Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is the final title in the Sony Online Entertainment stable of MMOs to adopt a free to play-subscription hybrid revenue model. The conversion officially kicked off on Tuesday, August 14th when we also had the opportunity to sit down for a roundtable discussion with Director of Development Andy Sites and Creative Director Salim Grant.
Andy started off the session with an introduction packed with all sorts of interesting information. He began with a short history lesson by telling us that Vanguard had launched about five years ago and, to be honest, he said, didn't retain players the way the team had hoped. In fact, he told us, the popular impression was that only a skeleton crew manned the game and that the impression was given that SOE wasn't fully committed to the title.
Not so today. The Vanguard team and Sony are fully devoted to the title with a full team of developers, including some of the game's original creative minds returning to take part in this new chapter in Vanguard's life.
Since February, the team has been regularly updating Vanguard to, as Andy put it, "smooth out the rough edges". Most of the current areas have been revamped and optimized to take advantage of the game engine. They even surprised players by bringing much of the F2P functionality into the game in stealth mode about a week ago. In addition, Andy mentioned that in the past, game updates had come along every four or five months. From today forward, however, the team has laid out an assertive update schedule that should see major updates on a monthly basis as well as smaller updates on a bi-weekly basis.
Character creation has been overhauled and the number of starter zones has been reduced to four. The reason, according to Andy, is to give new players a feeling that they are in a populated zone with lots of other players with whom they can adventure.
"After all", he said, "we are an old school MMO that encourages grouping."
In fact, if I can give you a heads up from today's interview it's this: Pay attention to the character creation lore. Read it all. The team didn't arbitrarily reduce starter zones. Reasons behind the reduction lore-wise are also included and will be something that will play out over the next year or so. PAY ATTENTION!
Hot on the heels of that statement, I asked if Vanguard utilizes the much discussed 'holy trinity'. Categorically, yes, especially given the self-described 'old school' feel that Vanguard has.
That doesn't mean, however, that parties will have to have certain character types. In fact, many classes have multiple roles and can fill in gaps if a certain type cannot be found. Salim brought up the Shaman and Druid classes as examples.
"Classes aren't locked into a primary role." he said.
But that's not to say that solo players won't be able to hang out in Vanguard either. In fact, we were told that soloists can play most of the overland content and get great items thanks to the seventeen thousand items that are in the game. If epic items are desired, players can group up on a piecemeal basis to adventure into a dungeon to get them and then head back out alone when finished. It's a win-win for all types.
Salim told us that group play has grown hugely in recent days and that it's no longer a difficult proposition to find a group of players to dungeoneer with. This had been one of the larger complaints, something that SOE is very pleased to see changing rapidly with the release of the hybrid model.
All of this, we were told, and new items working their way into the Marketplace and area expansions, are designed to energize the player base and to promote Vanguard as a great title for new players as well.
When asked if Vanguard would see new content brought on board, Salim told us that the team has a long list of things they want to do in that regard. The team wants to bring in new raids and dungeons but also new content for crafters, diplomats and for players of all character levels. Everyone will benefit from the updates.
One of the things that is very exciting about the new hybrid revenue model is the fact that players can either subscribe and receive all content including housing, all character classes, rare and epic weapons, etc. or they can choose the F2P option and use "ala carte" Marketplace purchases. For instance, when I asked about housing for F2P players, I was told that players can purchase a housing voucher for each of their characters that would give them the same access to housing as a subscriber without having to pay a monthly fee.
Lastly, I asked if player modifications, such as the many UI add-ons, will continue to be supported. I received the happy YES answer.
The final thing we were told before heading out the door is that the team is excited about the F2P conversion and to see happy people playing Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.
"Get into the game. You'll be happy with what you see." Andy said.
So there you have it. What about you? Will you be playing Vanguard: Saga of Heroes?