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.