Imam and the Headless Kuffars present
Vera the Infidel's ingenious "Out
of Context Imam Song" in glorious
Now also Abu
Izzadeen music video!
I am too tired to write my book so I am
writing my blog. This is my first week on my new attempt
at Atkins/Low-carb and by now blood sugar levels start
dropping quickly. Liver is pumping out stored carbs to
keep it up and when it runs out, it begins to break up
fat and muscle to create more. Eating lots of protein
will help prevent muscle loss, so the target is fat. This
ketosis is what Dr. Atkins was raving about. Funny thing
is that he invented neither the concept nor the
protein-based diet. He just productized and marketed it
well. I am not there yet but if I can keep this up for
one more day, it'll start. Then, after about a week I can
increase my carb intake a little. Last time around I got
from 132 kilos to 99. Now I am starting from 125. Let's
hope it goes as well.
I just got back from London where I
attended a wedding of our two dear friends, Ia and Raj.
Since R hails from India, the ceremony was Vedaic Wedding
(read: Hindu) at the local (and very posh) Hare Krishna
-temple. It was long, colourful and light-hearted, with
the priest telling us what he was about to do or say
before switching to Sanskrit. It is funny to think the
ceremony is actually 5000 years old. Hinduism in general
is the world's oldest surviving organised religion. Only
animism predates it and that is *not* organised. They
also offered us a fantastic all-veggie meal at the temple
and an occidental reception at the hotel. Frankly, I am
not too impressed with British cake but as a social event
both the wedding night party and just the evening before
it were superb.
We (me and Leena) also went to see a live
gig by Indigo Girls. It is not metal but Leena made
listen to it and there are some songs I have really
fallen in love with. Their arrogantly loud and folksy
singing combined with blatant abuse of acoustic guitars
with a perfect (and I meant *perfect*) pitch, is the next
best thing to my favourite metal bands. It rocked, if you
can say for non-rock music. But enough about non-gamey
Fantasiapelit put in an order for more
Praedor and I basically relayed that to the printing
press. For all intentions and purposes, Praedor 1.1 has
been a hit product as well, with average sales of 2
copies per week for the past year. With these two boxes
pre-sold, I'd put the number of Praedors sold at 700. But
what really warms my heart is that people are not just
buying it, but playing it and developing their own house
rules, campaigns and genre mods. I'd like to see more of
them published (and I can help with that as long as you
don't expect to be compensated) but it is their deal.
Continued on 25th...
Bought some new videogames too:
How the hell did they make such an ugly game
with those machine specs? Level design is boring as hell,
too. Maybe it'll get better but right now I can't stand
it anymore. And this was the IGN Game of the
Year in 2005?
Didn't really have time to try it out but from
what I did see, it had the same kind of rugged
"grunge" appeal to me as Rogue Trooper did. If
it is half as good, I am really going to enjoy this game.
ZERO: Scored 1.8/10 in a
Gamespot review. That must be an all-time record.
Fortunately it did not cost anything either. The premise
is so good (isometric post-holocaust settlement building
with RPG elements) that I am still going to give it a go.
All in all, the game purchases this time
were a bit of a loss.
By the way, my old flame Neocron
has got to Neocron 2.1 -stage and I reactivated my
account. Slightly (but only slightly) improved graphics,
even less character models to choose from, the absolutely
obnoxious window frames they introduced in NC2 are still
there and none of my pre-existing characters are really
playable because of some bad choices I made when
quitting. For some reason the game runs stable as a rock
and smooth as silk in windowed mode, while full screen
mode at any resolution crashed by machine all the time.
Let's see if starting a brand new character in the good
old city itself works any better than before.The trouble
with starting in Dome of York is that I get lost all the
I've seen things you people would not
believe... Jap ships on fire off the tip of Sumatra. I
have heard werewolves howl at the moon near the Wendigo
Shrine... All those moments will be lost in time... Like
tears in rain. Time to go!
Goodbye Rovio Mobile! I will always
cherish the memories! You are doing better now than at
any time since the founding. Although our every game won
some kind of trophy it turned out we were better
prostitutes than ballerinas. If you are large enough,
subcontracting can actually make you good money. Although
I did not exactly plan it, I am glad that I left Rovio
when it was doing well and not back when we really hit
the rock bottom. I like to believe that the boys (and two
girls) at Rovio feel the same way about it. My former
Konttori, perhaps the best puzzle designer in the
world, was promoted to a senior game designer. I was
particularly moved by his good-bye email to me, where he
thanked me for many things but most of all for my faith
No problem, Lauri. You are fucking great!
Never forget that!
Good luck to the rest of the new design
team as well. I know you are hot and eager but a little
luck can't hurt when dealing with your customers. And the
rest of you... when I did my final handshake tour around
the office on Friday evening I was holding back tears.
You guys made me that portrait and all I could leave you
was booze and candy. Shame on me! That was all on Friday,
February 9th. Technically I am still on vacation from
Rovio but that was my last workday there and today was my
first day at Recoil Games. Nothing much to it yet and
even if there were, I couldn't tell you. In this industry
it is impossible to be social. If I ever get to write
down quotes from IGDA Pub Night, I could call it the The
Chronicles of Paranoia.
Life goes on, the new book is 30%
complete and a new issue of Roolipelaaja
came in the mail.You probably remember being a little
pissed about the last issue and the direction the
magazine was heading? Well, they've made a complete
turn-about and I have nothing but good things to say
about Roolipelaaja #7. Good stuff on the average and
occasional flashes of greatness. Can't really ask for
more, can you? While I liked pretty much all the articles
(you too, Eero and Mike), there were two absolute gems:
First is From Start to Finish on PCs' Terms by
Merten and Mikki. Read it, learn it by heart and try it!
