Category Archives: Daybreak Game Company

EverQuest II Announces the Reign of Shadows Expansion

Where EverQuest goes, EverQuest II must surely follow.  We got a Producer’ Letter announcing the next EverQuest expansion two weeks back, now we get one announcing the next EverQuest II expansion, the Reign of Shadows.

Reign of Shadows

The 17th expansion for EverQuest II is going to take players to the dark side of Luclin, carrying on from last year’s Blood of Luclin expansion.

The lead in reads:

Emperor Ssraeshza and his unyielding throngs of insidious zealots and enslaved minions have laid claim to the ancient citadel of Vex Thal. The march of the nefarious snake-like shissar must end there, deep within the heart of the dark side of Luclin.

Face terrible challenges and forge great alliances in regions unseen by Norrathian eyes in centuries: Echo Caverns, Shadeweaver’s Thicket, Grimling Forest, Shar Vhal, and Vex Thal. Heroes will be made in the shadows!

The features list includes:

  • Play as a Vah Shir! THAT’S RIGHT OUR FIRST NEW PLAYER RACE IN 5 YEARS!
  • 20 Reign of Shadows Prestige Advancement Points and 10 new Reign of Shadows Prestige Abilities.
  • Maximum Guild Level increased to 350 with an all new content-driven guild leveling mechanism.
  • Discover new Adventure, Tradeskill, and Signature quests as you investigate what secrets lay concealed in the endless gloom.
  • Master all new Solo, Heroic, Challenge Heroic, and Raid content in the perpetual shade of Luclin’s dark side!

The new race is a big deal, as it brings the Vah Shir, the EverQuest feline race from Luclin, to the game.  The rest sounds a bit like the usual “new zones, new quests, new raids, new collections” sort of stuff that make up the bulk of any expansion.

However, they do mention an attempt to revamp the whole Alternate Advancement system.

Launching with Reign of Shadows, archetype and class Alternate Advancement abilities are getting a full revamp so that every point has an impact on how your character plays. These changes should not affect Kaladim in a significant way and we do not plan on having them affect future TLEs either. To see these changes before the launch of the expansion, please login to beta when it opens and check them out.

Alternate Advancement, which was an early way to channel experience into something besides levels with new expansions, have grown unwieldy over the years.  I think AAs came in with Kingdom of Sky and the company has piled more into them with every update since.  We shall see if they can come up with a better system.

In anticipation of the new expansion a “Gear up, Level up” event will kick off this Thursday, October 29th, to get people ready for the new content, while pre-orders and beta for Reign of Shadows are planned for November 10th.

Addendum:

The EverQuest Team Announces the Claws of Veeshan Expansion

It is that time of year… actually, we’re a little past that time by my watch… but either way, the EverQuest team found the time to announce the next expansion, the 27th for the game, Claws of Veeshan.

Dragons, always dragons

The brief producer’s letter that carried the announcement indicated that the expansion would contain the following:

  • 6 Expansion Zones – Follow the chilling trail of ice into the lands dominated by the dragons of Velious. Find the source of the mysterious and restless ice and put an end to the dangers that have enveloped the entire continent.
  • New Raids, Quests, and Missions
  • New Spells, Combat Abilities, and AAs
  • New Collections
  • Dragon’s Hoard – A dragon’s hoard for those that have collected so many items, it is nigh impossible to contain. This is an additional space to hold all those items you may need once more but do not need now.

Most of those are pretty much core to any EverQuest (or EverQuest II) expansion.  Interesting that they are going with Velious as the setting for two expansions running.

Beta and Preorder for Claws of Veeshan will start on October 21, 2020.  This gives you a little bit more time to buy the last expansion, Torment of Velious, if you want any of the extras that came with that expansion.  It is 25% off… plus a 10% discount for all access members… until October 20th, at which point it will disappear from the store, replaced by the new expansion.

The producer’s letter also covers some technical updates they have made to improve server stability.

Now we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, the announcement of the next EverQuest II expansion.

Daybreak buys Cold Iron Studios

A press release went out from Daybreak on Tuesday announcing that they had purchased Cold Iron Studios.

