Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
When devs do guild drama

I get sent press releases all the time, and usually just ignore them, as this isn't a news site. But this Alganon press release has a certain inherent entertainment value:
Phoenix, AZ (PRWEB) June 4, 2010 -- Quest Online responds to and files counter-suit against David Allen.

In early March of this year, Quest Online officially announced the hiring of industry veteran Derek Smart to head the company as President Pro Tempore and to lead the Alganon team toward the completion of the game.

Allen was subsequently removed from his position as independent contractor (a position for which he received a generous monthly fee since the formation of the company) to the company. Shortly after, in two unanimous votes by the members and investors, Allen was later removed first as a Managing Member and later as a Voting Member of the LLC, thus leaving Gregory Wexler (also an investor and co-founder of the company) as the sole Managing Member.

In response to the above actions, this past March, Allen filed what the LLC members, partners and investors believe to be a frivolous lawsuit (Case # CV2010-010391) in Arizona against Quest Online, 3000AD and several other parties.

Alganon, the company's flagship product, is a game that the investors had originally invested almost $4M to develop and which ended up being released in an incomplete and exceptionally faulty state in December 2009 under Allen's leadership. That action resulted in the game and company generating a lot of bad press for the company as well as the game.

Since appointing Smart as President Pro Tempore of QOL, Smart has helped the company obtain new funding, reduce overhead, streamline operations, revitalized the team's efforts and focus as well as - through transparency - provided the investors with renewed confidence in the company and indeed their investment. In addition, Smart led the team to the successful completion and release of the Alganon game in late April.

Smart also put into effect a plan that saw the company refund back to gamers 100% of the thousands of dollars in paid subscriptions which were bought in good faith prior to the game's fateful December 2009 launch.

In recognition of Smart's efforts and leadership, the investors and owners of the company recently voted him in as one of two Managers of the LLC. This appointment further establishes Smart as the President of Quest Online going forward.

As to Allen's lawsuit, all parties involved have now filed responses to same and an extensive counter-suit (Case # CV2010-010391) has also been filed against him in the Maricopa County Court in Arizona.

The full court document containing the company's response and counter-claim (starts on p31) can be found on the company's website:
It is rare that a company admits "our game was so bad, we had to refund our customers". And I found it interesting that it costs $4 million to develop a game like that. Can't really say anything about the validity of the rest of the claims, I'm sure David Allen's version of the story sounds different. But I'm not quite sure how this public bickering, which reminds me of some guild leadership drama, is going to make people want to play Alganon, even assuming that the new leaders somehow manage to improve it.
Dave Allen does indeed have a different version of the story which is laid out in the suit to which this is a counterclaim.

This whole rather hilarious saga has been discussed in detail over at F13.

If you look into the matter you will realise that QOL CEO Derek Smart has a pathological need to assert himself on the internet which is part of the reason why all this mud is being slung.
A company admitting that its initial release sucked is a good step forward. Doesn't prove they can fix it, but at least acknowledging the truth gives them somewhat more credibility than some other game companies who tend to take the Iraqi Information guy's approach of total denial of clear evidence.
To put that in perspective, though, the last MMO I remember that only cost $4 million was DAoC. And that was with Mythic already having experience with graphical games. So, really, it's kind of amazing that they got as much done as they did with such a (relatively) tiny budget.

Anyway, is just a giant pissing match at this point. Nothing to see, just a bunch of bellowing until the case actually goes to court, I think.
A company admitting that its initial release sucked is a good step forward.

What this proves in the first place is how few copies of Algalon have been sold ;)
Wait, they actually released this game??

People paid for it *in advance*???

I think all of this is a very clever way of getting press on a sub-standard product
F13 Derek Smart:

"The average gamer is as finnicky as a hummingbird on acid"

"I'm still in business long after most are dead, gone, and forgotten"

"I've essentially thrown it all out and asked the artists to come up with the game's own unique look and feel for the web UI as well as the game UI itself."

Gold, Jerry, Gold!

Sorry for the content-free posts, but you posted some juicy drama and I'm marveling at it.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Not sure if this has been discussed on this blog, but F13 and KTR have both done some work and found Quest Online and Derek Smart are plagiarists and fools.

They released a press statement that was word-for-word copy and pasted from a SWTOR statement(2007-08??)

And then some guy commented on the KTR thread and mentioned the quote was really from 2004....

Derek Smart replied to this comment and backed it up, using it as validation of his crimes.

