Thursday, 9 August 2012

What's Your Story? - Ilmari Jauhiainen

As excited as I am to kick on with Zak McKracken, this week is a bit of a killer on the professional front. I've just not been able to get a couple of hours free to write anything, so I thought I would take the opportunity to let one of the readers do the talking instead. This week it's one of the CAP board leaders...Ilmari!


The faceless symptoms seem to be spreading.

My home country is… Finland, the traditionally forgotten land between Sweden and Russia, although reliable sources have told me that it is nowadays remembered as the source of great heavy music.

My age is… I'll be turning 31 in August.

The first adventure game I played was… Space Quest 3, or actually I just first watched my brother and his friends play it. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time. Before that, I had played only shoot'em'ups and platformers, but this experience changed my taste completely.


It won't be long now and you'll get to watch someone else play it all over again

When I’m not playing games I like to… Actually the problem is more that I rarely have time to play games, because other activities take priority. That's probably why I like adventure games so much – I might enjoy CRPGs and strategy games,but you really need to be playing them to make any significant progress, while with adventure games you can do the main work or thinking about the puzzles everywhere. But now I've digressed... Most of my free time I try to spend with my wife and our 1-year old daughter.The time left over from that I will mostly spend on reading, which has been my primary hobby since I was just three and half. I mostly read scifi/fantasy, but if you refer me to a good book with fantastic elements, good humour, absurd plotting or important social commentary (or preferably, all of them), I will probably read it. I also like to study texts on philosophy, science, mathematics, history, cultural studies, linguistics, sociology or something around those areas. Finally, I like complex board games, mostly of German origin, strolling in nature and all sorts of stuff I rarely have time to indulge in.

My favourite adventure game is… You know, I just really hate picking up just one favourite, when there's a load of quality games I could choose from. Usually what I am looking for in an adventure game is an intriguing plot, which I have found at least in LeChuck's Revenge, Gateway, KGB, Trinity, Gabriel Knight and Tierra Entertainment's King's Quest 2 remake. Then again, I still have loads of adventure games to play, so I cannot really choose one over the others.


Gateway is one of those games that's always intrigued me. I'm not even sure I'll get to play it for this blog.

I like my games in (a box, digital format)… Preferably in digital format (takes up less space). But I'd still like a good manual with a lot of backstory!

The thing I miss about old games is / The best thing about moderngames is… I'll answer these two at the same time. I think that what I most miss is not the games as such, but the child's enthusiasm and the capacity to be excited of the simple things – and the time to use for playing. I mean, there were good games, but that doesn't mean there couldn't be gems in the modern games also.

And let's face it, many of the older games would be simply unbearable these days. The very first adventure game, Adventure, was really crude plotwise (collect all the treasures), while the mother of all graphic adventures, Sierra's Mystery House is possibly the worst game I've ever played: a two-year old could draw more convincing stickmen, and what's worse, you have to rely on the awful pictures,because the textual output is quite meagre – I mean, who could have known that a particular square in a bathroom was meant to be a towel?


I'm sure we all feel your pain on this one

There's definitely been progression going on, but it has been in some cases restricted to the improvement of graphics and introduction of better controls etc. King's Quest was in this sense already a progression from the Adventure – graphics, the ability to move the character and so on. In another sense there had been no progress at all, because plotwise both were simple treasure hunts. The most used plot in whole gaming history has probably been ”hero saves the world from an evil guy”, which isn't really imaginative.

Of course, there have been more complex plots also. In adventure games,especially Infocom was an early example of a more creative approach to plots. Take Brian Moriarty's Trinity, for instance. On the onehand, it is a game where you solve more or less ingenious puzzles in a fantasy environment with giant bumblebees, mythical figures like Charon, living origami birds and Klein bottles. On the other hand, itis a social commentary on warfare and especially nuclear weapons, where you'll get to visit places like Hiroshima, Bikini Atoll and the Manhattan project test site in New Mexico. Later non-commercial interactive fiction have taken the complexity of plotting to further levels, but they often feel more like pieces of literature than games.

The ideal would undoubtedly be to combine all the elements – engaging plots, gorgeous graphics, good interface and enough game activity to keep you entertained for hours. Sure wish they'd make more games like that – but it could well be that I just haven't had the time to find these true treasures.

