||Interview with Terje Lundberg by MMOG Welten
We are pleased to bring you an interview with Terje Lundberg, Funcom’s lead artist for Age of Conan! Terje has worked with Funcom since 2000 as a world designer for Anarchy Online, Notum Wars and Shadowlands and moved into his current role in 2003.
Please tell us more about the job of the lead artist. What’s your typical working day?
I start at 9:15 with a leads morning meeting, where the leads for all professions on Conan meet with the Game Director and the Project Manager to discuss and plan the day.
At 10:00 we have the team morning meeting which involves the entire Conan team, this is where the Project Manager and/or the Game director goes through the most important things that came up during the leads morning meeting, plus any additional information.
The rest of my working day varies greatly. I do mostly team management (GFX Team).
I am also working closely with Ulf Kristiansen (coordinator) preparing in regards to outsourcing company for some of our art, as well as speaking with some of our freelance modelers and concept artists.
I spend some of my work day going around looking at the other artists work, talking with them, and making sure that everything is running smoothly. Meetings take up big chunks of my day as well. I usually have 5-10 different ones every week excluding the morning meetings, from management to solutions/tech design meetings.
Age of Conan got a much darker and more adult atmosphere. Where do your impressions come from?
Mainly Playboy, next!
No seriously: our main impressions about the look and feel of Hyboria come from our interpretation of the stories written by Robert E. Howard.
When you read Howard's work you're immediately drawn into a gritty world of dark and ancient forces, and mighty and decadent civilizations. You feel the great weight of the ages and sense the very history in the crumbling mortar and the ruins. Therefore we've been mindful from the outset to create a world which is true to Howard's writing. There is majesty in Hyboria but it's of a monolithic, brutal and primitive kind - it certainly isn't “high fairie” where everything appears as though it was built only yesterday and is devoid of context.
The Art Director has established this framework from the outset and the design and conceptual process works within this. A great deal of time has been invested in establishing unique architectural and ornamental styles and in charting the cultural influences from earlier civilizations and the migrations of peoples. We want our towns, cities and locations to feel as though they've stood for many an age. We want the player to feel immersed in a living world.
The process means a lot of continual discussion between the art director, the conceptual designers and the design team. Almost every building and locale is individually “concepted”, beginning with roughs and moving to detailed concepts or elevations where even the ornamentation is established under the supervision of the art director. We draw on a great diversity of civilizations and architectural styles for inspiration, but we keep in mind that the great civilizations of the past aren't merely the ziggurats, temples, and pyramids that we find standing today but there were also common people living often in crude primitive huts. The player will see this when they enter a city or town – the simple homes of the common people carved into cliff-faces or huddled in the shadow of great temples and palaces. A harsh, gritty, and believable world is our aim.
The First buildings and landscape we have seen so far are really fantastic. What kind of other locations will we see in Age of Conan (e.g. jungle, desert...)?
The game at launch will contain three countries, Cimmeria, Aquilonia and Stygia, plus the Island of Tortage. Cimmeria is the most northern country of the three, and will feature snow and highland in certain areas. Aquilonia is more green hills, lush riverbeds, and the marvelous city of Tarantia. Stygia will mostly feature deserts and some beautiful cities, and Tortage has a diverse geography ranging from jungle to harbors. We are putting in a lot of effort to make each region of the game interesting and unique with resources, feel etc. A magical “realism” is evident throughout the game.
Age of Conan looks much more realistic than a lot of other MMOGs so far. What about the character details is there anything you can tell us about character customizing?
I would say that Age of Conan looks more realistic than any other game out there. As for character customization, we aim to give the players a lot of freedom when it comes to creating one’s avatar, and you should be able to tweak almost everything on a characters body and head.
Player characters can also get battle scars and tattoos during game play, that will further help make the character unique.
What do you think is the most difficult part for the artists working on Age of Conan?
Getting everything right the first time working constantly with new technology, but hey, its also the most fun part:). Also we have to be smart on how we create the assets of the game world, using module sets, that can be reused and still look somewhat different. It’s a time consuming affair to make graphics for a next gen game.
Step by Step, how do you start a new piece of artwork?
It all starts off during the region designs, where the writer request assets to populate the region he or she is designing. From this design we get an overview of what kind of assets are needed to complete the region. Every asset gets it own task, where we fill in the description and try to describe the surroundings. The Next step is to get a concept for the asset, so the graphic artists actually know what to make.
When the above is done the artist begins modeling, starting with a low detailed version of the asset, before creating a high detail version. This is needed for something we call normal mapping. In short what it does is make our assets very detailed but still optimized enough to be used in our game.
The last step is “painting” the asset or as the graphic artists call it- “texturing.” When all this is done, the work assignment is complete unless the asset requires animations, which is a whole new process.
Thank you much for this great interview.