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SOE CEO Responds To CBS Critiques 55

CBS's GameCore page continues to follow up with Star Wars Galaxies players on the aftermath of the NGE. Sony Online Entertainment John Smedley has gotten into the act, responding to criticisms leveled at the company in previous GameCore pieces. From the article: ""I'm bent about that one ... As a person, I have zero problem with criticism. I don't have any problem whatsoever with our customers complaining. I think it's perfectly legitimate, and I think it's perfectly legitimate for you guys to have a mailbag with hate mail from Star Wars Galaxies. But of all the mail, that's the one that bothered me because it's filled with a bunch of BS ... There has never been a release by Sony Online Entertainment that has been incomplete.
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SOE CEO Responds To CBS Critiques

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  • by GuyverDH ( 232921 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @05:37PM (#14788095)
    'Nuff said.
  • Horseshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Korben Dallas ( 192692 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @05:38PM (#14788102)
    There has never been a release by Sony Online Entertainment that has been incomplete.

    You chumps didn't even bill for EQ for the first month after "release", it was so fucked up.

    • Yes, but I don't believe it was owned by SOE when Everquest was initially released.
      • Correct, EQ was originally completely developed by Verant Interactive. SOE was just the publishing company. However SOE bought EQ from them.
      • Re:Horseshit (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Tarkadot ( 800596 )
        It might not have been owned by SoE (which was created later, I believe), but it was owned by Sony. How else do you explain the game's biggest city: Qeynos (Sonyeq)?
      • Re:Horseshit (Score:3, Informative)

        by vertinox ( 846076 )
        Right, but he was head of 989 Studio, who turned into Verant (who developed Everquest), and then went to SOE as its president when it aquired Verant. (source [])

        So yeah... He was kind of responsible for that game too.

      • Nod, you're correct. It was owned by Verant... which was purchased by Sony. All the same people different umbrella.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 )
      "There has never been a release by Sony Online Entertainment that has been incomplete,"
      - John Smedley, Information Minister, Sony Online Entertainment [].

      Hey, if counterfactual computing works in the quantum world, why not use it in SWG?

    • Re:Horseshit (Score:4, Informative)

      by dc29A ( 636871 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @06:59PM (#14788787)
      You chumps didn't even bill for EQ for the first month after "release", it was so fucked up.

      That's only the tip of the iceberg.

      The first loot out of Sleeper's Tomb was ... cloth cap, for non EQ players it's beyond an insult, it's a worthless level 1 item out of the hardest (at that time) zone. Why is an endgame zone loot that takes an entire well coordinated raid to beat a level one worthless item? Zone is incomplete. In the next expansion, Vex Thal, the endzone of Shadows of Luclin expansion was incomplete (shocker!). The next major expansion, Planes of Power had it's endzone blocked by SOE for months by an unkillable encounter. 190 well coordinated people failed the Avatar of Earth encounter because well, SOE didn't want anyone in the Plane of Time because ... you guessed, it was incomplete! This encounter should have been trivial with that many people and after SOE "fixed it" it was done by far smaller numbers. Fast forward to the clusterfuck that was the Gates of Discord expansion, another line of incomplete zones, buggy content and al. But at least this time, people got fed up and left. EQ started hemmoraging.

      Smedley lies. Period. He often lied about many things ingame being fine and working yet they were not. Nothing new for EQ/SWG veterans. He is only on the defensive now because it's not some guild website telling people SOE games suck, but instead a CBS, a reputable news source.
      • To be fair, Kerafyrm in Sleeper's Tomb was never meant to be defeated. Just the amount of HP it had, as well as how much it could regen per second, shows it was just there to be an unkillable fiend. I was online when they finally took him down, and it took a long time and a lot of people. Hundreds, if i recall correctly. One of, if not the, largest multi guild raids ever. I suspect the only reason they could take him down was because of the changes (new spells, items) from Luclin and PoP.
        • To be fair, Kerafyrm in Sleeper's Tomb was never meant to be defeated.

