interveiw with Silius

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Post by dosi » Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:06 pm Staff #1: Salim, I want to thank you again for joining It was really great talking with you at Fan Faire 2009 and we certainly appreciate you giving us the opportunity to follow up on that interview and see where Vanguard is headed. Staff #2: First of all, now that the Pantheon of the Ancients is released, what do you guys have in the works for the next large release?

Salim Grant: Well, recently I had to shift focus as far as being a lead in Vanguard to help another project in the company and because of that we had to basically push our entire schedule for the rest of the year to next year but before that happened, we were cranking away on the second part of Pantheon – the raid portion called Halls of Shattered Souls which is almost finished. Then we had plans for Pankor Zhi, the dark elf home city, to be made a dungeon which was one of the original intents. And to do Stiirhad, which is the mount where Halifer is supposed to be resurrected. In between all that, we were also implementing AAs. Our AA system is relatively finished; obviously it needs to be tested, debugged, and we need to start creation of AAs which we’ve steadily been looking at as we do our small class revamps that we’ve been doing every week. Staff #1: That was something that I wanted to ask about. We had talked a little bit at Fan Faire about the AA system coming to Vanguard and just wanted to ask you what additional information you could give us now. It’s been… oh I guess we’re looking at five months out… how progression with the AA system and have you guys got any new plans or things that are going to be implemented with that system?

Salim Grant: We haven’t really… at the time of Fan Faire, the AA system was about the same state it is now, as far as the actual coding of the system. It’s pretty much ready for QA to test it and then for us to throw it on test server. The only addition to it in that time has been that we actually got a UI completed by one of our old programmers. The project he worked on for about three or four weeks, and he managed to get us a really awesome AA window – it’s very similar to Everquest’s AA window. Obviously it doesn’t have all the bells and whistless that the Everquest AA window has now, but of course we’re also not launching with the gazillion AAs that Everquest has accrued over the years. So right now it’s really just a process of us filling out some basic AAs and getting that on test server, letting people kind of run through that, to make sure that the functionality and everything mechanically is sound. And obviously, as part of the process, we start releasing the actual real AAs, things like that. But obviously, like I said, it’s probably not going to come close to a reality until some point early next year. Staff #2: Do you know if you’re going to make the AAs unlimited like EQ or are you going to have it cap at a certain amount?

Salim Grant: Our AA system will be relatively identical to Everquest. Staff #2: Okay, and then Pankor Zhi – you said that’s going to be a dungeon - How many men?

Salim Grant: It’s going to be a six man. The way that the dungeon - I assume both of you play, or have played – Pankor Zhi is a relatively gigantic city that’s all enclosed. It works well for a dungeon because it’s already got sections. So when I looked at it, what I wanted to do was basically make it a six man that progresses into a twelve man. The current plan is that sixty to seventy percent of the dungeon would be six man content but all that content is built around you gaining access to the twelve man portion which leads to the final boss for that little chunk of content and story that’s being told, which also starts to begin another story that leads into Stiirhad. Staff #2: I noticed on the website, there was a question about the lore – that it was getting a little stretched thin. They compared it to EQ… I’m trying to think of the zone where you had to gather all the shards and everybody’s name started with an ‘X’ and it just didn’t make any sense.

Salim Grant: Zinamat? Staff #2: Yeah. They were saying the lore doesn’t exactly tie in with the old lore anymore.

Salim Grant: We’ve certainly got… we released a chunk of content that we refer to as KDQ. There’s a series of islands that weren’t being used for anything and in that story – it’s a relatively comical story - about a leader of a group called Kamelott Inc. They’ve been in the game for a very, very long time. So with KDQ, we decided to pull back the veil that is the company and kind of reveal exactly what’s going on with these guys. And in that process, on those islands was discovered a Zinamat artifact, and that’s the reason that they were down there and all that other random stuff. So it’s not really stretching anything thin – I mean, the Zinamat are aliens that came to Telon for whatever reason and they have artifacts. We really didn’t stretch anything thin – at least not from my point of view. It’s stuff that’s kind of already there; we just decided to take that piece of content and run with it. I’m sure people would have preferred we run with other content like destroyable Targonor, or Pankor Zhi, or Stiirhad, things like that - or doing more of Razen Kur. We kind of wanted to do something different instead of going back to stuff people are already used to seeing – you know, everyone’s seen the Djinns, everyone’s seen dragons and this sort of stuff and Stiirhad was just big to do at the time. I know some people have problems with some of the lore that’s come out but, I mean, we did Pantheon and Pantheon’s pretty big as far as lore goes because it tells a major part of the back story of Telon that really was never released. It serves as a foundation for the creation of the world, the unifier, all these things that have been hinted about but never been told. So I’m not really sure where we’re stretching any lore really thin. Staff #2: Alright, I just read that online and I didn’t understand it so I wanted to ask. Staff #1: Yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about. There was a thread on the forum… and, you know, some players – I think you see this across a lot of MMOs that some players are very purist when it comes to lore and some players are willing to accept the introduction of some expansion and different ideas more readily. So that’s kind of a conflict – it’s fairly common in many online player bases.

