We'll proceed in a slightly different fashion this time, and first take a look at the indie releases as far as I think is necessary. As this is supposed to be a retro game blog, I can't really get too close to the present, but I'll mention the more recent accomplishments at the end of each section.
|Error Free games: Keke 2, Tetris 97W|
and Ultimate Tapan Kaikki.
A couple of big names were not mentioned last time, although these developing teams were established in the earlier part of 1990's. I'll begin with Error Free Productions, established in 1995, which were primarily known for their one main series: Tapan Kaikki (Kill 'Em All), which, for many, pinnacled in the third part (Ultimate TK) but was updated into a high-def version with better netplay features and was given the subtitle Bloodshed. The TK series was heavily influenced by games like the Chaos Engine and Cyberdogs, but had its own unique twists and features to make it the huge indie hit that it was. They made some other rather more minimalistic and prototypish games like Keke 2, Apple Frog, The Attack of the Kamikaze UFOs and two Tetris clones. Too bad their website is now off-line, and their earlier games can only be found from small random websites with collections of small games. But UTK can be found rather easily from sites such as suomipelit.fi, so check it out if you haven't done so yet.
The second big name was established as early as 1993, but their first entry into the big scene was called Cyber Antero in 1997. Released as tArzAn pelituotanto then, the group later became better known simply as tAAt. Some of you might already know their products, considering their impact on the ragdoll physics usage in games, but perhaps it's best I give you the link to their website, in case you haven't yet tried out the famous Dismount series (2002-2008). They made another one of my favourite indie games in 2005, called Pogo Sticker, which I think was very heavily inspired by a Polish indie title called ElastoMania (or more precisely Action Supercross, which came earlier), but I guess it came out too late, as the biggest craze for the genre was already over.
|tAAt games: Cyber Antero, Stair Dismount and Pogo Sticker.|
|Pro Pilkki 1 (small picture) and Pro Pilkki 2 (big picture)|
from Team Procyon, 1997 and 2006.
Text-based manager games were big at some point, and through the endless sea of simple lemonade stand and hot dog stand management games, a real classic still shines with a light of genius that's rarely found in these sorts of games. Mikko Forsström wrote a series of ice hockey manager games with a questionable title: Maso Hockey Manager. The final version of these, MHM 2000 was the one that stuck in everyone's minds with an astounding attention to detail and a wicked sense of humour. The original MHM game was coded in two years, and released in 1997, and the game is now living a revival age of sorts, probably getting some sort of sequel next year. Hopefully. Go check out the MHM series here.
|Screenshots from Maso Software Hockey Manager 2000.|
|Above: MoleZ (FRACTiLE Games)|
Below: Liero (MetsänEläimet)
Bomberman clones have always been en vogue in some measure, and we touched this subject last time with Skitso Productions' Mine Bombers. In 1998, Ari Suonpää took a turn in creating something in that direction, and released We Got Explosives! to a moderate success, and came up with a sequel two years later. I suppose the overexposure of this particular type of bombing games felt too much for one Jan Nyman, who came up with an interesting building demolition simulator called Operation Cleaner, which also spawned a sequel in 2005. Ari Suonpää's website and WGE games can be found here, and Jan Nyman's Operation Cleaner games are here.
|Left: We Got Explosives 2 - Right: Operation Cleaner 2|
|Piste Gamez: Q-Lat and Pekka Kana|
Since 1992, first person shooters weren't really all that much in demand, so the Finnish indie scene rarely did anything in that area. A special mention then has to be featured from 1998: Ryssän kauhu (Terror of the Russkie) by Sheepart's Products. It's a perfect example of Finnish sense of humour in game development - you play as a lone gunman, stuck in one place and equipped with a machine gun and a finite amount of ammo per level; and all of this refers to the age-old saying "one Finnish soldier equals ten Russians". In a sense, it's more of a clone of Missile Command than any FPS, but your bullets can only kill one enemy soldier at a time. Of course, considering the subject and the insulting title and everything your lone soldier utters while killing the battalion of Soviets, this could be considered flammable material in the wrong hands. But I suppose because of its historical reference and the very clearly humoristic approach, we should be in no danger - the controversy shouldn't be anywhere near the level of Raid Over Moscow. Sheepart's website is no longer online, but you should be able to find it quite easily.
there and download it if you're interested (and if there are any seeders).
