29-Nov-2004: Female Feedback
I got positive feedback from "Most
Priced Asset" entry from a female digital media
student, who commended the entry and said that she was
glad that someone working in the games industry was
taking women seriously, both as potential co-workers and
customers. As delighted as I am to get this kind of
feedback, it is also a sad demonstration of what the
attitudes and prejudices in the industry really mean.
Instead of the many game companies in Finland coming out
and promoting themselves as equal-opportunity employers
INCLUDING positions in game development, there is just
me. A disgruntled, middle-aged male game designer.
Maybe it is the age. The average age of
my co-workers at Sumea Studios is 25 and they
persistently claim that they don't know any gaming girls,
despite the fact that 40% of all PC gamers are female.
That leads me to the conclusion that they don't know any
girls to begin with. Having been dejected nerds since
their early teens, they have adopted a principle that
none of the fairer sex can understand, let alone share
Ok, this is sarcasm, but the attitude
problem is very real. I would imagine that in the next
few years many talented female applicants will be turned
down from jobs in game development just because of gender
prejudices, thus driving them away from the industry
altogether. The recent rise in female gaming happened
despite of (rather than because of) the treatment women
have been given in industry focus and marketing. Now that
women are playing the same games as men, self-proclaimed
experts on why women aren't playing games are still
trying to enforce the old prejudices. It is a doomed
effort to avoid having to admit that they were wrong from
the day one, and also in large part to blame for the slow
start electronic gaming has had among women.
As much as I hate recruitment quotas,
this is one place where such a quota would be useful.
28-Nov-2004: Here is the cover
This is what you should be looking for in
26-Nov-2004: Old Dog is out there!!!
Old Dog came out of printers yesterday. I
got my author's copies today. It will spread into the
stores sometime next week, right in time for Christmas.
The book is surprisingly thin, with only 160 pages it is
about the same thickness as Taiga. I expected it to be
bigger, given how much actions and events there are.
Either I am misguided and a lot more than I remembered is
packed into your average fantasy novel, or my short-story
-oriented writing style keeps things moving at a greater
pace. Strange, it did not feel like that when I wrote it.
Although Petri isn't at his best with
colour images, the water colour cover is OK and I like
the strong contrast. Pitting Old Dog against a werewolf
on the cover was not perhaps the smartest move. Someone
will now think that "Dog" refers to the
monster. However, the publisher's decision of putting a
dark, dull-red lettering on the front cover does not make
any sense. It is hard to read the name from the cover.
Other than that, the book is white and conveys a neat, if
not exactly top-production-quality impression. Somehow, I
get a feeling that there ought to be more of these books.
A series, or corpus of Praedor fantasy. Who'll write
them, I wonder.
There are people out there who spend
their time looking for errors in movies. They will
undoubtedly notice some in the illustrations as well. So
then Aric has an eyepatch in pictures from before he lost
his eye. No biggie. Two illustrations switching places
bothers me more, because one of the pictures is a
potential spoiler and neither makes any sense regarding
the image text. Other than and a couple of typos (or more
curiously, typo markings which haven't been edited out of
the text), it is all cool.
Curiously, the first story I was so
anguished about earlier does not feel bad at all when I
read it from the book. In fact, it feels bloody great! I
guess the medium really is part of the message. Well,
this is it. Alea jacta est. My book is finally out there,
like a bullet shot out of a gun. It can't be recalled,
edited or censored. Any errors or bad choices of wors are
there to stay. I like my work and hope you'll like it
too. If there is enough of you, I might even write
23-Nov-2004: Most Priced Asset
Let me describe you a scene that would
shock even the most hardened digital games designer: a
bunch of single males in their mid-twenties talking about
"games that women would play". Nothing wrong
with a little mental excercise like that. But
unfortunately these guys also make decisions based on
age-old misconceptions like "women like games with
growing and nurturing themes, not violence or
competition". Bullshit. By and large, women like the
same games as men do, but because of its tech/nerd
background, gaming has been seen as a "male
hobby" and it has taken 30 years for it become
socially acceptable for girls. And now that they do game,
they play the same games as everyone else.
40% or more of Sims players are female
said a study I read about on BBC website. But forget
about dollhouses. Almost an equal proportion of GTA: Vice
City players are women. At present your average girl
gamer is older than your average boy gamer, but I expect
the difference to smooth itself out in the future. There
is no killer application to "awaken the sleeping
mass of women" into gaming. They are already awake
and playing. You want female customers? Make good games,
not gender-specific crap.
I've ranted about this before, but I
brought it up again because I like to feel vindicated.
I've been talking about gender equality in gaming for
months at my workplace and to my delight, the latest
issue of Game Developer (a journal published by
IGDA, International Games Developer Association) backs me
on this in the editorial. So drop your kiddie
simulations, garden tycoons and other crap. We've finally
got women into gaming and we sure as hell don't want to
drive them away again with (covertly) misogynist
My workplace, Sumea, is looking for a
game designer. They are hard to come by and even harder
to rate when you view the applications or interview the
applicants. I sincerely hope we get a female designer
this time because she would have greater authority to
tell the those single males to shut up on things they
clearly don't know anything about. Hey guys! Try 5+ years
of steady relationship before you go around telling
people what it is that women really want.
For reasons covered by NDA, I've been
really stressed at work lately. Strangely, the one thing
that made me relax was even more work. Enter magazine
contacted me again and asked for 4-sheet review/tutorial
of Mozilla Thunderbird 0.9 for their January issue (I
think). It was very different kind of work from what I do
in the office hours, but it also allowed me to flex some
professional muscles I hadn't used for quite a while. I
am a writer. Whether I am a novelist, technical writer or
journalist is immaterial. What matters is that they liked
what I wrote, so I've still got it. Got what? Skill,
professional touch and an occupation to return to should
something go wrong. You'll never know.
No news on the book. I've been thinking
about calling Jalava, but I pestered them so much during
the pre-payment crisis that I really don't want to do it
again. Keep your eyes peeled if you go into bookshops. If
they want their piece of Christmas action, it should be
out right about now.
Some news on Stalker. I did it. Ditched
the entire character generation section. I am now
rewriting it, inserting it into the setting intro. I am
also compressing it, because I expect Stalker clientele
to be veteran gamers, not newbies who need everything
explained in detail.
18-Nov-2004: Literature and
It is my pleasure to inform you that any
existing classifications of literary genres and writing
styles are hereby declared obsolete and should be
discarded from both academic and common use. Instead,
styles of writing can be defined by the alcoholic
beverages they resemble.
Ok, it was a joke. But this is a funny
thing that came to mind in a recent party when I was
appraising a piece of literary fiction written by a
friend. I could not avoid describing her work as
"sparkling wine", as it was light, bubbly,
cheerful, social and yet not without some bite or edge to
it. And although I don't like sparkling wine and social
dramacomedies are not my cup of tea, I could tell that
her work was good and certainly top of the line for its
respective type of drink.
That made me think about other styles of
writing and genres of fiction. What of my work, what of
Old Dog? After a while, I decided that Old Dog aimed for
the Irish Whiskey category with Howard, but fell short
and ended somewhere in the class of very dark malt beers,
like the kind Old Dog used to serve in his inn (no, there
are no news on the book). Moorcock serves his stories
with absinth and sugar (it used to be pure absinth like
Lovecraft, but Moorcock has mellowed a little as he got
Tolkien is mostly Scotch Whisky, but
sometimes lapses into the Red Wine category with most of
the fantasy produced today. Of course, no two wines are
the same. George Martin is very dark red and expensive,
while Salvatore has slipped some vodka and cinnamon into
his to turn it into glög. Ursula Le Guin is expensive
white wine while Frank Herbert comes in cheaper
varieties. Arthur C. Clarke is gin and Alexander Dumas
the Elder is fine champagne.
My friend in the sparkling wine category
shares the shelf with Anja Snellman, although her bottle
is a little flat. William Craig, of whom I am a secret
admirer, is American Whiskey. Put some ice in it to make
it whiskey-on-the-rocks and you have the script for Max
Payne 2 by another friend of mine, Sam Lake. Praedor in
general is lager with a touch of herbs, it is just my
works that are making it darker and malty. Astrid
Lindgren is mostly apple juice, but some works get into
the more adult varieties, like mead. Tove Janson is all
mead on Moomin and sparkling wine on other work.
Well, this was a pretty pointless entry,
but at least there is some food... er... drink for
17-Nov-2004: End of Elitism
Elitism is a nice thing to have. You know
it is not right and might not even be true, but still the
secret knowledge that the social group you belong to is
above the (perceived) masses gives you a warm feeling
inside. It also gives a common point of discussion for
you and your friends, namely deriding the
"mundanes", however they are defined. Yeah, it
is a really nice thing to have. It is also a bitch to
lose and I just lost mine. It is now official:
roleplaying and to some extent reading degrades
imagination and narrows the mind. The average roleplayer
is not above the masses but somewhere between mollusks
and 5-yeard olds on the intellectual scale. I am so
disappointed and embarrassed to be included in the same
social framework that spontaneous combustion would be a
It began innocently enough. Everybody
knows the Moomin and some people (not including many
roleplayers, it seems) even know that it is not a
Japanese anime series but a body of brilliant books and
cartoons created by Tove Jansson. Like her or hate her, I
don't care (and neither does she, being dead and all),
but if you don't know who she is, do the world a favor
and cut off your head. Well, somebody starts a thread on
Moomin at the literature group of majatalo.org. It soon
becomes apparent that most people there haven't read the
books or even knew that they existed. I can only conclude
that they've never gone to school. Then some of them
choose to express distaste for topic and thread
concerning "children's books", which makes me
A) How could have they missed an entire
thread's worth of debate on the finer points and more
adult themes of the books and comics?
