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Anarchy Online Interviews: Craig Morrison, Community Manager

By  on November 21, 2006

The community manager updates us on how Funcom's rookie project is fairing

Craig Morrison is the Community Manager for Funcom's Anarchy Online. The original sci-fi MMORPG, AO has been going for quite some time and it had been too long since we'd heard some word. Today, we get our update.

MMORPG.com: Can you talk about the upcoming changes to Anarchy Online with the 16.4 material?
Craig Morrison:

The 16.4 update brings with it optimized resource loading and an improved animation system. Basically this means that the game client's performance should improve for the vast majority of players. We are changing the way that the Anarchy engine loads the graphical resources and animations to get rid of the old 'stutter' that would greet players in built up areas

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MMORPG.com: The game has been around for many years now, how has it been doing in the last year?
Craig Morrison:

Very well, better then ever in fact. The free offer means that Anarchy has a constant stream of new players into the game, and they integrate very well with our existing community as well.

MMORPG.com: AO made news by having one of the first in-game advertisements, are there any plans to have more ads in the game?
Craig Morrison:

The advertising system is always evolving; we have already introduced video and interactive advertising to Anarchy Online since we began our partnership with massive Inc last year. The optional nature of the system for paying subscribers and the flow of free players into the game means that the advertising works towards maintaining the game in a way that just wouldn't be possible otherwise.

We are always careful with the advertising implementations, and are always working to ensure that they appear as an integrated part of the game world and aren't intrusive to players.

MMORPG.com: What is the new character transfer system you are working on? How can players take advantage of it?
Craig Morrison:

The system is currently in testing so players can currently copy their characters to our test dimensions. We are still investigating how we might use the feature on our live servers but are examining it with a view to some form of paid character transfer.

MMORPG.com: With Age of Conan on Funcom's plate, what does the future hold for Anarchy Online as a game and a continuing community?
Craig Morrison:

Hopefully with many more fine years ahead! Internally the teams are separate and self-contained so the development of Conan doesn't really affect AO and vice versa.

We plan to have AO running for many years yet, and still have a dedicated and very talented team constantly working on AO, new content updates and expansions.

MMORPG.com: There has been talk in the past about game hacking and macros. How has AO dealt with these issues that can impact the players so drastically?
Craig Morrison:

Those are two very different issues with two very different solutions and set of challenges.

Macro's have never been that much of a problem for us in Anarchy Online due to the way the game is designed. It isn't all that easy for potential 'macroers' to automate combat in our game so we tend to not see too much of that kind of thing in AO. We do keep a constant watch on player activity though so that we can see any 'trends' that might suggest cheating or exploiting. We will always take firm action against anyone trying to get away with such activities!

'Hacking' isn't really the right word to use for what players generally mean when they say that - a player losing control of his or her account. There are actually very few cases where we have found any evidence of a virus or otherwise malicious program stealing passwords. 99% of all 'Hacking' incidents are actually the player not being secure with their password, sharing it with others, or getting conned into sharing it.

That's not meant as an excuse and we go to great lengths to constantly remind players to be careful with their account security. However it is an unfortunate reality of the gaming environment that players do share their passwords. Unfortunately those they share them with can't always be trusted, or end up betraying the trust shown in them.

MMORPG.com: Will there be new quests and scenarios in this game upgrade that players can take advantage of?
Craig Morrison:

Yes, but not straight away! The 16.4 Update will be slightly different to the usual content updates. With 16.4 we have undertaken a major revamping of how the game renders textures, graphics and animations.

Whilst these update notes are short, there is a lot involved in these changes and it affects pretty much everything that happens in game., we wanted to separate these changes from the additional content we had scheduled for this update so that we can ensure that we can test these changes in isolation.

Once 16.4 is released to the live dimensions and stable we will then release the planned content additions for 16.4. This update sees Scheol getting the same kind of quest upgrades that have been seen in Nascence, Elysium and Inferno

MMORPG.com: After years of having the game up and running give us your overall philosophy on how you keep players logged into the game?
Craig Morrison:

I think it's really two very distinct things coming together. When you break it down what we really do as developers is to provide the environment that our players enjoy spending some time in, the true 'glue' though that holds virtual worlds together in the long term is the community itself.

Yes, we provide new content and new things to see and do, but it is the interaction with the players around them that really defines your experience in any MMO, and in AO I think we have a very special and dedicated community that makes peoples experiences on Rubi-Ka enjoyable.

Provided you can always provide new content to keep players challenged (having a goal is always important for most players) then the rest is down to the friends and community around them, as all the achievements available don't mean as much if there isn't someone to share them with (or at least brag about to!).

MMORPG.com: What's next for Anarchy Online? Any plans in the future that you want readers to know about?
Craig Morrison:

With the Lost Eden expansion almost ready for release we are very busy at the moment working on that. Plans are of course already being hatched for the next expansion beyond that as well, and as we mentioned earlier we hope to see many successful years ahead for AO with lots of new content.

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