Category Archives: Daybreak Game Company

PlanetSide Arena Resurfaces with a Plan for a Q2 2020 Release

Remember PlanetSide Arena?  It has a new ship date.

But first, a recap of the story so far… the ship date being in the headline and all.

Back in mid-December of 2018 Daybreak’s big new game announcement was a rework of PlanetSide 2, bringing it back to the realm of shooters of old by taking their MMOFPS and turning it into a match based game with a bunch of old school modes… and Battle Royale too, of course.

Meet Battle Modes

Those looking for an actual NEW game went away disappointed, but even cynics like myself had to admit that this seemed like a viable plan of sorts.  After all, what could it take to turn PlanetSide 2 into a Battle Royale game?  H1Z1 was literally built off of PlanetSide 2.

Daybreak was confident too, declaring that season one for the game… because of course it would have seasons and battle passes and whatever, it has to pay for itself… would commence on January 29, 2019.

January 29, 2019

However, nothing in software is as easy as it seems, and people often confuse something being simple to articulate (e.g. PlanetSide 2 Battle Royale) with being easy to do.  They are not.  So a couple days before the 29th, the date for PlanetSide Arena was pushed to March 2019.  Still pretty aggressive, but with a bit more breathing room.

And then come mid-February the whole thing got a moved to “summer” as a release, though this would now include a simultaneous launch on the PlayStation 4.  They also refunded everybody’s Steam purchase, which seemed the decent thing to do.

And then summer came, moved along its merry way, until yesterday, the Thursday before Labor Day, the traditional end of summer in the US, regardless of what the calendar tells you, when we finally got some news about PlanetSide Arena.  There is now a four stage release plan, spanning from Early Access availability this coming September to the actual game release at some point in Q2 2020.

PlanetSide Arena – August 2019 Schedule

There is also a FAQ page, which is good, as the announcement itself is pretty sparse.  Call me a pessimist, but I made sure that FAQ page was saved to the Internet Archive right away in its current state.

The first question is, naturally enough, about what the game actually is.  I’ll quote that one:

PlanetSide Arena is a massive-scale, match-based, scif-fi arena shooter that reintroduces players to the revolutionary PlanetSide Franchise – the record-breaking MMOFPS that redefined all-out planetary warfare. PlanetSide Arena features class-based combat, combined arms gameplay, compelling team tactics, and a deep tech tree with weapon mods and in-game progression.

It is still a match based shooter.  The various modes mentioned back in December 2018 have gone missing, and when you click on the link in the FAQ that mentions modes, it just directs you back to the page with the above graphic.

The graphic itself gives few details, aside from the emphasis on teams (3 people), squads (12 people) and outfits (your space shooter guild).

What is coming in September is Window only… so no more PlayStation 4 simultaneous launch… and in Early Access mode, available via Steam.  Given Daybreak’s Early Access history, that probably means a rough alpha with obvious missing features coming at you.  Pay to help test.

Daybreak will have achieved their “summer” launch window… minus the PlayStation 4 part… rolling in just four days before the calendar maker’s official end of summer in the northern hemisphere, though that assumes you consider Early Access a launch.  I am unconvinced.  But I am sure we’ll hear about it if the game is totally broken.

And the Daybreak story goes on.

Daybreak Sketches Out some EverQuest II Anniversary Celebration Plans and Other Items

Destined to remain ever in the shadow of World of Warcraft, EverQuest II has its fifteenth anniversary coming up in November, just a few weeks before WoW celebrates the same milestone.

Oddly monochromatic logo, but sure

Daybreak published a Producer’s letter for both EverQuest titles yesterday which give some details, and more hints, at what to expect from the coming anniversary.

The EverQuest update says that the senior title, which turned 20 earlier this year, will celebrate the EQII milestone with the launch of a new progression server.  Go figure.

This will be a new style of server, with players starting as level 85 heroic characters… nice to use a mechanic that is already in place… and content through the House of Thule expansion unlocked, with further expansions unlocking every 2-3 months.  The details are not set yet, so there will be further updates as the plans mature.

The EverQuest II update offers both more and less when it comes to anniversary celebration details.

