A Journey from a Mod to an Independent: The Forgotten City Video

2016 The Forgotten CityThis was an important story-driven expansion to a well-known RPG. It also won the first national screenwriting award. The game takes you back in time to meet the inhabitants of a strange underground city that is in ruin. You learn of a horrible curse that if one sins, all the others will die. You are now trying to find out the culprit for this sin, as well as how you can prevent it from happening again.Groundhog DayTime loop in -style

IGN called the mod “simply incredible” and it was downloaded over 3,000,000 times. However, I made it on my own time and with a $0 budget. I was confident that I could make it even better. In 2017, I made the decision to make it a separate game. It was bigger and more powerful than ever.

Three small issues were my problem:

1) I had no time

2) There was no budget.

3. I didn’t know how to create an entire game.

S and Xbox One, and this is a story about how it all came together. Let’s go back in time.

The first issue I faced was no time. So, I quit my job. This was a huge risk, given that I worked in legal practice, which is a profession where you cannot get back into. The feeling was like jumping from an airplane. My plan was to be able to fly the moment I touched the ground.

The second issue, no budget, was solved by me using my savings to apply for grants. After creating a prototype I was able to secure grants from Film Victoria, a grant agency for benevolent arts and an Epic Unreal Dev Grant. I was really able to open many doors because of the mod’s reception.

The third issue I faced – lack of experience – was solved when Alex, a programmer just finishing a VR spacewalk sim for NASA, approached me. He’s a one-man army who has done all the programming work for an entire team over the past four years. Our paths crossed at an accident party. Do you remember parties? Right place, right time.

It was the E3 PC Gaming Show, where I saw my game on display. This was the highlight of 2018. It was amazing to finally see the little game on stage after a lifetime of E3. Even better, we won an Unreal E3 Award: “Unreal Underdog”, for our bravery (read: insane) in competing with E3.

Although it felt like victory at the time it was, we realized that we had announced the game too early. We kept trying to improve it and eventually ended up having it delayed a few more times.

Exposing the game at PAX East and GDC was the highlight of 2019. When we were close to running out of funds, Dear Villagers was there to help us make the game that we had always wanted.

They told me later that one of the key criteria used by scouts to decide who should be published was “Would you like to share a beer?”. This is a reminder of how important it is to build relationships. Because of the pandemic in France, I was unable to visit them so I sent them a lovely case of beer and a thank you note.

2020 is a blur. But two things are clear:

We first worked with two extraordinary historian consultants to ensure that our ancient Roman city game world had historically accurate art, architecture and costumes. The first, Dr. Philip Matyszak has an Oxford D.Phil, is a Cambridge professor, and has published 17 books. Sophie Hay has been excavating Pompeii’s ruins for 20 years. Both are very smart and lovely and have been a great help to us.

We also learned how to create dialogue animations thanks to Shon Stewart (Lead Animator at Obsidian), which was a great call. Although our animations don’t have Triple-A motion capture capabilities, they are still very good considering that we’re only three devs.

This brings us to 2021. This game will launch later in the month.

These last 4.5 years were terrifying, thrilling, satisfying creatively, and exhausting. The team has also been extremely productive. We have rewritten the script twice, added characters, quests and twists to it, and modified gameplay mechanics. Professional voice acting was used as well as a new orchestral score.

No matter what happens, I am proud of the way it turned out.The Forgotten CityIt turned out that I was right, and I am so glad I made the jump!

Thank you for reading!

Publited at Wed 28 July 2021, 18:06:01 +0000

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