You know, as much as I hate having to carefully craft (AKA, lie through my teeth) an answer to "What was Vanguard's biggest failing?" in job interviews, I realized after reading that rather disappointing article how proud I am of it.
Know why? Because I can honestly say with 100% validity: I'm a big reason for Vanguard's failure. Not Brad Mcquaid - not Microsoft. Me. And Guess what? I'm really kind of proud of it.
Brad Mcquaid didn't do shit. (News Flash?) He's had an opiate addiction for years now, which only got progressively worse as the project failed. His cumulative face time with sigil designers in the most crucial final years of development? Approx: 15 minutes. And some of the time was spent begging for legitimately acquired narcotics (Or in times of desperation, jacking them from people's desk).
The lead designers didn't do shit. (News Flash?) Sigil fired all of their golden-boy, EQ-Genius designers (Save One) who this board once speculated simply "left." It wasn't even secretive. It all happened on the same day.
Sony didn't do shit. The extent of sony's help was 2 designers who ended up writing some diplomacy quests in Tanvu and some adventuring quests in Tursh. I think there was an artist that came in 2 days a week or something for about a month also. Thom Terrasas (sp?) is the only Sony employee that ever directly affected the direction of that game.
The only part Sony really played in Vanguard's destiny was to let its life unnaturally and undeserving-ly continue. And apparently, it's simply because they were naive enough to think this project was worth their cash. Hah! Even the staff at sigil was left wondering why the hell Sony would buy us. Dozens of lunch hours were spent trying to figure out why.
"What profitable web of intrigue and mystery was big'ol Smed spinning with this crazy move(????)," we'd often cry
It was pretty shocking (and just lame) to hear John Smedly actually get angry and complain to people after the layoff's that he, "didn't know what he was buying." He even expressed anger at Jeff and Brad for bamboozlin' him. Poor guy. Maybe next time tough-guy Smed decides to spend several million dollars on something he'll expend some brain power figuring out what it is first.
Dave Gilbertson DID do some shit. (News Flash!) But this guy? Man, so much stuff I could say about this guy. He was truly unbelievable. Even when you thought his insanely unprofessional antics couldn't get any more outrageous, he'd go and do something like tell everyone they're getting a raise (to keep crunching) and then one by one call people into his office who WERE actually getting raises (but would never actually get them), how much they were going to get (VERY, soon). Unfortunately he would move through desk rows one by one and simply skip over the unlucky ones. It took a whole 5 minutes for the office to see through his brilliantly laid out scheme. He used the same plan for the lay-offs too. Classy huh?
He's literally never played a video game in his life, yet when Brad died off and Dave inherited the position of Vanguard Jesus, he decided he must be the final call on every design decision. I guess if you ride dirt bikes with a gamer god, his genius just wears off on you.
Fortunately, sometime this would result in getting played like a fiddle by whoever happened to be lovingly pulling the strings that day. But more often than not, this just meant people had to go around him to get something in, only without the help of (Place whatever department here) that was necessary for a game feature to actually turn out right. Imagine for a second people at Sigil actually knew how to do something right? (Believe it or not, we did on occasion) this guy would become the bottleneck to prevent that from happening.
If there was a ceremony for the Gamespy award, Dave would be accepting. For the sake of all our future video game consumer habits, let's hope this guy goes back to the only thing he's qualified to do, whatever that might be.
Anyway, enough of my blabbering. The most shocking reality that I don't think anyone really ever understood is that Vanguard was made (exclusively the design staff, I should say) COMPLETELY by amateurs. People who had been hired less than a week with 0 prior experience were tasked with designing entire newbie areas that shipped. People who had never produced a game in their life were asked to fix a 40 million dollar fuck up. People with no experience were asked to fix the item, diplomacy, ability, content, quest and pretty much every system in the game.
The game that exists now was designed in a single year by people with 0 experience. If that sounds too vague think of it like this: about 1 year from release we had 0 quests in the DB because the tool didn't exist yet. When I decided to split the team there was over 30,000 quest object entries. Yeah, explains a lot doesn't it?
What a huge let down indeed.
Oddly enough, the whole situation was probably a bigger let down to the designers than the consumers. I accepted a position thinking I was going to work with a bunch of experts - Masters of their craft - and really learn the ropes of game design. Instead, my fellow design associates and I were unwittingly tasked with trying to fix a failed video game that had literally been canceled twice before any of us were even hired. So in retrospect, despite everything, I guess I'm still pretty proud of vanguard. Every team member should be proud in spite of a truly pitiful and pathetic waste.