I wanted to ask you too – this is in a different topic completely – as far as guild houses/halls, do you guys have any implementations/new possible fixes? I know there maybe a couple bugs there and also any new features coming that would expand their functionality or power strength within the game?

Salim Grant: So Vanguard has an inherent issue with guild houses – one of the biggest being that person who worked on guild houses is no longer on our team. He hasn’t been on our team for a while and he’s an awesome programmer and he really loved putting housing into Vanguard. Unfortunately, he had to leave the project. As far as the actual guild housing goes, as a company - well Sigil at the time – as a team, we never wanted guild housing to have this huge advanced level of functionality because there’s limited plots which means that because I got here first, I get to have all this power that you can’t have unless you join my guild, which is why we made the guild headquarters object which any house can become a guild headquarters. And we applied most functionality guild-wise to that. So guild halls essentially are just gigantic trophies of a sort where you can store more stuff and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, outside of fixing issues - like we just patched in fixes to transferring guild halls and things like that to make things a little easier and less buggy. But, of course, any bugs that we can fix when it comes to housing we try to do, but guild halls themselves there’s just no plans to expand that out without first trying to resolve the fact that only so many plots can exist because we don’t have instanced housing and all the cool stuff that EQ2 and those things do with their guild halls. Those are awesome and I love all that functionality and if we ever put that functionality in, it would not be limited to a guild house at all. It would be linked to the guild headquarters and at that point the limitation would be the space within your home. Staff #1: I see. Any thoughts on new classes coming?

Salim Grant: The new class that we want to work on is called the Summoner. We’ve already started doing some preliminary talks on it and what we want it to be. Staff #1: And that’s pet oriented right?

Salim Grant: Yup. Very strong, pet-oriented class… very aching to the Everquest Magician, which a couple of us are very fond of. I played the living crap out of an Everquest Mage as did our programmer Jason, or Ikik as people know him on the forums. He played a lot of Necro. He played a lot of Mage and he came to me wanting to do a pet class and we both said, “Hey, let’s do a Summoner or a mage type class” and we started talking about it and all this cool functionality and what we wanted to do with it. That’s what we’re looking at – we’ve already kind of got the class object created and have talked about some preliminary abilities. But obviously that’s not super, super high on the list because that’s not a very small task. Staff #1: Right, sure. It’s a huge implementation with associated balance issues, etc. But you don’t have any kind of ETA on that? It’s interesting you mention that you played a Magician – I did too and it’s just something that would be a little pet thing and I would love to see it too. So I’m just curious if you can give us any kind of idea on an ETA on when that would be.

Salim Grant: I really couldn’t. I mean it’s really… at this point it’s really a pet project, no pun intended. It’s really more of we come up with the idea, we throw it out there, our team talks about it and we say, “Ok, let’s put that on the list of things that we’d like to do.” I’d love to see it done, but like I said, it’s such a huge project and we obviously have other things we really need to get out like more content for people. But ultimately, what we’ve been looking at is doing something similar to like World of Warcraft did with the Death Knight where if you have a max level, or a couple max levels you can kind of start one at a certain level. It saves on the development time with having to put in a bunch of content for levels one through whatever for us with our team size being small which means we have a better chance on getting it out sooner and being able to spend more time on balancing and actually making the class cool and things like that. It also saves on the amount of abilities and stuff we have to make but that’s just an idea that we’re throwing out there to see if we can possibly get it out sooner, if it ever happens at all, but obviously we’re not making any promises here. Staff #1: Sure. I think a lot of players… well I can speak only for myself as a player but I’d certainly be accepting of that model and it’s worked in other MMOs where you would start at a higher level based on your previous play. Staff #2: What about new races for players to play?

