Interview - Mika 'Lumi' Tuomola

   

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In memory of Mika 'Lumi' Tuomola: 1971 - 2016

Author notes: - In 2013, I had been conducting heavy research into WorldsAway in an attempt to make sure I could match my memories with actual facts. During this time, I came across a website that mentioned somebody named Mika ‘Lumi’ Tuomola had created “avatar/game world designs” for WorldsAway (ICL-Fujitsu 2000).

I’d never heard of this before and my curiosity peaked. I later got in touch with Mika and we had a nice email exchange over a three day period where he was forthcoming with a lot of interesting information I’d never heard before regarding a project named “WorldsAway Europe - The Machine Age”.

I’d always meant to follow up with him to gain a little more insight into things, but sadly, Mika ‘Lumi’ Tuomola passed away in 2016 in Milan, Italy.

Mika had given me permission to share the files and information he shared with me in 2013, however as he is no longer around to ask more questions to, I am presenting this interview in a different format than usual. I’m sharing my email correspondence with Mika, interspersed with files that he sent me.

I definitely recommend reading the files as they fill in a lot of blanks to the story regarding Fujitsu, ICL and WorldsAway getting ready to embark on an adventure together. I have some more information regarding this which I will share at a later date once I’ve been given permission, so check this interview again in the future to see that.

Rest in peace Mika.


A typical scene from a Commedia dell'Arte production.

Stuart Cass
6 Nov 2013, 10:19
to mika.tuomola
Hi Mika,

Are you the same Mika Tuomola who produced avatar/game world designs for
Fujitsu's WorldsAway product? I found some information on this site that
suggests that might be so:

http://www.create-conference.org/keynotes/

If so I am interested in hearing about what work you did on the product,
I'm currently researching/documenting the place and would love to hear
your contribution to the place and make sure everyone else gets to know
about it too.

Thank you,

--
Stuart Cass
stuart@renoproject.org
		  

A piece of concept art drawn by Christer Nuutinen of Coronet Interactive Ltd

Tuomola Mika
7 Nov 2013, 06:59
to me
Dear Stuart,

Yes, I am the Mika. ;-) Can you please brief me a bit about your own affiliation and where and towards what purposes you are doing
your research?

The designs we created for "WorldsAway Europe - The Machine Age" got never actually used in the final product (as ICL-Fujitsu sold the
company and it became independent VZones). The sketch designs of myself and comic book artist Christer Nuutinen
http://napaillustrations.com/christer-nuutinen/category/1.html
were submitted to the company among my 50 page research report (please see the Contents attached), which I may be able to share now,
since time has passed since 1998… At the time, we (the Coronet Interactive company) were just ordered to do the background research
for a larger scale project proposal in order to build up a European operated site, in which I suggested to use Commedia dell'Arte
(CdA) as a design metaphor, as the WorldsAway technology itself was interactive, very 2D (as a CdA platform) and masked social
performance (like CdA). You, of course, know that the WorldsAway application itself was based on the first avatar world 'Habitat'
and purchased then 1992 from LucasArts and Entertainment.  There's a good article about Lucasfilm Game's first steps in the
cyberspace (and many notions in it inspired me to look at the improvisation rule bases, like CdA, when I started my work
on 'WorldsAway'):

Morningstar, Chip & Farmer, F. Randall: "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat" in Cyberspace: First Steps (Michael Benedikt, ed.).
MIT Press 1991.
Online: http://www.fudco.com/chip/lessons.html

My own CdA article on the 'WorldsAway' artistic and design research was published by Digital Creativity in 1999 (much shortened
from by entire research report):

Tuomola, Mika: "Drama in the Digital Domain - Commedia dell'Arte, Characterisation, Collaboration and Computers" in Digital
Creativity Journal Vol 10 No 3. Swets & Zeitlinger 1999.
Online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1076/digc.10.3.167.3239?journalCode=ndcr20#preview

