American roadtrip – Part 1

In the summer of 2016 my wife and I spent 6 weeks travelling through the United States by car, on foot, and by plane. This was our delayed honeymoon, a long planned journey that took us through 10 states – coast to coast.

When I got home and downloaded everything from the camera I ended up with over 6000 photographs. It’s taking me a while to go through it all… But I’ve finally posted the first batch of pictures, consisting of our first week. We spent that week in San Francisco and in Yosemite. I think it’ll end up being the first out of six posts, one per week spent in the US.

Well go on, check them out!

 

Postcards from The Witcher 3

Playing The Witcher 3 was a spectacular, standout experience. Despite not being mechanically very different from other roleplaying games, it manages to create a unique atmosphere and voice. This comes down to many different things, like the fantasy setting rooted in Slavic mythology, the mournful writing, and the commitment to naturalistic, believable world building.

It is nothing short of a masterpiece, and one of the most important games of the past 10 years.

I played the game on my trusty Playstation 4, and as always I took a bunch of screenshots while playing. Here are a few of them, selected in an attempt to give you a sense of the atmosphere of The Witcher 3.

Novigrad

Seven Cats Inn

Velen

Novigrad

White Orchard

White Orchard

White Orchard

Velen

A week in Morocco

Seven days in Morocco at the end of the year. The buzzing, labyrinthine souks of Marrakech, the thousand faces of the Atlas mountains, and the Sahara.

Oh god, the Sahara.

I guess I never really thought I’d see the Sahara desert. It’s been something of a mystical place to me. A place of stories and imagery and harsh otherworldliness, ingrained in me since childhood by all those old movies and the countless hours reading Tintin.

As always I took too many pictures. I’ve selected a few and put them online. Let me know if you happen to like them.

tintin

30 years later

I was born into a family that had a boat. It was rather small for a family of four, but this was back when people still accepted being a bit uncomfortable when going on adventures. Despite the boat’s size, you could cook in it, eat in it, sleep in it. My parents loved it, and we spent many days and nights aboard. My sister learned the difference between port and starboard well before she could tell left from right. I had some of my first memories on it.

I owe some of who I am to that boat. My legs are sea legs.

Ryds Camping

Who can honestly say what they were thinking or feeling during the first few years of their life. But I know some things. I know that I was absolutely crazy about water, and that I loved that boat. To this day there’s something deeply magical, almost mystical, about boats and ships and harbors to me.

I was probably no older than four when my parents sold it. They had bought a summer house, and there was no time, place, or money for a boat anymore. You can imagine how I reacted. That little orange and white thing was probably the first loss of my life, and it imprinted a lifelong dream somewhere deep inside my mind. I wanted a boat.

Now, 30 years later, I have one.

Bella

Let me introduce you to my Bella 642, a Finnish hardtop boat. The Pale Blue.

It’s got room for me and Lena and a few friends. It goes really fast if I want it to. There’s a ladder so you can go in and out of the water if you’re up for a swim. Two people can sleep somewhat comfortably in it. The deck is white and the hull is navy blue. And I’m proud and happy. Not because she’s an especially impressive boat, but because she’s mine.

Bella

My dad died a year ago, so he never got the chance to see it. But my mom has been on it, and my sister and her family too. And maybe, if I ever have kids of my own, they might find their sea legs too.

Talking about trains

We had a conversation at work today about “developer commentary” videos, and I thought back to the one I did for Wolfenstein: The New Order. I realized I never posted it here on my blog. Well, here it is!

So, if you want to hear me talk about why we built one of the coolest levels of the game the way we did, check it out.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood launches

Today we gears and pistons at Machinegames launched our latest title, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, on digital platforms. A prequel to The New Order, it’s a shorter game than its big brother with about 6-8 hours of play costing only about 20 euros. How about that for value? We chose to do this instead of making DLC, and I liken it to the rich expansions of the 90’s. It’s what I would have wanted as a gamer, and something I hope to see more of in the future from the games I play and love.

