VsoH -Will Lack of Polish Kill Vanguard?

Polish can’t be overlooked in MMO’s these days by developers. Before in the old days, devs could get away with releasing a game half finished, with many bugs, clipping graphics, horrendous animations, the wrong text for items or even servers that crashed constantly when the game went live. Those days of mmorpg discovery are over and developers now a days have one shot to wow a gamer before he leaves and tries out the next one. With the increase of games in the market gamers have very little time for hiccups in the display and demand relatively polished games even at release.

Is it fair to have such high expectations for a huge project that involves countless hours of resource development (i.e quests, graphics, networks), very intricate class, economic and social interaction, and overall a very complex amount of code which draws upon many different profession to have such high production values?

Yes, and the bar will only continue to rise especially with the success World of Warcraft and now Everquest 2 (post Fae expack).

This is now a problem for Vanguard: Saga of Hero’s. Their polish, or be it their lack of, will put them at a servere disadvantage against most other mmo companies going into the rest of 2007. Though still in beta, it is now open beta and the game will being going gold come end of January yet some of the same issues are still not resolved.

  • The servers are still crashing every 30 mins. This happens in alpha testing and maybe first or second beta, but not open beta.
  • Many items are still missing information on what they are or what they do; some even have the wrong information.
  • Some animations just are not there. Even if they are bad, you at least need some kind of animation for an important actions (i.e casting a spell), that is just down right unacceptable.
  • The content seems to be split between the 3 continents which gives each level you grind a diluted feel. They should of just stuck to one continent at launch.
  • The community seems to spread out to start, again diluting the flow of the game.
  • The UI has no fluidity to it, no general concept it’s designed behind, just feels cut and pasted together.
  • Lack of atmosphere and mood in the game. The colors seem bland and uninspired.
  • The animations also seem stiff and uninspired, totally lacking vigor. The user should get the feeling the character is working hard to slay a monster to fight; for his life, not that it’s hacking away at some electronic goblin on a server in an imaginary world.

So far in my head I’ve narrowed it down to 4 possible senerios as to why Sigil has neglected polishing their game as of now.

 

  • A. They spent too long working on supplying content for 3 continents and consciously ddecided not to not to polish the animation, graphics, UI and other misc things in hopes gamers would look past if given enough content.
  • B. They were rushed, which is a silly statement since they’ve already been on a deadline once with Microsoft, one would think they would of done at least some polishing.
  • C. They don’t care about polish, which again is silly since clunky UI, animation and memory usage lead to a less immersing experience (which is exactly what this game is about, the experience)
  • D. Sony pulled the rug out form under them, meaning when they signed the deal with Sony where Sigil was promised more time and Sony went back on the contract. Which is entirely possible but we’ve all had the hint VSoH was coming sometime in Jan for a very long time so that senerio is very unlikely (i.e. going live jan. 30 wasn’t suddenly announced yesterday)

The real problem I have is that with A, B, and D senerios is obvious solution is to cut back on the number of continents (preferably 1), over design content for it, and release the next continent this summer, and the third in the winter when they are ready. Thus freeing up time to polish the game to their hearts content, but that didn’t happen for one reason or another. That only leaves C which is disturbing.

Polish matters in a game is because you lose immersion by your user with game hiccups (clipping, bad animation, UI text not matching image ect…), you lose a large customer base who won’t pay $$ and world hard to level when it doesn’t even look like the devs are working hard for them, and generally it gives your game a very uninspired look and feel. Say what you will about WoW (it’s grind, endgame, pvp, lack of content ect) but it is very polished, has a good system for user to game involvement (controls are responsive, easy to use UI), the game has gravity (ie.e the characters don’t look like their running on air or some polygon plane) and there is great atmosphere.

The reason why I worry about Vsoh future is while it is ok to have very little polish at release (look at EQ2 and see how they did), it’s very hard to play catch up especially when users are expecting content regularly.Will lack of polish kill Vanguard. No, in my opinion the fan base who love this game through thick and thin will keep this game afloat for at least a year in which case I do believe the experience of the development team wins out and they right their ship. The one thing Sigil must worry about is the other slew of mmo’s coming out in 2007. Not everyone will put themselves at a disadvantage like Vsoh did and one must expect that Conan, Lord of the Rings or Warhammer will be an economic success. Will there be room for Vanguard when that day arrives? We’ll see.

–D^t

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