I finally finished to write my long comment to Anyuzer’s article on his visit at Sigil. Following here:
So, my turn to comment. I read the whole article yesterday, during the night, but I was too tired to comment. It was long but it also flows easily and it wasn’t a boring read. Still shorter than my early and silly review/manifesto of World of Warcraft back in March (100kb vs 74kb of your article).
I like your approach to the whole thing, it’s obvious that the it is simply filled with “maybe” and shady impressions with nearly zero concrete informations. But I accept the point of view, you chose to show your emotional reaction to the whole thing and this could easily be more “informing” than just listing “facts”. What I mean is that the more interesting part of the whole thing you wrote was exactly your personal comments to stuff and your description of the peoples running the game. Where you don’t directly describe the game you are actually providing the most valuable infos on it. Instead the more you delve into the facts, the more the article becomes weak and less informative. I believe that this countersense is the main theme.
That said, I still have doubts on Brad about what you describe. You portrait him as the most passionate guy out there about this genre and I don’t have elements to prove it’s false but I still feel hard to believe to this. From him I only read a one-line message on this board, long ago, and a defensive post on Mud-Dev as an answer to Jeff Freeman that Brad considered similar to a personal attack. Nothing else. From this point of view I really find hard to consider Brad more passionate than, say, Raph. At least Raph is going to publish a book, has a personal site with thousands of essays about the genre and follows and contribute to various message boards and to the Mud-Dev mailing list. I know he is present in the community, I see his presence and despite he is high in the ranks I still see that he likes the confrontation, he likes to share ideas and stimulate a discussion.
Brad? Well, he could surely cultivate his passion to this genre alone or inside his personal community but to me this looks like a pesonal shrine to boost the ego. Brad as the creator of Everquest, Brad as a person of strong relevance and success. But not Brad as someone passionate for the genre or the industry. Beside himself.
I repeat, I’m commenting this because I consider the emotional impressions you wrote more interesting to “understand” the game and the company behind this. And Brad is the part of what you said I fail to “digest”. He surely is passionate about Sigil and Vanguard, but I won’t believe that he is passionate about something outside of himself. I’m sure he has a strong personality but I believe that it’s this part to lead the thing. And not a sincere passion for the genre. I never saw him active in the community outside the “majesty” role that he loves to embody here and there. I never saw him discussing with the players on their level or about something that isn’t again Brad, Everquest or Sigil. He is somewhere else, where I don’t believe the real passion exists.
Aside this, I have another general impression. About the game I think you followed another main theme describing it. It’s the whole line of thought that makes you list EQ, then WoW as a polish of EQ (which Tanandae refuses) and then Vanguard, as a new step. Or a new approach. From what you write I understand that you put the game on a “third level” (as third-gen mmorpg). There’s the level of the treadmill that EQ won and where WoW improved and there’s the VW approach of SWG and UO. It seems that Vanguard is chasing a third approach that is perhaps even a blend of the previous two. The game as an adventure. You underlined this on every part of your article, when describing the environment, when hinting a possible inventory system taking into consideration the weight and volume of stuff, when writing about the tradeskills, when explaining the design system of the quests etc…
It seems that Vanguard wants to re-discover the missing part of a fantasy world as an experience. Giving back the relevance to parts that aren’t directly tied to the combat or self-power gain (treadmill). So they are aiming to a breathing world and not a functional simulation of a game. Instead they want the game to immerse completely the player into a full experience. And it’s true: This is COMPLETELY NEW. Noone has ever tried this approach and it’s surely something that players from all over the world are awaiting. This isn’t about innovation. In fact this is something that is ALREADY in the roots of the genre. It’s about re-discovering the fantasy as a genre, outside the craptacular tight boundaries that EQ-clones built around it. It’s simply the main point that every single player is expressing in a way or another: we don’t accept that a whole genre CANNOT be express outside a more or less boring, pointless treadmill. There must be more. Already. Without the need to discover fancy or crazy solutions and borderline (broken) experiments like SWG. It’s a whole new approach even to “game design” because it’s not anymore about “creating”, it’s more near to “listening” the nature of the genre.
While from a side we design something and then we shove it into a genre, in this new approach we reverse the process. We observe the setting and we build the game as a portrait. Game mechanics become results and not causes. The experience becomes the focus and the game gains its own life outside an arid genre that has nothing anymore to say aside that its path is broken. I consider this as a break with the past.
But this brings to other kinds of doubts. This is Brad. Brad did EQ and EQ was a big success. If he is lucky he is able to capture the magic and reproduce it. This is his “credit”. We know that we have someone who is able to “deliver”. But hold here a moment. Deliver *what*?
EQ wasn’t innovation. EQ was way, way closer to what WoW is. A polish of something already available. EQ was just a 3D version of a Diku. Nothing else. EQ was “new” because it was in 3D. Its innovation wasn’t about game design, it was simply on the *tech level*.
So we have two completely different entities. EQ was a tech innovation, Vanguard is hinted as a *design innovation*. Well, this is where I start again to doubt. Brad isn’t *anymore* a guarantee because he NEVER innovated game design. This will require a deep (and humble) learning process that I find hard to believe happening to Brad. I explained my doubts about Brad above and the game you described in the article is too shady to produce any kind of concrete conclusion. Good or bad, it’s simply too early even to start to figure out an impression.
And this brings to my third and last point. As I wrote, your report is filled with “maybe” and shady ideas. There’s nothing you say about the game that isn’t followed by a disclaimer where you say that nothing is for sure. I know you write something this summer so you probably know how wonderful is the initial stage of an idea. You could aim to write a book and you know that the book will be the best ever. But it’s not easy when you have to actually start to delve between and inside the various parts. It’s a trick of the brain.
When you have a shady idea the impression you have is never realistic. The brain doesn’t observe directly just the shape of what you have, instead it sees and creates even what is still is hidden. The less you describe and define something, the more the brain will smooth the result, filling at best the missing parts. This means that the shady portait you did of the game and the ideas around it is seducing BECAUSE it is shady. Because EVERYONE reading your article (like I did here) will fill the missing part. Something so shady and insecure has already gained a strong definition in the minds of every reader. There are 10% of the shady infos you reported and the remaining 90% of dreams that every players have.
Your report becomes: “Vanguard will be wonderful because it will be the game of your dreams”. And the game of your dreams cannot be bad, right? This is the sense of your article. A failing-proof slogan.
Btw, I wonder if I should point Brad to my “dream mmorpg” ideas I’ve written in these months. In the world of “maybe” and wannabe designer they could become useful to someone beside myself (…)