Quote of the Day – The End of Smed?

Daybreak Games confirms that John Smedley will be taking some time off from the company for the near-term and transitioning to a different role to be determined. Upon finalization of his plans, further communication will be provided.

RadarX, EverQuest II forums

l go away for a few days and this happens.  While I was down at Pismo Beach watching the beach bunnies and avoiding the horde of German tourists… seriously, they were everywhere… only to come back home and find that Smed is out as the boss at Daybreak.

I will cut you

The Daybreak era Smed

There is plenty of speculation about why he is out, where he will end up, and how it may or may not relates to his run-in with Lizard Squad and the deletion of his Twitter account.

Smed was, of course, a pillar of the MMO development community who helped make EverQuest possible.  He was also a staple of “Quote of the Day” posts here and not universally loved, having run SOE and Daybreak through various controversial periods including the NGE, the transition to free to play, the current era of early access sales, and the sale of SOE to Columbus Nova Prime.  While he has fans both inside and out of Daybreak, not everybody will be sad to see him step down.

But that just brings us to the next question; who will replace him at the helm?

Smed was at least a gamer through and through.  Russel Shanks, another long time member of the Daybreak team is stepping up for now, but it is not clear to me if that is a permanent move of not.  So the next person running Daybreak may not be cut from the same gamer mold.  And while Smed stepping down may have had something to do with his online conflict coming home to roost at Daybreak, it could be about something else as well… something like money even.

Having worked for a company that was acquired by an investment group in the past, I can tell you that I was often reminded of that scene from Goodfellas:

Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? Fuck you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? Fuck you, pay me.

This may be simply the first round of, “Fuck you, pay me.”  Or it could be something else.

What will Daybreak be without John Smedley?

 

4 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – The End of Smed?

  1. bhagpuss

    I knew for sure you were away on vacation when there wasn’t a post about this at TAGN the day it happened. I thought about doing something on it myself but really, what is there to say?

    I confess I have never heard of Russell Shanks, which is quite surprising if he’s been there the whole time since 989 Studios. Maybe he has a more creative pseudonym than “Smed” and I’d recognize that. I bet he has “Pro Tem” stamped all over his promotion paperwork. We’ll have to wait for a real, permanent appointment to have any clear idea which direction the ship heads next. Hmm…has Dave Georgeson got a new job yet?

    As for Smed I think he could probably do with some time off for all kinds of reasons. It’d be great if he took a year or two to write an autobiography. Gaming has been around a long time but there are precious few biographies, autobiographies or memoirs of any of the key players. It’s past time.

    He’s probably got one of those “don’t take any positions that compete with us for X years” deals with his erstwhile overlords so my other fantasy outcome probbaly can’t happen: wouldn’t it be great to see Smed turn up at Visionary Realms Inc? He could ride herd on Brad and get the real sequel to EQ finished. Then the servers could be DDoS’d to death for all time because of his involvement…so maybe not.

    As for those of us who actually play and enjoy Daybreak’s current titles I suspect Smed’s departure won’t mean all that much. Post-Sony my feeling is that the games are improving, communication is better and the future looks, if not bright, then at least visible. I don’t expect that to change.

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  2. Brad McQuaid

    Obviously I’m not going to talk about recent events, etc. I honestly haven’t hung out with Smed for a while. So I definitely don’t have an ‘inside scoop’ or anything like that (and, even if I did, it still probably wouldn’t be appropriate to comment). Drama, rumor, half-truths, etc. rarely accomplish anything memorable or of worth, and if you’re somebody who has chosen to create games, especially MMOs, you really don’t have time to dabble in that sort of thing at all; rather, you’ve got so much work to do that your concern shouldn’t be popularity or fame or approval. Instead you need to be careful to not lose sight of or ignore the more permanent things, like friends and family. That’s the real challenge: figuring out how to balance your life, pursuing what you’re passionate about, but also not letting that pursuit engulf and entirely define you.

    Instead I’ll share a bit about the man I know, who I worked with closely for years. First, if you are strong willed enough to stand up, lead if necessary, and believe in something, it’s not an easy path, and most certainly everyone is not going to like you. I know this from personal experience and and Mr. Churchill summed it up nicely: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” But he has also earned the respect and friendship of many people over the years. And for good reason.

    Of course I wish Smed nothing but the best and great luck in wherever his adventures take him next! Smed is a friend, a mentor, someone who believed in me and gave me fantastic opportunities, and as I’ve said in the past, something everyone should know: without Smed, there would be no EverQuest. He wanted to make a graphical online RPG and most people thought he and we were crazy. We were even pushed out of Sony so they could focus on the next console. Somehow, through hard work, passion, stubbornness, and faith he kept the project funded and supported (I later, after the game shipped, was told it was almost canceled a couple of times — something he kept from me, probably rightfully so, fearing that it could affect my morale). Even when many were skeptical that a 3d MMO could even be built, much less be successful, he was there, doing whatever he could to make it happen. And, whatever you think of EQ itself (I remain quite proud), there is no denying its key role in the emergence of an entire genre.

    From there he built Verant, and then SoE. His leadership resulted not only in the development of many MMOs, but also the opportunity for many new to the industry to join the company and to pursue their dreams of working on these games. I’m talking hundreds of people! Most of whom, especially early on, had no prior industry experience. He believes in giving people a chance, even a second chance. And he is willing to take risks, too, where so many larger companies and executive staff are quite the opposite: very risk intolerant. So his legacy is worthy of respect. So, also, his role in the MMO genre, especially in the early days, when he believed in something most others did not. He played a key role in this genre’s inception and credit is due where credit is due. Although I highly doubt his work is done — his belief in and love of online gaming is part of his core being — this is a big change for him. And he should look back with pride, because he’s earned it. And anybody willing to stop for a moment and consider the big picture, the whole picture, should also have respect for him and what he accomplished.

    I did mention we don’t talk as often as I’d like — we did come to a point a few years back where we disagreed on something pretty fundamental: He believes the MMO genre has not only changed, but the audience has changed, and that to make successful online games, the ‘old’ approaches are obsolete. I had to respectfully disagree. I believe the MMO gamespace has grown so tremendously that there are now a lot of people who, while they are interested in MMOs, want fundamentally different games. But I don’t believe people’s tastes in gaming fundamentally change over time. I will certainly admit that the gamespace now, arguably more than 10 million strong, consists of players with widely different tastes and playstyles. And I’m fine with that, but I’m not ok that the ‘old school’ gamers have been orphaned, or considered irrelevant, or told that they are now too small to matter. And because I would never work on a game that I wouldn’t personally want to play, and because my taste in MMOs is in that same group, I can do nothing else but try to make another MMO that is modern, has new ideas, but that fundamentally is still about long term retention, community, working together as a team, etc. But Smed is not me — he’s most certainly a gamer, but he is also more business oriented than me. He wants to stay current, to make games for players that are relatively new to MMOs, and he sees really opportunity there. I think he is also more driven to succeed in a big way not once, but as many times as possible. Sure, I have some of that in me too, but if I worked on an MMO that targeted more solo oriented gamers, gamers who typically don’t want to play one game for a long time, who aren’t bothered by revenue models that, ultimately, evolve into pay-to-win, I wouldn’t be working on a game that I would want to play. So our paths forked because we are different people, nothing more, nothing less. And while the unwavering faith and support and leadership he provided back in the early days is something I’ll never forget, our vision for MMOs has, slowly but surely, over time, drifted in different directions. On a personal level, sure, that’s a bummer, but I cannot be critical of this drift in any real way. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe one day we’ll somehow work on something together again. Stranger things have happened. But my respect and admiration of him will always remain strong and I really am excited to see what he’ll end up doing next.

    I hope this resonates with gamers, old gamers and new gamers. I hope I’ve brought some perspective and more attention to the big picture, the past and the present. If not, as someone who worked closely with him for many years, I have at least stood by him and affirmed he is a good man, a kind man, a generous man, and someone who has worked very hard (and been very successful) to be and stay in a position that allowed him to provide opportunities to hundreds of people, not just paying jobs, but a chance to chase their dreams.

    -Brad McQuaid
    CCO, Visionary Realms, Inc.

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  3. Toldain

    Well, since I have zero of the inside knowledge that Brad McQuaid does (Thanks Brad for your comments, they are very interesting!) I will feel free to speculate about the present.

    I was quite surprised when the layoffs announced last spring did not include Smed. My sense of the firing of Georgeson was that he was held responsible for all the schedule slip of EQNext. And there’s been a ton of slip with Landmark and EQNext. There was a bunch of other layoffs, which represented a staff cut of 10 to 15 percent, up and down the line.

    But if you’re going to hold Georgeson responsible for the slip, what do you do about the guy who’s his boss and who’s been nodding about those slips for the prior 2 years. That’s Smed.

    My guess is that they needed him to help them realign the company. He’s been there forever, and he understands everything there is to know about the organization. If they had canned him at the get-go, they probably would have had a mass exodus. So they paid him a fat bonus to stay around for a while and then disappear for “personal reasons”.

    That’s my reading of the tea leaves.

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