It follows you as you move about the room!

To preserve it, since Daybreak has shown a willingness to re-write history at times, here is the body of the press release:

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – August 11, 2020 – Daybreak Games, global publisher and developer of large-scale multiplayer online games, today announced it acquired Cold Iron Studios, the San Jose based studio of veteran MMO, action and shooter developers currently working on a PC and console game set in the iconic Alien universe.

Cold Iron Studios co-founder Craig Zinkievich will continue to lead the studio and the development of the Alien game, reporting to Ji Ham, CEO of Daybreak Games. The game promises to deliver an action-packed, sci-fi shooter experience unlike any other game on the market.

“We’re incredibly proud and excited to be part of the Daybreak family,” said Zinkievich. “Daybreak and Cold Iron share the same passion and long history for delivering action-packed multiplayer games for audiences worldwide. In combining our decades of experience developing and launching globally successful multiplayer titles, we’re destined to make great games together.”

“We are delighted to have Cold Iron Studios join the Daybreak Games family and accelerate our next generation of growth,” said Ham. “Strategic investments in highly talented and proven teams that have outstanding leaders and a track record of developing awesome online games is an important part of our growth and strategy for Daybreak.”

Cold Iron Studios was established in 2015 by the creators of City of Heroes, Star Trek Online and Neverwinter. Under the new ownership, Cold Iron Studios will operate independently with Daybreak acting as publisher providing marketing, tech and operational support.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

There is nothing particularly startling in the text.  The terms were not disclosed because neither were publicly held companies, so what goes on is viewed as none of your business.  I guess we can confirm that Ji Ham is still the CEO, though I am sure Jason Epstein still owns the whole thing.  Or Columbus Nova.  Or whoever.

Cold Iron will operate independently, with Daybreak acting as the publisher the way they do with Lord of the Rings Online, a tidbit that once again brings up the “do they or don’t they” around who owns Standing Stone Games.

As the background image on their web site strongly suggests, Cold Iron is working on a licensed game based on the Alien franchise.  There isn’t much in the way of details on the site, save for a brief description of the company.

Cold Iron Studios was founded in 2015 by three industry veterans who had a goal of creating games they want to play and building a team they love working with. Since then, the team has expanded to 30+ awesome developers and we’ve moved into a downtown office in the heart of Silicon Valley. We’re a diverse group of passionate gamers with decades of experience developing and launching award-winning MMO and action titles. Currently, the team is working on a new PC and console shooter based on the Alien franchise.

So it is a shooter for PC and consoles based on the Alien franchise.  Oddly, when you click on the careers or apply links, they resolve to another game studio, Scopely, and to the Marvel Strike Force page specifically in one case. Scopely acquired the 20th Century Fox gaming studio Foxnet Games, which published Marvel Strike Force, earlier this year.  Cold Iron had apparently been a part of that deal, having been acquired by Fox previously.  Scopely has now turned around and sold them to Daybreak.  Four owners in five years is very Silicon Valley.

More interesting perhaps is the connection to another company, Cryptic Studios.

Cryptic, which made City of Heroes for NCsoft and Champions Online, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter, has been part of Perfect World Entertainment since 2011.  It still has an office in Silicon Valley, over in Los Gatos just around the corner from Netflix. (The Cryptic sign was still up when I drove past a couple months back anyway.)

Cold Iron was founded in San Jose in 2015 by a group of former Cryptic employees.  That is close enough to Cryptic as makes no difference.

Meanwhile, over at Daybreak, Cryptic co-founder Jack Emmert now runs the Austin based studio for the company that runs DC Universe Online and operates under the name Dimensional Ink Games since the studio split announcement earlier this year, though he reports into Daybreak in San Diego, so their independence as a studio remains to be proven.

But the connection, a Cryptic founder being in place at a company that purchase a studio built on former Cryptic devs does incline one to try and draw a connection.  Yes, it is a small industry with a lot of cross-pollination, but Daybreak and/or Jason Epstein haven’t exactly been visibly keen to open the wallet and invest in anything.  Layoffs and shut downs and cancelled plans have been more the legacy of the last 5+ years.

