A few days ago, I warned of an impending rant about an as of yet, unreleased MMO that has been much acclaimed during it's development. Now would be the time to click your browser back button if you would like to avoid, said rant.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes has been on my proverbial MMO Watch List sense Brad McQuaid left SOE and announced he would be developing a third generation MMO with his production company, Sigil Games. For my regulars here at Existential Worlds, you know that I have a bit of a World of Warcraft addiction at the present time, but that was originally meant to be a temporary fix, while Vanguard was developed.
For me, Vanguard was to be the culmination of a long string of frustrating MMO experiences. From Neverwinter Nights on AOL, to Everquest, I had wandered the existential worlds of the MMO game space, only half satisfied with my role in them. They lacked that feeling... Tobold dubs it the Crushbone Factor, which is certainly applicable, despite the fact that it refers to EQ.
So I watched and I waiting, and finally the day arrived... my email inbox brought me tidings of my involvement in Vanguard's Beta development phase.
My first impressions were very mixed. The world was stunning in some respects and completely disappointing in others. The engine was a behemoth and I could hardly have visual setting above the bottom tier 'Highest Performance' in order to move my avatar at all. I thought to myself, this is Beta... this is why I am here. Customization, optimization, bug correction and game play evaluation... these are my quests...
After weeks of frustration, I had to walk away. It was early Beta, but I felt as though the game had been pushed to Beta too soon. I was struggling to stay involved and never once felt immersed. I felt as though I should not have been there yet, it was too raw, too empty to even test appropriately. Too 'broken' if you will, or perhaps too 'unstarted' even. So I left.
Three weeks ago, I reinstalled my client and decided to give Beta another try. Beta 4 had been announced and I felt that perhaps the progress I had been looking for would be in place and the game would be ready for testers. I logged in and found myself gaping at the same landscapes devoid of npc life, the same bugs, the game graphical failures and the same uninspired implementation of truly inspiring innovations...
I set about leveling my Cleric and once again, I felt deep disappointment at the absolute waste of wonderful innovations. They had burdened the title with a bulky and unwieldy engine, game play is choppy and modeling and animations are uninspired. Questing is bland and unoriginal. Progression is chaotic and poorly thought out, and the client continues to struggle under the press of their system requirements. I run a powerful machine and I still can't play at even the 'balanced' graphics tier without tremendous lag.
A few days later Sigil and Sony announced the January 30th release date for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and I uninstalled my beta client and walked away from the game forever. They promised a third generation MMO and produced a half finished 1.5th generation MMO in the vein of Everquest with a few bells and whistles as differentiation. They Beta'd too early and failed to address the concerns of their testers in any cognizant fashion. The progressed the Beta too fast, and placed too little emphasis on content development, instead focusing on expansive lands and a diverse feature set. They innovated conceptually and programmed poorly. They gave me high hopes, and dashed them with forceful abandon.
So now I am Vanguarded against new titles. I refuse to be spun by fancy press releases and doctored screen shots showing the absolute best a game can do. Anyone can crank up their graphics settings, snap a fancy photo and post it on the interweb... but do they have what it takes to make a truly inspired world? A world alive that simply makes you scream... I WANT TO LIVE HERE! Sigil failed in that regard. Brad's 'vision' and Brad's reality did not align properly, and SOE and Sigil are going to release a very unfinished game into a market dominated by a very polished Warcraft and a slew of great titles that are getting better with each passing content patch.
Farewell, Vanguard... The dream of you was sweet, but now I must move on.