Salim Grant: There is no way that we would ever do a new race. I mean, just following the history of what we’ve done, whether we had to or wanted to, Vanguard has such a rich background as far as a number of races and there are I think four or five races, if I remember correctly, that never made it. Ultimately, it adds to the game, as far as something new, something different story-wise. But in the end, we have a lot of races, we have a lot of classes, we have such crazy matrix combinations and it’s really hard to manage and I don’t know the bang for buck as far as I could spend the time it takes to put a class in the game, or I could spend the time making a class, or putting in a dungeon. It’s a lot of work to put in a new class, and the return is just so small considering the man power we have. It’s just not something I’d even consider. Staff #1: I know too, at Fan Faire, we talked about diplomacy some and the uniqueness within MMORPGs of the diplomacy system and that you guys, I think recently, extended the Executor quest, is that correct?

Salim Grant: I believe so. We’ve been trying to do a series of both the diplomacy and crafting and saga quest lines. Staff #1: Right. I just mention that because I think our readers would want to know that. That was something you had mentioned in our original interview – some plans for taking a look at that and extending it and that you guys have in fact delivered on that content. So if our MMORPGFocus readers and listeners are watching this and maybe even looking back at the old interview which is still in our archives, it’s interesting to see the development and how you guys have progressed and implemented some of the things that we talked about in June. I think a lot of people were happy to see the extension of those quests and some new rewards and something for the people who are really into the diplomat thing.

Salim Grant: Yeah, it’ll continue and that’s basically… we’ve got one guy on the team who focuses on both those spheres and that’s pretty much all he does - his work on progressing that content out and finishing up the stories that he wants to tell with those. I try to avoid having him focus on anything else because that’s what he likes to do and obviously the return’s decent for people who play in those spheres. It’s nice to have one guy focus on that stuff. Staff #2: When I heard about the interview, I approached a lot of friends that I knew play Vanguard and all of them pretty much quit – because I wanted to know what I should play, etc., and they said that they didn’t enjoy it but then, when I was reading your forums, that there were an immense amount of changes that you guys have done. Do you want to tell any of the players or listeners some of these changes from the original game that might draw them back into the game?

Salim Grant: There are a lot of changes. I mean, if it’s like me trying to give a sales pitch to people, the best I can say is that Vanguard is definitely a different game than what it was when it launched. We as a development team have tried to address major bug issues with the game which obviously was the number one problem. Our performance is just leaps and bounds better than what it was at launch. We’ve got a much better new user experience. We’ve got some good content for the higher levels; we’ve got a good progression of content. We’ve got a rich story. The biggest change to Vanguard is simply the performance and the bug fixes and I think a lot of people who have quit or did quit, especially in the first month or so, quit because of those problems. So if there’s anything that I’d say to the people to come back, the biggest change is that the game runs a lot better and you can now actually get in and experience the game past level three where some people weren’t even able to log in and get the full Vanguard treatment. We’ve made a lot of changes – put in a lot of cool content, made little tweaks here and there. We’re currently going over players’ wish lists, adding guild functionality and all kinds of other stuff that people would have been asking for. So it just gets better and better and better and listing the stuff would be kind of crazy. Staff #2: *Laughs* I’m sorry. I couldn’t find anywhere that you guys were offering free time to bring people back into the game like you did in EQ and Star Wars?

Salim Grant: We’ve done it a few times. We generally do it like every couple months or so. Actually I think we did our last one maybe a month ago or something… or was it when Pantheon launched? I don’t remember. We’ve done it a few times. I don’t know the current plans if there’s plans to do one for Christmas time or not but I still have to talk to our marketing people to see what they want to do. But we’ve been doing win backs constantly - actually, every time we do a major launch. It’s just with my recent need to help somewhere else, major launches have been pushed so we haven’t really discussed it much. Staff #1: Salim Grant, I want to mention something that I found shocking. We get the press releases from all the major developers and the most recent one from Mythic’s Warhammer game – they kind of snuck something in there that I think is kind of really major and actually kind of shocked me. Shocked me into ordering an article written about it. They are making a change in policy where as long as you stay in tier one content, the trial account is free to play indefinitely. Would you ever consider something like that for Vanguard? The reason I ask that question is because, like you talked about, there’s been so many bug fixes. I was one of those players who picked it up in the beginning, stopped because of bugs and just some feeling of incompleteness and then have played it again recently and have just been stunned by the amount of polish that Sony has put on the game since taking it over, increasing the budget and sticking with it. I wonder if it might not benefit you guys to do something similar, like open tier one or open levels one through ten or whatever and say, “Hey, take your time. Try a couple different classes and we’re going to have that trial space just kind of open indefinitely for you to come in and really see, at your leisure, that this game is bug free and it’s polished and a lot of fun and that you should subscribe.”