But now they’re spending?

And Dimensional Ink Games, of the three Daybreak sub-studios, is the only one who has even hinted that they have a new title in progress.  Is Cold Iron going to be used to back that plan up?

Yes, I know the press release says they will be operating independently.  I also know that when somebody owns you, you’re exactly as independent as they say you are at any given moment.  I worked for an independent start up at one point and spent a few months working on things for another independent start up because the VC who bankrolled both companies liked their idea better than ours for a brief stretch of time.

Anyway, Daybreak spent some money, we know very little, and there is plenty of room for speculation and wild conspiracy theories.  Go crazy.

Other Coverage:

EQ Aradune Server and Trading One Problem for Another

I almost wrote a post this past week about how queue times had disappeared from the EverQuest Aradune server.  After all, that was the problem when it launched late last month, the problem that Daybreak was focused on addressing.

Nostalgia is live

Unfortunately, in opening up the server to allow more people to get into the game led to different problems.  Something is always the bottleneck, so when you fix one you often end up finding the next one.

In this case, people could log into the game, but moving between zones began to take as much as 15 minutes at times and often simply led to the game client getting disconnected or crashing.  Tipa declared her Aradune adventures over based on this state of the game.

The cure seeming worse than the disease, Daybreak announced that they were rolling back the population cap increase and would be working on server stability.

We wanted to update players on Aradune with some changes made recently. Since launch we have been working on solving the issues with server performance that has affected game play for many of you. In the interim we have reduced the server capacity slightly as a short term fix. Disconnects while zoning have been greatly reduced, and some of the sources of crashes while zoning will be addressed in the upcoming June update.

While the server is at a reduced capacity it is likely that you might see a queue during peak times, we know this can be frustrating and thank you for your patience while we continue to work on the outstanding issues.

So the server is back to queues again.  Those are more palatable than problems once you are in the game.  Tipa even suggested that she might return to Aradune, since queues were at least a consistent issue to deal with.

Darkpaw Games studio head Jenn Chan also put out a note to the EQ community (and the EQ2 community as well) last week about the problems that had hit their games last month when they did the server merges and add the new servers.  Players of both games got something for the problems.

So it goes.

On the bright side, being too popular to handle all the people who want to play on a new server is a good problem for a 21 year old game to have.

EQ Aradune Server Remains Over Crowded

In addition to launch day problems on Wednesday, the Aradune “Truebox Dedicated Progression” server remains over crowded.

Nostalgia goes live

Rather than being able to simply log in and adventure, players are finding long queues most hours of the day.  Daybreak has spent some time in the past creating a structure that could absorb more players on these special servers, adding the ability to spawn multiple versions of popular zones and creating a login queue for the launcher.  But the draw of a fresh new, true box progression server remains a bigger draw than they can handle.  The following statement was issued on the forums this morning:

We know lots of you are excited to play on Aradune, and wanted to provide an update. We’ve been monitoring queue times for the server closely and at this time we’re at the maximum capacity it can safely handle. We have noticed, If you have a flexible play time, there have been little to no queues between 12 AM and 7 AM PDT. We have made changes to the AFK timer to improve queue flow and are continuing to look at further improvements to reduce queue times during peak hours.

This does not apply to the Rizlona server, which also launched on Wednesday.  Logging into the game on that server is not nearly as difficult.

Aradune is, of course, a special name, being the handle EQ developer Brad McQuaid used in game, and was no doubt chosen to remember his passing last year.  That no doubt drives a bit of the desire to be on that server.

Also, the Rizlona server is not a “True Box” server, allowing players to multi-box if they like, a practice that has angered some players who have been quite vocal in the forums about Daybreak needing to do something about this sort of thing.  That has probably driven people to choose Aradune over Rizlona as well.

The question now is whether the pressure on the Aradune server is something Daybreak can manage until the population spreads out and the initial enthusiasm wears off, at which point the queues will likely disappear, or if they will need to add an additional server, the old school way to solve this sort of problem.

