The Inside Story of How a Major MMO Went Wrong
In 1999, Brad McQuaid cofounded Verant Interactive alongside 56 other game developers who were forced out of 989 Studios, a Sony company, upon the arrival of the PlayStation 2. Verant Interactive was best known for EverQuest, the seminal 3D massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game. The company was later acquired by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), which has continued to expand EverQuest into one of the largest video-game franchises in the world.
By the end of 2001, McQuaid, who had been working in executive management, became disillusioned with managing a large enterprise and sought a return to a hands-on design role. Together with Jeff Butler, he cofounded Sigil Games Online to develop Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Spurred by a promising publishing relationship with Microsoft, the new studio quickly grew to more than 100 employees who worked tirelessly on the next great fantasy MMO.
A regime change at the software giant in 2004, however, meant that Microsoft wanted Vanguard released immediately, sending McQuaid spiraling toward another partner. He found refuge with SOE, which rescued the publishing rights from Microsoft and gave the game a fighting chance. Today, Vanguard is remembered by a loyal fanbase who will see the world of Telon come to an end after a good seven-year run in July 2014.
With a renewed sense of purpose, McQuaid, with a core team of eight veteran game developers, cofounded Visionary Realms last year to develop Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, a high fantasy MMO that will incorporate the lessons he has learned over the past 25 years. Pantheon is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.