B) If they are not interested, why do
they read the thread, let alone participate in it, asking
for it to be ended? Does our interest in Moomin take
something away from them?
Okay, anybody can do the above. But what
happened next really made the floor drop from beneath my
feet: Someone jokingly suggested a Moomin RPG and I,
having often thought about it, commented on the
suggestion. That provoked a chorus of protest, with
people who claim to have multiple braincells arguing that
Moomin or adventures in Moomindale can't be played
because "Moomin are too clumsy to be thieves, have
too short arms to be fighters, are too dumb to be wizards
(despite the fact that the Moomin Mother occasionally
works magic in the books and comics) and that even
teletubbies would be more believable".
More believable as what?
Christ, these people are supposed to be
creative and have vivid imaginations, yet all they could
think of was Moomins as a D&D adventuring party!!!
What the Hell? Don't they know any other genres of
fantasy? Don't they know that Moomins are not the sole
inhabitants (and potential characters) of the proposed
game? Don't they know any other genres of fiction in
general? Where the fuck did they get the notion that
Moomins are heroic fantasy? At this time and age, can't
they come up with any other content for adventures than
battle, wizards or thieving? Since when has Moomindale
been part of Forgotten Realms?
An average 5-year-old can come up with a
Moomin adventure with more content than that! I actually
have the bare bones design for couple of them. Works of
Tove would make a great game, refreshingly different from
the standard tabletop-RPG fare. More importantly, it
would open new doors and bring in new kinds of people
into the hobby. And most importantly, it could help cure
the tunnel vision many hobbyists seem to suffer from.
I have newfound respect for Arkkikivi.Net
and their goal of translating avant-garde roleplaying
games into Finnish. Even if you are not interested in
such experimental games, looking at them might broaden
your horizons and help you understand that there is more
to P&P roleplaying than just experience points and
damage dice. Really, there is. Like it or not.
15-Nov-2004: News Blues
Early Fall is one of my favourite times
of the year. Late Fall is perhaps the least favourite,
especially when accompanied with all that is going down
One of my closest friends is leaving for
Japan. For all intentions and purposes, he is not coming
back. It is a brilliant career move and I am happy for
his great opportunity, but also sad to see him go. I am
getting older and this event marks yet another
end-of-an-age for me. I will miss him and I will miss the
times spent with him even more. He leaves a black,
cut-out hole into my tapestry of life. It feels like you
are not supposed to have friends when you are getting
middle-aged. He threw a farewell party for himself and
his wife, but I really did not get a chance to talk with
him with all the crowd and noise around. And what could I
have said? I am not good with touchy-feely crap even
without the crowds.
Vaya con dios, amigo. The rest is
Ever since debating the issue of
genre-specific game systems supportive with Eero
Tuovinen, I've had a writer's block on Stalker. Please
don't take it out on Eero. I want to delete and rewrite
the entire character creation section, but on the other
hand we are talking about 40 pages of completed material.
I don't want to lose it. So I've done neither, or nothing
else concerning Stalker for that matter. It can be safely
said that even if I regain my hold on the project
tomorrow, Stalker won't be finished in early 2005. The
next logical goal is Ropecon'05, of course. I hope Juhana
is having better luck with Joutomaa (and he'd
better, since he has a real publisher breathing down his
Speaking of publishers, the last time I
heard something of Jalava, they indicated that my book
would have gone to printers last week. Whether that is
fact or publisher-talk, I don't know, but they ought to
be in a hurry to get it out before Christmas. I'll keep
you posted, but knowing Jalava, you might find the book
in stores long before they bother to tell me it is out. I
wish to fate (sometimes believing in gods would be
useful) they really named it "Vanha Koira", or
I am going to have a fit. Well, at least it looks good.
Since Stalker is blocked, I've been
writing Taiga 2.0 instead. I haven't yet decided if it is
going to be a commercial release, a free PDF game, or
just some shit I am going to post to the web. Or all
three. It is very different from the original game, both
closer and farther away from your stereotypical
post-holocaust setting. I do think it will make a better
game, though. Original Taiga was in many respects what I
would now call a holocaust game. The setting was still
undergoing the process of collapse, instead of struggling
to get back on its feet. There were also a whole bunch of
elements I wanted to throw into the setting for special
effects, but did not really know how to or if they
belonged there. As a result, there are some
"half-themes" in the game, neither included or
excluded, but just hinted at. Well, it took me a decade
to figure out what I really wanted with the
post-holocaust genre, but I think I've got it now.
In the next entry, I am going to talk
about the relationship between genres of fiction and
10-Nov-2004: Fuzzy Fairy Tale
Once upon a time there was a little
company of dwarves that made gold clocks. Times were
sometimes hard, but their clocks were good, so they
slowly grew, befriended many great lords of their kingdom
and made good profit. Eventually they were the best in
the kingdom. Their leaders often looked beyond the
borders of their realm but to expand into the great
empire that lay beyond was too big of a step, at least
Then a great lord from the empire came to
see the little company and told them that he liked what
he saw. "I have a company too", he said.
"I will give you gold if you join me and together we
can bring your clocks to the empire and grow even richer
and greater." Heads of the little company were
thrilled by the proposition and flattered for having the
attention of such a great lord, and accepted his gift of
gold and promises.
When the heads of the small company went
to tell the good news to their underlings, on whose skill
and labour their fortunes rested, many were impressed.
But some of them, scarred by evil memories or cursed with
eyes that could see past the glittering gold asked what
would become of the clocks they've made and the friends
they had. "Have no fear", said the heads of the
company. "For the great lord has seen our clocks and
told us they were great. We shall make clocks as before
and make new friends in addition to those we have."
Thus the little company became a part of
the other, a remote extension far removed from the
heartlands of the empire. The great lord even kept some
of its banners, for he knew that many looked upon them
with favourable eyes.
But the great lord broke his promises. He
refused to take their old clocks to the empire and turned
down plans for new clocks as soon as they were proposed.
He had his own designs for clocks, but having built only
castles before, they did not work too well and sold only
little even in his native empire. Dwarves in the
small-company-that-was had made clocks for a long time
and saw what was wrong, but the great lord was relentless
and one by killed off the designs the
small-company-that-was had built its name and wealth on.
When the heads of the
small-company-that-was asked him why, the great lord told
them that the tastes of the empire differed from those of
the kingdom, and being a greater lord and a native of the
empire he would always know best, whatever the sales
might be. Their friends in the kingdom meant nothing to
him and he mocked the clocks the dwarves had made,
calling even the best of them "marginal products of
local appeal that won't be repeated".
In truth, the great lord had no need of
another company, nor its friends or clocks, but of only
servants who would do as they were told. He had chosen
the small-company-that-was because not just because of
their skill, but because the kingdom was poor and the
dwarves there would ask only one loaf of bread while in
the empire they'd ask two.
Thus the small-company-that-was was no
more, and the dwarves working there lost their friends.
No more were they asked to speak or dream up clocks that
would be the pick of the kingdom, but only to listen and
build clocks according to the whims of the great lord.
Where they had once worked out of joy, they now worked
out of fear and hunger, for the kingdom was poor and
without the single loaf of bread they would have nothing.
Of all the promises only those of greater future
remained, binding them to their workshops like chains.
But late at night, after long days by the forge and
anvil, they woud lie awake and wonder if the chains
really were golden... or only coated with fool's gold.
05-Nov-2004: Final Review
Jalava sent me the book layout version
for check-up today. If I OK it, it goes to printers next
week. What will happen after that I don't know. Taking
another look at the text after a pause of several months
was... well, revealing. My personal assessment is that
the first story, "Green Moon", is somewhat
weak. If I had the time, I would re-write it. Green Moon
was written at the request of the publisher and I had to
come up with a plot on the spot, and it shows. If I had
time, I would work over its text once more. There are
some clumsy idioms, cumbersome sentences, repetition and
mild symptoms of the "sitten" disease, which I
have otherwise managed to avoid.
I hope the readers find it interesting as
it introduces one new culture to Jaconia, but I don't
blame you if you find it a bit amateurish. Or modern. Or
spartan. Fortunately it is only 16 pages long. As for the
rest of the book, I am happy with the quality. It has
just style and colour I want to get out of my fantasy
Mike Pohjola once asked why I am so keen
on criticizing my own book or my talent as a writer when
I am supposed to sell myself to the public. Now that I
think of it, I believe it is because I don't see readers
as customers, but part of a larger "Praedor"
community where I am just one of the contributors. Petri,
Praedor-comics fans and those playing the roleplaying
game all add content to this amorphous thing called
"Praedor". I am just exchanging notes with them
about the content I've just provided.
31-Oct-2004: Old Dog Rocks!
