Updated Tue, Aug 13, 2013 by Dalmarus
Welcome to the seventh episode in our "Where Are They Now?" series! Being a gamer since the days of Pong, I thought it was long past the time when someone should 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. Today’s developer spotlight focuses on a game producer that has inadvertently been instrumental in my career path for almost 10 years now – Jeff Butler
Jeff Butler has spent more than 10 years intimately involved in two of my favorite games/franchises of all time in the MMORPG world – EverQuest and Vanguard. Both of these games are responsible for more gaming hours for me than every other game on the planet combined. Perhaps not *quite* that much (let’s face it, I’ve spent a lot of time playing video games since I first hit an arcade in the late 70s), but it’s got to be close. Not only have these two games shaped most of my views on what I think gaming should be, they both influenced my career path in a very real way.
Jeff Butler started out at Sony Online Entertainment as a Customer Support Manager in 1999. By early 2000, he was the Co-Producer of arguably the most popular EverQuest expansion of all time – Rise of Kunark. This was the expansion that drew me into the world of EverQuest. The life of myself and thousands of other players around the world would forever be changed from that moment. After Rise of Kunark, Jeff went on to produce the Scars of Velious (the last “core” expansion according to a large group of fans), and Shadows of Luclin.
After this, Jeff left SOE to found Sigil Games Online, Inc. with his fellow friend and coworker, Brad McQuaid to create Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Though the game had a rough launch, for me, this was the game that EverQuest II was meant to be. Considering the people at the helm of this project, that really comes as no surprise though. The game’s popularity may have been short lived due to a rash of continuing technical problems that plagued it, but Vanguard also accomplished another task no other game to date has managed. It brought back that initial rush and love of gaming I felt when I first started playing EverQuest and that is no small feat.
We all know that Sigil eventually went under and sold Vanguard to SOE, so where did Jeff end up and why should you care? I can answer that very easily in just two words – EverQuest Next. As one of SOE’s Creative Directors, Jeff has and will continue to have a very real effect on the game and the direction it takes. I don’t know about you, but considering how much I’ve loved his past work over the years, I’m thrilled to death that Jeff and others EQ vets are back working on a project I am insanely excited for.
Last week we brought you a ton of EverQuest Next coverage (and a little snippet discussing what it meant when Jeff was seen wearing the Oculus Rift in a video), and we’ll continue to bring you everything we can about the game as news gets released. With a staff of employees that were practically all weaned on EverQuest before we ever started working in the industry in different capacities, I can firmly say that this is going to be an exciting year as we see the launch of EverQuest Next Landmark this winter (which could admittedly mean the beginning of next year) and continue to wait for EverQuest Next itself to release.
Jeff is yet another clear example of the type of individual we need in the game industry as a whole. He has dedicated over 20 years of his life now to help bring us games that matter. Intentionally or not, EverQuest had a drastic effect on an innumerable amount of individuals (check out the official My EverQuest Story page to see heartfelt, but embarrassing videos from people such as myself). Over the years, there have been blood, sweat, and I’m sure tears shed along the way – all because Jeff loves the industry, the fans, and the games we all want to play. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he helps produce through his involvement with EverQuest Next.
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!