In many ways the mystery adventure Trüberbrook is reminiscent of the adventure Harold Halibut, also from Germany, about which we reported a few months ago. One thing the two projects have in common is that they are supposed to be financed through Kickstarter. However, where Harold Halibut failed – development work continues anyway – Trüberbrook was successful relatively quickly. The Kickstarter campaign will run until December 14th and more than double the target has already been achieved.

That may well be due to the fact that Trüberbrook is getting more media attention, because behind it is the Cologne-based btf (bildundtonfabrik), known for the Neo Magazin Royale, with the support of publisher Headup Games. Participants such as Justin Beard, Nora Tschirner, Dirk von Lowtzow and Jan Böhmermann contribute the rest.

Trüberbrook is similar to Harold Halibut in that all of the game’s landscapes were first created by production designers as miniature backdrops in a workshop. The team then staged it like a film set and scanned it via photogrammetry to preserve many details. Sounds interesting and that’s why we elicited more details about the project from author and game director Florian Köhne, technical artist Hans Böhme and producer Lea Gamula.

The idea for the game had been dormant in Köhne’s sketchbook for a long time. He has been an adventure fan for many years, grew up with the classics by LucasArts and Sierra and has never lost interest in them. He completed a design degree at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, during which time he dealt with classic trick techniques such as stop motion and miniature models. His thesis dealt with dinosaurs and their animation in film.

“The subject of model making itself is very multifaceted and extremely exciting, especially for designers and animators. In addition, working with real materials in the workshop is a lot of fun and a welcome change from clicking on the computer. The idea for a handmade adventure Then came out of the desire to break new ground visually. Many of today’s adventure games either follow a beautiful, detailed, hand-drawn style, a classic nostalgic pixel graphics or are completely 3D. More unusual styles, such as ‘The Neverhood’ are not to be observed all that often today, although there is also some movement in the scene, “they say.

Since the btf had already dealt with miniatures and trick technology in many projects, for example for music videos or the short film Armadingen, it seemed obvious to link this with a narrative genre such as adventure.

Trüberbrook describe it with the words “The X-Files and Twin Peaks meet the forester from the Silberwald”, the team mentions Stranger Things or Star Trek as further sources of inspiration. The game repeatedly refers to series, films, music and other pop-cultural phenomena, it is emphasized that the three names mentioned in the quote should best bring the concept to the point. The forester vom Silberwald was more of a placeholder for Heimatfilms, which enjoyed great popularity in Germany in the post-war years.

“In the Heimatfilm the world was still in order: Untouched and idyllic landscapes, functioning village communities with everyday problems, stereotypical roles like the forester, the pastor or the village policeman as the keeper of order, in the end, of course, a happy ending. This is exactly the setting we chose – because it is so wonderfully naive and stupid at the same time, and on the other hand totally unusual as a setting for a computer game. If you look at David Lynch and his works such as ‘Blue Velvet’ or ‘Twin Peaks’, it quickly becomes clear that he deals with a similar topic, just from an ‘American’ perspective, but expanding the motif to include the depths and abysses of the human soul: an externally intact, American small town idyll, behind which it seething and creaks.”

These aspects flow into the supposedly idyllic Heimat film motif. In Lynch’s work, the music reinforces the creepy and disturbing mood; in Trüberbrook it is used in a similar way. The X-Files and Stranger Things (but also Twin Peaks) represent the supernatural elements that btf does not want to go into more detail about. Star Trek names the team because there is a lot of technobabble in Trüberbrook, from the “tachyon pulse” to the “coherent tetryon beam”.

“Last but not least, all these references also had an influence on the creation of the characters: Our protagonist Hans Tannhauser could best be described as a mixture of Special Agent Dale Cooper, Spooky Mulder and Mr. Data.”

It was important to the developers that the distinctive graphics did not become Trüberbrook’s only unique selling point. The visuality should be subordinate to the overall concept and leave the story, the characters and the gaming experience the necessary space to unfold.

There is a lot of work behind the production of the sets in the workshop, at the same time the makers call this step one of the most fun of all. Before starting work, the development of the game design and the puzzles were on the program, as adjustments are difficult to make after scanning. If it were discovered later that a door for a planned puzzle was missing, that would be a problem.

“That’s why we initially just played through the whole game several times in our heads using drawings, index cards and diagrams. This ultimately resulted in very precise sketches that enable the model builders to design all the sets relatively freely – taking into account the game logic and the puzzle design Depending on the size and scope of the model, our production designers need between two and four weeks for a single backdrop. In general, interior spaces such as rooms or caves can be built much easier and faster than exterior models, which are based on A beautifully curved terrain and organic details such as trees come in. Subsequently, each set is also extremely elaborately staged with light, usually with many individual lamps that are aligned with millimeter precision.In addition, some backdrops are electrified so that small LEDs, for example in windows or street lamps, can be switched on and off, “emphasizes the team.

