31-May-2005: Burger Games in
I've been asked to write an introduction
for my Ropecon presentation "Gamemaster's
Borvaria". It will go somewhat like this:
Jaconiaa ympäröi Borvaria, kuoleman
valtakunta, tuhansien neliökilometrien laajuinen
rauniokaupunki. Kukaan ei tiedä mitä Borvarian takana
on, jotkut uskontokunnat uskovat ettei mitään. Borvaria
on kuoleman maa. Ikuinen pimeä voima ja nimettömät
olennot tekevät siitä synkän helvetin. Ville Vuorela
on paitsi Praedor-roolipelin tekijä, fantasiakirjailija
ja pelialan ammattilainen, niin myös (kovia) kokenut
Borvariankävijä. Tämä on ainutkertainen tilaisuus
kuulla ja kysyä Kirotun Maan salaisuuksista.
I don't know the time and place yet, but
the Burger Slot has usually been on Saturday at 12.00. I
have also been asked to run a workshop about
world-building, or basically coming up with a roleplaying
game setting. Since my approach to RPG design is
setting-oriented, the person responsible for programme
decided I'd be the right person for the job. I am not so
sure myself: I haven't run a single workshop in Ropecon
before, but I've been told it is like teaching at school.
An interactive presentation. I've done that a lot, so I
have decided to accept the challenge.
After Ropecon there is Assembly. I was
there for the first time last year and it was absolutely
great! I am not into demoscene but some of the demos are
amazing and I like to see stuff that people and companies
in the business are doing. The core of my Assembly
participation will again be the panel presentations. The
speaker programmer has not been published yet, but it is
almost certain to contain something that will interest
me. Last year Milner and the produkt demo team really
stole my breath away, and Air Buccaneers presentation was
pretty cool as well. Mobile games aren't really a core
business for Assembly but maybe some day I'll give a
presentation there as well.
29-May-2005: Just Say No
I am really too dumb to comment on
politics, but right now I can't resist saying a thing or
two about the new EU Constitution. France just held a
referendum and rejected it to the consternation of other
European leaders. There have been all sorts of hurried
explanations why the ratification failed, typically along
the line that the French took out their frustrations with
the current government on the poor constitution. It may
well be true, but I don't think it is the whole picture.
The French probably took out their frustrations on the
constitution because they did not understand what they
were actually voting about.
And no wonder: the new EU Constitution is
500+ pages of Central European legalese and fine print!
Even BBC legal experts (in Talking Point today) said they
could not decode it! I am pro-EU, but if I were asked to
vote about the constitution, I'd vote "no" too,
just because I am not going to sign a paper I don't
understand. If the EU constitution is that important,
where the heck is a pro-constitution information campaign
that would outline its key points and the changes it
would bring with it. Or, if our pro-constitution
prime minister is correct and there would not be any
changes worth discussing (hence Finland will probably not
hold a public referendum), what is the point of having a
new constitution in the first place? How the hell do the
Brussels eurocrats expect to convince the British if they
can't convince me?
"Perustuslaki" is a rather poor
translation for "Constitution". Looking at the
existing national constitutions, one can see that they
have nothing to do with legislation. Instead, a
constitution defines the ideal nation for its writers by
listing the principles and ideological cornerstones that
such a nation should epitomize. Finland does it in a
codified format but not all countries do. Constitution
defines the goal and the sole purpose of regular
legislation, government and indeed the whole state
administration is to pursue that goal. Constitution =
where we are trying to go. Legislation = the procedure
for getting there. That should be simple enough and for
some countries it is. The United States constitution,
written in an age of extreme sophistry and extended with
numerous amendments, is still less than 1/10th of the
length of the new EU Constitution. Something's amiss
What am I to think? Someone slams a
500-page document I can't make head or tails of onto my
desk and tells me that although it will define the future
of the second-most powerful state on Earth and it is
absolutely vital that it is ratified it does not really
change anything and that he can't really explain what it
is about even if he tried?
"It is nothing important, I just
need your signature for it!"
I am sorry, eurocrats, but my idea of an
ideal state, let alone an ideal pan-European federal
state, is not a 500-page document of Central European
legalese that even lawyers find confusing. It may well be
an accurate description of the EU of today, but I don't
want it to be the EU of tomorrow. Maybe your stack of
papers does contain ideals, principles and ideological
cornerstones I can agree with. Maybe there is nothing
wrong with it except for the vocabulary! But I still
won't sign a paper I don't understand!
In the last entry I went through the
minor game projects I have. Code/X seems to have attraced
a fair bit of interest, so I'll tell you a little more
about it. Starting with "why?". Writing is my
way of coping with stress and especially so when I follow
my whims and write whatever pops into my mind. In the
words of Auryn: "Do what you really want!" I am
writing Code/X to avoid a burn-out from work and study
stress. My other reason for writing Code/X is that
Operation: Half-Life, my very own fan RPG set in the
aftermath of Half-Life 1, was a fun and fast game to
play. Unfortunately Half-Life 2 pretty much destroyed the
setting and more importantly, Half-Life is intellectual
property of Valve. Burger Games cannot publish O:HL.
So I needed my own game and a setting I
can distribute freely. Code/X is it. Since the focus is
on fast gameplay and furious action (it is a hybrid of
Old Skool and RIP gaming styles) and I wanted to get it
done Real Soon Now, making it a massive commercial
product was out. It'll be a freely downloadable game
under a shareware license, meaning that you can use it
for free and do supplemental material as long as you ask
me first (and put Code/X and Burger Games on it
somewhere), but I retain the copyright and immaterial
properties. Of course, none of this really matters to the
Code/X is scenario-based. Like episodes
in a TV-show, every adventure is a distinct and pretty
short scenario with few or no tie-ins to the previous
scenario. There are seven distinct fields of black file
research, named after or by the Axis scientists, although
some fields are much, much older. Each field has its own
plot types, secret installations, factions and critters.
Gamemasters will probably focus on the three or four
fields they like most, but all do co-exist in the Code/X
world. Of course, Code/X can be used to run any kind of
action scenario in a contemporary setting, from cops and
robbers to a Hollywood-style mercenary campaigns. But it
has been written with the survival horror genre in mind
and playing computer games like Half-Life, Far Cry, Cold
Fear, Project Eden...
What is survival horror? Survival horror
is an action-horror hybrid where the focus is not as much
in despair, shock or fright, but in the glorious
description of human perseverence in the face of
overwhelming odds. In short, they are heroic tales in
horror-story settings. For example, Half-Life features
many terrible monsters, but none of them come even close
to Gordon Freeman himself. Despite many close calls, the
player is expected to triumph. In Code/X the characters
may well fail and die in the scenario, but not without
taking a lot of enemies with them. In truth, their odds
are no better or worse than in most fantasy dungeon
crawls. It is only the contrast of having such dangers in
"our world" that makes it "horror".
All survival horror plots consist of four
elements: Treasure, Island, Swarm and Lair. Names are
metaphorical, but you can find them from any movie or
game of the genre. There will be some stuff on scenario
design in the Gamemaster's book but here are the basics:
Treasure is the reason
why the heroes go in. Since the whole world has not been
taken over by monsters and the "accident"
scenario will only work once, we need a solid motive for
this insane behaviour for longer campaigns. In Code/X, it
is usually a greed for monetary rewards for the
characters and some mission objective set by Code/X for
the group as a whole. "Seize the notes".
