Selene’s looping adventure evolved with new game modes when the Returnal Ascension DLC launched last week. The Housemarque team is excited to create new ways for fans to play the challenging yet rewarding arcade-inspired shooter on PS5. In fact, iterating on satisfying gameplay has been deeply embedded in the studio’s culture, since 1994.
I’m sure everyone reading this blog is unaware of our long history as a studio, so keep reading about our history and how we ended up launching Returnal and becoming part of the family. PlayStation Studios.
Whether Returnal was your first introduction to Housemarque or you’ve played some of our previous games, you might not know that we’re the oldest game studio in Finland, founded just months before our friends at Remedy, creators of the Alan Wake series. and Control.
But how was Housemarque born and how did we end up being part of the PlayStation Studios family?
Origins of the 90s demo
Before Housemarque, there were Bloodhouse and Terramarque, two game studios run by Harri Tikkanen and me respectively, both with deep roots in the 1990s gaming demo scene. In 1995, Harri and I decided to join forces and our studios, and that’s how Housemarque was born.
Head of Housemarque studio Ilari Kuittinen
The demoscene was formed around hobbyists called demo groups, creating technical demos with the best possible visuals and pushing the limit of the material available at the time, and Finland had a strong demoscene community, developing on systems such as Amiga, Commodore, Atari and Suite. Local game developers got involved because it was simply the coolest thing to do at the time; many of them were young and still studying. It was the pre-gaming industry in Finland, and probably one of the driving forces behind it. But even with such a thriving community, the game development industry was still quite small in Finland: it was hard to make games and finish them. Many games have found themselves in game development limbo for a year or more. This is why Housemarque debuted.
In December 1994, myself – Ilari Kuittinen – and Harri Tikkanen sat down and had our first serious conversation about the possibility of joining forces, as we already knew each other due to the small size of the gaming industry. , where everyone knew each other. We quickly reached an agreement and in June 1995 we decided to create a new game studio. We chose to call it Housemarque, like the combination of our companies: Bloodhouse and Terramarque.
Super Stardust (Amiga, Amiga CD32, 1994 | PC, 1996)
The first games we released under the Housemarque name – a year after its inception – were Alien Incident (1996), a point-and-click adventure game, and PC Super Stardust (1996), a space shooter that marked the beginning of our arcade roots. , and a game we are still proud of to this day. Super Stardust was originally developed by Bloodhouse and released on Amiga and Amiga CD32 in 1994. These games were just the beginning of Housemarque’s story.
True to the local gaming culture at the time, we wanted to create an amazing experience with limited hardware, while pushing the boundaries. Something we still do to this day! We want to create awesome games with amazing audiovisuals to complement our players’ gaming experience. It’s a less traditional approach to making games, but it’s what works for us.
Our first professional gig with the PlayStation company was in 2006 via Guerrilla, during the development of Killzone: Liberation, when we helped with various aspects of the game. It was an interesting experience helping Guerrilla: our coders mostly worked on optimizing the game and its frame rate. We had gained experience with this by working on game demos on the PlayStation Portable, so we had a good understanding of the hardware. After our collaboration with Guerilla, the PlayStation business was looking for smaller game studios to produce games for their new initiative, then called the E-Distribution Initiative (EDI), which later became PlayStation Network. Housemarque was one of the companies they contacted to see if we would be interested in working with them. Looking back, our work on KillZone: Liberation was the first work we did for the PlayStation business and many more followed later.
Concept ambiance piece for Super Stardust HD (PS3, 2007)
Before mid-summer 2006, Housemarque traveled to Liverpool to showcase some of their games for the platform, one of them being Super Stardust HD. The PlayStation team really liked the concept of the game, so we went straight back to Finland to work on finalizing it. Super Stardust HD has a special place in the history of Housemarque. After a few rough years, we were lucky enough to get back to our roots, but at the same time we were able to do innovative things in the shoot-em-up genre, because the power of the PS3 allowed us to do things which was previously impossible. One game-changer was to wrap the level of the game around a globe, which to our knowledge had never been done before. This allowed us to create a unique gaming experience and freedom of maneuverability on the surface of the globe. Combined with the now famous “Housemarque dash” and an elaborate rating 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 action games. arcade games in the modern console era.
