Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
||This March 2007 may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: does not meet project guidelines. (April 2008)|
|Vanguard: Saga of Heroes|
|Developer(s)||Sony Online Entertainment
(Formerly Sigil Games Online)
|Publisher(s)||Sony Online Entertainment|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 2|
|Release date(s)||January 30, 2007
Early Access: January 26, 2007
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is a high fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created by Sigil Games Online, and now developed and run by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). Originally, the game was co-published by Sony Online Entertainment and the company producing it, Sigil Games Online. The game was released on January 30, 2007, with an early access date of January 26, 2007 for pre-order customers. On May 15, 2007, it was announced in a press release that Sony Online Entertainment had completed a transaction to purchase key assets of Sigil Games Online, including all rights to Vanguard.
The game initially sold around 242,000 copies, while the number of active subscriptions (those who play longer than the free month included when buying the game) was estimated to be around 130,000, to drop in the next months to about 40,000. For much of 2009 the population of Vanguard was almost non-existent. Though recently, after some changes in the game to make it more stable, the population has started to rise again and it has a noticeably larger in-game player presence.
Following the acquisition by SOE, the developers mainly focused on bug fixes and gameplay improvements for a long time. In July 2008, the developers announced they wanted to attract old and new players as the game had reached a much more presentable state. On September 10, 2008, Game Update 6 finally introduced the long awaited trial island, the Isle of Dawn, which also quickly became the standard starting area for new regular characters. On October 8, 2008, the trial version was released.
On Mar 12 2009, SOE announced that it would add its LiveGamer Exchange RMT (real money trading) service to Vanguard, which allows trading game money, items, and whole characters between players, for real currency.
On Jul 7 2010 the three remaining US game servers were merged into one, bringing the total number of Vanguard servers down to two.
After a long hiatus, new game content was announced at the end of July 2011. A game update was released on Aug 10, 2011, with another at Aug 24, 2011. On March 21, 2012, SOE announced that Vanguard would become free-to-play in summer 2012. As of August 14, 2012, Vanguard has been free to play.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 The Game World: Telon
- 3 Servers
- 4 Development history
- 5 Game updates
- 6 Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) involvement
- 7 Community
- 8 Reception
- 9 References
- 10 External links
As with any MMORPG, Characters in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes are a player's avatar in the game environment. Twelve characters can be created on a regular account. At creation, the name, gender, race, and adventuring class of the character are chosen and cannot be changed later. The character's appearance is also chosen, but can be modified by the player at any time thereafter, from the character selection screen. After his or her creation, the character can start play either in the starting area of his or her chosen race or in the trial zone called the Isle of Dawn. The character also has the option of picking a crafter class and two harvester skills.
There are 19 races, listed in the geography section below. Races differ in appearance, special abilities, diplomatic affinity, and adventuring class selection. To help distinguish the races (aside from looks), every race has also one special active ability that unlocks at a certain level (between level 1 and 12, depending upon race).
Overview of spheres
Vanguard offers three primary areas of play: 'Adventuring', 'Crafting', and 'Diplomacy', which are called 'spheres'. There is also a fourth, very limited sphere, 'Harvesting', which has no level or quests except the introduction quest. The maximum level in 'Adventuring' and 'Crafting' is 55, while 'Diplomacy' is 50. These spheres function mostly independently. There are no restrictions on the spheres other than adventuring due to race or adventuring class.
Each of these four spheres has its own equipment tab on the character window, which allows the player to equip the gear set appropriate to the activities they wish to perform without carrying around different sets of gear in their bags. Once a character performs an action in a sphere, he automatically switches to the corresponding equipment set, and his visual display changes likewise.
The Adventuring sphere features the traditional set of MMORPG activities: completing quests, exploring dungeons and killing mobs. Quest rewards are usually more significant than what is normally obtained in other MMORPGs, or by simply killing mobs, discouraging 'grinding'. Advancements in Adventuring are achieved through obtaining "adventuring experience points". Solo and casual advancement is possible, but the best rewards and fastest progress come from group content.
In general, the majority of the classes in Vanguard are 'hybrid' classes (as compared to the initial classes made famous by Dungeons & Dragons). Most classes have some healing ability, magical spell casting abilities or the ability to 'buff' themselves and other group members with enhancing spells. One result of this is that many successful dungeon exploration groups can be formed out of various combinations of classes.
The hybrid nature of many classes makes them more complex than classes in some other MMORPGs, with an abundance of abilities to learn.
