Deus Est, part 2
"I want you to go in that bag, and find my
"Which one is it?"
"It's the one that says Bad Motherfucker."
Okay, that conversation never happened and actually
Adam Jensen is at his most chilling when he appears
flat-calm. While the conversation animations could use
some polish, the voice acting, contextual response
options and a cool dialogue more than make up for it. And
on the other hand, the clunky animation makes it easier
to read the body language of the other party (there is an
implant for doing that for you but I have better uses for
my brain-hardware interface).
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the third game
in the franchise and a prequel to the original DE, which
is widely considered to be one of the best video games
ever. Its sequel, Deus Ex: Inivisible Wars was
not a bad B-class scifi adventure game but it was
somewhat off on almost every respect and selling it under
the DE label was a travesty. Although universally reviled
by the franchise fans (frankly, it would have received a
much better treatment without the Deus Ex connection), it
actually sold more than the original Deus Ex at
its peak, largely because it was one of the few scifi
RPGs relesed for the original Xbox.
But that is all ancient history now. Deus Ex:
Human Revolution is here, hoping to win back some of
the love the original game had and probably a quite a bit
more because I don't think this game will turn profit at
only 900K sales. Released for PC, X360 and PS3, the
launch was accompanied by a massive launch campaign that
included some of the most interesting game trailers ever:
of Today Trailer
There were also gameplay trailers and storyline
trailers and they were good, but if these three trailers
are what the next generation of game trailers will be
like, I could not be happier.
The game itself is a first-person RPG/Shooter that
makes a generous use of the third-person-perspective when
taking cover or using special moves and take-downs. It
does this often enough to establish the character much
more strongly than most FPSs do and yet not often enough
to annoy a TPS-hater such as myself. It's a balance. That
is kind of a keyword for the whole game, actually:
"balance". Everything is in balance here:
stealth vs. combat, roleplaying vs. pre-scripted,
physical interaction vs. social interaction, hacking vs.
athletic feats and so on. Shooter fans will probably be
shocked at how little combat this game has but fans of
DX1 will understand.
Even the sandbox vs. linearity is in balance. DXHR is
a string of sandboxes in the form of hub cities in the
dark future of 2027. The main storyline is strong and
carried forward by impressive animations and setups but
there are side quests for resources, information and the
sheer fun of it, as well as a lot of exploration to do.
Just remember that your actions have consequences. Nobody
cares about the three gangbangers rotting away in the
Detroit Sewers but a murder in the wrong place and time
can and will come back to haunt you time and time again.
Based on the trailers, I was worried that future
weapons might be just as horribly underpowered as they
were in DX2. Luckily I was wrong. The combat is fast,
fluid, dangerous and tactical. There is a big difference
between armored and non-armored targets but there are
also weapon mods and dirty tricks for overcoming the
difference. There are no melee weapons, though, because
nothing can compare to the takedown attacks Jensen can do
at close range. Anything but a boss or a robot will go
down with a single hit, so sneaking up on somebody is
almost always a better option than a straight shoot-out.
You can also wuss out and taze them from a distance but
that stunner thing has only limited ammo available and
takes like a year to reload.
As a cross-platform title, DXHR had to be
console-friendly. They have brought back the area-based
inventory system from DX1 but done away with skills and
stuff. Instead, the player has a DX2-style implant tree.
Unlike in DX2, however, these implants kick ass and have
completely game-changing consequences, like being able to
jump from any height, turn invisible for a moment, do
multiple-opponent take-downs and so on. There must be
close to a hundred different options here, upgraded by
Praxis software that you can find, buy and also
accumulate by experience as your implants and nerve
tissue get to know each other. Some people have
complained that the game-freezing menu state is clunky
but I like it. Also the number of control keys involved
is kept delightfully low by making the special moves
There are some problems. I've seen better graphics
than this, although DXHR compensates for it with good
level design and excellent art direction. The devil is in
the details and the frequent close-ups on people during
conversations don't do the game any favors. And while I
remember that realistically proportioned people in Max
Payne 1 were considered "big-headed" at the
time, I would still prefer these people to have slightly
larger heads compared to their bodies. Nitpicking, but
there you go. The enemy AI is good enough for me but I
know that some people will be bothered by it. Won't they
Rather strangely, the game also has a couple of major
problems with its hallowed balancing. Firstly, the very
first mission in the game has so far been the hardest.
This is a strange anomaly in an otherwise perfectly
balanced difficulty curve but on the other hand, if you
can clear *that*, you have learned all the basics and are
good to go for anything the first hub city of Detroit can
throw at you. Later, as you learn more about how the game
works and also receive better tools and implant upgrades,
the difficulty curve actually goes down, although the
game does a masterful job of making it feel rewarding
when you manage to bypass security cameras via airducts
or knock-out a guard at a key location and he never saw
Second, it is an exaggeration to say that you can play
as you like. Jensen may be a badass but he is no
superman. In combat, he is a ninja, not a samurai. Unless
you are being a complete moron when upgrading your
implants (pouring everything into Dermal Armor), a
frontal assault is not going to get you very far even
with the lowest difficulty setting. The game is clearly
designed for stealthy and puzzle-based gameplay and in my
opinion even more so than DX1 was. Not a problem for me
but I guess this counts as misleading marketing. Tsk.
Finally, there are the bossfights, already a sore
point for most of the professional critics. I remember
DX1 having bossfights as well. I shot the first boss in
the back of the head by surprise, killed the second boss
with a hardwired killphrase I had discovered, did away
with the third boss by splattering her brains all over
walls with a sniper rifle while stooping on a roof
beam... I can't remember what I did after that. In DXHR
I've only had one boss fight so far. The game dropped me
into an enclosed space with him and I kept shooting him
in the face with a revolver while using the game-pausing
effect of the inventory screen to heal myself. It was a
completely senseless low-brow moment in an otherwise
highly sophisticated and tactics-friendly game. Did some
marketing asshat demand that there be compulsory
bossfights? You could complete the original DX1 without
killing anybody and DXHR has an achievement for that...
but with bosses excluded. Moronic!
The Internet has also been complaining about bugs and
crashes with the launch version but I haven't had any
issues. The framerate is decent and since the game likes
to do DX2-style confined spaces (but done
right; I hope the DX2 team is flogging itself right
now) there are no issues with drawing distance
cut-offs and stuff. The loading times could be a bit
So, is Deus Ex: Human Revolution any good? I
am still playing it and just about to enter the Upper
Hengshai, so my opinion could well change in the days to
come. But I do have an opinion already.
Deux Ex: Human Revolution is an epic
masterpiece that breaks new ground on what can
be done and what issues can be addressed in a blockbuster
videogame. It sets a new standard against which all other
FPS/RPGs and games with multi-threaded storytelling will
be judged for years to come. It did not only resurrect
the Deus Ex franchise but catapulted it straight into the
big league. The stigma of DX2 has finally been erased and
Eidos Montreal has proven that the awesomeness of DX1 was
not a fluke: it can and now has been repeated. I am
hoping, no, praying that there will be DLCs and sequels
up the ass, as well as competing franchises seeking to
grab their share of the long-dormant cyberpunk markets.
Whew. This was a long review. I hope you found it
Final Grade: +5
The hacking minigame DXHR deserves a special mention.
After its simplistic start, it has become a game within a
game, with its own challenges, tweaks, dirty tricks and
rewards. I am hacking everything hackable (and unguarded)
in sight and my Adam Jensen must be one of the top
hackers around. Although it is very different from HAX,
much more straightforward and not supportive of the idea
of large and persistent networks, I am busy taking notes.
Someone will make a separate game based on or inspired by
this. I am sure of that.
Deus Est, part 1
No, it is not a typo.
We old gamers just love to complain: In "the old
days" games were more creative, more challenging,
more colourful and most importantly, better. I know that
I have done this on occasion and I am fairly sure
everyone who began playing videogames before 1990 has
done the same during a moment of weakness. And there is
certainly truth to it.
