Today, Dear Esther developers thechineseroom announced that they are splitting off from the University of Portsmouth, and setting up a fully independent studio backed by Indie Fund. Studio head Dan Pinchbeck also took the time to talk to BeefJack about the game, dropping a fair amount of new information in the process.
What is Dear Esther?
It’s an experimental first-person game heading for a PC release later this year. It was originally a Half-Life 2 mod, but has been remade with the help of Mirror’s Edge level designer Robert Briscoe. In the game, you play as a nameless protagonist exploring a misty island. There’s no action, and no real puzzles to solve, but as you wander around the place you start to learn the unsettling and tragic story of the island, and those who ventured to it.
So what’s new?
Today, it’s been revealed that thechineseroom has become a fully independent studio.
“We’re no longer part of the University of Portsmouth,” studio head Dan Pinchbeck told BeefJack. “As of May, the studio became a fully independent business, so we’re now running completely under our own steam.”
thechineseroom were forced to part ways with the University due to “contractual liability issues” – basically, the paperwork involved in the commercial release of a game is not the sort of stuff an educational establishment is able to sign. The team’s now backed by Indie Fund.
The studio is also considering putting out a limited edition boxed copy, even though the main release will be digital-only.
“We’re thinking at the moment about a limited edition hard copy as well – with a gatefold sleeve, an exclusive version of the game with some unique additional script in it, an audio CD of the soundtrack at non-game compression, some Ben Andrews’ concept art – because he’s a star too – and a storyform version of the game as a kind of short novelette,” Dan Pinchbeck explained. “Something for the hardcore fans, which would be more expensive, but have all this exclusive stuff on it. So we really want to hear what people think about that idea, whether it’s worth doing.”
How much will it cost?
There’s been a lot of talk in the indie gaming community about how much Dear Esther will cost. Many feel that a 60-90-minute game isn’t worth all that much; others think if it’s good enough, then it’s worth a decent number of coins.
thechineseroom have already spoken openly of how they want to keep the price as low as possible, but now we have more of an idea. Says Dan Pinchbeck: “My rule of thumb is, ‘same as a pack of cigarettes, a cinema ticket, a round of drinks.’ I hope we bring it in under $10, I think that’d be a fair price.”
There’s plenty more new information about Dear Esther buried away in our huge interview with Dan Pinchbeck. Go read!
Guess what? We also have some brand new Dear Esther screenshots for you! Enjoy, folks – this is looking beautiful.