Daily Archives: February 2, 2015

The End of Sony Online Entertainment, the Coming of Daybreak

When I first saw this news, my reaction was that today is Groundhog Day and not April Fool’s Day.  Even with Smed’s current love affair with Reddit, that seemed like a questionable source.  But there was the announcement over on the official SOE forums as well.

Dear Players, Partners and Friends,

Today, we are pleased to announce that we have been acquired by Columbus Nova, an investment management firm well known for its success with its existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies. This means that effective immediately SOE will operate as an independent game development studio where we will continue to focus on creating exceptional online games for players around the world, and now as a multi-platform gaming company. Yes, that means PlayStation and Xbox, mobile and more!

As part of this transition, SOE will now become Daybreak Game Company. This name embodies who we are as an organization, and is a nod to the passion and dedication of our employees and players. It is also representative of our vision to approach each new day as an opportunity to move gaming forward.

So what exactly does this mean for you? It will be business as usual and all SOE games will continue on their current path of development and operation. In fact, we expect to have even more resources available to us as a result of this acquisition. It also means new exciting developments for our existing IP and games as we can now fully embrace the multi-platform world we are living in.

Our games and players are the heart and soul of our organization, and we are committed to maintaining our portfolio of online games and pushing the limits of where we can take online gaming together.

Thank you for your continued support. See you in game!

The Team at Daybreak

So there it is.  Sony has sold off Sony Online Entertainment to Columbus Nova, an investment group with a vague web site (which is being pounded to hell right now) and, as far as I can tell, no history in video games. (The whole thing is tagged as copyright 2006 FFS.)

[Edit: Cyanbane pointed to another Columbus Nova site.]

SOE_LogoNobody can tell you what the future will hold yet.  There is going to be a long period of just untangling SOE, now known as Daybreak, from their former corporate masters at Sony and Sony Computer Entertainment America before we will really be able to tell where things are heading.

Contrary to the happy tone of that announcement… which, honestly, is the tone they HAVE to take… my own experience with Silicon Valley acquisitions puts this in a dim light.  My gut says that if this follows the common acquisition model, it will eventually mean layoffs and trimming back the product line (PlanetSide will be gone first), while other legacy products will be milked for cash (i.e. expansions and updates will trail off) until they are shuttered (EverQuest, EverQuest II). The company will chase some specific version of the “future” (consoles?), leaving the past behind.  Expect Smed to get his golden parachute exit somewhere around the 18 month mark after finishing his transition work.

Okay, that is pretty dark.  But lets just say that such acquisitions trend unhappy in my world.  Investment firms tend to pillage rather than invest, no matter what their prospectus says.  There is that SOE history to contend with as well.  So many things they have done have SEEMED like good ideas at the time.  (ProSiebenSat.1 anyone?)  But SOE probably didn’t have a choice in the matter, so maybe it won’t be SOE being SOE.

Also, what does the name Daybreak signify?  Is this a zombie thing?  All I know is that there used to be a bar called The Daybreak near my old apartment.  That is going to make for an odd mental image.  Also, picture everything that says “Sony” now saying “Daybreak.”

Coming on top of the Massively shut down, it is making for a hell of a week.

What do you think will happen, knowing as little as we do?

I expect a range of opinions on this.  I will link them below as I find them so I can look at them a year from now to see how we scored.

Like Walking in L.A.

I don’t know could’ve been a lame jogger maybe
Or someone just about to do the freeway strangler baby
Shopping cart pusher or maybe someone groovie
One thing’s for sure, he isn’t starring in the movies.
‘Cause he’s walkin’ in L.A.
Walkin’ in L.A., nobody walks in L.A.
Walkin’ in L.A.
Walkin’ in L.A., only a nobody walks in L.A.

Walking in L.A., Missing Persons (1983)

The Blog Banter question of the month is about walking in stations and what the future of this feature should be in EVE Online.

This, of course, requires us to step into the Wayback Machine and visit EVE Online of about four years ago, back in June 2011, when we knew Star Wars Galaxies was going away, Star Wars the Old Republic was coming,  SOE’s Station Access was finally coming down in price, Team Fortress 2 was going free to play, LEGO Universe was doomed, and Richard Garriott was a still just a nut interested in making games on Facebook.

And into that, CCP launched the Incarna expansion in New Eden.

The Incarna expansion is probably the most controversial expansion ever to grace the game.

(I wish Sugar Kyle’s history of EVE Online expansions had an entry on Incarna, but it is only up to Dominion at this point.  Waiting for that one.)

It wasn’t ALL bad.  We got a decent agent finder out of it.  But overall, the expansion was not well received.

You can tell when outsiders, people who did not play EVE Online, talk about the Incarna expansion, because they jump straight to “monoclegate” and babble on about costly items in the cash shop as though that were the sole problem.

Monocles, as I have said before, were barely an issue and people who bring that up are only exposing their ignorance of the situation.  Yes, there was a sudden, and loud, backlash against the pricing.  But the fact that monocles are still in the cash shop and still cost as much as they did back then, yet nobody complains, pretty much takes the air out of that idea.

