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talk21-Aug-2015: I Love Novigrad

Witcher 3 is a great game. It surpasses Skyrim in many areas but falls short on some others. Maybe the Perfect Game would be combination of the two, since they would fix each others' faults. I already rated Witcher 3 in FB and gave it +4. It is one of the best games I've ever played, even with all the bugs and nonsensical controls. But that's not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about a feat unsurpassed in computer RPGs: The city of Novigrad. It set the bar for fictional cities in computer RPGs so high I can scarcely see it anymore from Skyrim. Also, as a history buff, a lifelong geek and a student of Medieval Studies in the University, I know something about medieval cities. Novigrad might well be the most realistic medieval city in video games, including the reality-based medieval cities of the Assassin's Creed series. CD Projekt Red has been criticized for being a slave driver and while that is certainly lamentable, I cannot help but admire the result. This attention to detail... this attention to ultimately non-relevant detail... I've never seen anything like it.

Novigrad map

Cities in Skyrim have half a dozen houses and a bunch of people loitering around with time-sensitive idle tasks. Novigrad is about the size of the late medieval city of Prague. It is a true metropolis for the period and looks, feels and matches the size of the part. You can't enter all the buildings but quite a few, either casually or as part of a quest. And even if the doors stay locked, there are hidden paths, parkour routes, roof-bound treasure chests and whatnot. Different districts have unique look and feel to them and my jaw dropped when I began to find slipways for boats and ships, cargo magazines, the cloth dyers' yard, dock hands leaning rails and so on. Anyone will put a butcher's shop into their medieval city. But cloth dyers? And you can't even buy anything from them! It is just there. The whole fucking yard! Something you can just stumble onto! Many players probably never will but it is right there! With all the right things in it!


There are good and bad parts, market squares, main streets, side alleys, the hovels for the poor built next to the wall (a fire hazard often torn down should the city be under siege). No computer in the world could render the real day-time throngs of such a city but Witcher 3 does a good enough job at it. Novigrad feels alive, inhabited and even crowded, especially in the markets during the day, or the toll bridges where goods being brought into the city are checked and taxed. My suspension of disbelief holds, especially since the distribution and nature of the crowds changes logically by the time of day. They could have set the game just into Novigrad and I wouldn't have complained. The only blemish here is merchants and craftsmen staying open 24/7. Even Skyrim had open and closed hours for shops.

Of course, as with many things in Witcher 3, Novigrad is a city of assholes. I've always detested witch hunts and burnings. Somehow, CD Projekt Red got wind of this and went out of their way to make smoke come out of my ears whenever I see the bad guys in Novigrad. Moral ambiguity is a running theme of the game but my bias against witch-burning is so strong I would have loved to tear out Radovid's throat with my teeth. And to impale the priests and witch hunters of the Eternal Fire onto the spires of their own temple. And if I have to burn Novigrad to the ground in the process, so be it.

Rumor has it that Novigrad in Witcher 3 is based on the real medieval city of Novigrad in Croatia. Perhaps. I wouldn't know. What I do know it has set an impossibly high bar for fictional game cities in the future. In terms of detail and embedded knowledge, I wonder if it will be ever surpassed. In fact, if Witcher 3 had been an open-world urban fantasy game set just in the city of Novigrad, I would have still been happy.      

talk27-Jul-2015: Back from Jaconia


Long time no see!

I just got back from Jaconia and believe me, the jetlag is a killer. In truth, I spent a good deal of June and virtually all of July hammering out my next novel, Käärmetanssija. And very early this morning, the alpha script was finished at last. And it is massive. At 750+K characters the script would make a roughly 450-page novel. I expect it will be cut down a little but Käärmetanssija will still be a hefty tome (unless my prospective publisher decides to split it into two parts or something). It took me roughly six months to write it and I feel like I have been living in Jaconia all this time. Finishing it was a surprisingly emotional experience. I suddenly had to say goodbye to a host of lovable characters with whom I've been to strange and wonderful places and on so many harrowing adventures. You never existed and yet I will miss you all.