I've used these methods from time to time and my greatest
roleplaying experience as a gamemaster ever, Hansa II,
was run just like this. I have the PCs' and I know their
overall goals, I have the NPCs' and their factions and I
know their goals and I have a loose outline of what will
happen without PC interference and off we go! If I don't
get to Heaven when I die, it does not really matter
because I got to gamemaster Hansa II when I
lived. Match that, Satan!
Second gem was Juhana Petterson's (yes,
that is Mr. Joutomaa) Antarctica: When Hell Freezes
Over. Now this is the shit. It is a combination of
hard science, even harder survival, realistic yet alien
conditions, sophisticated technology, powerful elemental
forces, fun trivia (I did not know about the Nazi flags
dropped from airplanes) and practical information on
using the location and its unique themes in roleplaying
games. I have thought plenty about science fiction set in
Antarctica, for example scenarios where depletion of
natural resources has made world powers finally give up
on Antarctic Treaty and attempt to exploit the resources
locked beneath the ice. Easier said than done, mate! It
would be Total Recall meets Outland
meets Thing, using CP2020 or Syndicate rules.
No, to hell with it! It would make a great setting for an
original hard-scifi cyberpunk RPG! But can it be done?
Would it be interesting?
Damn! Do you feel the hook? Right under
the jaw, with the point sinking into my brain? This how I
get my game ideas.
Last time around Juhana said in
Roolipelaaja forums that he (and Mike) rates his success
on how much he is derided here. I know he must be
devastated but this time I have nothing but praise. Keep
up the good work!
Yeah, overall, four stars out of five
(and you really have to floor me to get five) and I am
one very happy subscriber.
Star Wreck RPG Wins Silver!
Parody RPGs are not my cup of tea but so
what? Mike Pohjola's (also Timo Vuorensola claims to have
had something to do with) Star Wreck the
Roleplaying Game has come second in the
Outie Awards for licensed games. The link above tells
more. Congratulations to all parties involved! It is nice
to see Finnish games making a global splash. While I have
never heard of this award before, getting any recognition
is a pretty big thing. I am also sure that Energia
Productions can milk more out of it than anybody could
have imagined. At least the press release they sent me
was truly over-the-top :)
Two days to go at Rovio. I wish I could
say I am taking it easy. Instead, it looks like I will be
working my fingers to the bone right up until the last
minute. There is nothing wrong with that, especially if
you are parting on as good terms as I am but my stress
level have really gone through the roof. For the first
time ever (I think), I am actually getting physical
symptoms from it and they are pretty bad. I haven't even
been able to write my book for two days because I am
either writing work stuff or on a bad trip from migraine
and fatigue. Fortunately I don't have to keep this up for
I still have a week at Rovio left but
they guys handed me a parting gift: an A2-sized poster of
"Ville the Barbarian" (or The Grumpy Old Man)
made by Jukka the Marketing Artist. I am moved to tears!
Anyone can give you a singing fish but these people
really made an effort to make me feel special. It must
have taken a week to draw this bloody thing! And look at
all that detail: that is so me! Short, stubby limbs,
well-rounded mid-section, heavy shoulders (still working
on the biceps, though), goatee (it even used to be
reddish), Motörhead logo and finally a bottle of diet
cola (the only thing they had in the office was Coke Zero
and I am usually never seen without one), held high and
gleaming in the Sun. It is still too early for me to
write my closing statements on Rovio but thanks guys.
Thanks. What the Hell can I get you that will come even
close to matching this?
Anyway, although the previous blog cover
picture was nice enough (it was drawn by Aura Ijäs),
Ville the Barbarian by Jukka Rajamäki will be the new
blog cover until at least 2010.
By the way, the new book is 27% complete.
To sum it up, the book publishing
contract is in the bag. From now on, it overrides
everything else, apart from writing art grant
applications. According to the publisher, your average
author gets 4+ times more money from grants than from the
books. It is quite frightening really: Finnish literature
and library system exist mostly because of a network of
charitable organisations and government institutions.
From the top of my head I'd say there is about five
authors in Finland who can live off their book sales.
Now this is the second book where I have
the contract before having the script. The publisher was
also interested in continuation of my Praedor novels but
unfortunately they do not publish fantasy themselves and
Johnny Kniga (their guy was present at the publisher
office party I was invited to) did not want to compete
with their parent, WSOY. Book publishing really is a
world of its own. I just wonder how does "no
fantasy" -policy match with Myrskyn Aika. But then
again, the publisher sold it out so the bosses can't have
been too unhappy.
As for the book itself, the working title
is Pelintekijän käsikirja. I would like the
final name to describe the game maker as an artisan. It
is a moron's guide to game design, hobby-level game
development and commercialising small-scale Indie stuff.
Obviously the focus is going to be on digital games since
that is where the sales are but I will make detours into
RPGs whenever I can. The primary target audience is young
adults who either want an introduction into the games
industry or are planning their own game projects.
Secondary target audience is any Joe Average interested
in his first look at game design and development.
I am aiming for the same kind of tone and
style I've used here in this blog and in my Enter -columns
about gaming industry and design. If I could also get
Aura Ijäs to do some illustrations for it that would be
perfect. The picture on top of this blog was drawn by her
for the game design column. I have never seen a more cute
depiction of a game designer at work. Actually, the guy
there seems to be conceptualizing. It is only a small
part of the job but perhaps the best.
By the way, has anyone seen Mike lately?
I think I saw him at Kaisaniemi restaurant cluster one
day but he looked as if he had merged with Syksy
Räsänen. Anyway, he has been doing some cool
stuff lately. I think the idea of an in-genre/in-game
web-blog is a great way to describe the setting and he
has really done a good job on it. Great job all around!
If I had all the time, energy and creative freedom in the
world... I'd still probably be too lazy to it. Then
again, maintaining something similar to promote Stalker
for a while could be cool.
Some people seem to think that Narrative
Designer means some kind of a "cutscene
director". Narrative design is part of the overall
game design. In mobile games it was possible to include
it into my other design duties but PC and console games
are too extensive for one people to handle it all. Hence
we have design teams including a narrative designer or a
game writer. Even sports games have one, because they
have in-game story arcs just as every other game. It is
not so prominent in all genres (Sims comes to
mind) and but if the player fails to create it by setting
his own goals, he will feel that he has failed in the
game or simply has no incentive to play.
In short, a videogame is an interactive
story framework presenting the player with challenges. It
does not care how the challenge gets done and sometimes
the order of challenges is freeform (or a story matrix
like in Fallout 2) but a challenge typically has a set
starting point (e.g. you facing four angry mutants) and a
set finish (e.g. you pass through the area the mutants
were patrolling). Whether you killed the mutants, talked
your way out or sneaked through might affect the next
challenge, but this challenge always ends in you getting
through the area).
Cutscenes are not about narration. They
are transitions, making moving the game
"present" (or camera, if you will) from one
locale or time to another more comfortable for both
players and developers. They don't have to be complex. In
Rogue Trooper, loading bar between levels was
masked into a line showing your progress on the gameworld
map. That too was a cutscene, handling spatial and
temporal transitions. Once it is over, no one is
surprised that the playable content begins from a totally
different time and place.
Videogame story is not in the cutscenes
but in the overall concept and logic: Who are you? Where
are you? What made you begin your adventure? Who or what
is the opposition? Why and how do they intend to impede
your journey? What is the prize (not the same thing as
"goal", mind you)? From these questions we can
then proceed to the logical order of challenges (level
design), possible player and enemy actions and causality
(game design), atmosphere and mood (graphic design) and
For example, the game designer might ask
for a scene where the player can use a mini-gun to take
down hordes and hordes of enemies. Narrative designer
might then suggest a playable scene where friendly NPC's
are repairing the engine of the getaway vehicle and
player is asked to cover them with the minigun. Of course
the enemies attack en masse and the player has to hold
them off with the minigun long enough for the repairs to
be completed. It is a simple challenge with a fixed
starting point and a fixed end but how the player
completes it (Shoot straight at the closest enemy? Pick
bosses off from distance and then sweep the grunts are
close range? Try to blow up fuel barrels next to them?
Collapse the entrances from which the enemies are
spawning?) is up to him.
Once we have all agreed on a challenge,
game designers and level designers set out to make the
features and environment happen, while narrative
designers write the dialogue for voice acting in that
particular challenge. That's how a design team works.
Narrative designer also has a say as to how the scene
should look like but he does not make the final call on
that. And of course, everything the team does is under
constant scrutiny by the design director and eventually
by the producer.
There are also plot elements encompassing
dozens of challenges throughout the game. For example,
one of the NPCs might be falling in love with the player
character, becoming more cooperative and changing her
dialogue accordingly. Depending on certain player actions
(like whether the player takes her flowers or not), this
might arouse jealousy in some other NPC who then becomes
less responsive to the player character and his dialogue
is tweaked accordingly, and so on. Or player's actions in
challenges determine his standing with different factions
and change the storyline (future challenges) and dialogue
accordingly. The beauty of designer jobs in the games
industry is that they are hard to pin down and no two
workdays are exactly the same.
Does this apply to MMOs, like EVE Online?
Well, narrative designer plays a big part in game world
changes through updates and -grades, helping to
assimilate new content logically into the game world. He
also scripts the various missions and makes sure they are
a good fit for the factions they are for or against.
Actual design is then done by mission designers,
according to guidelines and specs issued by narrative
designers. While mmo's do not have an end in the
traditional sense, the idea of challenges having definite
starts (entering a mission, entering an asteroid belt),
ends (completing mission objectives, being forced out of
the belt by lack of cargo space or hostile craft) and
prizes (mission reward, LP, faction changes, loot, ores
of various quality) apply just like before. They don't
need dialogue but they do need drama. And could use a
little more of it...
Out of Context Imam Song
This is just too good to be missed.
I will spread it around. According to her, it is supposed
to be sung to the tune of West Side Story's "Gee,
officer Krupke". I don't know the tune but I think
this makes an excellent poem too. All the people named
here are big-league assholes from the Moslem extremist
league and everything said in the song is either true or
has at least been claimed by the said people.
Dear kindly Western people,
You gotta understand -
It's lack of understanding
That gets us out outta hand.
You quote us out of context
When we say "kill kuffaar!"
That's why, of course, we blow up a subway car.
Gee, infidel swine, we are very upset;
We never have respect that an
Imam oughta get.
We ain't no extremists,
We are fully moderate and good!
We are good!
We are good, we are good,
We are totally good.
We are multiculturally good.
Dear kindly Western people,
You have yourselves to blame:
You drew cartoons of Prophet
Without a trace of shame.
And then twelve evil pictures
Did not incite enough.
So we added three more
To make the things more rough.
