Smedley is Gone

Okay, who had 170 days? Pay the man.

Smedley fired from Daybreak
I choose to remember him like this.

I was thinking Smedley would last at least 6 months at Daybreak after SOE was acquired, but it turns out he lasted just shy of that coming in around 5 months and 20 some odd days. This was coming folks, and whether it was inevitable due to the acquisition might remain a mystery, but look at what happened over the last few weeks.

Smedley’s near-tirades on social media telling hackers “I’m coming for you” and taking his very visible role as President of a company and turning it into a spectacle… I would be questioning his leadership role too. Around the time his social media accounts disappeared is likely the time he got a visit from someone no longer willing to sign his checks.  The whole “staying on in another role” is a nice way of saying he’s gone for good but if you liked him you can pretend there’s hope for a few more weeks.

I want to start into this next paragraph by speculating if this could be good for Daybreak, but I’m not sure if such a spin could even be possible.  Let’s pretend. Let me start over.

This might actually be good for Daybreak. I do not have insights into how much of the F2P movement was due to Smedley’s leadership, but he certainly made it public knowledge how into the whole F2P model he has been and how their game is “F2P forever” or whatever inane slogan they’ve been pitching to the masses. Despite his reputation for those (more than a few) horrible mistakes, Smed did a lot of good for online games. His recent leadership, however, leaves much to be desired from a player’s perspective. I hope whoever steps in steers the ship back to common sense.

This might also mean we get some decent games. (Again I’m running with this whole delusions of grandeur thing; Get onboard will you?) Maybe we will see Daybreak stop focusing on their awful me-too product (H1Z1) and focus more on making EverQuest the game it needs to be in order to give Daybreak any sort of future in this industry.

Smed is out. Long live Smed.

  • I want to be happy about his passing, but I’m worried about what this means for EQ. I had always felt like the buyer company was following the usual aggressive investor pattern of ‘buy failing company that still has an income stream, make short-term cuts to make the numbers look good and sell stock at a profit even though you’re setting up company to fail, which it eventually will because of the staff cuts.’

    Remember that Smedley’s stated primary criteria for ‘selecting’ one of the investment firm suitors was his(purportedly ‘the team’s’ but we know how that worked) job security, and we see how that worked out. Then again, I doubt ‘I’m going to cause a full service outage of several days once in a while by smack talking hacker groups on Twitter’ was part of his negotiations at the time.

  • My hope for EQN has been gone for a few months now. I held on longer than most because it’s supposed to be EverQuest, but getting rid of the core team and progressing the way they have with TLP shows me that the team behind the EverQuest franchise isn’t qualified to launch and support the game I want.

    Now it’s time to take bets on how long it will take the new President to step in and accomplish the real agenda: Monetization. How long until we see changes to those microtransactions and payment models? 3 months? 6 months?

  • This is due to the golden parachute when the holding company purchased SOE. As the former CEO, Smed gets a huge payout after 1 year and 1 day. If you pay attention after an acquisition, it’s very common for executives to (publicly) amicably quit after 1 year and 1 day.

    The “staying on in another role” bit could be due to the hacker stuff, but my guess is there was some internal conflict with his new masters that was not exposed to the public. So they gave him a desk in the basement to sit out the next 6 months until he gets his envelope of cash and skedaddles outta there.

  • Sigh. I had 13 months. I did warn him to get his resume out there though. Over the Internet though so maybe he missed it. And then he went after the 12 year old Finnish hackers. Argh.

  • I also think daybreak is playing “flip this mmorpg company”. Let’s hope I’m even more wrong about that because eq is not where I’d focus my efforts for a quick flip.

  • That is the same guy that said planetside 2 was giving to much for free as a f2p game.

    It was popular at one time, but I think if they had increased the grind more from the start or made several things unavailable to free players the game would have never become popular.
    Planetside 2 at its core had to many features missing and balance issues that led to the player decline I guess.
    Besides capturing territory felt meaningless.

    And I can not say I liked the way they handled H1Z1. The whole no ammo and guns in crates lie, before they took people’s money.
    Maybe a new CEO is a step in the right direction to f2p done right.
    But we both know its gonna be just another customer penny pincher, instead of a quality entertainment provider for a reasonable profit.

    Feels like a sinking ship though….

  • Smed has and always will be a clown in regards to the way he interacts with people online. Sure we all roll our eyes when corporate PR people or a legal rep says something we absolutely know is just bullshit or some contrived statement but the flip side to that is stuff like he has done. No figurehead should ever be out there in social media proclaiming he is coming after people that just thrive on that kind of banter.

