One of our most eagerly awaited indepentedly developed titles of 2015 is without a doubt Housemarque's Alienation. From a studio that is synonomous with twin stick shooter action comes a game that looks more intense and frantic that anything we've ever seen before.
What is Alienation then? Well, it's appears to be everything Housemarque has worked towards with twin stick shooters like Super Stardust, Dead Nation and Resogun... turned up to 11 with aliens. It probably resembles Dead Nation the most, and there may even be narrative ties with the zombie title. However, this time around alien spores have infected the population and well, there's simply no other way to survive other than flinging your thumbs in every direction. Alienation offers co-operative gameplay for up to 4 players.
Housemarque's head of self-publishing Mikael Haveri told PlayStation Blog at the time of the announcement that as a tech-centric company their ideas simply come from experimenting with new tech and testing it in various game scenarios.
"So it's not like we were making Dead Nation and said to ourselves, "Oh, we should do this again... but with aliens!" It was more like, "We've got this cool technology - how do we implement it in the best way?"
"And then we start iterating. We happily admit that we do borrow from what we think are some of the greatest games ever, but then we reinvent them in the Housemarque way. For example, we play a lot of Dark Souls and Demon Souls, and a lot of different stuff to get inspiration. Then we take a concept we like and try and improve it or put a twist on it."
Housemarque have had a year without major new releases of their own, but in 2014 they fleshed out Resogun with DLC, saw Dead Nation get ported by Climax Studios to PS4 and PS Vita, and they ported and published Outland on Steam. We asked Mikael Haveri about what 2014 has meant for the company:
"Resogun has taken us to a whole other level," says Haveri. "Not in terms of making new strides, but rather perfecting the things that we knew we had under control. It acted as a positive catalyst within the gaming community and to gain further credibility as a developer with a love for gameplay. To us as a team of developers, this means a lot. Having players and peers appreciate games that are considered niche/indie is on the rise and being a part of this that movement is so close to our humble beginnings in 1995 and even before. We are clearly not a start-up, nor an indie in many terms, but we hold those values dear. "
On Wednesday this week Resogun, a game Housemarque deemed "impossible" on PS3 and PS Vita, is hitting those very platforms - sure it's 30 frames per second, but still impressive.
"We are very excited about the fact that our partnership with Sony and Xdev has reached a place where are titles can be considered franchises and that other developers can have an impact on taking them to new places," explains Haveri. "Of course all our titles are like children to us, so it is bitter sweet when they leave home to be taken care of by others, but that in itself is a huge honor that not many get to worry about. We keep a consultation role over the ports/games worked on by others and can't wait to see how the games will get a new life on new platforms."
A lot of the hype around Housemarque is down to Resogun - a game universally seen as perhaps the best exclusive at launch and the first game to be given away free on PS4 to PS Plus members. But Housemarque is a storied developer than has been around for more than 20 years starting out on the Amiga 500. In a country that has spawn developers like Remedy, Rovio and Supercell - Housemarque is the oldest. But Resogun certainly raised their profile.
"Absolutely, we feel like we are only as strong as our latest game," says Haveri. "Resogun had great support from Sony and a wonderful launch opportunity, so all factors were aligned. The fact that Resogun was liked by so many did give us a sense of accomplishment that is relevant for a company that is turning 20 next year."
"So therefore, we are looking forward to taking things further in the next 20 to come and sharing this sentiment with a fan base can only be beneficial."
Alienation was announced at Gamescom in August, and since then there has been no further information released and Haveri didn't really have anything to say (other than some extraterrestrial puns):
"Alienation is currently in a stasis of deep space hibernation considering PR and marketing, says Haveri. "We feel like it is a game that will have an out-of-this-world impact and the technology that we are working with is not yet ready for human eyes. Also we are working on more Alien friendly puns and the "disclosure movement" before more official announcements can be made."
Clearly Alienation will a big focus for Housemarque in 2015, but Haveri also shared some more general ambitions and goals for the company.
"We are ambitious as ever and very focused on delivering high quality experiences. Having fun while we work and getting to share that with the world. That and working to make the most awesome extra-terrestrial based game ever is sure to be a challenge."