“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
–Emily Dickinson, Hope is the thing with feathers
This is how Jess Joho at Killscreen Daily began her article about AER and its development just a few months ago. The purpose (I think) was to describe the game, its purpose and the feelings Jess saw in it from a humanist’s perspective. The poem is also a very good way to describe my and my collegues year 2014.
Making games is something difficult and very complex in more ways than one, most offently being a daunting task with way too many things that have to go right. I am in awe of everyone who makes cool games, one after another, and just continues to do so year after year. Especially with small teams (see companies such as Vlambeer, KnapNok, Capybara Games and one man army Grapefrukt Games). Making a living from making games is often even harder, at least when it comes to small and new companies (the first paycheck is a heavenly blessing, I tell you). Last year was by far the most amazing and frightening year in Forgotten Keys history, and our hopes for AER, for the future and the salvation of our personal economies was equal only to our frights and fears surrounding the very same.
During last year, we were hard at work both building AER and trying to find a way to survive in this industry. Many argue that money is not as important when you can work on the game you love, especially as an indiependent developer. Nonetheless, the fact remains that without cash there is no salary and without salary you can’t pay for food or rent. Even less for the things you need for the actual development.
We hinted (in a not so “hinty” way) that we were aiming for Kickstarter to see if we could make enough money there to be able to stay afloat for the rest of the development, and at the same time keep the design decisions independent from influence from outside the studio. This was a difficult decision. At the time, Kickstarter was hurt by a lot of large games (with large, successful kickstarter campaigns) being canceld and the trust for crowd funding as a thing seemed to be failing. We also new that it would mean a lot of work, and that the work we put into it wouldn’t be worth anything if we didn’t succeed. At the time though, we didn’t have many other options other than start right away, try to get a good parternship which would bring in some investment or just give it all up and say “Hey, at least it was a fun experience. And the trailer we released got seen by quite a few”. But as in the poem, we would never stop. At least not without a fight to the very end.
We researched, we planned and we actually put everything up on the Kickstarter site (heck, we even started a new company outside of Sweden and made a trailer!). At the same time, with some help from Gameport, the incubator that the company was part of, I went to Gamescom to see if anyone was interested in helping us realize our vision.
“Have a great week” the team said. “Don’t come back empty handed” they said. I smiled and laughed with them, but at the same time I felt the seriousness beneath the joke. This trip and the planned Kickstarter was our last hopes, and could have been the last thing we did as a company.
I had a few more meetings booked than last time which meant lots to do during the days already. Even so, I ran around in search of other oportunities and people to speak to whom I did not yet know. Many thought the game looked cool, many wanted to talk again, but nothing solid was offered nor discussed right away. Which is to be expected considering the risk of an investment in a more or less unproven team.
Then there was a meeting with someone who had seen AER from its early stages, including old prototypes and one of the first to see the trailer we released back in 2013. The company was Daedalic, the person Steffen Boos. First time I met them was at Gamescom a year earlier. I went up to their booth and spoke a few words with them, showed them the video and felt a bit like I never was going to reach to where they were; making cool games (was kind of a fan already) and a recognized company in the games industry. I spoke with Steffen at a few occasions later during the year and I expected the meeting at the 2014 Gamescom to be a bit of a paus from all the stress and running around. More meeting a friendly face, less business. Little did I know of what this meeting would come to mean.
We talked for a good 15 minutes about a lot of different things, business excluded. A considerate amount of the 30 minutes that a meeting usually takes at these kind of conventions. It would take until then before Steffen drops the bomb and tells me that they want to work with us on making AER. It was so unexpected to me that I had to ask a few times to really understand what was happening. The meeting turned into an hour long discussion with both me Steffen and the CEO of Daedalic, Carsten.
The thing with feathers changed form to a rising phoenix and I can’t say I didn’t have one or two glasses of wine too many that evening even though I rarely drink, and even more seldom, too much.
As many of you might already know (and even more might suspect after reading this post) we have now officially teamed up with Daedalic, who will publish AER, and in the same time investing some money its development, while we at Forgotten Key will keep on developing the game. It feels a good deal more like a partnership than a traditional publisher-developer relationship and we have the creative freedom we wanted together with advice from experienced proffesionals. Much love to you Daedalic <3
2013 we had a concept trailer with loose ideas about a girl saving the world while exploring it by flying around. We spread it and hoped. Now we the game is playable, has been announced to be released in 2016 and we work on development every day. Before Daedalic the ratio of working on marketing or PR material versus working on the actual game was closer to 50-50. The press-release in January lead to a bunch of new articles as this.
I can’t describe how humbling and aweome this is. We are so very gratefull for having this opportunity, and it’s all thanks to you.
This has lead us up to today. This is the first of many (hopefully) posts of the reborn dev-blog I have spoken about in social medias.
From the beginning this was supposed to be a wrap up of our first GDC in San Francisco which was one hell of a trip with a few really cool previews of AER (like this, this one and this video), so many weird, new and fantastic impressions, and in itself a story worth telling. That will have to wait until next time, it’s soon weekend and the post in itself became a larger beast than I imagined.
I’ll leave you with that and a great thank you too all the people who stood by our side through all of this. And thanks to all you who recently got to know us and support us in our aim, to bring our hopes to life within the world of AER, for you to experience and explore.
// Robin Hjelte