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Vanguard

The Game Archaeologist: The care and feeding of older MMOs

Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, Guild Wars, Meridian 59, MMO Industry, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Free Realms, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous, Sunsets

When an MMO has reached a certain age and dwindled to a certain player population, what do you do with it? Do you put it out to pasture, nurture it, or put it down?

With some of our older graphical MMOs approaching their 20th anniversaries, the question of what studios should do with aging titles is becoming very important. It's not just important for the games in question but as a precedent to the population of games that will one day become just as old.

Lately we've seen different studios act on this topic in a wide variety of ways, all of which I find fascinating. Some of these games have seen tragic ends, while others may be entering into the enjoyable golden years. If nothing else, it's shown me that there isn't just one set answer for this and that some devs are hoping to do the right thing by their companies and their players.

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The Stream Team: Returning to Vanguard's Thestran dungeons

Fantasy, Video, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Livestream, Dungeons, The Stream Team

The trek through all of Vanguard's dungeons is a long one that spans the vast terrain of multiple continents. Thankfully, Vault of Heroes near Helgarad in Thestra has two low-level dungeons close together for players to enjoy: Cave of the Urugog and Vault of the Heroes. During the next Dungeon Tours, Massively's MJ intends to show off both of these, if not a third; if things go really well, she might even make it to Rift Seekers Torrent. Join us live at 11:00 a.m. to be a part of this latest dungeon diving expedition in Telon.

Game: Vanguard
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Saturday, February 22st, 2014
Time: 11:00 a.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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McQuaid: 'Vast majority' of early Vanguard players quit by level two or three

Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, PvE, Vanguard

Vanguard horse and rider
If you can't get enough of the sad saga that is Vanguard, IGN has published an interview with creator Brad McQuaid that might pique your curiosity. There are some interesting nuggets relating to McQuaid's early days as well as the relationship between Sigil and SOE that allowed Vanguard to release, albeit in an early and extremely buggy state.

"The game sold very well at retail. Around 250,000 units just blew out of the stores. But the game wasn't optimized, the client wasn't optimized, and the server wasn't optimized," McQuaid explains. "The vast majority of people who played it early on left by the time their characters hit level two or three."

Perfect Ten: MMO features that were hyped but never delivered

World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, City of Heroes, EVE Online, Guild Wars, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Humor, Champions Online, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

Octonauts
Developers like to talk a big game. It's expected, it's encouraged by all parties, and it's part of the fun. When a game or big expansion is coming up, the spokespeople for studios like to hop on stage, grab that mic, and start proselytizing for all they're worth. And while some promises come to fruition, others are various shades of white lies, and still others never come to be at all.

These are the features that studios would much rather you forget were mentioned in the first place, although this is the internet and the internet never forgets. Well, players who latch on to everything devs say as absolute truth never forget.

Sometimes things happen along the way in development. Studios run out of time to get in all of the features and have to prioritize which make the cut and which do not. Features end up not testing as well as hoped and the studio quietly drops them because the PR hit for the features not going in is much less than the disaster that they might cause. And some developers like to flap their gums and spout brainstorm ideas that send the actual programmers and designers back at the company into spasms of agony when they try to figure out how to make them work.

Today let's go through 10 features that were talked up but never delivered in MMOs!

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Jukebox Heroes: Elf music

World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard, Runes of Magic, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge, Jukebox Heroes, Music

LotRO
As probably many of you know, I am no fan of the Elven menace. I won't rehash the reasons n this space, but I mention that because I do try to be a fair man. When I'm not trying to eradicate any pointy-eared immortal know-it-all tree-hugger in sight, I have been known to appreciate the Elves' musical culture. That doesn't make me a hypocrite. It just gives me slight pause before ganking the next Drizzt or Legolas.

For whatever reason, Elves bring out the magic and talent in MMO composition. Elven themes are quite often among the best that a particular OST has to offer, particularly if you like airy, magical, ethereal tracks that are big on imagination and almost devoid of percussion. I've been noting the trend of excellent Elf music for years and figured I might as well devote a week to it here before going back to my Elf-bashing ways.