The tone is a bit different from The New Order. We jumped back from 1960 to 1946, and rather than the Tarantinoesque retro-scifi vibe we went for a B movie atmosphere. If our previous game was a tribute to Wolfenstein 3D, then this one echoes Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Yeah, when we said we’re big fans of the Wolfenstein series we weren’t kidding.

I think The Old Blood has turned out to be a mighty fine game.

Watch the launch trailer below, and know that I am one of the voices in the Drunken Nazi Choir heard in the beginning. We drank before (and during) the recording to make sure it sounds authentic! That we like beer might also have something to do with it.

Have you had the chance to play it yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

“We are all of us born with a letter inside us, and that only if we are true to ourselves, may we be allowed to read it before we die.”
Douglas Coupland

The music

I don’t know when I fell out of love with music. It must’ve happened gradually over a number of years, perhaps a full decade. One day I simply realized that music was no longer the very important part of my life it had been. During the teenage years, and I think for most of my twenties, music was a vital and natural part of my everyday life. But no more.

The realization wasn’t a happy one. Way back, I think I had the idea that I wouldn’t lose music just because I was becoming a grown-up, that I wouldn’t fossilize into one of them. So when I realized that things had changed – or even worse, that I had changed – it saddened me. A tangible sense of loss remains, and perhaps a hint of regret too. This is not what I wanted.

We humans only have a handful of things that make us more than automatons. Forget free will – being human is about our desire to play, our capacity to love, and our appreciation for art. Losing the art of music, then, is a big deal.

Music used to be a powerful tool for me, as I’m sure it is for many others. I could use it to strengthen or even change my state of mind, my mood. It helped me make sense of my emotions, focus them and give them a direction. It brought color to grey days. Gave a beautiful edge to the ugly. It used to be my companion.

Perhaps we didn’t fall out of love at all. Perhaps we simply grew apart. Perhaps I just forgot, too busy being an adult. Because when I do listen to music I love, and I have the stillness to take it in, it’s just as powerful an experience as it ever was. It’s a wild, raw force raining through me. I’ve sat here tonight, alone in the apartment with headphones on, and listened. The sounds fill my mind and body with joy, energy, melancholy, just like they used to. Good, cathartic emotions. And I feel kind of stupid for not having given music the time and space it requires. Because, I realize now, I need it.

The eternal dark

Games almost always get death wrong. One moment you’re alive, and bam, the next moment you are gone. They treat it like an event, but real death is a process. It takes time to die. In fact, it takes a lifetime.

I recently played a game that gets it kind of right – The Long Dark. Its authors probably wanted to make a game about survival rather than its opposite, but they ended up with a game about the process of dying. No matter how well you play, a slow and difficult death is the only possible outcome.

Alone in the icy cold of the northern Canadian wilderness, The Long Dark is about getting through the day (and the night). Escaped from a crashed plane and dressed in a summer outfit, you find yourself exploring forests, mountains and snowy valleys.

First there’s the cold. You want warmer clothes and some shelter. Then there’s the hunger and the thirst. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to find a small cabin with a bed and a stove. You burn the cabin’s firewood to get the temperature up. Perhaps you melt some snow to drink, and cook some meat you took from the frozen deer carcass outside.

Slowly but surely your resources start to run out. You must decide how hungry you must get, or how much the temperature in the cabin must drop before you go back out in the storm. And what will you find once you head out there?

There’s a sense of melancholy in The Long Dark, because it makes the decay of life tangible. The game is a fight to delay the inevitable, to slow the process, but the end is coming. You will freeze to death, or starve, or thirst. Whatever comes first. You see your remaining life eroded by the forces of nature, by time itself.

The game presents you with no happy endings. So what do you do, when you’re out there desperately scavenging for something to eat or some wood to burn so that you’ll live a little bit longer? You take pleasure in the journey. Discovering a frozen lake surrounded by mountains and snow clad pine trees. Watching the aurora borealis dance on a starry night sky.

My first play session ended with me reaching a mountain hut and then freezing to death in my sleep. But it was a beautiful climb to get there.