          Perhaps, but putting something in a game and says its supposed to be 'undefeatable' in a game is like leaving the keys to a hotrod on the kitchen table and then expecting a house with 10000+ kids not to take the car out on a 'test drive'.

          People were killing/trying to kill Lord British the first day Ultima 1 came out. When UO came out, people STILL tried to kill Lord British (and in one case actually succeeded). And if that isn't recent

        • To be fair, Kerafyrm in Sleeper's Tomb was never meant to be defeated.

          I wasn't reffering at all at Kerafyrm, when Fires of Heaven first entered Sleeper's Tomb and killed the first few bosses, all loot they got was cloth caps.
      • [BLOCKQUOTE]CBS, a reputable news source[/BLOCKQUOTE]

        I'm not sure why, but that made me laugh. It is better than a lot of them, but Dan Rather's career ending clusterfuck wasn't really -that- long ago.
  • ... it's not "incomplete" it's "barely started".

    Stick a fork in it already sony, it's done.
  • SOE makes trash, or buys good games and then runs them into the ground.

    They have negative creativity.
    • Re:SOE is the worst (Score:2, Interesting)

      by s0abas ( 792033 )
      I would disagree. Has EQ gone downhill? Sure maybe people have come and gone, but the game itself is still good. Same with Everquest II. Same with Planetside. I haven't played Matrix Online so I can't comment. But SWG is really the only game that has had this kind of problem, that is, making it so bad that a good amount of people leave.
    • That's not exactly true. They release *killer* games. They wait till everyone is seriously addicted... then they beat the games to death the first time the subscriber numbers don't meet their expections. At which point the numbers continue to get worse and worse and they keep beating and beating. They need to take the view of "Numbers decline overtime is natural and not a sign of dissatisfaction with the game." rather than "Numbers decline overtime must be stopped and we'll keep changing things until it
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @05:53PM (#14788249) Homepage
    I've been playing PlanetSide since it was released, and a lot of the complaints about SWG sound very familiar. Frankly SOE seems very content to release buggy products and to release updates to those products that turn off large parts of their core subscriber base.

    PlanetSide is perhaps the ultimate example of this. When the game first came out it was very buggy. I signed on in the first week that it was out but couldn't be compelled to recommend the game to any friends for a good 2-3 months after release because it was so flaky. Even then the person who joined up on my recommendation ended up leaving within a couple weeks because he couldn't get it to run stably on his system.

    The next big screw up was the release of an expansion pack, Core Combat. This expansion pack brought minimal content and was fairly expensive. Most of the people I know who bought it when it was first released regretted it. It wasn't until the price dropped to like $10 that I could recommend it to people. $30 for a few new maps (which also has the effect of diluting the player concentrations), 3 new vehicles and 3 new weapons is rather overpriced.

    Since that time, there's been a pretty steady decline in the population in the game. The final nail in the coffin was the release of BFR's, these big robots that are similar to what you'd see in Mechwarrior. It wasn't a terrible concept but they so radically altered the balance of the game that a lot of people abandoned ship.

    Currently the game is decent. The pop levels are rather low, so while you'll find a battle anytime you log on, the quality of the battles has suffered a lot. Lots of 3-way stalemates happen now because there's no fun in the strategic approach of attacking empty continents. They are trying to get moe people by offering a try before you buy option where you can play as a lower level player for free. That might bring more people, or it might get exploited as people create temporary accounts to log on and grief people and cause disruptions.

    It's a shame too, because the overal concept and play of the game is good. It's a really nice blend of strategy and action, but it's just been poorly managed by SOE.
    • I played both, and Planetside players have little to complain about in comparison to SWG. Planetside and SWG had some bad implementation problems, granted, and neither were complete at launch, but the core game of Planetside is still solid, even today, and thanks to a decent new developer is actually improving. However, SWG was a terrible *design* from the beginning. It was always boring. Everyone played expecting it to get better, and it never did. I don't regret leaving SWG, especially after what I h
  • by Anonymous Coward
    These SOE guys just trip out every time anyone criticizes them or their products. Did you see that SOE director of public communications or whatnot railing against Joystiq and Penny Arcade a couple weeks ago for holding the simple and very reasonable opinion that Everquest 2 is a very ugly game? It was one of the most unprofessional things I have ever seen an electronics company representative do.