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Ask Massively: Vanguard's CE, Pandaria, and region-locked servers

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Vanguard, Massively Meta, Ask Massively, Miscellaneous

Vanguard
It can be easy to forget how awesome MMO players are when we're knee-deep in troll-infested comment threads, but a note from a reader named Joshua this week served as the perfect perspective-reorientation:
I was helping my brother demo and clean his father-in-law's home today and stumbled upon what appears to be a mint-condition Vanguard limited edition (collectors edition?). It looks to have all the goods, so I was wondering whether anyone at Massively would like to have it. Knowing how easy it is to get attached to these games, I figured someone would want it for sentimental reasons (I still have my DAOC boxes and books!).
I don't know whether our staff will take you up on it, but just the fact that you thought of offering it to our bereaved fans instead of making a beeline for eBay warmed my heart.

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The Game Archaeologist: The rise, fall, and rescue of Vanguard

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, The Game Archaeologist

Vanguard
I have been wanting to do an article on the whole saga (small pun intended) of Vanguard for some time, and now that Brad McQuaid has returned with plans to make what appears to be a very similar game, I need no more prompting to do it.

The significance of Vanguard's development, release, ongoing drama, and its recent mild renaissance is of great interest not just to game historians but to everyone who plays MMOs, period. What happened with this game caused a huge fallout in the industry, and we are still feeling some of its effects even today. As our own Bree put it in her blog, "Vanguard's implosion was a big deal at the time and marked the beginning of the post-WoW destruction of the industry that hobbled Age of Conan and Warhammer Online a few years later."

While the crash and burn of Vanguard was a very well-known tale several years ago, I'm wondering if in 2014 there might be many who are quite unfamiliar with what happened to this unassuming SOE game eight years ago. Let me put on my old fogey glasses and we shall begin!

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Some Assembly Required: Your home is your castle on Vanguard's Thestra

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Some Assembly Required, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Sunsets

Some Assembly Required:  Your home is your castle on Vanguard's Thestra
In a painful twist of fate, this week's scheduled Some Assembly Required wraps up the trilogy on Vanguard: Saga of Heroes housing that began with my first piece for this column highlighting Kojani homes way back in 2011. I say painful because we now know that Vanguard will be closing its doors forever come July 31st. But that leaves us six more months to enjoy what's there, and since we've already seen the oriental homes of Kojan and the desert dwellings of Qalia, it's time to take a tour of Thestra.

The European-flavored continent was the final of the three to visit not because it is somehow less than the other two but because it is more -- as in more land to cover! The main reason I left Thestra for last is because of the sheer size of the continent. The amount of time required to visit just a fraction of the housing settlements scattered throughout this land is daunting. The other reason is that I wanted to end on a bang with my favorite style of guild housing: the castles!

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The Stream Team: Celebrating Vanguard's seventh birthday

Fantasy, Video, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Livestream, Anniversaries, The Stream Team

Today is Vanguard's birthday, and Massively's MJ is going to party! While it's true the game won't make it to see another year pass by, that's all the more reason to celebrate all that is great about it now. MJ will scour the lands looking for anniversary events, tour favorite places, and hang out with fellow players. There are still six months to enjoy Telon, and MJ plans on doing just that -- starting right now. Join us live at 8:00 p.m. to party hearty. Perhaps you'll even see some of the snowmen stalkers, giant frogs, or a massive pink dragon!

Game: Vanguard
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Thursday, January 30th, 2014
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Steam Team video below.

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The Guild Counsel: Guild-friendly Vanguard features I know I'll miss

Fantasy, Guilds, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, The Guild Counsel

When the news of Vanguard's sunsetting broke, I got thinking about what best describes the Vanguard experience to those who didn't play it. And the one feature that sums it up best is the /rope command. When the game launched, it came with more than a few bugs, and one nagging problem was that players would get stuck in the terrain or even fall through the world. To help solve the problem, players could target the stuck player and use the /rope command to summon him out and up to their spot. Much of Vanguard was like that: moments of frustration from bugged content, but also moments of teamwork and community pulling together to make it work.

Vanguard was the diamond in the rough that never got polished. It was a gorgeous world, with some hints of truly innovative gameplay, but it was often overshadowed by intrinsic problems at the core of the game. Despite it all, Vanguard has one of the best communities around, and there were many ways in which the game brought players and guilds together. Let's look at what will be missed in this week's Guild Counsel.

