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  • Postmortem: Project Lake Ridden

    [10.25.18]
    - Sara Casen
  • Welcome to the post-mortem for Midnight Hub's first game "Lake Ridden". Midnight Hub is a Swedish indie studio, founded in December of 2015, by Johan Bernhardsson (formerly at Minecraft), Erik Nilsson (formerly at Massive) and Sara Casén (formerly at Paradox). Lake Ridden was released on Steam/GOG/Humble on May the 10th in 2018. The game is a first-person puzzler, filled with story and beautiful nature. It takes roughly 7-9 hours to play, depending on how much of the extra story the player wants to explore.

    The game sits on Steam's extremely high rating; "Very Positive" and has a 90% positive score. Lake Ridden is all in all made by two game artists, two programmers/designers, one producer, and two musicians. It took us roughly two years to make, at the same time setting up a new studio from scratch. The game itself is made with Unity.

    This post-mortem is compiled by the team in August of 2018, and put together by me (Sara - the producer). It's important to know that much of what is written in this piece is from the perspective of a producer. We've also done all our own marketing, community management and sales (with the help of two PR firms around launch). If you're looking for technical specifications from the development please feel free to reach out to our art director Erik Nilsson or our lead coder Johan Bernhardsson.


    Lake Ridden is made by two coders/designers, two game artists, and one producer. On top of this we hired two composers to take care of all our voice and sound needs!

    Running an indie studio and making your first game as a team is two different challenges, but since they very often overlap we'll sometimes mention things in this post that addresses both the development of Lake Ridden but also touches on the challenges of creating and operating a games studio in 2018. Our goal with publishing this text is to contribute to the larger body of knowledge about games development out there, as well as take a moment ourselves to reflect on the enormous accomplishment that is creating something from nothing. At the end of this post, I'll talk about the fact that our game, despite all love it has gotten from its fantastic players and the meticulous marketing effort we did, still four months post-release hasn't sold close to what we anticipated. This will be a long read, so buckle up!

    Background

    The development of Lake Ridden started in early 2016, at the same time we founded the studio. To minimize risk and increase success we co-founders created the studio around the skillset we have. We did not start the studio to fulfill one game idea, we quit our day jobs because we want to build a games studio. The game idea that lead to Lake Ridden was one of several pitches presented and the agreed upon by the team. Back in 2016, it was a small scoped horror game, where the player stepped into the shoes of young Marie, searching for her sister inside an abandoned house. This concept would change a lot as development went forward and we got feedback from other games developers on the state of the horror genre. Originally we wanted to make a horror game without gore and blood, with a lot of puzzles and story. But after visiting GDC17 it became very clear that many horror fans wanted gore in their games, and the people who really liked puzzles absolutely hated horror and gore. So one year after production began we decided to pivot the game and went full on with the mystery feeling, the puzzles, and the narrative, targeting the same audience that likes Myst, Ether One and (a much less bloody) The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.


    The
     Swedish indie studio was co-founded in late 2015 by game developers who've worked at Minecraft, Massive and Paradox. Lake Ridden is the first game from Midnight Hub.

    Our team grew from three founders to recruiting an additional amazing junior 3D artist (Anton Sander) and an excellent junior coder/designer (Malin Sandgren). We also signed on a duo of talented musicians; Solid Sounds.Along the way, we secured a big investment, nominations in business awards and front page coverage on big sites like Polygon. Got admitted to one of Europe's best business incubator. We exhibited demos of Lake Ridden at EGX and Nordic Game Conference, where we had lines of people waiting to play. The game's visual style got a lot of attention and we had tweets that went viral. Let's start things off by having a look on what we think went really well in creating Lake Ridden!

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