Interview of Daniel Miller

Q : Could you tell us a bit about yourself ?

Hi, My name's Daniel Miller. I'm 32 years old, British and happily shacked up with a pretty French girlfriend (some things about Parisian life just can't be beaten :o). I've been in the games industry for the past 10 years, working as a programmer, project manager and producer. A Londoner at heart I've been living and working in France for the last 4 years.

Q : How long have you been working for Nevrax and on the Ryzom project ?

I joined Nevrax and the Ryzom project just over two years ago. I was attracted to the project by the strength of the team, the depth and quality of the universe and the challenge of building a first class MMO RPG. Two years and a great deal of hard work later I have to admire the solidarity and sheer will to succeed that drives the team forwards.

Q : What is your job exactly ?

My job on the project is multi-faceted. My primary responsabilities include management and direction of the programming teams, and coordination of the complete set of production teams on a day to day basis. The programming teams develop a set of open source libraries for massively multi-user universes called NeL, including networking, AI, 3d and audio libraries, and also develop the tools and code for the Ryzom. For coordination of production I work with a couple of first rate whip-wielders who help me to thrash the coders, artists, level designers, game designers, sound engineers and testers into shape (agh, I'm kidding - they're not THAT tough on the team ;).

Q : Could you describe what your typical day looks like ?

My day begins early, before the teams arrive. David, the whip-wielders and my self run through the day's hot topics and work up our respective action plans. From then on I'm on the move prety much non-stop. My work consists of holding meetings, reviewing work, coordinating planning and dealing with whatever questions and problems crop up. I work closely with the game designers to focus the development work on the product's key strengths, often digging deeply into algorithm design with the coders to find technical solutions to the unique challenges of MMO RPGs.

Q : What can we expect from the Artificial Intelligence in Ryzom ?

Aha. The AI in Ryzom serves two major goals. It serves primarily to deliver the core of the gameplay experience to the product, providing dynamic and responsive challenges for players of all orientations, and secondarily to bring the universe of Ryzom to life. The range of AI content begins with the Flora and Fauna eco-system, ranges through intelligent plants, pack animals and pets and the mystical Kamis to large, powerful coordinated tribes who can over-run the landscape and play at diplomacy, to meet their ends, making and breaking strategic alliances with the player guilds. The company has delved deeply into the field of AI, investing a large amount of energy in pure research work in order to explore the possibilities offered by the latest research. For the results I'll let you be the judge...

Q : What are you working on right now ?

I rarely have less than a dozen different topics on the hob as I am concerned with the work of every team in the company. Right now the core of my work revolves around the coordination of the Beta versions. On the technical front we're working on load testing, bug fixes, optimisation and game rule tuning in function of the game design team's feedback. On the back burner we're developing the next iteration of the user interfaces, the guild systems, the advanced player actions (spells, special attacks and so on) and, of course, the AI.

Q : What kind of problems do you usually come across ?

The biggest real problem is restraining the enthusiasm. There is so much that everyone would like to bring to the project and only so much time to finish it in. The 'wish list' runs quite literaly to volumes of ideas... I can seriously promise that the game's updates for the years to come won't be dull !

Q : What is your best memory about the developement of Ryzom ?

The answer, without a doubt, is the first meeting with the guys from Goa. Getting one of these games out of the door is extremely extremely tough, requiring a huge amount of hard work and dedication. At the end of the day it's all about teamwork and that day I found myself talking to a group of realy solid guys, with hard experience of running an MMO, who shared our vision, shared our goals, shared our motivation to succeed and worked just up the road. From where I sit I see great new gameplay features and visuals emmerging every day, but the day I met the GOA team I knew we'd found the missing piece of the puzzle.

Q : And the worst one ?

Hm, I think the worst moment must have been not long before a key milestone, the team slaving away on an unfeasibly hot summer's day when the fuse box went 'bang !' and the power cut out. We tried turning it back on and got a yellow flame (not realy good news in a fuse box). After a while we had half the office back up and working with the team packed in like sardines. To make matters worse, the powercut had fried one of the server hard disks, paralising development. In the end we made it to our deadline, but that realy wasn't a good day.

Q : Anything you would like to add ?

Since moving to France and shacking up with a lass from Bordeaux I've discovered the pleasures of French food and French wine... Ahh this is the life :o).