The one TV show I never miss is… I tend to like all things scifi- or fantasy-related, so for instance,Game of Thrones, True Blood and Walking Dead are appreciated. Perhaps I still wait most for Doctor Who, because a) I have a liking for allthings British and b) it's a show that my daughter likes to watch too (it's good to share some hobby with your kids).


Yet another Doctor Who fan! I'm really going to have to give it a try sometime soon.

If I could see any band live it would be… I am not really fanatical music follower – I prefer stories over melodies, so I'd rather read a book, watch a TV show or play a game than listen to music. That said, I have a rather varied music taste. In my youth I was brainwashed by Europop and techno, which I still occasionally listen to. But I also like jazz, classic operas and some rock'n roll. I think I'll stick now to the fantasy/scifi-theme and vote for a live show of Queen with Freddie Mercury – no matter whether it involves time travel, cloning or magic.

My favourite movie is… I actually prefer TV shows to movies, because in a long series the plot has more time to grow and deepen – and if you catch me watching a movie, it's probably something mindless junk that I only use to clear my head off. But if you really want me to pick something, MarxBrothers - movies I never tire of watching. From more recent titles, I've enjoyed e.g. movies by Charlie Kaufmann and Terry Gilliam.


There's been a little complication with my complication!

One interesting thing about me is… This is probably the hardest question, because I feel like an average Joe with no interesting qualities. In real life, I am the shy silent person who mostly listens without anything to say, the oddball who has made a PhD on some really obscure topic (a great way to stop a conversation), the teetotaller who everyone depends on when they get too intoxicated and the dilettante poet whom relatives hire to perform bad poems on anniversaries.

Interested in sending your answers and getting 20 CAPs for you trouble? Email theadventuregamer@gmail.com.

40 comments:

  1. Very interesting post! Glad to find another boardgame geek. Which Euro do you prefer, Ilmari?

    On the recurring subject of IF, I've played a few of the ten games recommended on this page and I can attest that they are in fact great:
    http://nickm.com/if/rec.html

    If there's any chance of seeing Gateway (or any of the Legend games) here, I will be chipping in my CAPs!

    Also, I'm slowly realizing that I might just be the eldest on this blog? :-/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Charles: I don't have that extensive experience on board games, since I've tried only something like ten different games. Carcassonne is perhaps the one I've played most often, because it can be played in almost any company - the basic game is easy enough even for newcomers, but it can be made more complicated with the add-ons. Recently I've liked Modern art quite a lot (although technically it is more of a card than a board game) - I just find it a good metaphor on the fluctuations of the stock market, where the value of things is determined more by what is bought most than any real value. And since I suck in economy, I find myself always losing, which just makes me want to play the game even more :-)

    I think I've played most of the earlier games in that list and I do recognize many authors - they are indeed of the finest quality both as pieces of literature and as games. I've had a personal project of playing every IF that has been nominated for a XYZZY-award, but I've been held in 2003 for a long time due to insufficient time.

    And I will definitely also share CAPs for both Gateways, and perhaps also for Eric the Unready. The rest of the Legend text adentures are not that important, I think. Timequest is a pretty mediocre game, and Spellcasting-series is fun, if you like the idea of Harry Potter combined with American Pie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Carcassonne seems to be the common entry point along with Catan. We have several expansions, but complexity and play time do increase with each one (and the elegant vanilla mechanics lose some of their charm, IMO). I've heard good things about Modern Art, I might include it in my next shopping spree :-)

      Delete
    2. I've tried Catan, but rarely do I find myself able to get one other person to play a board game, let alone two.

      Delete
  3. Trickster: Suberb that you could find the exact picture of Mystery house I was describing. Would anyone believe that the square between what are supposedly sink and shower is a towel?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? Looks like a towel to me.

      Delete
    2. To me it looks like an abnormally low window... love the "butcher"'s hat

      Delete
    3. I think the problem is that the square might be quite a lot of things - for instance, I thought it was just another window. (I had no idea what the rectangle above the square was supposed to be - in fact, I still don't. Some sort of holder for the towel?) In any case, it would have been helpful, if the game had at least mentioned the existence of the towel in the text.

      Delete
    4. Yeah, I'd say the rectangle's a towel rail.

      More importantly, if the Butcher stood up there's no way he'd ever get through the door, which seems to be only slightly higher than the sink.

