My first home computer was a 48k ZX Spectrum, which I loved to bits, regardless of it's lacking sound capabilities, rubbery keyboard and tempermental tape loaders. The first proof of Finnish game writing that I remember of, was on the Speccy, called Kultakuume (Gold Rush), written by Marko Aho and Kari Aaltonen in 1985, and released by Triosoft in 1986. This game was a really limited print, apparently 50 copies according to Marko himself. It is pretty much impossible to find physically these days. Even World Of Spectrum archives don't have an image of it, but Marko's website offers it for free download here:
Grab it while you can, if you can find it. ;-)
|ZX Spectrum: Kultakuume (Triosoft, 1986)|
As the C64 was released to the world in late 1982, it isn't really a wonder that the first homemade games started gradually showing up in Finland during 1983, mostly as listings in magazines. The success of the computer was such a big deal, that what used to be a seldomly appearing appendix ("Mikro2000") for another computer technology magazine ("Tietokone"), departed and became a huge computer & gaming magazine by itself, titled MikroBITTI, which for a long time was the most sold computing-related magazine in Finland. It's closest competitors, ZX Spectrum and the MSX, dragged behind the C64's popularity by miles.
Alongside magazines, Amersoft was the first game publisher in Finland to release games in other format than on paper. The first examples that I'm aware of having a tape or a disc release are games called Raharuhtinas (literally translated "Moneyprince") and Yleisurheilu ("Athletics").
|Commodore 64: RahaRuhtinas (Amersoft, 1984)|
|Commodore VIC-20 & C64: Yleisurheilu (Amersoft,1984)|
Raharuhtinas looks something like an early attempt at Dungeon Master, although I haven't really learned how to play it yet... and Yleisurheilu is a very basic athletics game with 13 events: 6 different distances of running, Hammer Throw, Discus, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Javelin, Shot Put and High Jump. Yleisurheilu was also released on the VIC-20.
Wikipedia says the C64 version of Afrikan Tähti ("The Star of Africa", a board game conversion) was released in 1983, but no other website agrees with this. Besides, it was released by Amersoft, and they weren't established until 1984, so... well, make of it what you will. It's a surprisingly good game, though, and was programmed by Jari Heikkinen and Otso Pakarinen with permission from the original game designer, Kari Mannerla.
|Left: Afrikan Tähti (C64, Amersoft 198?) - Right: Tietomestari (C64/VIC-20?, Weilin+Göös, 1984)|
The first C64 game to quench the thirst of Finnish digital quiz fanatics was released by Weilin+Göös in 1984, translated from Ivan Berg Software's 1983 original Quizmaster. The game that became known to us as Tietomestari was also supposed to have a conversion for the VIC-20 as well, but no-one is known to have a copy, so the jury is still out on that.
To end this year with a blast, the first known game from a well-known Finnish C64 star programmer appeared, called The Odyssey. The game itself still isn't all that well-known, but it was one of those games that felt like this country could actually achieve some greatness in this field. It's an action game based on the mythology written by Homer, as it says on the high score list. The music is quite delightful, the graphics are surprisingly good and the controls are uniquely restriced to diagonals. Somehow, it works, although it takes time to get used to them. Stavros Fasoulas was the programmer of this rare gem, and he had started on the VIC-20 by programming a Pac-Man clone earlier the same year. Not bad, huh?
|C64: The Odyssey / VIC-20: Pac-Man (Stavros Fasoulas, 1984)|
In 1985, a Dutch publisher called Radarsoft started releasing translated software in some parts of Europe, including Finland. The most commonly known of them are the European and World Map games, and the Traffix/Verkeersrally translation simply called "Liikennepeli" (Traffic Game). These are well enough known worldwide, so there's not much point in dwelling on them any longer. (Although, as a side note, dk'tronics' Dictator was also translated to Finnish in 1983)
Also, another computing magazine called Floppy Magazine was established in March of 1985, which brought in some diversity in hobbyist presentations. The most well known figure from Floppy Magazine, at least to us, would be Uncle Ilpo, the infamous secret agent with a new adventure in almost every magazine. Other rather well-known games that were released during the three-year lifespan of Floppy Magazine, were Viljo, Return to the Home Castle, Sanghai, Space Cards and The Crucible.
|Left to right: 1. Suopon agentti Ilpo Piipponen & kirjeisiin kätketty kuolema, 2. Viljo, 3. Sanghai, 4. The Crucible (all C64)|
Gradually, our schools started to tech up a bit, and started buying C64's. Naturally, there had to be a company to serve this purpose as well and make educational programs for schools, so a company called Koulun Erityispalvelu Oy started releasing typing and reading tutors, math exercise programs and who knows what else. Most of these programs used a PS-64 speech synthesizer cartridge, so they would be quite expensive and tricky to acquire if you wanted to use them at home. Of course, no-one did. Still, later on, another company called Kielinauhat Ky started releasing their own educational software as a serial called Treenari, featuring maths, English, Finnish and Swedish. They even worked without the PS-64, which helped a lot, but still were difficult to acquire.
|Left: Treenari Ruotsi & Matematiikka (Kielinauhat Ky, C64) - Right: Joe the Whizz Kid (1985, ATA Software, C64)|
1986 brought along another up-and-coming C64 game artist from Finland by the name of Jukka Tapanimäki. His first games featured a simple 3D shooter called Monoliitti, translated Monolith, released in MikroBITTI magazine, and an interactive fiction game called Aikaetsivä, translated Time Detective, released by Triosoft.
