrior, are more narrowly focused.
The second 'sphere' of Vanguard is Crafting, and involves creating in-game items using recipes and raw materials. Crafting recipes are a set of actions that must be performed in a particular order to produce a final result. Each of these actions costs 'action points,' taken from an action pool. The maximum number of action points available varies with each recipe. During the crafting process, "complications" may arise which affect the crafting process, usually but not always negatively. The crafter can attempt to correct complications or resume crafting and deal with the consequences or benefits of ignoring the complications.
A character's Crafting level is independent of his or her Adventuring level. It is possible to advance Crafting without engaging in adventuring or combat, and without funneling harvested raw materials from experienced Adventuring characters to the crafter. Crafting experience comes primarily from work orders and crafting quests. Work Orders are commissioned by NPCs who provide raw materials. The crafter then produces the requested items, receiving Crafting experience, money, and possibly items or recipes in return. Crafting proficiency is not represented simply through skill advancement, but uses an experience/level system much like adventuring. Each work order or quest gives an amount of experience. When a player earns enough experience, they gain an additional Crafting level. Every ten levels crafters can start working with a new tier of resources to create more powerful items after they complete a training quest.
Vanguard Crafting currently has three styles of items that can be made, each local to one continent. The styles offer different types of bonuses on created items, have different appearance when worn, and each has unique items not available in the other styles. A Kojani style sword looks different from a Thestran or Qalian style sword, and may have different bonuses. To learn the different styles of recipes crafters will have to complete quests on each continent and earn faction with the local artisans of each. For some items such as player-owned boats, housing and guild halls, significant faction is required for that continent's artisans to be able to create those items. Thus crafters are able to create only certain types of housing or ships. The most dedicated crafters are able to craft styles of items from all three continents.
There are three crafting classes and each of these has two specializations. The player can choose a specialization when they reach level 11 in the "parent" crafter class. It is possible to switch specializations, but doing so will permanently remove all recipes of that specialization, including any rare and difficult to obtain recipes. Repeatedly switching between specializations is not recommended, but the opportunity to change is available. While changing specialization is possible without too severe a penalty, changing the parent class carries a substantial penalty, resulting in being reset to level 1 with no skills, basically wiping out all the work done in the original class. Since crafting can be done independently of the other spheres, it's generally better to start a new character if you wish to change classes instead of wiping the old skill with an existing character. The crafting classes are Outfitter (Tailor or Leatherworker), Artificer (Carpenter or Mineralogist), and Blacksmith (Armorsmith or Weaponsmith)
While each specialization has various types of items that they can create, as well as sharing some items with their corresponding classmate, in general Tailors craft Light Armor and backpacks; Leatherworkers craft Medium Armor and Saddlebags; Carpenters craft ships, housing parts, focuses, and wood weapons; Mineralogists craft stone weapons, jewelry, focuses, and housing materials; Armorsmiths craft Heavy Armor and Horseshoes; and Weaponsmiths craft Metal weapons and Horseshoes. Each class also can craft various expendable items which provide buffs and utility effects, ship and housing parts, and other items. At the very high levels some crafters can obtain special recipes to assist adventurers in creating materials used to upgrade their quest armor.
Diplomacy is a concept unique to, or at least first introduced by, Vanguard. It is at heart a card game inspired by collectable card games. Diplomats can enable certain city wide "civic" buffs and gain certain special items needed for endgame content such as Guild Houses, the Griffon Mount, and other important endgame quests.
A diplomatic encounter, called a parley, consists of two opponents and their currently selected cards, the deck. Both start with a certain amount of dialogue points, where the initial number depends upon the difficulty and the diplomatic level of the opponents. The two opponents move in turn, by either playing a card, or listening. The goal of the game is to move the parley marker into the own area, and keep it there. This decreases the own dialogue points every time one of the opponents does a move. The game is won when the own dialogue points reach zero. Cards have various properties, such as moving the parley marker by a certain amount, having a cost in expression points, giving, or taking expression points from the player or its opponent, and a time restriction before the card can be played again. Additional text is displayed during a parley in a separate window, but plays no relevance in the game itself.
Aside from some special procs such as initially moving the marker or letting the player start with some initial expression, diplomatic clothing has very little effect on the encounter itself, though it has a huge impact on the ability to start parleys and to decide the strengths of the effects of a successful parley. Both gear and cards can be gained from diplomatic quests, parleys and parley rewards, but some can be crafted and there are also some adventuring drops, especially for many of the cards. Infamous is for example the smelly cat in Ahgram, Qalia, which is level 40 and attacks everyone carrying a fish in the inventory and drops diplomatic gear upon death; this mob has killed countless newbies who didn't knew about the danger of having a fish in the inventory while being in Ahgram.
The Diplomacy Sphere was an ambitious attempt to create something entirely new in the gaming world but its actual implementation has fallen short of the designers stated goals. Many other purposes for diplomacy where planned, but never implemented, such as an important role for player build cities. As of this time, there is no PvP (Player versus player) element to Diplomacy, but it has been stated that the system was designed with the goal of players being able to 'duel' diplomatically in mind.
Harvesting forms a fourth, simple sphere. Characters have a general harvest skill, which controls how well one can help others with their harvest, and can choose two out of five harvest types they want to specialize in, out of the pool of Mining Metal Ore, Quarrying Stone Slabs and Gemstone Samples, Lumberjacking Wood Timbers, Skinning Leather Hides, and Reaping Cloth Bales. Rechoosing these skills is possible, but all previous progress is then lost.
Harvest resources are placed on predefined locations in the game world. There are six tiers of harvest, each with an increased required skill level for harvesting it. Higher tiers of harvest have a chance for rare or even ultra rare harvest, which is needed for upgrading crafted items to higher qualities.
Player vs PlayerEdit
PvP is possible on the dedicated Sartok PvP server, or on PvE servers using the /duel command (you do not gain any reward for winning a duel), but the adventuring classes have not been designed with this in mind, and this aspect of gameplay is not currently a priority for the developers. vanguard classes are not balanced with PvP in mind, and some classes are more capable in this regard than others. For example, the maximum damage of a single attack is restricted to 40% of maximum hitpoints of the victim, but certain classes can combine multiple instant attacks, resulting in the possibility to one-shot kill other classes with no chance for the victim to fight back.
The Game World: TelonEdit
Vanguard is set in a high fantasy world called Telon, unusual among MMO worlds in that it is almost entirely persistent, with no instancing or load screens. Telon does not have "zones" in the manner of most fantasy MMOs, but there are discrete areas, sometimes called "chunks" which delineate content to some extent and serve to provide general geographical reference points. The world contains 19 playable races, many of which are drawn from or inspired by traditional high fantasy sources such as the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and the tabletop fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons.
There are three "continents" on the world of Telon. Each is reachable by direct, contiguous travel from the other continents, via air or sea, or by NPC boat (with a load screen,) from the major ports of call.
Thestra – Thestra is a land resembling northern and eastern Europe, with mountains, wetlands, forests and misty, haunted coastlines. Thestra is home to the major cities of New Targonor, the human capital, Bordinar's Cleft, the mountain home of the Dwarves, and Leth Nurae, elegant home of the High Elves. The famous Ancient Port Warehouse raid area is located at the southwest end of Thestra, and the continent is home to several major dunegons, including the Fallen Lyceum, the Ruins of Vol Tuniel and Trengal Keep. Races native to Thestra include the medieval-styled Thestran Humans, High Elves, Dwarves, Lesser Giants, Halflings, Vulmane (wolflike humanoids) and Varanjar (Scandiavian-styled human barbarians).
Kojan – Kojan is an archiapelago with an Asiatic flavor, comprised of many small islands, some of which are utterly barren, while others are home to communities of inscrutable wizards and unusual races. Kojan only supports play up to roughly level 25. Races native to Kojan include the Kojani (Asian-styled humans), Half-Elves and Wood Elves (both of which also have an Asian flavor,) Raki (very short, fox-like humanoids), Goblins, and Orcs. Kojan hosts a number of dungeons including Lord Tsang's Tomb, Magi Hold and the Temple of Ghalnn, and is home to two major cities: Tawar Galan and Martok, island capital of the Orcs and Goblins.
Qalia - This southern continent (pronounced KAY-lee-uh) has an atmosphere reminiscent of the Middle East and North Africa, with great deserts and rugged mountains. Races native to Qalia include the Qaliathari (vaguely Arabian, desert-dwelling humans,) Mordebi (dark-skinned, African-styled humans,) Dark Elves, Gnomes, Kurashasa (tiger- or panther-like humanoids), and Varanthari (Turkic/Mongolian style human barbarians.) It is home to the major cities of Khal and Aghram and several significant dungeons and outdoor adventure areas, including the Coterie Infineum Sanctuary, Skawlra Rock, the Grotto of the Sea Hags and the Pantheon of the Ancients.
