Smart Name Recognition

The twitterverse and other internets at large were rocked yesterday by the news that Quest Online has fired David Allen the developer of Alganon and he has been replaced by Derek Smart. Alganon has had a troubled launch by any standards, with criticism leveled at derivative features and unfinished systems as well as the general illness I like to call Dawn-itis: promising too much to build hype for a product and then inevitably underwhelming the players with the finished result.

For all this, Quest has made several good moves toward fixing their image. They’ve recently scaled back greatly their scope for the near future, and recent rushed and sloppy content has been shelved with the game reverted to earlier and more stable content. The most controversial and I think in hindsight what may be the most brilliant move they’ve made has been to announce plans to relaunch as a free to play game next month. This bold series of moves may give them a chance to have a second launch and build an audience for their game.

What shocked people yesterday wasn’t any of that, it was that all those moves can be attributed to the new leader of Alganon development at Quest, Derek Smart. For anyone who has been involved in the gaming community since the late 1990s that name is very familiar, and very polarizing. Others have explained Mr. Smart’s history as a game developer better so I won’t go into it again here other than to say that his flagship game released in 1996 by Take Two Interactive suffered from criticism and bugs and at launch was considered by many to be one of the worst games of all time.

Given his polarizing and abrasive manner it’s hard for me to understand why Quest’s shareholders chose to reveal his involvement to the gaming community. Perhaps they think that name recognition is important and wanted to associate his with the relaunch of Alganon. Or, perhaps they like his decisions thus far and want to give him credit for the new direction. In his post about the departure of Allen Mr. Smart mentions that he has been in full control since Feb. 22, so perhaps there was some thought given to keeping his involvement from the public.

Putting all that aside, the choices Mr. Smart is making for the direction of Alganon are bold and in my opinion wise ones. I am very interested to see how they will pay off for Quest Online in players and profits. I’d like to hear your take on the path of Alganon and whether this new name recognition is to the benefit or detriment of the game.

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Online: Lost in the aether A disparate amalgam Of shining fragments Offline: A hopeless romantic Uncomfortably close to 30 Employed in chemical manufacturing A cat person A tortured soul

Posted on March 13, 2010, in Alganon and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I’ll be one of the first to admit that I have to claim ignorance on this specific topic. I have no idea who Derek Smart is. Well, I suppose now I do.

    My opinion on this matter is that as long as SOMEONE is working on the game, does it really matter who it is? They’re at least going to try to make it better.

    Plus, think of the hype and attention that Alganon brought to itself these past few days. More people probably paid attention to that game then when it released. Perhaps bad publicity is better then none, in this case.

  2. Maybe he got smarter with age? 😉

  3. Derek Smart is a veteran of ancient flame wars. Y’know what? So am I. How many years ago was that? People change. People mellow.

    The people who’re so upset about him getting this gig probably weren’t going to play Alganon anyway. I say give the guy a chance. You take a game no one cares about, shake things up, bring in a veteran designer (though as far as I know, one with no MMO experience) with a forceful personality. What can go wrong? Alganon is more or less a failed MMO… either Smart can turn it around or it’ll continue to be a failed MMO. I thought it was interesting that in his post he admitted he wasn’t sure the project could be salvaged.

    My interactions with Smart have all been face-to-face (also years ago) and I’ll tell you the man is crazy-passionate about games and he thinks big. When he built Battlecruiser… well it was nuts how much he tried to do alone. And he failed at launch but I’m told eventually Battlecruiser became a decent game.

    We’ll see how it goes, but I’m willing to give a person a second chance, particularly in such a low risk environment (to me, and to most gamers) as Alganon. If Smart completely ruins the game will any of us really care? And if he manages to turn it around…well maybe he will have redeemed himself to some extent.

  4. Feel for you Pete, I wouldn’t have wanted to go face to face with him back then. Some of the stories make me shudder. I don’t know if time has mellowed his acerbic style but I’ll agree with you that he’s learned from how things went back then. I have respect for his passion and the things he’s doing to try to make Alganon a strong niche game.

    I don’t doubt he’s passionate about games, that’s evident in everything he’s done. And personally I admire that he kept Battlecruiser in development so long knowing it wasn’t ready for release. An unfinished and unpolished product at launch is the kiss of death, as it was for Battlecruiser. If there’s anyone in the community who has had a game fail yet built a semi-successful franchise from it it’s Derek Smart. Alganon may be in the best hands it can be… I just wonder why they decided to let him tell everyone.

  5. Just to be clear, in person he was a gracious, smart, friendly guy who invited me into his home to show off his game. Now granted I was press at the time, but still it was a very positive experience.

    I just think he went feral when people trashed his game online; it was his baby and he’d poured so much of his life into it that I think he lost any sense of perspective. Not the smartest way to handle things, to be sure.

  6. Wow. Mr Smart is a controversial choice for sure. I have a little experience with him, but that was so long ago that I am willing to let it slide. It was kind of funny though. As I recall it was regarding recoil of a gun fired in space. I commented that the same energy that was stored in the bullet on its way to the target was exactly the amount of energy that the shooter was subjected to. As I recall he claimed that not to be the case since the bullet was so much lighter and then he promptly banned me from the forums. Or was it a news board? Can’t remember at it matters not.

    As I recall Smart has a lot of ideas, and is resourceful and energetic. And since he is now a lot older than back then he probably have mellowed out quite a bit. That can only be a good thing. I don’t expect miracles, but I would not be surprised if he did a fantastic job.

  7. I just read the comments thread over at http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/27688/Quest_Online_Fires_President_Hires_Derek_Smart.php

    After a few dozen pages of Derek Smart and a couple of former QOL employees ripping into each other, I think I can confidently say that, no, he has not mellowed!

    Also.. wow. This is several laundromats worth of dirty laundry being piled high. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything like it.

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