...about 3 weeks ago, EQ2Flames' administrator "LFG" broke a story on his website that Scott "Gallenite" Hartsman is leaving Sony Online Entertainment and EverQuest 2.
I didn't really know what to think. On one hand, the gaming world eats itself all the time. People get poached from one team to the next, and anyone that studies the MMO market further than the polyps up WoW's arse knows that EQ2 is a really well-put-together game. I expect that if we knew real numbers (i.e. not this guy), we'd find EQ2 to be the #2 MMO in America (albeit a distant, non-overhyped one).
Would it make sense that another company wanted Scott to join a project and lead it to greatness? Oh absolutely. Would it make sense if Scott wanted to strike out on his own, put together a team, and bring some new vision in his head to life? Yes and no. We can always hope, at least, that such a venture would turn out better than...Sigil. Ugh.
On the other hand, being the head honcho behind EQ2's successes over the last couple years HAD to feel good. Personally, I tend to think that you don't turn your back on a good thing if you enjoy what you're doing, and, more importantly, believe in it. Obviously, that could mean that Scott wasn't enjoying himself so much anymore. Having never worked in an artistic industry, I don't think I could relate, but I could imagine that if one has a brain full of ideas, one could start to feel some major wanderlust just working on a single game for years and years.
Well, reading the debate on EQ2Flames was interesting. Some felt LFG was full of crap, some believed him. Some thanked him for telling us when no official news was coming out, while others criticised him for violating Scott's privacy. I definitely fell into the pack that thought it was a bit rude to break this story prematurely. Much as I love gossip, I envisioned Scott's various business and personal inboxes exploding with questions that he wasn't prepared to answer yet. That sucks. I had to bite my tongue (fingers?) to keep myself from joining in the deluge with a "Say it ain't so" whine-fest.
Well, it's official now. Scott has left SOE. The news wasn't shocking...how could it be when LFG's story was so old? And really, the silence about the topic from Scott and/or SOE was very telling. If the story was bogus, there'd have been a denial. That said, I was still a bit heartbroken (the part of my heart devoted to gaming) to see the news confirmed.
From a human-to-human perspective, I can look at lots of different reasons why Scott MIGHT have left SOE and say, "Good for you, Scott! I hope you got a killer new opportunity!" Unfortunately, the gamer side of me says, "Dammit, Gallenite, come back before someone else kills the game!"
Gallenite's replacement is Bruce "Froech" Ferguson. I know him mostly by name only - he was around during the beta and at launch, but my role in the beta was not so much about testing. I didn't read the forums too closely at that point, and as such I don't know much about Froech's past. In the few days he's publicly had the job, he's already gotten the joy of handling one massive PR debacle. You REALLY have to love your job to be willing to take that kind of abuse from customers.
But I'm not here to talk about Froech, I'm here to talk about Scott Hartsman. Sir, my hat is off to you. You headed up an effort that took a game that was great at launch (I thought, at least), and made it about 10 times greater. I wish I knew what you were doing next, but suffice to say expectations are higher than Snoop Dogg & Willie Nelson sharing a hot air balloon bong-picnic.
Please don't stay too quiet!