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I should not really comment on forum threads here. Somebody inevitably writes back in the forum and then you have to look at two places to make any sense of anything. The short of it is that Jaakko Stenros rushed to the defence of Roolipelimanifesti with a long article. I think he deliberately misses the point I was trying to make and seeks to distract the reader with non-related nonsense like the book's library shelf placement. But what the hell do I know? It is right there, read and draw your own conclusions.
In related news, the Finnish roleplaying intelligentsia is holding an academic RPG seminar at Tampere in 30th and 31st of March. Funny, I thought I had already destroyed the future of academic roleplaying games research in Finland? But seriously, this is a good thing and if I wasn't in GDC the previous weekend I might have attended it myself. Maybe they'll do it again some day.
The big news is the release of Heimot -minigame, a PDF-booklet describing the setting and rules of the upcoming Finnish space opera game. Sort of Heimot Lite, if you will. Iit looks good. Different from what I expected, but good. Rules system is like running Buffy RPG with the early Scorpio-rules system. My only fear is that the ability score range might be too wide for such a narrow probability curve (2D6). Then again, it also a matter of genre. This is space opera and as such super-powered characters (at least in some aspects) might be just what Miska was looking for.
Heimot is the reason why I am not touching space opera, despite having a few ideas. With 240 pages, hard covers, page texturing and kind of illustrations the pdf has, it is already of better production quality than my games. To make things worse for competition, the setting is absolutely brilliant. At the moment the only fault is the goofy front cover image in the mini-game. Judging from the ad they placed in Praedor, the final cover should be mind-blowing. If and when all the elements are in place, Heimot will blow away even global competition.
So this is it. The Finnish RPG industry has been saved and the future has overtaken the present (Mike and me). Heimot raises the bar for all future games. After STALKER is out, I might pack by bags and go home. Okay, I won't, we all know that. And I really should not think Heimot as competition since a person who buys it is also more likely to buy my games. But still, production quality like that... hell! STALKER can't match it. My next game, whatever it will be, can try to take it on but it will be tough going. Very tough. Miska really knocked the wind out of my pride with this one.
I knew something like this would happen sooner or later and believe me, having been a youth club director myself I can feel this guy's pain. I'd be in the same shit if this was 1997. Here is a direct quote from Roolipelimanifesti review thread at the Roolipelaaja.fi webforum.
"...Petterssonin kirja vei työpaikallani roolipelien mainetta enemmän taaksepäin kuin mikään muu kohu tähän asti. Kollegani ovat jo tottuneet kuulemaan tarinoita 80-luvun saatananpalvonta huhuista ja itsari-roolipelaajista. He pitävätkin (pitivätkin) roolipelaamista ihan tavallisena ja normaalina harrastuksena.Luettuaan kirjan, he ovatkin alkaneet hieman tarkemmin kyselemään mitä puuhaan nuorisoporukoitten kanssa jotka tulevat kirjastoon pelaamaan esittelypeliä Oikaisen tietysti heidän pelkonsa parhaani mukaan. Ovat olleet kivoja keskusteluja.
Odotankin koska 13-vuotias roolipelaajan alku, joka pelaa ryhmässäni, vie Roolipelimanifestin kotiinsa. Hän voi sitten innostuneesti kertoa harrastuksestaan vanhemmilleen, tiedä vaikka vanhemmat sitten pohtisivat lapsensa kanssa runkkaamisesta peleissä. Vanhemmat voivat sitten ottaa yhteyttä siihen kirjasto-setään jonka kanssa heidän jälkikasvunsa sulkeutuu hämärään huoneeseen kirjastossa."
Yep. I am waiting for that one too. For veteran gamers and academic types, Juhana Pettersson's fixation with sexuality in roleplaying games is easily dismissed. We had sex in games long before we had it for real and we know that people like Pettersson have a thing for unusual angles when dealing with everyday things. But should Roolipelimanifesti be your only source of information on roleplaying games... sheesh! Sexual paranoia is already the media buzzword of the day and we look enough like freaks already.
Then again, this is nothing new. For some reason, certain groups have been very vocal about their eccentricity. This probably has something to do with the intent of turning roleplaying into a fine art. When viewed from outside, it sure looks (and sounds) bizarre. And after watching Martin Eriksson's presentation in Ropecon a few years back *I* would not let my kids hang around with "roleplayers"! They are a fucking cult!
I fought the devil-worship accusations for one-and-a-half decades (e.g. University officials asked me about it when Alter Ego was founded). I also thought the battle was won now that roleplaying games are part of the mainstream. Either I was wrong or some people would like to turn roleplaying games back into a suspicious, semi-occult marginal activity that has little contact with the mainstream society.
I think that would suck and I am not talking about oral sex here.
"15000 atheists in London rioted after a blank sheet of paper was found on a cartoonist's desk" -anonymous IRC quote.
Morons vs. Cartoons -battle is still unfinished but Cartoons have a strong lead with 0 dead while Moron casualties are approaching 100. I've been trying to stem the onset of religious bigotry against Muslims by watching suitable films and Kingdom of Heaven has been the most potent medicine so far. There might be better films about the Crusades but I've never seen one. Just like there might be better Viking films than 13th Warrior but I've never seen one either. "It is your actions that make you a good man. Or not." It is sad to find this in a movie and not in the dogma of some major spiritual movement.
While waiting for the "Real Holocaust" promised by the lady in London demonstrations, I've kept myself busy by writing Stalker. I promised myself to write a full spread of the book every night and I've managed to keep that promise for three nights in a row now. Default gamemastering section is now done. Tomorrow I'll start on "Gamemaster Stalker", dealing with genre conventions and the perceived peculiarities of the setting from gamemastering perspective. Praedor's Borvaria and Code/X were the warm-ups. This here will be the main event. I wonder if I could merge FLOW discussion into this chapter like I merged setting description and character generation in the Player's Book?
Player's Book, all 60 pages of it, are done. Again. The only thing missing are sample characters which will be made by playtesters later in the spring. I am writing the Gamemaster's Book and as usual feel like a dolt when explaining things like "Role of the Gamemaster" or the different playstyles. STALKER is meant for veteran gamers so they should know all this already but I have to include it just in case. My current goal for STALKER is at least 150 pages, making it about as thick as TAIGA or Miekkamies. For comparison, Praedor v1.1 has around 250 pages.
Basics of gamemastering boil down to "role of the gamemaster, different gamemastering methods, creating adventures and campaigns and final tips", which is pretty much the same package as in Praedor. This is followed by "Gamemastering STALKER" which deals with the genre conventions, mood elements and events typical of this particular setting. I have never written anything like that before and have been reading World of Darkness publications to get ideas and examples on how it is to be done. This chapter also has to deal with the particular difficulties of using Zones as action-adventure settings and how to determine or define various anomalies or properties of different artifacts.
I intend to follow up with "Resolution with Flow". Basically the one-page introduction into Flow at the start of the Player's Book covers everything you need know about using Flow, but I just know that applying it will be troublesome for most. The focus is on natural (and unnatural) hazards and on combat and injury. While Flow was designed to be an easy switch from diceless systems, handling combat takes some major re-thinking if you are used to diced round-by-round systems. Flow does not care about the process of battle, only its outcome. This will produce pretty much the same effects as prolonged round-by-round combat resolution in diced games but the process is abstracted into one or more "acts". The system is quite deadly but since interpreting the results depends so heavily on the gamemaster it is easy to adjust the combat difficulty. Flow also incorporates some aspects of shared gamemastering, enabling players to dictate game events related to their characters, especially when using Drama points. It is not in any way complicated but does constitute a small break from the traditional Old Skool -style gamemastering.
