Friday, May 28, 2021

Job Well Done

As Wilhelm reported , EG7 recently put out a video for their first quarter 2021 report. It appeared on a YouTube channel belonging to Direkt Studios. According to Google Translate's version of the Swedish, "Direkt Studios is the channel for you who need the latest information from the financial market." Among other activities, they "upload educational clips, CEO interviews and company-specific features daily with the financial market as a common denominator."

They also act as a platform for paid promotions: "Film clips that are financed by the companies themselves, so-called commissioned films, appear on the channel. Always read disclaimer!" The EG7 video is one of those: "Direkt Studios handles technical production and distribution of this broadcast on behalf of EG7. The content of the broadcast is put together by the company in cooperation with Wildeco and is not part of Nyhetsbyrån Direkt's editorial activities."

I'm not even going try to find out who or what Wildeco might be. All of this is very not interesting indeed, except as it contrasts with what went before. 

For the longest time there was SOE, veering wildly between coming across like a well-meaning, out-of-touch uncle or a passive-aggressive partner. There was always a scent of anarchy around SOE. You often felt something bad was going to happen but no matter the current crisis, you never worried too much. You always knew there was a megacorp standing in the shadows, ready to swoop in and pay the bond when the team woke up in jail.

Towards the end, though, it began to feel like the grown-ups had gone on vacation and left the kids in charge. Next thing you knew there was a wild party going on and things had gotten completely out of hand. 

 Kerran | EverQuest Next Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia

People were coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas they couldn't wait to tell the world about, even though it was plain no-one really had a clue how to make them happen. Livestreams would turn into long, rambling conversations between people clearly not used to talking to camera while shorter PR pieces devolved into what felt like try-outs for a career in stand-up. An unsuccessful career.

I'd link a couple of those but I can't seem to find any. Mercifully they don't seem to have survived. The internet's supposedly infallible ability to record all human digital history is often overstated.

When Sony corporate finally came to check on how things were going on and found out what had happened while they were away, party time was over. It wasn't just a case of putting things back in order and re-establishing some ground rules. Sony sold the house and moved out of town.

Honestly, as a longtime customer, it felt like a relief. The sale was a worrying time but things had gotten so bad I didn't see how it could get much worse. And it didn't. It got better.

It got better but it didn't get any simpler, that's for sure. If there was one overiding feature of what we can now call the Daybreak Years it has to be the sheer obscurity of it all. We never knew who owned what, who was paying, who was in charge, what the plan was, anything. "Follow the money", the saying goes. Well, we tried that but we couldn't find it. Someone hid it too well.

It was a thrill ride and kind of fun in a scary way. Great for conspiracy theories and wondering if the games were still going to be there when you woke up next morning. It might have been wishful thinking but even in the weirdest moments I never felt quite as unsettled by any of it as I was during several periods under SOE - the massive data breach, for example, or, worst of all, the PSS1 debacle.

Even so, comparatively comfortable as I was with Daybreak, I wasn't sorry when whoever it was that actually owned the company decided they'd gotten whatever it was they'd wanted from it. I don't imagine any of us will ever know who or what that was.

The new owners seem... reassuring. Reassuringly professional. Reassuringly clear. Reassuringly boring. From what we've seen so far, EG7 have managed to come across as enthusiastic and interested but also staid and stable. It's a good trick if you can pull it off.

The Q1 video is pitched squarely at investors but with an astute awareness that gamers will watch and comment on it anyway. I'm not going to do that. Wilhelm summarizes it excellently and it's a short and painless watch if you want all the details. 

The one aspect that catches the gamer's attention has to be confirmation that there's another AAA mmo in development. It's somehow related to one of the greatest brands in the world”. Initially I took that to be hype for EverQuest, since EG7 have been bigging up EQ's significance as a brand ever since they bought it. 

As both Wilhelm points out, though, one of the assets EG7 acquired through the purchase of Daybreak's portfolio appears to have been a license to produce a game featuring some subset of the Marvel Universe. Now that really is a world-ranking brand.

It's also been let slip that sub-studio Dimensional Ink, the one that runs DCUO, is working on a new game. It wouldn't take Thor's hammer to knock two and two into four there. Except that it really would be weird to have the same studio operating and promoting mmos for both DC and Marvel at the same time. Imagine the cross-promotional opportunities!

What started me thinking about all of this wasn't the video. That's old news. If I'd wanted to talk about that I'd have done it a few days ago. No, it was some other, even older news, something that has passed me by altogether.

