Articles - ArticlesAfter a little bit of prodding, pm's and general harassment -- Means caved in and said that we were welcome to interview willing members of the Dev team. He suggested that we got in touch with AO content designer Brad L. McAtee (AKA Kintaii)... so, we got in touch and made sure to attach questions for him to answer! I am sure that was exactly what Means suggested we did, and that it was most definitely not just a suggestion to ask who might be willing.
Anyway, those of you who are familiar with Kintaii already will know he is a man of MANY words, and he certainly did not let us down on this occasion.
Disclaimer: AOU cannot be held responsible for any eye strains that may stem from reading the following text.
Hi Kintaii, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions from the AO-Universe Team! Firstly, can you please give us a brief overview of your RP involvement?
It's kinda funny, actually, because prior to AO I found the thought of roleplaying in an MMORPG kinda silly - I'd been roleplaying in other forms (tabletop, IRC, etc. etc.) for a while, but the idea of trying to be in-character in something limited by so many forced game mechanics just... felt sorta wrong to me, for some unexplainable reason.
I started playing AO on a whim around six years back, just prior to the release of Alien Invasion, and was strictly out-of-character; I saw a few peeps hanging around and roleplaying, and while I thought the story and setting of Anarchy Online was interesting I really just didn't feel any need to try RPing inside the game.
Then, maybe three or so weeks after I'd first created my account, a friend of mine was online and sent me a tell: "Dude! Giant stompy power suit mechs running around Omni-Entertainment!" .... well hell, giant stompy robot things are always cool, so I figured I'd go check it out. As it turns out it was an ARK-lead event; the first time anyone (to my knowledge) had seen the Unicorn mobs in-game. They were hunting down a rogue reporter who had threatened to release information related to a mysterious ship crash on Rubi-Ka.
The Unicorns stomped around doing ID checks, moving from zone to zone... and next thing I knew I found myself swept up in it all. I followed them to Borealis where they proceeded to find and confront the reporter, complete with big explosions and all sorts of fun happiness. I'll never forget watching everything going on, seeing the huge crowd of people following the Unicorns around... and witnessing the more uppity ones getting smacked down with a great vengeance. I remember sitting there in my chair, totally lost in what was going on, watching all the ARK Events characters and just thinking to myself "That. I wanna do *that*."
As soon as I was able I sent in an application to ARK, because that whole Events thing sounded about as nifty as it got. Time passed, I made my way through the program, and after a brief detour in the ARK Personnel department I ended up in Events where I proceeded to stay for quite some time (with a brief sojurn to the ARK CR team in-between). In my time in Events I worked in general production, headed up the Events Training team, and eventually settled into my role Storyline Coordinator, often planning and overseeing the various leadership meetings (CoT, OTAM, etc.) in-game. I definitely kept myself busy.
It was funny, really, how it all went - Just doing what I did in ARK I ended up meeting a lot of various people from Funcom, either at ARK gatherings or at conventions in the 'states. Over time I got to know quite a few people up here very well, and one day a friend in the company mentioned that a job opening for an AO designer had been posted. Honestly, I didn't think I had a shot - No education in the field, no prior experience; just a love for the game and the willingness to work. But I applied anyway, because hey - why not? Next thing I knew I was in Oslo, Norway.
Initially my job wasn't to focus on the storyline of AO - When I first arrived, Aythem (who has now moved on to The Secret World) was our venerable mistress of story and lore. Between the two of us we had a lot of fun helping to direct and shape the basic storyline ideas of Anarchy Online - Digging through the archives, looking at oddball pieces of story information, coming up with far-flung ideas about how the world worked. She was awesome at what she did on this team, and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for helping me find my feet here.
After Aythem departed, though, it came down to needing someone to help oversee the storyline for the game. Being the most familiar with the in-game lore out of the current team, and also having had a lot of prior experience with the Events team, Means saw myself as a good fit to step up and begin overseeing the storyline for AO, with the goal of increasing the presence of the ARK Events team and storyline in general.
