Alganon exclusive screenshotAlganon is a new MMOG developed by Quest Online, and one that is splitting opinions. MMORPG Gate spoke with Hue Henry, Director of Design for Alganon, about how the development started, the frustrating comparisons to World of Warcraft, and some of the most important features in Alganon.

We also have three exclusive screens.

Can you introduce yourself and your role on Alganon?

My name is Hue Henry. I am Director of Design for QOL, and am Lead Designer on Alganon.

What is the story behind the development of Alganon? How did you come up with the idea to develop a MMO?

David Allen and Greg Wexler founded Quest Online in 2006 with the intent of creating an independent MMO development company. Quest Online's first project, Alganon, came from uniting David Allen's passion for MMOs with a world lore he had created in his head many years prior. When I joined the team in April of 2008, it was my job to take the world David Allen had already created, and apply my own love of MMOs and my own unique twists, and bring them together to create a vibrant new world for players to explore. In December of 2009, the soft launch of Alganon let players into this world, and the choices they are making are helping to shape the direction in which Alganon will grow.

How do you feel about all the comparisons to World of Warcraft?

They are a bit frustrating, of course. World of Warcraft is a great game in the same genre of games, so, just like all first person shooters are similar, and all 2D fighting games are similar, and all tower defense games are similar, Alganon is similar to other fantasy MMOs. We get a lot of comparisons to other games, as well, because of the similarities between all games in the genre.

When we designed Alganon, we wanted players to be able to enter the game, explore the new world, and be able to jump in to the game without having to learn how to play the game. So, when we created our interface, we looked for elements that all MMOs had in common. If there was an element that every game out there used, we used it as well, because players would already be familiar with it. As a result, the Alganon interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Players can sit down at the game and start having fun immediately.

Alganon exclusive screenshotLikewise, we started the game off simply, with each class starting with a few skills and slowly working their way up to the more unique and complex systems. This allows players who are new to the genre to sit down and start enjoying the game. In our testing, we found this was exactly the case. Players who loved MMOs, and players who had never seen an MMO before, could both sit down and begin playing the game without any instruction. We thought this was a good thing. We were wrong.

This choice enraged the arm-chair critics and forum users. The moment they heard that we were a fantasy MMO, they began looking for a "WoW Clone," and, since we designed Alganon to be familiar to all MMO players, including WoW players, there are many similarities. Our biggest mistake is not realizing that these similarities would result in such hatred and rage. Instead of asking "is it fun," many reviews are simply a list of "things Alganon has in common with World of Warcraft." Because of this, reviews of Alganon tend to fall into two categories: ones that say, "It reminded me of WoW, so I stopped playing," and ones that say, "It reminded me of WoW, but I kept playing, and it's actually a great game. I'm having lots of fun."

We hear the same from our players, and more importantly, see it in our logs. Most players who create accounts never even make characters. They never give it a chance. Those who do, tend to make human soldiers and quit before completing the first quest. Those who make it to level five... they are still playing, they are active on our forums, they are loving the game and referring new friends, and they are actively working towards completing the Dawning content and making their way into the official lore of the world.

Which makes this a great example of our philosophy of listening to our players. We thought that by making our ability system look similar to Talent Trees from other games, that players would instantly understand what they needed to do to specialize their character. Instead of spending time figuring out "how do I make my second role into a tank?", they would spend that time having fun and enjoying the game. Many players did just that, but most players saw the similar-looking trees and quit. They didn't take the time to realize that these specializations are a second role, and that, unlike MMOs where your only choice is DPS, DPS, or other DPS, each class has extremely varied and unique roles, allowing for some very fun hybrids and combinations. They made an assumption based on the UI and moved on.

So, we've made changes to how our ability system looks. We're also working on changing the starter experience to help players see the differences that players have overlooked in the past. We're taking a lot of the more complex designs, that most players didn't see until level 10 or higher, and putting them up front. This will make it harder for players who are new to MMOs to enter the game, but we hope it will encourage those people who are enraged by the game's familiar elements to take a closer look at the unique ones.

We're looking to make a lot of changes to Alganon over the next few months, as we adapt to player feedback and input.

Alganon exclusive screenshotHow is the player base right now? Is it going as you expected?

The community feel and attitude of our players is exactly what we had hoped for. Currently, Alganon's community is very mature, friendly, and tight-knit. If you need help with a quest, or are looking for a good place to farm materials, or looking for a talented crafter to make a powerful weapon for you, you will find that Alganon's players are the best in the industry. You won't find the griefers, hackers, and d00dz in Alganon that you find in other games. In their place, you find mature, intelligent, people who love MMOs and are always looking for more to join them.

Unfortunately, many mature, intelligent players who love MMOs are already playing other games, or have been driven away from Alganon by the negative press. While Alganon has a wonderful community of players, our player base isn't growing as quickly as we had hoped. While those who play the game enjoy it and are still around, we are having trouble getting new players to give the game a try, and are looking to find new ways to encourage players to give the game a chance.

Some players speak of a healthy community around Alganon, with no “immature kids shouting in world chat”. Do you think that’s a problem in MMOs and do you hope Alganon only attracts mature players?

The first command that many players look for in an MMO is an ability to turn off general chat. This is due to the chat channels being overrun with rude comments, insults, and other forms of spam that allow a small number of players to ruin the game for others. In Alganon, we've had to deal with the opposite issue. Our players begged us to open a new chat channel where players could help one another and form a community of gamers.

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