A progression server for EQII is also planned, also featuring players starting off with level 85 heroic characters, with content unlocked through the Chaos Descending expansion.

There are also mentions of completely new server-wide event on live servers, including a dragon themed event that will reward players with something never before seen in the game.  As before, more details will be made available as the events draw closer.

The Producer’s letters for both games also reference the coming expansions for each game.  While no names or themes were mentioned, both will see a increase in level cap, boosting the top level in EverQuest to 115 and in EverQuest II to 120.  As is customary, the current expansions for both games are now available for a discounted price.

There was also a mention of in-game bonuses for the coming US Labor Day holiday, and a reminder that the next update for EverQuest II, which includes the annual summer panda event, will land on August 27th.

August 27th is also the official opening date for WoW Classic, so in a way history continues to repeat itself.

Finally, there is also a poll linked in both producer’s letter related to a possible EverQuest oriented player event, possibly for next year.

Addendum: The latest episode of The EverQuest Show has some extra screen shots from the next EverQuest expansion which they have posted to their site if you want to examine them for clues as to what to expect.

Also on this topic, Inventory Full has a post up about both producer’s letters.

And Massively OP has their own update on the letters.

DC Universe Online comes to the Switch

Alternate headline: Daybreak ports 8 year old game to Nintendo platform

It is always nice to see some proof of life from Daybreak now and then, and here we have something of a big item with the team in San Diego supporting another platform.

And so, today, DC Universe Online is available on the Nintendo Switch.

I even made a special graphic just for this

So why do I care?  My own relationship with the game was brief at best and, as the alternate headline above (which was the first headline I considered), I am not above a bit of cynicism when it comes to Daybreak.

Also, I don’t own a Switch.  That too would seem to limit my interest.

As I said, proof of life and expanding the business seems to be a good sign these days with Daybreak.

To start with, given that Daybreak probably has fewer people on its overall payroll than Blizzard has just working on World of Warcraft, porting a long running MMORPG to a new platform is fairly impressive.

Granted, the game was designed up front with consoles in mind, as the control scheme clearly demonstrates. (A minor factor in my decision to stop playing the game shortly after its launch.)  That means that there was groundwork laid to help support new consoles in a way that some of their older games lack. (No console controller save one with a full keyboard could support EverQuest.)  Still, supporting the game across Windows, PlayStation 4, XBox One, and now the Switch is a decent feat.

It is apparently more than EA can manage for most of its titles..

But further, the move to the Switch also sounds like something of a success story, that Daybreak is doing something right.  You do have to assume that the company isn’t simply throwing good money after bad (see Turbine and Infinite Crisis, also a DC Comics based title), but the fact that DCUO was the top revenue free to play game on the combined PS3/PS4 platforms about five years back gives one hope that the game remains viable.  While I have heard via back channels that DCUO remains profitable, it is nice to see something that looks like a confirmation that it remains a viable product.

Of course, this also helps feed the rumor mill about a possible break up of Daybreak.  When word of this first started to spread, I assumed that DCUO would necessarily be lumped in with the other non-EverQuest games largely due to it being on consoles.  Why would a the Norrath team want that in their house?

But now, with Golden Age Studios also on the list of trademarks and Twitter accounts, as well as DCUO expanding on its own to a new platform, perhaps it will be going its own way, leaving behind both the Norrath and the PlanetSide teams.

Or maybe none of that will come to pass.  We will have to wait and see.

Guess Who is Coming to Twitter

There was some news a bit back about Daybreak Games registering some new trademarks, specifically Darkpaw Games and Rogues Planet Games.

This logo may become a legacy object

Since then some of us have been waiting for a sign, and indication as to what these new company names really mean, if they mean anything at all.

This past week I wanted the latest episode of the EverQuest Show and saw they had in the background at one point an indication that maybe Twitter accounts had been setup for the new company.

So I immediately went to Twitter to search that down.  Sure enough, I quickly found @DarkpawGames along with three accounts related to Rogue Planet Games, one of the other recently registered names. They were @RoguePlanetG @RoguePlanetSD, and @RoguePlanetOps.   So I immediately followed them all.

