Tag Archives: Brad McQuaid

New Servers and Server Merges and More with the EverQuest Anniversary

Aside from the habit of writing a post about the EverQuest anniversary in advance, as I did with yesterday’s post, I also seem to have to follow up with a reaction post to things announced with the coming of the anniversary.  And so it is today.

An image I can really only use this year

The EverQuest team put up a post with all sort of news yesterday.  There was, of course, the heroic character for all subscribers and Overseer feature that was introduced into the game last week and the usual special anniversary events.

But on top of that they added in a 50% bonus exp event that will run through until April 1st.

They also announced the two new special servers that will be coming for EverQuest.  The names will be Aradune and Rizlona.

Aradune of course honors the late Brad McQuaid whose in-game persona was Aradune Mithara and whose memorial I visited in East Karana not so long ago.

Rizlona, once a mighty bard, is a demigoddess and a guardian of the tower of Solusek Ro, and the name was at one point thought to be a possibility as an overflow server for the Mangler server that rolled out with the 20th anniversary last year.  But that was not needed, so we get the name now.

Full details are yet to come for both servers, but they are said to be variations of the Mangler server (the FAQ for which you can find here) with some special variations.

But before that happens there will be a few server merges.

The Lockjaw progression server will be merged into the Ragefire server.  Lockjaw was the overflow server, launched back in May of 2015, when the population of the Ragfire server exceeded capacity.

Back in 2015 things were crowded

That was the start of a lot of updates for the EverQuest server architecture in order to accommodate the initial rush of players these servers tend to see.  I do not know where either of these servers stand when in comes to expansion unlocks, but it seems natural enough to merge them together.

The Trakanon server will be merged into the Vox server.  The Trakanon and Vox servers were launched back in 2012, when the game became a teenager and the conversion of EverQuest to its current semi-F2P, cash shop, but subscription too revenue model took place.  Like a lot of people, I chose the Vox server to roll anew on for that event.  Vox has remained somewhat more populated than its sibling, so it is natural enough to merge Trakanon into Vox.

The Brekt server will be rolled into the Firiona Vie server.  Both are “free trade” servers, which means you can sell heirloom drops that would otherwise be bind on pick up, or so I seem to recall.  Anyway, I had to look up the Brekt server, with everybody knows Firiona Vie is where the cool kids hang out, so the merge direction seems natural enough.

And finally, the end of days has come for the Fippy Dakrpaw server.  Launched back in Feburary 2011, when SOE still wasn’t sure that retro servers were worth the effort, it was where Skonk and I spent some time wallowing in 1999 nostalgia.  At least we did up until the great Sony/SOE hacking and outage.

Anyway, the nine year old Fippy Darkpaw server, which I last wrote a post about back in 2017, when it was merged with the Vulak server, which was the nostalgia overflow server back in 2011, will finally be subsumed into a mainline live server.  It will be merged with the Vox server.

This is a double special event for me.  Ages ago I promised (to myself at least, since I am not sure that you care) that I would write a final post about the Fippy Darkpaw server when its end finally came AND, unlike other mergers, my characters on Fippy Darkpaw will land on a server where I already have some characters.

There is no word on when these merges will happen, though my guess is before the new server launches.

In the mean time, I have to figure out what to do with my level 85 heroic character boost.  As I have complained, level 85 isn’t a huge inducement in a game where the level cap is now at 115, but it is something.  And it would give me another character to play around with the overseer feature.  Maybe my cleric from last year’s adventures.  I got him up to level 50.  I could boost him to 85 and perhaps use some of that bonus xp time to get him a little further along.  We shall see.

Pilgrimage

From a notebook found in the Qeynos library, author unknown:

I set out from the north gates of the city.  I had sailed there when I had heard the news.  I chose to walk, to see the lands, to feel the vast spread of the Karanas, and even after so much time had passed it still felt both familiar and new.

I followed the same path that spawned so many adventures and saw so many travelers over the years, passing small settlements and camps.

The spires still stood, and the bridges were in good repair and guarded still.  Qeynos may be a backwater now, but its power is not completely spent.

Across the bridge and into the eastern range of Karana I went, and to a small settlement where I found what I sought.

The marker sat there, just as I had been told, his flaming sword now permanently sheathed in the rock that marks his passing.  And I sat a while and thought of all of his works and deeds and adventures we had shared in realms now forgotten.

