Derek Smart Caught Up in Alganon Plagiarism Furor

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Derek Smart Caught Up in Alganon Plagiarism Furor

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A press release for the Derek Smart-led MMOG Alganon has churned up controversy for attributing a quote to Smart that's lifted almost word-for-word from an old BioWare press release for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

First, some background for those unfamiliar with the game: Developed and published by a company called Quest Online, Alganon launched in December 2009 as a traditional, subscription-based MMOG but was plagued by numerous difficulties, not least of which were accusations that the game was a blatant World of Warcraft ripoff. Smart, the notorious industry veteran behind the Battlecruiser and Universal Combat games, was brought in to assist soon after it launched, but by mid-March he had taken over the company as president and fired founder Dave Allen, a move which prompted no small amount of controversy in itself.

Now Smart and the game are taking heat for a blunder of a different sort. In a press release announcing the "official" release of Alganon at the end of April (the original December release was re-labeled a "'soft launch' in order to soften the blow of that disaster," as he put it in a testy Gamasutra exchange) Smart was quoted as saying, "Traditionally, massively multiplier online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars - combat, exploration and character progression. In Alganon, in addition to these we've added the fourth pillar to the equation; a story. We delivered a fun, immersive adventure that gamers expect in a top quality massively multiplayer online game. To top it all off, we're not done yet. A whole new adventure with new updates will follow soon, starting with a consignment house, new classes, PvP and much more."

It's a fairly standard press-release-style statement, with one slight problem: BioWare said almost the exact same thing in an October 2008 press release for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

"Traditionally, massively multiplayer online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars - combat, exploration and character progression," said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder and General Manager/CEO of BioWare and General Manager/Vice President of Electronic Arts Inc., "In Star Wars: The Old Republic, we're fusing BioWare's heritage of critically-acclaimed storytelling with the amazing pedigree of Lucasfilm and LucasArts, and adding a brand-new fourth pillar to the equation - story. At the same time, we will still deliver all the fun features and activities that fans have come to expect in a AAA massively multiplayer online game. To top it all off, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set in a very exciting, dynamic period in the Star Wars universe."

Naturally, accusations of plagiarism began to fly, fueled at least in part by glee over the fact that Smart, never the most endearing industry figure, had been caught in an embarrassing situation. Suggestions that a public relations firm may have been responsible for the mess were blunted somewhat by the fact that the quote was attributed directly to Smart (and, presumably, approved by him at some point in the process) but nevertheless, an anonymous PR writer soon stepped forward to fall on his sword.

"I committed a terrible blunder, considering the fiasco under which Derek took over the company and all the work he put into the game and the work I've done to stir the coverage to the game away from other controversies. And here I created a new one," he wrote. "I'm probably going to get fired for this blunder. And if that's the course of action Derek takes, I'm okay with that. I stand up for my mistakes. And this one is mine."

Smart himself seemed to dismiss the whole thing in a statement released this morning, saying "it shouldn't even be news" because "practically every game related press release reads like the next one."

"In truth, the reference should either have been reworded or credited and sourced. As I understand it now, that was the original intent; but they failed to make the change in their draft and which was to become the final version that went out on PRWeb," he said. "And since Quest Online - like most companies that hire outside PR firms - don't have to fact check press releases, we clearly had no idea what had happened until my inbox started lighting up on Sunday morning. This was clearly an unintentional oversight and shouldn't even be news; but here we are. Just another glorious day in the gaming industry."

He also claimed that BioWare itself lifted the line from an address given by John Smedley at the 2004 SOE Fan Fair in New Orleans, although it's interesting to note that the claim appears to be based on an unsubstantiated quote posted by a user in response to the Alganon uproar.

There's no question that a certain sameness pervades most press releases that hit the wires but this one gets tricky because the quote is directly attributed to Smart. It's clearly a mistake by the PR firm and Smart is taking more heat than he likely would otherwise because he's such a polarizing figure in the industry, which of course is really just a nice way of saying that a lot of people don't like him. His assertion that he's an innocent bystander in all this is probably fair, but "not even news?" That's taking it a little too far.

Source: Kill Ten Rats

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Ohhh...Looks like he has certainly been cauight out...Well, if they are going to be obvious about it then they deserve the trouble its brewing but still...

And now I wait for the inevitable 3 year flamewar.

I also await the next installment of "Derek Smart says fuck you to everyone" day.