I went to Helsinki Book Fair just to see
Petri. He had told me he had the illustrations for my
book with him. I never expected anything but the best
from the maestro, but still his little art show with
A4-sized ink drawings hit me like a sledgehammer! I have
a vivid imagination, but Petri has an even more vivid
drawing hand! Old Dog was different from what I had
imagined, but he was still so much himself that he really
came to life the instant I first looked at him. I would
like to write more books about him and the others, just
to see more art like that. Outstanding work, even for
Petri Hiltunen! I was, and still am, really, really
Petri told me that some people had asked
him whether my story (he has obviously read it so that he
can make illustrations for it) is any good. His response
was that he is not the right person to judge it because
he is just so happy that someone has written a book about
his world. Well, our world now, as he explained it to
Samson (another important Finnish illustrator and comics
artist). I hope he wasn't just being polite. As for
myself, I have quietly grown more confident about my
story and think that it captures both the setting and the
genre I aimed for very well. Together with the kind of
art I've seen today it should Rock. With a capital
We discussed briefly the possibility of
doing another book, but that is not really up to us. Go
ask Jalava about it if you want something to happen. If
the issue became current, I would have to make a diffuclt
choice between continuing the adventures of Old Dog, or
presenting entirely new characters. I've been planning
teaming up Old Dog and Ravenclaw with Oran Ortec, a major
personality from one of my roleplaying game adventures.
On the other hand, an entirely new story and character
(countess Ciara Ciral) would better let me explore
different aspects of Jaconian culture.
BTW, I have the same problem with my book
stories that Petri has with his comics stories: I never
seem get around to sending my characters into Borvaria. I
just don't find it interesting enough. Why the heck did
he name this brand "Praedor" if we never see
any praedoring being done?
27-Oct-2004: Thoughts and News
Eero Tuovinen has been making more noise
than usual and I think he has brought up some interesting
points, whether you agree with him or not. Of course, he
shares the rpg-elitist style of presenting personal
preferences as absolute truths, but let he who is without
sin cast the first stone. I am of course referring to a
debate in sfnet.harrastus.pelit.rooli:
Laajemmin: Praedoria ei voi voittaa
tässä lajissa niin kauan kuin ei ymmärrä
mikä tekee siitä paremman: pelissä pitää olla
selkeä aihe, ja materiaalia
joka tukee sitä aihetta. Praedorin tapauksessa tämä
sisäänrakennettu, implisiittinen kampanja; hahmot ovat
ovat tietyntyyppisiä seikkailijoita, jotka tekevät
sitä tiettyä juttua, joka
on laajasti selitetty kirjassa. Se, että peli tukee
myös tätä yleistä
fantasiahaahuilua ei vie siltä pois sitä etua, että
sillä on määritelty ja
Thank you very much, that is very nicely
said and holds true for Praedor. I don't think that
selecting a preferred topic or a goal for a roleplaying
game always improves it, but I do admit that now when I
consider myself well versed in the "standard"
genres, having this kind of handle makes it easier to
approach the game. However, I wonder if it really
attracts more customers than it repulses (and that is the
sole objective way for measuring game quality we have).
Most people in these days approach games through the
setting, and the games are identified by them. For
example, if you are using Praedor rules when playing in
Hârn, you are "playing Hârn with Praedor
rules". Then again, if you are using Harnmanster to
play in Jaconia, most people would refer to it as
"playing Praedor with Harnmaster
rules". So the game world equals the game itself for
I suspect I'll never do a game without a
"handle" anymore. I am getting too old for
"the best fantasy/scifi world ever!" games.
Besides, messing around with computer and mobile games is
clearly affecting my thinking. Stalker is pretty
avant-garde, but I keep having this perverse desire to
make more rpgs out of computer games. Maybe this is what
happened to Nordic. After Astra, he had burned himself
out and settled for little stuff like Kalmo from then on.
Of course, being a sucker for public attention, it is
much more difficult for me to stop. And doing games in
Finnish has the advantage of being a the biggest fish in
the pond, even if the pond is very small.
Petri called me today to say that the art
for my book is completed (hooray) and that he is handing
it over to Jalava at Helsingin Kirjamessut on Sunday, but
he wants to show them to me first. I guess I am going
there, after all. He is also backing my suggestion to
have the book titled "Vanha Koira" (Old Dog)
despite it being somewhat non-standard name for a fantasy
novel. He is even made an inner cover illustration that
promotes the name, so it will be very difficult for the
publisher to change it. Clever man. He always was.
Just flexing my post-holocaust
Pandemic spreads at the speed of a
jet plane, hitting first the very countries that could
have actually done something to step it. Early strains
are devastating, killing within 24 hours of the first
signs of symptoms. Rescue workers and paramedics die
along with the patients. Panic and chaos overwhelms all
attempts to maintain order. Civilian governments collapse
and military forces take matters into their hands. It is
too late to set up quarantine zones. Attempts to
establish concentration camps for rounding up refugees
fleeing the plague-stricken cities fail. The plague has
struck practically every major population centre first
and then spreads outward, carried by the very people
trying to flee from it, at the speed of a bullet train.
Society is collapsing. Global
networks of commerce, communication and politics fall
apart. Industry grinds to a halt. Communal technology
fails. For a while looters and rioters on the rampage in
the half-empty cities, but the plague soon ends that as
well. There are rumours of warplanes spreading chemical
agents or even dropping tactical nuclear weapons to
create kill zones to prevent halt the masses of refugees.
There are even darker rumours, of people being burned at
stake for their rumoured heresy and sins. Or ritually
sacrificed to appease new (or in some cases very old)
gods. Some say that the infected are spreading the
disease on purpose to have their final revenge on the
world. With a global fatality rate of 99% or more it
hardly makes a difference.
After three months, the silence is
deafening. The world, the big cities, powerful countries,
industrial might and organized religions
not there. There are no governments. There is nothing for
any government to rule over. Wolves prowl the silent
motorways. Ships drift ashore, bones of the crew already
picked clean by rats and seagulls. Skies are empty, radio
frequencies hear only the beeps of automated systems, or
an encrypted chatter of indeterminite origin.
That was over half a century ago.
Today, wilderness has reclaimed the
land. City streets are choked with weeds, grass and young
trees. You have to dig a little to reach asphalt. Steel
structures are red with rust, concrete green from moss
and algae. One by one the windows and glass panels give
out, their frames crumbling or rusting from the bite of
three dozen winters. Concrete walls are green with moss
and algae, or chipped where water has entered the
structure and frozen. Sewers have long been blocked with
leaves and debris, creating pools of stagnant water and
weeds that will eventually turn to pockets of marshland
in the indentations. Wildlife is abundant. Streets-turned
meadows and new wetlands are good grazing ground, while
buildings, sewers, tunnels and pipes provide plenty of
shelter for creatures large and small.
Outside cities you can still see the
outline of the old highway network. Raised above the
surrounding terrain or surrounded by ditches, the roads
are scourged by winds and rain, clearing them from leaves
and other debris. Even where the roads have disappeared,
there is rarely enough dirt for trees get rooted on and
even light traffic disrupts the light vegetation easily.
Many tribes or bartertowns also make an effort to keep
the primary routes clear. There is one thing they can do
little about, though. Freezing and thawing of three dozen
winters have caused widening cracks in the blacktop. At
worst the surface of the road can give away beneath a
vehicle, causing severe damage. Such pits can be filled
with gravel but when close to the roads edge the
entire side of the road can fall into the ditch.
Eventually even major motorways will become unusable but
that is still decades away.
Suburbs and countryside have been
swallowed up by wilderness, leaving almost no trace of
their existence. Fields have turned into gentle plains,
thick with grass, hay, reeds and young trees. Ditches and
riverbanks are surrounded by meadows of birch, maple and
willow, while pine and spruce are creeping in from the
forest edge. Sometimes the old drainage channels have
become clogged and fields are flooded, turning them back
into the lakes and marshes they once were. Houses have
all but disappeared into the woods. They are still there,
abandoned and eerie, sometimes partially stripped down by
those seeking construction materials for tribal villages.
They are shunned by most for the fear of the Plague but
sometimes used as temporary shelters by travellers, or as
hideouts by gangs or scavvies. Less sturdy than city
structures and vulnerable to forest fires, they are often
in a very bad shape due to rot and mould.
Old factories, power plants,
harbours and other structures still stand tall above the
treetops like pyramids and temples of some long-lost
civilisation. Leaking and rusty, they are often in poor
condition and machinery is beyond repair, but it will
still take centuries or even millennia for their walls
and chimneys to fall. Level roofs are now covered by
grass. Weeds have sprung up from, every conceivable crack
in the walls and concrete, but sometimes toxic chemicals
leaking from rusty pipes and containers have turned
industrial zones into utterly lifeless wastelands or even
poisoned entire rivers. In contrast, deep underground
structures, like mines, subway tunnels and even some
underpasses are mostly intact, but slowly filling up with
groundwater. Flooding often blocks movement from one part
of the tunnel network to another. Still, underground
spaces spared from flooding are often just like before,
if a little dusty.
Industrial zones are avoided for the
fear of pollutants, but not to the extent that old
population centres are. They rarely hold remains which
would carry the original strains of the plague. But only
scavvies dare to venture into old tunnels.
I rarely go over personal issues here,
but these are turbulent times. Social groups are beaking
up and forming within my circle of friends and
acquaintaces. Many are angry or hurt for being excluded
from the new groups, while those included and taking part
of the decision process are hurt for being labeled
unfair, tyrannical, treacherous or worse, not for their
decisions on including or excluding people, but for the
very mechanism used to resolve the issue.