In combat the different classes have abilities that depend on other classes to achieve maximum results. Every class can use abilities that cause one or more brief vulnerabilities to be applied to the target. Other class-specific attacks or spells take advantage of specific vulnerabilities and inflict extra damage. (A complete list of the vulnerabilities can be found on the Ten Ton Hammer web site ). Although this system is both fully implemented and highly effective, most world content is not challenging enough to require that it be used, and some players disregard it; but while regular gaming does not require that attention be paid to it, some dungeons and much raid content is difficult enough to make it useful.
Characters have attributes and skills which can be increased with leveling. All classes have reserves or 'pools' of 'health', 'endurance' and 'energy' which they rely on to survive (except the monk and rogue classes who lack an energy pool). Health and energy increase when levels and attributes increase, but endurance (without buffs) is locked at a hundred points throughout the game.
The game allows class customization to a certain extent. Starting at level 10, characters are rewarded with points which can be spent to increase their attributes. Some classes are given 'specialist paths' at certain levels (usually 15 or 30), which influence the way they play the game by offering them new abilities and encouraging them to alter their equipment and attributes to take advantage of these. There are also 'learned abilities' to be acquired by 'studying' certain mobs, and some from dropped items looted from high-level mobs.
There are currently 15 adventuring classes to choose from:
- Protective Fighter (tank, wears heavy armor)
- Warrior (dual weapon user with high damage and group buffs)
- Paladin (sword and shield user with healing, virtue point system)
- Dread Knight (twohander user with some necromatic magic, including stealing life, snare, fear)
- Offensive Fighter (melee damage dealer, wears medium armor)
- Ranger (dual weapon and ranged specialist, stealth, some druidic magic)
- Rogue (dagger, stealth and poison specialist, top melee dps)
- Monk (fake death and martial arts specialist, jin point system, 3 specializations at level 15)
- Drunken Monk: tank version with aggro abilities and increased defense.
- Dragon Monk: damage dealing specialist.
- Harmonious Monk: debuffer specialist and generalist (REMOVED).
- Bard (utility specialist with strong group buffs aka songs that can be freely designed from a set of basic components)
- Defensive Spellcaster (healer, can summon others inside certain dungeons)
- Cleric (spike heals and healing over time, good general buffs, heavy armor, 5 affinities at level 20)
- Preservation: Defense and protection; stun immunity and increased shield block.
- Peace: Deaggro and crowd control; invisibility and instant cast, no recast timer root.
- War: Increased melee damage.
- Death: Increased magic damage and various necromatic magic, including snare and fear.
- Purity: Increased melee damage vs undead, protection from poison.
- Shaman (wards and damage over time spells, medium armor, extensive buffs and debuffs, 3 totems at level 15)
- Tuurgin (Bear): Tank version with pet aggro abilities and endurance buff.
- Rakurr (Wolf): Extreme runspeed, stealth, increased melee damage, critical hit buff.
- Hayatet (Phoenix): Fire spells, intelligence and energy regen buff.
- Disciple (monk healer with manaless jin healing, medium armor, feign death)
- Blood Mage (health stealing and damage redirection, light armor, blood point system, special buffs called symbiotes)
- Cleric (spike heals and healing over time, good general buffs, heavy armor, 5 affinities at level 20)
- Offensive Spellcaster (magic damage dealer, wears light armor, has escape teleport)
- Sorcerer (top damage dealer, direct damage, enemy spell disruption and redirection, invisibility and sleep)
- Druid (high damage dealer with elemental summons, runspeed kiting and situational healing, phenomena point system)
- Psionicist (crowd control specialist with illusions, best mage buffer)
- Necromancer (summoner with damage over time spells, fear kiting, life stealing, fake death)
The core concept of Vanguard's class system is the design for grouping. All of the classes can perform one of the three major MMORPG roles: tank, healer, or damage dealer. All tanks and healers are supposed to perform their job about as well as their peers, although in specific situations one class will be better than another. DPS classes can vary in their roles: the Bard, while it belongs to the offensive fighter group, is more of a support class and crowd control specialist than a pure damage dealer.
Various classes come with point systems that allow the usage of special abilities. Monk, Disciple and Blood Mage can increase their points very fast in battle though the usage of other special abilities and have to take care of their points all the time. Paladin and Druid mostly just regenerate their points over time, so they use them much more rarely and for more situational abilities such as area heals from the druid.
Rangers have the ability to put up special effects on their opponents through the usage of special sequences of attacks. Disciples can do the same for shorttime single target buffs called endowments for an ally.
Solo play is possible, but, as in many MMORPGs, the classes differ in their solo performance because of the unequal distribution of crucial abilities. Typical soloing strategies, such as self-healing, kiting and fear kiting, are only available to some classes; likewise, controlling fights with crowd control, avoiding fights with stealth or invisibility, and terminating lost fights with fake death or emergency evacuation teleports is not possible for all classes. Some classes, such as the Necromancer, have more soloing options, while some others, like the Warrior, are more narrowly focused.
