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Where Are They Now? - Episode 2: Brad McQuaid

Updated Tue, Jul 02, 2013 by Dalmarus

Where Are They Now - Brad McQuaid

Welcome to the second episode in our new “Where Are They Now” series. I’ve been a gamer since the days of Pong, and I thought the time for someone to take a look at famous game developers from days gone by, and find out how (and if) they're still involved in making the games we love to play, was long overdue. Most of the developers highlighted in this series will certainly have one thing in common beyond video games, and that's the reaction their names evoke with gamers. Today's developer is no exception.

Claim to Fame

Brad McQuaid is most known for being one of the lead designers of the original EverQuest. The importance of his role in the game’s design, and the historic precedence it was going to set, cannot be overstated. Before EverQuest, there was only one really big ship sailing the newly discovered MMORPG sea – Ultima Online. UO released earlier than EQ and had gathered quite a following by the time its competition went live. The moment it did though, the video game landscape was changed forever.

EverQuest became a landmark game in the history of MMOs.

They say what goes up must come down, and sadly that was true for both EverQuest and Brad. While EQ is still online, its star was certainly in decline by the time Brad decided to leave and create his own company, Sigil Games. He brought along longtime friend and fellow designer, Jeff Butler. With two of the most influential EQ designers working on a new title, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, the answer in this case is short and bitter – everything.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was set to usher in a new era of sandbox gaming with massive continents to explore. It was one of the first games to give players a genuine view for miles, and the ability to get anywhere in the world. Vanguard’s world of Telon was not made up of graphically pretty curtains; if you could see something, there was a way to get to it. Needless to say, I fell head over heels for the game. Sadly though, I was probably one of less than 100 people in the entire world that was lucky enough to have the magic combination of computer hardware that the game wanted. I had no trouble running Vanguard, but I was an anomaly. Vanguard’s launch heralded the fateful historical point where Anarchy Online lost its reigning title of “Worst MMORPG Launch Ever.”

In well less than a year, it was clear the game was tanking. Whether it imploded from the inside is up for debate, but at the time of its imagined demise the internet was rife with tales of rampant mismanagement, lavish expenses, and unprofessional actions by the company – including the manner in which everyone was let go when Sigil was sold to SOE. Every tale has at least two sides, and both of them are subjective, so we may never know what really happened. One thing was for certain though – Brad McQuaid and Vanguard went from being rising stars to crashing and burning wreckage.

Where Are They Now and Why the Hell Should I Care?

Brad McQuaid

After leaving the game business altogether for a spell after the debacle of Vanguard, Brad was eventually hired back on by SOE. For a period of time, he was back working on his baby, Vanguard, and helping with the free to play transition. Earlier this year, however, it was announced that Brad had been moved back to where it all started for him – EverQuest. While that may not get you frothing at the mouth in excitement, this might.

SOE has been known (just like any other game development company in the world) to move talent where they feel it’s best utilized. Who’s to say that, since Brad is back with the EQ team, they won’t move him over to the EverQuest Next design team? Could it happen? Sure. Will it? Only time will tell. People are always quick to ridicule a person’s failures, but as human beings, we learn far more from our failures than we do from our successes. Brad provided a wealth of great ideas for the first EQ. Think about what kind of ideas he could bring to the table after learning from his mistakes with Vanguard. The sky’s the limit.

If you have a suggestion for a game designer, art director, creative lead, or any other person intimately involved with a game's completion that you'd like to see highlighted, hit me up on Twitter or send me an email here!

I think this guy could be a great example of how understanding "survivor bias" could really help a company like SOE. You can't really learn much from people who are really successful, even though that's what seems logical.

As long as he doesn't have an attitude of thinking Vanguard failed for external reasons, and that he did everything right, etc, and instead is willing to take an honest look at his shortcomings, I think he could be a big force in the industry again.

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