A Brad & Smed Compilation: Best Friends.
A compilation of the posts from Brad and Smed written on the forums. Near the end Brad breaks out of the role and starts to blame more openly Microsoft.
Reading between the lines:
Microsoft grew discontent about the product and further delays, so they started to increase the pressure on Sigil. The game is still unfinished and wasn’t going to be ready for the planned release. In order to not go toward a certain insuccess Brad decided to buyback the publishing rights so that they could further delay the release and get another chance to not delude all the promises that were made.
Smed gloated over the possibility to neutralize a possible direct competitor through another acquisition. Without even risking any of his own money since it’s still Sigil responsible of the whole development and execution.
Whether Vanguard will be a success or a failure, Smed will win. While for Brad, the clock is still ticking.
I’m waiting for the Penny Arcade comics.
Brad: SoE cannot touch the gameplay.
What we have done is become the publishers of our own game. We now have even more control and authority over Vanguard, how it is made, how it is designed, and how it is marketed than we ever had with Microsoft.
I realize there are lots of different feelings about SOE and their games. But whatever those feelings, the fact of the matter is that they know operations and distribution. They will make sure our beta runs the way it needs to, that our game is widely marketed, and that our game is available all over, in all channels.
That is SOE’s role in this new partnership with them. Sigil remains Sigil, able to focus now moreso on what we do best — design, implement, conduct betas, build community, and market.
brad: Sigil retains their Vision on what Vanguard will be.
SOE is helping to distribute and market the title.
These are the key points:
1. We found an incredible opportunity: the opportunity to purchase the publishing rights from Microsoft and become our own publisher.
2. We now own both the IP (the intellectual property) of Vanguard and the publishing rights.
3. This gives us more control and autonomy than we have ever had before. We are no longer just a developer.
4. Microsoft was TOTALLY cool with this. They are still very happy about Vanguard and looking forward to it bolstering their Windows platform. Vanguard will be an XP game, but also a Vista game, offering both 32 bit and 64 bit clients. We will continue to work closely with them and with Vista’s focus on entertainment/games/graphics, as well as online, Vanguard is key.
5. SOE was TOTALLY cool with this. They are excited to have the people who designed and worked on the original EQ and EQ expansions provide a game for them. They need a game like Vanguard next year — it gives them a variety of games from which players can choose from, or players can just play Vanguard.
6. We continue to have total control over the game’s design, how it is marketed, the community, customer service — everything that is important to us and I think important to all of you.
7. Things like running game servers, getting ads (that we design and/or approve) into magazines, getting boxes into stores, etc., all of which SOE is great at doing, they can do while we focus on finishing up the game and on beta.
8. This also gives us more time to launch the game when it is truly ready.
9. edit: Also, Vanguard will *NOT* be part of SOE’s ‘buy and sell items for real world money’. Our hard line position against this for a game like Vanguard remains as strong as ever.
If there are any other concerns or questions about this — that’s what I’m here for. I know this is a big change and it takes a moment to wrap one’s head around it, but bottom line is that it’s the best thing for Vanguard, for Sigil, and for you, our future players.
Brad: SOE can’t flex their muscles, assuming they’d even want to. We totally control the game and its development and design.
Brad: Absolutely NOT. Vanguard will NOT be part of Station Exchange.
Brad: Microsoft is very focused on Xbox 360 — as big as Vanguard is, their console business involves BILLIONS of dollars. After talking for quite a while with upper management at Microsoft Game Studios, it made the most sense for both of us to do this separation. They can focus on building their platforms (Windows, Vista, Xbox360), as well as their other titles, but we can now do what we need to do to take an ambitious title like Vanguard and use our expertise and experience to shape to an even greater extent it into the game it needs to be. We now have the time we need/decide to keep the game in beta until its truly ready — there is no risk of being rushed out, which is something large titles like MMOGs often face.
Bottom line, this is a win for Microsoft, SOE, and Sigil. Microsoft can focus where they need to and on where they want to go with developing games and platforms, SOE has a title they need such that Vanguard’s target audience doesn’t leave EQ or EQ 2 to go to Vanguard in such a way that hurts them, and we have even more control over the vision behind Vanguard to insure it turns out to be the game both we and you all want it to be.
Brad: This move, raising the money to buy the publishing rights and therefore even more control over Vanguard, is because we care so deeply about it and that it turns out to be the game we dreamed about making from day one.
Brad: We are totally different entities. Sigil is still its own company. Our employees are our employees, and SOE’s theirs. There are no plans for anyone at SOE to work on Vanguard in any way. If someone from SOE did want to work on Vanguard, they would quit and join Sigil. Likewise, if someone from Sigil wanted to work for SOE, they’d quit and work for SOE. It’s a free country And it’s happened before, both ways (people have left SOE to work for Sigil and people have left Sigil to work for SOE, not to mention to and from a lot of other MMOG developers).
Brad: I left SOE years ago because I wasn’t in a position to be hands on making games anymore. That’s why Sigil was founded.
Selling out would put me back in the same place I was before: not making games. Making MMOGs makes me happy. I love Vanguard and intend to see the game through, long past launch. We have so much planned for the game after launch — I’ve hinted at much of it.
Why would I do anything to jeoprodize what I have now? This new deal now even gives us (which includes me) even MORE authority and autonomy. This makes me even happier.