      Delete
    5. Wait, there's a door? That low wide square on the left?

      Delete
    6. I think it must be, although it seems more like a hole in a wall without any door.

      Delete
  4. What TV series is that in the final image?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not a TV series, it's from Terry Gilliam's "Brazil":
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088846/

      Delete
    2. Brazil is a great film, and if you haven't seen it I'd recommend watching it at your earliest opportunity.

      Delete
    3. Agreed. I'm a big Gilliam fan! Especially Brazil and Twelve Monkeys.

      Delete
  5. Nicely detailed, Ilmari! It's interesting to notice the patterns forming regarding the kind of people we've had presented so far. There's a lot of "oh, you like thing x too, awesome!" being thrown around whenever we get a new one of these. Either that, or we're so widely represented that there's always another one that's into the same as you are, however esoteric the subject. :p

    I got a board game group going, but I also play a lot with the wife, and Carcassonne is definitely one of the favorites here as well. Another easy-on-newcomers is the Ticket to Ride-series. Always a hit with new groups and with the different maps there's lots of different strategies you can use.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also enjoy Ticket to Ride, although our games tend to get a bit heated when the planned route is suddenly closed by other players.

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were some pattern to our interests and hobbies. From my experience, there are some genres that appear to be linked: for instance, if you play board games, often you yourself or some of your friends play CRPGs, tabletop RPG or LARPs, reads or watches science fiction or fantasy etc. Here we've already have at least (in addition to the obvious like of adventure games) metal fans, scifi/fantasy geeks, Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts and board gamers. Did I miss any?

      Delete
    2. Hahaha, the last time I played ticket to ride I had about 10 drinks too many and ended up secretly hording the trains when people would get distracted by pizza, beer, TV, bathroom, etc. Everyone kept wondering why the game was ending so soon. "How am I out of trains already??"

      So we switched to Cataan, at which point I began to build "towers" ... I wish I could post pictures here.

      Long story short: do not mix board games and alcohol.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I've noticed the patterns as well. I guess it's not too surprising. Us "geeks" tend to be attracted to the same things. :)

      Boardgames is something that I've always been interested in, but haven't known anyone that's interested in playing them. The majority of my hobbies are individual pursuits, and it's probably sport that connects me with most of my friends.

      Delete
  6. Love a bit of SQ3, I hope Trickster enjoys it. I must have played it half a dozen times. There's only really one part I don't like, which is near the end: Gur ebobg svtugvat. Rirel gvzr V ercynl Fcnpr Dhrfg 3, vg gnxrf zr sne gbb znal nggrzcgf gb jva. Nfgeb Puvpxra naq gur ynfg fcnprfuvc fubbgvat ovgf ner sne rnfvre ol pbzcnevfba.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I played through Space Quest III a couple of years back, so I don't think I'll have much trouble with that one.

      Delete
  7. The Gateway games are brilliant, but then I'm biased as Frederik Pohl's Gateway is one of my favourite books. I'd happily spend every single one of my CAPs (all 5!) to get Trickster to play through the first game.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sorry guys. Tough week! I'm halfway through the first Zak McKracken gameplay post and will have it up by the end of tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a mostly free weekend, so I'll be playing along (in between watching the Olympics!).

      Delete
    2. No worries mate, don't consider it an obligation to us to put out a new post every two days. We can wait until you have the spare time.

      Delete
  9. Sorry, but this guy sounds totally pretentious. He has completely missed the point that the whole idea behind King's Quest I was that you were controlling a guy in pseudo-3D and could walk around wherever you wanted and actually physically explorer your environment now.

    It was groundbreaking stuff at the time, revolutionary even. Its like me saying that Doom was shit because it had no story and was just a 3D version of Pacman/Space Invaders mashed together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure what you're talking about. He mentioned controlling the character and graphics as advancements. I don't remember him saying it was bad either.

      Delete
    2. Yeah. I didn't see anything pretentious or point-missing in there either.

      P.S. I never liked Doom, and a big part of that was because it had no story. I did enjoy Doom 3 though.

      Delete
    3. I think he rather clearly states that yes, the controls and graphics were advancements over earlier games, but that it didn't take the plot out of the treasure-hunt age of adventure games.

