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Backtracking: Remedy's Aki Järvilehto Loves Diablo

As Alan Wake makes his Xbox Live Arcade debut, one of the chief minds at Remedy explains his deep love for Blizzard's hack 'n slash.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare releases this week on Xbox Live Arcade.

Welcome back.

You can thank Alex for coming up with the official title for this feature. He managed to come up with something that fit before I spent an evening staring at a pint of beer, waiting for it to click.

In any event, I’ve asked Remedy Entertainment executive VP Aki Järvilehto to discuss his favorite game of all time, Diablo, and talk a little bit about why that game has continued to have such an impact.

Järvilehto has reason to celebrate, as today marks the release of Alan Wake's American Nightmare, an Xbox Live Arcade extension of Alan Wake with an emphasis on combat...but a pretty neat story, too. I'll have more to say about American Nightmare when my review goes live in a bit.

Järvilehto turned the tables on me a bit, since I’d emailed the questions and he found a way to plug his interest in the release of Diablo III. He's not on the development team for Diablo III, obviously, and the reason he’s so interested in Diablo III is because of Diablo. He’s definitely not alone in having a deep reverence for that game.

--

Giant Bomb: If you’re forced to choose only one, what’s your favorite video game?

Aki Järvilehto: Aww…but there are so many! Well, one of the games that I have on pre-order is Diablo III and right now it’s perhaps the game I’m looking toward the most. I really loved the previous versions when they came out and playing through the Beta was just awesome! Everything was just like I remembered, only so much better and more polished.

GB: What makes it stand above everything else?

Järvilehto: Maybe it's in part because I'm a huge fan of the fantasy genre. I totally fell in love with the Diablo series back in the day and it looks like Diablo III has just managed to blend all the components of fantasy into a superb gameplay experience. Amazingly smooth and polished low learning curve, infinite combinations kind of mechanics. Really it's just such an easy game to jump in if you like the genre. I just can't wait.

GB: Do you know how old you were when you first played Diablo? What do you remember?

Järvilehto: Now that's an easy one. It was 1996 and that would make me 24 at the time. Battle.net only came later so most of my memories from that time are related to the nights spent playing and re-playing the game. Descending deeper and deeper into the caverns and bracing myself for the final, inevitable confrontation. Just awesome!

I wonder if I was the only person who actually played the PlayStation 1 port of Diablo.

GB: Do you still return to Diablo every so often? How come? What changes when you go back?

Järvilehto: Well, I did re-install Diablo II once I'd been through the Beta of the upcoming version. And frankly, the years had not been kind. In sense of game play mechanics there’s still some really cool stuff happening in the game, but I gave up half way through the first play through. But it’s still worth a hat tip. I can’t think of many other games that are more than a decade old and still that playable. And it looks like there’s a ton of folks still online.

GB: Has Diablo series influenced the way you make video games? In what ways?

Järvilehto: We play through as much as we can and do turn into other games, movies, books and so on for inspiration. Diablo and games from Blizzard are just amazing, but I wouldn’t say they have directly influenced us too much. In game design, we tend to focus on the things we're good at and try to create original concepts we can be proud of. So this is more about inspiration than trying to mimic someone else's style.

GB: When you first played Diablo you just played games for fun. Today, you make them. How does that color the experience?

Järvilehto: It does change the experience. By quite a bit. I’d expect that anyone in the movie industry has just a little different relationship with movies and the same goes for games. I guess it does make you a little more critical and you keep looking for things that are a little deeper into mechanics, technology or design. But it takes nothing away from enjoying an awesome game, quite the opposite. Once you’re playing through a game that has all the components in place, it’s easy to appreciate the effort, which the teams have put into it!

GB: Finally, do you think Alan Wake plays games? What would his favorite game be? You can't say Max Payne.

Järvilehto: He's a writer! Of course he plays when he has time for it, but he's kind of selective and doesn't really go through most of the stuff Barry Wheeler carries to him. It's one of his ways to get proper kind of inspiration for his stories. Of course right now he is caught between fiction and reality, trying to fight his way back through an episode of Night Springs, but if and when he makes it back I’m sure he’ll be playing Skyrim for rest of this winter.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
43 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek
Alan Wake's American Nightmare releases this week on Xbox Live Arcade.

Welcome back.

You can thank Alex for coming up with the official title for this feature. He managed to come up with something that fit before I spent an evening staring at a pint of beer, waiting for it to click.

In any event, I’ve asked Remedy Entertainment executive VP Aki Järvilehto to discuss his favorite game of all time, Diablo, and talk a little bit about why that game has continued to have such an impact.

Järvilehto has reason to celebrate, as today marks the release of Alan Wake's American Nightmare, an Xbox Live Arcade extension of Alan Wake with an emphasis on combat...but a pretty neat story, too. I'll have more to say about American Nightmare when my review goes live in a bit.

Järvilehto turned the tables on me a bit, since I’d emailed the questions and he found a way to plug his interest in the release of Diablo III. He's not on the development team for Diablo III, obviously, and the reason he’s so interested in Diablo III is because of Diablo. He’s definitely not alone in having a deep reverence for that game.

