Your Next: Incredible Blandness of Being

In the past I’ve made no secret of my personal dislike of The Elder Scrolls Online, so it was only as a product of some misplaced sense of duty I found myself downloading the newly dubbed Tamriel Unlimited this week. I actually let out an involuntary sarcastic chuckle at the thirty gigabyte download size, as if the game was somehow insisting upon my valuable time. It was my intention to give the game a fair shot, but apparently my self-righteous subconscious was having none of it.

With that in mind, I went in to the game determined to notice improvement, and happily I did. The new player experience has been subtly reworked into a shape less bloated, and the characters now move like they’re held together with organic matter. These are two things I always pay attention to at the start of a game, and while their value is subjective, it’s usually an indication of quality throughout.

It’s a pity then, that these features were fixed after the fact. To me, it’s a demonstration of the problem with ESO—massive amounts of effort spent creating the entertainment equivalent of beige paint: functional precisely because it’s so unremarkable. Or maybe something like artisanal porridge would be a better analogy, because no matter the skill and love that went into it, the outcome was never going to carry that passion with it.

Your Next: Acropocalypse

This week I’ve mostly felt like a kid with a bag of candy in one hand and a Mountain Dew in the other. There’s been so much going on it feels impossible to sift through it all and be left with a coherent thought on the other side.

With that in mind, we’re going to play a game I like to call ‘Talk About Many Disparate Subjects Then Try To Link Them Together With A Pretentious Conclusion’. Or TADSTTTLTTWAPC, since I know how much MMORPG players dig those acronyms.

Half Life 3 Confirmed at GDC! The joke that never gets old could finally get its punchline. Using Half Life as a flagship for a new kind of gaming experience would fit Valve’s MO. While my personal experience with VR (specifically Oculus Rift) has been awesome, I’m still skeptical that creating a critical mass with this kind of expensive peripheral is possible. Luckily for all of us, there’s a metric ton of money being bet against me, so fingers crossed it works and we’re all living in the nightmare dystopian future of Ready Player One by 2020. Or, put another way, within the natural lifetime of MMOs currently in development.

Storybricks Announces Its Closure

In a surprising newsletter this evening, Storybricks announced that it will be closing its doors.

Mostly known for their recent work on EverQuest Next's AI with Sony Online Entertainment, the studio cites that the decision was their own and "Sony Online Entertainment (now Daybreak Games) bears no fault for it. Sony Online Entertainment had been up for sale for a long time so our exit had no connection with the Columbus Nova acquisition."

Your Next: New Scope

After a masterful marketing push, Crowfall met its Kickstarter target in about three days. The ideas look fresh and solid, and there’s some seriously hefty industry talent backing it up, so best of luck to them and check it out if you haven’t already. The goal of 800k was relatively modest, and I’ve got my hopes pinned on the $1.3M stretch goal.

All the attention on Crowfall has actually turned a few new people onto Camelot Unchained, and while I expect the games will play very differently, it looks like they’ll be fishing from the same pool. Camelot Unchained is aiming for an alpha launch some time in the next month, so expect to hear a bit about that as well.

As someone looking forward to both of these games, it’s an exciting time for me (hooray for me!), and with a few recent gems like Darkest Dungeon, LISA, Sunless Sea and Hand of Fate being Kickstarted, I’m feeling as optimistic as ever.

Your Next: Proving Negatives

For a while there I was thinking I wouldn’t have much to talk about; be careful what you wish for, I guess.

When news started to come out about the layoffs at Daybreak Game Company, players were understandably skeptical about the prospects of EverQuest Next and Landmark. With high profile names being let go, it’s easy to feel like the foundation is falling away.

It’s been wonderful to see the support from the community for the people who were let go, the tribute card in Landmark is a sight to behold, and a fitting tribute to the legacy of those people that made it possible.

It’s also a tribute to the players who made it possible and the strength of the Landmark community, which seems to have redoubled its efforts to be the most welcoming and supportive in gaming.

The message from Daybreak over the last week has been that the games remain a team effort, and while adjustments have to be made and priorities shifted, the guiding principles and foundational principles remain the same. Which is exactly what you’d expect to hear.

In times gone by, that would have been the end of it. We would have had a press release, some clarifications on an official forum, an approved interview or two, and that would be that. It’s happened many times before and shows no signs of slowing down. However, in this brave new world of open development and increased transparency, we were treated to a Q&A session with senior members of the team, using questions submitted by players.

EQNext & Landmark Q&A Livestream (Recap)

The Daybreak EverQuest Next and Landmark team (above picture, left to right) of Rosie Rappaport, Michael Mann, Steve Klug, Terry Michaels, Darrin McPherson, Colette "Dexella" Murphy (community) and Emily "Pentapod" Taylor livestreamed a Q&A session this evening. Questions were taken from social media, the forums and leftovers from previous livestreams. Below are the notes we took, which are categorized for our sanity.