Player vs player
Player vs player (PvP) was available on the Sartok FFA PvP server, in the PvP arenas, or on PvE servers using the /duel command. This aspect of gameplay has never been a priority for the SOE developers. Vanguard classes are therefore not balanced with PvP in mind, and some classes are much more capable in this regard than others. For example, the maximum damage of a single attack is restricted to 20% of a target's maximum hitpoints, but certain classes can combine multiple instant attacks, resulting in "one-shotting", or immediately killing other players in one shot with no chance for the victim to fight back.
Vanguard FFA PvP has very few restrictions on who can be attacked and where, (example: a level 55 player can attack a level 11 player) making it a very exciting and dangerous MMO PvP environment, catering to only a small collection of extreme hard-core players.
PvP was an important part of the original Vanguard vision, led by Sigil Games Online, but was left unsupported by SOE after the game changed ownership. Vanguard runs on a world-class game engine (Unreal 2.5) which surfaces all of the necessary functionality for PvP, as proven by the many successful PvP & FPS titles produced using the same platform. Further, the very first Vanguard expansion hypothetically described by Brad McQuaid in early 2007 was to have included major enhancements to PvP, including ship-to-ship combat. However, SOE promptly placed PvP development on the back-burner claiming that a "lack of resources" was to blame. There are now no PVP servers.
The second sphere of Vanguard is Crafting, and involves creating in-game items using 'recipes' and raw materials. Crafting recipes are a set of actions that must be performed in a particular order to produce a final result. Each of these actions costs 'action points', taken from an action pool. The maximum number of action points available varies with each recipe. During the crafting process, 'complications' may arise which affect the crafting process, usually, but not always negatively. The crafter can attempt to correct complications or resume crafting and deal with the consequences or benefits of ignoring the complications.
It is possible to advance the Crafting sphere without engaging in adventuring or combat, and without funneling harvested raw materials from experienced Adventuring characters to the crafter. Crafting experience comes primarily from work orders and crafting quests. Work orders are commissioned by NPCs who provide raw materials. The crafter then produces the requested items, receiving Crafting experience, money, and possibly items or recipes in return. Crafting proficiency is not represented simply through skill advancement, but uses an experience/level system much like adventuring. Each work order or quest gives an amount of experience. When a player earns enough experience, they gain an additional Crafting level. Every ten levels crafters can start working with a new tier of resources to create more items after they complete a training quest.
Vanguard's Crafting currently has three styles of items that can be made, each local to one continent. The styles offer different types of bonuses on created items, have different appearance when worn, and each has unique items not available in the other styles. A Kojani style sword looks different from a Thestran or Qalian style sword, and may have different bonuses. To learn the different styles of recipes, crafters will have to complete quests on each continent and earn 'faction' with the local artisans/crafters of each. For some items, such as player-owned boats, housing and guild halls, significant faction is required for that continent's artisans to be able to create those items. Thus crafters are able to create only certain types of housing or ships. The most dedicated crafters are able to craft styles of items from all three continents.
There are three crafting classes and each of these has two specializations. The player can choose a specialization when they reach level 11 in the 'parent' crafter class. It is possible to switch specializations, but doing so will permanently remove all recipes of that specialization, including any rare and difficult to obtain recipes. Repeatedly switching between specializations is not recommended, but the opportunity to change is available. While changing specialization is possible without having too severe a penalty, changing the parent class carries a substantial penalty: being reset to level 1 with no skills, basically losing all the work done in that original class. Since crafting can be done independently of the other spheres, it's generally better to start a new character if you wish to change classes instead of wiping the old skill with an existing character. The crafting classes are Outfitter (Tailor or Leatherworker), Artificer (Carpenter or Mineralogist), and Blacksmith (Armorsmith or Weaponsmith)
While each specialization has various types of items that they can create, as well as sharing some items with their corresponding classmate, in general Tailors craft Light Armor and backpacks; Leatherworkers craft Medium Armor and Saddlebags; Carpenters craft ships, housing parts, focuses, and wood weapons; Mineralogists craft stone weapons, jewelry, focuses, and housing materials; Armorsmiths craft Heavy Armor and Horseshoes; and Weaponsmiths craft Metal weapons and Horseshoes. Each class also can craft various expendable items which provide buffs and utility effects, ship and housing parts, and other items. At very high levels some crafters can obtain special recipes to assist adventurers in creating materials used to upgrade their quest armor.
