Not about a trip to San Francisco, but the…

“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

Gamescom 2013

Robin speaking. I’ve been back in Sweden one week now since my visit at Gamescom. And what a visit it was. The first impression I had was: “This is huge”. That was the first day of trade visitors and press only, which meant I had an even bigger surprise to look forward to when the doors swung open for the public.

I stayed at a youth hostel, which was okey. Good quality for the price, but nothing fancy really. I slept for a while directly after I had checked in. The travel had taken the better part of me, seated (i.e., no bed) for 13 hours with five “friends” in a small compartment is nothing I’d recommend for anyone. Nothing much happened this day, so let’s skip it and jump to tomorrow!

The Indie Game Summit day of GDC was nice, with a small area of exhibitors and some nice lectures. Most of my time here was spent on trying to find people to talk with. Ended up in having a ticket to the Microsoft Windows party, a totally anonymous business card from Steam (only URLs on it) and an impression that I should buy Sorcery! when I got back home. I also bumped into Julie who told me about game fund. Some free cash is never wrong, especially when facing rough times in a cold Sweden as a indie game developer. Then went to a SEGA hosted pitch-event I wasn’t allowed to pitch at. Did so anyway and got in touch with some SEGA people (who wasn’t there to be pitched for).

The Windows party was kind of cool, with a cool (open) bar and a DJ playing yesterdays hits in a wild mix. I met a few people, had a good time and spoke a little with Dajana of KnapNok. Should totally play Spin the Bottle for Wii U, I did last weekend and had a blast! Got some recommendations to talk to some people at Gamescom, which is always good, but the general impression of the evening was more or less ruined by the fact that Microsoft had hired a bunch of women to hang out with the game developers. Made the beer more bitter than it really was.

Next day was the first day of Gamescom. The whole event is kind of a blur in my mind, and I can’t say what I did at which days but it was basically a three step plan:

  1. Book more meetings.
  2. Attend meetings.
  3. Meet cool people.

Before Gamescom I had four meetings planned with companies at the sight. A very low number, but as it was my first Gamescom I didn’t really know how to prepare nor what to expect. On my quest to find more people to talk business to I noticed how many companies had guards and doorkeepers at their booths. Even so I managed to get about 18 meetings in total (not all of the real meetings can count as meetings, and not all of the networking can count as mere networking, so 18 is the number I’ll stick with). And that is just step two of the plan. Can’t really appreciate how many cool people I met, but I spend quite a lot of time at the Devolver booth, talking to Dennis and some of the Devolvers and SEGAs crew.

By a whim I ended up (for free) at the Nordic Party, taking place at Sky Beach, an artificial beach placed on top of a parking house. They had barbecue and free beers, and I met up with Patrik from Corncrow. This party was classy enough to skip the prostitution.

Except talking to people and actually getting things done, I wanted to try some of the games that was hosted at the exhibition. With my trade visitor pass i sneaked in early and tried PS4 and Elder Scrolls Online. PS4 was a delight, and my fear of the changed controller was all but necessary; the controller was perfect. I tried Hohokum, Octodad and Drive club. Had a blast with all of them, but most impressed with Hohokum. Elder Scrolls Online was more of a disappointment. First of all, I am a huge Elder Scrolls fan, and Morrowind is my favorite game of all time. It took me more then 10 years to complete it, and I can still return to it’s wonders. So, the MMO version was disappointing because:

  1. It was to combat focused. Nothing I didn’t expect, and I guess that it’s okay as it is an MMO (easy way to keep players interested).
  2. The combat was boring and easy. I walked up to a polar bear and engaged a (in my mind) fearsome battle. The cool real time combat of dodging and blocking felt nice. Until I noticed that I could just press the left mouse button (swing my sword) until the polar bear was defeated and I lived. Action based combat is only fun if it actually requires you to react with your actions.

So with a ton of impressions, business cards and a head ache I once again boarded a train for the ride home. This time with a bed instead of a seat which was much appreciated. It was a good time, it was good for business, now we’ll wait and let the future tell us what’s next.

Thank you to everyone who made my Gamescom!

Until next time!

Music maestro!

Here’s the audio for the trailer as well! Heck, we might even upload the trailer eventually (:

By the way

While we’re at it we’re really proud of the trailer and our work so we thought we might as well share some screenshots from the trailer featuring some brand new scenery, hope you enjoy!

“It’s fantastic”

Good morning! Today is very exciting, primarily for two reasons!

Yesterday we finished the Aer-trailer we’ve been working hard on for the last couple of weeks and today we got some first feedback on it. They really appreciate it and think it’s “fantastic”! Which is super fun and brilliant news! And as you may have already noticed, our website has been subject to a major revamp – a complete re-design which we felt was much needed. We really hope you like the new site as much as we do!

That’s pretty much it for now! Take care!