The design parameters introduced in the article have later been successfully applied also, for example, by Alex Mayhew's Zero-Game
Studio in Interactive Institute, the Avatar Body Collision performance group and in research (mainly in Virtual Worlds and distant
performance classes in Cambridge, UK, and Riksteatern, Sweden, as well in our studio, of course, e.g. by Leena Saarinen in
"Comedy Machine : interactive comedy as rule-based genre" and our 'Accidental Lovers' production):

http://www.alexmayhew.com/?page_id=250
http://www.avatarbodycollision.org/
http://www.expressivespace.org/
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14626260701531969#preview
http://mlab.uiah.fi/~lsaarine/accidentallovers.html
& Ursu, Marian F; Thomas, Maureen; Kegel, Ian C; Williams, Doug; Tuomola, Mika Lumi; Lindstedt, Inger; Wright, Terence; Leurdijk,
Andra; Zsombori, Vilmos; Sussner, Julia; Myrestam, Ulf; Hall, Nina: Interactive TV Narratives: Opportunities, Progress and
Challenges. Accociation for Computing Machinery (ACM) Transactions on Multimedia Computing, Communications and Applications
(TOMCCAP) Special Issue on Interactive Digital Television Vol 4 No 4. ACM Press 2008.
Online: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1412196.1412198

I still pursue the investigation of CdA as an interactive storytelling method (among e.g. Topeng and Noh theatre) in my
teaching and research.

But more later, this should suffice for a start of our exchanges. :-) Now I conclude with one of my favorite quotes
by Mihail Baktin, referred to in my article:

"The primitive notion, usually developed among normative circles, of some linear development forward will be done away with. It will be found out that any truly relevant step forward is always accompanied with returning to primeval beginning, or more correctly, with renewal of the beginning. It is possible to move forward only by recollection, not by oblivion."

Mikhail Baktin
So true, specially in the investigation of digital media, too often developed blind-sightedly forward
without recollection, and thus leading to very short-term successes....

Best, Mika Lumi

PS.  Interestingly, Commedia dell'Arte has also been used in the study of political systems, e.g. in "Political Organizations
and Commedia Dell'Arte" by Barbara Czarniawska-Joerges & Bengt Jacobsson: http://oss.sagepub.com/content/16/3/375.abstract

		  

Some Head concept art drawn by Christer Nuutinen of Coronet Interactive Ltd

CdAcontent.pdf

This is a 4 page except of the 50 page research report Mika mentions in his message. It is named “The Power of Mask: COMMEDIA DELL'ARTE AS A DESIGN METAPHOR FOR MULTIUSER VIRTUAL WORLDS"

Stuart Cass
7 Nov 2013, 11:57
to Tuomola
Hey Mika!

Thank you for the very in depth email you sent! It's interesting to hear about this as until recently I had
never even known about this collaboration between ICL/Fujitsu and bringing WorldsAway to Europe. Did ICL/Fujitsu
approach the Coronet Interactive company directly with the aim to expand into Europe? Also the name
"WorldsAway Europe - The Machine Age" sounds very steampunk to me, was that the kind of direction you were
going in? It sounds like it never got beyond the planning stage which is a shame.

It's actually very interesting to think of CdA being used as an inspiration for your design methodology. It's
similar to how it worked in the early days of the Dreamscape world with the mythical Oracles, the somewhat
improvised performances, etc.

I'd love to see that report if you felt comfortable in sharing it, the sketch designs interest me greatly.

I actually work for VZones myself right now, I work there as a Systems Administrator but I am also a long
time member since 1996 (I will send you a brief email from my vzones.com address just to authenticate this). I'm
also a self styled historian of the place. I recently decided that due to the technologies advanced age and
things being lost/forgotten that I should record all of these memories and preserve them for future generations.

I aim to interview people who worked on the product/were affiliated with it and share these interviews on my
website along with detailed write ups regarding each year of its history. I want to share exclusive images,
video/audio and other items too so it's a fully comprehensive piece of work anybody can use for enjoyment or
research material. I'll only share what people let me though and full credit will be given so if you have
anything you can share you won't need to worry about that.