Dear kindly Danish people,
Please don't misunderstand:
When Israel is bombing
And shit has hit the fan
Please give me your protection
Under the red-and-white -
Oh shit, I burned all your flags
I found the other night.
OMAR BAKRI MOHAMMED
My dear fellow clerics,
Try to avoid the worst:
Before inciting murder,
Get citizenship first.
I said the subway bombings
Were very, very cute.
Holy shit - now my ass is in Beirut!
All women are dumb bitches,
Avoid them if you can,
Because they have some hormones
Unlike the real men.
You also should kill faggots
And former Muslims too,
But stay away from pigs
Because a pig might be a Jew!
GREEN LANE MOSQUE CHOIR
My dear British people,
Don't blame us for this shit,
We are completely blameless when
The preacher is a twit.
He only preaches here,
Has naught to do with us,
And he hasn't even
Blown up a single bus!
He's taken out of context,
He wasn't preaching hate,
He only meant that gays should
Be killed in Muslim states.
Don't kill the gays in Britain
Or even apostates -
Instead let's work on making
UK a Muslim state.
You damn Channel 4, we are very upset;
You don't give us the context a
Good mosque oughta get.
We ain't no extremists,
We are fully moderate and good!
We are good!
We are good, we are good,
We are totally good.
We are multiculturally good.
My dear Muslim children,
It sucks to be alive.
I'd love to be a martyr,
But now I'm sixty-five.
Please meet Allah before me
As quickly as you can.
Only by exploding
You become a real man.
Australians are awful,
Let's tell it to the news:
Their ancestors are convicts
And some are even Jews.
Their women do not wear
A burqa at the beach.
And they print out of context
Most everything I preach.
You fucking kuffaar, we are very upset;
You don't give us the context a
Good imam oughta get.
We ain't no extremists,
We are fully moderate and good!
We are good!
We are good, we are good,
We are totally good.
We are multiculturally good.
No More Mobile
Well, it is out and official now; I am
switching jobs. In mid-February I am leaving my post as
the senior game designer at Rovio Mobile
to become the narrative designer of Recoil Games. You'll
get the URL when the company is no longer in stealth mode
(but anyone with half-a-brain can figure it out). Usually
when I switch jobs there is something wrong with the old
one. This time I just got a better offer. I am too old to
work for peanuts anymore and giving up our own IP
production in favour of sub-contracting cost me a part of
my soul. But I still feel a little sad about leaving.
They are a great bunch of people and from the looks of it
2007 is going to be a red-hot year for Rovio. I'll still
be around for almost a month but I already miss you guys.
And I'll keep my eye on you!
Opportunities like Recoil don't exactly
pile up in a single lifetime. It is a brand new
high-profile Finnish development studio for premium PC
and next-gen console games. As part of the founding team
my deal with them is pretty sweet but let's leave it
that. I am still grappling with the time scale of it all.
Console game development takes years and I am not going
to live long enough to do that many console titles!
Still, this is what I have wanted to give a go at since I
was 12. For most intentions and purposes, narrative
designer is the same as the game writer (Sam Lake at
Remedy comes to mind). My jobs are the back story, the
in-game story arc, characters and dialogue. According to
Sam Lake, I am also going to be standing at the trade
shows, showing off our stuff to the press and babbling
like a parrot. Same lines, repeat 200 times. I hope
somebody else pays for the plastic surgery. Max Payne I
In other news, me and the book publisher
have agreed on all essential details and yes, I will be
writing a "hobbyist"-level book about game
concepting and design, covering both digital medium and
paper roleplaying games. It will be written in my
"wicked-grin" columnist-style. The book deal is
99% likely, even though nothing has been actually signed
yet. I hope this does not delay STALKER but I will make
the book my first priority and will cut content from
STALKER if necessary. Writing a book about your
profession works miracles for your career and I really
hope to be able to retire to Mexico one day. I don't
think my lungs can take the Scandinavian climate forever.
I have also made a kind of a New Year's
promise. United Nations would like the foreign aid given
to developing countries to be 0.7% of GNP. Even if the
State of Finland can't do it, I am planning on using 0.7%
of my personal income on charity projects. I already own
a third of a cow somewhere in Africa and there is still
more stuff that I can do. If you are not a big fan of
larping post-holocaust settings with real weapons, take a
look at these links:
It is up to you, of course. Making a
difference always is.
There is a change in the air. At least
the weather is changing and I can see snow melt outside
my window even now, in the dead of night. There are more
changes in the making, revealed as they become available
(hopefully by tomorrow). One of them I can tell you
about. A book publisher has approached me for a book
about game design and development with your average
hobbyist in mind. I want to do it and can only hope it
does not effect the writing of STALKER. But I will get
that game ready by summer, as it is likely to be the
swansong of Burger Games. I am making my living from
games but Burger Games is not part of the equation
anymore. Apart from this blog, it is becoming a pointless
hassle to run.
Game Design Event at Jyväskylä came and
went this weekend. I have heard mostly good things about
it. Neither me nor Miska attended but Eero was there and
from what I heard he made himself useful. Figures. The
guy has a royal talent for pissing me off but I can never
stay angry for long as he is really making an effort for
the scene. I wonder if I was as abrasive in my younger,
scene-activist days? But I digress. One of the
#praedor-channel activists wrote a good
summary of the events. Not having been there, I have
to trust his word on this.
Reading the summary, I can only say that
the non-digital projects sounded good and I would have
really liked to talk with the Exodus
team. Oh well, maybe next time. I also heard that guys
claimed that game designers are not used in
commercial game development. Err... eh...okay?
