Anarchy Online Developer Journal #4: Every NPC is Special

by Nina "Aythem" Sund, Content Designer/Writer for Anarchy Online Hi again!
by Nina "Aythem" Sund, Content Designer/Writer for Anarchy Online

Hi again!

It’s been about a month since my last journal, which is longer time between updates than I want, so I am going to make an effort to write more often!

The first preview video of Anarchy Online’s updated graphics engine has been out for a couple of weeks and the reception of the early images has been nothing short of fantastic. People have used grand words when commenting the video and we are very happy with how the work is going. It really does look stunning, and it’s extra nice to see how well the community has received it, even making fan videos already, like this one.  It’s a boost to know that what we’re doing it eagerly awaited by both old and new players!

For those who haven’t seen the preview render video yet, you can find it available for download here or check it out at Ten Ton Hammer

Now, as per usual, I’ll answer some questions posted by the readers of the Ten Ton Hammer forum. I really appreciate the comments and interest, so please keep posting, and I’ll do my best to reply to them all in the course of this journal.

How do you name your NPCs/items/monsters/rewards?

Every NPC has a handcrafted name that's special in some way.

I like this question! First off, I want to say that I don’t use name generators and would never think of using them. Each NPC ends up being special to me and that means they must have names that are also special.

I usually name them after real people or use variations of real people’s names. For example, we often name NPCs after co-workers. Take "Corporal Morrison" after our Game Director, Craig Morrison, or "Dr. Aleksander Koumas" after one of the guys in QA. Just a few months ago I named an NPC "Heath Bridges" after the actor Heath Ledger, who sadly passed away recently.

Other times, the process is more random but no less thought through. There is an NPC called "Andre Bottle", whose first name is the same as one of our coders and last name came from staring intently at an empty water bottle while trying to find a fitting surname... And then there are the odd cases of humour ("Scott Free") or pop culture references ("Priest Atalas" or "Marvin").

Monsters have, for the most part, a naming convention based on what type they are. For example, we have a monster type called heckler in AO, which is basically a large golem-like rock monster. The variations of their specific type names are stuff like "Heckler of Stones/Metal/Earth/Harmony/Dreams/Life/Hope" and such. I think most would agree that a name like “Seasoned Robust Heckler of Flower Poison” would be a little outside the naming convention.

Items are usually named by their purpose or another descriptive name, and hopefully unique, name.

Where do you find inspiration for some of the content you create?

Books, movies and computer games are big sources of inspiration for me. I read a lot and I would like to think that my ability to picture a written story like a movie before my inner eye is well developed. I mostly read English books, which helps me both in developing my vocabulary and the way the language is used in storytelling.

Movies give me inspiration for plotlines as well as interesting characters, settings and situations, and playing computer games enables me to see different ways obstacles in games can be overcome.

I also find a lot of enthusiasm within the Anarchy Online community. Whether it be suggestions, fan fiction/videos/art, comments or questions, I find that seeing the deep love players have for the game is a huge motivation and inspiration, as I’m sure it is for anyone working in the game industry.

What profession and breed are your favorites in Anarchy Online?

Nina's has some love for the Nano-Techs and the Nanomages.

From a game mechanical standpoint I, as a designer, don’t have a specific in-game profession that I prefer over any other. I haven’t played all 14 professions equally, but I have played all of them. Sure, there are those professions that suit my style more and that I find myself more at home with, but I think that’s the case for most people.

From a story point of view, there are a few professions that I like more than others, strictly from a sci-fi and story point of view. The Nano-Technician is a profession ripe with content from AO’s story, an interesting mix of the classic mage and the futuristic technophile. The way they use their nanobots and their cyberdeck to script the most destructive actions is very interesting as part of a setting like AO’s. Another interesting one is the Fixer. Hacker, smuggler and programmer all bundled up in one. Their ability to code themselves into the huge network system on the planet is so awesome. It’s almost like the Matrix!

As for what breed is my favorite... Again, speaking only from a story point of view, I have a special place in my heart for the nanomages. The way they are described to perform any nanobot operation very well at the cost of being physically fragile, and how they are so dependent on the notum saturation on Rubi-Ka that they cannot live anywhere else in the Universe makes them unique in many ways. That, and their physical disfigurement caused by notum being infused into their cells makes my heart beat a little faster for them.

That’s all I have for you this time. Keep asking those questions and I’ll keep answering them! See you soon!

If you have a question or a comment for Nina, make sure you post it in our ongoing developer diary forum thread!

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