'Diplomacy' is a concept unique to, or at least first introduced by, Vanguard. It is basically a card game inspired in style and rules by collectable card games. Diplomats can enable certain city wide 'civic' buffs and gain certain special items needed for end-game content such as Guild Houses, the Griffon Mount, and other important end-game quests.
A diplomatic encounter, called a 'parley', consists of two opponents and their currently selected cards: the deck. Both start with a certain amount of dialogue points, where the initial number depends upon the difficulty, and the diplomatic level of the opponents. The two opponents move in turn, by either playing a card, or listening. The goal of the game is to move the parley marker into a certain area, and keeping it there. This decreases their own dialogue points every time one of the opponents plays a move. The game is won when the character's own dialogue points reach zero. Cards have various properties and effects, such as moving the parley marker by a certain amount, having a cost in expression points, giving, or taking expression points from the player or its opponent, and a time restriction before the card can be played again. Some additional text is displayed during a parley in a separate window, but plays no relevance in the game itself.
Aside from some special procs such as initially moving the marker or letting the player start with some initial expression, diplomatic clothing has very little effect on the encounter itself, though it can have a huge impact on the ability to start parleys and to decide the strengths of the effects of a successful parley. Both gear and cards can be gained from diplomatic quests, parleys and parley rewards, but some can be crafted and there are also some adventuring drops, especially for the cards. For example, an infamous newbie killer is the level 40 smelly cat in the city of Ahgram, Qalia, which attacks anyone carrying a fish in their inventory, and drops diplomatic gear upon death.
The Diplomacy Sphere was an ambitious attempt to create something entirely new in the gaming world but its actual implementation has fallen short of the designers stated goals. Many other purposes for diplomacy where planned, but never implemented, such as an important role for the player to build cities. As of this time, there is no PvP element to Diplomacy, but it has been stated that the system was designed with the goal of players being able to 'duel' diplomatically in mind. However, diplomacy is regarded as one of the least well integrated parts of the game.
As a character advances through Diplomacy he or she earns titles that can be displayed in front of the character name, e.g. 'Messenger' or 'Ambassador'. These titles represent skill levels, not classes. Diplomacy 'classes', or areas of specialization, have been mentioned as a possible future design element but are not currently part of the game.
In addition to skill levels, which are gained by performing any Parley, Diplomats must also manage Presence. Presence represents the character's status in a part of the community (called a 'Station') such as Crafters, Outsiders, or Academics. Status accrues slowly by parleying with people of the appropriate station, but the majority of Presence gains come from clothing- a Diplomat might wear a ragged shirt to raise Outsider Presence or Silk Pants to raise Noble Presence.
Performing Parleys usually results in a reward of "Information", such as "Rumor of Blackmail" or "Evidence of Trends". When enough of these items have been collected, they can be turned in to certain NPCs to receive cash, clothing, or items. At present, no actual information is gained, merely an item in the character's inventory with an appropriate name. That is, receiving a "Rumor of Arcana" will not reveal to the player any additional information about the game world.
Harvesting forms a fourth, simple sphere. Characters have a general harvest skill, which controls how well one can help others with their harvest, and can choose two out of five harvest types they want to specialize in, out of the pool of Mining Metal Ore, Quarrying Stone Slabs and Gemstone Samples, Lumberjacking Wood Timbers, Skinning Leather Hides, and Reaping Cloth Bales. Rechoosing these skills is possible, but all previous progress is then lost.
Harvest resources are placed on predefined locations in the game world. There are six tiers of harvest, each with an increased required skill level for harvesting it. Higher tiers of harvest have a chance for rare or even ultra rare harvest, which is needed for upgrading crafted items to higher qualities.
The Game World: Telon
Vanguard is set in a high fantasy world called "Telon", unusual among MMO worlds in that it is almost entirely persistent, with no instancing or load screens. Telon does not have "zones" in the manner of most fantasy MMOs, but there are discrete areas, sometimes called "chunks" which delineate content to some extent and serve to provide general geographical reference points. The world contains 19 playable races, many of which are drawn from or inspired by traditional high fantasy sources such as the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and the tabletop fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
There are three "continents" on the world of Telon. Each is reachable by direct, contiguous travel from the other continents, via air or sea, or by NPC boat from the major ports of call.
Thestra – Thestra is a land resembling northern and eastern Europe, with mountains, wetlands, forests and misty, haunted coastlines. Thestra is home to the major cities of New Targonor, the human capital, Bordinar's Cleft, the mountain home of the Dwarves, and Leth Nurae, elegant home of the High Elves. The famous Ancient Port Warehouse raid area is located at the southwest end of Thestra, and the continent is home to several major dungeons, including the Fallen Lyceum, the Ruins of Vol Tuniel and Trengal Keep. Races native to Thestra include the European-styled Thestran Humans, High Elves, Dwarves, Lesser Giants, Halflings, Vulmane (wolf-like humanoids), and Varanjar (Scandinavian-styled human barbarians).
