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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at large were rocked yesterday by the news that Quest Online has fired David Allen the developer of Alganon and he has been replaced by Derek Smart.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.