Tag Archives: PlanetSide Arena

A Timeline of SOE and Daybreak Games

We are entering a new era for the games of Daybreak which made me think it might be a good time to review the story so far.  We’re around the 25 year mark for when the seeds of the company were planted and, with the Enad Global 7 purchase, the time seems ripe.

  • The House that EverQuest Built

First there was EverQuest.

Firiona and friends at launch, 1999

At some point around 1996 John Smedley, working at Sony, managed to get Brad McQuaid, Jeff Buttler, Steve Clover, Bill Trost, and a host of others together to create a 3D online multiplayer fantasy game loosely (or not so loosely in places) based off of Sojourn MUD / TorilMUD.

Launched on March 16, 1999, a variety of Sony organizational names were connected to the game at different times including Sony Interactive Studios America, Verant Interactive, 989 Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Pictures, and Sony Online Entertainment.  My original disk and manual both display the 989 Studios logo prominently and names a couple others in the fine print.  As I mentioned in my 20 year anniversary reflections post about EverQuest, one magazine referred to the company running the game as Sony, Verant, and 989 in different parts of the same issue.  It was a confusing time.

Clarity came eventually though when EverQuest exceeded all expectations for success.  That was a bit of a surprise.  March of 1999 pre-dates the age of influencers and social media.  The internet wasn’t seen as a serious news source, though Matt Drudge breaking the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal had at least made a few start paying attention.  But a lot of us were still getting our gaming news via glossy monthly magazines where full page ads at the covers were the best way to gain attention.

I don’t recall any such ads for the game back in early 1999.  I only knew about the game because almost everybody then active on TorilMUD got invited to beta, usually by Brad McQuaid’s Aradune character in game.  I declined the beta invite, but came for the opening.

Not only were ads scarce, there wasn’t a lot of background to draw attention to the game.  Compare that to what most see as its direct competitor of the era, Ultima Online.  The Ultima franchise had been rolling along for more that 15 years when UO launched in late 1997.  The series spawned a studio, Origin Systems, that created other well known games.  And then there was Lord British, who ended up living in a castle and going into space on the proceeds of his Ultima empire.  UO had the fame, reputation, and lineage that EQ lacked.

And yet, at their respective peaks, EQ would have more than double UO’s subscribers.

EQ seemed to spread by word of mouth.  After buying it at Fry’s on my way home from work on launch day, I came into the office and told a bunch of people about it.  They all went out and bought copies and we ended up playing together.  And they told people and I told more people and others who played told people and soon the people I was telling already knew about it and there was a song “Has anybody seem my corpse?” being passed around and the whole thing had become something of a minor social phenomena.

And its success cemented the idea of online gaming at Sony so that the plethora of names was eventually pared down to Sony Online Entertainment.  25 years down the road from Smed collecting a team to get the ball rolling, this is all still the house that EverQuest built.

  • A Timeline of Events

This is not an exhaustive list, and I am not going to try to piece together things that came before March 16, 1999 or betas for various games.  Early access though, that is another story. I am also going to try not to editorialize, which won’t be easy for me.  If I have missed anything important, drop me a note or a comment and I’ll update the post.

