The Windstalker Leaves Norrath

If it is Friday afternoon it must be time for a news bomb from Daybreak.

It follows you as you move about the room!

This time it is the departure of Holly “Windstalker” Longdale from the company.  Yes, I suppose it should be Darkpaw Games, but it isn’t like Daybreak doesn’t still pull all the strings here.

Darkpaw Gamed for Norrath

Holly Longdale has been running the combined Norrath division of Daybreak since EverQuest and EverQuest II were rolled up into a single team.  That was back when Smed was still promising us that EverQuest Next would be fine because it had the largest development team at Daybreak. (Some fun comments on that post.)

EverQuest Next was cancelled and then Landmark was shut down, but the Norrath team carried on.  And, despite something of a rocky start in the Daybreak era… all that talk about doing little campaigns as opposed to expansions… a plan reversed in half a year… things seemed to go pretty well for the Norrath team.  They managed an expansion and a big update for both EverQuest and EverQuest II each year since.  And while everything hasn’t gone perfectly, for the last five or so years it has felt like the company has cared more about the franchise than during the final five years of the SOE era.

And, thanks to the team finally embracing the nostalgia and special server idea, it was reported last year, during the EverQuest 20th anniversary, that the player base had been growing since low ebb in 2015.

At the helm for that whole time was Holly Longdale, Executive Producer in charge of the EverQuest franchise.  And while you can’t credit her for everything that went right, a good boss makes good things possible, while a bad boss can make even good things turn to shit.  So she gets some credit for the improved state of the games.  I was very much on #TeamHolly over the last few years.

Which is why the Friday night post over on the EverQuest and EverQuest II sites announcing her departure made me sigh and wonder what was going to happen next.  The text from both posts:

Greetings Norrathians,

It is time to bid ye all a heartfelt fond farewell.

I will be taking my leave from Darkpaw Games for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I owe to all the players and developers of EverQuest and EverQuest II.

From my first experience at EverQuest’s launch as a dark elf wizard trying to leave Neriak for two hours, to joining the EverQuest and EverQuest II teams, my life has been a thrill and a blessing. For more than a decade, I’ve felt honored and thankful to have been a part of the lives of so many players and our amazing family of developers.

I’ve seen these games grow and evolve for so many years. I took part in the first-ever instanced content and forging new ground with Lost Dungeons of Norrath. I had the honor of working with Brad “Aradune” McQuaid, John Smedley, and a great number of talented people.

Both games have grown through the rise of nostalgia with progression servers in ways we didn’t expect. Above all, our community is ever-present, guiding and informing us, and helping us make better choices.

Our success as a franchise is built upon the love of those who live in Norrath. I can’t thank every one of you enough for being part of this magical life. I will miss you, but I won’t be far away!

My passion and love for EverQuest and EverQuest II is unending. Even though I am leaving Darkpaw Games as a producer for now, I will remain part of the community as a player.

Our intrepid Franchise Technical Director and EQ veteran Jennifer Chan will take hold of the reigns with gusto and head up the studio. She has been my leadership partner for over 5 years and excels at keeping us on track, improving our technology, and making sure everything gets done as smoothly as possible.

I promise you that the game and teams are in more-than-capable hands.

Rest assured, Norrath will continue to grow and prosper as I hope you all will.

Much love to one and all, forever. And, as always, I’ll see you in game,

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale

People move on.  New opportunities arise.  Things change.  It sounds like she is leaving for something she wants to do.  But whether she left or was pushed, the inevitable question is, “What happens next?”

Jennifer Chan will be taking over.  All I know about her is that she has some technical chops, with a BS in Computer Science, and has been a technical director for SOE, then Daybreak, since early 2014.  There is a Shack News interview with her that puts a little more info out there (side note: She mentions that they work closely with the LOTRO and DDO teams, so who owns Standing Stone?  Also, the interviewer was the author of Stay Awhile and Listen.)  But that isn’t a lot.

My sense from that is that she might be more technical than “vision,” but maybe that is what the franchise could use.

So we will have to wait and see what this really means.  Back in January there was some hope that the splitting of Daybreak into sub-studios would mean good things for the EverQuest franchise, secure on its own as Darkpaw Games.  But the fickle finger of fate will have its way.

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1 thought on “The Windstalker Leaves Norrath

  1. bhagpuss

    The news was a bit of a bombshell, that’s for sure. Like you, I’ve seen Holly Longdale as a safe pair of hands, particularly after the increasingly bizarre and erratic behavior of latterday SOE. Unfortunately, as usual we’re reduced to the Norrathian version of Kremlinology as we attempt to read the future from whatever fragments we can glean.

    It’s tempting to assume the worst and bring out the usual metaphors. Did she, as you wonder, jump before she was pushed? Or has she jumped ship as she saw it starting to sink? Of course, it could be the exact opposite. Perhaps her star has risen sufficiently high that her talents have been drawn to the attention of someone in a position to offer her a job genuinely too tempting to turn down.

    We aren’t going to know, at least for a while, although as soon as we find out what her new job is – something that is pretty much bound to become public knowledge fairly quickly, I’d have thought – we’ll probably have a good idea. Until then all we can do is speculate, which I’m sure we’re all going to go at with vigor.

    I’d never heard of Jennifer Chan until this happened and all I know about her so far is the interview you linked above. It’s a very solid interview, though. She manages to come across as both technically competent and fannish at the same time, which is not something most devs usually manage. I found it surprisingly re-assuring.

    The interview is also stuffed with potential bullet points for blog posts. I may well write one. Did you notice how she seems to self-edit after that reference to Standing Stone? It’s the one moment in the whole interview where I felt she might have let her enthusiasm cloud her judgment and I got the impression she immediately realized it and retrenched. It certainly gives some ammunition to the theory that Standing Stone is closer to Daybreak than just a publishing deal.

    Anyway, life and Norrath go on. I would guess this makes the prospect of a sell off significantly more likely – or rather it suggests that the sell off we suspected is closer than we might have thought. I would strongly suspect that, unless the new job she’s been offered it something simply amazing, the decision to leave at this particular point has been tempered by knowledge of what might happen in the not too distant future.

    I’m not worried by the prospect of a sell-off anyway. It depends just who buys, doesn’t it? Might be a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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