    I don’t know if his being gone is good or bad for Daybreak from a games point of view but from a pure management point of view he is something I would not want anywhere near my company and its reputation. He is such a divisive character that no good he can bring to a project can out weigh the trouble he causes.

    People love to say there is no such thing as bad publicity but from a management stand point I disagree. Smed did not have to comment on the charges or he could have just given a typical PR response. Instead he tried to ‘keep it real’ and show he was pissed and then Daybreak had to deal with the fallout. That is exposure they did not need.

  • The only thing really worth saying is good riddance, although it was a decade too late.

  • Hoping they can now, somehow, get EQ Next back on track. Breathtaking that 16 years later, we have not yet been able to get this studio to produce a sequel to a hugely successful and unique gaming platform.

    Everquest was addictive, immensely challenging, and satisfying. A lot of that has been lost as each expansion chipped away and dumbed down the base gameplay. I know that graphics and sound quality do not make for a good game. However, for someone looking to perhaps give the game a try, I would imagine it is very hard to get past how bad the game looks.

    Anyway and as a side note, perhaps this studio will now also be able to bring back the SWG crafting system into one of their new offerings. There is a lot of agreement that the SWG crafting system was one of the very best ever created. It is stunning to see such a popular crafting system just sit idle.

  • @mmofan. It is breathtaking that they haven’t put out a decent sequel yet. And nobody that matters thinks eq2 was that. But then again there is no WoW 2 either.

    Mostly cause it’s going to steal their market share and cost a lot so why not coast. Idiots.

    Eq next not happening, or happening badly, with daybreak in charge. You heard it here first.

  • But Smedley was so “Iconic”! How could he not be the best thing for them?

    Sucks when someone loses their job, is forced out of a position etc, but this man is why I don’t even look at SOE products anymore. Everything is a dishonest cash grab with him.

  • Meh enuff about him. What I find far more fascinating is the lengths these kickstarter funded mmos are going to these days. Will star citizen pull in a billion dollars before it launches? Will Camelot unchained ever hit beta?

    What do these two potential games have in common? Very charismatic leaders. Great marketers.

    It is fascinating to me that you can just sell vapor ware to the masses now and get them to fund development. There are many corporate software developers who wish they could figure out this trick.

    I would love to see more articles about this stuff. I’m intrigued by both but have I just been bamboozled by the marketing? And should I hide my wallet?

  • Obviously I’m not going to talk about recent events, etc. I honestly haven’t hung out with Smed for a while. So I definitely don’t have an ‘inside scoop’ or anything like that (and, even if I did, it still probably wouldn’t be appropriate to comment). Drama, rumor, half-truths, etc. rarely accomplish anything memorable or of worth, and if you’re somebody who has chosen to create games, especially MMOs, you really don’t have time to dabble in that sort of thing at all; rather, you’ve got so much work to do that your concern shouldn’t be popularity or fame or approval. Instead you need to be careful to not lose sight of or ignore the more permanent things, like friends and family. That’s the real challenge: figuring out how to balance your life, pursuing what you’re passionate about, but also not letting that pursuit engulf and entirely define you.

    Instead I’ll share a bit about the man I know, who I worked with closely for years. First, if you are strong willed enough to stand up, lead if necessary, and believe in something, it’s not an easy path, and most certainly everyone is not going to like you. I know this from personal experience and and Mr. Churchill summed it up nicely: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” But he has also earned the respect and friendship of many people over the years. And for good reason.

    Of course I wish Smed nothing but the best and great luck in wherever his adventures take him next! Smed is a friend, a mentor, someone who believed in me and gave me fantastic opportunities, and as I’ve said in the past, something everyone should know: without Smed, there would be no EverQuest. He wanted to make a graphical online RPG and most people thought he and we were crazy. We were even pushed out of Sony so they could focus on the next console. Somehow, through hard work, passion, stubbornness, and faith he kept the project funded and supported (I later, after the game shipped, was told it was almost canceled a couple of times — something he kept from me, probably rightfully so, fearing that it could affect my morale). Even when many were skeptical that a 3d MMO could even be built, much less be successful, he was there, doing whatever he could to make it happen. And, whatever you think of EQ itself (I remain quite proud), there is no denying its key role in the emergence of an entire genre.

    From there he built Verant, and then SoE. His leadership resulted not only in the development of many MMOs, but also the opportunity for many new to the industry to join the company and to pursue their dreams of working on these games. I’m talking hundreds of people! Most of whom, especially early on, had no prior industry experience. He believes in giving people a chance, even a second chance. And he is willing to take risks, too, where so many larger companies and executive staff are quite the opposite: very risk intolerant. So his legacy is worthy of respect. So, also, his role in the MMO genre, especially in the early days, when he believed in something most others did not. He played a key role in this genre’s inception and credit is due where credit is due. Although I highly doubt his work is done — his belief in and love of online gaming is part of his core being — this is a big change for him. And he should look back with pride, because he’s earned it. And anybody willing to stop for a moment and consider the big picture, the whole picture, should also have respect for him and what he accomplished.

