Another Behind-the-Scenes Look at Age of Conan

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

Following up our previous post on the Age of Conan design team, lead designer Ole Herbjonsen expounds more on what the other people on the design team do. This time he’s putting the microscope over the item, special effects, quest, and system designers.

Item Designer
The item designer’s job is twofold: On one hand he provides his colleagues (quest designers, NPC designers, scripters, and others) with the essential items they need to finish their tasks. The other side of the job is creating the various drops,  loot, item rewards, and trade skill items in the game, in addition to working alongside the NPC designers to determine drop locations and drop rates of said items.

Careful planning is a must for the item designer, as ultimately players will become quite concerned with both item design (stats, appearance, etc.) and the drop locations (where, how, and how hard the item is to get).

If you’ll excuse the D&D ref, the item designer is kinda like a red mage in the sense that his job requires working knowledge of most of the internal tools used, including many of the various quest, scripting, NPC, data management, and item creation tools. A jack-of-all-trades and all-around middleman in tying together various game elements.

Special Effects Designer
This is the guy to go with when you’re looking for some razzle-dazzle. The special effects designer doesn’t only do the complex stuff though, as he is also responsible for the more simple effects in the game such as a burning flame. Like his Hollywood counterpart, it’s the special effects designer’s job to make parts of the game more alive with spell effects, elements, weather, combat impact, blood, and everything in between.

The special effects designer for Age of Conan works most of the time with an in-house tool known as the Particle Tool. The name is a bit misleading, as the tool has progressed far beyond the boundaries of particles and is now using everything from planes and meshes to animations and scripts. Other tools in the special effects designer’s arsenal include 3Dstudiomax, Photoshop and in-house scripting tools.

Of course, the special effects won’t work on their own without a good in-game reason, so the designer needs to talk quite a bit with other members of the design team to get an idea of what the effect is for and what it’s supposed to do. The special effects designer also has to review his progress with the art team since the Art Director has final say on the visual appearance of special effects in the game.

The full article awaits after the jump!

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

Following up our previous post on the Age of Conan design team, lead designer Ole Herbjonsen expounds more on what the other people on the design team do. This time he’s putting the microscope over the item, special effects, quest, and system designers.

Item Designer
The item designer’s job is twofold: On one hand he provides his colleagues (quest designers, NPC designers, scripters, and others) with the essential items they need to finish their tasks. The other side of the job is creating the various drops,  loot, item rewards, and trade skill items in the game, in addition to working alongside the NPC designers to determine drop locations and drop rates of said items.

Careful planning is a must for the item designer, as ultimately players will become quite concerned with both item design (stats, appearance, etc.) and the drop locations (where, how, and how hard the item is to get).

If you’ll excuse the D&D ref, the item designer is kinda like a red mage in the sense that his job requires working knowledge of most of the internal tools used, including many of the various quest, scripting, NPC, data management, and item creation tools. A jack-of-all-trades and all-around middleman in tying together various game elements.

Special Effects Designer
This is the guy to go with when you’re looking for some razzle-dazzle. The special effects designer doesn’t only do the complex stuff though, as he is also responsible for the more simple effects in the game such as a burning flame. Like his Hollywood counterpart, it’s the special effects designer’s job to make parts of the game more alive with spell effects, elements, weather, combat impact, blood, and everything in between.

The special effects designer for Age of Conan works most of the time with an in-house tool known as the Particle Tool. The name is a bit misleading, as the tool has progressed far beyond the boundaries of particles and is now using everything from planes and meshes to animations and scripts. Other tools in the special effects designer’s arsenal include 3Dstudiomax, Photoshop and in-house scripting tools.

Of course, the special effects won’t work on their own without a good in-game reason, so the designer needs to talk quite a bit with other members of the design team to get an idea of what the effect is for and what it’s supposed to do. The special effects designer also has to review his progress with the art team since the Art Director has final say on the visual appearance of special effects in the game.

Quest Designer
As the title suggests, it’s the quest designer’s job to come up with reasons for players to walk all over the game world and tackle some baddies in the holy name of questing. To avoid getting stuck in the same old “kill that guy, get this, blahblahblah” rut, the quest designer has to keep up with the latest game trends and think outside the box.

You’ll be interested to know that the Age of Conan design team is using a top-secret, cutting-edge, concept-generating technology in designing quests. Nah, we’re just kidding. They use Word. There is no magic mystery tool automatically generating good concepts. Once the concepts are done, they go through an approval and feedback process, and once everybody is happy, it’s time to move on to more detailed design and implementation.

Even though he churns out bucketfuls of sentences and quest ideas, the quest designer’s role is not so much lounging around putting word to paper. Mostly, it’s running around coordinating with the other members of the design team as they try to put his ideas into the game.

System Designer
As the name implies, the system designer writes system designs and deals with the RPG mechanics – formulas used, etc. The name of the game for system designers is “spreadsheets.” They work with Excel all the way, coupled with some internal content tools. On good days, spreadsheets are open on both monitors – duelling spreadsheets!

The system designer interacts a lot with the game coders dealing with RPG-related issues, so lots of working with the item and monster designers, but not so much with the scripting or quest designers. General balance issues are also handled by this guy, and if the design team needs someone with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the game’s mechanics stored in his brain, the system designer is the guy they turn to.

We hope you enjoyed that peek into the inner workings of Age of Conan. Who knows, maybe you guys can use this info to break into the business of game design!

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