Now that Vanguard is gone (except maybe for an emulator version), the question is: what stays behind? I think there are a couple of very well-designed aspects of Vanguard, and I hope some games will pick them up eventually:
The offensive/defensive target split. This is such a small but immensely useful innovation. It’s easily the thing I want to see every single MMO have. There is no excuse not to. Being able to target an enemy for offensive actions and, at the same time, an ally or yourself for beneficial effects makes so much sense. From the top of my hat, I can think of only one other game that has this, and that’s TSW. (Oh, there are probably more, no question.) Which is probably the reason why TSW also does a second thing well that I first saw properly done in Vanguard:
Offensive healers. Healing by using split damage/heal attacks. Healing by leeching. Without an offensive/defensive target split, the only way to do this is use abilities that are more or less intelligent about who to heal, or by giving AoE heals. Both of these don’t make for very compelling gameplay, and it’s one of the downfalls of RIFT’s Chloromancer in that respect. A special mention goes to the Disciple, one of my greatest loves in class concepts. A class who heals by hitting the enemy in the face from melee range, that worked? Yes place.
Modular Bard songs. These days, many games don’t even have proper bards. Both RIFT’s and FFXIV’s bard are merely slightly specialized DPS. You keep doing DPS normally, and just get a few fig leave abilities that are classified “songs”. Vanguard, in contrast, didn’t have song abilities. Instead, you learned parts of songs, and you composed your own abilities by combining sections into songs. Need some healing? Stack some healing verses and add a cleanse bridge. Traveling? Run speed stanza and levitate coda. And so on. I think the Necromancer had similar modular abilities to create undead from body parts, but I never played one.
Deep crafting. I’ll admit, I never got far into crafting, because I got confused by the building process. It also was a bit too grindy for my taste. But we know from games like EVE that complicated, deep crafting can work, and I’d prefer to see that over the half-assed “must level to cap making 1000 chestplates of uselessness to collect buff ability” route that some games go.
My last point is diplomacy. Again, the implementation in Vanguard lent itself to grinding, and the interface made the whole thing much more cumbersome than it should have been. A deck manager in which you could’ve saved a few decks to switch between would’ve gone a long way. What I liked about diplomacy was that it allowed you to place a lot of side content and information into the game. Just by listening to and convincing people, you could learn a lot about NPC characters, personal affections and grudges, alliances and enmities, and so on. It was a great “downtime” game.
Those are my five. Do you have some aspects that you really liked about Vanguard and would love to see in other games?