There is a long “What’s Hurting Vanguard” post from Brad McQuaid making the rounds about the state of the game and mistakes made in launching it how and when they did. There is a lot in there under the heading of “20/20 hindsight” and “things we would have done differently,” much of which is just the way the world works. After all, who knew when The Burning Crusade was really going to launch and how do you plan for changing publishers so far into a project? Still, there are a couple of items that grate on me.
Performance: Brad thinks that six months will mitigate the performance issues. I certainly hope he means that six months of work will make the game client perform better. If he thinks six months is going to raise performance bar on the average system of his target audience (and both he and Jeff Butler have been out there pitching Vanguard as an alternative for WoW players that want more depth) I think he will find he is at least 18 months shy of a time line that leads to Vanguard system requirements becoming anything like mainstream. I am not sure you can even view VanguardPlayers.com with the system that Blizzard lists as the minimum requirements for World of Warcraft.
Underpopulated Servers: I am not sure how much of a walk Sigil should get on this one. You do have to plan for success to a certain extent, so they put up more servers than maybe they should have. But once people got past the newbie yards the size of the world distributed the population pretty sparsely. So, oops, too much space, not enough people, our bad. On the other hand, they have heard of EverQuest, being the creators and all. They know what happens when you make a very large world and then make travel run in real time.
Marketing: In pitching the game initially as hard core (my words now, his words in the past) they seem to have alienated the segment of the MMO audience that does not look back fondly on corpse runs, level grinding, large time commitments, or raiding. The whole Sigil team has been backpedaling on the hard core ideal for some time now. I have heard Jeff Butler say that their target is an “everyman’s game.” But saying that Vanguard isn’t hard core when it seems to be, relative to so much of its competition, seems disingenuous to me. But I might be more annoyed that they have gone from pitching this as a strength to treating it as a serious weakness.
Pitching The Future: Brad gets in at the end and writes about how much better the 2008 Vanguard will be compared to the 2007 version. That’s a fine, oft repeated message from him, but it hardly makes me want to invest in the game today, especially when so much of what I read about the game indicates that it is not quite ready for prime time.
Finally, when I wrote this post originally (this is my third run at it) I spent most of the time around Brad’s statement that they got 80% of what they wanted accomplished. This statement, in conjunction with the other issues he mentioned, brought up an eerie parallel with a start up company for which I once worked. (One of several.) The mis-marketing, performance issues, pitching the future, and then the statement of being “80%” there were all things I experienced at that company, and it’s fate was to end up as one of the 9 out of 10 start ups that go out of business.
But we were never “nearing 200K” customers either. That isn’t a WoW number, but if they can maintain it, they can survive. Can they maintiain it… now that is the question.