An Open Letter to John Smedley by Moria

Written by Feldon on . Posted in International (Pro7Sat1)

From Moria on the EQ2 Forums:

Dear Mr Smedley.

You don’t know me, personally, and I don’t know you. However, I know your work.. and I admire it. I remember Keys to Maramon on the Amiga, I remember 989 Studios and I remember Verant software. I remember your pride in the development of Everquest, and being a beta player, you often replied to our posts on the forums and discussed mechanics, objectives hopes and fears with us. I remember how much you cared about the community and the way that the company and the players together were making waves and changing the face of online gaming.

I remember coming out of Beta and starting on a new server called Rodcet Nife. I was one of the first players to level 20 on that server and in those days, to get a surname, it involved a GM who came and tested the player and their knowledge of lore prior to granting the surname. I was the first in my guild, and 4 guilds all came out to Antonica to witness the ceremony and the party.

We were a family. The developers, the GM’s the Guides and the players. Presumptious on my part I know, but I felt that way anyway. Rodcet Nife had a majority of players from Europe, and at that time I was living in Europe. ( I am british by Birth and I have fought for my country to preserve the right of people to choose their own destiny. My father was present, and ashamed, when the Berlin Wall was built by the Eastern Block.. I was present and proud on the day it came down).

I stayed with EQ when it was bought and became a new company SOE and we ALL celebrated your achievement in becoming a senior member of this new organisation and we were proud of you. We were still the EQ family. Then EQ2 came out, and like many others, I moved, although my EQ account is still there. My EQ2 house still carries with pride in it the origional painting for people who were on EQ1 and my little pet dragon. All my EQ2 characters have always carried the suffix “of Rodcet Nife” Many of the friends and guildmates on EQ came to EQ2 and I still talk to them.

I flew from the UK to US for one of the early get togethers of players and staff, and I shook your hand. Nothing at that meeting made me feel any differently about how I felt, or who I thought I knew.

I have had breaks, but I also have my 7 year rewards in EQ2, not great and not 8 year, but not bad.

Friendships change, people move. Me I became dual citizen (I still don’t know whether that means I will be considered EU or US in this change), I am now a citizen of Canada and the UK, however that is completely irrelevant for this post because I am a citizen of Norrath. I do not exist in the real world when I am in game, my real world nationality has no bearing on me when I am playing, or didn’t until now. Not even my server was relevant as I could still chat with friends on other servers even if playing on another.

What has happened here is like taking the world and saying all the Freeport Aligned players over here.. all the Qeynos aligned players over here, and by the way, Freeport players can no longer go to Antonica, and Qeynos players can no longer go to Commonlands.

I can’t believe, even in my wildest dreams that the John Smedley that I thought I knew from Verant Software would do this… did your aims and ambitions vanish, or have they been overridden by corporate need and dollars?

I finally understand now, that this means nothing to the current you. I finally understand now that I mean nothing to the current you. I realise that whether I leave or not, or even if I never buy another sony product is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things to the current you or to your company. I also realise that if every single player left, or threatened to leave Everquest2, that the “Product” still exists, so even with the number of people threatening, or actually, leaving in this thread do so, it’s irrelevant to the current you.

All I want to say is how dissapointed I am that someone who I thought I knew even slightly, could allow this to happen to the people he once laughed and cried with as a developer of games, when it was the game and the community that mattered not the company, and when looking after those same people meant there was a company rather than the other way round.

I still don’t know if I can delete my account and all those memories so quickly, but perhaps it will come, but it will be irrelevant to you, the fact that inside I am dying as I hit the delete button will also be irrelevant to you, and to me that is the saddest part of all this.

I wish you well, I just hope I never have to be involved in a project or company run by someone I once admired and trusted, ie you.

Goodbye from someone you don’t know and never will.

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Comments (36)

  • Newtron

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    It’s called EQicide!

    Reply

  • Kwill

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    A very moving letter. There’s a lot to be said here about the intersection of a gaming community and corporate goals, which ultimately supersede any sentimental or social ties that gamers often take for granted. I like your analogy of faction, Moria, which has pulled a game mechanic right into the light of real world issues. An frankly, no one really wants this kind of faction, do they?

    For me, and a lot of other people that see our EQ2 community as a real place to go for international socialization and entertainment, the idea that it can be bought and sold so callously is shocking. We are quite naive and trusting when it comes to thinking that our fragile world can’t be broken.

    Without a thought for the community, SOE’s larger corporate plan of abandoning the orignal MMO model of subscription based, PC content has been revealed. All the older titles will be free to play, divisions sold off, and the focus will be on fluff items for sale in game.

    It saddens me that while the EQ2 team worked so hard with Feldon to create EQ2U, SOE corporate has moved ahead with it’s plan to marginalize it’s MMO titles, as it seems to me. At the local level, things seem to be fine, but if one looks up, it’s pretty clear that things are not looking positive for continued growth. SOE has moved on, even if the rest of us are trying to hold on to something that really matters.

    Reply

  • Me

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    It’s a game…

    Reply

  • Anaogi

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    It’s a game…

    …but it’s also a community.

    How SOE can be so utterly blind to that part of what they built, I will never know.

    Madness.

    Reply

  • Kwill

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    I can’t agree, Me, it’s not just a game. It’s a space where friendships are made. Skyrim is just a game. When you add the element of social relationships and persistent cooperative play, it becomes much more than just a moment’s diversion.

    Basketball, football, baseball, soccer (football for our international friends), those are all just games, but look at the amount of passion they invoke. This game is no different. We immerse ourselves in this fantasy world, make friends, become members of a community, and create identities that are enduring.

    Now that’s being broken.

    Reply

  • Keeler

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    @me
    It is a game you are correct. But emotions are not. You could say football is just a game but look at how it pulls people together and forms a massive community. We all have an attachment to this game and we’ve all tested it and given valuable input for years. Everquest is an escape from the norm and a great way to socialize, interact, learn, and to teach. It has created many multiple real life marriages and friendships. To say it’s “Just a game” shows ignorance and uncertainty about the real community and those that exist within it.
    Working a job is “just a game” and if you play it the right way you will succeed and become wealthy, just like Everquest.

    Reply

  • Aethn

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    And yet in the end … its still just a game. A game created by a buisness for the sole purpose of generating revenue. When the revenue stops, the game stops. Decisions are made that ensure the coninuation of the product, and the paychecks to the very real people who depend on it to feed kids and pay mortgages.

    In the end, its just a game …

    Reply

  • Electri

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    Moria,

    You composed a very well thought-out letter with many lucid and valuable points; however, I doubt he had much to do with the final decision.

    From a business standpoint, I am certain SoE knew exactly how many people and guilds this will effect prior to making the decision. While I do not have knowledge of numbers, I am also certain it is a miniscule portion of the player base. With these assumptions in place, what a great business decision. SoE gets money from the Euro company for licensing and has dramatically reduced upkeep expense. This is a win-win for SoE.

    Do I agree, or think, this is a good idea… Emphatically NO!! It is apparent that in this day and age, that SoE does not “Have a Dream”. If they had any dream, they would realize that segregation is never a good idea. As referenced in your letter, the Berlin Wall has been replaced by the SoE Electronic wall. It is not just a sad time for EQ, but is moreover a sad time for the belief system at place within the SoE leadership.

    Reply

  • Aethn

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    Oh and to reiterate, Verant was NOT bought by SOE, Sony has owned Verant since 989 and before there was a 989. It was simply enveloped into a new brand called SOE, along with a dozen other Sony companies. Look it up. You dont seem to know the company as well as you claim I guess.

    Reply

  • Aethn

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    Can you people stop equating the fall of the Berlin Wall to the move of a video game. It cheapens the lives of the Eastern Euros that lived and died behind those walls, my family incuded. It is disresepctful to do so for a video game.

    Reply

  • Me

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    I agree but at the same time disagree. I stand by my statement of it’s just a game. If community means that much then SOE splitting the game up shouldn’t affect your friendships. Are there not other avenues where you can hook up with your “friends”, or once this happens you just stop talking to them?

    I think what they are doing is crappy for sure, but if you really do have “real friends” then you will find a way to stay connected without Everquest.

    Reply

  • Frank

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    The only difference between an MMO and any other game is the community. Talking to people while running into bugs and broken mechanics makes them less significant, fodder for jokes, like falling through the world for stepping back after landing at a griffon tower instead of forward, that bug lasted months.

    Break the community, and all you have left is a buggy game.

    Reply

  • Kwill

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    I understan your concern, Aethn, in trivilalizing something important, but people see the wall as a metaphor for forced segregation. It’s one that evokes powerful images.

