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About Rainier

PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!

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ROCK MANAGER™ Q&A

by Rainier on Sept. 12, 2001 @ 6:08 p.m. PDT

Exclusive Rock Manager Q&A with Per Strömbäck of Monsterland Produktions.
Per Strömbäck is the project manager and script writer for Monsterland Produktion, the development company responsible for the controversial rock'n'roll sim management PC CD-ROM game everyone is talking about - 'ROCK MANAGER' . The game is set for Pan-European release on 26th October 2001, and is published by PAN Interactive.

Question:
How did you come up with the idea for Rock Manager?

Strömbäck
Divine intervention, really. It was presented to us in a dream two years ago. When we came to work the next morning, it turned out that all four of us had the same wet dream that night.

The premise of the game is to become the high rollers of the music industry. We've created a game where we you can spend ridiculous amounts of cash on overseas flights, expensive champagne and gorgeous groupies. This is the kind of game that will allow you to record crap music and top the charts with no effort. Rock Manager is a game that exploits the rock'n'roll fantasy and myth of what it's like to be a rock star.

The eerie fact is that we all had the same dream to make a game like this. We were convinced this was more going to be more than just another game concept. We were on a mission from god with an electric guitar. The day after we presented the concept of the game, was the same day we signed a publishing deal with Pan Interactive in cold Kiss-like blood.

Question:
Who exactly are you targeting with this game? Describe the typical player of Rock Manager.

Strömbäck:
This is a game for anyone who is interested in the big game behind the music. It's a good idea to have some knowledge about rock'n'roll mythology in order to get the most out of the game. We've tried to make a game for people who are into music instead of hardcore gamers who are into Half-Life and Quake. .

Question:
According to you, what is the best feature of the game?

Strömbäck:
I'd say it would have to be the music studio where the player can create their own music from more than twenty original songs. It's really very versatile, we had this one tester who turned all songs into eighties new wave (Howard Jones and Duran Duran please call home!). Someone else would do heavy metal or punk rock or whatever.

Studio aside, the most appealing thing is of course the fact that this game lets you travel the world and push rock stars around.

Question:
Can you describe the humour in Rock Manager? What makes this game so amusing?

Strömbäck:
The music industry is an easy target for all kinds of piss taking and we love it. We've only taken the real thing and twisted it a little bit to make it fit into the game. Some things, we've even had to play down because the truth wouldn't have been credible. Like how labels buy their own records to boost them on the charts. You can still do it in the game, but we threw in this gangster who takes care of things like that, rather than the labels themselves. We've also tried to make the characters special and fun and there's a lot of parody on pop lyrics and such.

Question:
What special obstacles have you encountered during the making of this game?

Strömbäck:
Our biggest problem was that the interest for this title is so big, we've been too busy fending off media and overseas license-takers and the production suffered a few months delay.

Question:
The language and general attitude of Rock Manager is pretty explicit from time to time. Are you afraid that this could cause a moral uproar amongst parents of Rock Manager-buying youngsters?

Strömbäck:
We sure hope it will. After all, this isn't exactly a family title.

Question:
Which previous games, or films for that matter, have influenced the development of Rock Manager?

Strömbäck:
We've read a lot of rock star biographies for research. That's probably been our biggest inspiration, except the music itself. We've also had a lot of fun reliving old eighties memories - remember Manowar, the band that declared war on "false heavy metal"? The sad thing is that a lot of these bands still exist. Surfing the net for rock relics is a great pastime.

Previous games we've been looking into include Aerosmith guitar hero sim Quest for Fame and the classic Amiga title Rock Star Ate My Hamster, but neither of them bears any major similarity to Rock Manager. Among the films we've seen are last year's Almost Famous and of course the genre-defining, groundbreaking mockumentary Spinal Tap which is pure genius.

Question:
My spies tell me that you have a background in the music industry, don't you? Have your experiences left any battle scars in the game?

Strömbäck:
The music industry is full of legends. We took the best and put them into the game. Like the tour bus that sunk in the Atlantic when the band had a beach party and forgot about the tide. Or the band that threw everything out the window of their hotel room, but nobody cared so they had to go get it all back themselves. Some of my own experiences also made it into the game, like when the band arrives at a festival and there's no hotel booked, so they go to the camping to find some groupies to stay with (and the manager sleeps in the car).

Question:
Some of the missions in the game have striking resemblances to real events and real stars from the world of rock and pop. Was this intentional or purely coincidental?

Strömbäck:
The game is entirely fictitious. Any similarity to the history of any person, living or dead, or any actual events is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Question:
I really enjoy the music engine of the game, and some of those pastiche songs are really spot-on. Can you elaborate about the music studio feature of the game?

Strömbäck:
Yes, the music engine is very similar to an authentic recording studio. There is a sound channel for each instrument where you can individually set levels, add effects like reverb and delay, pan left/right and so on. Every instrument has a set of different styles in each song, so you can do a lot with this material. Also, you can hire session musicians if your own band members really suck.

The music engine is tied in with the rest of the game, so your actions will have consequences. For instance, if you turn down a musician's volume, that person is likely to be upset and give you trouble later. And of course, how the record sounds will have a major deciding factor as to whether or not it becomes a hit.

Question:
It must have been a riot recording those vocals and voices?

Strömbäck:
Definitely! In most cases, we used people with a music background rather than professional actors. It was a lot of fun, but it was also hard work. There are more than forty individual characters with up to 160 lines each. There are fourteen vocalists each singing twenty songs, a total of 280 vocal tracks. Now, we did this both in English and Swedish so double those numbers. It took some time to get it right, but in the end we were all happy with the results.

Question:
Would you say Rock Manager is a realistic game? Do you intend to present the player with a notion of how it can be like for a real manager in the world of rock 'n' roll?

Strömbäck:
I'd say Rock Manager has an element of realism. The basic rules are the same as in real life, with record companies, song publishers, radio stations, concert venues, obnoxious artists, and so on. But most of all, Rock Manager is a game with all the fun parts from the world of rock'n'roll, but none of the boring everyday stuff. We hope Rock Manager will be more fun than the real thing, but if the player learns one or two things about the industry along the way we don't mind. Rock Manager is not the MS Flight Simulator of music; it's more like the Blue Max.

Question:
Which character in the game do you identify most with?

Strömbäck:
Roy Dowert, the mad guitarist who keeps getting into trouble! Raymond Schneider, the gay drummer, is another personal favourite.

Question:
Thank you, Per! You are a true rock'n'roll connoisseur.

Strömbäck:
Thank you! It's been my pleasure. Waiter!

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