The wheels of the gaming industry churn, developers come and pass, leaving games that become legacies. Legacies fade to obscurity, and even obscurity is long forgotten when the development cycle that gave it birth comes again. In one development cycle, called the Facebook/Gamification-cycle by some, a development cycle yet to come, a development cycle long pass, a wind rose in the hills of Montreal. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the churning of the wheels of the gaming industry. But it was a beginning.
Ahem. Horribly mangled Wheel of Time-quotes aside… As March transitioned into April this year, it meant I had spent exactly four years in the game development industry, after I packed my bags and moved to Oslo (and later, to Montreal) at the end of March in 2008 to join up with Funcom – a few short months before the launch of Age of Conan. Since then I have worked primarily with refining, updating and maintaining AoC’s state-machine and animation-systems, while also temporarily taking on a few extra side-jobs where needed such as basic rigging/skinning and animating in Autodesk 3ds Max (very useful for fixing minor issues with character-animations and 3D assets), the creation of particle-effects for spells and environments, scripting triggers and conditions for said particle-effects to play, as well as creating and hooking up triggers for sound-effects for monsters. The common denominator (in my case) for all of these tasks is their link to the animation-systems and/or behavior control center (state machine).
When I crossed that four-year milestone two and a half months ago, though, I decided it was time for a change. Without change, without new challenges, the mind can grow stale and one’s motivation can falter. As luck would have it, an opportunity for change arose, and I took it. As a result, on Monday just hence, when I came back to the Conan-team after a five-month temporary hiatus spent working on particle-effects for monsters in The Secret World (which is just about to launch, btw!), I sat down at a new desk, next to new people (well, people I hadn’t sat next to before, anyway) to start training for a new position: AI Designer!
This is a new and untested field for me, but hopefully I can draw on the knowledge and experience I have acquired over the last four years to smooth out my transition into the world of AI Design for video-games. It will definitely be in my favor that I have extensive knowledge about the state-machine (which is prominent in AI scripting for AoC), and that I am at least somewhat familiar with the primary tools I’ll be using as an AI Designer. I do, however, have a lot to learn – though there will always be challenges to overcome and new things to learn. Anyway, interesting times are ahead, that much is certain. Who knows – perhaps this will be the start of another exciting four-year (or longer) journey into the future! :)
(For an insight into what being an AI Designer for Age of Conan involves, check this link. While “slightly” out of date (it’s from 2008!), the general principles (and tools in use) are roughly the same.)