Alganon Derek Smart exclusive interviewThere has been quite a stir in Quest Online, the publisher of fantasy MMO Alganon. President David Allen was replaced by Derek Smart, after some odd events.

Alganon's new official release is scheduled for April, and we took the opportunity to speak to Derek Smart in an exclusive interview and learn more about the past, present and future of Alganon.

What has made Quest Online rethink the subscription model for Alganon?
The original barrier of entry for the game was high. It had a $39.99 client and a monthly subscription. When you're trying to launch a new game in such a competitive environment, starting small – especially for a small company – is always the best choice.

With that in mind, I had the client price reduced, killed the monthly subscription and asked that micro-transactions be implemented in order to support that new business model. I felt that for the style and type of game as well as the audience we were targeting it made the most sense.

There are many subscription based MMO games out there all vying for gamers attention and dollars. So my goal is to lower the barrier of entry as much as possible in order to build our own little niche so that Alganon can grow for many years to come.

David Allen said that “things don't begin to shine until past level 10”. Have you introduced a lot of lore and made the beginning of Alganon more exciting?
Very much so. David Allen's comments are true, but not due to lack of content. Around level 10, a player is just starting to leave the starter area and surrounding areas, branching out into an even more open-world environment. Also, by this point players will have a good base and feel of how the game is played, and their characters will have started developing their own personalities due to differing Studies and Abilities chosen. Once you reach level 10, it feels like a whole new game.

Why not to fully go for the free-to-play model with premium content, as other games such as Dungeons & Dragons Online and CrimeCraft did?
Well, we considered that but we believe that it is still too early to go that route. We have a bit of work to do before we can handle the influx that a pure F2P model will spawn. For now, we want to build a niche community, then slowly grow from there. That is not to say that we won't go full blown F2P at some point; it's just that we're not there yet.

How did the opportunity for Derek Smart to join Quest Online arise?
Quite by accident.

David Allen and I were discussing opportunities for collaborating. I was looking around for the best network fit for my upcoming MMO games and approached Quest Online to find out if the actually had a network that I could attach my games to. I've had similar discussions with other networks over the past year as we continue to build out MMO games. I didn't want to build my own network backend and I didn't want to sign my games to networks which wouldn't handle them properly. Plus, given the current industry climate, the last thing I wanted was to sign my titles to a network and thus put my earning potential in the hands of a third-party.

So since Dave was running a small indie company like myself, I felt that together we could do something. However, once those talks started, it became clear that they didn't actually have a network and that everything they had was tied to the Alganon game.

I thought our talks had ended until a few weeks later, I get a call from David Allen. He was having problems with his investors over funding for Alganon and needed my help. In short, he wanted me to bring industry clout to the table.

So we had a call-in with the investors in which we discussed various strategies as well as where things were. It then became clear that the problem was the investors had basically lost all confidence in David's abilities and were looking to stop funding the company due to broken promises, missed deadlines etc.

In the end I convinced them that it would be worth giving the team some added time seeing that David had foolishly launched the game – in an incomplete state – on Dec 1st and in the worst period of the year to launch any game.

They agreed, gave the additional funding and David had three months to get the game done. So March 1st 2010 became the new date.

As things progressed everything went sideways because we simply couldn't work together due to the fact that David still wanted to continue doing his own thing. Meanwhile, I had been hired by the investors to do oversight at QOL – the conditions of their continued involvement in the company.

By the time the dust settled I was made President of the company, David was made COO and we continued to work on getting the game done. However, David just wasn't following our directions or guidance and just continued doing his thing. He had the funding commitment that he needed and so it became obvious that given that, he wasn't interested in our input.

During that time, we came to realize that even the Mar 1st date was again going to be missed. Knowing that the investors were certain to pull funding, David started working to either license or sell off the IP to a third party (Truegames) without telling anyone. So I put a stop to that, and informed the investors.

Soon after, David was fired from the company as well as the LLC and it was made public that I was now fully in charge of the company as well as the team tasked with finishing Alganon.

You announced in the forums the full refund of paid subscriptions. Was this the only way you could go to compensate players, and was it a tough decision to make?
It wasn't a tough decision to make at all. Once I took over the team, that was the very first thing that crossed my mind. So I proposed it to the team and they agreed that it would be a very good gesture of goodwill.

For me, it was much more than that because David had people who actually paid up to a year of subscriptions. Then he gave them an unfinished, buggy and broken mess of a game. I felt that was clearly wrong and so I went back to the investors, gave them my recommendations and they told me to go ahead and do it.

So around the time of the official launch, we are going to be refunding 100% of the subscriptions. Make no mistake, it is quite a chunk of change but it is the right thing to do and the investors recognize that.

Do you think the official launch in April will offer us a completely different Alganon? Which improvements are more visible?
I don't believe that it will be completely different at all. It will be improved and a far cry from the original Dec 1st 2009 soft-launch of course.

However, I think that the revamped UI as well as new features such as instances, the Tribute Merchant model (a.k.a. micro-transactions interface) and other features (yet to be announced) will round off that official release. At which point we will focus on continued fixes, tweaks etc and with a view to increasing the game content over time.

Any regrets about Alganon? Something you would have done differently?
I wouldn’t have released it in the state that it was back on Dec 1st 2009.

Thank you for your time!

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