Alganon: Blatant Plagiarism

Thanks to the folks over at F13.net it has been pointed out just how blatant the Alganon folks are being with their plagiaristic press releases.

Remember this statement from the Alganon press release? Note it is dated Wednesday, April 28, 2010.

“Traditionally, massively multiplier online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars – combat, exploration and character progression,” Derek Smart continued. “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.”

Now check out this statement from the SWTOR folks, dated October 21, 2008.

“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.”

Sad.

Update: Here is the official response and conclusion.

Still sad.

- Ethic

64 thoughts on “Alganon: Blatant Plagiarism

  1. Yogi

    Even though they have relaunched with ‘different’ goals in mind, the game is still a WoW ripoff involving Mr. Smart. Two things that will cause me to go play pick up sticks rather than download a game.

  2. Julian

    I’m sure DS will find his way here and let us know how Ethic is completely wrong and he is completely right.

    How does he do it? HE’S FUELED BY THE SOULS OF THE DAMNED!

    Cookie for reference, etc.

  3. Beau

    It could have been the PR company that put this out, and not him. Who knows. I know for a fact that many developers are not PR, and leave all that TO the PR firm.

    Either way, it looks silly. Point being, this might or might not have anything to do with anything but a stupid PR person.

    Beau

  4. Memmio

    Oh, by the way . . .

    “Traditionally, massively multiplier online games have been about three basic gameplay elements – combat, exploration and character progression. In Everquest 2, we’ve added a fourth element to the equation; a story.”

    John Smedley, *2004*

        1. centrik

          Without a citation then, I a) don’t know if he actually said that and b) don’t know if he used those exact words.

          If he didn’t use those exact words, Bioware was simply discussing the same thing, but in their own words. The folks at Alganon literally took someone else’s writing and cut SW:TOR out and added Alganon. They weren’t even creative about it.

        2. Beau

          I am looking into the keynote thing, being that if it IS true, I would personally like to write the article that shows it.

          I wonder what everyone would say then. Also, I wonder if people would understand that blaming a director for the movie PR firm is like blaming a manager at a local Wal Mart for the weekly circular. They just aren’t connected.

          Beau

        3. Ethic Post author

          That is a bit of a stretch. This is more like blaming the manager for approving a press release to the news that has a quote attributed to the manager directly.

          The release says that you said it. It matters not who wrote it at that point. You approved it by allowing it to be published, you took ownership of the quote.

        4. Beau

          I might be missing it (I probably am) but show me on the press release where it says that HE (Derek Smart) said it.

          Point being, there are many press releases I have seen that seem to say the same thing. Word for word, possibly (I haven’t checked) but pretty damn close.

          I am in no way excusing, denying or claiming that it is OK to take directly from someone else. I am simply saying that, as usual, the developer will get blamed for something they did not directly do. Of course, as vocal as he is, this is not surprising. I am sure he’s fine with that.

          Watch the next SOE Ustream live event. They will have a grouping of several people to answer, live, questions about what they do. About half of the questions are answered with “That’s not our job.”

          Again, this only concerns me because it draws attention TO the fact that a great deal of press releases are handled by outside firms and, to be honest, read very very similarly.

          Beau

        5. Ethic Post author

          “Traditionally, massively multiplier online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars – combat, exploration and character progression,” Derek Smart continued. “In Alganon, in addition to these we’ve added the fourth pillar to the equation; a story.

        6. Beau

          Well there ya go, then. Since it says that there is no way some PR firm didn’t just make that up. lol

          I agree that he has to take credit if his name goes out on it, but I am making a simple point when saying that, at the most, this was someone in a PR firm making a very stupid mistake.

          Of course, it doesn’t help the perceived situation with the GAME (remember the game?) but as someone that just reviewed and and has seen the difference, the game is doing better than before.

          Maybe there IS no such thing as bad press?

          Beau

        7. Ethic Post author

          Agreed. It is a PR person blunder (see below) but I still feel that the ultimate responsibility falls on the man in charge.

          None of this really matters in the big picture. No amount of press releases can make a game more (or less) fun. They are designed to get attention and in this specific case I think they hit it out of the park.

