voyage to mars
Saturday, August 30, 2003
  Been bed-ridden all day - finally got out of bed around five, and moved my self-pitying miserable self to the couch, where I've stayed ever since, doing very little aside from watching Futurama episodes and feeling very, very sorry for myself. (I can be an insufferable wimp sometimes.)

Not a great day, then, as you can imagine; with the fever and the throat and the being barely alive. Better now, though, so you don't need to send me any cookies, flowers, or "feel better"s. (Unless, you know, you really want to.)

The opening number of the 2003 VMAs was cheesily entertaining. The rest of the show - currently being shown on MTV Europe - is degenerating into a predictably self-absorbed "industry" masturbation with interminable acceptance speeches, stilted humour, and a mixed bag of music. The MTV Movie Awards are so much more entertaining. What, me getting old? Nah. I just don't think I have the stamina right now to stay awake until two in the morning.

Besides, Chris Rock just isn't funny. 
Friday, August 29, 2003
  A bit under the weather today, so I've gone gung-ho with the hot liquids - got up at 8 AM today to brew some tea - and the throat lozenges (recommended daily dosage: 10; my dosage: the whole damn package).

Unfortunately, we don't get those amazingly potent American cold medicines in Norway - the government feels that it has to protect us from ourselves; we obviously can't be trusted with the medication, and a little suffering and misery never hurt anyone (apparently) - so I'll have to keep sucking the lozenges and pretend that they make me feel better.

(They don't.)

I'm finally receiving The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on DVD today, so this weekend I'll be parked on the couch watching the extended version of Fellowship, followed by Two Towers. Tonight, though, I think I'll watch the new edition of Day of the Dead, a movie I haven't seen in ten years, and the second best zombie movie ever. Number one? Do you even have to ask? Dawn of the Dead, of course. No contest. 
Thursday, August 28, 2003
  Spilled milk - milk - on my laptop keyboard a couple of days ago, and even though I shut it down immediately and left it upside down to dry out overnight before turning it back on, the left arrow key no longer works...which may sound trivial, but it's quite the inconvenience when you use your laptop daily to write. (Actually, writing this post so far I've tried to use the key more than five times, so it's not merely an "inconvenience" - it's bloody annoying.)

I've removed the key, cleaned underneath it, but it hasn't helped. Someone suggested that I wash the keyboard (and leave it to dry for a few days), but I don't want to lose more keys. Editing without the left arrow is a hassle, alright, but writing without the space key would be murder. And it's not as if I can just replace the whole keyboard either, not without buying a new laptop. Which I most certainly can't afford. Damn laptops.

The short and the long of it? I'm in a pissy mood. Writing - which I do, oh, all the time? - has just become a chore. 
  Feel free to send your e-mails to the 'ragnar' address again instead of the 'webmaster' address - the problem appears to have been ironed out.

Autumn has arrived, as suddenly and violently as a piano dropping from the clear sky; cold nights, chilly mornings, yellowing leaves, rain, and the inevitable donning of the coat (or in my case, a rather sexy hooded sweatshirt).

Just browsing the blog today and you mention the creation of a "recommended reading" list for the guys making TLJ.s and i was wondering if it would be possible to share this list with your readers.

I realise this might not be possible until later on in development or even until after the game is complete (due to possible spoiler info) but I'm always on the lookout for new and good books to read and any pointers in that general direction would be great.

I'm going to get a copy of The War of the Flowers from your recommendation but I would love to hear of more along these lines.

And just for your own interest. If you have not already read The Dark Materials Trilogy then i would highly recommend it.

Anyway keep up the great work.


I'll definitely consider it. I don't think the recommended reading, viewing, and listening list will spoil anything for anyone; after all, if you've played the first game, you're already familiar with the setting, and our influences and inspirations will not be carried over lock, stock, and barrel into the finished game. 
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
  Spotted this post on the official The Longest Journey forums:

very very sorry if this has been asked before - i've done a search and found nothing, so here goes:

In the Mercury Theatre, what movie is the background dialogue taken from?

i'm not old enough to know for myself, but damn if that moment - the scene where cortez is watching the movie and april's standing in the shadow near the door, and the man in the movie's saying "There's no way out of Victory Hotel." - wasn't one of the coolest in the game. i'd like some idea of what that movie's about, if anyone knows. although just the title would also be much appreciated. thanks in advance.


Contrary to what many think, the scene was not stolen from "Last Year at Marienbad", "No Way Out", or any other existing movie. It is, in fact, a scene from an entirely fictional film entitled "Victory Hotel", and I wrote the dialogue. In fact, I also played one of the characters - the other guy was voiced by Bjørn Arve Lagim, the audio director. So there you go.

...and yes, the dialogue does relate to the game, so listen carefully... 
  Well, I read that you have been listening to Hail to the thief. I, as your fan ( :) ), want to know what do you think. To tell truth, I was dissapointed a little. Because Thom said that it is "OK computer 2". (*note I'm a fan of Radioheads pre- Kid A stuff). So what do YOU think?

