August 30, 2019

Five for Friday: Games, part 2

Life is a game for these Finnish companies.
Life is a game for these Finnish companies.
Julia Bushueva/Adobe

Big things have been achieved by big names in the Finnish games scene, but rest assured that there’s plenty of other great stuff going on as well.

Most weeks are busy for Finnish game studios in the spotlight, but this past one in particular has set tongues wagging more than most. Seriously and Remedy announced some big news, while the story of Futureplay Games bobbed to the surface. For the uninitiated, one thing’s for sure: there’s much more going on up here than Angry Birds and Clash of Clans.

Wondering what all this could be? Well, last year we gathered together some of the locals who are doing great things in the industry. Now it appears as if our cup runneth over; it’s time then to take another look at what’s cooking on consoles, PCs and smartphones from up north.

Clam Man

Half-clam, half-human – regardless of gamer fatigue one can’t help but be intrigued at this game’s protagonist. Clam Man getting fired from a comfortable office job at a mayonnaise manufacturer sets the narrative of this point-and-click adventure game into motion. Get ready to encounter colourful personalities, discover an evil conspiracy and confront the dark underbelly of Snacky Bay, the town where he lives.

The game also underlines the fact that not all Finnish success stories in the games sector are located in Helsinki – far from it. Clam Man was developed in the coastal city of Vaasa and is a shining example of how today’s gaming industry and market are global, digital and open to pretty much anyone.

“So, technically, you can make an amazing game and make money off it, no matter where you are,” reminded Martin from Team Clam, the studio behind the hard shell-headed hero. “You just need a computer. And your game needs to be really good too. That’s kind of important.”

Fitness Village

Now that many are back to work after summer here in the northern hemisphere, it’s as good a time as any to set some lofty fitness-related goals. A couple of years ago, Fitness Village did exactly that, setting set out to become the world’s largest virtual fitness centre with 100 million users. Combining mobile gaming, activity tracking and real-life challenges, the service allows players to remain couch-bound while tackling dozens of puzzles and reaction-based challenges by themselves or against players worldwide. However, when switching to GO mode, they open up a world map of their physical location. A range of location-based missions, such as treasure hunts, sprints and distance challenges, help to get them in motion.

“At some point, you realise that if you put your sneakers on and leave home you can find power-ups and other boosters for your character, making the game faster and easier for you,” Klaus Kääriäinen told us.

Once outside, the app further consolidates its real-world benefits by being able to synch with a range of sports tracking devices and fitness equipment.

“It’s pioneering stuff,” Kääriäinen continued. “There’s no other such application in the world that combines these technologies.”

Playvation

In an endearing about-face to the globe-conquering antics of Marvel and DC, ask a random group of Finns who are their favourite comic book characters and you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear ‘the Moomins’ from some, if not all of them. These same folks would then be able to tell you why, in a variety of languages – such is the enthusiasm here for expressing yourself in different tongues.

This Espoo-based company brings together these two Finnish passions, helping children to learn a foreign language with the gently gamified help of the Moomins. Playvation was founded on the belief that digital technologies will revolutionise language learning and the realisation that most of the available digital solutions are not rooted in pedagogy.

“The Moomins have a supporting role in the service: the characters promote learning and join children on their journeys,” CEO Anu Guttorm explained to us. “The Moomins’ values include courageousness, equality and appreciation of nature. These are the kinds of values that are needed today around the globe.”

Catland

If you’ve ever wanted to work behind a bar but, for whatever reason, haven’t yet found yourself dispensing social lubricants in the real world, this studio came up with a solution to potentially scratch that itch. Its 2017 sleeper hit VR game debut, Taphouse VR, put players in the middle of the action and garnered such a strong following that last year it closed a successful seed funding round for an undisclosed sum, led by investors and veteran game developers.

The studio’s sophomore effort followed on the heels of this welcome cash boost.

The Spy Who Shrunk Me is a tongue-in-cheek spy adventure, a love letter to spy movies, immersive simulations and other games in the stealth genre,” commented CEO Tomi Toikka. “Armed with a shrink ray, you can shrink and dip Soviet soldiers into paper shredders and make them run in a hamster wheel – and shrink yourself to get past opponents. Just don’t get stomped.”

Round Zero

You finally got a great game on your hands, but are you unsure whether it will sink or swim on the market? Or, worse still, are you worried that its path to launch may be obstructed by the prejudices of the publisher? These Finns let the people decide. The thumbs-up or -down is given by hundreds of live users who share their experience of the game, offering the developers the opportunity to tweak their ideas.

The evaluating party is not made up of just anybody, mind you. They are selected from the tens of millions of active users of Hill Climb Racing, a massively popular mobile game series developed by Fingersoft, the Oulu-based parent company of Round Zero.

“We have no gatekeepers making decisions,” told co-founder Daniel Rantala. “Every game developer will get the same opportunity regardless of how good or bad their game is in our opinion.”

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