PAX Interview: Nick Parkinson, Sigil Community Manager
On the eve of PAX, Carolyn and I had a lunch interview with Nick Parkinson, a community manager for Sigil and SOE’s Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. One of the most eagerly anticipated games in recent memory, Vanguard comes from the brain of legendary EverQuest designer Brad McQuaid.
At PAX, they’re not showing the game. Instead, Parkinson made himself available for interviews.
Currently in Beta 3, Vanguard has finally reached the point where the developers say they’re able to have a cohesive and fun experience. The development goal for this phase is to get all the features promised into the game in at least some form, then polish, complete and tweak them. Beta 4 will then be an open stress test before the game’s ultimate launch this winter.
Vanguard recently made headlines when they and original publisher Microsoft split, landing Sigil back with the stewards of EverQuest. However, this move is purely a business decision. Sigil handles all creative aspects of the game, in-game support and their community. SOE distributes the physical product, does marketing and handles out-of-game technical support.
On the feature side, Parkinson couldn’t stop raving about their sailing system. Players can purchase small “land-huggers” from NPC vendors and sail the seas. Once at sea, sailing involves more than pointing and going. Players will actually need to direct their ships and pay attention to the wind.
“It will be challenging enough to make it fun, but it’s not BoatSim Online,” explained Parkinson.
Larger ships need to be built by the community and since Vanguard has no instantaneous travel, boats could become an important way for players to get from continent to continent, although some form of point-to-point shuttle services, offline travel and other options will be available.
More interesting, Parkinson also alluded to the idea that some areas and islands in between continents may not be charted or be accessible in any way other than player boats. This could provide players with a sense of adventure and discovery as they seek new content that – perhaps – no one has seen. He made clear though that this is just a plan at this stage and not currently in the beta.
The concept of slow travel grinds the nerves of many, but with this decision made, Parkinson says they will emphasize vehicles. He suggested that pretty much every character should have a horse by level 10 and that he has gotten them around level 6. These are the basic creatures, so gamers can look forward to bigger and better horses, as well as other vehicles as they progress.
Vanguard will forever be compared to EverQuest and EverQuest II. The roots of the team make comparisons inevitable. Parkinson admits, it is a spiritual successor, but he wants to avoid the perception that the game is simply EverQuest III. Sigil has carefully crafted a new universe and over the years the team has learned many new things. They believe Vanguard deserves to be judged on its own merits. With open beta coming soon, they’ll soon have a chance to jump out from behind the shadow of their resumes and let players make up their own mind.
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