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Vanguard: Saga Of Heroes

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Sigil Games Online


PC Preview - 'Vanguard: Saga of Heroes'

by Mark Crump on July 14, 2004 @ 12:31 a.m. PDT

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is an MMORPG with a vast, seamless, immersive virtual world filled with elements of familiar High Fantasy, including traditional themes and more...

Publisher: Sigil Games Online
Developer: Microsoft
Release Date: TBA

What do you do when your prized creation, EverQuest, hits its maintenance cycle? Brad McQuaid and Jeff Butler answered that question by leaving SOE and forming a new company, Sigil Games. Apparently, a significant number of the original EQ design team were asking themselves that very same question, as Sigil’s employee listing boasts a considerable amount of the original talent behind EQ.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is easily 18 months away from release, so there’s just not a lot for the developers to commit to talking about. What Sigil was showing at E3 was little more than a tech demo, but the demo was rich with eye candy and very impressive.

Vanguard is boasting a seamless world. In the other online games, when you move your character, it moves from one area to another, and you may get a “loading” screen as the server loads the next area. Vanguard is designed so that you can run across a field towards a fortified city, through the streets towards the castle, and finally down into the dungeon without ever seeing a loading screen. From an immersion standpoint, that’s huge – even if the loading screens make for a good time to get your beverage refilled. The graphics will put EQ2 to shame, but I fear for the system specs. This team isn’t afraid of pushing the spec envelope, though, something they were criticized for when EQ required a 3D card when it launched.

Keith Parkinson, the renowned fantasy illustrator most known for his EverQuest covers, is onboard as the art director for Vanguard. As a result, the game looks fantastic. They are going for a high-fantasy, epic look, and they are succeeding at creating that feel. The large city they were the demonstrating, New Targonor, is the largest city I’ve seen in an MMOG, and it’s not just a matte painting either, as you’ll be able to go most everywhere in the city. While the models and landscaping were nice, what really impressed me were the textures. While they are all normal-mapped, the game will load in a higher-detailed set of textures as you get closer. As an example, they showed what happens when you approach a rock wall; as we got closer, you could see the texture getting more detailed. In the end, we were about 12” away from the rock and were able to see nooks and crannies that weren’t visible 10’ away.

Very little about the actual gameplay was revealed. I did ask Jeff Butler about the death penalty, and how it compared to EverQuest’s, and his reply was: “Old EQ or New EQ?” I’m sorry, Jeff, but both still suck to me. He did say that in Vanguard, you would have to do a corpse run, although the game does give you a visual leader to your corpse, so at least the days of wondering where you exactly died are thankfully over. You’ll still lose experience points on death, a level if you’re not too far into it. In today’s world of kinder, gentler death penalties, this one is a sharp kickback to the harsh early days of the genre. From reading through the various EQ message boards, there are a lot of people who think the days of Brad and the infamous “VisionTM” were the best days of the genre. The VisionTM is back with a vengeance with Vanguard, so my message to people who look fondly on the good ole days is simple: be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Brad and team had a tremendous success with EverQuest, but in this market, you’re only as good as your current game. The tech demo was impressive, and with the talent behind this title, it’s a guaranteed contender. The big question of how it actually plays won’t be answered until next year, most likely at E3, so we’re a long way away from judging the game on points that matter.

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