  • 1999
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest launches, servers are quickly overloaded and a long series of new servers kicks off
    • Jul 28 – MMORTS Sovereign announced
  • 2000
    • Apr 24 – The Ruins of Kunark, the first EverQuest expansion, launches
    • Oct 5 – SOE acquires Infantry
    • Dec 5 – The Scars of Velious, EQ expansion #2
  • 2001
    • Apr 17 – Cosmic Rift launches
    • Dec 4 – The Shadows of Luclin, EQ expansion #3
  • 2002
    • Oct 29 – The Planes of Power, EQ expansion #4
  • 2003
    • Feb 11 – Sovereign MMORTS officially cancelled
    • Feb 11 – EverQuest Online Adventures launches on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 25 – The Legacy of Ykesha, EQ expansion #5
    • May 20 – PlanetSide launches
    • Jun 24 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition launches
    • Jun 26 – Star Wars Galaxies launches
    • Sep 9 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath, EQ expansion #6
    • Nov – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga launches
    • Nov 17 – EverQuest Online Adventures: Frontiers expansion launches
    • Dec 1 – Lords of EverQuest, a single player Windows RTS, launches
  • 2004
    • Feb 10 – Gates of Discord, EQ expansion #7
    • Feb 10 – Champions of Norrath launches on PlayStation 2
    • Mar – EverQuest subscribers hit a peak of 550K
    • Sep 14 – Omens of War, EQ expansion #8
    • Oct 27 – SWG Jump to Lightspeed expansion
    • Nov 8 – EverQuest II launches
    • Nov 12 – A second round of EQII servers are launched to absorb the surge of new players
    • Nov – SOE introduces the Station Access plan that gives players a combined subscription to EQ, EQII, and Planetside for $22 a month
    • Nov – EQII subscribers who opt for Station Access get two extra character slots on their account and access to the EQII Players stats page
    • Dec – EQII is down for almost two days as an update breaks the live servers
  • 2005
    • Jan – SOE Announces SWG is being added to Station Access
    • Feb 7 – Champions: Return to Arms is launched on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 8 – EQ server consolidation starts with the four PvP servers being combined into the single Zek server
    • Feb 15 – Dragons of Norrath, EQ expansion #9
    • Feb 17 – SOE temporarily adds the /pizza command to EverQuest II as a cross promotion with Pizza Hut allowing players to order a pizza from within the game
    • Mar 21 – The Bloodline Chronicles, the first EQII adventure pack launches
    • Mar 22 – Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, a PSP title, launches
    • Apr – SOE begins a series of EQ server merges to bolster the populations, which runs on until the end of June
    • Apr – EverQuest II – East, developed for China, Taiwan, and South Korea, launches
    • May 5 – SWG Rage of the Wookies expansion launches
    • Jun 28 – The Splitpaw Saga, the second EQII adventure pack launches
    • Jul 20 – EQII gets new servers, Shadowhaven, The Bazaar, and The Vox PvP under the Station Exchange program, which allows players to sell in-game items for real world money; players are allowed to transfer characters there from other live servers
    • Aug 15 – SOE takes over operation of The Matrix Online
    • Sep 13 – Depths of Darkhollow, EQ expansion #10
    • Sep 13 – Desert of Flames, the first EQII expansion
    • Nov 1 – SWG Trials of Obi-wan expansion launches
    • Nov 8 – SWG New Game Enhancements update lands, changing character progression
    • Nov 9 – The “SOGA” character models from EverQuest II – East become an available option in EverQuest II
  • 2006
    • Jan – SOE announces they will be merging 10 low population EQII servers into 10 medium population servers because players are “too spread out” on the low population servers.
    • Feb 17 – Shadowhaven Station Exchange server is merged into The Bazaar server
    • Feb 21 – Prophecy of RoEQ expansion #11
    • Feb 21 – Kingdom of Sky, EQII expansion #2
    • Mar 28 – Untold Legends: The Warrior’s Code, a PSP title, launches
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest II – East is shut down, with all Chinese accounts transferred to the Mistmoore server, all Taiwanese accounts to the Najena server, and all Korean accounts to the Unrest server
    • Jun – EQ launches the first progression servers for the game, The Combine and The Sleeper, which let players play though all of the game expansions in order
    • Jun 14 – The Fallen Dynasty, the third EQII adventure pack launches
    • Sep 19, The Serpent’s Spine, EQ expansion #12
    • Nov 13 – Echoes of Faydwer, EQII expansion #3
    • Nov 15 – Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a PSP title, launches
  • 2007
    • Jan 30 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 13 – The Buried Sea, EQ expansion #13
    • May 9 – Legends of Norrath collectible card game is launched, running within EQ and EQII
    • May 15 – SOE takes over operations for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Mar 21 – The Sleeper EQ progression server is merged into The Combine server
    • Apr 30 – The EQII Darathar– UK PvP, Gorenaire– FR PvP, and Talendor– DE PvP servers are merged into the Venekor – RP PvP server
    • Jul 11 – The Agency is announced
    • Jul 19 – EQuinox, the official print magazine of EverQuest II is announced with issue #1 featuring Rise of Kunark information and beta access
    • Oct – Station Access pricing peaks at $30 a month for subscription access to all SOE titles including The Matrix Online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Nov 13 – Secrets of Faydwer, EQ expansion #14
    • Nov 13 – Rise of Kunark – EQII expansion #4
    • Dec – SOE is caught after moving the level 60 Unholy Trinity guild off of the test server to a live server, an action against stated company policy and not something ever made available to the average player, causing a fierce reaction from players
    • Dec – A false rumor spreads that Zapak Digital Entertainment is planning to purchase SOE and its games for $300 million, an amount close to what the company will sell for in December of 2020
  • 2008
    • Jan 22 – Pirates of the Burning Sea launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 14 – EQuinox issue #2 is announced, featuring Legends of Norrath cards
    • Apr 16 – LiveGamer is brought in to run financial transaction for the Station Exchange RMT servers The Bazaar and The Vox PvP
    • ~Sep – EQuinox issue #3 is cancelled and the magazine idea is scrapped
    • Oct 21 – Seeds of Destruction, EQ expansion #15
    • Oct 24 – The EQII Venekor– RP PvP is merged into the Nagefen, the final remaining PvP server
    • Nov 18 – The Shadow Odyssey, EQII expansion #5
    • Dec – SOE introduces Station Cash, a virtual currency, and an in-game cash shop in EQ and EQII
  • 2009
    • Jan 23 – SOE games become available on Steam starting with EverQuest and EverQuest II
    • Apr 28 – Free Realms launches
    • Jul 31 – The Matrix Online is shut down
    • Dec 15 – Underfoot, EQ expansion #16
  • 2010
    • Feb 16 – Sentinal’s Fate, EQII expansion #6
    • Mar 4 – The Combine EQ progression server is merged into the Druzzil Ro live server, ending the first retro server run for the company
    • Apr – SOE tries a new EQII Passport subscription plan where for just $5.00 a month you can play for three consecutive days during a single month
    • May 5 – SOE announces The Agency: Covert Ops, a free to play title on Facebook
    • Jun 10 – Tanarus, a title that predated EverQuest was shut down
    • Jun 22 – EQ server merges come again, paring down the server count by ten as low population servers are merged into more populated ones
    • Jul – EverQuest II Extended, a free to play version of EQII launches
    • Aug – Plans for EverQuest Next announced at FanFest
    • Sep 15 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures launches
    • Oct 12 – House of Thule, EQ expansion #17
  • 2011
    • Jan 11 – DC Universe Online launches on Windows and PlayStation 3
    • Feb 15 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server launches, with the Vulak’Aerr server being added soon thereafter to handle the crush of players (I have a whole timeline for those servers)
    • Feb 22 – Destiny of Velious, EQII expansion #7
    • Mar 31 – The Agency is officially cancelled
    • Apr – Flying mounts introduced into EQII
    • May – SOE games are down for almost two weeks as part of the PlayStation Network security breach in which personal data from a reported 24.6 million accounts were compromised
    • Jun – At E3 SOE announced that pricing for Station Access, now called SOE All Access, would drop from $30 to $20 a month, but extra character slots for EQ, EQII, and Vanguard would no longer be part of the plan
    • Aug – SOE finally gets a unified server status page
    • Nov 1 – DC Universe Online goes free to play
    • Nov 15 – Veil of Alaris, EQ expansion #18
    • Dec 6 – Age of Discovery, EQII expansion #8, which also ushers in the free to play era of the game as EverQuest II Extended is folded into the live server list
    • Dec 15 – Star Wars Galaxies is shut down
    • Dec 18 – The Vox PvP Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Nagefen server
    • Dec 21 – The Bazaar Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Freeport server ending the Station Exchange program