"Destroy the test samples". "Kill the mad
Island is the in-game
environment where the monsters and dangers can exist
without affecting the rest of the world. It is like a
pocket universe with its own laws and there must be
boundaries separating it from the rest of the world. In
Resident Evil, "island" was being in an
underground research base. Although base was overrun by
zombies, they could not get out and thus such a massive
incident could be covered up. Because of the
"island", the terror of black file experiments
never meets the public and secrets are preserved. But it
also means that characters will have to go looking for
trouble in underground labs, remote islands, mountain
valleys, lone outpost on the Antarctic and the like.
Islands of terror in a sea of mundane life.
Swarm is the in-game
reason why the heroes cannot prevail simply through
superior firepower. In Half-Life, new creatures
constantly pop in from Xen. In Aliens or Resident Evil,
the sheer number of opposition and the difficulty of
shooting them down makes it hopeless. In Far Cry, new
creatures constantly emerge from labs and they are so
powerful that being cornered by even two of them means an
almost certain death. The players can only hope to break
contact with them, flee, plan alternate routes or fight
off the current attack before more enemies arrive.
Warriors can win battles but not the war.
Lair is the heart of
darkness, the dragon's den. Heroes must explore it to
reach the treasure, or at the very least to make it back
home with the treasure. Overcoming the lair is usually
the only way to defeat the enemy. Lair is separated from
Island by being essentially a precise goal. Whereas on
Island the characters could choose to flee from
opposition, in Lair they will stand and fight. Sometimes
to the death. Lair is often used for epic final
confrontations, but sometimes it can be revealed half-way
through the scenario, or there can be several, or false
leads that will lead the characters back to Island.
In Far Cry, when Parker begins
hunting for professor Krieger and then a cure for the
infection, he is no longer just running from the
opposition but has a fixed goal. Thus, he has entered
Lair. In the movie Resident Evil, as long as characters
were just fleeing from zombies, they were on Island. When
Red Queen revealed a way out, they entered Lair. In
Half-Life, Gordon Freeman is on Island as long as he is
just trying to escape Black Mesa complex. When a
scientist tells him to go to a teleporter and then to Xen
to close off a suspected portal, he enters Lair, although
he remains in the complex for almost half the game still.
Once you understand these concepts, you
can easily come up with new Code/X scenarios in seconds.
And you'll have an important insight into the design
principles of survival horror shoot-em-ups.
21-May-2005: Zero Progress
No progress on the book, Stalker or
anything else. Drawing up WW2 battlefields at work
(http://www.rovio.com/burma/) drains me so badly that
when I get home, I am just taking it easy. That means
playing videogames, taking a nap, watching TV and writing
bits and pieces into the myriad secondary projects I
have. Of course, if I could focus all that writing into
Stalker there would be progress, but that would mean
processing the whole monster of a game in my head and I
just don't have the energy. Well, if I have to choose
between a burn-out now and getting Stalker out around my
retirement (assuming there will be such a thing in 2038)
I'll opt for the latter, sorry. That does not actually
bother me as much as the book, but then again neither
Petri nor me have a signed publishing contract with
Jalava. So what the hell. With summer exams in the
University coming up (and a study essay to be written) it
is likely that the only thing I have to show at Ropecon
is my ugly face.
So what then are these secondary projects
I write a line or two into when I need to relax? They are
small RPGs written to A5 size and into 64-page booklets
(just like Mobsters which is the only mini-RPG that ever
got finished). If any of them ever gets finished, I'll
convert it into PDF and put it on this website for
download, but don't hold your breath. Looking at my
"misc_work" folder I see the following games:
is the latest edition of Syndicate Scorpio and
deals with bounty hunters in the Free City of
Taipei (loosely based on Kalle Marjola's own Isle
of Dawn Syndicate-campaign). Hardcore
INFRA is a
science fiction game where Earth has been
devastated by an asteroid impact and survivors
are terraforming Mars for their new home. Lot's
of hard scifi/cyberpunk/western elements. Name
refers to infrared light, which is crucial to the
terraforming effort and red just like Mars
itself. If this project picks up, it might make a
good full-scale game as well.It was also the name
of the terraforming project, but that project has
now split into conflicting factions.
another scifi-game, this time military science
fiction about a war between Martian independence
movements and ruthless megacorps. Originally
inspired by the video game "Red
Faction". My poor attempt at power armours
OMEGA is a
pretty weird post-holocaust game where players
type robots who outlasted their masters and now
try to survive and find a meaning for their lives
in a post-holocaust world. Set around the year
2100, exact date depending on version.
Deathworld is a
space opera/Aliens-game where colonists battle
deadly indigenous lifeforms on a faraway planet.
is a Scorpio 2.0 version of my first roleplaying
game by the same name, but it needs a new
setting. I haven't done a thing with it for
awhile. There is a version of this game set in
the "real 17th century Europe" (just as
Ars Magica is set in the "real Medieval
Europe"). A version of this game was also
used to playtest Praedor combat system in the
Seven Kings is a
barbaric fantasy roleplaying game where I tried
pulling together everything I know about advanced
neolithic cultures (Catal Houyk, Jericho,
Toltecs, pre-Celtic cultures of Europe) and
creating a stone-age fantasy world that would
still be rich in cultures and tradition. I
dropped it when it began veering too badly into
the direction of Hyboria.
Code/X is a very
recent project. I can't publish my Half-Life
mini-RPG because of trademark issues, so I
developed my own, simple setting for
action-oriented survival horror scenarios. I am
now building an equally simple Scorpio 2.0 game
system for it. Survival Horror is my favourite PC
shooter genre (Half-Life, Far Cry and Cold Fear
all belong to it) and I'd like to bring it over
to pen&paper gaming as well. Code/X will take
take over Operation: Half-Life as my "cruise
Quite a few games, huh? Just goes to show
you that for every game I actually publish, there are a
dozen projects sitting in the desk drawer that never
progress beyond the stage of an introduction and some
16-May-2005: Blue Evening
I went to see a performance called Vyöhyke
yesterday at Q-theatre. It was very loosely based on
Tarkovski's movie "Stalker". I am not really
into modern theatre, but the second part of the show was
actually quite cool and overall the sense of decay and
"post-departure" was very strong. I am not sure
I really understood the topic of the play, but bits and
pieces of that splendid atmosphere should and hopefully
will be incorporated into the game. I did not really like
it this much immediately after the play, but now that
I've slept over it, the bad parts (I hate shouting and
rolling on the floor) have sort of faded and only the
air, the look & feel of the Zone, remains. Maybe this
is what they aimed for.
Other than that, zero progress. There
will be, but in all honesty, it looks like Stalker will
be the last major RPG production ever by Burger Games.
I've contemplated quitting before: sometimes because of
money, sometimes because of stress. But I have this inner
drive to create games, open doors into new worlds, play
around with game mechanics and create not just adventures
that are, but adventures yet to come. When I was a
technical writer, it was an outlet from the rigors of
work. Now I do game design all day and when I get home, I
am supposed to relax by doing some more game design?
