Some Really Big Games Released By Finnish Companies

You might not know that I am from Finland. As a person from this northern land that has only about 5,5 million people living in it I am very proud of our game companies and our game development scene. We have here a strong ground for developing games. People that live here are always interested in latest technology and computers are a hobby for lots of people. Do you know Nokia? It’s from Finland also.

Back in the 1980s Commodore 64 computers were a very big thing in Finland. Many hobbyists were driven into electronics and programming by these Commodores devices. Some people learned programming with BASIC and some people that were really into this kind of stuff were learning how to program in assembly language. There was also people making demos, composing music and creating visual art with these computers.

Game development really lifted its head here in the 1990s. Remedy managed to make a great game called Death Rally. They later released more games. There were also companies like Housemarque and Bugbear, which developed some really nice racing games, like Rally Trophy and Flatout series. Housemarque released a game about snowboarding called Supreme Snowboarding. All these companies had their roots in Finnish demo scene called “demo skene” in our native language. Finnish game companies include also Rovio, Supercell and Redlynx and Frozenbyte.

The ability to adapt technical skills is the base of this kind of progress in game development in Finland. We are a small country after all. We have been the northern most country that is actually farming and it was like this for a long time. You can study game development and even electronic sports here. I hope this post didn’t include too much. It was supposed to be just a post about how gaming and culture has evolved here. And also to promote my home country a bit.

Let’s mention some famous games here that haven’t been already mentioned. Max Payne series, Flatout series, Rally Trophy, Alan Wake, Angry Birds and … I think this is enough. Check out the latest games from your favorite game store which might be Steam for example. And I am not going to forget to mention a game called Noita. It is also a game that has been developed in Finland.

Breaking Down Mortal Kombat II

I’d like to spend a moment describing my experiences about the second Mortal Kombat game that was released for Sega Mega Drive in 1993. The game has some technical limitations as Mega Drive isn’t, and wasn’t even back in the days, the most powerful platform to release a game like this. Arcade version of this game might have been smoother but we aren’t going to go there today since it’s been too long time for me to talk about that here.

As a software developer graduate I can see some things while playing that I don’t know if they are so clear for people that don’t know computers, technology and programming so well. This small blog post is here for you to dive a bit deeper on how the game is played. I also understand that some people are way better at playing this kinds of games. I have only spent some tens of hours playing Mortal Kombat. Also I like to note that I am concentrating on Mortal Kombat II here instead of all two dimensional fighting games. Yes, there are many of them and I have to mention Street Fighter series here.

This stuff is very interesting for me. I can see how the game kind of “reads” your moves. The opponent, it is this time a computer, reacts to your moves. It can make a move that is most suitable for a certain situation. So the key to winning your opponent is to react with a move that is the best move in your situation. You have to time this move correctly. You have to be in a right position. And this isn’t all there is to it. You can make moves freely. You have to define when and at which position to make the move that is correct move for you to make the opponents health bar decrease.

Fighting games have come a long way since the days of 1993. It is very different to play against the computer than it would be to play against a player. I know that games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are very popular as genres of electronic sports. So you can have a competition against human players. This is how the game was designed. It sometimes feels like the computer is cheating but what else would it do than read your input and position and react as fast and powerfully as possible.

But to talk more about the game. It’s a great game. I find it very fascinating. The graphics are better than the first Mortal Kombats were. It seems like the development team have done a great work. The game has twelve different characters that have their own strengths and weaknesses. This makes the game even more interesting. To beat the game you have to know how to play with not only one character but many different characters that have their unique special moves and so on. You could actually compare and describe which characters are best against a specific opponent.

I am not sure what the basic attributes of all the characters are. I haven’t touched or even seen the source code. I am not aware if this code is available or is it “open source” or closed code. I know that Mega Drive didn’t have so much memory to use. Graphics and movement took a lot of processing from this gaming console also. When considering that this game was released in 1993 it is a game of very good quality. There is also a port for PC. If you are a big fan I can recommend to getting your hands on Mortal Kombat X. And to be honest I have to say that I just some days ago ordered Mortal Kombat 11 for PS4. I had to do it because the price was, I think, this time good. I hope this short blog post can give you inspiration wherever you are and in what situation with work or studying you might be.