Smed: We’re not planning on changing the gameplay. It’s their game. We did this deal because we’re excited about their vision. I think we probably are more aligned with Sigil’s vision and that’s why this deal works for all of us.
Brad: SOE is NOT funding the game — we are. We are getting funding and buying the publishing rights from Microsoft. SOE is a co-publisher/distributor, with Sigil as the publisher as well. They can focus on what they do well (mentioned above — someone quoted one of my posts from the official boards) and we can now focus with even more authority on making Vanguard into the game we want it to be and believe our audience is looking for.
Smed: On the business side I can assure you Microsoft had (and still has) confidence in Vanguard. I’ve spoken to them myself, and that certainly isn’t the issue. I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve seen (and I’ve been a part of) plenty of games that move elsewhere at the last second. I would only point out that Microsoft is about to get locked into a severely protracted battle with my compadres that make the PlayStation 3… and even though they are Microsoft, they have budgets. If the right deal comes along and they can get a return on a smart investment… well everything has a price.. that’s the way I’d put it. I happen to respect the MS guys a lot. I play a lot of their games (most notably the Age series) and I know they are committed to making great games.
The same applies to us getting into the deal to co-publish it. I have to say I’m incredibly impressed with Vanguard. The game is awesome, and I think from our perspective it’s going to be something we’re very proud to be associated with. As to your other points, you have made them before and only time and hard work will prove you’ll be happy with the quality of Vanguard and the other stuff we’re releasing.
Smed: I’m probably breaking the NDA, but I’ve played it and it’s a great game. It’s not done yet, but they have the time to do this right.
Smed: Our front end stuff (including a completely new patching system we’re unveiling at E3) will likely be something we’ll work with the Sigil team on integrating.
As for gameplay stuff.. it’s precisely because of the gameplay that we’re interested in Vanguard. Like the old saying goes “If it ain’t broke.. don’t fix it”. I realize I’m setting myself up nicely by saying that, but hey.. it applies.
Brad: (about Smed) While I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, I agree with him on more things than I don’t, and always have. In the areas where we don’t agree, we agree to disagree, and like I said, with this deal, they have no control over the design of this game.
Brad: Sigil and Microsoft agreed to amicably part ways when we decided to raise money ourselves to buy the publishing rights away from them and they agreed to it. (and the money we are raising is NOT coming from SOE).
Smed: Even if you classify EQ, EQ II and Vanguard into the same general “Fantasy MMO” genre, the games are in fact different enough that they will attract different audiences. Do I think there will be overlap? Yes. Do I think there will be many people that give all of them a try? Yes… and they’ll settle on the one they like the best…. that best suits their individual (or guild’s) tastes.
Also as a businessman, this doesn’t take a lot of thought.. would I rather have a great game sitting at one of my competitors? Or would I rather have it within SOE’s realm of games. It really didn’t take a lot of thought at all. I can also say that within our Station Access plan, I’m happy whatever game people play… in fact, I think that’s one of the best parts about it… people get to try different things.
Brad: I knew that some people might be upset which is why I am here explaining our reasonsing and the situation that we’re in. I think that if a potential customer trusts us and wants what is best for Vanguard they will support the decision, some without an issue, and some perhaps with concerns. Over time, then, as we continue to live up to our promises, and the additional control we have over the game pays off and is obvious to future and current customers of Vanguard, I would hope that theses concerns diminish.
Brad: We get paid based on how much the game is played, if it’s played on the Station pass. If a person has the pass, but spends 100% of his time playing Vanguard, then we get all of that money, minus a small royalty to SOE.
Brad: NCsoft is great and I have a lot of respect for them. But having worked at SOE before and having lots of friends there, plus their vacinity, plus the fact we are familiar with their operations and so moving over to them will be easy… SOE made the most sense.
Brad: 1. We have always made the committment that we’d do anything and everything we could to not be forced out early, which is something that has hurt other MMOGs.
2. We feel based on both feedback and instinct that the vast majority of people interested in Vanguard feel the same way — they’d rather we took the time, as opposed to launching early and then patching in the rest of the game later.
Brad: 1. This move was best for Vanguard. We’ve always promised you guys to do the best for Vanguard, that we would do everything in our power to make sure the vision behind it wasn’t altered, or the game rushed out, etc.
2. When we found ourselves in a situation where in order to uphold our commitment to you (#1 above) we needed to assume even more control over the game, we did that by buying the publishing rights from Microsoft.
3. I’ve listed out in detail in several posts why SOE was the right choice as a co-publisher and distributor and how working with them also insures we have the best chance of both finishing, launching, and the building/expanding Vanguard according again to #1 above.
4. While SOE does make a royalty from Vanguard, Sigil pulls in the vast majority of money made by the game.
Brad: If we lose some customers over this, and we may, we will most certainly regret that. But if I had allowed things to occur that would have made it such that I couldn’t live up to the promise to you all that we would stick to the vision, then honestly I couldn’t live with it. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. I would have betrayed myself and betrayed all of you.
Weighing living with the betrayal vs. losing some customers (e.g. money), I would have to choose losing the money. I don’t want to lose any of you, but I can’t let Vanguard be launched as something other than what we promised you it would be if I can help it.
Brad: (about the funds) We’re raising it ourselves. More detail than that I’m not at liberty to (and nor would I likely anyway) reveal.
Brad: I didn’t leave SOE in anger — it was an amicable departure. I have always had many friends over there, still do, and Smed is one of my best friends and always will be.