An In-Depth Interview with Derek Smart

The new head of Quest Online talks about the company shakeup and the direction of the company's fantasy MMO Alganon.

Derek Smart took over as president of Quest Online with the sudden departure of co-founder and CEO David Allen. A post by Smart in the Alganon forums alluded to much more going on behind the scenes, so we tracked him down to get the details on the game that has had some of its own controversy since its ill-fated launch in December.  

Derek SmartZAM: Your post in the Alganon forums is very telling. What led the LLC board to want to remove David Allen and how long had this been brewing?

Derek Smart: Well, it all boils down to any number of things that people usually "depart" companies for. It had been brewing for awhile and even before I became involved in the company this past November. Basically the investors just got fed up of putting money into the company with the game not being released. It was supposed to take a less than two years and about a third what it ended up costing. Of course as the money well started to dry up when the investors started to get wise and thus tightened their belts accordingly, things started to go from bad to worse.

In the end, the game was supposed to be released on Oct. 31, 2009. That didn't happen. So in November 2009 the investors said no more money and they were pulling out. That would have killed the company and the game. So David called me up and asked me to intervene on his behalf because the investors didn't believe him that the game was actually ready to launch on Dec. 1 since he had missed previous dates.

So, taking his word at face value, we had a call-in with the investors. He assured us that the game was in fact ready. In the end the investors said that they would only put money into the company if I was involved in some capacity seeing that I obviously had more experience and an industry track record - all the things that David didn't have.

I agreed to help, so he got his money from the investors.

As it turns out, the game still wasn't ready (as I type this it still isn't), but he launched it on Dec. 1 regardless. It was, of course, a problematic launch because it was unfinished, buggy, unstable etc.

The investors then asked me to play a more active role in the company in order to ensure that David was on the up and up and that the game was in fact on target to finish and launch within the three more months that they had given. So the newly revised goal was March 1, 2010.

As a condition of that arrangement and in order for David to comply with my directives, I was made President of the company on Jan. 28 and David assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer.

This was a silent role and not to be made public because I didn't want to take attention and focus away from the game, given that anything to do with me would create the equivalent of a media blitz. That's why nobody even knew that I was even involved with QOL until now.

But despite that, David just flat out ignored my directives and directions and just continued what he was doing before. Things like adding stuff to the game instead of fixing it, mismanaging the daily operations etc.

Things came to a head when in mid-February it became obvious to me that the game, now scheduled for a March 1 release, was not going to make it, despite the fact that David kept saying that it would. So once again we were faced with a situation whereby in the interest of funding, he was ready to release the game incomplete on March 1 again.

While we were all pondering on this, we got wind of the fact that David was again trying to do a deal with True Games without notifying any of us, not even the investors.

We had previously received an offer from True Games and which we had turned down because we weren't interested in licensing the title to a third party.

So when it became clear to David that March 1 was a bust and that the investors were going to cut off funding as a result, he was trying to do this [bad] deal, even though he was supposed to pass everything through me first.

So I notified the investors. As one of two managing members of the LLC, David could very well do anything he wanted with the company and game. So he could very well have sold the company assets at a fraction of their cost if given the chance, licensed off the IP etc.

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