Over the last few years Sony has shown it will support small independent developers in order to help them release their games on PlayStation hardware. It has been a successful endeavor that has seen a plethora of quality titles coming to each the PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, and even PlayStation 4. Although Sony’s developer support has definitely increased over the last few years, PlayStation hardware has always been home to some of the best arcade titles of recent memory.One studio in particular has stood out, developing not only some of PlayStation’s best titles, but some of the best titles in game; that studio is Housemarque.
Formed in 1995 the Finnish studio has continued to rise in popularity with memorable original titles such as Super Stardust HD, the twin-stick cooperative zombie adventure Dead Nation, the 2D platformer Outland, and the recent PlayStation 4 arcade shooter Resogun.
Recently Analog Addiction had the pleasure to speak to Tommaso De Benetti, Housemarque Community Manager. In this interview we delve into a range of topics which include Housemarque’s feelings on Resogun’s success, the chances of Resogun coming to PlayStation Vita, more information on their next PlayStation 4 title and what the future holds for this successful company.
Analog Addiction Resogun was Analog Addiction’s PlayStation 4 Game of the Year. How did the amount of praise for Resogun feel within the studio? It must have been an excellent Christmas gift to see all the amazing reviews coming out throughout the holidays season.
De Benetti First of all, thanks for picking us! The amount of recognition we got with Resogun was really heartwarming. Reviews of the game started rolling in during the PS4 presentation in New York last November, I remember trying to keep up with them over the hotel’s overloaded WiFi network… it was both excruciatingly slow and incredibly exciting. A bit like when in the nineties you found out your favorite band had a new record out and your 56kps modem took 15 minutes to load the news with all the details ;)
Analog Addiction How has the jump to developing for next generation hardware been received within the studio? Has it been a refreshing experience, or more stressful trying to familiarise yourself with new hardware?
De Benetti Our tech team was pretty happy to work with PS4. I’m not an engineer but for what I understand PS3 was a hardware that took a lot of time to get familiar with – I think you can see that pretty clearly looking at the gap between the first wave of games and stuff like The Last of Us or Beyond… they hardly seem to run on the same machine. On the other hand you have PS4, and it works great with no need of doing reverse engineering. We’ll squeeze more juice out of it in the long run, but for now we were really pleased with it.
Analog Addiction Resogun featured online cooperative play, were these new features hard to develop? Are online multiplayer components something Housemarque wants to incorporate further in the future?
De Benetti Housemarque had previous experience developing successful co-op experiences, think of Dead Nation, for example. The game is still played to this day. Generally speaking, we’ll continue investing on co-op play (among other features): it’s something people love and we want to be known as a team you can trust on that.
Analog Addiction Your studio recently announced they were working on DLC for Resogun in the future. Will the DLC be similar to Super Stardust Delta, wherein we are given some mini-games that alter the gameplay? Or will be given new maps which include new bosses?
De Benetti We can’t comment right now, but there will be news very soon – I think it’s a matter of days now. If we manage to push out all we have been working on, it’s gonna kick ass. I truly believe we have enough new content (or planned content) to make Resogun the de facto shooter of this generation.
Analog Addiction Resogun has been beloved by the PlayStation 4 community and although we can play Resogun via Vita using Remote-Play, many fans have been wondering if it will come to Vita. Is this a decision your studio has discussed before, and if so does it look likely to happen in the future?
De Benetti Housemarque is focused on PS4 at the moment. We want to support Resogun and we have another project in the making. We are a small team, and we need to choose our battles. That said, Resogun on PSVita? Never say never.
Analog Addiction Resogun was the first title to be placed on the PS Plus Instant Game Collection for PlayStation 4. How did this eventuate? How was your studio able to make a financial benefit from Resogun when players were getting it for free?
De Benetti The option of being on PS+ has always been on the table, but the actual decision was taken quite late in the development cycle. Sony is funding the game and owns the IP, so we have special agreements in place. I’m unable to go into further details. However, being on PS+ means that all the people who bought PS4 at launch had the possibility to try and play our game. Considering that we have a long term plan for Resogun, establishing a huge user base from the beginning will have positive business repercussions for Housemarque. Plus, see it this way, Resogun was a very good argument to pick up a PS4 early on – and still is.
