Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?

Breaking news over at broken toysthe return of an old MMO hero/villain.

Is Brad McQuaid back? Myself, as well as others tend to think it’s a hoax. Let’s chat about it a bit – it has been a slow gaming “work” week anyway.

First, for those who like Wikipedia and need a short intro, here is the bio.

The shorter version – Brad McQuaid was the “vision” behind Everquest, the granddaddy of 3D MMO space.  A game that managed to be fun, inspiring, and punishing all wrapped into one. He then took that “vision”, and made Vangaurd: Saga of Heroes – effectively losing cash for Microsoft, destroying his own company Sigil in the process, and providing SOE with another bargain bin MMO to wrap into it’s monthly all-in-one package.

Along that slide were alleged heavy opiate use, accusations of the inability to run a company or manage people in any way, shape, or form and his resulting dissappearance from the industry scape. Why poke your head out now?

Even better, why poke your head out in such a crappy blog format, with empty posts and a small following of moderated rah rah posts?

That is why I call shenanigans.

Any leader or person of merit hoping to make a comeback would be ill-advised to do it in the manner that is presented. You sunk a game and the hopes of thousands who followwed it. You should probably address that.  Not addressing the opiate accusations? Hey, deny, deny deny (or at least explain). If a person in his standing and past accomplishments truely wanted to resurface and try something new your first post is an apology, with a thorough explanation, filled with candor and honesty. What is presented at the new Brad McQuaid blog is less than fluff.

So it’s probably not him. For his own sake, and the sake of people who still have a shred of belief in him I certainly hope it is a hoax.

What if it isn’t? I am not  anymore a big fan of “rockstar designers” than I am of “rockstar CEO’s”. I believe their success is as much entrenched in timing and market conditions than their own personal contributions. Mark Jacobs, of DAOC/WAR fame is a great MMO manager for sure, but doesn’t have any unique or special vision. WAR is proof of that. Lord British had a great hit with UO 15 years ago but has been unable to follow up with any sort of recent success (in gaming – the man did make it into space – kudos). The Diablo team’s follow up had a short life span. Brad? – well, you read the above if you got this far. One success – no matter how successful, does not give you a design pedigree that you can fall back on – solely. Good business managers evolve – they do not rely on past successes and hope it carries them through. Even WoW has changed lead designers multiple times. Is it more important to have someone who knew what they were doing in the past, or someone who you think will know what to do in the future? Seems like a gamble either way.

Well, if it is a hoax I hope it still prods BM to poke his head out and let us know what he is doing, and how he is. I don’t hate the guy by any means and wish him a healthy, happy life. I loved EQ – it was a great game for it’s time. I wouldn’t be interested in any new title of his without a full and clear disclosure of the Vision ™ of course, but who knows.

Will the real Brad McQuaid please stand up?

7 Comments

  1. Pope

    It seems a little silly to have “rockstar” designers. A designer is never bigger than the game that he/she designs. While a respected designer can lend credibility to a title by joining the development team for that title, it’s not the same thing as an actor or director signing onto a film. There are too many cogs in the machine of game development for that.

    Vanguard is the prime example. I have friends that were beyond excited about the concept of the game, thinking that it would return the MMO genre to its hardcore roots… And were incredibly disappointed with the changes implemented and the state of the game overall at launch. Lots of heightened expectations, zero delivery.

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  2. Yeebo

    Launch EQ wasn’t so much a “game” as “paying some company 50-70$ to enter a world that is heedlessly labyrinthine, and where game play consists largely of finding a camp of the right level and grinding the hell out of it.”

    As I did not enjoy that, I find it hard to care one way or another whether he is back.

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  4. BFG50

    Seriously – whether or not this guy is or was on opiates is none of our business. Whether he’s any good at his job is not really any of our business either. If he tries to set up something and gets investors then its THEIR business. If he gets a job in another company then its THEIR business.

    Do you ask the board members of Apple if they take drugs or how good they are at their job before buying the new iPod? No – you buy the product on its own merits. Why should a computer game and its designer have any different relationship with its customers.

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  5. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Unfortunately, in game development all we really have to go on is past successes. Some people really respect the massive amount of work I poured into Meridian 59 and really understand the sacrifices I made to pull off its resurrection. Other people think I’m a delusional nut who lives in the past because I care about an ugly, unpopular old game. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of people who fit the former category who are willing to give me money. 😉

    If you really look at it, what’s the difference between me and An_Anonymous_MMO_Blogger_01? I happened to have worked on an MMO at a major publisher then later bought the rights and relaunched the game, through sheer luck. What’s the difference between me and Brad McQuaid? Brad happened to work on a game that was king of the roost before WoW came along and ate everyone’s lunch. People who are honest with themselves understand that their history is mostly luck, though, and that luck can turn fickle as much as it can give you a huge hit.

    In Silicon Valley, where I lived for a long time, failure is often shown as a badge of honor. The fact that you were able to try at all shows a lot about a person. A person who can learn from his or her mistakes is worth their weight in gold, but have to make the mistakes to learn from them.

    I think that Mr. McQuaid, assuming it is the real deal, will not have too much trouble getting back into the industry. Especially if he humbly accepts his limitations and doesn’t try to step into a CEO type position quickly.

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  6. Chris F (Post author)

    @Pope: Recent history suggests you are correct. I don’t blame the gamer for believing in their game-design heroes – we all just want the perfect game for “us” afterall. Sadly past success on individuals hasn’t translated into current success – that leads me back to my timeing/market conditions argument.

    @Yeebo: Looking back your impression is pretty spot on. Somehow though, there was a magic in EQ that captured a lot of people (and spawned the genre in a lot of ways). I can’t believe the things we did in the name of the game. I would never go back to that style of game mind you, but it does hold a place in my gaming heart =)

    @BFG50: I disagree from a PR perspective. It is well known that that brad’s alleged opiate use was one of the cogs of the downfall (emphasis on alleged). He is a celebrity of sorts in the MMO genre, and NOT addressing major accusations such as that in the media is, sadly, more or less an admission of truth. If I, or anyone else were accused of it playing Ostrich is not a good strategy. You have to take on your accusers head on, especially when it is something of that magnitude.

    If it’s not true, deny it. If it WAS true, as one of the grandfathers of the genre he really should come out and say “hey, yes, I had an addiction. I beat it during my time off. I’m back, healthy, and in control of my life”. People respect that a lot more than just ignoring what many people believe to be true. If he is “coming back” – for his own sake – he needs that level of clarity and candor.

    When Hellgate tanked Bill Roper gave lengthy interviews and took responsibility, while giving explanations. Any leader worth their salt is able to do that. People either love or hate Brad – both often misguided. If you are open and honest about past failings at least you can garner some respect.

    @Psycho: I would guess the Silcon Valley badge of failure (honor) wouldn’t apply as much as today – there really aren’t the millions burning holes in investors pockets. I wonder how that credit market is. From a business perspective I still don’t agree with it – being able to “try”, only to fail makes me think that the people who received funding were good salesmen (the “pitch”) but unable to execute. Anyone can come up with a good idea – those who execute are the true businessmen. Trying to recall old articles I read about SV and from off memory, I seem to recall that people were just dying to give money to anyone who seemed like they had the next best thing – even when market research and internet adoption were well off the mark on those projects.

    I hope Brad does get back into the industry. He would have to demonstrate to potential customers that he actually has relevant ideas now that can be put into the format, but hey – you always like to see an old dog learn new tricks.

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