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.

What Makes Gaming So Appealling?

Why do you play? How long did you play that game this time? You should get a better hobby! These are some comments made by people that are not so much into gaming. I get this sometimes. This blog post is trying to explain what it is in gaming that keeps drawing our attention and some reasons why it is an enjoyable activity and why do we spend so much time playing games.

Playing video games has been popular since the first known video game. I am talking about a certain game here. It was called “Tennis for Two”. It was introduced in 1958. Here’s the link to Wikipedia if you want to go read some more facts about this game. As a game it was as simple and basic as can be. Let’s think about this for a while. In 1958 video games were something new. There must have been something very interesting here for a human being. What games have that draw our attention? What makes us want to play more and more and until we are exhausted and tired?

One thing is our natural rewarding system. When something positive happens on the screen or when we accomplish something very meaningful our nerve system gives us a small dose of dopamine. This dose becomes larger when a person uses some sort of drug. This leads to a kind of a malfunction with this system and makes us depressed for a short period of time. This is how this natural system that has been built to our brains functions. So achieving our goal in a game gives us a reward.

I have also one point about collecting games. Why do we want more and more all the time. You know how this is. You get many great games. You are satisfied for some time but eventually you want more. You buy more games. And this, let’s give it a name that is somewhat related to programming, “loop”, keeps repeating. This has something to do with our human beings natural behavior. We are collectors by nature. That’s how human beings started their path. They were hunters and they also collected things they found from their surroundings.

These points can be true. They might be true and they might explain something. This however doesn’t take away all the things that make you or me enjoy playing video games. I have my reasons why I keep playing. It gives something for me. For me it is a way to get loose from the stress I get from studying or working. Is gaming expensive? I would say no because it isn’t as expensive as some common hobbies like ice hockey for example is. It isn’t as healthy if you think about the matter. Is it childish? I think today gaming is becoming more and more a hobby for a person of any age. There are already some very old people that play video games. I think today games have a very diverse content and they make people more active and this makes our entertainment more challenging for the growing audience.

So there are things that can explain this phenomenon. It still doesn’t take away things a player has learned while playing. I for example gained lots of skills in a foreign language that was actually English. Gaming is lots of fun. Collecting games can draw you away from using drugs or alcohol. We have our reasons to behaving how we do. Gaming is a hobby for lots of people. They have a reason to play. And I think we can learn a lot about human nature also by playing the games that inspire us and keep uplifting our minds. So, let’s keep on playing!

 

Getting to Know Nintendo

I have played a lot of Sega Mega Drive, various PlayStation consoles, PC and even Xbox. I started thinking about what have I to this day missed. What would be something for me to get to know next? I figured I hadn’t played Nintendo so much and seriously. What were the titles I would like to get into and could I maybe purchase a new console. Could I learn something new about gaming?

I thought about this for some days. I had some plans about first getting some NES games. I figured also that I haven’t played any games in the Zelda series. It would be expensive to buy first or second game for NES. It was almost 50 euros and I would have only old retro game. It wouldn’t be a great experience.

I was thinking about this. I thought that I could buy Nintendo Switch. This would however cost over 300 euros and I would have to think about games and spend even more money to get them. I finally made my decision. I would get my hands on Nintendo Wii.

My Nintendo Wii came with one game that was Super Mario Galaxy. The price tag was 80 euros. Shipping didn’t cost anything since the purchase was expensive enough which was a nice deal for me. I was a bit surprised of the size of the console – it was definitely small and light.

I haven’t played any Wii games before. I have barely seen it. I knew the controls were very different if compared to PlayStation or Xbox. I had ordered a gamepad with my Wii. It was a bit of an surprise that I had to plug the gamepad to this other controller called “Wii Remote”. And I didn’t get the gamepad to work. What to do next? I started the device. I even had to go to the store to buy some batteries for this new and exciting thing I had just added to my gaming collections.

So it was soon getting late and I just had this thing called Wii in my hands. I knew also that I could play GameCube games with it. I had ordered also one game for GameCube. I found out that I would need at least an original GameCube controller and maybe even a memory card. So I had to order them also. I did that next morning.