Having the chance to work on Anarchy Online has been a dream experience for me - The last three years have been a lot of fun, and I've been a part of a lot of awesome things here on the design team. It's been great being a part of the evolution of the game under both Silirrion and Means, and I've had the chance to work with some truly talented people during my time here. The AO team is much more of a family than a team - We're all dedicated (some would say 'obsessed') fans of the product we create, and we're also all great friends both in and outside of the office. Getting paid to sit back and dream up fantastic scenarios for my favourite sci-fi setting while surrounded by so many awesome people really isn't anything I consider work - It's too fun to be 'just another job'. (note to Means: no, this does not mean you can stop paying me :P)
We have recently seen you become pretty active for RPers in the AO Forums with the introduction of The Fourth Wall. Why did you feel it was time to implement this?
I first started working more closely with the storyline for AO just over a year ago - This is, of course, on top of my duties as a designer for the game and my increasing responsibilities with community management. During that time I've had a lot of initiatives I've wanted to try and push to the forefront, but given my generally busy work schedule some things have been a bit slower than others. During the last year, a lot of people have (rightfully) been disappointed in the lack of active communication coming from my end, and to those guys I wanna apologize - Given the amount of various tasks I have at any given moment, things can take a little more time than either I or anyone else would like.
Even through the silence, though, there was always work going on in the background - Plans being jotted down, changes being made, structures altered and rules re-written. The last year has been about creating a solid foundation for the road ahead; its been about making sure that everything's where it needs to be, and that the people I work with have the ability to handle the challenges in reigniting the spark of passion in AO's roleplaying community. It's taken a long time to get from there to here, but now we're finally in a position where things are starting to come together - The storyline road I want to take is just over the horizon, the ARK Events team has seen a lot of internal changes which will help them communicate more openly with the player base, and my own roles have expanded enough to where I have the leeway to begin making the alterations I want to make for the community.
So really it's just a combination of a lot of little things in the background finally snapping together - All the tiny details coming together to form a whole picture. This is what I've wanted from the start - It just so happens that the time is now. =)
It is clear that it has already spurred discussions, you, Pheats and Ninanna have been quite active in giving responses to questions and providing some new / revised information. Do you think this activity from you and ARK Events will be sustained?
My own involvement will naturally diminish a bit over time, as right now my main focus is in ensuring that a solid foundation for things like the Fourth Wall are built; this isn't to say I'm going to disappear from the area, as I don't think I could stay away from RP-related chat if I tried. But as time goes on and the ARK Events staff members start taking on additional responsibilities in the area, my own personal need to be there and keeping track of things will naturally diminish (leaving me with more time to work on things like plotting storylines, writing NPC dialog, and creating new encounters ).
So yes - The activity will be sustained, and we want to make sure that the Fourth Wall will become a great haven for both new and oldskool roleplayers in Anarchy Online. We want people to ask questions, discuss storylines, chat about their favourite LTCs, plot their own player events, and in general just be able to congregate somewhere that everyone is free to discuss the awesome, interesting stories that make up the world of Rubi-Ka.
Being a sounding board for the RP community is not your full time job. We all know you spend time on fixing old content and making new content. If you had the choice, would you reduce your development time for pvm / pvp to spend more time concentrating on new storylines and social additions?
At the end of the day, I don't see much separation between the two, to be honest. No, not every piece of content I create is going to be heavily tied into the ongoing storyline of AO - Some things are more self-contained than others, just due to the nature of their design. However, a lot of times things that people may not recognize as being heavily tied to the storyline of AO actually really are; as I've said elsewhere, I'm a fan of throwing in small references everywhere that I can, things that hint at the ongoing plotline. Not many people know that Alappaa contains direct references to content in Legacy of the Xan, for example; they're tiny, they're small, but they're still there. Same with, say, the escaped prisoners - Priest Fontaine has quite a lot of interesting things to say, both during the Constad/Dust Brigade questline and when turning in an Awakened Soul Crystal.