Around the same time, publishers were beginning to take an interest in small digital games. This turned out to be a great opportunity for us, because we could focus on making the games we wanted to make without having to chase trends, which allowed us to stay original.
The game is king
Early on, we decided to live by a purpose rather than a mission statement: we want to create unique gaming experiences. We want to create something that others don’t do like us.
This is also reflected in our company motto: play is king. Awesome, fun gameplay is the common thread that ties all of our games together, along with unique audio-visual experiences and a passion for everything that made the arcade great.
Dead Nation (PS3, 2010)
Dead Nation Monster Concept Art
Before we released Super Stardust Delta for the PlayStation Vita launch in early 2012, we were starting to think about what we wanted to do next. We had run two, sometimes even three, development tracks simultaneously, and completed development of the DLC for Dead Nation: Road of Devastation in the fall of 2011. One of the ideas was to revive the side-scrolling shmup and Resogun was one of three Reso game concepts we had at the time, the others being Resoman and ResoCastles. Dead Nation was inspired by great arcade dual-controller shooters like Smash TV, which was created by our hero Eugene Jarvis. He had also created one of the most recognizable arcade games of all time: Defender. In 2013 we released Resogun, one of the PS4 launch titles and one of the most recognizable of all our games. This was definitely a highlight in our history as we were named alongside other top studios in the genre! As a result, we’ve become a more mature studio than we were before. We did something we hadn’t seen anyone else do before and wrapped a game level around a cylinder shape and used voxel based graphics. The rest is history as they say, and Resogun was the highest rated PS4 exclusive game for over 15 months after launch.
Resogun (PS4, PS3, PS Vita, 2013)
Resogun Signature Art
Resogun Level Art
A little known fact is that we have completed our “Tribute Trilogy to Great American Arcade Games” by adding Commando mode to the Resogun: Defenders DLC. The game mode completed our tribute to three great arcade games – Asteroids, Defender and Missile Commando. A much more well-known anecdote 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. Eventually, we ended up working together on Nex Machina, filming the whole process and making a documentary called “The Name of the Game”.
Nex Machina (PS4, 2017)
Alien Nation Concept Art (PS4, 2016)
Birth of return
While prior to 2021 we were primarily focused on making small downloadable games on the PlayStation Network, our biggest comeback and greatest achievement has definitely been Returnal. And what a story it was!
Return (PS5, 2021)
From the outside, Returnal must have seemed like a huge leap forward from previous Housemarque titles, and that’s absolutely true. Could we have done Returnal if he had started with the same litter he ended up with? 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 that it ended up being, and we had to adapt several times in the process. It may have been stupid, but the madness paid off. But we didn’t do it alone: Returnal would never have happened the way it did, without an open-minded publisher to back us up.
Due to the pandemic, I could mostly play the alpha version of Returnal, but even then I could see the game’s potential and knew the game was going to be something special. When PlayStation legend Shuhei Yoshida visited, he couldn’t stop playing: it showed us what the reaction of gamers might be a few months later.
Return (PS5, 2021)
Join the PlayStation Studios family
The option for Housemarque to join the PlayStation Studios family after 26 years of being an independent studio has already been discussed with some key employees ahead of Returnal’s launch in March 2021. It has been made official for everyone after launch. of the game, when everything had been finalized. The rest of the company was informed at the end of June. The reaction has been really positive – but in a very Finnish, understated and reserved way.
We were very warmly welcomed and feel like we have joined the right company. Our focus as a company hasn’t changed, and it’s still to create unique gaming experiences. As part of this family of world-class game studios, we have the best possible opportunity to plan for the long term, to grow, and to be better prepared for the demands of creating our next games and hoping to deliver. extremely high standards set by other members of the PlayStation Studios family.
In discussing Housemarque games, I can hope to offer some advice: come with an open mind and be ready for a different kind of experience. Be ready for challenges, but also for greater rewards and a sense of accomplishment after conquering our games on your own. If you want to practice for Returnal (or any future game), our past catalog is the best way! Personally, I recommend Resogun on PS4. Many gamers don’t know how many games we released before the biggest titles: we have over 15 games under our belt and we plan to release many more!