Yes, it did not help that CCP kept talking about monocles long after everybody else moved on.  CCP showed itself to be remarkably out of touch with its players during Incarna, blathering on about knowing what people want in the cash shop while failing to hear the swelling complaints about the REAL issue with the expansion.

The problem was the Captain’s Quarters.

Your new home

Your new home

For years, the fact that you could never get out of your pod and see your actual character was talked about as an issue in EVE Online.  This made the game different than World of Warcraft or EverQuest or other popular MMOs.  It is easier to be social if you can see a human avatar, or so the argument went.  People would regularly ask if we would ever be allowed to get out of our ships.

So when CCP started talking about “walking in stations,” there was some clearly some excitement.

Unfortunately, in keeping things close to their vest, CCP did not do a lot to manage expectations.  People projected prodigious visions of what “walking in stations” would mean in New Eden.  There was talk of role playing events and setting up casinos or stores and being able to see your ship from the outside.  But the biggest theme seemed to be the ability to just interact with other people as avatars rather than ships.  They even gave us a shiny new character creation tool a few months early.  This was going to be great.

And then Incarna hit and everybody’s projected vision of the future quickly vanished.  Rather than an open station environment or any of the backdrops people seemed to dream about, we got the Captain’s Quarters, a small, 3D environment that you alone could occupy.  No social interaction was possible with your new 3D avatar.

All you could do is move awkwardly about your “one size fits all” quarters or sit on your couch and watch some game information scroll past.

What is on Space TV today?

What is on Space TV today?

Okay, you could walk out and look at your active ship as well.

Behold the mighty Sushi Boat!

Behold the mighty Sushi Boat!

But the functionality was pretty minimal, the benefits were tiny, and the whole thing was a resource hog.  Many people, myself included, turned the Captain’s Quaters off very quickly, only to find that the old hangar view, where you could see which ship was active, had been replaced by the now infamous door.

The Immobile Hanger Door

The Immobile Hanger Door

This lead to another “CCP being tone deaf” moment as they mocked the idea of “ship spinning” as being an important feature.  People were angry.  Complaints about these new features began to pile up.   There were problems… serious problems… with the game.  There were features that had been implemented and left to stew for years without revision.   Yet CCP chose to invest their time in this “do nothing” feature?

Then there was a leak of an internal CCP newsletter with its “Greed is Good” theme that explored the idea of selling “gold spaceships” that would be better than player produced items and the lid just came off and the so-called “summer of rage” began.  CCP went on the defensive while in New Eden people protested by flying around the monument in Jita, shooting at it and demanding CCP listen.  The CSM, as impotent within the rules back then as they are now, took their message out of school and The Mittani became a very vocal champion for change.

CCP went from a “we know best” dismissive stance to trying to figure out how they could get a very vocal segment of their player base to calm down.  A special CSM summit was held, with a few members being flown out.  It was an adversarial event and while there was a resolution, the two sides could not agree on wording for a summary statement, so issued two different versions, with attempts to save face apparent on the CCP side of things.

This was a turning point for CCP.  The next expansion was Crucible, and it started what became a longer term focus on fixing and improving the features of the game.  This was a good thing, or such is my view of the world.

Which brings us back to the question of what CCP should do about walking in stations and the Captain’s Quarters.

The answer is “nothing.”

I honestly do not think CCP could generate sufficient interest in the player base to focus on such a feature without getting people riled up.  I would be interested to see some stats on Captain’s Quarters usage, but unless it is hugely popular, I think CCP walking away from the feature was the right decision, nor do I think they should try to return to it.  Doubly so since World of Darkness is out of the picture, so they can no longer piggy back development on that project.

A problem with MMOs, and especially subscription MMOs, is there is a strong desire to be all things to all people, because every player is potentially more money in the bank every month.  So you get games like EverQuest II, which has a perfectly good PvE environment, spinning its wheels for almost a decade at this point trying to introduce some sort of viable, popular PvP aspect to the game.  SOE has copied just about every idea out there, but it has never amounted to much because PvP is simply not a core feature that most EQII players want.

Likewise, people getting out of space and out of their ships and walking around in an avatar rich environment in a station can never be a core feature of EVE Online.  It would always be a side item, a distraction, a place where people would go to escape the core of the game rather than join in with it.  And with a company CCP’s size, to go after walking in stations would require them to stop working on core aspects of the game.

Fortunately, the team at CCP seems completely focused not just on the core aspects of the game, but in transforming them into something greater than they are now.  And until that journey is done, I think we are safe from talk about walking in stations.

EVE Online is already the most social MMO I have played.  All that angst way back when about never being able to get out of your ship seems, in retrospect, to be worrying about something that wasn’t a really problem at all.

Nobody walks in L.A., or in New Eden.

Of course, I am sure somebody will disagree.  Those participating in Blog Banter #62 “ReIncarnated” are listed below: