Daybreak’s New Dawn – Part 1: Dimensional Ink Games
It’s almost impossible for the average gamer to keep up with the more intricate wheelings and dealings of the industry. Hell, it’s kind of my job, and even my eyes glaze over when I hear news of a new acquisition or partial buyout. The answer to the question of who owns a franchise is rarely as simple as just, “the people that made it.” To make things even more confusing, games are often collaborative processes between studios. Between publishers, licensors, producers, developers, and contractors, it can be difficult to know who even made what. Then you have to factor in that studios can rebrand, rename, and restructure. So if you’re ever wondering why an obvious sequel to a super successful game hasn’t been made, copyright questions are usually at the heart of it. Tracking through this history to find the source is a maddening, if not impossible endeavor.
Adding another huge piece to the puzzle, Daybreak Games recently announced its “Franchise First” initiative. If you haven’t heard, on January 21 Daybreak Games established three new development teams to manage some of their major franchises. Launching Dimensional Ink, Darkpaw Games, and Rogue Planet Games, the teams will be focusing on the DC Universe Online, EverQuest, and PlanetSide franchises respectively. Meanwhile, Daybreak Games will still function as the publisher for all three studios. This is the second major rebranding for Daybreak Games, which itself was known as Sony Online Entertainment until 2015. I wasn’t entirely clear what this meant for the future of these titles, or the company as a whole. So I did a journalism and reached out to Daybreak and asked if I could pass some questions along. To my surprise, all three of the new studio heads took the time to answer. Wow, is this what being a real news person feels like? I’m just used to making dick jokes about Minecraft.
Since there’s about 7 pages of replies, I’ve made the call to break the interviews down by studio. This will also help me harvest more clicks, which I can convert to bitcoin used to buy more influencer-bucks. First up, we have Jack Emmert from Dimensional Ink Games. Jack himself is the mastermind behind titles like City of Heroes, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter. Dimensional Ink is responsible for the future of DC Universe Online. Here’s what he had to say about the new studio and the future of DCUO:
DXP: I’ve heard a lot of people in the industry express the sentiment “if I just had the right team, we could do better work than a 400 person studio.” What was the decision-making process that went into dividing the library up?
Jack: We asked ourselves a simple question: What’s the best thing for our franchises? What’s the best thing for the games and their fans? The answer came pretty quickly after that. We believed that the best place for our franchises is to be in the hands of the developers. And that those developers’ talent, initiative and imagination would be unlocked by running their own games. Rogue Planet with PlanetSide 2, Darkpaw with both EverQuest and EverQuest II, and finally Dimensional Ink with DC Universe Online an unannounced MMO project.
DXP: How did you decide who got what?
Jack: The development teams haven’t changed one bit. The same great people are still on those games, but now, the teams have the ultimate accountability.
DXP: Is there still potential for cross-promotion?
Jack Potentially… that would be up to our publisher, Daybreak, as well as the individual studios.
DXP: Overall, is this a move that makes it easier to implement content into existing games, or to develop new ones?
Jack: We believe it will empower the developers to do what they think is best for their games, current or new. They’re now in charge of their studio’s futures. If Daybreak chooses not to publish a studio’s game idea, the studio can always go looking for other publishers.
DXP: Many people feel like WoW killed the classic MMO market. While stalwart fans still stick around their favorite games, new innovators tend to come and go in a year. It seems like the only MMOs that make it nowadays are the ones with enough financial backing or a big enough IP to stick around long enough to lure in a large enough fanbase of diehard players, then do what they can to keep marketing to that core group. How do you feel the MMO market is currently positioned?
Jack: Woefully underdeveloped. You’re right – after SWOTOR and Elder Scrolls Online, most of the big companies exited the business. Making MMOs is costly and risky compared to other genres, so perhaps it made sense. But our games have demonstrated there’s still a strong, strong demand for MMOs. EverQuest, for example, just celebrated over 20 years! And it’s growing year on year. DCUO’s 2019 was as big as its 2012. That’s pretty amazing that a MMO has that staying power. It shows that people still want the MMO experience – and lucky for us, few are making new ones! We’ve got something special underway in Austin that I think captures all the factors necessary for a successful next gen MMO.
DXP: With all the kids playing their “Fortnites,” how will we cultivate that crucial new generation of MMO players to keep the market alive?
Jack: The great thing is that virtually all PC/Console games nowadays have elements of MMOs: progression, ongoing content, multiplayer, etc. So I don’t think that MMOs are really seen as something separate and distinct any more. I think the new generation would see a new MMO as a distillation of features they experience in all the big games.
DXP: What do you feel the next big innovation will be that smashes through and revives the genre?
Jack: Probably the same one that made WoW such a hit: accessibility. Gone are the days when learning to play an MMO was considered gameplay. The next MMO also needs to target platforms above and beyond just PC.
DXP: More importantly, what design ethos can your company bring to the table that will make gamers take notice?
Jack: An incredibly simple one: we strive to make a game that’s fun to play. That’s it. No fancy corporate speak or mission statements. At the end of the day, we believe that when a player pushes a button, he/she should smile.
DXP: Alright, so I was a big DC Universe Online fan when it first launched. I played as a gun/psychic dude, flyer, had a whole backstory and everything. I’m not typically a cosmetics guy, but I had a whole outfit and weapon skin I used the whole time I played because it better fit his character. While I never really raided past Kahndaq and I had to stop playing soon after because of school, I still have really fond memories of DCUO as a creative outlet. By dividing into a new studio, what’s the future hold for DCUO?
Jack: We’re going to continue to reimagine some of DC’s classic tales. Our past two updates, for example, were drawn from the recent mega-hit crossover, Metal. This year, we’re going to try to visit some oft-requested places & characters…in addition to putting our spin on it. Our vision for the game is to delve into DC lore and bring it alive for the players.
DXP: I tend to not get into MMOs super late after their launch, so are there plans for a new starting point for new players?
Jack: Yes! Whenever we launch an update, that content is free for ALL players until the next update releases. We auto-level players so that regardless of experience, a player can jump in and experience the latest and greatest. Right now, players are journeying to Thanagar to prevent Barbatos from sinking reality into the Dark Multiverse! We need you now!
DXP: Is there a sequel in the future we can expect?
Jack: The great thing about a MMO as opposed to a box product is that it’s live. We’re constantly improving the game to meet the needs of today’s players. We don’t need to wait for several years for a sequel to fix the problems.
DXP: What would you say to someone like me that loved the game initially but hasn’t actually dipped their toes back in years?
Jack: I’d say it’s a perfect time to come back in. It’s free to play, so there’s no barrier to trying it out. And with our new update structure, it’s easy to play the latest content. And we’re more DC than ever. So come check it out!
While I didn’t get any news about their new unannounced project, I was happy to learn that DC Universe Online is getting new content. With extra-spooky batman stuff, no less. If you want to check out what’s in store for you in DCUO, you can play it now for free. Be warned, a lot of the endgame content does require real cash dollars to access. If you want to hear about what’s in store for EverQuest and PlanetSide, check back in the coming days for my interviews with Darkpaw Games and Rogue Planet Games!