Still Wakes the Deep

Those who know me will know that two of my favourite video games are from the same games developer, The Chinese Room, Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Both are amongst the most atmospheric and life changing games I’ve ever played.

The Chinese Room have recently announced their next game, Still Wakes the Deep. Set at Christmas 1975 on an oilrig off the coast of Scotland, the oilrig workers have drilled into something that didn’t really appreciate it.

I’m not into the horror genre at all, but I will certainly be watching closely the development of this game.

Everybody’s gone to the rapture

Scene from 'Everybody's gone to the rapture' showing a car in a deserted car park, rays of sunshine through the trees

It looks like The Chinese Room, the games company behind the exquisitely beautiful Dear Esther, is working on a new game entitled ‘Everybody’s gone to the rapture’.

All the website gives away at this stage is:

6th June 1984 06:37am

Time since Primary Event 5 days 4 hours 37 minutes

Time since Omega Event 0 days 0 hours 37 minutes

This story begins with the end of the world.

As well as a few screenshots of the environment, which like its predecessor looks stunning.

One to keep an eye on, methinks.


Dear Esther

Last night I stumbled across a new computer game, Dear Esther, released only last week (14 February) on Steam for GBP £6.99, that has me captivated all day. I can’t stop thinking about its haunting beauty, its simplicity.

“A deserted island…a lost man…memories of a fatal crash…a book written by a dying explorer.” Two years in the making, the highly anticipated Indie remake of the cult mod Dear Esther arrives on PC. Dear Esther immerses you in a stunningly realised world, a remote and desolate island somewhere in the outer Hebrides.

A scene from Dear Esther, on the shoreline with the beacon in the distance.
A scene from Dear Esther, on the shoreline with the beacon in the distance.

I’m not a prolific computer games’ player. I have a handful of titles: LEGO Star Wars 1 and 2, Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2, Battlefield 2, Bad Company 2and some of the later Call of Duty games: Modern Warfare, MW2 and Black Ops.

The more hostile titles I like for the cinematic experience—it’s like seeing a film but you get to control the main characters. I never play them online, I don’t like the idea of trying to ‘kill’ the characters of other humans. I prefer to challenge the computer instead. It’s a fine line, I know, but its a line I chose to draw and stand by.

Dear Esther has none of that. The main character—the only character—in the game walks everywhere. No running, jumping or climbing trees. No weapons. No picking up items. Just looking. And yet it’s the most beautiful, most cinematic, most immersive game I’ve ever seen.

The game began as a mod for Half Life 2 but was picked up in 2009 “by a professional game artist, Robert Briscoe, for a complete overhaul of the visuals and level design, in the hopes that it would be able to overcome it’s early shortcomings as a mod and be able to fulfil its true potential.”

In my opinion it has more than achieved its vision. Not only is the artwork breath-taking, the music (by Jessica Curry) is gorgeous, and the in-game narration (by Nigel Carrington) is sublime.

Dear Esther was created by Dan Pinchbeck, listed as Writer and Producer, a researcher based at the University of Portsmouth as part of a project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council to explore experimental game play and storytelling.

Which is where some of the controversy lies. Many are claiming that Dear Esther isn’t a computer game, that it is rather an interactive story or simply art. Whatever it is I think it’s beautiful and mournful and intriguing. I can’t wait to start playing it for myself.