Alganon Dev Tour
I had the opportunity to view Alganon 2.0 along with CSGM Steven Kasparek and I am left with an abiding sense of right when it comes to the game. On Alganon 2.0’s release on April 28th, it is my feeling that players, whether fans or foes, will find that a lot has changed in Alganon in all the right ways. It’s hardly the game they remember. New fans will be pleased as well.
For the uninitiated, Alganon 1.0 was released, prematurely according to Kasparek, in December 2009. The game was panned and quickly dismissed by most within days. But Alganon did not die or disappear. Over the next several months, turmoil surrounded Quest Online and resulted in the departure of the original lead. Shortly after, Derek Smart arrived on scene to try and make something of a game released far too soon.
Since the ‘changing of the guard’, however, Kasparek told me that the Alganon project is “a tightly run ship” and that the team has gotten a stunning amount of work done because of “Derek’s up front and open leadership”. Everything from bug squashing to feature implementation has been attended to in one form or another. Kasparek indicated that the major work for 2.0 had been completed in just over two months, coinciding with Smart’s arrival at Quest Online.
I had the chance to play Alganon 1.0 (through the mid-March patch) as word was getting out about Alganon 2.0’s forthcoming release. I jumped into the 1.0 version about a month ago. While there were definitely things that I liked about the game, I had serious reservations about whether or not Alganon could ever come close to turning a profit. Many of the game’s mechanics were clearly broken and caused game-ending problems for me. In fact, Kasparek mentioned that Alganon was no fun to play because folks were fighting the game itself. I couldn’t agree more. In my initial experience with Alganon, monsters ran through my character and began whaling on her back which nearly drove me insane. Being attacked by a monster hidden inside a rock or tree was enough to make me want to throw down my toys and stomp off.
After writing my initial impressions of Alganon 1.0 I did not touch the game again…until today.
Alganon 2.0 bears scant resemblance to its earlier version. Oh sure, it looks pretty much the same but that’s about where the similarities end. Gone are the days of the phantom rock attacks and monsters running through players. Gone are the rather flat graphics. Gone are most of the game-ending bugs that plagued players.
The changes in Alganon are apparent right from the start once a ‘toon has been created. Depending on which faction players choose, they are treated to a very well done opening cinematic leading them to a starting area. This beginner’s location is important and gives players the basics of the game’s lore. Watching over each faction’s starting area are the game’s principle gods. These guys are HUGE as you can see from the screens. Once characters have run around on a few basic quests for information, or blessings of the gods, they are sent through a one-way portal to the actual fighting grounds for their faction.
The Marketplace the the Tribute System
I had asked to be shown the most important improvements in v2.0 and I was not disappointed. Kasparek gave me a generous amount of ‘Tribute’ with which to play in the Alganon Marketplace. Tribute is the real money currency that players can use to buy so-called luxury, or Marketplace, items. Tribute is shared by all player characters.
As with most free to play games, the Alganon Marketplace has elixirs, mounts, pets, tokens and more. The Marketplace is quite large and contains a lot of cool and interesting items. Kasparek told me that the items in the store are not needed to play the game in any way but are mainly vanity and fluff or simply a shortcut to gaining suitable gear rather than collecting it piecemeal throughout the game. For instance, my character was leveled to 50 and purchased a level 40 Soldier Gear Set that included a helm, shield, sword, armored pants and chest piece. The gear is solid for a level 40 fighter, but nothing spectacular and rather underpowered for my level 50. Kasparek said that the gear is not better than can be found in the game but is simply a ‘shortcut’ to gaining level-appropriate items. Gear sets can be purchased at levels 20, 30 and 40 but there is also, for instance, level 22 or 46 gear that can be found as well that renders the Marketplace items obsolete.
One very cool feature of the Marketplace when purchasing a gear set is that the items in the set are displayed and can be highlighted to see what stats they give and whether or not it’s better than what is already being worn. There are also Random Loot Boxes in magical, enchanted and epic forms that will give players one of up to 12 items contained in the box. Again, items are displayed but only one will be given when the box is opened.
Keep reading to find out about instanced dungeons, the customizable UI, graphics, the game map and the final word.