When I logged into EverQuest II this morning I was greeted with a flurry of pop-ups telling me a whole bunch of the infusers I had in my bags had been made obsolete and replaced. I turned to the forums to see if I could find out why. There was a short downtime yesterday, unusual on a Thursday, and a small patch when I logged in so I thought there might be some clarification in the patch notes.

There wasn't. I still have no idea what was wrong with the old infusers or why I need new ones. While I was on the forums, however, I noticed some unwelcome news

Dreamweaver, Community Manager for both the EverQuest titles, is leaving. Actually, he's already left. He posted his goodbye notice a couple of weeks ago but I only saw it this morning.

I read through the whole thread, all seven pages of it, and it's astonishingly positive. Well, other than the two pages wasted on bickering between several forum regulars. I also went to the EQ Forums to see what people there had to say and it was much the same story, minus the childishness.

Both games have a long and extremely checkered history when it comes to Community Managers. There have been some absolute shockers over the years, quite a few forgettable non-entities and very few universally appreciated and respected professionals. Judging by the stream of accolades, Dreamweaver was definitely one of the good guys:

"You were a great community manager"

"You were the best mod we ever had in EQ2"

"You will be missed as you went to bat for the community on many occasions and have left mighty big shoes for your replacement to fill."

"You were the BEST!"

And plenty more along those lines. I always found Dreamweaver affable and noticeably non-confrontational, two things I absolutely would not have said about many of his predecessors. That said, as with all people doing their job well, I didn't really notice him at all most of the time.

If it hadn't been for the Kander's Candor podcast series I probably would have struggled to remember his name but listening to him on those fixed his cheerful voice in my head. He always seemed both interested and amused by everything he had to talk about and most importantly he always sounded genuine. I wonder if the podcasts will carry on or whether they were something that will disappear along with Dreamweaver.

Other than to record his passing (Let me make it quite clear. He hasn't died. He just got a better job. Which no doubt we'll eventually hear about eventually.) I wanted to comment on a surprising missed opportunity. Pretty much no-one used the thread to make portentous comments about how the Community Manager signalled the end of the known universe!

No-one got up on their soapbox and made a speech about how EG7 were going to fire everyone and all the games were headed for maintenance mode, if we were lucky. No-one took it as the first shot in a flame war (well, except those few kids at the back, fighting among themselves). Everyone just popped in, dropped a compliment for a job well done and moved on.

Okay, a couple of people made passing mention of rats and sinking ships and one person made a crack about Dreamweaver being the only person left working there that any other company would want to hire but by the standards of the EQII forums it was a remarkable show of positivity.

Whether the future under the new owners will be bright or blighted is something we'll only find out as that future turns into the present but I think I'd already be prepared to go as far as "We're no worse off than we were", though, and that's not nothing. Maybe I'm not the obnly one who feels hopeful, for once.

I'd like to wish Dreamweaver well in whatever endeavor he's begun, not that he'll ever read this (although you never know... it is on the internet, after all). And best of luck to whoever takes over the CM role. It's going to be a hard act to follow.

Although it could be worse. Just imagine what the job's going to be like if that new triple-A game does turn out to be set in Norrath.


  1. I heard about Dreamweaver leaving right away, though I also have the dev post RSS feed in my Feedly for both EQ and EQII. I am a bit ambivalent about Dreamweaver, though that is likely due to most of my information about him coming from Feldon complaining about being banned from the forums by him.

    For me there have been a couple of outstanding community reps (Brenlo and Ashlanne were fun during their SOE era, and CCP Guard from EVE has to be the all time most loved community person ever) and a few bad ones (RadarX could belligerent well beyond need) but most come and go and never really make much of an impression. But it also depends on how the company uses them.

    I still know all the EVE Online community team, as they are usually well known players who get hired and they have roots in the community. I know or remember some of the SOE/Daybreak team. But I couldn't name a single WoW community team member.

    1. Some really stick in the memory for good reasons - Sanya Weathers at DAOC for example or Gail Gray at GW2. Brasse, when she was at Trion. Then there are the ones you remember because of their beligerence - Abashi at EQ or, indeed, RadarX at EQII. There are loads that just never make any impression at all, though. Most of them really. Remember Dexella? Kiara? Zatozia? No, me neither.

      Although that's not strictly true. I can remember the names, once I've been reminded. I just can't ascribe any personality to them. I'm not sure whether that means they did a good job or not. I guess if a community manager doesn't leave a lasting impression they probably at least didn't screw anything up.


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