Frankly, Stalker and my dayjob as a mobile game designer
draw on the same mental reserve.
Of course, there will be
"stuff". Working on that non-digital IP I got
to hang on to, probably. It will benefit the digital side
as well. By the way, I have always wondered how so many
people can play RPG's without the need for writing their
own games, but I guess I ought to try and learn. I have
5+ metres of game books on my shelves. Surely there must
be something worth playing :)
New Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying
rulebook is out, this time by Black
Industries. And it is
really a new edition, although it retains many of the
rejoiced and reviled features of the original, like the
career paths. Which are, in my opinion, a fairly cool
idea. Rumour has it that while tie-ins with the present
version of WH Fantasy Battle are not that obvious, new
WHFRP would have been hand-in-glove with the planned
Warhammer Online. WH Online was unfortunately cancelled,
but WHFRP was not, and Old World remains one of the best
and most sophisticated game worlds ever. Check it out.
I got invited to be a Beta tester of Auto Assault
MMORPG, assuming I'll ever get around faxing
the signed NDA back to NCSoft. And once I've done that, I
am not going to say a word more about the subject. I have
always had hots for post-holocaust, even long before
Fallout came out and Auto Assault is a
post-holocaust-themed, vehicle-based mmorpg. This will be
fun. Anyway, this game interests me even more: Fallen Earth.
Neocron-style combat controls and an honest,
down-to-Earth post-holocaust setting appeal to me even
more than the adranaline rush of fast-paced vehicle
I usually don't comment on world events,
but this month's "Wanted: Brains" Award goes to
Newsweek magazine. Last week, they published an article
about how Guantanamo interrogators are trying to break
(or just annoy the hell out of) their prisoners by
abusing copies of Qu'ran and flushing them down the
toilet. True or not, this is a capital offence in many
Moslem countries. Well aware that investigators probably
won't be stoned for it, Moslems are rioting from Egypt to
Indonesia, with a death toll of 13 and counting.
Ok, reporting bad things is part of the
role of independent media. But now, Newsweek has
announced that its report may have been false. That's
right: "We are sorry for any inconvenience (and
political fallout, material damage, terror recruiting and
violent deaths) caused by our slight misreporting."
This means either of two things:
A) Report was bogus and released only to
increase sales through shock effect, without realising
what that shock would actually do in Moslem countries
around the globe. Oops! Now they got cold feet (and very
angry phone calls) over it and are trying to control the
damage by coming clean... about 13 deaths and a million
conspiracy theories too late.
B) Report was true and Moslem anger
justified, but Newsweek has caved in under pressure from
White House and retracted the story in what Moslems have
correctly interpreted as the sorriest excuse for a
cover-up ever. Hell, I am not one but it still looks like
a cover-up to me! And cover-ups usually are the best
proof you can get.
Newsweek has really made a mark on the
history of modern journalism!
15-May-2005: Blue Nights of Spring
It is late spring and tiny leaves have
just appeared on birch trees. They take about two weeks
(and some rain) to grow to full size. The upper half of a
birch leaf is deep green and coated with something like
wax, which makes it slightly shiny. The underside is dull
light green. Why am I saying this? Because at the height
of summer, when the sunlight is brightest, they can gleam
like green gold. Hundreds upon hundreds of individual
leaves sway and turn in the winds, their upper sides
sparkling when they turn my way. It is Green Gold, Green
Fire, whatever you want to call it. I don't really care
for flowers and plants, but birch trees on a sunny
summer's day are more beautiful than any flower.
Speaking of vegetation, have you seen
this (requires Flash)?
Yes! It is the game web of War
Diary: BURMA, the first game by Rovio Mobile and
the very first mobile game based entirely on my idea,
concept and design. Let's not get too cocky, though.
Making games is a team effort and the design benefited
greatly from the feedback of other team members. For
example, the original combat system was crap compared to
the one we have now. I did do the design on the present
system as well, but I would not have done it without
their input. Also, when designing the game interface, any
suggestions from artists must be taken seriously. It may
be my concept and design, but it is our
game. Thanks team, you guys are great!
As for the game website, nothing like
this has ever been done for a "mere" mobile
game. This is a pilot to see if it is worth it. If so
(there are many ways to judge worth here), we will make
one for each of our games. Not all the stuff on the site
was written by me, but the whole Diary is. I wanted to
write something from the perspective of the player
character, without giving away mission details or plot
twists. Many of the individual events are taken from real
Chindit memoirs and diaries. What? You thought the units
and battlefields were fictional? We used actual history
and actual maps for the game, although with a
considerable artistic license. War Diary: BURMA
features a mobile-friendly control model that I hope will
enable us (and others) to do reasonably realistic and yet
easy-to-play mobile war games in the future. Play the
game (when it is out) and you'll see what I mean.
Llife is good. Rovio will make
<classified> games this year and all but one are my
original ideas, concepts and designs. I am shaping the
company and the company is shaping me. This is how it
should be. Last week was a busy newsweek for the game
industry (next week is E3 so it probably won't let up).
From the Finnish perspective, the interesting things were
that Remedy Entertainment unveiled its next project: Alan Wake
(I love the teaser), and the mobile games company
MrGoodLiving was sold to RealArcade for 15 million
dollars in ca$h. The sale of MrG leaves Rovio Mobile as
the largest Finnish mobile game studio. I'd say that is
pretty good for a company that is only what, 5 months
old? But it does have a downside...
Do you still have faith in Humanity? They
come read some of the job applications Rovio gets! Don't
they teach this stuff at school anymore? Then again, most
teachers have never applied for an industry job. When I
called out for pixel artists, Rovio got a bunch of
applications from guys who can draw really well on paper
and, judging by their work samples, suck with pixels.
They are two different sets of skills. Then they get
these jack-of-all-trades who have done all sorts of
things and now write an application "for any job you
like". No score, mister! Rovio list of jobs is right
pick one and tell them why you are the best possible
candidate for that particular job. After all, you can't
be the best choice for all jobs, no matter how hard you
Finally there are The Slaves, usually
boys fresh out of high school, who'd be willing to do
anything for a job in the game industry. If I was a gay,
this would be heaven. But unfortunately I have no use for
them, so I hope they get this message: If you are not
worthy of a salary, you're worthless. Rovio is a
business, not a religion. Given the flood of crappy
applications, Rovio relies more and more on referrers. If
I or some other trusted employee puts in a good word, it
counts more than 15 pages of CV.
I still have stuff to tell you, but this
entry is overlength already. I'll get back onto it
tomorrow. See you!
11-May-2005: How Do You Define Real?
Sorry about the Matrix quote.
I've seen a bunch of
"historical" movies this winter and spring,
with quality ranging from poor (King Arthur) to
pretty darn good (Alexander). Hanging around in
the scifi and RPG circles, I also get to hear lot about
whether or not a movie or a thing in a movie was
historically accurate. I remember hearing "In the
ancient times they never, ever did that!" several
times about the part in Troy were Trojan archers
fire from city walls and over the heads of their own
infantry. Never? Ever? Not even when the opportunity and
common sense called for it? Kingdom of Heaven,
which I liked, has also drawn fire from "neglecting
the battle that was fought and focusing on the battle
that really wasn't".
