Vanguard – “From Brad to the catasses”, a game manifesto

(I archived the “Manifesto” here for reference)

A couple of days ago I passed some time reading a thread on FoH’s boards that spanned 6+ pages in just a few hours.

I find the thread interesting and amusing for a number of reasons. The point is that there aren’t many places left where, you know, peoples talk about games and have a decent idea about what they are saying. In my opinion these catasses have still something to say if you know where to search and are able to read between the lines. This is why I think it’s important to read the “manifesto” that Brad wrote about Vanguard and his “vision” within the context of that thread. In a number of ways the thread itself is more important and interesting than Brad’s letter.

Now, I probably felt the need of this premise to justify myself the fact I’m reading FoH’s boards but the point is that other communities like Corpnews and F13 are less less interested to talk about games and more and more interested to talk about themselves. We have even recent examples to demonstrate that they still definitely know how to write but it’s a fact that don’t care much anymore. Not that I’m criticizing that, I absolutely undserstand why and I’ll probably finish to not care anymore pretty soon as well, but the fact remains.

There are many important points that the thread brings up about the genre and it’s simply impossible to delve into each one because they are strictly tied with the whole structure and principle of a mmorpg. So I will only try to undeline the “questions” this time, without going on endlessly with the possible solutions (I’m lying).

The first question comes directly from Brad’s letter: “Is there still a space in the market for a game targeted at the hardcore players?”

There are many other questions tied to this one. For example it is true that there was a market five years ago. And that the type of offer allowed the game to count on a strong and steady subscribers base that is a dream for every game. But the market is also obviously changed and it remains to be seen if the same game of five years ago is still mantaining a true appeal or it’s getting just embellished by the effect of the nostalgia.

There’s also another important point that is also useful to consider now: “What was the real value of that game that everyone loved so much?”

I believe that the success of that game came from premises that are important to consider and understand even now. So I’ve collected a few quotes:

NO. No, the whole point is that you do play one MMO. You get immersed in one world, otherwise it’s pointless to play them. Do not let would-be developers think that this is okay.

I agree, I dont wanna “filler games” to keep me occupied while playing a mmo.

I want the mmo to have enough substance, immersion, and things to do that I dont even THINK about other games. I want to enter the game and six months in be OVERWHELMED at what I still need to accomplish.

WoW’s biggest flaw IMO is trying to cater to more of the masses, rather than having the masses adjust to the game that the devs set forth.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter where you add the content so long as you add it. Just making the level grind take longer wouldn’t accomplish anything. It just means that instead of being able to quest to 55ish then having to grind out the last 5 levels, we’d be able to quest from 1 to 3, then grind from 3 to 6, then quest from 6 to 9, then grind from 10 to 14, etc….

Extending WoW’s level curve would solve -nothing-. Instead of being bored for the last 6 months we’d be bored for the last 8 months because leveling would be boring.

Blaming the boredom of WoW on it being too fast is simply poor thinking. Blaming WoW for not delivering on the tons and tons of content that was supposed to be delivered at level 60 is where the problem lies.

Don’t mistake being forced to grind for content.

I think games aren’t doing so well is because they focus on ONLY fighting/raiding as their sole content, something they can not output fast enough

Games have to expand their focus a lot more so there is more that people can do. People can timesink themselves if they have other stuff to be involved in. Heck look at Final Fantasy 7, how many hours were wasted training up a gold Chocobo in that game? it was definantly NOT needed but it gave people something else to do.

Three quotes and there’s already enough meat to discuss for days. The core problem here is the “content”, in this case used as a scapegoat to drift on the surface of the issue. What terrorizes me isn’t a game with no content, it’s the opposite scenario. Let’s say that WoW had 500 epic dungeons at release with another million of quests and hundreds of different objects to loot. Is this a dream? Is this the goal? A game like that would have its lore and its cohesiveness completely shattered. With 500 epic dungeons the population would get infinitesimally fragmented and we would get directly a super mudflated game where the content becomes in the first place a pure grind. Who will have to imagine quests, loot and dungeons to support all that? And where exactly is it heading?

The problem here isn’t in more or less content. The problem is in the model, in what you are trying to reproduce. If the whole purpose of the game is to produce content, the model of an online mmorpg with a monthly fee is simply NOT APPROPRIATE. What I mean is that the “content” is for sure the core problem, but it’s not a quantitative problem, it’s qualitative. Not only it’s impossible to push out constantly that type of content (with quality) that the hardcore players are demanding, but it would require a development team so large that it would simply slip out of control, losing completely every attempt of “authorship”. Why is this broken? Because this type of content comes DIRECTLY from an authorship and the problems are a direct result of a broken model.

In particular in WoW an exponential growth of the same parts will just KILL the game. From every perspective. It’s already hard to keep track of everything and a game with more and more classes, skills and zones will become just chaotic and random. Random loot, random quests, random gameplay, random PvP. All pointless. The fact that there are “only” 10 classes is a design choice with precise reasons. In particular when it comes to gameplay founded on “tactics” the first lesson is that “less rules is better”. The best strategy games aren’t those with millions of variables. The best games are those with a few, precise rules that you can easily grasp and reuse. Like “chess”. When in a strategic game you have too many variables you do not offer more “tactics”, you just offer randomness. This is why the developers of Guild Wars felt enough to build the game around the eight skills for each character. When you mix those skills with the others your party has, you obtain enough combinations and scenarios to have a complex environment that can still be understood and managed.

“More” is always hinting a different problem. It’s a way to hide the fact you miss a quality. So you hide this deficency through a “quantity”. It’s an illusion to prevent you to see exactly what is going on. It’s not rare that the idea of “more” is used as a marketing tool. Because hiding IS lying. And marketing is often at its core a “make believe”.

Recently Lum wrote a piece about “Alternate Advancement Points”.

To which I replied:

Well, thereĆ¢

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