Last part of the rulebook will be Zone Book. I haven't been able to find a map of Toulouse region I would be happy with but with a satellite image from Google Maps I should be able to create "Toulouse-As-It-Would-Be" and present the French Zone as the primary setting for STALKER. Zone Book would have people, places, encounter tables (curiously numbered to work with dice should you want to use such anyway), adventure seeds, campaign layouts and hopefully a two or three full-length adventures. That's the plan, anyway. If STALKER is going to be late for Ropecon, it is probably the Zone Book that is holding me back. If there ever were supplements to STALKER, they would probably be additional Zone books, right? Wrong! STALKER is and probably will remain the core rulebook for FLOW system. If I ever get around writing down the original "Towers of Dusk", it would appear as a genre supplement to STALKER.
But don't hold your breath.
My most recent published mobile game, Cyberblood, was a straightforward futuristic top-down shooter with a personified character, various unique powerups and a motivating story. It was meant to be the kind of game that mobile action gamers would look into when browsing the operator lists after they had shot everything there was to shoot in the previous shooter they had. Although we did experiment with parallax scrolling and the possibilities of code-drawn special effects on different performance profiles, we were not re-inventing the genre. Action-shooters are heavily competed genre and we, or at least I, wanted to give the mobile action gamer precisely what he wanted: mission-based, easy-to-learn and easy-to-play action shooter.
One might even call it a casual shooter. There were deeper elements and strategems to it if you cared but it was perfectly playable by shutting down your brain and letting your reflexes take over. It would be hindsight to say the redundancy of its many upgrade modules was intentional but enabling different strategies and approaches according to what modules you wanted was planned for. Some people played it through without buying a single new module but at least they bought health and energy upgrades. I am not happy that they pulled it off but at least it proves the casual part. As it turned out, this approach was not too popular in game reviews. Nobody called it a bad game but a standard shooter was given standard score, about or a little above 70/100.
In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. But I did not and it hit me pretty hard. Rest of the team was disappointed, of course, but ultimately I bear the blame for the concept and the choice of play elements included to or excluded from the game. It was a crisis of professional self-esteem and my view of the average end-user of our products. I am still living that crisis and if you have read this blog long, you have noticed I don't like talking about my wounds. Verbal attacks, presenting new ideas, thoughts and concepts, explaining something I've received feedback about... for me all that is easy. Nursing my wounds is hard.
Today, Cyberblood producer Jukka Peltola sent me an email with "Cyber Phuking Blood Baby" as the subject. The email contained an url to a newly released game review at mobilefaqs.com. Cyberblood received 86/100 points, which was good. But even better, it got 91/100 from playability, proving that at least somebody on the reviewing side not only understood what I was trying to do but thinks I managed to pull it off. Probably that playability score also awarded the game Mobilefaqs.com Gold Award. Either that, or our sales team has become really good at b.... okay, let's leave it at that.
Mobilegamefaqs.com is neither the only nor the most important review site out there. For Cyberblood, this review was the exception that makes the rule. The value of reviews in mobile game sales is questionable as a whole, which is something you often repeat to yourself when your game gets less than expected or a competing title scores way more. It is true but the opinion of the reviewer is still as valid as that of any external tester. More importantly, these people have play a LOT of mobile games and if they have an opinion, it is a safe bet that more than a few players share it. That does not bode well for Cyberblood. Still, if Mobilegamefaqs.com thinks it is great, odds are that quite a few people out there do so too.
I have been rather critical about Conklaavi in the #praedor IRC-channel lately. Perhaps too much so, even though my last and only run-in with them left me fuming (literally, at Turku railroad station). The event itself is not that bad, if you like conventions in general. I do. I was the guest of honour at Conklaavi'04 and you can read my convention report here. Now it is coming again on 8th and 9th of April at the same place (Nuorisopalatsi in Turku). Further information is supposedly available on Conklaavi web-page but it curiously does not seem to have any more information than what I just told you. I wasn't really planning on going but with less than to months left I would have liked to see some kind of a programme schedule.
What I do know about the programme is that they will host a Warhammer Fanatic event organised by the local Fantasiapelit store. I've been to one of those before in Lahti and it was really cool. If you have any interest in miniatures gaming and want to see it done right, Warhammer Fanatic is the place to go. Unfortunately even Fantasiapelit website does not have any more on that but it might draw some more people into Conklaavi than what we are used to seeing.
Without a programme it is kind of hard to recommend Conklaavi, but if you are in the vicinity (or own a car), like convention atmosphere and have some spare time, Conklaavi might be well worth checking out. Small as it is, it's still the second largest event in the scene and Nuorisopalatsi is a walking distance away from everything else in Turku, including its very nice market square, excellent bars and restaurants with lavish portions (and don't forget to visit Harald, the local Viking Restaurant).
I was about to write this as a response to Petteri in Roolipelaajat magazine blog comments but then decided I was talking too loudly on too many forums already. Majatalo.org, roolipelit.net, Roolipelaaja-magazine, Puolenkuun Pelit and somebody threatened that even Fantasiapelit was about to open theirs. If the usenet group had any distinct advantage it was that there was only one of them. As much as I like majatalo.org and roolipelit.net is now one of my clients, I expect to eventually drift into Roolipelaaja-magazine forums. Or simply cut down my forum participation and stick to the blog where I am not bothering everybody else. In my age you tend to lose interest in other people's ideas. That's why old people are sometimes so hard to get along with.
But back to the original topic: Petteri in his comment criticized the lack of PR and marketing from RPG manufacturers. He is partly right, too. While big labels like WOTC or White Wolf have good art and marketing departments, most of the RPG publishers, myself included, are small companies in somebody's basement with little understanding of the realities of marketing and sales. Unfortunately even if they had, they would not have the money to do anything about it. In any other business the RPG markets would be written off as a lost cause and that is exactly what Games Workshop and Hasbro have already done. Markets are small, easily saturated, almost impossible to reach and your average customer buys only a few products through their entire gaming career. We are in this for love, people.
According to Greg Stafford, who is both an industry legend and a pauper, told me some interesting data in the afterparty of the last Ropecon. Everybody has been impressed by the money Wizards of the Coast has been raking in with Magic the Gathering. What most people don't realise that the net value of board-RPG-CCG markets has not increased for 20 years. Instead, Magic The Gathering has gobbled up 85 bucks of the one hundred your average gamer uses on game products in a year. Boardgames, all the roleplaying games and other card games in the world are fighting over the remaining 15 bucks. I'd give D&D3.5 ten bucks of that, so the rest of us live off the remaining 5.
Roleplaying game publishers are bad at marketing because nobody with both marketing skills and a brain would be in this business (just look at the industry now: everybody lacks one or the other). Hobby base might alive and well, especially on this side of the Atlantic but with fewer new players coming along it is increasingly difficult to sell anything in a scale that would matter. All the veterans already own what they need and are too old to try out new things on a routine basis. They don't usually buy new books just because the old ones are showing signs of wear and tear. So frankly, we are in a deep shit and it is getting deeper. Well, at least we are in it together.
As much as I like to stress commercial productisation and consumer focus in RPG publishing (especially in the Indie side of things), I can't fault the game authors for being non-commercial or idealistic. If they weren't, they would not be making games.