Adding a new server inevitably ends up with the second server being low population after a while, necessitating a server merge down the road.  We shall see which path Daybreak chooses.

 

EQ Aradune and Rizlona Servers off to the Usual Rocky Start

Yesterday was the big day, the day that saw the launch of the two latest EverQuest progression servers, Aradune and Rizlona.  You can read more details about these servers at a previous post.

Nostalgia goes live

And things looked to be going better than normal, with the server launches hitting the promised noon Pacific Time launch window unlike so many past launches so that Daybreak was able to post the news on time.  I was even able to peek in and see that they were up and going.

The launcher shows them live

Of course, as the situation often unfolds, there was a rush to get on the servers and into the game as soon as the servers went live, though it appeared that Daybreak’s somewhat opaque queuing system might be up to the task.  Some people got in while others had to wait.

19 minutes isn’t a bad queue… it just doesn’t update

And then things fell over.  I saw an update pop up indicating there were problems and bringing up the launcher seemed to confirm that all was not well.

Yeah, that is not looking good

That apparently sent people scurrying to the forums to find out what was going one, so that they too promptly fell over.  Too many connections.

These are not the forum messages you were looking for…

The forums were available again after not too long, but all the forums are interconnected, so it seems that the EverQuest II forums were seeing problems.  And, apparently, the EverQuest II login servers as well.  I did not know they were connected, but I guess since the games share accounts that makes some sense.

Twitter updates not too far apart

Once the forums could handle the load there was a note about working on the issues followed by updates.

I am loathe to blame the user base for believing that Daybreak could successfully launch two new servers on time and without issue… but really, it is the same story every launch, isn’t it?  Delays, crowds, problems, they are all part of the authentic experience here now.

This is one of the three problems I feel MMORPGs are never going to solve, or bother solving at least, because it is transitory.  A week from now the crowds will have thinned and in a month any additional hardware applied would be sitting idle.

On the bright side, it does speak volumes about the ongoing popularity of EverQuest, now past the 21 year mark, and the desire to get back to a more primeval state of the genre.

As we got into early evening Pacific Time it seemed like Daybreak had finally gotten a handle on the problem and that things would finally kick off at about the usual time for these servers.  Logins were allowed and the queues quickly swelled up t about an hour.

And then something fell over again and all the servers were taken down once more and stayed down until around midnight, when the situation seemed to finally be settled.

This morning the servers appear to be up and running.  Maybe they should always launch at midnight?

The Aradune server, the true box progression server, had a queue this morning when I checked, once again running close to an hour in length.

The Rizlona server, which allows multi-boxing, seemed less in demand and I was able to pop right in and make a character to try out.

Halas on a crisp May morning

I ran out to Everfrost where I almost immediately had somebody train a red con skeleton onto me, which stunned me then killed me before I could do anything.  So all is normal in the world.

I haven’t really decided if I will give either server any sort of real effort.  I am always a bit interested, but I am not sure I am up to the task.  We shall see.  And if I let it pass, there will likely be a new server next year.

Others on this topic:

The Long Run of Fippy Darkpaw

The promised final post of the Fippy Darkpaw server era.  The server merges started yesterday and so the Fippy Darkpaw server has been merged into the Vox server as part of the server merges Daybreak announced back around the anniversary.  Having launched back in early 2011, its long run is finally over.

Classic Fippy Darkpaw

Back in late 2010 SOE told us that they were going to go down the nostalgia path.  This wasn’t the first time they had done this, having tried this with The Combine and The Sleeper back in June of 2006.

It always seems a bit crazy to me that they were already headed down that lane fourteen years ago.  Prophecy of Ro was the current expansion back then, with The Serpent’s Spine in the offing, and they were still rolling out two expansions a year.

Then again, they waited almost five years before they tried it again, this time with the Fippy Darkpaw server.

Fippy announcement back in the day

And, like its predecessor, Fippy Darkpaw was so popular at launch that they had to roll out another server to keep up with the demand.

This was the precursor for the current Daybreak era.  Back then they seemed to believe that you could only play the special server card every so often, so they left a lot of time between launches.