How do these people know? Where they
there? The one thing studying medieval history and
archeology in the University of Helsinki taught me was
that nobody knows anything. Everything, and I mean
EVERYTHING commonly regarded as historical fact is
fundamentally based on hearsay and accounts written
centuries after the fact and/or to appease the factions
in power in at the time. This is the case with Crusades:
compared to the apparent scale of the event, written
documents are surprisingly scarce. Christian and Moslim
sources, written mostly by fanatics of either faith,
agree on very little.
And it does not stop there. I once
discussed European history with Polish coworkers at Sumea
and we discovered that Polish and Finnish understanding
of past does not even agree on events as recent as the
Thirty Years' War (abt. 1615-1645), even when there are
piles and piles of contemporary documents. English and
French versions of 100 Years' War aren't too similar
either, and don't even get me started on the treatment
World War 2 is getting in different parts of the world
(heck, we can't even agree on our history concerning
post-Civil War executions, Winter War, role of Germans in
the Continuation War and what Kekkonen did or didn't).
Since there is no objective historical
reality, the entire term of "historical
accuracy" is an oxymoron. After a certain level of
accuracy has been reached (not too high and deals mainly
with the physical aspects of contemporary culture) there
is No Way In Hell to judge whether a movie or a book is
historically accurate. It is a good thing for roleplaying
games, writers and actors, but a bad thing for
realism-purists and besserwissers of historical trivia
(to whom I belong, unfortunately). It is also everyday
reality for anyone studying history.
This puts movie producers in a tight
spot. What interpretation of events and cultures to use?
Where to cut corners or tweak things for dramatic effect?
What makes a piece appear historically accurate to the
mostly ignorant audience and what would ruin the
sensation? Remember Black Hawk Down by Ridley
Scott, the director of Kingdom of Heaven? Is it
historically accurate or not? The answer is: it depends!
The movie is a fairly accurate description of the version
of events promoted by Pentagon: Good Americans, Bad
Somali warlords! Not even the soldiers who took part in
the fight can agree with Pentagon, or even each other.
Independent analysts have their own versions and Somalis
have different versions depending on clan affiliation.
What is the truth? Where is the truth? Tens of thousands
of wittnesses and active participants are still alive and
still there is no objective truth to the matter!
All that being said, you can still screw
up a historical film by being plain stupid (King
Arthur). Sometimes it is best not to even try.
Wolfgang Petersen realised early on he does not know shit
about ancient history. As a result, Troy was
quite enjoyable although it was way off in every detail.
I got the impression it was a Glorantha adventure
(probably because of the non-medieval and heavily
spiritual setting) played using high-level Rolemaster
characters. However, I believe that the archers could,
would and did fire over the heads of their own infantry,
even if it is otherwise rare in what little we know about
ancient military strategy.
Alexander and Kingdom of
Heaven fared much better in the historical accuracy
department, although purists are still screaming their
heads off. Actually, I think them to be "realistic
enough". If all supposedly realistic historical
movies were even that accurate, I'd be happy. Going any
deeper into the detail (which Alexander to some extent
did) means arbitrarily choosing somebody's version of
events, which really isn't any more accurate than coming
up with things by yourself. And kudos to Kingdom of
Heaven for the sword-training scene. Orlando may
have got the hang of it a little too quickly, but
otherwise it was pretty convincing.
09-May-2005: Ropecon 2005
Before he could take another step,
the hatch was struck in with a single blow of a
warhammer. A hand came through the hole, dropped four
silver coins onto the floor and withdrew. "I've just
paid for two meals, two beds and two horses in the
stable. Do I have to come and take my money back?"
Old Dog asked from the far side of the door.
Contrary to some earlier statements, the
only Ropecon number I'll be doing this year for sure is
Gamemaster's Borvaria. Everything else is optional or
fillers, although I sometimes wish I was young enough to
stay awake all night and just sit in some corner babbling
about Praedor and Stalker. My very own Retro-tent
(long-time Ropecon-goers will probably remember this
70/80'ies groupie outfit). Alas, I am old and need to
sleep at night. Last Con went without a hitch, but
usually it is in the night (especially in the early hours
of Sunday) when people get most of their stupid ideas.
Unfortunately many of the events are just Con legends
(like the infamous orgy in the ladies' restroom) but
Troubleshooters did play a tank one year and ended up
with "shooting" one of them as the tank shel by
throwing him at a wall. He broke his arm but at least he
did not explode into shrapnell or turned to vaporized
uranium like real tank shells.
Juhana Petterson's Roolipelimanifesti
has not been published yet because Like, his publisher,
wants to do it at Ropecon. Not a bad idea. Rereading some
of Juhana's columns, the book appears more like a generic
guide to roleplaying than the elitist declaration its
name implies. You can't judge a book by its covers. Or
even by its title, it seems. Dogma, Manifesto... I wish
people would not throw such words around so lightly. It
is only after reading a lengthy written explanation on
Juhana's aims for the book that I can regard him as
something other than a fundamentalist crackpot with
roleplaying as his religion.
Speaking of crackpots, this just occurred
to me: In the good old times an anti-gaming activist
called Lintunen often referred to an anthroposofic
conspiracy (no, I don't know what that really means) that
was supposedly hiding behind the facade roleplaying
games, modern music, youth culture, martial arts and what
not. You know, I am still offended by the notion that
there might by a nation-wide secret organisation of
gamers I am not part of!
About a week ago I contemplated closing
down Burger Games. As it turns out, the Tax Office might
do it for me. Espoo tax office had no problem with me not
doing steady business, but Vantaa office wants to remove
me from VAT register and asks for a written review of the
company activities. They can't really force Burger Games
out of existence, but they can put pressure on me. In
truth, killing off BG as a commercial entity would not
really change anything at this point. It would mean a
slight price hike on the next game book since I would now
have to pay VAT for the printing costs in full. Because
it was a toiminimi to begin with, whatever the hell that
is in English, profits and losses were always part of my
personal taxation. I just had to run them through a
simple accounting procedure. I'll send them a note that
BG is not finished and might see some VAT-related action
in 2006, but that is all I am going to do about it.
I was just informed that Juhana did not
come up with the name Roolipelimanifesti. Instead,
Like thought it would make a cool name for his book.
06-May-2005: Monstrous Regime of
This is a bad time to make this argument
since quite a few people I know have just had or are in
process of having children. Despite the title, I am not a
child-hater, so read it through before flaming me.
Has anybody else noticed that whenever
somebody opposes pornography, violence in games,
roleplaying games as a hobby and whatnot, they always
bring up children? It does not matter if a game is NC-17
or even M-rated, they still want it banned because of the
children. And the same with movies, music, television
shows, cheerleading outfits and whatnot. I have nothing
against children. In fact, some of my best friends have
them and I have myself been one at one time, but I am
*not* one now, and I don't want to live under this
monstrous regime of children. Or more precisely,
hypocrites who apparently believe that the only way to
raise children is to keep them in a box.