  5. Degwarg

    If Alganon didn’t exist, somebody would have to invent it.

    I don’t even need to pay a MMO sub anymore; all I have to do is read the gaming news. Between this, STO, and the upcoming Mortal Online, I’m getting my fill of amusement without paying a cent.

  6. Derek Smart

    This was brought to my attention by the good folks at Massively, Warcry etc.

    I have not yet issued an official statement because, tbh, I don’t have all the facts yet. Being a weekend and all, I don’t expect to know what happened until Monday. I am about to rush off to church, but decided to just post this quickly to let everyone know that this just came to my attention.

    I hired a PR firm to handle media relations etc for QOL when I came aboard. They were tasked with that press release.

    While I’m certain that there is a reasonable explanation for the similarities in the releases, I simply do not want to speculate but only to say that we are going to investigate this tomorrow.

    Next week I will issue an official statement once I have all the facts.

  7. Cap'n Bludd

    So will there be a follow-up article ‘Bioware:Blatant Plagiarism once someone finds Smed’s speech?

    1. TheGreatMachine

      There’s a world of difference between Smed talking about the same concept and QOL’s press guy copy and pasting from Bioware’s press release. It’s practically word-for-word. That’s the issue.

  8. Whiskers

    I’m interested in what exactly Quest Online thinks about their own title if they can’t compose an original and honest statement to the public. This is beyond talking-point reliance–it’s blatant plagiarism without an afterthought of appearing genuine. Whether it’s because of public relations, Derek Smart, or otherwise, Quest Online has, yet again, set itself up for comparison to another intellectual property. Frankly, this is an insult to the entire MMORPG genre.

  9. Marti

    The fault lies with me, not with Derek or Quest Online. I drafted the press release. As a CEO he looked it over, approved it, moved it forward. While drafting the quote, I looked for inspiration from other press releases, about MMOs. Yes, sometimes it is easier to write something up by using someone else’s thoughts as examples.

    Alas, while doing so, I made a mistake of sending Derek an earlier draft of the press release where I added temporary a quote that best resonated the thoughts I wanted to express. And I fracked up in the process. it was never my intention to use the quote I did find. its too bloody original, to start with. I applaud the person behind the words. Few things catch my attention where quotes come to play and this one did.

    But to me PR is not about press releases. Its about disseminating information about the game and the company. As such, quotes get cut from press releases 85-90%, as reporters make press releases theirs on regular basis, so maybe I should have drafted something less original or had Derek draft his own quote – like I usually do. Hell, he’s filled with great thoughts and ideas, and as you all know, he is not shy about sharing them. Its in part why I always wanted to work with him. Its great to work with someone who stands behind his company, his team and the product like he does. So its a pleasure to represent him and Alganon.

    With all that said, 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. It certainly gives people more ammunition against Quest Online and Derek Smart, which of course is easy done, considering the recent months. In the end it is about Alganon. The game stands on its own. It was an original concept built on ideas and examples of great games and today it stands on its own merits. Most players and the press who have delved into the game find it enjoyable and fun to play. Its worth every penny and more.

    And its about me – I screwed up and will live with the consequences. As for PR, it did the game justice. The press release did the game justice. It provided the player with a high level overview of the game and highlighted the key points I wanted the gamer to get in advance to purchasing the game. Words of another company that best highlighted the points I wanted to make and did in a final draft that will never see the light of day.

    I’m probably going to get fired for this blunder. And if that’s the course of action Derek takes, I’m ok with that. I stand up for my mistakes. And this one is mine.

  10. Loralai

    That link, are you joking me? “This was clearly an unintentional oversight and shouldn’t even be news.” You took credit for a statement that was not your own. This is plagiarism. And then to accuse a site of being unprofessional by pointing out your mistake?

    “It started with an accusation of plagiarism by a little known blog site. Then it got picked up, completely and unprofessionally transformed by Massively in a news (!) bit no less and accusing Alganon of stealing a press release. Yah.”

    Way to get nasty. People get sued over plagiarism. I sincerely doubt this will be the case here, but in the journalism/literary world… it’s a big deal. You don’t get to decide what is news or what gets swept under the rug. That’s up to the masses and the media to decide thankfully. And your apologies mean nothing when you do it with an undertone of disdain and sarcasm.