Signs of a Daybreak break up?

I guess that is some indication as to a division of the company maybe?  “SD” seems likely to be “San Diego,” where Daybreak has its HQ.  “Ops” is perhaps technical status, and I have no idea what “G” might be, unless NantG Mobile, which at one point was supposed to put H1Z1 and EverQuest on our phones, is still in the picture somehow.

And then, in exploring the people who followed those four I found a fifth account.

What golden age was that?

Both Bronze Age Studios and Golden Age Studios have been thrown about in the discussion about Daybreak doing… whatever it is they are doing… but only Golden Age Studios is from the July time frame.  That it has the suffix “TX” seems a nod to a Texas location, which is where the team that works on DC Universe Online was, and probably still is, located.  Since “Golden Age” is often used to denote a specific era in comic books, it seems that maybe DCUO might be going its own way as well?

Anyway, it is all applications and speculation at this point.  We’re all still waiting for that 3pm on Friday press release that will drop the news.  If I had to guess at a day for that, I would say Friday, August 30th, since that is the Friday before a three day weekend in the US, which minimizes the amount of attention the press release is likely to get.

Is Darkpaw Games the New Future of EverQuest?

As tends to happen, somebody out on the internet spotted that Daybreak Games has a pair of trademark filings listed with the US Patent and Trademark Office that suggest the company might be breaking up.

Daybreak up studios?

If you go to the USPTO site and search on “Darkpaw Games” (which sort of sounds like “Daybreak Games” if you mumble it) and “Rogue Planet Games” (RPG as an acronym surely won’t cause confusion anywhere), you will find a filing for each from Daybreak.

The Darkpaw Games entry, click on it to make legible

For whatever reason… likely to make one or both properties more saleable to another company or investment group, but it could be other reasons… Daybreak Games looks to be dividing the company into two parts, and it isn’t a stretch to guess which games will end up under a given brand.

Darkpaw Games, doubtless a reference to the famed gnoll who is forever assaulting the gates of Qeynos, or at least to the Darkpaw clan from which he came, looks to be the future home of the EverQuest brand and any future branches of the Norrath related properties.  Basically, EverQuest and EverQuest II go here.

Fippy Awaits Your Arrival

Meanwhile, Rogues Planet Games, something of a space theme, gets the other titles, which include PlanetSide 2, PlanetSide Arena, Z1 Battle Royale, H1Z1 (which is what the PS4 version is still called), and DC Universe Online.

I thought a bit about where DCUO might end up, since it is an MMORPG like the EverQuest games.  But the fact that it runs on the PS4 and XBox One (and soon on the Nintendo Switch) made me decide that it has to go with Rogue Planet Games.  I am sure the Darkpaw Games crew, which is exclusively Windows oriented with the EverQuest properties, doesn’t want that console baggage.

So what does this mean for the two new studios and the games they serve?

I think it will be business as usual for Darkpaw Games.  We heard lots of upbeat comments from Holly Longdale and other members of what I call the “Norrath Traditionalist Faction” who, among other things, quashed EverQuest Next, about how well the Norrath games are doing and, on the EverQuest front at least, the player count and revenues have been up since they began to concentrate in earnest on nostalgia and special servers.  There was a bit of hubris in there, but it otherwise seemed to conform to what we see from the outside.

One does wonder if the shut down of Player Studio in those two games was part of the traditionalist faction plan or just a deck clearing activity to prepare for this eventuality.

What seems less likely in the future of this Darkpaw Games plan is a new game set in Norrath.  The setup seems similar to the Standing Stone Games scenario where the two solid titles were spun out to be milked for as long as possible, but where there looks to be no expectation of new development.  This will be good news for the EverQuest and EverQuest II fan base, as they can expect even more focus on their products, but it you were waiting for EverQuest 3 you may be out of luck.

For the Rogue Planet Games side of the house the future seems somewhat less certain, at least from my perspective.  DCUO remains solid and was, at least a few years back, the best earning MMORPG in the catalog thanks largely to PlayStation players.  Likewise, H1Z1 on the PS4 seems sustainable, or did at one point.  PlanetSide 2 has been dodgy over the years, with Daybreak coming out and saying as much back in 2015.  Maybe that has changed.  It is also on the PS4 now.  Also, it still has Player Studio support… for the moment.

