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Age of Conan: Exclusive Post Launch Interview with Erling Ellingsen

Posted Wed, May 28, 2008 by Cody Bye

Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
Answers by Erling Ellingsen, Product Manager for Age of Conan

For the past few weeks, gamers of all kinds have been diving into Age of Conan. Reviews and opinions of the game have been tossed around the internet, and the players have been eager to voice their own thoughts on the brand new title. But on launch day, what was the attitude like in the Funcom studios? Was everyone nervous? Or elated? To answer these questions, we contacted Erling Ellingsen, a product manager for Age of Conan, and asked him a number of questions about his post launch experience. If you’re looking for some entertainment….read on!


Erling Ellingsen, Product Manager for Age of Conan

Ten Ton Hammer: It’s been five years since the Funcom team started working on Age of Conan. How does it feel to finally be seeing players out in the world?

Erling Ellingsen: It’s definitely a mix of many different feelings. I do feel happy about it and relieved that everything is finally done and out the door, and I’m overjoyed about the fact that so many people will finally be able to tread the jeweled thrones of Hyboria under their sandaled feet. At the same time it’s a bit sad as it feels like the end of an era – over four long years of making this game, and now everything changes. But that’s life, things change!

Ten Ton Hammer: I know that the last few months have been pretty exhausting for you, but the public may not know just how hard they were. Can you give us a brief example of the things you did over the past few months to market the game?

Erling: Working in the gaming industry, pretty much no matter what sort of position you’re in, is pretty exhausting. The hours tend to be long and things change very quickly. Of course, it’s also tremendously fun and exciting! Personally I have spent the past few months traveling all over the world to meet the press and talk about the game. My job here in marketing is mainly working on public relations. So I have gone to different events, visited press, done countless interviews and such in an effort to raise awareness of the game that the brilliant developers are working on. I’ve also worked a lot, the past few months, on the “Hyborian Insider” video series showcasing the game and that involves working closely on the game itself capturing footage, generating screenshot assets and more.

Another thing I do here at Funcom quite extensively is working on the events, coordinating and executing them with the rest of marketing, events such as GDC in San Francisco and Games Convention in Leipzig. I’m also quite blessed to be working with the wonderful people on the team, creating plans together with Jørgen Tharaldsen and Gaute Godager on what features to show, when to show them and other important PR related issues. A bit of a side project, I also had the pleasure of writing the manual for Age of Conan, which was a lot of work but also a lot of fun, and it involved working very closely with the developers on the team – something I enjoy. Traveling the world and showcasing the games to journalists you pick up a lot of feedback and a lot of knowledge, stuff that I take back to the developers so we can shape and mold the game into something better together. In the end, everything we do is one giant team effort!

Ten Ton Hammer: What was the most thrilling moment you had over the past few years? Conversely, what was the hardest thing you had to go through?

Erling: Working in the gaming industry is a true blessing, and there has been so many of those thrilling moments during the years I have spent here at Funcom. Witnessing drastic improvements in the game is of course very high on the list of “best moments”, such as the first time we were able to do mounted combat or the first time we could actually walk around in the city of Tarantia without the computer screaming in pain. I love traveling the world, and I really enjoy visiting the press and coordinating and attending all these important conventions and press events. This job is really full of highlights!  

Ten Ton Hammer: Now that AoC has finally launched, do you have any plans? Take a long vacation somewhere?

Erling: No rest for the weary, my friend! We will be working very hard for the next couple of months making sure we iron out any remaining issues and improving on what the players want us to improve on. We’ve already started, for instance by doing major changes to the interface now that the players have requested. I do hope, though, that some time this summer I will be able to get a few weeks of vacation. Then I will be getting in my car and drive all around Norway and perhaps a bit of the rest of Europe, enjoying the clear mountain air and camping next to tranquil lakes! Ahh… oh, how I miss nature! I’m also thinking about taking another trip to Egypt again, I love that country!

Many fans had been waiting for years to see the release of Age of Conan.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will we be seeing you stay on the AoC team over the next few years? Or are you moving to Funcom’s next project?

Erling: As a Product Manager I work on all of Funcom’s projects, so you will definitely see me involved in future Age of Conan projects and other games such as The Secret World. I am really looking forward to Age of Conan expansions, and we have some great things coming up. Watching Age of Conan grow and evolve should prove very satisfying! The team at Funcom is truly amazing, and it’s quite an adventure working with all these talented people. It’s a lot of fun being just one piece of this giant puzzle!

Ten Ton Hammer: Many players have really enjoyed the enthusiasm you have for Age of Conan. How did you get hired on in your position, and how can players wind up doing something similar to what you do?

Erling: I think I’m an enthusiastic person by nature, and when I commit to something I really go all the way with it – such as with Age of Conan. I’m very glad to hear that this shows! Of course, with a fantastic game such as Age of Conan and with such a tremendously talented team working on it, it’s hard not to be very enthusiastic! Before I came to Funcom I actually worked as a journalist in a newspaper, and I worked there as a consumer and news journalist, and I wrote about games “on the side”.

One day Funcom asked me if I wanted to come and work for them, and having been interested in games all my life I jumped on it even though it meant leaving behind a very comfortable and quite exciting job. My passion for games runs pretty far back, but things started getting “serious” when I gathered a team of other enthusiastic individuals and made the game called “Era Online” (you can look it up on Wikipedia, actually!). The gaming industry is an industry driven by passion and talent, and if you can combine the two, I’m sure you will reach your goals eventually. It’s a cliché, but I’ll say it: follow your dreams!

Ten Ton Hammer: In your own words, what was the Funcom studio like the night the game launched? Did anyone sleep?

Erling: The atmosphere was unbelievable! We launched the early access servers on Saturday evening May 17th (coincidentally Norway’s constitution day, double celebration!) and the office was packed with people milling about doing their thing. Eventually we were all watching this gigantic screen showing the number of players logged in, and as the servers opened we saw the number sky rocket. It was amazing, and I can assure you that there were lots of champagne! We are very happy about the fact that everything went relatively smooth and that the launch was a big success. But… what’s this sleep you speak of?

Ten Ton Hammer: The number of Collector’s Edition boxes that the company has sold is astounding. How did you manage to pull that off? Why do you think so many people were interested in that boxed set?

Erling: It’s a combination of great marketing and an even greater game! And that combination is definitely explosive. The hype has, of course, sky rocketed over the past few months and Age of Conan has received an incredible amount of attention. It also helps that we’re using the Conan license, as everyone and their grandmother has some sort of idea of who Conan is – whether it’s the original books, the comics or the movies!   

Erling is looking forward to bringing the AoC expansions to awaiting fans.

Ten Ton Hammer: Could you tell us the funniest story you have concerning the Age of Conan development and/or launch? Hopefully it doesn’t include me…..

Erling: Oh, yeah. We had this guy Cody over to Oslo and… oh, not about you? Okay. For it probably involves one of my many travels or one of the events I’ve worked on. We had such a brilliant time with the launch event in Oslo. We basically flew in one hundred journalists from all over the world and we built a gigantic Viking camp in the mountains of Norway, hired dozens upon dozens of actors, hired a huge European live band and really went all the way with launching the game into the history books. We even had a dramatic play on stage to which I wrote the dialogue for about 4 AM in the morning the day before the event started. When I saw the actor on stage speak the lines I had written in my sleep deprived state just a few hours earlier, and I heard how amazingly cheesy it all was, I couldn’t help but laugh and think about what an odd sort of job this really is!

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you’d like to tell Ten Ton Hammer readers and Age of Conan fans?

Erling: It’s been such a long road leading up to the launch, and I’m thrilled to see so many people now giving their attention to the game – I and everyone at Funcom truly, truly appreciate this. We’re lost for words when we see the amount of attention we’re getting and we only hope that we can live up to your expectations. To everyone who has been following the game through all these years: this game is for you. I hope you stick with us even further as we continue to shape Age of Conan into an amazing gaming experience!
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