There must be something in the water up north these days. Massive recently brought us Ground Control, Southend Interactive are hard at work on Blitz, while Starbreeze are now producing Enclave. The link? Well, apart from the fact that all of the games are based around state of the art homegrown 3D graphics engines, all three companies are from Sweden.
Recently another Swedish game developer has popped out of the woodwork, as Daydream Software released their latest title, a 3D accelerated multiplayer game called "Clusterball", the basic version of which is available for free from the company's website.
We talked to Daydream's Nigel Papworth to find out more about the game, its newly announced online competitions, and the future of the company.
According to Nigel, Daydream started with "five friends who asked 'How do they do that?', had a look and (misguidedly) said 'Hey, we can do that too'".
And having decided to make computer games, the next step is always to decide exactly what it is you want to develop. "We sat around and discussed what we thought were the greatest aspects of real life games and computer games, and concluded that ball games rule in real life, flight sims in the digital universe. The conclusion was to build a flight sim ball game!"
The result was Clusterball. "In Clusterball the player flies around an open landscape and picks up balls from magnetic tracks, these can be turned into points by flying through a ring shaped goal."
"There are equipment depots placed around the landscape where the player can aquire ballsnatchers, superboosts, inflators etc. All of these do, pretty much, what their names suggest to the other players. And that's it!"
It's a simple enough formula, but then the best games often are based on such ideas, and Clusterball has already attracted a hardcore following who seem to play the game day in, day out, battling it out online to rise up the rankings chart on Daydream's website.
"It's been two weeks [since the game was released], and my well trained arse has been well an truly whipped by people from every corner of the globe", Nigel admitted. "It's a real international, cross continental, real-time gaming, sporting rave up .. yeh, baby!"
Although the core of the game is already available to download for free from the Daydream website, the plan is to sell additional "venues" for the game. Nigel told us that the first new venues should be released "very soon .. a matter of days", and that "the cost will be announced online when the venues become available".
One thing that might encourage people to pay out for the extra levels is that Daydream are about to hold their first Clusterball tournament, an online league running over the next few weeks which will see the winner walking away with a brand new computer based around one of the latest 1GHz processors.
"The great thing with Clusterball is it's open to all sorts of uses, like a real sport", Nigel told us. "You can head to head, web-trawl for people to play against, go round in a tight little gang snatching people's balls, or enter a full blown tournament."
And this is only the start for Clusterball - "this official tournament is just the first of many, and we plan for the prizes to just get bigger and bigger". While it might not reach the scale of the big international Quake 3 tournaments, the prospect of winning cutting edge hardware and even cash prizes by playing a game which (in its basic form) is completely free to download is certainly alluring...
When Clusterball was first announced at the end of June, it was described as the "first in a family of net based games" which Daydream was working on. None of the other titles have been officially announced yet, but with a bit of arm twisting we were able to find out what the next game in that family is going to be...
"The technology that allows Clusterball to work so well globally in real time will be the base for the next few titles we develop", Nigel explained to us, before revealing that "we have an online snowmobil racing game we are making with exclusive input from Ski-Doo of Canada. Then a bunch of cool ideas after that."
Snow is certainly something which Daydream should know a lot about, based as they are on the edge of the arctic, and with the manufacturer of the vehicles getting in on the act as well, it should make for an interesting change from your typical motor racing game. Stay tuned for more details!
With free online-focused games to download through their website, additional content being released later at a price, and tournaments for the games being run by the developers themselves giving the players even more reason to keep playing, Daydream could be pointing the way to the future with Clusterball.
A future which, according to Nigel, is "bigger, faster, cheaper, [with] more gameplay, and big prizes for all". That sounds like my kind of future...