      And it's a fair point. Making advancements in one area doesn't exclude games from making advancements in others as well. It's much the same thought that many FPS games are criticized for today. New graphics, yes. Fancy weapons? Yes. But why do we have to stick to the same old rehashed stories over and over again? It's the same wars being fought, same eras you see.

      There's nothing pretentious about noticing what games do well, and what their weaknesses are.

      Delete
    4. Nice to know I am pretentious, have to put that on my CV :) Well, this was supposed to be an entry about my likes and dislikes, and I just place more value to detailed plot than to graphics or interface - that's why I rate a text adventure with detailed plot over a graphical adventure with almost no plot. Sure, King's Quest was revolutionary in the very matters you mention, but it still failed to have a detailed plot, which I personally think is a lack - just like I would admit that the first 3D-movies were revolutionary in their technical features, but in other aspects left me cold. My reasons for liking and disliking games are of course purely subjective, so anyone else can well use other criteria for evaluating games.

      And thanks to all the others for defending me - been on a trip for a while, so couldn't do it myself!

      Delete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (edited for grammar and spelling ... it's 5 am here, still no sleep)

      If I was asked "what major milestone game do you hate the most?" the answer "Doom" could not peal off my lips fast enough. Not only did I find the mechanic repetitive and flawed even at the time, but there is no real story to speak of, and ... it's actually quite boring. Extremely boring. Turn, shoot at blocky pixels. Turn again. Shoot gain. Ooh, new gun. Shoot. Shoot. Turn.

      However, while I also don't find any pretension here, I do like the emphasis on the radical nature of King's Quest I ... it WAS kind of shocking to have a world like that to exist in, however roughly. Much as Doom is unbelievably, unsustainably crude, King's Quest I is also.

      Yet I'm intrigued that the adventure game genre advanced far faster and far deeper in a much shorter span. All these years later, the most advanced ideas of a top-notch pure-FPS like Black Ops (mostly light RPG elements fused with seamless multiplayer aspects and good map design) seem still far behind the immense creativity that Grim Fandango, Quest for Glory IV, or The Longest Journey produced many years ago.

      Delete
  11. What's your Ph.D, Ilmari? I'm doing a master's in linguistics right now, and the only people who care what my thesis is going to be about are other linguists and my mom (Dad's another linguist). So I sympathize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kind of ironic that it took three years for anyone to ask that. I've studied philosophy, and more specifically specialized in 18th - 19th German philosophy. People usually sound very interested when they get this far, but when I try to get into the details, their eyes becomes suddenly very glazed and their attention clearly wanders to groceries. Nowadays I usually tend to avoid such conversations and turn the discussion to some other topic, because it avoids mutual embarrassment (unless I discuss the issue with one of the few people in the world who are interested of it).

      Delete
    2. I am interested, though I don't know how much I'll understand. If you name-drop, I'll look up the philosophers.

      Delete
    3. Well, I hate name dropping, but here it goes. Two of the most obvious are Kant and Hegel (which I concentrated on my PhD), but there are loads of others lesser known figures, like (just to name few) Christian Wolff, Moses Mendehlsson, Lessing, Herder, Reinhold, Hölderlin, Fichte, Schelling, Schleiermacher, Schlegels etc., that I am interested in. I wouldn’t really put much faith what you’ll find about them, since a) lot of the traditional ideas about these figures (which you’ll be likely to find in very general text books or documents) are pretty much faulty and b) there’s not much consensus about their ideas in modern scholarship and what you’ll find in some more scholarly writings is probably hotly debated and denied by some other scholar.

      Delete
    4. Well, hooray for controversy then :P I think I've heard of Moses Mendelssohn, growing up Jewish, but I don't remember what he did.

      Delete
    5. Most people know him (if at all) just as the grandfather of Felix Mendelssohn, the composer of a fairly popular wedding march. :)

      He himself is mostly famous as one of the first recognized and respected Jewish literates in the European history (Spinoza was more widely known and influential, but was condemned because of his suspected atheism). It kind of fitted the supposedly cosmopolitan atmosphere of 18th century Enlightenment to have a real living non-Christian in their midst (although he had to face some serious bigotry from anti-Enlightenment thinkers who demanded his conversion).

      Delete
    6. Yep, know how that feels. I've been a token minority before. :P

      Delete