We Like Gameplay and That Fits us Fine
By Mikael Haveri, @mbace
The question of corporate values is usually the tricky one, especially if it needs to be defined in a single word. I would say for Housemarque that word is "Arcade", but there is of course so much more.
Even though we are such a diverse crowd, it stills seems that the average gaming time per employee is at about industry standard. Still, our accountant loves the retro cabinet in the corner and destroys on Bubble Bobble. Others use it mainly for Bomb Jack and some just pose in front of it, since it seems to make a good backdrop for when the press is visiting and taking pictures. We have young and old, guys and girls, that all have their own clicks. Be it gathering around an obscure table top game or playing FIFA, most of us spend quite a bit of time "testing products" as we jokingly call it. There are a few of us that compile custom audio hardware and others that just adore sports, yes the kind that take place outside and require physical activity. To an outsider, we as a collective, are a pretty typical Finnish game development company.
Values that make up Housemarque are diverse, but whenever one of us gets asked the "question", we usually answer in unison. Gameplay. Simple, or complicated, but mainly just the simple kind. Usually the follow up to that knee-jerk answer is along the lines of a mixture of terms that you might find on the back of a cardboard retail copy, if we'd make them any more. Co-op, smooth framerate, twitch controls, explosions. Those are just some of the mainstay one liners that get thrown in, but after all it seems that the "gameplay" is always the primary answer.
Storytelling is not our strong suit, but it very well could be. I'm sure if we put our efforts into it, we could muster up a game like "Alien Incident", but with a bit more Hollywood flare. After all, that was the first Housemarque title almost 20 years ago. Then again, Finland already has Remedy, masters of the story genre and they have been making games for almost as long as us. On the other hand, why not make "artsy stuff", the second option when talking about indie games. Art we can definitely do and end up excelling in, usually, even if it is in the form of voxels and pure, all-out destruction.
Since the beginning Housemarque has been more a tech-centric company. To this day, we have a strong passion for developing our own technology and hitting the limits of what a specific hardware can handle. In a slightly unique way of course, due to the fact that we have always been quite small in size. This has lead to very different approaches and looking at projects in a way that many other teams couldn't. Resogun and the visual style it flaunts is partly a side product of cool looking tech being tested out and then applied in to a genre that we all hold very dear. Shoot-em-ups. Another word that is often heard at the office.
So what is it about gameplay that is so interesting? Hasn't all that there is to know already been discovered through out the few decades that our art form has been around? Sure, that is also a big part of it. When we play games it's usually just for the fun of it, but sometimes when we can't stop we start to really analyse the logic behind it. What makes a particular game so addictive and fun and how can I possibly learn it better or even exploit its mechanics. Ultimately to beat the game or just for bragging rights. This is the process that drove many gamers to the the brink of bankruptcy back when "Pay-to-play" was about $0.25 a try. We are still stuck in that process. Housemarque is simply a collection of people who in one way or another are chasing that same goal many of us started way too long ago.
Arcades never really left, they've just taken new form. Most of the developers that we follow are bringing those experiences to the forefront in mind blowing new ways. From Software has brought the balls back to gaming and countless Indie stars are headlining the next gen with amazing titles that some say could have been made twenty years ago. Yes, we play "modern" games, but almost as much TowerFall also. In the end, all that matters is that we are enjoying the games we play and maybe even learning a bit.
Day 4 | Housemarque