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Tales from the Neighborhood: Supporting John Smedley

By Jessica Cook on July 28, 2015 | Columns | Comments

Supporting John Smedley

John Smedley, outspoken former CEO of Daybreak Games, stepped down this week. Although Smedley hasn’t officially stated the reason behind the change, the popular theory is that it has something to do with his on-going conflict with hacker group Lizard Squad. Lizard Squad is thought to be responsible for not only DDoS attacks on Daybreak’s servers, but also calling in a bomb threat last year on a plane that Smedley was about to board.

Anyone who follows MMORPG business recognizes that John Smedley has never been known for withholding his opinion. In the past he’s been quite active on Twitter, talking to players and developers alike. He briefly wrote a blog about the development of Planetside 2 back when LiveJournal was a popular platform, and more recently had his own WordPress site where he wrote about MMO development and game theory. Smedley was certainly not shy about communicating his frustration with Lizard Squad and the justice system tasked to dole out punishment for their actions.

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A Loss for MMO Developers and Fans

It’s perhaps easy to write this story off as a case of the little guy playing a joke on a big corporation, although I don’t think that is what really happened here. Lizard Squad didn’t just attack Daybreak, they also personally attacked John Smedley. They threatened his safety, and I’m sure made him worry about the safety of his family. Blogger Wolfy’s Eyes writes in their blog post titled “Of Smedley and e-Thuggin’” that “[n]o matter how simple a DDoS attack apparently is to perpetrate, you lose the right to be considered a crusader when you begin pursuing a person’s family,” and I totally agree.

(Frankly even if this hacker group did just target corporate assets, Daybreak seems like a pretty unlikely stand-in for “The Man”.)

The result is that the MMO industry no longer has one of its more outspoken and influential champions and it’s a loss for all of us who play, whether you’re a fan of Daybreak’s slate of games or not. As Wolfy’s Eyes writes, this sort of attack just encourages game developers and publishers to further compartmentalize themselves from their players, reducing the opportunity for public discourse and discussion. And who can blame them when their own safety is possibly on the line?

It’s a darn shame that John Smedley was forced to step down, either out of his own sense of well-being or because he was vocal about his exasperation with Lizard Squad and the lack of real-world consequences for their actions. As MMO players, it’s critical to the health of our genre that we recognize the line between attacking a game and attacking a person -- otherwise we will continue to lose passionate, candid voices in the industry and our opportunity as players to interact with them.

Around the Blogosphere

Mr. Luvvaluvva gets in touch with his sensitive side and writes about three games that got him “right in the feels”, both happy and sad. We tend to talk about MMOs in terms of mechanics and loot and graphics, and while that’s fine it seems that those little moments that we always remember come from the emotional highs and lows inspired by story and character. When was the last time that an MMO made you sniffle?

Perhaps we’ve just never quite gotten over our first MMO. Syl from MMO Gypsy writes “On MMO Heartbreak”, and argues that although perhaps MMOs have lost a bit of their magic for long-time players there are still little moments and unique details that give life to new games. There may be more emphasis on “gaming” over “virtual world” in today’s games, but there are still breath-taking vistas and random acts of kindness to experience and enjoy.

Over on Gaming Conversations, Braxwolf asks a big question: “Is Character Personalization Really That Important” in MMOs? Brax used to think so, but since he started playing and loving Marvel Heroes – a game where you can easily be playing next to your identical twin Iron Man – he’s not so sure anymore. He suspects that the difference is found in playing a pre-existing character versus one he created from scratch himself.

And on the subject of character creators, Aywren from Clean Casuals created a great screenshot post that shows off the creators of 8 different popular games. Aywren almost always plays the same character in her games, a person of her own creation named Tai. The result is that Tai has been recreated across a number of MMOs and simulators, and in “The Art of MMO Character Creation” you can see how character graphics have improved over time and yet remained remarkably consistent.

Over on Hardcore Casual, blogger Syncaine wonders if Steam’s early access program is working as intended. He notes that when looking over his previous early access purchases many have never updated, leading him to believe that they probably never will be. On the other hand, the games that do make it out of the early access stage are often fantastic and probably would never have been made without the unique funding from patient players. Are you satisfied with your early access purchases so far?

Finally, earlier this month Silverangel from Kitty Kitty Boom Boom (a fantastic blog name) took a look at Trion’s latest South Korean import, action MMO Devilian. The game seems to be getting some pushback from players who don’t like how Trion Worlds handled ArcheAge, but Silverangel feels that Devilian has some unique features that make it worth checking out. Those features include RIFT-style instant adventures and world events, a collectible card deck system, a 100-floor public dungeon, and a playstyle that is reminiscent of Diablo only with up to 100 players on-screen at once.

And that’s the word from the blogosphere! If you see a great blog post that you think should be highlighted here, leave a link in the comments or let me know on Twitter at @Liores.

Jessica Cook / Jessica "Liore" Cook is a longtime MMO blogger, fan, aficionado, and community goodwill ambassador. She hosts the MMO podcast Game On, and writes the weekly column: Tales from the Neighborhood. You can read more at www.lioreblog.com.