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Vanguard Producer Wants Second Chance for First Impression 67

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the try-try-again dept.
Allakhazam is featuring an interview with Vanguard producer Thom Terrazas where he addresses some of the early issues that made Vanguard so slow out of the gates. "Performance; Optimization; High System Requirements. Everyone may have a different name for it but at the end of the day, optimization challenges were the biggest hurdle faced at launch. We lost too many customers at launch due to the inability to run the game smoothly and we have been making huge improvements in this area in every update since. I can speak to this first hand actually: When I started playing at launch, I experienced some horrible "hitching" while moving from one area to another on what I consider an average gamers' computer. When I began to play more extensively a couple months later, I noticed some considerable improvements to my frame rate. Today, it is night and day superior than it was at launch. Optimizing the game has been one of our top priorities and in the last six months, we have made some considerable strides in improving the player's experience. If you haven't logged in recently or if you gave us a look in the beginning and haven't been back since, check it out now - I'll even flag your account for free for a period of time if you want to go in and prove me wrong."
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Vanguard Producer Wants Second Chance for First Impression

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:46PM (#23494308)
    A company spokesperson is also promising fixes for the multitude of problems in "Star Wars Galaxies" that have plagued the MMORPG for the last five years. "This time you can trust us," said SOE director Constance Phuckup, citing the company's extensive experience in dealing with glitchey, poorly implmented, unbalanced MMORPG's.
    • by Delwin (599872) *
      Actually given that they've got a new Lead Programmer who's quite hellbent on making the game what it should have been in the first place I don't doubt it's night and day. After all Brad isn't stuffing all the venture capital up his nose this time.
      • by nschubach (922175)
        Oh? They are removing teleports, revamping combat to the old Beta2 system, adding in functional and required boats, removing the broker restoring regional economies, turning night dark again, adding helmets, returning Equipment Expertise, restoring the Dreadknight to the AE role it was originally designed, adding more and diverse dungeons, trade caravans, player cities ... I could go on for ages.
    • A company spokesperson is also promising fixes for the multitude of problems in "Star Wars Galaxies" that have plagued the MMORPG for the last five years.

      "This time we have based it on REAL battles that ACTUALLY HAPPENED in a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away." said the spokeman. He then went on to show us some of the realistic features like:

      - Real time weapon change
      - Giant space crabs
      - The ability to "hit the weak point" for what the spokesperson termed: "Massive Damage"

      When Sony's executive staff w

      • "When asked why does someone need to search for a 'weak point' while using a lightsaber, he shouted, 'Hey! Look at that spider on the wall!' and when the reporters turned back to look at him, he was gone."
    • by brouski (827510)

      ...said SOE director Constance Phuckup.
      I laughed.
    • by GeekDork (194851)

      To quote the slashtot tagline I see under the comments right now (omitting the typewriter-markup):

      "At least they're EXPERIENCED incompetents"
    • A company spokesperson is also promising fixes for the multitude of problems in "Star Wars Galaxies" that have plagued the MMORPG for the last five years
      Most of those technical problems were fixed in SWG, the game was stable and a solid 250k playerbase. The biggest problem was the game design limited it to a niche Roleplayer audience, so they broke the game completely with NGE so it had more mass market appeal.
      • That one backfired. If you believe the data on http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart2.html [mmogchart.com], SWG is down to about 100k subscribers. According to the same chart, EVE Online (which is also not for everyone) is approaching the 250k from below, after 5 years of steady growth.

        So a well designed niche game can be a better success than a would-be mass market title :-)
        • I rather liked Eve Online. The only problem was after I had finally gotten my first battle cruiser (or maybe heavy bc, IDR), I got it destroyed in a L2 mission because a swarm of gnats caused the screen to slow to about 1 frame per 5s. That's assured death in a clicky game. I couldn't even activate warp out before I was blown up.
  • I wanted to play but the beat turned me off. Anyone remember opening doors?
  • Lesson learned (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nikanj (799034)
    Next time, optimize first, release second.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by subsoniq (652203)
      I think game companies are finally starting to figure this out (where MMO's are concerned). I was in the AoC open beta and had a lot of problems with the beta client (debugging code was compiled in and turned on), but I've heard from the early access people that the RTM client was smooth as silk, a huge improvement over the different beta clients and actually playable on machines 1-2 years old. And of course Mythic pushed back the release of Warhammer Online, which hopefully means they'll get it straight
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        It surprises me that games developers wouldn't know that. I think that it's been standard practice in the OS world for a long time. Every time I update to current before the next branch happens on freebsd, there's always a note to people that think that current is slow. Largely because all the debugging code is still active by default and none of the compiler optimization flags are being used. I'm pretty sure that Windows is the same way, and I'd be shocked if the Linux kernel isn't as well.