In the old days games really used to be more
challenging. So challenging, in fact, that I usually
could not complete them without cheats and the true gurus
loved to boast with their grind-earned mad skillz. I
loved videogames from the start but most of the time I
sucked at them. I am especially bitter about the final
tower sequences in the original Max Payne. These
days games are much easier or at least have very scalable
difficulty settings. As a result, a higher proportion of
the players will experience a greater ratio of the
content without giving up on the product. Old gamers are
livid about the lack of challenge and that completing a
game is rarely a feat anymore. On the other hand the
customer base has exploded with the reduced threshold and
games are making tons more money these days. Making a
really difficult game is now a statement and I don't see
the mainstream industry returning to the old ways anytime
Games really used to be more colourful. With a palette
of 16, 32 or 256 colors to choose from, a smooth gradient
between a few different types of greys and browns was not
an option. So Laser Squads, Ultimas and even Doom are
fought in brightly-coloured universes where nobody thinks
it odd to have a blood-red castle with sky-blue towers.
Since then, the number of available colours has exploded
and curiously games seem to have less of them. War movies
(looking at you, Saving Private Ryan!) started the trend
of bleeding out colours to make them look more
"realistic" and games followed suit. Sometimes
it works but most modern games go overboard with this.
Unless you are Crytek, making a brightly
coloured game has also become a statement.
It is also true that in the olden days, top-tier games
were more varied and creative. Games as a whole still are
but most of the innovation is taking place in mid- or
low-tier games, from where certain innovations or trends
eventually trickle up (what?) to AAA-level once the
concepts have proven themselves. The reason for this are
the horrible development and marketing costs of making an
AAA-game. While Indies are free to innovate, the AAA
market is concentrated around certain supergenres and the
investors who put money into them seek to minimize risks
by sticking to these proven concepts, franchise sequels
and resurrected legends. It is stagnating the industry
and while AAA games make a lot of money, the stagnation
is evident in the fact that fewer and fewer games are
turning profit. I predict that we are soon going to see
an unprecendented marketing budget arms race between the
Battlefield and the Modern Warfare franchises. And almost
everybody else is going to get trampled in the process.
But were the old games better?
In truth and trying to look past fond memories and
nostalgia, no. Some games are timeless (Pirates!,
parts of the Ultima series etc.). Other games
had ideas, solutions or storylines that still command
respect (Future Shock, Syndicate, Midwinter...).
But when the modern games industry does get its act
together, the 20 or 30 years of evolution and experience
start to show. Games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Mass Effect,
Crysis, Fallout 3 and all their various sequels,
iterations and DLCs are modern masterpieces that surpass
their ancestral rivals. I could name a lot more games
here but there are some titles that nobody but me seems
to love (Frontlines, anyone?), so lets keep it
And yes, I do think the new Fallouts to be superior to
the old ones. I just kicked the holiest cow around,
didn't I? But let's face it: we were all enamored with
the setting and atmosphere of the old Fallouts but have
you tried playing them now? Or demonstrating them to a
modern gamer? If I had to come up with a word to sum up
the old Fallout gameplay and user interface experience, I
would choose "hellish". And besides, New
Vegas is canon, so
stop crying already.
All this has lead us to Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
I just packed all my remaining version 1.1 Praedors
into a box along with some Stalkers. Tomorrow,
the lot of them will be shipped to Puolenkuun Pelit
in Lahti and Praedor will again be officially
sold out from the publisher. Will there be more? As
before, it depends on demand. So far, Fantasiapelit
has always agreed to order enough of them to cover the
printing costs of a new print run. They might do it this
time as well or they might not. All in all, I have sold
25 copies of Praedor this year and we are now in week 34,
so the sales are slipping below their long-time average
of "Praedor a week".
When I reported this latest turn of events on the
#praedor IRC-channel, Newsalor commented that there is
now real competition in the form of Generian Legendat
(from Ironspine). That gave me a pause. Given that Praedor
RPG is soon 11 years old, I never saw any of the new
Finnish fantasy RPGs entering the market as competitors.
The bulk of Praedor sales has already happened
and Generia, Bliaron or anything else is not
going to have a measurable impact on it. It is far too
late for that. Myrskyn Aika came out in 2003, I
think. The publisher sold off the entire print run of
1500 copies and Mike Pohjola wrote into the copy he gave
to me "let the competition begin".
By that time, I had sold close to 500 Praedors and the
sales were declining steadily. I did not notice any dip
in the demand because of Myrskyn Aika.
And the reason for that is this: Anyone who had bought
Myrskyn Aika was more likely to also buy or
already own Praedor than someone who did not.
And vice versa; in a scene this small we were actually
supporting each others' sales by promoting the idea that
there was a scene and a Finnish RPG was a viable
alternative. Even today, I bet something like 90% of the
people who bought Generian Legendat in Ropecon
already owned a copy of Praedor. I don't know if
the remaining 10% will convert into Praedor
owners because of buying GL first but those last
25 games did go somewhere. Remember that I am
not advertising Praedor anywhere. If any
promotion happens, it is all viral.
Let's say that Finland has 30000 active roleplayers.
20000 of them are playing foreign games, namely D&D
and its various iterations and have little interest in
other games and genres. The remaining 10000 is the market
share we are supposed to be competing over and since
there is no sensible way to reach the overwhelming
majority of them, I'd say the Finnish RPG market is
driven by maybe 2000 potential buyers, every one of them
an "early adopter" by tech terms, meaning that
their purchase threshold for new items is fairly low but
purchase alone does not convert them into active users. This
is the market we are supposedly competing over.
All statistics provided by Burger's
Asscrack Information Services
Frankly, in a market this small and
consisting mostly of experimental gamers, making a game
that is in direct competition with another current title
is either a failure of the design process or a sign that
the author is an idiot. Fortunately, the current
generation of Finnish RPGs seems to have avoided this
trap. While Bliaron and Generian Legendat
are sometimes seen as rivals, the only thing they really
have in common is that they both belong to the fantasy
supergenre. Bliaron is a sword and sorcery RPG
with the twist of having the focus on magic and shamanism
(which in turn sets it clearly apart from Praedor
even though they both belong to the same genre).
Meanwhile, Generian Legendat is a light-toned
high-fantasy RPG with humorous and even parodic elements.
Should both of these games develop active player
communities (as opposed to experimental players),
I don't see the two communities mingling too much.
But I would be overjoyed for there being
enough roleplayers to form two active
communities rather than one...
Scotland the Brave
In short, Edinburgh is the most beautiful city I've
ever been in. It looks like Warhammer by day, Dracula
by night and Stalker whenever you happen to hit
the less polished parts. Somehow, perhaps because of the
construction materials, even modern buildings seem to
blend into the landscape. Alvar Aalto would be horrified
but I sure was delighted. It is also cleaner and safer
than London, has almost the same services and the buses
run better than the Tube. And it has a couple pounds
knocked off its prices compared to its southern
counterpart. Still, Great Britain is never a cheap
country to visit. I seem to have bought 15 books, 4
graphic novels and 2 CDs of bagpipe music.
Yes, I am a big fan.
Whenever there was a gap between the buildings, you
either had an awesome view all the way to Firth of Forth,
some epic mountainside to gawk at, or the Edinburgh
Castle which is basically the same thing. There are three
kinds of medieval castles: "Welcome"
castles are either for show or so badly damaged
that is all you can say to an invading enemy. Finland has
a few of these ruins. "Oh Shit"
castles are places to hide and cry in
some dark corner hoping the enemy will get bored before
your gate gives in. Most of the more intact castles in
Finland fall into this category.