Nintendo Wii is a very nice product. I connected it with my television through SCART. There was a HDMI adapter also available but I haven’t, at least yet, ordered one. That would surely make the display more detailed and sharp. I found out that playing a bit of Super Mario Galaxy introduces this system for a complete beginner. The controls aren’t so difficult once you get the hang of it. You have to be a bit careful not to slash your friend or drop a bottle of lemonade from your table while playing. But after all it works great. You are playing with both of your hands and not only with your thumbs and index fingers. You have several buttons and sometimes you have to shake your Wii Remote for Mario to spin fast around for couple of times.

I am going to play my Wii some more. I already have three games and one GameCube game. Those three are Zelda – The Twilight Princess, Resident Evil 4 and, the one I already mentioned, Super Mario Galaxy. The GameCube game I got is Resident Evil and it’s a remake of the original one that was released for PS1. If you want to get yourself a Wii just remember to check if it does run also GameCube games. Newer versions of the console don’t support this feature. And remember that you have to have yourself at least a controller of GameCube and preferably also a memory card. I might write a post or a few about Nintendo Wii games in the future so stay tuned.

Before buying a new game…

How do you make a decision about what new game to buy? There are many things that can be considered. Sometimes cheap price is something that triggers this process. The game might be a sequel to some other great game that you have some pleasant experiences with. It might be your favorite game of your childhood if you are thinking about getting your hands on a retro game. Sometimes this leads to thoughts about buying some retro gaming console or even a brand new PS5 or Xbox Series X. But we are talking here about how to make good choices when buying a new game.

You can buy the game as a physical copy or as a download. When I am making my choice I usually check out some video with some gameplay. Then I check what other customers that have already bought and played the game are saying about it. I usually also skim through some reviews. Good places to find these are Metacritic and/or Gamereactor. I somewhat follow two Finnish gaming magazines that are called “Pelaaja” and “Pelit”. Some of the most important web shops that you can buy your game as a digital copy are Steam and GOG (“Good Old Games”).

Usually I also take to consideration how long will it take to finish the game. There is a reliable website for that purpose. It is called “How Long To Beat”. You can find the time for beating a game that can be an old retro game or a new game. Members of the site can add the time that took to beat a game. There is also an estimation of how long would it take to complete the game in all of its content (“completionist”).

I like flee markets because you don’t have to make so sharp decisions on what game are you going to buy. The price is usually low. If I’m going to spend 60 euros to a game I have to make a smart decision. I want to know if the game is worth the money. If I really like the game there is a chance that I could buy a special collectors edition of the game that would cost a bit more. It’s cool to have big decorative gaming pieces comparable to old PC releases that came with a big box. One example of this kind of a release is Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 + 2 which had a skateboarding deck included with its collectors edition (that was actually sold out by the time I was making my order of this game).

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.

Connecting gamepad of PS4 to your PC

I have for a long time used Xbox Ones Elite gamepad for playing games on my PC. This is fine when dealing with PC games but when it comes to PCSX2, the emulator for PS2 games, I would like to play with a good gamepad that has buttons layed out correctly. What I mean is I would like to play with a PlayStation controller. It is kind of stupid for me to play PS2 with Xbox gamepad.

This is where a program called DS4Windows comes in to play. It is very simple to use. You just run the application and connect your DualShock 4 gamepad to your computer. You can use USB or Bluetooth connection. That’s right – you don’t need to connect your controller necessarily with Bluetooth since a USB cable works just fine. You can download this application from http://ds4windows.com/ .

I am planning on buying another DualShock 4 gamepad to use for this particular purpose. I currently only have one of these controllers. They are in my opinion a great way to somewhat make PS2 games more playble and modern. So the player can concentrate to the game instead of loosing interest as the gamepad is too bad. This can be a great improvement considering FPS games like Call Of Duty series’s games that were hardly as nice to play with older gmaepad like DualShock 2.

As PS5 will be released, I think it’s going to be sometime in November this year, there is a new controller introduced to large audience. It is called DualSense. I don’t have any experience, which in this case is understandable, of this new gamepad. I am a bit excited about it and I am curious of what kind of quality and playability it will have inside. There are some great differences between Xbox and PlayStation gamepads. One of the biggest is the layout of thumb sticks on these gamepads. I hope the new PS5 pad gives us many new improvements in technology of gaming controllers.

Making games is big business

Right now video games are more popular than ever. PlayStation 4 has now sold more than 110 million copies. Nintendo Switch has sold more copies than Nintendo Entertainment System. Switch and PS4 haven’t been around so long. Switch was released in 2017 and PS4 in 2013. Let’s think about this. NES was released in 1983 and the most popular and the most sold gaming console ever PS2 was released in 2000. So PS4 has been around only 7 years and Switch only 3 years. What will these figures be after 15 years? You don’t have to be any genius to figure out what’s going on. Games are popular. Making games, and selling them, is big business.