        It's just not pa
        • by Surt (22457)
          If your MMO has serious performance problems in the CLIENT you have so seriously screwed up there is little hope for you. You should be able to get the client right without a beta. Getting the SERVER right is what the beta is for (so you can get real loads and findout what breaks down in your server code under that stress, and also gauge how much launch hardware you need).

          At least, that's how we did it for Diablo II / WOW.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
        Well it's also finally come around that there are companies who have done it before...Both Mythic(DAoC) and Funcom(AO) have prior experience with long-running MMOs.
    • Often you don't know where the problems will be until you put it under load.

      Techniques exist to simulate load, of course. And there is always open beta testing. However, they still only give you an approximation of where the problems are and what their scope is, and the time you invest in these activities is not billable.

      The money for a game has to come from somewhere. It is a huge upfront investment, with little more than crystal-ball-gazing to determine the ROI. Every dollar you invest in pre-release-
      • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:30PM (#23494902)

        Often you don't know where the problems will be until you put it under load.
        That wasn't Vanguard's problem: the problem was that the content was barely half-complete at launch, with much of the content for one of the three islands simply missing.

        The game at launch was actually great fun up to the teen levels, but then I pretty much hit a brick wall in terms of power relative to the mobs in the game, and the lack of content in the island I started on made progression difficult, to say the least.

        The game should have been developed for at least another six months before release; sure, it would have cost SoE more money, but in the long run they'd have far more players than they do today.

        I did actually give it a try in the 'free month' they gave to old players last year, but I didn't see much difference and they'd merged servers and renamed most of my characters, so that left me with little incentive to resubscribe.
        • Game Update 5 (Score:5, Informative)

          by LordKazan (558383) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @05:00PM (#23497564) Homepage Journal
          I type this while harvesting on my 50 ranger/45 carpenter in vanguard.

          Game Update 5 is due soon and I have played around with it on the test server - it delivers a fairly large burst of optimizations and visual improvements. The games original problem is one man essentially: Brad McQuaid doesn't know how to manage his way out of a wet paper bag.

          They have been working toward a relaunch since the moment Sony bought out Sigil and thus far have done a good job.

          Anyone who liked the game but got driven away by bugs and performance issues should come around once Game Update 5 or Game Update 6 are pushed
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ProppaT (557551)
      I don't think it was necessarily their fault this time around. I believe I remember Brad saying that, at the time, they were forced to release or abandon because of venture capitalists. So, they released the game with hopes that they could 1) fix the performance issues (which turned from a problem to a major problem after 250k people hit their servers all at once) and 2) Hopefully add the higher level content as people got higher level.

      As is the case with so many MMO's these days, people played obsessivel
  • Open Week (Score:5, Interesting)

    by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:59PM (#23494494) Journal
    Run an open week. I don't want to have to go out and purchase the game to "prove you wrong." I played the beta and was active in several forums, I was really hoping this was the game that could put my EverQuest addiction to rest. But sadly it was not. I still play EverQuest a few nights a week, and I'd like to move on but I haven't found a MMO that satisfies.

    Vanguard made lots of promises but never really fulfilled them, and it's sad because on paper it really looked like a great game. Maybe they do now, but if you really want to prove it, have an open week where people can download the client and play for free, like an open beta. Yeah, there's a few logistical issues to work out but I'm sure Sony can take the load if prepared (I'm not being sarcastic...). If you want to bring us in, give us something to chew on. Everquest still gives out free month trials... the Trial of the Isle, which is essentially a month playing with the first three expansions on designated servers. The whole game, uncrippled. Something like that might help you prove your point.
    • Re:Open Week (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lewp (95638) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:17PM (#23494726) Journal
      I think any game that wants to be a competitive MMO nowadays needs to have some kind of free trial that doesn't involve shelling out for the game box first. The whole "first month free" is nice, but not if I have to actually buy the game to get it.

      With other games you can check reviews and get a fairly clear picture of what's going on. MMOs aren't so easy because a) they take a lot more time to fully get into than a reviewer is likely to spend with the game and b) they're constantly changing. You need to let people get their feet wet with the game before expecting them to pay up.
      • by BobMcD (601576)
        I agree and in fact have been visiting old games based on their 14-day trial policy.

        The sticker on AoC reads $50 around here. That's $100 if I pick up one for the wife. If either of us isn't satisfied with the experience, that's $100 wasted...
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Bieeanda (961632)
        That's what open betas have been used for, for years now. A bit of cross-marketing with FilePlanet (subscribe to our site and get into beta 'free'!) and everyone but the player wins.

        Besides that, there are a couple of reasons why you're not likely to see downloadable demos for live MMOs:
        First off, they want to move as many boxes as they can. That initial $50 outlay, when you take into account the tens of thousands of fanboys hoping to grab prime virtual land, loot or names, goes a long, long way to payi

      • I believe both EVE and WoW have free trials. In WoW's case you only have to purchase the game if you want to keep playing after the trial.
        • EVE has a low-cost purchase option too:
          Something like $20 for the game including first month of play (I'm too lazy to find out the exact price now). That means you pay only a few dollars on top of the subscription price for that month.
          Of course EVE has the advantage of lower distribution costs. You download the client, you don't buy a box that has to be shipped and takes up space in a shop.
      • They're working on one as they fix bugs and perform optimization - it will probably be out before xmas and i believe when Trial Island is available (and will have the tutorial, etc) it will be when they relaunch.. but i would have to dig in the forums to find quotes.
    • Re:Open Week (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MrBandersnatch (544818) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:30PM (#23494890)
      Sadly, Vanguard is dead and has been running on life support since a few weeks after launch. Due to the low subscriber base I strongly doubt it will EVER see an expansion, which would be the only way it can ever hope to GROW its subscriber base! But maybe it would have been worth going back except......

      Age of Conan! Its actually GOOD and has delivered on many of the promises Vanguard was making. I'm not saying there aren't problems (only a few of which are major) but I've not had this much fun in an MMO since EQ.
      • Silius (lead dev) has long said that vanguard pays for itself and they have said they would like to do and expansion -

        and it's not nearly dead - there are more than 94 people in the crafters channel alone at 4pm central and more than 200 (it won't let you see passed that) in regionsay on my server - this is at a non-peak time
    • Re:Open Week (Score:4, Interesting)

      by GeekDork (194851) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:40PM (#23495016)

      The issue with segregated trials is that you will experience a vastly different community than on real live servers. For example, when I was still playing DAoC, a magazine for the mentally less endowed (no other way to say it more politely) had a trial offer. You could pretty much see the average intelligence drop to negative in the starting areas in the weeks after that. If I had started during that time, I'd have paid to make it stop.

      Giving trial players too much influence on the live environment without paying for it on the other hand will make a lot of Chinese extremely happy.

      All in all, it's a no-win situation. My idea would be something like a 2 or 3-week trial for a small amount of money, say, 5-7$, which is pretty affordable. People throw away a lot more money on trash food and bad movies on a daily basis. SOE also seems to be working on a new/alternative starting area, which could also be (ab)used as a trial area.

      From the view of a returned player who played shortly after release, and then stopped for 10 months, I can say that the game has really improved a lot performance-wise, and has a rather mature and friendly community. Apart from that it's a perfectly normal MMO, with long-standing bugs that still need to be fixed since beta, class rebalancing with each update, surprise features, etc.

      • In EQ's case, the trials throw you onto a low population server of their choice, not the server of your choice. IE, to prevent abuse by people who just want multiple accounts on a certain server. You most definitely had a core constituency of players who were not trial players.

        (I did this once to try and get my wife into the game... and other random friends)
      • by DerWulf (782458)
        In a trail I wouldn't be looking at the community but if the game runs on my hardware, the polish of the experience and if the game play as such is fun. The best community in the world wouldn't get me to play AoC as long as I don't have the comp to run it and the revolutionary new combat system is nothing but added tedium over auto attack. Reversely, a bad community would never turn me away from a fun game. Decent people are a lot easier to find then decent games.