PlanetSide Arena is an unknown.  It was pushed out to a summer release back in February, and there is still some summer left, but the lack of news about it… always a red flag from back in the SOE days… makes me wonder how it stands.

And then there is Z1 Battle Royale, what was once the PC version of H1Z1.  It was handed over to a joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks with all sorts of esports hoopla, then handed back to Daybreak seven months later after the joint venture failed to make much of the game.

In the game of Kiss, Marry, Kill here, I think you kiss PlanetSide Arena, go full polygamist and marry everything that has made it onto the PS4, and kill Z1 Battle Royale on the PC… and maybe everything else on the PC and just specialize in console games maybe?

There may be contractual issues with that.  The company may be required to keep DCUO on the PC due to their deal with DC Comics.  And maybe some of the PC versions are worth the effort.  But Z1 Battle Royale, that feels like it will be dead before the year is out no matter what happens.  It has certainly been getting the silent treatment of late… though you could say that about most things at Daybreak lately.

You might ask “What about mobile?” That was previously mentioned as a destination for both H1Z1 and EverQuest.  I have no idea on that front, but I suspect that plan is in the dumpster for now.

And none of this may come to pass.  The company has previously applied for trademarks that it never ended up using, which you can still find on the USPTO site.

At least two of these didn’t happen, right?

Either way the long tale of the makers of EverQuest carries on, and at least the game that started it all seems likely to keep going.  Like Fippy Darkpaw, it just keeps coming at you… sometimes pointlessly, with a shouted announcement and bad follow up… but it persists all the same.

Other coverage:

Daybreak Rumor Review

Just over a year ago I wrote about a series of Daybreak rumors that had been posted to Reddit by an alleged disgruntled former employee who had just been laid off.  The original Reddit post has since been scrubbed.  No doubt somebody was reminded about their NDA, an action which I think actually adds more credence to the whole thing.

The eye follows you as you move about the room! Or it will with the next update.

Anyway, as I said then, we could not measure the veracity of the claims, so all we could do is watch and see what came to pass.  Forward looking rumors based on plans of the moment have an expiration date and, generally, the further time moves along the less likely they are to match reality.

Fortunately a year ago I had the foresight to record these rumors before they were disappeared.  Back then I ordered them by how much each particular rumor meant to me, which put EverQuest things at the top and H1Z1 at the bottom.  This time around I am going to sort them into baskets based on accuracy.   So let’s take a look at what happened over the past year.

Came to Pass

These are the items that I think arguably happened.  Maybe not exactly as stated, but close enough to count.

Just Survive is on its last legs. Several ideas for increasing profits have been floated around but at this point it looks like a sunset is most likely.

I don’t think this was much of a surprise.  I believe I had predicted this for 2018.  There was some talk about maybe finding a way to keep it going, but in the end it was shut down.

Planetside 3 is in early development. Other teams will be siphoned into this project next year. This will be a team based battle royal game that combines the building aspect of Fortnite with territory acquisition.

While it is called PlanetSide Arena and not PlanetSide 3, I think that otherwise came to pass.  They may have been calling it PlanetSide 3 internally at that point.  Lord knows I’ve been through product name changes late in development cycles, which is why you don’t create file names with the product name in them.

Maybe Sort Of

These are the items that seemed to have come to pass, but the details given were off by enough that maybe something changed, or maybe the person predicting had incomplete or out of date information.

H1Z1 will get a smaller map as well as a remake of “Z1”. The PS4 port is looking good. After that new skins will continue to be released but most of the team will be moved over to Planetside 3.

I am pretty sure this came to pass.  As with the previous mention, PlanetSide 3 became PlanetSide ArenaH1Z1 also clearly got its Z1 remake as well, except on the PlayStation 4, where it remains H1Z1.  However failing to mention NantWorks and NantG Mobile, essentially another company taking over development, at least lowers the accuracy score for this one a bit.  And certainly anybody left at Daybreak working on the PC version of H1Z1 ended up on other projects.  That the NantG Mobile thing failed with Z1 is beside the point.

