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Age of Conan: Unchained Interviews: Interview with Thomas Wollbekk

By  on December 27, 2006

A Dev Journal From Thomas Wollbekk, a Funcom World Designer.

News Editor Garrett Fuller had the opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one with Thomas Wollbekk, a Funcom World Designer currently working on their Age of Conan title.

MMORPG.com:

Tell us a little about your childhood. How did school and where you live influence your choice to join the video game community?

Thomas Wollbekk:

I always hated school for numerous reasons, and your computer probably does not have enough RAM to handle all of them on screen! So I won’t go into details about that. However, I played a lot of games when I was home pretending to be doing homework. So you could say that school influenced my gaming quite a lot.

My biggest influence will always be my dad though; it was he who made me interested in games by giving me an Amiga 500 for my 5th birthday and playing Ports of Call with me for hours. Big kudos to him!

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MMORPG.com:

Can you remember your first video game? How often did you play, what other games had an influence on you?

Thomas Wollbekk:

Bubble Bobble! I think I was 5 years old and I played it every day for at least a year. I still know the music by heart!

Other big influences: Super Mario World, Zelda (A Link to the Past), Railroad Tycoon, Rock’n Roll Racing, Rice of the Triad, Duke Nukem 3D, The Quake and Unreal series, Counter Strike and a bunch of other games I can’t remember on the fly.

 

MMORPG.com:

Besides games what other influences brought you into your career? Whether it is books, movies, or artwork everyone has different tastes, tell us about yours.

Thomas Wollbekk:

I’ve always been interested in building and creating stuff. I think Lego has been one of my biggest influences, simply because it gives me so much creative freedom in that I get to build whatever I can imagine – as long as I have enough blocks for it! I guess you could say building game worlds works much the same way, as you put together pieces the graphics artist have made. Everything is in pieces – from the houses to the trees!

 


MMORPG.com:

What was your first job in games? What other games have you worked on?

Thomas Wollbekk:

I’ve made a couple of really simple games on my own called “Ben Reidar the Viking” and “Super Dildo Racer”. I’ve also worked on a couple of community modifications for Half-life and Unreal, but Conan is the first real game I’ve worked on.

 

MMORPG.com:

What is your job at Funcom? How did you get your foot in the door?

Thomas Wollbekk:

I work as a 3D Environment Artist \ World Designer. I usually do a lot of polish work and put the final pieces together in Age of Conan’s environments.

Back in 2004 a guy named Petter Bøhler told me that Funcom was searching for World Designers and he knew I had some experience with different level editing tools like Radiant and UnrealED. He also helped me with my job application. (Thanks Petter, I’ll paint your name on the back of a mountain or something.)

 

MMORPG.com:

Take us through a typical day of work on Funcom while working on Age of Conan, what is it like when you show up at the office?

Thomas Wollbekk:

I work as a 3D Environment Artist \ World Designer. I usually do a lot of polish work and put the final pieces together in Age of Conan’s environments.

I usually arrive at 10 am and go through my task list. I have a small chat with Dag, one of our talented gameplay world designers and we plan out what to work on. After a couple of hours with tweaking the lighting, cleaning up textures, planting trees, placing objects, painting and modeling the ground it’s time for Chris (who for some reason is referred to as “The Ultimate Level Designer From Outer Space” – don’t ask) and I to do our daily 5 minutes of walking home and have bread with eggs for lunch. Then it’s back to work where I usually spend a couple of hours in meetings and continue to brush up on our outdoor areas until I go home at 6 pm. Except when our Game Director Gaute Godager comes running and shouts I have to remove the two people having intercourse with a barrel or something like that before I go home. (Stuff like this usually happens because of bugs in the system. That is what I tell them at least.)

 

MMORPG.com:

MMORPG.com: Are there any friends or family who had a major impact on your career or chasing dreams that you’d like to talk about, do they play games?

Thomas Wollbekk:

Both! My parents let me play as much games as I wanted as a kid, without their support I am pretty sure I would not have enough experience with games to help making them. That also applies to my kid brother and my friends which challenged me and had me stay interested in games through countless LAN’s at my place.

 


MMORPG.com:

The video game industry continues to grow very quickly. What are your hopes for games in the future?

Thomas Wollbekk:

I hope that we see more gaming companies that dare to come up with new ways of doing things and dare to be original. Go Nintendo Wii! I’m also looking forward to see how e-sports will turn out in the future, maybe we one day will see gaming in the Olympics!

 

MMORPG.com:

How have things been progressing with Age of Conan? Have you enjoyed working on such a strong IP as Conan?

Thomas Wollbekk:

I’m really happy with the progress. It’s so great to see that the game is getting better and better for each day. I have learned so much since I started working on this project I can hardly believe it. We have so many talented people here who I suck as much knowledge from as I can, and I’m really proud to be working with them (except Chris and Bent, they suck, but don’t let them know I told you that).

 

MMORPG.com:

Is there anything you would like to write to the readers of MMORPG.com that we have not spoken about?

Thomas Wollbekk:

I want to yell a big “Yoyo!” and “Blblblblblblblb” to Kamelene (sorry, that was an inside thing). Merry Christmas to everybody and have a fantastic new year! We hope that you will continue following Age of Conan next year, as we’re getting ready to show off some truly epic material that will blow your socks off!

 

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