That's it. Bye


Well, ColdDan, I'm certainly not an authority on Radiohead - and I happen to think that "Kid A" is their best album - but I'd say that "Hail to the Thief" is more or less what I expected, and quite listenable. It's not up there with "OK computer", of course (an album that I grew so sick with after playing it six thousand times that I haven't listened to it in years), but then I didn't expect it to be. "Hail to the Thief" is not brilliant, not a classic, but I wasn't disappointed. And that's saying a lot, believe me.

you might overlooked, but there is a little problem with the time in Rules are Rules.

"She turned left, and the longest of Garfield’s arms was between ten and eleven, but closer to eleven, and the shorter arm pointed to the number nine. A quarter to eleven."

This means the time was 9:53 or something, not a quarter to eleven. Because the shorter arm points to the hour and the longer points to the minutes. I think you swapped the arms in this sentence. The longer should point to 9 and the shorter to somewhere in between 10 and 11.

I still think rules are *great* but you might wanted to know this. :)


Thanks for pointing that out, SeSam. When the 'stuff' section of this website finally gets a facelift, I'll make sure to revise "Rules" as well. 
Monday, August 25, 2003
  'voyage to mars' - this journal, in case you didn't know - is now the number one Google resource for, well, 'voyage to mars'. If you're planning a voyage to Mars, then - or a 'trip', a 'trek', a 'journey' - you're in the right place, mate, you're sorted.

Go on. Ask Google. Amazing, innit?

(I am easily impressed, like butter in the sun.)

It's raining, I'm compiling a list of recommended reading material for the TLJ.s designers - what comics and novels to check out to get in the right state of mind - and I'm simultaneously working on a document (there's never just one, never) that looks at the story from a new perspective, from the point-of-view of two supporting characters. Why? To attempt to crack a difficult problem. Often, it's easier to see what's wrong - or, in this case, what can be done better - by approaching the story from a different angle. With a story as complex and complicated as this one (in a good way, of course), there are so many different angles of approach, it makes my head spin. Playing it, however, will be an entirely different experience. The complexity will be spaced out over a dozen (or so) chapters, and it will flow smoothly. Promise. 
  Freddy vs. Jason enjoys a second weekend at the top of the box office charts, proving that old is new...again. For the first time. Or something.

It does prove one thing for sure: that there's absolutely nothing else to watch. And also that people like horror movies. Especially when they star a dead child-molester and a machete-wielding serial killer. Together. For the first time. Again. Doesn't prove well for the future of this Earth, does it?

Honestly, though, I'm a fan - at least of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise; not so much with the Friday the 13th flicks, no - so I can't wait to see who wins (and don't tell me; I'll be very, very cross).

It's almost certain that now, after FvJ's huge success, we'll see a second team-up movie - not counting Aliens vs. Predator, which is already in pre-production. I'm all for team-ups, but if they could just do that Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash movie that rumours (false ones, of course - something that cool could never happen) spoke of last week, we'd all be very happy geeks. Right?

Or maybe a better idea would be Freddy & Jason vs. Mary-Kate & Ashley. That, I would pay good money to see.

Watched a couple of episodes of two "new" (new to me, at least) TV-shows tonight that I recently bought on DVD: BBC's Spooks, and The Dead Zone. Spooks was excellent. It's been compared to 24, but aside from the anti-terrorist plots and some split-screen editing (which, contrary to popular belief, was around long before Kiefer Sutherland), it's really very different. It's also much smarter than most US shows, with storylines that pull no punches, and a willingness to take risks with the characters - but that's the luxury you have when you only produce six episodes per season, and the show's not meant to last forever. Quality over quantity. There's a lesson there for everyone.

The Dead Zone, meanwhile, is a much more traditional show, and while it didn't start off with a bang - the movie was better (obviously) - it looks to be improving...although I've only seen two episodes, so it's a little early to know for sure how much it will improve. So far: pretty good. Anthony Michael Hall does an excellent job as the brooding Johnny Smith, and Nicole deBoer is sexy - and, hey, there's your show! No, that's a little unfair. The first two episodes were entertaining, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more. Which is more than can be said about most shows.

Time for bed. 
Sunday, August 24, 2003
  Factoid time:

0.02% of the hits to (on?) this website originate in Syria. That's twice as many as Thailand and South Africa. People of Syria: "Merhaba! I welcome you!" And Thailand, South Africa? Time to shape up, guys. 
  Another stunning Sunday, and the only reason I'm not outside is that I'm inside, trying to write, listening to Radiohead and "Hail to the Thief". In my defense, I have been outside today, and I have the slightly reddish glow to prove it.

'They' say it's the last summer weekend this year, and if 'they' are right, then damn 'them', damn 'them' all to hell...although we've had plenty of great summer weekends - and weeks - this season, so no reason to complain, really.

