It has been announced to all the world and all of the MMO news sites have reported, the Vanguard Beta will be closing on January 23rd. This is timed to allow the folks at SOE and Sigil to prepare for opening day, January 30th. (But if your pre-ordered, you will be allowed in on the 27th, or so the tale goes.)
In the beta I made and played six different characters, wrote about 15 bugs, left suggestions on a number of quests, and never did find the beta forums. Such is life.
The beta left a number of impressions on me. The basic one is that the game is not yet ready for prime time. Even when things were working well in the game, it felt like it wasn’t done. There was no huge gap in the product that I could see (not for PvE anyway), but rather a series of little things that add up quickly, making the game feel rough and unfinished.
The beta also left me longing for the next US made MMO with stylized graphics. I want an MMO with good game play that does not kill my system. Vanguard’s heavy system requirements will keep it as a niche game at best for some time to come. And I worry about other MMOs slated for this year for the same reason. Ironic statement of the moment: I worry that Warhammer Online does not look enough like World of Warcraft.
And then there is the interface. The interface is easy to learn, because you have probably played WoW, and Vanguard pretty much pinched the WoW interface without change. I do not know if the team at Sigil just admired the interface so much that they stole it, or if this is some effort to drain off users from WoW by shortening the learning curve. If it is the latter, then it is misguided, if it is the former… uh… no, it has to be the latter.
There are a few EverQuest-ish items thrown into the interface, like screen shots being tied to the dash on the keypad rather than the now-standard print screen key, as well as the ability to move the camera angle up and down with the page up/page down keys. (That last one is something I dearly wish Blizzard would take.) But mostly it is lightly re-skinned WoW.
So what will I do on January 30th? I wonder about that myself. If the game comes out at a steep enough discount (and I doubt it will go for suggested retail price at any big chain) I may very well pick up a copy just to be able to report on the first night experience. Will it be the next big MMO for me? That remains to be seen. Telon may be calling, but Middle Earth might next.