Your quote by Baktin is very apt :) We are living in an age where virtual reality isn't necessarily what we
thought it would be in the 1990's but the medium continues to evolve. With the advent of Second Life and
MMORPG's, I don't want people to forget where the roots of this all started. Even though it began with Habitat,
I feel WorldsAway is an important part of that history and it's one that has been overlooked by a lot of
people. My aim is to change that :)

Stuart Cass
stuart@renoproject.org

		  

A concept art sketch by Christer Nuutinen of Coronet Interactive Ltd

Author notes: - Mika CC’ed in Heikki Leskinen, Scott Moore and Hunter Lee Brown on this following email exchange. I have redacted their email addresses for privacy reasons, but left the contents of Mika’s email unchanged.

Tuomola Mika
8 Nov 2013, 05:18
to hunter, Scott, heikki, me
Dear Stuart,

(FYI, Heikki, Scott & Hunter - a long time no see! Nice music still coming up, H!)

I can't remember for sure how the deal started back then (Heikki Leskinen in Cc was our company CEO, while
I was the artistic director). I believe it was the ICL-Fujitsu's technology-director, named also Heikki…
something, who made the order first to Coronet Interactive.

Yes, I think the direction we were planning to do was "steampunky" (from the old contiment :-)), as you can
see from Christer's images in the attached research report.

Yes, the Oracles (as kind of Masters of Ceremonies) were also an inspiration to me back then. By the way, my
"Oracle" and major source of information in the San Jose  WorldsAway studios, when I was doing this research, was
the worlds manager (?) Scott Moore (in Cc) and he gave me the most significant information considering the WorldsAway
product back then in 1997-8. Did you know each other? Also, we had a lot of exchanges with the systems-developer (?)
Hunter Brown (also in Cc), should you wish to interview them, when doing your History of WorldsAway.

I really do embrace your initiative, Stuart, and wish to see the history web site up soon. Please keep me/us updated!
By the way, may be you could start by updating the rather short Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WorldsAway

You are right that the current virtual worlds have a lot to learn from the old ones, as Jessica Mulligan quite brutally
puts it in her Biting the Hand column 2013 http://www.skotos.net/articles/bth.html:

By the way, late 2004, we had a wonderful lecture and WS by Jessie in our Games & Storytelling course: http://fullhouse.uiah.fi/gamesandstorytelling/Jessica_Mulligan.html, while she was participating the Media Lab Helsinki 10 Years celebrations - well, next year we are 20 years and time keeps flying by… Best of everything, Mika Lumi PS. If you use passages from the Digital Creativity article or this report, please refer to me as Mika 'Lumi' Tuomola, as my avatar/player 'Lumi' has also become my sort of artist name that is often used in my other publications nowadays as well. -- Mika 'Lumi' Tuomola, Director Crucible Studio - 'Storytelling New Media' http://crucible.mlog.taik.fi/ Media Lab Helsinki, Department of Media Aalto University ARTS (School of Arts, Design and Architecture) PO Box 31000, FI-00076 Aalto, Finland Visiting address: Room 334, Hämeentie 135 C, 00560 Helsinki Email: mika.tuomola(at)aalto.fi Skype: mikalumi

A piece of concept art drawn by Christer Nuutinen of Coronet Interactive Ltd

CdA_Fujitsu_Tuomola_1998 (1).pdf

This is the entire research report that Mika wrote. It’s actually 45 pages, with another 55 pages included that contain images and chat transcripts from the Dreamscape in 1998

Stuart Cass
8 Nov 2013, 08:36
to Tuomola, hunter, Scott, heikki
Hey Mika,

Thanks for the research report! I'm still going through it now but this is very interesting indeed and I'd certainly love
to use some excerpts from this on my site (with your permission of course). I just wish this steampunk idea had panned out
as it's something I do enjoy. In recent times one of our most talented member artists was actually planning to do something
much like what you describe in your research report. He had drawn a bunch of new artwork and was developing an entirely
new area with a storyline of its own.