To kickstart my creativity this afternoon, I've doubled the regular shot of espresso in my latte, consequences be damned, and now I'm waiting for the drugs to kick in. I was supposed to be working on the TLJ.s story (which is receiving its 648th polish - it's still not shiny enough, but we're getting close), but my thoughts are turning to a project that is both behind me and ahead of me, called Miracle. I had a couple of great ideas that I just had to seed, and now, like Jack's beanstalk, they're growing very, very quickly. At the very earliest, these ideas will not be harvested until after I'm done with the Super Top Secret 'Next Big Thing' (NBT) Hyper Mega Project - a few good years into the future - but Miracle will happen. Oh yes. And when it does, the world of gaming will change...forever!

Or maybe not, but I'm really looking forward to working on it. The project ties strongly into the 'universe' I've been tinkering with for at least six years (probably more) now - entitled 'The Hidden Places'; think contemporary mythology and urban fantasy - which relates somewhat to the themes explored in the TLJ games (although that's an entirely different universe), and which will be explored further in NBT (which might take place in the Hidden Places universe). Phew. Complicated stuff.

(To add to the confusion, there's also a screenplay entitled "The Dark Places" which takes place in the same universe - read more about that here.)

Miracle is a place and a state of mind; a gateway both physical and spiritual; a city at the crossroads of worlds; and the story - the game - is about miracles, small and large, and how they affect us. Most importantly, perhaps, it's about questions - the sort of questions that demand answers - and about how this search for answers bring people together.

If you have enjoyed my work thus far, the projects I've contributed to, the themes I've explored, the stories I've told, you'll just have to put Miracle on your list of Things To Look Forward To. In my experience, if enough people are waiting for something, it is bound to arrive sooner or later.

Like the train, for example, or the end of the world. 
Saturday, August 23, 2003
  Texting blamed for summer movie flops.

Yeah, because low quality has absolutely nothing to do with it. And it's always good to blame the audience for ruining "carefully crafted marketing campaigns".

Of the big summer movies I've seen this year, only one can be categorised as pretty good - The Hulk - two were fun, but utterly disposable - Terminator 3, Charlie's Angels - and one was plain awful, especially considering the build-up - The Matrix Reloaded. I've yet to see Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean, both of which I trust are good movies, and which, perhaps not coincidentally, have done amazingly well at the box-office.

But hey, if rampant and disrespectful text messaging forces the studios to improve the quality of their "products" - because now those damn kids can just scupper the carefully crafted marketing campaigns, dammit! - then that's a Good Thing. But come on: Word of mouth was around before mobile phones, and so were great (and awful) summer movies. Fact is, most of the time, bad movies do bad business - and good commercial movies usually (though not always) get the success they deserve.

The summer season may be officially over, but there are still some intriguing big-name potential "blockbusters" heading our way this autumn: Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men; Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the sequel to Desperado; Underworld, with the oh-so-fine Kate Beckinsale; Danny DeVito's dark comedy, Duplex, with Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore; The School of Rock with the Jack Black; Tarantino's twin Kill Bills - separated, rumours now say, by just six weeks; the potentially interesting (or maybe misguided) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake; The Matrix Revolutions (ugh - but I'll give it a chance); the indisputably epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; Tim Burton's new fable, Big Fish; The Last Samurai, with a sword-wielding Tom Cruise in Japan; and the great-looking live action Peter Pan...

...and, of course - last but by all measures first - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Too bad Harry Potter's not around this year; it's become something of a tradition (in just two short years) to watch Potter and LOTR on the same big screen, a few weeks apart, just prior to Christmas. But book, uh, sorry, film three in the Rings saga will do just fine. Honestly.

(I have, of course, skipped a number of upcoming releases that I'm looking forward to - like Bad Santa - not because I'm not aware of them or don't believe in them, but because I wanted to highlight the most likely chart topping, big budget autumn movies.) 
Friday, August 22, 2003
  today I visited the Games Convention (www.gc-germany.com) in Leipzig and Funcom was also listed as a exhibitor. I found to guys with Anarchy Online T-shirts and asked them about TLJ.s, but they wouldn't give any information away. :-( Just as I thought, but is was worth a try. At least I talked to one of VIP's of Anarchy Online and TLJ...Jorgen Tharaldsen who gave me a big present...your Anarchy Online Book One!! =) Now I got a original, yeah! I read it already printed on my own, but now I got a copy...now I need a signature from you! Maybe you are goint to present TLJ.s on the next GC or maybe I'll come around when I'm in Oslo next time (for the first time). *grin*

Jorgen told me that they have to finish another AO addon before they are going to work on TLJ.s...hopefully they finish it soon or did I get something wrong?

Greetings from Leipzig


I think what Jørgen meant, Sebastian, is that our PR and marketing staff (Jørgen is PR Director) will be focusing on Anarchy Online a while longer before they start work on TLJ.s. The production team is already hard at work on the game, of course, and none of us are involved with the AO expansions.