Finally, there are "Fuck Off"
castles, where you can stand on the ramparts,
moon at the enemy and see them weeping in the shadow of
your mighty walls. In Finland, the only castle in this
category is Olavinlinna. Scotland has quite a few of them
Castle definitely fits the bill. The bloody thing
sits on a bloody mountain the middle of the bloody city
and just running up the bloody Royal Mile to attack will
kill half your army before reaching the very formibable
gates.And it is in very good shape. Before the serious
introduction of artillery, Edinburgh Castle had never
fallen to a siege (it had fallen to treachery a couple of
These days it houses a couple of museums, the Scottish
Crown Jewels and the Space Marine Chapel from
Warhammer 40,000. Oh, sorry,
the Scottish National War Museum. But honestly, once
inside you can't really tell the difference, except that
it honours several chapters and in place of the Primarch
is a symbolic stone chest. The place is larger than most
churches and it is obvious that the Scots take their wars
very seriously (and with pride). It is quite a culture
shock for someone born and raised in Scandinavia where
everybody is supposed to believe in World Peace. No such
Hmm, the Internet seems to have no pictures from
inside the place and photography was strictly forbidden.
But I was very impressed and I think you would be too.
Food was great but then again, Great Britain has the
best ethnic food anywhere. I did not try haggis
though, not because I would have found it somehow
disgusting but because the whole stuffing is loaded with
onion. I did try a deep-fried Mars bar (a Scottish
specialty of the modern times). Waste of perfectly good
chocolate if you ask me. And finally, the Edinburgh
Festival was there. Sightseeing did not leave us much
time for the thousands of plays going on but we did see Still
Life. I still don't what it was about, though. Maybe
Danish LARPers get more out of it. On a better note, Cory
Doctorow gave an excellent speech in the Edinburg Book
Festival and I got him to sign my copy of
"Makers". We also saw The Elephant
House, where J.K. Rowling wrote most of the
Harry Potter - series. It was always packed, though,
either by Harry Potter fans or aspiring young writers
looking for divine inspiration.
Scotland is cold and wet. We had all sorts of weather
over the week so pack up some extra clothes and carry a
jacket in your rucksack when you go out. Also, the city
is pretty vertical at times, so good walking shoes and a
rudimentary understanding of public transportation is
recommended. On the other hand, taxis are easy to find,
know what they are doing and cost about half of what they
would cost here. Also, while the
military bagpipers up in the castle are great, the
street corner pipers are a mixed breed. You have been
All in all, it was a great, if a fairly expensive
trip. I hope to return to Scotland one day, perhaps on a
writing vacation. And finding a cheaper place to stay in
even if it is the festival season!
I also have the priviledge and honour to watch The Bully
Factory, a short film based on my novel Häirikkötehdas.
Personally, I think it was great and I really hope it
gets shown in all the relevant film festivals.
Unemployed, day 8.
over. That is what the Sunday is really about there:
watching the event keel over and die, spasming. My
favourite day of the Assembly experience is Friday. The
whole thing is full swing and the construction is
complete: yet families with children haven't arrived yet
and the howler monkeys haven't had time to throw their
poo all over the restroom walls (I am exaggerating but
not by much and strangely the 3rd floor restrooms were in
horrible shape compared to the much busier 2nd floor.)
Usually, my Summer ends with Assembly. This year is an
exception: I am still unemployed and having no
obligations here, will add another week of summer by
going to see the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. After
Eurocon, Finncon, Ropecon and Assembly I do feel a little
beat but I was going to Edinburgh anyway and I'd rather
take it with a festival than without. My spouse says the
city is also hiding excellent bookstores but I refuse to
So far, all the festivals have been great. Having laid
off deflated me a little in Finncon and I absolutely
hated riding a bicycle in the centre of Turku. But I
can't blame the festival for those. Eurocon was a real
gem, Ropecon was great and this was a kick-ass Assembly.
Let's see if whatever festival programme we end up seeing
in Edinburgh can match that.
As for my next job, I've been putting feelers out,
both as a potential employee and as a game
design/production consultant through Burger Games. We'll
see if there have been any bites when I get back from the
Land of Bagpipes. Sure, there is lot of interest and
"I'll get back to you on this" but as always,
nothing is real until it is signed. I find the whole
process a bit awkward since it also means pitting
different options against other and ending up telling
other interested parties "no". It was much
easier when the industry was not experiencing a boomtime
and there was always just one credible option.
On the roleplaying side, the big project of this Fall
is naturally the English translation of Stalker.
I'll get the first batch back from the proofreader at the
end of this month and it'll give me pointers for things
to watch out for while I finish my own proofreading
round. So don't start holding your breaths yet. I've also
been toying with the idea doing a real science fiction
RPG in the post-holo/street scifi vein. I know that some
people have asked for a HAX RPG but my main problem with
is that I don't really see a way to compete with existing
cyberpunk/near future franchises.
In short, the benefits of creating a stand-alone game
as opposed to modding one from Tech Noir, FLOW
or even the venerable CP2020 are negligible. And
I have a confession to make: When writing or planning the
storylines I get this creepy feeling that this world
would work well with Shadowrun if the most
blatant fantasy elements were removed and many other
non-genre influences were obfuscated with spec-tech,
transhuman gimmickry, nanobabble and epic Deus Ex-style
conspiracies. There is a layer of mystery in the setting,
a whiff of the improbable about the whole thing. And I
want to keep it that way.
Meanwhile, there is another sound in my head, still
faint but growing louder. It is an old sound, one that I
thought had gone silent years ago. It is the heavy wheels
on red gravel, mixed with the howl of jury-rigged
hydrogen engines. I once gave it away to Casual
Continent for some spare change but now that the
company has folded it must have escaped. If it reaches
the nooks and crannies of Labyrinth of Night we
will never find it again.
The Second Round
Squeeze shit really hard and
you get Tough Shit.
Squeeze it even harder and you get a Diamond.
- Ancient Burgerian Proverb
For reasons nothing short of waterboarding will make
me reveal, I have decided to give The Real Men's Playground
-team a second chance. And quite probably a few more
chances to go with it. Their Ropecon presentation was craptastic
(and badly off-topic for the event) but in certain very
rare and specific circumstances all this is
forgivable. So, in a possibly first case ever, I am
officially retracting my earlier condemnation. Consider
me "somewhat annoyed" instead. And picture me
looking at them with a disapproving frown while trying
really hard to hide my newfound curiosity.
In other news, I am at Assembly. With two days and two
great bands (Machinae
Supremacy and Press Play On Tape)
and a number of great seminars down this is already
shaping up to be my favorite Assembly ever. The only
thing lacking from the Perfect Assembly Experience is a
presentation by Mikko Hyppönen. Unfortunately there is
none this year and really, you could improve anything
by adding a presentation by Mikko Hyppönen to it.
Since we were without Hyppönen, we had to settle on
having absolutely killer computer seats this year. The
best ever, really. I am going to get those every year
from now on. While not following the programme, shopping,
eating or helping out at the Electronic Frontier Finland
stand, I have been sitting there hammering away at HAX
1.1 features. Sure, we (me and the Wirepunk Lead
Programmer) are still far off from 1.0 but I am running
out of stuff to do. The bloody thing has been designed
and I am waiting for production to catch up (and
monitoring progress, of course). *sigh*
are out in force. I am actually hoping to catch up with
some of the Supercell bigwigs tomorrow. After all, I know
them from Sumea days, I am still unemployed and Supercell
is hiring. Besides, Gunshine.Net is interesting as hell.
And it will be even better if they can execute on my
proposal of making the hotkeys available also from the
numeric keyboard. I am left handed and running my fingers
on the top-row number keys while fiddling with the mouse
does not come naturally to me. As for Rovio... well, I do
love the huge bird plushies they have. Plus the hilarious
Kill All Audio and Pigs cutscene they made for
And even the weather has been great!
Bliaron RPG Review
I don't want to do this. I really don't. But I try to
keep my promises. And I have only read the game through,
so don' take everything I say at a face value.