Comparison of Two NBA Jam games

The latest post I wrote some days ago was about basketball games and how they have evolved. While we’re at the subject I am going to continue to write about basketball games. So todays subject is to compare older NBA Jam game, actually it’s NBA Jam Tournament Edition for Sega Mega Drive, and a newer one that is NBA Jam for PS3.

It’s amazing to think that while graphics and controls have evolved a lot the game called NBA Jam has really changed just a bit in all this time that is between the first Mega Drive release and the PS3 release. You still play with two basketball players against two other players. There are some details that have been added. If you haven’t played the original Mega Drive version you can still most likely enjoy the newer version.

The newer version has challenges for one and two players. I think it’s more fun to play with a human player be it against each other or as teammates. I have to mention that this game wasn’t first developed for Mega Drive. To be exact it was  developed first as a game that would be  played in an arcade. This was also where my first experiences of this game started back in the 90s. We put some coins inside the machine and played against each other. This is probably where the game aimed and this is where it becomes attractive to us players.

I have to tell more about NBA Jam since it is one of my favorite games of all time – at least I think that way right now. Maybe it’s just my favorite basketball or sports game. The players heads seem to be a bit big. This is because they originally wanted to bring more details to the players heads. I think NBA Jam was released also for PC. If a player scores points three times in a row, with no other player scoring, he becomes “on fire”. So about any shot will go in. If some other player scores the “on fire” wears off. I can tell you that when this player is hot you must shoot three pointers or at least this makes sense if you are trying to beat your opponent.

I enjoyed both of these games. Mega Drive version has more nostalgia but PS3 version has better and updated graphics and it also brings some details and features that wouldn’t have been possible to create in a Mega Drive version of NBA Jam. I didn’t pay a lot for any of these two games. Actually I think I bought them for exactly the same price and that was about 15 euros. I bought Mega Drive version from a flee market and PS3 version was found from a store and it was on discount. So, I liked both versions and I still play them casually. This is also a fun game to be played in a house party but maybe it is too nerdy for that…I don’t know…It might depend…

Redream – A Dreamcast Emulator

Segas last gaming console, Dreamcast, was released in 1999, at least in Europe. It was actually released in November 1998 in Japan. It wasn’t a bad console. Many say it was the best gaming console that was ever released. To some it was even better than the first PlayStation. It sure was more powerful. It had many great games but it only stayed available for consumers to buy for a short period of time. Dreamcast was drawn from manufacture at the end of 2001. So there might have been more games released for this system if it would have been longer in the markets.

Some good Dreamcast games that I’ve played are Skies of Arcadia, NBA 2K2 and Crazy Taxi. I have heard that games like Sonic Adventure, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Quake III Arena and Jet Set Radio are good games also. If you have a game for Dreamcast I haven’t mentioned here feel free to comment this post. Skies of Arcadia is a nice role playing game. It reminds a lot of Final Fantasy games. Crazy Taxi is a kind of a driving game where you pick up customers and drive them where they want to go. NBA2K2 is pretty much what the title says – a basketball game.

Let’s talk about Redream. It is a Dreamcast emulator. It is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. There is also an option for a download for Raspberry Pi. The setup is made easy for a user of a computer. You select the download that corresponds to your operating system. Then you unpack and just run the application. You might want to add shortcut to desktop also. The user interface is also easy to learn. You can see all the games you have currently. You can select the location of your rom files inside your computer. You can also adjust some settings concerning your saved games, input devices, video (for example the resolution of the screen you are using) and some other options related to localization.

Redream is a good looking Dreamcast emulator. It’s clearly the easiest one to use when I think about its competitors such as DEmul and NullDC. They required more fiddling with the settings. Dreamcast emulators, all in all, are far more easier to setup than a well known PS2 emulator PCSX2 is. Don’t get me wrong. PCSX2 is a great emulator. It just is a bit hard for a non technical user to setup. Redream also works very nicely. I haven’t had any problems. It hasn’t crashed at all as I have used it for some time now. You can download stable release or development release. This means that the stable version has been tested and development version is the most recent versio´n that has the most recent new features.