--

Giant Bomb: If you’re forced to choose only one, what’s your favorite video game?

Aki Järvilehto: Aww…but there are so many! Well, one of the games that I have on pre-order is Diablo III and right now it’s perhaps the game I’m looking toward the most. I really loved the previous versions when they came out and playing through the Beta was just awesome! Everything was just like I remembered, only so much better and more polished.

GB: What makes it stand above everything else?

Järvilehto: Maybe it's in part because I'm a huge fan of the fantasy genre. I totally fell in love with the Diablo series back in the day and it looks like Diablo III has just managed to blend all the components of fantasy into a superb gameplay experience. Amazingly smooth and polished low learning curve, infinite combinations kind of mechanics. Really it's just such an easy game to jump in if you like the genre. I just can't wait.

GB: Do you know how old you were when you first played Diablo? What do you remember?

Järvilehto: Now that's an easy one. It was 1996 and that would make me 24 at the time. Battle.net only came later so most of my memories from that time are related to the nights spent playing and re-playing the game. Descending deeper and deeper into the caverns and bracing myself for the final, inevitable confrontation. Just awesome!

I wonder if I was the only person who actually played the PlayStation 1 port of Diablo.

GB: Do you still return to Diablo every so often? How come? What changes when you go back?

Järvilehto: Well, I did re-install Diablo II once I'd been through the Beta of the upcoming version. And frankly, the years had not been kind. In sense of game play mechanics there’s still some really cool stuff happening in the game, but I gave up half way through the first play through. But it’s still worth a hat tip. I can’t think of many other games that are more than a decade old and still that playable. And it looks like there’s a ton of folks still online.

GB: Has Diablo series influenced the way you make video games? In what ways?

Järvilehto: We play through as much as we can and do turn into other games, movies, books and so on for inspiration. Diablo and games from Blizzard are just amazing, but I wouldn’t say they have directly influenced us too much. In game design, we tend to focus on the things we're good at and try to create original concepts we can be proud of. So this is more about inspiration than trying to mimic someone else's style.

GB: When you first played Diablo you just played games for fun. Today, you make them. How does that color the experience?

Järvilehto: It does change the experience. By quite a bit. I’d expect that anyone in the movie industry has just a little different relationship with movies and the same goes for games. I guess it does make you a little more critical and you keep looking for things that are a little deeper into mechanics, technology or design. But it takes nothing away from enjoying an awesome game, quite the opposite. Once you’re playing through a game that has all the components in place, it’s easy to appreciate the effort, which the teams have put into it!

GB: Finally, do you think Alan Wake plays games? What would his favorite game be? You can't say Max Payne.

Järvilehto: He's a writer! Of course he plays when he has time for it, but he's kind of selective and doesn't really go through most of the stuff Barry Wheeler carries to him. It's one of his ways to get proper kind of inspiration for his stories. Of course right now he is caught between fiction and reality, trying to fight his way back through an episode of Night Springs, but if and when he makes it back I’m sure he’ll be playing Skyrim for rest of this winter.

Posted by schematic

backtracing ;O

Edited by Dustpan

Interesting read, glad to see that American Nightmare will be getting reviewed.

Posted by fkinthecoffee

fun read

Posted by Young_Scott

I assume "managed to some up with something that fit before I spent an evening starting at a pint of beer" is supposed to be "managed to come up with something that fit before I spent an evening staring at a pint of beer"?

Otherwise, interesting read, Patrick. :)

Posted by MolluskLingers

spelling errors in literally the first paragraph. a new low GiantBomb

Posted by Kombat

I do sort of picture Alan Wake as the sort of guy who would be playing games like Skyrim or Fallout 3 over Call of Duty.

Posted by snetErz

@Young_Scott: That was apparently written after the pint of beer was consumed, or perhaps many pints of beer. =p

Posted by Wunder_

"Backtracking" seems to connote that the subject is reneging a comment made or opinion expressed. Seems to have the opposite connotation to the actual article, which is an interview about an old-ish franchise.

Posted by JesusHammer

For some reason I always imagined Alan Wake being uppity and hating video game lol

Posted by SeanFoster

@Methodis said:

spelling errors in literally the first paragraph. a new low GiantBomb

You didn't properly capitalize or punctuate this sentence. :(

Posted by Frostburn

Makes me want to play the D3 Beta now! I'm looking forward to Diablo just as much. American Nightmare looks interesting and hopefully the story telling is just as good as Alan Wake, a friend demanded I only play the game when he could watch because he was into the story so much.

Posted by laserbolts

@Methodis: Oh don't be a baby! Jesus it's not a big deal at all.

Posted by Grillbar

i was one of thr people who played diablo on both pc and psx/1

Posted by Zithe

Did this developer know the purpose of this article before you started the interview? It feels a little bit like the Diablo games are just some games he happened to enjoy and got roped into answering a bunch of questions about them. Anyway, thanks for the content.

