Vanguard Saga of Heroes, a second look (2012)


Under the Wire

With GW2 about to release, August the 14th is not a very clever time to choose to re-launch Vanguard in its f2p incarnation – if you want to make money that is. I don’t think Sony want to make money on this one for some reason, looking from outside of the box. Tax reasons? Need a quick loss on some column of figures? Who knows. Anyway, the timing is off. It’s a much-loved older game, with many people looking to return – doldrums is when it should be launched. Sometime when not a lot else is going on, ie Feb/March/April, and a Feb/March/April when nobody else is doing a big hype. It’ll be Panapokkiwow second-next so waiting out the GW2 wave won’t do much good.

There is too much else going on in the game world just now, what with SWTOR going f2p and Secret World, if I read aright, trembling on the brink, never mind the big launches I already mentioned.

And as well as that they used a false launch date, so probably a lot of people don’t know it’s already up and running. Or could just be they haven’t upgraded the servers very much and are trying to lighten the load via all this. That bodes well doesn’t it. (sarcasm).

The good news is:

The good news is it runs better now. If I ever find the document in which I’m doing my “It Runs On This Laptop” matrix, I’ll update the entry on Vanguard. It is still quite sluggish on medium settings, and not much better on low. But much improved – I can play without the controls annoying me. Which means I’ve been playing it properly and not just dipping in, hence this post. I daresay combat isn’t going to be my strong point.

A while back, before the Alaplayer thing happened, I had a Station Access pass and made a Vanguard account as part of that exploration. I dropped the All Access sub because of that (Alaplayer) business and a for good few other reasons. I’m not a happy SOE customer. So I do have an old Vanguard account. Last time I played, I quite enjoyed looking at the scenery and doing some beginner stuff but the controls were very, very spongy. Couldn’t stand more than ohh – 15 minutes I’d say.

I’m not using that account just now though. I want to see their f2p in its full glory. I made a new account. I know, by the way, quite a few people who are planning to return to Vanguard, but not for quite a while and though they have sub money ready, they too plan to try it out first on an f2p account, and see what they think and how populated it is.

The bad news

I don’t know that I want to make a blanket covering statement – there are quite a few things. The f2p stands out somewhat ummm, well actually it’s an extended free trial, and they should call it that. So another slightly dodgy move there (it mounts up – really there are some things you can’t get away with on the internet).

So… a free trial tacked on to a subscription model is what we have. This will work fine if server costs are low and some money dribbles in from the cash shop. I mentally file away the possibility that that is what they are aiming at. Revenue neutral. (Unless of course it somehow becomes wildly popular). Would I buy shares in SOE? Golf Club Guy says No.

Who is Golf Club Guy

He is an imaginary figment I use to think outside the box. One of the imaginary figments I have. Golf Club Guy is old and rich and hangs in Golf Clubs with his buddies. They sit on boards. They move on shares in a pack and share information in the kind of male hierarchy we are all familiar with. Top dogs get the most information and the sidekicks get the rumours and can watch and ape their betters. Anyway when the Golf Club Guys move out of a company’s shares it’s curtains. They have no loyalty – you can be their best buddy but they won’t hold shares in your company if they get a whiff of something better. And they always move before anyone else. I repeat this is all an imaginary backstory. (And way off topic.) It works this way – I have a chat with Golf Club Guy (in my head you understand) and he tells me what he thinks of this or that company. Neither of us is interested if he’s right or wrong. He’s imaginary and I don’t buy shares. I just find his views entertaining. Some weird stuff happens in my head u know.

By compartmentalising a small tiny part of my brain through imagining Golf Club Guy, I can allow him to come up with things I don’t know I noticed, and shuffle them into patterns I normally wouldn’t see. OK, glad that’s out of the way. So… back to Vanguard.

I haven’t wandered around their cash shop, but from what I read it’s heavy on the nickle-and-diming (quel surprise) and tries to carrot and stick people into buying things. That is a one-dimensional and non-functional strategy. Speaking as someone who worked long enough in marketing, that sort of approach is…. sub-optimal. Mechanical customers never existed, yet the myth persists.

People buy digital leisure products because they want to:

I like it and I want one!

is what you aim for. End of. No amount of sticks or carrots will mechanically induce sales. Only desire….. wooo/ fan, fan fan… anyway.

So does Vanguard induce any desire in me to go spend money in their cash shop? Or become a subscriber?

Download, check, Install, check, Launch, done fine so far and…..

Nag button. Well that won’t keep me around or induce euphoric love leading me to a sub. The opposite. I feel my heels digging in further as I sit here. Creating an artificial need isn’t going to work in this situation. I’d like a nice uncluttered ui, but I’m not going to pay any money a month for it. Did these guys learn marketing in the 70s or something?

The Gameplay 

Jolly good on with the show. I’m just in the starter zone, so not a lot to cover, only generalities. I will probably make many more avatars and jump about here for a while before I go on. I am glad I can try out anything. That will keep me playing for a while. When I get to 20 on something I like, well, if I’ve enjoyed my time ingame I’ll be checking out the price on that unlock and if it is reasonable, I’ll pay. I’m a… a… half, no, dark elf um Necrosomething, you know, summon horrors, that kind of thing. I started on teh starter island for this one, and I’m enjoying the play. The necrosomething isn’t standing out for any reason – there are a 100 variants on her allover the game world, but it is early days. Once again, the scenery is beautiful, so is the music. The quests follow eachother as easily as dewdrops plopping off a leaf, there is no jarring discord or annoyance. Only one or two people here – same as last time I played (eu). It’s a couple of days before the official launch though.

When you create your character you’d be forgiven for thinking you were going to be SOE’s gold-standard ugly (as in EQ, EQ2), but ingame the avatars look fine apart from most peculiar legs. The starter zone is pretty much a starter zone, and well done as such. You learn to fight, to use the ui, to move around etc. You kill ten, put goo on ten. The game is old, it feels quaint. But it’s not so much in the past that it feels alien or awkward – there are enough common points of reference here to be able to play very comfortably. Sound effects really are good – even just the combat. I found it easy to relax, take pictures, listen, enjoy – starter zones aren’t the height of excitement so it’s I just let the newness reign. It’s always in the starter zones that I remember that a lot of people put their time and maybe their hearts into making these beautiful artefacts, games. To choosing that sky, or skin, or scratching it up from nothing. And Vanguard is a particularly beautiful game.

…could big it up and fall right into that sky.

I’m taking notes as I go, and if things continue to go well, of course, I’ll post again 🙂 So far, so good, Vanguard.

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