Anarchy Online - Rubi-Ka im neuen Glanz: Exklusives Video und Interview zum Grafik-Update
Onlinewelten, Anja Gellesch: Hello Fia, thank you very much for your time. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? Since when are you in charge for Anarchy Online as Game Director? What have you done before?
Fia Tjernberg, Game Director: Hello, and thank you for showing interest in Anarchy Online! I started as Game Director in January this year (2012), but I'm old news to the development team and the players. I've worked on a couple of other Funcom products as well, but AO is where my heart lies.
I was first brought on as a game designer at a time where almost the whole AO development team was new like me, most of them people with remarkable talent hired directly from the player community. We were first put to use making the booster pack known as Legacy of the Xan, where I designed alien monsters and wrote the storyline. Since then I've been working on various updates in the game, for example designing the daily missions – we now have over a hundred unique missions given throughout all the levels.
I've worked with this team for almost four years now, with a couple of recent additions, and I know why they get up in the morning and it's not because Funcom serve the best coffee in town. It's because we believe in the future of Anarchy Online, and we think that you will enjoy it too if you aren't already.
We have introduced several expansions and many content updates since launch, and I am now proud to present a new beginning – the first real video to reveal in game footage from our new graphics engine.
As we get closer to releasing a beta client you will see more videos, possibly a before-and-after shot, and I will have a hard time not accidentally leaking the .exe before it's ready from an anonymous email address hosted somewhere in north of Sweden because I am very excited to give this to you.
Exklusive video of the new Anarchy Online graphics engine
Onlinewelten, Anja Gellesch: Your team is working on a graphic update for the 10 year old MMORPG. Can you tell us a bit about the motives behind the move? Why bother? I mean, the game launched in 2001 and I can imagine that such a move entails a lot of work.
Fia Tjernberg, Game Director: The visual style of AO is very unique, with a sort of post-modern spin on science fiction and it contains a great deal of humor and warmth. This doesn’t necessarily shine through to a new player who might be used to a certain graphical standard though, so the engine upgrade will bring to AO the same core rendering technology as the other Dreamworld projects at Funcom (Age of Conan, The Secret World).
This is very exciting to us because both AoC and its expansion have won numerous awards for their graphics, so we couldn't have picked a better engine to go with for graphical quality. Now of course this will not automatically turn Anarchy Online into AoC, but the team gets to upgrade the game's art assets to make use of the new engine features so we will see great improvements nonetheless.
I am actually very surprised that the science fiction genre hasn't been more successful than it has been, but I think part of what makes Anarchy Online so unique is that it's not a perfect utopian world with shiny blue walls restricting you from going places you can get hurt, but instead this post-war era where nothing is a certainty, and you can go anywhere you like – you just have to use your smarts, it's something we can actually relate to.
Onlinewelten, Anja Gellesch: When did the team start developing the new engine? How long have you been working on the graphic update in general? Can you tell us a bit about the development process?
Fia Tjernberg, Game Director: We began creating a new Ogre based graphics engine a couple of years ago as an exploratory project, and the same year I joined Funcom, 2008, they offered us to use the Dreamworld engine that was being in development by Funcom at the time, and we decided to start fresh.
We definitely pay a much lower cost due to the benefit of a company-wide technology team, and all the expertise and knowledge we can draw on from the other projects. So in this sense we use the Dreamworld technology as in-house middle-ware, which allows the Anarchy Online core development team to focus on just the game.
The Dreamworld engine has been re-worked to support AO specific features, but more importantly we've had the chance to re-work most of our art assets to fit today's standard. We've re-modeled all the character heads in the game, going from a puny ~200 poly count per head to more respectable meshes of ~2000 polys, allowing for all those nice features like normal mapping and specular mapping to happen. There are 362 unique heads in AO, so that was quite a large task, but the result is simply breathtaking.
The artists are also polishing the characters bodies, plus making all new rocks and trees. The quality of our outdoor environments is drastically improving with this, specifically when it comes hand in hand with dynamic shadows and grass that moves as your character walks through it, and we are currently working on improving the cities in a similar fashion.
Onlinewelten, Anja Gellesch: When are you planning to switch from the old engine to the new one? Do you have a timeframe for the release?
Fia Tjernberg, Game Director: The release date has not yet been made official, although we are aiming at first releasing a public beta. Once we're ready to switch over for real, we will continue to support both clients for a transitional period, to give people time to migrate to the new engine. During this period, the existing engine will still be available as a fallback in case we need to fix issues we can only find when we release the engine into the wild.
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