Kojan – Kojan is an archipelago with an Asiatic flavor, comprising many small islands, some of which are utterly barren, while others are home to communities of inscrutable wizards and unusual races. Kojan only supports play up to roughly level 25. Races native to Kojan include the Kojani (Asian-styled humans), Half-Elves and Wood Elves (both of which also have an Asian flavor), Raki (very short, fox-like humanoids), Goblins, and Orcs. Kojan hosts a number of dungeons including Lord Tsang's Tomb, Magi Hold and the Temple of Ghalnn, and is home to one major city: Tanvu.
Qalia - This southern continent (pronounced KAY-lee-uh) has an atmosphere reminiscent of the Middle East and North Africa, with great deserts and rugged mountains. Races native to Qalia include the Qaliathari (vaguely Arabian, desert-dwelling humans), Mordebi (dark-skinned, African-styled humans), Dark Elves, Gnomes, Kurashasa ( feline-like humanoids), and Varanthari (Turkic/Mongolian style human barbarians). It is home to the major cities of Khal and Aghram and several significant dungeons and outdoor adventure areas, including the Coterie Infineum Sanctuary, Skawlra Rock, the River Valley, the Grotto of the Sea Hags, the Shimmering Sands, and the Pantheon of the Ancients.
There are two other noteworthy separate areas:
- The Isle of Dawn - a trial and starting character area, separated from the other continents, contains only a single chunk (you cannot leave it except via the teleporter at the end of the main questline, or not at all if you are only on a trial account) but there are many hints that it is supposed to be part of Kojan (for example, crafting workorders and quests give Kojan faction, and the architectural styles of the island are Kojani). The Isle of Dawn is a very popular area for starting new characters from normal accounts, since the area offers excellent quests and low-level equipment.
- Lothenland - An icy continent initially conceived, but not in the game at release. It is unknown whether the development team plans to develop and release this area in the future.
There are various ways to travel through Telon, besides simple walking on land. Each of these serve different purposes.
The most common mounts are horses, present in the game from launch and purchasable in certain settlements. The lowest-level, slowest mounts can be purchased at level 10, with faster versions unlocked and buyable at levels 20, 30 and 40. Characters can also buy camels, or complete quest chains to acquire various alternative mounts such as diplomatic horses, arena camels, or the Shadowhound and Unicorn special mounts. More recently, racial mounts have been introduced, in 19 variants, one for each race, and upgradeable to the best available nonflying mounts in the game. These are gained by achieving a certain amount of factional reputation with a racial city's faction; a character can acquire the faction mount for any race given effort. Flying mounts, the griffin and wyvern, are to be gained through city faction, a mechanism that has since been used for other unique equipment as well.
Player-crafted ships are currently available in Tier 3 (the Sloop), Tier 4 (the Caravel) or Tier 5 ships (Galleons). Sloops are available in three variants, one for each continent, and each continent allows three different colors. Caravels allow one additional color per continent (such as dark gray for Thestran vessels, which is not available for Thestran sloops) and additionally also offer several options per continent for the figurehead (such as Caia/Lady or Mara/Skeleton for Thestran, the continent with the least options). There are also NPC ships placed in the world, some of which move around and can be used to travel to other continents.
A Riftway system, added post-launch, aids travel within the world between certain predefined locations. Many of the important quest areas have a 'Riftway'; there are four special riftways, called hubs, next to major cities, which are free to teleport to. Teleporting to the other rifway locations requires a fee (in game currency), getting more expensive the higher the level of the riftway location. Travel to high-level areas via the Riftway system is level restricted.
Flying mounts can be obtained in Vanguard and the use of them is not uncommon in Telon. Some quest areas disallow them; a character who attempts to fly over one of these areas will be dismounted and float to the ground under a parachute buff.
Vendors near the Riftway stones (except the free hubs) sell temporary flying mounts. The price varies according to the level of the riftstone. On Thresta Griffons are sold, Qalia offers Wyverns, and Kojan offers Pegasi. All temporary mounts last for 5 minutes, after the expiration in which the player gets a 10 minute parachute buff to avoid falling to their death.
There are also permanent flying mounts, which come in three variants, all of which are quite hard to obtain. The slowest variant is the Pegasus, which can be gained the via city faction in same way as the racial mounts, though it is harder to unlock than even the best of those. Permanent Pegasi are slower than temporary flying mounts.
