Dear Esther Developer Temporarily "Going Dark" And Letting Staff Go

Published: September 25, 2017 9:20 AM /



The Chinese Room studio has been in the videogame industry for nearly a decade, which had its origins in a humble mod for Half-Life 2 called Dear Esther that went on to popularize the "walking simulator" genre, especially after its later commercial release after being rebuilt separately. Other major projects have included Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and its more recent game Everybody's Gone to the Rapture from 2015. Since then, the Brighton-based team has been working on So Let Us Melt, which is an "interactive animated film" developed for Google's Daydream VR platform that came out on Sept. 21. However, in the immediate wake of its latest release, Creative Director Dan Pinchbeck has announced that the studio has down-scaled and will slow development down for a time.

With health issues, financial concerns, and increasingly managerial responsibilities weighing down on him, Pinchbeck details how these things have negatively impacted him and The Chinese Room's overall direction over the past several months. He writes, "It was time to take a break, recharge, recover and have a good think about the future." He felt it was only right to help the majority of his team secure new jobs as he worked out what to do with the studio.

There's also a serious matter to consider with The Chinese Room's two ongoing projects The 13th Interior and Little Orpheus. Pinchbeck told Rock Paper Shotgun's Adam Smith that it's an isometric RPG inspired by old tabletop games. As for its fate, he writes that he - alongside Jessica Curry and Andrew Crawshaw - will continue "pushing [...] forwards until it’s ready to throw a whole team at – and we’ve got plans (and funding) to go into a prototype period on Little Orpheus at the end of the year." As for the latter, it has been speculated that this was a working title for The 13th Interior when it was given €72,339 for development by Creative Europe, but it's most definitely a separate project.

It seems less of a surprise with this many projects that Pinchbeck would be doing more business than actual game development. He writes:

We’re taking time to figure that out; how we get to be creatives, not managing directors. That’s a whole other job and skill set and lots of people do it really well and love doing it. But it’s not for us – it just led to stress and burn-out and a desperate need to actually make stuff again- whether that’s art, music, games, writing.
Pinchbeck discloses that he elaborated on The Chinese Room's situation in an upcoming interview with Eurogamer that will be published on Sept. 25. We will update this story with any more details should they shed more light.

Is this announcement unexpected to you? What do you make of the developer's mysterious two projects? Have you experienced any of its previous games? Let us know in the comments section below.


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