Here's Marek with more on the 'Top Six Weirdest Search-Strings On My Website':

I can shed some light on the meaning of 2) and 3).
Bittorrent is becoming an increasingly popular sharing / download program. It's integrated into the browser so some game demo / movie / patch sites have started using it recently. Shaolin refers to the Japanese movie Shaolin Soccer, which you absolutely must see. Some product placement in this movie is glaringly obvious (you'll see), but it won't change how creative, surreal and fucking hilarious this movie is. Think 'kung fu meets soccer meets the matrix meets japanese arty stuff meets hot shots-style visual humor'. Typical weird movie-freak-movie. Go. See. Now.

I think 6) is actually the weirdest search term. Heh.


Agreed - Shaolin Soccer is a great movie (although it was produced in Hong Kong, not Japan); lots of over-the-top original fun, and you don't need to be interested in football/soccer to like it (I'm not). You can order it cheaply from DDDHouse.com in Hong Kong, an excellent and completely trustworthy (in my experience) online DVD store. 
Thursday, August 21, 2003
  not being overly familiar with nordig mythology, I still heard of ragnarök. does your first name have something to do with this?

'Ragnarok' - or 'twilight of the gods' - is literally the end of the world in Norse mythology, the Viking Armageddon, and yes, my name originates from that word.

In Old Norse, 'Ragnar' meant chief and great warrior - and though there is no name less suitable for me, I'm damn proud of it. 
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
  The whole "bibles with f's instead of s's" thing refers to a printing feature that, until the end of the 19th century was quite common. Instead of "s"s, they used "f"s, although without a crossbar.

To see this have the piss taken out of it, read Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's "Good Omens", in which the characters read a 17th century prophecy by "Agnef Nutter" (it reads much funnier than I make it sound).

Cheers,
Andrew.


There you go. Sorted. 
  For those who've sent me e-mail in the past six days - since last Thursday - I haven't received any of it. This applies to all mail sent to the 'ragnar@ragnartornquist.com' address, and not 'webmaster@ragnartornquist.com'.

Until this has been sorted out, therefore, send (or resend) your questions and comments to the latter address
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
  The first time I saw Daredevil, I didn't like it very much. I thought that it had numerous problems; bad pacing, flawed direction, clichéd dialogue, an amputated script that attempted to squeeze a potentially excellent story down to one hundred minutes.

I still think the movie has all those problems, and more. But after seeing it again on DVD this evening...I kinda like it.

While not a classic movie by any stretch of the imagination, Daredevil has charm. It has some great action set-pieces. The sound design is amazing (especially in dts). Jennifer Garner makes an almost perfect Elektra, Colin Farrel a fun Bullseye, and Michael Clarke Duncan a fine and appropriately menacing Kingpin. Heck, even Ben Affleck (the Affleck!) is not bad as Matt Murdock/Daredevil - most of the time he does a solid, if workmanlike, job - and he's got the world's best (and sadly underused) sidekick in Jon Favreau's Foggy Nelson.

So the cast, then, is quite solid.

Last time around, I laid a lot of the blame for the movie's problems on Mark Steven Johnson, the writer-director. This time around I'll give him some deserved credit. He's obviously a fan, and even though he's never made a movie like this before - never directed action - he handles himself well. I hear there's a director's cut on the way, which may alleviate some of the story/pacing problems. And the movie looks great - dark and gothic, all odd angles and comic-book framing.

I've realised this: There's a lot to like in the movie, so long as you ignore the problems and just try to enjoy yourself.

See, that was my biggest problem watching it the first time. I looked for the flaws instead of the fun. My expectations were certainly too high, and since I love the character - and particularly the Elektra storyline - I set myself up for disappointment.

This time, I wasn't expecting much at all. I don't know exactly why I purchased the DVD, but I believe that, despite my initial misgivings, I secretly wanted to give the movie a second chance.

I'm glad I did.

This time, I had fun with it. I looked past the sometimes corny dialogue, the somewhat cheesy effects (to be fair, the CGI in Spider-Man was less convincing, but then they didn't have the advantage of the constant darkness), the holes in the story (how do Daredevil, Elektra, and Bullseye all end up on the same rooftop in Hell's Kitchen...at the same time?), and the at-times odd direction (there are some jarring cuts and transitions), and I enjoyed myself.

Daredevil is a fine, not great, superhero flick. I will watch it again. And I hope there's a sequel. 
  It's time yet again for our popular feature "Top Six Weirdest Search-Strings on My Website".

The following are culled from the site statistics, and are actual search-strings used by actual people visiting my (actual) site. Drum-roll, please, Anton:

6) "bible with f's instead of s's"

Yes, entering this query into Google will indeed bring up 'voyage to mars'...but can anyone tell me what this question means? Is there a market for a Bible that replaces every 's' with an 'f', or am I missing something crucial here? At any rate, this search-string deserves to be ranked as the sixth weirdest search-string this month. So far.