Fortunately the furor appears to be ending. I have a
four-point flaw that says "total incomprehension of
social dynamics and distraught friends" and have
been watching all this like I was standing behind a
soundproof glass. Seeing everything. Understanding
For the record, I have been included the
new social group in question and invited there by a
friend. I am not in the habit of turning down invitations
from my friends and the decision is not intended to imply
a stand on the issue (there must be one, although I don't
get it) one way or the other. I would also love to be
able to say to any potential critics that I do not care
what they think about me joining the group, but that
would be a lie. There are quite a few people I care about
and that includes their thoughts about me. An
acquaintance with whom I've had a somewhat turbulent
relationship in the past (and hopefully an improved
relationship in the present) wrote to her blog:
Individualism is all fine and dandy,
and so is intellect, but we are creatures of emotion as
well - inevitably - and trying to leave that out of the
equation is just ridiculous.
I could not agree more with this
particular sentence. I exist, therefore I have social
obligations... no, needs, concerning those I co-exist
with. I don't care if being condemned for joining this
new social group is justified or not. I just want to
retain my circle of friends in and outside the new group
and will be doing my best to rebuild bridges, sooth hot
tempers, being apologetic and so forth. Perhaps I will
eventually lose friends over all this, but I am not going
to give up on any of them without a fight. To my friends
and acquaintaces: You want to get rid of me? Get some
pepper spray and a restraining order. I just like you too
much. <victim mode>After all: it is all your fault:
if you weren't so bloody wonderful people I would not
need go through all this.</victim mode>
Gods, I am such a wuss!
Ok, enough with the touchy-feely stuff.
In the previous entry I promised some Stalker art for you
to see and now I am going to deliver. Here are some pics
from Tuomo Veijanen:
Previous entry about the state of the
industry did result in some feedback about the growing
importance of indie games (which is probably true and as
such a good thing) and a piece of information stating
that Holistic Games (Fading Suns, remember?) has
announced its secession from the D20 camp because the D20
label has become a hindrance to sales. It is the quality
thing I was talking about. Another interesting result was
that Eero Tuovinen (the guy behind Arkkivi and the
present lead editor of Alterations) emailed to me to say
something about Indie games. Not only could he explain
his points clearly this time, but I also agreed with
them. That is a definite first.
Speaking of indie games, Arkkivi focuses
on translating pretty strange stuff that certainly has a
lot of innovation and artistic value, but in my opinion
do not really appeal to the masses. Kätyrin osa,
whatever that is in English, is a perfect example. Some
people apparently get a better kick out of it than they
would from cocaine, but that is a very narrow customer
segment. If indies are to become a major factor, they
will have to take on wide-spectrum games and genres,
feeding the masses with what the masses want, while
retaining enough innovation and edge to separate
themselves from the old games and take the hobby forward,
even if in small steps.
There is a great need for games that even
novices would find easy to approach. And guess what? I
don't think I am ever going to write those. But if the
industry wants to survive, someone must eventually do it.
And instead of attracting fantasy and science fiction
reader geeks to gaming, the new optimum target group are
computer and console gamers. The mental gap between
MMORPGs and real RPG's isn't that big (I can already hear
a storm of protest). I would like to see more bridges
built between them, and heck, Kalle Marjola's Neo-Troops
could be used to run anything from Counterstrike to Halo
cooperative multiplayer roleplaying scenarios. It is just
the old intellectual snobs like me (and Turku School, and
virtually everybody else who is making a lot of noise in
the scene) who want to stick with difficult concepts and
genres that actually require the player to do some
Indies pack a punch, more so in real RPGs
than in electronic gaming. This is because of the lower
production costs. If you have a good idea, some skill and
a reasonable amount of cash, producing a print run of
books is not too difficult. I have a few of the more
recent such games on my bookshelf: A/State, Fates
Worse Than Death and Haven: City of Violence.
A/State combines cyberpunk themes with a very, very
post-modern setting that borders on the apocalyptic. On
top that, the hardcover(!) book looks really good,
although the digital paintings the illustrations were
taken from are even better. Check it out!
Fates Worse Than Death is another stab at Cyberpunk genre
and already reviewed on this blog. It features a
post-modern tribal society occupying the future
Manhattan, left outside the mainstream urban society
because of unrest and civil wars. Loads of content and a
good handful of good ideas there.
Haven... well, the mood of the game is
good for an adventure along the lines of Sin City comics
(by Frank Miller. If you don't know what I am talking
about, run to the nearest quality comics store and find
out). It is just that the game system commits a seppuku
already in the character creation section and is already
dead by the time we get to the combat mechanics.
In the next entry we are going to have an
art show. Tuomo Veijanen has drawn me a bundle of Stalker
art on the condition that "if the game makes profit,
I want something". While not the full-page pictures
I was planning to have as the core of the graphical
outlook, Tuomo's pics are very good and I want to share
some of the best with you. And Tuomo, don't worry! Even
if Stalker does not make any profit (or comes out in 2010
and everybody who has been asking for it has already died
or converted to scientology), you are going to get
something. A free artist's copy, if nothing else.
Speaking of art (and forgetting the
indies), the mobile fantasy adventure games I've been
working on in my dayjob at Sumea are about to be released
in Germany. Airgamer.de has published some pretty cool
pictures about them. Fantasy Warrior 2: Good &
Evil are the latest game releases "written by
Ville Vuorela", so if you like my stuff, this is
your chance to get hold of it!
17-Oct-2004: What's Happening?
In the RPG industry? Absolutely nothing.
And small wonder, there is hardly anybody active anymore.
The international RPG publishing scene consists of
WOTC/D20 camp (which is of the best examples how you can
bury yourself alive in dung), Steve Jackson Games (whose
"new releases" page makes me want to cry) and
The good thing about the D20 industry is
that when you have such an output volume, not everything
is crap. I've heard good things about some items being
real gems, like D20 Conan. The bad thing is that overall,
a high output volume combined with very low production
value and bad ideas results in an overall increase of
crap in the industry. This heap of crap is eating away
the customer base for the D20 gems out there. It is also
hurting the industry, since newcomers to the hobby have
to dish out 50+ $ for rulebook for their favourite
license, only to find that is most likely quickly made
trash written by people with neither vision nor talent to
create a game system that fits the setting or genre.
Or, if by some chance the book they
bought turns out OK, there is a high probability it can't
be played without the D&D3.5 set of three books,
which adds about 100$ to the price tag. Either the
publishers have gone totally bananas, or they have
concluded that since the US fan base is aging, the
average gamer has a thick wallet and would not think
twice about 150$ price tag. Right or wrong, by planning
their pricing accordingly, they are doing their utmost to
make sure that there are very few new gamers indeed.
As for Steve Jackson Games, I can only
wonder if they have reached some kind of saturation point
for GURPS. They have supplements about everything, so it
is no wonder that coming up with new topics is difficult.
I have previously noted with some satisfaction that they
are shifting from universal genre sourcebooks to product
lines, so instead of having GURPS: *Everything* they have
GURPS: Traveller and GURPS: Transhuman Space, which have
their own lines of setting-specific supplements.
This is a welcome move away from the
universal game system ideology which I so deeply detest.
But right now all the RPG stuff they are planning for the
last quarter of this year and January 2005 seem to be new
editions of the existing core rulebooks. For someone like
me who likes the supplements but dislikes their core
rules, their new releases section is bad enough to bring
tears to my eyes.
White Wolf is re-writing the World of
Darkness and since I am neither a fan nor an expert on it
I can't tell if it is a good or a bad thing. My personal
experiences from White Wolf games are negative to the
extreme, but on the other hand I do find the concept
fascinating. Maybe I should try running WoD sometimes, to
see for myself what it is that draws people to it. From
the industry perspective they are doing a cash-in with
the new editions on all their rulebooks, while starting
another metaplot cycle for the whole of WoD.
Such blatant profit-mongering is
The sad fact is no one else is doing
anything. In fact, there does not seem to be anyone
"else" around anymore!
I have one bright piece of news, though:
Mike Pondsmith is back in P&P RPG
business so hopefully Talsorian Games will pick up again.
Their plans for Cyberpunk v3 (which Pondsmith discussed
with me at Ropecon *some year*, or more precisely when we
left Dipoli and went to have dinner at Grill Toro) and
the whole "cyberpunk is dead" ideology behind
it make me cringe, but I am still going to buy it. I'll
even forgive him his involvement in Matrix Online if
Talsorian starts to show signs of life.
has a discussion on the relative merits and flaws on
rolling a figure under a value, or adding the skill value
to a roll and trying to exceed a treshold figure. Sampo
Smolander, who usually knows what he is doing, went as
far as to declare the latter system the pinnacle of RPG
game system evolution. Well, as the author of the first
and foremost Finnish game system using the former type of
game mechanics, I obviously disagree, but my distaste
about the discussion has more to do with my distaste for
roleplaying game theories in general.
Since my thoughts on the subject
degenerated into yet another rant against roleplaying
theorists, the rest of this entry has been hidden. You
have now been officially warned, so if you take the
effort to read it and are offended, don't come crying to
me. If you have read my blog before, you already know
what I think.
Friend of mine
recently asked if I really felt that the theory
discussion had nothing to give to the roleplaying, using
an interesting term: "I-feel-box". My
understanding of it his use of the term is, that he felt
that academic approach to roleplaying enables the player
to step out of the I-feel-box and valuate methods, genres
and playstyles objectively. My overall response to that
and the game system issue is that everytime the theorists
assault some hapless aspect of roleplaying, I get a
feeling we are studying some animal by reducing it into
its basic elements. This is about as useful as stating
that a lion consists of carbon.
