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31-May-2005: Burger Games in Ropecon'05

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 here.

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!

27-May-2005: Code/X

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 average gamer.

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 scientist".

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:

  • Syndicate: Enforcer 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 Cyberpunk.

  • 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.

  • StormZone is 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 and mecha.

  • OMEGA is a pretty weird post-holocaust game where players are Bladerunner/Terminator/Ghost-in-the-Shell 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.

  • Miekkamies 2.0 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 late 90'ies.

  • 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 RPG".

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 developer footnotes.

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 combat.

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 HERE. You 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 try.

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. Yeah, right!

06-May-2005: Monstrous Regime of Children

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 she feels.

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 problem.

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

I've 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 lähestyvän
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 worry.

"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 2.0.

15-Apr-2005: Fucking Green Moon

Tähtivaeltaja 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 the paperwork!

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 now!

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.

At Digital 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 time.

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 the job 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 programmer applicants.

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 careers@rovio.com.

Extra doughnuts to anyone who can also draw porn!

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 going.

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.

ENTER 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. Magnificent!

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 kuvitus."

3-Mar-2005: Confessions

It is spring! And -15 degrees centigrade outside! Yippee!

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 click.

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 Stalker.