I sincerely hope that big game companies keep bringing more quality in form of good games to growing group of gamers. Making a HD remake is sometimes okay but where are the new innovations? I don’t meen big changes, such as virtual reality, but those small things that made video games of late 90s and early 2000s so great. Game developers would have to take time to experiment with a gaming console and find its limitations and opportunities. That would be a way to win my hearth back.

I have already said this. I don’t care how excited you are about PS5. I am not going to be one of the first ones to buy it. I bought PS4 back in 2014 and I was a bit disappointed in it. That just tells about me as a person a lot. It tells us about my history in gaming. I started messing around with video games well before I even bought my first console. That’s just where I’m form and that also tells a lot about in which direction I’m headed.

I am a bit worried. At the same time I am hoping the best. I keep buying PS4 titles for twenty euros and I have now about five or so games that I haven’t even opened up. I haven’t played them. I haven’t even installed them. Why did I buy them? I don’t know the right answer. I just hope we get some very good games in the future. I have to also get to my retro games at times to get the idea of what a perfect, or at least good, game is and why. And what gaming means to me…Well, there’s a lot to think about there…

The picture is a screenshot that I took from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_game_consoles

Some of my experiences with Gran Turismo

I first played Gran Turismo on Sony PlayStation. It was my first full game that came with the used console I had bought. My PS1 had also some demo discs included. I didn’t really get in to using racing wheel. And the game didn’t in my opinion necessarily need one. PS1 had many great driving games. I definitely enjoyed also Colin McRae Rally series as its first two games were released on Sonys first gaming console.

Gran Turismo was something amazing. It was released in 1998. It brought realistic graphics and gameplay to console gaming systems racing games. You could also test and upgrade your vehicles. You could buy new cars and tune them and buy more parts. It had over 150 different cars. You got money from completing races and finishing on top positions. There just were so many goals you could try to achieve. Think for example collecting all the cars the game offers.

You can see the second Gran Turismo game on this posts image. I never really played that. I didn’t play GT3 or GT4. But the game I did play some years after getting into the first game was the fifth game of this series. Racing gamers have seen many good games that were developed after the first Gran Turismo. I can name for example Richard Burns Rally and Dirt 3. In my humble opinion GT5 doesn’t come close to these. It is named as Gran Turismo 5 and it is a good game. But…do you have to play it just because it has a strong brand and some earlier games in this series were good? Is that good enough reason? I don’t think so…

Gran Turismo 3 and 4 were great games. I broke my PS2 a while ago so I couldn’t play these on it. And I don’t know if these games have aged well. Racing fans just have so many alternatives to turn to. Dirt Rally 1 and 2.0 have been released and also we can add Dirt 4 to this list. There is already one new Gran Turismo (Sport) that was released for PS4. There does exist some good racing games available only for Xbox 360 and Xbox One. We are not going to go there…

My personal history with first PlayStation

It started back in the 90s. I don’t remember the year exactly. I think it was 1997. I was a very young boy then. I had some money on me and somehow I decided to get a PlayStation. I had been thinking about buying a moped with this money but as I thought about it my mind changed. I could play for years with this new console and time for moped riding would be over in some years, maybe three years or maybe until I’ll get a car to ride. I don’t recall clearly how this idea of spending my money to a gaming console went but the decision was finally made. I got a PlayStation.

My parents then allowed me to have a television in my room. It was nice. I remember the time when I first picked up the package that was delivered to the nearest post office. And do I remember? Yes I do. I had some games. Gran Turismo was the best of those games that this so called bundle had in it. The package was a used console and I think it had two games. There was two controllers included. The console, games and controllers and a memory card were delivered to me as used. But the console and all things included were in a good condition.

So back then, if you had a Sega Mega Drive, you were just a loser. That system was ten years, practically a bit of an eternity for a thirteen-year-old kid, old. I had my friend teasing me about it. Yeah, I remember I was a bit sad also. I had to pack my Mega Drive and place it somewhere for preserve. I actually took it later and placed it next to some other retro consoles, but back then I really didn’t have so much space for different kinds of consoles. I had to choose one and that was PSX.

