Finland’s renowned for mobile development. How do you change your development practices for the platform?
[Virtual sticks on a touchscreen] don’t work; you have to figure out the strengths of a particular platform… But [there] are different categories of controller for different categories of games. Very few games can transfer between these realms. Sometimes it works, though; doing a touch-based shoot ’em up on iPad or something is a challenge, but you can do it, as we’ve been shown by Cave. I think most understand the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of games. We wouldn’t do anything like Resogun on tablets, for instance.
What’s been the biggest change for you over the past 19 years?
Well, we’re some of the oldest guys here in the industry – at least some of us are. Back in 1995, if you wanted to make a game and get it out there, you’d need to go to a publisher and have a deal, and they would then distribute those boxes to retailers so the consumer could have the game. It’s a long process to get there, but now it’s instantly available. You just have your phone and download it. That’s it. It’s a new thing for us to have this opportunity to launch globally. Little companies with a few guys can launch a game globally with a click of the button… That’s amazing.
How does that differ to your work on Nokia handsets in the early 2000s?
We tried twice, first in 2000, then later with Java-approved games, but that was again a few years too early. There just wasn’t this infrastructure. You had these problems with all these different devices. You could buy a Java game for 5 and find out it doesn’t work, or you wouldn’t know how to install it. The user experience just wasn’t there. It was, ’I’ve downloaded this game. OK, what do I do now? I’ll never download a game again.’ It took the App Store to make it work.
It’s surprising to see so many developers teaching children game development at schools and youth clubs here in Helsinki. Is Housemarque involved?
Yeah, we’ve been doing that. And there are these ’conversion’ programmes for the people who can code, for instance, but can’t make games. We’ve been involved in that and have recruited quite a few people in the process. Coding positions are pretty hard to fill because of the expansion of the industry over here.
Where do most of your staff come from?
We have three types of people coming in, I think: the first-timers who have their first job, then the people from Housemarque who want to come back, and then people from other companies. I think the demo scene dried up years ago, to be honest, so these people are coming from other sources like schools and other companies, and even people who haven’t been doing games. We have nice success with that, with people who have a passion to make games.
Housemarque’s new home is adorned with vector images inspired by its games, including a timeline graphic running down the entirety of the main hall