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Massively Exclusive: SOE elaborates on Vanguard's F2P conversion

Vanguard news is ramping up in preparation for the August 14th free-to-play conversion date. In fact, Sony Online Entertainment quietly kicked off a soft launch of the revamped game yesterday, giving players a first glimpse of the new website, pricing matrix, and in-game station store.

Massively sat down with Andy Sites, the game's director of development at SOE, to ask him what players can expect during and after Vanguard's F2P transition. We've got the official scoop on transition content, housing and boats, server types, and more beyond the break!

Massively: When Vanguard first launched, there were three types of servers: Team PvP, Free For All PvP, and PvE. Are there any plans to bring these back? Will there ever be an RP server, or will players be surprised by a brand-new type of server?

Andy Sites, Director of Development: Right now we're focused on refining and solidifying the PvE experience, which is the foundation of our game. That said, we have been discussing (internally) the possibility of introducing PvP down the road. If we did, we would want to do a full implementation, which would require extensive class balancing and such. Expect to see more discussion about this after our free-to-play launch.

Can we expect any new servers on the official conversion day? Will new content be patched on the same day the transition occurs?

Players can expect to see the new in-game marketplace, the remaining level 31+ content revamp, some class tweaks and improvements, and more general game polish. We decided to hold off publishing for the past few weeks while we wrapped up our free-to-play launch functionality, so this update will be fairly meaty. The server and account conversion process to free-to-play will be generally transparent to both new and existing Vanguard players.

How often will new content be delivered post-F2P? Any hints as to just what kind of new content players can look forward to at launch and beyond?

Outside of having a fun game with a solid content base, the key to any free-to-play game's success is the release cadence of new content, features, etc. This was one the reasons that we began publishing weekly/bi-weekly updates a few months ago. Before that, Vanguard was updated on a monthly/quarterly basis. So while I'm not ready to lock-in specific publish dates, I will say that players can expect an update frequency similar to the past few months.

The Vanguard free-to-play matrix and FAQ state that free players won't be able to have a house, but there's nothing about boats. Will there be any restrictions on those?

We decided to not place any boat-specific limitations on free players. As for housing, we plan to offer vouchers in the Marketplace so free players will be able to own a house. More on that shortly after launch, so stay tuned.

Vanguard has players who have been playing for years now, and some players might have created characters that never left the trial edition's starting island. How will these characters carry over? Will they be treated the same as first-time players?

We decided to grandfather all players who have ever been paid subscribers during any point prior to our free-to-play launch. Specific grandfathering details can be found in our official FAQ.

SOE is implementing a pricing system similar to EverQuest II's pricing matrix but has removed the silver tier, limiting choices to "playing for free" or "paying the equivalent of a monthly subscription." What's the philosophy behind Vanguard's cash shop, and what challenges does it face that EQII did not?

We wanted to use both the EverQuest and EverQuest II free-to-play matrixes as guidelines but not as the rule. After assessing the similarities and differences between each game (including feature sets, communities, etc.), we decided that rather than offer a mid-tier membership (silver), we preferred to move some of those features and content to the "free" tier. Of course, until this goes live and we see how players react, it's purely speculative as to whether this was the right direction. However, we're confident that this was the right choice for our game.

Thank you for your time, Andy!

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