Posted by SleepyDoughnut

I can't read this article. I'm too distracted thinking that I wish my name was "Aki Jarvilehto"

Posted by Dredlockz

@Methodis said:

spelling errors in literally the first paragraph. a new low GiantBomb

@seanfoster said:

@Methodis said:

spelling errors in literally the first paragraph. a new low GiantBomb

You didn't properly capitalize or punctuate this sentence. :(

He's got a point tho, writing is a big part of a journalist's job, this shit shouldn't happen, couldn't hurt to read the stuff you're about to post a couple of times.

Edited by falling_fast

should probably change "some up" to "come up"

also "starting" to "staring"

sorry to be a spelling nazi

Posted by Pop

I got no idea what this article is about, other game developers loving other games? OMG MINDBLOWING! It's nicely written except for the first paragraph but I don't get it, maybe I'm too dumb to get it.

Posted by TzarStefan

I still have my copy of the ps1 version also the pc.

Posted by hughesman

I know little to nothing about the Diablo games ( i didn't game on pc in those days) but this new one has me intrigued. I think i'll continue my media blackout on this until it gets a little closer to release though because, from what I've heard, no one really know when that will be.

Posted by NaDannMaGoGo

@hughesman said:

I know little to nothing about the Diablo games ( i didn't game on pc in those days) but this new one has me intrigued. I think i'll continue my media blackout on this until it gets a little closer to release though because, from what I've heard, no one really know when that will be.

Oh don't worry, it'll come out soon.

*manic laughter*

Posted by ShadowConqueror

Good man, but I personally prefer Diablo 2.

Edited by dbol

How can it be so hard for someone whose job it is to write to proofread?

Posted by prestonhedges

@seanfoster said:

@Methodis said:

spelling errors in literally the first paragraph. a new low GiantBomb

You didn't properly capitalize or punctuate this sentence. :(

Neither are required for posting on an internet forum, much like how indentation isn't required for online articles.

Posted by Baal_Sagoth

Very interesting read! I have extremely fond memories of that game - in a sense it's still my favorite Diablo, hell even Blizzard, game. On top of that I'm currently loving the shit out of Alan Wake for PC. So this article is not only generally fascinating but also very topical.

Posted by Aelric

Ha. The PSX was also how I played Diablo.

Posted by benson

Backtracking is a cool name for this feature.

Posted by RetroVirus

I'm surprised that there was a PS1 version of Diablo. Anyways, another great feature as always!

Posted by steelknight2000

Poor computer-less Patrick.

Posted by Humanity

For such a scrawny guy Patrick sure mentions drinking a lot! I guess the mean murder streets of Chicago force all men to soothe their woes with a little libation

Posted by patrickklepek

@Zithe said:

Did this developer know the purpose of this article before you started the interview? It feels a little bit like the Diablo games are just some games he happened to enjoy and got roped into answering a bunch of questions about them. Anyway, thanks for the content.

Email interviews are always a little risky. This one went a bit off the rails, but figured it still worked.

Posted by Example1013

Hopefully he doesn't burn out on Skyrim in the first two weeks, likely to never return.

Posted by whitespider

So far it's been months, and I have not burnt out much at all. Then again i play skyrim in a very non-critical-path way. I just wander around and purposely avoid a lot of content so that i can experience it weeks, months, later. There is an uncapper mod for pc that allows you to set the rate each skill gains experience. I set that mostly to 10% of vanilla's 100%. Combine that with hard combat mods and realistic combat - and skyrim can last into the next expansion pack easily, and by then even more mods will be out that will continue the lifespan further. I have also set the crafting skill to 4% rate of vanilla. Since I can level up soooo fast simply by mass crafting/enchanting/potion making. Not anymore!

Posted by Swabbleflange

Good lord. I saw the Diablo picture at the top of the news page and thought it was a release date announcement.

Don't do this kind of thing!

Posted by fisk0

A lot of people played Diablo on PS1, this style of game just play a lot better with direct control instead of the point-and-click control of the PC version, also the PS1 version of Diablo is infamous for it's horrible localization and dub here in Sweden.

Posted by Cretaceous_Bob

Fucking christ Finnish names are the best.

Posted by Crono

I could get along with this guy. I am a huge Diablo fan as well. It was my first online experience - I still remember those dial-up days where the only reason the internet seemed to exist was so I could hunt monsters under Tristram with my school friends. Now Diablo 3 is on the horizon and it is the most excited I have been for a game since I was a kid.

Posted by JeffGerstFan

Torchlight 2 man!

Posted by Lukeweizer

I played the PS1 port, too. Don't be ashamed, Patrick.

Posted by Cybexx

I agree with him about still being able to enjoy games while being a developer. Maybe its because I haven't had to go through a big five year project yet and be in crunch mode for an entire year but I don't find any of my enjoyment of games to be diminished because of my job. And like he mentions its neat to be able to identify the effort. I find rather than affecting my enjoyment it just allows me to be more articulate on why I like something or why I don't.

Edited by Rawrnosaurous

As an aside I'm a little annoyed with the title, only because it's a featured article that the guys at official xbox magazine do.

Edited by Icemo

@SilvaChristina860608491: Go away you evil spammer!

Edit: Wow, my magic words actually worked.