Planetside 2 was supposed to be getting new character models and animations in May. A new map and an aircraft carrier are planned for the end of the year.

I am pretty sure this came to pass for the most part.  PlanetSide 2 got new stuff.  I just don’t care enough to go figure out if this is exactly what happened.

Seems Wrong

These are items that I believe straight up did not come to pass.  Whether they were never planned or circumstances changed I cannot tell, but a year down the road they just seem at odds with reality.

Everquest will have one last expansion. The 20th anniversary will introduce a series of nostalgic raids that tie into complex quests. These quests can be done in order to grant alternate characters powerful scaling weapons.

This was at the top of the “matters to me” list.  EverQuest being put in maintenance mode would have been a blow.  And perhaps that was the plan over a year ago.  However, with the EverQuest 20th anniversary and statements from Holly Longdale, any plans along those lines appear to have been overthrown.  It looks like we will be getting expansions and updates and special servers to farm nostalgia for some time to come according to her.

Everquest 2 will also have one last expansion and eventually a similar series of send-off weapon quests and raids.

As with EverQuest, it seems like this has not come to pass.  If nothing else we already have confirmation of another expansion for EverQuest II.  There was enough ambiguity in the whole thing that I did wonder at the time if the person meant the expansion for this year would be the last, but since we will have two expansions announced since this tidbit dropped I am going to call it wrong for now.

Of course, we did not get as much warm and fuzzy from Holly about EverQuest II as we did EverQuestEverQuest II just doesn’t have the same sense of history or nearly the same large fan base to be farmed for nostalgia dollars.  But I think it is good for now, and maybe Holly will talk up what I have referred to as the “Prince Charles” of MMORPGs (ever in the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth that is EverQuest) when its fifteen year anniversary hits later this year.

I Just Do Not Know

And then we have we have the item about which we cannot say much.

Everquest 3 has been back in development for a year and is being rebuilt from the ground up. It aims to compete with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and to be the first fantasy MMORPG to put an emphasis on team battle royal PvP.

I have heard rumors of various incarnations of a new Norrath game since they put a bullet in EverQuest Next.  It was supposed to be a small co-op RPG at one point.  At others it was going to be just an updated EverQuest.  Making a Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen competitor seems plausible I suppose, though that seems like Daybreak really setting its sites low in the market.

The whole “emphasis on team battle royal PvP” seems like an abomination to me, but I guess in a world where Fortnite is king of course they want to put battle royale in all the things.  Of course, this was back when they thought they could revive H1Z1 by renaming it Z1 Battle Royale and before they pushed off the launch of PlanetSide Arena by six months or so.  So perhaps “more battle royale” has all the impact of “more cowbell” in San Diego at this point.

And then there is Holly Longdale, who seems to represent the faction that won the ideological war over what EverQuest franchise should be.  As part of the 20th anniversary she had some words about EverQuest Next and any possible new EverQuest game.

So there we go.  A bit of it was spot on.  Some of it was close.  And a few were off the reservation or unknowable.  Not an unexpected set of results.  Actually pretty decent so far as predictions go, at least when compared to my own.  And, as I noted, what was posted on Reddit may have reflected the plans as the person last heard them which may have changed over time as plans do.

NantWorks Hands H1Z1 Back to Daybreak After Failing to Revive the Game

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy.

-Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner

A little over six months have passed since it was announced that Daybreak and NantWorks were forming a joint venture, NantG Mobile, in order to create mobile games based on the Daybreak H1Z1 and EverQuest franchises.

Also on the list was taking over the PC version of H1Z1, then rebranded Z1 Battle Royale, with what sounded like an eye towards restoring the title to its former glory.

It was unclear from the outside who really owned what in the matryoshka doll-like structure of the companies, and the details that have leaked… as when it came out that Jace Hall, who quickly became the face of the renamed title, was basically a volunteer when he stepped down… haven’t help much.