Bliaron RPG is the latest high-budget RPG
book to come out. It is a fantasy RPG by the Northern
Realms, a bunch of young guys originally from Kainuu, I
think. The book is slightly over 200 pages with
black-and-white interior and gorgeous, if misleading,
covers. The pseudo-celtic motif does not really portray
anything and neither does the name: Bliaron - the
Heritage of Kalthans (yes, I translated that). Bliaron
is the name of the game world and Kalthans an ancient and
now extinct race that left behind highly magical relics
and a bunch of legends that play a prominent part in the
Bliaronian cosmology. I would not have gone for a full
fantasy name when working with original IP (Praedor
was a well-established brand by the time I got to it) and
definitely the sub-header or cover image should have been
more informative. As it is, it says absolutely nothing
about the book.
The story intro in the beginning made my eyes bleed.
The script font they used works just fine on white but
not on the parchment grey they put it on. I still haven't
been able to finish the introduction story without my
eyeballs bursting. Other than that I have no complaints
about the layout. It is a clear two-column setup with an
ornamental frame. The inner art makes a good first
impression. Later, that impression takes a hit when you
realize that all the pictures are close-ups or portraits.
There are no sceneries, street views or larger events.
Also, the body proportions are frequently off, giving me
the impression of a young and not very experienced (but
all the more eager) illustrator. If graphical design had
matched the layout design that would have been great.
Then again, people living in glass houses should not
The authors of the rulebook appeared completely
stunned when I asked them about the role of characters
during their product presentation. Fortunately the
rulebook is a bit clearer on that. You can do any kind of
character you like but basically if you don't do a wizard
or some magic-using hybrid character, much of the book
will go to waste. Unless you belong to a somewhat fascist
wizard's guild, your magic-using character will be a
heretical outlaw. If you are into conspiracies and stuff,
playing a guild wizard is a valid option. For more
regular adventuring you should go with an outlaw. I would
have liked to see more effort put into assembling an
adventurer party but then again writing that into the RPG
rules is almost a personal fetish of mine. With an
experienced GM the character building process should go
off with out a hitch but I can imagine newbies being
confused by the lack of guidance or easily adaptable
I am prejudiced against this system. You roll your
stat's worth of D10s, pick the highest result and add
your skill to that. However, Atomic Highway uses
a similar method. I hated it but I concede I might be in
the minority here. The bigger problem is that the writers
are chronically bad at explaining stuff and somehow
manage to muddle their examples so that I can't make head
or tails of the numeric flow. With a system this easy,
that is something of an achievement.
The most rules-intensive part of the system is
obviously magic. The game uses a single-axis magic system
where you pick the type of magic you want to cast and the
effect determines difficulty and cost. Apparently, all
magic actually comes from summoning spirits to do your
bidding but it works just like regular spell magic. There
are some texts on how GM should make the spirits
whimsical or hard to handle on occasion, tempered with a
notion that most spirits are dumb as an anvil and do what
they are told. The game system does not support spirit
initiative at all. This is a major design flaw. If spirit
magic is such an important part of the game and the
cosmology, its quirks should also be supported by the
game mechanics. Now the whole thing comes off as poor
man's Ars Magica but without the medieval charm. Generian
Legendat did not focus on magic but still its
rune-based magic system wipes the floor with Bliaron's.
Don't get me wrong: There is an idea buried here,
potentially a very good idea. They just haven't been able
to dig it up.
The world of Bliaron is a surprisingly small
chunk of land (roughly the southern half of Jaconia) that
is modelled after various bronze age cultures (the
civilizations are roughly comparable to those in ancient
Middle East and everybody else is an unwashed barbarian
of some type). Maps don't have scale indicators but in
the setting presentation the authors explained that the
distance between the northern and southern hubs was 300
kilometres and that it took trade caravans four weeks (28
days) to move between them. That would mean that the
caravans travel at a breakneck speed of 1.3 kph for 8
hours a day. Hmm. Maybe they haven't invented the wheel
yet and have to drag their loads across the Great Steppe?
Also, this postage-stamp -sized area has plenty of
different geographical features, radically different
climate zones and vastly different cultures. And no
horses. Everybody rides some sort of lizard thing
instead. This is not credible and I pointed this out in
the product presentation. To their credit, the authors
did not argue but suggested increasing the distance
between the hubs to 3000 kilometres instead. And suddenly
the whole world began making a lot more sense. House
On the plus side, the setting descriptions have been
written just the way I like them. Not too much detail but
an evocative tour through different regions, major
population centres and distinguishing features. It's all
hooks and building blocks for your imagination. Nobody
can write down all the stuff you can extrapolate from
them and that is how you write a setting
work when you only have a single rulebook.
Bliaron is a perplexing mosaic of good ideas,
horrible amateur mistakes and brilliant writing. It
smacks of a game idea that got started when the authors
were something like 12. The idea remains a bit of a turd
at its core but has been patched up and polished over the
years as the team got older, wiser and more experienced.
For me, it does not have that one great hook or
distinguishing quality that would make me play it but
then again I am a hard customer. It is a shame that the
magic system feels so half-hearted when it is really
supposed to be the core of the game. And that the setting
was apparently conceived by an idiot, even if it is then
written by geniouses.
There is a good game buried somewhere
underneath. With some tinkering, houserules and reworking
the character concepts and the magic system you probably
could make it work. How about just ripping out the system
and using it in a fantasy Egypt or something? This is not
a dead-end of a game. There are definitely possibilities.
Final grade: 0 (scale runs from
negative to positive)
Bliaron is by far the best "bad game"
I've come across. Northern Realms, don't stop here. I
think your next game will be awesome.
Actually, it was more like Whinemail. Flamemailing,
such a powerful phenomenon in the mid-2000's, is
something of a lost art these days. Social media killed
it by making it so much easier to be an ass in Facebook
than to compose an evocative email that honestly drips
with venom. I've received some really good ones, albeit
it has been years and years since the last time. I still
regret not archiving them.
However, the basic message has stayed the same to this
day: "You are being disrespectful in your blog,
please stop" (okay, forget the
"please" part), followed by an long-winded
explanation as to why. And no, I won't stop.
But I promise you I will only react. I am pretty
thin-skinned when it comes to roleplaying issues but you
still have to put in some effort to get through it.
As a rule of thumb, there are four blogworthy ways to
- Do something really, really stupid,
although except for Crimes Against Humanity,
all deeds in this category have to hurt the
roleplaying scene in some way to be really
relevant. Writing something infuriatingly inane
and pretentious in a magazine is a good start.
- Evangelize and oh boy, we are
talking! Promoting the exclusive superiority
of a playstyle, methodology or a school of
thought is how I got most of my victims, to the
tune of 90% or more. Forge fanatics, Turku
Schoolers, überlarpers, I don't care. When you
come out laughing at us ignorant savages, I will
boil you alive.
- Spreading misinformation about my games
is a rare but certain way to get stomped. It is a
tricky category and sometimes I make mistakes. I
try to avoid arguing with product reviews and
honest opinions. And if people have made an
honest mistake about a rule or a process, it is
just fair to be cool about it. However, spreading
obvious and intentional (usually with an agenda)
misinformation will be dealt with mercilessly,
both here and in other mediums. You can still
find the Praedor math arguments from
majatalo.org. I will defend my portfolio and
- Insulting me in a way that is
both visible and relevant to the scene will also
get your ass some well-earned spotlight. The
problem with this category is that some gamer
geeks have the social skills of a sea anemone and
get this deer-in-headlights look when called out
on it. Any lesson is wasted on them. I also admit
that I am far too sensitive in this regard for my
own good, especially if you happen to press just
the right buttons and not even know it.
Of course, not all people are equal and for many their
status has changed over the years, usually for the
better. I will take a lot more shit from
somebody like Miska or Mike than I would from a random
loudmouth because they have the game designer and scene
credentials to back their shit up. Some people I
like, no matter what their credentials.
