Secrets of Rætikon dev: Console launch titles are too risky

Secrets of Rtikon preview  interview consoles, Wii U
Broken Rules doesn't want to develop another launch title for any console. Its most recent game, Chasing Aurora, debuted with the Wii U last year and that experience colored the studio's approach to developing its next game, Secrets of Rætikon.

"We just won't risk another console launch," Broken Rules co-founder Martin Pichlmair told Joystiq at GDC Europe. "PS3 and Xbox 360 are not interesting anymore – when we launch, the new consoles are going to come out, and it's just too much of a risk. After the Wii U launch, we just don't want to risk another console launch. I think both of them will be fairly successful; I just don't want to bet the whole company on one of them succeeding. We can't do three ports at the same time and I don't want to make it a betting game."

Secrets of Rætikon is a PC, Mac and Linux game in three chapters. The first chapter is due out this year; Broken Rules recently pushed back its internal launch window, bumping it to "after September" but before the holiday release rush, Pichlmair said. It may still hit the new consoles – after they launch – and Broken Rules is already in talks with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

The studio's first game, And Yet It Moves, launched on PC, Mac, Linux and Wii, and has so far sold 500,000 copies. It's keeping the company afloat financially – with the help of a $200,000 grant from the Vienna government – while Chasing Aurora was more successful in terms of PR, not sales.

Nintendo won't allow Broken Rules to share Chasing Aurora sales numbers, possibly because they're embarrassing, Pichlmair said.
Gallery | 6 Photos

Secrets of Raetikon

"Of course we would have been happier if the Wii U had sold more," he said. "That would have helped a great deal. Financially it was OK, only because we got the grant, and we saw secondary effects from it. It got our name out there. It's quite surprising how much more seriously you get taken once you've made a console game, especially if you've made a launch title, because people in this industry know how much work that is – and it's huge. It's incomparable to a normal game, the kind of effort that has to go into it."

Secrets of Rætikon is Chasing Aurora's sibling: They both spawned from the same premise, a dream that Broken Rules CEO Felix Bohatsch had in 2010 where he was flying, flapping his arms to soar around. The team transformed this premise into an action mutliplayer title starring a series of birds. When Nintendo reached out about making a Wii U launch game in 2011, Broken Rules was already knee-deep this concept, and it split off the multiplayer section to create Chasing Aurora.

Secrets of Rætikon is the singleplayer aspect of that concept from 2010. It's a low-poly, vector-based exploration and puzzle game, asking the player to collect shards and resurrect ancient machinery in a lively, natural environment full of AI animals and mysterious passageways. It's beautiful so far.

Secrets of Rtikon dev 'We just won't risk another console launch'
The title itself is just as deep as the game's secrets – the "æ" symbol stems from an ancient tribe in Austria that was conquered by the Romans in 300 BC, Pichlmair said. Not much is known about the tribe, though its people flourished for many years before being overrun, and it remains one of the greatest mysteries of Austria.

And here we thought the symbol was meant to make us question the adequacy of our keyboard knowledge.

The first chapter of Secrets of Rætikon includes eight ancient machines to revitalize and dozens of secrets to uncover, and it takes Pichlmair more than an hour to fly through the levels (literally). It should be out, on anything except a new console, this year after September.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.