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Dev Profile: Heidi Schmidt

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The keeper of the lore for Age of Conan talks about her job and unique start in the industry

As often as we can, we like to open a door and let our readers look into the eyes of those people who are lucky enough to call making MMORPGs a job. This week, we talk to Funcon Content Designer Heidi Schmidt, an American working in Norway on Age of Conan. Primarily, Heidi is responsible for the lore.

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?
Heidi Schmidt:

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My parents would take me on backpacking trips into the mountains of San Gabriel and Sierra Nevada. I think my real education and appreciation for the world came from being up in the mountains, exploring the wilderness, and not from the public schools. I remember when I first jumped into an MMO and my immediate reaction to the sheer joy of being able to explore the world around me--it was this experience from my childhood that naturally attracted me to MMOs.

MMORPG.com: Can you remember your first video game? How often did you play, what other games had an influence on you?
Heidi Schmidt:

As a teenager, I played a lot of arcade games from the late 70s and early 80s, and Tempest was by far my favorite. One of the first computer games that was really influential for me was Myst.

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.
Heidi Schmidt:

I was an Intelligence Analyst, in the U.S. Army, so I spent a lot of time working with maps and analyzing enemy strategy. So again, influences from my early childhood--backpacking, reading topographical maps, and exploration--attracted me to this work in the military, which in turn attracted me to a number of aspects presented in video games: exploration, strategy, map making, meeting interesting creatures... and killing them.

MMORPG.com: What was your first job in games? What other games have you worked on?
Heidi Schmidt:

This job, actually!

MMORPG.com: What is your job at Funcom? How did you get your foot in the door?
Heidi Schmidt:

I am a content designer, specifically a quest designer, and the Lore Wench, for the Age of Conan MMO. I spent a lot of time on the TestLive test server for Anarchy Online, helping the developers by testing new content. I also delved into creating a huge in-game map for the community, which I really enjoyed working on (it was the perfect excuse to explore every meter of Rubi-Ka). When Funcom was looking to hire new people, I knew I had to apply. I had been so impressed with the artistic and creative talent behind Anarchy Online, and I wanted to be part of that amazing team. I applied as a designer, was interviewed, and hired, all in the matter of a few weeks. I moved to Norway from the U.S. just a few weeks after that!

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?
Heidi Schmidt:

Fortunately we have some flexible work hours at Funcom, and being able to start my work day at 10AM is really great, because I'm definitely a night person! There is a short briefing every morning with daily announcements. After that... well, every day is different, there is no routine, but I focus on tasks assigned to me, play lore police, attend meetings, and exorcise the coffee machine of strange bacterial growths.

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?
Heidi Schmidt:

My parents have always been extremely supportive of me. They believe people should be encouraged to express themselves creatively, and if a person has a passion within the arts, they feel they should follow that. My parents are musicians, so they know how that is. They know I have tremendous passion for this, and they have been my best supporters. I'm really the only one in my family who play games. Well, actually, if we take board games into consideration then that's a whole other matter--my father is really vicious at Monopoly and my mom totally pwns at Scrabble.

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

Right now I think this genre is sort of stuck in a trap of its own making. It's brain-locked on a certain formula and I think a lot of companies, because of how much it costs to make games, are very afraid of taking risks, afraid to take creative chances. I truly hope this will change--but it might not happen until the number of games in this genre using the same formula reaches a critical mass, first. Perhaps then, this genre can grow and become much more than it's been allowed to be thus far.

MMORPG.com: How have things been progressing with Age of Conan? Have you enjoyed working on such a strong IP as Conan?
Heidi Schmidt:

I remember my first impressions of Anarchy Online--I was blown away by how creative, clever and interesting the game was. Naturally, I was in awe of the people who created the game. Funcom's reputation for creating exciting, beautiful games has drawn in amazing talent from all over the world, and it is truly awesome to work with such a great team of very passionate and talented people. Delving into the rich and vast lore of Hyboria has been exciting. There's so much wonderful material from which to draw--from wild adventures and fierce battles to bawdy tavern tales and luscious wenches. Age of Conan isn't your typical fantasy MMO. It's dark and gritty. Harsh and brutal. Sensuous and alluring. It's sword and sorcery! All that which made the rich world of Hyboria come to life in Robert E. Howard's works now thrives with breathtaking intensity in Age of Conan!

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

Follow your passions, and always have a creative outlet to express yourself!