May 23, 2006

Vanguard beta in trouble?

Vanguard : Saga of Heroes has been in beta for a few months now. I've bitched about the game designs plenty of times. I even bashed on a Vanguard preview over at IGN. For some reason I received a very in depth comment (#5) to that IGN preview article. I have no way to confirm anything that was said by the anonymous commenter, but it's well written and insightful in a way that doesn't break any NDA. I have reposted the text below.
----Begin repost----

Anonymous said...

Ok Hearless, here's the scoop. No, I'm not going to break the NDA and go into specifics about what the game has, shouldn't have or needs.

But I will tell you what's primarily wrong with beta right now. You may find it's not what the typical critics would think.

These are from my own personal notes that I keep, yet refuse to post because of the assholes in that beta.

This is one excerpt:


The forums take peaks of highs and lows. You can literally sense people trying to like this game. People trying suspiciously hard to find something to write about on the forums that's positive. Unfortunately, these recounts are absent of any detail and hardly convince me that there is something more I haven't gotten to see that will change my perspective drastically.

I often wondered why that is. I have drawn the conclusion that people are afraid to speak constructively based on the firing squad that sits there refreshing the screen every minute to see who would dare speak when not spoken to.

They default to debating about MMOG's in general as a result. This indicates strongly that people do see a barren and shapeless world before them, even though they dare not admit it publically. I get the sense they are thrilled for an opportunity to mold this game into what they want it to be. Egos run rampant in this regard and several of the more vocal beta players are insistent upon getting their ideas burned into the blueprint. Especially when these people notice that the ink isn't even dry on that blueprint.

I dare say, the imagined wonderful Vanguard they testify about on the forums, is a contrived line of bullshit used as a means to suck up to developers in order to get their own ideas written into the design. If the design was there, they would just be testing. But considering it's not, this leaves an opportunity for the wannabe-game-designer, to gain a captive audience.

And captives we are. Many an unhappy tester has been silenced regularly by these fanatics who put any and every comment under their own jaded microscopes. Unfortunately this activity goes unchecked by any form of moderation. Subsequently, what you get is nothing but chastisement by the regular fanbois who seek to mold this game the way they see fit. Anyone pointing out the existing flaws, is summarily lynched, tarred and feathered, despite the validity of their concerns.

Even a developer was called on the carpet by beta players as recent as two weeks ago. The disrespect and rudeness of the regular, vocal dissenters of MMOG-today, ruthlessly bit into this poor guy like a pack of wolves. Just as the animals they are, at the first smell of blood, they all wanted a piece of him. The crime? The mere suggestion that corpse runs were not a fun factor and should be removed to a lesser penalty then what currently exists in Vanguard right now. What did Brad do? He basically apologized for his staff's outburst.

There is also a curious hatred for World of Warcraft, specifically. Curious, because much of what World of Warcraft has done was based on the original Everquest design and expounded from there. It's certainly ironic how these fanbois will rip apart anything WoW, yet praise, anything Everquest.

To the detriment of Vanguard, they will protest any implementation that even remotely resembles a mechanic within World of Warcraft. Good or bad, it doesn't matter. If it's something within WoW, they want it O-U-T. Likewise, if you are from WoW, they want YOU out, too. They've already succeeded in driving out many of those testers. They're long gone and I can't say I blame them.

I can't help, considering all that, but feel pity for Brad McQuaid. Here's a man who started out with a "vision" and held an open forum for years before beta, allowing others to share his space and ideas.

Yet something happened between then and now. Something worth pitying the man over. His leniency and viewpoints were thrown back in his face from disgruntled game-junkies from all over the virtual world spectrum. Vanguard is where many of the disgruntled and disbanded landed to bum a free meal. In the process, they are now trying to steal the keys to his house and his car and have already taken over his computer. The only thing left is to just hand over the code because they've already gotten into his game.

How can you not feel sorry for a man who now sits out on his own front steps, wondering if he should call the police or the psycho ward to rid them off of his property?

The game may very well be lifeless due to the fact that he doesn't know himself anymore, what it is he should do.

The void in his game speaks volumes towards the fact that he fears developing it the way it needs to be done.

Let's face it, this is a very capable man. He's demonstrated that with his history. A man who created Everquest, wrote the design for the lands, the characters, the events, etc. He's not stupid by any means. Yet his new world reflects a man who fears even adding the simplest mapping feature, for instance. A feature, so subetly done this past week, but was met with OUTRAGE by touted old-school gamers. How can a man function under that kind of idiotic pressure?

Vanguard's progress is evidence that he can't. His FAQ is constantly thrown in his face. An FAQ that was written years ago and probably has been totally reconsidered based on the fact that under 100 people are logging into his beta daily. It's not because the game doesn't have potential. It's more probably because normal people don't have time, nor energy, to put up with the nuts in that place and that's the truth!

Note to the clueless FAQ-touter: That page was taken down last week. Without fanfare or notice, it was quietly swept off the internet and replaced by the infamous "page not found" message. You have to get the impression that MAYBE this guy has finally realized SOMETHING?

While realization is the first step and is a good thing, he still has yet to rid himself of the crackpot company he has allowed in there.

My suggestion is to close beta entirely. Shut it down and use the excuse that time is now needed due to the change of publishers from Microsoft to Sony Online Entertainment. Say that hardware restructuring needs to be done and don't hold Vanguard to any reappearance date. Shut down the forums with a simple message that you will be back up after the transition is complete.

Dump all your beta testers to date and start fresh after you're back online and have something done to offer them.

Put in the ideas you have wanted to add and improve without having to get "permission" from your existing, suicidal fan-base.

Maybe then you can go back to enjoying what you do best - designing games.

----End repost----
Again I can't confirm any of this, but it makes you wonder whats going on over in the Sigil camp. Is the SOE partnership and the purchase away from Microsoft Game Studios a sign of bad times? I've doomcasted this game before and I'll do it again, but McQuaid better start coming through for his true community before it bites him in the ass... again.

Update: 5 Aug, 2009 - Edited post, removed conversation links, and applied label.