I know you live
by a book of rules/but anyone who needs a book is fool.
entertainment. Roleplaying is art. To analyze it, to
divide it into schools and theories, to douse it in the
poison of fancy-sounding terminology is to deny its very
essence: creative expression. I have not
yet met an RPG theorist who would not use his theories
just to valuate roleplaying methods so that his personal
prefences would appear as the most advanced and
progressive out there. And this goes for Ropecon guests
of honour as well. It probably is possible to present an
objective account on the spread and appearances of
different playstyles over the years (introduction in to
RP theories at last Ropecon was pretty good), but sooner
or later the idea of evolution steps in and instead of
branching we get a hierarchy. Blech!.
I hate issuing
universal truths about anything. There is always someone
who can prove you wrong and then someone who can prove
him wrong and so forth, but I'll present one for you now:
There is nothing outside the
"I-feel-box". You can't exit it, just as you
can't exit your own mind. Everybody agrees (well, almost
everybody) that there can't be an objective definition or
valuation of art. Why are they then searching for an
objective definition and valuation for roleplaying?
Actually, I can think a number of reasons, but none of
them are too flattering so we'll leave it at that.
I am an atheist. I
am a skeptic. I believe in the power of science and
technology. I am a game author whose games aren't exactly
rules-light. But I still don't believe there can be a
rulebook on reality or even a rulebook on roleplaying in
general. Creativity and art are the spirit world of the
modern age, where we can still cross the treshold from
the world of laws and numbers into the world of dreams
and mysticism. Art and creative expression in all their
forms are supernatural made reality, miracles that you
can see, or hear, or taste, or touch. Sometimes all at
once. To understand them is to kill them. Fortunately I
don't think you can, but why would you even try?
8-Oct-2004: PEP talk
I have no clue whatsoever as to what PEP
is an abbreviation of, but PEP talk means an encouraging
commentary or dialogue from your boss intended to raise
your morale. I am usually pretty immune to that kind of
stuff but last week, in the company Fall party there was
an exception that makes the rule. My project boss for the
last two game projects at Sumea was blind drunk. He has
no recollection of the evening's events, including this
one. But as he swayed and stumbled (I am told he never
falls), he suddenly grabbed my shoulder, and gave me the
best PEP talk session I've ever received. And it worked,
lifted my spirits, improved my morale and I am still
feeling the effect.
I am not doing the kind of crazy hours
that other people in IT industry are so proud of, but I
was still pretty fatigued about the two projects, felt
that I had been useless for the past month (I am not that
good at tweaking and balancing as I would like; in RPG
rules it is pure math and thus easier) and that the whole
game industry sucked. Then my project boss explained to
me how our team was solid gold, how my story designs for
the game really rocked and that there basically wasn't
anything he would not tackle if he could do it with this
team. I have an automatic mental block that is activated
if I hear too much praise, but in this case it failed to
activate. Seriously drunk, the team boss could not have
lied even if he had tried. True or not, I believe he
meant every word he said, and he said it all very well
for someone who could not stand up straight. The next day
he did not remember any of this, or anything at all about
the latter half of the evening.
Except for the downs caused by ketosis,
I've been riding on the high of his words for the whole
week. I wish our world-famous U.S. CEO could do the same.
If I had not busted my knee in that same party, it would
have been my best company party experience ever.
7-Oct-2004: Hazards of Dieting
In August 2003 my weight was 130
kilograms. In August 2004 my weight was 106 kilograms and
at its lowest point in late April it has actually been as
low as 98 kilograms. It is now around 107, and being a
short guy, I am still very gravitationally challenged.
Anyway, losing 23 kilos in a year ain't bad. My leg
ailment also healed and I can now walk for miles and
miles without any pain. Don't be fooled by that 98 kilos,
though. Good part of it was dehydration due to high
fever, the real low record of my weight is probably 102
kilos, so I've taken a hit of about 5-6 kilos during the
late spring and summer.
How did I do it? Low-carb diet, with lots
of protein and some fat. Downsides? Zombie mode! Cravings
for sugar will pass, but the truth is that human brain
runs on sugar, sugar and nothing but sugar. It can
survive with the sugar it produces on its own, but that
means cuts in performance. No biggie if you are doing
something monotonous (like documenting a hardware
application for CRF) and an absolute disaster if you are
doing something creative (like writing fiction, a
roleplaying game book or game designs for Sumea). I did
not think much of it at the time, but when my diet was
cut short by high fever and the need to regain fluids
fast in April drove me back to standard diet, this is
I wrote 2/3 of my book in just
I wrote the 35-page intro in
Stalker RPG at the same time
I started another Praedor
Besides, I had already been cheating a
little by having a chocolate bar at work lunches, or else
my job as a game designer would have become possible.
When the ketosis is happening, your mind feels numb. Like
you weren't fully awake all the time. You'll get
accustomed to it eventually, but creativity, artsy stuff,
coming up with new concepts and descriptions just does
not happen. You also don't play as much video games,
because you can't focus for very long periods of time.
Your mood is low (it picks up after two or three months,
but you are still more prone to depression than before).
As for roleplaying, forget it. I know a whole bunch of
people claiming to have fun and larp while on a paleodiet
(eating only pre-mesolithic cuisines) but at least they
have berries on the list.
I've been trying to restart my diet since
August, and behold! Only ten pages of Stalker have been
added and I can't make up my mind on the Edges/Flaws
system, which conveniently provides me an excuse not to
do anything! If I keep this up, nothing will ever get
done, but at least I'll live longer and have a more sexy
6-Oct-2004: Praedor sold out!
Puolenkuun Pelit just bought every last
copy of Praedor I had left of the last print run. It is
sold out! Again! As to whether there will be another
print run (fifth? sixth?) I can't say yet. It depends on
demand; if Fantasiapelit remains convinced that the
article would sell, however slowly, there will be one. If
not, that was it for Praedor and the franchise continues
in comics and a novel, which may someday get a sequel, IF
people like my writing style, or find Old Dog as likeable
character as I do.
4-Oct-2004: Decisions, Decisions
Problem with running Burger Games as
opposed to being a private RPG author (thanks for the
prestigious title Mike!) is the need to comment and
promote your on-going projects. That was the original
purpose and one of the present purposes of this blog. To
tell the truth, this blog has become a lot more personal
than I intended. Originally it was supposed to have
marketing tone and style, without anything negative being
ever said of anyone or anything. Boy, did I fail that or
I am angry old man, who just happens to
have a wider-reaching medium at his disposal than just
shouting from the window. This used to be the most read
page on the BG website, with over a thousand hits a week,
but I haven't checked the statistics for a while. It is
also been a while since I've received any comments, good
or bad. Maybe I've scared or pissed everyone off by now.
Bad for marketing, good for artistic freedom.
A strange event occurred in September. A
group of schoolchildren were visiting Sumea and after
being given a tour of the company and some presentations
on our games, they were asked if they had any questions.
For a while there was an eerie silence, familiar to us
all from Finnish classrooms. Then one of them asked if he
could see me. Well, I showed up and he asked me
to sign his copy of Praedor. My coworkers were
absolutely stunned. It seems that my fifteen minutes of
fame aren't over after all.
No, Stalker is not ready, but two fantasy
adventure games designed by me are going to be released
soon. Just go to Sumea
homepage and look at the "coming soon"
banner on top of the page. I am the lead designer of
Fantasy Warrior 2: Evil and the story designer for both
games. As mobile games go, they are probably the longest
and deepest pieces of interactive fiction this side of
N-Gage, and I am proud of them. Real proud.
Speaking of Stalker, I am still
struggling with those damn Edges and Flaws, and getting
really, really tired of the subject. What I am going to
do, take five: Instead of separate categories of good and
bad stuff, the player gets 10 points he can invest into
character specialties, like contacts and such. It is
mostly good stuff, but every specialty has its drawback,
the stronger the more points have been invested into it.
For example, if you have powerful friends, you are also
likely to have powerful enemies, because your friends
already have enemies of their own.
Now it is time for a little guessing
game: What is my favourite non-fantasy genre? What... how
did you know? Well, I have to see how Juhana's Joutomaa
turns out first... oh well, what the hell. Nobody plays
that genre anyway, so who gives a damn what I do. In the
meantime, when I have been stuck with Stalker, I've been
making plans for a netrunner-specific 1-on-1 cyberpunk
RPG. Of course, I have dozens of these unfinished
minigames on my hard drive. I start out small and make
good progress, until the setting suddenly explodes out of
all proportion. Then they cease to be small side projects
and take too much time and effort from the main projects,
so they have to shelved. I am especially sad about the
fate of INFRA, but no, mapping out an entire planet and
its colonies, with or without terraforming, does not fall
into the "small project" category anymore.
2-Oct-2004: One-on-one roleplaying
I began playing roleplaying games with
just one friend and for the first few years it was just
us two all the time: one player, one gamemaster. First we
played a pen-and-paper version of Temple of Apshai and
then began incorporating elements from Dungeons and
Dragons. Then came Cthulhu, Stormbringer (Games Workshop
edition) and Rolemaster. There was no adventuring party:
usually the character travelled alone or with just one
NPC friend (effectively a player character for the
gamemaster), which of course had detrimental effect on
On the other hand, the gamemaster had
unlimited bandwith and issues like rules complexity did
not really matter. The game setting around the player
felt complete, extremely complete. Wherever you went,
wherever you looked. This sense of
"otherwhere", that the fantastic setting has a
life of its own all around the characters, has always
been my goal as a gamemaster. Players may or may not
enjoy the adventure as such, but if the otherwhere is not
there, from my standpoint the session has failed.