  11. Bhagpuss

    Part of the problem Derek Smart has is that he seems neither to know nor care how the MMO gamespace operates.

    In the world of WoW and SWTOR, where huge multinational conglomerates are throwing around budgets in the tens of millions of dollars, working with intellectual properties that regularly make the non-gaming news agendas of national media around the world then, yes, KTR certainly is “a little known blog site”. That, however, isn’t the market Alganon is operating in.

    Alganon is in there struggling for attention with the likes of Gatheryn or Earth Eternal, one-product lines from small, independents. The success story for this level of MMO gaming in the last few years is probably Fallen Earth, where they are so successful they just cut their staffing levels by about 80%.

    If Quest Online aren’t aiming their press releases at the readers of “little known” blogs like KTR, who exactly does Derek think IS reading them? If he’d been interested in MMOs at all prior to his recent involvement, he’d surely have noticed that even the biggest general MMO news sites regularly pick up their news from blogs and run the stories, with attribution.

    Had Alganon launched as a solid, stable independent MMO with no controversy over plagiarism, chances are it would have disappeared almost without a ripple as have many independent MMOs before it. It’s only the endless controversy that makes it newsworthy at all. As soon as that stops, that will probably be the end for Alganon, regardless of how good the game actually is by that point.

  12. ReverendTed

    The official response by BVRBandit claims John Smedley made the comment about EQ2 at Fan Faire 2004, which would make LucasArts the original plagiarists. I’m curious if there’s any way to confirm this claim, as I’m not having any luck.

    I’m wondering if he’s just taking Memmio’s word for it. I’m not saying Memmio’s an unreliable source, but that would be a pretty ballsy move on their part.

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  14. ReverendTed

    I just noticed that BVRBandit’s official response uses Memmio’s quote verbatim, right down to the misspelling of “multiplayer” as “multiplier”, miscapitalization of EverQuest as Everquest, and the grammatically-incorrect semicolon.
    When BVRBandit claims that “John Smedley actually uttered those words” and then copy-pastes an unverified comment as a direct quote, it makes me wonder if he’s got any other source for verifying that it actually happened.

    1. Ethic Post author

      Unbelievable. Then again, he says he doesn’t need to check facts in this quote here:

      “Of course I knew about the release. But how the hell am I supposed to know if parts of it were either plagiarised, referenced without credit to the source, based on homage or whatever if I didn’t compose it? Do we have to now go out and fact check press releases? Seriously?”

      Found on F13.net forums.

  15. Derek Smart

    For the record, the misspelling of “multiplier” came from OUR original Alganon press release because of the spellchecker. We even had to go back into PRWeb to manually correct it AFTER the release had alredy gone out.

    And yes, those were John’s words at that 2004 fair in New Orleans. Everyone is quick to point the finger, but when push comes to shove, nobody wants to do the actualy work of sourcing corrections. Nice.

    @bhagpuss

    We don’t target releases to any specific group or person. We target them at audiences and the general public.

    Further, the quote came from F13, it just so happens that the folks who are linking to the story, are [incorrectly] sourcing it to KTR.

    Both F13 and KTR are little read blogs. They are not mainstream media. Hence the distinction. Just because a bunch of fanboys get together to scratch each other’s backs while poking fun at the flavor du jour doesn’t qualify them as a credible source.

    I stand by my previous statements. If you want to cry foul, go over to Massively and ask them why Jef is running headlines like “Alganon steals press release from BioWare” if it’s not for *hits and giggles.

    Give me a break. Some of you guys hiding behind the safe confines of anonymity have nothing short of a God complex gone awry. When you live a life less ordinary, I guess you should take what you can get if it brings you moments of joy and jubilation.

    1. Zubon

      The Quest Online people seemed so much nicer when they were offering us free media accounts and asking if we would interview them.

      1. Ravious

        I don’t know whether to feel like Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. after he sees his little cueball on the commercial or Captain Jack Sparrow in retort to Comm. Norrington, but either way, Derek, you made my day special. :)

        Now, who’s a good boy that needs some back scratching?

