The former head of SOE and Daybreak. Affectionately known to gamers as “Smed.”
I don’t know if EverQuest holds the crown title for the MMO with the most expansions, but I’m sure it’s among the top three if not at the number one spot on that list. It’s astounding to count them up and realize that two dozen expansions have come out for that game between 2000 and 2017. That averages to a little more than one per year!
Today I want to pay tribute to the 24 expansions of EverQuest by going through them, one by one, and seeing how they grew and enriched the game over the past decade-and-a-half. I would also love to hear testimonies in the comments as to which EverQuest expansion you enjoyed the most!
Under great amounts of pressure to reverse its anti-crossplay stance with the PlayStation 4, Sony has finally capitulated somewhat by saying that it is looking at possibilities and trying to come up with a solution that will allow its console to play nice with others. Now, what that solution will look like and how it will function is anyone’s guess.
“You can imagine that the circumstances around that affect a lot more than just one game,” said Sony Interactive Entertainment America CEO Shawn Layden. “I’m confident we’ll get to a solution which will be understood and accepted by our gaming community, while at the same time supporting our business.”
While the PlayStation 4’s lack of crossplay isn’t exactly new, its stonewalling of Fortnite accounts from other systems brought it under heavy fire this month from players and media. Additionally, Microsoft and Nintendo recently released an unprecedented “Survive Together” crossplay ad that took aim at Sony by excluding the company altogether.
This week, Daybreak is grieving over the loss of one of its key developers, David “Sarge” Carter. Carter worked as an animator on a couple of the MMOs for the studio and was instrumental in the industry over the last quarter-decade.
“You probably haven’t heard his name but if you played PlanetSide 2 or H1Z1 you’ve seen his work,” said Twitch’s Jimmy Whisenhunt. “Incredibly talented animator. We worked together for a few years at SOE, tremendous dude.”
“This really made me sad,” said former Daybreak CEO John Smedley. “David was amazing to work with. Always an optimist and a true pleasure to work with. He will be missed!”
Sony’s managed to piss off a whole lotta gamers over its unwillingness to play ball on Fortnite. As we covered last week, the PlayStation 4 giant has refused to allow cross-platform play between the PS4 and the other big consoles, notably the Xbox One and the Switch, which has led YouTubers to blast the policy, as you basically need to run multiple accounts (and potentially buy all your cosmetics twice) if you like to move between devices.
Last night, John Smedley – MMORPG players know him best as the former President of Sony Online Entertainment and then Daybreak – gave his own take on why Sony used to be so stubborn about console crossplay in response to a GameOverGreggy tweet about Fortnite.
“When I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money,” Smed tweeted, referring to his time at the company prior to 2015. “They didn’t like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a Playstation. Simple as that. Dumb reason, but there it is. […] If we keep the pressure up this problem goes away.”
Is Amazon Game Studios finally about to take the lid off of New World? Maybe, maybe not, but this might be a clue: AGS’ Greg Henninger’s tweet a few days ago sure seems to suggest something’s going on with the company.
“About to go off the air for the next 7 days,” he says. “I am bursting at the seams to tell you all everything I’m currently working on. That day will come soon.”
We noted that Henninger, who was at one point the Daybreak Community Manager for H1Z1, had left Daybreak and moved to AGS back in April. At the time, we assumed he’d gone to John Smedley’s team there, given that it was Smed who’d retweeted it, though Smed is reportedly working on a very different game from New World. So then why do we think it might be New World? Because AGS was reportedly having influencers to the studio to playtest the game earlier this month, possibly signaling that it’s about to break its silence. Order some extra popcorn!
Yesterday, Massively OP put together a piece on MMO company Daybreak Games Company and its corporate overlords, chronicling the US government’s asset freeze of Russian megacorp Renova on down the chain to its subsidiary Columbus Nova, which has for three years been the nominal owner of Daybreak since it parted ways with Sony and dropped the SOE name.
The twist? When reached for comment on the story, Daybreak informed the editors of Massively OP that our understanding of Daybreak’s ownership was in error. Stunning the MMORPG community and beyond, the company spokesperson insisted it had “no affiliation with Columbus Nova” and that former Columbus Nova rep Jason Epstein “is and has always been the primary owner and executive chairman of Daybreak Game Company” since its founding in February of 2015. When pushed for clarification, Daybreak told us that the “distinction was never corrected in the past, so [it is] correcting that now.”
Daybreak’s loss is Amazon’s gain — again.
Former H1Z1 Community Manager Greg Henninger revealed that he has jumped ship from Daybreak over to Amazon Games Studio. “I am moving on to another adventure. I’m sticking with the games industry, I’m still going to be around,” Henninger said to H1Z1 fans last month.
Yesterday, he tweeted that he was starting his first day at Amazon Game Studios this week. It looks probable that Henninger has joined John Smedley’s studio team, as he is staying in San Diego and Smedley retweeted Henninger’s job announcement. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K, Bill!
A renowned game AI designer who worked on EverQuest Next and John Smedley’s Hero’s Song is the focal point of concern following an accident at this past week’s GDC.
