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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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'RockManager' Developer - Q&A

by Rainier on Jan. 31, 2002 @ 1:31 a.m. PST

We asked Erik Johansson, responsible for the controversial rock'n'roll sim management ROCK MANAGER) a few questions about the making of the Rock Manager game ... Rock'N Roll Baby! Yeah! Read and Enjoy!

Q&A Introduction:

Erik Johansson works as a script writer, director and project manager for Monsterland AB, the development company responsible for the controversial rock'n'roll sim management PC CD-ROM computer game everyone is talking about - 'ROCK MANAGER' . Johansson has written the voiceover dialogue. He was also responsible for directing the actors in the voiceover sessions during the making of the game.

Rock Manager is set for Pan-European release on 15th March 2002, and is published in the UK by Mindscape/PAN Vision.

Download the free Rock Manager demo NOW.

We asked Erik a few questions about the making of the Rock Manager game and here are his comments:

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

Johansson
Divine intervention, really. It just came to us in a dream almost three years ago. At that time, we were only four guys working at Monsterland, and when we came to work the next morning, it turned out that all four of us had the same wet dream that same night. We discussed the idea for some time. We liked the idea of taking the piss out of the music industry. As script writer, I became very excited about the possibility of writing a script using all the stupid show business clichés.

The eerie thing is that we all had the same dream to make a game like this. We were convinced this was going to be more than just another concept for a computer game. It was almost like 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. Of course we signed the contract in our own blood, just like Manowar!

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 designing tasteless record sleeves. This is the kind of game that will allow you to record crap music and top the charts with no effort. All you have to do is just keep lying to the media and make sure that your rock stars get all the booze they want. Rock Manager is a game that exploits the rock'n'roll fantasy and myth of what it's like to be a rock star.

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

Johansson:
This is a game for anyone who is interested in rock music and 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. On the other hand, if you just like the idea of pushing people around, it's definitely a game that will appeal to you.

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

Johansson:
I really like to put together all kind of bizarre bands and see how things work out. For example - what happens if I put two angry punks together with a Britney clone and a middle-aged rocker? Are they going to kill each other? What will the record companies say about the music? And how will media react to such a fiendish collaboration? Another cool feature is 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, punk rock or whatever.

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

Johansson:
The music industry is an easy target for all kinds of piss taking and we just love it. Or maybe we love to hate it, I don't know really. Sometimes it's even too easy. 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 come up with characters with different personalities - all of them full of empty clichés. There's also a lot of parody regarding pop lyrics and such. Basically, what makes the game amusing is the fact that the irony and humour is everywhere in the game. It's an integral part of the game concept.

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

Johansson:
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, the production suffered a few months delay. Our office has been so crowded with fans that we at one point had to hire bouncers to be able to work with the game. The groupies were also kind of an obstacle, but I wouldn't consider it a problem though!

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?

Johansson:
Well, this isn't exactly a family title. It would be ridiculous if we tried to do a rock'n'roll game and censored the language. I hate the idea of censorship and it doesn't matter if it is a computer game, a rock song or a movie. If the people out there disagree with the attitude, f*** 'em.

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

Johansson:
Of course we used our own experiences from the music industry, but we also read a lot of rock star biographies for research. We also went through old eighties memories - just look at those bands: Manowar, who declared war on "false heavy metal" or W.A.S.P. - the band that ate raw meat and decapitated a nude chick on stage. You've just gotta love it!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, the comedy Air Heads and of course the genre-defining, groundbreaking mockumentary Spinal Tap which is pure genius. Don't forget all the tour documentaries from different bands. Doing research has never been more fun!

Question:
You mentioned your own experiences from the music industry - some of you actually have a background in the industry, don't you? Have your experiences left any battle scars in the game?

Johansson:
All of us have our own connection with the music industry. Almost everybody in the production team has been in at least one shitty band in the past (who hasn't?). As a matter of fact, we played around with the idea to start a band and do some of the songs in the game, but we couldn't agree on which song to choose. And trust me, you should be very grateful for that…

Our other project manager worked on a record company before he left the dark side and joined us. He brought with him loads of weird stories and 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 were forced to retrieve everything back by themselves. Not very glamorous, eh?


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

Johansson:
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?

Johansson:
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 the material. You can also 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. If you want to sell records, you'll have to think about what the different record companies will say about the recording. God forbid.

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

Johansson:
Definitely, it's been the coolest voice-over sessions I've ever done! We used a mix of people with a music background together with professional actors. It was great fun but it was also loads of 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 a lot of late nights and six packs 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?

Johansson:
Rock Manager is definitely based on the real world. The basic rules are the same as in real life, with record companies, song publishers, radio stations, concert venues, obnoxious artists, and so on. When we felt the need to, we twisted reality a bit and cut away some unnecessary parts. We've tried to reach a good balance between reality, humour and gameplay.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?

Johansson:
Well, I maybe don't identify with him, but I really like Eddie St Johns, the singer in the heavy metal band Firewölf. Pissed off most of the time and with an ego bigger than the Hindenburg. He reminds me of the classic joke about the singer and the lightbulb.

Question:
The singer and the lightbulb? Tell me!

Johansson:
How many singers does it take to replace a lightbulb?

Question:
No idea.

Johansson:
Just one - he just grabs the lightbulb and then the world revolves around him! A true classic! That's definitely about Eddie St Johns. Another personal favourite is Raymond Schneider - the gay drummer that used to play in "Neon Studs" in the eighties. That character was hilarious to record.

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

Johansson:
Thank you! It's been my pleasure. Let's hit the bars now!

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