Recently I got the opportunity to take on the mantle of Creative Director for Funcom's live titles: The Secret World, Age of Conan and Anarchy Online.
As most of you know by now, Funcom has established a joint, centralized team of experienced developers who have been tasked with supporting, enhancing and expanding all three live games. That means we have a shared pool of design creativity and technical know-how that each game can benefit from, and having the live team working on site at our Durham office – which also holds our community, quality assurance and customer service teams – is a huge plus. I will be leading up the team together with Scott Junior, who has taken on the position as Executive Producer.
It's a pretty big honor to be able to be work on three of the most innovative MMORPGs that exist but there is one pretty big catch - Anarchy Online scares the crap out of me.
It isn't the skill system, implants, the NCU or even the UI. It isn't taking over a game on which I have never dealt with the lore. We have good people who can fill me in on all of the areas where I lack knowledge about the game.
It's that I'm stepping for the first time, into a situation where I have no hands-on experience with the tools myself... no safety net in the sense that I can't just sit down and tell people how to solve a problem in our tools. A large part of design is knowing what can be done, and at what price.
Anarchy Online is not Age of Conan or The Secret World. The shared codebase of those games branched away from Anarchy so far back in the past that it is comparable to the genetic difference between humans and a banana (I'll let you decide which represents which, dear community.)
As such, the benefits of a shared team solution for Anarchy Online are limited to the art and quality assurance side. The core of the Anarchy development team still exists (pending various contract negotiations) and remains focused on developing Anarchy. Obviously their specialized knowledge of Anarchy and all of the idiosyncrasies of the game is a massive boon in keeping the game moving forward.
Despite my lack of hands-on experience with Anarchy Online, I do believe I will be able to bring something new to the game. Having worked extensively on both Age of Conan and The Secret World, I like to think I have a firm understanding of what does and doesn’t work, and for a game that’s been around for over ten years, I think having someone come in with fresh ideas and a new perspective can do the game good in the long run.
So what’s coming up for Anarchy?
Considering we’ve recently moved over to the centralized team structure, we do need more time locking down the concrete details of our update plan. So for now, let me give you an update on what you guys are already waiting for.
First and foremost the server merge will be happening today. It is an absolute priority to get all of our population into the same space.
After that we plan to finish the engine upgrade and have it in beta as soon as possible. I've not been involved in the Anarchy engine process in the past, but I have been able to play it recently and I am excited to get this in the hands of players as soon as possible. Work continues full steam ahead on this, and I can’t wait for you all to experience it.
Together with the engine is the New Player Experience. That is still being worked on and will hopefully be on Testlive as soon as we can possibly get it there.
Once the engine is ready we can start pushing Anarchy Online into some of the larger retail channels like Steam and Origin. Obviously the goal is to grow the community and the revenue of the game.
From there, the plan is get into a more regular update cycle. We might have to alternate updates between systems and content, but eventually we should be in a smoother update cycle.
Finally, my personal goal is getting a better handle on Anarchy and everything contained therein. I'll start playing through the game and trying to experience as much as possible while providing commentary on the design side of Anarchy. Expect to see my weird blog entries showing up on the Anarchy community site soon!
Anarchy Online has been in the lives of hundreds of thousands of players for more than a decade. I am excited to finally be a part of it.