Howdy, Finnish RPG media, long time no see! Where the hell have you been all these years? I saw you last with Magus but then you sort of went away. I once got a postcard from someone called Feeniks but that's about it. And while Alterations wasn't bad, it was way too academic for something that would tie the scene together. We've been through Hell without you. Hell, I tell you! But now that you're back I expect things to get better. And you're looking good too. Real paper, real publisher (same chain as with Pelaaja and Konsolipelaaja magazines) and a certified hobby fanboy as the lead editor. Here in Finland all good things usually come to an end because the targeted customer base is a pile of non-responsive goo. But I really hope this time proves me wrong.
We want a games magazine about RPGs. We need it. We have been crying out for one ever since Magus went bankrupt and done our damnest to discourage everyone who ever gave it a try. Luckily Mikki was unstoppable and we got ourselves a hobby media again. I want to know what is happening out there and RPG.Net does not really cover this side of the Atlantic. So here's 20 euros. Give me everything you've got!
To be perfectly honest, I already knew that Roolipelaaja was coming and have agreed to write stuff if asked. I am usually better at starting fights than disseminating information but we'll have to see what happens.
Actually, that image is a composite of two real demonstration images but I think it drives the point home beautifully. In the meantime, talking heads in Finland have got their logic into a tangle trying to explain away the demonstrations and violence as fringe group activity and not part of the mainstream Islamic culture. Kudos to them for trying but I am not buying. At least he confesses his failure in trying to explain away Iran and their competition for Anti-Semitic Cartoons. My Jewish friend was planning to take part. The reward is to be paid in gold coins.
World sucks but today I don't, at least not professionally. War Diary: Crusader is doing very well in Central Europe and from external testing it seems like Wolf Moon could usher on a new era of deep mobile adventure games by simply proving it can be done. This is something that many hardcore gamers have been waiting for and many developers (individuals, not companies) around the world would love to do. Rovio Mobile is doing it, obviously. Yeah, War Diary: Torpedo might be giving me an ulcer but if I wasn't working on it I'd be green with envy at those who were.
One thing I really like about Rovio is that when in my previous workplace I came up with game specs, the rest of the team then sat down to cut away features and content. Here when I come up with game specs the rest of the team is like: "Is that all?" "How about adding feature X,Y,Z..." "We could do this really cool new things by..." At first I thought we (or more precisely they) were over their heads and headed for disaster but they have actually pulled it off in several games already. More importantly, the games really are better for it. FI am going to have a team-wide "feature orgy" as an official part of the pre-production process from now on. Great job, guys. You know who you are.
My private game industry sector is doing good too. Fantasiapelit has or is on the verge of selling out their initial batch of Praedor v1.1 which was 60 copies. It has been what, two weeks? 60/14 = about four games per day, or almost six if you factor in the weekends. Oh shit, I forgot to email about the new cover image on Burger Games website. Well, the game is still flying off the shelves so maybe they'll forgive me. I wonder what sales are like in Puolenkuun Pelit or Roolipelit.net?
Stalker is also making sporadic progress and I've written most of the talent descriptions. In Flow, talents and their downsides are the basic building blocks of the character, from which everything else depends. I've been thinking that in a perfect world where I have endless time and energy, Stalker would be completed by next Ropecon and I could then start working on Towers of Dusk, a Romance Genre Supplement for Stalker enabling you to play the "Romantic Venice" -setting I described in the Game Design Challenge. I probably won't have time for it but if anyone itches to give it a try or wants to do an official Towers of Dusk LARP (Romance as a LARP genre? It takes some daring but I think Finnish LARPers are up to it), you can have the license for peanuts.
BTW, the latest unconfirmed info on the release date of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video game puts it somewhere in early 2007.
You know, one of my main beefs with post-holocaust scenarios is that the causes of wars or collapses often seem implausible. But the next time I feel that way I am going to take a long hard look at this picture and remember that reality is the most fucked-up, illogical and inane setting ever. Stuff like this, a culture war involving terrorist threats between Europe and Islam over some caricatures in a Danish newspaper. It could never happen in a roleplaying game setting.
My other thoughts on the subject are not really fit for print. We've been promised a holocaust. It is unclear whether she can deliver but the intent is there. Holocaust over cartoons. World War Three because of a picture. I guess Paranoia is the most realistic futuristic RPG out there.
In Syria, protesters have torched the embassies of Denmark and Norway. The local police was reportedly looking the other way while crowds did the dirty work for the local government. Embassies of Sweden and Chile were in the same building but it is not known if they were destroyed too. Crowds also had a go at the embassy of France but this time they were stopped.
US president George W. Bush has voiced support for the Muslims and the American media is more or less sympathetic to them, or at least being politically correct and not rocking the boat. It is an important opportunity for Bush to score some points in the eyes of the Muslim world. European media is divided. Danish agricultural company Arla is of the opinion that dairy products are more important than freedom of speech or protesting state-sponsored death threats, violence and vandalism.
I am of the opinion that the snowball effect over these cartoons has sparked the biggest conflict over essential freedoms and basic human rights in "Free Europe" since the fall of the Nazis (East Europe had its own problems). We are threatened with violence and extorted with economic warfare to make us back down from a number of basic principles, including those making it possible for that woman to hold that sign (the picture is from a demonstration in London). I am also of the opinion that we should not cut deals with terrorists, be they individuals, organisations, states or an entire culture.
Back in school, I was told to respect other religions and cultures. But that is not how respect works. Respect has to be earned and if you are expected to communicate with the other side, it also has to be mutual. I was also told that just like in Christianity, it is the few crackpots who give Islam a bad name. I am seeing an awful lot of crackpots right now, in awful lot of countries. In Islam, the crackpots are in control of the public opinion, the media and the policies of states. All it took was a few cartoons to prove that they *are* the culture, even if they are not the majority of the population.
Are they asking for our respect with threats of beheading, another 9/11 or the holocaust? Nope. They are asking for us to surrender so that they can behead not only the cartoonists but also the very values our post-WW2 culture was built to defend. Those annoying, problematic and sometimes even painful things that keep our societies free, our media independent and our governments in check.
Come to think of it, the header fits my day at work extremely well. War Diary: Torpedo has entered the War Diary: Abyss, where everything breaks down at the last minute and bugs come crawling through doors and windows. Even stuff that used to work does not seem to work anymore. I've been here before and I will be here again, but it bugs the hell out of me every time! Oh Well, War Is Hell. And that is what War Diary games are all about.
What the header was really about is the Starship Troopers video game. Although my home computer barely meets the minimum requirements, the demo rolled nicely and I am too much of a luddite to miss self-shadowing models and top-of-the-line textures. Bugs were big, nasty, plentiful and went to pieces with a satisfying amount of gore. I especially liked the way you could blow of a limb and they would be still be 85% combat capable. I am a big fan of Starship Troopers -movie and rank it as one of the greatest achievements in science fiction during the past century. But just between you and me: the novel by Heinlein sucks.
So I bought the game today and hope to went my frustrations on bugs tonight. Very fitting. I also have Starship Troopers RPG on loan from a friend. Although a big fan of the movie and a moderate fan of the animated series (and disgusted at the movie sequel), the RPG did not impress me. Squad-based approach to warfare presented in the animated series is somewhat compatible with party-based roleplaying but playing a grunt in a total war is not a very interesting proposition. Especially when because of the level system (it is modified D20) you'll start from the very bottom of the hierarchy. I've completed my conscription, thank you. I expect it will all work better in a video game.
Stalker is inching forward and the goal of completing it in time for Ropecon 2006 is not unrealistic. Of course, now that I've said that the odds of it happening are effectively halved. Post-Stalker future is still dark and not in the cyberpunk way.
