Tag Archives: H1Z1

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:

Is Darkpaw Games the New Future of EverQuest?

Addendum Jan 21, 2020: Yes it is!

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.

The Burning Lands Expansion Launched Just After Layoffs at Daybreak

We learned a little over a month ago that The Burning Lands, the 25th EverQuest expansion, was slated to go live today.  And so it has.  We knew it was coming, but we were finally getting some detailed information.  Also, pre-orders were open.  You could start giving Daybreak your money.

Does this feel a little “Disney” to you?

The high level points of the expansion seemed to be about on par with what we have come to expect annually from the Norrath team.  Some new zones around a hub, new raids, new quests, new abilities, and a new mechanic.

  • Luck Stat – A brand new stat that influences just how lucky you are! This stat will randomly increase the amount of gold in your split, the amount of critical damage you do, your chance to succeed at a trade-skill combine, and much more!
  • 6 Expansion Zones – You’ll adventure throughout the grand and fantastic environments and architecture of the Planes of Fire, Air, and Smoke!
  • New Raids, Quests, and Missions
  • New Spells, Combat Abilities, and AAs
  • New Collections

There is nothing on that list that is going to drag anybody new into the game, but that was to be expected.  MMORPGs beyond a certain age become more about tending to the installed base than trying to grab new players.  Anybody proposing otherwise is fighting history and wasting money.  Once you’ve launched and gone free to play there isn’t anything left to attract new players in anything like the quantity needed to support any radical change.

So a normal autumnal expansion release for EverQuest.  Maybe a couple weeks later than we might have expected… November is more the norm… but close enough.  All seems normal in Norrath.

Or would seem normal if Daybreak hadn’t just laid off a big chunk of their staff on Friday.

Daybreak, not being a public company, doesn’t have to tell us about layoffs.  But in the age of social media, word of layoffs get out quickly and this round was no exception, with John Smedley echoing what he had heard on Twitter Friday morning.

Once the press had been alerted Daybreak issued an anodyne statement about optimization while refusing to mention any details.

We are optimizing our structure to ensure we best position ourselves for continued success in the years to come. This effort has required us to make some changes within the organization and we are doing everything we can to support those impacted in this difficult time. As we look to improve efficiencies and realign resources, we remain focused on supporting our existing games and development of our future titles.

That statement is an example of one trying to have ones cake and eat it too.  Reports say that between 60 and 70 people, or roughly one third of Daybreak’s staff, was given their notice on Friday.  When you are down by a third it will be difficult to both support existing games and develop new titles.

Of course, what even are the existing Daybreak titles at this point?  EverQuest and EverQuest II,  holding up the fantasy end of the catalog, were merged into a single shared group some time back.  DC Universe Online is the superhero game and reportedly the most consistent revenue generator, the PlayStation 4 version being the breadwinner there.  And then there is PlanetSide 2, which has been problematic in the past, though it is still getting updates.

H1Z1 Battle Royale went to NantG Mobile as part of the joint venture between NantWorks and Daybreak announced back in September.  NantWorks had the money and Daybreak had the IP I guess, though Daybreak apparently held on to the PlayStation 4 version of H1Z1.  So if there was anybody left working on H1Z1 or the esports league, they were probably seen as expendable.

Word is that the layoffs were concentrated in the Daybreak Austin office and were related to a new project being developed there around a “top IP.”  Daybreak said that the Austin office was not being closed, but I guess that they are no longer working on that “top IP” if they’ve been mostly let go.

People working on the new thing are gone and people working on the old stuff were already spread a bit thin.  Where does that leave Daybreak.

Back in May there was a post on Reddit alleged to be by a former Daybreak employee about plans for the company.  I summed that up in a post here, and a good thing too as it was removed from Reddit by the author not too long later.

The removal led to it being declared a fake, but some key details certainly ended up coming to pass.

Sure, Just Survive sunsetting was hardly a reach.  Even I predicted that back in January.  But the whole Z1 Battle Royale was alluded to, something we didn’t end up hearing about until September.  And the trajectory for PlanetSide 2 seems to line up.

So, in looking at the rest of that post, you have to ask if we are looking at the end game for EverQuest and EverQuest II, if Daybreak is holding out for one last anniversary update for each of them (they turn 20 and 15 respectively next year) before moving on to the alleged EverQuest 3 and its plan for PvP focus anchored on a fantasy battle royale feature.

If that is the case, my prediction would be to prepare for disaster and a belated attempt to return to catering to the installed base once EverQuest 3 flops, because PvP has never been much beyond a distraction in Norrath.

