Posts Tagged ‘Alganon’

Excuse Me, Is That A Poleaxe In Your Back?

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I’m often asked by friends to give my thoughts and recommendations on various MMOs. Usually this isn’t too difficult. Having played so many different online games over the years, it’s easy for me to assess a game’s strengths and weaknesses. What I find more difficult to quantify is the game that has all the right elements, but somehow loses its appeal over time. This is often caused by something that should be completely inconsequential. I call this phenomenon the Niggling Pixel Effect.

Are you naturally blond?
Does your eyebrows EXACTLY match your hair?

I originally wrote about Alganon back in December. Although the developers have since revamped the UI and some of the other art assets to make it look less like a WoW clone, the overall game play remains pretty standard MMO fantasy fare. Which, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Aside from the usual glitches and bugs that plague every new MMO, it is a solid, palatable game.

Since Alganon is free-to-play after its initial purchase, I’ve spent the past 6 months leveling up a cleric. At first I found the game to be a pleasant, snack-like diversion, similar to that bag of Doritos you grab from the vending machine in the middle of the afternoon. It’s the type of game you play when you can’t (or don’t want) to pay for a subscription to the full course meal of a ‘real’ MMO. But as I progressed through the first ten levels, I found that my desire to play the game was steadily decreasing. It was then that I realized that I was suffering from the Niggling Pixel Effect.

First it was my avatar’s face. Apparently designing attractive human faces in video games is no easy feat, because ugly avatars are everywhere in the land of MMOs. Since you spend the majority of your time looking at the back of your avatar, an ugly face can sometimes be ignored. But over time I found myself groaning every time I logged into the game and saw my avatar’s ugly mug staring back at me.

Nothing says 'medieval fantasy' like brown latex pants and sneakers.

Next came my character’s clothing. I realize that it’s standard procedure in fantasy games for your character to begin her journey in rags and eventually become the MMO equivalent of Liberace. But I found the clothing in Alganon to be not only unattractive, but anachronistically distracting. The setting of the game is supposed to be psuedo-medieval, yet my character is wearing a brown latex wetsuit? Strike two.

Finally, there was the poleaxe. Initially my character’s weapon was Velcro’ed across her back in the usual video game fashion. But after a particular patch was installed, my character suddenly found her poleaxe buried into the middle of her back. If this is a glitch, the developers have not been in a hurry to fix it. She’s looked this way for months. Strike three – you’re out.

These are all relatively minor issues that other players may be able to overlook. But the Niggling Pixel Effect is different for each player, and the ugly faced, wetsuit-wearing, inappropriately-placed poleaxe carrying avatar became unplayable for me.

What is your Niggling Pixel?

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or, at least, that’s what the mysterious collective known as ‘they’ often say. If what ‘they’ say is true, then the MMO industry is absolutely overflowing with approbation.

Alganon is a new MMO fresh off the presses that takes its WoW-cloning very seriously. From the moment you enter the character creation screen, your sense of promnesia is so palatable that the game might as well be a sheep named Dolly. The art style. The combat. The emotes. Algonon doesn’t even try to pretend that it’s anything other than a World of Warcraft knock-off.

Of course, trying to be just like WoW is certainly nothing new. Korean MMOs have made an industry out of it (i.e. Runes of Magic). But Alganon isn’t an Asian import; it was created by Arizona-based developer Quest Online. And what makes Alganon unique in its, uh, sameness, is the fact that it’s a remarkably well done clone. I have to admit that in the short time I played Alganon during beta, its familiarity was almost comforting. Sure, it was a bland comfort, like a bowl of oatmeal. But I’ve certainly played much worse.

Which left me wondering, why? If you’ve got the talent, skill and budget that Quest Online obviously has to make a superb WoW copy, why not use those resources to create something wholly new and original? Was it a shrewd business decision? Do they think that players aren’t ready to accept a radically different MMO? Is the MMO market so competitive that it’s too risky to veer too far from the accepted standard?

What are your thoughts on this phenomenon? Will we ever find our way out of Azeroth?