Seriously, can Derek Smart ever just shut up? Everything he says or does seems to be inflammatory. He could have dealt with this tactfully, but no. It's not so much that what he did is horrible, it's just that I know how he's going to handle it. As arrogantly as possible.

Jack and Calumon: BUSTED!

He (Smart) does have a point when he says it's not really news. I wonder if it would have been a big deal if anyone else had done it?

Press releases do seem to be kinda samey and this is kind of a none issue for me.

But when you enter Smart into any equation you get insta-flames springing up all over the place, which seems silly to me. I recall him making some rather harsh and borderline inflammatory comments towards users here a while back and I must admit that he did not impress me with his behaviour.

It's a shame, as I've always thought he has some interesting ideas and a BC3000AD was full of potential in my eyes. Then he opens his mouth and I like him a whole lot less.

Though, in fairness, I must add that he has made some very insightful comments at Gamasutra at various points.

"Looks like Darek *puts on sunglasses* isn't too Smart."

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Yes, there are some similarities between all press releases. That is true. But seriously, you are claiming you both individually came up with the same three "pillars" of MMOG's, and also the implementation of the same fourth "pillar"? Hmm...

Irridium:
"Looks like he's *puts on sunglasses* not too Smart."

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You win many cookies.

Derek Smart is a complete hack, but he is right in this case. If you removed all the identifying phrases, words, and trademarks from a batch of gaming press releases, you would never be able to determine what games they were for.

Hell, the same can be said for 90% of gamespot reviews as well.

thebobmaster:
Yes, there are some similarities between all press releases. That is true. But seriously, you are claiming you both individually came up with the same three "pillars" of MMOG's, and also the implementation of the same fourth "pillar"?

What the hell else are you going to add to the mmog formula?

Is it just me or does the player interface shown on the screenshot look very similar to WOWs?

It made me laugh though, Its like copying an exam on Romeo and Juliet from someone doing one on Hamlet and changing the character names and locations....

The DSM:
Is it just me or does the player interface shown on the screenshot look very similar to WOWs?

All MMO GUIs look exactly the same. Theres really no other way to make them.

Anyway, I don't see the big deal. Its not like he stole a game, just some words used to describe it.

Title... Summary... Tags... CRAP! You said his name three times, now he will appear!

Can anyone fill me in on to who Derek Smart is? Tried googling but all of its about this current mess. Just want to know why he is not liked.

Thanks!

damn that gamasutra thread is epic....Derek comes off as such a giant douchebag, it's quite hilarious to see "professionals" sink to the level of common forum trolls

Oh Derek Smart, how I've missed you. It's been a while since I've heard from Smart, and it's always lulz.

Are they dragging this out for column inches?

"unknown MMO maker makes a boo boo, partially apologises, tells the world THIS IS NOT NEWS also check out our NOT GAME"

Irridium:
"Looks like Darek *puts on sunglasses* isn't too Smart."

I would like to give you the gift of Double Jump, your in the real world but fuck it, you can now double jump.

Physics can go fuck itself.

Busted\

A MMORPG with a story? What did we do, hit Plato's Republic, an utopia already? I can't say I ever heard of the game and if I would ever go back to a MMORPG, it'd be World of Warcraft, no matter how hard I bash it.

This sounds ridiculous to me, basically if someone says the same thing as someone else when promoting a game on the same virtues that's somehow consider plagerism?

I'm sorry, but when it comes to this, the statements seemed generic enough where I can't see an issue... maybe that's just me though.

Not defending Mr. Smart in general, but in this case I really don't think this is even newsworthy.

I've talked to him over PMs at his forums. He ain't that bad of a guy. :/

If we're really lucky, he'll show up here. The dude is a notorious self-Googler. If it happens, fire up the popcorn and watch the show. A Derek Smart forum appearance is always a good time.

Hopeless Bastard:
Derek Smart is a complete hack, but he is right in this case. If you removed all the identifying phrases, words, and trademarks from a batch of gaming press releases, you would never be able to determine what games they were for.

Hell, the same can be said for 90% of gamespot reviews as well.

thebobmaster:
Yes, there are some similarities between all press releases. That is true. But seriously, you are claiming you both individually came up with the same three "pillars" of MMOG's, and also the implementation of the same fourth "pillar"?

What the hell else are you going to add to the mmog formula?

My point was more of him using the term "pillars" to describe the elements of the game. And the fact that, at the very least, the first two sentences, save for the blurb about Bioware's pedigree, are identical. Not similar, the exact same words in the exact same order.

Irridium:
"Looks like Darek *puts on sunglasses* isn't too Smart."