This past week word started to leak that something was amiss as a rumor of layoffs started to circulate.  Then Massively OP reported that NantWorks, via NantG Mobile, had posted an announcement on Steam that they were giving up on Z1 Battle Royale.

In the past few months, NantG Mobile has been working feverishly on rebranding Z1 Battle Royale and reverting the game back to its glory days. We’ve since made countless changes to Z1BR in an effort to recapture the moments that once made the game vastly popular and truly unique and special to many of you.

Despite the team’s determination and commitment to revive Z1BR’s player base with our recent Season 3 launch update, we soon realized that the road is still paved with many challenges that preclude us from long-term success, including the confusion it caused by having both NantG Mobile and Daybreak managing the same game under two separate brands.

Based on these events and the current state of the game, NantG Mobile will focus on its core mission of developing mobile games moving forward, and we have refocused our team toward this vision.

We have also decided to hand back the Z1BR torch to Daybreak Games, so that both Z1BR and H1Z1 will be under one publishing umbrella once again. Daybreak Games has agreed to keep the servers up for players and continue live maintenance on the game.

During this time period, we don’t foresee any issues of this affecting your experience with Z1BR, as we work with Daybreak on ensuring that the transition process runs as smoothly as possible without any disruption to the game’s service.

On behalf of NantG Mobile and everyone on the Z1BR team, thank you for all your countless cheers during our entire journey toward “The Return of the King.” We would never have made it this far without your passion, support and invaluable feedback.

The sunny side upshot is that the game is not going away, it is just going back to Daybreak.

Reality, however, isn’t so bright and shiny.  Looking at the Steam charts for the game, Z1 Battle Royale did manage to boost the active player base somewhat last month, hitting a peak around in early March before tapering off again.

2018/2019 Peak Concurrent Players

However, that number is far shy of the game’s overall peak back in 2017, making it look more like a dead cat bounce than a resurgence of any meaning.

H1Z1 whatever at its height on Steam

The slide down from that peak corresponds to the emergence of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the scene, which pretty much destroyed the then still-in-early-access H1Z1.  Since then Fortnite and Apex Legends have jumped into the battle royale market, chopping off the Daybreak end run plan to finally launch H1Z1, only as free to play.

So now Z1 Battle Royale goes back to Daybreak, rejoining the PlayStation 4 version of the game that remained with the company, chugging along happily under the original title, leaving plenty of questions.

And not just “Are they going to need a bigger shirt now?”

The obvious one is what happens to Z1 Battle Royale now?  Is Daybreak going to pick it back up and run with it?

It seems unlikely to me that Daybreak would rush resources in another attempt to revive the game given that it has another battle royale title, PlanetSide Arena, in the works and slated to launch on PC and PS4 this summer.  Doing anything for Z1 Battle Royale at this point, even spending time to rebrand it back to H1Z1, might seem like throwing good money after bad and diverting resources from a better opportunity.  That announcement on Steam only promises that Daybreak will keep the servers up.

I think there is little question that the late Just Survive won’t be revived due to this turn of events.

And then there is the question as to what happens now with NantG Mobile, once billed as a joint venture between NantWorks and Daybreak.  The announcement says that NantG Mobile will focus on mobile titles.  Does that mean we might still see Z1 Battle Royale Pocket Edition or EverQuest Immortal available on our phones at some future date as previously promised/suggested/threatened?  Again, the statement on Steam is notable for its lack of details.  Refocusing on mobile games could be different from doing so in conjunction with Daybreak.

In the end it seems like the clock is running down on H1Z1.  Reviving it in the face of the current competition and its own legacy seems a unlikely path to success for a small company like Daybreak.  I suspect that it will hang around on life support while the company readies PlanetSide Arena.

If PlanetSide Arena takes off, expect another Friday, 4pm Pacific Time announcement, this time declaring that H1Z1 is being sunsetted.  And if PlanetSide Arena misfires at launch and fails to find an audience… well, there will be more to worry about at Daybreak than the fate of one more title past its prime.

For a brief time H1Z1 made it mark, certainly repaying the effort the company put into it.  But where one finds success like that competition is very likely to follow.