    Now we've got for the first time I'm aware of an SOE rep publicly commenting on something that almost everyone I
  • by garylian ( 870843 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @06:04PM (#14788329)
    Since SOE stopped posting numbers, and many game companies followed suit, numbers are ambigious at best. Besides, you get a Station pass, and you are now in all games. So, I bet their EQ, SW:G, EQII, and Planetside numbers are all the same.

    But, Smedley's contention that SOE didn't release an "incomplete" product is based on your definition of incomplete. I am sure SOE thinks that if they finished the code and got it out the door, it's complete. We players like to see the code go through a beta process, or a test server.

    The inherent problem is that many in the player base of any game think they know what would be better than the developers and designers. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they are just plain insane. More than 90% of the ideas suggested in various forums to the WoW developers were just plain horrible. 9% had a little merit, but wouldn't work for various reasons. Maybe 1% of them made good sense. But of that 1%, 5% of that small number fit in with what the designers/developers had in mind for the class/quest/feature. The rest was discarded.

    SOE made changes to try and attract more players, without getting real feedback from its existing player base. The burnt both ends of the bridge, and are now on an island by themselves, throwing ropes to the sides trying to pull players back. This has been a fine example of a game company not knowing its existing playerbase's desires for the future of the game.

    SW:G probably won't be consider a MMO in a year's time. There won't be massive numbers of players online.

    Then again, it wasn't that great to begin with.
    • But, Smedley's contention that SOE didn't release an "incomplete" product is based on your definition of incomplete. I am sure SOE thinks that if they finished the code and got it out the door, it's complete.

      'It compiled without errors? Ship it!'

  • Part of the problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @06:30PM (#14788557) Journal
    With the Star Wars fiasco was a complete lack of communication

    Sony/Lucas Arts/Whoever did not communicate with the existing subscriber base to explain WTF was going to happen. And after they had done it, they still didn't communicate worth a shit.

    People will stick around if you tell them "it will get better" or "we're taking your complaints into consideration". Sony didn't do that and got burned for it.
  • Absurd article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by merreborn ( 853723 ) * on Thursday February 23, 2006 @06:36PM (#14788613) Journal
    "For some reason or another, the gaming industry has grown used to the idea that a game can ship with some bugs and that this is somehow an excusable side effect of dealing with computer software," Silverman contends. If a CD doesn't play the last track, you go get your money back. If a DVD is missing a chapter, you go get your money back. If the display on your television doesn't work properly, you go get your money back. If a car company forgets -- I don't know, the seat belts, you go get your money back (assuming you were dumb enough to buy a car without seat belts in the first place). Moreover, if one particular company keeps releasing CDs or DVDs or TVs or cars with bugs in them, people start to avoid that company like the plague because they're releasing "incomplete" products.

    Actually, more often then not, when someone releases a defective product (car, etc.), they issue a recall. Yes, this is so common, that there's a word for it. How many automotive recalls have there been? Many, to say the least. Frequently, a recall just means you bring your car back, and get whatever's broken in it fixed, and you go on with your life.

    Software's even easier to fix. You don't even have to bring it back to the shop! Frequently, you can get it fixed for free, in under 5 minutes, without even getting out of your chair!

    Concievably, software companys could increase their QA and/or development budgets by several orders of magnitude and iron out a few more bugs before release (or adopt a development method that avoids these sort of issues in the first place), but that cost would have to be passed on to the customer, and it wouldn't be cheap.

    Yes, if a group becomes notorious for releasing unusable software, people will stop patronizing them. But a non-fatal bug here or there... who cares?

