During the spring of 2017 we made the tough decision to close down our company, Rayhouse Productions. This decision has got nothing to do with the sales of Kalaban, and actually the game did way better than we anticipated. The people in the company just couldn't agree on monetary and creative decisions with game development.
We had no money from outside investors, and didn't take any loans from a bank, so there will be no messy debts to be dealt with. Generally, the financial side of the company was well-organized. It can now be revealed, that we didn't put any funds of the company into developing Kalaban, and instead it was made purely with the money put in by the development team.
Now, as the process is going forward, I thought it might be a good time to look at all the games that we developed from April 2014 to April 2017. I left out some of the rough prototypes, which never made it past the concept stage.
The games covered here were either released to the public, or games that we announced.
1. Neurotron - Alpha Demo, PC
Our journey began from the virtual board game adaptation of Neurotron. I developed this title for the Assembly computer festival's game development competition, and it was released for free on the internet. It was a very tongue-in-cheek satire of 90s role-playing games and gaming tropes in general. The full-motion video, the lowpoly 3D art in the menus, the grungy fonts and dark backgrounds were all intentional.
This was a quick project, designed to get us into real-time, action-oriented game design. Neurotron Alpha was this sort of a turn-based deal, and this was an important evolutionary step for getting us towards the gameplay of Kalaban. Skipocalypse used some of my old characters, that I had designed way back in the day, like Metrocat and Super Ram, and it definitely had a comic book style to it. The game was kinda like "Jazz Jackrabbit from a top-down perspective".
Skipocalypse was also a one man effort, and as the other guys in the company looked at the game, they decided that it wasn't commercial enough. I finished the first episode in October 2014, when I put it online for people to try out. In two or three months from that we could've had the full game ready and put it on Steam.
The first episode can be found from IndieDB.
3. Rebellion, PC
In November 2014 me and my friend decided to create this "cyberpunk GTA" game. It was sadly never finished or released, but it became quite authentic as a knock-off. Rayhouse was always driven by high quality art and audiovisual polish, so therefore this game didn't make it past the pre-alpha stage.
To put it bluntly, the game looked too ugly. The gameplay was okay, and we learned a ton making it, but we just couldn't imagine anyone looking at that on Steam and thinking "Hmm.. Now that's a fun-looking game!"
4. Neurotron - Board game
We organized an Indiegogo campaign in late 2013 for a cyberpunk adventure board game. Neurotron can be compared to HeroQuest, Space Crusade, Warhammer Quest and bunch of modern titles by Fantasy Flight Games such as Descent, Imperial Assault and Doom: The Board Game. Vesa-Pekka Koivisto, the character designer of Kalaban, was also heavily involved in the project.
The Indiegogo campaign failed miserably, and the project was put on hold. During the fall of 2014 we returned to finish the game, along with its visual design. It was a massive undertaking, and we had this vision that we would sell it to an outside company that would actually manufacture and publish the game. We had no connections to the board game business, and although the game was basically finished, it was never seen as a published game.
It was a costly experiment, taking countless hours of playtesting, conceptualizing and graphic design. We decided to stay away from physical gaming ever since. For anyone who's interested in buying the concept to actually produce it, you're welcome to hit me with an email.
The game was never released, but we did create this killer promotional video for it.
5. Kalaban - Sidescroller adventure, PC
The tensions were rising inside Rayhouse, and there was a strong feeling of unrest. We needed a real game, a commercial game, a true magnum opus where we could pour all our creative energy into.
In November 2014, I met with Tuukka Kuusisto, and we sketched this idea of a topdown survival horror game, similar to Notrium and Don't Starve. It would have been set in some nameless American small town, and there would be demons, monsters and other horrors invading the town. You would explore an open-world map, and searching for food, water and shelters would be absolutely crucial for your survival.
There was only one problem: we had never done anything similar to this. It was a hugely ambitious game concept. So, the solution at first was to make it sidescroller, maybe comparable to This War of Mine and Terraria. Not only were the player animations easier to do, but the gameplay was easy to conceptualize and try out. The game could look great visually, and its screenshots and videos could attract lots of players. We had a plan to release this game on Steam during the spring of 2015. We also got my old pals Eetu Suoranta and Vesa-Pekka Koivisto on board the project.
There was only one problem: the game wasn't fun to play. Graphics aren't everything, if the core gameplay consists of just "moving right". What's the point of crafting and cooking, if you can just run to the end of the level? In all honesty, we could've just rolled with it and finished it in the timeframe that we had.
6. HazManiac, Android
Me and my friend, the same guy who was making the Rebellion game, decided to create this fun diversion for the mobile. We worked for a few months during the spring and summer of 2015, and finally released the game to the public on GooglePlay.