There are two other noteworthy separate areas:
- The Isle of Dawn - a trial and starting character area, separated from the other continents, contains only a single chunk (you cannot leave it except via the teleporter at the end of the main questline, or not at all if you are only on a trial account) but there are many hints that it is supposed to be part of Kojan (for example, crafting workorders and quests give Kojan faction, and the architectural sty;les of the island are Kojani.) The Isle of Dawn is a very popular area for starting new characters from normal accounts, since the area offers excellent quests and low-level equipment.
- Lothenland - An icy continent initially conceived, but not in the game at release. It is unknown whether the development team plans to develop and release this area in the future.
There are various ways to travel through Telon, besides simple walking on land. Each of these serve different purposes.
The most common mounts are horses, present in the game from launch and purchasbale in certain settlements. The lowest-level, slowest mounts can be purchased at level 10, with faster versions unlocked and buyable at levels 20, 30 and 40. Characters can also buy camels, or complete quest chains to acquire various alternative mounts such as diplomatic horses, arena camels, or the Shadowhound and Unicorn special mounts. More recently, racial mounts have been introduced, in 19 variants, one for each race, and upgradeable to the best available nonflying mounts in the game. These are gained by achieving a certain amount of factional reputation with a racial city's faction; a character can acquire the faction mount for any race given effort. Flying mounts, the Griffin and Wyvern, are to be gained through city faction, a mechanism that has since been used for other unique equipment as well.
Player-crafted ships are currently available in Tier 3 (the Sloop) or Tier 4 (the Caravel). Tier 5 ships (Galleons) have been designed but have not yet been released as of November 2008. Sloops are available in three variants, one for each continent, and each continent allows three different colors. Caravels allow one additional color per continent (such as dark gray for Thestran vessels, which is not available for Thestran sloops) and additionally also offer several options per continent for the figurehead (such as Caia/Lady or Mara/Skeleton for Thestran, the continent with the least options.) There are also NPC ships placed in the world, some of which move around and can be used to travel to other continents.
A Riftway system, added post-launch, aids travel within the world between certain predefined locations. Many of the important quest areas have a Riftway, and there are four special riftways, called hubs, next to major cities, which are free to teleport to. Teleporting to the other rifway locations requires a fee (in game currency,) getting more expensive the higher the level of the riftway location. Travel to high-level areas via the Riftway system is level restricted.
Flying mounts can be obtained in Vanguard and the sight of them is not uncommon in Telon. Some quest areas disallow them; a character who attempts to fly over one of these areas will be dismounted and float to the ground under a parachute buff.
Vendors near the Riftway stones (except the free hubs) sell temporary flying mounts. The price varies according to the level of the riftstone. On Thresta Griffons are sold, Qalia offers Wyverns, and Kojan offers Pegasi. All temporary mounts last for 5 minutes, after the expiration os which the player gets a 10 minute parachute buff to avoid falling to their death.
There are also permanent flying mounts, which come in three variants, all of which are quite hard to obtain. The slowest variant is the Pegasus, which can be gained the via city faction in same way as the racial mounts, though it is harder to unlock than even the best of those. Permanent Pegasi are slower than temporary flying mounts.
The middle variant is the Wyvern, which requires the completion of a questline that includes killing the last and hardest mob of the raid dungeon Ancient Port Warehouse (APW) as well as one of the overland raid mobs, which is non-instanced and on a respawn timer.
The last and fastest variant is the Griffon, which requires the longest questline to obtain, and one of the most challenging in the game. The initially unlocked Griffon, the Young Gryffon, is as fast as the temporary mounts, while the upgrade, the Venerable Griffin, is the fastest of all mounts.
Vanguard players can build one house per account, which is shared between all characters on that account. Houses provide the player with additional inventory space and a place to comfortably exchange items between different characters, who can reach the house easily with a special teleport spell. The player can also give other players' characters access privileges, like permission to open doors in his house, or to place items into a chest.
The first step in building a house is to purchase one of the predefined, persistent house plots (housing, like virtually everything in Vanguard, is non-instanced,) located in various areas all over Telon. After purchase, the cost of which varies between housing areas (2.5, 10 or 30 gold), plots also requires a weekly upkeep (25, 60 or 90 silver). Building a Guild Hall requires purchasing a special guild hall plot which is much more expensive in both initial purchase (20, 30 or 40 plat) and weekly upkeep (20, 27 or 32 gold).