Quite frankly, while children are
important to me, *I* come first!
We are living under the tyranny of
children who have no say in the matter and would probably
object to the tyranny themselves if they could. Our world
and culture is being shaped into one gigantic
pedagogically orthodox daycare centre, regardless of the
adult population who might want to enjoy being what they
are: adults. Raising and protecting children is the job
of parents and the few adults who have passed through the
pedagogical training for teachers without losing touch
with reality. Society should make sure that children
learn to communicate and are not actively hunted for
food, sport or sex. The rest is up to parents and if they
can't handle it, their children ought to be given to
someone who can.
I could also argue that access to news,
photos with bare skin, adult literature, scary movies and
violent video games aren't bad for kids. I did it all and
did not turn out too bad. I think.
05-May-2005: Looming Burn-Out
Ok, I've got the game design article to
work on, I've got the book project, I've got Stalker and
I've got my pre-production plans for Stalker. Then I came
up with [deleted due to NDA] for [deleted
due to NDA] at work and Rovio Mobile is giving me a
free hand with the non-digital IP as long as it does not
infringe upon their products. In short, I could make a
kick-ass [deleted due to NDA] roleplaying game
that is also supported by [deleted due to NDA]
mobile game releases. Once in a life-time opportunity,
really. Just like Stalker. I am seriously running out of
bandwith and burn-out is looming on the horizon. My
spouse often talks about the need of having replicas of
herself to do everything she wants done. Now I know how
Obviously you'd need to be in the
business to really appreciate how big of a thing it is to
let me have a free license to the non-digital IP of a
game or a game series. No other gaming company I can
think of would do it. Rovio Mobile is calculating, quite
correctly, that they won't lose anything by doing it and
if I decide to make something out of it, it is just free
advertising for them. Pen&paper RPGs and mobile games
are not exactly competing media. I want it all in writing
if I really start working on it, but that should not be a
Unfortunately I am slowly starting to
choke on this bag of sweets (see previous entry). To be
quite honest, progress has been slow on everything I do.
When I was still a technical writer, running Burger Games
was a way out. Now all I do is game design and game
writing, 24/7. My work at Rovio Mobile and my work with
Burger Games draw on the same battery. I am seriously
contemplating closing the shop after finishing Stalker.
On a more positive news, a new issue of
comic book Jysäys has hit the stores and it has
the second-ever Praedor comic set in Borvaria. I will be
using frames from that (or more precisely, copies from
the original, non-coloured frames) as part of my
Gamemaster's Borvaria presentation at Ropecon. With a
price tag of just 2 euros, at least Praedor fans should
check it out.
27-Apr-2005: Life Is a Bag of Sweets
Sometimes life is just like a bag of
sweets. Things are going well overall while the sweets
last but suddenly you pick just the right kind of candy
for the moment and it is pure bliss for the next five
minutes, an hours, a day, whatever. All sweets run out in
the end but right now my bag still feels heavy. NDA
prevents me from telling more. In (remotely) related
news, Enter magazine has suggested a long article about
game design, presumably from the low-resource standpoint
shared by mobile and amateur game development alike. I
haven't said yes yet, but I am honoured to have been
asked, especially since the editor referred to me as
"our resident game development guru". If even
most of these deals go through, I am going to order a
Buddha statue with my face on it.
My next piece of news is not good or bad,
although I know that some people won't like it. I am
going to toss a good part of what I have already written
for Varjojen Tarha, because it is just excess weight
disguised into descriptions and drama. I already have the
intro: now the story should be moving forward like a
bullet from a gun. Instead, I am stuck at Closed Gate
Slum in Farrignia and too bored with my own text to write
anymore. If the book is to come, that piece has to go.
The few people who have already read it can now say
they've read the "director's cut" of Varjojen
Tarha. Hint to myself: look at every single fantasy art
book you have and suck in some more visual impressions.
That's what you do when you write: paint!
23-Apr-2005: Hunt for Modal Thingie
read the first fully negative review of Vanha Koira,
written by a self-professed football hooligan (wtf?)
He describes Vanha Koira as being poorly
written, full of errors (and misuse of a very odd
grammatical thing), having a non-descript story and
containing nothing that would lift it up from the morass
of mass-produced fantasy literature. After the initial
shock, I realised that choosing one literary genre
results in the exclusion of others. And really, if you
are looking for the next Tolkien, Le Guinn or Waltari, pulp
fantasy is not a good place to look
for it. He also criticized my overuse of graphic violence
in Vanha Koira. Well duh! Here is a quote from the
Finnish edition of Roland:
Jo tuntee Roland kuoleman
Pois korvain kautta aivot pursuvat
In a genre based on Germanic/Celtic
heroes (as opposed to mythology that is the root of High
Fantasy), combat and graphic descriptions of violence are
a big part of the entertainment value. What is the point
of having a combat scene if there is no shock element?
What is the point of describing landscapes, dresses,
interiors of buildings etc. if you don't apply the same
approach to a spray of blood and glistening of pink
intestines as they spill forth from a ruptured belly?
Oh well. Everybody gets bad reviews and I
should be glad that it took this long before I got mine.
17-Apr-2005: I Like Lemmy
I finally got a good start into Garden of
Shadows and writing it is going smoother all the time. I
still got a long way to go but we'll get there, don't
"Tulim expected a splash or a
thud, but there was none. The darkness of the well just
swallowed her up, as if she had never existed."
Those who have been waiting for Stalker
RPG with baited breath should worry, though. You might
choke to death before it's out. Maybe I should never tell
anyone what I am doing. Then they wouldn't be
disappointed when something else (like a job or a book
contract) pops up and delays it. Unfortunately,
everything would take twice as long because I would not
be able to get art if I did not go public with my
projects. And the illustrations I've received for Stalker
are not only superb, but have also influenced my vision
of the whole game. I don't mind making other people wait,
but artists, Tuomo Veijanen and Jani Hämäläinen, have
really done something for the game and deserve to see
their work published. Hell, maybe I ought to publish Art
of Stalker, TSR-style.
After my outburst against Green Moon
there has been talk on #praedor about founding
"Brotherhood of Green Moon Fans" by people who
liked the story and thought it was an excellent start to
the book. Well, it is nice to know that such people
exist, but I just don't share the feeling.
I've been reading and getting a blast out
of the autobiography of Lemmy Kilmister, the head honcho
of Motörhead. Sheesh, some guys can really mess up their
lives, but they sure as hell also know how to have fun.
Although Lemmy's language is somewhat coarse (I expect
the co-writer Janiss Garza to have tidied it up quite a
bit), he has excellent stories to tell, ranging from
rampant sex on a tour across Finland to their
unbelievable mistreatment by a series of record studios.
Not to mention the goof-ups of all the other heavy metal
stars who have had a run-in with MH at one time or
another. I did not know that Lars Ulrich (some of you may
have heard about a band called "Metallica") was
the leader of Motörhead fanclub in America in the late
70'ies and still is an active member of the MH fan
community. Or that Motörhead is essentially a blues band
for amphetamine (speed) addicts. If you are high on
speed, it should sound like blues.
