The Insight: John Smedley’s Memories Of Legendary EverQuest Creator Brad McQuaid

Soon after I joined Sony Online Entertainment in 1999, I became Editor in Chief of their online division, which was part of Sony Pictures. It was a time of change there as our group moved from casual games to working with Verant Interactice, which was creating what would become a landmark MMO called EverQuest. EverQuest was an instant hit. It became an inspiration for World of Warcraft and, really, all MMOs that came after. Brad McQuaid, the brilliant mastermind behind the online game, died this week. John Smedley, Brad’s friend, partner and now the head of Amazon Studios, shared some memories earlier in the week on Facebook. John kindly agreed to have these stories published here at the New York Videogame Critics Circle. -Harold Goldberg

Richard Garriott, Brad McQuaid and Richard Vogel at E3, 1998, where Brad was demoing EQ for the legendary Ultima creators. “The first game that blew my mind was Ultima 2,” said McQuaid in a Facebook post that accompanied this photo.

By John Smedley

During the development of EverQuest, Brad introduced me to Magic the Gathering. I will never forget the countless lunchtimes and weekend games we played during the development of EQ. It had a huge impact on the game and brought the team a lot closer because we had this common love for Magic. I think part of the reason EQ was successful was because of the camaraderie that grew over time from this daily ritual. My favorite part of this were the daily “massively multiplayer” games of Magic with 10 people sitting around a conference table playing 150 card decks and carrying the Meta from 3 weeks ago into that day’s game. And by Meta – I mean repaying old debts – and messing with our friends each and every day. It was a ridiculous amount of fun and it’s a time in my life I’m never going to forget – and Brad was at the center of this whole glorious mess.

This also reminds me of the time I traded all my Magic cards (including a complete Power 9 set) to Brad for a motorcycle. For whatever dumb reason I decided I wanted a motorcycle and Brad offered to trade a new bike for my Magic collection which was pretty good at that point. We went to the Motorcycle dealer and he helped me pick out the right bike. I brought it home and my wife hit the roof. She told me it could not be kept at our house under any circumstances so I had to bring it to my parents house like some 18 year old kid. I ended up riding it a few times with Brad and had a great time riding, but a man’s got to know his limitations and a fat guy on a dirt bike is one of them. And yes, I do regret stupidly trading my Magic cards for that motorcycle … but I don’t regret the fun time I had riding dirt bikes with Brad.

I remember the original EverQuest design. It wasn’t particularly long, maybe 10-15 pages (I still have a copy somewhere I should try and find). Brad came into my office and handed it to me like he was handing down the Ten Commandments. EverQuest ended up being 100% what was in that doc. To this day I’ve still never seen a game that kept the vision from Day 1. We had spent many hours talking about the game we wanted to make. Brad had a clear vision in his head from Day 1. Most of what he was excited about came from his absolute love of Diku Muds. They had a real impact on how he thought about game design. In particular Brad was always focused on the PvE aspects of making an online game. The idea that a bunch of friends can come together and delve into the depths of a dungeon together really resonated with both of us, but Brad really saw this as the cornerstone of what EverQuest needed to be built on. And he was right then and he’s still right to this day.

I remember Fan Faire Zero very distinctly. Shortly after the launch of EverQuest we put up in our forums that we were going to Karl Strauss Brewery that evening and any fans that wanted to come down and meet the team could join us. We went down and there were 50-60 people waiting for us. We were floored. Brad was over the moon excited. Nothing could compare to the excitement I saw in Brad’s eyes when he got to meet one of his heroes from Comic Books – artist Jim Lee. To Brad, meeting Jim was the greatest moment in his professional career. He was beyond flattered that Jim played EQ and was gushing about the game. That was the moment Brad knew we were onto something. It brought him a lot of joy to see how much the game meant to the fans. It was a real seminal moment for all of us, but Brad in particular really got a lot of satisfaction seeing how much the game brought people together.

I remember sitting in the cold data center not long after the launch of EverQuest. At that point in time it was damn hard to keep the servers up and running for long periods of time. We were still learning how to run the game and a bunch of us took shifts in the data center rebooting the machines after servers crashed. This was before we had automated anything … so it was all about hitting the power switch and sitting our asses in a freezing cold data center for hours at a time. During one of these times I remember Brad coming down for his turn and we had to migrate users from one particular box to another one. Our network programmer had assured us there was a long enough buffer time that if we physically moved one network jack to a different machine the server would “automagically” just migrate the players if we could move the wire in under 20 seconds. Well, it worked. Barely, but it worked and I can remember laughing pretty loud with Brad that it did (that trick did not always work as we found out the hard way a few times).

(There are) so many good memories from working with Brad. I will miss him.

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