You can download Redream here

Transition from 2D to 3D

You can see clearly the differences between games based on 2D graphics and games based on 3D technology. Two dimensional gameplay has been around longer. Typical 2D games are platformers, like Super Mario Bros 3, shoot-em-ups, like Gynoug, M.U.S.H.A. and many others, and beat-em-ups, like games of Streets Of Rage series.

The distinction becomes clear when you are playing a game. Movement can be restricted only to two dimensional movement. You can think of how playing Tekken is compared to Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. You can also compare the first Super Mario to a pioneer of 3D games Super Mario 64, which was a game for Nintendo 64. Some games are something from between 2D and 3D. Like many PlayStation 1 games.

Games that are three dimensional usually provide wider movement options and are based on 3D models. You can clearly interact stronger with the objects that are inside the game. Graphics also look more realistic. I don’t think there is a reason today to call a game a lousy game for not having 3D qualities. Again, this is just a difference in the game and it has surely been thoroughly given a long thought when the game was developed. This hasn’t always been the case.

Somewhere in the middle of the 90s 3D was amazing and new. The technology that was used for making games was developing at a very fast pace. Today these games are considered to be retro. It doesn’t matter so much today how the game is developed as long as it is of a good quality overall.

So I would say that we today have a much wider and more accepting community of gamers playing many different kinds of games. And I think this is very good. There will always be games that are based on the latest technology but there is also games that aim to some other target.

The featured image here stands out as Tomb Raider was one of the earliest and most popular games that used 3D technology. It was released in 1996. The possibilities of this games graphical abilities was amazing and almost endless as you could run the game with very high graphical settings if you had a good graphics card. I recall this time as a dawn of new technology that made personal computers more powerful than ever.

Some Nostalgia from The Dawn of 3D Modeling

Sometimes I find myself going back to where it all began. It was my beginning inside gaming. Somebody else might feel different about this. For me the 90s was an inspiring period of time. We saw the rise of 3D modeling and textures. The development of technology enabled players to enjoy more and more realistic graphics. First came Doom. It brought a realistic environment that you could move in. Soon games like Tomb Raider and Quake were released.

One of my favorite games of this time was, and still is, Kingpin – Life of Crime. This articles featured image is from that game. There are some reasons for me to like this game. A rap, or hiphop, posse Cypress Hill was very deeply involved in this games development. They appeared as voice actors and also produced the music that was in this game. What is the game about? It takes place in some ghetto somewhere. The player takes a role of a gangster. Basically this game is a first person shooter.

3D modeling has come a long way from these days. It was 1999 when Kingpin was released. I think about this as I just a while ago have played a really nice rally game – WRC 9 that was released recently. I think about how much the job of a 3D artist has changed. Back in the days you could see the models edges. Now you don’t see such edgy graphics. I also think about how much it affected gaming that there suddenly were graphics processing units that could reliably convert 3D graphics for players to enjoy.

3D acceleration in home computers brought computers that had more performance. Earlier it was thought that processor in computer was the component that made it faster and stronger. There was more to it. Some time ago we saw also some other components that can bring your PCs performance stronger. I’m talking about solid state drives or SSDs.

I strongly believe in the development of technology. We are going to see many advancements that are also somewhat related to gaming. Be it virtual reality or the development of sharper screens this is bringing us as human beings more advanced games. Technology has many qualities. Bringing games for players to play is just one side of it.

If you are interested in Kingpin – Life of Crime go check this website : https://www.kingpin.info/

Sega vs Nintendo – What was it all about?

Nintendo released a maximum mega hit gaming console back in the 80’s. It was called NES or Nintendo Entertainment System. Atari had released gaming consoles targeted to use inside customers living rooms. It was about the time when arcades were quickly challenged by these kinds of devices you could easily set up inside your own home. The trend was there. Personal computers, PCs, were becoming more and more popular also.