        1. Memmio

          I can vouch that the changes in the quote – the missing spelling of multi-player and EverQuest are the result of spellchecker. (I had to manually change them back after the fact this time)

          Curse you technology.

          Other than that I have nothing to add. Press releases all sound the same since all games, especially in the same genre, are so similar at their base elements. Is it plagiarism? Maybe. Who cares?

          Does the fact that an external PR firm slipped up and sent the wrong quote and/or a plagiarized quote change *the game*? No.

    2. Loralai

      Notice how these “little known blogs” give mainstream media their stories which become “credible sources”:

      http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100571-Derek-Smart-Caught-Up-in-Alganon-Plagiarism-Furor
      http://www.gamesindustry.com/industry-news/detail/28519
      http://xboxblips.dailyradar.com/story/derek-smart-caught-up-in-alganon-plagiarism-furor/
      http://www.massively.com/2010/05/08/alganon-steals-press-release-format-from-bioware/
      http://play.tm/wire/3554614/alganon-plagiarism-follow-up/
      http://www.bluesnews.com/s/110119/alganon-plagiarism-follow-up
      http://brokentoys.org/2010/05/10/derek-smart-is-a-very-original-writer/
      http://ve3d.ign.com/articles/news/54734/Derek-Smart-Borrows-BioWare-Press-Release-For-Alganon
      http://aperturegames.com/listnews.php?story=pr-blunder-results-in-plagiarism-accusations-for-new-mmo

      1. Memmio

        I know this was supposed to make KTR look good, but really it just makes video game “news” sites look bad.

        Especially since a few of them copy Ethic *word for word* and give no credit whatsoever. Where’s the pitchforks and torches for *their* plagiarism?

        1. Adventurer Historian

          I just looked at each of those links. Forgiving the fact that one is the Escapist, and two of those links point to pages linking to the Escapist, there isn’t any plagiarism to be seen. Each has a story that incorporates personal analysis with the quotations, and many of these stories even go beyond Ethic’s original post.

          And yes, I’ve done my homework. You’re even mentioned!

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        1. Memmio

          Now you guys are just grasping at straws.

          All of those bullet points are vague enough to represent almost *ANY* MMO on the market.

          “Adventure together with thousands of other players simultaneously.”

          “Practice various professions to help locate reagents, make and enhance custom items, acquire wealth through trade with other players, and more.”

          “Learn the continuing story of by completing a wide variety of challenging quests.”

          Come on, those are interchangeable with just about *EVERY* MMO on the market, and if I care to bother I could find just about every other MMO company spouting the same if not completely identical information.

        2. IainC

          They are in general but when they are transcribed word for word with the feature list of the biggest subscription MMO on the planet (and one that has already been *ahem* a major ‘source of inspiration’ for Alganon) it’s not so likely to be coincidence.

          The features are the same in many games but all of those other games find new words to describe them rather than simply stealing the ones that Blizzard used.

        3. Ethic Post author

          I agree, I didn’t see it at first but looking closer you can see they copied around half of them word for word. No doubt in my mind they copied the list and then changed what didn’t make sense and left the rest as is.

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  21. Victor Stillwater

    If I’m understanding this right, did someone just lay down a Smedley Trap that Derek Smart fell for?

    Because that makes for awesome retellings in his history, if I had a wikipedia account.

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  24. Votan

    Any company that would allow a press release to go out without first reviewing and approving it and then running it by legal is first off is not a very smart business. Putting this on the PR firm for your companies bad business practices is a cop out.

    These “little read blogs” are read by 1000′s plus daily who will link to other sites and forums who will then link to others and presto you end up on the “main stream” media sites. And it does not take much to verify the claims when you just have compare the two press releases it is more than obvious.

    And speaking of little read blogs…Derek Smart ohh the irony in all this when your own blog starts out with:

    “WARNING: This blog and all posts within are my property and are thus protected by copyright. It is also subject to revisions as things progress. Unless you really – truly – want to hear from my attorneys – DO NOT reprint it.”

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  26. mandrill

    You have to wonder sometimes if Mr. Smart is a real game designer or just a troll playing at game desinger. Why does anyone take this man seriously?

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