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Saying Goodbye to Storybricks

EverQuest Next Columns - By Victor Barreiro Jr. on March 06, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Storybricks

As if there wasn’t enough strange or disheartening news to go around when it came to discussing Everquest Next and Landmark, the Storybricks farewell letter caught me and my email inbox by surprise.

I won’t mince words when I say that I still don’t completely understand how their tech would operate in Everquest Next, but since Daybreak is taking over those duties now, that seems like a moot point.

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One thing that makes me feel bad, though, is the lost potential for Storybricks, as if it were a book that was never fully written out in history, with its actual contents lost to an underworld comprised of failed human attempts to do things.

Storybricks, the humanizer of virtual worlds

Storybricks, as far as I remember, was meant to be a system developed for games that would allow NPCs to have behaviors and triggers based on how they operated.

As I wrote back in a 2013 Devil’s Advocate post,

Storybricks, for lack of a better way of explaining it, allows players to create people (NPCs, basically) that basically live in the game world. The difference between a Storybricks person and a foundry quest or a common NPC is the intent. A Storybricks person is basically built with a set of likes and dislikes, as well as an objective or set of ideas he wants to pursue. The Storybricks person essentially mingles with players and other NPCs or Storybricks people in a way that is known only to him and his creator.

Romanticizing it somewhat, that sounds like an awesome addition to any virtual world. Aside from actual people, there would be virtual people living out their lives in-game, generating activities for you based on how they interact with the world around them.

I still see that as the dream for Storybricks, though it might never come true in this universe, at least.

The Goodbye Speech

Storybricks’ farewell letter noted that it was not because of Daybreak that Storybricks is shutting down.

As cof-founders Rodolfo Rosini and Stephane Bura explained,

Over the past few months we nurtured a desire to go beyond games and find a different vision, one that was more inclusive and could make a difference for a large number of people. This combined with the effect our travel schedule was having on our families made me (Rodolfo) and my co-founder (Stéphane) decide to move onto other projects beyond Storybricks.

To that end, while they’re following a new direction for their activities, they still want to make some of what they’ve done available for use with someone else’s projects, The two wrote they had a few “side projects and a demo that we plan to release for free that are unrelated to EQN. It's nothing major but maybe some Storybricks tech can live in other games. Give us some time to sort that out.”

The Attempt to Buy SOE

Of course, while this may appear funny in some minds, it could have made for an interesting tale.

According to the Storybricks folks, “Sony Online Entertainment had been up for sale for a long time…” meaning that of course the Storybricks folks would try to buy SOE too.

Here’s the tale as they tell it:

We retained an investment banking firm as a proxy and they went directly to Sony Corporate bypassing the local executives. We would have been able to raise the necessary capital, and had interviewed new and existing management ready for a turnover.

Alas, it was not meant to be as the terms offered by Sony Japan were unacceptable to us and to our investors. It is my understanding that other buyers had the same reaction and, in the end, Columbus Nova got a completely different deal that the one we were offered, but by then our investor group had moved on.

While this would have potentially saved SOE, Storybricks would have still had to make deep cuts to keep everything afloat. They would have even tried to save another company’s assets, that of 38 Studios, in the hopes of bringing more to SOE… but that also didn’t happen.

Sadly, all was not great in SOE-ville, no matter what we may have wanted to think.

As they said succinctly – and to which I agree – they really did try their best. Sometimes, however, the best efforts are not quite enough.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains the the Landmark/Everquest Next and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler (Rappler.com) as a technology reporter.