Also thanks for CC'ing Scott and Hunter in. I've actually spoken to Scott a few times over the years (most recently the other
day) but I've wanted to pick his brains for a while now about all this anyway  and I actually emailed Hunter the other
day too. It is a small world indeed.

I will definitely keep you posted as to the progress of the site. It's going to take some time as I'm still reaching out to
people and seeing who is interested in talking at the moment and I'm gathering as much WA related information as I can find
too (press releases, info from websites, screenshots, scans, memos, e-mails, files, videos... the list goes on). I actually
edited some of the Wikipedia page for WorldsAway a couple of years back as there were some factual inaccuracies. There still
are a couple of things that need tweaking on there but I never got around to it. I wrote up everything that needs changing
on the talk page though as it happens.

I'll be in touch soon :)
Stuart Cass
stuart@renoproject.org
		  

Avatar concept art drawn by Christer Nuutinen of Coronet Interactive Ltd

Stuart Cass
8 Nov 2013, 08:49
to Tuomola
Oh and sorry to send yet another email but I just stumbled across this in your references!

"Knowles, Sheryl (1998). The Ten Commandments of Creating Art for WorldsAway Worlds.
Unpublished, available from USFujitsu/ICL as a training material for the WorldsAway 2.x
world builders."

Would you still happen to have a copy of this at all? When the technology was licensed to VZones none of the existing
documentation was transferred over so something like this would be a goldmine if you had this somewhere. Any training
material would be amazing but I'm fairly sure after the WorldsAway group had been sold off that this sort of thing would
have been disposed of. It is a shame.

Also Trashka is still around in the Dreamscape! I don't remember Lady J but Trashka eventually went on to become an Acolyte,
then an Oracle and eventually a World Manager. She lurks around as a member now and nobody really sees her but she does still
pop in. We do offer a free two week trial if you were so inclined that you wanted to drop her an ESP mail for old times
sake hehe.

Thanks again!
Stuart Cass
stuart@renoproject.org
		  
Tuomola Mika
8 Nov 2013, 09:40
to me
Dear Stuart,

Sorry, Sheryl's documents were only available for reading in the San Jose studio - I hope you can reach her somehow
as well… And say hello from me or even put us in touch.

How nice to hear about Trashka being still online - how about Crydias the Golden Knight? I found this old conversation
about "Smilph Unselfishness" with her (I'm "Lumi", of course). I've recorded this as a meeting about the legend and
performance I actually created with a bunch of people (we arranged an alien visitation that you can read about in the
dialogue). Sorry that I cannot find more material about this, as it was just an attachment in a research report about
my past work on virtual worlds).

So, yes, I must consider using the free 2 week trial and see, whom I can still find around...

I also include a couple of sketches by Christer Nuutinen.

Yes, you are of course welcome to use the material I've sent you, as you just remember to reference the source
(Coronet Interactive Ltd.: Christer Nuutinen on the new images and my article/report with my name Mika 'Lumi' Tuomola).

Wishing you continued inspiration!

Yours, Mika Lumi
		  

Mika and Crydias - Golden Knight talking in a Jungle turf in Fujitsu WorldsAway’s Dreamscape in 1999

Converstion_with_CrydiasGoldenKnight_1999.pdf

This is the chat transcript with Crydias - Golden Knight from 1999 that Mika mentions in his message.

Avatar concept art drawn by Christer Nuutinen of Coronet Interactive Ltd

Characters_by_Christer_Nuutinen(1998).pdf

These are the character sketches by Christer Nuutinen that Mika mentions in his message.

A piece of concept art drawn by Christer Nuutinen of Coronet Interactive Ltd

Scapes_by_Christer_Nuutinen(1998).pdf

These are some sketches of scenes by Christer Nuutinen that Mika mentions in his message.

This was the end of our email exchange after I had sent him another message to let him know that the Golden Knights had long since disbanded.

I’m sad that we never got to see any of Mika’s work come to fruition, but I hope that through this, his memory will live on and his contribution to WorldsAway will never be forgotten.

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