They also had a lot to learn about promoting these servers.  One of my complaints about the Fippy Darkpaw era was that they launch it and then pretty much ignored it after that, save for the announcement of expansion unlocks.

This was also the racing era where the next unlock vote was dictated by how soon the leading raid guild finished off the content of the current expansion.  We still had to vote, but you had to be at the level cap to cast your ballot, so the raiding guilds ruled… at least until we go to the Gates of Discord expansion.

SOE did seem to have some plans to track the server progress graphically, with an expansion unlock status bar on their web site along with an objective tracker below.

Luclin Now Open

Perhaps they felt that the tracker would be a substitute for actual GM attention or announcements.  It was better than nothing… until it stopped working and then it was like the server didn’t exist.

SOE was a bigger company then and, we have a sense after the fact, that the game was being pulled in multiple directions.  It wasn’t until Daybreak forced the team to slim down (every year) and the Holly Longdale faction won out that some serious effort was put into the retro and special server idea.

And, lo and behold, they discovered that you can do something every year and it will attract both new players and old.  So it is this year.  While Fippy Darkpaw is going away, two new servers will be launching next week to carry on the tradition and follow in the path of The Combine and Fippy Darkpaw.

Now it is time to wrap up the history of the server.  I have, at times, tried to maintain something of a server timeline.  Initially it was just expansion completion and unlocks, but I injected some of the other things that were going on during its run.

So it goes.  I’ll have a post about my own time on the server later.  But for now we bid farewell to SOE’s second nostalgia experiment.  Long may the idea prosper.

EverQuest at 21

The days are long, but the years are short.

Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Here we are again at mid-March and another EverQuest anniversary.

Classic EverQuest

I’ve taken it upon myself to mention the anniversary almost every year since the first March 16th of the blog rolled around back in 2007.  I think there was still a bit of a sense or hope that the company would get EverQuest II on track as the rightful successor game it was expected to be and that EverQuest might fade away.  But at ten, twelve, thirteen, fifteen, nineteen, and twenty years it was still around and still looking like the anchor of the Norrath franchise.  It has launched new servers, embraced nostalgia, rolled out new expansions, added new features, and generally kept on rolling and printing money as younger games launched, peaked, and shut down.

And so the date has rolled around again and I wonder once more if there is anything I have yet said about the game.  We’re in the fifth year of the Daybreak era of the game where, unlike some of its stable mates, it has seemingly thrived.

We are also at the start of the Darkpaw Games era, as Daybreak organized three studios under its umbrella. (An umbrella which still shelters H1Z1 apart from those three so far as we can tell.)  That put EverQuest and EverQuest II together under the Darkpaw banner.

Darkpaw Gamed for Norrath

What that means, if it really means anything, is not clear.  There are plenty of theories but few facts.

At this anniversary we are also facing a change of leadership.  Holly “Windstalker” Longdale announced her departure from Daybreak and Darkpaw just about a week back, with the reigns being handed over to Jennifer Chan.  Again, while both games got a note from the new executive producer, it is unclear what that means in the long term.

And now we have the anniversary with the traditional in-game events, which will run out into May.

plenty of time

There are also a few give away according to the current release notes.

What we get

All Access members who log in between now and May 10th will get a free heroic character boost.  This will let you bring any character up to level 85.

Heroic for Free – Unchanged since 2014

I will, as always, grouse a bit about the fact that the level cap has now gone to 115, but they are still giving away… and selling when they aren’t simply handing them out… boosts to just level 85.

Ah well.  They will update that some day I hope.

For now though all you get is level 85.  But they have to give you one because it unlocks the new Overseer feature, which requires you to be level 85 to play.

If you’ve read my post about the Overseer in EverQuest II, you can mostly disregard that.  Darkpaw has take that feature, added some depth and visible… dare I say even comprehensible… graphics and plunked it down into EverQuest.  This version has levels and stats and classes and bonuses and a few other things that at least give the illusion of depth to the whole thing.  And, of course, the ability to spend some Daybreak Cash.