        A little tangent here: Why is it that cutt
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There is something about EQ1 that gets me to keep my sub going, even though when I log on, the servers are almost dead. A level 80 in EQ1 is truly a badge of honor, because of all the grinding it took to earn that, even not factoring all the AAs it takes along the way.

      EQ2 is an interesting MMO. If you do the strategy like in WoW and just grind levels to level cap, your character will be a lot weaker (although at level cap, you can get AAs by killing stuff, but it will be quite slow) than someone who quest
      • Re:Open Week (Score:5, Informative)

        by MeanderingMind (884641) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:53PM (#23496776) Homepage Journal
        I think you, naturally, haven't been keeping up on WoW. That probably shows you're an intelligent individual, unlike myself.

        It's been months since it was more efficient to grind than quest, and while each class has its nemesis and victim there isn't a single class that gets a free ride in PvP, or has it overly difficult. If you're referencing Arenas, it's certain class combinations that are overpowered rather than specific classes.

        Just a friendly update.
    • Yeah, there's a few logistical issues to work out but I'm sure Sony can take the load if prepared (I'm not being sarcastic...).

      Good point, because if the game finally takes off this is exactly what you are going to get: more load.
      If the servers cannot handle the extra players of the open week, they won't be able to handle more regular subscribers either.
  • what specs (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I wonder what his so-called "average gamer's" PC actually is. I highly doubt it really is. Maybe "average HARDCORE gamer's PC".
    • by kalirion (728907)
      Define "gamer". Are we including Solitaire / Bedazzled / Zuma players in the calculation?
  • by GroeFaZ (850443)
    "Second chance for a first impression" hits it on the head. They are not Blizzard, and they could not back Vanguard with an already strong franchise, so the game has to impress on its own from day one. With so many high-quality and/or free MMOs to choose from nowadays, you either have to find a niche of your own, like ArenaNet with GuildWars, or you have to take on the biggest, right out of the gate.
  • I have no problems playing Vanguard [atariguide.com] on my Atari 2600.
  • Yeah (Score:4, Funny)

    by dunezone (899268) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:32PM (#23495688) Journal
    And I want a second chance for a first impression with the girl I met last week. I just wasn't performing at top game compared to my competition, but since then I have optimized myself to run more efficiently and smooth. I had some issues moving from one subject to the next but I fixed those issues and now I have a new tool, playing it cool. Just prove me wrong.
  • by Knara (9377) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:38PM (#23495782)

    This offer would have been a lot more attractive before Age of Conan released this weekend/yesterday. A little bit too late now, since anyone in the MMO scene who was looking for a new game is now busy running around AoC.

  • What guarantee can you offer that the performance increase didn't come from players leaving?
    • They had six servers, all with anemic populations. About six months ago, they merged the population into three servers (and the pvp server). Server performance was never the issue -- the client side performance is. Yes, the textures are incredibly detailed, the locations are beautifully sculpted. It overwhelms anything less than a NVidia 8800 or similar.
    • by LordKazan (558383)
      the only time performance was a server problem was when they first released the raid zone they had a bug with buff handling that would grind the server to a halt and lag everyone out of that shard (the raid zone is the only "sharded" zone)

      the rest of the performance problems have all been client side due to unoptimized or poorly optimized art and code - there have been large performance improvements since launch and the next large Game Update (GU5) has a very large batch of optimizations
  • by UziBeatle (695886) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:02PM (#23496074)
    Granted. He is correct in asserting the game runs much smoother than at launch.

    So what.

      I've been playing Vanguard for the past 2 months or so after a long away
    period following that horrid launch.

      I have had fun, and am with healthy sized guild too.

      Bottom line is though , for style whores like me, the games armor / clothing
    is dull and vapid beyond belief.
    Example: Roll a caster. Get used to wearing the same smock for levels 10 thru cap level and
    learn to love it. Sure, they change the textures on the smocks but that is all the caster gets
    to pick from.
      Nothing remotely 'sexy' or different in the least to choose from. God forbid any cleavage ever show.