Meanwhile, check out "Riutta", a new comic book by Petri Hiltunen. It is his first full-length science fiction story and I was hooked. It has the same appeal to me as his earlier, shorter scifi tales like "Tähtivaeltaja" (part of Musta Tie comic book). Petri's style in science fiction is what I'd call "classic scifi", represented by authors like Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. There is usually a sound scientific basis to everything but instead of explaining the world through science as in hard science fiction, the world *is* and applying science on it is up to the characters (or the reader).
In a hard science fiction story nothing like "Riutta" could exist because the genre limits itself to our current understanding on the limits of physics and technology. In classic science fiction it *does* exist and any problems in plausibility are up to the characters to resolve. Clarke's 2001 is perfectly good hard scifi, except for the Monolith. Baxter's Moonseed does the same, apart from Moonseed and its inhibitor buried deep under Lunar surface. Although I like the trappings and atmosphere of hard science fiction, I like it even better when there is also a challenge to our concept of physics or even reality. But we are not abandoning reality, subjectivity or the existence of the laws of physics. If we did, the result would be space opera.
So how did I come up with these nifty, all-encompassing and absolutely true genre definitions? By pulling them out of my ass, of course. I once presented a triangle-shaped diagrams of RPG genres at some very early Ropecon. I still believe it and I still follow it, although what genres are trendy have varied a lot over the years.
While Ministry of Education is losing the propaganda fight against the "Mystery of Copy Control" parody comic, it is time to look at what the other fine departments of Finnish government are doing. And January's "WCDOJ" award (We Can't Do Our Jobs) goes to the Ministry of Traffic and Information, who have decided that reality can be altered if you don't believe in it. The reality, that is. People at EFFI still busy trying to find out evidence on claims like "the amount of spam in the internet traffic has dropped from 90% to 50%" or that the big problems Sonera had with its networks in 2003 were actually a global phenomenon. No sources have been cited (or found by independent researchers) but hey, don't let facts get into the way of good news.
Meanwhile, out in the great wide world, many new, interesting, innovative and ah-so-fucking-original MMORPGs are nearing completion. Like Darkfall, which is being advertised as a MMORPG/RTS hybrid because you can... well, establish outposts! Never seen that before, right? Right? And you can use siege engines! And I bet 10 gold pieces that you can actually fit a catapult into your backpack, although it is not movable when deployed! Oh boy, I can feel the inspiration oozing out of that world map. Not to mention this incredibly original, never-seen-before list of races. Hah, World of Warcraft does not stand a chance! Just look at these incredibly dull visuals! That demon has more polygons in its testicles than an entire screen capture from WOW!
That did not convince you? Ok, let's try this. Or this! Or this! Okay, I am slightly interested in that last one. All fantasy, it seems. Except for this, of course. I was hot about Auto Assault when it was first announced, but since then they've tried every trick in the book to make me lose interest. When they finally got to writing the storyline, they succeeded. Aliens attack, bombarding Earth with mutation-inducing bombs, then go away -> mutations appear -> mutants appear -> humans build biomeks to fight them -> biomeks rebel -> humanity retreats into vault-like hideouts and nukes Earth -> vaults are opened -> game begins -> everybody shoots at one another. Yeah. Right. If any faction has any goals above destroying the two others, they are not mentioned.
There is webcomic called "thenoob" that should be compulsory reading for everyone in the massive-multiplayer industry. Although aimed at fantasy games, some of the points it makes are valid for all genres and even such methodically different games like EVE. Somehow I long for the static-picture games of old, with clauses like "if you don't roleplay, we are going to make your life hell until you quit" in their EULA. You know, time before big bucks, investor-driven mmog development and before the need to use WOW as a proof-of-concept made all new-titles high-fantasy clones of each other.
Anti-copyright tip: You can't fool all the people all the time.
I have a problem. Certain people have earned themselves free copies of Praedor v1.1 but only two of them have submitted their addresses. Niko Sandell and Joonas Kirsi, if you read this, let me know where I can send your free copies. The other two, Erkka Leppänen and Jarno Kantelinen, will get theirs early next week. I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude especially to Erkka Leppänen, who has contributed no less than new alchemical tables and four full-length adventures. Hmm... if I remember correctly he is tall as a tree. Maybe I'll throw in a couple of t-shirts as well. From now on, I shalt not think of anything else but Stalker regarding RPGs...
Yeah, right. With Cyberpunk v3.0 turning out to be absolute shit, some folks at #praedor IRC-channel thought about writing a Wiki-based cyberpunk roleplaying game. I don't really understand what the big fuss over Wiki is all about but as long as it results in (hopefully) good games, I am all for it. I'll let you know if there ever is anything more to know about. In the meantime, get your hands on all CP2020 you don't already own. Deep Space, Hardwired, Neo-Tribes... I can't bear the thought of losing them to the CP3 garbage.
No, there is still not going to be a review of CP3 here.
Anti-copyright tip: Global music sales are down by a few thousand million dollars and the record companies are crying "pirates!". Meanwhile, the sale of computer games and related items is up by some thousands of millions of dollars. Apart from investors, nobody seems to have noticed. And why is that? Because in a quartal economy it would be a suicide to bring it up. Investment- and stock-driven companies must either grow every three months, or be part of a market that appears to be growing.
What the record labels are trying to hide here is that the amount of money consumers have available for leisure purchases does not increase as steadily as their sales projections to investors. If games industry grabs a few billion more, it is away from something else. The most likely loser is music industry. They are trying to cover it by implementing new billing schemes and invalidating established practises of using music products.
It is about squeezing every last penny out of a dying market. It won't work, but the governments willingness to play along is going to cause all sorts of trouble when legislators are too dumb or lobbied to see collateral effects of irresponsible law-making. Hence unconstitutional laws, degradation of consumer rights, disproportionate punishments for using a product *you have bought* the way you would like etc. And of course, outright lies on what you can or cannot do with your legitimate purchase.
Well, I have fought them before and I'll fight them now. Send me a postcard if they send me to prison for posting that link.
What troubles me is that games industry is showing signs of similar thinking. There are already voices speaking out against the sale of used games and things like Steam, marvelous as they are, also remove any control over your own property. You are not buying games, you are buying a license to play a game. You can't resell it, you can't give it to a friend, you can't loan it out... and that is the way many game companies want it to be. At some point, perhaps even this year, there will be a switch from retail to subscription-based billing even for many single player games.
Developers have long argued that as works of arts, games ought to be protected by same clauses on freedom of speech and expression as other artforms. If so, why in the hell are they busy changing games from products into services?
Praedor v1.1 is out and sent to all retailers (although www.roolipelit.net seems not to have received theirs yet; if they don't come by tomorrow, it is time to kick the postal service). I'll try to get around sending out the free copies to artists and other contributors by the end of this week and then my obligations have been met. Fantasiapelit has apparently been pleased with the sales so far and I hope Puolenkuun Pelit does good too. Praedor is clearly an established mainstream product in the Finnish RPG scene and there is clearly room for more than the 600 already out. I only wish I knew if the people buying the new book are first-time customers or just veterans who want to replace their worn-out copies.
Obviously the next item in line is Stalker and I really want to get it out by next Ropecon. What happens then is a bit of a mystery but I can already tell you that if you are waiting for a Burger Games product, EVE Online is your worst enemy. I've decided to cut down on it or nothing will ever get done. Gamers have been dismissive of reports of WOW addicts before but there is no smoke without a fire. Addiction is not a new problem: a small margin of players in any of the better mmogs are addicts (defined as people whose online time is disrupting their daily lives) but WOW has such a large player base that the number of addicts is big enough to be noticed. Well, EVE is my drug but at least I admit it.