Young as we were, our early games were
mostly about describing fantastic visions or events
rather than gaming. But after those first stumbling
steps, we actually took one-on-one gaming pretty far. We
did not know at the time, but it was a valuable intensive
course on the more advanced gamemastering techniques.When
I began to play with groups as a teenager, I was already
way ahead of them in the way I described settings, built
dramatic tension, devised plots and handled major NPCs.
The unfortunate side effect was that I
was disappointed at the player experience. Not having had
an adventuring party around me before, I was not really
interested in the other characters or the social dynamics
of the group. I tried for years, but it just did not work
out. Instead, I wanted to explore the settings, to see it
myself, to send my mind and soul there and smell the
flowers, peer around corners and trying to soak up the
local atmosphere. I wanted to live there, like I did in
one-on-one games. Since gamemasters in a group game have
to divide their mental and expressive bandwith between
three to six players, they could not possibly meet my
expectations regarding the Otherwhere. Some people
apparently find group dynamics and interaction more
interesting than the setting or story, but my characters,
in RPGs and MMORPGs, are always loners.
Group play is the established format of
table-top roleplaying. All roleplaying games out there
assume there are multiple players and that the characters
form a group, so that there can be both individual and
collective interaction with the setting. And me, well, I
am the Gamemaster. That way I can still send my soul into
the Otherwhere, even if I always can't convey the sense
of it to the players. Besides, altering the setting on
the fly, or handling the full cause and effect of
character actions on an adventure design are creative
challenges I really thrive in. Brains can have orgasms
Now that Burger Games board of directors
is still debating the design philosophy of Stalker, my
mind has begun to wander on things I could do in the
meantime. One train of thought is that since there aren't
any one-on-one games on the market, maybe I should make
one. Of course, any of the existing games can be played
with just one character, but is there anything that a
one-on-one game can do and a group game can't? At least
not very well?
Agents: James Bond is about James Bond,
without persistent sidekicks.
Epics: You really want to push boundaries
of any given genre? Hercules went to Hades alone, Han
Solo is the only Star Wars character with any charisma
and Arhurian knights don't take group quests and Slaine
is not really at the same level as his dwarf.
Cyberspace: Remember in CP2020 when the
rest of the group started yawning when the netrunner
hooked into the 'net, effectively splitting up the party?
Well, what if the party isn't there? What if the other
characters are just NPC bodyguards and thugs guarding the
player-hacker during the run? Sort of Cyberpunk/Ars
Magica conversion. I actually have been thinking about a
MMOG set in Gibsonian cyberpsace, but with this idea I
think the concept could work in a roleplaying game as
well. But only if its one-on-one.
24-Sep-2004: Cultural Statement
I just saw Petri Hiltunen's latest movie
"Warlord of Saturn" (Saturnuksen Sotavaltias),
a tribute to the Finnish science fiction stories of the
50'ies. It was every bit as horrible as the Hollywood
B-scifi movies of the day, and that was exactly what the
film crew had intended. We, the audience, almost choked
with laughter. The movie is somewhere between comedy and
parody, and definitely one of the funniest I've ever
seen. You can soon get it on DVD from Pieni
Leffakauppa and I have a sneaking suspicion that the
price tag is not going to be too heavy. Also don't forget
to check out Petri's earlier movie, the western
"Prince of the Rockies" (Kalliovuorten
prinssi). Camp rules!
Our monthly award for the most idiotic
statement goes to Alterations 3/2004. There was an
article about Ropecon-04 where the writer (name censored,
go find the magazine if you want to know) criticized the
programme, laying the blame on the Ropecon institution.
If you want to know what I think about that, look here. After pushing his head firmly
between his buttocks with the asinine article, the writer
then decided that he can do better than all the thinkers
and philosophers of the past 3000 years and declared:
"[For roleplaying to be art]There must be
content that is only revealed during the play, a message."
So, either he is especially bad at
expressing himself, or he is suggesting that "stuff
X cannot be art if it does not convey a message or an
agenda as part of the process of experiencing it".
Well, thanks for clearing that one out, Writer. It was a
tough race between you and the person at majatalo.org
literature thread who said "Humour cannot be art".
Now that was pretty stupid, but Writer really wiped the
floor with his combination of getting the article into a
respectable publication, completely misunderstanding the
point of conventions and finally pinning down the
definition of art. It has eluded Humanity for as long as
there has been culture, but don't you worry. Writer has
ended the debate. That concludes our September contest
and no new submissions are accepted until the next month.
23-Sep-2004: I, Wapitee
I usually don't talk about deeply
personal stuff here, but after just seeing Riot On! I
just felt I need to say something. Let it out. Those of
you who know my personal history also know that I was
first recruited into ICT business by Wapit in late summer
2000 and that I remained there until the bitter end as a
technical writer. Those who don't know probably don't
give a shit, but either bear with me or go read something
else. Mato Valtonen has already described the rise and
fall of Wapit in his book "Noh, sano naakka kun
nokka katkes", which has also been translated into
English (by what name I cannot even begin to imagine). I
don't want to refute anything he said, but you must
understand that his viewpoint is from the top where you
can see far. My viewpoint is from the bottom but what I
could see, I saw at point blank range.
Wapit was no Riot Entertainment. We had
wild parties, but nowhere near that wild, and we did not
make sex films, although I would not be surprised if some
workplace loving took place. We weren't a content
provider, but a software development house making tools
for delivering content. I was especially fond of a
program called Information Broker which enabled you to
insert different kinds of information templates into WAP.
I built a mobile cocktail recipe service with it, just
for fun. Workplace atmosphere was the best I've ever
experienced and relations between the management and
employees were close and informal. I've never witnessed
such honesty and openness in keeping the employees up to
speed on current events, good or bad. First and foremost
it was a team effort, and because of the atmosphere, many
of us (70+ people) stuck to it to the bitter end, trying
to defend that unique community.
I was happy at Wapit. I liked the people
there, I believed in the company aims and products, I was
happy with my salary and the workplace location was the
best ever (at the corner of Simonkenttä and Annankatu).
I wanted it all to continue and was willing to make
sacrifices for it, like delaying my salaries when the
company began run out of cash. Mato refers to
"someone" suggesting it in a company-wide
crisis meeting. It was me. Out of little over a hundred
employees, over 70 staid on and then helped to clean out
the office when it was All Over.
So, all flowers and sunshine? Yeah,
right. Best workplace ever, but nothing was perfect.
There was disaster in the air long before anybody said
anything. I did a quick survey of the staff list at some
point and found that we had two managers for ever
lower-level employee. Hiring was frantic and misfired
from time to time, especially when not hiring
programmers. There was to be a team of technical writers,
first me, then four more as part of a larger department.
Then somebody had the bright idea of forming a specific
department just for technical writing, so we were all
transferred and given a boss. Two weeks later the boss
was snatched away and one of the tech writers was
assigned to the role. I will call her Miss M.
Up till now I had overseen the final
check-ups on our marketing materials, but they soon got
themselves a "professional", who could not tell
the difference between RGB and CMYK colour spectrums. We
produced a series of poorly written and graphically
fucked-up brochures on a schedule that did not allow
corrective prints to be made before major events. Neither
prospective investors or customers showed up and I can't
blame them. Then Miss M. decided that she was too
valuable for ordinary technical documentation and
assigned all her workload to another female tech writer
(who had some workload of her own), on the grounds that
she needed to create a company-wide documentation
template for word. That takes me about a day but she did
nothing else for the next two months, until she produced
a completely non-functional template that even she
herself could not make to work. She resigned under
dubious circumstances and the tech writing department was
dispersed, with each of us assigned to a different
product. I was put into Information Broker team.
By this time the fortunes of the company
had already taken a turn for the worse. The free cola had
been cancelled and further expansion and recruiting
halted. There were no lay-offs, but some rats already
escaped the sinking ship. After the first meeting where
we were informed of the dire circumstances, we somehow
summoned a lot of fighting spirit and went to a lunch
afterwards. Then, upon returning to the office, we got
the word that details of the meeting had been submitted
to a tech-industry news service, probably by a dishonest
(or thoughtless) employee. It was like a punch to the
guts. The point of our fighting spirit was trust, a sense
of community. This was a major blow to it.
After being assigned to Information
Broker team I learned the noble art of twiddling my
thumbs. The preliminary documentation of the existing
product was easily done (granted, I am a machine when it
comes to writing) and further changes even more easily
updated to it. I did the cocktail recipe WAP application
with the product and it was actually adopted as a demo
application by the marketing. Other than that, the
company had a drastic overcapacity of technical
documentation bandwith. One by one the other writers
fled, until I was, again, the only tech writer in the
company and determined to stay on until the end.
The end was a bitter struggle to save at
least parts of the company by selling them to a third
party. It was watched with great interest by factions
like Nokia. In fact, my uncle who has big boots and an
even bigger wallet at an unnamed Finnish mobile phone
manufacturing company kept calling my dad to ask
"how I was doing", probably hoping to catch
some info on the state of Wapit. Actually we thought we
had made it, when the lawyers of the prospective buyer
pulled the plug. That's it. Over and done with. I've seen
some pretty big business gurus from ABB to Electronic
Arts, but I've never seen them in tears before or since.