  • 2012
    • Feb – SOE announces it is selling its EU customer accounts to a German media company, ProSiebenSat.1
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest goes free to play
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest Online Adventures shuts down on PlayStation 2
    • Mar 29 – Infantry is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Cosmic Rift is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga is shut down
    • Aug 7 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes goes free to play (a week earlier than planned)
    • Aug 7 – SOEmote is introduced to EverQuest II
    • Sep – SOE introduces Player Studio for EQII, which allows players to create cosmetic items to sell in the in-game cash shop, for which they will be paid a cut of the sale
    • Nov – SOE introduces Krono for EQ and EQII, an in-game item that can be redeemed for 30 days of subscription time, which users can purchase for real world cash and sell at the broker to other players for in-game currency
    • Nov 13 – Chains of Eternity, EQII expansion #9
    • Nov 20 – PlanetSide 2 launches
    • Nov 28 – Rain of Fear, EQ expansion #19
  • 2013
    • Jan 30 – SOE publishes the import Wizardry Online as a F2P title
    • Jan 31 – Pirates of the Burning Sea ceases to be published by SOE
    • Aug – A new vision/plan for EverQuest Next is announced at FanFest, which includes the involvement of Storybricks
    • Aug – The FanFest presentation mentions a dev tool EverQuest Next called Landmark
    • Sep 23 – SOE publishes the import Dragon’s Prophet as a F2P title
    • Oct 8 – Call of the Forsaken, EQ expansion #20
    • Nov 12 – Tears of Veeshan, EQII expansion #10
    • Nov 13 – SOE starts selling early access packs to EverQuest Next Landmark
    • Nov 15 – DC Universe Online launches on PlayStation 4
    • Nov 18 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition is shut down
  • 2014
    • Jan – Station Access/SOE All Access pricing drops to $15 a month, the price of a single game subscription, but keeps the 500 Station Case stipend after the forums erupt when Smed suggests they may remove that benefit
    • Jan 24 – SOE announced they will be shutting down Free Realms, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which is seen as the reason they have cut the price of SOE All Access
    • Mar – EverQuest Next Landmark becomes just Landmark
    • Mar 31 – Free Realms is shut down
    • Mar 31 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures is shut down
    • Apr 10 – H1Z1 is announced, a zombie horror title oddly dedicated to SWG players
    • Jun 18 – The ProSiebenSat.1 experiment ends and all EU accounts are transitioned back to SOE
    • Jul 31 – Wizardry Online is shut down
    • Jul 31 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is shut down
    • Oct 28 – The Darkened Sea, EQ expansion #21
    • Nov 11 – Altar of Malice, EQII expansion #11
  • 2015
    • Jan 15 – H1Z1 releases as early access
    • Jan 22 – The class action suit for the PlayStation/SOE security breach of May 2011 is resolved, awarding the lawyers $2.75 million and each affected player 450 station cash… but only for US players and only if you filled out a form and could prove you were affected
    • Feb 2 – Sony announces it has sold SOE to Columbus Nova and the organization will be known as Daybreak Game Company going forward
    • Apr 28 – The Rum Cellar, the fourth EQII adventure pack launches
    • Apr 30 – Daybreak acknowledged and blessed the existence of the Project 1999 EQ retro server being developed by a private group, with the P1999 team and the Daybreak EQ team coordinating updates so as not to overlap each other
    • May 22 – EQ opens the Ragefire progression server, the start of a regular run of special servers that help boost the game’s popularity by pulling back many lapsed players
    • Jul 24 – Daybreak announces that long time studio head John Smedley is leaving the company
    • Jul 24 – EQII launches the Stormhold progression server and Deathtoll PvP server, the first retro servers for the game
    • Aug 21 – EQII announces the Drunder server, where rule breakers will be sent to play and no customer support will be available
    • Oct – Nine of the lower population EQII servers, including the final PvP server Nagefen, are merged down to three PvE servers, all with new names (Maj’dul, Halls of Fate, and Skyfire), while the Antonia Bayle server remains unto itself
    • Nov 16 – Dragon’s Prophet is shut down
    • Nov 17 – Terrors of Thalumbra, EQII expansion #12
    • Nov 18 – The Broken Mirror, EQ expansion #22
  • 2016
    • Feb 8 – H1Z1 King of the Kill the battle royale game and H1Z1 Just Survive, the co-op zombie horror game, are split into two products, both remain in early access
    • Mar 8 – The EQII Deathtoll PvP retro server is shut down
    • Mar 11 – EverQuest Next officially cancelled, leaving Landmark the remaining active part of that project.
    • Apr 29 – DC Universe Online launches on XBox One
    • Jun 10 – Landmark leaves early access and goes live
    • Jul 1 – PlanetSide is shut down
    • Aug 17 – Legends of Norrath is shut down
    • Nov 15 – Kunark Ascending, EQII expansion #13
    • Nov 16 – Empires of Kunark, EQ expansion #23
    • Dec 19 – Daybreak acquires Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online from Warner, setting them up under the name Standing Stone Games, never mentioning in public that they are the actual owners
  • 2017
    • Feb 21 – Landmark is shut down
    • Jul 31 – LOTRO launches the Mordor expansion
    • Sep 22 – The Vulak’Aerr EQ time locked progression server is merged into the Fippy Darkpaw server
    • Oct – H1Z1 King of the Kill renamed H1Z1 again due to a desire to release the game in China, where having “kill” in a game name is frowned upon by government censors
    • Nov 28 – Planes of Prophecy, EQII expansion #14
    • Dec 12 – Ring of Scale, EQ expansion #24
  • 2018
    • Feb 28 – H1Z1 leaves early access and goes live
    • Apr 24 – In response to a question about Russian sanctions Daybreak issues a statement declaring it was never owned by Columbus Nova, in open contradiction to three years of information, and was always solely owned by Jason Epstein
    • Apr 24 – Daybreak removes all references to Columbus Nova from its web site and attempts to edit the Wikipedia page about the company to hide any Columbus Nova connection
    • Aug 7 – H1Z1 launched on PlayStation 4
    • Sep 4 – The EQII progression server Stormhold is merged into the Antonia Bayle server, ending its run
    • Sep 6 – Daybreak announces a deal with NantWorks to create NantMobile G which will take over H1Z1 on PC with a plan to revitalize it, starting by rebranding it as Z1 Battle Royale
    • Sep 6 – NantMobile G project also proposes mobile versions of Z1 Battle Royale and EverQuest
    • Oct 24 – H1Z1 Just Survive is shut down
    • Nov 13 – Chaos Descending, EQII expansion #15
    • Dec 11 – The Burning Lands, EQ expansion #25
    • Dec 14 – Planetside Arena is announced, an attempt to bring battle royale to PlanetSide 2, with pre-orders for early access for sale
    • Dec 18 – Daybreak offers 4,000 lifetime subscriptions for sale at $299 each
    • Dec 24 – Daybreak announces that they have sold out the 4,000 lifetime subscriptions
    • Dec 28 – Daybreak puts 6,000 more life time subscriptions up for sale through Dec. 31st
  • 2019
    • Feb 18 – PlanetSide Arena launch is delayed until summer, allegedly to have a simultaneous launch on PlayStation 4, all pre-orders are refunded
    • Jul 11 – After over a year being offline, Daybreak announces that Player Studio for EQII has been shut down
    • Apr 6 – NantMobile G hands Z1 Battle Royale back to Daybreak having failed to revitalize the game, after which little is heard about the PC version
    • Aug 6 – DC Universe Online launches on Nintendo Switch
    • Aug 30 – A PlanetSide Arena roadmap is released with plans for early access soon, with an official launch in 2020, PC only
    • Sep 19 – PlanetSide Arena arrives in early access just barely making the declared “summer” launch plan
    • Oct 21 – A PlanetSide producer’s letter states that PlanetSide Arena is a stepping stone towards PlanetSide 3
    • Nov 5 – LOTRO launches the Minas Morgul expansion
    • Dec 14 – Daybreak announces that PlanetSide Arena will be shut down in January
    • Dec 17 – Blood of Luclin, EQII expansion #16
    • Dec 18 – Torment of Velious, EQ expansion #26
  • 2020
    • Jan 10 – PlanetSide Arena is shut down
    • Jan 21 – Daybreak announces a series of sub-studios, with Darkpaw Games responsible for EverQuest and EverQuest II, Dimensional Ink handling DC Universe Online, and Rogue Planet Games handling PlanetSide 2
    • May 20 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server ends its nine year run as it is merged into the Vox live server
    • Oct 20 – LOTRO launches the War of Three Peaks expansion
    • Dec 1 – Enad Global 7 (EG7) announces plans to acquire Daybreak
    • Dec 2 – EG7 presents an unprecedented array of previously private information about Daybreak to its board, shareholders, and the general public proving, if nothing else, that the company made money
    • Dec 8 – Claws of Veeshan, EQ expansion #27
    • Dec 15 – Reign of Shadows, EQII expansion #17
    • Dec 23 – EG7 completes the acquisition of Daybreak Game Company