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Ok, that made me snarf. :D

Russ Pitts:
If we're really lucky, he'll show up here. The dude is a notorious self-Googler. If it happens, fire up the popcorn and watch the show. A Derek Smart forum appearance is always a good time.

Has it happened here before?

Irridium:
"Looks like Darek *puts on sunglasses* isn't too Smart."

image

Oh that was running through my head when I read that article. Kudos sir!

Russ Pitts:
If we're really lucky, he'll show up here. The dude is a notorious self-Googler. If it happens, fire up the popcorn and watch the show. A Derek Smart forum appearance is always a good time.

Just curious, did any other game industry self-googler figure ever appeared on the forums?

This guy is still working with games?!? ... I thought he'd been laughed off the scene years ago. The dark ages get darker it seems.

Irridium:
Has it happened here before?

Smart's a member here, and he's responded to at least one post about himself in the past. I wouldn't call it a "blowup" so much, at least not compared to some of the incidents I've seen on Blue's or Gama, but his attitude certainly shone through brightly.

I really don't know what to make of the man. He seems incredibly passionate about videogames and is apparently able to make a decent living developing them for a dedicated but very small, niche audience. But he also seems unable to resist responding to just about everything that's said about him online, and that's when he tends to come across like something of a sociopath. So I dunno.

But like Russ said, it's always entertaining when Derek shows up.

Deofuta:
Can anyone fill me in on to who Derek Smart is? Tried googling but all of its about this current mess. Just want to know why he is not liked.

Thanks!

concerning his flame war stuff: http://follies.werewolves.org/archives/1About/WhatIsFlameWarAbout.html
The drama approach: [edit] do a search for encyclopediadramatica + derek smart [edit] be warned... mature stuff can be founded there... get an ad-blocker prior to the visit.
a possibly more truthful approach: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Smart

his blog...
http://www.dereksmart.org/

Andy Chalk:

Irridium:
Has it happened here before?

Smart's a member here, and he's responded to at least one post about himself in the past. I wouldn't call it a "blowup" so much, at least not compared to some of the incidents I've seen on Blue's or Gama, but his attitude certainly shone through brightly.

I really don't know what to make of the man. He seems incredibly passionate about videogames and is apparently able to make a decent living developing them for a dedicated but very small, niche audience. But he also seems unable to resist responding to just about everything that's said about him online, and that's when he tends to come across like something of a sociopath. So I dunno.

But like Russ said, it's always entertaining when Derek shows up.

Hm... interesting.

In that case I will watch this in case he does. I do so love internet entertainment ;)

I find it very interesting that while an industry veteran will openly admit that purchased PR prattle is samey and in the end, fairly unimportant, he will still direct his company to hire a PR firm to prattle on about his games.

I can't help but see personally insulting implications in this. Does this mean that Derek Smart (and others who feel the same way) think gamers are morons who happily drink up whatever hired PR says, as if we can't tell that's what we're reading? Or is it that hiring a PR firm is just "something you do" when you're releasing a game, meaning that it IS unimportant, meaning that it's a waste of money and a waste of time for gamers to even bother paying attention to it? If the second one is true, that also implies that devs don't think very much about their customers. But in either case, it makes me wonder, why do they bother?

Take for example the game facts pages on Steam releases. These are clearly nothing but reams of PR prattle, and I can't believe anyone actually buys a game based on this by-the-numbers praise. We have a world of Internet game reviews now; we REALLY don't need hired PR prattle. For games that get good independent reviews, it's just pointless. And for games that get terrible independent reviews, it's just dishonesty someone paid for because they apparently think I'm stupid.

Either way, I think it's long past time devs stopped wasting money on this crap.

As much as enjoy a good Derek Smart bashing this story is about as scandalous as the time someone cut a slice out of my dad's birthday cake before it was presented to him.

..*sigh* haven't heard that name since I used to post on the Particle Systems forum.. I suppose I was hoping I'd never hear it again as well. But hey. Can't have everything.

Andy Chalk:

Irridium:
Has it happened here before?

Smart's a member here, and he's responded to at least one post about himself in the past. I wouldn't call it a "blowup" so much, at least not compared to some of the incidents I've seen on Blue's or Gama, but his attitude certainly shone through brightly.

I really don't know what to make of the man. He seems incredibly passionate about videogames and is apparently able to make a decent living developing them for a dedicated but very small, niche audience. But he also seems unable to resist responding to just about everything that's said about him online, and that's when he tends to come across like something of a sociopath. So I dunno.

