Expedition Log #3: The one after we announced our game

The one after we announced our game

This devlog is special because it’s the first one where I can openly talk about our game. As you might have noticed, we formally announced our game The Cost of Recovery during gamescom 2020! After some weeks of work on getting everything ready, it felt very good to finally show it to everybody and start collecting some precious feedback. Of course, we also didn’t miss our chance to celebrate this milestone with the team.

So here it is: we’re working on The Cost of Recovery, a game about the drama a family has to go through after their 9-year old son suffers a stroke. It’s a narrative-heavy game that centers on the lives of Abigail, Noah, Liam, and Hailey as each of them come to terms with a new reality. Our primary goal is to let you see and play the different viewpoints of these characters, understanding how and why everybody has their own way of dealing with difficult situations like that.

On-Track

We did it – we delivered our trailer, key art, game name, game logo, game website, and everything else on time to reveal it at gamescom 2020! Getting here was no small feat and I am super proud of what the team has been able to pull off. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our trailer. I’ll definitely write another post that focuses on the production of the trailer, so this post will just touch on that and focus on everything else.

The key art turned out great and was created by Patrick

We knew that we needed a cool key art for our game. While it should primarily be beautiful and be in sync with the vibes and feelings of the game, we also wanted to hide a secret message (can you find it?). While that’s cool and all, it was a long way until we reached the final result. Getting those shadows right was not easy, and Patrick and I spent a whole afternoon constructing the shape of those shadows in semi-3D rather than just drawing them. I absolutely love the key art Patrick was able to create and I think it was worth every second of effort – even though I might have been a pain in the ass for Patrick from time to time with my wild key art ideas (“let’s cut it out so it’s just a circle!”).

Creating the trailer also meant nailing down a lot of things about the visuals of the game – the way things look, the way things move, the way light works, etc. All those things had to be fully developed, which was a challenge but I am very pleased with the result. Jannik’s shaders worked wonders in some scenes and we learned a ton about how to animate our characters and how to set up post-processing to achieve our target style. Setting up our steam page, website, and press kit also went smoothly thanks to Ines‘ great efforts. Ines was also the one to create all the posts that finally revealed our game.

The trailer also marked the first time I worked with a professional voice actress. I had worked with the super-cool Voice-Acting Power Squad before, but hiring the actress for Abigail in the trailer was the first time I paid someone and worked with several revisions. We listened to some demos from different actresses, but we all voted for the same actress in the end. It just had to be her.

The first and final versions of Abigail’ voice-over (exerpts)

So we hired Liz Fodor for the part and I was blown away by her professionalism! She very quickly delivered first recordings and was always a pleasure to work with. The first recording was delivered without any direction by me, but with just a few revisions she delivered the version that’s now in the trailer, which I think is very on-point. You can listen to an excerpt of both versions in the audio player above – I think it’s very interesting how different these versions are. I sincerely hope that we can keep working with Liz once we start recording the voices for the rest of the game.

Off-Track

Without a doubt: the biggest pain of the past months was finding a name for our game. I had heard that it could be a difficult process for some projects, but I did not expect to be stuck like this. You might remember the photo from our name-finding-workshop in early March. We did not find our name back then, and finding a name for our game was a long journey. You can see some of the names in the picture below.

Some of our name ideas for The Cost of Recovery

We all simply had very different expectations of what the title should contain. Some wanted a very graphic name (one favorite in that category was “Waves in our backyard”), something short (“Windwards”), something nautic and poetic (“The tides between us”), something funny (“How to build a boat”), or something that has a relation to Maine, which is where the game takes place (“Down East”). None of these quite hit the mark for all of us, so I kept throwing ideas into our meetings but none of them stuck. With the weeks going by and our announcement coming closer, I felt I had to make a decision and decided that the name would be “The Cost of Recovery”, because it checks a lot of boxes for what we had defined to be a ‘good’ name. The team’s reaction was one of relief that this ordeal had finally come to an end. I hope our next game will be easier!

The logo was co-created by me and the awesome Sascha Reinhold

Another big problem we encountered right after our announcement also had to do with our name. You see, there was a problem with our gamescom page. A big problem.

As an official partner of gamescom, we had a ‘partner page’ and a ‘product page’ on the gamescom portal, but we could not directly influence the content of these page. We had to fill out specific forms to request that somebody from the gamescom staff would make these changes for us. With more than 300 exhibitors, and these forms opening up just a few days before gamescom started, you can imagine how many change requests those poor souls had to go through under time pressure. We had some problems with the ways our headlines were displayed, so I asked if it’s possible to remove the “The Cost of Recovery” underneath the logo on our product page and if our claim could be displayed where the company name was currently shown on the partner page.

My requests were changed within 24 hours and everything looked okay at first glance, but the fixes were only cosmetic. Instead of removing the “The Cost of Recovery” underneath the logo, they had changed the game name in their database to “A third-person narrative adventure” and they swapped our company name and company claim in their database to adhere to my font size requests. While doing these changes in their database visually solved my requests, they meant that we had false values in their database.

After gamescom launched, we thought all was well until some tweets started to reach us. Those changes in the database meant that one could not find our company in the company list – we were listed as “Video games that make you feel”. And in the official list of games, our game was called “A third-person narrative adventure”. So if someone was looking for our game, it was impossible to find. Plus, some people were starting to make fun of us. Of course we submitted a change request immediately, but it took about 20 hours before the changes were made and our game was listed correctly. It really was nobody’s fault and, in retrospective, is a funny story. But next time I’ll be a lot more careful with my change requests!

The road ahead

Ha, now comes the easy part! All that’s left to do is to finish the game. What a piece of cake! Well.. maybe. It’s still a long road ahead. After the annoucement, I replanned our production so that we can finish the game within our time constraints. We also have to get back into game-development mode, because we spent quite some time in our trailer- and visual-development-modes.

As always, we’ll keep sharing small nuggets over on Twitter (follow us!) and on our discord (join now!). Also, you can sign up for our newsletter to receive first-hand news every now and again. Also, don’t forget to wishlist The Cost of Recovery on Steam!

If you want to learn more about our development, you can also check out the previous Expedition Log!

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