And that brings us up into the new year.  We shall see what 2021 and beyond holds for the company

  • Sources

The joy of me blogging the way I do is that I have a blog post that corresponds to most every item on the above list that happened in the last decade.  I considered linking to each and every one, but decided against it.  You can use the search box at the top of the page if you want to find posts here about things like EQII Passport.

Before 2010 I was more chaotic in my blogging and, of course, before September 2006 there was no blog, so nothing to reference.  Fortunately, I had done a post about SOE and its MMORPGs back in 2016 where I had recorded the status of their games, and had researched a bunch of other items in the past.  This blog isn’t all just about Blackrock Depths and World War Bee.

And, where that failed, Wikipedia remains a wonderful source.  There are well maintained pages about most of the games and lists of all the expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II that helped me quite a bit.  And over at Daybreak there is even a server merge page for EverQuest and another for EverQuest II servers deep in their site.  There are some errors, but the dates seem solid.

As for what to include, I am obviously biased towards the games I play or played.  I did try to include every paid expansion for games, as those were generally pretty easy to find.  Game content updates are more obscure, though somebody has charted all of the episode drops for DC Universe Online on that Wikipedia page.  I just wasn’t that dedicated to the post.  I started getting into special servers, but decided once they became an annual thing in 2015, I declared them as such and moved on.

Looking Back at 2019 Highs and Lows

What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

Here we are again, sitting at the end of another calendar year.  And not just that, but at the end of a decade as well, if we’re going to collect our arbitrary eras of time.  Reality doesn’t care about the calendar, but humans like to put things in nice neat boxes.

As has become the routine every year, I spend a bit of time writing out some of the highs and lows of the year.  This is not at all an inclusive or an exhaustive list of things good and ill that came to pass in 2019.  I inevitably look back at these posts and come up with a dozen more things I could have listed.  Rather, this is more of a stream of consciousness vomit of words into the text editor.  As such, don’t expect to find any links to whatever I bring up.  But you can ask in the comments I suppose.

The only links you get are back to past iterations of this post from previous years.

I think the major change this year is that I decided each bullet point needed to be a complete sentence with punctuation.  That probably means they aren’t really bullet points, but I don’t care.

One thing I will note is that going through some of the older posts… and I now have a full decade streak running from 2010 through 2019… is how much my focus has narrowed.  My ability to care about a wide range of games and genres and technologies has decreased noticeably as the years have dragged on.  I suspect that this is a function of age as much as anything else.  But this means that, over time, the list of categories has decreased and the number of titles I feel inclined to mention has grown smaller.  Still, I will go on about some of the expected standards from the blog.

Blizzard

Highs

  • The Warcraft 25th anniversary and WoW 15th anniversary were highlights.
  • Rise of Azshara update finally gave us the flying unlock for Battle for Azeroth.  That was enough to get a few people back.
  • WoW Classic comes alive and succeeds beyond at least Blizzard’s expectations, picking up the slack for the faltering Battle for Azeroth expansion.
  • Personally WoW Classic was an excellent return to a simpler time in Azeroth.
  • A working version of Diablo in conjunction with GoG.com!
  • Diablo IV announced!
  • Overwatch 2 announced!  It will have a PvE story campaign and will overlap functionality with Overwatch.
  • The next WoW expansion, Shadowlands was announced.
  • More decks and a new game mode for Hearthstone.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged closer to release, and it looks really good.
  • StarCraft Cartooned was pretty funny.  Worth my $10.
  • The promise of more devs for WoW and WoW Classic.

Lows

  • 2019 was a strong reminder that Blizzard is just a company and not a special magic factory or your best friend or an organization that cares a single whit about you.  Blizz is just EA dialed back to maybe 8.  That doesn’t mean you should be mean to people who work there (please don’t be that person), just that you should set your expectations accordingly.
  • The Blitzchung Hong Kong fiasco put a shadow over the whole company right before BlizzCon.
  • Blizzard’s sanctions against Blitzchung, their slow response, their corporate speak, and the lack of clarity as to what J. Allen Brack was actually apologizing for all worked against Blizz.  The only bright point for Blizz in all of this was probably that most of its customers didn’t give a shit.
  • Battle for Azeroth just wasn’t thrilling people.  This is a problem when you have a lot of people to please and you only push an expansion out every other year.
  • Took Blizz a while to get Darkmoon Faire trade skill quests working right with the BfA tradeskill revamp.  Another case of one hand not paying any mind to the other I bet.
  • Blizz wildly underestimated WoW Classic popularity, having to nearly triple the number of servers they started with, then doubling the capacity of the servers just to soak up all those wanting to play.
  • WoW Classic has some odd performance issues.  It is mostly crisp, but crossing zones always has a little hiccup and at times actions fall behind the UI and you’re left hanging while the game catches up.  Maybe that was in vanilla too and I’ve just forgotten.
  • WoW Classic population balance… lots of free character transfer offers, but not sure if they did the trick.
  • Then there was UKDillahs and their DDoS attack on WoW Classic.
  • WoW Classic can’t carry the load forever and there has been no indication that Blizz “gets” the whole nostalgia thing beyond a superficial level.
  • WoW Classic PvP servers once honor was introduced.
  • Paid character transfers for WoW Classic show up now that honor has made life miserable on some PvP realms.
  • The level squish plan coming with Shadowlands if rife with the possibility of problems.
  • Diablo IV is still a long, long way away.  We’ll be getting updates about it for a couple more BlizzCon cycles before it goes live.
  • No Diablo II remaster yet and the original Diablo II devs say it will never happen… though they throw shade at everything Blizz does with the franchise they created.
  • Is Overwatch 2 a dessert topping or a floor wax?  It is billed as a new game, looks like an expansion, and feels a lot like something that should have been part of the original.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged was supposed to launch in 2019.  Only made it to closed beta so far, and only for those who pre-ordered.  The launch should be in January.  We shall see.
  • StarCraft II?  Helloooo?
  • The usual amount of missed opportunities due to Blizzard being both slow and cautious and having grown to be even more lumbering due to its size.
  • Layoffs announced in the breath after celebrating their best financial performance ever.
  • Blizzard margins were way down mid-year, which is never a good look for a public company as Wall Street obsesses about margins.
  • Not a single new game out of the company in how many years now?