Aradune Mithara – Outrider of Karana

Perhaps I wept a bit, lost in thought there in a quiet corner of Norrath.  Time passed and day turned into night and back into day as I sat.  There are so many memories and his labors were great.  But now he is at rest.

And he will be forever part of his creation, the land he toiled to bring to life for so many.

End of a Vision

I was shocked tonight to see the announcement that Brad McQuaid passed away.  I first saw the news from the Pantheon MMO account on Twitter and wondered if it was real, it seemed so out of the blue.

It is with deep regret we share that Brad McQuaid passed away last night. He will be deeply missed and forever remembered by gamers worldwide.

Thank you for bringing us together through your worlds. Rest in peace .

VR offers our deepest condolences to Brad’s family.

But it appears to be true.  There are reactions all over the MMO space, including some words from the EverQuest team.

From the EverQuest Teams,

We are devastated to hear of the passing of Brad McQuaid and are eternally grateful for the EverQuest Universe he was instrumental in creating. His effect on all of us, the gaming industry overall, and fans of EverQuest and RPGs is immeasurable, and been life-changing for so many.

Continue your great quest, Aradune. May your next adventure be even more grand than this one.

I am kind of in shock.  I’ve been dismissive of his vision and pretty hard on how Vanguard turned out, but without him there would have been no EverQuest and the landscape of the MMORPG genre would have been very different.

Always the guy with the flaming sword

I played with him on TorilMUD back in the day.  It is hard to believe that was more than 20 years ago, that EverQuest is now past 20, and that he is gone.  He even dropped by here to comment a few times, always in his long winded way. He had an impact on the industry that will carry on.

Other reactions:

 

Vanguard – All Sagas Must End

Decades from now it seems likely that Vanguard: Saga of Heroes will be little more than a footnote in the history of the genre.  Facing at best lukewarm reviews and launching into the teeth of World of Warcraft’s expansion The Burning Crusade, some future investigator might not even feel the need to look into the myriad technical problems the game had or the daunting system requirements it took to run it.  As for SOE buying the game at the point when it would have otherwise shut down, I suspect that will be dismissed, along with the purchase of The Matrix Online, as a vain attempt to stay in the big leagues by trying to bulk up its offerings in the face of Blizzard’s Azerothian juggernaut.

Play Vanguard - Ride a Dragon

Play Vanguard – Ride a Dragon?

My theoretical future researcher, reviewing what passes for the Internet Archive in 2080, will probably conclude that the game should have closed down in 2007 because it could not have made enough money for SOE to be worth the diversion of resources from other projects. (Assuming said researcher doesn’t run across references to SOEmote, that EQ voice command thing, or the unified launcher and discover what SOE has a history of doing with its extra development cycles.)

And a more casual investigator might just look at the timeline of the genre and see a game that ran for seven years.  It must have been okay, good but not great, as it outlasted many other titles. While not as good as that Anarchy Online game, it certainly must have been much better than any of those NCsoft offerings that only lasted a couple of years, or even it stablemate Wizardry Online, which didn’t even make it to the two year mark.

Time and distance from events will do that.  Far down the road the timeline from Ultima Online or Meridian 59 out to whatever will be another decade hence will merge into a series of very close dates, which will wring out much of the emotion of the time from the equation.

But back in 2005 and 2006 things were different; they were different than there are now… quite palpably so… and will be practically Bizarro World alien fifty years down the road.

2006 especially was a turning point in the genre.  Before 2006, there was a series of successes, Ultima Online, which was then trumped by EverQuest, which was in turn trumped by World of Warcraft, that seemed to define a pattern.  It seemed like any MMO could make it, even if it suffered from a bad launch, and that subscription growth was a long term organic thing.  The idea of a “three monther” would have been completely foreign.

There also were not that many games.  I bemoan the long slumber of the VirginWorlds MMO podcast, but in a way it feels like perhaps its time has passed.  During its heyday, from early 2006 into late 2008, the MMORPG market what from what I would call a “knowable thing,” where you could keep track of, and develop opinions about, the majority of the titles in the genre.  WoW was big, but it didn’t seem insurmountable, and the idea of a game suffering for not being WoW would have been odd.

The genre was also evolving, in a very Darwinian, natural selection sort of way as it turns out.  Not that we saw it that was at the time.

