I’m glad to see more of The Sinking City, the Lovecraft-inspired investigative horror game being made by Sherlock Holmes studio Frogwares. Wandering and boating around a half-flooded city to poke into mysteries of terrible and unknowable beings sounds great to me. I’ve not heard much from it in a while but, with The Sinking City set to launch later this year, Frogwares are starting showing it at shows. A new developer video walks through the process of creating a show demo – which, as you may or may not know, is rarely as simple as just cutting off a slice of the game.
The Sinking City sounds like a big, complex, and fascinating game. Frogwares say players will be free to explore the Massachusetts city of Oakmont, talk to people, examine evidence, and generally lose their minds investigating eldritch mysteries, all without map markers or diary instructions. This makes it a difficult game to demo.
Show demos are usually small standalone sections, honed to present a particular image of a game. Seeing as the game isn’t finished, it’s not as simple as loading up the latest dev build and letting journos and players get stuck in. How can you hint at the possibilities of a broad game while only showing a small slice? How much do you want to reveal? How directed do you want the experience to be? Should you just make a separate proof-of-concept section? Frogwares explain their own demo decisions in this new dev diary.
This industry practice isn’t a secret but it is interesting to hear decisions explored publicly. If you’ve ever wondered about these demos which are shown long before a game is actually finished, this might answer some questions. Though, of course, let’s always remember that games can change direction wildly over the course of development, for any number of technical, design, artistic, and financial reasons. Demos are concepts.
The Sinking City is due to launch sometime later this year. Frogwares games tend to be janky but I am glad they’re out there, committed to making investigation games – a genre I would so like to see explored more. And the Lovecraftian slant on this one does look pretty swish.
Oh, and this particular demo? It’ll be at GDC next week then in April it’s playable at EGX Rezzed, the London games show run by our corporate siblings. Speaking off, we’re giving away five pairs of Rezzed tickets right now.