The middle variant is the Wyvern, which requires the completion of a questline that includes killing the last and hardest mob of the raid dungeon Ancient Port Warehouse (APW) as well as one of the overland raid mobs, which is non-instanced and on a respawn timer.
The last and fastest variant is the Griffon, which requires the longest questline to obtain, and one of the most challenging in the game. The initially unlocked Griffon, the Young Gryffon, is as fast as the temporary mounts, while the upgrade, the Venerable Griffin, is the fastest of all mounts.
Vanguard players can build Two house per server per account, which is shared between all characters on that account. Houses provide the player with additional inventory space and a place to comfortably exchange items between different characters, who can reach the house easily with a special teleport spell. The player can also give other players' characters access privileges, like permission to open doors in his house, or to place items into a chest.
The first step in building a house is to purchase one of the predefined, persistent house plots (housing, like virtually everything in Vanguard, is non-instanced), located in various areas all over Telon. After purchase, the cost of which varies between housing areas (2.5, 10 or 30 gold), plots also requires a weekly upkeep (25, 60 or 90 silver). Building a Guild Hall requires purchasing a special guild hall plot which is much more expensive in both initial purchase (20, 30 or 40 plat) and weekly upkeep (20, 27 or 32 gold).
After owning the plot in question, the player chooses the house type he or she wants to build. Each continent has a list of four choices, between Tier 3 to Tier 5, which each require different crafted materials and have a different appearance than houses of other continental styles. Some materials can be purchased from housing merchant NPCs located in the housing areas, but most of them have to be crafted from harvested items. Guild halls come in two variants, and the required materials as well as the necessary crafting are much more extensive, requiring items from the highest level crafters and harvesters; additionally, the help of a high-level diplomat is required for guild housing.
Houses offer two types of inventories. First of all one can simply place items into them, called "fixtures". Any item can be placed into a house, even if many items show up as a simple default cup-like graphic, therefore one cannot graphically distinguish between them. Second, every house type allows a certain number of chests, 2 to 5 for normal houses, and 8 or 12 for guild halls.
Dungeons and raids
Telon contains a large number of dungeons with a broad range of size and theme, found in many types of locations; some are very large, and many are above-ground structures or even outdoor adventure areas rather than traditional subterranean catacombs as such. Although most of the dungeon content is aimed at the 'full-group' encounter (six players) there are numerous areas, particularly at the lower levels, designed for solo play and small groups (2-3 players).
All dungeons but one are open "public" dungeons; there is no instancing anywhere in Telon with the exception of the Ancient Port Warehouse (APW), added to Vanguard by SOE in late 2007. There is a total of six copies of APW, called "shards," and any new raid force has to choose which of the six copies to enter.
Vanguard also features several overland raid encounters.
When the game was released, there were three types of servers - Player versus Environment (PvE), Team Player versus Player (Team PvP) and Free-for-All Player versus Player (FFA PvP). The game was released with 14 servers but following the poor launch and initially low player retention, the 14 were merged into just two servers:
- Halgar PVE EU (merged from Gelenia and Infineum)
- Telon PVE US (merged from Tharridon, Varking, Sartok, Gelenia, Infineum, Frengrot, Targonor, Florendyl, Flamehammer, Seradon, Shidreth, Thunderaxe, Woefeather, Gulgrethorm, Xeth, and Hilsbury)
These servers were merged into two servers on July 7, 2010.
The original servers were: Thunderaxe (US/PvE), Florendyl (US/Role-playing Preferred/PvE), Woefeather (US/PvE), Wulgrethor (US/PvE), Targonor (US/PvE) (unofficial oceanic), Hilsbury (US/PvE), Shidreth (US/PvE), Flamehammer (US/PvE) (unofficial French), Tharridon (US/FFA PvP), Varking (US/Team PvP), Gelenia (EU/PvE), Frengrot (EU/Team PvP), and Infinium (EU/PvE).
SOE announced on May 31, 2007 their intention to begin merging servers; the mergers were completed in August 2007. All player-owned housing was reset at this time, causing some controversy among the player community. The mergers left Vanguard without a dedicated role-playing server and without a team-based player-versus-player server.
Sigil's original Vanguard team was composed of many EverQuest developers, including designer Brad McQuaid. Development began in early 2002 and a publishing deal with Microsoft was announced in April 2002. The game's title was announced on March 16, 2004, exactly five years after EverQuest was released. Sigil displayed the game's first screenshots in April 2004 and announced that Vanguard would use Unreal Engine 2.0 in May 2004.
