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Atronos - Developer Interview

Posted September 5, 2015 by Etaew and viewed 1,196 times.

Continuing our series of developer interviews, where we help you get to know the people who make Trove, we speak with Atronos, a games designer.


Can you introduce yourself and say what your position is?

Hi, I’m Atronos, also known as Kumar. My official title is ‘Game Designer’, but I do a little bit of everything – design in all its forms, modelling in-game assets in voxels, dabbling in VFX here and there, and I am responsible for putting all of the great things our community creates into the game.

When did you start working for Trion Worlds, and what projects have you worked on previously?

I started working at Trion Worlds in June of 2010 as a QA tester on Rift. As Trion’s roster of games has increased I’ve had the opportunity to do QA on most of them to some degree.

Where does the name Atronos come from?

Like many people who have been playing MMOs for a long time, I have a roster of names I have come up with and grown fond of when trying to name a new character in a new game. Atronos is a relatively recent addition to that list. The word itself is a portmanteau of the word ‘thrones’ and the verb ‘to thunder’ in Spanish, which seemed appropriate for a character who used a lot of lightning-based skills.

What were you doing before working at Trion Worlds?

Prior to working at Trion I was a QA Tester at Gazillion Entertainment, and before that I was a QA Tester at Sony Computer Entertainment America.

What do you do for Trove as a Game Designer?

My responsibilities on the Trove team are many and varied. In terms of game design work, I do things ranging from writing lore and item descriptions, to implementation of systems like Gardening and Runecrafting, to itemization of loot tables, and designing the population of NPCs for each biome.

I’m also in charge of the pipeline we use to keep adding player-created equipment and decor to the game, and help out with adding player-created mount and class costume mods to the game.

On top of that, I do a lot of the modelling of art assets for the game, especially now that Grump has moved on to other things. Basically anything that gets made for the game internally, I’m in charge of, from NPCS and bosses, to skins, mounts, equipment, and items.

Finally, I also dabble in the creation of VFX when needed.

How has your role on the Trove team evolved?

When I first started helping out on the Trove Team, my work consisted mostly of creating equipment and NPCs for the game and taking care of the player creation pipeline.

As time has gone both of those roles have expanded and I’ve gradually been accumulating more responsibilities in terms of creating assets and learning how to implement various things for the game.

We’re still a pretty small team, so adapting to the needs of the game on the fly has always been a big part of my job.

Can you take us through a typical day or common task?

Typical Day

There isn’t really a ‘typical day’ for me, since my workload varies wildly depending at what point we are in the development of a particular milestone.

Some days I might spend all of my time going through our player creations, adding them to loot tables, writing descriptions and verifying that they work correctly on player models.

Others I might spend entirely modelling NPCs, or a new batch of mounts for something like badges, or all the goodies that go in a new piñata.

No matter the day, however, the one constant is lots of coffee!

Common Task

A common task of mine is adding player-created items to the game.

After an item is accepted by our moderators, I receive an email from the creator with their item file. Once I have a good number of these, the first thing I do is rename the files to match our internal file structure, making a note of the item and its creator on my master player creation spreadsheet.

Loot Tables and Quality Control

 

Once I’ve done that for all of the files I have in my inbox, it is time to add them to loot tables. It is during this step that I double check the item to make sure it follows our guidelines and it doesn’t do things like clip into the floor, or the character model, or other pieces of equipment.

 

Item Names and Descriptions

Once that is done, it is time to give the item a name and a description. If the item’s appearance lends itself to it, I will try to tie it into the lore of the game somehow, either by referencing where or how it fits into the game world, or tying it to an event or character from Trove’s past or present.

If tying the item directly into the lore isn’t working out for whatever reason, that’s when I break out the puns and the alliteration to give the item that trademark Trovian whimsy so it still feels like it still belongs in the game, even if it isn’t anchored to the lore somehow.

Category

Once names and descriptions are taken care of, it is time to move things to the right category so they drop in the correct biomes.

 

Credit

Finally, once all of the player creations in a particular batch have been added to the game I credit everyone’s account, enable the creator hat style if it is someone’s first accepted creation, and send out an email letting players know their creation has been added to the game and to look for them in the patch notes of a future patch.

There has been a delay on seeing new creations in Trove, why is this and how is the backlog affecting new submissions?

We did a pretty big push to get Trove ready for launch, and unfortunately that meant focusing on polishing and fixing existing content at the expense of adding accepted player creations to the game. It is one of the realities of game development, you have a limited amount of resources, and knowing where to apply those resources for maximum gain is always a hard choice, but one that we think we made correctly.

We are currently working through the backlog of player creations. As part of that, we also decided to be a little more demanding with regards to the quality – we’d rather players polish their creations to the point where they really shine rather than accept something that could be better.

Another decision we had to make was to reduce the number of player creations we accepted until we have caught up with the backlog. Once we’re caught back up again we will re-evaluate the pace at which we accept new player creations.

In an ideal world, how would you streamline the submission process?

In an ideal world, everyone would send me a single .blueprint file, instead of .qb files, or a full set of files including the type maps (the _a, _s, and _t files), properly named following the instructions in the reddit message our moderators send.

On our end, we have improved and streamlined the pipeline several times, but the volume of player creations has only increased over time, especially after launch. We’ve had a number of discussions on the subject internally and have identified a few possibilities.

At this point it is mainly a matter of finding the time to implement improvements, but we have to keep weighing the benefits against the amount of time they would take to implement.

We've seen you on creation livestreams, how do you feel about people watching your work process, is that difficult or offputting?

I actually really enjoy the Metaforge livestreams. It’s always interesting to hear everyone’s suggestions for things to make, and it is fun interacting with the community in a relaxed and creative environment. I think they are a great way to introduce players to the player creations community who might not have considered the possibility of making something for the game.

Would you consider doing lair or dungeon tutorials, perhaps even a series, during your creation livestreams?

It is definitely a possibility, but it comes with a number of challenges. The Metaforge livestreams are rather limited in their scope – we tend to do one for about an hour every month – and creating even a simple lair is quite a time-consuming process. It is definitely not outside the realm of possibility, but especially with our current workloads, it probably isn’t something we can do in the immediate future.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

My favourite thing to do is travelling – visiting new places, meeting people, and experiencing the culture.

Other than that, I like camping, drinks in good company, cooking, reading, playing video games, and just about anything creative – Pretty much everything I do at work is also something I do in my free time for fun to some extent.

Who's the biggest practical joker on the team?

Everyone on the team has a sense of humor and a bit of mischievous streak – our chat channels can get pretty rowdy, but that’s probably better than having ongoing prank wars raging back and forth across the office!

Still, if I had to nominate one person, it would probably have to be Keetsie, with Ellery probably being a close second.

What's on your desk?

Apart from a mountain of handwritten notes on Trovian lore and possible future features, I keep a collection of mementos, including a deck of cards that Tribe designed back in the early days of Trove, a collector’s edition of Pillars of Eternity, a plush Hellbug and a Hellbug statuette, and an RC helicopter that I use to terrorize my enemies

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