    I did mention we don’t talk as often as I’d like — we did come to a point a few years back where we disagreed on something pretty fundamental: He believes the MMO genre has not only changed, but the audience has changed, and that to make successful online games, the ‘old’ approaches are obsolete. I had to respectfully disagree. I believe the MMO gamespace has grown so tremendously that there are now a lot of people who, while they are interested in MMOs, want fundamentally different games. But I don’t believe people’s tastes in gaming fundamentally change over time. I will certainly admit that the gamespace now, arguably more than 10 million strong, consists of players with widely different tastes and playstyles. And I’m fine with that, but I’m not ok that the ‘old school’ gamers have been orphaned, or considered irrelevant, or told that they are now too small to matter. And because I would never work on a game that I wouldn’t personally want to play, and because my taste in MMOs is in that same group, I can do nothing else but try to make another MMO that is modern, has new ideas, but that fundamentally is still about long term retention, community, working together as a team, etc. But Smed is not me — he’s most certainly a gamer, but he is also more business oriented than me. He wants to stay current, to make games for players that are relatively new to MMOs, and he sees really opportunity there. I think he is also more driven to succeed in a big way not once, but as many times as possible. Sure, I have some of that in me too, but if I worked on an MMO that targeted more solo oriented gamers, gamers who typically don’t want to play one game for a long time, who aren’t bothered by revenue models that, ultimately, evolve into pay-to-win, I wouldn’t be working on a game that I would want to play. So our paths forked because we are different people, nothing more, nothing less. And while the unwavering faith and support and leadership he provided back in the early days is something I’ll never forget, our vision for MMOs has, slowly but surely, over time, drifted in different directions. On a personal level, sure, that’s a bummer, but I cannot be critical of this drift in any real way. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe one day we’ll somehow work on something together again. Stranger things have happened. But my respect and admiration of him will always remain strong and I really am excited to see what he’ll end up doing next.

    I hope this resonates with gamers, old gamers and new gamers. I hope I’ve brought some perspective and more attention to the big picture, the past and the present. If not, as someone who worked closely with him for many years, I have at least stood by him and affirmed he is a good man, a kind man, a generous man, and someone who has worked very hard (and been very successful) to be and stay in a position that allowed him to provide opportunities to hundreds of people, not just paying jobs, but a chance to chase their dreams.

    -Brad McQuaid
    CCO, Visionary Realms, Inc.

  • @Brad McQuaid – Thank you for that post. That seemed heartfelt and genuine. And you are correct, he deserves respect for his past accomplishments. I may not agree with his current gaming viewpoint but he is, as you stated, a large part of the team that created some of my favorite games, EQ1 and EQ2.

    I really empathize with him with all of the personal problems the hackers have caused to him and his family. No one should have deal with such ridiculousness. What I can not quite come to accept is his twitter rants. I expect more from any CEO. I would be fired so quickly if I did something like that with my company name involved. I did not see the American Airlines CEO go off like that.

  • Hi Brad, thanks for stopping by and for giving us your personal insights into Smed’s role in the industry and your interaction with him. Although my praise for him was limited to simply stating he did a lot of good for online games, I definitely respect what he has done (especially in the past) and how he definitely changed my life as a gamer. He created and helped to create many great experiences that I honestly treasure.

    You have done much of the same over the years, and I’ll thank you for that as well.

    I agree with your point of view. In fact, that is what 80-90% of my ramblings here are all about. I struggle to see how anyone can ever disagree with us that it isn’t gamers who have changed — it’s that we have grown so large as an industry that there are simply people who enjoy different things. We struggle because we all insist on labeling everything an MMO. Smed and, to be quite honest, most devs out there go for the bigger piece of the pie. It’s safer. It makes more sense for business. While that may be true, it doesn’t make more sense to me as a player who can’t identify or enjoy those games.

    I think you’re seeing first hand with Pantheon why many people think it’s better business to go for the bigger piece of the pie. Execution is everything when trying to deliver to the older ‘core’ audience. It’s not enough to talk the talk anymore, and nostalgia isn’t on your side. So while we both feel that people’s fundamental tastes in games don’t change, we have to be able to bridge them between what was and what can be. It’s not just about bringing back the old style of games. You have to bring what made the old ways great into the modern era and show people why that’s going to be better. The answer isn’t polarized to old vs. new.

    Thanks again for stopping by! Keep us apprised on how Pantheon is doing.