      People love to bash WoW but Blizzard did get one thing right. There is a fair variety of armor styles
    one can choose and if you dont' mind 'gimping' the character you can diverge from the set look.
    Yeah, true enough for the hardcore it is no option and everyone looks the same but for those that just
    enjoy the game without worrying about capping their leet char to the max there are options with the 'look'.

        LOTRO, Lord of the Rings Online, recently added a great patch that introduced 'appearance armor'. Grand idea
    but they foolishly limited the amount of armor/dress up outfits one can pick from or find.

    Both of which are leaps and bounds above the mind frakingly dull armor in Vanguard.

    Sony also forces every user to use ADMIN mode to launch the damn game.
    SOny can shove it up their ass. I'm tired of that 'feature' and it is inexcusable practice.

      It was fun but I'm glad to cancel the account there and Age of Conan has them beat all to hell in the
    artwork department in the landscape. As for the appearance of the toons themselves... yeah they are all
    human characters and there are no cat or dog people,etc. Oh well, can't have everything now can we?
    AOC armor appearance? Only time will tell. I will give them the time, unlike with Vanguard I expect
    people will stay and the money will roll in to Funcom.

    If in six months time they have not filled in the missing holes like armor style variety, and other dits
    and dots then we can shelve it.

    Age of Conan has everything going for it that Vanguard won't ever have .
    Not because it was impossible to do,
    but because SOny is running the game and has zero clue.
     
  • I've noticed that, with few exceptions (such as a new release), games with good gameplay, high popularity, and rare technical issues have long free trials (WoW has two weeks last time I checked.) Tabula Rasa just gave me a 3 day free trial. Vanguard has no free trial whatsoever.

    I'd ask what games with short or nonexistent trials have to hide, but I think the answer is obvious. If Vanguard's producers really believe in their product, they should have no problem with letting folks play for free for a coupl
    • by LordKazan (558383)
      vanguard is developing a free trial and a product relaunch to coincide with it's availability (before years end)
    • Then what do you think of Puzzle Pirates? Free trial over there is infinite, and the game is free to download and play. (Subscription servers -- fixed fee per month -- restrict what you can do, and the pay-as-you-go servers -- fee based on activities -- have stronger restrictions, but lower incremental unlocking costs).

      It has good game play, very few technical issues, but it doesn't have the popularity of WoW.

      (Personally, I love the economy game over there, despite the issues involved.)
  • I've been keeping up with the patch notes and logging in every now and then, and Vanguard's actually a pretty good game now. It's way too grindy for me, and there's not a whole lot you can do solo, but if you liked EQ then Vanguard is good. To be fair, though, they've lowered the XP curve a lot since I played regularly, so give it a try if they ever do a free trial.
  • If performance was the reason you didn't like Vanguard, then you will be very pleasantly surprised if you log back in.

    The performance is greatly improved, and appears to be ready to take another leap forward with the next update, but some of the things which made the game more interesting have been scaled back, pushed aside, or neglected. A lot of the mechanics of the game have changed, not all for the better (imo).

    Travel has been simplified to essentially EQ Plane of Knowledge levels, with a minor c
  • Allakhazam: If you had to give a new player a piece of advice to make their experience the best possible in Vanguard, what would it be?

    Thom: Join a Guild!

    ... and they lost me again. To me, that means get a bunch of friends so no matter how much we screw up, peer pressure will keep you coming back so you don't disappoint your friends. It tells me that Vanguard is turning into another Guild raid fest. It tells me that they ARE NOT going back to the roots of what Vanguard was supposed to be. Fun. Group o

    • by brkello (642429)
      You live in a world I don't understand. Guilds are a way to meet new people and make friends. Guilds all have different objectives. Some are for leveling, some are for end game, some are just so you have people to chat with. I don't feel any pressure to level any faster than I want to in a guild. I choose to play the game the way I want it. No one pressures me...if I felt like that, I would join a different guild. All MMOs rely on co-op play and friendship to keep you playing. Not because of peer pr
  • I have no problem playing Vanguard on an Atari 2600 [youtube.com].
  • Man I rocked Vanguard [mobygames.com] on my Atari 2600 way back in 1982.

    I haven't really played it much since, so I'm not sure know why he's spending all this time optimizing it?

    Maybe they're working on Zond's AI, he was quite a wuss

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