The digital post-processing then takes almost as much time as building the sets. Due to its size, the scan data is too extensive to be used in a real-time environment, so the 3D meshes must first be simplified. Some of this is automated, but most of it has to be adjusted manually. This ensures a better structure of the models and better performance in the game. In addition, there is additional time for lighting, animations and effects in the engine. In contrast, the figures are created completely digitally and in the classic workflow. Behind this is the motivation to marry two actually incompatible styles. The challenge was not to make the result look like a collage, but to make this charming contrast to the stylistic device.

“There are also technical considerations: On the one hand, we cannot use a projection of the textures based on illuminated photos on the figures, since they have to react dynamically to changes in light and shadow in their immediate surroundings compared to the sets. Here we use PBR materials and simulated ones Lighting in Unity 3D to fit the characters as well as possible into the sets. On the other hand, in a purely digital pipeline for the characters, we have more control over how they look and how close they stay to the conceptual drawings of our character designer – at the same time we keep them Advantages of an iterative 3D workflow. This makes it easier to implement exaggerated and unrealistic proportions and we always have the option to change or improve detailsone explains.

Much more time is not needed for the development of Trüberbrook compared to a classic computer game. Some of the work shifts to other areas as you work on the sets. This relieves the 3D artists of a lot of work, as they do not have to model every little detail on the computer later. In the course of photogrammetry, post-processing is necessary, but that is much less work than modeling everything in 3D.

Working with the real sets creates a personal relationship to the models, because there is a lot of manual work involved. There is a lot of trial and error, looking for suitable materials in the hardware store or in the forest. In other words: There is a lot of work, sweat and glue in the creations: “You can watch the models in the workshop every day as they emerge and grow. At the same time, some model parts are so fragile that you really feel sorry if something falls off again The production designers sit in front of the computer with shining eyes when they can admire their weeks of manual work digitized and interactively in the engine. “

Aside from the unique style, the story is particularly important to the developers. You should cheer for Hans Tannhauser and experience this adventure together with him. In addition to creepy, atmospheric and exciting moments, a humorous level is promised, which results from the bizarre game world, the events and the relationships between the characters. There are also slapstick moments like in Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle and in terms of gameplay Trüberbrook is a classic point-and-click adventure that has been designed “a little more contemporary” and adapted to the story.

The planning and preparation of the Kickstarter campaign also took some time. The team looked at other campaigns and tried to find out what caused or failed them. They quickly realized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, rather chance and good timing have a major influence on the result.

“Of course we were very worried that not enough people would be aware of the game – because even the best idea will lead nowhere if you can’t tell as many people as possible about it. We tried to build up our own community before the campaign started , who is interested in our background stories and production diaries. At the start of the campaign, Headup Games supported us with the press work. We were also very pleased that Ron Gilbert liked Trüberbrook. Before we finally started the campaign, was It is important to us to reproduce all aspects of the game in as much detail as possible and to fill the Kickstarter page with lots of details, because there are tons of exciting details and background information,that we wanted to share with our supporters, “explains the team.

One of the most important pillars for the campaign is the German adventure community, they emphasize. However, the btf did not want to rely on that alone and at the same time address the international community, especially with regard to the time afterwards. Around a third of the backers come from abroad, which is seen as a very good sign. The Kickstarter page, the newsletter and the website were written in advance in German and English, while most of the communication on social media is in English.

“In terms of content, the game is explicitly aimed at both international players and players from Germany: A big topic is ‘foreign and home’, which the player in the role of the physics student Tannhauser, who travels to the German provinces as a foreign visitor, represents For players from abroad, this ‘Germany’ is probably a highly exotic, exciting and sometimes bizarre world. So we hoped that the setting alone would exert a certain international appeal If you are familiar with the province, you can certainly find certain German idiosyncrasies in the game world – although, of course, the location in time in the 1960s may also be unfamiliar to many. “

In addition to the money that is collected on Kickstarter, you get support from the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. Such a project requires a lot of effort, work and money to be able to pull it off, especially since the financial success is in the stars. Therefore, the btf contacted the Medienboard early on and had to explain in detail what the team’s vision looked like.

In the end, the project was crowned with success: “We were lucky. Our application was successful and we could look forward to funding of 80,000 euros. The Medienboard supports a wide variety of projects – we can only recommend that you contact one of the funding officers if you are interested and speakers to get advice. The funding is a conditionally repayable loan, which means that we will pay the funding back to the Medienboard if the game is successful. “

As mentioned at the beginning, the project is financed. However, the btf did not have a plan B. All hopes and efforts rested on the Kickstarter campaign. If it had failed, it would have been necessary to stop production or put it on hold if no other option for financing had arisen. All the happier the makers are about the success and the positive feedback.

“A big thank you to all backers and for all the positive feedback. We are very happy that we can implement the game with your help and support!”

Before you can play Trüberbrook, you need to be patient. The release period is targeted for autumn 2018, and the game should appear on Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the Switch.