|Left: Monolith (MikroBITTI, 1986) - Center and right: Aikaetsivä (Triosoft, 1986)|
|Sanxion (Stavros Fasoulas/Thalamus) - left: C64/1986 , right: Spectrum/1989|
|Left: Mr. Seek Kaivosseikkailu (MSX, Teknopiste 1985)|
Right: Miner Machine (MSX, Boss Company 1986/Eaglesoft 1987)
|Commodore 64: Painterboy (Chart Top Design, 1986)|
|Commodore 64: Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle (Amersoft, 1986)|
The year 1987, the mid-life in C64's commercial life, saw the release of Stavros Fasoulas' Delta, one of the greatest side-scrolling shooters on C64. Definitely a contender for Nemesis. Nothing groundbreaking, really, but a very well executed contemporary space shooter. The loader, however, was something really different. You had a rocking tune playing, which you could mix to your taste, while the game was loading. Amazing stuff, but then again, the tune was made by Rob Hubbard.
|Commodore 64: Quedex & Delta (Stavros Fasoulas/Thalamus, 1987)|
UPDATE! 6th of December, 2014: I wrote a comparison of Quedex for this year's Independence Day. That should be enough to give you an idea what the game is like, but I still do urge everyone unfamiliar with it to try it out for yourselves.
Jukka Tapanimäki had pitched his newest idea successfully to English Software, and they released it as Octapolis. It combined the ideas of Sanxion and Uridium to alternate with a platforming game in between the space shooter sections. Very nice, graphically, sonically and by playability. Probably the best arcade game we have had to offer for the C64, at least during the classic era.
|Above: Octapolis (Jukka Tapanimäki/English Software, C64, 1987)|
Below: BMX Kidz (Firebird, 1987; music by Yip)
Meanwhile, Jori Olkkonen of Uuno Turhapuro fame borrowed his SID musician skills to Gigglywurx and Firebird's BMX Kidz, and his tasteful tune can be heard during the high score section.
|Nero 2000 (Bio-Syntax Method Oy, 1987)|
Above: PC - Below: C64
|MSX: Talvisota 1939 (Triosoft, 1987)|
The game puts you in control of the Finnish troops, and you will have to fend of the attacking Russians. You will get strategic information updates in the form of newspaper articles and lists of action, but mostly you're in the map screen, commanding pixels. Too bad the game is entirely too uncommon to find a copy for auction, and when you do, it'll cost a fortune. Luckily, we have these photos of some of the screens in the game, so you can see something. It's not pretty, but hey, it's a strategy game, what do you expect?
|Sceptre of Bagdad|
Left: ZX Spectrum (Productive Playtime, 1987) - Right: C64 (Jon Wells/Psytronik, 1993)
1988 brought us some action on the 16-bit section as well. WSOY Publishing released Ratco for the Commodore Amiga, which was basically a Scrabble clone with some finely altered rules. The game is supposed to have had an English and a Finnish version, but I'm not sure.
|Left: Ratco (Amiga, WSOY 1988)|
Above right: Japlish Assault Razor (Atari ST, Seppo Loisa 1988)
Below right: Birds (Atari ST, Jouko Kulomäki 1988)
The C64 scene was very much alive still, and the next hit games were Netherworld, a space maze shooter, and Zamzara, a different kind of a space maze shooter, both from Jukka Tapanimäki and released by Hewson.
|Left: Netherworld (C64, Jukka Tapanimäki/Hewson 1988)|
Right: Zamzara (C64, Jukka Tapanimäki/Hewson 1988)
|All other pictures: Golf Master (C64, Mikko Helevä/Hewson 1988)|
Middle below: Space Ace (C64, Mikko Helevä 1986)
Stavros was called to serve his duty in the Finnish Army, so his career was cut short for a while. A year later, he only managed to convert Quedex for the Amiga, newly titled as Mindroll, and slowly work on a Bubble Bobble clone called Galactic, which finally only got released on a coverdisk of The One magazine in 1993.
|Left: Galactic (Amiga, Stavros Fasoulas/The One coverdisk #64, 1993)|
Right: Mindroll (Amiga, Stavros Fasoulas/Thalamus, 1988)
At the end of the first life for C64, people started turning to the Amiga for new challenges and better probabilities at gaining that all-important fame and money. Avesoft was established in 1989, and their first game was released the same year. Bloody Afternoon was a horror themed Operation Wolf clone, which was a nice beginning. The company is probably most famous for their second game, Coloris (1990), which is a slightly modified clone of Sega's Columns from the previous year.
|Above: Coloris (Amiga, Avesoft 1990)|
Below: Bloody Afternoon (Amiga, Avesoft 1989)
|Commodore 64: Moonfall (Jukka Tapanimäki/Hewson 1991)|
Of course, it was already too late, so we dragged our forces to the next generation machines, and gradually started producing some nice stuff there as well. Smash the Beast was another puzzle game from Avesoft, released in 1992, and Moonleague, a top-down futuristic space-themed RPG saw its release in 1994, also from Avesoft.
Atari ST scene was small, but for a while, they managed to procuce some small gems as well: a Tetris-clone called Clintrix, an Operation Wolf clone called Executioners, a Finnish translation of a German version of Wheel of Fortune called Güldrach (translated to Finnish as Onnenpyörä), and a worm game called SeePee.
But that was small league stuff. Next chapter, more Finnish gaming in the 90's, but we'll get there after a bunch of normal game comparison posts.
The rest of this series can be found here:
Part 2 , Part 3 and the Appendix.