After owning the plot in question, the player chooses the house type he or she wants to build. Each continent has an list of four choices, between Tier 3 to Tier 5, which each require different crafted materials and have a different appearance than houses of other continental styles. Some materials can be purchased from housing merchant NPCs located in the housing areas, but most of them have to be crafted from harvested items. Guild halls come in two variants, and the required materials as well as the necessary crafting are much more extensive, requiring items from the highest level crafters and harvesters; additionally, the help of a high-level diplomat is required for guild housing.
Houses offer two types of inventories. First of all one can simply place items into them, called "fixtures". Any item can be placed into a house, even if many items show up as a simple default cup-like graphic, therefore one cannot graphically distinguish between them. Second, every house type allows a certain number of chests, 2 to 5 for normal houses, and 8 or 12 for guild halls.
Dungeons and RaidsEdit
Telon contains a large number of dungeons with a broad range of size and theme, found in many types of locations; some are very large, and many are above-ground structures or even outdoor adventure areas rather than traditional subterranean catacombs as such. Although most of the dungeon content is aimed at the 'full-group' encounter (six players) there are numerous areas, particularly at the lower levels, designed for solo play and small groups (2-3 players.) All dungeons are open "public" dungeons; there is no instancing anywhere in Telon.
Vanguard added a major raid dungeon, the Ancient Port Warehouse (APW,) in late 2007. It uses a sharding system similar in some ways to traditional instancing to reduce overcrowding during the period following its release on the live servers. This implementation allows up to ten separate raid groups to operate in a single shard (copy) of the dungeon, with extra shards spawning as needed to accommodate more groups. It is not yet known whether this type of sharding (used also in EverQuest II) is to be used permanently in APW or in future raid content released by the development team.
In addition to the Ancient Port Warehouse, Vanguard features several overland raid enounters. Another raid dungeon, a raid version of the Pantheon of the Ancients, is scheduled for release in late 2008 or early 2009. The Pantheon exists already as a normal dungeon for level 30 characters.
When the game was released, there were three types of servers - Player versus Environment (PvE), Team Player versus Player (Team PvP) and Free-for-All Player versus Player (FFA PvP). The game was released with 14 servers but following the poor launch and initially low player retention, the 14 were merged into just four servers:
- Xeth PVE US (merged from Thunderaxe, Woefeather, Gulgrethorm, and Hilsbury)
- Seradon PVE US (merged from Targonor, Florendyl, Flamehammer, and Shidreth)
- Halgar PVE EU (merged from Gelenia and Infineum)
- Sartok PVP US (FFA PvP, merged from Tharridon, Varking, and Frengrot)
The original servers were: Thunderaxe (US/PvE), Florendyl (US/Role-playing Preferred/PvE), Woefeather (US/PvE), Wulgrethor (US/PvE), Targonor (US/PvE) (unofficial oceanic), Hilsbury (US/PvE), Shidreth (US/PvE), Flamehammer (US/PvE) (unofficial French), Tharridon (US/FFA PvP), Varking (US/Team PvP), Gelenia (EU/PvE), Frengrot (EU/Team PvP), and Infinium (EU/PvE).
SOE announced on May 31, 2007 their intention to begin merging servers; the mergers were completed in August 2007. All player-owned housing was reset at this time, causing some controversy among the player community. The mergers left Vanguard without a dedicated Roleplaying server and without a Team PvP server. Today, Seradon is the "unofficial" roleplaying server, the old RP server Florendyl having been merged into it.
Sigil's original Vanguard team was composed of many EverQuest developers, including game designer Brad McQuaid. Development began in early 2002 and a publishing deal with Microsoft was announced in April 2002. The game's title was announced on March 16, 2004, exactly five years after EverQuest was released. Sigil displayed the game's first screenshots in April 2004 and announced that Vanguard would use Unreal Engine 2.0 in May 2004.
In May 2006 Sigil reacquired the marketing rights to Vanguard from Microsoft and announced that Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) would become the co-publishers of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Sigil maintained full control of development, funding, intellectual property rights, and in-game customer service (GM and Guide programs). Although SOE was responsible chiefly for marketing, publication, distribution, subscription services and maintenance of game servers, some of SOE's game designers and artists did participate directly in Vanguard's development.
