In an act of intellectual cowardice and blatant censorship, former EverQuest developer and current video game executive Shawn Lord deleted a comment I made on an upcoming scheduled video on his aLovingRobot YouTube channel. This may seem like a petty complaint and perhaps it is, but arrogant EverQuest devs deleting comments from players is an all too common occurrence and is an illustration of how out of touch many of them are with the plight of the average gamer.
My comments were not an attack on Shawn or his work. The teaser thumbnail on his video mentioned EverQuest Next and just seeing that name made me remember how EQ fans were betrayed and disrespected.
It seems I struck a nerve by having the temerity to post some inconvenient truths and strong opinions about Sony Online Entertainment’s litany of incompetence, failures, and chicanery relating to the aborted EverQuest Next. I am not alone as other EverQuest players and even former EverQuest devs have made similar observations about the people that pulled the strings behind this troubled franchise, but some are not as polite as me. Here’s an example from an article written by Cheyanna in 2010 when people were less timid and more honest:
I have nothing but the highest confidence in John Smedley’s ability to take a good game and turn it into shit. Smedley is, single handedly, the destroyer of any good gaming concept.
Here’s a passionate MMO gamer named Bazgrim who starts his heartbreaking emotional EverQuest Next video with the following up the following sobering words:
EverQuest Next broke my heart.
This is all on you SOE and Daybreak Games.
The sentiments in expressed in this video is why I continue to fight for EverQuest. I have no problem getting my hands dirty and playing the role of the villain if it means that the clowns that run the MMO industry are held accountable.
The passionate and outspoken MMORPG community that grew around the EverQuest phenomenon was in a way a precursor to the #Gamergate movement which was a grass roots consumer rights collective of gamers standing to the elites who tried to hijack our hobby and disenfranchise us. Instead of having to call out woke millennial journalists, the target of their ire was dysfunctional corporations like Sony Online Entertainment staffed by buffoonish executives who were in way over their heads.
Many top EverQuest guild leaders were not afraid to be openly critical of how Smedley ran SOE over the years and they got so angry that they put their passion into developing a new MMO you may have heard of called World of Warcraft. The level of quality in EverQuest deteriorated to the point that a major boycott was organized against Smedley and SOE. The player community had finally had enough. I did my part back then by penning an open letter to SOE which gained a lot of support.
Eventually World of Warcraft was released and exploded the genre wide open. MMORPG enthusiasts finally had an alternative and left the lackluster EverQuest in droves. The rest is history but not history according to Shawn Lord who has a tendency to whitewash what really happened and avoid topics that might embarrass his colleagues.
Today things are different. EverQuest has long since vanished from the public consciousness. With the exception of a couple thousand players, EverQuest is dead. Nobody even bothers to write articles about EverQuest anymore and I don’t blame them. The decrepit EverQuest franchise is like a retirement home run by investment bankers and jaded developers who don’t give a damn about virtual worlds and see EverQuest players as fat whales that they can squeeze for more money. Thanks to them, the future of EverQuest is a bleak one complete with overpriced expansions and more weightless satchels and not an ounce of originality or innovation.
Most of the people that cared about the potential of EverQuest got tired of being betrayed, and gave up all hope in disgust. Most don’t even bother to voice their opinions anymore. People who are swindled are often too embarrassed and ashamed to admit it in public, so they stay silent. That’s exactly how EverQuest fans feel and who can blame them? They’ve been systematically driven out and repelled by a despicable company of grifters that lied to them, took their money, ran off with it and then in the ultimate betrayal sold the company to a consortium of ruthless shadowy investors.
I am one of the last holdouts left that is still clamoring for a new EverQuest and who dares question the powerful and to attempt to hold them to account. So forgive me for still giving a damn and holding the torch high, doing the investigative work that the corrupt mainstream video game press refuses to do.
I committed a grave mortal sin in the MMO industry: I made some comments about their sacred cow and benefactor, His Royal Highness John Smedley. This is an unforgivable sin if you want to have any future in the southern California based genre. I and most sane people have no such aspirations to re-locate to the woke shithole that is the People’s Soviet Socialist Republic of California, so I can be completely honest and tell the fabulous emperor he has no clothes.
But the plot thickens. I watched the video and sure enough, I learned that Lord’s guest Ryan Barker is now working for John Smedley. You can’t make this stuff up folks. SYSTEM ALERT: Cover your ass mode has been activated! Follow the money. All roads in the MMO industry invariably lead back to sugar daddy Smed.
Real men take responsibility for their failures and own up to their mistakes but not in the oily MMO industry that is populated with too many imposters, wokesters, hucksters, imbeciles, groupies, and brown nosing barnacles. Like a travelling sideshow carnival, this cast of shady characters fleeces trusting gamers dry of money and hope, and when they are found out they simply move on to another video game venture to ply their trade.