Ryan Peterson: Yeah, I don’t think we can really speculate on what we’re going to do from a marketing perspective. I mean, we do win back promotions constantly with all of our titles, different times and different types of entitlements that are ‘bring a friend back’ or something like that. So I’d really be going out on a limb to speculate something like that.

Salim Grant: Yeah, I mean, I don’t see anything wrong with doing that. It would certainly be nice. I think it would be good for Vanguard if we tried that but obviously, like Ryan said, there’s a lot of random, extra stuff when you’re talking about messing with the revenue. But I certainly see… ultimately, what I’d like to see is like a free test server or something which would help the development team and let people kind of see the game, but obviously the test server’s not the most stable environment – that could backfire as well. But, I don’t know. I think it’s a cool idea and I give them props for taking the risk cause it seems like a relatively significant risk. Staff #1: Yeah, I was shocked by it. I think it points to maybe the fact that they’ve had much bigger retention problems than they’ve maybe said. Possibly - I don’t know. But so many games have been moving to a Free-to-Play or partial Free-to-Play. I think Sony has seen that success with Free Realms. We were just curious if there were any changes planned to the revenue model of Vanguard. It sounds like you’re not ready to comment right now and I can understand that. Staff #2: There was actually a really long thread about the three tank classes not being balanced. Do you guys have any plans to take care of this?

Salim Grant: We are doing class paths every week currently. I think we just finished Sorcerers and when we do those evaluations, we will look at the class and where it lies in its archetype. The problem with some of the arguments on the forums is that some of the arguments don’t hold up very well. I mean, on the outside it looks like, “Yeah, this makes total sense,” but there are obviously a bunch of other things that we internally have to consider – what was the point of this class within its archetype; how’s it supposed to play, how’s it supposed to feel. If A class and archetype is asking for us to give them the powers of B class and archetype and C class and archetype, then what’s the point of that class even existing – you might as well roll one of those other two classes. So obviously, we have to try to stick with the flavor, while defining the role within the archetype – which the game is archetype based so the tank archetype is a protector, a guy who can take damage; his primary job is to tank. His secondary job is based on the flavor of the class. So we approach it in that way and try to resolve whatever issues we can. Ultimately right now things like DPS, stuff like that, we’re reviewing those internally. We’re getting parses from live. As people fight out raid bosses we’re parsing those things internally and getting some numbers, stuff like that so we can see where people are falling and make sure people are falling where we want them. If things are not what we want them to be, we’ll try to make adjustments as we can. Staff #2: I’m really glad that you said that because I think that a lot of people don’t consider that one class is for one thing and another class is for another; not that they should have everything.

Salim Grant: Yeah and it’s kind of a part of the archetype thing. Essentially, with an archetype system you have four classes and we have fifteen classes. Making each one of those be different but still work within its arch of the core role – it’s not necessarily the hardest job in the world but when you’ve got a bunch of people playing different classes: “I want to be better than this guy” or “I should be better than this. My class is called this and it should work this way. ” Well, I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to actually put a value of “this is how much DPS you have because you have this much utility.” I can’t actually put a value on how much utility you actually have because every situation is different. So we just have to do what we can and the forum is not necessarily the best place to get a good feel for what’s going on. The best place to get that is see what’s going on on live and that’s why our parses on live kind of tell us what’s going on: “Hey, sorcerer’s supposed to be doing more DPS.” – look at our parses – “Yeah, there’s no more DPS by a lot.” So someone posting on the forums a parse that shows a little bit differently – they’re still number one but not by much. Well, it’s partially because parsing externally doesn’t work that well because you’re parsing text where as we parse the actual data that’s going on. So we’re trying our best; we’re getting information from multiple sources but we are pretty active on the forums and try to read everything we can and take it in. Staff #1: I think that’s a really important point is that you guys are working with data that the external user just, by nature, can’t have access to. You’ve got the servers and you’re seeing much more details and accurate data that maybe players, with running an add-on or something that might not be picking up correctly in a parse and that’s an interesting point to make. Also, from somebody who runs a forum myself, the forums often lend themselves to a vocal minority appearing to be a larger portion of the player base than maybe they really are and I’ve noticed that. I run a forum with thousands of users and often a very small group of people can make a lot of noise and that doesn’t necessarily represent the big chunk of people who are participants in your project or game or community or whatever.

I wanted to ask you Salim, before we run out of time if you don’t mind, when we talked six months ago, we talked about some things – it sounds like you’ve delivered on a lot of that stuff with the additions to the diplomacy quest lines and system, the additions to crafting, the additional content, the plans for an Everquest Magician-like class. Tell us what can we expect in the next six months.

Salim Grant: *Laughs* Well, as long as the next six months is starting in January. Ultimately we want to get Pantheon B out the door because… it’s really the story that we wrote for Pantheon A & B, it’s really a cool story and it really sets the tone for a lot of stuff, especially leading into Halifer’s return with Stiirhad. We really want to get that out and obviously that has the epic 2.0s in it; right now you can get the first tier epics. And then, you know, the same thing I said before: after that we had planned to do Pankor Zhi. One thing I’m actually forgetting to mention is that we have been testing and we’re almost done with the finishing off of Hilsbury Manor part B. One of our design apprentices, he put a lot of work into it – he wanted to chew on something so I said, “Hey, go ahead. Take this. This is your baby. Do what you need to,” and he did some cool work with it. All that’s left to really do now is itemize it. So look for that to be coming out as soon as I can get around to actually putting items in it. Like I said, Pankor Zhi - 6 man encounter. It’s going to finish off the Kamelott line. It’s going to be the beginning of the Halifer return stuff and then Stiirhad. We really, really want to get Stiirhad done because as far as scope goes, it’s an awesome dungeon. It’s gigantic. It’s huge. It’s got the overland. It’s got the underworld. It’s got all the stuff in it and it would be a blast to repopulate that place – put some cool stuff in there. And I mean Halifer – everyone likes killing dragons, everyone loves dragons and you’re talking about a place that’s going to be filled with them so we want to get that out but I would ultimately say in six months that I would look at the Hilsbury Manor stuff coming out, Pankor Zhi, Pantheon B, hopefully AAs – if not within that six months then hopefully shortly after cause that’s a lot of testing in general and we want to make sure that goes out as bug free as humanly possible. So that’s what I look at. Of course there’s also crafting and diplomacy spheres continued, Saga quest stuff that Justin’s working on – Jansan for anyone who sees him on the forums. So it’s a lot of that stuff going in and obviously our class passes that we’re doing won’t finish until maybe February or so. So that’s about what I can say about six months, not looking directly at the schedule. Staff #1: Well it sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate and there’s a lot of exciting stuff coming for Vanguard players and again, I just want to stress to someone who picked up the game when it was released, as an Everquest player who then didn’t renew right away and has come back to the game, if you’re a fan of Everquest out there and are listening or reading this interview, you owe it to yourself to at least try the trial and come back to Vanguard and see what the state the game is in now and see it finished and polished. I think you’ll maybe find what you were looking for originally. Just want to toss that out there and give you a shout out because I’ve certainly enjoyed the game now. You guys have done some great work.

Salim Grant: Thank you. I mean, I’ve got an awesome group of guys. Obviously our team has gotten smaller and smaller but at no point have we had anyone who wasn’t dedicated to putting out the good stuff. We’ve had awesome artists. We have awesome artists. We have awesome programmers. We have awesome designers. Vanguard’s a beast that’s hard to tame but it’s fun working on it and I think ultimately when we’re able to tame it and get something out that’s good, it’s just that the processes can be taxing sometimes. But, you know, it’s an awesome game and I have fun working on it, as does the team, I think. I assume. They all come in with smiles on their faces. But it’s good to hear people come back and be excited about it because that’s ultimately our goal, right? It’s to getting people back to playing and when they come back they see that Vanguard is worth the money you put into it. Staff #1: Absolutely. I almost wish I could rewind time and have the game come out now in the state that it’s in now at the time it was released – I think you’d be rivaling Everquest 2 for SOE’s biggest monthly sub game. It didn’t work out that way, but that doesn’t mean that the game can’t pick up subscribers and grow from here. It happened before. I know just from talking to other people in the industry with different companies and I think it could happen here again.

Anyway, we appreciate you sitting down with

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Re: interveiw with Silius

Post by Logian » Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:23 pm

What the heel happend to my berzerker!? Stoopid devs
Logian, Logis, Loogi, Loogis, Logge, Logina, Gnexx, Gneex, Aisa, Bettsy, Granat, Finkel, Mashbuk etc..

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