The game was a simplistic sidescrolling action game, where you would try to survive as long as you can, and destroy the invading enemies. During the game you would upgrade your health, armor and weapons. The basic concept was solid, but there was a huge number of technical problems.
This was the first indie game that I developed for the mobile, and it was designed to run on phones. The game would always chug up all the memory, slow down and most of the times also crash. It was a nightmare. Although the game cost one dollar, we had a total of five downloads after the release. That's it.
When we realized, that we had greatly over-estimated the power of GooglePlay, we made the game free. And had ten more downloads. So, that's a a total of fifteen downloads for the whole game. It was a harsh slap on our face, and we just decided to bury the whole project.
HazManiac is no longer available on GooglePlay.
7. The Suomi RPG, PC
This game was a fun project, and it was almost completely done by myself. Music was provided by the extremely talented Eetu Suoranta. It was made for Assembly game development competition during the summer of 2015.
There's not a whole lot to say about the game, except that it was made as an authentic 80s Ultima clone, filled with Finnish tropes. The game is set in this alternate version of Finland, where monsters roam the land, and a single hero must rise to save the world from boredom and darkness. You must collect the five pages of sketch, and take them to Lord Finnish in his castle in Pirkingtown to form the Book of Random.
It was complete nonsense, and the controls were ripped straight from the old computer role-playing games. No Diablo or Baldur's Gate style mouse controls here.
The full game can be downloaded from IndieDB.
8. Neurotron - Mobile game, Android, HTML5 and PC
I was really burned out after developing all these smaller titles. It was late summer of 2015, and Kalaban was still nowhere to be seen. I decided that we needed a different type of project before getting that bigger PC title off the ground.
It would be done fast, with minimum resources, and mostly by myself. If it would succeed, it could even provide us extra cash for Kalaban's development. That was my reasoning for it, anyways. I envisioned our earlier board game concept, Neurotron, as a hectic, real-time action game, with touch screen controls. In the game you would control one hero character at a time, completing objectives and discovering small story bits throughout the campaign. The game would even feature a few in-game cutscenes, which was really ambitious for a mobile RPG of that scale.
I expected all of this to be done by the end of 2015, in four months. It was basically the whole board game, as an action RPG, AND on the mobile. The scope and scale of the project soon turned out to be far bigger than what I had anticipated. I got all the basic stuff like weapons, skills, abilities, enemy AI and mission structure working within the first two months.
The problem was, that it would've taken at least a year to polish the game into the form that it needed to be. While testing the game on mobile, I encountered a few nasty bugs, which I had not experienced while developing it on the PC. This was far more ambitious game than HazManiac, and we reasoned that more content and more complex gameplay would lure in a greater audience.
We decided to put a demo out on New Year's Eve in 2015, and then based on its reception we would either continue the development, or return to Kalaban. The demo got roughly 200 downloads within the first year from its release. Needless to say, it wasn't a huge hit, and GooglePlay had once more proved to be a tough platform.
And the game itself? Well, let's just say that the reception we got was not too generous. Gameplay-wise it was ambitious as hell, but most players just didn't get the mechanics. Plus, we had left out the tutorial level, which would've been the starting mission of the full game. We didn't have time to finish it before the release, and unfortunately most of the players didn't get the "board game" style of gameplay.
We did update the game a few times after its release, but in order to make it truly an enjoyable title, we would've had to do a complete re-haul to the game and its level design.
After the development shifted from Neurotron to Kalaban, there were pretty much no diversions. I started putting full-time effort into getting the game done and published commercially. During this time I created a silly little promotional game, called the Bob-Man. You can already guess what game it's based on.
The game can be downloaded from GameJolt.
10. Kalaban, PC
It was late January in 2015, when we decided to turn the project around. Instead of going the easy route and making the sidescroller adventure, we decided to go full blast and create the game of our dreams. The magnum opus.
Kalaban was not only going to be a topdown survival game, but actually more like an isometric immersive sim. We decided to focus more on the story, writing and characters, instead of the purely gameplay-oriented survival horror. The game would have an epic story spanning over three acts, telling the tale of an American outcast who had moved to Finland. He would not only rise to save this little Finnish town from a mutant invasion, but also foil the plans of evil cultists, who were behind it all. It would be a tale of a broken man connecting with the world again, and getting over his social awkwardness by having to rely on other survivors, in the face of this mutant onslaught.