I did not know, but could have guessed,
that Lemmy is throroughly fed up with "Ace of
Spades". I know how he feels. When I was a teenager
and music was good (read: heavy metal), I was often told
that Motörhead never did anything after Ace of Spades,
and that all their songs were variations of that one.
Tragically, I believed it. It was not until I was a
grown-up and saw Lemmy singing Orgasmatron in TV that I
realised that A) everything I had been told about
Motörhead was crap, and B) they are a brilliant band. I
have since then bought every one of their records and
there are quite a few of them. Motörhead is, first and
foremost, a live band. Many of the songs just don't work
right without seeing the band on stage and being
surrounded by an audience screaming their heads off. I am
not a fan of live gigs (although I will make an exception
this year by going to Provinssirock), so my list of
Motörhead favourites is limited to the songs that work
on their own. That list is currently 36 songs long.
Motörhead has been around for awhile now and they've
been at it non-stop. This is no KISS. There have been no
pauses, solo careers or comeback tours to leech money
from old fans. And to think that Lemmy is just 3 years
younger than my father.
Another great thing to come my way
recently was a copy of 2019: Il Ultimo Silenzio.
This was an Indie film made by Team Splattenstein. It is
a post-holocaust movie, where the holocaust is triggered
by terrorist who manage to hack the access to world's
nuclear weapons arsenal. Although Team Splattenstein made
it as a joke, it is actually way better than many
"real" B-class post-holocaust flicks such as Steel
Dawn or Deathlands. While the plot arc is
predictable, as it usually is in these films, the lead
character has a peculiar twist that would have made him
good material even for big-budget movies. I am definitely
going to rip off a thing or two from this film for Taiga
15-Apr-2005: Fucking Green Moon
had a review of Vanha Koira, written by Toni Jerrman
himself. Like in most feedback I've received verbally or
by email, he commends the book as a whole but then
launches into scathing criticism about the first story
"Green Moon", wondering how such a turd could
slip past the proofreaders and editors at Jalava (my
guess is that Jalava has neither). Helsingin Sanomat was
very polite in not mentioning it in their glowing review
of Vanha Koira. Every piece of criticism I've received
verbally or by email concerns Green Moon.
Green Moon! Green Moon! Green Moon!
Fucking Green Moon!
Green Moon is not really part of Vanha
Koira story arc. I wrote it after all the rest was
finished and because Jalava asked for a new story to
introduce the character of Aric. I did not really have a
vision of the story, but I did have a vision of the Isle
Folk, their culture and their worship of monsters which
also involves human sacrifice. I had a vision of small
wooden monster statuettes hanging from the roof of a reed
hut, swaying in the breeze. And of a sailing boat
travelling through silent waters, its occupants too
scared to utter a sound for the fear of attracting the
demons of the deep. What a fucking misfire of an idea it
turned out to be...
14-Apr-2005: Garden of Shadows
"Go and bring lord Ortec to my
palace! Even if you have to drag him in chains!"
Right now my top spare-time priority is
writing my the next book, "Garden of Shadows".
This does not mean I would not be available for some
journalistic work for Enter (hint, hint) and the web
course on Digital Games Research and Design for
Hypermedia Laboratory can't be ignored. And since I can't
write non-stop, there should be some gaps left for
Stalker Zone Encounter system, or for writing some more
Taiga 2.0 material into the desk drawer.
Starting a book is always difficult. It
is like an engine that takes several turns of the key
before it starts running. Curiously, when it is running,
it becomes quite hard to stop. I believe in my five-part
version of Campbell's "Hero's Path" in both
books and game design, but getting the story to wind down
and then come to a graceful halt is more difficult than
you might imagine. And of course, if the engine runs out
of fuel (inspiration), the entire process may fail. Since
there are still no papers from Jalava, I am writing this
for free, with nothing but their word for getting
published and paid. I am not going to hand it in without
Ropecon is once again pulling itself
together, despite difficulties caused by World Sports
Championship in Helsinki this summer. Frankly, I am not
quite sure what programmes I will be hosting this time.
There will be "Gamemaster's Borvaria", but some
people have called for a repeat of "Gamemaster's
Jaconia" as well. Programme coordinator also asked
me if I was willing to take part in a panel about
"Becoming a Fantasy Author". Then he asked me
if me being available for the panel would be affected by
who the other panelists would be. Do I have a mortal
enemy I am not aware of?
Last Summer I was thinking about giving a
presentation on mobile storytelling and game design at
Assembly'05. Well, the call for Assembly presentations is
out but I am having doubts. First, it is a computer geek
event and they probably could not care less about mobile.
Second, last summer I was still working for one of the
Finnish game industry giants. Now, Rovio Mobile might be
cool and all, but we are still a start-up without a
single published title. Fantasy Warrior 2: Evil remains
my top game, and it is a sequel and expansion to a brand
and concept (IP = Immaterial Property) originally thought
up by someone else.
Question A: Shouldn't I wait until I have
some games of my own to back up my claims?
Question B: Should I really be sharing my
secrets at all? Here is a Chinese folk tale for you:
Tiger asked Cat to teach him the secrets of battle. Cat
trained Tiger and Tiger became strong and mighty. One
day, Tiger turned on Cat but she ran up a tree. That was
the one secret Cat had not taught to Tiger.
9-Apr-2005: Night of Titans
It is 10.30 in the evening and Myyrin
Kuntokeskus gym has been closed for two hours. Membership
card still lets you in for the next 30 minutes. From the
look of the entrance, a narrow flight of stairs leading
down below the street level, you'd think it is some damp
underground cave. It is a small gym, but very neat, very
well ventilated and has an outstanding collection of
heavy metal in the 300-CD stereo equipment.
Gym is almost deserted. Almost. I am
there and the few people who are there are very much like
me. The kind of guys you would not expect to find here at
all. Me, a fattie with dyed hair, doing pec-deck with
just 55 kilos, but that is still more than what most
people could do. There is a blond guy looking like he was
a computer geek who just basks in the glow of a monitor
without moving a muscle. He is pulling down handles with
120 kilos of counterweight. There is another guy, older,
balding, who'd I think to be an elementary school teacher
or a mouse-like office clerk. He is at the downwards push
pulley, with weights set at 105 kilograms.
And just before 11.00pm when the door
stops responding to the membership card, the cook from a
local pizzeria hurries in. He goes to the leg press
machine and does a long series of moves with 250 kilos.
That is 100 kilos more than I do. Nobody says anything,
apart from a curt "hi" and a nod upon entering.
Everybody is focused on his own excercise routine.
Weightlifting or meditation? You tell me.
Exertion hits me like a hammer. Every
time. It clears my mind like a power snap clears the
memory of a computer. I can't remember if I already did
one or two series. Information flows in from the muscles.
They hurt, but there is no mind to process that
information. Shaking, I stare at a weird-looking
contraption and I can't remember what it is and what I am
supposed to do with it. My mind is rebooting. If somebody
talked to me, I could not talk back. Not because of heavy
breathing, but because the words aren't there.
Shower brings me back. Back from what? I
hardly remember how I got here! Looking myself at the
shower room mirror, I am a funny sight. A ball of lard
with upper arms as thick as my head if I flex my biceps.