But, the word has come out that we might be hearing about something new from Daybreak on Thursday.  Bets on what it will be?  PlanetSide 3?  EverQuest 3 PvP?  PlanetSide Mobile?  EverQuest Mobile?  What else have they got to work with?

Sources:

Just Survive Won’t

Maybe.  It is hard to tell.  But I’m running out of pithy three word titles to track its progress.  The next round will be “Shall” and “Shan’t” I guess, then after that I’ll have to figure something else out.

Anyway, Daybreak announced that they would be shutting down Just Survive back in August, giving people two months notice of the event.  I wrote a bit of a eulogy for the game back then.

The night is dark, and some will go quietly into it…

Then, about a week and a half back, Jace Hall said on a live stream that NantG Mobile, the joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks, was working on a way to bring Just Survive over to be re-integrated into H1Z1… now called Z1 Battle Royale… as a PvE play mode for the game, which would close the circle as the two titles were originally one back when this whole thing started.

Anyway, pending that, Just Survive would remain up, if mostly untended.  The phrase “maintenance mode” was used on the stream, though I remain unsure how that would be different that the previous six month of the game’s life.

Not fully exposed, but not covered either

However, as Massively OP reported yesterday, Jace Hall apparently hadn’t checked things out fully with the Daybreak side of things, as they issued the following statement yesterday at 10:45am.

As we announced back in August, we’ve made the difficult decision to sunset Just Survive on Wednesday, October 24 at 11 a.m. PT. All game servers will be coming offline at that time, and the game will no longer be available for play.

While this chapter for Just Survive has come to an end, we are discussing the possibility of allowing our partner and developer of Z1 Battle Royale, NantG Mobile, to bring Just Survive back online and take over development of the game sometime in the future. Should we have further information to share regarding that matter, we’ll be sure to inform you accordingly.

Thank you again for the countless hours of fun across Pleasant Valley and Badwater Canyon – we appreciate your support and dedication to Just Survive.

Best,

The Just Survive Team at Daybreak Games

The note leaves open the possibility of the game being revived at some future date by NantG Mobile, but it appears that Daybreak isn’t going to leave the servers up until that happens.  And so we say good-bye for now.

This move seems to leave Daybreak with just four games, all from the SOE era, the newest of which is six years old already, while the oldest is going to turn 20 next March:

  • EverQuest (1999)
  • EverQuest II (2004)
  • DC Universe Online (2011)
  • PlanetSide 2 (2012)

Gone from the list are Just Survive and H1Z1, which is now being run by NantG Mobile under the new name Z1 Battle Royale.  Daybreak may be getting some revenue from the latter, but it doesn’t seem to be their game anymore.  Of course, that bring up the whole question as to what is the real, legal relationship between Daybreak and NantG Mobile, but somehow I doubt we’re going to get details on that any time soon.

Just Survive Might

There was little in the way of shock or surprise when, back in August, Daybreak announced that their long neglected zombie horror title, Just Survive, was going to go dark on October 24.

The night is dark and full of dead SOE games

The gaming world moved on without so much as a ripple.

Then in early September came the announcement that Daybreak and NantWorks would be creating some sort of joint venture, NantG Mobile, to reboot the battle royale title H1Z1 in some way in which we might end up with a new Windows version of the game, along with a mobile version, under the name Z1 Battle Royale.

Also, EverQuest might be involved somehow.

The whole thing was more than a bit opaque as people tried to piece together all the things mentioned and the parties in play, which included, among other things, the LA Times and some sort of esports event center.

Left out of all of that however was Just Survive.  It was not part of the deal.  It was still dead.

Only now it might be part of the deal.  Maybe.  Could be.  If things align.

As noted over at MMO Fallout, Jace Hall said on a twitch stream that, while Just Survive was not part of the deal as it was originally cast, they are looking for a way to bring it into the joint venture.

There is nothing set in stone yet, but it could happen and, in anticipation of that, Just Survive will be put in some sort of “maintenance mode,” though I dare you to tell me how that differs from the support mode the game has been in for the last year, until the details can be worked out.  But the idea is to move Just Survive back into H1Z1… or Z1 Battle Royale… as a play mode for the game.

Jace Hall seemed mostly concerned about the skin situation and not diluting the skin market in H1Z1, from which I took that there is a skin market in H1Z1 and not much more.

So Just Survive might carry on.  I am sure this is a ray of hope to the small but dedicated fan base that follows the game.