Want to finish early? We can sell you that!

That last bit isn’t active yet, but I am sure it will be soon.

The whole thing is still wrapped in the UI conventions of EverQuest, which date from 1999 and can feel very clunky if you’ve recently been playing WoW… or even WoW Classic… but once you find the Overseer option in the myriad of menu items and move it to your hot bar, it is at least easy to access.

Bhagpuss has a write up about the EverQuest version of Overseer if you are interested.  I do not know what this portends for the EQII version of the feature, but for now EverQuest has the richer, deeper option.

There we are though, a new feature for the 21st anniversary of the game.

The word is that we will also be getting a special server or two at some point here in year twenty-one.  But first Darkpaw needs to clean up and merge some of the aging special servers that are still hanging about.  I suspect that the Fippy Darkpaw server, launched back on February 15, 2011, will be on the list of those to be merged.

What does it even mean when your game has retro-nostalgia servers that are over nine years old?  At least I will be able to write that promised final post about the server.

Congrats to the EverQuest team for making it into another decade!

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.

Related Posts:

The Daybreak Studio Split Comes to Pass

It isn’t even Friday afternoon and we’re getting news from Daybreak.  The splitting of the company into discreet studios focused on specific games is under way, something that has been somewhat expected since July of last year.  Of prime importance to me are the fates of EverQuest and EverQuest II, which will now be run by Darkpaw Games.

Darkpaw Gamed for Norrath

A producer’s letter from Holly Longdale announced the change, though details were scant.  Quoted from the site for posterity:

Welcome to our first bark as Darkpaw Games!

Unsurprisingly, our motto is “Never Give Up” given that our studio name is borne from our beloved in-game character, Fippy Darkpaw – the gnoll that won’t quit. For over 20 years he’s been fighting the good fight for his tribe. Same goes for our studio, our games, and our tenacious players.

We are the OG. The passionate. The dedicated. And the proud! Grrr….Bark Bark…Grrr.

I’m sure you want to know what this change means…

Darkpaw Games will operate autonomously and focus on the EQ franchise, its community, and its future. I will be at the head of Darkpaw and Daybreak will be our publisher with its incredible support and operations teams we’ve come to know and love over the years.

We will work toward expanding the franchise and invest in our future as a studio.

Currently, nothing will change for your accounts and membership. No worries there.

Our staff has grown a bit and we’ll continue to adjust as Darkpaw evolves and grows into its development strategy and vision. What’s that, you ask? To create immersive entertainment that is socially driven and diverse, enriches lives and fuels imagination.

That vision comes from decades of working with and listening to our communities about how EverQuest games have impacted, changed, and enhanced their lives. We want to continue it. It’s what we do best.

Immediately, and in practical terms, our focus is on the fans and investing in our current games and the business of starting new ones. We’re already executing on the plans we had for 2020, like expansions and events for EQ and EQ2.

We’ll start evaluating the interest in, and logistics of, a fan faire and move forward with that as soon as possible.

More than anything, we want to deliver on what players love and go even further. We are going to think outside the box a bit, so hold onto your tails!

This month, we plan to sell a limited run of our EverQuest 20th and EverQuest II 15th anniversary shirts on Amazon. If it goes well, we’ll keep exploring official product ideas. We’ll send out links and details as soon as we have them!

EverQuest’s first anniversary in its THIRD decade will come in March and we’ve got plans for that, so stay tuned! EverQuest II has its own plans that will roll out soon – Yeehaw!

Now, with all my heart, thank YOU! We hope you continue to embrace us as we grow into our indie paws. We want to communicate in new ways with our own Darkpaw voice, too. Many of you are familiar with our personalities and we want to live our best life as gamers and developers with you.

Join the pack! More news as it comes!

Sincerely, as ever,

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale
Executive Producer, Darkpaw Games
“Never Give Up”

What this means for the business itself is unclear.

The PlanetSide 2 team had a similar announcement, declaring that they are now developing as Rogue Planet Games.

Rogue Planet for PlanetSide

Then there is DC Universe Online and the Austin studio that goes with it got a post from Jack Emmert that they will now be Dimensional Ink.  No cool splash screen yet from them, and they ended up not going with the previously registered Golden Age Studios.  Jack Emmert is probably most famous for his association with Cryptic and City of Heroes and his letter stands out among the three when declaring some level of independence.

Those three teams cover most of the company.

Omitted from mention at this point is the H1Z1 and Z1 Battle Royale games, whose web site has no similar note from a producer.  I suspect that they will roll along with Rogue Planet, but we shall see.

All three of the posts make sure to declare that nothing is changing right now and that everybody should remain calm.  That is the standard starting point for everything.

There is a fourth post from Daybreak as well, which sums up the other three:

Daybreak Introduces Three New Franchise Studios –
Dimensional Ink Games, Darkpaw Games, and Rogue Planet Games

Newly Branded Development Teams Reflect “Franchise First” Model to Strengthen Autonomy of Studios with Signature Games and Genres from MMORPG to FPS and Superhero Titles

SAN DIEGO, CA – Jan. 21, 2020 – Daybreak Games today announced its “Franchise First” initiative in the form of a business structure that establishes three new individual creative franchise studios — Dimensional Ink Games, Darkpaw Games and Rogue Planet Games. Building on the success of the teams that introduced genre-defining games and franchises including DC Universe™ Online, EverQuest® and PlanetSide®, this business model is the result of a long-term strategy designed to amplify the existing franchises while enabling each studio to further foster its unique identity, community and culture.

By allowing the identities of each of these studios to thrive under their individual studios, each team will have the flexibility to continue their work developing current and upcoming games, recruiting new talent and building upon the legacy of their respective franchises.

Dimensional Ink Games in Austin develops and operates DC Universe Online, the one-of-a kind DC Super Hero-based MMORPG enjoyed by millions across PC and consoles. Dimensional Ink will be led by Jack Emmert, the mastermind behind City of Heroes, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter. The studio will continue to support DCUO while developing its next high-profile action MMO project starting in 2020.

“Crafting iconic MMORPG experiences has always been Daybreak’s lifeblood,” said Emmert. “We intend to continue that legacy and grow Dimensional Ink, Darkpaw Games and Rogue Planet Games into the future. Whether it’s DC Universe Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, PlanetSide 2 or our future projects, we’ll be giving players their ideal fantasy game experiences for years to come.”

Darkpaw Games will be focusing on EverQuest, one of the most legendary MMORPG IPs recognized worldwide. Holly Longdale will continue to lead the studio as its Executive Producer. Darkpaw’s mission is to continue to expand upon the unique and amazing fantasy adventure that is EverQuest and EverQuest II and develop the next innovation for the franchise.

Rogue Planet Games, the studio branch in San Diego that broke new ground in the massively multiplayer first-person shooter genre with PlanetSide and Planetside 2, will be working to craft even more new and unique experiences in the space under Executive Producer Andy Sites at the helm. The team is looking to develop its next genre-defining experience for fans of shooters under its new banner.

As for what this really means, that is yet to come.  All three letters say that Daybreak will continue to publish and support the studios.  Does that put them on an equal footing of independence as Standing Stone Games and their work with Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online?  We would probably have to know something about the actual relationship between Daybreak and SSG to answer that.

Daybreak, however, will continue to be a thing.  How that evolves and what that really means is still foggy.  Are they set to become something more akin to Gamigo or Perfect World Entertainment, a holding company for milking old MMOs?  Is there a plan to perhaps sell off one or more of these new studios?  Or is it all window dressing?

The Darkpaw producer’s letter sounds very promising all the same.  Ongoing expansions and otherwise doing what they have been doing is about all you can ask for at this point… aside from a new EverQuest game, but that seems unlikely.  After some early stumbles, the EverQuest franchise has done better under Daybreak than it had been doing during the last few years at SOE.  I hope that success for Norrath will continue.

Of course, we have been waiting for this to come to pass.  It was on my list of news I was expecting in the last quarter of 2019, but had to roll it over into my 2020 predictions.  Now to see what it really means.

Other coverage: