The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Friday, July 17, 2009

The People Behind Penumbra

Before anything else, I want to personally thank those who brought the Frictional Game Servers to the brink of molten metal. You have once again...and maybe for the Golden Moment, proven to the Gaming Industry that we do indeed deserve their attention as a viable market.

"I can happily tell you that at the moment we Linux version is selling tons and our main concern at the moment is how to handle the load of people wanting to download the purchase if it continues like this we won't last the weekend! So currently we are looking into some solutions, making a torrent file is on of the more obvious ideas we have." 8:46 AM 07/17/2009

Jens also stated that he should have such worries every day.

As promised, I want to introduce you to the people that brought the frightful Penumbra Trilogy to you. Being a small indie gaming company, they knew full well the challenges they faced by entering the gaming market. With confidence in their phenomenal gaming engine and the writing and coding talent already on board, they made Frictional Games happen.

Here are folks behind the spooky hallways and labyrinths.

At Frictional Games we are:

Thomas Grip - Programer & Project Lead, Co-founder and more
Thomas lives in Helsingborg, Sweden. He has been programming games since his teenage days, the first horror game he did was a 2D top down game called Fiend. In addition to being a programer he is also a hefty sketch artist, doing many of the sketches artists use to create the graphics for the game. Thomas and Jens met(Online that is) around 2004 and in 2005 did a thesis game together called Energetic, exploring educational gameplay on the topic of energy consumption and pollution. In 2006 they both attended a masters year at Gotland University, where a group of 4 students worked on the tech demo Penumbra, that was released in 2006 with great reception. Thomas, Jens and Anton then started Frictional Games in the second half of 2006 and begun work on the first Penumbra game, Penumbra Overture. Anton is no longer at Frictional Games, the bastard(joke obviously;)) moved to Norway and started to work for FunCom in late 2007.

Jens Nilsson - Gameplay Scripting & Audio Lead, Co-founder and more

I too live in Helsingborg, Sweden. I have been freelancing for over ten years as a sound designer, originally as a musician but not that suited to make video game music. During those years I got the basics of running a company and hense at Frictional when I don't work on games I do most of the "not related to games"-tasks that is involved in running a company. Since the Energetic game I have been doing gameplay scripting, learning for each project we have done as I have not previously been that educated in script languages beyond basic web site crafting.

Luis R Morales - Tools & Audio programer

Luis is from Sevilla(around), Spain. Luis originally volunteered to help out with some programming during the first Penumbra game. He implemented OpenAL into the game engine, he then re-worked and improved the implementation for the next penumbra and after that he started to work full-time on developing the tools for the next game engine(which is our current work in progress along with the game Unknown). The tools that he has developed includes a level editor, model editor and particle editor all which contribute to make the creation of the new game that much smoother. For the Penumbra games we used 3D editors as the actual game creation editor, it worked but was hardly as enjoyable as using real editors.

Marc Nicander - Graphics artist

Marc lives in Svedala, Sweden. As a student he helped out doing some minor work for the first Penumbra game, when we did the third Penumbra game he was working full-time and did most of the graphics for the game. He also did a lot of design and gameplay ideas for that game. Currently he works mostly with creating sets of graphics for the new game. With the new game we have decided to take the tile set approach common in 2D games and apply that to a 3D model environment. Poor Marc has to spend a great deal of time creating 3D parts that can be used in numerous combinations to create rooms, levels and environments. For the rest of us it means that we can all participate in creating levels, making use of the pieces that he creates.

Marcus Johansson - Graphics artist intern

Lives in Arvika, Sweden. Currently a student doing his final internship here at Frictional Games. If nothing goes completely wrong during his last two months as an intern we will be enjoying his work as an employee soon. His work is currently concentrated on creating a lot content for the game, furniture, items, level details and all sort of things that the player can play with in the game.

We also work with three main colaborators:

Mikko Tarmia - Composer
Lives in Mikkeli, Finland. Composer for computer games since many years back, originally we met(Online..) when he was doing music for a Mac game developer by the name CodeBlender and I was doing sound for them. Mikko helped out to do a theme song for the Penumbra Tech Demo and has since then created all the music in the three Penumbra games. I can't recall ever having read a review of our games that has had a poor score for the music, so in short his work has always been much appreciated!

Tom Jubert - Writer

Lives in the UK, I'm uncertain of his exact location these days. After having released the Tech Demo there was a day when a mail came to our inbox, a guy said "I played your game and well I think the writing was OK, but I would have written it like this instead..." and since then he has worked very closely with us developing and creating the story for the Penumbra games far beyond the original grasp. Tom also helps out with the voice directing, which have resulted in often positive mentions of the voice acting for our games.

Abyss Light - Graphics outsourcing

A company from Ukraine, when we started on the second Penumbra game, Black Plague, we had less time and a need for much more details in the game to be made. By introduction we met the Abyss light crew and has since then worked with them, very smooth and a very well working collaboration.

And if we want to thank anyone personally for bringing this great gameset to Linux...

The port to Linux & Mac is done by Edward Rudd.
Lives in Fishers, IN, USA. Edward also was someone that simply sent us a mail saying "Hey, played the game and I noticed you use a lot of cross-platform libraries. Ever considered a port to linux/mac?" and indeed we had. Since the beginning we decided to use cross-platform libraries and technologies to create the games, in the hopes that some day when the opportunity would present it self we could hopefully get a port to mac/linux done. When Edward contacted us it was at the very right moment, we were half-way done with the first Penumbra game and the engine was close the final version. He begun with porting the Linux version and it got released about 1 month after the Windows version I believe. The Mac version took a very long time for the first Penumbra game, there were a lot of problems at the beginning that Edward had to work through. Edward also works with this in his spare time so he can't sit day and night(he might actually from time to time we suspect) working on none-solvable problems that could be in the drivers or OS it self and not the actual game. The two following Penumbra games had near simultaneous releases on all platforms and our current game is already being worked on by Edward.

Challenges of the gaming industry
The main problem for us as a smaller developer is always going to be more about getting people to know about us rather than create the actual game. A small developer also has fewer options as to what publishers to use(if any), we had problems with publishers that simply were not to be trusted in the beginning. In fact, there has been times when we would have to close the company if it weren't for the sales we do on our own with the Mac / Linux port. It's not that we are very successful as a Mac / Linux developer, but the sales we do have has given us a buffer to get by during hard times.

Having released the three Penumbra games we have started to get a bit of an established reputation, which helps when trying to get word out on the new project.

What motivated you particularly to create this trilogy. Any challenges in physically porting the game to linux
We were all a bit soft for the horror genre and really wanted to try and make a horror game. We also had some ideas that perhaps a first person game does not have to be a shooter and in particular when making a horror game is it not better to remove the weapons so that the player is much more vulnerable? As we got the physics interaction system in place, originally the physics came to as we tried to come up with a method that didn't require a lot of animations to be made, it really started to get exciting when we noticed how well manually opening doors, drawers and things like that work in a horror game.

Edwards reply to the challenges

"The only challenges I ran into on the linux port was updating to code base to adhere more strictly to the C++ specifications as GCC is rather strict compared to Visual C++. but the real challenge was getting the final binaries built so that they would run on a large set of Linux Distributions. Right now the final binaries are built out of a Fedora Core 4 based build environment which is always fun to get everything to build in :)

Really the most challenging part of porting was getting the Mac build up and running, as with the Mac , the OpenGL drivers are significantly more strict than they are on linux and Windows.. So things that could be "gotten away with" on Windows and Linux could not be done on the Mac. Also with the Mac port I had to mess with PowerPC vs. x86 processor differences while making the universal binary."

Has anyone from the linux community covered your port yet.

We have had some coverage, over the years a couple of magazine has reviewed the games and we have done a few interviews and things like that for Linux oriented media. But mainly the Linux community is spreading the word about the games through forums and other communication technologies. When we have some Linux news we try to get it out on Linux oriented sites, but in general it is quite difficult as most sites are often on a much higher and technology oriented level, focusing on what CISCO is up to and not so much what the small little game developer from Sweden is trying to say.

Hey, just a guess here...maybe a shot in the dark so to speak?

Whaddaya wanna bet Frictional knows where to come with news of their releases from now on?

It will be our pleasure.

All-Righty Then


Lance Forrester said...


I openly and loudly applaud you for bringing this great little company into the limelight. It was your story that got picked up on Slashdot and made them famous for a day or three. I am glad they achieved good sales from the event. You seem to be picking up some cred there and I am happy for you.

I know you are out of work and struggling so I donated a small sum to your blog paypal account. Consider that an extremely small thanks for introducing us to Frictional, even though they will probably think nothing of it.

You've done good work here Ken. NOW maybe the bigger gaming companies will start paying attention to Linux as a market force.


akau said...

Here-here. Well said. These guys certainly do deserve alot of credit for the work they have done. They produce great games and I am very very grateful that they have deciced to support Linux. Thanks Frictional Games!

Anonymous said...

and I think helios deserves a huge hit of credit for making that happen. We need an army of advocates like him. I am personally getting sick of people sitting behind keyboards and sniveling about stuff when they could expend a bit of energy and change things.

helios doesn't seem to be adversely affected by it and he's twice my age. I don't know that I could keep his pace.

Ivan Vučica said...


Programmers in the small game company I'm working are (almost) all Linux enthusiasts and two out of five of us run it daily. We'd like to port our games, but we have to concentrate on the big&certain market. Perhaps experience of the guys from Frictional will give us the boost we needed to try and ship Linux binaries (which was always the intention, especially since we use PythonOgre). And hopefully it'll pay off.

Thanks once again!

Anonymous said...

@ Ivan

Well, that's two games ported to Linux that helios has had first hand doings in making successful in the Linux world. What else is it going to take? Did you know that Fractional reports 5000 downloads in the first 5 hours or so?

sheesh...that's fine. They don't need our money might tell them that. I kknow you don't have any real influence as an employee, at least I don't where I work but man...the writing is on the wall. I talked with helios yesterday and 2dboy has increased their day to day sales of World of Goo by about 12 percent just by linux users.

Anonymous said...

I paid my five bucks and downloaded the game, but I suck so much at video games that I can't even do the tutorial. The tutorial says it will teach me the skills to play the game. Where do I get the skills to do the tutorial?

Reminds me of the time I downloaded a flight simulator and then sat on the runway in 747 with the engines running and couldn't get it to move. And I'm a pilot!

Unknown said...

@ five bucks


looks like you and me are in the same boat...I couldn't even get out of the damn cabin of the ship for thirty minutes.

God I suck at video games. Took a 12 year old to show me how.

Such a computer guru I am.


Unknown said...

@Lance: After the BS that Epic Games pulled, I say screw the big companies! One can only say that they're working on bugs for so long before people get irritated and walk away. After seeing threads get locked on their forum because people complained that the Linux client of UT3 wasn't there as promised, I realized that companies like Epic Games don't deserve a customer base. The economy is no excuse either. If a customer base is treated poorly for too long, you lose it.

It's time for the independent groups to shine now. They are the ones who not only care about the quality of their products, but also their customer base. They don't want to gouge people either @ $40 USD a pop.

Anonymous said...


I've been playing Penumbra: Overture since I bought it on Friday... and I just wanted to say "a smaller developer but a great game" thanks Frictional Games for bringing it to the GNU/Linux community.

Anonymous said...

Like many, I bought the Penumbra bundle within an hour of reading your blog. I did the same with world of Goo.. So I'm lining up many lost weekends to come. Thought I had got away from that on Linux ;-) If the rest is nearly as good as the little bit I have seen, then I would have been well served by paying way more for each game. Incredibly atmospheric.

Great work advertising it Helios. Hopefully many more to come.