    Reply

  • Kwill

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    @me — it’s more about the community than indiviual friendships, although those can blossom too, and transcend the game. If you think about other places you might go to be with others, like a sports event, social club, or even work — those relationships are part of that experience. We have our own language, ways of behaving, a whole culture within Norrath. Without the social interaction, it is just a game that is merely simple entertainment.

    By having the game environment in common, people form bonds with others that they probably wouldn’t have in real life, or another situation. That’s what makes the community aspect so important. It’s shared goals and experience. That’s why it’s important and taking that away is a real blow to the entire game.

    Reply

  • Keeler

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    Without the community the game wouldn’t exist. The community is what keeps the game alive and those individuals are the ones responsibly for giving the advice that could potentially pull in more players and revenue for SOE. If all you have are players that do not voice their opinion or interact then its no longer an MMO, it’s just a rpg.

    Reply

  • Laserfoot

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    I’ve been to most Fan Faires and been in many guilds in EQ2 and had alot of fun. I cancelled my account before this fiasco started when MOD#? banned me from the “Tavern” forum … So long SOE and old friends…it been a great ride… Here’s a tribute to SOE btw… ;)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaCB-Y0vPrg&feature=fvst

    Reply

  • Doc

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    In my opinion, it is different than a game. It is a business. I was once naive and thought that my loyalty to a company meant they would reciprocate. I turned down several opportunities to go to other companies, because I thought loyalty meant something. I refused to do something unethical that my management requested I do, A few months later, I was laid off.
    Despite what Romney claimed, corporations are not people – they are profits. SOE shareholders do not care about our community, they care about profits. Their employees do not get ahead by caring about community, they get ahead by increasing profits. Myst tried to be about community and it failed. This is just the way it is. Do I like it? No, I do not, but I recognize it.
    I lost in this deal as well. I played on both Bazaar (Freeport) and Splitpaw servers though I live in the US. After the merge of Bazaar and Freeport, I paid to move several of toons to Splitpaw. When this announcement came out, I had to pay to move those toons and a few others back to Freeport before I lost them altogether.
    It is a business. Sony is not our altruistic friend. All of our tears and emotional rage will not effect the corporate beast. I suspect the decision is irrevocable and even if we convinced Sony it was a bad business decision, the ink is on the paper and they cannot reverse course.
    It is now decision time. Is it worth your subsciption cost to continue playing EQ2 on your server. If it is, accept it and go on. If it is not, then find another outlet. You do not have to lose the friends, there are alternative ways to communicate (email, facebook, phone, etc.). My decision is that the entertainment value has not dropped under the cost. If I was based in Europe, that decision could well be different.

    Reply

  • Laserfoot

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    Right on top of the balls Doc!

    Reply

  • Kwill

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    If you read the interview with the person who puts on the Game Developer’s Conference, in this month’s issue of Game Informer, you will see her take on the biggest concern of game companies today is how to sustain profit. Thus, FTP/RMT.

    She also said their challenge at this year’s GDC is to make a 10 second game. That’s right, 10 seconds. Which means that the trend is to go to fast paced games, not focus on man-hour dense, sustainable behemoths like EQ2 (and WoW, for that matter) — they cost a lot of money to run and depend on people playing for a lengthy period of time. That is quite different from the 10 second quckie game that is trending.

    Our drama is just indicative of the state of the game industry in general. It’s all about profit for the shareholders.

    Reply

  • Seffrid

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    @Kwill “Our drama is just indicative of the state of the game industry in general. It’s all about profit for the shareholders.”

    True, but eventually someone will wake up to the only truth behind any commercial success, which is that in order to make profit for the shareholders you have to create a decent product and then look after your customers.

    SOE know how to make decent products but they don’t have a clue how to look after their customers. That is really what this incident is all about.

    Reply

  • Moria

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    @Aethn

    From the PR Newswire June 1st 2000.

    Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPESPE – Software Practice and Experience
    ….. Click the link for more information.) announced today it has acquired the online games company Verant Interactive, Inc. and named prominent digital gaming executive Kelly Flock as president and CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer)

    Verant, a San Diego-based development studio that creates and markets cutting-edge online games, will be merged into SOE as part of SOE’s effort to concentrate on becoming the premier attraction for interactive gaming enthusiasts from its new San Diego headquarters. With a staff of more than 150 software developers, Verant has been responsible for operating the popular online games EverQuest(R), Tanarus(TM) and Sovereign(TM). Verant President John Smedley will join SOE as executive vice president and chief operating officerChief Operating Officer (COO)


    @All

    Yes, I know it’s just a game, I know that there is a real world out there, I know that theres more to life and I suspect that Smedley had little say, BUT he’s been responsible for this game since it’s design, and as in all cases, the Boss bears a responsability.