And you know what? The finished game is pretty much just like that. But instead the three acts, the game was cut back to feature only the first one. The design of the first act was also greatly overhauled, putting a greater emphasis on NPCs, their dialogue and side quests that they present. Vesa-Pekka would create the character designs and the animations, Eetu would make the music and sound effects, Tuukka would design the whole story and its levels, characters and dialogue, and I would create all of the background art and code the whole game.
During the development a lot of things changed. Because of the unfortunate situation with the other folks in the development team, I had to take more and more responsibility of the final product. The game is still strongly a four man effort, don't get me wrong, but things could've gone different nonetheless. We also had many outside testers and people assuring that the game ran properly, its quests worked and everything ran smoothly. And oh boy, were there a lot of issues with that.
Kalaban was an enormous project for a team of that size, even in its scaled back form. It had an open-world design, quests and NPCs, a full-blown inventory system with a hotbar, real-time combat and exploration mechanics, a lot of scripting and story stuff, a few cutscenes and overall a massive amount of artwork and sound effects. We did scale the requirements for the music and effects back a little, just to ease the pain during the development.
It was the first commercial indie game that our team had launched on the PC, along with the first Steam release, and an Early Access title. The whole development took around 18 months, but the two year mark has been thrown around, because we often included the original sidescroller version also.
After the release of Kalaban we sketched out numerous ideas. All the people in Rayhouse had differing opinions on what we should do next. Pretty much EVERYTHING ELSE was on the table, besides doing Kalaban 2 right after the first one.
I was completely and utterly burned out coming off the development cycle of Kalaban, and I was not ready to develop a new title for at least six months. The other guys had this concept of a small "burger game", which would run on the mobile, that could be completed in a few weeks. I agreed to do it, because I saw that it would not take too much resources, and it was exactly what we needed at the time.
Inspiration was taken from an old Amiga title known as ROX. The game was designed to work on Android, because most of the people in Rayhouse had Android phones. It would be simplistic, one thumb controlled game, with a really challenging level of difficulty. Originally, when me and my friend coded the game, we made the difficulty much, much easier. It was like a galactic walk in the park, and although it was challenging enough for me, it was not what the boys had in mind.
We anticipated that a game with such a simple premise and easy-to-learn controls would surely gain more players than the earlier attempts like HazManiac and Neurotron. The game ran well, and its launch was quite painless, although it took us over three months from Kalaban's release, not a few weeks.
The game was released pretty much without any hype on GooglePlay, and it currently has 35 downloads on the free version. That is, over five months after its launch. Plus, we also released a paid one dollar version with the ads removed. That version has a total of 3 downloads, two of them being me and my friend.
The aftermath of Kalaban and Lasercrash pretty much created the situation which lead to shutting the company down. The people within were not ready to invest into game development, and put in the required hours, money and resources. The marketing and PR especially were horrendously overlooked.
A lot of things went wrong and a lot of things could've gone different, which had nothing to do with us. Before founding Rayhouse I worked at another game company, Eedu Ltd, which developed math games for the mobile. Their first title launched in late 2012, and I was still working for them at the of its release.
I figured that the year 2012, or at the very latest 2013, was the last time you could break into the mobile gaming space. When you look around, it's no coincidence that there is only one Rovio, only one Supercell and only one Next Games. The money will always go to those who conquer the marketplace first.
And even those old companies gotta put millions of dollars into marketing, having to deal with huge debts and operating losses. It's got nothing to do with "creating a good game", it's about being there first and with enough capital. That's a tough industry, in which a small company like Rayhouse has little hope surviving in, even if we took huge loans and tried our best.
Besides, I've always been interested in story and gameplay oriented games, not some quick cash grabs. And I believe that's the view that the other three members in the Kalaban team would share with me.
- Harri J.
In this special Throwback Thursday feature, we open up about our filmmaking past with the short film that was released five years ago.
Our game Kalaban is now at -50% until next week. If you still haven't tried the game, then now is the perfect chance to do so.
Just a quick update on what's been happening with Kalaban and our game development lately.
A short update about the newest patches released to the game.
No articles were found matching the criteria specified. We suggest you try the article list with no filter applied, to browse all available. Post article and help us achieve our mission of showcasing the best content from all developers. Join now to share your own content, we welcome creators and consumers alike and look forward to your comments.
This is an ancient version of the Horde mode. It has several missing features, and it does not represent the quality of the commercial game. This version...
A small minigame made during Kalaban's development.
A desktop screensaver for Windows. Watch as Bob explores the randomly generated forest and hunts down mutant monsters.
No files were found matching the criteria specified. We suggest you try the file list with no filter applied, to browse all available. Add file and help us achieve our mission of showcasing the best content from all developers. Join now to share your own content, we welcome creators and consumers alike and look forward to your comments.