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MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 05/20/08)  | Pub:Eidos Interactive
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Age of Conan - Developer Profile: Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen

Every month, we feature a new member of Funcom's Age of Conan team in the form of a Developer Profile. This month, it's Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen, the Technical Art Director for Age of Conan.

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?

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

I was always very fond of drawing as a kid, and enjoyed comic books and making constructions with Lego pieces. School didn’t really influence my choice, and I must admit I rather made drawings even when I was supposed to pay attention in classes. I managed school quite well though. In my spare time, I often used to bike to the town, and spend some coins on the arcade machines there (this would be mid-80s). Growing up by the coast in Northern Norway, I also spent a lot of time checking out all the weird creatures by the tide, which I think influenced my later creations.

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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.

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

I was very much into comics during my teen years, and I used to read every issue of the Conan comic that was published here in Norway. I also bought US fantasy mags, such as “Heavy Metal”, as well as various art books. I was just as much aiming for a career as a fantasy artist / illustrator, as considering computer game development. Reading mags about computer games taught me a few things about development, while I still had this just as a hobby. I was also a part of a demo group, which was further inspiring for making computer visuals and technical effects. Movies were influential, as I enjoyed especially horror and sci-fi movies with creatures and special effects.

MMORPG.com:

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

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

A friend of mine had a C64, and my first games were played on that platform. However, in 1990 I became the proud owner of an Amiga, the best graphical computer at the time. I think one of the first games I enjoyed was “Shadow of the Beast” by Reflections / Psygnosis. This game really showed off some stunning fantasy visuals, which were inspiring for my first computer graphics. Games by The Bitmap Brothers, such as Xenon2, SpeedBall and Gods, were also inspiring. I used to play a bit every evening, but tried to restrict myself, due to school work and other interests.

MMORPG.com:

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

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

I work as Technical Art Director, which means I’m involved with overseeing art assets, making illustrated guidelines for other artists and planning implementation and performance issues with programmers. I do some 3d modeling, rendering and Photoshop work as well, mainly for our marketing department. I already knew people at Funcom before I started here, and I did some freelance work (creating monsters) while Anarchy Online was in production. I applied for a fulltime position here in 2003, and I think I got the job based on my showcase and experience.

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

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

Well, I go quite directly to get some tea or coffee, and then start up my system. We have a quick team meeting at10 in the morning where the Project Manager mentions any current issues or events for the day. The rest of the day would be very different depending on which state in the project I’d look back at. In this last state of the project, we are doing a lot of visual polishing and optimizing to get the game running smoother. I provide the marketing team with rendered images of game art; usually of characters and monsters (for newsletters and magazines). I also find it important to listen to music while working; ranging from atmospheric soundtracks to symphonic black metal.

MMORPG.com:

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

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

I hope the industry continues to push for better tech and create awesome visuals, without losing the grip around interesting game play. I also hope that companies and publishers have the guts to aim for original IPs and games with a special setting, and not only games that have the highest probability of selling, from an investor’s perspective, because it’s alike a previous hit. Also, not every game needs to be made with insane budgets and years of development time – it must be possible to take a step back and make medium sized games, but with an atmospheric experience. It would also be good if developers take some responsibility when they come up with extreme ideas for what can be called entertainment. Even though games (or movies) can’t directly be blamed for anything, all media we are exposed for influence us to some extend - perhaps more so, when it is interactive and with hyper realistic visuals and sound effects.

MMORPG.com:

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

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

Age of Conan has been one of those large scale projects that have lasted over 4 years. Since we are working on our own MMO- and render technology (as opposed to a licensed engine), there have been plenty of aspects to nail down. The demand from the industry has also been higher during that time, and several aspects of the game have been changed, improved or gone through iterations. I think it’s definitely getting to a high standard. The characters, weapons, monsters, scenery, sounds and game play have become very convincing, shaping the intriguing world around Conan. Working with MMO systems can sometimes be a struggle, due to its large scale and broad diversity, but the different aspects of the Conan license has always been very inspiring to work with.

MMORPG.com:

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

Sigbjørn “Siggy” Galåen:

I got my first job offer just after I finished the first part of my studies, as a 19-year-old. I had already been involved with hobby game projects on the Amiga, and had made plenty of 2d graphics, animations and music, as well as illustrations. My first job was being a 3d artist on a game called “Tarantula”. It was one of the first realtime 3d games with pre-lit textures, and it actually looked very interesting and atmospheric. Unfortunately, the company got into funding difficulties before the game was finished. I also worked as 3d and concept artist on: Blood Bowl 3d (Psygnosis, unreleased), Messiah (Shiny Entertainment, 2000), Anarchy Online (Funcom, 2001), The Thing (Computer Artworks, 2002) and Dreamfall (Funcom, 2006).

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