Daybreak

Highs

  • EverQuest turns 20!
  • Lots of good EverQuest news about the viability of the franchise.
  • EverQuest II turns 15!
  • Both Norrath games got a new expansion.  The future seems bright for fans.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II special rules servers have helped keep the Norrath franchise alive.
  • Managed to find time to play and enjoy both EverQuest and EverQuest II this year.
  • The EverQuest Show arrives dedicated to covering EverQuest, something I have long wished for.
  • DC Universe Online remains hardy, gets updates.
  • DC Universe Online even got a version on the Nintendo Switch!  No idea how it is doing there, but that they thought it was worth the effort says something.
  • Daybreak launched a new title, PlanetSide Arena!
  • Plans for a PlanetSide 3 announced!

Lows

  • Layoffs.
  • Signs of a possible company break up or sale, with new names being registered and new social media accounts.
  • Daybreak has four viable games: EverQuest, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and PlanetSide 2… and I won’t swear to that last one… the youngest of which is seven years old.
  • EverQuest franchise is a cow and Daybreak is content to milk it.  Same for DC Universe Online.
  • Exec Producer says there could be another EverQuest game someday under the right circumstances, which leads me to believe there won’t ever be a new EverQuest game so long as current Daybreak management are running the show.
  • EverQuest special rules servers tend to work best in one flavor despite different variations.
  • EverQuest II special rules servers do not have the same appeal as EverQuest flavors.
  • EverQuest II seems to be back in the performance issues zone.  When playing there are is a lot of hesitation and delay when using spells or combat skills.  This is more so in group play, like the dragon events, but I see it even in solo instances.
  • The EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin, is… odd.  That may not be bad.  There may be things going on here the industry ought to look at.  But for a company that brings out an expansion annually in order to cater to its core audience, rocking the boat like this is a risk.
  • The EverQuest Show went quiet after a few months.  I hope it isn’t gone for good.
  • No more Player Studio.  SOE/Daybreak were leaders with that, but had to fold up shop.
  • Sorry about that currency exploit which apparently inflated the hell out of the economy in DCUO.  Daybreak had to apply a “fix tax” that basically took everything above 25 billion from anybody’s account.
  • Z1 Battle Royale handed back to Daybreak when NantWorks couldn’t make it work.
  • H1Z1 neglected and mis-handled on the PS4, while the returning PC prodigal son… was also neglected and mis-handled.
  • PlanetSide Arena, a battle royale based on PlanetSide 2 strikes very few as new in any way.  Overwatch 2 has better claim to being new to my mind.
  • PlanetSide Arena failed to launch in February, re-targeted to “summer” to include PlayStation 4 version as well, after which Daybreak goes into its usual silent mode for six months.
  • PlanetSide Arena goes early access on PC only in September (technically just before the end of summer on the calendar) only to be roundly scorned by the dwindling PlanetSide 2 community.  Steam numbers quickly go so low that the game is clearly not viable.
  • PlanetSide Arena gets shut down… would writing just PlanetSide Arena have been enough?
  • Plans to revitalize PlanetSide 2 appear to be to based on… something vague they can’t tell us about.  That generally means they don’t know.  We’ll find out in 2020.
  • PlanetSide 3 plans were to build off of PlanetSide Arena… which is now kaput.  So what happens now?
  • PlanetSide and H1Z1 franchises prove that being a cow and getting milked is still better than some other options.
  • Does Jason Epstein still own this mess?

CCP

Highs

  • Triglavian ships for everybody!
  • Triglavian invasions for most everybody!
  • Skill points for everybody!
  • Really a lot of good, solid, quality of life fixes in the game.  They may be small, but they matter.
  • Moratorium on devs playing EVE Online openly has been lifted after more than a decade.
  • CCP working on the ISK faucet problem seriously, and actually having an impact.
  • War Dec changes finally putting some sort of cap on that scourge of high sec.
  • Some progress on Upwell structure issues like time zone tanking and low powered structure spam.
  • Still some wars in null sec, with TEST and Fraternity battling and the Imperium going north to drive PanFam out of Tribute.
  • CCP said to have gotten lots of good, actionable data from summer experiments.
  • EVE Fanfest World Tour brought official EVE Online events to many people.
  • EVE Vegas and the Permaband performance were excellent.
  • EVE media seems pretty strong on the streaming front.  Lots of streamers and streaming shows covering New Eden.
  • Team Talos created to tackle what are essentially balance issues!
  • Katia Sai making it to all the systems in New Eden without losing a ship and getting wide recognition for the feat, including a monument in game and a Guinness Records achievement.
  • A whole range of new and colorful ships SKINs arrived as the year closed out.
  • EVE Aether Wars tech demo promised better tech infrastructure for online games of the future.
  • Finally progressing towards another live product with EVE Echoes.

Lows

  • CCP bans CSM member Brisc Rubal for cheating… and then does their investigation only to end up reinstating him and apologizing.  The phrase “measure twice, cut once” springs to mind.
  • The CSM remains a bastion of null sec for the same old reasons.  But an elected CSM will always be as such.
  • CCP gets lots of new players, then loses almost all of them in the first week.  Half of people who register don’t end up even logging in.
  • There comes a point where “give away more skill points” might not be the right answer.
  • What Alliance Tournament?
  • Entosis mechanics remain a barrier to sov warfare in null sec.  We shoot structures to fight and only take space when one side decides to pack up and leave.
  • Capital meta still oppresses subcap game play in null sec.  Form battleships and you get supers dropped on you.
  • The “summer experiments,” Hurricane Hilmar and the Chaos, era kills off a lot of null sec and economic activity.  Velocity of PLEX plummets.
  • Imperium campaign in Tribute was brought up short by the completely unfun and unrewarding Drifter attacks.  Player war killed by dubious event.
  • Their own analysis showed that the blackout hit the poor hard and was barely noticed by the rich.  Just like real world economics!
  • HyperNet Relay – Gambling returns to New Eden.  But CCP and the CSM seem quite enthusiastic about a mechanism where almost everybody involved loses their money.
  • Cyno changes meant an end to solo capital play unless you had the budget to pay half a billion for every cyno.
  • No more EVE Vegas.  Its not that I don’t like San Diego.  It is a nice place.  My sister lives there.  But if you’re going to to keep it in the western US, LA is the clear winner (Disneyland for the family) and Seattle is the place different enough to be a runner up.
  • CCP Guard and CCP Falcon, two staples of the community team, left CCP.
  • Written media about EVE Online continues its decline.  Crossing Zebras closed down, New Eden Register faded, EVE News 24 pretty much just reposts dev blogs and press releases, and even INN has become sporadic in its coverage of New Eden.  Streams and videos are great, but I miss the search and index functionality that comes with the written word.  But then blogs are pretty fringe now as well.  The cool kids don’t write.
  • There was a long, dry spell of almost no new ship SKINs for much of the year.
  • EVE Aether Wars is tech that will never make it into EVE Online at this point and the record attempts as part of the tests fell so far short of goals as to be embarrassing after three tries.
  • That Starter Pack deal that gave anybody who bought it a one time million skill point boost for $10 is still there, still available for anybody to buy.  I guess CCP decided they could weather out our 15 minutes of outrage… and it looks like they were right.
  • CCP’s plans for EVE Online are all tactical, which isn’t all bad, since the game needs that, but there is no long term vision of aspirational feature on the horizon.
  • Seriously, when CCP Seagull mentioned player made star gates way back when, was anybody thinking “oh, that will just be the replacement for jump bridges?”  Because I sure thought it meant something more expansive.
  • That chart from Hilmar that seemed to say that the goal of the new player path culminated in anxiety and boredom.  It is in the CSM minutes and it betrays some blurry thinking.
  • Still a lot of goofy, old, out of date, need revision mechanics in the game.
  • Perhaps the first year where I did feel like EVE Online was dying.
  • I am not a fan of EVE Echoes.  It is too complicated to be a mobile game yet too simplified to be EVE Online for me.