So, now that we have reached the new millennium, I'll try to wrap up this section as quickly as I deem appropriate.
|From left to right: Korona (2001 Markus Ilmola), GeneRally (2002 Hannu & Jukka Räbinä),|
Pac Brothers (2003 Skitso Productions) and Tokkobot DX (2003 Jetro Suni)
First off, I have to mention an indoor sports game, that I have never seen another computerized version of. In 2001, Markus Ilmola wrote for the Windows PC's a version of Korona, which is a Finnish table sports game combining billiards and darts. Second, a game which I mentioned in the previous entry: the spiritual successor to Slicks 'n' Slide - GeneRally from 2002 by Hannu & Jukka Räbinä. Third, Skitso Productions of Mine Bombers' fame created a very groovy Pac-Man/Bubble Bobble mash-up called Pac Brothers in 2003. Fourth, another strange combination of genres was materialized in the form of Tokkobot by Jetro Suni, in which the player makes a bridge out of Tetris blocks for a stupid robot that walks across the play areas in a Lemmings-like fashion. Even though I'm really skipping ahead here and only mentioning my own personal favourites, there are tons of brilliant Finnish indie games waiting to be found.
|Kloonigames, left to right:|
Cacodemon's Barbecue Party In Hell, The Amazing Flying Brothers and Crayon Physics.
Last, but not in any way the least, I have to mention this guy, Petri Purho, whose products I came across the original Experimental Gameplay Project website, probably in late 2006 or early 2007. I'm not sure if he actually participated in the EGP contests, but he set himself the same basic rules of their development model, that he would create a new game, all by himself, every month within a 7-day period. The first game I might have come across from his catalogue could be either Jimmy's Lost His Marbles, Cacodemon's Barbecue Party in Hell, The Truth About Game Development or The Amazing Flying Brothers, but his most well-known game to date is Crayon Physics Deluxe. The original Crayon Physics was also done in 7 days, and was his 10th game in the EGP development model series. It became so popular, that he decided to create a Deluxe version of it with more features, and has been a huge indie seller since 2008. You can buy it from here, and check his game developing blog here. It seems, though, that his output has severely cut down since the success of Crayon Physics Deluxe, which is a bit pity.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, I'll probably make an appendix later on with a bunch of games and developers I forgot to mention or hadn't found out about until then, but I think that brings us nicely close enough to the present, and we can move on to the next area.
Now, let's take a slightly quicker look at the commercial game development sector. In all seriousness, there isn't all that much to look at, because there really aren't much commercial games from Finland from this time period that's worth mentioning.
|Housemarque games: Supreme Snowboarding (left)|
and The Reap (right)
released by Activision.
|Thrust, Twist + Turn (1999, Carts Entertainment)|
In 1999, a futuristic racing game very much in the vein of the Wipeout series was finished by a team called Carts Entertainment, which I know nothing else of. The game was called Thrust, Twist + Turn, and was released by Take-Two Interactive. TTT was received with mixed feelings and soon forgotten in the sea of similar games.
Another big thing was spawning in the ever-widening world of internet. Browser-based gaming was becoming more and more possible and popular, even though the games were not all that much to make noise about - it was really more about getting to play against friends and strangers all over the country, or even the world, if you had the bravery to enter into a conversation with a foreign person. Jippii.fi was an internet provider and a web commune of sorts at the turn of the millennium, and their big thing was Pasimaailma (globally somewhat known as Pasiworld), and they had some poker games, billiards, yatzy, mini-golf, that sort of stuff. Hundreds of players would challenge each other and waste their working hours for many years. At some point, Jippii was sold to another provider and Pasimaailma was finished, and later reborn as Aapeli.com, now with more games and features.
