Vanguard Changes Have Landed

As Vanguard moves closer to its freemium launch, we have seen more or less weekly patches become a reality again. A lot of what’s been happening is mere cleanup, fixing this or that broken quest, borked item or misplaced NPC. And of course there’s the loyalty rewards that have been showing up monthly.

As of last week, though, we’re starting to see tweaks and additions to content, with the goal of improving “content flow, reward metrics, and gameplay issues.” And there are a couple of big changes here.

The most significant is that starter areas are being “consolidated.” So instead of every race or two having its own starter zone, there are now, effectively, four in the game: the Isle of Dawn, Tanvu, Cliffs of Ghelgad and Tursh. The highly desirable IoD diplomacy trinket is available in all of them, a move many predicted would eventually happen.

I am not one hundred percent behind the way this shook out. I think the game will be in some respects poorer for the limited choice and loss of the flavor of the individualized racial starter areas. I personally think that a broad selection of such is a desirable and underappreciated trait in MMOs, and many of the starter areas in Vanguard in particular were rich in flavor. However, no content was actually removed, as far as I can tell; although future new characters will have a much smaller selection of starter areas, characters can still go back to the racial areas if they like, to wander the plains near Lomshir or the highlands of the Varanjar. And there is reason to do so in the later game, if you’re following the Diplomacy questlines or want the racial mounts.

But don’t get me wrong: I can see the reasons for doing this. For one, not all of Vanguard’s starter areas were equally cool, or equally well executed. Which ones were awesome and which ones were lousy differs by who you ask, but everyone will agree that some were very weak. The three that the dev team is hanging on to are all fairly decent, if a bit generic.

Too, the consolidation allows limited development man-hours to focus on bringing those other three start areas up to the Isle of Dawn standard without the Isle’s annoying boxlike limits. A lot of small improvements in the linked patch are moving them in that direction, and there’s even a couple of entirely new quests added. Make those starter areas that are in the game as strong as they can be, and that’ll go a long way towards ameliorating the loss of the others.

Also, just as four starter areas will bring a tighter focus to the development effort, they’ll also focus incoming players. It’s not yet clear just what the impact of the new players who’ll be coming in with f2p will be yet, but having four starter areas instead of thirteen will help to bolster the perception that Vanguard is hopping, which is, perhaps, the biggest barrier that the title has to overcome. Just the idea that Vanguard is alive and being played again should be of great benefit.

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6 responses to “Vanguard Changes Have Landed

  1. Yep, your conclusion is pretty much the most important point I would want to make. The game needs to feel more alive with players so concentrating them in fewer start areas is good.

    It’s similar to Warhammer Online’s move to consolidate players in just two of the six original starting areas; you could still go to them to quest but they’d be empty of players. I’ll be sad to see Varanjar not getting new players as I love that area but can understand it’s not the easiest area for new players to navigate with it’s snaking valleys.

    Interested to see when the F2P announcement will come out.

  2. I can understand the rationale, but from my personal perspective, this leaves me quite sad.
    Count me among those who think that most MMOs have too FEW starting areas. i thought Vanguard’s starting areas were brilliant (mostly) and will miss being able to select from such a wide variety. Four is not enough (I’m also aiming that one at EQ2, which has shrunk to 4).
    I’m looking forward to an F2P Vanguard, but I continue to be terrified of SOE changing the game in ways that diminish what made it great. One of those things was a diverse array of starting areas — so this depresses me. The next up is the F2P model: how badly they chop up the classes/races/diplomacy/crafting etc.
    Quite nervous, waiting for that news…

  3. Ardwulf,
    These updates about Vanguard and the YouTube videos have really gathered my interest in the game for when it goes free.
    I’m curious if you check the email listed with this blog very often, I’ve sent you one previously, and have a question about video game recording I’d like to ask as well.

  4. All the starter areas were one of my fav parts of Vanguard. I extremely dislike this patch, and watered-down direction they’re taking it. It’s quite upsetting.

    but I saw this coming. It was inevitable with the f2p conversion. I’ll still have my memories…

  5. Have they removed the quests from the starting areas or just taken out the option to start there? The former would be a very bad move but the latter is, I think, fine.

    EQ2 has been channeling players to specific starter zones for years now but I largely ignore all that and do the Freeport and Qeynos low-level areas, all of which are still available, then move on to Commonlands or Antonica. If Vanguard is going to be like that then I have no problem with it.

    • I was imagining the former myself. If I can still run and do the quests that’s not as bad (like in EQ2… or how it used to be. They’ve since taken out the original starting areas in freeport/quenos). They’d be crazy to remove all the content.

      Still seems like they might over-simplify and water things down for F2P. I’m not too concerned since I don’t really plan on playing much. Just revisiting and exploring as I will.