Articles - Interview with Colin "Means" Cragg

These were questions given by the entire AO Universe Staff, as a whole it represents different points of view from the community they are part of.

AOU: How long have you been a full Dev with Anarchy Online?

In March I will have been working in the development of Anarchy Online for five years.

AOU: Was Anarchy Online your first MMO working environment?

Anarchy Online was my first MMO and my first job in the industry.

AOU: What is your educational background, in other words what do your diplomas and certificates say you are?

I have a University degree in Biology. If I couldn’t have power over time and space then I wanted to be a doctor. It was a good backup plan.

AOU: Did you ever dream you'd become Game Director of Anarchy Online when you joined Funcom? Did you start as a full time employee or a part time one? Were you originally an ARK?

It might sound strange but I never dreamed of being game director. Every day for the last 5 years I just think about making AO a better game, it was never a driving ambition of mine to run this project.

I love what I do. There has never been a day (with the exclusion of some Sundays) that I woke up and didn’t want to go to work. When the day came when the best thing to do was step in and take over, I was ready and committed myself to doing the best job I could.

That I was ready at all is entirely due to the learning experience of working with Silirrion (Craig Morrison). Before coming to Funcom it had never occurred to me to work in games at all. I enjoyed a lot of games myself but I had never given any thought to the people involved in making them.

I was surprised at the time to find out how many people were involved in making a game on this scale. Being a child of the 70’s I always had imagined games being made by 3 people in a basement. Visiting Funcom in 2001 was an eye opening experience.

My brother-in-law was working as a GM on AO at the time (he later was the lead designer for AO and later Conan, Johan Tenga/Karlsson ) and it was amazing to see how many people were involved in the “magic”. I had to be convinced to even apply to work in the game industry as I wasn’t convinced it was really right for me. The rest, so they say, is history. I owe my brother-in-law big for pushing me in a direction that has lead to so much enjoyment in my life.

My younger brother, Cameron Cragg (CODER! The smart one in the family.), also works here in Oslo now, this experience has positively affected us all. I have copies of Notum Wars and Shadowlands signed by the designers and coders at the time from before I came to Funcom. It is surreal that some of those people have worked for me in my time here on AO.

It has been a great pleasure working with all of these similarly deeply disturbed individuals in my time here on AO. I really can’t imagine wanting to do anything else for a living.

I started full time at the same time as 5 other designers. I am the only one left of that group. I was unfortunately never a part of the ARK program or of Quality Assurance, this is very uncommon in employees here.

AOU: Silirrion was the most popular Game Director in the history of the game, until you that is. How does it feel to have such a large positive feedback about your work and that of your team?

If I am going to be clear on anything it is this: If I am doing anything right, it is Silirrion’s fault. He took over AO when I was the lead designer at the time and I have been learning from him ever since. He isn’t dead. We still talk every day and I never make what I feel is an important decision without asking his opinion first (not that we always agree!).

Had I taken over the Game Director position when Morten Byom left, it would have been an unmitigated disaster. That has gone smoothly only because of the experience and support I got from working with Craig. He loves AO as much as I do and he will never be fully “gone”. All the old designers still around often stop in to help on a regular basis, in exchange for cake.

The positive feedback is great. I am extremely grateful for the positive reception from the community and the great lines of communication we have just begun to establish. We have thousands of experts on the AO experience and I have every intention of continuing to tap into this potential and use it for the improvement of our game.

It might be tacky to say the positive reaction to our work “Makes is all worthwhile” but that really does say it best. Spending 48 hours straight at the office is much easier to push through when you know it will be worth it to so many people. Thanks to all, for all the positive support you have given me and my entire team…the people who do all the real work and don’t get enough of the credit.

AOU: In your "Friday with Means" posts you often share parts of your life outside your job, even when it's personal. That has increased your popularity among the community because when we read it, we realize you're just a gamer like us, with a job, a family and problems of his own. How does your wife feel about the postings? Does she read them? By the way, does your good wife play Anarchy Online herself?

When I came to Funcom for my interview I was surprised to find out that Gaute Godager and Marius Enge were REAL PEOPLE…I didn’t want that to be the case with me. When I make changes that affect all of us it is important you all know where these changes come from. Some changes might not be popular, but at least we’ll aim for everyone to be in on the discussion.

There are days where I feel that being human isn’t good enough for this job…but I’ll keep trying. A little understanding from the playerbase goes a long way towards keeping all of us motivated and enthusiastic on a daily basis.

Sadly my wife does not read my posts and is part of that incomprehensible section of the population that does not like video games. That being said I have little interest in ever learning to ride one of her dressage horses….they are beautiful, graceful animals but they steal my wife’s time from me. I like them all individually, but hate them as a group. I suspect this is exactly how my wife feels about Anarchy Online.

We both have time consuming interests…mine produces significantly less manure.

AOU: How many Devs are currently working on Anarchy Online?

Currently there are 11 people directly and solely responsible for pure production of Anarchy Online.

AOU: Do the artists use in-house custom software to create new graphical content or do they use popular programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, etc?

Texture work and art are done in conventional products like Photoshop. World-building is done with an in-house custom tool called “Tide”.

AOU: What about the music and sound effects? How are they made and again, is in-house software used or mainstream commercial ones?

Mainstream software is used in our sound production.

AOU: How many times a month do you have a meeting with all the Anarchy Online Devs and are they all in Norway?

All the Devs are here every day.. except for Metaing who is talented enough to work from home in Copenhagen.

AOU: Do you have any say in the way the official Anarchy Online site is maintained or is that something that someone else in Funcom is responsible for?

I’d like to be more involved in this area. I imagine this is something I need to find more time for. Currently it is not being maintained from within the team…this is likely to change.

AOU: If a group of players were to make an Anarchy Online CGI Movie or short film, do you think Funcom would allow the use of the textures, music and sound effects from the game if it was a non-profit project?

I would be interested in discussing it at least. It sounds like fun. The Devs want to be in it!

AOU: Back in August of 2007, before you became Anarchy Online Game Director, there was an in-game concert event. Will there ever be something like that again?

There are no immediate plans for another event right now…but it would be great to do it again.

AOU: If there were player-created video files which were not commercial that added to the immersion through in-character advertising of game items or roleplaying events, would they be allowed to distribute it so users could install those files so they can be viewed in-game (at their own risk of course)?

Currently there is no support for this…but it is a feature that could be considered for the future if the demand is there.

AOU: With other MMO's from larger companies either becoming discontinued or canceled while in development how is Anarchy Online still managing to hold it's ground so solidly in the tough MMO market during the current world economy?

The current world economy is a mystery to me, but I feel that you don’t get better value for your entertainment value than online gaming…a fixed fee and unlimited enjoyment is a good deal. I like to think of Anarchy Online as the best Sci-Fi MMORPG out there now. That our community feels the same is the entire reason we are still here.

I also can’t think of a more dedicated team…hard work and experience gets results. Having been around for seven years our players are now our developers…this helps us greatly in producing enjoyable content…we make what we would want to experience ourselves.

Last updated on 12.07.2011 by Khuri
Article written by Windguaerd
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