Well, we were informed of the failure of sales talks,
first informally and then formally in a company-wide
staff meeting. It took a month before the doors closed.
We played ball games in the corridors and helped to carry
furniture and equipment to where they could be evaluated
and sold to prospective buyers. Then, around midday on a
sunny day in June 2001 me and my girlfriend left Wapit
Of course, no story ends that easily, but
it is tale for another time.
22-Sep-2004: Jysäys and Praedor
There is a new Praedor comic around.
Jysäys is a comics magazine by (contrary to what I said
earlier) Isihei Oy
that focuses on European comics scene. In every issue
there are four full-colour pages of a whole new Praedor
comic. I don't know much more about it (and what little I
know I can't tell you)., but you can get the magazine
from any well-stocked department store. My local S-market
had it, so it can't be very rare.
By the way, my prepayment from the
Praedor novel was exactly three months late on 20th of
September. Yesterday the publisher informed me that they
could not pay it because they had lost (yes, lost!) my
tax card, which I had personally delivered to the office
three weeks earlier. Read my lips: I am pissed! It is
good that Jysäys is published by Arktinen Banaani. I
don't know if they do books, but if I ever write another
Praedor novel, I am going to offer it to them first.
And no, I don't give a damn if my present
publisher (Jalava, in case you had a lobotomy since last
week) reads this itty bitty piece of criticism. If the
sum was any greater I would sue the clowns for breaking
the publishing contract. But I am such a nice guy...
20-Sep-2004: Burning the Midnight
My games have been using a
point-value-based Edges & Flaws system at least since
Taiga, maybe even in Miekkamies (can't remember right
now). Since I am not a fan of completely point-based
systems, I have had separate mechanisms where attributes
are rolled and Edges and Flaws are then selected from a
separate point pool. It works well in fictional settings
because it makes incorporating fantastic abilities and
fiction cliches into the characters easier. But I have a
problem with it in STALKER.
What are modern people like? What
extraordinary abilities they have? Where are the enemies
lusting after our blood? To me, modern world is not just
a setting, it is also a genre. Being a non-theorist, I
usually have had just two guidelines to my game designs:
consumer preferences and gut feeling. Sometimes they
conflict, and greedy as I am, I must confess that gut
feeling wins every time. Game writing is a creative
endeavour and there is only so much even I can do against
the "will of my soul" (bloody poetic).
What this boils down to is that I am
going tear open the already finished character generation
system of STALKER, implement something new in place of
Edges & Flaws, and take it further and further away
from Praedor. I will probably play tricks the with the
character's age. Years of adulthood become a resource
pool you can invest into perks, which have their
corresponding ups and downs (instead of having clear-cut
"good stuff" and "bad stuff" like
Edges & Flaws). It is easier said than done, but it
is my goal.
Contemporary RPG gurus look down on
gamism, but I will break the taboo and confess that one
of the coolest things in Cyberpunk 2020 were the annual
event rolls. No balancing, no choices, no conforming to a
pre-written character history or any other artistic crap.
Just you with the dice, trying to luck it out. These
completely random events could make or break a character,
or at the very least put one member of the party at a
staggering disadvantage. Furthermore, extinct romantic
relationships had no effect in the game, but what teenage
boy does not dream of sex with ultra-cool babes? At least
the character had gotten lucky, even if we had not. Back
then I always played 25 years old characters if I could.
He was young enough not to be a walking dead but old
enough to know something about life. Or so I thought.
Now, at 30, I feel like a walking dead
and still don't know anything. But don't worry; there
won't be annual event rolls in STALKER. I just wish there
17-Sep-2004: Stay. The Hell. Away.
Every fall I get to read some pretty
idiotic stuff about my favourite summer event: Ropecon.
This fall, I've read things like "Ropecon is a bad
event because there is nothing in the programme that
would interest ME", and "Ropecon is bad because
it has been overtaken by children with pixie ears and
poorly made cloaks", or "Ropecon is bad because
the larpers terrorize everybody else" and so on.
What I ought to say is that these people are a few
braincells short of a pair, but let's analyze these
claims for the sake of argument.
"Ropecon is bad because there is
nothing in the programme that would interest ME"
is a stupid thing to say, not only because it makes the
speaker appear a self-centred moron (to avoid this, drop
the "Ropecon is bad because" -part from the
comment and you have a valid observation), but because it
implies that the speaker has no clue as to what a
convention is. I've seen it often. People come to Ropecon
like it was a rock festival. But in a festival the
organizers arrange entertainment for the visitors. In a
convention, the line between organisers and visitors
becomes blurred. It is an event to those who want to do
or give something to the community, and those interested
in what they have to offer. The staff does not arrange
the events, but is there to provide the event organisers
with means and space to do their thing. It is scene
meeting, not a party.
If there is nothing in the programme that
would interest you and you don't want to arrange an event
yourself, stay the hell away. It is not the
organisers' fault if YOU don't know what to do with your
"Ropecon is bad because it has
been overtaken by children with pixie ears and poorly
made cloaks" is what you typically hear from
people who've never been there. Frankly, if you find a
few people dressing up in home-made fantasy costumes
offensive, both you and Ropecon are better off if you
don't come. Come to think of it, it is probably best if
you stay away from public events altogether. The idea
behind a hobby convention is that people make up their
own fun and programme. One aspect of fun is bonding,
creating a sense of community or tribe through similar
interests, often expressed with physical signals that
enable tribe members to locate and identify one another.
These people then sit down to play an RPG session, listen
to a presentation, play some cards or try their hand at
miniature wargames. How the hell are they
"overtaking" anything? The only ones bothered
about it are a few whiners who always "heard it from
a friend" or something. Come see for yourself or
shut up. In fact, just plain "shut up" will do.
"Ropecon is bad because larpers
terrorize everyone else". Well, I am no larper
and have very little patience with larper elitists, but
come on! They do their stuff, look cool in their
well-made costumes, are willing to put tremendous effort
in their presentations, workshops and games, all held in
a specifically assigned part of Dipoli. Apart from a
certain idiotic incident this Summer, they have behaved.
What exactly constitutes terrorizing? The only time I've
been disturbed by them was during hippilarppi last year,
when five participants danced around Dipoli proclaiming
their love towards the universe and giving people hugs at
random. The entire disturbance lasted for about a minute
and I was hugged by a cute hippie girl. Boy, am I
Ropecon is a great thing. It is a great
event, a great institution and a great bunch of people,
regardless of whatever conflicts of personality or
ideology they have, with me or each other. Theory is
nothing, practice is everything. I have always had
tremendous respect for people who get things done.
These people do. and it is these people, both staff and
event organisers, who make it happen. They are there
because they feel they have something to give to the
scene, and to ensure that they or others have the
opportunity to give it. If you are not interested in what
they have to offer, come offer something better yourself
or stay the hell away. I am sick of your whining!
13-Sep-2004: Old Skool
I am sometimes called old-fashioned,
relic or a throwback for my views regarding gaming, and
it is true. I created my playstyle with just one
gamemaster and one player, and regarded roleplaying as an
interactive form of storytelling, with similarities to
the form of storytelling I was most familiar with:
Of course, nobody plays roleplaying games
for 19 years without many changes; age alone will take
care of that. And unless you are totally braindead after
all that Coke and heavy metal music, you are bound to
pick up new influences and tricks along the way. Still,
although I have tried different method and styles, I've
always returned to my original, literature-influenced
storytelling style, the "Old Skool".
Fortunately I have always been able to find like-minded
players and even after 19 years Old Skool Roleplaying is
still going strong!
Here is what you need for a proper Old
Gaming can get exhausting, so it is best
to kick off with a healthy meal. If you are the
gamemaster, don't forget your rulebook (the one with most
street-cred), dice and skulls.
Any gamemaster has the soul of a poet.
He must be in the right mood...
...while players often have the right
attitude to begin with!.
And what would a fantasy adventure be
without damsels in distress and fair maidens to be
rescued from the clutches of dragons...
12-Sep-2004: Playtesting results
I am back from my cruise to Stockholm and
playtesting Stalker rules. Operation: Half-Life is much
more action-oriented than Stalker, so the focus of the
playtesting was character creation and combat system. We
made the following observations:
1. Dividing skills into common and
non-common is a good idea, but my definition of common
skills is counter-intuitive to most players. There ought
to be more non-common skills, but the cost of learning
them in skill points should also be reduced.
2. Weapon damages are basically okay,
although they could use more variance. They are also
quite deadly (targets get incapacitated easily, even if
dying from a single shot takes a little effort). Drama
rules, like that only damage rolls against enemies are
open-ended, might be needed.
It all depends on the mood gamemaster
wants to have. If Stalkers are considered heroes and
physical combat plays an important part in the game,
making it less deadly for them serves a purpose. In my
games it won't, but not all are that thrilled about the
train ride scene in the movie "Stalker".
3. There is only so much you can do about
getting shot. Praedor combat rests heavily on skill vs.
skill comparisons, but that does not really cut it in a
firefight. Modern world is firefight-intensive and
usually who goes first, wins. Rolled initiative is a
must, as opposed to fixed initiative I've been using now.
It is a dramatic effect and I will implement the system
used in Taiga, where better initiative rolls yield more
actions per round. That means increasing round length to
10 seconds and dropping weapon-specific intitiative
modifiers, which personally bugs me. It is one more roll.
