If you've heard of Finnish developer Housemarque, it's likely the result of sci-fi shoot-em-ups Resogun and Super Stardust.
The firm has garnered a cult following over the years with its downloadable PSN titles. But in 2013 the firm reached its biggest audience yet. Resogun was a launch title for PS4 and was available for free to PlayStation Plus subscribers.
It was wonderful exposure. A game like Resogun wouldn't have reached such a wide audience without promotion and timing like that,” Housemarque's head of self-publishing Mikael Haveri tells MCV.
It was a big deal, and the game was well-received, especially for a smaller title. We've worked with Sony for about seven or eight years, making games like Super Stardust and Dead Nation prior to Resogun.
That helped us gain this sort of status of slightly niche downloadable titles. The PS4 launch that was a very tight deadline to get to because we knew when the game was coming out. Originally Resogun was slated for release for PS3 and Vita, then early on we were given more information about the next generation of consoles, so we started developing our engine to the next level.”
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Housemarque is a new studio, but in fact the developer has been around since 1995. It was formed with the merging of two Finnish developers – Bloodhouse and Terramarque.
Housemarque started from the demo scene, where people got computers to make cool visuals and sounds,” Haveri says.
That background is still a major factor in the way we look at titles. We still have our own tech that we've been churning out since the dawn of time. To us it's always been about gameplay so that's something that we hold dear.”
And the studio has earned a reputation for seemingly simple, yet deep frantic and addictive titles. This – in part – is down to the resources available to the company.
With our expertise and the size of our teams these games make sense,” Haveri says.
Resogun was made by five or six people, so we need to find game types that go along with that. We like to focus on gameplay. Let's say we were really artistically expressive, maybe we had a really good writer, then we'd maybe look to make a game like Journey.
We just play to our strengths, which right now happen to be more focused on gameplay and maybe we'll expand from there. A lot of us have the high-score mentality. Of course, we've been looking at other types of titles. We like to do a lot of different genres. Our 2011 game Outland was a platformer.
The studio keeps fans coming back to its games in some subtle ways, too. In Resogun, the humans the player is tasked with saving change depending on the time of year. So far they have transformed into ninjas, pirates and skeletons
This is something that [Resogun co-creators] Sony XDev has had a huge impact on. We asked for help in getting people to come back to the game,” Haveri explains.
There's so much more that we want to do but time and budget get in the way. You can't do everything. It was something that we agreed on that was worth looking into. Different humans are always popping up depending on the season.”
Now the studio is working on twin-stick shooter Alienation for the PS4, and the success of Resogun certainly has the team in good spirits.
We've always had the mentality that we're only as good as our latest game,” Haveri says.
The success of Resogun had an impact on the way we do things. It's very hard to disassociate ourselves because we know that Resogun has been successful and has loads of people playing it.
We have clear goals for Alienation. But we've changed some things – made bits of the game bigger, better and so on – based on the success of Resogun.”
More than anything else it was a motivational boost for the teams. Resogun got us a bit more on the map.”