One of the most exciting features that Kasparek showed me are the newly implemented instanced dungeons. Instanced dungeons can be accessed beginning at about level 10 and are definitely NOT solo player friendly. In fact, when we were touring the first dungeon, our two level 50 characters took more time than I would have figured to bring down a pair of level 13 monsters! This is a purposeful design, Kasparek said, to encourage players to party up. Instances should be run in parties of 4-6 though there has been some talk about making dungeons accessible to the solo player similar to what Dungeons & Dragons Online has done.
Instances contribute directly to the lore of Alganon and quests are completed to move on. Some instances have other instances inside of them that depend on completing one quest before moving onto the next section.
The Death System
The dungeons made me wonder how death will be dealt with in Alganon. Kasparek told me that if a character dies in an instance, they are sent back to the beginning but not booted out. In instances and elsewhere in the Alganon world, if players return in ghost form to their corpse, gear will take a 10% durability hit. If they choose to respawn, gear will be dinged for a 30% durability loss. As players get better and more elaborate gear, the cost for respawning could become quite hefty in terms of item repair cost.
Customizable UI & Graphics
Another awesome feature in Alganon 2.0 is the almost completely customizable user interface. Nearly every part of the UI can be moved, resized, or taken out altogether. The only part of the UI that cant’ be altered in one way or another is the inventory bag display. Inventory will always open in the lower right hand corner.
The customizable UI is a terrifically nice feature as players will want to take in the Alganon universe. The graphics are really nice and a lot has been done to bring pizzazz into the look that was missing in earlier versions of the game. Devs are busy applying dynamic lighting effects, particle effects and more. Alganon is a very pretty world with a lot of variety in textures and environments. The undersea Tempest Temple instance, for example, has gorgeous colors and innovative art. (I really loved the nautilus shell lamps!) Trees move in the wind, feet crunch on the gravel, ambient sounds surround players, etc. In short, Alganon gives players a sense of being in a real world.
The In-Game Map
The in game map has been overhauled as well. The new display uses ‘fog of war’. Map features and areas are revealed as players explore the world. Numbered quests are shown on the map similar to World of Warcraft’s system. While the general location of a quest area is shown, the exact location is not. If a player is, for instance, sent out to kill a specific type of monster or perhaps sent to take out a ‘named’ monster, a general location is given. The monster, however, may be out for a stroll or otherwise occupied. There’s no ‘click the monster name and run right up to him’ in Alganon. Players are required to put a little effort into finding their victims.
Monsters are now aware of their environments too. One of the game breakers for me in 1.0 was the fact that monster ran through things and were literally part of trees and rocks. I couldn’t see them but they could see me and I paid dearly. Now monsters have mesh terrain to follow and they do recognize impassable objects. Creatures react to potholes, trees, cliffs, etc. Similarly, they do not run through players any more. Such behavior used to cause characters to stop fighting and stand there with their backs turned while being beaten to death. Now the odds are more even.
The Sky is Falling!
The only VERY small thing that still bothers me (that I noticed at any rate) is the gigantic chest that randomly drops out of the sky when some monsters die. All monsters’ corpses can be searched but occasionally when a monster dies, a huge chest just thunks to the ground on top of the corpse. Don’t get me wrong: The chests almost always have some sort of nifty thing inside. It’s just the way that it shows up. I almost find myself metaphorically looking up to see if I’m going to have a chest dropped on my head. Think slapstick comedy of old movies.
Quest Online developers have made a lot of improvements in the game that will be released on the 28th but they are not content with resting on that achievement (huge as it is!). Kasparek told me about a lot of things that are planned for post deployment. He named quite a few: Network optimization to allow for streaming content; characters sharing Tribute purchases such as mounts; new Marketplace items; a PvP system; solo instances; new character models; new multiplayer dungeons and more.
Kasparek and I did not play much. This was a tour of the game to see its new and improved features. Are there bugs? Of course but that’s why there are open beta tests. Are there things that some folks won’t like? Granted but that’s nothing different than any other game out there. Is it going to be difficult to overcome the head office drama? Absolutely but it can be done with the sheer will of developers and the game they have made.
The Bottom Line
Former players will not recognize Alganon 2.0 in my opinion. So much has changed in so many ways that it’s almost unfair to compare 1.0 and 2.0. Time will tell if former fans can be lured back into the game but I suspect that new players will like what they experience. This is the game that should have been released from the get go and there are a LOT of good reasons to give Alganon a try.