Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Eldergoth Alganon Review

Carson 63000 from Eldergoth has posted a great review of Alganon, to which I have not much to add, except some personal history:

In March 2009 I was asked by Quest Online whether I would be willing to play the closed Alganon beta and give them some feedback, basically unpaid consulting work. I agreed, played the closed beta for a while and came back with exactly the same conclusions that Carson lists in his review: Alganon is a badly done clone of WoW, with very few unique selling points, and lots of bugs. There are other games, notably Runes of Magic, who do a better job of copying World of Warcraft, and which are Free2Play. I can't imagine anyone wanting to pay a monthly fee for Alganon if even just playing the completely free part of RoM is much better. I advised the guys from Quest Online to make some radical changes, for example making the combat system much different from WoW's, to have some distinguishing feature. Apparently they didn't listen.

I have the greatest respect for small game companies trying to survive in a harsh world of corporate giants. But making inferior clones of the games from corporate giants and then charging the same monthly fee for it is a strategy that is doomed to failure. The role of the small game company is to make games like Brice or World of Goo, which are innovative, even if they weren't made with a multi-million dollar budget. In MMORPGs their role is to provide niche games that do things radically different than the mainstream games. Look at A Tale in the Desert from eGenesis, Puzzle Pirates from Three Rings Design, or even at Darkfall from Aventurine (if you are into S&M and PvP) if you want to see how a small game company can make a successful MMORPG. Alganon is just plain bad.
From the reading that review all i can say is...oh dear.

Why any game company would think people would want to buy a cheap poorly made wow clone for the same price as the real thing, is beyond me.
Eek, I'm flattered (and a little scared!) that you've linked to my new and humble blog! :-)

I tried to be fair and as neutral as possible in that piece. I suspect that there was some bitterness leaking out though, there are two things about the Alganon situation that have caused me some genuine anger.

1) Just how blatant some of the copying is. Like I said in my piece, some will defend it on the grounds that all fantasy MMOs have a lot of similarities. But I've played (or at least dabbled with).. let me think.. at least 10 fantasy MMOs. And I have never seen mechanics and design that close to identical to what someone else has done before.

2) I think it is really deceitful the way they are passing off planned features as current features on their website, whilst selling pre-orders, with big incentives to pay for long subscriptions up front, and maintaining an NDA. I think they know that they're going to be hard pressed to get many sales to people who have seen the game in action and that this is their only hope for some return on investment, but it feels sleazy as hell.
Wow! BRUTAL! You really stuck it to that small game company! Small or independant game companies must have their games praised for the fact that they pulled it off, and encouraged to keep trying, and we must buy their games and support them regardless of supposed "quality" or we will never get small and independant offerings again!

At least, that's what some people would say. On the other hand, my wife tried the beta and Alganon had nothing to bring to the table. Lol :(
I completely agree. Indie companies should try to focus on innovative ideas or niche genres.

Some of the best games I've played in the last two days are indie games. World of goo is my favorite game of last year together with Fallout 3. This year I've enjoyed Audiosurf and Braid. All these games offer great ideas and incredible polish, especillay World of Goo.

Another game I enjoyed this year is Defense grid. A fun tower defense game in a nice genre.

It's sometimes possible to compete with the big boys but it's a rare thing. Zeno Clash comes to mind.

But as for mmorpgs? How can you compete with the 200 men Blizzard has on WoW?
The review is pretty damning stuff, isn't it?

I can't believe they copied WoW the way they did - even down to the bags, and didn't even bother to remove the keyring!

I'll stick with WoW I think!
You link the other two, but not DarkFall? Hater.

I would love to know what goes on in an Alganon design meeting though. I mean did all X people in the room think it was a good idea to put out a bad WoW clone, or was it just one maniac hell-bent on making it work? Either way, waste of indie MMO dev time, luckily plenty of others have and will step up.
@syncaine: I don't hate Darkfall, I hate the niche that Darkfall represents. You don't hate WoW, you hate the mass market that WoW represents. Overall I'd say I'm doing better job of separating my hate for the niche with saying reasonably nice things about the game than you do.

Wow! BRUTAL! You really stuck it to that small game company!

I know. Feels like beating a puppy. On the other hand I gave Alganon a lot more free advertising over the last weeks than it really deserves. But at some point one has to call things as they are. I think the user reviews yesterday are all agreeing pretty much here.
When I watched my wife playing the beta and saw the UI was copied pixel for pixel from WoW, I thought that was very awqward and downright bizzare.

It's funny you should mention your HATRED for the Darkfall Niche. I spent many years playing UO and I brought the same mindset when I went to my next MMO - WoW. However, I quickly found that the cutthroat, griefing, ninja looting, hardcore PvP mindset and habits that I learned were maladaptive for the modern MMO.

Luckily I am pleased to say I left those behaviours and attitudes behind and now that I am 26 and 12 years have passed since I got UO for Christmas, I have matured and so has the genre.

Mass market appeal or not, WoW is the definition of an MMO era, like UO and EQ were in their heyday and so it is the game to play, respond to, and copy.

When the "next big thing" arrives, we'll know.
There is no excuse for releasing a crap product. And Alganon is crap. I don't care if your budget is $600m or $6. If the game's not good and fun, I'm not going to play it. It's not like you forced Quest Online to make a game that directly competes with WoW. They made the poor business decision and they produced a poor product.

Compare Alganon to AI War. One guy did the programming on AI War and it's one of the best RTSes I've played in recent memory. It's got significant depth, tons of viable strategic options, an adaptive AI, and a surprisingly good interface (once you learn the basics of the game).

I don't see a reason to defend Alganon.
Small or independant game companies must have their games praised for the fact that they pulled it off, and encouraged to keep trying, and we must buy their games and support them regardless of supposed "quality" or we will never get small and independant offerings again!

That's bullshit. Quality sells. If you're an indie developer who creates great stuff like world of goo or audiosurf I'll be happy to buy your game. If you create a crappy game it won't sell. And that's the way it should be.

Recent indie games put the quality bar high. There's no reason not to expect fun from an indie game.
Thanks for posting this. I received a beta invite, took one look at the game and decided to take a pass.

Talk about nailing the coffin shut. As far as I am concerned I am very bored with the common fantasy genre. Apart from Dragon Age:Origins that is being released Nov 3rd I am sticking with sci-fi.

For now...
Apparently they have just postponed launch until December 1st.

Still a LOT to do in one month.
As the Community Manager for Alganon I just wanted to thank all of the testers who are taking the time to test Alganon during beta and write up their thought. We appreciate the time and effort you take to do so. You weren't getting paid to do it and certainly weren't required to.

I also encourage all those who have yet to try Alganon or haven't played the beta in the last while to give it a try.

We feel Alganon has a lot to offer MMORPG players.

Thanks again Tobold for all your efforts in helping us test Alganon.
It must be said,the comparison is clear,does that make it a bad game?not to me.I believe borrowing a proven formula is just plain smart.Without that concept games like Sacred,Torchlight,Divine Divinity,Fate and so many more would not be around today for us to enjoy.
Now with that being said would I pay $14.99 a month for a game with the potential for greatness when I could play a game with proven greatness,not so much.
In my opinion I think if the game offered like a ,6 month introduction fee so people could apppreciate and sink their teeth into this game,then more people may be drawn in and enjoy the game for what it has to offer.
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