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Interview with Brad McQuaid

Darren Bridle Posted:
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The head of Sigil talks to our Darren Bridle

Brad McQuaid was one of the original creators of EverQuest. Years ago he split with the title and founded Sigil, a development company that has been hard at work on Vanguard: Saga of Heroes for the last few years. Brad answered several questions from our own Darren Bridle about the upcoming MMORPG due out this year.

MMORPG.com: There is a lot of Lore the Vanguard website, how driven is the game by storyline and lore, and do quests have a dynamic effect on that lore?
Brad McQuaid:

From the earliest conceptual stages, lore and back story has been a priority for us. Even our first low level design documents, written as far back as 2002, contain a lot of story about the setting and context of villages, cities, dungeons, regions and races. We also created a 40+ page document describing the history of the world which includes a chronology that goes back thousands of years.

From these initial documents, the design team added even more detail as they moved from mere concepts and initial design into actual population of the world. For example, a designer determines not only the layout and population of a dungeon, but also the storyline and theme behind the place and its inhabitants. We ask ourselves, why is this place here? Who originally built it? Who inhabits the area now and why? Who are their friends and enemies, and are they currently in conflict with another group? Faction also comes into play here. This information then influences the artists for concept and then creating the actual art assets. After that, it is built upon by those in the design team tasked with quests, diplomatic content and other spheres of gameplay.

In addition to the design work I just mentioned, we have a dedicated ‘lore team’. They work with the Design team and keep their eye on the original back story and setting documents. They’re the ones who write up stories that we put on our web site as we introduce the world and its history to players leading up to launch. This is done not only to give a sneak peak into the game world, but also to entice players to want to visit the places they’ve read about once they can actually play the game. It also provides additional context, especially with the more historical pieces that have been written. For example, why is there both a New and Old Targenor – what happened?

Ideally, we’ll continue this post-launch when the content being placed into the game is combined with what we release on web pages and becomes even more interleaved. We feel the right mixture of back story to read along with what’s happening in game, what you read through dialogs with NPCs, or the story behind the quest you are on, is very important.

MMORPG.com: How are quests in Vanguard categorized, will they be traditional like the Fed-ex and Epic quests, or something completely different? Can you also explain how the Quest Journal will work?
Brad McQuaid:

Quests in Vanguard will range from the more simple ‘fed-ex’ quests all the way up to epic quests, similar to the Ring quest and other very involved and elaborate quests you may have seen in EQ and other MMOGs. We also have our ‘Rumor’ system which is a somewhat unique way of both finding quests and learning about what’s going on in the world. So there are several ways to obtain a quest, in addition to completing one, other than just the traditional hailing of NPCs.

We have some unique ideas and features in our Quest Journal that we’re not quite ready to reveal, but mostly it works very similarly to what players have experienced in more recent MMOGs like WoW and EQ II. The quests you currently have active and where you are on that journey toward completion are all tracked. In earlier MMOGs, I think quest journals were severely lacking in detail and usefulness. However, more recently quest journals have really evolved, likely taking a lot of great ideas from single player RPG games. I think this evolution is great and we’ll take advantage of that with Vanguard.

MMORPG.com: Tradeskills in Vanguard look complex and detailed, are there any plans for adventuring items (boss drops etc.) and crafters to work together? For example, a weapon that drops from a dragon, could it be made into something even better by an experienced Weaponsmith?
Brad McQuaid:

Absolutely – in fact, that’s integral to how crafting and tradeskills work in Vanguard. While a great deal of crafting components will be obtained via ‘harvesting’, many also are found in loot drops from killing special mobs. Many of the better crafted items will require components found in the depths of dungeons, and those components will not just be obtained by harvesting them in those depths, but also from completing quests as well as defeating certain encounters using combat. Diplomacy also comes into play, with the rewards from a successful diplomatic encounter sometimes resulting in crafting components. We think this makes for a much more interesting game and it also reinforces the interdependence we want to see between the various spheres of gameplay in Vanguard.

MMORPG.com: How does Vanguard plan to break the monotony of crafting and make it fun? It seems the Vanguard Crafting system is very complex and detailed, are you concerned about alienating a portion of your player base because of this?
Brad McQuaid:

It’s all about balance, I think. On one end we want to escape from the monotony of overly-simple crafting systems seen in previous MMOGs. At the same time we don’t want to make it all so complex that it requires only hard-core crafters to participate in or to enjoy crafting. Of course our ultimate goal is to make a game that is fun and we’re working hard on our crafting system as we speak to ensure that it has the right balance.

MMORPG.com: Can you explain how raiding will work in Vanguard, given that there is no instancing? Would it be fair to assume that there is a very large amount of raid content?
Brad McQuaid:

The majority of content in Vanguard will be group-oriented, with the minority being aimed at either more casual gameplay or the opposite, raiding. I don’t have exact numbers, but perhaps 60% or more of the content is targeted at the grouping audience, with another 20% or so at the more casual and then another 20% at raiding. The way to get around the need for “instancing” is simply to have enough content. There needs to be a lot to do, and a large world in which to do it. We plan to achieve this by creating a huge, seamless world, with every square foot filled with points of interest, quest content, and a myriad of dungeons.

By having both a large world and a lot of content, including huge dungeons designed to support multiple groups at the same time, we are confident that instancing those areas won’t be necessary. We feel that instancing removes the opportunity to socialize with other people, or to just stand back as an observer and watch a large group in an intense battle. We do appreciate though that people don’t want senseless downtime and we have a trick up our sleeves on this very point that we feel large groups will love.

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Darren Bridle