I remember so many games. I played Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 1, 2 and 3, Gran Turismo, Driver, Colin McRae Rally 1 and 2.0, Final Fantasy VII, Fear Effect, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Silent Hill and many more. There were loads of games available. More than ever. And then older people, I mean older than a thirteen-year-old, started to get curious about gaming. This was time before the release of Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox. I have to mention also Sega DreamCast here, because that’s the best gaming console that Sega ever released. It was sad that it didn’t survive longer.

So I just played and played and also made my way to High School. I had much fun back then but at the same time I started to get more into studying and that somehow pulled me away from games. I started getting into music production that has been my dear hobby for many years. I finally sold my PS1. All of my games, my controllers, memory cards and the console. I got about 120 euros by selling the whole package. That was it. Or so I thought back then. Could it be that this was my gaming hobby?

Well, it wasn’t. I got into gaming again as I was studying. I was still a young adult. Games were all around and new titles were released. So I first got a PS3, PS4 and then it suddenly got me hooked on again. I bought several new consoles. I bought original Xbox and PSOne. I brought Mega Drive back to my cave, where it belongs. I ordered new stand that could hold all my gaming consoles. It had space for eight devices. I really planned it, but I was surprised when I, after lots of years, started playing Colin McRae Rally 2.0 again with the old controller of PS1. It brought back so many memories. It felt like I had met a friend that I had spent so much time with. And my friend hadn’t changed a bit.

So that is it. This was my story. Today I’m glad I can grab my DualShock any time I want, or anytime my wife isn’t watching telly, and start playing some PS1. I really was away when PS2 made history, but when it comes to playing the first PlayStation nothing in my mind can replace this nostalgic feeling that I get when I have this kind of a session. First PlayStation wasn’t as popular as the second one, but in my scale it’s always going to be first. It made history inside my personal history. And I can keep it that way. Always.

Golden Axe series

My experience with Golden Axe series begins as I find this series second game for Sega Mega Drive. Mega Drive was already very popular as it had more power under its hood than NES. These memories bring me back to the beginning of 90s. As a kid I didn’t understand so much about ongoing console wars between mainly SEGA and Nintendo. Their gaming consoles got released one after another. First NES was released in 1983. Then there appeared Master System. Then Mega Drive got released. After that SNES was released. This war got started some years after the crisis of video games occurred. In 1978 everything looked fine. Atari 2600 made its way to many homes. There were so many bad games released and it eventually left game developers with empty hands. But this crisis that lasted some years was over as Nintendo released its Entertainment System.

So Mega Drive was the console to have back in my childhood. Golden Axe 2 was the sequel to the game that had been released already on Master System with also Mega Drive version being produced. The game caught my attention and I think it strongly influenced me to buy this console a moment later. Even today I think Golden Axe II is one of the best games ever released on Mega Drive. When I now play it I think it’s still worth playing for some hours. If I could modify it, I’m not sure if it is even possible, maybe it is, I would add some roleplaying features and theability to develop the character that you choose to play as. It already has many moves and characters have different qualities. It was good so see a female character also.

Soundtrack of this game was very inspiring. It brought tension to the game and along with amazing graphical effects affected and appealled to me as a kid growing up. My little brother also loved this game. I don’t know what’s up with him playing all these violent games. It sure was only fantasy for us and all players that ever got involved in virtual axe swinging. Back in the day there weren’t so many limitations as there is now. You didn’t have this large sticker on every damn piece of video game that tells for every human being that “this game is so and so violent, so brutal…” and so on. It left the decision to parents solely. We played these games as the graphics were poor. Only limitations were that we had to study and go to school and to practise some sports. And back then gaming went after those. I don’t know how this relationship with gaming is doing right now in my life. I think it’s not a thing to worry.

So the first Golden Axe game was released on Master System, Mega Drive and also on Commodore 64. Many gamers had also an opportunity to play it in an arcade. It was also released on PC. So there were many gaming systems that it made its impact on. There was second and third game released on Mega Drive. There was a game released on Sega Saturn, but I really didn’t get into that so much. There was also newer game released on PS3 called Golden Axe: Beast Rider in 2008. After that we haven’t seen any new game in the series. This game is all about action in fantasy world. It brings the player to this world that is a mixture of fantasy and medieval. You swing your axe, ride with a dragon, fight against evil enemies and release spells as you collect your mana and health. I recommend this game when you are getting to know Sega Mega Drive keeping in mind that this game and system are both retro stuff. If you hate retro this game is not for you.

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