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Chat with April Jones

Dana Massey Posted:
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April Jones of Sigil Games talks about diplomacy, group-oriented gameplay and more

Tired of combat and crafting? In Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the developers are planning verbal jousting.

The diplomacy track was one of many items that April Jones – the Senior Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for Sigil Games - covered during our recent meeting at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose.

“Adventurers are going to need diplomats,” explained Jones, citing an example where a group finds a dungeon that is simply too well defended to enter by brute force.

This ties into a theme of interdependencies in Vanguard. It opens up a range of new ideas that require players to work together to achieve goals. Adventurers may find they need a diplomat to get into the dungeon, then a crafter to fully harvest the rewards at the bottom.

“[Non combat classes are] a lot more integrated with what players need and use than other games I’ve played,” said Jones.

For those who pursue non-combat tracks like diplomacy, expect to have a different outlook on the world. Cities are the dungeons for diplomats. It is a PvE skill where you verbally joust with vendors and quest characters to get you what you want.

So if you’re using your mouth for combat, what do you spend your money on? Clothes! If you really want to convince the noble to give you that item you’ve been sent to find, you better dress the part. April explained how they would also get items, like a special staff, that give them bonuses.

This slant towards player-interdependencies might alarm some solo and casual players.

“We’re not interested in being all things to all people,” said Jones honestly. Vanguard has been designed primarily as a group oriented game. They’ve done away with instancing and are focused squarely on the MMO aspects of the title. If all you do is solo, then it may be best to look elsewhere.

Jones explained their focus rather simply. It’s a niche that needs filling, citing how other games have been afraid of alienating anyone and thus not served anyone particularly well. It is also the main reason people keep playing MMORPGs: their friends.

What solo content there is is aimed at those gamers who only have a few minutes to play. They do not want Vanguard to be a game where you need hours every time you login, not that there wont be something to do if you do have hours. As such, they have developed some solo content for the dedicated player’s busy nights.

For casual players, crafting and diplomacy should be of more interest, claims Jones. They’ve set out to destroy the illogical creation of thousands of useless items that plagues most crafting games.

It is also a more interactive and involved process. There are decisions to make and strategies to apply for maximum effect. Crafters will advance primarily through work-orders issued from various NPCs around town, as well as helping out other players in their adventures.

“Somebody needs me,” she said. “I think that’s a compelling element besides whacking monsters.”

For those who would rather whack other players than monsters, things get dicey. Sigil does plan PvP servers, completely separate from its PvE focused core game, but they are not yet sure if they’ll be ready for launch. Jones explained this mostly in their desire to do a separate and logical system, rather than just tacking it on to a PvE game.

A concern for some gamers with Vanguard is the company’s association with Microsoft. Microsoft Global Product Manager Jim Ying joined us late in our chat and addressed this question.

“They’re the creative minds behind the game,” said Ying. He claims the role of Microsoft is that of a consultant. They deliver them feedback and technical support. They also help in terms of art and marketing, but for the most part, their suggestions are just that. Sigil has the final say on everything that goes into Vanguard.

And you thought we were done with GDC? There is much more to come next week.

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Dana Massey