So what the Hell am I paid for, then? To make matters
worse, these people, IGIOS, chatted with me for a full
two hours at the most recent Assembly! Since I did not
hear them say it myself I will give them the benefit of
doubt. But if they really said that, they should cut down
on the drugs, get checked for Alzheimer's, or just go
read the official credits of virtually any game out
Let's see the games I have on the table
right now... WH40K: Fire Warrior. Credits list
six people under "designers" heading. Boiling
Point has three people in "game idea"
(probably concepting) and two actual game designers. The
golden oldie Delta Force 2 has again six
designers, with four of them being mission designers. In
mobile games there is usually just one or two game
designers and they do pretty much everything. In a
console game project design tasks are divided among a
design team. For MMOs this team can grow into an entire
department with dozens of people.
Remember, just because you could not find
a decent game designer does not mean that game designers
do not exist. You can't prove a negative.
Breaking the Writer's Block
At last! After several false starts the
STALKER chapter about Oases is moving forward. I settled
for describing various ecological niches within an Oasis
and providing examples of creatures that might be
inhabiting them. The beauty of FLOW is that I don't need
to come up with detailed statistics of every creature.
Its Toughness and some indication as to what might or
might not work against it are enough. I admit this means
putting some faith into the gamemaster's common sense but
hey, this game is for veterans. Come to think of it, if
Ironspine does its RTP-games for beginners, maybe Burger
Games could publish a series of FLOW games for gamers who
think they know what they are doing?
Seriously, making game development plans
and thinking about target groups sort of lost its lustre
when I began doing it professionally. Off-duty, I am a
creature of the moment, writing as my mood and
inspiration strikes me. It is a bloody miracle I ever get
Speaking of getting stuff finished, my
friends visiting from Japan concluded "Iron
Vaults" -scenario in just three sessions and are now
safely back in Japan. Having such a finite deadline, I
really had to rush things and railroaded the adventure a
good deal more than I usually do. It had its moments but
I am hurting from a bad case of miscalculated character
motivation. It would not have happened in my usual
"wide-tube/sandbox" approach to scenarios but
this time if one of the players had not put the needs of
the group above her personal character immersion, things
would have really fallen apart. The disadvantage of the
wide-tube/sandbox scenarios is that they typically take a
long time to complete (several years in some cases) as
characters create new scenarios, encounters and goals
within the framework of the campaign. Now I just did not
have the time. Maybe I should have made a straightforward
In any case, players told me they liked
the game and wanted more (which can be hard to arrange
since half of them are in Japan and I don't like
gamemastering through Skype). That was, like, the designer
In other news, take a good look at this:
I am stunned. Mutant
Chronicles/Warzone was an attempt by the
Swedish Target Games to outdo Games Workshop in the
miniatures wargaming department. They failed but had a
decent (and a very high-budget) run at it, producing a
miniatures game Warzone and a roleplaying game called
Mutant Chronicles. The last I heard about Target was that
they gave up games entirely and went into venture capital
market but this was years ago. The world of Mutant
Chronicles is effectively "Warhammer 40K meets
Cyberpunk". I have the game and could never make
head or tails of its setting (and it certainly has
nothing to do with the present version of Mutant) but it is
visually impressive stuff.
When I first heard about a Mutant
Chronicles movie with John Malkovich in it I took it for
a joke. I was wrong. The site is real and has plenty of
footage of people doing the sets and equipment. In all
honesty, John Malkovic is apparently in some very minor
role but he is there and I am starting to believe that
the movie will actually get done. Maybe it will explain
me the setting in a way that I can understand. Failing
that, I'll settle for a science fantasy fragfest with big
guns and as little wire-fu as possible. When it comes to
movies, I am easy to please.
Fantasy at the Baltic Sea
After many hazardous moments, including
one when the night seemed to grow dark, lights at the
gates of Reval (Tallinn) went and a dark shape passed
overhead, our heroes had managed to steal the corpse of a
slain devil-worshipper from its crypt. To call a soul
from Hell, the shaman would need all the help he could
get but luckily he knew a sacred oak, where the ancient
Rus, once the overlords of this coast and its peoples,
had sacrificed to Odinn (or Woden as Teutonic Knights
named him). Once there, they built a circle of stones in
the shadow of the mighty oak and buried a sacrificial
gift, a bracelet, amidst its roots. Then using his
mushrooms, the shaman fell into a trance, summoning the
lost soul briefly back into the body and acting as a
medium so that others could speak with the dead.
Unfortunately the devil-worshipper was
rather miffed and swore he would get his revenge in this
world by shouting the characters' names to his masters in
the next (to buy a moment's relief from eternal torment).
Another secretly not-entirely-human member of the party
began to wonder if it could be possible to prevent the
soul from getting back to Hell. After all, the soul was
in the corpse right now, held briefly in this world by
the powerful summonings of the shaman and the magical
aura of ancient god.
Not letting the shaman come out of the
trance, he tied the corpse, hang it from its neck on the
sacred oak and pierced it with a spear, shouting "I
dedicate this sacrifice to Odin!" Shaman, still in
trance, opened his eyes and briefly one of them was
blank. Then in his mind's eye he stood on a rainbow
bridge, watching someone fall screaming into the icy
mists of Helhaim far, far below. The spell was broken as
the soul had been snatched away and he came to in a
circle of stones, realising they had done the
unthinkable: stolen a soul from Hell. But their names
would remain unknown to the lords of Hell. For now.