    I am also aware that despite all the screaming and fussing, it is such a small minority of people in the overall picture that it will make no difference.

    However, I have no problem in stating my feelings and my expectations for a product that over the years, has cost me many many hours of time and many thousands of dollars in subscriptions. Yes, I have had my moneys worth and it was my decision to do so, but when a company sells a service, there is a moral responsability to maintain that service in a way that doesn’t denegrate the people using that service.

    Finally @Aethn again..

    Which part of East Berlin.. I had relatives there as well, which was why I was at the wall coming down. To me that was a wonderous moment in history, and if I want to compare that to this situation, I feel I am entitled to.. again, my words, my feelings.

    Moria.

    Reply

  • Feldon

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    Aethn,

    I’m sorry you are offended by the analogy. I have stood at what remains of the wall and been haunted by it. I’ve also seen Berlin’s efforts to move on from the tragedy. Perhaps “iron curtain” is a more appropriate analogy since it refers to all of Eastern Europe?

    Reply

  • Murfalad

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    It is a beautifully written letter, and for me too it is more then a game because it does have a social element.

    It saddens me that SOE do not value this social element, its their reputation though that goes down the pan due to these sorts of decisions. Like too many businesses SOE just see the short term, but every bad decision hangs around, NGE still has not been forgotten for example.

    So many marketing people spend millions trying to attract and cultivate fan’s for their games, Rift, AOC etc had legions of them singing its praises before the game was even released.
    But I suspect for SOE that no matter what they do the fact that they have created so many anti-fans will stigmy future game launches.

    I wonder if at some point Sony will delete the SOE brand, especially if this goes ahead and Alaplayer gets hacked (that it will be targetted is a given if they associate themselves with Sony).

    Reply

  • skippydippy

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    I would think that at some point the SOE brand will be shelved and maybe that should happen sooner rather than later i find it amazing Smedley after all these years is still head of the division to me him still being there represents an era thats long since passed into memory,he should be rmoved as everything he touches seemingly goes toxic.

    The letter is wonderful,he wont read of course but its sums up my feelings of the game and the people who play it.

    Reply

  • Ellebeth

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    Not alot that I can say that hasn’t been said, but I love the football analogy. Games can be more than just games and the community that developes around it can be very real and even life changing. I met my wonderful husband at an EQ fanfaire 10 years ago. It would take far too long to explain what EQ and EQ2 has meant to me. I have developed RL friendships that do exist outside the game as well as in,and many, many ingame friends that have come and gone over the years but who added meaning to my life just the same. I’m sure the corporate world will only look at the bottom line and not at the community that makes this game great. In the end that oversight might just bite them in the ass

    Reply

  • Necromancer

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    Here’s one for you Feldon:

    Reply

  • Aethn

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    To me the wall signifies my lost family name. You see the Germans spent the better part of 10 years killing every male member of my family until there were only a few left, then the Russians came in and killed off several more over teh next 35 years. In 1956 we left Hungary and came to the US, my brother and I are the last living males in our bloodline, neither of us have had boys, just girls. So when I die, my family name dies. It is unique, its not Smith or Jones.

    That is what the Berlin Wall means to me, the end of my family name forever.

    I see too many people today taking symbols of the past and using them for trvial things, like games or online friendships which simply cheapens the effect of that symbol. Seeing the Berlin wall shouljd instantly bring tears of joy or sorrow to a person … for the right reasons … not because they lost an internet friend to a buisness move in a video game.

    And Moria, you quoted a press release. go to the Patents and trademark website, you will see that Sony has owned the named Everquest since 1996, notr Verant but Sony. They also have owned the name 989 and Verant since 1991. Both companies were, are and will always be Sony companies. They just disolved them into one masthead is all, SOE.

    Reply

  • Eschia

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  • Pyratt

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    A very moving letter. I also feel like Smed and Co. have lost sight of some very important things.