    Back to the topic of writing bugless code, according to this article []:
    "When Neumann's group worked with NASA on software for the space shuttle, developers were so careful about bugs that they produced just three lines of code per day..."

    Bugless code is very expensive. Anyone who claims all software should be flawless clearly has no idea what they're talking about.
    • Absolutely bugfree code is expensive, yes, and the cost of developing code ramps up as you attempt to make the "bug rate" lower... however, console games have been out for years. While there are some very well-known examples of bugs in consoles, and I acknowledge that console games by nature are simpler.. the overall quality that is expected and received of console games tends to be higher, IMHO. Having the safety line of "ship it and we'll patch it later" encourages shipping code with glaring errors and in
  • I can confidently say that the CEO of SOE is not in touch with his company. Everquest bugs made Windows appear to be a paragon of good software design, development, and QA. Seriously, what an idiot. Although I did have fun playing it, the idea that it was "complete" is hilarious. Aside from broken encounters... Vex Thal? Plane of Mischief? I could go on for hours but it would just make me look nerdy :D
  • LOL - I was there (Score:3, Informative)

    by Yoik ( 955095 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @07:28PM (#14789006) Journal
    "There has never been a release by Sony Online Entertainment that has been incomplete."

    What a crock! I was in the beta, and nobody I knew there thought they were within weeks of ready. It literally didn't come up at all the first day, and none of the advanced professions were playable.

    There was a serious disconnect somewhere in that organization that continues in Smedley's statement.
  • Child's Play (Score:3, Informative)

    by ShawnDoc ( 572959 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:11PM (#14789528) Homepage
    Keep in mind this is the same SOE that refused to participate with the Child's Play charity because one of the Penny Arcade guys publically criticized their Art of Everquest book.

    Looks like Gabe took it down, but you can see how it started. []

  • Smedley unhinged (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:54PM (#14789704) Homepage
    The guy has lost it. They took a game that was succesful by the standards of the time of it's release that had 300K subs, and revamped it twice and lost tens of thousands of subs each time, the last one lost 100K subs.

    They ignore the player in any SUBSTANTIVE way and wonder why they now have a game that should have at least a million subs and have 50,000


  • Surely he's joking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dagmar d'Surreal ( 5939 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:21PM (#14789807) Journal
    I've given this some thought, and my best guess as to the reason for Smed's comments are that he has some stock options or something that haven't vested yet, and he's trying his best to respond in the "best interests of shareholders", i.e., simply putting the best face possible that he can on it so that he stands a chance of getting some retirement money before the whole thing crashes to the ground.

    I had active accounts on both EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies up until last month (when I finally got around to cancelling them). In virtually no way was SOE actually doing what they were supposed to be doing from a gamer's point of view. They were interested in selling a product and getting people's money--which is an entirely different goal from making a game (good or not). It's possible for a company to do both, as both Blizzard and Cryptic Studios have proven. I was also a long-time subscriber to the original EverQuest. Even by the low standards EQI set, SOE was practically just marking time and cashing checks while running EQII.

    The entire time I played EQII, it seemed like maybe one or two bugs got fixed a month. For a game which was supposed to have lots of developers and coders working for it, their output was approximately what I would expect from having maybe three or four people working for them. They were very good at regularly releasing "expansions" for people to buy, tho'. The problem with this is that from a traditional gamer's standpoint, these were just regularly scheduled times when the GM could be bribed to give you more loot. Every single expansion SOE releases seems to increase the amount of loot per hour players get, so you either buy the expansion, or your character suffers a serious disadvantage to the people who did.
    The expansions themselves were also full of serious bugs which never seemed to get fixed. The combat system in EQII was annoying at best, since it again boiled down to the most trivial form of tank in front, healers in the back, and everyone else gets to buff and cheer them on. The "upgrade" it recieved made it even more simplistic (and intolerable).

    To Penny Arcade's credit, what they said about the EQII artwork is entirely correct. I'm sure they thought they were trying to create a photorealistic environment, but that's not quite reasonable to expect out of the engine, and the end result is that the world does look like a hackup of Bryce and Poser images.