Sometimes I see budding talent or otherwise promise for
the future and do my best not to discourage
them. And certain people I need,
whatever their virtues or flaws. They all get
preferential treatment. Life is not fair.
Not that there has been any kind of treatment of
anybody for ages. The Schools of Roleplaying live on only
in the jokes of Niilo Paasivirta. Roleplaying theorists
have finally realised that evangelizing about them was
not winning them any friends and now only come out only
when they have practical applications to show us. The RPG
magazines are dead. Forgers have stopped being
pretentious assholes and started writing games instead. I
don't have to like their games but they are certainly
contributing. Did ÜberLarpers die off or something? I
never run into them anymore. As annoying as they
sometimes were, a full extinction was not what I had in
mind. My guns have grown silent and Sope, the author of Piippuhyllyn
manifesti is complaining about the same thing. No
arguments, no new comics. I am also doing so much
videogame stuff these days that the point for this blog
is a little hazy.
Still, if you have broken all four of my Cardinal
Rules, some of them often enough to earn the Lifestyle
Achievement, while having zero or negative impact on the
scene, odds are that I am not your friend. Maybe my cold
shoulder or a casual verbal jab is rude and uncalled for
when unprovoked. But give me a reason and I will
Yes, that's me! All soft, cuddly and round!
The Ropecon Report
I am back. Back from the non-euclidian corridors of
Dipoli, back from the sweaty crowds and the swords of
duct tape flashing in sunlight. This year I did three
programme events: the presentation on Stalker
translation, the hero's path as it winds through my games
and finally hosting the panel on heroism for our various
guests of honor. It was a full set and I consider my free
three-day pass to Ropecon 2011 well and truly earned.
I started off by watching Petterson and some danes
present the Dream
of a Yellow King, a compilation of
single-session artsy roleplaying games/scenarios from the
Danish gaming convention Fastaval.
Sixteen of the best had translated into Finnish. Put
together, they made a pretty hefty book. That stuff is
not really my cup of tea and I did not buy it but I like
to appraised on whats going on in the scene, so my hour
certainly wasn't wasted.
is selling Burger Games product at Ropecon and every time
they forget to bring either Praedor, Stalker or both into
the convention. It is almost a running gag now: I go
check their stand in Kaubamaja, complain about the lack
of my games, Jyrki Tudeer comments on it somewhere and
they quickly drive in a few books from their warehouse. I
just can't understand why I have to go through this thing
every single time! I am not selling my games in Ropecon
myself. I am not competing with them. But no! They bring Heimot
with them, even though Ironspine is selling the
very same book just a few metres away.
Then it was time for my own Stalker translation
presentation and what do you know? I think I had an
audience of 12, with close friends making up 7 of them. I
was a bit let down by that even though I knew that A) my
presentation overlapped the opening ceremony and B) I've
been giving Stalker presentations since 2003. There
wasn't really anything new in this one.
At the end of the talk my friends grabbed me and took
me to Keltsu for dinner, which was nice but it also meant
missing out Witches and Knights release
presentation by Sami Koponen and Tuomas Kortelainen (for
pöydän ritarit and Noitahovi,
respectively). I don't have either of them but the word
on the street was that Noitahovi was rather
promising. The word on the street also found Sami's
decision to make an Arthurian roleplaying game a bit
puzzling and the game system somewhat odd but I trust the
usual critics will deliver their verdict in due time.
I got back from the dinner just in time for
Ironspine's presentation Generian
Legendat (Legends of Generia), another entry in
their Ready-To-Play game series. The presentation was
good enough but I am not a big fan of humour games.
Besides, they were sending mixed messages as to whether
or not the game was a parody of traditional roleplaying
games. What I did pick up from the presentation was that
just like ENOC made me stop working on Code/X, Generia
with its cave world threatened almost did the same for
NOMAD. Thankfully the genres are different even if many
of the methodologies are not. And I almost flipped out
when Miska mentioned having contemplated something that
sounded like a carbon copy of Miekkamies: Auringon
Valtakunta, which has been described in this blog a
few times before. But my personal paranoia aside, I am
slightly worried about Ironspine. For a
roleplaying-game author, humor games are usually the
beginning of the end, a sign that enthusiasm is turning
into mockery and bitter jokes. I have this nagging fear
that we might not see another RTP game and tried to talk
them into making an RTP-version of Heimot.
Seeing that game really fly might rekindle their spirits.
The next new game was Bliaron
and Oh My God! These kids could not sell water to a
camel! I am seriously thinking about giving a
presentation on the art of giving product presentations
in the next Ropecon. Bliaron basically triggers
every alarm I have in my head about a game project being
on the rocks. It was like watching my 14-year old self
rambling on about some irrelevant game feature with
little or no understanding of what the audience really
wanted. As for presenting it, they made every mistake in
the book and a few others that are still to be written
down. Later, I ran into Sami Koponen who told me, with an
apparently straight face, that Bliaron would be the game
to take Praedor's crown as the best Finnish fantasy RPG.
Sorry guys but there is no worse omen of doom than being
liked by Sami.
Still, I bought Bliaron and a proper game
review will appear in due time. The book is beautiful,
the production quality is high and judging from later
events I believe we will hear more from at least some of
them (okay, Antti Lax but that is pretty much it). I
think 35 euros is a small price to pay to keep new talent
flowing into the scene. After all, I am clearly on my way
out and someone has to take that crown sooner or
If I were stranded on a deserted island, Markus
Montola would not be my first choice of a companion but
at least we could discuss location-based gaming. Markus
gave an absolutely stellar presentation
Cities, a location-based game for the i-devices.
I tried out the early prototype back in the day and did
not think much of it. However, things have changed and
Markus did an excellent job in creating a palpable sense
of mystery and wonder about the whole setup. Let's call
it "a magical reality of mobile devices".
Wirepunk will be taking notes (for HAX) and personally,
if I had an i-device I might actually play this thing. As
it stands, I'll have to wait for the Android version.
And that concluded my Friday. The Bliaron affar was a
slap in the face but the Shadow Cities
presentation more than made up for it. I did not give a
shit about the game before but now I really hope it
flies. It won't be another Angry Birds but I can
see millions of people playing and paying for it. Myself
Onto the Saturday and a Thai breakfast.
I would have never thought it possible but the Bliaron
guys (well, Antti Lax and some waste of oxygen) kicked
off strongly with their presentation on Creating a
Roleplaying Game World. It is not how I would have
done it but they were not asking for my opinion anyway
and the process was good enough. This time they also
managed to present their stuff in a coherent way and had
topical slides that the audience actually found
interesting. I went there expecting another train wreck
but it was a good presentation overall and an absolutely
brilliant one when compared with their earlier fiasco.
Maybe the scene does have a future after all?
I spent the next few hours hanging around with friends
instead of doing anything constructive and even got to
sign one copy of Praedor, or as they put it: "The
best roleplaying game in the world". Those guys had
self-made Praedor T-shirts on and I donated them the sole
remaining original M-sized Praedor T-shirt. I also went
to see Frank Mentzer's presentation on his new company Eldritch
Enterprises but I am not a D&D player so it was
not very interesting.
At six in the evening it was my turn again. Hero
as a Profession took the audience down the hero's
path as it winds its way through 18 years of roleplaying
games: from Miekkamies to HAX. I think it went pretty
well as there were enough audience to get me fired up and
they were active right down to the end. And they should: Ammattina
Sankari may have well been my last Ropecon
presentation. Everything else has already been said over
the past 17 years.
Just like like on Friday, the presentation concluded
with a retreat into Keltsu and a lavish dinner with
friends. We spent hours there, going over the differences
between my various games and between my games and Bliaron
(I had just bought it). We only returned to the 'Con for
the Videopelien verhon takana -presentation
quite late in the evening.
