It is hard to believe it has been nine years. A number of you have been with us from the very beginning and I am sure have the same flux of memories to mull over that I do at this time every year. Just yesterday a bunch of us were standing outside the office discussing our favourite AO memory and before we knew it we had been standing around chatting about it for almost an hour. It was of course funny to note a lot of our favourite memories were bugs...very memorable ones.
Speaking for myself it isn't easy for me to describe how I feel about it as it is actually difficult to really remember my life before coming to Funcom and working on AO. I have been here and working on AO for six years. Working on AO isn't a "job" that you leave behind at every day...generally when we aren't at our desks we are obsessing about how we can do things better or differently to really push the limits of what our favourite game is capable of. I'm sure a lot of you PLAY AO in the very same way. My two kids were born while I was on the AO team. With my wife working my first son Ethan practically grew up in the office. I was lucky to have a *very* understanding boss (thanks Craig!) and he would be here playing around my desk or sleeping in his buggy for at least 4 hours every day. He crawled for the first time here right beside my desk and was cheered on (and filmed) by the whole team. Aythem and Bachante (we miss you!) used to have regular play sessions with him almost every day...and this didn't really feel odd at all. The reason is that after moving to Norway the AO team has been my family for the last 6 years. People have come and gone but the group has stayed the same at its heart.
While people have come and gone over the years their dedication has been the absolute key to the game's survival and evolution over the years. I can't think of a single person who worked with us on AO who didn't live and breathe it during their time with us. This is really still the case today...possibly even more so. With the smaller team size than the original production this team really needs to be miraculous to be able to deliver the breadth of content and creative energy that the players deserve. As the game director I am a lot more visible than the other members of the team and I want to assure you that in no way am I wholy responsible for all the good stuff we have seen over the last couple years. Anything BAD can of course be blamed on me but the people that deserve the praise for their superhuman efforts are (in no physical proximity to me in the office):
Patrik Persson - Lead Coder (Macrosun)
Brad L. McAtee - Senior Designer (Kintaii)
Sjur Helland - Render Engine and Tools + Vice President of Patching (Parsed)
OJ Kielland - Art/Modelling/World Building (Flaptoot)
Tony Westerlund - Art/Modelling/World Building (Mstrbstrd)
Helene Grøstad - Designer (Genele)
Fia Tjernberg - Senior Designer (Lindelu)
Michael Jensen - Designer/Coder (Metaing)
Sergey Nenakhov - Senior render coder
Iriche - Who the hell let him in here? (apparently visiting today)
Without the significant efforts of these people I don't think we would be here today...or not nearly in as good shape as we are. Funcom also deserves my thanks for all the support they have given this project over the years and CONTINUE to give us today....it would have been the easiest thing in the world to downsize/downplay development over the years but they have continually supported us in our efforts and dreams.
I hear it again and again that the reason that AO is "Still Alive" is our community and I have to agree. I can't thank you all enough for your support over the years...I can only promise you that we all respect the game and will continue to do our absolute best to continue making it better in the hopes of us all seeing another nine years together. We will get it done...we know how much it all means to you as it means that much to us.
What is your favourite memory?
See you all at the party tomorrow. Thank you all again!