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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 - Helene Johnsen

Each month, MMORPG.com brings you a profile of one of the developers working on Funcom's Age of Conan. This month, it's Content Designer Helene Johnsen who answers our questions.

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?

Helene Johnsen:

I grew up in the countryside in the southern part of Norway. The time after school where mostly spent outside playing in the fields and forests with my neighbors. I guess this played a great part in developing my sense of adventure.

 

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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?

Helene Johnsen:

My older brother acquired an Amiga or c64 with some games on cassettes and I was absolutely astonished by it. I remember playing Ghost and Goblins, and Castlevania, which must have been my favorite. I would get totally absorbed into the games and played a lot after school. One of my favorite games today is Half Life 2. It shows that you can make a game quite linear without feeling locked on a path.

 
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.

Helene Johnsen:

I’m a great fan of anything that triggers the imagination. I write stories next to working at Funcom and hope to publish something one day too. The artwork of Luis Royo is absolutely fantastic. I also like the dark atmosphere in Stephen King’s books. Creating websites and interactive content in Adobe Director helped me choose the path of game design. Also Live Action Role-playing (LARP) is something I can recommend for everyone. You are bound to meet a lot of creative people, have fun and explore what it is like to truly be inside the story.

 
MMORPG.com:

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

Helene Johnsen:

The Age of Conan project is my very first and I have worked on it for about 3 years now.

 
MMORPG.com:

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

Helene Johnsen:

My position is a Content Designer and I work with quests. My main responsibilities have been the design and implementation of the level 1 – 20 experience on Tortage and the Destiny quest line. I applied as a graphic artist, but was offered to work with content design and eventually ended up with quests, which I am very happy about.

 
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?

Helene Johnsen:

My mind works best in the morning, so I’m usually at the office quite early. As a quest designer I get to work with a lot of the people on the project. When the quests have been designed I start the implementation process, which requires constant testing. Every requested asset I get for my quest needs testing and tweaking to best fit the story, so a lot of time goes into talking to the different teams responsible for the assets.

 
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?

Helene Johnsen:

Yes, my family has been great. I played a lot of games with my brothers when I was young. To get into the game industry I contacted a friend of mine who worked at Funcom as a programmer at the time. Some of my friends are MMO fans, others are not into computer gaming, but we play board games together.

 
MMORPG.com:

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

Helene Johnsen:

Stories are important to give games depth and meaning, but I think empowering the players further when it comes to player created content is also important. Games with cool, strong female protagonists are also something I hope we will see more of. And of course Virtual systems like in the movie Avalon would be nice.

 
MMORPG.com:

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

Helene Johnsen:

Working here has taught me a lot. I joined the project early in the production process and have seen how the game has changed and taken form over the last 3 years. I will miss Tortage and all the characters there, but hopefully the players will take good care of them, feed them fish, find missing heirlooms, fight the suppressing force of Strom and the Red Hand and in general have a splendid time.

 
MMORPG.com:

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

Helene Johnsen:

If you read this and want to work in games, play a lot of games. If you want to work with quests, you should practice writing. Remember that stories in movies are far away from stories in games, as you have no control over the player. Figure out what triggers your creativity and never be afraid to reach for your dream.

 

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