|Browser gaming: Pasimaailma, Habbo and Aapeli.|
Back to regular gaming, we have two more game companies left to check out. First of them is a new team whose name was taken from a folklore creature, and focuses solely on racing games. Of course, I'm talking about Bugbear Entertainment Ltd. Their first game would be released in 2001, a year after they had established. Rally Trophy is a unique rallye racing simulation, which focuses on historic cars and realistic physics models, and thus it's considered to be the rallye equivalent of Grand Prix Legends. Their second game, Tough Trucks, wasn't nearly as well received, so they went back to rallying and twisted the focus in a completely different direction. The result was FlatOut, released in 2004 for the PC, XBox and Playstation 2. It was such a success, that it spawned two sequels. Bugbear still continues to work on new racing games, the most current release being Ridge Racer Unbounded, published by Namco.
|Bugbear: Flatout and Ridge Racer Unbounded.|
And finally, the most famous of the bunch. Remedy Entertainment released a nice little violent racer called Death Rally in the latter half of the 1990's, and focused on their 3D benchmark software for the rest of the millennium. This all was covered in the previous entry. In 2001, they released something what at first seemed to be a Tomb Raider clone with a male character and a film noir setting. Of course, after the Matrix had made its impact in pop culture, using the bullet-time effect in a video game made sure that Max Payne would become a hit game. In 2002, Remedy sold all the rights to Max Payne to Take-Two Interactive for US$ 10 million and 969932 shares of stock. (Thanks again, Wikipedia.) In 2003, Remedy developed Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne in association with Rockstar Games, and after that would leave the franchise in the capable hands of Rockstar Games. Before Remedy would start working on their second hit franchise, Alan Wake, and the inevitable remake of Death Rally, the Max Payne games would be converted for the PS2 and XBox.
The same final words apply here that were said at the end of the previous section. So, let's head on for the final part.
Yes, we've got some new games for old machines to go through for our final bit, to end the series with what we began. Unfortunately, I have no idea of the correct chronological order of releases, so I shall focus on programmers in no particular order.
|Tomi Malinen's newer games: Alien Bash, Box-Head's Wrath, Indiana Jones and the Golden Head, Pum (preview),|
Tomi Malinen's Grand Prix (preview) and Alien Bash 2.
You might remember an eager amateur programmer by the name of Tomi Malinen from the previous part of A History of Finnish Games, who made a huge amount of fairly basic games in the 90's. Well, his products were gradually getting better, and you can already clearly see the results in his previews of unfinished games Pum and Tomi Malinen's Grand Prix. While making my investigations for this blog entry, though, I found out that at least one of Tomi's games was made with Games Creator,
namely, Indiana Jones and the Golden Head, but the available version only has level 2 preserved, which loops. His most recent game, and the only completed one for a long time is the sequel to one of his earlier games, Alien Bash - the first game of his to actually get a physical release. Alien Bash 2 (with the first Alien Bash as a bonus) was released on tape and disk through a new retrogames releasing indie publisher, Flimsoft, in late 2012. Commodore Free webzine interviewed Tomi before Alien Bash 2's release, and it certainly made an interesting read. For one, he's a system engineer and a hobbying musician (which shouldn't really come as a surprise, as you will find out when you continue to read), and secondly, he's got some ideas for his Grand Prix game. Hoping to see more of Tomi's games in the near future.
|Covert Bitops' Metal Warrior series, left to right:|
MW3 (C64), MW4 (GBA), MW1 (Amiga)
Our second retro programming star is actually a proper small indie developing team, and they come from Oulu. Currently known as Covert Bitops, their game developing history involves the main programmer, Cadaver, having released two DOS games earlier, which also have been mentioned in the previous part. Cadaver and Yehar (now known by their real names, Lasse Öörni and Olli Niemitalo), who are both musicians and both apparently familiar with the SID chip's inner workings, started working on their own SID music tracker programs, such as NinjaTracker, SadoTracker and GoatTracker. Lasse got more into creating games as well, and being a musician in this country and these conditions, I suspect it was natural for him to create one of the most well-known modern C64 game series: Metal Warrior. Originally developed for the Commodore Amiga in 1993, the Amiga version of the first game was not released until 2004, after all four Metal Warrior games had already been released for the C64. As a bit of a surprise to us all, Metal Warrior 4 was converted for the Gameboy Advance in 2006, but considering that the gameplay is in some ways quite similar to Castlevania, it should feel quite natural to play on a Nintendo machine. The trilogy and the fourth
Metal Warrior had a very limited special edition physical release, 30 copies both, manufactured by Simon Quernhorst, his brother whose name I haven't found out, with some involvement from Lasse himself. The boxes can be viewed at Simon's website.