While the genre seemed to be moving towards WoW at the time, there was a theory that was widely held in certain parts of the fanbase that WoW was but a stepping stone and that all those WoW players would, one day, desire a deeper, more fulfilling, and necessarily more hardcore MMORPG.  WoW was merely the training ground for a mass of “real” players.  If you dig around blogs and forums from the time frame, you will find that theme recurring over and over.

And in the midst of all of that strode Brad McQuaid.  I called his a “name to conjure with” back when he was kicking off Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  Back then he was a force to be reckoned with, the keeper of the secret flame, the spirit of what made EverQuest great, and the hope for the salvation of the genre.  Having left SOE in alleged disgust over the direction the company was going with EverQuest and EverQuest II, he struck out with a few like-minded individuals in order to re-imagine the MMORPG genre, steering it back to its more satisfying and hardcore roots.

That sounds like a lot of smoke, but I recall night after night being on Teamspeak with my Knights of the Cataclysm guild mates, a group made up mostly of people from EverQuest or TorilMUD… both training grounds for hardcore purists… and hearing them go on and on with Dorfman-like “this is going to be great!” enthusiasm as to how Brad McQuaid… Brad, who understood us and who rejected easy death penalties and instancing… and his game, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, was going drain players from all of these other pretend, pre-school MMOs.

I had not even heard of Vanguard up until then.  In my post-EverQuest “can’t get broadband in the middle of Silicon Valley” era, I had lost touch with the genre, so that first year in EverQuest II included a lot of catching up on what had happened.

Vanguard was going to be it.  The antidote.  The next coming.  The savior.

Of course, all of that talk was based on forum chatter and rosy statements from Sigil about their vision.

Later, when the game was in closed beta, and then in open beta, feelings started to change.

Not that there wasn’t hope.  Not that the vision was seen as wrong or that Sigil had deviated from it.  But it did start to seem like the company might not have the capital to cash all the checks written by their vision.

I first got into Telon, the world of Vanguard, back in open beta, and things were a mess.  Or a relative mess at least.  The 16GB download, quite a chore in early 2007, was just the start.

If it had been 1997… or even 2002… people might have stuck with the game and its myriad of technical problems and huge system requirements.  But by the time it launched at the end of January 2007, the world was proving to be a different place with many options for those who wanted to swing a virtual sword.

Sigil was working hard fixing and polishing the game well into January.  That helped some, but it wasn’t enough.  At the same time SOE decided to jack up the price of its all-you-can-eat Station Access subscription plan, effectively making it more expensive than subscribing to two SOE MMOs directly, which couldn’t have helped.

What looked like a respectable start, with something like 200K players buying a box and joining the game, quickly turned into a route as game issues large and small soured people.  By April Brad was issuing updates about the problems and how they were going to address them and how 2008 Vanguard would be much better than the 2007 version.  But you were still going to need a bigger processor as well as a current graphics card to play the game very well.

The big problem that remains is that you still pretty much need a new system as opposed to, say, simply a new graphics card…

The game is simply not CPU bound, nor just graphics card bound, but rather mostly bound by the data that it needs to constantly move from the CPU to main memory to the graphics card, and then all the way back again.  It’s all about the various bus speeds and caches – moving data around efficiently is arguably more important than processing that data on the CPU or GPU…

-Brad McQuaid, SOE Vanguard forums

Things were clearly not going well.  As April 2007 came to a close, there were rumors and speculation as to what might happen as subscription numbers sagged while technical issues persisted.  SOE started to get mentioned as possibly taking a bigger role with the game.

I came up with my own list of possible future avenues for Vanguard, at least two of which eventually came to pass.

Then came the parking lot layoffs as SOE officially announced it was taking over Sigil and Vanguard.

Then came the SOE years.  They were heroes initially at least, but hard work and hard choices remained.  Servers were merged shortly to try and make the most of Telons dwindling population.  The quiet years began, where SOE spent resources stabilizing the game, fixing the crashes, simplifying the character models, and generally making it run well.  And, as always happens, the march of time and improvements in computer performance washed away many of the woes of 2007.

There was the long, long neglect, as Vanguard sat, barely tended, home to a few dedicated players.  People like Karen at Journeys with Jaye kept the Vanguard spirit alive.  Her blog is home to a wealth of information and images related to the game.

Then, in late 2011, much to everybody’s surprise, SOE suddenly took an interest in Vanguard again.  This led to the game following its SOE stablemates in going free to play in 2012, leaving the original PlanetSide as the only subscription MMO at SOE.