The follow on conversation also seems to makes clear that Daybreak and the joint venture NantG Mobile are two completely separate entities, so it sounds very much like NantG Mobile it trying to figure out how to get Just Survive from Daybreak in a way that makes financial sense all around.

Of course, that just brings up more questions in my mind as to what this means for EverQuest and any future title in that domain, as that was clearly mentioned back in the original NantG Mobile announcement.

Remember, as Jace Hall said slowly and clearly on the stream, Just Survive is not a done deal yet.

Hat tip: MMO Fallout

Daybreak and NantWorks to Put H1Z1 and EverQuest on Your Phone or Something

Too much has been announced today for me to fully process this tidbit of news about Daybreak, long a topic of study around here, and NantWorks, about which I can find little to nothing about on the web.  They are a holding company of some sort with a variety of ventures, all of which have the “Nant” prefix as part of their name.

It follows you as you move about the room!

So the two companies have announced a joint venture, a term that takes me back to the Gorbachev era and my Soviet Studies class… crap, this is Daybreak, I shouldn’t bring up Russians… but which has meaning outside of that context.  It is just where my brain goes.

Anyway, the press release has a lot of fluff and misdirection, but I think the upshot is that they want to join forces, each bringing their alleged expertise to create NantG Mobile, which will, if I am deciphering it correctly, end up with new mobile and Windows versions of H1Z1 which will now be called Z1 Battle Royale, because they haven’t changed the name enough already?

You will need to update the shirt

Do they want to take back the market from Fortnite, which ate PUBG‘s lunch after PUBG ate H1Z1‘s lunch by creating a new esports league complete with physical location?  Also, the LA Times will start covering esports in their sports section, because newspaper coverage was what was holding back esports all this time I guess.

Oh, and a mobile version of EverQuest as well.  Because reasons?

Anyway, the press release quoted for posterity:

NANTWORKS MAKES STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN DAYBREAK GAME COMPANY AND ESTABLISHES VIDEO GAME PUBLISHING JOINT VENTURE, NANTG MOBILE

NantG Mobile to Co-Develop Next Generation Game Publishing Platform

LA Times Center and NantG Mobile to Establish E-Sports Leagues Across Multiple Games Beginning with Z1 Battle Royale, the Revitalized H1Z1 Battle Royale Game

Los Angeles – Sept. 6, 2018 – NantWorks, a diversified holding company, today announced that it has made a strategic investment in Daybreak Game Company, a leading developer and publisher of multiplayer online games. In connection with the investment, NantWorks has obtained a controlling interest in a new joint venture with Daybreak, NantG Mobile, LLC, which has been formed to develop and publish mobile versions of Daybreak’s current games – H1Z1 and EverQuest – and to build and publish video games across all platforms. In addition, the JV will now assume control and management of the current PC H1Z1 Battle Royale game. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, CEO and Chairman of NantWorks and Owner and Executive Chairman of the Los Angeles Times, will join Daybreak’s board of directors.

Daybreak Game Company is the developer and publisher of the highly popular, first-ever standalone battle royale game, H1Z1®: Battle Royale, which is currently available on PC and has amassed more than 12 million players on PlayStation 4 to date. Its games portfolio includes the EverQuest MMO franchise, PlanetSide 2, DC Universe Online, The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online. The San Diego-based gaming studio is privately owned by Jason Epstein, who serves as Chairman of the Board.

“Daybreak Games is pleased to have NantWorks as our investment partner to support and accelerate the growth of our company,” said Epstein. “Working with NantWorks, NantStudio and Dr. Soon-Shiong will allow us to maintain our cutting-edge development in the video game industry and to benefit from Nant’s technological expertise and reach as a resource.”

“I am delighted that our software capabilities at NantWorks, together with the creative expertise and infrastructure at NantStudio – which includes our low latency fiber network, will help accelerate the development of the platform at Daybreak, a company with history dating back to its origins as Sony Online Entertainment,” said Soon-Shiong. “Their achievements in the development of gaming technology have contributed greatly to this emerging field of virtual sports and we view this medium as an important media engagement engine.”

“Daybreak’s well tested game engine currently running Everquest and H1Z1, combined with the proprietary next generation mobile game engine which we will develop and launch in the joint venture, are platforms which will enable unprecedented scale and provide enjoyment to millions of simultaneous players,” said John Wiacek, NantG Mobile’s Head of Game Engine Development.

