Our first press release!

Trip the Ark Fantastic – an immersive story-driven scientific adventure set in the Animal Kingdom on the verge of industrial and social revolution.

We have been working for the past few months on something to show everyone, about the project, about the game, about the narrative, themes, graphics, music, and so on. Of course, since this is such a big undertaking, we naturally needed a lot of time. Well, that time is now! We have produced:

  • A very detailed press release explaining the core tenets of the game
  • A very nice teaser trailer detailing the atmosphere of the game
  • A press kit with key art and even some gameplay screenshots
  • Our first social media push

So we’ll just go through all of these, and how / why we made them.

The Press Release

You can check the full press release out as part of our presskit here.

It’s still very difficult for us to explain our game in a short sentence. We’re innovating in many different areas and in the true spirit of gesamtkunstwerk everything is of equal importance to us, so emphasising solely gameplay or story or art would feel unfair. So we need to entice the reader of the press release early on to make them hold on for a little bit longer and read the whole thing.

The idea then was to not start off with the “elevator pitch” or anything similar, but just to put a nice piece of key art with a mysterious quote from the trailer to entice people to read on, then have a very short (brevity is the soul of press releases) list of bullet points about what we feel are the game’s main distinguishing features (story, mechanics, themes, art, music, tech), and then follow it up with a longer explanation of each, a paragraph or two.

We sent it to a list of around 100 media outlets and so far we had some 70-ish visits to the presskit link which I think is a good number, but we’ll see the real results today after the trailer is officially released.

The Teaser Trailer

Obviously, this early in the development process we can’t have a trailer showcasing all (or any) of our innovative gameplay mechanics, but we really wanted to start being vocal about the game as soon as possible so we could get interested people already engaged early on.

Also, putting pictures every #screenshotsaturday seemed a bit underwhelming and we wanted to start with a bang, so we said – why not a very early teaser trailer with some epic voice over and so on? We will publish it and start gathering fans from all over the world.

Of course, we made it first and foremost to be artistically pleasing (lots of dark and mystery) but then we needed to conform the trailer itself to some technological and media standards – e.g. most people on social media watch trailers with the sound turned off and also most people just scroll on if they aren’t engaged in the first 5 seconds.

So for the trailer version that’s on social media we took a cue from modern Hollywood and started off with a short 5 second “pre-trailer” that shows everything including the game name, and then winds down and continues with the slow and atmospheric trailer we envisaged. Also, we baked / encoded subtitles because otherwise all that epic deep voice over is for naught.

When you do something for too long you lose sight of the obvious so we beta tested the trailer to a couple of audiences. Firstly on Reboot Infogamer, a gamer conference in Zagreb a few weeks ago. People there gave us a lot of good feedback which we spent a few weeks implementing. We also showcased the new improved trailer on Slovenian Games Conference in Ljubljana and it was well received. So, naturally, we were emboldened to finalise it and push it to the general public. Hopefully everyone will like it and it will entice people to want to know more about the game.

The Press Kit

So obviously, media and other interested parties need more content than just a trailer. Some key art, screenshots, character art and so on. What is especially lacking in the trailer is gameplay (for obvious reasons), so we produced a gameplay gif, and will release more in the following days (we have to fill up those #ScreenshotSaturdays with something). Here’s the first gameplay gif (obviously not real gameplay but still useful) –

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/628932978340265984/652124183723114496/dialogue50.gif

The press kit itself is built in WordPress but made to resemble the industry standard that everyone uses, for ease of use. Using WordPress has its advantages including the easy addition plugins, a built-in editor etc, etc.

Also part of the press kit are all the people working on the game. Finding the whole team, keeping them cohesive throughout the project (from the beginning of development to release) was important to us, so we are happy that we finally found every member, and just in time for our first press outing.

The Social Media Push

The final part of the puzzle is of course making the whole package available to everyone – putting the trailer on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, maybe even on some subreddits, tumblrs, imgurs and so on, and so forth, and hoping for the best.

Apart from hoping, it’s smart to target certain groups, so we will try to pay some ads and show the game to people who we think might be interested (story-driven fans who like similar works, people who love classical animation, people who love RPGs, and so on). But the result of this is probably for another dev blog.

