The Game Archaeologist Reactions to Vanguard F2P
Vanguard's just had its biggest month since its troubled release in 2007, I wager. Its turn to free-to-play makes it the second-to-last SOE title to make the jump, and it's getting a "do-over" of sorts. Personally, I'm glad to see it happen.

Without going into depth on Vanguard's past problems, I'll say that this was a highly hyped game that fell about as hard as any MMO could without being outright canceled. For years, it has been subsiding on a meager population and extremely rare updates (I recall a tiny bug update for Vanguard being laughably big news last summer). Now? Now it's received a new lease on life and attention from players and the media.

If you've been following the news, you'll know that Vanguard soft launched a week early, talked with Massively about the conversion, officially launched thereafter, and is now part of the PSS.1 deal. But the most important word is that of the player on the street, the ground-pounders in Telon who are checking out F2P (and perhaps the game) for the first time. I've gathered several of these perspectives together for your amusement and edification.

The Game Archaeologist Reactions to Vanguard F2P
The blogosphere reacts

So what have MMO bloggers been saying about Vanguard's recent resurgence? I combed the feeds and found the following observations.

The blog Anjin in Exile says he's got nothing better to do until Guild Wars 2 comes out: "I tried out Vanguard a couple of years back during a free trial, but it didn't really hook me at the time. I was never, ever, going to pay money just to give it a second chance. The move to free-to-play is exactly what I've been waiting for, ever since John Smedley teased it a couple of years back."

Kaozz ducked her head into Vanguard and found that it wasn't quite ready for prime time: "It appears that if you do not have the default UI set up, you cannot access the cash shop -- well, unless you do some tweaking, as there is a forum post on this. I could not even see it and I only had infomap as an add-on. There are some kinks to iron out still and the 'social servers' seemed down or bogged. Most of my armor I could not use; might have to play around on an alt until I do Station Access this weekend... The cash shop looks rather robust, from what I hear; I couldn't actually see it."

The Ancient Gaming Noob notes that SOE made some tweaks to the F2P features matrix since it was first announced: "If you compare that with the earlier one, you will see that they have changed brokers and mail access. You now just paying higher in-game fees to use those services. There will also be no restrictions on chat access for free players."

The Game Archaeologist Reactions to a free Vanguard
When he logged in, Bhagpuss was astounded at all of the changes: "It's kind of a work in progress. There was only the tiniest patch needed when I logged in but the patch notes were humungous! The entire game up to Level 31 seems to have been re-itemized, both overland and dungeons. A large number of quests in that range have been revisited, I can only assume to make them easier to complete given the long list of adjusted 'Kill N of X' totals. Oh, and they all got new rewards, of which more later."

He concludes with a mix of concern and hope for the product. "It's pretty ugly," Bhagpuss admits. "I'm sure it will improve. It will have to. The good part is that if you just want to travel the incredibly beautiful world of Telon, take photographs or videos, soak in the superb atmosphere, you can do it for free."

Paeroka of Nerdy Bookahs wrote in a few of her initial impressions of the F2P transition: "
Either way, I have just started getting into Vanguard and I am enjoying myself. What I really love is that all races and classes can be played for free until level 20. Some are free to play in general. But this way, I can try out a race or a class, get a feeling for it and then decide if I want to pay for the unlock. That's much better than reading a description and hoping I will like the class before buying it."

She does have a few criticisms, however. "The game itself seems to have a few problems at the moment," Paeroka said. "It's an old game and certainly looks dated, but I don't mind it that much. The server lags are disappointing. I hope they can fix them because it's just not a good first impression to switch a game to F2P and present the gaming public two servers and both are having performance issues."

Stargrace is incredibly happy that a good game is finally getting some much-needed love: "Telon is beautiful and has always been. I'm pleased that more people will give it a shot and perhaps even stay a while. It's nice to hear channels being used again (when they work), and as a long time player it's satisfying to know that the game is getting at least a little more attention than in previous years."

The Game Archaeologist Reactions to Vanguard F2P
Forum posters react

Another great source of feedback (in limited doses, of course) is the official forums. Here are a few choice impressions that seem to sum up player reactions:
  • Newkidvoodoo is one of several players who note that the latency is pretty bad: "I am a returning player, and the lag is crippling my gameplay. I am glad they are working on it, but they had better hurry."
  • Optim has had it up to here with zones crashing: "I have played about four hours total since [F2P] has gone live and have had zones crash on me at least eight times. It is ridiculous."
  • New player Academ is totally on board: "I just wanted to tell everyone that this game is awesome. Fracking Awesome. That is all."
  • Veteran player Atraeus sees F2P as a boon for guilds: "Yes, population is up. A lot of the guilds I talk to are seeing a huge increases in new guildies. Our guild had 47 people inquire about joining last night alone. So far all of our new members have nothing but good to say about the game. A few thought the free-to-play was too restrictive but also followed it up with this game is too outstanding not to sub."
  • There's also a great recap thread where players discuss the fallout from F2P. Flarestar speaks for the majority here: "Overall the impression over the last week, including last night, has been very positive from the players actually in-game."
  • And that's without mentioning the guy who offered to buy the game from SOE for $10,000. Good luck with that, buddy.
SOE was quick to reassure players experiencing problems that the issues were being worked on and that a content update is coming soon to the game.

Enough from others; I want to hear from you. Those of you who have stuck with Vanguard or re-entered Telon this past month, what do you think about the game and its F2P adaptation?

When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

This article was originally published on Massively.