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John Smedley Interview

Interviews By Angie Webb on August 25, 2010

John Smedley Interview

This weekend, I attended the Syndicate Guild Conference, Syndcon, in San Diego, CA. Sony Online Entertainment had a huge presence at this event and John Smedley, the president of SOE, was there as well. SOE demoed some of their upcoming games, including DC Universe Online and Star Wars: Clone Wars to show Syndicate members what was going on back at their headquarters.

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The Syndicate is a fourteen-year-old guild with a wide variety of players run by Sean Stalzer. This guild is huge and professional, and has done many things for the gaming industry including testing and consulting for MMO companies. They are ordered, skilled, and they know their games. But, I’ll write more about them very soon.

Amid the chaos, I did find a quick moment to talk with Mr. Smedley. When I approached him he was smiling and signing what looked like EQ game maps and conference badges for players. He had just been involved in a game talk, and was very receptive to being asked to chat and sign things. After I asked him to sign mine as well, he agreed to let me ask him a few questions about the upcoming games, Everquest, and his relationship with the Syndicate.

MMORPG.com:

MMORPG.com:

What is your favorite thing about DC Universe Online; what is it that you’re most excited about with this game; and what is your favorite thing to talk about?

John Smedley:

Probably the action combat, so it’s never been done in an MMO before and I’m excited about the idea that you can pick up a bus, throw it, and hit somebody with it, and they can pick it back up and use it as a shield or hit you with it. So to me, we’re changing the dynamics of MMO combat completely and I think that’s a big deal. And I hope people like it and I think they will.

MMORPG.com:

One of the things I didn’t expect to be excited about yesterday was Star Wars: Clone Wars. Yeah, and it sounded like it was being made solely for kids.

John Smedley:

Really? Well it is.

MMORPG.com:

But, it really enticed me and I didn’t know if that “family-type atmosphere” was on purpose?

John Smedley:

It is, we aimed it at kids, but we’re finding that, because of the Star Wars property, that a lot of older folks want to play it and many people in our office are in their twenties and thirties and they want to play it. So it’s kind of a catch-22, you make something for kids but adults. We’re certainly not going to stop it and we’ve even put in some more advanced games for older folks to play.

MMORPG.com:

It sort of has that Facebook appeal, that very casual atmosphere.

John Smedley:

I’m glad to hear that, it means we’re doing something right.

MMORPG.com:

Yes, and well, I’m a Star Wars fan too, actually.

John Smedley:

Oh, well, that’s where we find that the older players, if there’re Star Wars fans, will give it a try. So, that’s a good thing.

MMORPG.com:

I’m curious about your connection with the Syndicate, and how that started. Could you talk about that relationship a little bit?

John Smedley:

Well, I approached Sean (Syndicate Guild leader) a few years ago because I read his book and there was a chapter in it about Everquest and why they left. And that had a pretty profound impact because, even though I intellectually knew a lot of the things, what I didn’t see was the ramifications of things like camping and some of the things that bothered them about it. I knew them, but hearing the impact on the group that’s the size of the Syndicate was big: “Oh, wow, I want to understand more of this.” Then I went to speak at their Austin conference last year and I was so impressed. If you look around here, I don’t know if you’ve spent much time with them yet, but you see the families, you see the single people, and the married people playing. It really is a family and I like that. I like that a lot. I offered to host the conference here this year. I brought my son last night and I’m bringing my wife tomorrow. These are the kind of people that I want to hang out with and make games for.

MMORPG.com:

They have been so welcoming. I didn’t know anyone coming out here, and they have been pretty amazing.

John Smedley:

Yeah, they are.

MMORPG.com:

One last thing, about Everquest. Do you still currently play either, and which one do you play?

John Smedley:

Everquest 2 and I still play Planetside. Planetside is probably the game I play the most. If I had to pick one of my kids that’s the “cutest”, it’s Planetside, I play FPSs more than I play any other kind of game

Angie Webb / Gamer socialight attending as many con''s as possible. Philosopher, Artist, Gamer, Social Networker, Whedon, Disney, and Broadway lover Twitter- @angiekwebb