Last year, Resogun and Nex Machina developer Housemarque released a dramatic announcement that ‘Arcade is Dead’ and that, as a result, it would be moving away from the archetypal genre upon which it had built its formidable reputation. The first title to emerge from this shift in direction will be the Battle Royale-styled Stormdivers, but the team also recently revealed that it has a new project in the works.
The post was ambiguous in its description of this new effort, but nevertheless included a handful of clues:
- Already signed to a publisher, the game will be a AAA effort,
- It will be infused with arcade-inspired gameplay elements,
- Housemarque may be considered to be getting on a new “bandwagon” with it.
That final point is, perhaps, the most telling of the three.
In the announcement, Housemarque CEO Ilari Kuittinen wrote that the team had received feedback to the effect that it was “’jumping on the battle royale bandwagon’” with Stormdivers.
While that statement may simply be made in reference to AAA development in general, Kuittinen’s reuse of the term “bandwagon” later in the post seems to suggests that its new, unannounced project likely adheres to another popular genre.
What form, then, might this game take?
The so-called Souls-like genre may not be quite as healthy as it was a few years ago, but the formula continues to be a touchstone. The recently released Ashen from A44 is one example, while sequels to both Lords of the Fallen and The Surge are expected to arrive within the next few years.
Housemarque could carve out a comfortable niche in this space, as the difficulty often associated with the format stems, in part, from arcade sensibilities in the need to memorise level layouts and use pinpoint timing to overcome adversaries. Furthermore, in the lead-up to Alienation‘s 2016 release, Housemarque head of publishing Mikael Haveri said that the team drew inspiration from the Souls series.
Coupling Housemarque’s established expertise in these qualities with its signature penchant for lurid sci-fi worlds could result in a title that truly stands out from the crowd.
The open-world survival genre has exploded in recent years, and its popularity has been particularly prevalent among independent developers and medium-scale publishers.
The genre’s tendency towards gameplay bogged down by crafting and other time-consuming mechanics may be difficult to reconcile with Housemarque’s traditional dependence on high-octane action.
However, the team would be more than capable of putting a unique spin on the format by investing a world with a sense of immediacy rarely seen in games of this ilk.
Following the fall of Telltale Games, one might be justified in thinking that the glory days of the serial narrative-based adventure have passed. In any case, production can take years, so, if such a title is on the cards, the seeds for it would have been planted long ago.
Of all the “bandwagons” booming in the industry, this one is perhaps the least amenable to adoption of arcade stylings. By their very nature, narrative-focused titles are sedate; nothing in them demands a player insert more coins—unless it be a choice that brings about the death of a protagonist.
Nevertheless, The Council showed how RPG mechanics could be folded into the format, and the designers at Housemarque, no doubt, would be able to put a new spin on an old genre, perhaps by raising the stakes higher and more regularly than most narrative adventures do.
Perhaps the safest approach of all would be one based on one of the most common and enduring archetypes of the current generation: the open-world adventure. The genre is vast and amorphous, encompassing everything from Assassin’s Creed: Origins to Red Dead Redemption 2 and Monster Hunter: World.
Given the broad remit of the genre, Housemarque could easily adapt its previous experience in twin-stick shooters and platformers for a fast-paced romp. The alpha gameplay for Stormdivers shows considerable promise, and adapting that style to a format that single players could enjoy may give even Vanquish a run for its money in terms of adrenaline-infused enjoyment.
Furthermore, the team’s previous games have included hidden side objectives, so Housemarque has some idea of how to build upon core gameplay loops in meaningful ways, ensuring rewarding side missions. No doubt the playground would augment the experience, as the team has almost perfected an industrial sci-fi aesthetic.
As in the film industry, gaming remakes are in vogue at the moment. Shadow of the Colossus, Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy VII, and Oddworld: Soulstorm are just some of the projects bringing classic games to new life.
While Housemarque is unlikely to revisit any of its older titles, it could follow Bluepoint Games in revising and updating a beloved game from another developer. The possibilities are myriad, and THQ Nordic—with its expansive list of acquired properties (including such franchises as Destroy All Humans, Stuntman, and TimeSplitters)—would likely be a prime candidate for a partnership.
The roguelike generally falls outside the AAA realm, but Prey: ‘Mooncrash’ and Bloodborne are among the games that show how procedurally generated elements can add to—and even enrich—an otherwise linear game.
None of Housemarque’s previous efforts have utilised procedural generation in any meaningful way, but the technique could enable the team to deliver a AAA quality product with a modest team size in a reasonable time frame. That said, such a significant shift in production pipelines is easier said than done, especially when factoring in the expectations that inevitably surround top-tier products.
Nevertheless, a randomised environment (with necessary limitations) could generate endless replayability, meaning the team could focus on adapting the sublime action-oriented gameplay of Matterfall or Nex Machina to a large-scale project.
Unfortunately, no real details as to the nature of this project can be gleaned from the current job listings on Housemarque’s website, as the developer has taken pains to describe the responsibilities and requirements in broad strokes.
Nevertheless, if the project does turn out to be single-player oriented, OnlySP will be sure to cover it in the coming months and years.
Join in the conversation and let us know what you would like to see the Housemarque team turn its talents to in the comments below.