Friday, March 12, 2010

Alganon shake-up

As I mentioned before, last year I received a special invitation to play Alganon in beta, and to tell the developers my opinion about that game. I told them that they were copying WoW too closely, which would never work with the budget they had, and that they would have to do something to differentiate themselves from WoW, either in the business model or the gameplay. You just can't make an inferior WoW clone and try to sell it for the same price as WoW. The developers promptly ignored my advice, which wasn't unexpected. I refused to write a review on Alganon, but instead handed out beta keys and let my readers write the review, which unsurprisingly came to similarly negative conclusion.

Now, a few months after release, reality has finally dawned on Alganon, and there has been a big shake-up. Dave Allen was fired, and has been replaced by Derek Smart. Now I don't know Derek Smart, apart from him having a reputation for being overly frank on game forums. But I must say I don't quite get what Lum is complaining about. Particularly these Derek Smart quotes:
The Dec 1st launch of the game should never have happened. It was a mistake that has not only cost the company money but has also cost people their jobs and put an otherwise exceptional product at risk. As a game developer, I know all too well that if your game is not finished and you release it, thats just asking for trouble. No matter how great the game and technology are, it can and will fail. Especially in this industry climate. The average gamer is as finnicky as a hummingbird on acid, with a very short attention span and a penchant for being largely unforgiving. In other words, pulling a stunt like that is the death knell for many a game and company.

This whole “WoW look-a-like” rubbish, is gone. I’ve essentially asked them to throw it all out and for the artists to come up with the game’s own unique look and feel for for both the web UI as well as the game UI itself. You don’t go competiting with WoW when you don’t have a WoW sized budget or the manpower to match. But thats what David wanted to do and I’ve pretty much tossed it all. The team was unable to actually do this previously due to David wanting it that way, even though they knew it was a terrible decision.

We’re also getting rid of the monthly subscriptions. They are currently suspended, but will be gone for good. I put that plan into place since Dec 2009 with a view to making the game “subscription free” but supported via sales (I was the one who had the client price reduced to $19.95 as well btw) of the client as well as micro-transactions. It is not a traditional F2P game, but if thats what we have to do in the long run, then so be it. For now, we’re taking baby steps.
Okay, maybe calling your customers "as finnicky as a hummingbird on acid" isn't usual PR style. But everything Derek Smart says in the above paragraphs sounds extremely reasonable to me. Early releases *are* bad. The WoW look-a-like *was* rubbish (they even copied the part of the WoW interface where there is a keyring next to the bags, but without having keys in the game). And going "subscription free" for a game where nobody in his right mind would pay for a subscription is obviously a good idea too. So, judging the man by what he does now, and not by what controversial stuff he might have done previously, I don't see why people are condemning this move.

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