Unfortunate Bonus Round
This is going to be a bit of an oddity for me, I am breaking my normal one post per day rule. I feel like the gravity of the situation warrants it, because right now I am feeling so many different emotions at the same time. By now most of you will have heard the news that I believe first broke over on the newly erected Massively OP website. Today Daybreak Games, formerly Sony Online Entertainment has chosen to make some sweeping cuts to staff. Among the individuals caught in this madness were none other than Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson and and Linda “Brasse” Carlson. I cannot fathom a chain of consequences that would lead to this happening, but I will get into that later. For me and many others these two individuals along with Scott Hartsman before he left to join Trion… were the face of the Everquest franchise. They were the spirit of the game, and the lifeblood that kept the player base constantly engaged, because never once did you question their sincerity or devotion to making the game world awesome.
Last Tuesday when the news broke that SOE was to be no more, and they would be taking up the new name of Daybreak Game Studio I tried to keep things in stride. After all I had gotten used to Everquest transitioning from Verant to being called Sony Online Entertainment hadn’t I? When I found out they had been purchased by what seemed to be a cold and faceless financial holdings company, I tried to keep a positive tone in that it seemed that they were holding most of the companies rather than chopping them up into pieces. I held in the back of my mind the possibility that the future was in fact going to be positive, that maybe out from under Sony they could reach previously locked off markets like the Xbox One. After all this same company owned both Rhapsody and Fiverr, surely they knew what they were doing right?
Today it seems that my worst fears have been realized, and that things really can’t stay the same. As online gamers we get lost in the worlds created by the games that we love to play. Part of that world are the names and faces of the individuals who act as the conduit between our normal mundane lives, and the magical realms we spent our free time in. At least in a small part they act as civil servants to the virtual cities we inhabit. As we watch public presentations and read patch notes and press releases, it is amazing just how quickly we can rattle off the names of the key players that are relaying the information to us. Even though we may never know them, we develop an almost personal relationship as they take the stage to give us tidbits of information about the future state of “our” game.
The problem is… we get extremely close to these personalities, so that when one leaves either by their own hand, or by circumstances the shock waves reverberate through the community. Today a mighty shock wave happened, and I am still not quite sure how to talk about it with any intelligence. For many years, Brasse has been the public face of the Everquest community team, and Smokejumper the face of the future of that franchise. It was impossible to watch either of them and not see just how excited they were to be representing this game that they too loved. I find it exceptionally hard to try and imagine a future that does not involve them, and I have to say a lot of my faith that there will even be an Everquest going forward is more than a little tarnished.
This has been the month of senseless corporate action. First with AOL killing off their blogs, and now the selling of of Sony Online Entertainment. I am deeply concerned about the future of these games, in part because the gravitas of Sony… allowed for SOE to be a little “funky”. They devoted time to building a lot of unique and quirky features that we were not likely to see come out of any other company. Do you think that any other company would have given us something truly strange like SOEmote? Sure I never used it, but I thought the tech was extremely cool especially for the roleplaying community. The tools that I did love, like the robust housing system and the dungeon builder… likely would not have come to fruition in a company not quite so willing to chase rabbit trails.
All of this said… I think it is important to also think about the people who were left behind. They are reeling from the layoffs, and seeing their friends gone. Having been through more than one layoff, it completely changes the feel of the office. Every action becomes questioned, and every motive suspicious, making it almost impossible to focus on doing the excellent job that the “citizens” are expecting you to do. It is easy to say you are done with the Everquest franchise, because of these rather rash actions… but in truth you are just going to punish the people who are still there, still trying to create the game worlds you love. Hopefully we can all take a deep breath, grieve the loss, and try and figure out how to move on without being bitter. I really hope this next week gives us some really good news, because this month so far has turned out to be a fairly tragic one.