Now that turned out to be probably the worst
presentation I have had the misfortune to attend in the
entire history of Ropecon. It's three guys who claim to
have insider knowledge on games industry but couldn't
give a presentation to save their lives. Their slides are
riddled with factual errors, they claim to have worked in
the industry and yet have no idea how the game sale
statistics are compiled, cite historical events wrong and
riddle the whole thing with stutters, interruptions,
toilet humor and lame jokes. The leader claims to have
been the boss of Sense Games for two years in Kuopio and
now complained bitterly how the industry is evil, greedy
and cares only about money. Basically, the guys are on a
tour to promote their website. After watching this crap
for an hour, I am not touching that website even with a
ten-foot pole and I am not linking it here. As a shiny
turd on top, the whole thing did not have anything to do
with roleplaying games whatsoever. Digital or otherwise.
Newsflash! Making videogames is expensive, so as
business enterprises studios have to watch the profit
margin very carefully. It is a hard business, it is a
very competitive business and for every breakthrough
there are a hundred failures. It does not make the
business inherently evil or greedy. The industry is what
it is, shaped by investor relations and the consumer
response. You can carve out a niche in it but if you
can't stand the heat, stay the hell out of the kitchen!
Or become a garage developer like Wirepunk. The downside
is that you will be at it for years and years since you
need a dayjob to support yourself. My dayjobs are in the
games industry, so I kind of get the worst of both
worlds. And you know what? I would not have it the any
Ropecon Programme Team, I don't know what the hell you
were thinking but you owe me an hour of my life. I was so
mad driving home from Ropecon that evening that I almost
Come Sunday. I missed most of Vihan Lapset
(website down?) product presentation (trans.
"Children of Hatred") but it sounded damn
interesting and I trust the developers. The game uses the
FLOW system (known also from Stalker) and I hope to have
much insider knowledge about the project soon. Unless it
turns out to be a complete turkey I will also be helping
them out any way I can.
My Ropecon ended with me hosting the Definition of
a Hero panel for the guests of honour. I think it
went well but you would have to ask the panelists for an
unbiased estimate. There was nothing very interesting
left in the programme so I concluded my Ropecon there and
drove off with the loot: Bliaron, Punaiset Hiekat,
British Flag, a DDR T-shirt, a couple of cheap films
and I think that is about it. These days I am largely
self-sufficient when it comes to RPG stuff, after all.
So there. I'd rate this Ropecon a solid 8. They were
looking at 9 because of the ample programme palette but
the fucking videogame fiasco sunk it.
Idiots Among Us
As I was taking it easy up north with neither
obligations nor a good net access, things took a turn for
the worse in Norway. As everybody knows, a right-wing
ultra-religious would-be-crusader decided to start his
crusade closer to home and butchered almost a hundred
people with a car bomb and by going on a killing spree in
a Labour Party youth camp. He wanted his 15 minutes of
fame so he could shout his message at the world and I am
really glad that the Norwegian police decided to hold the
trial behind closed doors.
The scale of the atrocity stunned everybody but having
recovered the Internet pundits went to work. The first
round was tracking every possible name in the killer's
1500-page manifesto and then having the said politicos
and ideologues deny all connections to Breivik. Most of
them also condemned the act. Fair enough; I have hard
time believing any of them would really advocate massacre
of their people as means of promoting anti-immigration
and conservative policies.
Unfortunately, there was the inevitable second round.
Norway does not have a monopoly on idiots. Since it all
happened over the past few days, I trust Mikki Rautalahti
to give an adequate
summary. And if you liked that, you are going to love
little exchange between Aamulehti and a disgruntled
Finally, there are the conspiracy nuts. This
is a Finnish site claiming that Breivik did not exist
before the incident and the whole thing is a CIA cover-up
for the benefit of a world conspiracy the goals of which
I just could not be arsed to read-up from their bullshit
of a website. Oh... it seems that everybody is in it
except the right-wingers and that is why the attack was
made: to demonize various right-wing groups. Since I am
politically on the left, work in entertainment and media
industry and my spouse is even a party member, I guess I
must be part of the conspiracy then.
I got back from Netherlands just in time to read the
freshly published programme schedule for Ropecon 2011.At
first I got a bit of a shock when it seemed as if they
had dropped my hero presentation from the programme. But
it was there: Saturday 18-20. And it is in the
Auditorium? I am impressed!
I wish I could be just as impressed with myself
regarding the Stalker translation. The launch event for
the English version of Stalker has been booked on Friday
from 18-19 and I sure as hell hope I have something to
launch by then. The problem is that I am going to be away
from my tools for almost two weeks between today and
Friday the 29th and I am definitely chickening out on
editing the thing (the layout is now complete and next
step is to do one more proof-reading round and then send
the whole thing to a trusted editor for re-checking).
The reason for this delay is that Stalker is my best
roleplaying game and as far as I am concerned, the best
roleplaying game overall. Thus it would be really nice to
get the international version right the first
time, so if I have to wimp out with the Ropecon release,
I will. In that case, I will be just giving a
presentation on the English version of Stalker and
everything else I have talked about with Boris
Strugatsky's book agent (like writing a Stalker novel).
Besides, the presentation is just one hour long and in
Klondyke so who gives a shit? And if the game is not
released by Ropecon, it will be released soon
anyway. By the way, the Stalker presentation will
be in English, no matter what the programme
My third piece is running the Definition of a Hero
-panel on Sunday at 12.00. Believe it or not, it is the
second panel I've run in my life so yes, things can get
interesting. I have much more experience on presenting
stuff (having just been in Netherlands to do just that
for two days). I already know that Niilo
"ConText" Paasivirta will be following my every
move but personally my biggest piece will be Professional
Hero (Ammattina Sankari) presentation on Saturday
evening, where I will be looking back on my old games and
how the role and status of the protagonist has developed
over the years. Everything else is... well, favors for
the Con organizers.
But what other events will I be watching?
On Friday, the following things
struck a spark of interest:
17.30 - 18.00 Opening Ceremony
It would be given, if I didn't have to run into
Klondyke right after that.
19-20 Noitia ja Ritareita -julkaisutilaisuus
Same space, right after my presentation. Lots of new
games coming out in this 'con, so it'd better rock...
20-21 Generian Legendat
...because if it doesn't, I won't be around to see
22-23 Shadow Cities - taistele kaupungistasi
I had hoped for years that the gap between electronic
and tabletop gaming would be bridged. At this Ropecon it
seems to be happening. This is but one of the many
videogame-related presentations but definitely the most
interesting one for me.
23-01 Warpstones of Time
If I am still awake, I want to hear this piece on the
RPG scene in Poland. The timing is difficult, I agree.
And we move on to Saturday:
12-14 Keskiajan katolinen kirkko
I hope I can make it. Few things in the world history
are more interesting than the machinations of the
medieval Catholic Church.
16-17 Historian eriskummalliset sankarit.
"The strangest heroes in history" - this is
close to the top of my list.
21-23 Fantasy roleplaying now and then
Yep, being the author of two Finnish fantasy RPGs I am
definitely interested in hearing what the Big Boys have
to say about this field.
23-01 Videopelien verhon takana: pelialan syntejä
I've never even heard of these guys before, which is
probably why they are giving this presentation. They seem
to run some kind of videogames-related blog portal.
And on Sunday... oh shit. I am stuck
in the hero panel for 12-14 and everything interesting
seems to coincide with that. Oh well...
15-17 Grilli Toro
Big meat on a mountain of fries, with some
horse-radish butter melting on top. It is the perfect
ending for any Ropecon.
As you can see, my Con programme has quite a bit of
gaps in it. This is not necessarily a bad thing: some of
the most interesting things in Ropecon ever have been the
table debates in Keltsu. Or there might be something
really interesting going on outside and I get stuck
watching that instead of running to the next event.