Yep, it was not my intention but the
campaign took a turn for the occult. You could call it a
witchcraft campaign. The only strike against a living foe
has been with a pommel of a dagger to the back of a
guard's head. Battles are fought with words, as a
courtesan character is making deals of blood, sex and
gold with ruthless merchants and broken-hearted privateer
captains. Yes, I play Praedor as the mood strikes me,
from pulp fantasy to political or sexual intrigue and
claim no ownership or control over how it is played. Now
that's designer intent (link to a forum thread
removed to protect the sanity of the public: I am already
I read somewhere that atheists shouldn't
wish people that but who's going to stop me? And I am not
putting up with that "Xmas" crap either, so
Merry Christmas! It came and went and I had been such as
a good guy that I even got presents: Chinese Jar, lots of
chocolate, cool runic dice (I really have to make a full
dice-set RPG now so I get to use them all), couple of
books and so on. Figuring out what was and what was not
given as a present is not that easy since the giving
spree began already on 21st and is probably still not
over. Anyway, as a last-minute gift I bought Warhammer:
Mark of Chaos for my girlfriend and she's
been playing it ever since. Girlie game, obviously...
In other news, I just resigned from my
corporation (Gradient) in EVE.
It is not a loss for either side: I didn't have (and did
not really want) much contact with them and they were
doing just fine without me. I like playing in a virtual
world with thousands of real people and roleplaying my
character but I am a bad team player. I don't want
schedules, I don't want teamspeak, I don't want to take
orders and if you aren't high-up in the corp hierarchy
the player politics in EVE don't really matter. I guess
that makes me a bad MMO player and puts me at a
disadvantage in almost any MMO out there.
When I was in Iceland, I chatted with one
of the game designers of EVE. He explained that while EVE
enables the player to accomplish most things in solo,
they are planning mechanisms to better reward group play,
like grouped missions where the measured reward per
participant increases with more people (one player = 1.0,
two players = 1.2 each, three players = 1.6 each etc.).
Lone wolves like myself are slowly but surely being
pushed out of the game and perhaps even the whole genre.
On the plus side, as long as there are lone wolves out
there, there is also market for single player games and I
have a job.
STALKER just moved forward a little. I
finally got through the writer's block at page 119 and
moved on to 120 where I ran smack into another block.
This is fucking difficult when you have no genre
conventions to draw upon and you don't want to treat
gamemasters like idiots. I am also afraid that the
11-point Comics Sans font type I've used is too small to
be comfortable. But if I change it, I'll have to redo the
layout again. Blah.
There is an interesting industry rumour
going around regarding S.T.A.L.K.E.R:
Shadow of Chernobyl. Apparently THQ (a
big-ass publisher) paid GSC (Ukrainian game developer)
some more money for reaching a development milestone (or
maybe it was further investment into the game to keep the
project going). True to the Slavic stereotype, GSC went
on a months-long drinking spree. Schedules were shot to
hell, budget was shot to hell, the art team was laid off
to cut costs right when they were supposed to be
polishing the game. I guess THQ poured in some more money
to stop the project from being a total write-off. I've
been waiting for this game for four years but I am
getting bad vibes. Their website says: "release date
confirmed" and then tells you that the launch has
been set for Q1/2007. That is not a
I am not going to attend the January game
design event in Jyväskylä. It is two days out of town,
I am low on cash and I've had my fill of the
would-be-RPG-designer crowd. Anyway, I wish them best of
luck and excellent attendance. We need more scene events,
Don't get me wrong. However annoying they
might be, would-be-RPG-designers have every right to
exist and make noise. They are the future of the scene
and some of them actually level up to RPG authors. I am
just getting too old for this shit.
If I was a king, I would have every
person who uses the words "designer intent"
hanged, drawn and quartered. Since I live in a republic I
have to settle for venting here. I am referring to a
discussion at Majatalo.org where a certain person is
drawing far-reaching conclusions about my intentions on
how Praedor is supposed to be played. He is calling this
"designer intent" but what he is trying to
define a canonical way to play the game and suggesting
that deviation from it would be somehow reprehensible if
the Praedor system is used. I can't have him executed but
I'll repeat here what I said in the forum: The designer
intent of Praedor is that anybody using the term to
justify something will cut off their little finger
(either hand will do) and mail it to me. If you don't,
you are in breach of the designer intent!
Little bird told me that guys from Järnringen
(lit. Iron ring) are potential guests of honour for
Ropecon 2007. Järnringen is a Swedish RPG publisher and
most famous for the rather non-conventional
(fantasy-influenced) post-holocaust RPG "Mutant".
I have it and I like it, although a post-holocaust
roleplaying game by Burger Games would be very different
in tone and approach. I am just not into the idea of
having mutants as people with animal heads or with the
steampunk-approach to the genre in general. Nevertheless,
it is a thick hardcover book with high production
quality, atmospheric artwork and everything you need to
start playing in post-collapse South Sweden.
I am a fan of Järnringen. I am also
jealous as hell. Swedish RPG industry was my inspiration
when I founded Burger Games and Järnringen has
accomplished pretty everything I wanted Burger Games to
do back then. You all know how that turned out although I
think I've had a pretty good run. I am making my living
from other kinds of games now and won't be going back.
That does not mean no-one should, though. While I don't
believe there is enough roleplayers in Finland to run a
commercially viable RPG publishing business (read:
"financially worth the effort even if it is not a
day job"), I'll be properly ecstatic if Ironspine
proves me wrong. Come on guys (where are all the girls?),
My rants usually whip up a storm that
will then take a couple of weeks to die down. This time
around nobody sent me flamemail, so I think the sky's
clearing up already.