While Sega Master System wasn’t a very bad console it couldn’t fully challenge NES. Sega knew they had to release a better, more powerful, gaming console to compete with Nintendo. Mega Drive, or Genesis as it was called in the USA, was released at the end of 1980’s and in Europe right at the beginning of 90’s.

I remember clearly the commercial of Mega Drive. It was a promise to bring arcades to homes. It delivered graphics and sound at 16-bit quality instead of earlier gaming consoles 8-bits. If Master System didn’t have so many hit games Sega promised also to bring good quality software in the form of great games. Sonic The Hedgehog and Golden Axe II were some of the most popular titles back then with not forgetting some greatness that was brought to paying customers by games like Splatterhouse, Streets Of Rage and for example Kid Chameleon.

Nintendo had Super Mario. Can someone say seriously that Super Mario wasn’t a great game? I think no one would say or think that way. So he was the mascot of the whole NES and also Nintendo. The battle for the gamers hearts (and money) was ultimately bloody and sweaty. You can have, if you wish, a great debate about which console had better games then the other.

As the battle continued Nintendo seemed to take in consideration how violent some games were. They started to deliver fighting games with no blood, hockey games without fights and cute characters that might seem to appeal to younger audience. Sega instead was reaching for customers that wanted this kind of rawness in their games. They didn’t remove the blood or the violence. You have to remember that things were a bit different back then since games in general weren’t so realistic. Sega was also paying more attention to the packaging of their games since Master Systems games were catching critic on that issue.

So who won the battle? You can definitely say that both consoles and companies were doing great. Sega was successful and so was Nintendo. Later, Sega made some bad decisions and started to be in trouble. The last console that was released was Dreamcast. Nintendo instead has been bringing gaming consoles up to this day as Switch is their latest console. Dreamcast was released in the end of 90’s and Switch was released 2017.

 

Return to Golden Axe II

Golden Axe II has been one of my favorite games that I used to play back in the 90s with my Sega Mega Drive. I didn’t own a copy. I borrowed this game several times from a friend. I played it. I played it a lot. Today I have a Retro Trio that can be used to play NES, SNES and Mega Drive cartridges. So, some time ago I figured that I definitely should get a copy of this great game. Finally I made the purchase and it wasn’t even a pricey game. I bought it for 30 euros.

Golden Axe II was released 1992 as a PAL version in Europe. You just have to admire how well this game was made. It is an old game. I think there’s just the right mixture of fantasy and realness. There are dragons, axes and swords, magic and different kinds of monsters. Graphics were good when the game was originally released and they still feel pleasant considering it is a retro game. Playability seems nice. It is a beat-em-up game but you still find a rich environment that includes lots of fantasy elements. This game could have even some role playing game features but I think it wasn’t a time for that kind of a game to be released back in 1992. I think this combination of action, adventure and roleplaying was reached later when games like Diablo became very popular.

I have always been a bit doubtful on fantasy and roleplaying. I haven’t got in to this kind of material so much. I like FPS and racing games more. I just like to concentrate fully on the game and get rid of my everyday worries and stress. So, games involving deep fantasy elements aren’t so appealing to me. I also find fantasy books not so interesting. Maybe some day I pick up one of those Tolkiens books and start reading it. You may like roleplaying, stories and fantasy elements. It just isn’t for me.

One thing I haven’t really written about here in this post is that the first Golden Axe was a kind of a pioneer in artificial intelligence of enemies. It was among first games that used this kind of programmable variety of different kinds of actions. You can clearly see these elements when you are playing also the sequel. In the beginning of the game you have to make your choice about which player you wish to begin your journey with. You have a hero with a powerful axe but not so effective magical attacks and a hero with a sword and very powerful magical attacks. And I think the third hero is something in between of these abilities.

I finished the game in the roughest difficulty setting with the hero that had a sword and more powerful spells. I finished the game in maybe two hours but you have to take into consideration that I have played this game a lot. It is still one of my favorites when there is a conversation about Mega Drive’s best games. It’s a bit sad that there hasn’t been a modernized version of this game. I think it has a lot of potential. I can clearly see it to be improved a bit. It would be so cool if someone would include some elements of character development when for example experience points would be gathered. The levels could be larger. And if graphics and sound effects and music could be updated that would be almost surreal. I have to mention one more time that the world that Golden Axe brings is very interesting and pleasant in all of its details. In every way it would be amazing if a proper remake of this classic would some day be made.

