"It's kind of funny," Forgotten Key co-founder Robin Hjelte told me at GDC Europe. "It's like, when you have a new car, you always start to see all the new cars. It's been a bit of the same thing: First we started off with, 'Yeah, floating islands. That's a cool setting; we want to do something with this.' And then we were like, 'Oh, boy. Everyone is doing floating islands.'" The same thing happened with the low-poly art style, too, Hjelte said.
Forgotten Key has been working on Aer for more than a year already. The game stars a young girl with the ability to transform into a bird – she's a member of a tribe living on land masses in the sky, and her ability is a rarity even within her high-flying community. The girl flies and explores to help her village, gathering food and ancient technologies. During her scavenging missions, she discovers parts of a prophecy warning of the end of the world and outlining her role in that event.
There's no combat in Aer, though there are tense moments, and all of the early assets hint at a darker, creepier layer hiding underneath the bright worlds and blue skies.
"We like to avoid violence," Hjelte said. "There will be threats in the world, but the only kinds of actions you will take against them will be trying to sneak around things or interacting with objects in the world to overcome these obstacles."
Aer has already secured a Steam and PS4 launch. After a teaser video last year gained traction, attracting 30,000 views in just a few weeks, Sony and Valve both reached out to Forgotten Key.
"They sent me an email that said, 'Hi, we love the look of Aer. Would you like to release it on our platform?' I was like, 'OK!'" Hjelte said, laughing.
Hjelte is at Gamescom this year to speak with more potential publishers and investors, including Nintendo and Xbox. Wii U is particularly attractive, he said. Aer is currently due out in the second half of 2015 for PS4 and PC via Steam, though that date hinges on a few milestones.
Forgotten Key is based in Sweden and has already secured some funding through a few programs there: In its first few years, Hjelte and the studio's other four members were still in school, so they used student loans to support development of their debut project, The Shine of a Star. In 2013, Aer won the Game Concept Challenge, bringing in 10,000 SEK ($1,460). Forgotten Key had already won two previous Game Concept Challenge competitions, and it's received a total of 110,000 SEK ($16,040) from all three wins.
Hjelte hopes to launch the Kickstarter with a playable demo of Aer, so you can check out that low-poly, floating island freshness for yourself later this year.