Me, my girlfriend and a friend carried three boxes of Praedor v1.1 into Fantasiapelit store in Helsinki today. I'd expect it to find its place on the shelves in a matter of minutes, so yes, it is available, at least for those living in Helsinki. Tomorrow I'll be sending two boxes to Puolenkuun Pelit in Lahti and probably on Monday a half-filled box to wherever the physical location of roolipelit.net webstore is (I have it somewhere on my emails). New cover, new content, tweaks and small analyses of the relation between the game and the comics and books it is based on. Mass combat, more alchemy, 40 pages of adventures and finally one of my all-time favourites; the new ads at the end of the book.
This is not mass marketing and no one has paid for their ads, at least not in money. But I like promoting places where you can get my products and promising projects or publishers that in the absence of Finnish gaming idea would not get a word out. If I can bring them even a few extra customers I am happy I've been rewarded. Our small little hobby is slowly dying out in the great wide world. I like to think that every time I can entice a customer to try out something new, I am postponing the end by five minutes.
On a sadder note, I also bought Cyberpunk v3.0 today. Because of certain special interest groups (including but not limited to RPG.NET a detailed review won't be available, but I can say this much. Back in 1999 me and Mike Pondsmith were having dinner at Grilli Toro in Tapiola and he told me about his plans for CP3. I thought it was crap but I did not say anything at the time. After all, he was the great Mike Pondsmith (I am not kidding) and I was some nobody from a backwater European country with only the amateurish Miekkamies and the... well... whatever... Taiga to his name. He must know better.
Today, six years later, I am still a nobody from a backwater country. But looking at Cyberpunk v3.0 rulebook, I really, really wish I had said something.
Anti-copyright tip: Well, Lex Karpela is in effect and I am quite possibly breaking the law by writing this. Then again, only Eris knows how "organised discussion on breaking copy-protection systems" is defined and I will not shut up in any case. While the good folks opposing the law are giving themselves up to the police en masse to find out where the line is drawn, here is another gem of copyright news:
I thought if the CD was protected the manufacturer was obliged to put a warning on the outside. It seems I was wrong. Nasty little surprise when you open up your last purchase, although in Finland you could probably take the disc back to store and raise some hell.
In other news, defenders of Lex Karpela are making me nervous. Looking at the discussion forums of Helsingin Sanomat, anyone concerned over the diminishing privacy and threats to freedom of speech is either machinated by outside forces, a pedophile, a pirate or a terrorist. The slogan of "Why would you care about privacy? An honest person has nothing to hide!" has been used before by various governments around the globe. Often to a deadly effect.
Freedom of speech and laws protecting our privacy were meant as safeguards against such regimes coming into power. Even though I have very little to hide from our current regime, I am not in favour of removing those safeguards. History did not end yesterday and those laws were made for a good reason. Few terrorists around are not enough to change my mind. There will always be terrorists, just like there will always be criminals. But as long we have freedom of speech and respect for privacy, they cannot win.
It appears that the good folks opposing the law are not uniformly popular. This did not come as a surprise. Although Paavo Vasala has missed the point by a mile, at least he is consistent. That is more than I can say of the Green Party presidential candidate Heidi Hautala, for example.
I've received many emails and IRC messages on the availability of Praedor. The latter are just asking when 1.1 is coming out but the emailers are asking the strangest questions like why Praedor isn't in stores anymore. Well, it was sold out and I really meant to leave it at that. After all, 600 happy customers, some of them calling it the best RPG they've ever come across, is quite enough. I don't actually remember who or what it was that changed my mind (my girlfriend comes to mind...) but it did change. So, to summarize what is happening next, here are some bullet points:
Hopefully that clears things up and I don't have to answer the same questions over and over again. The planned price point for the book is 35 euros, making it slightly more expensive than before. But then again, it is also bigger and it is already rather unlikely this lot will ever get sold out.
I am working on Stalker and it is slow going. The problem with diceless systems is that you are sort of re-inventing the wheel. I am writing the game for a reader who has little or no experience on diceless roleplaying, although he might be a veteran in dicey games. There is a slightly different angle to everything I usually would not even bother to explain. And I've never written the character section in this detail. By the way, the original division between Player's and Gamemaster's Books did not hold up. The book is now effectively Gamemasters Only, much like the rulebooks for WoD.
I've had disturbingly good ideas for Miekkamies 2.0 and INFRA sometimes surprising myself at musing what I will do after Stalker. It is really far too early to say. INFRA would be an interesting foray into hard-scifi with Western/Post-Holocaust themes. Then again, after Heimot comes out it will eclipse everything else.
There was some discussion about making games for women at the company intranet today. Somebody asked why Rovio Mobile is not making games for women since they are such big spenders (or that was the gist of it). Then someone else suggested a shopping simulator and I had a deja vu from the lady-game discussions back at Sumea. Unfortunately in this industry you can never tell if they are serious. For the other game designers reading this (and I know you are out there and all male), here is a simple test for your "game ideas for women":
If you wouldn't play it, neither will she.
My comment on Forge has been criticised in Roolipeliblogi by Newsalor and it is a time-honoured tradition to respond with a scathing assault. Unfortunately Newsalor's mild-mannered column does not contain any juicy bits like accusing me of destroying academic research into RPGs in Finland, so it is not really worth the effort. Next time a little more "oomph", please.
Praedor v1.1 is still in the printers and is likely to remain there until well into January. Well, at least they got the font problem fixed. I have been thinking about Stalker a lot. Written very little, but thought it for several full rulebooks, I assure you. Video games (and mobile games at work) are eating up my time and energy. This stomach flu I have is not helping things either.
I've also been thinking about INFRA, especially from the combat rules standpoint. I already have a pretty clear idea of the setting but coming up with simple, useful and most importantly interesting Praedor-based combat rules for firearms are still in the works. Dropping dice out of Stalker bought me an extra year to come up with one.
No, despite being a strong atheist I have no problem whatsoever in celebrating one of the major holidays in our culture. It is always cool to have a party and being polite to believers does not really cost me anything. If I was invited into a Jewish home, I would do my best to celebrate Hanukkah with my hosts and learn the mythology behind it. If I were spending time with Muslims, it would be only polite (and very interesting) to take part in Ramadan and stuff. Having somebody wish me Merry Christmas is an indication of goodwill and friendliness from his part. It does not oppress me in the slightest. I find the whole American "War on Christmas" debate completely non-sensical and the symptoms of similar thinking emerging here rather disturbing. I guess it is a good thing for a country to have an official religion, after all. Even if I don't practise it.
Anti-copyright tip: A handy list of copy-protected CD releases (read: stuff to avoid). I wish I had published this link before Christmas...
Whilst we are celebrating Christmas, I am also having a funeral for a part of my past as a roleplayer. Anyone who has followed the newsgroup sfnet.harrastus.pelit.rooli knows it is dead... except when somebody not familiar with the group purpose posts an off-topic question. Suddenly the old activists rise from their graves in defence of the Great Silence. The visitor is harassed, trolled, ridiculed, level-drained and driven away. Then the calm of a graveyard sets in once more.