5) "3d doax naked"

Not so much 'weird' as 'sad', really.

4) "bit torrent shaolin"

I don't get it, but I assume it's related to the following query:

3) "download japanese drama using bit torrent"

The moral? When at first you don't succeed, ask, ask again.

2) "crashes or stacy or pertained or unfamiliarity or fouling"

Yes, all right. Not very picky about what you're searching for, are you? Any of the above will do, right? What is the relationship between those words? Only one person knows. And s/he ain't talking.

And the number one weirdest search-string is:

1) "david letterman salma hayek breasts"

There's really no question about it: this is the weirdest search-string this month. And what's weirder - my site is ranked as the number four resource on "david letterman salma hayek breasts" by Google. Good call. 
  Last week, when New York went dark, some people grabbed their digital cameras and camera phones to document the event. John Wehr was one of them, and his pictorial diary of the first afternoon and evening is worth a look. 
Monday, August 18, 2003
  I didn't get home until late last night, so my planned post just wasn't to be. It was a beautiful day - today wasn't too bad either - and I spent most of it outside. This time of the year, on these unpredictable shores, you just never know how long it will last - the sun, the blue skies, summer.

I recently begun reading Tad Williams' new novel, The War of the Flowers, and it actually reminds me a little of The Longest Journey - which, of course, was inspired by other tales. Without going deep into spoiler territory, the novel - which, refreshingly enough, is not part of a multiple volume fantasy epic, but that rarest of modern creatures; a stand-alone story - follows the journey of a man who, quite unwillingly, and by the twists and turns of fate, travels through a portal from our world into a magical, parallel Faerie world.

I've been told by reliable sources that there are further and deeper similarities between our two tales, and I'm intrigued to see where Williams is going with the story. It is, of course, a well-established and not particularly original concept - The Chronicles of Narnia did it oh-so-well half a century ago, and fairy tales, myths, and legends have recounted similar journeys; from the ordinary world into the dangerous realms of magic and high adventure, for thousands of years - but it is a fabulous starting-point for a good story. (Which is why we're doing it all over in the next TLJ.)

So far, then, a recommended read - especially if you liked The Longest Journey
Saturday, August 16, 2003
  With autumn on the horizon, production has finally commenced in earnest on the one game you're all waiting for, and it's really quite strange and wonderful to see how many familiar faces have returned for the "sequel". Almost half the team consists of The Longest Journey veterans; mostly artists, plus one programmer (the original's lead), one designer...and yours truly. Keep in mind that it's seven years since production began on the first game, and that this industry is infamous for personnel moving from company to company. It's a miracle that so many of us are still with Funcom - but hey, as long as we get to make great games and have fun doing it, why go anywhere else? (Besides, you'd be hard pressed to find a better place to work.)

I'm more convinced than ever before that TLJ.s will be one of those great games, and there's already a lot of visual material I would love to show off...but of course I can't (and, no, bribes won't work - unless they're big enough). There's a long road ahead of both you and us, and in order to make the journey as interesting as possible, and to manage the high expectations, we'll have to carefully distribute the sweet candy along the way. There will be teasers, of course - a few of them in this journal, most of them on the official site - so keep your eyes open.

The game's complex (and long) story breakdown has undergone a series of revisions, but I'm now very, very happy with the results. I believe that we'll have a lock on the story within a few weeks, leaving us to focus on the game script, containing all the game's puzzles and set-pieces. That doesn't include the dialogue script, of course, which we'll get around to when everything else has been designed in detail.

The details of the story will remain under wraps (and armed guard) until release, but there's no harm in speculation, and since outré theories are fun to read, here are three important words pulled (more or less at random) from the script that might fire up under Internet scuttlebutt:

* White
* Crow
* Static (well, duh)

Expect more of those in the future. Piece 'em together, play the first game again, use your imagination - and with a bit of luck you might end up with some idea of what's in store.

I was also recently pointed in the direction of what I believe is the very first The Longest Journey .static fan-site: http://www.tljs.tk/ Looks very promising, and I'll definitely be checking in from time to time.

As for the second Funcom project I'm involved with - and which was shown, briefly, in video form at E3 to selected journos - things are moving forward, albeit not at breakneck speeds. We're working on the core technology, which needs to be solid, and we don't expect to be showing anyone anything (or even talking about it) until next year's E3...at the earliest. The rumour is that the game is "horror themed", and while that's certainly true to some extent, there's also a lot more to it. It's not an easy project to pigeonhole, nor can the premise be reduced to a single genre, theme, or word. 'Horror' is just one of them. 'Globetrotting' another. And 'period' a third. There's no reason to start counting the days yet, however, since NBT (or 'Next Big Thing') won't reach the market until after TLJ.s, but there's certainly reason to be excited. 
Thursday, August 14, 2003
  Rained today, and that was a relief. My brain needed to cool down.