|Bastard Operators From Hell (DOS and C64) + Hessian preview (C64)|
Before Electric Harem had turned into Covert Bitops, Lasse and his friends worked on some other games as well, one of which is well worth noting by itself. The other two games were Escape From New York and Advanced Action Movie Simulator, both written for the C64 Crap Games Competitions in 1999 and 2001, which should tell you everything essential about them, but by all means, check them out if you can't help yourself - they're not really as bad as they sound, or even should be. The game more worth noting is of course BOFH: Bastard Operators From Hell, which I guess is based on a tech article series by Simon Travaglia. The game itself resembles very much of Tapan Kaikki and its forefathers, and was originally released for the PC, and later converted for the C64, which is rather impressive. Now, after having taken some sabbatical from developing games and concentrating more on trackers and enhancing loaders, Lasse has a new game project on the way, titled Hessian, and looks to be something akin to Metal Warrior games again, only more evolved. Definitely looking forward to that. Perhaps we'll get a proper physical release this time as well. Check Covert Bitops' website here.
Back to lone warriors, then - surprisingly we have another musician: Aleksi Eeben. I suspect he's actually better known for his music than for his games in the world beyond retrogames, but for us, he's the man behind some awesome, mostly minimalist games for the Commodore VIC-20 and 64.
|Aleksi Eeben's VIC-20 games, left to right:|
Dragonwing, Tuntematon Sotilas and Realm of Omari.
Starting with the VIC-20, we have some surprisingly high-quality avoid'em-up games like Dragonwing, Tammerfors and Vuokatti, all of which are different enough not to be each other's clones; a four-player running game called Sport Sport; a very nice Rogue clone Whack! (also made for the C64); a war strategy game based on Väinö Linna's classic war novel Tuntematon Sotilas (the Unknown Soldier), and Realm of Omari, an interesting Boulder Dash clone with tweaked game mechanics - apparently his latest game from as far as 2010. All of these are very much worth checking out, and most of them could have easily been hit releases in the VIC-20's heyday, or even a bit after it.
|Aleksi Eeben's C64 games, left to right:|
Venus Express, Kilodium and Greenrunner.
Pelikonepeijoonit, might be the same Manu Pärssinen behind a newish homebrew game for the Vectrex. (Correction from the source himself: Manu is not only the webdesigner for PKP and the writer of this game, but also the editor-in-chief of V2.fi and also runs videogames.fi. Thanks for your input!) In 2002, Good Deal Games published Manu's VecSports Boxing, and it's currently available at GDG website to buy for $40. If you happen to have a Vectrex and have enough money to spend on random games, why not buy this one.
Now, for our final Finnish retro revival hero, we really get properly retro here. Joonas Lindberg, a.k.a. The Mad Scientist has released some interesting games for the C64 since 2009, starting with The Temple Warriors!, which is really an exercise in machine code programming - which Joonas did without any kind of ASM program, according to his production notes at the Commodore Scene Database. The game itself is a very simplistic duel that plays for 5 minutes.
|The Mad Scientist games: The Temple Warriors!, The Cursed Key, Morph,|
Slide!, Chang's Adventure and Escape From The Laundry.
So there you have it. Likely not even close to everything, but at least a fair percentage of the history of Finnish game industry - from the independent sector to the commercial; from the past to the more recent past, and hopefully very much into the future; and without too many mentions of the damned birds everybody's been raging on for years now. Honestly, with so much good stuff in the past... And on that note, if you haven't done so, click here to check out Part 1 and Part 2. (Update, 16.04.2014 - There now exists an appendix entry for this series, be sure to read that through as well!)
I hope you have enjoyed my version of this history lesson, and have possibly even learned something along the way. As I said, an appendix might be on the way at some point in the future, but it won't be coming up this year. If you see any false information you wish to correct, or give me some new information I should add into the list, send me some e-mail or leave a comment.
Next up will be another big entry, so I'll be taking a bit more time on it again, not only because there's so much to do with it. I'll be gone for most of next week, so there won't be any new entries meanwhile. But until next time, thanks for reading, happy retroing everybody, and happy Halloween!