Did you know that you don't have to have a washboard
stomach to see your sixpack? Three years of sit-ups in
Roman Chair and you can see their outline underneath all
this fat by just flexing them. It is a gruesome sight. I
am a gruesome sight. *sigh* This world was meant for
pretty people. The likes of me exist only for comparison.
Which is why I want even bigger muscles. They can never
be big enough.
Thus concludes the Night of the Titans.
Still no contract papers from Jalava.
Well, their definition of "soon" matches well
with their definition of "right away" (which
was 3 months). What am I going to do? If the book is to
come out this century, I'd better start writing. Right
6-Apr-2005: I Got The Power!!!
Clicking the image takes you to the
German preview of War Diary: Burma, an
upcoming mobile action-strategy game by Rovio Mobile.
It will be our first game and entry product into the
market. It is also the very first mobile game that is
based solely on my concept and design. Looking at Rovio
Mobile product roadmap for 2005, there will be many more
games like that. Bosses at Rovio Mobile could not offer
me much when the company was founded but they did promise
me that I would get to do my own games. That was the most
important reason why I joined up.
Looks like they weren't kidding.
Chocolate, I was like most game designers
are: game topics, themes, settings and even brands are
handed down from above. When the decision to do a game is
made higher up, game designer is just a gear in the
machinery that makes it happen. That is how it is done in
big companies and outside the mobile scene. When DChoc
was still Sumea, the whole attitude was different. I
still have fond memories of brainstorming for game ideas
over dinner at Cantina West. Later, after the acquisition
by DChoc, people would laugh about the "bad old
times" when ideas were discussed at coffee tables
instead of organized mass brainstorming sessions and
stuffy management committees. But I was not laughing.
Inefficient and chaotic, those unorganized coffee table
discussions spawned all of their great hit brands (way to
go, Petri!). All of them. In hindsight, the later
"professional methods" were just a waste of
Now that the preview is out, I can
finally talk about War Diary: Burma as
long as I don't go too deeply into detail. It is, as I
said, an action-strategy game set in the Burma Campaign
of World War 2. It is also a textbook example of how
games can be designed specifically for mobile environment
and interface without compromising playability and fun
factor. Many people doing mobile games say it can't be
done. Many people doing serious strategy games say it
can't be done. I want to prove them both wrong but sales
and customer reviews will be the judge. War Diary: Burma
is a non-branded, still-in-the-making game by a publisher
without a single released title. You would not believe
how much interest is out there!
After roughly two months of operation,
Rovio Mobile has little over 20 people in it. As a
company, we are perceived as outrageous (we got porn!)
and somewhat notorious for having recruited from other
game companies (The Horror! The Horror!). While mobile
gaming scene as a whole is moving into the more
"casual" direction (read "Pelintekijän
Testamentti" in Enter magazine to see what I think
about that), we are moving into the opposite direction
and doing games we don't have to be ashamed of. Our game
design philosophy focuses on three B's: Bleeding,
Brawling and Blowing Stuff Up. Our company values are
confidential, but I can tell that the first letters of
the four clauses spell out as FUCK. Yeah, I wrote them.
If Rovio Mobile was a band, we'd play Punk Rock and the
tour is just about to start.
I like to recruit more people into the
places I work. Firstly, I'd like everybody to have a job.
Second, getting the right kind of people into the company
would enhance both atmosphere and output. Thus the
shameless advertising. Rovio Mobile is
hiring, so if you think you have the right edge, check
openings to see if there is anything you could do.
But this time I have a small hint for anybody who
applies: see the latest opening for Game Artist?
We want them, badly. So badly that if you are one, we'll
smuggle you in through the backdoor and past the line of
The problem is that 3D graphics are so
hip and cool that finding old-fashioned pixel tweakers is
like squeezing water from stone. But while 3D artists
stand in the unemployment line, mobile gaming companies
are posting bounties for pixel artists. The management
would also like to have a web artist who can draw posters
but I don't give a damn about those. I am on a roll here
and the only thing holding me back is the shortage of
game art! If you can do it, there is a place for you in
the Insane Industry. All applications to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extra doughnuts to anyone who can also
2-Apr-2005: Spring Break
March saw some of the most beautiful
winter/spring weather ever, Rovio Mobile has quite a few
of my original game concepts on its product roadmap (and
there will be stuff about them on company website soon),
I'am getting a hang of my diet again and Enter magazine
just published my article about working for the mobile
game industry. The only two things that are not going
well are A) Novel and B) Stalker.
Regarding A, Jalava confirmed by email
that we do have a deal and promised to send the papers
over shortly. That was two weeks ago. Guess what? Still
no sign of them papers and I'll bet you five euros they
have not breathed a word of this to Petri Hiltunen yet.
Regarding B, I got the genre defitions
written, but as usual, getting over a mountain reveals
there is an even taller behind it. "Gamemastering
the Zone". Now this is the part of the game that
some people think to be impossible to write or run. It is
not, but it is true that any Zone adventures rely heavily
on the improvisation and imagination of the gamemaster.
What the rulebook can do is to give tools for aiding the
improvisation process, but if you have a crappy GM there
is nothing I can do. I will explain the mechanics I am
planning in a later entry, but this is, and will be, slow
Then again, I have no timetable and World
Championship Sports Tournament in Helsinki this summer is
causing more than its fair share of problems and chaos
for the organisers of Ropecon 2005. Maybe it is just as
well that I won't be adding to it. By the way, there has
been some talk of getting a Finnish guest of honour for a
change. Maybe the LARP side has some gurus I've never
heard of, but other than that every viable candidate I
can think of, starting with myself, is likely to be there
anyway. So please organisers, don't! Focus on foreign
stars: the kind of people your average gamer would not
otherwise get to see.
I once dreamed that I would have a
separate world book within the rulebook for all six Zones
out there, making the total page count over 300. Yeah,
right. After the most recent reality check, there will be
only one World Book focusing on Zone France near Toulouse
(assuming I can find a good map of the area) and Stalker
rulebook as a whole will be about as thick as Taiga (150
pages). Somewhat thinner than Praedor, then. Oh well,
maybe next time/game.
magazine has a circulation of little over 16,000.
Given the focus of the magazine, I don't expect many of
their customers to read this blog. Those who do may have
noticed Pelintekijän Testamentti -article by me
on pages 76-81. When my intent to change jobs became
public (on this blog), the editor of Enter asked me if I
wanted to do a supersized article about my experiences in
game development. Pelintekijän Testamentti is
the outcome of that deal. Everything stated there is
true, based on real-life events and information from
within the industry. Rovio Mobile means to use the
article in educating new employees. If you are going to
look it up, the same issue also has a game review of Star
Wars: Republic Commando by me.
On a final note, I love this picture. If
only I were anything like that in reality...
21-Mar-2005: Hellooo Gorgeous!
Where have you been all my life? You look
fantastic, you handle well, you pack a punch, your
playable intermission sequences are some of the best ever
and there is even a good space opera storyline and
setting behind you. All this and more in a game from
2002? What the hell happened? Where did the 3 years of
FPS development between then and now go? Has anybody seen
it? Half-Life 2 and Far Cry can't have taken all of it
(and since Doom 3 was programmed by Carmack's dog in his
sleep it does not count).