But like Russ said, it's always entertaining when Derek shows up.

My thoughts exactly. I find his forum behavior fairly shocking, but he does have that Peter Molyneux trait of over-hyping his upcoming and existing games (but even more so) that tends to bait people. I really love his game play ideas, and have tried to enjoy each of his games, but his ambition just outstrips his development team's ability by so much they come out terribly.

Seriously though, if we could get those Battlecruiser games working like they were supposed to... maybe Infinity (www.infinity-universe.com/Infinity) will get there.

I find it surprising that people are offended by the plagiarism and are missing the bigger picture: the things "he said" in that PR release were never actually said by him at all!

PR firms are almost magical. They write bog-standard business fluff about companies, plaster them all over news wires as if they were reports from independent reporters (instead of paid for by the entity being reported on), and speak of things that never really happened. It's fraud in every dimension.

There are entire industries based on this. I know of one particular "blog" that is big news in the industry I work in. It used to be one person's blog, and getting on there was a big deal because he only reviewed the good stuff. But he has long since sold his website to a PR company. They have strict rules for how articles are to be worded so that they still look like industry insiders reporting on their experiences. I know first-hand that these articles are all written by PR writers for the companies being reviewed. They write them as if they are customers, often submitted "anonymously", and speak from the first-person point of view. They claim to have used them on projects and to have had great results, but none of these things ever happened. It's an entire world of news fabricated to look genuine, but in reality it's entirely the creative writing of a public relations firm. It's a complete lie.

I've even heard from board members speaking of these websites, saying how important it is that they were "accepted" onto this site in one breath (as if their were some sort of editorial process), then talking about the money and writers that went into getting on the site and the planned follow-up articles. The whole place lives in a world of double-think, where the marketers take pride in being accepted for review, despite having just paid for the privilege.

There's a good chance that this mistake happened because the same PR person wrote both articles and just happened to say the same thing twice. It's also possible that they copied the original article and meant to change the wording enough to make it unique, but didn't go far enough. If it were unique, spoken word, we would call it plagiarism, but it's really just boilerplate, adapted from formulas available in one of many books. Their crime wasn't the copying; it was allowing us to see the man shuffle behind the curtain, ruining the great illusion.

Next time you see a news article pass your favorite blog or a customer review on Amazon, consider this entire industry of frauds. It is their job to trick you into thinking that they are regular people, reflecting their own experiences as part of the greater population, when in reality they are corporate shills with open pockets and loose morals.

Can we still blame Derek Smart for being a jerk and taking over a company that didn't belong to him? Because he just seems like one of those guys you would love to hate.

OT: Well, from reading what the PR guy had to say, it was clearly an accident. Although you thinked the PR guy who sent him the quote would have cleared it up faster.

TheBluesader:
I find it very interesting that while an industry veteran will openly admit that purchased PR prattle is samey and in the end, fairly unimportant, he will still direct his company to hire a PR firm to prattle on about his games.

I can't help but see personally insulting implications in this. Does this mean that Derek Smart (and others who feel the same way) think gamers are morons who happily drink up whatever hired PR says, as if we can't tell that's what we're reading? Or is it that hiring a PR firm is just "something you do" when you're releasing a game, meaning that it IS unimportant, meaning that it's a waste of money and a waste of time for gamers to even bother paying attention to it? If the second one is true, that also implies that devs don't think very much about their customers. But in either case, it makes me wonder, why do they bother?

Take for example the game facts pages on Steam releases. These are clearly nothing but reams of PR prattle, and I can't believe anyone actually buys a game based on this by-the-numbers praise. We have a world of Internet game reviews now; we REALLY don't need hired PR prattle. For games that get good independent reviews, it's just pointless. And for games that get terrible independent reviews, it's just dishonesty someone paid for because they apparently think I'm stupid.

Either way, I think it's long past time devs stopped wasting money on this crap.

I think you've half got it. PR is "just something you do", but it's not unimportant, just as choosing those "praise quotes" from reviewers for your game isn't unimportant. We should know it's all spin, but it gives people something to think and talk about. That gets the game's name out there in front of people's eyes again. That reminds you what the developer thinks/wishes their game was like. But it's true independent reviews will hold more truth.

The PR firm is a means to that end; it's just easier than managing everything yourself, and probably much cheaper than spending your own/employee time on PR. PR usually goes for glowing praise. They could also be cute or humble or deadpan, but I think they hope glowing praise will push a tiny bit through people's apathy.

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