It's been - and continues to be - a very busy week, so I won't be writing any Interesting Posts until tomorrow at the earliest. Do check back. 
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
  I want this. More than anything in the world. 
  *Tips hat at the timely Dylan Thomas line*

And yet, what do you expect? The MTV pop poop is the shining beacon on the hill, the quintessence of Modern Democracy that we're all expected to venerate at face value on this side of the pond: settle the majority's basic desires - bread and circus - so be it.

'Quality' and 'popularity' are antonyms - and besides, 'quality' is more EXPENSIVE than the alternative, while PROFIT - not enlightenment - is the God of the Awesome Media. Why bother to fetch them honey, when people are willing to eat shit?

-Kingzjester


I agree and I disagree.

I disagree more or less on principle, because he is, unfortunately, quite right.

I disagree because I don't want to succumb to the awful truth, and I still have faith in the human race.

See, quality isn't necessarily more expensive or less profitable than mediocrity.

In theory.

Give the right people the right tools, stop underestimating the unwashed masses, and the tide may be turned. There is yet time. Yes, people will eat the dish they've been served, regardless of what's in it - and if there is no honey, they'll sprinkle sugar on the brown stuff and gorge themselves - but they can taste the difference. And once they have learned that there's an alternative, they won't want to go back.

In theory.

In actuality, however, it's becoming increasingly hard to make a case for quality. The right people obviously don't possess the right tools, nor are the networks, publishers, and studios willing to take a risk on something that might not immediately pay off.

Which, when you think about it, is very, very strange, because audiences respond to quality. Time and again, when given easy access to the alternative, they will pick honey over shit. Quality smells sweeter, tastes better, and lasts longer. Quality will pay off in the end, a hundred times over.

In theory.

So while I generally agree with what Kingzjester is saying, I also disagree, because I want to believe that he's wrong. I want to believe that good taste will always prevail; that audiences will vote with their wallets and turn their backs on mediocrity; and that quality, in the end, will be victorious. 
Monday, August 11, 2003
  There's a mini-interview with me in this ITavisen preview (in Norwegian) of Shadowlands.

No, I don't have anything to do with the upcoming Anarchy Online expansion pack, but they wanted to talk a bit about the novel, how that came about, and how it ties into the AO universe.

Next year, if everything goes right, I'll finally be able to talk about something other than The Longest Journey (the first one) or "Prophet Without Honour". Yes, I'm just as tired of talking about those two as you are of hearing about them. 
Saturday, August 09, 2003
  My big fat trap opens yet again to spew forth on a subject related to online gaming:

RPG Vault: Online Worlds Roundtable #7, Part 2 (scroll down a bit).

I usually enjoy these things, but I'm not all that happy about this one. It feels like marketing. It was also edited down, and now it doesn't read like me (which, normally, I'd agree: not necessarily a bad thing). Most importantly, I don't properly address the issue at hand. I just use the opportunity to hype Funcom's Gameplay On Demand technology - a feature that I see as supplementing, never replacing, hand-crafted gameplay and content - which isn't really a proper solution to the problem at hand.

At any rate, I'd love to hear people's opinion of this piece, and possible answers to the original question. Go crazy. 
  Yesterday's rushed rant contained a couple of unfortunate spelling mistakes (spotted and fixed in the harsh light of a new day), which just goes to show that one of the effects of watching stupid people do stupid things is stupidity. Thank God I wasn't watching America's Funniest Home Videos - I probably would have ended up in the morgue.

Another hot weekend well underway. Someone asked me a few weeks ago what we mean by 'hot' here in Norway, during the summer.

Well, today it's not quite as warm as it was last month: Around twenty-eight degrees centigrade, or eighty-two fahrenheit. Not all that bad, then, even when taking the humidity into account. At the hottest this summer, it's been in the low to mid thirties - low to mid nineties - with exceptionally warm nights and high humidity. Again; absolutely bearable. But do keep in mind that there's very little air-conditioning to be found (none at home or at the office, although my car is a tiny slice of ice-cold heaven - lucky me), and that warm weather just feels warmer when you spend half the year shivering your arse off. Also, somehow, hot weather in the city just feels that much hotter. Which is why I've visited the countryside as often as possible this summer.

I'll take the hot summers over the cold winters any time, by the way, but I am sort of looking forward to autumn. Beautiful colours, rainy days, dark nights, cosy nights in cafés, restaurants, or at home, watching a good movie or reading a book. My perfect year would go like this: A long, warm summer; a mild, wet autumn without snow; Christmas, with snow; and spring in January. Let's just skip the winter. Not so much with the winter, no. 
Friday, August 08, 2003
  I need to rant.

The insipidity of MTV poolside "specials" where future skin-cancer victims strut what they undoubtedly would refer to as their 'stuff' in front of lascivious cameras in t-shirts and khakis, tank tops and miniskirts, bikinis and speedos, mugging, jiggling, jiving, spasming to tuneless drivel, believing with every fibre of their skim-milk yogurt bodies that this is my 15 minutes, look at me!, discover me! leaves me breathless, sickened, and despairing.

Who watches this vomitus? Is this the legacy we leave for future generations, the offal that we commit to digital record for all time to come?

I'm not a cultural snob, nor do I usually care about the shite that the TV channels squeeze out of their fat collective arses, but sometimes I despair. I really do. There's so much quality out there, so much that doesn't get watched, read, heard, played, eaten, drunk - appreciated - nearly enough, and that deserves a better fate than to linger in obscurity when MTVs foul spew rains into every home across the globe.

It's sad. It really is. And there's only one weapon against the onslaught of crap (unless you go undercover, poolside, and bring an Uzi - but don't say I sent you):

Don't.

Don't watch, read, listen to, play, eat, drink crap. Not even for a laugh. There's so much good stuff out there, so much you haven't yet experienced, that you shouldn't waste your time on the poisonous filth that permeates our culture.

Choose life.

Plant a boot in mediocrity's groin.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

(Another day: Fiction is life. The world is a story. Discuss.) 
Thursday, August 07, 2003
  Looking through the latest issue of PC Gamer, it's really quite obvious how the settings for most PC games appear to fall within one of the following categories:

FANTASY
- Medieval "fantasy" (Age of Empires)
- Tolkienesque fantasy (Dungeons & Dragons)

WAR
- Historical warfare (Battlefield 1942)
- Modern warfare (American Army)

SCI-FI
- Near-future and/or cyberpunk sci-fi (Half-Life 2; Deus Ex)
- Spaceships-big-guns-and-aliens sci-fi (Halo)
- Licenses (Star Wars; Star Trek; TRON)

CONTEMPORARY NON-FANTASY
- Mostly sports and racing (MotoGP 2; Tony Hawk 4)

The few exceptions stand out. In this issue, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, which has a contemporary setting - though with fantastic elements, of course.

It's not a whole lot better on the consoles, and although the genres are different - more action-adventure and platform games - the settings are the same, and they blend into one another (so it's fantasy and sci-fi? How original!). The ones that do stick out - Grand Theft Auto, Super Monkey Ball - are like breaths of cool, fresh air in a hot and dry desert. A desert of mediocrity. Because, while there are fewer bad games than there used to be, there's also much less variety, and fewer great ones.

But I've talked about genres, quality, and originality before, at length. What strikes me the most is how similar all the settings are. If it's not: a) fantasy; b) sci-fi; or c) a licensed setting (typically fantasy or sci-fi) - it's d) World War II. Bored now. Time for something new and refreshing. A detective game set in late 1930s Hollywood, for example; or a 1970s, New York based police action-adventure.

Anything but elves and robots...or robotic elves. 
  The font used for the logo on the front page is called 'Informal Roman'.

"He wore his toga without any undergarments. He was an informal Roman."

"Unlike other, more formal Romans, Informalus enjoyed tossing peanut shells at the lions when taking in a show at the Colosseum."

I could go on. But the comedy value of the Informal Roman would diminish dramatically, and that would be a damn shame, so let's just leave it at that.

At any rate: Informal Roman is what you're looking for. 
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
  Nice job on the site so far. It looks good and it's a much needed improvement.

-front page colors could be better than purple/yellow
-the journal page could use some links to the other parts of the site

I was wondering, what font is the main page logo?


Thanks, Howard; and the purple/yellow mix? Not so much, no. The colours did not look anywhere as garish on my laptop, and I've now toned the whole page down quite a bit.

I've added a 'home' link to the journal, and as soon as the other pages get a facelift, I'll add links to them as well.

The font on the main page logo is...absolutely no idea. I'll check the Photoshop file later this evening, and let you know.

My thanks to everyone who's written in with comments. Your participation is much appreciated. 
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
  Front page has received another makeover - what I like to call "Part Deux" - and I think we're almost there. Colours need tuning, but Rome wasn't built in a day. It was built in five days, by an enormous army of contractors. Quite unlike this website, which was touched by no human hand. Unless you count my hand. Which is human.

It's certainly a brighter front than the last one - probably too bright, but it's summer. The colours will be tweaked. And suggestions, as always, are more than welcome.

Regular Blogging services will resume soon. Have a nice day. 
  Rummaging through forgotten directories yesterday, I found the very first stirrings of what would eventually become The Longest Journey (back then codenamed 'Project Alpha', and, for a long time, simply 'X').

Here's a taster:

"In her dreams that night there were angels and horses. With fierce, burning eyes, the white angels rode their black horses into the green pastures of an eerily familiar realm, and in their tracks all life withered. She knew the setting, yet she also knew she’d never consciously set foot in it before now. With the passing of the angels came a mighty roar, and darkness fell on that beautiful world.