The clincher is that he then posted on the Alganon forums (i think there anyway) and copy/pasted the random comment from KTR presenting the unsourced quote as hard evidence.

This guy seems like a sub-15 year old internet troll to be honest. I would never play (even for free) a game made by any company associated with him.
All I'm going to say is this: spend a day reading up on Derek Smart before drawing any further conclusions.
Who wrote that press release? The tenses are all over the place.
All I'm going to say is this: spend a day reading up on Derek Smart before drawing any further conclusions.

Why would you even need conclusions, or need to be taking sides? Isn't it totally possible that Dave Allen made a horrible game and Derek Smart is ruining it further with smack talk?

I'm not posting the press release because I think it is gospel truth, I post it because the press release is actually more entertaining than the game Alganon.
Who wrote that press release? The tenses are all over the place.

With their budget, they seem to have a choice of PR/marcom people who either plagiarize or who didn't do very well in their English composition class.

Or perhaps Derek Smart has taken over that aspect of the business as well. Anything about him being Vice President Pro Tempore of Marketing?
DS runs google word alerts so expect him soon.

What game producers need to realize is they will earn less money with DS's name attached.
@Tobold - /chuckle Point taken :)
Just a point about the four million dollar claim. From what I know about game development budgets as a student studying to become a game programmer/designer, a four million dollar budget, if accurate, would have doomed Alganon before it even left the prototyping stages (assuming they even spent the valuable time to prototype the game and its systems). The art assets alone should have cost them more than four million dollars for a game of Alganon's scope.

It's often quoted that Blizzard spent 50-100 million dollars on developing World of Warcraft and development of that started nearly 10 years ago. Fast forward 10 years - 10 years of cost of living adjustments, inflation, and more importantly technological progression that raises the level of expectation for a game's presentation - and WoW's 50-100 million dollar budget then wouldn't pay for WoW circa 2010, nor would vanilla WoW be marketable. You can build an MMO on the cheap ala Runic Games/Perfect World with the upcoming Torchlight MMO, but you have to actually design the game and the team building it around those budgetary constraints. Alganon was WoW 1.0 (in more ways than one) with less than 10% of the original's budget and half its development time.

It's a shame that Quest and before them Cheyenne Mountain have painted a black eye on the Arizona game development scene. I'd rather like to work here, but these two high profile cases aren't encouraging.
My initial thought when reading this was "well, at least the company is being open about their mistakes." I know PR/marketing-wise it wasn't the smartest move, but it could benefit them to show a change of leadership and admit past wrongs.

But then I read the initial complaint. If Allen is even half correct in his complaint, it sounds like they backdoored him out. And if they really did have the majority of the board in favor of removing him, all upfront meeting would have made this much more legit.

I love this kind of soap opera!
"... almost $4M ..."

Not even $4M. Only *almost* $4M. I laughed out loud. Really.
"Isn't it totally possible that Dave Allen made a horrible game and Derek Smart is ruining it further with smack talk?"

It's pretty clear to me that that's exactly what's happening. The entire F13 thread is even more interesting than the press release, though. When you get to the Gamasutra postings on pg. 4... oh my. I didn't want to keep posting one-liners, but WOW.
I can't believe that it cost that much money, to just make a copy of WoW.

It's almost like they just took a 'Private Server' copy of WoW and slapped their name on it.

Those investors were really taken for a ride.

Speaking of investors, I am looking for someone with some capital to fund the next huge blog!
I am going to call it "Trobold's MMORPG Blog". I believe it's going to be a big hit!

Back to the topic, that was some seriously funny drama.
Blizzard spent $50+ million to make WoW.

Quest spent almost $4 million to make WoW... again.

And why are we insulting these people? We should be flocking to them; imagine what they could do with a bigger budget!
“And why are we insulting these people? We should be flocking to them; imagine what they could do with a bigger budget!”

Because they’re not good developers. They’re in the business purely for the money and are clearly unable to formulate realistic, creative, or interesting goals with their resources. I know it’s a gross overgeneralization to say that they’re all like this, but that company absolutely doesn’t deserve the money they might have made on Alganon.

People often take the side of the business model when discussing games, as if we play them for more than just fun. We are the players; all that matters is the finished product, not potential that will never happen, not empty promises, not company finances. I know that developers work for the money, but to me, the player, that can never justify gameplay.

These developers took what little budget they had and made a desperate attempt at riding the MMORPG bandwagon without regard for the situation. I would absolutely not trust them with more money.

Yes I have played Alganon. No I did not play very long.
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