Dave Mark was struck as a pedestrian by a car at the conference and has suffered brain bleeds, a pelvis fracture, a hip fracture, and possible brain damage. Mark’s friends set up a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of his travel, medical costs, and rehabilitation. It looks like the campaign has taken off, too, as it raised nearly $20,000 in its first day.
“Please help if you can,” tweeted Star Wars Galaxies designer Raph Koster. “We are lucky to still have him with us, and recovery will be a long road.”
“Please help if you can. Dave is a wonderful guy with a beautiful family and he’s also one of the worlds leading experts on game AI. Send love and prayers his way,” said John Smedley.
There are MMOs that have been around a while, and then there is EverQuest. It’s so old school it is old enough to be out of school! Yup, EQ turned 19 years old yesterday. That’s 19 years of the iconic music, 19 years of Qeynos, and 19 years of Fippy trying to storm that gate! So much has happened in Norrath between March 16th, 1999, and March 16th, 2018 – more than one single restrospective could cover. So we’ll just look at a single year!
As is tradition, I’ve sat back and looked over the previous year, remembering the highlights and goings on of the game. How did the 19th year play out for one of the oldest MMOs? Sadly, this year was of the leaner variety; not much happened across Norrath. You wouldn’t know that by all the anniversary offerings, though! Take a stroll down the cobbled lane of memories, but don’t get lost in the nostalgia; there are oodles of anniversary quests to fill your schedule with during the celebration, going on now through Thursday, May 10th, 2018.
In 2003, Sony Online Entertainment tried an experiment to reach out to the (then) small-but-growing community of Mac users. The company released EverQuest Macintosh Edition — quickly abbreviated to EQMac — which incorporated the core game and the first four expansions of EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark, The Scars of Velious, The Shadows of Luclin, and The Planes of Power. Because EQMac was a separate version of the game, SOE segregated Apple players on their own server called Al’Kabor and then, for all intents and purposes, left them alone while the “real” EverQuest continued to expand and advance.
While the population didn’t exactly explode as the progression of time rendered EQMac stuck in a type of video game amber, a singular community of dedicated, helpful players formed. This community soon became proud of their hardcore home. According to many of them, EQMac was the way EverQuest was always meant to be played, frozen in time at the release of one of the game’s best expansions. It was a mark of pride to say that you played on Al’Kabor.
For over 10 years, EQMac quietly and doggedly continued, thanks to this small group of loyal players, SOE President John Smedley’s affection for the title, and one or two devoted devs who helped to maintain the MMO. This is the story of a spin-off game that became a living time capsule.
It looks as if John Smedley’s new game is about to begin hiring in earnest. “We are going to be looking for an experienced Level Designer for my project here at @AMZNGameStudios San Diego soon,” Bill Trost tweeted yesterday.
Trost, a veteran of major MMOs from both SOE and Trion, has been attached to Smed’s new project for almost a year. You’ll recall that following Smed’s 2015 departure from SOE, a company he’d led for almost two decades, he put together a studio called Pixelmage Games, which began work on the ultimately stalled and refunded retro-sandbox Hero’s Song (we’ve discussed why and how that game failed at length right here).
Almost immediately after the collapse of Pixelmage, Amazon announced it had picked up Smed to run an “ambitious new project that taps into the power of the AWS Cloud and Twitch to connect players around the globe in a thrilling new game world.” We quickly realized Smed had just ported most of the Pixelmage team straight over to Amazon for the new game.
As it’s been about a year now, I know that pretty much nobody remembers John Smedley’s ill-fated Hero’s Song. For a while there, we were cheering it on pretty hard, even though it wasn’t a full-blown MMORPG. The retro stylings and promised agile development blossomed some excitement, especially for those of us who wouldn’t mind a modern MMO with a 16-bit aesthetic.
There certainly aren’t a lot of these types of MMOs out there, and those that do exist are pretty niche. Guild Wars 2 has its goofy Super Adventure Box sub-game, Realm of the Mad God makes the most of its permadeath world, and the upcoming Dragon of Legends has had my interest for a while now.
Would you be interested in a retro-styled MMORPG, one that would use pixel art, be presumably in 2-D, and yet have most of the features of modern games?
You do the cybercrime, you do real world time. Cast your mind back to 2014 and 2015, when a hacker group called Lizard Squad became notorious for slamming the PlayStation Network and H1Z1 with DDoS attacks. The group also called in a bomb threat on an airplane flight as a way to target then-Daybreak CEO John Smedley.
The slow process of justice finally saw Zachary Buchta, one of the founding members of Lizard Squad, convicted for his crimes after he plead guilty in court. During his guilty plea, Buchta admitted to a conspiracy to commit damage to protected computers. He could spend as little as two-and-a-half years and as many as 10 years in prison for the crime.
Buchta is expected to help prosecutors in the ongoing investigation of the attacks. Another member of the group, Julius Kivimaki, was convicted in a Finnish court in 2015 but was only given a suspended sentence.