In other news, meet DEATHWATCH, the best iOS game I've played so far. It is the love child of Laser Squad and WH40K, with you commanding a Deathwatch team of WH40K space marines in a desperate attempt to derail a Tyranid excursion with special operations. It is a premium title (€4,99) and once you've paid for it, you are set to go. However, I have to confess that once I decided I loved this game, I paid €20 to get my hands on some extra cards which can give better equipment and more experienced marines. You can get the very same cards just by playing the game but I wanted to build a dream team of heroes with high-tier mastercrafted weapons. Mainly because it looks so damn cool! And I am sure the devs could use the money.

Space Marines

I know that free-to-play is all the rage and it is what most of my clients want. But personally, DEATHWATCH is the game I have always wanted to have on my iPad. And now I've got it. Well done, Rodeo Games. You should have made much more money with this title than you probably did.  

Final rating: +4

We will not fail. We are the Ultramarines.

talk11-Jun-2015: Summer Plans 

I meant to write an angry rant but subsequent events reminded me that if I think someone is not fully responsible for his or her actions, I can't hold those actions against him or her either. At least as long as other people are not in danger. Thus my anger balloon was burst prematurely and however ticked off I might be, I must vent my frustrations elsewhere.  

Nevertheless, this opening entry for the Summer has been long-time coming and the reason for that is that I've been hammering away at two customer projects during the days and Taiga V2 -stuff in the evenings. Since I didn't have a layout to type the text into (yes, my notoriously unorthodox way of making these things), I began typing it as straight text and posted it onto Facebook. Taiga V2 has its own Finnish FB group with around 30 followers. So far, we've gone over the setting intro fluff and entered character creation. I am basically hoping to keep this up until we have all the rules we need to create some characters and run the game system (FLOW or EBB) with them. I want to be done with the early rules by July and hopefully run a test adventure/campaign later this year.  

My gigs during the days and in some evenings have been a long one for Housemarque and a short one for Boomlagoon. While I can't tell you what they were about, I can say that they both kicked ass and I couldn't be happier. At least not without hospital-grade chemicals. If I could just do these kinds of projects for living, my life would be close to perfect. Of course, I'd still be struggling with obesity, pulmonary ailments and the occasional tumor in the skull, but who cares about when I can do something like... well, this. Unfortunately both gigs are coming to end. I hope there will be more but from the looks of it, I'll have the end of June and all of July off.

Speaking of awesome things, Housemarque had its 20-year anniversary party last night at The Circus. They are the oldest surviving gaming company in Finland, even though Ilari measures time from the first contract which happened some time after the founding. They had great food, great people, great conversations and I remember some band called Apulanta making noise in the background at some point. Boy oh boy, when the organizers flicked the switch on the Housemarque highlight reel, I was so giddy it was embarrassing. That euphoria I felt when I first got into the industry came rushing back and I was so happy to be working with games I could have cried! Also, some of the discussions I had that night were not only interesting but incredibly therapeutic. I have skeletons in the closet and somehow I feel like one of them has been laid to rest now. I hope the person with whom I had the crucial conversation with feels the same, because we sort of share that skeleton.

Happy anniversary, Housemarque! Here's to 20 more years. I'd be 61 by then, though.

This weekend we are heading to Leena's old haunts in Kainuu for a week and coming back just in time to get to Archipelacon in Aland. Then it's July and my to-do list reads as follows:
  1. Rest
  2. Ride bicycle
  3. Finish the script for Käärmetanssija
  4. Play Witcher 3
There is also a Praedor RPG session or several in there somewhere. Verivartio is approaching its final chapters, so there is a chance that too might be concluded this Summer. Hmm, I wonder what I should do next..?

By the way, there is going to be a small but peppery gaming event called Otamacon soon. I won't be there since it coincides with Archipelacon but Burger Games is a proud supporter. I am not saying "sponsor" since I am only giving them competition prizes. But if you feel your Summer lacks a Ropecon, go there and play games!     
Stalker RPG
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Ville Vuorela - The Hollow Pilgrim – A Stalker RPG
                Novel: New Roadside Picnic #1, e-kirja
ebook (7.99€) English

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Vanha Koira
epub (6€)
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