I am dropping the defensive roll against being shot at.
That should keep it reasonably fast.
4. Burst fire is not working as I hoped.
The original system was that burst is resolved like a
single shot, except you can re-roll one of the dice (as
it is easier to hit with a burst) and you score degree x
1 hits on the enemy (typically 1-2 hits out of the five
rounds fired). I don't know what I am going to do with
it, but I have to do something.
Curiously, a firefight/weapon
realism-heavy game called Millennium's End declares
boldly that it leaves the effects of automatic fire for
the gamemaster to resolve. Just like that. Either you
fire a single shot, or the gamemaster tells you what will
happen. Curious gap in an otherwise rules-heavy game.
08-Sep-2004: Little bit of STALKER
STALKER playtesting begins officially
this Friday, when me and some friends go on a cruise to
Stockholm and use Stalker rules to play Operation:
Half-Life on both nights we are at sea (no, the drunks
staggering along ship corridors do not bother us at all:
quite the opposite, actually, since they are much like
headcrab zombies). This is the first time the system of
STALKER has actually been tested in play and the focus is
obviously on character generation, action scenes and
combat resolution. I'll let you know how it went.
Since it has been a while I have provided
any new Stalker material, here is a gift to blog readers:
character sheet. For some reason my PDF writer has
begun to make very large PDFs. This is quite confusing
since the whole of Praedor fit into 900kb and now the
character sheet alone takes 505 kb. Sorry about that.
I'll have to re-check the settings.
06-Sep-2004: UNSF: Where is the
UNSF (no, I wasn't kicked in the balls)
stands for United Nations Space Force and has been dealt
with in this blog before. The game is now in its third
version and can be downloaded from here:
You need a PDF reader to get it. And
apart from incredibly stupid Finglisms (mixing English
and Finnish in words and content), I am really starting
to like the game. It deals with the adventures of an
elite military force in 2280 and reminds me of a mixture
of 2300AD, Cyberpunk and Aliens. Three good things
combining into one awesome. The author has been blessed
with contacts to good illustrators and since he does not
have to worry about printing costs, some of the stuff is
fully coloured. I could well use this game myself
(although professional pride will not let me) and the art
alone is worth taking a look at it, if you have any
interest in science fiction.
I have two beefs with the 103-page
rulebook, one minor and one major:
1. My minor complaint is that if you are
using justified alignment in your text columns, use
hyphenation. Otherwise it will look like sh... well, the
way it looks right now. It is also irritating read and
really whispers "low quality" to a first-time
reader. Little proofreading would not hurt either.
2. My major complaint is the setting, or
more precisely, lack of. I recommend that you guys don't
write a single piece more about technology, weapons or
spacecraft, but focus on setting. Setting, setting,
setting, nothing but setting.
People like me have no problem with
adding a lot of detail by ourselves, or integrating
Hegemony with some other suitable scifi environment, but
you don't make freely downloadable action games for
grizzled old veterans. This is a game to be played at
Ropecon, surrounded by coke bottles and popcorn bags.
Boys (and girls, hopefully, although none are mentioned),
if you ever get your stuff together and do to the setting
what you have done to art and technology in this game,
you have a winner. A big winner that will draw even old
geezers like me from our lairs to go on "another
bughunt". Hey, we have been drooling watching Aliens
for 18 years now.
05-Sep-2004: Oops! I did yet again!
For the fifth
thousandth time (because someone was stupid enough to ask
about it): I don't have anything against (or for) the
academic study of roleplaying games and even game
theories would be acceptable if the game theorists did
not get up to my nose so easily. The reason for this is
that a high (or more likely just vocal) proportion of
them uses game theory rhetoric to promote their personal
style of gaming by labeling it as "progressive,
advanced or mature", at the qualitative expense of
other styles. I am opposed to that and it colours my view
of the whole bunch. Perhaps unfairly, but it does.
As to whether the
academic study of roleplaying and/or formulation of game
theories is really useful to anyone (another question
presented to me earlier by an old acquintance on a bad
day) I am prepared to leave the issue unresolved. It has
not been useful to me and it will take some convincing
before I look at them again. I feel that they are going
in circles (presentation in Ropecon did not bring
anything new compared to similar events in the nineties)
and upon expressing this I've been told that I just don't
understand anything about game theories (having studied
them for a better part of the last decade) or roleplaying
in general (I guess it is normal for people to do
something for 19 years and write four books about it
without really knowing anything). Maybe the theorists
will eventually come up with something useful but in the
meantime I am going to trust my gut instinct as to what
will or won't work. And maybe roleplaying as a cultural
phenomenon ought not to be studied by roleplayers, but by
outside observers unbiased towards any genre or method.
Oops, I did it
again, talked about game theories here. Neither I nor the
game theorists need these disputes, so the next time
somebody asks me a question about this topic and provokes
me into saying anything about it, I am just going to kill
him (hint: using the word "roleplaying games"
exclusively about live roleplaying games in my presence
is a good way to depart from this world). I have an
Indian saber from about 1780 with still enough edge to do
In other news, in my opinion the most
ingenious game designer/writer in Finland is Kalle
Marjola. Why? Because of all the game/RPG designers in
Finland he has the best eye for designing simple,
balanced and functional mechanisms, and because of the
whole bunch he is the only one without any other agenda
than providing maximum entertainment for the game
audience. No force-feeding of genres, ideas, methods or
values. And trust me, he is the only one who can do it
like that. Besides, he has a much wider repertoire: board
games, digital games, card games etc. and he really gets
stuff done. Maybe Burger Games ought to license his
products and start publishing commercial versions of
Obviously the next question is what
agendas me and my other colleagues have. Well, from what
I've seen and heard, it goes something like this:
I have two motives: Firstly, I fall in
love with a setting or a genre, get visions of it in my
head to then do the game to convince other people that
the chosen setting and visions are the best ever and
everybody should play them (although I consciously accept
that not all people are interested in all genres, that
does not stop me from hoping). And when it is over and
done, I suddenly lose my interest and change the
"best ever" genre like it was a shirt. My
second motive is fame. I am a sucker for my fifteen
minutes of fame and linking my name, face and persona
with a famous setting or a hot genre is the next best
thing to sex.
Mike believes firmly in the superiority
of role immersion as a gaming style and wrote Myrskyn
Aika to both promote the style and to provide a framework
for fantasy adventures using that style. Of course, what
the author intends and what the consumer gets out of the
game are two different things. Some MA players have
adopted immersion-oriented playstyle, while others just
use the setting as they would use any other fantasy
Wille Ruotsalainen considers it a
cultural injustice for us to play games based on foreign
mythology, when we also have a mythology of our own.
Roudan Maa is about correcting that injustice. He is also
undoubtedly bursting with pride about being the first
game writer whose take on Fantasy Finland is on equal
footing with foreign fantasy settings. And believe me,
every bit of that pride is well-earned. If he just
expanded the map to stretch from Birka to Holmgård
(Novgorod) and thus include Estonian and Scandinavian
cultures to the setting, it'd be perfect. Unfortunately
he is also hampered by his limited experience on the
design of actual games, as opposed to mere setting
materials (not enough racial differences in Iron Age
Scandinavia to merit background attribute changes in
Praedor system... I am still laughing at that one).
If Joutomaa really has more than a
hundred pages of gamemastering instructions, it is a safe
bet to assume that Juhana has something to say about
gamemastering. I just don't know what it is yet.
If I were evil, I'd say that the writers
behind EAD and Pelagaya LARP setting are commercially
oriented. They are creating their own
hard-science-fiction IP that they can later sell to game,
TV or book publishing companies. It is a great and
detailed setting and certainly worth a lot of money to
I think that covers the main RPG-material
developers in Finland right now. There are some others,
but they either haven't got anything done or can't market
their ideas well enough for me to take real notice. If
you feel you should be mentioned here, drop me a line and
tell me where do you get your kicks as a game writer.
04-Sep-2004: Summer is Over
And thus we bid farewell to one of the
best summers ever. It was not too good weather-wise, but
I still regard this summer as one of the best ever: great
Ropecon, exciting Assembly, a marvelous trip to London,
good ice-cream, the company I work for did not go
bankrupt or announce lay-offs (that's a first!). The only
downside is that gained 5 kilos. Still, it means I lost
25 kilos over the last year. I can (and hopefully will)
live with that. I also wrote 100kb worth of blog notes,
which isn't too shabbily either.
Note to aspiring writers! Getting a
pre-payment from the publisher is like squeezing water
from stone. Mine is more than two months late and they
promised and swore they would pay it last week. No prizes
for guessing whether they did or not.
I'll be playtesting the combat system for
Stalker soon, using it as a substitute system for the
next two Operation: Half-Life sessions. I am going on a
cruise to Stockholm with three friends and O:HL will be
the evening's entertainment the way there and back.In
Stockholm we'll visit the museum of naval history and
Scifi-Bokhandeln to check if the Swedish RPG scene has
pushed out something new. They probably have, since it's
been a while I last visited them.
I am planning a new layout format for
Stalker. It is currently using the traditional two-column
layout applied in Praedor and the same body text fonts.
Less text per page and a change of font will probably
make it clearer. I am also not happy with the style of
writing I've used. Somehow the existence of Praedor
haunts the text, as if there were subliminal references
to it. There should not be. This is an entirely different