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AOU interview with MstrBstrd

For one of the AO Development team to be able to set aside some time for the AO Universe team to answer some questions has been appreciated from each and every one of them so far, but I would say that Mstrbstrd has managed to outdo any expectations I had before I approached him with our interview questions and doubly so for talking with me directly this morning. He is certainly a member of the AO team that I had heard a lot of mentions of... but I really had no idea beyond that of exactly what he got up to on the team. Flaptoot suggested we didn't go easy on him, and I am glad that we persisted, because from my biased opinion I think this is a pretty insightful read!

AOU: Hello MstrBstrd, thank you for taking time out to answer these questions from us at AO-Universe. As we are sure you know, your nice Artist colleague Flaptoot made sure that we had you as our next lucky target. His comments to us implied that we should ask you some more difficult questions... so we think it is only fair to ask how well do you two work together on a daily basis?

MstrBstrd: That depends. As of late, we haven’t really been working together as much. Flaptoot is working on the daily missions and I have been working on remaking assets for Borealis. When we do work together, we work together really well. Our skills complement each other perfectly and most of the time we agree on things.
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AOU: Do movies and music inspire your creativity? Or do you have something else that you draw on for inspiration?

MstrBstrd: Well, the Alien movies have been a big inspiration for a lot of my art, but I mostly find my inspiration in comics, works by other artists etc. Music too, can’t work without it.
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AOU: Aside from Flaptoot, which of the developers do you prefer working with on projects or tasks within the scope of AO, and why?

MstrBstrd: No one in particular. They are all abominations and should be put down. Hahaha, no seriously though. We are all good friends and we all work really well together.
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AOU: Kintaii said that you're a former player. Was that simply a slip of tongue or is it really that having a day job with AO means that you don't really get to be a player anymore? Or more generally asked... how did your game playing habits change by turning part of your hobby into your work?

MstrBstrd: When I got the job, I hadn’t played AO in 2 years or something. So getting the job didn’t really change anything for me. I log in once in a while these days though, but I don’t really play as much as I used to. I would also like to say that I do NOT play WoW. So stop accusing me of that please!
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AOU: One of the first mentions of you in the AO forums was linked to the release of Legacy of the Xan. Was this your first "bigger project" within the team or have you been on the AO Dev team for longer but avoided community contact?

MstrBstrd: That was the first thing we released after I started working on AO.
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AOU: When new people join a work team, it can often be that they are given a pretty awful task to get them settled in, was this the case when you joined the AO Dev team?

MstrBstrd: I don’t think it was that bad. Flaptoot had a much worse time than I did. (He LOVES rocks!) Hahaha
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AOU: You have been involved in the modeling of the new heads. Is spending time on the detail involved in this something you enjoy doing or are there other aspects of your job that you enjoy more?

MstrBstrd: BEEP! WRONG! I did model the first two “test heads” way back, to see if it was doable or not, but that’s about it. The heads that have been posted in FWM are all from China.
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AOU: Is there a possibility that alongside the new heads, that we could see new looks to RK monsters? Not specifically bosses or quest mobs, but instead new looks to the existing wildlife so when the new engine goes live the community gets a "fresher" overall view of AO.

MstrBstrd: That sounds like something that would be another one of my “personal projects”, that I do in my spare time, like the armor sets. I don’t really see myself getting the time to work on those any time soon.
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AOU: Are you the one creating the new models for pet classes? If so, can you give us some insight to the progress?

MstrBstrd: New pet class models? Who told you that? We'll be redoing the pets stats and potentially abilities for the rebalancing, but we have no plans to remake the current pet models.
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AOU: Have you had a chance to develop the battlesuit ideas that Kintaii mentioned you had ideas for?

MstrBstrd: Nope. Yet another personal project that I never have time for.
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AOU: Is there a part of the game that you wish you could just put everything else on hold for and give some attention to?

MstrBstrd: The grid. In its current state, it’s a mess.
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AOU: Do you think that there will be any new character classes or player races in Anarchy Onlines future?

MstrBstrd: I highly doubt it, but you never know.
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AOU: In your opinion, does it make your position at work harder when dev team is as a whole to being more open with the ongoing processes and being upfront about things that have not gone to plan? It is a large audience to admit to that you messed up.

MstrBstrd: I don’t really have anything to compare it to, as we have worked this way since I started. Personally, I never mess up, so it doesn’t really change anything for me. *cough*
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AOU: How committed are you to AO? Do you have a strong vision of what you personally want to contribute to the team to enhance the games future?

MstrBstrd: I’d say I’m sufficiently committed! I know exactly what I want the art style to be like and what I want to add to the game. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I always get my way, but I think we generally end up with something that all of us are satisfied with.
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AOU: What are you aiming to personally contribute to achieving for Anarchy Online before the end of this year?

MstrBstrd: New shinies!!
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AOU: And our final question to you is related to the really intriguing piece of concept art for a new type of Unicorn, that was produced by you and Genele (on the keeper nano spreadsheet). How do you think are the chances that it will actually make it ingame, possibly as a profession specific mount for Keepers?

MstrBstrd: First of all, it’s a Unique Horn, not a Unicorn! Genele requested one, and so I made one for her. If it's ending up in game or not, I ain't tellin'!
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A few days later, MstrBstrd and Ukblizzard decided to have a chat together in real time about design processes in Anarchy Online...

Ukblizzard: Ok, so what does come first. Do you tend to get given a design brief, or do you tend to work on the brief within the team after someone identifies a problem?

MstrBstrd: It kind of differs from time to time. Sometimes its something that both me and Flaptoot work on, and we get time to talk about it and maybe even make a few concepts or just some quick doodles.

