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Alganon community interview: Your questions answered

Shawn Schuster

Last week, we reached out to the Massively readers for questions to ask the team at Quest Online regarding the upcoming Alganon MMO. David Allen, president and co-founder of the studio, stepped up to answer the ten questions chosen for him by us.

In addition to this Q&A -- found after the jump below -- Alganon is also announcing their open beta that kicks off today. So if you find David's answers interesting and think you might want to try the game out for yourself, head on over to this link and check it out for yourself.

Was a free-to-play model ever considered for Alganon? Would you consider reverting to one if the game fails to find a substantial subscriber base?
(question by monkeystick)

David Allen: Many companies approached us about making Alganon F2P, but that's just something we weren't interested in. Right now, the industry standard is to squeeze as much money as they can out of players by introducing cash shops, and forcing them to pay for things that ought to have been part of the game. We don't want to do that. We want Alganon to be a service. You pay us a subscription so we can continue to develop and run a game that you enjoy playing. It's not a product where you hand us money and we hand you a vanity pet, or mount, or epic sword and then walk away. It's an ongoing service where we are here for you.

When one looks at the UI of Alganon, one gets the sense that it appears to be a carbon copy of the World of Warcraft UI. There have been countless posts on this subject, including images that show that both UIs are nearly identical. (question by Darzin)

It blows my mind how much time people are putting into this sort of thing. WoW is the most successful and well-known MMOG in history, and it follows standards set by countless games before it. Why wouldn't we want the custom-built Alganon UI to be familiar to players who know these standards? Every piece of the Alganon UI was hand created by our team. We designed it to be familiar and easy to recognize. It's simple as that.

Which is better, designing an unfamiliar UI that's purposely designed NOT to be like anything else, regardless of what players are accustomed to, or learning from existing MMOGs and designing a UI that is familiar? If placing the minimap in a different corner, or making it into a triangle would make the game more fun, or make it easier for players to start playing the game, we'd do it in an instant -- but it doesn't. The interface we built allows people to start playing the game the moment they enter the world. Think about games you've played with a "different" UI. How much fun is the time you spent figuring out why mouse-look is reversed, or where your mini-map went to, or why the chat window is missing, or why slash commands don't work, or trying to figure out where to go to customize your abilities? Wouldn't you rather playing the game? Wouldn't you rather be having fun? We would.

(continued question from Darzin) Now, I have read on the Alganon boards that this is mere coincidence, but assuming that the UI is the very first thing a players see, how do you expect people to react when they first look at the game? Also, why do you have certain art and UI assets that are found in World of Warcraft but not used by the actual game, including an Achievement Panel and a Keyring?

It is understandable that people will leap to conclusions when they see something that is similar. It's easy to assume there is some sort of nefarious plan or crazy conspiracy, but there is neither.

We have an achievement panel because we have an Achievement system planned and nearing completion. We have a keyring because we plan to have keys to open access to special content, such as instances. It's that simple.

A Keyring? Achievements? These are not WoW-specific things. They are common sense. They exist in the real world.

WoW has become such an important part of this industry that often, it is all that players can see. When another game utilizes this same terminology, they cry "CLONE! DUPE!" At times, it becomes downright ridiculous. It's common sense that a "key" would unlock things that are restricted, and that a "key ring" is a place for your keys. It would only confuse players to call it a "stone bag" for special "entrance stones" that "dissolve magical barriers of not-entering"? So, we call them keys, and put them on a key ring, and put that keyring with your other bags, where you would expect it to be.

Much of the issues that are being brought up fall along these "common sense" lines. We want Alganon to be fun, and we don't want to hide that fun just because another game used the direct, common sense approach first. Yes, there are things in Alganon that players will find familiar and similar to other games, but every choice was planned, designed, and built by our team specifically for Alganon.

"A Keyring? Achievements? These are not WoW-specific things. They are common sense. They exist in the real world."

You've talked about the Dawning being an event that all players who are subscribing to the game will be able to participate in. Are there any level requirements on this participation? (question by Sarah)

The content for the Dawning stretches across all level ranges. Players of all levels will still be able to take part in most events, collect tokens to purchase rewards, and use most of those rewards. (Only armor pieces with stats and the special mounts will require a player to level up.) Higher level players will have more they can do, and thus can gather tokens at a faster rate. Also, the final quest - the one that will rewards the first player to complete it with the chance to meet online with the designers and take part in the process of naming loot - does require a player be level 50.

David Allen, you were the mind behind the acclaimed Horizons, which to many was a huge step forward in the innovation of the genre, but now you're behind a game that many are calling the biggest WoW ripoff ever made. How does it feel to go from being the hope of many to being looked down upon? (question by Gabby)

I've spent the last four years with a great team building one of the only independent gaming studios in the industry that owns all of its technology, is privately financed, founder majority owned, and has created a game being compared to the most successful MMOG in history. I have yet to hear anyone who has played Alganon for any duration call it a "WoW ripoff", and I have yet to feel "looked down upon" by anyone that has experienced firsthand the amount of effort, talent, and determination it takes to make an MMOG.

