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Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising General Article: CES 2007: Brad McQuaid and Paul Luna Interview

By Carolyn Koh on January 12, 2007

CES Pre-Launch Chat with Brad McQuaid and Paul Luna

Carolyn Koh catches up with Brad "Aradune" McQuaid and Paul "GM Vladimir" Luna at CES in Las Vegas.

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With their marketing collaboration with SoE, Brad McQuaid and Paul Luna of Sigil Games showed Vanguard: Saga of Heroes at CES 2007 at invited press appointments. After introductions, we chatted about our gaming history and when Paul asked if I were familiar with Brad, my answer was tongue in cheek as I replied that I was familiar with Aradune, a wood-elf ranger in EverQuest who wore green splint mail and implied that he hacked Soulfire – the Paladin epic weapon so he could wield it.

We waited to connect to the server and I asked Brad, “Who’s idea was it to put Aradune is stinky! Graffiti in the Qeynos sewers?” Bill Trost was the answer – one of the original team of developers of EverQuest. We digressed into how quickly screenshots of Aradune corpses made their way around the internet. “So I forgot to put up enduring breath in Kedge Keep.” Brad said laughingly, but enough of old EverQuest anecdotes and toward Vanguard:Saga of Heroes.

Given who the founder… the visionary for Vanguard is, we cannot get away from EverQuest, as it was the basis of experience for Vanguard. A fact that both Paul and Brad alluded to often. The launch is February. Next month. We could have spent an entire day just going over the features and exploring the game. NDA has been lifted so information is not just spilling over the dam, the floodgates are open.

“Who will want to play Vanguard?” I asked.

“We wanted to recreate the experience for the old school DAoC and EQ player. The player who wants to be challenged, but we also did away with the tedium.” Said Brad.

Paul continued, “Also the WoW players who wants more immersion and challenge. Those are the players that Vanguard will appeal to.”

As Brad stepped away to call someone to figure out why we could not log into the game, I took the opportunity to grill Paul a little, asking him about Brad’s vision for Vanguard. What’s important? “The community.” Was the firm answer. “We’ve learned to listen to the community.” He reminded me that Vanguard was six years in the making.

“There’s a misconception out there that Vanguard is a hardcore game, but you make it as hardcore as you want. Vanguard isn’t about walking uphill in the snow, both ways. We recognize that we will have Casual, Core and Raid players.” Taking the death mechanic as an example, there are three ways to deal with it. One can choose to pay a little money, wait a little while or fight your way back.

Paul grinned at this point, “Both Brad and I are the die-hard, run naked to our corpses type.”

Brad also stressed the importance of community and elaborated on the features that would assist in creating that community, especially vertical integration. Players will eventually outlevel their starting cities, but housing plots are planned around cities. Diplomacy is also leveled in the city, apart from trading and crafting stations. There are two huge major cities and a number of outposts. The plan is to watch where people congregate once the game is launched and to place outposts in those areas as well.

Grouping and social interfaces within game will allow players to fill out a personal profile that provides more information such when they normally play, their crafting skills and IM or email info if they wish.

Brad informed me that 50 to 60% of content is geared toward the Core player. That core player, he opined, made up 80% of any MMOGs. Those are the players that would play 2 – 3 hours a day, 3 or 4 days a week. Perhaps they would play longer sessions on weekends and would plan a day to dedicate a larger chunk of time for a raid. To that end, zones and dungeons were designed to have safe areas for players to rest and camp out in.

Vanguard is a game of choices. It is designed as a social game much like EverQuest was and provides incentives to players to do things together, but also allows a player to solo if they choose to. Players working together to gather resources, for example, open up opportunities with the combination of their skills to obtain better raw materials that they as a solo harvester may not be able to do. There will also be adventure and quest content that will require a group or groups to defeat.

I asked what differentiated Vanguard:Saga of Heroes from the rest of the MMORPGs out there. One is the unique encounter system. Not just encounter locking, but the entire series of encounters or route of a quest. Many a time, players go through certain steps to complete a quest only to have it ruined when a specially spawned NPC attacks a hapless player who happened to be in its path or an opportunist ganks the mob. Vanguard has designed a system to prevent that from happening.

“Other players will be able to see the mob, but won’t be able to select it to hail, attack or otherwise interact with it,” said Brad.

Another unique aspect of Vanguard is the Caravan system. Players joining a caravan may log out at anytime, and when they log back in, have the choice of logging in where they last camped out, or where the caravan leader last camped out. Basically a form of offline travel.

Player built ships will be another unique aspect of Vanguard. “Not since the days of Ultima Online will players be able to command a ship and sail where they choose,” Said Brad, waxing lyrical over the choice of mounts for transport. “It is a seamless world. You can travel anywhere that you can see.”

“We’ve also designed very unique experiences for each race.” Said Paul, telling me the story of how he inveigled an editor of a major newspaper who was not a gamer and had never played an MMOG before, into creating a character and playing through the newbie experience. “After a while, he asked me… Am I evil? Then when I offered to show him other areas of the game, he decided he wanted to continue playing. I consider that a measure of success. We hooked a non-gamer.”

Okay then… What’s the hook? Paul deferred that question to Brad, who sat silent for a moment before telling me. “Freedom of choice. The freedom to do what you want, go where you want. The freedom to play the game the way you want.”

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