Questions without Answers, by Nat
Apr 20, 2007 13:29:46

I had this whole piece written up (to send to Brent at Virginworlds for a contest) about generations of MMORPG players and how it was connected to generations of MMORPG games. It went into the norms of the different generations of players, what they accept and the expectations they have. It delved into how the games you cut your teeth on and the players who taught you how to play factored into it. Hell it even pulled in PnP, MUD's, MUSH's and when you joined the internet community into the theory. But then I fired up the old Ipod and checked Virginworlds for my news fix and I had a change of heart.

To pass the time on my hour commute I spent some time with the boys from the GFW podcast (my favorite general PC podcast by far) and they touched on how Vanguard is "considering" making changes to the death penalty. Hummm...interesting.

At work I had a couple minutes to kill over lunch so I went to see what goodies Brent had dug up at VW and found a link to a little post on Silkyvenom by the man behind Vanguard himself. Brad was lamenting all the things they didn't just miss the target on but how they seem to have tried to use the gun as a golf club. Another hummmmmm...interesting moment. When I have two such moments in a day I figure I better think about it some more.

I started to ponder if in my attempt to delve into the understanding of MMORPG players and what generation I was and what my generations expectations and norms are (see this is much better topic, the original one reeks of pretentiousness doesn't it?) if I had drank the Kool-Aid the folks at Vanguard must have coming out their faucet.

I had almost convinced myself that (what I would have called first generation players) didn't accept the norms of games like WOW, that the reason veteran players trash on it so hard is that it does not meet their expectations or that it put forth a new set of norms and like grumpy old people they pulled the "back in my day" card. I wonder if Brad and crew had conversations about generations, expectations and norms similar to where I was going in my thoughts? I honestly wonder if they (as true first generation players) did convince themselves of just this very thing. This might explain a few things.

But I think it is more than that, I think perhaps they went one step beyond even the belief that veteran gamers would come without question. I wonder if they felt the norms and expectations of old were somehow superior to the new norms and expectations. That in time all the new to MMORPG players would leave what they have just learned and through some type of spiritual awakening find the old norms and expectations the answer to all their longing and desires. That the old days were better and given the chance to see that people would come running?

Vanguard was in development for 5 years. That means during its development cycle it saw the rise of WOW and the utter failure of EQ2 (launch EQ2 not the game today) and the series of train wrecks in 2006 - yet still held to its vision. Why? What did they see or thought they saw in the market and players that does not seem to have existed?

Now people will say that this would all be a non-issue if the game was done and had a Blizzard level of polish on it. I'm calling BS on this - sure it would help it but I think the true issues with the game run deeper than polish and are more closely tied to poor design choices from out of touch developers who failed to realize the games changed, the players changed and the old norms and expectations are long forgotten like all my old PnP books collecting dust in a box somewhere in a basement.

I feel almost bad for Brad and crew. They were once looked at as visionaries, pioneers and godfathers of the genre. Now how will they be viewed - like an old athlete who should have stayed in retirement and accepted that they were not what they once were? I wonder if Lord British will meet the same fate?

- Nat

Submitted by Brent on Apr 20, 2007 13:29:46 CST (comments: 2)


'What do we want?' by Smith
Submitted on 2007-04-21 01:03:59 CST
I think you are pretty much right, Nat. We are the fist "second generation" of MMOers and we're dealing with what this means for us. In a sense, the Virgin Worlds are not so virgin any more. I work in the car industry and I often see analogies to the game business. What are we bringing to market and for who and will they really want it? Now people look back on the great cars ( read "games") of the past and say, "man, those were the days." But if we really, I mean really brought back a, say, '60s Chevelle, no one would buy it. To smelly, under performing, not safe, two doors, etc. Those of us who have been around a while would like to go back to the good old days, but you can't go back. You can never go back. Of course, some people do actually ride around in cars from the '60s and meet with other like-minded people. So what is gaming equivalent of that? Can we just keep plaing EQ1 forever? Maybe each generation has their games/cars/music, and you look back at times, but you don't really want to actually go back. Maybe the guys at Vanguard were hoping to be able to go back and to take us with them, and are now learning you can never go back. The beaty is in the "what's next?" What game has (or can be created that WILL have) the feel of the old game, but with all the current bells and whistles? (Hint: it ain't WoW.)

'Another factor' by DamianoV
Submitted on 2007-04-21 11:05:30 CST
I would suggest that part of the problem for Vanguard is also a factor of the divergence for many people between "what they want" and "what they can afford". In this case, not in terms of money, but in terms of time. (YMMV, of course.)

The main failing of Vanguard for me (beyond the occasional technical issues) is simply how much time it appears designed to demand. I think there is a significant audience that does generally appreciate what Vanguard attempted to do, but simply cannot dedicate the amount of time necessary to enjoy it at this point. That 5 years of development takes you from high school/undergrad/partying to masters degree/work/family/children.

Games like WoW, CoH, etc. accommodate brief sessions of play almost flawlessly. Vanguard... not so much.

Also, I think Vanguard's design in effectively a niche design, IMO... it is for "experts", people who have done the basic tank/heal/DPS thing to death already, and want something different, something more. That crowd will grow as time passes, but it's not as huge as they apparently expected just yet.

Random thoughts...

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