The cash shop in Vanguard sold all sorts of things, especially equipment, that would had raised howls of protest in EverQuest II.  But there wasn’t much protest.  I couldn’t tell if Vanguard players didn’t care, or if there just were not enough of them left for their complaints to be audible.

Free lasted less than two years before the end was announced.  Smed said that the game had not been paying its own way for a few months by then, even after it was put back in benign neglect mode.  Vanguard, along with Free Realms, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, and Wizardry Online were to be closed in 2014.  The kids games went faster, done by the end of March, while Vanguard and Wizardry Online were left to run until yesterday.

And so the end has come.  At 6pm Pacific Time last night the servers were shut down.  Vanguard has passed into history, joining many other titles in the genre.

In the end, for me, the ending doesn’t mean much.  I never played the game much.  I gave it a shot early on, I actually still have the retail box on my bookshelf, and then again when it went free to play.

Vanguard Box

Vanguard Box

I did not spend much time playing at either point.  I barely took any screen shots, which is odd for me.  In digging through them, I found a couple of characters.

Fomu from 2007

Fomu from 2007

Teresten from 2013

Teresten from 2013

Both look a bit awkward, as character models in Vanguard tended to.  Neither brought back any memories of adventure.

Instead of a game I played, like EverQuest or LOTRO or whatever, Vanguard is more like a signpost in the history of the genre for me.  Its creation was a sign of its times, and its demise a warning to all who would come later.  The dream that WoW players would evolve and seek greater challenges in games that were more hardcore was debunked, and the idea that WoW could be eclipsed started to slip.

Yes, it wasn’t until Star Wars: The Old Republic that the industry as a whole finally agreed that WoW was an outlier rather than the next hurdle to clear to claim success.  But Vanguard was a warning, a sign that in a world with popular choices that work, the “I’m different” card wasn’t enough.

And so it goes.  Vanguard, which was going to bring back the EverQuest vision, look good, and be all things to all people failed to materialize, ending up a small niche game with too much overhead to survive.  And now we’re looking at a series of lean, niche games pursuing the old school MMO feel; Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar, Project Gorgon, and of course Brad McQuaid’s own Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  Small is back, and they are targeting audiences of a size that Blizzard gains or loses between the average quarterly report.

And, in its way, Vanguard was sort of the end of innocence in the genre.  As I said above, before Vanguard the genre seemed small and knowable by a single person.  Since then it has sprawled, with games coming and going at a rapid pace.  The world has changed since we were sitting on TeamSpeak telling ourselves how great the game was going to be.

What an aptly named game, if nothing else.  It was in the vanguard of the genre, in its own failing way, and its tale is certainly a saga.

Other posts remembering Vanguard around the blogesphere:

Pantheon: Just Brad has Fallen

Money is always an issue.

PROTF04

This link was sent to me by Kaderre and I am starting to see it pop up in a few other places, so I will add it to the tale of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  The central quote in the post:

The money- It’s widely agreed upon by all parties that this project took in roughly 145 thousand dollars. A large chunk of that money, 35k, came from a single individual who promised another couple hundred thousand once he cleared it with his trust. Brad was having personal problems at the time and needed to take a cash advance from the project. He took roughly three months pay in advance which equaled roughly 38% of the funds that were left. Brad thought the rest of the money would come in, but the trust supervisor declined without even looking into the project.

-Over in the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen forums on Rerolled.

Basically, the fear of donating to a failed Kickstarter that cannot make critical mass continues to bear itself out.  Well that and those who had a low opinion of Brad will feel vindicated in their belief.  This looks like a bullet in the head for the game at this point, what with Brad making sure he got paid first and apparently valuing himself as worth $220K a year in a company in start-up mode.

As the news cycle goes, one day up on a forum, next up on Reddit, and the next after that it will be on the gaming news sites.  Look for a fun comment thread over at Massively soon.

Pantheon: Mostly Fallen… for Now

A few weeks back I took a look at the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and the state of affairs since it failed to meet its goal on Kickstarter.

PROTF04

I was particularly interested in how crowd funding would work in and environment where there was no critical mass to achieve.  My guess was that people would feel differently about just handing money over versus pledging money in a system where it would not be taken unless some minimum value was achieved.

The Kickstarter campaign was pledged $460,657 from 3,157 potential backers.  As of last night the post-Kickstarter campaign stood a this:

PRotFApr13

That is half as many people pledging, and they are pledging almost a third less per person than during the Kickstarter campaign.   And the numbers have not been growing substantially since shortly after the Kickstarter ended, which lead to this announcement on the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen site yesterday.