This is not funny. In the 90'ies, sfnet.keskustelut.pelit.rooli was the voice of the scene. Everything, from organizing Ropecon to promoting the launch of a new product was done there. There were other forums and mediums, but sfnet.keskustelu.pelit.rooli was the one that mattered, making or breaking your game or event. Not knowing how to use a newsreader, I made a complete ass out of myself the first time I posted there, somehow managing to send 20 copies of my message at one go and netiquette police struck immediately. My reputation has since then recovered but the group was a graveyard of egos. Getting laughed out of there meant getting laughed out of the scene. Many of these people were never seen or heard from again.
After 2000 things began to slip. Early generation of networked roleplayers were tech-savvy nerds but times were changing. News were and still are an ugly and cumbersome medium compared to webforums, so that is where the new players went. Few of them had ever even heard of newsgroups. Early on there were too many forums to follow but some of them, like www.majatalo.org or www.roolipelit.net now stand head and shoulders above the rest. I am an active user of www.majatalo.org but since www.roolipelit.net took Praedor v1.1 into its webstore I'll have to start following that one as well.
Where gamers go the scene must follow. I'd say about 80% of forum threads are crap but the remaining 20% now cover 90% of the useful games debate in the scene. I don't know where the remaining 10% is but it sure as hell isn't in the newsgroups. Of course, my definition of useful probably differs from that of an average gamer. They probably get more out of a typical forum article (the classic example being "what is your favourite die?").
Fast forward to today. Whilst debating the role of the group, I suddenly realised that the only reason I have subscribed to sfnet.keskustelu.pelit.rooli for the past two years is nostalgia. There is nothing there. An odd off-topic message or a spam once a month. A half-hearted attempt to stir up discussion every few months or so. Nothing! Maybe the old activists, including myself, have nothing more to say? We have solved our problems, written our house rules, found our preferred gamemastering methods and bought the games we like. After the crash brought on by Magic the Gathering, even the global scene is small enough to follow just by reading www.rpg.net.
That's it, then. After almost a decade of writing and lurking, I am unsubscribing from sfnet.keskustelu.pelit.rooli. It was the last the group I followed so I might as well give the entire newsreader the axe. Any debate about the role of newsgroups can be easily continued by email, or in any of the relevant web forums. There is a bitter sense of loss here... not as much a loss of community since it was already gone but the pain of losing all hope of its resurrection. Laugh all you want, but for me this is an end of an era.
Anti-copyright tip: Moron
Bad news on Praedor v1.1. I got the proof-print back from the printing shop and they have the same problem they had back in 2001. The body text font has changed into something horrible, even if still borderline readable. This will not do. Last time it took them two months to fix the problem and it turned out to be a somekind of freaky hardware bug in the printers. I hope they'll fix it faster this time but the book is still likely to be delayed for days and thus won't make it into the stores for Christmas. I am hoping it will make it in time for the week after Christmas, reputedly also a good sales week for Fantasiapelit.
By present count, Praedor v1.1 will be available from three sources: Fantasiapelit shops throughout the country, Puolenkuun Pelit in Lahti and www.roolipelit.net webstore in Internet. More than half of the print run has already been claimed. Those of you whose adventures, illustrations or rules materials (Erkka) have been included into the book, don't bother buying it. Just send me your snailmail address and I'll mail you a copy. It is the least I can do.
Sometimes you just run across a video game that really warms you up. You can feel how the developers have had fun making it and it makes you feel good too. Good or bad, such games are nice to play and they put you in a good mood. This time it was a real sleeper hit for me: Bandits -Phoenix Rising. Cost me 12 euros in the discount pile at Dose and certainly worth every damn cent. My girlfriend spotted it and knowing me to be a post-holocaust fan asked if I was interested. Well, driving games are not my forte but I decided to give it a go. I am glad that I did.
Bandits is set in your standard post-apocalyptic wasteland with gangs, cars and shit. The simple scenery makes the game graphics fast and smooth. You start the game driving a buggy and then progress to bigger vehicles. The really fun part is planning the weapons layout for each mission, as well as listening to the shamelessly Scottish accent of my insane mechanic and the freaky soundtrack. It all sort of reminds me of Taiga: Wastelands are the steppes around Karaganda, and Jericho is the city of Karaganda itself. Playing driving games with mouse and keyboard is usually hard but this time the mouse perspective not only turns the turret but also increases the car turn rate into that direction, making controls really sharp and responsive. Missions are quite long and there are plenty of them, combining violence, humour and insanely bad jokes in Scottish accent.
It is a hard game, no doubt about that. You are only allowed to save between missions, so dying close to the end of a 10-minute mission does bother you a bit. But what the hell, I am in a good mood so I'll forgive that. I checked the developer website and it was nice to see that GRIN are still around. They are making the PC-version of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter for Ubisoft, so I hope they are going to be around for a long time. They deserve it.
Mannerheimin Lastensuojeluliitto has demanded that video games should be subjected to the same kind of content evaluation and age rating system as movies are. Funny thing is that they already are checked and rated. While most countries in Europe would settle for industry self-regulation, UK does not. Games from international publishers are usually checked by UK authorities and rated accordingly before being launched in Europe. From the industry standpoint it does not really matter who does the rating, so if the Finnish State has enough resources to do it, let them.
As much as I detest age ratings, they can save the game industry a whole lot of trouble. The real problem here are the knuckleheads who sell adult-rated games to children and the idiot parents who buy Sniper Elite for a 10-year old and then complain about having pieces of brain on the screen. If you have a problem with excessive violence and nudity, check the bloody age rating! It is right there at the back of the box, in big letters!
By the way, Sniper Elite just won TIGA (The Independent Game-Developers Association) award for being one of the three best Indie games in 2004. I like it despite its faults and I play it a lot (man, I suck at estimating distances) but I don't think it is THAT good. Congratulations to Rebellion team anyway.
Anti-copyright tip: According to a new EU directive, if a private person loses a court case regarding a breach of copyright, the court can order that there will be a public announcement of the fact in a relevant medium (like a national newspaper) on loser's expense. Even in Finland this means thousands of euros not bound by our system of "adjusted fines" where your income determines the amount you have to pay. I did not know public humiliation was still part of our legal code but you learn something new every day. Why not bring back stocks and public lashing as well now that we're at it?
Yesterday was a good newsday. For example, EU Commission is gearing up for another go at software patents next summer, this time including a clause demanding jail time for patent infringements. This has suddenly brought both pro- and anti-patent groups to the same side of the table: if testing the limits of a patent is likely to land you in jail, we can kiss information technology research and development goodbye. IT industry knows this and this time even Nokia and Microsoft are in uproar. What the fuck are you thinking, EU Commission? If that law would go through, even I would be out of a job! The risks of doing... well... ANYTHING would be too great for any individual or organisation.
The original software patent proposal would have killed off small-scale IT industry. The present one would kill off any sort of IT industry regardless of scale. If this goes through, it is goodbye Orwell, hello Kafka!
I know, I know, today's copyright piece practically steals the show. But since roleplaying theorists and elitist larpers have behaved themselves for the last few weeks I really need to stir up some trouble of my own. Women and gaming have already been comprehensively covered (although I seem to be running into that more and more often these days; hopefully because other people have noticed women in the internet too). I hope this will cover it for a spell (thanks for digging it up, Janka).
Arkkikivi.net distributes, translates and to some extent sponsors Indie p&p game development here and abroad. I had the honour of meeting one of their guests (the author of Polaris, if I remember correctly) at Munter's place in Lahti and chatted with him a little. He was very excited about the way you can get experience points in Praedor for just going to new places, meeting new people and other non-combat related stuff. It was all new, exciting and radical for him and I was wondering if this guy was for real.