In a way, I feel bad for him. Shawn is seeking funding for his new EverQuest tribute MMO. He’s going to need all the help he can get and I’m sure someday he’ll be knocking on Smed’s door with hat in hand and kneeling with great reverence before his dark throne. Shawn needs to play it safe and keep his channel squeaky clean and controversy free.
To be fair, Shawn Lord is no Mike Wallace or Joe Rogan, nor is he a trained interviewer or a journalist. Instead he loves sipping lemonade on his Twitch porch and lobbing softballs to his former bros in the industry where they share selective war stories about the glory days working in the sweaty GM pit in San Diego. Due to the breezy and folksy format of the show, you’ll never get the full and unsanitized truth of what really went on at SOE because the perpetrators of design and production malpractice have lots to hide and are still covering their asses.
Some EverQuest developers — most who were promoted from GM positions or promoted because they were friends with SOE employees — believe they are a special breed of people better than you and I. The same rockstar mentality that afflicted Blizzard also afflicted other MMO companies like SOE. There’s an subtle but detectable air of superiority that some of them have. Like the music industry and the motion picture industry, the video game industry is a magnet for unsavory characters who are big on ambition but small on talent.
I think a lot of devs like Lord have lost touch with the players and instead love to bask in their own glory. In recent interview with former EQ dev Bill Fischer, he finally admitted that the notorious buggy and unfinished raid dungeon Vex Thall was completed in a week. Yes, you heard me correctly: a single, solitary, puny, ridiculous week. Vex Thall was considered one of the worst executed EQ dungeons of all time. It was a shameful episode in EQ’s history. In the interview, Lord fails to mention the controversy and predictably avoids pushing back on Fisher and instead nods politely. It’s like talking about the history New York City and failing to mention that the twin trade towers fell on 9/11.
If I was a former SOE employee I would too would be ashamed of its checkered past and it would be natural to want to gloss over the truth about the endemic dysfunction and concentrated stupidity that went on there. My advice is to take what you hear from these slippery developers all with a grain of salt and heavy sprinkling of skepticism.
As an aside, I was a dedicated Senior Guide in EverQuest for over 3 years during the early years, volunteering thousands of hours of my unpaid time to help the EverQuest community. I wasn’t there to further my career, it was a labor of love — something that many EQ devs to this day cannot fathom. During my time there, I was privy to many things and I know where some of the virtual bodies are buried. I could easily share a good number of horror stories about the disgraceful behavior of Verant/SOE employees toward female volunteers and other shenanigans that would make the antics in the Cosby Suite look tame but I’ve kept the lid on these stories for many years out of respect for the victims who were affected. By the way, if anything happens to me: I didn’t kill myself.
Even thought I’m disappointed, it was predictable. I hold no ill will toward Lord. He’s doing what he feels is best for his channel and his brand. Shawn should be commended for providing a valuable service to EverQuest fans by taking the time to interview former SOE employees in a relaxed environment with a freewheeling and unstructured approach. EverQuest was a big part of many people’s lives and many of us wondered what happened behind the scenes. I suppose my commentary was just a bit too real for him and his precious guests. I get it.
Lord has every right to delete any comments he sees fit as it’s his YouTube channel and his dojo. And, I too have every right to repost my comment here. Unlike Shawn, I won’t delete comments and I won’t delete his if he ever decides to post here. I stand 100% by my comments and to be honest, I was holding back.
In anticipation of him deleting my comment, I saved it for posterity and am posting it here in its entirety:
To my knowledge, there has never been a proper and thorough post mortem done on the failure of EverQuest Next. Even Blizzard devs managed to find the decency and humanity to spill the beans on why the $50 million dollar ill-fated project Titan was cancelled. The cancellation of EverQuest Next ripped the heart of thousands of loyal fans and financial backers who paid for Landmark. It was a betrayal of epic proportions.
I spent thousands of dollars flying down to Las Vegas with my wife to attend the EverQuest Next launch party that turned out to be a staged dog and pony show with faked technology and Disneyesque graphics.
Many people poured out their heart and souls creating assets for EQ Next only to have it cancelled by a corporate suit.
SOE and Daybreak made vast promises to the players that they could help them build a new Norrath. Perhaps that was wishful thinking or just a PR stunt all along but these promises were never kept. In May 2016, the head of Daybreak Games Russel Shanks claimed that EQ Next was cancelled because “it was not fun…”. I for one never believed this. Who decided it wasn’t fun? The suits or the players? Certainly not the players who were treated like useful idiots. I think former devs like Ryan Barker and Jeff Butler (who needs to come back and give better explanations) owe it to the fans and the MMO genre to explain what happened which might prevent mistakes like this from ever happening again.