There's story hooks all over the place in AO, and particularly in a lot of the NPC dialog I write. It's just that to get the maximum impact from it all, people might need to start pouring over it a bit more and openly chatting about what various things might mean. Having discussions about these sorts of things is one of the main reasons I created the Fourth Wall - Somewhere that people can chat and debate about the meaning behind all the interesting little tidbits dropped in the game here and there. =)
Regarding your design work. Now that the Collector and the daily missions are mostly done and you have had some time to take a deep breath, we are pretty sure there will be new and exciting designs waiting for us. What can you tell us about the new Alien Dungeon that was announced?
I actually can't say too much about the new Alien Dungeon, simply because I'm not really involved with it! Genele's the one leading up the charge on the new AI content and, though I can't say I'm terribly familiar with exactly what she has planned, some of the conversations I've overheard coming from her desk make it sound very interesting indeed.
As to not leave you guys hanging, though, I *can* talk about my current design project, which is actually the new open PvP playfield Means has mentioned recently on the official forums. And for you guys who were just reading this for the storyline-based stuff, keep reading; this is more interesting to you than you might think.
As a designer, one of your basic mantras is "keep the players busy". A bored player is... well, a bored player - No one really wants to feel like they're just sitting around and wasting their time in-game while waiting on something else to happen. One of the biggest complaints from people is that often times sitting around and waiting on a battlestation to start is really, really lame. We agree!
The new PvP playfield will be tied to the battlestations, in that the goal is to give players some PvP action while they wait for the battlestation to start. When a player signs up to the BS queue, they will receive an option to go to the new PvP playfield while they wait. This new playfield will be completely 0% gas (save a small startup area) where players can run around, have fun, and kill their friends/enemies while waiting on the main event to start.
Story-wise, this playfield is a rogue notum mining operation stationed within the Outzone area of Rubi-Ka. As you run around and whack your opponents, notum miners will appear in the playfield - Special NPCs who are illegally mining notum for an unknown benefactor. No matter which faction your character belongs to it's not hard to say that taking out these miners is a good thing, and rewards for whittling out their numbers come in the form of Victory Points.
This playfield is actually a very, very important addition to the game story-wise, and is one of the first steps in the new story arch for Anarchy Online. The events of the next several months will have repercussions for years to come, and this playfield is a major factor in where we go from here. So even if you're not too interested in PvP, you still might want to check it out - There may be a few things in there that catch your eye.
About two months ago we saw Zora surfacing from his office. Why did we have to wait so long?!
A lot of times if an LTC doesn't make much of an appearance in the public eye its either because there's no active "need" for the character at the time, or because we currently lack someone to play said character. In Zora's case, it's also an NPC that *wouldn't* randomly appear in public very often - He's someone in a position of great power, and also someone who has a lot of enemies. Not the kind of guy who'd decide to take a stroll down the road on a Sunday afternoon. At least not without a compliment of guards at his side.
Now, all of that said, Zora's lack of presence in the public eye isn't something we're ignoring from a storyline perspective either; Zora's been exceedingly quiet, to the extent that his superiors are starting to question their choice in placing him as the CEO of Omni-Tek Rubi-Ka. His lack of action is already starting to come around and haunt him... and the consequences might be very, very dire indeed. Keep your eyes peeled and watch the Editor News & Buzz forums for ongoing details - Things are about to get real.
LTCs are now making appearances in the forums. Is this planned to be a sustained activity over the coming years or is it only going to be for a limited period?
This will, hopefully, be an ongoing thing - I've always wanted to get a greater presence for roleplaying on the official forums, and allowing the Legacy/LTC characters to post and interact in-character with the player base is a great opportunity to not only expand their presence and roles, but also to familiarize players with the characters themselves *and* promote the in-game roleplaying community. It also allows the Events team opportunities to set up meetings with players (picture Ivan saying he'll be having drinks down at Rompa on Friday, for example) and help structure more detailed information about ongoing or incoming storyline plots.
Right now there's a big push, naturally, because we want everyone to get used to the idea of seeing the characters of Rubi-Ka interacting with the community on the forums, and also because we're getting geared up for our first major storyline push since beginning my involvement with the Events team. I'm sure there will be lulls here and there where the LTCs are a bit more quiet, but as long as I have any say in the matter they'll be around for the long haul. =)
You have made it clear that there will not be RP Professionals and that ARK Events are already fulfilling this position. This does make sense and ARK Events, though limited in number, do a great job. Do you have any plans though to help form stronger bonds between the players and the storyline characters?