    The sense of community and belonging is so important to all of us. I do not have any immediate Euro friends in my social circles…but there are several Euro(s) that are very prolific in general chat and have been for years. These are people I have only talked with on maybe two occasions in 5 years and yet I found myself very saddened to think they would no longer be around.

    I am angered by the “unjustness” of it all, and by the fact that, from my point of view, these decisions seem to represent such a betrayal to everyone. I have spent the better part of the last 10 years paying money to participate in a past time that I have enjoyed very much. The bulk of the people that are really upset by this are the ones who have grown into adulthood with SOE. I started playing EQ at the launch of Kunark. I was 25 I am 36 now, my oldest son was 2 when I started EQ, he just solo healed Temple on his inquiz last night he will be 13 soon. We have all grown up in this game; it has become an underlying part of us.

    Community is so important no matter your play style, and whether or not people will admit it, they come to MMO’s for an underlying sense of it, and it was just torn apart and the pieces set on fire, for what? A bit of extra profit? Maybe 2-5% returns to shareholders? MMO creators need to re-evaluate and realize why people love their games and they should do everything they can to preserve that. Community is what defines and separates an MMO from an single player RPG.

    Reply

  • Holgual

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    I lost faith in the EQ franchise long ago but I do follow news from time to time. Ive played EQ2 off and on but never can really get into it mostly because for years now the thought of giving any more money to SoE has made both my wife and I cringe.

    As far as ties to the real world. I met my wife on EQ about 11 years ago, we have been married now for 8. Her name (unrelated to the poster) was Moiria. We played on Lanys server. Good times back then, everything was so innocent. Now the popularity of MMO games is at a crazy high level and these companies are just frothing at the mouth about how to make a buck. Its a business and that’s kinda what they SHOULD be doing. The real real downside is the fact that the stupid micro fluff free to play model that makes them more money only works because enough morons shell out 20$ for a ridable turkey mount or some such. You speak with your dollars in the business world =/

    Reply

  • Daffid011

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    @Moria. Nice letter, but at least 5 years to late.

    The time to work with changing how SOE conducts business and works with its players passed by a long time ago. Actions like this are the result of years of loyal fans defending, rationalizing and turning blind eyes towards SOE for years upon years. SOE doesn’t care about open letters, online petitions or pleas to work with their customers and I think that has been demonstrated enough that anyone should recognize it for what it is at this point.

    SOE is going to continue dropping bombs on their players whenever they think they can make an extra nickle regardless of who or what it affects. That is why it is just a matter of time when, not if, this company eventually gets around to putting their customers into situations like this.

    Things like this should not come as a surprise to anyone with any decent amount of exposure to SOE.

    Reply

  • Striinger

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    Interesting perspectives. In the real, non-Norrath world, however, it IS just a game…and a proprietary game at that. It has a single origin who allows us to play for a fee. They invest money provided by everyone who invests in Sony with the promise that their investment will grow faster than chucking the money into a savings account.

    The wall (or iron curtain) comparisons are grossly dramatized. Region locking is more akin to dividing sport teams into separate leagues than enacting severe persecution and punishment against those with differing opinions and ideals. To my knowledge no one has been killed, tortured or brutally coerced into maintaining an EQ2 account on the ‘right’ side of the divide. As far as I know…we all maintain the right to end the game any time it stops being fun. Gain some perspective. The game is addictive, fun and immersive, but it’s still a very sophisticated version of Uno or Boggle (both proprietary games).

    I see that people say the game IS the commmunity, but it’s not. A community forms around some object of obsession; in this case it’s EQ2, but it happens for movies, games, actors, religions, charity, etc. This is no different…and if the game goes away, then the community will either dwell on what it was (see star trek fans)…or dissolve. It’s still only one of the many communities we’re all a part of. Individual relationships may form and endure, but a community endures only so long as the passion/obsession remains.

    So, please folks, just chill and see where this goes, knowing that you’ve had enough fun to make you passionate about this game…enough to be a part of the community that’s formed around it. If you wake up one day and the game you enjoy no longer exists, then move on or create a community about the way it was when your passion was ignited.

    In the meantime, share and remember the best parts of your own EQ2 obsession…hope for the best…and know that when it finally does end for you…you made it a GREAT ride!

    Take care.

    Reply

  • Tubben

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    regarding this sony/verant/989 Diskussion.

    Qeynos is named Qeynos for a reason. Read it backwards.

    SonyEQ

    Reply

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