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • LOTRO got another expansion with Minas Morgul!
  • LOTRO Legendary server carries on with progression.
  • SSG says they have many years of additional content they could add to LOTRO.
  • An admission that the awful legendary weapons system might need some work.
  • DDO got… some things.  I seem to remember that.

Lows

  • The Minas Morgul expansion is hidden behind the Mordor expansion, which stopped me cold.
  • I honestly think the claims about future content are hubris in the extreme.  Content sells, but the ring was destroyed in the last expansion.  How many “we’re still cleaning up Middle-earth” expansions can they get away with?  Unless they’re going to go the time travel route.  Please no.
  • SSG attempting to cash shop their way out of the awful legendary weapon system that has been a menace following the game since Mines of Moria, like a tedious and time consuming Gollum.  Don’t like legendary weapons?  Just give us $50 and to unlock everything.
  • As I have said before, the company depends on milking their two titles for their ongoing survival.  Any serious misstep could derail the whole thing.
  • Still not clear who owns the company and what the real connection is with Daybreak and whether or not that connection should worry us given the tenuous nature of Daybreak’s future.

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD carries on, has added a new class to the options.  Not bad for a 26 year old game.
  • The Minecraft Village & Pillage update was pretty big, with a lot of great additions to the game.
  • Jedi: Fallen Order, in which it seems like EA somehow managed to make a decent Star Wars game that wasn’t laden with microtransactions, loot boxes, or other heinous cash grabs.  It is like they know what they’re doing wrong, but do it anyway.
  • Google Stadia promised a whole lot of stuff.
  • Auto Battler/Auto Chess gave us a new game mode that was some fun, leading to Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords.
  • The Switch gets a real Pokemon core RPG title in Pokemon Sword & Shield and it sells like crazy, proving once again the strength of the franchise.
  • The Epic Game Store gave Steam some competition, which it really needs.
  • Steam still carried on, even managing to get EA and Microsoft to put their games on the Steam store again.
  • Microsoft launched Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on Steam.
  • Niantic has kept Pokemon Go lively by unlocking new Pokemon and adding new features.
  • Niantic even let me change teams in Pokemon Go. It cost a thousand coins, but was worth it.
  • Yathzee Crowshaw’s Dev Diary series on YouTube where he is making 12 Games in 12 Months has been great so far.  Learn about the primary game play loop!

Lows

  • The loss of Brad McQuaid.
  • Shroud of the Avatar getting handed off to an unknown company was a new low point for the game.
  • Not sure the downsides of Google Stadia… like having to buy any game you want to play there again if you already own it… will make the upsides worth it, even if Google manages to fulfill its promises.
  • I don’t even care about Fallout 76 and it annoys me.  Stop being bad!
  • The Epic Game Store lost many fans when it paid devs to sign exclusives that required them to pull already existing pre-order from Steam.
  • Most people are just going to stick to Steam no matter what.
  • Steam sales, summer, winter, and in between, just don’t have the power they once did.  I’ve been saying that for years now, but sales continue to have less impact on me and sale prices are the not-so-new normal at this point.
  • Great moment during the summer sale when Steam managed to get lots of people to purge their wishlists due to being unclear how you might win a game from it.  Lots of dev panic as they saw their games getting dropped and then Valve trying to explain their mistake.
  • Steam continues to have to revise their policy of allowing any game.  They approved a game called Rape Day, then removed it after outrage.  More recently they deleted a whole range of crap… which should be a high, but that they still won’t admit they should have standards makes this a low.
  • Unless you have a current machine, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition might not run very well on your system.  Also, do I want to buy that game for the third time? (Original, HD, and now DI versions.)
  • The last few levels before 40 in Pokemon Go are a drag with little in the way of rewards.  Also, any event that requires me to make multiple excellent curve ball throws is taxing to my patience.  Also also… damned Sinnoh stones.
  • Cryptic killed their player studio stuff in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter.  User created content is apparently more trouble than it is worth.
  • ArenaNet layoffs and the departure of people like Mike O’Brien cannot mean good new long term for Guild Wars 2 fans.
  • Fallen Earth went dark, but plans to come back.  We shall see.
  • Industry cannot stop making lockboxes seem bad, while trying to explain them away as “surprise mechanics” just makes them look like liars.  This is how you get your industry regulated.
  • GameStop is as good as dead now.  You may not love GameStop, but it being there and able to sell me some obscure bit of console hardware no longer made by the OEM was handy at times.
  • More local to me, electronics chain Fry’s, once the Silicon Valley go-to place for nearly everything nerd, looks to be on its death bed as well.
  • Along with the used market, digital is also killing off the rental market.  Redbox said nuts to that and shut theirs down.  GameFly probably won’t be long for this world.
  • Writing this section proves more so every year that I rarely play anything new.  I like my old games.
  • I’m not even good at keeping up with MMOs anymore.  I am not sure I could string together three relevant sentences about games like ESO, FFXIV, SWTOR, or any of the other still viable, still chugging along staples of the genre.

 

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Watched some good shows like The Boys, Succession, The Madalorian, Watchmen, Umbrella Academy, and Russian Doll along with new seasons of The Expanse, Rick & Morty, The Good Place, and The Crown.
  • Baby Yoda deserves a special mention.
  • Good movies as well, like The Irishman, Detective Pikachu, The Dead Don’t Die, Toy Story 4, Dowton Abby, Ford v Ferrari, and Jojo Rabbit.  I was happy with all of those.
  • Working towards cord cutting with a Roku Streaming Stick and services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+.
  • On YouTube Honest Trailers, How it Should Have Ended, and a few other channels continue to deliver joy for me.
  • Despite complaints, I find Twitter to be a good source of news and humor.  It has remained the best social media option for me, though I am also very selective as to whom I follow.
  • For all the cries that “Facebook kills democracy” and the like, I’ve yet to see anybody I know post or comment on something politically where I couldn’t have guessed where they stood in advance.  Nobody is swayed by retweeting memes or political ads as everybody makes up their mind first then cherry picks facts to support their point of view.  Facebook just made this more obvious.

