This is an interview with Emil (Wox) Norrman – Wurm’s Senior Art Director, former entrepreneur, animator of dragons and retired metal-head.
First off – what is your position and what do you do at Code Club?
I work as the Senior Art Director and I’m (along with Saroman*) responsible for the graphics in Wurm Online. We mostly work with updating and replacing old models, so there’s a lot of things to keep track of.
*Wurm Art Director based in Germany
Ok, so do you mainly choose what you work on yourselves, or does Rolf (the creator of Wurm) assign you with stuff?
It differs. Sometimes he tells us what he wants us to prioritize, otherwise we just go. Right now we’ve largely reworked all the animal-models in the game for example, meaning we can go on ahead making new ones. That’s the main difference between working here and other places i’ve worked at – we are much more free to do what we want. So it’s freedom with tons of responsibility.
“Graphics and programming kind of went hand in hand for me.”
How come you got into graphics and 3D-modeling?
I actually started with 2D-graphics… or actually – I started out as a ceramist. I was raised in a family who worked with ceramics, so when I was a little dude I did that, sculpting and painting.
It was when I bought my first computer a long, long time ago that I started doing some graphical work at home. Later when I realized you could make the images animate, move and do whatever you wanted, I got interested in programming. Graphics and programming kind of went hand in hand for me.
Now that I’ve told everyone on facebook you played drums in a death metal-band, I feel like I have to follow it up…
Sure. I played drums in the band “Toxaemia”, between 1988 to 92. We released a single in the USA and we had a contract with a record-label in the states around the time we split up. We weren’t super-famous; the genre was in it’s infancy, it was underground… this was before e-mail and social networking, so the way you had to promote yourself was by sending your stuff to -and corresponding with other bands by regular old mail.
Did you get any female groupies?
No, no, no, no. The longhaired, creepy dregs came instead
Anyways, so you started learning graphics at home..?
Yeah, then I studied Programming and System Development after which I got a position at Target Games (today Paradox Interactive*) around 1997-98. After that I worked a couple of gaming-related jobs up until around 2003, when I started up my own company making web-based games.
*Developer of games like Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings
Huh, your own company? What kind of games did you make there? Anything you’re willing to share?
Yeah, they are out there on the web. There’s Flea World. Then there’s Alien Disorder, or Vermin Invasion as it was later called. A big gaming-site wanted exclusive rights to the name Alien Disorder, so we had to change it for other sites and for ourselves.
How come you decided to give that up?
Why I quit? Because you had to work your a** off… it was 16/7. You can’t do design, programming, graphics, and sell the games all by yourself. I did everything but the music and sound effects, and I’d say that about 40%-50% of that time was spent on making level-design. Just making good levels is a trade of it’s own, and is very very hard to get right. Fortunately we don’t have any “levels” in Wurm, instead it turns the level philosophy all around – hard and painful in the beginning and “easy” and rewarding by the end.
After that I worked as a teacher for one year at a media-focused high school here in Motala. I was the first game-developer teacher there. Stefan (currently a graphics-intern at Code Club) is my old student.
Oh, I didn’t know that… was teaching the hell on earth I’ve always imagined? *laughs*
No, it was really fun, although tiring. It was probably one of the most exhausting jobs I’ve had in my entire life. You can understand why teachers are discontent; too many students, too few teachers and too much administration. I was supposed to work 80%, but considering the time spent preparing lessons etc, I was well over a 100%. Teachers are paid way too little for what they do. But anyway, it was after that I started here.
So how did that come about, you just gave Rolf a call or?
No, I was first told about Wurm in 2009 by a friend of mine who said he sat in the same office as some crazy guy who was working on some weird game..
…so I went there and started to nag at Rolf that he should hire me. *laughs*
“Rolf is like that bumblebee that shouldn’t be able to fly according to the laws of aerodynamics but does it anyway”
Ok, so Rolf sat here in the office all by himself?
Yeah, it was only him here… then Alex (client programmer) got hired. Anyway, I told Rolf that I was interested to work with him if he wanted me.
Now that you are here, what’s it like? What’s the upsides/downsides with the job?
Almost everything is great! It’s very open-minded.
The one downside is that I wish that we were more people… so that we could do more. That’s the bad part, you feel like you can’t keep up with everything. The todo-lists are insane, but I’d rather have that than having nothing to do.
Yeah, doing a MMO with 6-7 people is a bit insane.
I know, it’s crazy! *laughs* Rolf is like that bumblebee that shouldn’t be able to fly according to the laws of aerodynamics but does it anyway… but you kinda have to accept it for what it is… otherwise you’d go crazy from the stress.
Closing out, what’s your favourite thing to do, or detail about Wurm?
There’s a lot of strange things about Wurm that I like, it’s fun when you play the game and discover crazy gameplay mechanics or features that you didn’t know about. And I do work with the game…
I wish I had time to play Wurm and other games more, but it’s difficult when you have two children.
Good answer, but if you could only name one thing about Wurm that you really like, what would it be?
Riding on a cow! The first time I saw that in-game my jaw dropped, “riding on cows wtf”… also, back then players were standing on the backs on the mounts. Cow surfing, yay!
Thanks for your time!