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Field Journal: Making peace with Vanguard

Fantasy, Lore, PvE, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Roleplaying, Sunsets, MMORPG, Field Journal

Always, I wanna chat with you, and make a pact with you, and live in diplomacy! Diplomacy! Oh mobs!
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is a weird game. It seems almost purposefully to have been designed to turn away players before they can get a chance to see any of the good in it. Although I've tried it before, I've only recently been able to find some of that good, much to my even more recent dismay.

One of those good things I've found is the Diplomacy system. There's nothing revolutionary about it, but it is a solid and interesting minigame that stands apart from anything most MMOs offer. It's more than just a minigame, though; it's integrated with other systems to create a distinct and worthwhile approach to playing the game apart from adventuring. What makes a simple, card-based tug-of-war all that? I'll try to explain.

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The Daily Grind: Which of the recent SOE shutdowns will prove the most influential?

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Vanguard, The Daily Grind

Vanguard drake moon
SOE is putting down four of its MMOs this year, and while this has been discussed to death here and elsewhere over the past few days, one thing I haven't seen is any chatter about the legacies -- good or bad -- of Vanguard, Free Realms, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Wizardry Online.

So, let's talk about that now. Which of these four games do you think will prove the most influential in the long run? Why?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Free for All: Thoughts on SOE's mass MMO sunset

Fantasy, Screenshots, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Casual, Free Realms, Kids, Free for All, Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online

Free Realms screenshot
Sony Online Entertainment recently announced the upcoming closure of not one or two but four of its titles. Those titles are Free Realms, Clone Wars Adventures, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Wizardry Online. The announcement hit most of us pretty hard, even those who weren't active or interested players. Four titles just feels much more like a move of desperation than one or even two games. And for players like yours truly, MMOs like Free Realms and especially Vanguard hold a very special place in our hearts.

Having said that, I will never wager solely on perception. It's my guess that SOE does indeed know what it is doing and that some of this is due to licensing issues, new games from similar developers, or an attempt to streamline an already fat lineup in order to get ready for one or two massive new titles. In other words, there is no conspiracy. It's most likely that this decision was due to boring old business.

I decided to break down what each game meant to me in the hopes that the confessional will get me ready for the upcoming sunsets. Here's to hoping.

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Norrathian Notebook: Saying goodbye to EQ 2.5 aka Vanguard

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Sunsets, Norrathian Notebook

Norrathian Notebook:  Saying goodbye to EQ 2.5 aka Vanguard
No, your eyes are not deceiving you: The title and picture do both say Vanguard. Although I had other thoughts poised on the end of my pen for today, they've all been scattered to the winds by the unexpected announcement of the closing of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. In fact, I really can't seem to think of anything else right now, so I am giving up trying and giving in to my Telon thoughts. Besides, ruminating on this topic in Norrathian Notebook is not as far-fetched as you might think. Vanguard's world may be Telon instead of Norrath, but there is a special connection between the realms; there are those who have called Vanguard the true successor to the original EverQuest game. And it is from that vantage that I take this time to look back on what was, enjoy what is (while I can), and mourn for what could have been.

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The Daily Grind: How much would you pay to keep an MMO alive?

Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind

Vanguard
So here's something that bothers me about this whole SOE MMO armageddon thing. When CEO John Smedley took to Twitter to sympathize with upset Vanguard fans yesterday, he implied that the firm has done all it could to keep the long-running fantasy MMO afloat. "I realize the Vanguard players are upset," he tweeted. "We waited a long time to do this and ran it well past economic viability."

The phrase "past economic viability" is odd since SOE has literally been giving Vanguard away for nearly two years now. The other part of the equation that doesn't add up is why SOE -- or any other firm that insists on closing down a license-free MMO -- doesn't first reach out to the affected playerbase and offer them a chance to save the day.

It might go something like this. "Dear Vanguard player, we thank you for your support and we regret to inform you that the game is not doing well financially. In order to avoid shutting it down, we require you and every other current player to pay a $50 monthly subscription fee."

Sure, 50 bucks is an arbitrary number that I just made up and a large number for an MMO sub. But can anyone credibly state that loyal players wouldn't gladly pay $50 or more if it meant saving their game? How would we know since no MMO company can be bothered to try it? Which leads in to today's Daily Grind question. How much would you pay to keep your favorite MMO alive?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

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