I have been named "the most vocal
proponent of the Finnish anti-intellectualist movement on
role-playing" by Jiituomas in his blog
and you know what? He is absolutely right. And to answer
his question, I don't think any amount of reading changes
prejudiced crap into a clinical observation. On
the other hand, it might depend on what about it one
wants to observe. For the rest of you, as a roleplaying
theory buff, Jiituomas is miffed because I don't give
roleplaying theory the respect he thinks it deserves. As
a consolation, I would like to point out that I don't
respect videogame theory either, so he is in a good
Then I have a personal message to Juhana
and Mike, who have been lamenting their poor visibility
on this blog.
Mike Pohjola; if you want to regain your
status in this blog the first thing you have to do is to stop
making sense. And frankly, I just don't think
you've got what it takes to return to the glory days. I
also don't think you are done with the scene yet, so
lobotomy is not an option. Myrskyn Aika showed what you can
do. I am waiting with baited breath to see what you will
Juhana, it has already been a year since Roolipelimanifesti
and even that was not too bad. I like to bash current
things, on-going trends and roleplaying theorists.
Writing an all-around-nice article in Roolipelaaja does
not cut it and I am responding to your forum musings
mostly as a favour. But unlike Mike, you have hope of a
Love Is In the Air
Some of you know already that one of the
themes contemplated for the next Ropecon is romanticism
(is that a real word?). About a week ago I had an
interesting discussion about the meaning of the term and
found an important difference: in its dictionary
definition the word can be used for almost any
idealisation of reality in art or fiction, with or
without love. For example, an elven forest kingdom in
your average high fantasy RPG setting is as romantic as
it gets in this sense: Beauty of nature and living in
harmony with it has been taken to such a utopian level
that it can't be called realistic by any stretch of
imagination. Hence, it is "romantic".
However, for me and probably for most
people in general, the term "romantic" is
defined by what it sells: Harlequin novels,
"chick-flick" movies (although I am a big fan
of Shakespeare in Love), poetry about love and beauty,
perfume... you get the picture. When in Game Design
Challenge 2005 I was asked to suggest a game about
romantic myths, I was thinking along the lines of
romantic entertainment. That is where my myths, from
Giacomo Casanova to the secret societies of 18th century
Venice were coming from. Towers of Dusk would be
a roleplaying game about seduction. I would do my best to
write it "romantic" rather than
"erotic" but hey, I am not in control how it
will be used.
Still struggling with Oases in STALKER.
My pet fault in writing the Gamemaster's Book is
repeating too much of what has already been said in the
Player's Book. Gamemasters know that shit already and GM
book is supposed to be an extension of that information
from gameplay and adventure creation perspectives. I'll
have to delete this current crap and do a fresh start on
Oases. So, there is progress but it is going really slow
since I have to write stuff many times over before I know
what I want. Why didn't I pick a more familiar genre, for
fuck's sake? My own ambition is biting me in the ass
While I am struggling with some stupid
mutants, Miska and Ironspine are doing the heavy lifting.
RTP-minigames (Ready-To-Play) are their take on Arcade
Roleplaying and making it easier to bring in new players
or fire up a quick game. I am really excited about their
planned line of products, starting with Chrysalis (AKA
Kylmä Uni). I am not going to say more about that but
you can always go to their website
to check it out, provided you can read Finnish. The other
games do not look too shabby either. I hate to admit it
but sometimes it actually feels like Miska actually knows
what he is doing, while I am just... throwing stuff in
the air to see which way the land.
Open Source MMO?
is lamenting his loss to Eero in rant-publicity contest
and I am worried that there is not enough happening in
the scene to keep my ranting skills up, interesting
things are happening on the videogame side. Saga of Ryzom,
a highly acclaimed massively multiplayer online
roleplaying game (MMORPG) is going belly up and the
Nevrax bankrupcy estate is trying to sell it. One (and
perhaps the only) bidder is a group of former
Nevrax employees who are raising money to be
able to release Ryzom itself, its engine, assets and all
its tools to the market as open-source. I don't
know if they are able to pull it off but I don't expect
there to be that many other bidders.
Having an open-source MMO platform of
this level would be a real coup in Indie MMO development
and I don't expect there to be compething bids, to be
honest. A fully functional and quite popular MMORPG to
build on instead of just a graphics engine and some
networking tools. Delicious! Now don't go holding your
breaths while waiting for the next World of Warcraft to
grow out of it. People usually underestimate the amount
of work that goes into just maintaining these things and
Indies just don't have the resources for that. But a
well-focused game with an interesting topic, a smaller
but more tight-knit player community and a reasonable
amount of updating content... I'd pay for that.
In distantly related news, EVE Online has
completed the Revelations expansion and added a whole
bunch of new stuff into the game. Nothing new on their
acquisition of White Wolf, though. You'd have to be an
EVE player to appreciate the pros and cons of
Revelations. The short of it is that a whole new can of
worms has opened up and my gut feeling is that balancing
is now somehow way off, more so than in previous
expansions. There will probably be a whole bunch of
hotfixes coming this way real soon. And as you can see,
my dislike for WW was not enough to make me quit the
game. Addictive stuff, really. If EVE had level caps, I
would have move on long ago.
