In human terms, six years is very young but in the ever-increasingly crowded MMO market, six years is bordering on ‘old’. Even saying that, however, the games we’ve loved for years are aging better and better these days thanks to dedicated teams of developers who want to continue the stories they’ve crafted for us for years.
During a recent press event, I had the distinct pleasure to get a guided tour of some of the new and overhauled areas in Sony Online Entertainment’s Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. I was hosted by none other than Producer Harvey Burgess and Game Designer Corey LeFever. The first thing these guys wanted to tell everyone is that they are excited about Vanguard’s sixth anniversary and are dedicated to seeing the game continue to flourish in its new free to play state. To accomplish this, they said, there are several aspects to their plan.
Easing F2P Restrictions
Vanguard has the distinct honor of being the final Sony Online game to go free to play, a move that frankly surprised many fans of the game who waited for a long while to finally see it head that way. Since the August conversion to F2P, the player population has increased and continued to see ‘bumps’ at specific times including the launch on Steam and after significant updates to the game. In fact, after the Vanguard release on Steam, the population grew so precipitously that instancing had to be introduced into the game! During my tour, it was also abundantly clear from the number of players running about that the population is good-sized.
Bringing in new players, free ones, and converting them to paying customers of one form or another is the bread and butter of the hybrid F2P model. The Vanguard team listened to their community and heard the feedback about the new monetization model. Many were very vocal about the overly-restrictive model that deployed in August and, since then, the Vanguard team has worked to ease the restrictions for free players. Now any free player can choose any race or class right from the get-go and can take part in the very impressive housing system as well.
“We didn’t want to limit Vanguard from being what it is.” Burgess said. “We realized that we had done just that and took the time to listen to our community and check out the feedback before testing the model internally.”
Clearly, the Vanguard team has taken Sony’s new vision to heart, namely that engaging with and listening to the community matters for the longevity of its titles.
“We use community feedback to create change. We want to create gameplay they will want to keep playing.” said Sony’s Michele Cagle.
Isle of Dawn: Overhauling the New Player Experience
Because of the influx of new players, the team needed a way to introduce people to the incredibly deep and rich world of Vanguard. After all, a six year old title will have grown exponentially since first launching. In order to attract and hold onto new players, it was incumbent on Burgess’s team to make sure that they were provided a ‘golden path’ through the Adventuring, Diplomacy and Crafting strands of the game. In order to do so, the Isle of Dawn was given a cold, hard look and overhauled for the F2P conversion.
Players entering the game for the first time will have a great opportunity to learn about each of the strands through the completion of a variety of quests and tasks in order to learn all that is necessary to compete in the greater Vanguard world. The Isle of Dawn will usher newbs through about level 20, all the while making sure that the level of engagement is high and not simply something to “get through”.
In addition, the Isle of Dawn has been polished, updated and the rough edges have been smoothed out.
“What we wanted to do was to polish the rough edges and to flesh out some of the great ideas in Vanguard that might not have been as properly executed as we might wish.” LeFever said.
“We have taken a look at each class and are working to tune and tweak each one. In fact, the Druid is the first and the others will also come. We’re a small team (about 12), but we will go through class by class until are are done.” Burgess added. “We will also do the same with crafting and diplomacy in the future.”
Fine for Newbs but What About Us?
High level and longtime Vanguard players need fear that all development work is being done for new players in the game. The team is just as committed to its passionate community and is working to ensure that it also sees big changes in the way Vanguard looks and feels.
The final phase of the tour included a walking tour of the City of Brass, a Middle Eastern looking zone packed with djinns, minotaurs and other creatures of legend. The zone is painted in vibrant reds and features the most beautiful swirling red sky that can be imagined. The City of Brass is the first high level area that has been reworked to give players a new twist on a familiar area. New content and encounters have been added that will give players something new to look forward to and the area culminates in a 12-player raid. Players will want to be on the lookout for NPCs that have been tweaked to give a new feel to the City as well.
“We took the existing lore and added to it.” LeFever explained. “We plan to do this throughout the game.”
All in all, both new and ‘old’ Vanguard players should be quite pleased with what the team has and will do to the game. There is much to see that is new, systems to revisit and zones that need to be re-explored to find out what’s new. It’s a promising start and if Burgess and team have anything to say about it, we’ll be checking in again in another six years!