992 Everybody's Gone To The Rapture

Dear Esther, Korsakovia, Amnesia - A Machine for Pigs, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - Dan Pinchbeck has an impressive track record as far as innovative indie games are concerned. Dan's way into games development has been unusual: He has a background in Drama, but has worked in media, digital and technological arts practice using emergent technologies. Based in academia - he joined Portsmouth University in 2003 to teach creative technology and research the significance of narrative within Computer Games - Pinchbeck founded The Chinese Room as a university research project, funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Among the projects pursued was a Source engine mod for Half-Life 2, experimenting with narrative and minimal player interaction - Dear Esther. Released for free in 2008, Esther was selected for the Animation exhibition of the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica and made the Top 100 of Mod DB's Mod of the Year 2008. In 2009, the game won the award for Best World/Story at the IndieCade Independent Game awards.

After completing Korsakovia, another experimental Source mod dealing with mental illness and the perception of reality, Pinchbeck began work on a high-gloss remake of Dear Esther, with the help of Robert Briscoe, an amazing score by Jessica Curry and funded by the Indie Fund.

Released in early 2012 as a commercial project, Esther's standalone version was a resounding critical and commercial success, eventually selling over 850,000 units. The game - although critics among the 'hardcore gamer' crowd habitually denied Esther even this definition - is arguably one of the most daring, touching and experimental pieces in gaming.

Having established The Chinese Room as an independent developer studio, Pinchbeck and crew just finished work on Frictional's Amnesia's highly anticipated sequel, A Machine For Pigs. Following this rather more "traditional" title, next up will be a spiritual sequel to Esther's experimental gameplay and narration: Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, a title recently revealed to be a PS4-exclusive.

Dan was kind enough to answer a few questions by email.

993 Dan Pinchbeck, The Chinese Room