Dear Esther Hits It Big

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Dear Esther Hits It Big

Dear Esther, the indie "ghost story" that debuted yesterday on Steam, crossed the line into profitability in less than six hours.

Dear Esther is a bit of an oddity. It sprang to life in 2008 as a Source mod and was reborn yesterday as a longer [although still very short] and far more detailed stand-alone "game." The word "game" is in quotes because Dear Esther, by most conventional measures, barely qualifies; it's a story, a metaphor, quite possibly a hallucination, all of which unfolds over a slow journey on a perfectly linear path across a deserted and entirely non-interactive island. It's most definitely not the sort of thing you'd expect to see burning up the sales charts.

And to be fair, it's not, but it has sold better than just about anyone reasonably expected. It took only 5.5 hours to sell more than 16,000 copies at ten bucks a pop, generating enough to cover its Indie Fund loan and push the game well into the black.

"To be honest, we are a little surprised by how many people bought Dear Esther so quickly. We were expecting the game to have a niche appeal. In fact the situation is quite different; all day it was the top-selling game on Steam," the Indie Fund blog reported. "So, released among games about killing, reckoning, crusading, killing, and really old scrolls (containing really old magic... for killing), the meditative beauty of Dear Esther has been recognized."

Amusingly in hindsight, the Indie Fund expressed concerns to Dear Esther writer and producer Dan Pinchbeck in May 2011 "that the Steam audience may not be the right one" for such an experimental game. "We don't think it's a bad idea to release on Steam, but we don't know how well the game will do there (our thoughts so far are, 'maybe the game will break even, maybe it won't, but it won't make a decent margin of money')" it wrote in response to the Dear Esther funding request. "What we are thinking is that PSN may actually be the best audience for the game, since PSN has a tradition of doing arty stuff, and so it might be good to launch on both PSN and PC simultaneously."

Nonetheless, the group voted to fund the game in full a month later, to the tune of $55,000. At ten bucks a pop, that debt is more than covered and thechineseroom can now to get work on Dear Esther II: Blood Money Blowback. Or, you know, whatever.

"We appear to have been very wrong about all this," the fund wrote today. "We are happy to have been wrong."

Dear Esther is available now on Steam and, for those with a taste for the experimental, is really quite good.

Permalink

Steam not the right audience? Steam's the best audience at all times, especially for frickin' reincarnated Source Mod! Those Indie fund chaps need their heads checking.

Anyway, I've got Dear Esther 1.0 somewhere, it's a great little (somewhat mind bending) story. Now to add version 2.

Awesome! I really did love it so i'm glad it got a lot of attention right from the start.

Hurray! I'm just ask surprised that they made money so quickly, but not complaining about it.

The Stanley Parable next?

I'd buy that for a dollar.

fix-the-spade:
Steam not the right audience? Steam's the best audience at all times, especially for frickin' reincarnated Source Mod! Those Indie fund chaps need their heads checking.

Anyway, I've got Dear Esther 1.0 somewhere, it's a great little (somewhat mind bending) story. Now to add version 2.

I thought the 2010 Source Engine update killed that version of the mod. I might be wrong however.

Dear Esther was really really good, the experience was definitely worth ten dollars.

The_root_of_all_evil:
The Stanley Parable next?

I agree. The Stanley Parable is really good. It was also the first thing I thought of when I saw this along the lines of: "innovative Source mod". Plus, the trailer for Dear Esther is really good too. So I may just buy it to satisfy my curiosity and maybe also to the supplication of my heart (what do you want from me? That trailer; such eloquent writing; it brings out the poet in me).

Play this while reading:

I've played it and it's just amazing.
It's not a game, it's not literature, it's not a film.
And yet it's all of them at once.

The game makes you think, watch in awe and just get overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the enviroment.

Playing the game casually from A to Z will take about just over a hour.
This is a very short duration, though it fits it perfectly for this "type" of game.
In that respect it is similar to buying a movie ticket.

Though i also just like to stand still and just enjoy the soundtrack, the atmosphere and the beauty of the project. It's really a unique game concept and i actually hope to see more of these types of games (and stanley parable falls under the same line i think)

Farther than stars:

The_root_of_all_evil:
The Stanley Parable next?

I agree. The Stanley Parable is really good. It was also the first thing I thought of when I saw this along the lines of: "innovative Source mod". Plus, the trailer for Dear Esther is really good too. So I may just buy it to satisfy my curiosity and maybe also to the supplication of my heart (what do you want from me? That trailer; such eloquent writing; it brings out the poet in me).

From what I hear, DE(retail) is well worth getting if you've already got/played DE v.1. The level of detail they've added is astounding.

We need more games like this.