In May 2006 Sigil reacquired the marketing rights to Vanguard: Saga of Heroes from Microsoft and announced that Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) would become the co-publishers. Sigil maintained full control of development, funding, intellectual property rights, and in-game customer service (in the form of the Game Master and Guide programs). Although SOE was responsible chiefly for marketing, publication, distribution, subscription services and maintenance of game servers, some of SOE's game designers and artists did participate directly in Vanguard's development.
Beta Testing for the game began in-house in August 2005 and continued until January 23, 2007. Pre-orders were opened on January 26, and the game officially launched worldwide on January 30 to lukewarm reviews and widespread criticism.
On May 15, 2007, four months after the game's release, Sony Online Entertainment announced they had acquired all assets of Sigil and retained much of the Vanguard development team to work for Sony and to continue developing Vanguard.
Game Updates (GU) were once a regular upgrade of the game, once about every two months. Between the GU, random smaller content updates are added to the game as well. Players can try out new content on the Test server, before they hit the regular servers.
- Game Update 3 - Released Oct 16, 2007 (Phase 1), and Dec 12, 2007 (Phase 2). Introduced Raiding. Also added Holiday content such as the flying mount Randolph, the flying reindeer, which were disabled again Jan 9 2008.
- Game Update 4 - Released Mar 11, 2008. Introduced permanent flying mounts (Griffons and Wyvens) and changed the Riftway System again. Removed Character Customization to allow helmets.
- Game Update 5 - Released May 28, 2008. The main feature of this update was racial mounts. Shortly afterwards, city faction armor and the Pegasus permanent flying mount were introduced.
- Game Update 6 - Released September 10, 2008. Features a trial island where new characters can start, new customizable character models, class balance fixes and over 1,500 bug fixes.
- October 7, 2009 - Mentoring system was introduced.
- July 7, 2010 - Vanguard gameplay servers were merged to two servers. Please see server listing for server information.
- August 10, 2011 - The first "Bug Bash!" update was released which fixed several bugs.
- August 24, 2011 - The second "Bug Bash!" update was released which fixed several bugs.
- August 14, 2012 - Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is now Free to Play (F2P).
As for future improvements and updates, Vanguard players on the official forums have created a list of improvements to be made. These can be seen at the official Vanguard: Saga of Heroes forum.
Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) involvement
On May 5, 2006 Sigil announced that they had reacquired marketing rights from Microsoft and that Sony Online Entertainment would take over marketing of the game. According to the terms of the deal, Sigil would maintain full control of development, funding, intellectual property rights, and in-game customer service, and SOE would be responsible for marketing, publication, distribution, subscription services and maintenance of game servers. However, some of SOE's game designers and artists did participate directly in the Vanguard's development.
This partnership represented a homecoming of sorts for Sigil CEO Brad McQuaid who was - along with Sony Online Entertainment CEO John Smedley, Bill Trost and Steve Clover—one of the four original developers of Everquest for SISA (Sony Interactive Studios America renamed Verant Interactive in 1999).
On May 15, 2007 Sony Online Entertainment announced they had acquired all assets of Sigil and retained over half the developers of Vanguard to work for Sony and to continue developing Vanguard. Brad McQuaid gave an interview two days later to F13.net but since then has not made any public comments about the game .
Dec 22 2009, in a recent announcement to the Vanguard community, the team has decided to be as frank as possible and outline the road map for the game in the year ahead. Due to limited resources and a new focus on bug elimination over ambitious content releases, some of the game's anticipated updates are being shelved indefinitely. Those features include the Halls of Shattered Souls, Pankhor Zhi, Nexus, and the anticipated "alternate advancement" system.
The new roadmap includes an increased focus on smaller content releases occurring more frequently. In essence, the game is trading from a slow development cycle with large chunks of content to a faster development cycle with small bites of content. This new system will have an emphasis on longer test cycles of smaller batches of content to eliminate bugs while the content will start and end chunks of storytelling instead of leaving the story hanging.
The road map also includes plans for a hypothetical server merge to bring the community together, but lead developer Salim "Silius" Grant made sure to stress that the server merge is not set in stone at this time. The team wants to take the time to weigh the positives and negatives of merging the servers in order to make a sound decision.
Many fans of the original EverQuest followed the development of Vanguard closely. Sigil opened official forums before even releasing a title, in July 2003, and was periodically revealing concept art, screenshots, and settings history and lore. Some of the artwork was created by well-known fantasy artists such as Brom, Don Maitz and the late Keith Parkinson.
Much of the community had formed around the Sigil website forums, but there were also events such as fans visiting Sigil, IRC chats, and contests. A "Community Summit" was held on October 7, 2004 that showed Vanguard to an audience from the game's own community.