We would appreciate it if you (dear reader) shared it as well, and maybe even joined our Discord to stay in touch!

For those still reading, here’s the press release in its entirety

5 December 2019, Zagreb – Gamechuck has just released the first trailer for their upcoming role-playing adventure game Trip the Ark Fantastic, the first game from Croatia co-funded with the support of Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union.

Trip the Ark Fantastic is planned for release in 2022 on PC/Mac/Linux and consoles, and until then Gamechuck is inviting all interested gamers to follow them via their newsletter, Discord channel, or other social media at arkfantastic.com.

“Under our homes and under our hearths, civilization itself stands on a story. Words tied us all together, and they could unravel the world. 
Find it, Charles; uphold the Myth!”

Features

  • A deep and immersive secondary world set in an Animal Kingdom on the verge of industrial and social revolution, content-rich and filled with intrigue, side-quests and flavor at every step
  • Completely original gameplay mechanics based on the scientific method: research, discuss, experiment, and finally publish arguments in the Animal Kingdom’s papers
  • An exploration of how myths, science, and philosophy can influence society, and how monarchies, democracies, and anarchies view power, authority, and legitimacy of rule
  • Gorgeous art including frame-by-frame animation and vibrant landscapes inspired by the golden age of animation, as well as music inspired by the works of R. Wagner
  • A gesamtkunstwerk approach in which the art, music and gameplay all tie closely to the story of scientific discovery and the role of myths in different types of societies
  • The entire development completely done in open-source technologies, including Godot Engine, Krita, Ink and MuseScore, among others

Story

Trip the Ark Fantastic is a story-driven roleplaying adventure set in the Animal Kingdom on the verge of both industrial and social revolution. The story follows Charles, a hedgehog scholar on a mission by the lion king to save the monarchy, but his decisions could end up helping reformists or even to bring about anarchy.

The story revolves around an ancient myth that forms the basis of the Animal Kingdom’s caste system – the myth of the Ark Fantastic. As the myth goes, the ark was built by lions millennia ago to save all animals from a great flood. The king’s gambit is that, amidst whispers of reform and revolution, a reputable scholar such as Charles proving the existence of the mythical ark might sway animals toward a royalist stance, and thus uphold the monarchy.

Charles is accompanied by the king’s trusted advisor Philippe the Fox and the captain of the royal guard – Andre the Boar. Their task will lead them to the fringes of the Kingdom and beyond, in search of elusive truth.

Gameplay

The player progresses through the game by solving the Kingdom’s various problems and mysteries, but his method of solving them is a scientific one – he publishes compelling arguments in the Animal Kingdom’s scientific papers to prove his theories and disprove those of others. Only arguments with sound logic and solid evidence will have the power to sway public opinion and change the course of history. 

The evidence itself can be found by talking to the local denizens (after learning their language, such as squirrelese), by using scientific equipment (a microscope, or a chemist kit), or, as a true scholar, by “standing on the shoulders of giants” and using evidence from the works of other scholars found in libraries across the Kingdom.

The player’s main challenge will be finding all the relevant evidence and then choosing the right conclusions, which are then published and reviewed by his peers, potentially resulting in a boost to his scholarly reputation.

Additionally, since Charles’ scientific conclusions can have large-scale consequences on the Animal Kingdom and the monarchy in particular, there is a looming moral dilemma over whether the player should publish a certain argument or not.

Themes and inspirations

We draw inspiration for the game from modern fables of classic literature, such as Animal Farm or Watership Down, as well as deep story-driven games from the roleplaying and adventure game genres, and games with unique and experimental gameplay mechanics.

Our goal is to use the game to explore various types of society (monarchy, democracy, anarchy) and to tackle questions such as how rule is legitimized, what role myths play in the shaping of society, and so on.

The animation is drawn frame-by-frame to be reminiscent of early animated classics, and the music takes cues from 19th century romanticism with the use of leitmotifs inspired by Wagner and gesamtkunstwerk opera.

The game is developed using open-source software, such as the painting tool Krita and the Godot game engine. Gamechuck studio is also a sponsor to both Krita and Godot Engine and, in the case of Godot Engine, actively contributes to its development.