Why did I finally buy a PS Classic?

I remember how it was hyped. Oh, do I remember. It was then discussed how many games would it have, which games it would include, would there be analog buttons included in the gamepad, would there be two gamepads, would the device be “hackable” and finally – how much would it cost. My expectations were high. The price for this product was 120 euros.

When the details of PS Classic were released I was disappointed. I decided it was not for me or at least not right now. The “mini gaming console” received very bad reviews. I watched these video reviews from YouTube. It was a very big disapointment for me and for also all of the retro hobbyists worldwide. It soon became clear that the remake of PlayStation had failed and flopped very badly and sadly. It wasn’t the console it was expected to be.

First thing I noticed was that PS Classics price dropped heavily since retailers had to get rid of it. No one wanted to buy this product. Some months went by. I read some news of how PS Classic would be easily modded to run more games. This would be done using an external USB drive or stick. Suddenly you could be able to bring like hundreds or even thousands of games to this device. It seemed that there was a way to install software through PS Classics USB port that was actually meant for controller and PS Classic had two ports like this.

There were some technical difficulties in this type of operation. All of the USB drives or memory sticks didn’t seem to work. There were lists gathered and brought on-line by users that were going to do the mod to the device. You couldn’t rely that a USB stick you bought to be used like this would work. So there actually was a way to bring more than 20 games to this product.

As the price of the mini console dropped more people got attracted to it. There were more reviews about how the price was lowered and how the modding was possible to accomplish. So what happened was that the price dropped to very low. I remember seeing ads that told the price would be 35 euros. It’s almost a drop of 100 euros compared to the original price. What happened was that Sony released a product that wasn’t truly finished properly. They paid a high price and had to sell the Classic for so low price.

There would be some things to be improved here. You would expect the device to have a decent controller, and yes, you should have analog sticks on the gamepad. The selection of games wasn’t the best possible. The list had nice games like Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto and also Metal Gear Solid, but it had too many unnotable games. Where were Gran Turismo and/or Crash Bandicoot? Tony Hawks Pro Skater? Colin McRae 1 and 2.0? These points were the most important. There were some technical issues related to the actual emulation. In practice this showed as poorer graphics than could have actually been possible. One positive thing of course was the ability to save a game smoothly.

Let’s say this also. I am not encouraging people to mod their PS Classic. I am just saying that it’s possible. Copying roms is at this moment illegal. If you own the game you are allowed to make a rom out of it but this would be “another topic for another day” so let’s just end this post right here. Stay safe!

Recommendation From A Friend – Carmageddon (PS1)

My friend messaged me that he had a good subject for an article for my blog. He had an opportunity to send me a picture of his favorite PlayStation game. The game is Carmageddon. It wasn’t so familiar to me but it was a cool idea to feature him on this article. So the guy you see in the featured image is the friend. His name is Pauli. We are actually from the same street and we lived close by as childs.

Carmageddon is kind of a racing game. You race against time but you get more time and points for crashing to opponents and hitting people that are watching the race. This game was popular in the 90s. It was considered to be a bit violent and I somehow remember that it was even banned in some countries because of that. Why haven’t I played it? I think this game was more popular as a PC game and I didn’t play. It obviously had a port to PlayStation but it never got to my hands as I was actually playing my PS1. I played racing games like Gran Turismo or Colin McRae Rally.

So who is this Pauli and why did you let him on the cover of your new blog post? To answer to this question I would have to say that I just had make a blog post about this game. Maybe the idea just gave me kicks and it was cool idea also. And I think this blog could be more to some social sides of gaming also. And a little bit less about me writing stories about my somehow and somewhat interesting stories where I play alone my game consoles. Yeah, you must get it. I play single player games, alone, in my room, with dimmed lights? I know that’s not the case. So this story was about Paulis favourite PS1 game. Thanks for reading…

And if you want to hear Paulis music you can head to his SoundCloud page

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