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AOU interview with Lindelu

It has been a little while since our last AO Developer interview, infact it was all the way back in September, so we are sure you are all very much ready for our next instalment!! This month we have been lucky enough to have some time with Lindelu. Not only did she set aside time for questions, but she persuaded me (ok... I didn’t take so much persuasion) to transfer over to test to take a look at the new Phasefront race track!!

AOU: Hi Lindelu, a huge thank you from the whole AOU team for agreeing to take a break and answer questions for us for our next AO Developer interview!

AOU: A lot of the community have no idea who actually is behind things that happen in-game, could you perhaps give an overview as to how long you have been on the team and what your main tasks are at the moment?

Lindelu: I'm a designer and I started out in 2008. I'm responsible for the concept of our daily missions – there are about 60 unique missions in game as we speak and another 40 is in the making aimed to go to the levels that don't see enough variety.

Apart from these missions, I've been working on designing a new start-up experience and redesigning old shadowlands content.

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AOU: - You are still working in Oslo, did you change your working routine now that you are almost alone in the office?

Lindelu: I don't work in Oslo; I currently have my own office! It's incredibly boring and I miss the team all the time.

I haven’t changed my working routine much, I've always been an independent worker, especially in the morning, and I can always reach the others on voice chat in the afternoons.

The up side is that I can sing out loud whenever I please. I do not however, despite popular belief, walk around in my pyjamas and slippers.

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AOU: - The daily missions have caused a significant impact to our XP and AXP gains - are you pleased at how they have been received so far?

Lindelu: I'm very pleased. The concept of offering different missions for nine different level brackets has been a lot of work to implement, but people are enjoying it!

The system can handle taking player preferences into consideration – meaning if you pick “sneaky” missions there will be a higher chance getting one that is easier to complete if you have high concealment skill – and so on – I hope I'll get the chance to activate this feature someday because I think it's fun.

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AOU: - The rewards from daily missions are very experience centric, apart from the few social items which are pretty neat, I don't know anyone who doesn't like their Enigma Dog, however we wondered whether as a team if you have discussed, or are perhaps already considering implementing additional loot on dailies?

Lindelu: It was my intention from the beginning to offer appropriate items for levelling characters, as loot. Unfortunately, this was very time consuming and it had to be cut. It's not something we're currently discussing, but it's there, in the back of my mind.

I agree that the Dog is a charming little fellow and I'm definitely for extending rewards such as this one.

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AOU: - There was a lot of feedback regarding the difficulty (or the ease) of some of the Daily Missions. How hard is it to maintain a good balance in this content to ensure that it is solo-able but at the same time, isn't just a walk in the park?

Lindelu: It's not easy, I let tactics (crowd control/de-buffing tools/sneaking) and timing (pulling by sight) be valid strategies to even the difficulty.

When we make a new monster, we usually copy the template of an old monster and tweak it until we're satisfied. Most monsters exist only in a certain level range, and the few monsters that do exist from level 1-300 are often badly balanced.
If you've ever done a QL 250 RK mission you know what I'm talking about.

So when we decided to work with scalable content for all levels in these missions I needed to make some of the monsters from scratch, and let them evolve in a way that made sense for all levels.

It took a couple of tries to get it right and I'm glad for the massive feedback I've gotten on the subject.

When testing the difficulty of the monsters I use a wide range of characters with standard equipment.
The difficulty should be appropriate for a normal levelling character.
A twink may have a walk in the park, while a power levelled character may get into trouble unless they update their equipment or get some outside help.

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AOU: - How much will the balancing you have done so far with difficulty ranges in these missions perhaps be impacted by the overall profession balancing that is still being worked on?

Lindelu: My hope is that the balancing act will improve some professions solo ability at certain levels, but I'm expecting us to rebalance some of the PVM content afterwards.

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AOU: - The Starter Island experience always strikes a nerve with people. People who just want to get off as soon as possible have a long run to get out, people who are new to the game run the wrong way... how much pressure do you feel under to get this right?

Lindelu: I sat down with my sister recently and watched as she started her first character. I've been explaining to her how fun a game AO really is, and she was willing to give it a try. She is smart and experienced with computers, but an inexperienced mmo player. The only thing in game she quickly learned was looting. Looting is fun, an action with a reward, and you remember it because you gained something.
She promised though that she'll give it another chance once we have a tutorial... so of course now I feel pressured! (;

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AOU: - At the moment, when you make a new character there is very little indication on what to do - unlike with the old Arrival Hall, you are instantly thrown into a world with other people who have already started figuring it out. Using an instance for a single player tutorial experience, that you could also just run through and exit to the island surely would give people a place to work out what things do before making an idiot of themselves getting killed by a leet wouldn’t it?!

