Gaming

Housemarque’s story – from the Finnish demoscene to PlayStation Studios – PlayStation.Blog

Selena’s looping adventure is getting a boost of new game modes when the Returnal Ascension DLC was released last week. The Housemarque team is excited to bring fans new ways to play the challenging yet rewarding arcade shooter on PS5. In fact, the pursuit of satisfying gameplay has been deeply ingrained in the studio’s culture since 1994.

I’m sure not everyone reading this blog is aware of our long history as a studio, so please continue to learn more about our history and how we launched Returnal and became part of the PlayStation Studios family.


Whether Returnal was your first introduction to Housemarque or you’ve played some of our previous games, you may not know that we’re the oldest game studio in Finland, founded just a few months before our friends at Remedy, creators of the Alan series. Wake. and Control.

But how did Housemarque come about and how did we become part of the PlayStation Studios family?

The origins of the 90s demoscene

Before Housemarque, there were Bloodhouse and Terramarque, two game studios led by Harri Tikkanen and myself respectively, both deeply rooted in the 1990s gaming demoscene. In 1995, Harry and I decided to join forces and our studios, and Housemarque was born.

Head of Housemarque studio Ilari Kuittinen

The demoscene formed around hobbyists called demo groups who created technical demos with the best graphics and pushed the boundaries of the hardware available at the time, and in Finland there was a strong demo community developing on systems such as Amiga, Commodore, Atari and more. It involved local game developers because back then it was just the coolest thing to do; many of them were young and still learning. It was the pre-game industry in Finland and probably one of the driving forces behind its inception. But even with such a thriving community, the game development industry in Finland was still quite small: creating games and actually completing them was difficult. Many games have been in limbo for a year or more. This was the reason why Housemarque came into being.

In December 1994, I – Ilari Kuittinen – and Harri Tikkanen sat down and had the first serious talk about joining forces, since we already knew each other due to the small size of the gaming industry, where everyone knew each other. We quickly came to an agreement and in June 1995 we decided to create a new game studio. We decided to call it Housemarque, as an amalgamation of our companies: Bloodhouse and Terramarque.

Super Stardust (Amiga, Amiga CD32, 1994 | PC, 1996)

Enter Housemarque

The first games we released as Housemarque – a year after it was created – were Alien Incident (1996), a point-and-click adventure game, and Super Stardust for PC (1996), a space shooter that started our arcade roots. , and a game that we are proud of to this day. Super Stardust was originally developed by Bloodhouse and released on the Amiga and Amiga CD32 in 1994. These games were just the beginning of Housemarque’s history.

True to the local gaming culture of the time, we wanted to create an incredible experience with limited hardware while also pushing the boundaries. Something we do to this day! We want to create impressive games with amazing audiovisual effects that complement the gaming experience of our players. It’s a less traditional approach to making games, but it suits us.

Our first professional work with PlayStation was in 2006 through Guerrilla during the development of Killzone: Liberation, where we helped with various aspects of the game. It was an interesting experience helping Guerrilla, our coders were mainly working on optimizing the game and its frame rate. We gained experience in this by working on demos for PlayStation Portable games, so we were well versed in the hardware. After our collaboration with Guerilla, the PlayStation division was looking for small game studios to create games for their new initiative, then called the E-Distribution Initiative (EDI) and later became the PlayStation Network. Housemarque was one of the companies they contacted to discuss if we were interested in working with them. In hindsight, our work on KillZone: Liberation was the first work we did for the PlayStation business, and many others followed.

Concept mood element for Super Stardust HD (PS3, 2007)

Before mid-summer 2006, Housemarque traveled to Liverpool to present some of their platform games, one of which was Super Stardust HD. The PlayStation team really liked the concept of the game, so we immediately returned to Finland to work on its completion. Super Stardust HD has a special place in the history of Housemarque. After a couple of difficult years, we had a chance to return to our roots, but at the same time, we were able to do innovative things in the shooter genre, as the power of the PS3 allowed us to do things that were previously impossible. The game changer was that the level of the game wrapped around the globe, which as far as we know has never happened before. This made it possible to create a unique gaming experience and freedom of maneuvering on the surface of the globe. Combined with Housemarque’s famed sprint and clever scoring system, Super Stardust HD was a game that opened a new chapter in the company’s history, allowing us to further explore the possibilities of arcade action games in the era of modern consoles.