    Much the same thing went on with SWG. The released without actually having finished the game, and then had to turn around and do a major 'upgrade' to it. Their space combat expansion was basically just another bribery session. You could struggle to make money as a newbie in the desert, or spend half an hour flying around space and collect literally a week's worth of money all at once. The "combat upgrade" fixed one thing at the expense of losing nearly all of it's complexity. I suppose if the goal was to make existance on the planets of SWG as simplistic as their space combat, they did the right thing. However, neither I nor apparently many other people are willing to pay a monthly fee to pay something less challenging or complex than a shareware single-player shooter. ...and regardless of how carefully SOE tries to deny and hide that they've not lost players in droves, it's very obvious that the most recent major changes to both games basically killed them by causing players to jump ship en mass, although SWG to a much greater degree. Their cities are ghost towns and only moderately populated at "peak" times. I suspect the only reason they've not formally had server merges is simply because that would give away the fact that they've managed to basically chase away most of the players of both games now.

    Basically, I think SOE got spoiled by having no real competition--then continued on that same path of being able to ignore the entire player base (95% of them are morons, but there's about 5% that must be listened to because they're right. SOE regularly ign
  • Sony Entertainment: The Art of keeping angry customers paying for bad products.

  • There has never been a release by Sony Online Entertainment that has been complete.
  • Please stop killing SWG, Let it die with a semblance of dignity.

    Everytime I read about SWG I get sad inside. I was in the last beta and played from retail until arount Jump to Lightspeed when it was clear that they had no idea of balance and weren't going to fix certain things.

    At the start the game was really quite amazing and wonderful and promising. It started out at about 75% complete (it was definately incomplete). Most professions I chose were broken: chef, squadleader. We all thought that after
  • SWG changed directions so many times that in the end, it went nowhere.

    The initial direction could have been better but still, one can only tell that they would have been better to stick with it and work it out instead of making of this game a running headless chicken.
  • When I wrote my book about EverQuest (which, despite its title, is NOT a strategy guide), one of the things I had to do was interview John Smedley.

    It was an absolutely critical interview, partly because we needed Sony's support behind the book to get the material we needed, and if Smedley didn't like it, the book was sunk. To make matters more interesting, this was not a book that was going to be a PR release for Sony - my editor and I were walking in with a book that was going to deal with both the good a
    • As for someone who has dealt with Smedley as a customer, I cannot count the number of imcomplete issues about SWG. From missing necessary items to grammatical errors in dialog, the simple truth is their definition of complete is seriously off-base. Numerous aspects of the game were removed simply because they could not get them to work (i.e. corpse runs, battle grounds, etc.). The jetpack was not craftable for two months until SOE finally acknowledged that one part was, indeed, not dropping in the game.
    • You just illustrated everything that is wrong with the videogame press today. You explained how co-dependant your work is on the producers of what you review/report/examine, then you push an edorsement of trust on a man who is clearly spinning for the sake of his shareholders. Then on top of which, you emphasize that somehow that dependency is the actual proof of merit to an unbelievable claim.

      I'm not saying that videogame journalists have to be 100% critics, but far too often they appear to be in the same
      • Okay, first of all, we were dependent on SOE for interview access to the developers and permission to publish the screenshots. Without it, it would have been a much thinner book.

        Second, you speak a bit too easily about my endorsement of the man. If you look at my posts on Slashdot alone, or my Garwulf's Corner column on, you'll find that I'm not exactly easy on people who I think are full of bullshit. But I sat in the man's office, asked him difficult questions while looking into his eyes, a
  • "There has never been a release by Sony Online Entertainment that has been incomplete."

    What about Everquest? I know for a fact that the "Tinkering" skill was never finished? During a clinic at the first EQ Fanfaire I specifically asked the designer why tinkering never seemed to get any attention...and his reply was, "Yeah we never did finish that did we? Tinkering is basically a dead end at the moment"

    When I got back home I simply cancelled my account and never went back.

Forty two.