In the past few months we have seen some of the most passion bubble up from the Internet than we have in some time; all for an idea of a game we all want to see happen. It has been an exciting time for all of us.

Over the first month of development through crowdfunding, we’ve been able to achieve what was needed to be done in order to gain investor interest. That is, we’ve shown there is interest in a game like Pantheon, we’ve built the term sheets and business plan, and now have a prototype we can show to potential investors.The downside now is that our initial resources have depleted, which regrettably means that development is going to slow down until finances can be secured. It’s not something we want to do by any means, but as we cannot guarantee paychecks to the team, they each need to be able to spend time on other things to pay the bills.Once we’re able to get that level of funding we can then secure much-needed studio space and be able to pick up the pace of production dramatically. We are deeply thankful to this community for getting Pantheon to this critical point, where we have been able to put together an attractive package to present to potential investors.

In the interim, any donations made at this point until further notice will be going directly to maintaining the website during this phase, and not towards development.

So there it sits.  You can now donate to keep the web site functioning while they seek further financing, but work on the actual game has pretty much ceased.  I suppose one must commend them for honesty, but it does make it difficult to see how Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will progress from here.  A failed Kickstarter campaign followed by an unsuccessful attempt to crowd fund directly cannot be helping their case.

Is this the end for the game?

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen a Month Past Kickstarter

It has been 30 days since the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign came to a close.

PROTF04

In its 40 day run, the campaign managed to drum up $460,657 in pledges from 3,157 potential backers.  While shy of the $800,000 target of the campaign, that is still a fair amount of cash to have been pledged.  We tend to hear about things like Torment or Project Eternity, which brought in millions of dollars, but Kickstarter is full of little campaigns for $10,000 or less.  According to Kickstarter, projects that raise $100,000 or more represent just 2% of successful campaigns.

Basically, raising close to half a million dollars is a pretty decent achievement.  If the target of the campaign had been $500,000, we might even now be speaking of a successful campaign and stretch goals and, if not Chris Robert’s levels of post campaign funding, then maybe at least Lord British levels.  Shroud of the Avatar has managed to rake in post campaign donations to the tune of nearly 50% of what they raised in that first 30 days.

But the campaign was not a success.  The 40 day run wound up with Brad McQuaid and his team getting no money from Kickstarter.  So the question quickly became, “Where do they go from here?”  There was talk of relaunching another Kickstarter campaign a bit further down the road.  That would address some of the errors made early on in the initial campaign, like the whole “Hey, surprise! We have a Kickstarter campaign without any real press build up!” aspect.

The choice that was eventually made was to self-fund raise.  You can head on over to the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen web site and pledge money to the project.  Well, give money to the project.  This isn’t Kickstarter any more.  You let go of your money the moment you click the final button.  There are no goals to meet or critical mass to achieve.

That last bit seemed like an important tidbit to me.  There is an aspect of “we’re all in this together” when it comes to Kickstarter, where success means a lump sum for the team and failure means nobody gets billed.  It protects the early enthusiast from handing over his money too soon, only to find out that the project isn’t popular enough.

So I was curious to see how well Pantheon would do once it lacked that aspect of the Kickstarter campaign.  As of this morning, donations to the project are:

PROTF_Mar24

That’s not… bad.  Those numbers would still put the project in the top 2% when it comes to Kickstarter.

But it is also less than half the supporters and roughly a third of the money pledged at the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

So what happened?

Is this a failure of communication?  I am not sure how Kickstarter works when your campaign does not fund.  Are you allowed to continue doing updates to the project, or is it closed down hard?  Because the last update was at the end of the project, 30 days back, and nothing since.  If you missed that terminal “you can now give us money at our site” update, you might think things are done.  And it is pretty much a reality of the universe that some percentage of a group won’t get the message no matter how directly you send it out.

Is it the missing Kickstarter aspect of the fundraising that is holding things back?  Does being on Kickstarter give not only more exposure but also an adding sense of legitimacy?

Did the fact that campaign failed to hit its goal turn a bunch of people away from the campaign?

Or is this a matter of reality striking home, where we are no longer being asked to pledge to a funding effort that may or may not come to pass but being asked to part with actual coin of the realm in pursuit of the stated project goals?