Unfortunately, interesting things happening elsewhere is
not a justification for skipping any of your own entries
to the programme....
My parents were concerned that the on the top of
this blog is improper for a serious CV. No shit? In case
you have forgotten, it is a portrait of me by Jukka
Rajaniemi, fashioned after the film posters
for Conan the Barbarian (incidentally one of my favorite
movies of all time). We were both working at Rovio Mobile
at the time and this picture was the company's parting
gift to me when I left Rovio.
It was a great gesture, really. I honestly prefer
this picture to any golden handshake. It is definitely
something unique, combining my girth, hardcore gamer
tendencies, weightlifting, taste for cola-based soft
drinks and musical preferences into a single picture.
Damn, I should start adding this picture to my
official CV as well.
Whew! I just got back from Helsinki Pride march and an
almost 30-degree heat. It was my first Pride march ever
and just like with thousands of others, it was the last
year's tear gas attack that made me do it. Before the
attack, I was under the impression that our sexual
minorities were mostly free from oppression and the
remaining issues could be resolved with political debate.
Then a fucking Act of Terrorism proved me wrong. I am not
a very tolerant person but I tolerate sexual minorities
and rainbow families a hell of a lot better than I
tolerate right-wing idiots throwing tear gas into dense
crowds with women and small children.
As for lesbian and gay adoption, rainbow families sure
as hell can't do worse than regular families. Damn, I
would even support adoption rights for singles if the
option was on the table.
Work on editing the English translation of Stalker RPG
continues. I just hit page 170 and I think there is like
50 to go. I try to get that stuff off my hands and into
the printers before I leave for Netherlands next week. I
am not in a real hurry with the start of the PDF sales
but I need to have a few physical copies with me at
Ropecon, especially if we are going to have the launch
event there. How and when I am going to do the slides for
my presentations or prepare talking points of the panel
only the Great Spaghetti Monster knows.
3 - yawnorama. I wonder how many negative
votes you have to get in gametrailers.com before they
toss you out of the service. I certainly did not win many
friends in the commentary when I asked why they are all
so hyped up about this game. This and all the other
trailers I've seen look both senseless and boring to me,
which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a
game trailer. But hyped they are and Bioshock 3 was even
awarded as the Best Upcoming Game or something at E3. In
my opinion, Bioshock
1 looked a hell of a lot more interesting and I was
not personally too impressed with that either. Am I
getting a faulty feed from some other game? Or did the
Illuminati implant everyone else with mind-control chips
and mine somehow shorted out?
On the other hand, I downloaded Complete 2009 mod for S.T.A.L.K.E.R:
Shadow of Chernobyl. And last night, I finally
returned to 100 Rad Bar.
L85 Game Designer LFG
Thanks for the title, Zds!
Yep, here we are again. After almost three years as a
senior designer and later a producer, I was axed from
Casual Continent along with their entire first-party game
development business. If you want to know the details
behind the decision you will have to ask them directly.
All I am saying is that although I wished that some of
the options we discussed for continuing the business
would have come true, I have nothing but respect for the
way my employer handled this. I wish him and all the guys
well in their rapidly growing "other" business
endeavour. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with games.
As a result, I am looking for work or at least
interesting projects to do consulting on through Burger
Games. I don't expect nothing much to happen during the
Summer but it would be nice to have something going on by
the time it starts getting cold and dark again. I hate
the EU format CV I usually fill in, so here is my CV in a
I am Ville Vuorela, 37 years old and
an almost graduate from the University of Helsinki with English
Philology as my major and Games Research &
Design and Academic Entrepreneurship as my
minors. I also have plenty of study credits on
Archeology, Medieval studies and British and Irish
studies. Outside the University, I have the EU Specialist
Certificate on Game Scriptwriting. I am fluent enough in
Finnish and English, can cope in Swedish and would not
starve in Germany either (I actually worked in
Düsseldorf for a while in 2001).
I have been a full-time game developer for 8
years. I started with mobile games as a game
designer at Sumea Interactive in 2004 and then
moved to Rovio Mobile (AKA "the Angry Birds
guys") in 2005 as a senior game designer. I
then worked as a narrative designer for Recoil Games
in 2007-2008 when they were still making Earth No
More for the next-gen consoles. When that project
folded (ask them), I was picked up by Casual
Continent in November 2008, first as a senior
designer for various in-house and customer projects.
Since January 2011 I've been working as the producer on Crown of Byzantus
browser MMO. And as you may remember, I was just laid
off. Officially, my employment at CC will terminate on
I also teach games development and design.
In these past two years I have run both game and level
design courses for the game development study program of KAJAK
in Kajaani and lectured about game design at ADULTA,
KEUDA, SCORE in Tampere, the University of
Helsinki and most recently at Otava Opisto
in Mikkeli. I have already been booked give a lecture on
the topic in the University of Turku next Fall.
I am generally thought to be a good lecturer in both
Finnish and English. Since practise makes perfect I also
try to do public speaking whenever I can. Come and see me
go at it in Ropecon
2011! I am giving presentations in both Finnish and
English, as well as managing an English-language panel
for the guests of honour.
Writing for the Enter
magazine was an employer-sanctioned second
job during my mobile design days. I wrote combined
instructions and reviews of the free software that came
with the CDs they attached to the magazine covers. The
lead editor thought I was really good and my contacts in
the book publishing world result from this job.
I used to be a technical writer for the IT and
pharmaceutical industries. I have worked, either
as an employee or as a consultant, for companies like ABB,
Geological Survey of Finland, Wapit, InBitOn, MatchEm,
DNA, Netikos Finland and CRF Box.
This is where my skill at writing understandable
documents and specifications comes from. I believe in
strong documentation, I believe in concise processes and
I have shamelessly ripped off every good practise and
policy I've come across in all the places I've ever
worked at. Actually, most people who might consider
giving me a job will probably have seen specs written by
me before, so advertising them here feels a bit silly.
Still, it is one of the specialty skills
that differentiates me as a game designer.
During the Dark Ages I worked as a teacher and
youth director. Yes, back in the primitive 90s,
when I was still a bright-eyed student in the University
of Helsinki dreaming to graduate as an English teacher
one day, I worked as a substitute teacher for some of the
comprehensive and high schools in Espoo. I taught A-level
English, Finnish language and even International
Education. I was also hired to manage the roleplaying
club for the students in my old comprehensive school for
a few years. Those were the days...
I have written five roleplaying games,
two of which are national best-sellers. The release of
the latest, Stalker, was elected by Helsingin
Sanomat to be one of the Cultural Events of 2008. The
game is based on the world-famous scifi novel Roadside
Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. The
English translation is coming out this summer and the PDF
version will be on sale worldwide.
I have also written four published books.
Two (Pelintekijän käsikirja and Elämäpeli)
are about game design and development, while the other
two are a fantasy novel (Vanha Koira) and an
autobiographical extended pamphplet Häirikkötehdas,
which is currently being turned into a short film called Bully
Factory in the UK. I am currently working on my
fifth. It is a novel called Raindance, an epic
tale of net-based information thieves and secret
conspiracies in a dystopic near future.
As part of my hobbies, I have two businesses:
Burger Games for publishing my roleplaying games
and more recently Wirepunk Partnership, a joint
project between myself and three friends from the IT
sector. We all have dayjobs elsewhere, so Wirepunk only
exists in the net and whenever we can arrange a workshop
for an evening or a weekend. Working on almost zero
budget, we are making HAX, a browser MMORPG of
cyberpunk information criminals. My upcoming novel Raindance
takes place in the HAX setting. You can find out
more about HAX here: http://www.facebook.com/haxgame
And by asking me, of course.
They call me Burgeri for "obvious"
reasons. Yes, I am short, round and heavy.
