Remembering all of this caused me to realize just how much of The Dungeoneers was inspired by Vanguard. Because Vanguard was one of the games that did dungeons right. The world of the Dungeoneers mirrors the game in that it's a world of vastly varied environments and races and positively riddled with dungeons. It was borderline ridiculous how many dungeons they crammed into Vanguard. There were floating dungeons, underwater dungeons, cave dungeons, haunted house dungeons, dungeons hidden in holes in the ground and beneath shipwrecks, massive dungeons, tiny dungeons...you get the idea. Many of the dungeons had stories to them that were told through a series of quests. Others just existed for the sake of existing. Many were not even named.
I won't sugarcoat Vanguard, however. The game launched as a broken mess and is one of the legendary disasters of online gaming history. It was eventually patched into a state of playability but by then it was too late. The player base was minuscule, the game was sold off and the servers were eventually merged down to a pair, maintained by a tiny dev team in a closet somewhere at Sony Online.
This was the point at which I returned to the game. It was a game that had finally come close to its aspirations but only a handful of players were left to see it. This also meant that much of the group content in the game was very difficult to do as, even within the player guilds, having enough interested players in the same area at the same time to form a dungeon group was very difficult.
This robbed me of the part of the game I was most interested in because, hey, I'm a guy that enjoys a good dungeon. So I set out to fix it by organizing a casual guild that existed solely for the purpose of forming up on Sunday afternoons and running a new dungeon each time. I named the guild, "Dungeoneers, Inc." and advertised on the forums for interested parties. Sounding a bit familiar?
It paid off as well. Players showed up, running around together to complete the quests that led to the dungeons. forming up and heading into the depths. We researched each one in advance to try and maximize what we were able to accomplish inside. Vanguard dungeons were notoriously ruthless and there were so many we didn't anticipate many return visits. A mirror guild formed on the other server and we began coordinating so people could participate in multiple runs a weekend.
This led to the realization that many of the dungeons were poorly documented online, again due to the lack of a playerbase. The leader of the other Dungeoneering guild and I set out to fix this by creating a website called 'Dungeonguru'. We spent an amount of time I'm embarrassed to recount painstakingly going through dungeons and mapping them. Dungeoneers, Inc. became as much about exploration as the questing and fighting. All of the party members took obsessive amounts of screenshots as we fought our way through the weekly adventure, allowing us to ensure that our maps and quest details were accurate. We created a wiki to document the quest stages, the experience, the rewards and the loot drops. We tried to find and map every undocumented dungeon in the game, no matter how small. We even managed to find and get screenshots of dungeons so lost that they were only accessible by exploiting a bug in the game world that allowed you to clip your way through a wall to find them.
These things come to an end, though, and after a move that was followed by a prolonged period of limited computer access my Vanguard days were done. It was a sad day some years later when I heard that the servers were finally shutting down for good.
I think it's fantastic that there are people trying to bring it back to life and I hope that they are able to find enough archived remnants of our old website to give them loads of useful information on the dungeons. The Vanguard team in The Dungeoneers is absolutely a name that was chosen as tribute to my days spent bleeding in the treacherous depths and heights of Telon and I'm glad to know that dungeoneers will soon be culling the depths again.
Click here if you'd like to know more about the Vanguard: Saga of Heroes emulation project!