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Interview of Joel (March 2013)

  • 2. Interview of Joel (March 2013)

During second part of Funcom restructuration, Joel Bylos became the Creative Director of Age of Conan and Anarchy Online in addition of The Secret World. We asked him a few questions on this new position and his new projects.

Joel Bylos - Game director TSW

JeuxOnLine: What is your new function in Funcom?

Joel Bylos: Essentially I am responsible for the Creative Direction of Funcom's three lives games, Age of Conan, Anarchy Online and The Secret World. What it entails is taking creative leadership of the live team to provide updates for those three games working towards a vision which I outline for each of the games. It's definitely a challenge, but an incredibly rewarding one! I also think the new setup is going to be good for each game individually, having a joint team sharing their ideas, skills and expertise with our tools to enhance each game.

What are the differences with your previous function?

Previously I was doing this only for The Secret World and working with a dedicated team. Now I am working across the three projects, and some designers are dedicated to each while others are switching between as we go. Some probably also know me as Lead Content Designer on The Secret World (before launch) and also Lead Designer on the Rise of the Godslayer expansion for Age of Conan.

Why have you been choosed (and not someone else)?

It's primarily because I have worked very closely with both Age of Conan and The Secret World and I know both games very well. They share a common technology platform which makes it very easy for me to identify what improvements can benefit both games, and just the fact that I have worked creatively on both games means I can quickly jump into those settings and see what we can expand and improve upon. It's a bit different with Anarchy Online seeing I never really worked on it, but I've played it before and I am working closely with the guys on the team who have got experience developing that game, to make sure we make the right choices for it.

How will you manage to carry the job previously handled by three persons?

It is only a single team, so it isn't quite the same as managing three different teams. We will work as a team to deliver on each project and set proper timeframes for updates and deliveries. Luckily for me, the team is full of veterans as well, so I am able to delegate responsibility when needed. I think that's very important to underline, that this team really has a lot of of expertise and creative power flowing through it, most are veterans having worked on one or more of the games extensively before, so they know just as well as me what we really need to be working on and how we should be working on it. Knowledge and expertise with the in-house development tools are incredibly important for effectively expanding live games, and the  team really excels there.

Is there still a core team for each game or is there really everybody on all the games?

Anarchy Online retains some key developers due to the different nature of the tools and engine (it is very specialized knowledge), but The Secret World and Age of Conan are the same team and will switch between games to deliver updates for both. Of course, may goal is for many of those working on The Secret World and Age of Conan also contribute to Anarchy Online, especially in terms of ideas and creative solutions. I think that's going to be a huge benefit for the game.

The monthly updates have become regular updates. Are there other projects that have been been impacted, delayed or suppressed, because of the restructuration?

I think it is impossible to go through such a large process and not impact all of the projects.
The Age of Conan update, Secrets of Dragon's Spine was delayed when the restructuring was announced, and the Anarchy Online team lost some people who were actively working on the engine. Work on the engine continues, though, and our goal is to have that go live some time this year. I spent some time with the new engine recently and it looks absolutely great, it really takes Anarchy Online to a new level. Getting that our is a priority for me.
Of interest to the French Community is the fact that due to have lost a chunk of our translation team, we will no longer be doing French voice over for the new issues in The Secret World. We will still translate all of the text and subtitles, but we no longer have the resources to record all of the cutscenes in French.
What's important to keep in mind though is that the decision was made as part of a complex set of priorities, and it allows us to spend more resources on actually expanding the game and providing players -- French, German, English and everyone content.

With the centralization of knowledges and ressources, are you now able to do some things you couldn't before?

It gives us the obligation to be thinking of multiple use when we design features. In the past, I would design a feature for The Secret World without considering how useful that feature would be for Age of Conan. The consolidation will means that we look for extrat value in all of our features. In the end, that will translate to more features for both games. For Anarchy Online it's a bit different as it's a different technology platform, which means that game has more dedicated developers, but it's still my goal to make sure Anarchy Online benefits greatly from the shared pool of creaivity and knowledge that exist within the team.

The three Funcom AAA MMOG are now developped in Durham. What will be the activities of the other Funcom studios: Oslo, Montreal, etc?

The Oslo office holds the main administration as well as sales and marketing, and the developers there are focused on the production of the new LEGO Minifigures MMO and the Montreal studio is currently working on two work for hire projects in the mobile and tablet space. Durham now houses the centralized live team, as well as the community team, billing, customer service and quality assurance.
A large part of the restructure was making sure that the three key business areas of Funcom are managed and run separately.

Without the perspective of the monthly update, what is planned to make the Membership more interesting?

The membership for The Secret World was always been designed to be independent of the update speed - that is why we did *not* tie the membership to content delivery schedules. Hence, all of the reasons to become a member still stand - points to spend in the store, item-of-the-month, XP accelerator, veteran system, early access.

In the last letter, you announced what we could expect for the next issues. Can provide us with an ETA (this summer, end of the year, next year... ?) for the biggest adds - like the new areas?

Not really until the team has been working together can I say absolutely when things will be released. So I'd rather not promise dates yet. I hope to be able to do that soon, though, once we've gotten into the swing of things with the new team structure and the new internal processes. It's very important to me to keep an open dialog with the community so I'll definitely fill players in when we're ready to make more concrete promises.

Anything you would want to add?

Thanks to all of our players for their support and I hope you'll be able to enjoy all of the change coming to all three games, very soon!

rédigé par Peredur le 13 mars 2013
mis à jour le 13 mars 2013