The original Horizons was a great concept, but (now) I don't know of any company that could have delivered everything it was supposed to be. Yet, players ate it up, and at one time it was the most anticipated MMOG. Today, our privately financed, independent gaming studio has produced an MMOG that is being compared to the most successful MMOG in history, and it's a bad thing? The great thing is that players who spend time in Alganon are finding a sense of community and fun that they don't see in other games.

I regularly spend time in game talking to players, watching, and I don't see the hatred, spitefulness, and utter garbage that's being spewed out by numerous gamers who seem to be more interested in the sound of their keyboard than common sense. While we admit this beta version of the game still has some bugs (fewer and fewer every day), most people who actually play the game like Alganon. They like it a lot. And they are forming a community of gamers that enjoys playing together without spewing hatred at one another. It's a wonderful thing.

There are many fantasy based MMO games out there. How is Alganon different from all these other titles? (question by SnowyJoe)

Alganon offers a few features not found in fantasy MMOGs, the first being Studies, it has a built in real-time Library system players can use to look up any aspect of game-data (races, classes, skills, abilities, quests, items, creatures, tradeskills, etc), and refines some of the community systems like mail and guilds and adds families.

Many of these features can feel small, and can easily overshadowed by the familiarity that lets players jump right in and start having fun. You might scoff and dismiss families as "just an icon, some clothes, and a chat channel," but it has already started to build a sense of community. Players who enjoy similar play styles are getting together because they share family chat, rather than feeling alone or being told to shut up by someone in the chat who prefers a different aspect of the game. There are already groups full of players who play together and form friendships, but would never be in the same guild because of their "casual" or "hardcore" playstyle. There are players who love to mine the Library for lore or shortcuts for leveling, and share those with others. The Studies system allows players to keep advancing even while they deal with issues in real life, and has encouraged more mature and level-headed players to join, greatly reducing the "Chuck Norris Jokes to Meaningful Chat" ratio in game.

It is dead wrong to think these things are "bolted on" to Alganon. They are as important to the game as the combat or crafting systems. They are the heart and soul of what makes Alganon what it is.

Is Quest Online deliberately encouraging a low subscription rate initially and, whether yes or no, how long can the company survive financially if subscriptions remain low for a significant period of time (i.e. six months to a year)? (question by Kevin)

Alganon has more than two years of expansions planned that will feature new races, domains, quests, lore, and features (ranging from Crusades to PvP). I wouldn't say we're encouraging low subscription rates, but we understand the game will grow over time.

One thing we don't want is for players to get a false impression of the game and buy it because of false hype. If there is a feature you are waiting for, and you won't get any value out of being a part of making it happen, then please wait to buy the game. But, if you are looking for the features and community we already have, or you want to be a part of the process that gets those features implemented, preorder right now. The more players we have, the faster we can grow.

What will Quest Online do if the game does not attract sufficient subscriptions to reach break-even and then move into profitability? (question by Kevin)

Probably Talrok-based porn. Female of course.

It is my understanding that you built the engine from scratch. Can you discuss the capabilities of the engine? Is it built in such a way that flying mounts might one day be possible? How about house building such as in Horizons? (question by Nick)

We actually built and own all of our technology. There aren't many who realize what this means. Most companies sub license other technology to build their product and never really gain the ability to control the technology. This results in products that technically get stuck. We will not have this problem. We can evolve any aspect of Alganon as we see fit over time.

The Client and Server systems already support flying mounts, so we can put them in anytime. We can add player housing, guild housing, you name it. It's our engine, and it has been built to grow. The sky is the limit, and if we want to, we can move that, too.

You have mentioned in previous interviews that the next 2 years in expansion packs have been planned and they will come every 6 months. Care to share with us the highlights of the first 4? (question by Nick)

The Dawning is the first one, and it revolves around instances, Consignment, and the Kudos system. The story concept is that four large Storms (world bosses) are beginning to form and players will need to find out why and find a way to part the storm and bring about a new Dawn and open the instanced content.

After that we have Ashkura planned, which is a new domain and instances. While it is mostly "endgame" level content, the effects of this world evolution will also change the leveling content of the game for those players who choose to roll an alt character. Our lead designer loves to put new spins on traditional fantasy creatures, so he wants to keep the details of the Askura content a surprise. Even if I let slip which creatures this content is designed around, they will be very different than the dragons you imagine. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

Blackspire is after that, featuring new races, domains, and other nicknacks. Large changes to leveling content are a big part of this evolution, so that players who roll one of the new races are not forced to go through the same content over again. The Ourobi, keepers of the teleport portals in the game already, will play a large part in bringing this content together from a story perspective.

And after that is Darkblood, the PvP expansion. This expansion will also include new classes and other features. Some are "small expansions" and others (like Darkblood) are very large. Granted the names and features can change, but this is a glimpse of what's to come.

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