Most of the time its: We need THIS, NOW! ASAP!

That leaves no time for concepts or planning.

Ukblizzard: It may leave no time, but surely you need to go through the process.. even if it has to be speedy

MstrBstrd: Well. when its one of the quick ones i usually just open 3ds MAX , kind of knowing what I'm supposed to create, make a box or a flat plane and start moving some vertexes, extruding and so on. I've always been good at "brainfarting" designs for things.

Ukblizzard: When you have created a shiny preliminary idea or two, depending on time constraints, do you get a discussion starting about whether it is heading in the right direction or not and perhaps some considerations to take on board? Or is it something that you tend to work on alone or with whoever your primary person to work with is on that design idea?

MstrBstrd: Most of the time I do it by myself from start to finish. Sometimes I ask Flaptoot for feedback though. I think Means is quite comfortable with me and Flaptoot being our own quality assurance and so on. Sometimes the designers have a part in it too, but they usually just go with whatever we make.

Ukblizzard: Do legal considerations come into your design work? Can it be that sometimes you sit down, create something.. and then someone comes along behind you and says.. oh I saw something like that in game blah blah... Even if you created it from scratch yourself, do the implications of things looking like other things need to be considered?

MstrBstrd: Not really. I mean, we can't put in something that looks exactly like something from another game or a movie etc. as long as we don't steal or copy anything we're good. Hmmm. I honestly can't remember if that's ever happened, but I dont think it has. Sure, there are things I do where you can tell that it's inspired by something from another game or a movie, tv-series and so on, but I'm careful when I do that and usually "hide" it pretty well. For example one of the social armours I did was inspired by a transformers character called Ironhide. But it's not a blatant ripoff or anything like that. Some players asked me if that was my inspiration, but most had no idea who Ironhide was. Also, when it comes to art, you are ALWAYS influenced by other art you have seen. If you want to be or not. It's not a choice, so of course you automatically borrow details and other things from things you have seen before, in other games etc.

Ukblizzard: Within a genre, it is really likely that perhaps even without trying you will echo something slightly in your work -- especially if its a genre you have grown up with!

MstrBstrd: Of course! You might not even realize it before someone mentions it to you tho. Lots of my stuff is very inspired by the Alien movies. Lots of rust, scratches and "ribbing".

Ukblizzard: It is nice when we as players see something and realise that it is a subtle nod to something in the same field.

If you and Flaptoot help each other along with the design processes.. what happens when you put it into your testing environment and realise that it just isnt going to work (It must have happened once, even with your skill!! ) Does he ever get the blame when he says something looks great, and then just fails to work how you expected it to?


MstrBstrd: Hmmm. depends on how big an asset it is and how MUCH it doesnt work. If its something small, I'll just remake it from scratch. If it's something big... dont know. I dont think we've ever had something really important and big not working in the game. Flaptoot and I are a team and we usually don't put blame on anyone. Every single time flaptoot actually gets time to concept something and I get to model/texture it we know that it'll look awesome and work.

Ukblizzard: You must ooze opitmism into the team when you are given an "impossible" design to create by the latest yesterday!!

What happens then if you see it working right but it gets shipped off to live.. and then someone does manage to break it?


MstrBstrd: Well, most things tend to work "right" until the players gets their hands on the content. There are always things you dont expect the community to do or things you didn't ever think about testing etc. It's pretty rare that art assets get broken in-game. When it comes to worldbuilding it's usually the designers work that they "break", for example by sneaking through an instance without fighting any mobs but the endboss and so on.

Ukblizzard: Are you responsible for causing the effect of peoples heads getting disconnected from their bodies while using a whompa?

MstrBstrd: No. I've never heard about that before. But that sounds more like old dodgy code than art!

Ukblizzard: hehe.. need more glue between the pixels!

After you have had a really hectic period of getting designs ready and completed, how much do you welcome feedback from the rest of the team regarding how things work and perhaps areas where you can develop on your ideas for the next set of designs? Do you welcome their feedback and can you use it constructively?


MstrBstrd: That depends on how much time I was given to finish said asset and who I get the feedback from. Flaptoots and Means feedback means more to me than the designers or coders for example, but usually I try to listen to everyone. There are times where you can't really have the whole team comment on things however, mainly because it usually comes down to personal preference and when that is the case, it is up to Means.

I don't mind feedback as long as it's constructive and not just nitpicking. We have no time for nitpicking here!

Ukblizzard: Are you able to tell me what your current project/s are?

MstrBstrd: Well, currently I'm working with Flaptoot on "remaking" all the assets used in Borealis. Making them all nextgen tech and stuff.

Ukblizzard: Sounds like a huge task, and one that people will really notice too. Borealis always appears to be where everyone spends their "spare" time.

MstrBstrd: Yeah. its a big un.

Ukblizzard: How does it affect your development of ideas after launching something to the game -- perhaps considering the scale of what you are likely to be encountering for Borealis -- and then receiving the feedback from the community. I know you just said that it is down to personal preference even within the team... but the community can be quite quick to bash down new things. Some of us are really bad with change. Obviously feedback is important, you have to read the good and the bad bits.

MstrBstrd: When it comes to Borealis, it won't change much. Some people will hate the tiny changes and some will love them, but it always comes down to if we are happy with it or not.

Ukblizzard: Personally, I have to say I welcome most changes. It is really amazing after so many years that time is still invested into the parts that people just kinda accepted being the way they have always been (broken or not).

MstrBstrd: Yeah. I don't get the mindset of people who dont like change! Change is good! It is what makes the game live!

MstrBstrd gives win to AOU!

Last updated on 12.07.2011 by Khuri
Article written by Ukblizzard
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