We took a look back on the last year to see what the larger announcements were. There were some surprises and even updates (yes, actual updates to the game), something that is still affecting the community. While other games might publish monthly or even weekly updates, the Vanguard players are the camels of the greater MMO community and have learned to live off very little development fuel.
Bear in mind that as I type this, an update is being played through on the test server.
If you have ever attanded Fan Faire, SOE's fan festival in Las Vegas, then you know how exciting the event can be. Well, exciting for almost everyone but Vanguard players, who often feel like the abandoned child of the bunch. While other games are getting nods and showing off previews during official dinner speeches, Vanguard is almost always absent from the discussion.
SOE's Salem "Silius" Grant sat down with Massively for a quick interview and talked about "high-level meetings" that concerned Vanguard. He let us know that two updates were planned for the year and that they would use some of the emptier areas of the game and include adventure content. He also mentioned that former devs might be brought back on to work on the game while he oversaw the process. The community crossed its fingers. Sure enough, one patch rolled out and at least five actual developers were assigned tasks concerning Vanguard.
"It turns out that if your players are starved enough for content, communication, or any changes whatsoever in their favorite game, they'll be thankful for any official movement."
For the first time since January 2010, Vanguard received its first major update. Aptly named the "Bug Bash," the patch included several bug fixes to issues that had been haunting the game for a long time. It was interesting to see the reaction to what would otherwise be such a standard patch in many MMOs both larger and smaller than Vanguard. It turns out that if your players are starved enough for content, communication, or any changes whatsoever in their favorite game, they'll be thankful for any official movement. Even then, the patch did actually accomplish a few things.
First, it literally fixed bugs, showing that someone was actually working on the game. Second, it gave a bit of hope to those long-term players who had long ago given up on anything happening with the title. Soon afterward, and thanks to the 45 days of free game time that were given out by SOE earlier in the year, the population for the game went up noticeably. It's a wonder what a patch can do!
Even more promises of even more content
As if the actual patching of the game wasn't enough, redname Gidoo announced something that would be coming to the game: a new endgame dungeon. As soon as high-level players across Telon began to rejoice, others started to wonder, "When?" The dungeon will spend some time on the test server before being pushed to the live server, so if you want to copy a character over to test to get your early strats on, you can. Just keep an eye on the test forum for any updates and to pass on any bugs, tips or ideas.
Now the question is, when will it move on to the live server? Players are holding their breath. Wrapped up with the dungeon will also be a few other semi-controversial updates like the removal of corpse recovery and a smoothing of the lowbie leveling curve. "Soon," Telon. Soon.
A dedicated player took the time to transcribe much of an interview with Gidoo, Vanguard's new front-running producer, from the official SOE podcast number 123. The recap was filled with details for players to mull over, from the story behind the new content to how many devs are actually working on the game. Gidoo also talked about the removal of the death mechanic (a version of EverQuest's corpse runs) and shined some light on the logic behind the move. While many players seemed to have a problem with the removal, his explanation was that the death mechanic added no flavor to the game and did not increase the amount of fun players had. When first released, Vanguard was supposed to be the next "hardcore" MMO, introducing the old ways to a newer generation. Over time, many of the harsher game mechanics fell off while the original flavor of the game remained, so the removal of the death penalty was not a surprise to a lot of players. Even then, more players complained about the removal and it looks as though the mechanic will stay for now.
The end of Live Gamer
Live Gamer, a service that sells in-game goods and other products in gaming, started selling wares for Vanguard players quite a while ago. The cash shop was met with a lot of negativity from players who worried that the sale of items, characters, and in-game cash was taking Vanguard down the wrong path. While many swore that they would cancel their subscriptions over the move, others seemed oblivious to it. Still, no one can deny that some time after the announcement, the playerbase did seem to dip a bit. How many players actually used the service is anyone's guess. SOE later announced that the service would be suspended from all of its games, including Vanguard. Was the service addition a mistake that hurt the game for all time? Time will tell.
In the grand scheme of things, it was a rather eventful year in Vanguard, especially when I consider how little love the game had been getting. With the testing of the new dungeon area and recent bug fixes, the players feel more confident about their favorite game. Of course, the possibility of a free-to-play switch still pops up in conversations about the game, so will 2012 be the year that Vanguard finally makes the leap that so many other titles have?
Whatever happens, keep an eye on Massively for further developments. The new patch and dungeon content should be off of the test server sometime "soon," including the new areas Shadow of Hilsbury and Magi Hold, and players are very eager to tear into the new content. Happy birthday, Vanguard!