Beta Testing for the game began in-house in August 2005 and continued until January 23, 2007. Preorders were opened on January 26, and the game officially launched worldwide on January 30 to lukewarm reviews and widespread criticism.
On May 15, 2007, four months after the game's release, Sony Online Entertainment announced they had acquired all assets of Sigil and retained much of the Vanguard development team to work for Sony and to continue developing Vanguard.
Game Updates (GU) have now been established as a regular upgrade of the game, once about every two months. Between the GU, random smaller content updates are added to the game as well. Players can try out new content on the Test server, before they hit the regular servers. Unlike other SOE titles, there are no Addons (expansions) for Vanguard planned at this time.
- Game Update 3 - Released Oct 16, 2007 (Phase 1), and Dec 12, 2007 (Phase 2). Introduced Raiding. Also added Holiday content such as the flying mount Randolph, the flying reindeer, which where disabled again Jan 9 2008.
- Game Update 4 - Released Mar 11, 2008. Introduced permanent flying mounts (Griffons and Wyvens) and changed the Riftway System again. Removed Character Customization to allow helmets.
- Game Update 5 - Released May 28, 2008. The main feature of this update was racial mounts. Shortly afterwards, city faction armor and the Pegasus permanent flying mount were introduced.
- Game Update 6 - Released September 10, 2008. Features a trial island where new characters can start, new customizable character models, class balance fixes and over 1,500 bug fixes.
Many fans of the original EverQuest followed the development of Vanguard closely. Sigil opened official forums before even releasing a title, in July 2003, and was periodically revealing concept art, screenshots, and settings history and lore. Some of the artwork was created by well-known fantasy artists such as Brom, Don Maitz and the late Keith Parkinson.
Much of the community had formed around the Sigil website forums, but there were also events such as fans visiting Sigil, IRC chats, and contests. A "Community Summit" was held on October 7 2004 that showed Vanguard to an audience from the game's own community.
For release, Sigil decided to eliminate centralized forums in favor of a controlled community structure consisting of a network of approved websites which would be regularly visited by official Community Liaisons, and which in theory would be granted privileged access to interviews and promotional content. There was considerable criticism of this strategy on some forums.
Upon its acquisition of Vanguard, SOE almost immediately abandoned the Sigil "controlled community" format, making vgplayers.com the central site for Vanguard support, much as is done with their other MMO titles.
There have been numerous criticisms of the game by the game press and the fanbase.
- The game was released before it was ready, leading to:
- Content was low for high-level players, and spotty even in some lower-level areas. Much planned high level content was not included at launch.
- Large numbers of bugs and performance issues, which make gameplay difficult, and on some systems rendering the game virtually unplayable.
- At release, performance was poor on many systems, including some high-end configurations. For example there was no anti-aliasing, and anisotropic filtering support was buggy.
- "Had I had the financial resources, ability to place the product later, etc. I would have given us about 3 more months to get more polish in, more high level content in, and to distance ourselves from the WoW expansion." Full quote
McQuaid also alluded to the game's performance issues: In March 2007 McQuaid alluded to the cause:
- "For a variety of reasons and mistakes on our part that I won't get into right now, Vanguard was released with system spec requirements that were too high for January 2007. " Full quote
In the months following the release, the game code has been updated and many bugs have been fixed. On at least one web site (MMORPG.com) Vanguard is - as of July 2008 - routinely in the top 15 games, as ranked by visitors to the web site. In both May and August 2008, that same website (MMORPG.com) revisited Vanguard and gave the updated version a favorable response. However, no major game magazines or web sites have chosen to re-review the game with a scored rating since mid-2007.
- ↑ Silky Venom E3 interview about diplomats. Retrieved on 2007-04-19.
- ↑ VG Tact Interview with Steve Williams aka Aruspex.
- ↑ Gate Updatess. Retrieved on 2008-07-04.
- ↑ Game Updates December 12, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-12-12.
- ↑ Game Updates March 11, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-03-11.
- ↑ Game Updates May 28, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-05-28.
- ↑ Game Updates September 10, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-09-10.
- ↑ Future improvements suggestions list (new version). Retrieved on 2007-12-22.
- ↑ Future improvements suggestions. Retrieved on 2008-07-04.
- ↑ Developer David "Hasium" Gilbertson in Server Merge Update 2007-07-11.
- ↑ MMORPG Gamelist - All Listed Games.
- ↑ Correspondent - How I Came Back to Vanguard.
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