Lows

  • No real “great” movies or TV shows however.  That might just be me, but nothing this year made me want to go back and watch it again.
  • Not feeling it for the final season of BoJack Horseman.  They seem to be setting him up for a huge fall just to make sure the series is done.
  • The main high point of Star Wars – Rise of the Skywalker is that at least we’re done with that for a while.  I’ll stack rank the series again at some point, but don’t expect episode IX to be near the top.  It mostly felt like wasted potential.
  • Profusion of new specialty video streaming services.  I am tapped out after having to get Disney+ because my wife said we needed Baby Yoda.
  • Cannot really cord cut because the cable company remains the only high speed internet option in my neighborhood and 100 MBit internet alone costs more than 100 MBit plus basic cable.
  • Also cannot cord cut because Hulu “live TV” is over a minute delayed for live sports, and my wife texts her friends about hockey and cannot stand to hear about goals or penalties that haven’t hit our TV yest.
  • Not enough time/energy to go see a lot of movies in the theater, and and many are getting hidden away on some streaming service I won’t be subscribing to.  I didn’t see Avengers: End Game until we got Disney+.
  • Love binge watching shows, but getting all the episodes at once just means waiting longer until the next season becomes available.  But I won’t stop.
  • That drip feed of weekly episode releases is tough to deal with now… but it does keep everybody on the same page and builds up a sense of fan engagement for some shows.  Just stop being in such a hurry to live post all the spoilers as the episode airs.  Some of watch the next day.
  • Horrible Sonic the Hedgehog render for movie gets huge fan backlash, forcing studio to rework the model, leading to the company doing that work getting fired for not going into constant crunch mode to do the fix.
  • Twitter redoing its web interface was an abomination.  I was very happy when a browser plugin showed up to return it to its old format.  But I freak out a bit every time I see the new UI on somebody’s machine.
  • People on Twitter are still horrible.  There needs to be some sort of reminder that the person you’re trashing is a real human being and maybe some sort of five minute delay on posting with a Win10 level “are you sure you want to post that?” and “really, last warning, do you really want to say this publicly and have it recorded for all posterity?” before a tweet goes live.
  • The lack of a typo edit feature in Twitter is just killing me.
  • Facebook is still annoying to look at even if it isn’t killing democracy.
  • The demise of MAD Magazine, staple of my adolescence.  There was much there that made me the cynic I am today.
  • Elementary wrapped up in a semi-satisfying way I guess with a half season finale.  But the previous season felt like they were struggling for a thread, so maybe it ran too long.
  • The end of Game of Thrones… as lots of people have noted… felt rushed and rather half-assed.
  • Also, generally speaking, in a world of LED TVs please stop doing so many scenes of people in black, with dark gear, in unlit rooms, on dark moonless nights.  If you create video that is pretty much unviewable on default settings you suck.
  • Google+ went away, though admittedly few were using it… much fewer than were still using Google Reader when they killed that.

The Blog, Blogging, and things more Personal

Highs

  • The blog carried on for another year.  That makes 13 years in total.
  • Still managed to crank out a prestigious amount of posts and words.
  • Blaugust had a reasonable turnout this year, and the Discord channel for it remained active after it ended. (Unlike last year, when there were like three of us still there afterwards.)
  • MMO Fallout announced it was shutting down… then opened back up to keep covering neglected bits of the MMO market niche.
  • The old instance group back together again in WoW Classic!
  • We got a new oven and I am surprised at how much of a difference it made.  Consistent, even, accurate heat means the directions on the box for most everything I cook are correct.  My wife, who actually cooks real food, likes it too.
  • My wife and I have successfully raised child to legal adult age.  Said child has already been accepted to several universities.  Op success!

Lows

  • Do people still read blogs?  Blog traffic continues to drop off.
  • I remind myself that quantity does not equal quality.
  • More worrying, my own desire to write yet another post about something I’ve probably covered previously feels like it is slipping.
  • The instance group is all older and less able to stay up past our bed times.  Earl being in Japan also makes group times a bit odd.
  • Having adult offspring doesn’t make you feel any younger.  Oh, and now to pay for that university education without incurring crippling debt for anybody.  Welcome to America.
  • What are we going to do when the child, the center of our existence for almost 20 years if you count getting everything ready, leaves the nest for college?  I kind of envy my parents for having kids so young.  When I left home my dad was the same age I was when my daughter was born.  Then again, my parents being young meant that my main parenting lesson from them was “Don’t do what they did if I can avoid it.”
  • Also, everything else in Silicon Valley is so freaking expensive.  If I am able to retire some day, we will have to move in order to afford it.  I hear Idaho is… nice.
  • In a complex world our simian brains fixate on simple answers, often “burn it down and rebuild it from scratch” without any care for the impact.  Humans are dumb when they generalize, freeze up when they get all the details, and I don’t know how to fix that.  It is frustrating no serious public discussion of any issue seems possible.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t as bad as all that.  But I am sure next year will try to prove me wrong.  It is a leap year, which means not only is there another full day for the world to get into trouble, but there is also another summer Olympics to get through.  And there is a presidential election too.  But I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

PlanetSide Arena to Shut Down

Didn’t I just mention the possibility of a late Friday press release from Daybreak in my predictions post?  Well, here it is, though it doesn’t have any impact on my scoring because I had already heavily discounted PlanetSide Arena.

Even as the company was celebrating the 7th anniversary of PlanetSide 2 last month, things looked grim for the only “new” game from Daybreak, the battle royale title set in the PlanetSide franchise.  The bubble finally burst Friday afternoon with this announcement from the development team, which popped up on Twitter at 3pm Pacific time..

Hello Everyone,

After careful consideration, we’ve made the difficult decision to shut down PlanetSide Arena servers.

While our team set out with an ambitious vision for a game that combined the massive-scale combat and camaraderie of PlanetSide through a diverse collection of new game modes, it has become clear after several months in Early Access that our population levels make it impossible to sustain the gameplay experience we envisioned.

As a result, PlanetSide Arena will formally shut down servers on January 10th, 2020 at 5:00 PM (PST). We are actively working with Steam to ensure that all players who made purchases during Early Access will automatically receive a full refund to their Steam Wallet after servers shut down in January.

Thank you again for your loyalty and support during Beta and Early Access. Your feedback was invaluable, and your enduring passion for PlanetSide remains the bedrock our community is built upon. As painful as it is to close this chapter so quickly, we remain deeply committed to this franchise, and look forward to continuing this journey through the PlanetSide Universe with all of you.

Andy Sites
Executive Producer, PlanetSide Franchise

—-

F.A.Q.

How long can I continue to play PlanetSide Arena?

PlanetSide Arena will remain available for play until Friday, January 10, 2020 at 5:00 PM PST, after which point all game servers will be shut down.

Can I still purchase DLC (Legendary or Recruit Edition) or Virtual Currency (Battle Coins) from the Steam store page?

