SOE Live
"The little game that could" is how Mark Tuttle introduced Vanguard at the SOE Live keynote, and although the game has had its share of struggles through the years, it forges on with a strong community, lots of recent changes, and a roadmap of future endeavors. Now that the free-to-play transition is up and running, the team took some time at SOE Live to give fans a rundown of what it's been up to and what players can look forward to seeing.

Producer Harvey Burgess began with a look back at what the team has accomplished over the past year. One of its goals was to retool the starting experience a bit in order to give the wave of new players (thanks to free-to-play) a better chance of running into others and having a good starting experience. The result was a revamped Lomshir Plains; the devs revised many of the quests to give polished themes to the area. After that, they worked on Old Targonor, an area that helped fill a content gap that players ran into in their 40s after they finished the Swamp. The revamp gave players a chance for good gear and a taste of raid-style mechanics as they reach level 50. Burgess added that as he's been playing the game, he's seen areas that are still really devoid of content, and he recognizes that they need to work on filling those areas.

In fact, over the past year, the team has undergone some changes in the staff, so the current team needed to go back and "know the game inside and out" before it was able to move forward. The team has stabilized and even grown in size. Now the devs feel better able to pinpoint problem areas like lag, buff stacking, bugs, and raid mechanics and improve them. Going forward, they also hope to continue to take in ideas from the players to better help them proceed with fixes that make the game better.

For current players who might have been frustrated with the recent run changes, Burgess announced that things didn't quite go as planned, so the designers will be adjusting running in a way that should come as a relief to players. They also are working on mount changes as well, so they might feel even faster than before.

Coming up, the team will be unveiling Cave of Wonder, an endgame area that should make longtime fans happy. The Cave of Wonder was actually a zone that was available to mid-level groups of players back in beta but never made it to launch. At the time, it was a visually stunning zone, and while the content might be higher level, hopefully the devs preserved the natural beauty of the zone for players to appreciate. They plan to put it in game around the end of September or early October. Another area they're working on is streamlining the game's back end to enable the team to create recipes to put in game with much less time. Normally, it takes about a half hour to create each new recipe, but they're getting close to the point that it will only take about a third of that time. Because the team is relatively small, it'll be able to add much more crafting content for players in the future. The devs will also make the recipes a little less of a mystery so players will have a general idea of what items they can make with certain components.

SOE Live
Pankor Zhi was on the to-do list, but unfortunately there are so many issues with the geometry and pathing in the area that the team has had to put on the "longer term" list. Hopefully now that things have settled down for the team, it'll be able to knock out some of the near-term goals fast to be able to look at zones like Pankor Zhi and make them work well in game.

Lastly, Burgess wrapped up with a look at some new things on the way. The first is the addition of fun new plushies. SOE has been able to expand the team and add new artists, so fans will see more of these new types of items in game. The devs are also adding new weapons, which is a welcome addition for longtime players. And for those who want their player or guild to stand out, the game will soon offer unique banners that can be placed in player homes and guild halls. The team really wants to push the great system of housing and decorating, so there's priority on providing players with ways to show their talents. Last but not least, the devs showed a new house item. Those in attendance last year took a picture at the green screen, and this past year, the team turned it into a housing item that all attendees will receive to place in their homes and guild halls. And they were working on scheduling another group picture of Vanguard attendees this year to make a second house item in the near future.

The panel overall was a mixture of sincere honesty from the team and a hopeful tone about what's planned for the future. And the game has seen more activity and improvements over the past year. The transition to free-to-play, as well as its launch on Steam, seems to have helped set up a stable development team focused on adding content and game improvements for new players and longtime veterans of the game. As usual with SOE Live, there was an impressive turnout of Vanguard fans who have stuck with the game through the years, and it's nice to see the game endure despite some tough times. Based on the news from the convention this weekend, there's plenty of reason for fans to be excited for the future of Vanguard.

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporters MJ Guthrie and Karen Bryan to this year's SOE Live, from which they'll be transmitting all the best fan news on EverQuest Next, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.

This article was originally published on Massively.