Lindelu: In my vision our players will be taught through actions and rewards, and there will be no walls of text!

After completing a solo, profession specific ”5-10 minute” training – the player has learned how to move around, increase a skill, equip items, engage in combat, use nano programs and heal themselves.

Another 30 minutes, and they will have completed their first mission, met other players, refined their skills, and gotten some fat loot and a taste of the story.

The start-up experience will not stop in the tutorial area. The agencies will offer special assignments that teach players to navigate and points them in directions suitable for their level.

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AOU: - Will there be more unique items for new characters along the lines of the already existing newbie island sided glasses or the smelling salts and engineering library? Possibly some that will level with your character?

Lindelu: I like the idea of levelling armour and I have plans to extend the current sets and rework how they can be obtained.
The startup equipment will be adjusted to fit each profession after the rebalance, but I haven’t made plans for more unique items yet.

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AOU: - You told us that you are also responsible for updating old content - the AO Universe team both love and hate those patch days! We really enjoy seeing old content being given some spit and polish but we have to admit that we dread the Scheol quest lines getting updated (unless of course you make them shorter!!) - What has been your favourite old content to update so far?

Lindelu: Sector 10 proved to be a nice challenge. It's a zone that was originally designed for teams, but it was more efficient for fixers to sprint to the bosses and single handedly take them out.

Needless to say it was fun for the fixers, but it sucked for the people it was intended for, the team, as they got trained by these fixers and once they reached the boss it was already dead.

Many suggestions were made to punish the players who did this, but since it was a popular zone I didn't want to decrease the fun for anyone. I decided to go the other way, introducing a pocket boss system that allows for anyone to build their own boss or sell the parts.

It would no longer be more efficient to sprint to the boss unless you had paid the guys in the team collecting the pocket boss parts. This would benefit the team, and create player interaction which I hoped would lead to better behavior in the zone.

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AOU: - As with the question we had earlier about how rebalancing could impact the daily mission balancing you have implemented, do you already have a plan to go over other existing quests after re-balance to ensure that they are actually possible to do at their intended levels and that every profession has a similar chance of finishing them?

Lindelu: It does sound like something we will do once we know how big of an impact the profession balance has on pvm content.

There are already a bunch of quests that are considered too difficult for the intended levels, ado brain quest springing into mind, and we're all agreeing that this is not fun. Either the quest is intended for solo or team play – it should not require higher level players to outside tank, unless they too get a reward.

I've started to look at the SL garden quests, and I'm bringing this philosophy into the work of redesigning them.

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AOU: - When will a Phasefront racing track come in-game? *grins*

Lindelu: I was talking to a good friend of mine working on AOC about a project of hers at the time, a horse race.
They have fancy tools and really good scripter’s on the team, and they do that sort of stuff that AO can only dream about.

So I decided to take on the challenge of a player vs player race in AO, and it's been a side project for a while. It's done and working, built from sticks and stones, and it has taught me a lot.

Mstrbstrd has done a really good job on the race track and I'm proud to present our own working semi illegal race game!
What I hope to be the final version of the race track will reach the test dimension in the next patch update, and hopefully I'll get a go ahead to run it on the live servers.

Very much looking forward to throw a ”banana peel” on you all!

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Getting ready to race

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Head for the green lights, those are your checkpoints!

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Watch out for the red balls!

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If you win, you get a reward from the Phasefront Racing Professional.


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AOU: - If left to your own devices and you were able to do anything you wanted in Anarchy Online without having to clear it with the rest of the team, what would you change and how would you change it?

I always liked pvp lootable items, for example the Glyph of Arcana. It made the name of the player carrying it appears in red – making her a bit of a target. He he.

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AOU: - You have personally been incredibly supportive to AO Universe and have always been happy to help us with any questions we have had and even taken time to read over our new guides from time to time to give feedback - what is it that makes you feel that this is a worthwhile way to spend your time and why are the fan sites important to you?

Lindelu: Walkthroughs is a sore subject for some developers, but it's really just information from one player to another. It's something we can never stop, but should endorse in a mmo.

It's up to the designer to ensure that the player can experience her content without consulting a guide. I like to think that additional benefits can be given to those who enjoy exploring – either it's in game or from a fan site extension.

I first contacted AOU regarding outdated knowledge in an article of theirs, and AOU has responded by reporting issues that needed addressing. It's been a valuable collaboration to improve AO and it’s always great fun to save the world with others.

Thank you again to Lindelu, and thank you also to Lucier, Tenderboom and Qarmd2 on testlive for racing with me!!

Last updated on 12.07.2011 by Khuri
Article written by Ukblizzard
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