NantWorks is currently planning construction of an LA Times Center adjacent to the new Los Angeles Times headquarters in El Segundo. The LA Times Center will include an event space, LA Times production studio and e-sports arenas with fiber inter-connectivity at a global scale. The LA Times Center will serve as a convening hub for the community and a venue where NantG Mobile will establish e-sports leagues for multiple game titles, starting with Z1 Battle Royale, a revitalized PC-based version of H1Z1: Battle Royale.

Separately, the Los Angeles Times will soon be adding coverage of e-sports competitions in its Sports section.

“The growth of virtual sports has been explosive,” said Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine. “We look forward to covering all the major games companies, including Daybreak.”

So what does all that add up to?  What does it mean when they refer to Daybreak’s current games as just H1Z1 and EverQuest? (Though elsewhere they mention other games, including the ones they “publish” for Standing Stone.)  What does a “revitalized version of H1Z1″ mean?  And what are they talking about, this well tested game engine that runs both EverQuest and H1Z1?  Are we talking about the same EverQuest here, the one from 1999?  Or the one from 2004?  Or some new, as yet unannounced EverQuest that might be new enough to share engines with H1Z1?

And is this new esports league going to be different than the current esports league that Daybreak is doing so well with?

I do see that they very specifically got in that Daybreak is privately owned by Jason Epstein, a point they have been very unclear about in the past.

Anyway, we shall see if there are any follow up explanations or clarifications forthcoming, because it all seems about as clear as mud to me.

Hat tip to the esteemed Feldon, late of the EQ2 Wire, for spotting this.

Other coverage:

Just Survive Doesn’t

Daybreak Games announced today that the rather aptly named game Just Survive won’t survive though to the end of the year.  It is set to close down on October 24, 2018, after which it will be just another entry on the list of SOE/Daybreak games that once were.

The night is dark, I think I’ll go to bed

The message from Daybreak, quoted here since the site it is on will no doubt disappear with the game itself.

Dear Survivors,

After careful consideration, we’ve made the difficult decision to sunset Just Survive on Wednesday, October 24 at 11 a.m. PT. The excitement of the game’s promise was palpable and its loyal community is still full of ideas for its future. Unfortunately, we are no longer in a position to fulfill its greatness and the current population of the game makes it untenable to maintain.

Just Survive was part of our first Early Access project, and we learned a great deal during its development. As with any open world game, the greatest stories came from our passionate players. From the incredibly skilled base builders to the free-ranging gangs, and all of the players named variations of “ImFriendly” and “PleaseDontShootMe”, we hope everyone had amazing adventures across Pleasant Valley and Badwater Canyon.

Thank you for taking the time to play the game, to help test it when we opened the Test servers to the public, and for all of the suggestions and feedback throughout Early Access. We truly appreciate everyone’s commitment and your contributions throughout the development process. Our promise is to do better and learn from every experience along the way.

Just Survive servers will remain available for play until Wednesday, October 24 at 11 a.m. PT, and starting immediately all Steam purchases and in-game transactions have been disabled. To find out if you are eligible for a refund via Steam, please visit this link.

Thank you again for your support and dedication to Just Survive.

Best,

The Just Survive Team at Daybreak Games

The original game, built up from PlanetSide 2, rolled up under the H1Z1 name back at the beginning, was announced back in April of 2014 with the bizarre promise that this zombie apocalypse, horror survival title was “dedicated to Star Wars Galaxies players.”   I know some people still trying to figure that last bit out.  The details about the game, available at that link, at first included the idea of it being free to play and available to SOE All Access subscribers.  Indeed.

H1Z1 went into Early Access in January of 2015 to much acclaim.

Okay, maybe not.  It was a bit of a disaster, not helped by then CEO Smed forgetting that gamers can’t take a joke… or that you shouldn’t insult your customer base quite so brazenly… or something.  Anyway, it brought up the whole idea of what we should expect out of paid early access and went some way, along with Landmark, towards setting the poor reputation the concept has.  It got Polygon to declare if a company was charging for a game then it was fair to review it as it stood.

Smed was also out there telling people it wasn’t an MMO despite the fact that the company web site said it was.  Get your stories straight and all of that.

I kind of miss Smed for quotes alone.  You never got Russ Shanks on Twitter after Smed was gone.

Anyway, as we were to soon lean, SOE was about to be split from Sony and become Daybreak Games, so rushing the title out the door was probably part of the plan to please the new masters in San Diego.

As time went on the game got better.  I went and played it a bit with people from the Reavers SIG from the Imperium in EVE Online.  It was clearly a game for groups, but it had its moments.

