Mikko Vuorinen is one of the more talented
and prolific adventure game writers in the world today. Most all of his games are worth
playing - I personally recommend CC and his recent Comp '99 entrant King
Arthur's Night Out the most. All of Mikko's games are available from GMD. You might
want to check out his homepage, but it's
mainly in Finnish. I recently had a chance to conduct an E-mail interview
with Mikko, and here are the splendiferous results. Ladies and gentlemen, the man
with the coolest name in showbizness...Mikko Vuorinen!
Actually I expected to be in the top 15, because I only got positive feedback before the competition was over. But you can't always win. It could partly be because of the authoring system I used, but then the other Alan game finished 16th, so people probably just didn't like the game.
2. Immediately as I set down to playing "King Arthur's Night Out", I realized it was a bit of a departure from your other work. Games like "Leaves", "Coming Out Of The Closet", and "CC" had an intangible, surrealistic quality to them which made them intriguing and engrossing...more so than entertaining. "King Arthur's Night Out", however, is a straight adventure game full of quirky humor and puzzles galore. Was it your intention to do something more "traditional" as opposed to the somewhat experimental, surreal games you had produced before?
This year I decided I should create a game that actually has a plot. All that surreality probably is there because I don't plan my games ahead, I just invent stuff as I code. When I started programming CC I didn't have a clue as what I'm going to do. Well, maybe the ending. I had made up the console puzzle beforehand and I just wanted to do a game that features it. But anyway, Arthur was actually similar. I didn't know what puzzles I was going to put in, but as I made the rooms and objects I suddenly realized that I could do this and do that and make that sort of puzzle and...you get the idea. And I've always liked to write humorous texts, seriousness just doesn't suit me.
3. You are one of the few adventure writers who have produced several games with Alan, an underused text adventure development system. What do you like most about the system? Do you feel that it will eventually gain a larger following than it has currently?
Well, it was very easy to learn and it's easy to do stuff in it. Of course it isn't as powerful as Inform, TADS or Hugo, but I think it is possible to do even pretty complex things in Alan. Some things are naturally impossible, but I think games can do well without them. The lack of NPC interaction is a big minus, so you can't order NPCs to do stuff, but it's not really necessary. I can program in C (at least I could three years ago; haven't programmed anything since then) so I could probably easily learn Inform, for example, but I'm just too lazy. And I can do everything I want using Alan, so why bother? (To get more people to play my games is not the answer, although it would be very nice.)
4. Another Alan question: a common complaint people have to make concerning Alan games has to do with the parser. Rather unfairly, in fact: I've played many Inform and TADS games which had inferior parser responsiveness than yours do. Is this a debilitating weakness of the system, or can it be ironed out?
Frankly I don't understand what their problem is. Alan doesn't support
so some might find that annoying (even I do sometimes) but so what. You just need to type a few words again. Other than that, I can't find any problems in the parser except non-implemented verbs. But then I can't know what others think, that's why I asked this in r.a.i.f. By the way, King Arthur's Night Out understands 117 different verbs (or verblike things) and that doesn't include the synonyms (but for example TAKE x OFF and TAKE OFF x are two different verbs).
5. What are your thoughts on this year's competition now that all is said and done? What were your favorite games? Your least favorites? Did you play the other Alan game, Eric Mayer's "The HeBGB Horror!"?
Erm. To be honest, I didn't play any of the games enough to form a solid opinion about them. Sorry. Laziness struck. But I tried most of them, just didn't start to play them properly. Usually I play Alan games first, just to see what the game is like. More important than what is done is how it's done. I compare other people's games to my games and test if others have implemented things I have. Usually they haven't.
6. In my review of "King Arthur's Night Out", I theorized that Sierra Online games might have influenced you while you were working on the game. Was I right? What are some of your major adventure game influences? Do you think of yourself as more of a "traditional" text adventure creator, or more of a "experimental" purveyor of interactive fiction, or possibly a combination of both(a la Andrew Plotkin)?
I have played most if not all of the early Sierra games and I really liked them, but I don't think they had anything to do with King Arthur. Sierra games started to suck when they removed the typing interface, btw. Actually the games started to suck a little when it was no longer possible to walk and type at the same time. Anyway, I have always liked puzzles and I think I'm not bad at all in solving them. The game that really got me hooked was Eureka on a C64. It had a crappy system (it wasn't even possible to save) but it had atmosphere. I didn't understand much English when I played it (I was only 10-12 or something) but I really really liked it. After that I've learned the language a bit better and played many many games, including several Infocom ones. My favourite Infocom game is probably Hitchhiker's Guide which I finished. I had read the solutions to some of puzzles in a magazine before I even got the game, so I never had the chance to test my wits properly. But most of the puzzles I solved myself. And I was only 16 or so. However, the greatest piece of IF ever is Legend of the Sword. It had some graphics and an automatic map, but overall it was a text adventure with a decent parser. But the best thing about it was that it understood a great deal of useless commands. I could fart, ask other people to fart and puke, examine my penis, show it to people, try to rape everything I came across (including corpses) and so on. It was a perfect example of stupid juvenile humour. The game featured several great puzzles too, and it took me four years to finish (I started in September 1988 and in September 1992 when I got access to Internet I found the walkthrough and used it to finish; I had completed about 80-85% already). Anyway, that game probably has influenced the most. I think I am more traditional than experimental, because I like traditional puzzle-oriented games. But experiments can be fun, so I might try something different some day.
7. "CC" was a very powerful game, though small and unprepossessing. At first it resembles a famous scene from "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", but it soon goes into an altogether different direction. But the question is: what exactly was it? An allegory? A programming workout? Art for art's sake?
Well, I could explain it a bit. Some guy is going to rob a store, I don't know why, but he is not a criminal yet, only about to become one. Then everything goes black and he is in the void where there is only the black hole that symbolizes the dark side of man. I don't know what the ring is, but if you put it in the hole then you let the dark side take over and you lose. You meet CC (which probably stands for Clear Conscience) and he helps you to get away from your dark side towards light. Then you do stuff, load yourself with power and stuff, it's all there just for puzzles' sake. Then you reach your own head and your own vile thoughts and realize that this is not right. Then you see the light and sort of wake up and notice that you don't need or want to rob the store and life is good and so on. Therefore you laugh. I'm not sure whether that story actually works, but it's best I have.
8. "Coming Out Of The Closet" is probably my least favorite of your games due to the fact that I never did manage to solve it. Was this an early game which you wrote more as a programming exercise, or does it have some genuine qualities as a game that have simply eluded me and my thick head?
Actually it's easy after the SEARCH WALL command. Anyway, it is an NPC programming exercise. But the main reason I wrote it is that I wanted to write a game quickly. I had just played PUTPBAD and wanted to write my own one-location game, upload it to GMD and announce the existance of another Alan game.
9. Finally, just between you and me and whoever reads this interview, are you the greatest Finnish text adventure game writer to have ever lived?
I may not have written the greatest games, but at least I have written some. And people all over the world (well, other than Finns) have played them. Because I haven't yet seen a game written by another Finn anywhere on the Internet I must assume that I am the greatest.
And that's good enough for me - Ed.)
Hey, who is Ed?
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