Watch The Sinking City devs ponder how to demonstrate the Lovecraftian investigation

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.

4 Comments

  1. FordTruck says:

    This game and Call of Cthulhu I think I’m in heaven

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    Risingson says:

    I feel I’ve been extremely unfair to Frogwares in the past, when they are doing the good fight of developing what they like with actually some heart. It took them to get to The Awakened (their first Holmes-Lovecraft pastiche) to have a decent enough game, but they haven’t stopped delivering. And they are still here. And that fills me with joy.

  3. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    I can accept janky if there is a good heart to a game, so fingers crossed

  4. FrumiousBandersnatch says:

    Don’t get me wrong, this looks very promising and i like Frogware, but this and especially some earlier trailers look like they break the first rule of lovecraftian fiction: Don’t show the monster. Lovecrafts works live from a slow gradual buildup, their horror is in the anticipation, they are about the unknowable and unspeakable.
    The trailers make it look like there are deformed monsters and towering seagiants abound, not confined to near the end of the game after a slow and gradual buildup.
    When i read lovecraft i don’t quite imagine a game about shooting spidery things with a gun.

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