As much as I like the idea of being a great innovator, giving out XP for non-combat activity is not my great contribution to the world of roleplaying games. It has been done in many games but my personal first encounter with it was in Rolemaster back in mid-80's. The system in Praedor was originally conceived for Miekkamies in 1994 and to support the kind of chapter/scene division I use in my adventures. After all, I am and remain a storyteller even though storytelling is supposed to have lost meaning in games already in 2000 (waving to immersionists). Getting XP for battles and victories is just as small bonus on top of everything else.
I took a look at the Forge, supposedly some kind of nexus for Indie RPG development and that sort of cleared things up. Lots of stuff, lots of opinions and one problem they all shared to a varying degree: tunnel vision. Your typical indie game designer discerns a problem in the latest commercial roleplaying-game he has been playing. He then sets out to correct it by making a purpose-built game that really has no other objectives or scope than doing that one thing right. Since most of these problems involve game mechanics or the actual method of roleplaying, their games rarely have dedicated settings and stepping out of the pre-determined player roles is extremely difficult.
More importantly, they appear to have surprisingly little experience from different roleplaying games. For example, having played only D&D before, they fret over problems which were already resolved in the 1st edition of Mechwarrior or the like. They are re-inventing their one wheel over and over again but the wagon is not moving because it would need four wheels and not just one. There is a reason why game designers in the video game industry play so many games. Even bad games can have good ideas in them, or can at least provide good insight into bad design. Real world runs on XP too.
I have to take back some of my kind words regarding Sniper Elite. As the game progresses it is obvious that the designers are beginning to lose sight of the purpose of the game. I could live with one mortal sin, although that will be a game killer for many. I cannot live with three, no matter how much I would like the game so far.
Their first sin is the classic combination of necessity and bad design: Invisible walls. It is okay to have level edges blocked by debris or barricades but they have completely open streets even in the middle of the level map that I just cannot enter. Thus what looked like an ingenious way out of an otherwise forced encounter proves to be false and the game becomes more and more linear as you get to later missions. It is even more bizarre when you have enemies coming out of the very same streets. I actually gunned down an enemy on such a street but when I tried to search the corpse for ammo, I was stopped by an invisible wall, just out of reach.
Second sin is absolutely unforgivable in a stealth-sniping game. It is a level of omniscient enemies which constantly home in on your position, magically aware of even your current posture. The intention of the level is to force the player run through a series of waypoints, submachinegun blazing, completely discarding the ideas of stealth, snaping and alternative avenues of approach. In short, everything I loved in the game came crashing down. Now I know why reviews were less than praising and people have commented the game on not understanding the soul of sniping. I think they did understand it at first, but somewhere along the line just lost their vision. And spoiled the game.
Third sin is related to the second: scripted spawning. To add injury to the insult, the level apparently has an endless supply of enemy spawns, activating in different locations depending on your position. Thankfully they do not spawn within your field of vision but still, if you find a good firing position, they keep coming until they are climbing over a pile of corpses and your gun runs dry.
Really, if I wanted to play John Rambo, I would not buy a title with the term "sniper" in it. Sniper Elite was an interesting experiment but finally fails the test. My search for the ultimate sniper game continues.
Anti-copyright tip: At first it seemed as if the world music industry had completely snapped and was demanding that people who post song lyrics online should be jailed. Hell, I've done it on this blog. However, BBC set things right and it now appears that MPA is actuallt after online guitar tablatures and song scores, since the major labels are publishing those as books and booklets. It is must be fraction of a promille of their sales so I don't really see the point, even if I do see the legal basis for their argument. They are making a mess out of it, as usual, by talking out of their asses. Check this out from MPA prez Lauren Keiser (quoted from BBC):
Mr Keiser said he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".
"The Xerox machine was the big usurper of our potential income," he said. "But now the internet is taking more of a bite out of sheet music and printed music sales so we're taking a more proactive stance."
Jail time? Xerox machines used to be the big usurper of music label income? I recommend that mr. Keiser would cut back on drugs for a spell. Or maybe MPA was just jealous of Sony BMG hogging all the spotlight and decided to do little pro-active fucking-up of their PR. Compared to all the rest, this thing actually could have gone down smoothly and by the book.
Anti-copyright tip #something: There have been a few public responses to Heinimäki's column. Maybe he sees the light. Then again, maybe not. Facts are not his strong point in any case. But enough about that. What I would like people to do is to boycott Sony BMG products but it is difficult since they've got about half of the world's big stars in their fold. According to Iltalehti, there is even some kind of annual Sony BMG glögiparty here in Finland in which the Idols participants were invited to. Then again, they probably don't decide their participation. I am boycotting Sony BMG and if they have something I really want, I am going get a pirate. It is safer.
"It is the year 1945. I am crawling through the ruins of Berlin, amidst rubble, rain and smoke. Russian artillery barrage is tearing craters into the streets. My green SS-camouflage uniform is dirty and torn. I have wrapped canvas around my rifle to keep the dirt out. Suddenly I notice movement on a roof a couple of blocks away. Crawling underneath a wrecked car, I take aim and watch the Russian sniper through the scope. He is looking left and right but can't see me. Aiming at his forehead, I squeeze the trigger. Camera follows the bullet as it flies across the war-torn streets in slow motion. It hits the Russian in the temple, blowing a thumb-sized hole into the skull. Hydrostatic pressure inside the cranium throws few chunks of brain out. He falls but I can already hear NKVD soldiers running down the street. I crawl out of the wreckage and slip away through a narrow side alley."
What kind of a company would make a game where you are an American sniper on special mission in the middle of the Battle for Berlin? Dressed in German uniform, your actual enemies are Soviet NKVD forces out to get their hands on German nuclear secrets. It is a game of hide and seek, of spotting the enemy before being spotted yourself. Victory comes from distance, defeat from the lack of it. With full difficulty settings there would be stuff like holding your breath and wind or heartbeat effects. Now it is just gravity. My best kill so far is a headshot from 176 metres. When you get a headshot, the game goes into a special mode where camera follows the bullet and its gory impact in slow motion.
Yes, the company is Rebellion and the game is Sniper Elite. I was revolted by the trailer but the actual game put a hook on me from the very first moment. Although controls seemed overtly complex at first, you only need the main keys if not playing at the highest difficulty level. With little practise the game became quite smooth and being a big fan of sniping in almost any quasi-realistic shooter, this is right up my alley. Marvelous stuff!
By the way, Praedor v1.1 has been sent to the printers. Now I am waiting for their print draft and if I okay it, it'll be out just around Christmas eve. Yeah, sucks, but I just did not have the energy and concentration to get it done sooner. You know I am lazy.
Anti-copyright tip #something: Okay, Jaakko Heinimäki. You asked for it. Throughout history, priests have had difficulties in grasping concepts like freedom of speech and privacy, or the right to do what you want with your own property in your own home. In his column in Metro-lehti today Jaakko Heinimäki is no exception and wonders why we are making such a fuss over the copyright law. He focuses totally on the right to rip songs into mp3s, ignoring everything else. This is so straight out of the ÄKT textbook that I bet he was paid for it.