Analog Addiction Housemarque is regarded as one of the best studios when it comes to the old school gaming mentality. What games inspire your studio to create such titles? What old school games resonate with your team?
De Benetti There’s 55 people here, aged 20 to 40+ , so to be honest personal tastes can be very different. Overall it’s safe to say there’s a common appreciation for substance over form. It’s very common to see guys at the studio fiddle with retro games such as Donkey Kong, Burger Time, Puzzle Bubble, Arkanoid, etc. There’s something “pure” about old games: you can’t really make up excuse, you’re either able to play them or you’re not. That kind of challenge drives most of our productions, but we still pay a lot of attention at making the experience fair – not easy, but fair. One thing we pride ourselves with for example are responsive controls, if you compromise on that the whole “arcade experience” is ruined.
Analog Addiction Since your studio has mainly focused on smaller titles (with great success) would your studio ever consider into developing a bigger narrative driven, AAA game?
De Benetti It would be stupid to say we would never consider. With the right project and the right amount of creative freedom, I think we would definitely consider, but for that to happen the studio would have to double in size, and probably go in a risk-free, focus-group driven direction. You know, high budgets and all. I think that’s not something too interesting for Housemarque at the moment. On the other hand if we would be handed a big budget with little strings attached, we could totally come up with something exciting for both us and the players.
Analog Addiction As smaller indie titles become more popular and successful on a variety of platforms, did you have any idea this trend would be so huge when your team released Stardust for the PlayStation 3?
De Benetti It was a bet back then, and it’s paying off right now. To be honest Housemarque has never been shy of trying things before others did, for example we were experimenting with a MMORPG in 1994… that was before most people had access to the Internet.
Analog Addiction One of Housemarque’s most beloved titles (mine included) is Dead Nation. We heard at least year’s E3 that Dead Nation would be coming to the PlayStation Vita, but your studio wouldn’t be the ones porting the title. Is there any word on when we can expect Dead Nation for Vita?
De Benetti We are not involved in the porting – it exists, that’s all I can say. We don’t know what’s the status of the project or the release date. You’ll have to wait for Sony to announce more details.
Analog Addiction Speaking of Dead Nation, many fans have been wondering if your team will ever provide a new entry in the Dead Nation universe. Housemarque has many great titles in their library and has there been any talk of ever revisiting those worlds? Dead Nation 2 or Outland 2 perhaps.
De Benetti Of course, internally we have pitches for sequels to pretty much anything, plus a bunch of new ideas we’d like to work on. Resogun was one of those ideas. That said, it’s not granted all concepts turn into games. You need the right budget, at the right time, with the right team. Some become games, some don’t. We can handle 2-3 projects at the time right now, if we want to make something new we can’t churn out sequels all the time. Some months ago there’s been a leak about concept artworks allegedly connected to a Dead Nation sequel. We already clarified that those were discarded concepts, so there’s that. We have another PS4 project in the works, that’s all I can say for now.
Analog Addiction Your studio has previously stated you are working on an unannounced project for PlayStation 4. How is development for this new title travelling? Should we expect to hear more regarding this project any time soon, perhaps an official announcement?
De Benetti Honest? Big announcements are up to the publisher – it’s not because they don’t want to say it, it’s because exclusive games constitute what in business terms is called “unfair advantage”. Sounds a bit weird, but it’s what makes you different from the competition. I think it’s safe to say you’ll hear more this year, if all goes according to plan.
Analog Addiction So far all we know about this new project is that is for the PlayStation 4. Does this mean the new project is a PlayStation 4 exclusive title?
De Benetti Yes, I think that was announced already last year. Cross your fingers!
Many thanks to Housemarque for providing this interview for Analog Addiction. What is your favourite Housemarque title? Let us know in the comments below and for all the latest interviews with the best studios in gaming, stay on Analog Addiction.