Spit or Swallow

There is nothing either good or bad,but thinking makes it so.

– William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

So here we go…remember to keep your hands and legs inside the blog at all times. No screaming, whining or playing “grab fanny” with the person in front of you (…I’m talking to you Cuppy :) )

So, I’m going to go over some of the more interesting pieces of information that we’ve seen over the past day or so regarding the recent events surrounding the SOE acquiring Sigil assets. So, have fun with it…and remember, I’m a blogger not a news man so take it as such.

The acquisition itself.

May 15, 2007 San Diego, CA – Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE), a global leader in the online games industry, today announced that it has completed a transaction to purchase key assets of Sigil Games Online, Inc. Through the deal, SOE now owns Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Sigil’s tentpole property, a highly-successful massively multiplayer online game. The Sigil acquisition also builds on SOE’s successful strategy of cultivating game development studios around the world to further boost the company’s capabilities. The announcement was made by John Smedley, President, Sony Online Entertainment.

Fine, nothing I can really disagree with there. We knew for quite some time that this was going to happen given the recent postings by Brad. He earlier hinted that the relationship will be getting a bit more “snug”, so I guess this is how snug it’s going to get. I am, however; very uncertain about why this IP is important to SOE. Sure, it gives them potential revenue to their bottom line…I say potential because VG has yet to prove that it can bring in players at this point. Second, they’ve already got a high fantasy IP in Everquest 1 and 2…so, currently I do not see how they will market VG with EQ2 running right up beside it. EQ2 players probably won’t go there (…yet..). You know WoW players won’t and if they are moving it will be to LoTRO or to Warhammer. I’d give my left arm to know what Smed is thinking in terms of how he’s going to make VG stand as viable alternative to EQ2 and a better game than WoW or LoTRO. I just don’t see it right now….but I didn’t see EQ2 becoming what it is today, so I’ll probably be shown the light soon enough.

Brad has been absent for quite a while. This is a fact as far as I know from my “sources”, so we’ll ring that one up as true until we hear otherwise. Message for Brad and all would-be CEOs out there. When you’re the leader, you lead the way for your people. You’re the first one in the trench and your the last one out. I am sick and frackin tired of people who love the idea of being a leader but have no clue on how to be one. They’re in love with the title and perks of leadership but they take none of the responsibility that comes with it. Brad, sitting in your basement or locking yourself up in your office is not leadership. I don’t know…maybe you have issues….maybe you just aren’t ready for this kind of pressure. As a CEO of a company YOU are responsible for the welfare of your people. These are people’s jobs…their livelihood. People are depending on YOU to be successful so that they can support their kids, wives and live life as stress free as they can. You don’t just take this kind of thing on a whim just to “see if I can do it”. A little advice…get help, grow up, move on and next time…BE A LEADER!!!

Next…50 people lost their jobs. This is the fallout of poor leadership and it happens all over high tech. I’ve seen it…I’ve been in it and again, I grow sick of it. This is why I just spanked Brad earlier because I have very, very strong feelings about this. To those who lost their jobs I’m very sorry. I wish you luck in finding something very quick. Most of you are probably pretty young still, and maybe this is your first lay-off or firing (…whatever…), but rest assured that you will land somewhere. Hopefully, you’ll find someplace that has a good leader that will charge the bunker with you instead of staying in the foxhole.

Brad is being kept as a “consultant”. I’m mixed about this arrangement. Even though I just took a swing at him, I don’t think he should be thrown away either. Everyone should get a chance to learn from their mistakes and take that learning into their next experience. So yeah, he should be shown what it takes to be a leader. He should be shown how to communicate to the community and to the people working for him. He should be shown how to be a CEO. I can think of no one better to do that than Smed. Never met the guy, but I’ve been told by people I trust that he knows his stuff…which is good enough for me. The “consultant” job is obviously a penalty box position for now while he thinks about what he wants to do. There are two outcomes to this…either he gets back into the SOE fold or he leaves for “other opportunities”. We’ll probably know the outcome of this within the next 6 months or so…if that.

Vanguard will get fixed. I take that as a fact. We’ve seen from EQ2 that if anyone can take a poorly executed game and make it better, it’s SOE. Although I don’t agree/understand/get the reasons for SOE taking VG along with its other IPs, I know that I will be trying VG again when it is fixed up and really ready for prime time. What needs to be fixed? Here is my short list:

1) Everything that has to do with the player’s avatar. Animations, art, look…everything. They look awful and, in my opinion, are a roadblock to immersion.
2) Client performance. The game still needs optimization to run. “Building for the future” is not the reason why either…so don’t give me that excuse please.
3) General bugs…we all know what they are.
4) Content. We know that the content-to-landmass ratio is waaay too low. More stuff needs to be added…at all levels.
5) Server population. For the size of the world, there is not enough people. This is partly a marketing issue, but it can be resolved with server merges…which I’m sure is coming quite soon.
6) World art. Sorry, but world just looks a bit bland. Lets put something in there to make it go zing. LoTRO does this fantastically without killing my machine. I suggest a meeting with Turbine to see how they did it :)

Well, that’s it. Sorry for the length, but this was a pretty big event. In my impressions of Vanguard I said this:

Now, I’ve said this before…Vanguard has a TON of potential to be the next big adventure for a lot players. It’s interesting, but I once read that the term “potential” is an unusual compliment because it comes with an expiration date. At one point or another, “potential” is transformed to other words like “disappointment” or “waste of time”. It can also turn into “genius” or “wow…awesome”. I’m wondering what Vanguard will turn its potential into and what the expiration date on its potential will be.

Well, the expiration date was May 14, 2007 at 4:50pm…give or take. Good luck to SOE…good luck to those who lost their jobs…and Brad, I expect better leadership next time. Other MMO companies…take note of what just happened, cause you’re next if you try the same thing.

D out.

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