You use your clothes to make a bag right away, because inventory management!

There was even some bonus items for signing up through the then-branded TheMittani.com.

The machete was the clincher

However, the Battle Royale option that was put into the game became the hit aspect of the whole thing, the driving force that sold something like a million copies of the game and kicked off the whole Battle Royale genre.

When it became obvious where the money was for the title, the Battle Royale portion was split off into its own game, giving us two titles, H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill. 

There was some later work on those titles, with the former becoming Just Survive and the latter going through some gyrations before returning to just H1Z1.

You missed one I think…

While H1Z1 has ridden some highs, first dominating then losing the Battle Royale market to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, then getting a boost again on the PlayStation 4… if only you’d stayed with Sony… the other side of the house appeared to be struggling to live up to its name.  Just Survive was mostly a black hole of information.  I pegged it to be declared in “maintenance mode” by the end of this year while some wild rumors from earlier this year said it was on its last legs.

During that time H1Z1 finally went liveJust Survive never made it there.

And here we are today.  I was a bit too optimistic in my prediction.  How can you tell when something at Daybreak is in maintenance mode after all?  The traditional cycle there, carried over from the SOE days, is moments of enthusiasm followed by long, long stretches of dead silence.

Daybreak Games now has the following titles:

  • EverQuest (1999)
  • EverQuest II (2004)
  • DC Universe Online (2011)
  • PlanetSide 2 (2012)
  • H1Z1 (2015)

Those titles are all effectively SOE era work.  There have been improvements and expansions onto consoles and the like, but there hasn’t really been anything new in the Daybreak era.   Not much of a legacy after almost four years.

And so it goes.

Other sites covering this closure:

Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest

[Addendum: A year after this post I reviewed how the rumors may have played out.]

Because we just can’t stop staring at Daybreak now that they’ve drawn our attention.

The eye seems more angry today

Over at Massively OP they reported on a Reddit post by an alleged former Daybreak staffer who was part of the big layoff and who decided to spilled the beans on what the company has under wraps.  I am going to quote the substance of the post just to have it here for reference now and in the future.

The list re-ordered for narrative flow and importance to me:

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.

Well, I have long asked how many expansions could EverQuest sustain.  20 years is a pretty good run, and I imagine that they’ll keep playing the progression server card.  But it will be a sad day when the final expansion hits and Norrath reaches its final size.

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

It seems like 2019 (or 2018) will be a final kiss-off for the slowly dwindling and increasingly bitter base of Norrath fans.  EQII will have made it to 15 years but won’t end up with nearly the immense scope of places that EQ has.  Another sad day for the MMO with my favorite housing scheme ever.

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 guess we should be happy about this, but after the first EverQuest Next announcement, then the restart, then the voxel word promises and Landmark and the faked AI in all the demos and the final cancellation I cannot find any enthusiasm for this at the moment.

There was a rumor going about last year that there was a Norrath based multiplayer RPG in the works that would not be an MMORPG, but I guess once you are on the stage with the other MMOs it is hard not to keep going that direction.

The idea of competing with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen AND injecting the flavor of the month feature of battle royale PvP seems silly.  Would picking a focus be too much to ask?  And what would team battle royal PvP be anyway, and how would it be different from World of Warcraft battlegrounds?

I realize this isn’t an official announcement, but they have a lot to sell on this one if it is anywhere close to true.

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.

Not unexpected.  Certainly the most credible item on the list.  The name seemed too on the nose when it was given, like naming a mayfly “dead by Friday.”

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.

Sounds okay I guess, unless you’re planning to replace the game.

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.

Oh, you’re planning to replace the game.  The ghost of Smed continues to wander the halls of Daybreak I guess, which is odd because he isn’t actually dead.  And, of course, battle royale figures into it because of course it does.  Doesn’t Daybreak already have a battle royale game in H1Z1?

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.

Drop work on the current battle royale game save for cash shop items so you can work on the new battle royale game, which will probably launch when the market has gone well past saturation and will have to be altered to fit whatever the flavor of the month is at that time.

Well, down 70 people and with a handful of games to maintain I guess they have to make some tough choices if they ever want to launch anything new.

Of course, this could all be nonsense or misdirection too.  You can’t really know from the outside.  But I figured I would mark the moment so we can return to it later and see if any of it plays out.

I doubt there will be any official response to any of this, but we’ll all keep an eye out for announcements in the distant future from the house that Jason Epstein built.

Others on these rumors: