Daybreak’s John Smedley: EverQuest Next isn’t ‘vaporware’
Even though the big SOE-to-Daybreak transformation happened three months ago, the entire ordeal still feels fresh to many fans. An air of uncertainty permeates speculation about the studio’s future, and questions still swirl around regarding the fate of both the older games and those in development. Change is never particularly easy, even when it’s good, so to help put players’ minds at ease, President John Smedley was joined by Laura to chat about the changes at a press conference call earlier this week, touching on the new logo, the Columbus Nova partnership, early access, and EverQuest Next vaporware worries. Read on for the run-down.
Just this past week, Daybreak unveiled its new logo.says the name is meant to better reflect the identity of the company. She explained, “Daybreak speaks to the opportunities that each new day presents, the magic that happens at daybreak, and our renewed spirit each and every day to move online gaming forward.”
Each component of the logo has specific symbolism as well. The color red was chosen to reflect power, the owl eye (sorry, it’s not an owlbear eye as some of us had hoped!) refers to the nocturnal nature of gamers, and the gear embedded within the eye represents technology.
The search for a new home
Although many fans felt the break from Sony was abrupt, Smedley told the press that his studio had been looking for a new home for the last few years.”Sony was looking to get down to its core,” he explained, “and the PC games were never something they were super big on. That was always us.” Worried PC players can breathe easier as Daybreak plans to stay that way. As Smedley put it, “We’re not changing who we are; our core will still be PC gaming. The console stuff we’re adding on top of that because we want more people to be able to play the games we make.” Expanding in the console market is important, he says, as it’s already proven successful at bringing in new players. In DC Universe Online, more than 40% of the new registered players are on the PlayStation 4, and console players account for almost 76% of total hours played there. Revenue-wise, it doesn’t hurt that console players purchase items at a rate of 3.6 times higher that of PC players.
So why Columbus Nova? The fact that it’s an investment firm made many a fan wary that the acquisition heralded the beginning of the end. Smed argued that in reality, it is just a new beginning with a company that gets what Daybreak is about. Since there was no deadline rushing the process to procure the perfect partner, the company could take its time to find one that would be invested for the long haul. And take time it did: Smedley joked that they kissed plenty of frogs before finding the prince. Columbus Nova is, in Smedley’s words, a perfect fit.
A big question for fans is how Columbus Nova, a non-gaming entity, will affect decisions made on the studio’s stable of games. To allay those fears, Smed told us that Columbus Nova hasn’t “interfered” in game-related decisions at all. “Exactly the opposite,” he said. “In fact what they’ve done is supported us and given us the kind of money we need to invest further in some of our new stuff.” So is Daybreak focused on the new at the expense of the old? Nope, he told us. “Columbus Nova feels like EQ is what built this company, and they want to see it run forever.”
Just as players are feeling uncertainty, so, too, were the devs. Smedley admitted that they didn’t really know what life would be like after Sony. That makes sense; after all, breaking up is hard to do, and this couple had been together for 16 years. Yet the team needed to move on. So after three months, what’s it like working with the investment firm? “I can say it’s a lot more fun,” said Smedley, whileadded that the partnership created the vigor and feel of doing a startup without any of the negatives.
Those looking at Daybreak’s all access plan will notice that titles are missing. Two of them are as-of-yet unlaunched and will join the pass when they do, but what about Dragon’s Prophet? Fans may remember last summer when Producer Todd Carson announced that the game would be added to the pass:
Within the next month or so players will be able to become a part of the system that gives special monthly bonuses in all SOE games, 500 station cash, and a 10% discount on all items in the store. Dragon’s Prophet players will receive a nine in-game items every month worth $50, including a 30-day repair hammer, teleportation, revive tokens, and more.
Carson said upfront that it took time to work out the details because it is made by Runewaker. So what happened to that done deal? Apparently it’s not so done after all. Smedley told me, “We’re working with our partners on that; the decision was theirs and we’re working with them to reconsider.”
Early days of early access
Early access is definitely a hot topic in gaming, but the practice is not quite a fan-favorite. Now that Daybreak has two early access games under its belt, is there anything that Smedley would do differently? “Nothing,” he answered, then pointed to the airdrop situation in H1Z1. “That’s not to say we haven’t made mistakes. The stuff that I would change a little bit would be thinking through the monetization stuff and making sure we telegraph that even more than we already are to make sure people understand that.”
Even though early access is about helping test the game and guide development, Smedley emphasized that it still has to be fun to play. Numbers seems to support the fact that players find H1Z1 fun as it continues to be one of the top-selling games on Steam. Even those not playing are getting in on the fun: To date more than 1.7 billion minutes of the game have been watched on Twitch, and it was the fifth and sixth most-streamed game in January and February, respectively.
EQN is still a thing
Of course, one topic that is on many fans’ minds is the progress of EverQuest Next. Smedley assured the press that the game is in great shape and continues to be developed. Currently the team is focused on building Qeynos, and he said the city looks amazing. “When we are ready to show it,” he said, “I think you guys are going to get blown away by a combination of what we’ve done and what our users have done.” Hopefully that’ll be sooner rather than later. As for those who claim that EQN is just vaporware, Smedley answered, “Whatever. Look at our company’s history — we are not about vaporware. We deliver.”