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The unusual evolution of Broken Rules' Secrets of Rætikon

Broken Rules has taken a rather unique route with its upcoming title -- a route that has effectively given the team a highly useful postmortem on the game, before it is even released.
Vienna-based indie studio Broken Rules has taken a rather unique route with its upcoming title, Secrets of Rætikon. It's a route that has effectively given the team a highly useful postmortem on the game, before it is even released. It all started when Nintendo approached Broken Rules last year, asking the team if it would be interested in building a Wii U launch game. Nintendo liked Broken Rules' previous game And Yet It Moves, and was keen to get the team on the Wii U. Since 2011, Broken Rules had already been working on Secrets of Rætikon, a flight exploration game, and had been prototyping a multiplayer component. Over the course of five months, that multiplayer prototype eventually became Chasing Aurora, a Nintendo Wii U launch game. And now that Wii U launch game has basically served as a prototype for the upcoming full version of Secrets of Rætikon. As designer Felix Bohatsch explained last month at GDC Europe, being a launch title for the Wii U perhaps wasn't the best idea for the Broken Rules team from a financial standpoint. However, Broken Rules marketing and business guy Martin Pichlmair told me that Chasing Aurora has ended up being a fantastic learning experience for the team.
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"Coming back to Secrets of Rætikon after releasing Chasing Aurora was quite eye-opening," he says. "We were suddenly in the position to see clearly what worked and what didn't." He continues, "That made us rethink a number of key gameplay elements. We did not touch the heart of the game, though. I think we've learned a lot about how our team can work together and hopefully we've also learned how to do better in communicating with players and media." Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I questioned whether Pichlmair wishes the team has stuck with developing Secrets of Rætikon, or was happy that it took half a year out to build Chasing Aurora. Would the team be in a better position now if Nintendo hadn't jumped in? "We will never know," he answers. "On one hand we could have focussed on the bigger and better game. On the other hand it was great to learn that we can pull off a game like Chasing Aurora in such a short amount of time and for a completely new platform." He also notes that it was helpful for the team to take its mind off Secrets of Rætikon for a while, especially since it had been working on the title for a year already. "Last but not least we had to build the tech and develop the aesthetics of Secrets of Rætikon," he notes. "I think it was worth it but we'll only see that after Secrets of Rætikon is out." One angle that Broken Rules has learnt a lot about with the release of Chasing Aurora is pricing. The game launched at $15, which turned out to be too high -- and the team is taking this experience across to the eventual launch of Secrets of Rætikon. "Chasing Aurora launched into a new marketplace and on a new console," Pichlmair tells me. "We had not enough points of reference to find the sweet spot for the price." "This time we're launching on PC, Mac and Linux. It's an already established ecosystem we're entering and that makes it far easier to assess for how much our game should be sold. Also, we'll go cheaper."

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