It is always a treat to speak with Eugene Jarvis - even when it is over a wobbly Skype video call early in the morning, and even when he was out partying in Helsinki the night before. "The party was still going at 8am," he says, blinking. "It's crazy. We were just talking about games the whole night. It's kind of quiet and dark in Helsinki, but the people are amazing and vivacious. It feels like this entire city is about video games. I mean everywhere you walk there are video game companies and video gamers, it's just insane."
The reason the legendary arcade designer is in Helsinki is equally insane, thankfully. Eugene Jarvis is collaborating with Housemarque on a new video game: the creator of Robotron and Defender is getting together with the people behind Super Stardust and Resogun. When I first heard the news last Thursday, I'm ashamed to say that I made an involuntary squealing sound that no human being should ever have to hear. (Actually, I'm not ashamed at all.)
Jarvis can't tell me very much about the game yet, but that can all wait. Here's footage of him reacting to the latest prototype:
What he can say is that the whole thing started last year in Las Vegas. "I was at DICE," Jarvis says. "Resogun was nominated for best action game, and, you know, I was kind of a fan of the game. And it was way too late, way too many drinks and I met these guys. you know how it is: a lot of talk, a lot of smoke, a lot of fantasies, and more alcohol, and here we are!"
And does it feel good to be where you are? "We'd like to see where we go," laughs Jarvis. "The cool thing is the passion here at Housemarque, a lot of young kids, a lot of crazy people." Is it the people that sold the collaboration? "Yeah, I think it was just my excitement about the team. I look at the work, I look at the attitude and just the energy, I just got sucked into this thing. We'll see what happens."
It's going to be fascinating to see how Jarvis and Housemarque work together. While the Finnish developer makes no secret of its love for the designer's early work, there's a very different philosophy on display in many of the games it makes. Take Resogun: there's a lot of Defender in there as you zip left and right tackling enemies, but where as Defender's enemies spawn randomly and behave with a gleeful unpredictability, Resogun is all about the choreography, about learning those waves, learning where to be second by second, learning when to turn left, and when to turn right. You could play Resogun by stopwatch. Defender would eat your stopwatch.
"You know, I think we do have different styles," says Jarvis. "I guess for me what I'm most excited about is that it's kind of a return to my hardcore roots. I've been doing a lot of other games over the years, some really cool projects, and a lot of driving games and other stuff. But it's fun to get back to the really hardcore arcade roots scene, you know. And I think Housemarque has kept that flame burning in the console arena."
He laughs. "It'll be great to try and get back into that scene, maybe throw in a few random numbers, make things a little more chaos, a little more jazz."