For a game that cost me 10 euros, Unreal
II has been one hell of a ride. My only gripes are
crashes and the incredibly ugly power armour my character
is wearing. Other than that, this game loses only to Far
Cry in graphics. Sure, it does not have that corroded
look of bump-mapping, but it is nice to look at handsome,
non-leprous characters for a change. If the terrains were
open as in Far Cry I could not be happier, but linear
playfields do not bother me so much now that A) I have
enough room to maneuver, B) mobs get hurt when I shoot
them and C) I can see where I am going (hooray, hooray!).
Besides, my character can actually jump. Then again, he
is not in the heavy gravity of Mars.
Okay, I am poking fun at Doom 3 here but
really, if a late-2004 super-budget FPS can't hold a
candle to a 2002 FPS, something's got to give and I hope
it's ID Software's revenue.
In other news, a bad case of flu has
prevented me from doing anything that even remotely
resembles work, so I've been writing game reviews
(Republic Commando and Guild Wars beta) for the Enter
magazine. I've also done a lot of thinking and tried to
find good pictures or maps of Toulouse. In Stalker,
Toulouse is my Marmont, the city split in half by the
edge of the Zone. There is just one slight problem: I
have never been there and the maps I've found suck. I am
also stuck in the part where I should integrate horror as
one of the key elements of the Stalker setting.
Explaining that coherently requires more brainpower than
my fever can spare.
No news on the book but now it is me that
is stalling. I really should send an email to Jalava
asking what's the score. Why is it so god damn difficult?
13-Mar-2005: Winter at its best
I've rarely seen such magnificent winter
weather we've had over the last two weeks. And it is
already March! As much as I like summer, I don't know if
I want this dream-like weather ever to end. The sheer
power and brilliance of the spring Sun as it reflects
from the white sheets of snow... deep blue skies... the
tingling bite of frost on your cheeks as you rush to work
in the mornings... I've often wanted to move south for
the winter, but right now I am not so sure. There are
perks to the Finnish winter, no doubt about it.
In other news, Rovio Mobile, my new
employer, finally got its website
up. Unfortunately there is still practically nothing on
our first games since they are still months away from
completion, but at least it is a start. And there will be
more, I can promise you that. Only an oracle could tell
if leaving Digital Chocolate was a good career move, but
I am actually quite happy with the games Rovio is making,
not least because many of them are my ideas :)
Things have been slow on the RPG front
and writing Gamemaster's Book for Stalker is like trying
create an entirely new genre out of scratch. Genre
definitions are useful; they are pre-packaged
pre-assumptions, roles, mental images and stereotypes.
You can skip a lot of writing by having a clearly defined
(and commonly recognized) genre. Stalker does not have
one (although it is coming close to the new genre name
used in computer game reviews: Survival Horror), so I am
pooling together applicable themes, mental images and
items from a variety of other genres: science fiction,
film noir, techno-thriller, horror... Explaining all that
in a way that makes sense is like swimming in mud.
Book project has hit a familiar, if
unexpected snag. Little over a week ago the publisher
told me that he has to set the publishing schedule for
fall 2005 the next day, and that if I agree to a similar
contract we had the last time, I should send him a
back-cover description of the new book right away. I did
as I was told and haven't head a peep of them since, so
neither myself nor Petri know if we really have a
contract or not. I expected them to acknowledge the
description somehow, or at least send me a new batch of
contract papers to be signed. They've done neither, so I
am now gathering willpower for a civil phone call to ask
if we have a deal.
And if we don't, if they did not receive
the description and just chose to ignore my request for a
confirmation of its arrival, I am going to feed my phone
to them. Here is the description. I hope you'll get a
book that will match it.
"Oran Ortec, Farrignian Vihreä
Kreivi, ei tunne pelkoa eikä kunniaa. Kun juonitteleva
ruhtinas sotkee hänet murhien, petosten ja mustan magian
verkkoon, hän palkkaa avukseen kaksi kovaotteista
seikkailijaa ja näyttää että tätä peliä voi pelata
kaksikin. Outo kolmikko seikkailee niin suurkaupunkien
slummeissa kuin Läntisten vuorten lumisilla rinteillä
ja jokainen askel vie heidät syvemmälle hämärään,
kohti salaperäistä Varjojen Tarhaa.
Varjojen Tarha on Ville Vuorelan toinen romaani Petri
Hiltusen Praedor-sarjakuvien maailmasta. Se on vauhdikas
ja tunnelmallinen fantasiatarina parhaaseen miekka ja
magia-tyyliin. Kirjassa on Petri Hiltusen upea
It is spring! And -15 degrees centigrade
Fantasy Warrior 2: Evil is still the
finalist for the Mobies Award for the best mobile
roleplaying/adventure game of 2004. It has already been
selected as the best mobile roleplaying game of 2004 by
some magazine in Germany. And the games I designed and
did story design for just before leaving DChoc will also
kick ass. My new workplace, Rovio Mobile, uses me as a
marketing item. It is all very flattering but deep down
my feelings are mixed. After all, underlining my role
undermines the importance of others who worked in the
same project and did at least as good a job. It is funny.
Even before entering the digital games industry, I knew
some of the big names in game design, concept innovation
and brand authoring. I never thought about the
programmers, artists and composers before. In reality,
game development is a team effort and the game is only as
good as the weakest link in the team. We should be
praising teams, not individuals.
Go Team Evil!
I have also played a new game on my
computer: Yager. This was a flopped
science fiction flight simulator/combat game set on
future Earth. For the first six missions I could not
understand why it flopped. It looked gorgeous, even for
today's standards. The story was cool, the setting was a
weird but fascinating mixture of Star Wars and Golden Ape
(remember the TV series?) and the ship functions,
alternating between jet and thrust modes, were extremely
cool to use. Then, I hit a mission where I had to paint
enemy missile launchers with a target designator. Most
such items are used like weapons: point, lock target and
I did that for every missile around, time
and time again. There was even a reassuring beep when the
missile was surrounded with the target designator symbol.
But something, I don't know what, made the mission fail
every time. Eventually frustration set in. I would have
cheated my way forward to see how the story goes and what
new sceneries there would be, but apparently the PC
version has no cheats. I found a walkthrough of the
mission, and according to it I did everything right.
Sigh. Maybe I just suck.
In other games, I have a confession to
make. New pics from Jussi Hämäläinen gave me a boost
that resulted in several pages of Stalker game system and
Gamemaster's Book, but then work issues began taking over
again and I caught myself writing an entirely wrong game.
When stressed out, my mind tends to wander. I write stuff
to get extra ideas out of my head. My most common
stillborn ideas are genre games, where I am writing the
game for a genre, rather than a setting. I have pulled it
off only once: in Mobsters. That has not stopped me from
trying. After a page or two I usually get frustrated and
eventually manage to kill the idea. But it is much more
dangerous when you get an idea for a setting. I still
haven't got INFRA out of my head. And now I am writing a
setting for Taiga 2.0. It is just flowing out of me! I
have to find a way to stem the flow and get back to