"Ehkä olen poliittisesti pari piirua liian romanttinen, mutta jotenkin tämä mp3-soittimiensa vapautta vaativien nuorukaisten mielenosoituskampanja pörisee minusta kovin paljon vain mielenosoittajien omassa taskussa ollakseen oikeasti Se Suuri Asia, jonka takia joukot kootaan yhteiseen rintamaan taistelussa vääryyttä vastaan. On siinä toisaalta ajankuvana jotakin surumielisen huvittavaakin: millään muulla ei ole mitään väliä, kunhan ette koske korvalappustereoihini. Kysymys on käytännössä siitä, voidaanko hyväksyä mitään rajoituksia musiikki- ja muiden tiedostojen kopioinnissa ja levittämisessä. Onko tekijänoikeuksien haltijoilla sananvaltaa siinä, millä ehdoilla heidän teoksiaan jaellaan yltympäriinsä?"
Well that's strange. I thought I was protesting against restrictions on freedom of speech and in importing products from outside ETA. The right to listen to a legally purchased recording with the instrument of my choice is important to me but way after freedom of speech. I mean, after New Year, just keeping this blog might land me in jail! As I said, there are things I would die and kill for. Guess which is one of those? MP3 players or the freedom of speech?
"Jotkut levy-yhtiöt varustavat cd-levyjä digitaalisilla lukoilla, jotka estävät levyjen rajattoman kloonaamisen ja jakelun internetissä. Näppärät nörtit pystyvät purkamaan nämä lukot ja nyt heitä hermostuttaa, kun laki kieltää lukon purkamisen."
Yeah. And computer security companies are in panic mode over Sony BMG's XCP-spyware/DRM program and several states are prosecuting the record label for spreading malware and spyware without the consent or even against the wishes of the user. You call that a lock?
"Uusi tekijänoikeuslaki ei kiellä omien levyjen kopioimista kannettavaan soittimeen tai musiikin lataamista netistä tietokoneelle, vaikka kuluttajanoikeusaktivistit mielellään sellaista käsitystä levittävätkin."
Now that is an outright lie. Then again, he IS a priest. Consumer is at the mercy of the record label EULA which may or may not prohibit copying or ripping the CD into mp3s. In some cases you are allowed to take three inferior quality copies but they can't be listened to independently and usually won't work in you standard mp3 player or Ipod. In most cases no copying is allowed at all and juridically if the original CD is lost or damaged, the user is also obliged to wipe off all trace of the record from his computer. The DRM software is not removed, of course.
"Suojaukset ovat tuiki harvinaisia. Minun taskusoittimessani on tällä hetkellä 1 892 kohdetta pääasiassa musiikkitiedostoja, muutama äänikirja ja jokunen podcast-ohjelma eikä yhdenkään lataamisessa ole tarvinnut kopiosuojauksiin kajota."
You, just like me, probably assembled your record collection over the 90ies when there wasn't any protection. Sony BMG has protected all its releases since August and with all other major labels the ratio of protected vs. non-protected CDs is around 50%. I would say 40%-50% of all CDs in stores right now are protected. Even more so if you look only at the major foreign labels.
"Kun minä laitan polkupyöräni lukkoon, teen sen siksi etten halua kenenkään ottavan fillariani. Pyörän omistajana minulla on täysi oikeus lukita fillarini. Jos artisti tai levymoguli lukitsee cd-levyn eikä jostakin syystä halua kuluttajan tekevän siitä kopioita, hänellä on siihen täysi oikeus. Kuluttajan oikeus on jättää sellainen tuote ostamatta, mutta kuluttajalla ei ole oikeutta rikkoa sen paremmin polkupyörien kuin cd-levyjenkään lukkoja, vaikka hän siihen käden käänteessä pystyisikin."
If the law was just about CD copying we could live with that. That is why ÄKT and now Heinimäki are trying to keep public attention on the relatively small DRM issue. But the real problem lies in limitations to free speech, massive grey areas, hindering the distribution of small-scale imports, using wording that undermines the very operating principles of key Internet features... do some reading before writing a column, for fuck's sake!
Maybe it is our fault. The copyright law is so badly prepared and worded that we haven't been able to explain its overwhelming wrongness in simple terms.
"Kirvestä voidaan käyttää luovaan työhön ja rikosten tekemiseen, mutta itse väline on neutraali. Sama koskee tietokoneita ja digitaalisia tallentimia: ne ovat vain välineitä. Miksi kenelläkään pitäisi olla rajoittamaton oikeus tehdä niillä kaikkea, mitä niillä pystyy tekemään?"
No one has the unlimited right to do what he wants to. Piracy was illegal before the copyright law and it is still illegal now. But it is also unaffected and the law won't shift the loss in CD sales one way or the other. Instead, ordinary law-abiding citizens wishing to listen to a record on a non-standard device are now better off downloading a pirated copy instead of buying the real CD. After Sony BMG fiasco it is safe to say that pirated music is of A) better quality and B) less likely to contain viruses or malicious software. Furthermore (C), downloading it from the Internet won't land you in jail, unlike ripping the CD you own.
The full column is available on www.metrolehti.fi in the December 7th issue. If you want to send feedback to him, read the column. His email address is right there so by not giving it here I can make sure you read the whole thing and get both sides of the story. I hate his guts but please try to be polite. My hatred for priests is an unhealthy thing.
Anti-copyright tip #something: I can't keep up with all the developments in the still growing (how big can it get) Sony DRM debacle but she can. My girlfriend runs a DRM-themed blog "Elämää banaanivaltiossa" and it is not just about events but also about practical applications and tests relevant sites and software. All in Finnish, though. By the way, rumour has it that the French Ministry of Culture is trying to make it illegal to do DRM-related Open Source applications or even talk about them. It is interesting how it is the culture or education ministeries who are eagerly re-enacting Orwell's "1984". You'd think it would be the Interior Ministry or something to do with national security but no. Maybe the goal of education and culture ministeries is to restrict people's access into the subject matter. Then again, our Minister of Culture had probably never heard of "kyldyr" before her present assignment.
Curiously, wirelessgaming.it has been harsher about the lack of map in War Diary: Crusader than Airgamer.de was. All in all, the mobile game scene seems to be kind of stunned by WD: Crusader because it breaks nearly every convention there is regarding game submissions to major carriers. A) The game is about a non-politically-correct subject, B) it does not avoid religious themes, C) relevant content has been divided between the game application and a web page (although the application works perfectly fine without) and D) the game advertises its web page, thus promoting the developer instead of the distributor. Conventional wisdom says there is no way in Hell any carrier would take such a game into their decks.
*bzzt!* Wrong Again! Our established connections gobbled it up and it will even go live in some Arab states. Yep, you read correctly. Game about crusaders is going live in Arab countries! And no, I did not think it was possible, either.
So why am I not as shocked about Crusader reviews as I was about Burma? Because although I would like to make games the reviewers jerk off to, my job is to design games that sell. Burma is doing great and Crusader is off to a good start. Rave reviews don't pay my salary, great sales do.
Where are my pants?
I've been playing Ghost Recon. Yes, it is ancient but it looks good enough for me and I am interested in pseudo-realistic special ops simulations... or games where you *CAN* put someone down with a single rifle round. The bad thing is that also I can be put down with single round and although there is six guys in the squad, losses of 3 per mission are not acceptable. The game shot my pants off even at the lowest difficulty level and I only get through the missions with constant quicksaving and learning the enemy positions and tactics by trial and error. But for all its difficulty, it really is a damn good game. It is rewarding when you pick up a good spot and leave an element there to wait for the enemy.
"Enemy soldier taken out. He is history."
Praedor v1.1 is going into printers Real Soon Now (it has to, I am already late for Christmas markets). I am now writing Stalker and it seems like the more stuff I throw out, the more progress I make with the game itself. This is going to be a hell-of-a-strange roleplaying game.