Looming over all of this is the failed leadership of Teflon CEO and sacred cow John Smedley. According to Butler, SOE tried to reboot EQ 7 times but failed each time. I want to know why this happened and how it happened. You were given the greatest MMORPG of all time. You had all the lore, geography, you had all the races, classes, and abilities already done for you. You had a loyal community of diehard fans to support you and even make content for you. All we wanted was an updated version of EverQuest. Blizzard did it in a few years, but you couldn’t? You had one job but you failed.
From hearing Jeff Butler talk in your recent interview, I think I know why it failed. It was the egos of the designers who wanted to “make history” and “change the world” with some revolutionary MMORPG that combined World of Warcraft with Minecraft and get rich and retire in Hawaii like Afrasiabi. EQ Next was never about honoring the fans and staying true to the vision of EverQuest, it was all about satiating the egos of the executive designers like Butler and snake oil salesman like Georgeson. In the interview, Butler is not even remotely interested in a new version of EverQuest unless it’s a complete paradigm shift which is a real shame. If he cared about the fans he would be a big booster of a new EverQuest.
In a recent post on the Fires of Heaven forums, former EQ dev Doug Cronkite revealed that the direction for EQ Next changed course after Georgeson invited the entire EQ Next dev team to Minecon in 2011 which is a Minecraft convention for devs and fans. One day after Minecon, the scope of EQ Next had radically changed to include destructible terrain. What the hell? I’d like to know why Jeff Butler and Ryan Barker didn’t stand up to Georgeson and tell him the idea was preposterous. I’d like to know why Smedley went along with it.
By the way Jeff, your design of EQ Next was fundamentally flawed as I explained on my website years ago. Removing levels would have never worked. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I hold Smedley (who’s has the world record for cancelled MMOs and cancelled video games) personally responsible for failing to leverage the huge potential of the EverQuest IP. Smedley is the Don Corleone of the MMO industry and nobody dares to cross him or question him because chances are most devs are friends with him and don’t want to burn bridges, or have relatives that working for him in his San Diego Amazon studio. The talent pool for MMOs is based in San Diego and incestuous and rife with cronyism and nepotism. Heck, he even hired his own kid. Because of that, you have limited the potential talent pool and the result is poor quality MMOs.
It’s time to name names and man up and own this with honesty. Stop covering your asses and protecting the powerful. Let’s stop pussyfooting around and get to the truth.
The reason why I am so adamant and unforgiving of SOE and Daybreak and those responsible for the stewardship of the EverQuest franchise is because I care deeply about the world of Norrath and what has happened to it. I walked the walk. I lived and I breathed it for many years and I’ve got much of my life invested into EverQuest not just playing but helping others as guide, writing and running live events, and dealing with in-game bullies. I made many good friends there. Being a part of EverQuest helped me to overcome my social awkwardness made me a better person. But, I never felt my loyalty or the loyalty of the hardcore fans was ever adequately appreciated and reciprocated by the various corporations that have owned the franchise.
Since the release of EverQuest, the management and the developers have demonstrated a tendency to avoid accountability and to a adopt bunker mentality. Much of this came from the corporate structure where older executives had no clue about how to deal with activist fans who paying a monthly subscription fee and demanded that their concerns be heard. Many of these executives could not even program their VCRs let alone log on to the Internet. Yet at the exact same time forward thinking film director Peter Jackson openly courted the Lord of the Rings community and involved them every step in the way during pre-production and production of his classic trilogy of films. So there is no excuse.
Rarely, if ever, did Sony Online Entertainment or Daybreak Games every bother ask their dedicated community what they wanted for the future of EverQuest. They had thousands of highly intelligent and passionate hardcore fans that they completely ignored. Many top ex-SOE employees felt the same way and were never consulted either and left in disgust. But, SOE knew better and they did it their way. They chased trends and hired family, friends, fools, and ladder climbers. The blind led the blind.
What was the result of this insanity? They failed every single time and millions of dollars were wasted. Shame on them. Shame on the people at the top. All the bucks that should have stopped with them, ended up in their bank accounts. To this day, the people that are responsible have never manned up, shown any contrition, and apologized to all the fans they let down. It’s disgraceful.
The lack of closure about EverQuest Next, the failure to develop the franchise, and the culture of secrecy in the video game industry is why I continue to write articles like this.
You had the greatest and most loyal fanbase in all of video game history and you repaid us by hiring people that essentially ignored us and were contemptuous of us. You ruined your own franchise with your egos, your hubris, your incompetence and neglect. In the end, those in charge cared more about money, self-preservation, and their golden parachutes than they did the fans and after countless broken promises, here we are 22 years later and to this day, no state of the art Norrath exists for the fans to call home.