Around the same time, publishers began to take an interest in smaller digital games. This turned out to be a great opportunity for us as we could focus on making the games we wanted without chasing trends, which allowed us to stay original.

game king

From the very beginning, we decided to live by a mission statement, not a mission statement: we want to create unique gaming experiences. We want to create something that others don’t do the way we do.

This is also reflected in our company motto: Game is king. Great and addictive gameplay is the thread that ties all of our games together with unique audio-visuals and a passion for everything that makes arcade games amazing.

Dead Nation (PS3, 2010)

Dead Nation monster concept art

Before releasing Super Stardust Delta for the PlayStation Vita launch in early 2012, we started thinking about what we wanted to do next. We worked on two, and sometimes even three, lines of development at the same time, and completed development of the DLC for Dead Nation: Road of Devastation in the fall of 2011. We had three Reso game concepts at the time, the others being Resoman and ResoCastles. The creation of Dead Nation was inspired by great arcade shooters like Smash TV created by our hero Eugene Jarvis. He also created one of the most recognizable arcade games of all time: Defender. In 2013, we released Resogun, one of the launch titles for PS4 and one of the most recognizable of all our games. This was definitely the high point in our history as we were named next to other big studios in this genre! As a result, we have become a more mature studio than before. We did something that no one had seen before: wrapped the game level around the shape of a cylinder and used voxel-based graphics. The rest is history, as they say, and Resogun was the most popular PS4 exclusive for over 15 months after it launched.

Resogun (PS4, PS3, PS Vita, 2013)

Resogun Signature Art

Resogun Tier Art

A little-known fact is that we have completed our “Great American Arcade Game Trilogy” by adding Commando Mode to the Resogun: Defenders DLC. This game mode completes our tribute to three great arcade games – Asteroids, Defender and Missile Commando. A much more famous little thing is that we actually met Mr. Jarvis when Resogun was nominated for Best Action Game and Eugene received his Lifetime Achievement Award at the DICE Awards in 2014. process and made a documentary called “The Name of the Game”.

Nex Machina (PS4, 2017)

Alien Nation concept art (PS4, 2016)

The birth of a return

While we’ve mostly focused on making smaller downloadable games for the PlayStation Network until 2021, our biggest comeback and success story has definitely been Returnal. And what a story it was!

Return (PS5, 2021)

From the outside, Returnal must have seemed like a huge leap in scale from previous Housemarque games, and it’s absolutely true. Could we make Returnal if it started with the same goal as it ended? It’s hard to say, but the path we ended up taking felt right because it was organic. On the other hand, we didn’t plan to make the game the way it was, and we had to adapt several times in the process. Maybe it was stupid, but the stupidity paid off. But we didn’t do it alone: ​​Returnal would never have happened the way it did without an open-minded publisher supporting us.

Due to the pandemic, I was mostly able to play the alpha version of Returnal, but even then I saw the potential of the game and knew that the game would be something special. When PlayStation legend Shuhei Yoshida visited us, he couldn’t stop playing: it showed us what the reaction of the players can be in a few months.

Return (PS5, 2021)

Join the PlayStation Studios family

The option of Housemarque joining the PlayStation Studios family after 26 years as an independent studio was discussed with some key employees before Returnal’s launch, back in March 2021. has been completed. The rest of the company was informed at the end of June. The reaction was really positive – although very Finnish, muted and restrained.

We were very warmly welcomed and felt like we had joined the right company. Our goal as a company has not changed and it continues to be to create unique gaming experiences. As part of this family of world-class game studios, we are in the best position to plan for the long term, evolve further and be better prepared for the demands of creating our next games, hoping to meet the extremely high standards set by others. members of the PlayStation Studios family.

When approaching Housemarque games, I have a few tips: keep an open mind and be prepared for a different experience. Get ready for challenges, but also great rewards and a sense of accomplishment after you beat our games on your own. If you want to practice Returnal (or any future games), our catalog of past games is the best way to go! Personally, I recommend Resogun on PS4. Many players don’t know how many games we released before the bigger games: we have over 15 titles under our belt and we plan to do even more!


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