I think the addition of the new Fourth Wall forum is a great first step in getting the player base more closely tied to the ongoing stories and roleplaying characters of Anarchy Online. Right now I feel we've reached a situation where there are a lot of people out there who either want to be more actively involved in roleplaying or ar at least a bit curious as to what roleplaying is all about, but have far too little information to go off of. Things like the new list of long-term characters and the ongoing ARK Events Storylines post will help point people in the right directions when it comes to getting involved with the in-game storyline of AO.
With having in-character posts from our LTC/Legacy storyline characters now on the forums, this will help us promote the roleplaying scene of Anarchy Online just by sheer visibility; I really hope that in the future we'll see people stumbling across posts from Simon Silverstone or Tarkhan Zora and using that as a springboard to get more involved with the storyline behind the game. There's a lot of interesting story in AO, and the more people we have experiencing and playing along with us the better!
With the development of the document for Newland - Newland City Foreign Affairs Document - is there likely to also be written regulations and or procedures of a similar nature for Omni-Tek and the Clanners? It is really helpful when RPing to have something to be able to refer to.
I'm certainly not against the idea, and will always applaud initiatives of this measure. One of the great things about Anarchy Online is that there are a lot of places where people can step up and help to "fill in the blanks", as it were. I won't say that I personally will be sitting down and writing any such documents, but I'd definitely welcome anyone out there to pitch in and give it a go if they want. Who knows - Might even end up becoming official storyline. =)
Are there any plans of giving new players any sense of story before they are dropped off on the island as if they were part of the cast in Lost?
The new startup experience is going to be very, very different from the current "noob island" approach. We want to have a much more focused, individualized experience; something where we can ensure that everyone who comes into our game has a good sense of the utter basics before getting tossed out into the admittedly-daunting world of Rubi-Ka. As the guy who will most likely be handling the majority of the writing for the new experience, I can promise you that I'll be making sure people get a nice little overview of the ongoing story, and hopefully adding in additional ways for people to brush up on their Rubi-Ka history as well. I can't say too much as we're still in the early planning stages, but I definitely want to see us have a nice primer on the history and story of Anarchy Online for new players coming into the game.
Many players are abusing the /rp flag just to tweak their names, making the flag useless. Would it be possible to adjust ID chips to track those that are really interested in RP?
Unfortunately, "tracking roleplayers" is something that's a bit harder to do than it sounds - How do you define a "roleplayer"? Is it someone who spends every single moment in-character? Is it someone who goes in-character when they feel like it? Is it someone who once told a clanner to take a shower? At what point does someone become a "roleplayer"? Now, admittedly, I think people who in general *don't* roleplay and are using the /rp flag just to tweak their names are lame. Ultra lame. Lame lame lame lame. But, at the same time, there isn't much we can do to discourage non-roleplayers from using such a flag without imposing penalties that'll just be annoying for everyone involved.
That said, though, in time I'll be working with Pheats and the rest of the Events team to look into tweaking and expanding the current rewards system, which should hopefully provide some nice things for the dedicated roleplayers in Anarchy Online. The rewards we'll be looking in to should make the roleplaying contingent of AO stand out a bit more, so look for more information on that in the (admittedly semi-distant) future.
If you could spend your real life vacations on Rubi-Ka, where would you go and why?
Newland has always had a really soft spot in my heart for some reason - Sure it's a bit run down and a bit dusty, but... well, I'm a country boy at heart, and that's just about how I like it. Seems like Newland would be a great place to relax and just enjoy watching the suns set over the horizon - Not to mention kickin' back and sharing a few brews with Dante by the lake.
The story of AO has rolled on for almost 9 years, and becomes more complicated along its journey. Are there any plans to release a condensed version of "stuff that happened so far and how it affects/reflects in game"?
Right now we're working on putting together an updated, downloadable version of the Anarchy Online time-line, which will hopefully be a nice little tool for the more experienced roleplayers out there. In the future, though, and particularly in terms of the new startup experience, I'd like to put together a "ten-minute recap" style page with the most important events and happenings over the last nine years. We're starting a new chapter in the Anarchy Online story very soon (and really, have already begun!), and it's the perfect jump-on point for people who're curious as to the story of Rubi-Ka. So hopefully we can have that 'beginner's primer' put together in the near future. =)
On that same theme... We are almost ready to celebrate 9 years of AO! What has the team got in store for us this year? Are you able to give us any exclusives on what we can expect?
Holidays in AO are great, as it's the time us developers get to 'cut loose' a bit more and add in all sorts of interesting, strange, sometimes flat-out wacky stuff to the game world. One of the joys of being a sci-fi themed project is that there's very little we can't get away with in terms of content while still allowing it to stay true to the game's overall setting.
This year we've of course got some of the usual - A few t-shirts, a new poster, and the grand return of Mr. Squeaky. But we also have a few special things we're rolling out that I think people are going to love.
First, we have the traditional new holiday Phasefront vehicle: MstrBstrd whipped up an awesome "cowboy"-esque themed variant of the Spectre bike which has some really nice red and orange tones and a sort of 'molded leather' feel to the design. This will be available in the Phasefront vendor on Newland Lake for 250 paid points.
We also have a special offer for those that want to be with us until our tenth anniversary! Again showing off his artistic skillz, MstrBstrd has created an amazing black & red version of the Personal Mechanized Vehicle that looks just awesome and will be available to our customers as part of a unique and very cool deal: Players signing up for a year's subscription to Anarchy Online at a special price will receive all expansions *and* the new Personal Mechanized Vehicle variant, all in one special package! Not only is this a great way to ensure you'll be here to celebrate our next anniversary, but you'll also be able to tromp around Rubi-Ka in serious style.
Last in this list (but certainly not least, nor the last thing we have planned) is a very special addition for our Alien Invasion player cities. Through a special new tradeskill process and acquiring parts from all across the Anarchy Online game world, players will be able to collect and construct a brand new super-secret building for their cities. What is this building? Well, right now its a giant birthday present! But what's underneath all that wrapping paper? You'll just have to wait until after the birthday to find out.
There are tons of other little goodies as well, some of which you'll see in the screenshots, but we don't want to give everything away just yet, now do we? Also expect an awesome party from the boys and girls at Gridstream Productions, going down on June 26th in ICC. Be sure to check out the AO forums, the Gridstream website, and (I'm sure!) AO Universe for more information on how to join the throwdown!
As we are almost ready to celebrate 9 years of AO, which means it is only a little over a year until we reach double digits. That is pretty significant. Will we be likely to be able to get involved as a community with preparations for the big ONE-ZERO?
Ten years is a major accomplishment for any game, and though I hate to look too far into the future I will be very proud of Anarchy Online when it reaches the big double-digit mark. We've come a long way over the last nine years, and the tenth year of AO will be a major, major milestone in many ways - There's tons of goodness over the horizon, and I can't think of any way better to head into our tenth year than with some of the initiatives we have planned.
Naturally, when we get closer to the actual date, I'm sure the team will be wanting to put quite a bit of effort into making the tenth anniversary of AO as big a party as we can! Though we're a bit far off at the moment to start deciding exactly what we want to do and how we want to do it (kinda need to get through the *ninth* anniversary first ), I can imagine you'll see quite the spectacle from our end.
As to what'll be in store? Well... only way to find out is to meet us there in a year's time. Should be awesome!
Huge thankyou's to Kintaii. It was very hard to resist asking more questions about some of the areas that have come up in this interview... I was scared that it might grow to twice the length if I did!! However, if you do have questions from this interview with him respond here and we can see if we can twist his arm in the not so distant future to spend some more quality time with us answering them!!!
We have uploaded all of the screenshots to our gallery section here and here. So definitely go and check them out.
Players signing up for a year's subscription to Anarchy Online at a special price will receive all expansions *and* the new Personal Mechanized Vehicle variant, all in one special package!
Article written by Ukblizzard
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