Instead I'll share a bit about the man I know, who I worked with closely for years. First, if you are strong willed enough to stand up, lead if necessary, and believe in something, it's not an easy path, and most certainly everyone is not going to like you. I know this from personal experience and and Mr. Churchill summed it up nicely: "You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life." But he has also earned the respect and friendship of many people over the years. And for good reason.
Of course I wish Smed nothing but the best and great luck in wherever his adventures take him next! Smed is a friend, a mentor, someone who believed in me and gave me fantastic opportunities, and as I've said in the past, something everyone should know: without Smed, there would be no EverQuest. He wanted to make a graphical online RPG and most people thought he and we were crazy. We were even pushed out of Sony so they could focus on the next console. Somehow, through hard work, passion, stubbornness, and faith he kept the project funded and supported (I later, after the game shipped, was told it was almost canceled a couple of times -- something he kept from me, probably rightfully so, fearing that it could affect my morale). Even when many were skeptical that a 3d MMO could even be built, much less be successful, he was there, doing whatever he could to make it happen. And, whatever you think of EQ itself (I remain quite proud), there is no denying its key role in the emergence of an entire genre.
From there he built Verant, and then SoE. His leadership resulted not only in the development of many MMOs, but also the opportunity for many new to the industry to join the company and to pursue their dreams of working on these games. I'm talking hundreds of people! Most of whom, especially early on, had no prior industry experience. He believes in giving people a chance, even a second chance. And he is willing to take risks, too, where so many larger companies and executive staff are quite the opposite: very risk intolerant. So his legacy is worthy of respect. So, also, his role in the MMO genre, especially in the early days, when he believed in something most others did not. He played a key role in this genre's inception and credit is due where credit is due. Although I highly doubt his work is done -- his belief in and love of online gaming is part of his core being -- this is a big change for him. And he should look back with pride, because he's earned it. And anybody willing to stop for a moment and consider the big picture, the whole picture, should also have respect for him and what he accomplished.
I did mention we don't talk as often as I'd like -- we did come to a point a few years back where we disagreed on something pretty fundamental: He believes the MMO genre has not only changed, but the audience has changed, and that to make successful online games, the 'old' approaches are obsolete. I had to respectfully disagree. I believe the MMO gamespace has grown so tremendously that there are now a lot of people who, while they are interested in MMOs, want fundamentally different games. But I don't believe people's tastes in gaming fundamentally change over time. I will certainly admit that the gamespace now, arguably more than 10 million strong, consists of players with widely different tastes and playstyles. And I'm fine with that, but I'm not ok that the 'old school' gamers have been orphaned, or considered irrelevant, or told that they are now too small to matter. And because I would never work on a game that I wouldn't personally want to play, and because my taste in MMOs is in that same group, I can do nothing else but try to make another MMO that is modern, has new ideas, but that fundamentally is still about long term retention, community, working together as a team, etc. But Smed is not me -- he's most certainly a gamer, but he is also more business oriented than me. He wants to stay current, to make games for players that are relatively new to MMOs, and he sees really opportunity there. I think he is also more driven to succeed in a big way not once, but as many times as possible. Sure, I have some of that in me too, but if I worked on an MMO that targeted more solo oriented gamers, gamers who typically don't want to play one game for a long time, who aren't bothered by revenue models that, ultimately, evolve into pay-to-win, I wouldn't be working on a game that I would want to play. So our paths forked because we are different people, nothing more, nothing less. And while the unwavering faith and support and leadership he provided back in the early days is something I'll never forget, our vision for MMOs has, slowly but surely, over time, drifted in different directions. On a personal level, sure, that's a bummer, but I cannot be critical of this drift in any real way. Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe one day we'll somehow work on something together again. Stranger things have happened. But my respect and admiration of him will always remain strong and I really am excited to see what he'll end up doing next.
I hope this resonates with gamers, old gamers and new gamers. I hope I've brought some perspective and more attention to the big picture, the past and the present. If not, as someone who worked closely with him for many years, I have at least stood by him and affirmed he is a good man, a kind man, a generous man, and someone who has worked very hard (and been very successful) to be and stay in a position that allowed him to provide opportunities to hundreds of people, not just paying jobs, but a chance to chase their dreams.