There is a bit of meme going around that Vanguard has been a massive failure, Sigil is doomed, “the Vision” has failed, and so on and so forth.  I have to admit, I don’t get the logic behind some of this.

I’d agree that Vanguard wasn’t a blockbuster WoW-killer.  Frankly, I never expected it to be, myself, but that’s a somewhat different topic.  There were several reasons why I personally think that ended up to be so…

  • High technical requirements for the client (particularly video)
  • Poor release timing (within a week of WoW’s first expansion?)
  • Released too early/lack of “polish” (bugs, etc)
  • Distinctive gameplay elements not emphasized early on

None of those was a deal-killer by itself, IMO.  Each was a nail for the coffin, however, because they either failed to excite or literally discouraged people in that all-important first impressions category.

The part I don’t understand is the effort to translate that into a knock against “the Vision”.  There is plenty of interesting game play in Vanguard, the game is not an Archlord (where the primary commentary I saw was “it’s so damn boring”) or the like.  There is only one factor, which I did not list above, that I can see as having been related to Brad McQuaid’s “Vision” as I understood it.

  • The game does not feel “casual-friendly”

Now, even this is somewhat off-base.  Many innovations that were originally heralded as “casual-friendly” are included in Vanguard: quest NPC indicators floating over people’s heads, relatively short, step-by-step quest progressions, most mobs (at least early on) are on short timers (very little waiting), etc.  Even the “death penalty” was pretty restrained, tho still a bit heavy in comparison to most recent titles.

Most of the commentary I see, however, rails against the tech requirements or bugs, and jumps directly to proclaiming that “the Vision was wrong”.   To me, there is a huge disconnect there.  It actually starts to sound a little like some people haven’t gotten over certain episodes from EQ1, many many years ago…

That basic argument then gets spun in one of two ways: 1) this is bad for innovation, because it will scare off investors, or 2) this is good for innovation because it will prove that same-old, same-old is not a guarantee of success.  If you forced me to choose, I’d pick #1 over #2, but frankly it’s a false choice, IMO.  I don’t think most investors understand the industry to that depth, anyway.

The only conclusion I think can be drawn from Vanguard’s difficulties is that the first commandment of MMO production is very unforgiving.

  1. THOU SHALT NOT launch with a buggy, unfinished product.

Now I admit, I didn’t follow the in-depth Vanguard commentary over the years, so I might have missed something.  However, I find it hard to see how that could be a knock against Mr. McQuaid’s vision of game design… or anyone else’s, for that matter. 

Unless he said at some point “this game design is so awesome, I could release it all filled with bugs and glitchy, and you’ll still love it!”  Then I guess people would have a point.