Highlights

There were a few important things mentioned during the livestream tonight:

  • Terry Michaels is leading the team; there's still many people (not all-new people, either) working on the games (see the pic of them in the hallway further down)
  • Daybreak is no longer working with Storybricks. They are utilizing the work that was already done, but the relationship between the two companies is now over.
  • Landmark open beta will be "when we're ready", according to Emily. They don't want to commit to a date; development is always moving toward it. Once the team has a date, they will share it.
  • Free-to-Play: There was an interesting response to whether or not Landmark and EverQuest Next will remain F2P. Terry stated that at the moment they think the games will keep that model, but they're unwilling to commit to saying that's how it will remain by the time it launches. Some more discussion ensued on the topic, basically saying that many monetization models could work for the game. (Personal opinion? Go with B2P, guys!)

Near the end of the stream, there was discussion over a question regarding a final plan for the game. Darrin pointed out that a lot of research and development constantly goes into a product like this, and the discussion was a bit unclear beyond that point from my end. My interpretation of this response, based on the earlier discussion of when Landmark will hit open beta, is that the team only plans the next several months at a time and may not have set in advance solid milestones to hit to say the games are ready to roll into the next phase.

Here's the rest!

Your Next: About People

I suppose there’s only one thing to talk about this week.

Sony Online Entertainment broke away from its parent company to become Daybreak Game Company, thanks to investment from Columbus Nova.

As is the all too common and incredibly unfortunate nature of deals like these, the company had to let some people go. When costs are too high for projected revenue, tough decisions have to be made. The important thing to remember in times like these is that it’s people making these decisions, and these decisions affect people.

For all that we care about the games (which is less than the current and former employees of Daybreak, by the way), what this means to us as players is insignificant compared to what it means to the people whose lives were affected.

I want to take a moment to state that I am in full support of the talented, passionate people still at Daybreak, their amazing work continues to inspire me, and I have complete faith they will continue to blow us away.

Friday Update Arcade: Episode 19

Lindsay "geektr0n" Ferguson hosts ZAM's latest installment of Friday Update Arcade! Topics discussed include the Lost Vikings being introduced to Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends Nemesis mode, the World of Warcraft Mythic Blackrock Foundry guide, recent layoffs at Daybreak Games and Atari's reveal of the survival game, Asteroids: Outpost.

Layoffs Begin at Daybreak Games

UPDATE, Feb 12th: Thanks to everyone who has reached out to us regarding this news. I doubt we'll get an exhaustive list, but it's obvious that the community team, producers and developers were all hit pretty hard. You can contact us at news@zam.com or directly to @Cyliena on Twitter if you have more information.


One year ago I took the above picture of a smiling Linda "Brasse" Carlson, the Director of Community Relations, in her expertly handmade dwarven regalia, on the Sony Online Entertainment campus.

About an hour ago the first confirmed layoff from the transition to Daybreak Games hit, with Linda posting on Facebook that "I have been released from the best and most challenging job I have ever had. I thank you all for being part of that incredible experience. Too many people to thank personally, but know that I am extraordinarily grateful and very curious where life takes me now."

Linda isn't the only one affected. EverQuest franchise Director of Development Dave "Smokejumper" Georgeson has confirmed now on Twitter that he was laid off. EverQuest II artist Aaron "Gnobrin" Bisnett has also confirmed that he is gone, and we've been told that Systems Designer Akil "Lyndro" Hooper (confirmed now) from EQ/EQ2 has been let go as well.

Also confirmed are Adam "Ngreth" Bell (EQ dev) (x), Tiffany "Amnerys" Spence (Community) (x), Racheal "Afista" McKenny (EQ2 Community) (x), Endymion (EQ2 dev) (x), Eric "Felgon" Smith (Landmark/EQNext producer) (x), Noah Watkins (H1Z1 artist) (x), Steve "Moorgard" Danuser (EQNext Lead Content/Story Designer) (x), Kelduum Revaan (H1Z1 Technical Designer) (x), Aimee "Ashlanne" Rekoske (Community) (x), David Carey (PS2 producer) (x), Jeffrey Bard (EQ2 dev) (x) and Michael "Xelgad" Ganz (EQ2 dev) (x). There are likely many more, but these are the only ones we publicly know of at this time; a list on Reddit has a few more names not mentioned here.

On Thursday, February 12th, both H1Z1 developer Ryan Elam (x) and PlanetSide 2 Creative Director Matt Higby announced their voluntary resignations.

Colette "Dexella" Murphey posted the company's official statement; here are the key points:

Last week we announced that we were acquired and are now operating independently as Daybreak Game Company.

Unfortunately, this realignment means adjusting staffing as well. We announced today that we will eliminate positions in our San Diego and Austin studios.

These reductions will not affect the operation of our current games and as mentioned above, will help better position our company for future success.

Daybreak's full statement is found after the jump. Tiffany "Amnerys" Spence has discussed turning over a new leaf on her blog, while former PlanetSide 2 producer David Carey posted an insightful public note to the community regarding the layoffs over on Reddit.

We wish the best to everyone involved.

Columbus Nova Acquires Sony Online Entertainment

UPDATE: Linda "Brasse" Carlson confirmed there will be no convention this year. "For those asking about SOE Live: we are taking a hiatus from our annual Live event to shift our focus to our exciting transition and the future of Daybreak Game Company."


This morning, Sony Online Entertainment announced that it was acquired by a company called Columbus Nova and will be rebranded as "Daybreak Game Company." SOE will operate as an independant studio and will even branch out into the Xbox platform.