In the darkness there was a face - a man’s face, bearing an uncanny likeness of herself, twisted through a mirror darkly. His eyes were cold, yet there was nothing evil about the man. He seemed just distant, dreamy, disinterested. As if pulled by unknown forces, she lifted her hand to touch the man’s face and felt her fingers touch her own face…

April woke with a start. The neon illumination of the big ‘Hotel 24hrs’ sign across the street added a ghostly sheen to the unfamiliarity of her bedroom. The sound of sirens overlapped in the night, and voices echoed through the grim corridors outside her door."


The above was written on March 27th, 1996 - seven years and half an eternity ago. The funny thing is how close a lot of what was written back then is to the next game's storyline. You'd almost think there was a plan behind it all... 
Monday, August 04, 2003
  Ch-ch-changes We've received lots of feedback regarding the new look, most of it quite positive - which is nice. Especially considering my HTML skills, which are just not.

Still playing around with the format and design, however, and I've received some helpful suggestions from readers about how to improve the site, both visually and in terms of navigation. Keep the suggestions coming, people. Much appreciated. Even if I don't have the time or talent to fix all of it. 
Sunday, August 03, 2003
  I've probably posted this one before - but since I'm too lazy to check, because it intrigues my widdle mind, and because I want to remember the link, I'm posting it again. Feel free to ignore it.

Twenty Questions

It will Amaze! and Shock! you with its Psychic Powers! of Ungodly Perception! Or, at the very least, you'll think it's pretty nifty. 
Saturday, August 02, 2003
  We're shaking things up a bit. So awfully, awfully tired of the Way Things Were - plus, did anyone actually like the old look? We're still stuck with a generic Blogger template, but this is a temporary - and refreshingly neutral - placeholder.

There's a new front page as well, though, again, this will change - at least the pictures will. I just needed some colour.

The Bio (or 'About') section and Stuff will be redone, I hope, later this week.

Let us know what you think. Come on, don't be shy. 
Friday, August 01, 2003
  I celebrated my birthday yesterday by not working - which I liked not doing so much that I'm continuing not doing it today - and by spending the evening with two of my three brothers, one of my one sisters, and six of my nine nephews and nieces (I hope I've counted correctly). There was pizza and presents, and a good time was had by all.

It wasn't just my b'day party, though, not really. My brothers and I are all born within one week of each other - two of them on the same day, the third a day later, and then me - but none of us are the same age. In fact, we're pretty widely distributed, from the late 20s to the 40s. I'm the second youngest, though at 33...'young' may be stretching the truth a bit.

Quite scary, really: thirty-three. Still so much to achieve, and only about, ooh, another seventy or eighty years to do it in? When I cross the century mark, I'll let the young'uns take a shot at it.

Heck, the way things are going, I'll probably be working on The Longest Journey: The Final, Final Chapter...Honestly! when I'm in my nineties. Unless this industry starts taking chances on new properties again, five years from now there will only be sequels or license-based games around.

Not that there's anything wrong with sequels or licenses - as long as the games are good, I'm happy to play Grand Theft Auto 5 on the PlayStation 3, or the next NBA Street. But for this industry to grow and thrive, and not stagnate, there must be invention; we have to surprise the players, offer them something new - be it new gameplay, new settings, new worlds, new characters, or something so original and different that it defines a whole new genre, a completely new way to play games.

It'll happen. But it won't happen as often as it used to. Games cost too much, take too long, for publishers - and developers - to risk taking too many chances. Instead, we're seeing a gradual and slow evolution, in terms of technology, game design, and content, resulting in progressively more accomplished games. But the generational shifts take years, not months, and this evolution will continue as games become more and more complex and expensive.

Fact is, games are the most complex beasts around, even more so than some big Hollywood movies, and while five years ago, it was possible to develop a triple-A title for a million dollars, today that number is much, much higher. Even a low-budget game will have a team of fifteen to twenty people working two to three years, and a typical medium-sized console title will employ thirty or forty people full-time. At least.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, however. Games are becoming more involving and accomplished; growing up, morphing into an entertainment medium that will soon be considered the equal of TV and films. The stories we can tell, the emotions we can engender, the sense of immersion and participation that no other medium can produce - all of these benefit from the technological and aesthetic evolution of games. It's an exciting time to be working in the industry, despite the publishers' unwillingness to take chances with new developers and new games.

For me personally, as a storyteller, I see great things ahead for what I like to call 'storyplaying'; for players to get immersed with and participating in a plot where their choices - the interaction with the medium and the characters - define the outcome of any given situation, while being guided through a scripted and mostly linear storyline.

Pipedream? Not at all. Stay tuned. 
[voyage to mars]
un film de ragnar tornquist

if you write a journal and no one reads it, does the journal truly exist? the answer is "yes, yes it does". no matter, because my blog is one of the top ten most visited sites on the internet. well, no, it isn't. but there are visitors, and eight million people can't be wrong - and neither can the much less than eight million people who read my journal on a regular basis. join us.

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