No, as of today we have removed all DLC and hard currency purchase options from Steam. You can still use any virtual currency you have in your account (Battle Coins and Certs you earned through gameplay) until servers shut down on January 10, 2020.

How do I find out if I’m eligible for a Steam refund?

All players who made in-game purchases of DLC or virtual currency will automatically receive a refund to their Steam wallet shortly after servers shut down on January 10, 2020. You will retain access to the items you previously purchased until that date. For more details regarding Steam refund eligibility, please visit this link.

I have a further concern and want to contact Customer Service. How do I do that?

Our Customer Service is available to address all your questions and concerns.  Please contact help.daybreakgames.com for all matters pertaining to all of our games, including PlanetSide Arena.

Will I still be able to play PlanetSide Arena in any fashion after the servers go offline?

No, once servers go offline on January 10, 2020, PlanetSide Arena will not be playable in any way.

And so it goes.  The title, announced almost exactly a year ago, delayed in launch, and rather soundly rejected by the PlanetSide community when it finally hit early access in September, will be shutting down for good in the new year.  All money spent on the game will be refunded, which may earn the company a little goodwill.

There is no word on what impact this might have on the PlanetSide 3 plans at Daybreak, though the layoffs that hit the company this fall were reported to have targeted the PlanetSide team.  The company had announced back in October that PlanetSide Arena was a stepping stone project towards a that goal.

The game history as I recorded it here:

Other coverage:

PlanetSide Arena Just a Stepping Stone to PlanetSide 3

We envision PlanetSide Arena as a way to allow us to link present day PlanetSide 2 and PlanetSide 3 story lines, as well as providing an opportunity to try out new features, styles of play, etc.

Producer’s Letter on the PlanetSide franchise

Down but not out?

Just over a week ago we heard about another layoff at Daybreak, with the brunt of the cuts alleged to have landed on the PlanetSide team.

But on Friday afternoon at 5:44pm… what is it with Daybreak and after hours on Friday press releases… seriously, what are they thinking… a Producer’s Letter was posted indicating that the PlanetSide franchise, soon to turn 17, saw the poorly performing PlanetSide Arena, recently arrived in early access, as a stepping stone to their goal of bringing PlanetSide 3 to life at some future date.

At this point it is hard to tell where the franchise will end up.  There was a mention that Daybreak was restructuring and another possible studio name was registered, though what that means at this point I couldn’t tell you.

And of course there were the leaked rumors from back in May of last year which mentioned a PlanetSide 3.   PlanetSide Arena sounded like the fruit of that, but now maybe there was something else going on.

The producer’s letter says that Daybreak is 100% committed to this vision of a bigger, longer, and possibly uncut future for the PlanetSide franchise.  But is this reality or a just a morale booster while they figure out what they can actually manage in the post-layoff reality?

Others on the topic:

PlanetSide Arena Arrives at Early Access

PlanetSide Arena is up on Steam today and available to download as its Early Access launch begins.

This is the first stage of Daybreak’s announced path forward with the game, which was first revealed to the public late last year with an initial goal of a beta in late January of this year.

That was scrapped and pre-orders were refunded as the whole project was pushed out until summer, with the desire for a simultaneous console launch given as the reason for the delay.

Then we had one of those long stretches of silence, so familiar to watchers of Daybreak and SOE before them (and maybe of Rogue Planet Games at some future date), until a new set of dates was announced on August 30th.

PlanetSide Arena – August 2019 Schedule

Today the company met the first of their revised dates and, despite having pushed console support out into the future, they did managed to release something still within the months of summer.  Autumn begins on Monday in the northern hemisphere, or so say the calendar makers.

The game is free during early access on Steam, so it only costs the download time to get into it.  There are, of course, starter packs available for a price.  Daybreak has to fund this somehow.  Reviews are currently “mixed,” though there are only 70 as of this writing and the negatives seem to be coming from PlanetSide purists.

Further details about the game are available at the Daybreak web site.  And, of course, there is a trailer:

We shall see how it goes, but Daybreak is off to the races today with their only new game since the SOE era.

The PlanetSide Arena story so far:

 

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.

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.

PlanetSide Arena Delayed Until Summer for a Simultaneous PS4 Launch

The launch date for PlanetSide Arena keeps moving further away, and at an accelerating rate.

The game, aimed to be a combination of Battle Royale and classic shooter scenarios, was announced back in back in December with a January 29th launch target.  I mean, it was just PlanetSide 2 recycled into an arena game.  It isn’t as though Daybreak hadn’t already built an arena shooter in H1Z1 already… and H1Z1 was built off of PlanetSide 2.  Seemed like a reasonable target or a low bar, depending on how you looked at it.

Meet the Promised Battle Modes

Then, just days before the promised launch, Daybreak came out and said it wouldn’t go live until March 26th, though if you had pre-ordered on Steam… because of course there was a pre-order offer… you would be invited to the Founder’s Season on February 20th.

Then, five days before that Founder’s Season, Daybreak has announced that the whole thing is being pushed out until Summer.  At least that was the correct usage of the Friday afternoon press release.  But here I am on Monday morning dredging it all up again.

The ostensible reasons given were related to feedback received during the closed beta as well as a desire to launch the game on across both the PC and PlayStation 4 platforms simultaneously.  We’ll see if a cross-platform launch includes cross-platform play, something Sony says it wants but acts like it is keen to avoid.

Maybe the reasons behind the push for a summer date even true.  But there are some other factors in the wind here.

One might be the recent launch of EA’s free to play entry into the Battle Royale arena, Apex Legends.  The title launched at the beginning of the month on Windows, PlayStation 4, and XBox One and is reported to have had more than 25 million downloads and 2 million players going at it concurrently.  Launching into the teeth of that with a pay to play title might be a big ask.

And then there is the refunds for those who pre-ordered.  Per the announcement:

In light of our revised launch plan, we are refunding all Planetside Arena pre-orders.

My guess is that while Fortnite alone didn’t scare them off the selling the box, the emergence of Apex Legends might have.  I expect, at a minimum, that this will mean PlanetSide Arena will be moving to a free to play model while Daybreak watches the market and starts building up a cosmetics cash shop.  They’re going to need to work hard on that, because I’ve never thought PlanetSide 2 was a pretty game.

Meanwhile, the pessimist in me thinks that this might be their Infinite Cisis, Turbine’s attempt to get in on the MOBA market that was too little and too late and which pretty much broke the company. (We got some dirty laundry aired after that.)

Not that Daybreak is down to just two aging fantasy MMORPGs the way Turbine was at that point.  No, Daybreak has two aging fantasy MMORPGs, an aging superhero MMORPG, an aging MMOFPS, and that Battle Royale game, though that last seems to be part of NantWorks at this point.  Also unlike Turbine, they don’t have a big company like Warner backing them.

We’ll see when the next bit of news about this hits I suppose.