Tuomas Erikoinen, the man who drew the hit "Angry Birds" app, doesn't really resent his creation.
He's just bored with it.
He sees the game's grumpy, ball-shaped, wingless birds everywhere he goes, their furrowed brows staring him down. Here in Finland's capital, where "Angry Birds" began, Erikoinen's drawings have been turned into T-shirts, "plushie" stuffed animals and two brands of soft drinks -- Tropic and Paradise.
An "Angry Birds" theme park opened nearby in May. The official mascot at a recent international hockey tournament here was a moody white bird that carried a stick and twirled around on skates.
There was a time when Erikoinen -- a smiley 26-year-old who always wears a fedora, is obsessed with birds and grew up on a farm with pigs -- relished all the attention his drawings received. He once took a girlfriend to a mall in Helsinki just in hopes she would be impressed with how many stores carried recreations of his birds. (She wasn't.) But Erikoinen recently left Rovio, the Finnish company that employed him when he helped create the wildly addictive "Angry Birds" franchise, to try to start something new.
"It was like, 'Hey, that's mine! It's mine!' It's like, 'Woohoo!'" he said of seeing the Angry Birds characters at first. "But then it was everywhere and it didn't feel like anything anymore." He added, jokingly: "Eventually we'll all live in 'Angry Birds' houses and drive 'Angry Birds' cars."
He's done with birds. Now it's on to kitchen creatures.
Photos: Inside the Finnish company that makes 'Angry Birds'
Boomlagoon -- Erikoinen's new venture with another former Rovio worker, Antti Sten, 32, who managed Rovio's server architecture -- plans to release a HTML5 Web game featuring non-angry characters that have oven mitts and frying pans on their heads.
The pair are revealing only the earliest of details about the game because their plans could change. For now, they say their new effort will be a real-time, multiplayer game that's ultimately about a battle between two groups of characters. It's like "World of Warcraft," but cartoony, they said. The drawing at the top of this post is the first sketch they've released of the characters, which are goofier and less circular than the Angry Birds -- and all of which, at least for now, use kitchenware as fashion accessories or weapons.
"I want to create something that isn't already there, which is also appealing in a way," Erikoinen said in an interview in a shared, ground-floor conference room at Boomlagoon's new offices in a nondescript brick building in Helsinki. "Something that is instantly addictive -- as in "Angry Birds." But not the same thing as that."
What's so addictive about 'Angry Birds'?
That, of course, is easier said than done. In trying to create a new hit, the two men at Boomlagoon are leaning heavily on their experiences at Rovio, a company that made 51 relatively unsuccessful games and almost went bankrupt before coming up with "Angry Birds" in 2009. They know their success is far from assured, but they figure why not try.
"To be honest, I'd be happy if our game was just successful enough to keep our jobs and make a good salary," Erikoinen said, "but of course I aim for much more."
"Even if I'm shooting for the stars, 'Angry Birds' might be in a totally different galaxy," he added before disagreeing with himself: "But it might be as big as 'Angry Birds.'"
Here are five factors the pair hopes will make the yet-to-be-named game a success:
Focus on the characters:
One reason "Angry Birds" is a hit -- the apps have been downloaded a total of 1 billion times -- is that the characters are quirky and memorable, Erikoinen said.
Photos: Rovio's failed games
At one point in the creative process, the birds were more "goofy" than angry, but that changed because frustrated birds seemed more expected, he said. After settling on the birds' look, the game's developers -- there were 12 in all, including Erikoinen, who was the lead artist -- invented a story about the birds being mad at pigs that stole their eggs.
Erikoinen, who lives alone in a modest, one-bedroom apartment with a sauna attached to the bathroom, is filling notebooks with random sketches in hopes of creating another cartoon that is just as compelling as that now-ubiquitous red bird.
"I've been drawing from Day One, when I was born," he said. (He reads Donald Duck comic books when he eats dinner and owns more than 350 editions).
The first drawings of the new game look a lot like that ball-shaped bird. Some were little more than spheres with heavy eyebrows. Over time, however, Erikoinen kept experimenting. One day he was cooking while drawing and thought, hey, maybe creating characters with spatulas, frying pans and oven mitts would be fun.
His method is spontaneous trial and error.
Make it easy to start, hard to stop: