Saturday, January 25, 2014

SOE Sunsets (Vanguard, Free Realms, Clone Wars, Wizardry)

Vanguard, you will be missed. My cleric, Vanlorian, while low in level he was high in character. 

Yesterday I was a little late in hearing the big news from SOE, which is closing down four MMO games. Wizardry Online, Clone Wars, Free Realms and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Among these four two of them are games I consider myself a part of. I was with Free Realms since beta. Vanguard I was late to the party but I invested in this game to support it, it is one of my favorite MMO games, there isn't anything that feels like it. This one really hurts to hear.

I've had to rethink my words not to sound bitter or turn this into a rant, I'll try to do my best. I've been a SOE customer since 2000, that's a long time to invest and money in games and trust in a company. A long time to fall in love with games, it is always sad to see them sunset. I've never had one I truly loved as much as Vanguard sunset on me.

Out of them all I guess I was really surprised to hear Free Realms was shutting down. I did not see that coming. Though the website hasn't been truly updated in sometime, so I can't say it is the biggest shock looking back. I'm sad to see this one go, it was such a sweet game that grew and changed into something rather nice.

Vanguard hit me pretty hard, though not unexpected. My beloved Vanguard. Last week I asked Dire what we could play together, Vanguard perhaps? He didn't want to touch it as he figured with EQN in development SOE would close the game within the year. He couldn't have been more right. We've watched Vanguard SoH sit on life support for years, but things were looking up, the heart was beating again, we had development. Last year we had the F2P launch which brought hope with it. Just this month we received a new content update with a new raid. Things were looking good, right? Then again everyone knew the day would come. We all know it was a buggy game but it is beautiful and rich, none of us wanted it to end, those of us who loved the game. SOE didn't have any problem charging a monthly premium fee for years and now it is unprofitable? After breathing in new life pulling in new players? Why not let it just continue with the slow painful death? In my opinion these closures were all on a whim.

Except for one. Wizardry was not my cup of tea. Was it anyone's? I can't believe SOE took in this title and expected it to flourish. I am not surprised to see it go. Clone Wars? I played it a few times and it was interesting but I think it was spreading things too thin, they already had one kid friendly game with FR. Plus, it is an IP. But Free Realms and Vanguard, those are good games. They have a following. Oh, SOE... what are you doing? I never thought I'd see the day SOE kept a game like Dragon's Prophet running over Vanguard SoH.

There is a 17 page (as of now) post in the Vanguard forums, players are angry and hurt. Many of them claim after Vanguard they wouldn't touch a SOE game ever again. I cannot say I blame them at all. Everyone is howling for John Smedly to answer them on the forums, but Smed seems content with sticking to Reddit. There are a few old names on there as far as SOE goes, making comments. There is also a new rep thrown to the wolves who just seems to be making the masses more angry with comments like-All MMO games must close down one day. Um, seriously? Which now has people claiming that means EQ and EQ2 are next. Thinking before speaking or typing usually helps, as does having some compassion and just giving a few kind words or tissues. But that is what we have, robotic answers, claims of profits not being met, hurt feelings and a whole lot of cancelled subs.

My honest thoughts? Vanguard is younger than WoW so I don't see it as an old game. Which [WoW] probably has a bigger subscription base than all of the SOE  games combined, WoW will be ten this year. The difference with Blizzard and SOE is that the latter spreads things too thin and keeps trying to reinvent the company name with new games they eventually drop or stop updating. If you got something good stick with it. Which they might realize now, with EverQuest, which is far too late and EQN isn't the same thing.

Those are my reactions. I won't be subbing to any SOE games for awhile, I won't say ever. I'll have to think long and hard on trying EQN. While games don't last forever, I'd like to know the company I support isn't going to just drop it on a whim. I'd like to log back into Vanguard and take a lot of pics. I will probably wait until a week before it goes, I hope to be there at the end when the servers shut down, which will hurt to watch. I've always been a big supporter, loved SOE games but now all I can say is it is a company I don't feel I can trust. They need to turn things around and prove they are worth supporting. After this I don't want to blindly purchase something that we have so little information on now. I had planned to at least grab all access, you can count me out now, Vanguard was the biggest reason for me to have this.

Looking for other games similar to these? I know nothing can replace the game you love, especially if it is your main. For Vanguard there is LoTRO, which has charm and beautiful scenery much like Vanguard, it also has housing and lots of cool lore. Age of Conan is another alternative, but might not be the same feeling of a fantasy world. And FFXIV is a decent alternative as well, it has more of an old school feeling but less of an open feeling like LoTRO might offer. A gorgeous game but a bit heavy on graphics. If you still want to play a SOE game, maybe EQ2 would be good, the closest they have, the two games were competition at one point, before SOE bought Vanguard. Then there is Brad McQuaid's Pantheon which is up on Kickstarter. Probably the closest thing we'll see to Vanguard, as it is being developed by the creator of Vanguard! I wish him the best with that game it really holds a lot of potential. They could use some help as they still have a ways to go. Check out the link, there is a lot of information there.

Want an alternative to Free Realms or Clone Wars? Onverse. This is an indie game that offers a similar type world, one of my favorites. A real diamond in the rough, hidden away, give it a try if you're looking for something similar to those two. I don't think you'll find anything as close to Free Realms as this.

Sad news indeed. I hope all the Vanguard players find new homes out there, there are a lot of wonderful games waiting to be explored, not the same but still wonderful in many different ways.


  1. The end of Vanguard is ineffably sad and also sadly inevitable. SOE can never do right for doing wrong. They get blamed at every stage regardless. Vigil tanked on getting a game out of the door after five years and a lot of money. SOE first helped them with a distribution deal and later, when it seemed the game was going belly up before it even launched they bought the whole thing and released it themselves.

    They devoted resources to fixing it up and making it run, after a fashion. They propped it up for years when almost no-one was playing or paying it the least attention. They converted it to F2P when all their other games went that route. They've done more than anyone could expect to keep the leaky old ship afloat.

    That said, it's still surprising that they chose to close it down, if only because they are on a major, prolonged "please trust us" PR mission right now and they must know what a hit they will take from this. By Smed's own admission they are betting the farm on Landmark/Next and they've spent a LOT of money on those and have no doubt more to spend still. I'd bet they are under heavy pressure from the Home Office right now and it's a case of throwing out everything that isn't bolted down to keep the balloon flying until they get across the mountain range and, they hope, reach clear, calm skies ahead.

    I just hope someone at SOE is going to take responsibility for mothballing the assets. We may not be able to play VG and FR any more but they are artworks and it would be cultural vandalism to destroy them. In a few decades video games will be part of the Art process, the way movies and TV have become. People are going to want access to this stuff for historical, aesthetic and academic purposes. Let's just hope they realize that, all these game companies.

  2. Yes, me too, I do hope they preserve the game at least.

    I know they tried to some extent and I am glad we had the time we did but seeing how this was on a whim it just rubs me the wrong way. Looking through the forums and seeing the all access info and which games are listed, this seems a quick decision and not very thought out. Its just so sad :(




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