Actually, I look and weigh like a World War I mortar
shell but my spouse, Leena Romppainen, also says that I
am warm, soft and less likely to explode on contact. I
used to do a lot of muscle excercise and but these days I
prefer doing cardio, such as riding 10-20 kilometres on a
bike each day. I still like the feeling of having muscles
but cardio makes my brain feel better and having a
working brain is a must in this business.
Highlights of my career are many but
since events and developments remain undocumented, lets
talk about games. Personally, I consider these titles to
be head and shoulders above the rest in my portfolio:
||I wrote the story for both Fantasy
Warrior 2: Good and FW2: Evil
but I am officially the lead designer of the
latter. The Link-style mobile adventure won quite
a few awards, including some obscure vote in
Germany for being the best mobile roleplaying
game of 2005.
||War Diary: Torpedo took
reviewers by storm in 2006 and even serious
submarine simulation websites took notice. Nobody
had thought a non-silly submarine combat game
could work on mobiles, let alone be this good!
||Wolfmoon is my most
decorated title as far as review awards are
considered. Personally, I consider it to be one
of the best mobile titles by anyone ever. And
yes, it is a Mobile First-Person Adventure game
of betrayal, murder, werewolves, strong female
characters and Indian mythology. It was way ahead
of its time back in the day but today the iPhone
gamers might like it better.
||Burnout Mobile for EA Mobile
is yet another case of the impossible being made
not only possible but good. Although the project
was finished after I had left Rovio Mobile, it is
my concept and design. Presenting the concept to
the disbelieving EA officials in their European
HQ in the UK was a personal triumph. Reading the
reviews was another.
Crown of Byzantus. It
feels funny to talk about it now but in a market full of
Travian clones we wanted to make a Browser MMO of
medieval warfare that actually was about war and
not farming or building log cabins. Well, it was
my first browser MMO for adults and we did many things
wrong. CoB did not set the world on fire but it had an
iron core of fans that validated our core assumptions
about the genre and the mechanics. And it looked
The next game would have built upon those lessons
and been so much better. So much better!
All in all, I have worked on 25+ mobile titles, 3
next-gen console titles and 5 different browser games
with persistent world features. They are not all that
great but the only game I am really ashamed of is the
mobile version of Need for Speed: Carbon.
For tools, I have mostly used Microsoft Office
and Open Office programs, as well as SVN version
control systems. I am also pretty good with Adobe
Pagemaker but nobody cares about that anymore.
A list of recommendations is available on request
(meaning I should probably compile the damn thing) since
I am not going to publish other people's email addresses
right here, for heaven's sake! So if you need to know
more, either contact my old employers, check my Linkedin
connections or ask
So, are we game?
It is late at night and I've just gotten back home
from Eurocon in Stockholm. It was a three-day event of
panels, presentations, milling about and dodging the
rainy weather outside. Good thing that Stockholm's
tourist attractions are already old news: we saw none of
them and instead hid inside the Student House of their
University of Technology.
And for three days I walked amidst giants. The
official guests of honour included Elizabeth Bear, Ian
McDonald, Jukka Halme and some Swedish dude I've never
heard about. But also Hannu "Quantum Thief"
Rajaniemi was there, along with Charles "Accelerando
& others" Stross who insisted that everybody
call him Charlie. For an aspiring cyberpunk writer like
myself this was pretty much The Dream Team and as sugar
on top, the lot of them turned out to be excellent
speakers and panelists. Programme after programme I just
sat there and tried to turn into a sponge so that I could
absorb every last bit of information revealed.
The programme was very much about writing skills,
genre tricks, applications and other practical stuff and
very little of what others usually call
"fandom" and I would refer to as
"useless". The Friday panel As You Know,
Bob was alone worth both the plane tickets and the
admission price. I don't think I've ever followed a
better panel and every aspiring fiction writer should
have been there with me. The topic was deceptively
simple: how to do exposition and infodumping in
speculative fiction without boring the reader to death.
The panel leader had presupposed that info-dumping would
be a bad thing and our expert panelists were delighted to
prove him wrong. With authority, I might say.
Lots of good stuff in that programme: scifi in Latin
America, Rajaniemi vs. Stross -interview, Cities on the
Edge (by the authors of the Transhuman Space -supplement
by the same name), the
great-general-debate-without-a-topic and so forth. Maybe
a traditional scifi-fan might have been disappointed
because actual scifi-topic programmes were sparse but I
certainly wasn't. And I spent the late evenings hammering
away at my mini-laptop, writing and editing Raindance.
We brought home enough books to last for months
(although e-books were the subject of an intense
discussion, events like these still have to settle on
selling dead wood).
Unfortunately, walking with giants has the side effect
of driving it home how small I really am. My goals are
certainly low: action-oriented cyberpunk you might expect
from a game novella or a kiosk softcover (a living
descendant of pulp literature). There guys are like
world-famous gourmet chefs, while I am still striving to
become the hot dog vendor. And so far I suck at it. I
ramble too much for pulp fiction and the genre is so much
more active and dynamic than fantasy it always feels like
the strings of the story were slipping through my
This is like learning to play a new instrument. I have
learned to doodle with a couple of other instruments
already and it helps but still there is this learning
threshold of getting the basics right. Not to mention the
fact I am actually handicapping myself by trying to write
pulp rather than straight prose. In pulp fiction, you
can't just stop and start mulling over the sociopolitical
evolution of microstates within the Complex, or how
autonomous cyberweapons are replacing traditional weapons
in the underworld. Things either are, or they aren't.
You have much to learn, grasshopper!
As usual, everything happens all at once. Stalker
translation, my novel, a thousand issues at work. Some of
them big enough to impact my life for years. Mine and
quite a few others. I was hoping to take a long summer
vacation like last year but it is starting to look like I
have to flee the country before I get some rest. Well,
that's games industry for you. You have to take the bad
with the good and sometimes they are indistinguishable. I
am stressed out as hell about making to Eurocon, Finncon
and the thousand places I've planned to go to this
summer. Yet I would die to get to do some of the stuff I
am doing now. And I might be out of a job before the
summer is over.
Interesting times, interesting times. Without Rovio's
recent minority shareholder cash-out I would be a lot
more nervous than I actually am.
I am currently editing the Gamemaster's Book of
Stalker RPG. The ultimate deadline is getting the print
version out by Ropecon but I hope to be much faster, of
course. So how good a translation is it? Let's be honest:
it is a fan translation. Sometimes I wonder if I could
have done it better myself but the real answer is no. I
wouldn't have done it at all. There is nothing I can do
about people bitching about in the Internet but do that
to my face and I am going to find your copy and shred it.
And there is the other thing, of course.
Doors on both sides look all the same to the naked
eye but who is using naked eyes anymore? They are marked
with bright Virtuality icons. Room code, function,
occupants, entry permissions. I am running only a guest
level authority so most of ICU is out of bounds and the
doors are framed in red.
What I am really talking about is referred to as
"enhanced reality" these days but it sounds
stupid. For now, I am calling it "Virtuality"
but I am thinking of a more unique term like
"hypertag" or the like. Not a big deal but is
making me scratch my head quite a bit. Inventing a little
newspeak is not only a cyberpunk cliché but honestly
hard to avoid because you need to introduce future shock
into your work somehow.
I nod and lean back. As the edge of the blanket
creeps up, Kleon turns his eyes to the ceiling.
Oh, have mercy. I got out of Mamba just two weeks
ago. I am working off my probation here.
I am going to buy stuff, Kleon. I need you to
deliver them here.
So? Doctor Grohl already said okay.
Some of it can get you into trouble if you are
Vanha Koira was occasionally praised for its realistic
sex scene between two older people (actually I thought it
as a sort of post-sex scene but nobody else seemed to
make a difference between the two). I am actually fairly
uncomfortable writing sex scenes for some reason but
Raindance is the perfect opportunity to practise. Pulp
fiction, even cyberpulp, requires a certain amount of
erotic tension. I should really give my protagonist