Online Gaming Has A Bright Future At Funcom: An Interview With Creative Director Joel Bylos

Readers of The Inquisitr are quite familiar with the excellent selection of online games offered by Norway’s Funcom. The company is the home of some of the world’s most innovative MMORPGS.

Recently Joel Bylos was promoted from his job as team leader for The Secret World to the important position of Creative Director for Anarchy Online, The Secret World, and the Age Of Conan.

Here is a brief excerpt from Joel’s letter to the Funcom community after the news of his promotion became public:

“Hi all,”

“As you may have heard, I recently agreed to take on the mantle of Creative Director for Funcom’s live titles: The Secret World, Age of Conan and Anarchy Online. It’s a huge honor to step into this role on multiple projects and have the ability to drive forward the creative direction of three of the most unique titles in the MMORPG space.”

Now Joel and his talented team are responsible for the online experience of well over a million gamers and we thought this would be a great time to sit down with him for an in-depth interview. He kindly consented and we are pleased to present our conversation with Funcom’s Joel Bylos.

Wolff Bachner: Joel, congratulations on your promotion at Funcom. How much has your new role added to your already busy schedule and how do you manage to keep up with the incredible work load?

Joel Bylos: Thanks, it’s exciting and daunting at the same time! The new role changes my workload in the day to day quite a bit right now, with me needing to get my mind around the different challenges and nuances of each game.

Once I have a solid plan in place for each of the games, I will be able to distribute my workload so that each game gets the attention it needs from the live team. As for how I manage to keep up – focus, coffee and knowing when to delegate!

Wolff Bachner: You had the pleasure of working with Ragnar Tornquist on The Secret World. What did working with Ragnar teach you and how important was his influence on TSW?

Joel Bylos: I don’t think Ragnar’s influence can be understated on The Secret World.

The entire concept was his and he championed it from the beginning until the launch. There isn’t really any part of the game that he didn’t influence in some way – the factions, the storyline, the atmosphere – these all spring from the vision that he had for the game.

Of course, game design is a collaborative process and the entire team forged and tempered The Secret World into what it is today – but Ragnar was vision holder for it all.

Wolff Bachner: Who are the members of the team you will be working with in your new position and what are their responsibilities?

Joel Bylos: There are probably a few too many people for me to go through the entire list here, but I can talk about a few specific people.

Firstly, Scott Junior, the Executive Producer. He has been the Producer on The Secret World for the last few years and his main responsibilities are keeping us on track and making sure we can deliver. Scott is the responsible one who stops the chaos before it seeps out the door!

Romain Amiel, Lead Designer. Romain was the Lead Gameplay Designer on The Secret World and the Ride of the Godslayer expansion for Age of Conan. He has been my partner in crime and design for the last 5 years or so – together we have done everything from Ymir’s Pass in Age of Conan to Kingsmouth in The Secret World. Romain’s most recent work includes the final levels in both the Issue #5 and Issue #6 content.

Andrew Ryker, Lead Systems Designer. Andrew was a Senior Systems Designer on Age of Conan and then when he moved over to The Secret World, he took on the role of Lead Systesm Designer. Andrew controls the numbers and designs the ways in which players can destroy each other in the games – he’s recently been in charge of making the Auxiliary weapons such as the Whip.

The team is full of similarly experienced people and thus the games are in good hands.

Wolff Bachner: As you know, The Inquisitr has followed the progress of The Secret World since the very beginning and we think the game has unlimited potential. Will your new responsibilities affect your ability to focus on the development of TSW?

Joel Bylos: Actually the plan for The Secret World, which I made before the restructuring, is largely intact. A few dates and deliveries have shifted around, but in generally we plan to deliver for The Secret World exactly what we were planning to deliver. That means regular issues and the large Tokyo zone coming as a part of one of those issues.

Wolff Bachner: What does the future have in store for The Secret World? What are your immediate plans and your long term goals for the game?

Joel Bylos: I made a fairly comprehensive outline of updates coming for The Secret World in 2013 during my last Game Director’s letter which can be found here.

In general terms, we want to keep adding more of what players love to the game and keep telling the story and taking it in the right direction. Tokyo is definitely going to be an exciting update. It’s the perfect environment for The Secret World; modern and with plenty of Japanese style horror.

Wolff Bachner:Anarchy Online has been around since 2001. Does Funcom have plans to update the game’s engine and bring the technology up to 2013 standards? What can we expect from Anarchy Online in the months to come?

Joel Bylos: Currently we are hard at work on the engine upgrade for Anarchy Online. This will bring in the advanced lighting, shadows, grass and other bells and whistles from the DreamWorld engine. The models in the game are the original Anarchy models, but over time we will be adding more and more upgraded models to the game.

In addition to the engine upgrade we are working on the updated new player experience. This will, bundled with the new engine, give prospective players a gentler entrance to the world of Anarchy Online and help them to get into this decade old game with a minimum of fuss.

Wolff Bachner: The Age Of Conan suffered difficulties at launch that limited its initial success. There are millions of gamers out there who may not realize they are missing out on one of the most exciting and immense MMOS ever created. What can you do to convince more players to try this great game?

Joel Bylos: One of the first things we are doing is improving the membership model of the game – increasing the reason for new players to enter the game and stay in the game. In addition we are bringing over several of our quality of life features from The Secret World, things like auto-loot and better key mapping.

Age of Conan is definitely a great game, and it’s an MMO that initially sold very well (it’s sold over 1.5 million copies) but had its share of problems following launch. Since then it’s grown and become more and more robust, and following the successful move to F2P it opened up to a lot of new players.

Wolff Bachner: What changes and improvements do you have planned for the loyal fans who are already playing Age Of Conan?

Joel Bylos: For the veterans who have been with us for a long time we will continue to expand the game, adding both PvE and PvP content to expand the world of everybody’s favorite barbarian.

We’re also paying close attention to the new movie project which sees Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising some role as the barbarian – we’d love to see if there are events in the movie which will tie well to content in the game.

Wolff Bachner: What new games can we look forward from Funcom and what lies ahead for Joel Bylos?

Joel Bylos: Currently Funcom is working on the LEGO Minifigures MMO internally and progress on that game is looking really solid. I’ve spent some time in the current build and I am pretty impressed with how far they have come in such a short time.

Funcom is going through some exciting changes right now. Besides the establishment of the centralized live team working on the three major live MMOs, we also recently announced that we’ve established a mobile and tablet development team in Montreal. They’re already working on two LEGO projects.

As for me, I am firmly focused on securing the future of the three game under my charge. Three worlds, three settings…infinite possibilities!