Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Off The Record : Daybreak Games

MassivelyOP has news of a rumor of a leak from an unnamed source about things Daybreak may or may not be working on, which might happen sometime... or never. I wasn't going to respond but then Wilhelm wrote a neat, coherent summary with commentary and when I began replying in his comment thread I quickly realized I was going to end up writing the equivalent of a full-length post.

So I thought I might as well write a full-length post.

The leak

The history of this kind of insider leak is pretty good, I think. Most of the ones I can remember ended up having  quite a grounding in fact. Still doesn't mean all - or any - of it will happen, of course. Even if 100% accurate, it's just a snapshot of the current situation and, as we have seen countless times, these things often change a lot before anything ever gets as far as a public release.

Everquest and EQ2 will have one last expansion each. 

I would guess that whether this year's EQ and EQ2 expansions really are the last will depend on how well they sell and how much money they make. I suspect the well is about drained dry by now and DBG are looking at this as one last trip, but if either of them were to do significantly better business than expected, who knows? It will be a great shame not to get any more EQ2 expansions because the quality has been high and I have enjoyed all of them.  I haven't bought an EQ expansion for a good few years though.

What happens after the last expansions is the more important question. There's a wide range of options, from complete maintenance mode a la GW1 to a full, continuing program of ongoing live content, new holiday stuff and special events. Again, I'm sure that will depend on how many people keep playing and how much money they spend.

Eventually the games will close but I hope and believe that's still a few years off.

Everquest 3 has been back in development for a year and is being rebuilt from the ground up. It aims to compete with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and to be the first fantasy MMORPG to put an emphasis on team battle royal PvP.

This is the most bizarre item on the list and the hardest to take at face value. What does make some kind of sense is that it would be fairly crazy to try and run three Everquest-themed MMOs in full development simultaneously so if there's an intent to build a new one it might be a good idea to scale down one or both of the old games.

On the other hand, where's the market? EQNext got traction outside of the core playerbase (and not much within it) because it was a wish-fulfilment fantasy full of impossible dreams, promising far more than it ever had a hope of delivering. Which is why it also got cancelled.

The reference to Pantheon is instructive, though. Brad McQuaid's project does seem to have gone from something of an industry joke to a potentially serious contender. It's a good while since I've seen any pieces poking fun at either the game or Brad himself and the word of mouth on it seems to be holding up rather well.

It's entirely conceivable that DBG do genuinely see Pantheon as a serious competitor, likely to leech a significant amount of their market share if and when it launches. It's quite easy to imagine a successful launch for Pantheon drawing players in numbers from both EQ titles, particularly EverQuest.

That would make the winding-down of the two older versions of Norrath in favor of consolidating effort and interest in one new EQ game- EQ3 - seem almost logical. One of the many problems EQ2 had at launch was its failure to migrate existing customers from EQ. This plan could mitigate that issue to some degree.

It doesn't explain the surreal reference to "battle royal PvP", though. What that has to do with competing with Pantheon or the EQ franchise boggles the mind. Of course, MMOs can contain multitudes and it's totally believable that EQ3, were it to happen, could include a battle royale zone or mode.

So long as it was kept to one side, in the manner of PvP Battlegrounds or Arenas in other MMOs, that shouldn't be a problem. The idea that EQ3 would "put an emphasis" on it, however, suggests a lot more than an instanced PvP zone in a PvE game. You'd like to think there were lessons to be drawn from H1Z1 here about over-extending your resources and diluting your core offer but when did MMO devs ever learn from experience?

My takeaway from this is that I'm more than ever becoming committed to betting on Pantheon becoming my last-ever long-term diku-MUD style home. As for EQ3, if it happens, as I said about EQNext, I'll play it because it's Norrath but I don't expect to like it. I don't believe they're making it for me.

It looks like a sunset is most likely for Just Survive.

Still haven't gotten around to playing H1Z1 in any of its formats and I don't imagine I'm likely to now. I'm never happy to see an MMO close down but I can't say this has any resonance for me personally.

Planetside 3 is in early development. This will be a team based battle royal game.

And yet Planetside 2 is continuing, apparently, with new character models and animations coming this month and a new map later in the year. Perhaps the theory is that, unlike the EQ games, the two PS2's will either appeal to different market segments or that they will be complementary and capable of being played by the same people at the same time (not literally, I'm guessing, although you never know...).

I have played PS2, briefly, but it's not my sort of thing. It's slightly concerning to read that "other teams will be siphoned into this project next year" because, given the announcement about the end of expansions for the Norrath games, that could well mean devs currently working on EQ and EQ2.

The focus on Battle Royale modes in general seems misplaced. Development cadences for MMOs are so long that it seems like a very bad idea to tie this type of game to what may - most likely will - turn out to be a cultural moment that will have passed well before any likely launch date. Battle Royale is a pretty robust game mode that will be around forever but it's not going to hold the zeitgeist indefinitely - nothing does.

If nothing else I've found this last week a useful exercise in managing expectations. I have long held the belief that, at 60 as I will be this year, the Everquest games will probably see me out. I may have to learn to do without that particular comfort blanket.

We do have to face the fact that no MMO will last forever, although I am willing to bet that some form of EQ server - official or otherwise - will be publicly available longer than I'm around to play on it. EQ2, probably not., which is a shame for me because of the two I'd probably miss EQ2 the most.

Still, no need to panic just yet, I think. Even if everything in the reddit post turns out to be true I would guess we have a few more years to go before the final curtain comes down. Unless you're planning on playing Just Survive of course, in which case I'd get a move on if I were you.


  1. "...when did MMO devs ever learn from experience?"

    Or when did they ever draw the right conclusion at SOE?

    My thoughts go back to the launch of EQ2 when it seemed to me that the devs/designers seemed to think that twinking alts and buffing strangers were serious problems that had to be solved and that a world can be just a bunch of zones that don't feel all that coherently put together.

    I mean, the lessons learned they were talking about 8 years ago had some good items on the list... but we shall see.


    On other fronts I still have a little trouble taking Pantheon as seriously as you, mostly due to Brad never having met a feature he could bear to cut. His reputation for over-reach precedes him and some of his statements about things like PvP do not reassure me.

    1. Yes, there is a bit of wishful thinking where Pantheon is concerned, it's true. I would not be surprised to see it fall from lack of funding for a start and Brad does indeed have his problems where knowing when to stop comes in... Still, it's already got much farther in development than I or probably most people thought it would and the lengthy playthroughs I've watched are convincing.

      What surprises me most about that leak, other than the very claim that DBG is working on any kind of EQ3, is the idea that they would see Pantheon as a genuine threat that needed to be countered. I do wonder whether history will repeat itself and DBG will end up either publishing or outright owning Pantheon the way they did Vanguard. Weird though that sounds it seem a lot more feasible than the diminished DBG crew being able to put out two brand new AAA MMOs in EQ3 and PS3.

    2. Now that would have been the April Fools joke post to go for this year, Daybreak buys Pantheon, Brad working for SOE/Daybreak for what might be the fourth time if I think about it. He was on payroll for a bit after they bought Vanguard then came back again later.

      The problem, as always with acquiring software groups, would be that the tools and back ends systems and middleware for Pantheon would likely be completely different that whatever Daybreak has standardized on, so you either have to convert them or get used to supporting more things in the data center and paying more licensing fees to third parties.


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