Next thing in the Finnish RPG scene is a
game design event at Jyväskylä by some
people I've seen at #praedor on a regular basis. I don't
know what people do in game design events but neither
does anybody else, so the event is what participants make
of it. I am not sure there are enough serious game
designers to go around but that is not a reason not to
try. With luck, it can break new ground. If we are really
unlucky, somebody writes a dogma about it. I don't know
yet if I am attending. Jyväskylä is far off and I don't
if I have that much to contribute. I am an adventure game
specialist and an old fogey who has already set his ways.
Besides, I haven't published anything in years (I am not
sure if Code/X counts).
And if we are in the same panel again and
Eero repeats aloud what he wrote in Roolipelaaja, I will
have hard time not throwing my Diet Coke at his face.
How many years do you have to read
useless crap before calling it useless crap changes from
prejudice to a personal observation?
I've always been a strong advocate of
Finnish RPG media but now I get the feeling that
Roolipelaaja magazine is trying to get rid of me. My
expectations for an RPG magazine are not exactly rocket
science: source material, adventure ideas, product
reviews and scene news with some specialised articles.
That's it. Then there is the necessary evil of LARP
coverage and collectible card games. Computer game news
and reviews are a mixed bag; I don't mind them and the
vocal minority that does mind is minor enough not to
cause serious damage.
Unfortunately, I am not getting what I
want. Roolipelaaja is increasingly branding itself a
magazine for gaming school elitists, theory buffs and
others hard at work taking the fun out of what we do. Our
old sandbox wars about right and wrong in gaming are
spreading into print; something that Roolipelaaja's
predecessors managed to avoid (although the wars were not
too severe back then).
December issue of Roolipelaaja has
provoked more feedback than usual and to his credit, Mikki
is bravely tackling it all in the forums. Being too
old for the shit they call debate, I am staying here on
my very own publicity channel. If you have a problem with
it, sucks to be you. Here is my analysis of the latest
issue. Remember, you know where I stand and nobody forced
you to read it.
LARP stuff (mostly from Sweden
but what the hell do I care?)
Seikkailujen aika on ohi by Mike
Pohjola asks why published games are so focused on
adventuring and there are no games analogous to Häräntappoase,
Juoppohullun Päiväkirja, Raid, Itsevaltiaat,
Kaurismäki or Niskavuori. The
short answer is that it is for the same reason people
don't like eating shit: Unfairly prejudiced subjective
preferences. The long answer is that human relationships,
politics, religion and moral dilemmas have been part of a
good adventure ever since the genre was invented half-way
through the Stone Age. Frankly, it is very hard to have
adventure and conflict without them. They are familiar
challenges that people can overcome and provide familiar
anchorpoints in otherwise escapistic settings (hence
Deadlands or Heimot). All games have them. ALL. And it
sells. Go watch some more Raid.
personal gameplay experiences by Juhana
Petterson. No manifestoes in sight, kudos for that.
Joitakin peruskäsitteitä by Eero
Tuovinen, our favourite RPG author without a single
title to his name, has manifestoes in abundance. He
basically tells me that Old Skool is shit, we are all
secretly miserable with our lives and that he is the
Redeemer who will lead roleplaying into a better future
(with products he imports and sells). Fuck you too.
Fittingly, the text beneath his face says that the author
is asking for a bloody nose. I truly applaud the effort
he puts into it. On the plus side, most manifesto-waving,
narrow-minded RPG prophets claim to be expanding the
horizons of the hobby. Eero does not bother.
In Kun kulttuurit törmäävät on
the opposite page by Jukka Koskelin basically
writes down what many people have told me about
narrativist (yet another fancy game theory term for you)
games. Having a functional set of brains, he also notes
that apples and oranges don't mix and that the playground
is big enough for all kinds of styles. The contrast to
being told that my preferred gaming style is shit is
staggering. If people actually thought this way, my
attitude towards roleplaying schools of thought and
Forgers would be very different.
Gygaxin Harteilla by Jaakko
Stenros is the latest piece in the long tradition
of... oh Hell, I should really give it a rest. In 50
years it might be science.
Kahden Maailman Parhaat Puolet
by Tube and Räsänen is not bad. It is
just stuff that I had already figured out by the time I
was 13. Do we really need to bridge two gaming cultures
(one of which reputedly did not exist when I was in my
teens) to get here? What the hell has everybody been
doing? Didn't you ever play megastar-rockers in CP2020?
How can you not let players create gameworld content if
you ask them to write a background story or choose some
friends and foes for themselves? Has anybody over 10 ever
started a campaign without first agreeing with the
players on the main themes of the game? His take on Shadowrun
with apparently using multiple rules system depending on
the game stage is very cool, though.
Operaatio Jäämyrsky leaves me
cold and not just because of the name. It is a science
fiction shooter-adventure for military-minded characters
and I am getting a serious flashback of late GDW material
pushed for 2300AD. All war all the time. Miska, please,
PLEASE, don't go down that road.
Reviews and the biggest surprise
ever: Roolipelaaja has actually given something less than
three stars! I have no idea what laws of Man and God the
World of Warcraft Trading Card Game has broken to invoke
such wrath but they really got just two stars! Two!
Judging from the fact that this magazine actually gave
CP3.0 three stars, somebody must have wiped his ass on
the cards before the reviewer got them. In all honesty,
they may have given two stars to something else before
but really, I have long since lost all faith in their
ratings system. Maybe they'll get back at me by giving
STALKER just one star.
So, two articles custom-made to piss me
off, a whole bunch of irrelevant stuff and an adventure
that makes me want to cry. If this was any other magazine
I'd tell them to fuck off and be done with it. But it is
not. It is the only one of its kind and I am going to
give it a second chance. I'll probably give it a third
one too. If we lose this one, there may never be another.