December 11, 2006 John JCal Callaham
Summary: John talks with Sigil Entertainment representative Nick Parkinson about their upcoming MMO Vanguard, and gets details about gameplay, the Microsoft/Sony situation, and more.
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FiringSquad: First, let's talk about the split between Sigil and Microsoft. There were some rumors that Microsoft wanted Vanguard to be a Windows Vista only title and Sigil wanted to have support for XP as well. Can you address those rumors and also give us more details on what happened?
Nick Parkinson: Brad himself answered this best; I’m going to quote him directly here:
“We remain good friends with the folks at Microsoft and look forward to creating a AAA MMOG for them, even though it will be a 3rd party Windows game now, and not a first party. We had some differences, but the biggest catalyst here was that we found the opportunity to buy the publishing rights back, which is good for Sigil no matter what else did or didn't happen.
Like I have been saying, this gives us even more (perhaps even unprecedented with a game this far along and this big) control, a chance to be a co-publisher, and to all around have more influence on how Vanguard turns out. Even were things perfect (and things are never perfect), it was an opportunity that couldn't be passed up on.
So we are still a 3rd party windows title and an important MMOG for Microsoft from a platform perspective -- short term as an XP game and long term as a game that is perfect for highlighting and taking advantage of what Vista will offer users. Vanguard is a perfect game, again thinking long term, to take advantage of Vista's more entertainment-centric approach, increased use of graphics and tools for game developers. Online gaming is also very important for Vista.
Lastly, Vanguard screams for a native 64 bit client at some point because of its seamless world. When the time comes for a 64 bit client, when graphics cards are even more powerful but also cheaper, when RAM prices go down, etc. we will be able to access more than 2 gigs with a 64 bit client and then load up a huge amount of the world at one time. Right now you can see 4+ km in the game -- which creates views and an immersiveness that MMOG gamers love. With a 64bit client and a lot of RAM, we will be able to load up much more of the world at one time and the way we have architected the engine ahead of time, knowing where technology, operating systems, etc. are going to go in the future, it will be very easy to create vistas in the game (pardon the pun) where you could see 10, 15, maybe even more km. So the switch from being a first to third party windows title still helps Microsoft out, especially longer term with Vista. This is one of the key reasons they were fine with our asking them if we could exit from the deal if we found funding to do so.”
In addition to that, I know its such an overdone PR line to say that we’re still good friends with all the folks up there but it’s the honest truth. There’s a lot of good people up at Microsoft who put a lot of hard work into Vanguard and want to see it succeed just as much as we do.
FiringSquad: Why did Sigil decide to team up with Sony Online to co-publish the game?
Nick Parkinson: This is a question we are asked a lot, and the simple answer is because for what we need they’re the best at, plain and simple. As our co-publisher, SOE will be handling distribution, data center operations (hosting the game, etc), technical (not in-game) support and will be helping us a lot with marketing. All areas where SOE really shines.
Not to mention, logistically they make a lot of sense too. They’re just down the road from us here in San Diego and a lot of us have worked with them before, so we’re already familiar with one another.
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FiringSquad: Vanguard has been in development for quite a while now and in that time the MMORPG landscape has changed dramatically. Is there any intimidation into entering a field that has expanded so much?
Nick Parkinson: It is more excitement really. The biggest change in my eyes has been the size of the market. There’s so many more people playing online games now than there were even a handful of years ago. While preferences regarding one kind of feature or another will always be evolving people are always going to like good games. So we’re pretty pumped up about being this close to release. There’s a lot of hard work yet to be done, but when nearing the release for a project this big it’s hard to not be excited.
| Vanguard: Saga Of Heroes Interview (con't)||Page:: ( 2 / 3 )|
Nick Parkinson: Vanguard is, as you say, primarily a group centric game. However, that’s not to the complete exclusion of solo play. We do actually have quite a bit of solo content – not as much as group geared content, but enough to make sure there’s something meaningful to do for those who may not have the time or desire to find a group on any given night.
That said, the best rewards are always going to be gained through working together with your fellow players in one way or another.
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FiringSquad: The game will also have a lot of mounts, from dragons to horses to sea vehicles. How important is having a mount in the context of the game?
Nick Parkinson: Very important. The size of the world is immense and players are going to want some way to keep travel time at a reasonable level. Fortunately, you’ll be able to get your first horse pretty early on (around level 8-10 right now) and constant upgrades (in both gear for mounts and mounts themselves) are available after that.
FiringSquad: Will there be an overarching storyline with plots that will evolve in the game?
Nick Parkinson: Yes. The official description is this:
“Welcome to Telon, a vast and magical world teeming with riches and danger.
Vast and ancient civilizations have crumbled under the strain of internal strife and the relentless march of time. Even as the people struggle to reclaim their land and rebuild their once great cities, quarreling fiefdoms have emerged to struggle for control of the empire’s remains.
Now a new threat looms large as the age-old magics that once existed only in legend, reawaken and threaten the diverse races and kingdoms of Telon. With the lands now set upon by rapacious and ominous forces, the warring factions have struck an uneasy alliance to stand against the greater danger that threatens them all. In Thestra, the sprawling green hills and serene glades are plagued by a relentless undead menace. Qalia’s windswept deserts and hidden valleys are filled with the whispers and rumblings about the dark power beginning to emanate from the great Mount Stiirhad. The chaotic jungles and mystical ruins of the Kojan are overrun with fiendish spirits from a time long since past.
Adventure, intrigue, and fortune await any hero hardy enough to brave the challenges of these untamed realms.”
Players have the option to start on Thestra (European themed), Qalia (Arabian themed) or Kojan (Asian themed). Each continent is currently battling some strange, otherworldly invading force – and nobody is quite sure why they are invading or what they want. It’s up to the players to find out.
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FiringSquad: What are some of the development team's favorite NPC creatures in Vanguard and why?
Nick Parkinson: We all have our favorites for various reasons. I have a few personal favorites -- the wyrms that players are able to eventually obtain as mounts, just because they look so cool, any of the undead because they really look creepy and as weird as it sounds there’s a certain fish model that I just can’t get enough of.
Other popular ones on the team include the ogres, giants and the placeholder for unfinished NPCs, which is a human sized, bipedal cartoon rat wearing a Sigil t-shirt. How could anyone not love that? *grin*
| Vanguard: Saga Of Heroes Interview (con't)||Page:: ( 3 / 3 )|
Nick Parkinson: I think two things will separate us from the crowd. First, our visual style – the late master fantasy artist Keith Parkinson served as art director at Sigil until he passed on in late 2005. He established the look of Vanguard through the eyes of a painter and as a result, it feels much more alive and organic – much like an oil painting.
Depth of game play is the other big thing. There’s just so much to do. Gameplay is broken into three separate spheres. Two of them, adventuring and crafting, should be familiar to most players. But the third, diplomacy, is something that’s pretty new to the MMOG genre.
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FiringSquad: The game uses the Unreal engine. What sorts of updates and refinements have the Sigil team made to the engine to make it work?
Nick Parkinson: We’re constantly working with the guys over at Epic (who are great, by the way) making tweaks and adjustments for various things we may need. Our graphics engine is more of a hybrid at this point than anything. We licensed the Unreal engine, and as you know, it is an FPS engine – so we’ve had to make a lot of modifications over the past couple years to make it into an MMOG engine that will fill Vanguard’s needs.
FiringSquad: When can we expect the game to launch its beta test and when is Vanguard's official launch scheduled?
Nick Parkinson: We’ve been in closed beta for a while now actually and are quickly nearing Phase 4 – which will see a lot of new people be brought in to help test the game. As for a launch date, all we can really say at this point is Q1, 2007.
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FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Vanguard at this stage of development?
Nick Parkinson: Like I was saying before, nearing the end of development, it’s a really exciting time around the office. Everything we’ve been working on, pouring ourselves into for nearly the past four years we’re almost ready to finally share with everyone – and we couldn’t be more jazzed about it.
Just this week, our pre-order boxes shipped out across the country and you can find them at Gamestop, Best Buy, Fry’s and other retailers. Check out our website at http://www.vanguardsoh.com and if you like what you see, pick up a copy and we’ll see you in Telon!