For release, Sigil decided to eliminate centralized forums in favor of a controlled community structure consisting of a network of approved websites which would be regularly visited by official community liaisons, and which in theory would be granted privileged access to interviews and promotional content. There was considerable criticism of this strategy on some forums.
Upon its acquisition of Vanguard, SOE almost immediately abandoned the Sigil "controlled community" format, making vgplayers.com the central site for Vanguard support, much as is done with their other MMO titles.
Gamespy awarded Vanguard the "Biggest Disappointment" award for 2007. Vanguard also won the awards in the categories for "Least Fun", "Most Desolate" and "Lamest Launch" in the MMORPG.com MMOWTF Awards for the worst games of 2007.
There have been numerous criticisms of the game by the game press and the fanbase.
- The game was released before it was ready, leading to:
- Content was low for high-level players, and spotty even in some lower-level areas. Much planned high level content was not included at launch.
- Large numbers of bugs and performance issues, which make gameplay difficult, and on some systems rendering the game virtually unplayable.
- At release, performance was poor on many systems, including some high-end configurations. For example there was no anti-aliasing, and anisotropic filtering support was buggy.
- "Had I had the financial resources, ability to place the product later, etc. I would have given us about 3 more months to get more polish in, more high level content in, and to distance ourselves from the WoW expansion." Full quote
McQuaid also alluded to the game's performance issues:
- "For a variety of reasons and mistakes on our part that I won't get into right now, Vanguard was released with system spec requirements that were too high for January 2007. " Full quote
In the months following the release, the game code has been updated and many bugs have been fixed. On at least one web site (MMORPG.com) Vanguard is - as of July 2008 - routinely in the top 15 games, as ranked by visitors to the web site. In both May and August 2008, that same website (MMORPG.com) revisited Vanguard and gave the updated version a favorable response. However, no major game magazines or web sites have chosen to re-review the game with a scored rating since mid-2007. The Eurogamer website have completed a 1-10 level test pitting Vanguard against Everquest 2 - they promptly decided to uninstall Everquest 2, stating Vanguard had come along very well during the bug fixing SOE had made, and the state of the game is very playable and actually very fun.
|Negative||Vanguard - Anti-Review on GamersWithJobs|
|7/10||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Review on TrustedReviews|
|Positive||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes : Video Review on HEXUS.gaming|
|7/10||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Review on Games Asylum|
|D-||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Review on 1up|
|8/10||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Review on Game-Spectrum|
|C+||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Review on Game-Revolution|
|7.5/10||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Review on GameSpot|
|3/5||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Review on GameSpy|
|6.7/10||Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Re-Review on Ten Ton Hammer|
- Sony Online Entertainment (May 15, 2007). Sony Online Entertainment Acquires Leading Online Games Studio -- Sigil Games Online. Press release.
- "Official Forum Message: SOE and Vanguard, by Smed, from the SoE Management". Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- "Interview with anonymous Ex-Sigl member". Retrieved 2007-05-16.
- "MMOGCHART". Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- "Vanguard Producer’s Letter". Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- "Vanguard Game Update 6 Patch Notes". Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- "Isle of Dawn - When will it be stand alone?". Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "Vanguard - Trial Download". Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "Coming soon to Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Live Gamer Exchange". Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Vanguard July 2010 Server Merge". Retrieved 2010-07-07.
- "New Content Coming to Vanguard: Saga of Heroes". Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Game Update – Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 4:00 am Pacific". Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Game Update – Wednesday August 24, 2011 at 4:00 am Pacific". Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- "Exciting Vanguard Announcement – March 2012 Producer Letter". Retrieved 2012-12-22.
- "Silky Venom E3 interview about diplomats". Retrieved 2007-04-19.
- "VG Tact Interview with Steve Williams aka Aruspex".
- Vanguard – Saga of Heroes
- "Gate Updates". Retrieved 2008-07-04.
- "Game Updates December 12, 2007". Retrieved 2007-12-12.
- "Game Updates March 11, 2008". Retrieved 2008-03-11.
- "Game Updates May 28, 2008". Retrieved 2008-05-28.
- "Game Updates September 10, 2008". Retrieved 2008-09-10.
- "Game Update – Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 4:00 am Pacific". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
- "Game Update – Wednesday August 24, 2011 at 4:00 am Pacific". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
- "Future improvements suggestions list (new version)". Retrieved 2007-12-22.
- "Future improvements suggestions". Retrieved 2008-07-04.
- GameSpy's Game of the Year 2007
- MMORPG.com - Your Headquarters for Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games!
- "Developer David "Hasium" Gilbertson in Server Merge Update 2007-07-11".
- "MMORPG Gamelist - All Listed Games".
- "Correspondent - How I Came Back to Vanguard".