Last week in an Interview with Lead Designer, Salim "Silius" Grant, we got the inside scoop about a series of massive content updates that is going to essentially be a 'free expansion' for Vanguard. We had the opportunity to talk with Jason "Ikik" Weimann, a Programmer on Vanguard, about some of the changes that he's made to the game's tools as well as some of his secret projects on the side. Ikik has been active in the games community by helping facilitate gameplay test sessions, as well as his well known personality during Vanguards beta back in 2006 that led to his original position at Sigil, and now with Sony Online Entertainment.
Tamat : You've been working on Vanguard for nearly two years now. How did you come to work on the game?
Jason : I started working on the game back in April of 2007. Back in the day, I used to play a ton of the original EverQuest. One of my server’s GMs ended up becoming the QA manager on Vanguard and one day I got a message from him while I was playing. He asked me if I wanted to play the Vanguard beta, and I jumped on the opportunity. After playing the beta for a year or so, he offered me a job doing QA & tools for the QA dept. Then, after the SOE buyout of Sigil, the QA team got all changed up, and I switched off of there and started doing design tools. From there, I got into gameplay code, and now I do a mix of gameplay, tools, db, and other stuff.
Tamat : You’ve also been responsible for some of the monumental additions and changes to Vanguard that your average player may not be aware of. In your mind which of those has been the most significant?
Jason : One of the things most people have probably seen is the riftway map. Our old teleportation system was pretty bad, and I wanted to improve it, so I coded up the new one. Most of the work I’ve done previously though has been pretty behind the scenes. I’ve done a lot to make it easier and faster for the design team to get content out. Another thing I almost forgot about was the /anon command. I popped that in after getting a request at Fan Faire. I’d always wondered why it wasn’t there previously, and just needed a player to request it to get it in. Oh, and the invite referral code… After playing another game, and seeing it, I didn’t understand why that wasn’t in every MMO ever made.
Tamat : Last week, during the interview with Silius, he spoke of some of the new content that's making its way to Vanguard. Can you give us a run down on some of the cool new systems that you've been working on?
Jason : The new stuff I’ve been working on is a blast. For the last update, I got to code an item enchantment system (with Major UI support from Jered). I also got to do a little design work in my spare time, populating the Bridge of Destiny and Isle of G.
Another thing I got to do was code up the new AA system. It’s not coming out for a while though.
Tamat : Have you found that expanding the existing game has been a challenge because of the tools and systems that Sigil created originally?
Jason : I definitely think the tools needed a lot of work. Some of them still do need quite a bit of work, but I have to balance between the various tasks I have going on. Unfortunately, I think most MMOs don’t spend enough time and effort on tools. But since I love doing tools coding, I’m probably a bit biased towards them. I know designers have the same bias though.
Tamat : In your mind, what is the hardest content to add into the game because of the tools available?
Jason : Items & abilities….
The abilities are a pain to make to be honest. I started re-doing the tool for abilities, but haven’t had the time to finish. Our ability system is very robust with tons of choices, and you can do pretty much anything you want. With that though comes a lot of complexity when setting them up. It’s not as easy to get it to do what you want as I’d like. Having not done much on the design side before, it took me quite a while to get used to ability creation. The items are a lot easier to create, but with so many classes and items in the game, it’s difficult to create things that different classes will want, without making them way too overpowered, or just completely unwanted. Luckily I had Silius & Tiraslee to lean on though and they were able to provide lots of help.
Tamat : What’s something you would love to code into Vanguard? As in, what’s your dream project?
Jason : I’d really like to design, code, and implement a new class. I’ve played around with it at home some and think it would be a real blast to do. I’d like to make one that is very unique to Vanguard, using new systems, etc.
Tamat : Going forward, is there anything cool that players can look forward to?
Jason : As I said earlier, AA’s are coming. Before that though, we have the level increase to 55, with lots of new abilities for the players to get. We’ve also got the new Pantheon coming out which looks great so far. We’ve also got a few nice things coming with the anniversary patch that I think will be announced soon.
Tamat : Well I'm going to be patching tonight to get back in to check it out. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us to talk about Vanguard!
Jason : Thanks for the opportunity Tamat! I've been an Allakhazam fan for years!
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle