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The Terrifying Tale of Amnesia

Thomas Grip | 12 Jul 2011 14:20
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As we first ventured in this new direction we decided to keep most of the new, more "Mario-like" features we had already implemented, but as the project progressed we cut out almost all of these simply because they did not fit. It took a lot longer than expected to shed these negative features, in part because of the bias one gets when putting a lot of time into parts of the game. It is quite easy to overlook blatant flaws simply because you invested time in them.

The End Is Near

By February, cash flow became a problem yet again. We knew we had to come up with something in order to survive.

The release of the game was slowly closing in at the start of 2010, and we had come far enough to set a preliminary release date for early fall. The only problem was we did not have enough money to pay our expenses for that long. We needed to find a publisher that could give us a big enough advance to cover costs.

In January 2010 we also felt the game needed a new title, as the name Unknown was proving unpopular. To determine a name, the whole team simply voted for a number of different suggestions, finally settling on Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We're still not entirely pleased with the name, but we've never felt naming things was a strong suit of Frictional Games.

A few weeks before release of the teaser trailer, we had reached one of our most important milestones during the entire project - alpha. This meant that we had a pretty much all of the required features implemented and that we could try out the first third of the game as it was intended. With a proper demo, we could now resume shopping around for publishers. We also set the final release date to September 8.

By February, cash flow became a problem yet again. We knew we had to come up with something in order to survive, and after tossing around many ideas, we ended up doing a discounted pre-order. We promised extra content in the form of an in-game developer commentary feature if we got 2000 or more orders. Armed with a teaser trailer and what we felt was a tantalizing offer, we took it to the public. The reaction was positive, but pre-orders were sluggish.

We signed a deal with the Russian publisher Snowball/1C in the middle of March. We were getting all of the funds we needed to complete the game, but we would be almost completely broke when we handed in the finished version.

The previous year we had gotten involved with the "Humble Indie Bundle," a pay-what-you-want game package where part of the earnings went to charity. I personally was pretty skeptical about the business model, but since we would only contribute our old title Penumbra: Overture, it felt like a good experiment to try out. The package eventually launched at the start of May 2010 and it turned out more successful than anyone would have dared to imagine. We took advantage of the boost in PR and offered Penumbra: Black Plague and Requiem at a lowered price to anyone who had bought the bundle. We also lowered the pre-order price for Amnesia by 50%, helping us to finally reach our pre-order goals. When the bundle offer was over, we had more than enough to sustain development until release and a few months beyond.

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