I have bought Dear Esther and I can tell you, the two are so different visually as to be near unrecognisable. It's simply beautiful to look at, the caves being the highlight of the island.

For the sake of comparison, here are two videos I recorded. The first is from the original version http://youtu.be/N9Z629ss00Q

The second from the 2012 version http://youtu.be/qbOb0uqYFkA

The videos speak for themselves.

Dear Esther is one of those things that's either going to completely rock you, or leave you stone cold. There's very little room for anything in between.

That said, it completely rocked me. The price might seem a bit high at first glance but as Alec Meer put it, you can spend ten bucks on this or you can spend ten bucks watching a man dressed as a superhero punch special effects. That's a hell of a fine perspective.

I found it interesting, like when the ghost is walking ahead of you. I didn't like the mushrooms, as they were only 2d maps that twisted as you walked. The level of detail in these maps and caves made me think skyrim but with more detail. I do like the story, but some things didn't make sense.

So what exactly does the player DO during this little hike?

got it when it came out. but i finished it in less then 2 hours. i was hoping to solve some puzzle on the way, but you dont do anything like this.
and at times some of the letters the voice read were boring or forgettable, but that could be just me (dont worry, i still understood what was going on there).

never the less, it was still a very good game. beautifully designed levels. especially the cave level was the most stunning level i have seen. at times i was just standing there for few minutes just starring around.
the game is special and worth the 10$. even when it seams high for such a short game but at least you have a beautiful environment to look at and a slowly progressing story with an ending you dont expect.

I'm a little curious as to whether the game/experimental piece has actually changed much, apart from visuals, from the original. The original mod was interesting but it felt too short and no matter how many times I played through it, it still didn't make much sense. The only memorable parts I remember are the house (that quite frankly was a MF) and the hills with crows. Also I have concern with the fact it's called a game as there isn't that much interaction on the players part apart from walk this direction and listen. If anything it should be called a immersive short story with a visual element.

Andy Chalk:
The price might seem a bit high at first glance but as Alec Meer put it, you can spend ten bucks on this or you can spend ten bucks watching a man dressed as a superhero punch special effects. That's a hell of a fine perspective.

Well you can spend it on that or you can spend it on something else from the steam indie library... or anything else that costs 10 dollars for that matter.
Alternatively, instead of paying to see the superhero theres always youtube. Oh and City of Heroes.
I find it funny that the game is being compared to superheroes.

DVS BSTrD:
So what exactly does the player DO during this little hike?

You listen. You experience. You open yourself to the emotional impact of what you've done, and what you didn't do. And if you're lucky, you spend a considerable amount of time afterward thinking about it.

I look at the cost not just the price for Dear Esther, but the price for a look into the future, to see what could be done, or might be done, with the videogame genre. It's a ten dollar sideways look at possibility. I think that's a pretty worthwhile investment.

Andy Chalk:

DVS BSTrD:
So what exactly does the player DO during this little hike?

You listen. You experience. You open yourself to the emotional impact of what you've done, and what you didn't do. And if you're lucky, you spend a considerable amount of time afterward thinking about it.

So... a cutscene? Sorry, trying not to sound skeptical... but it just sounds like a video at the moment...!? Are there any interaction/objectives for the player at all?

it's very hard to put into words, what Dear Esther is. There is almost no interaction that the player can have with the environment, and yet as he progresses, more is revealed. It sounds like a cutscene on paper, but in practice, it almost feels like a waking dream, a poem composed by the environment. Of course this is me talking about Dear Esther The Mod, I really gotta check out this bad boy!

Elementary - Dear Watson:

Andy Chalk:

DVS BSTrD:
So what exactly does the player DO during this little hike?

You listen. You experience. You open yourself to the emotional impact of what you've done, and what you didn't do. And if you're lucky, you spend a considerable amount of time afterward thinking about it.

So... a cutscene? Sorry, trying not to sound skeptical... but it just sounds like a video at the moment...!? Are there any interaction/objectives for the player at all?

no, nothing. you cant move anything, cant touch anything, absolutely nothing. just walk and listen to the letters and admire the scenery.
so either you wait until its 75% or this kind of game is really nothing for you, then of course you buy something else.
or, you like to give it a try to play something which is really hard to find.

Metalrocks:

Elementary - Dear Watson:

Andy Chalk:

You listen. You experience. You open yourself to the emotional impact of what you've done, and what you didn't do. And if you're lucky, you spend a considerable amount of time afterward thinking about it.

So... a cutscene? Sorry, trying not to sound skeptical... but it just sounds like a video at the moment...!? Are there any interaction/objectives for the player at all?

no, nothing. you cant move anything, cant touch anything, absolutely nothing. just walk and listen to the letters and admire the scenery.
so either you wait until its 75% or this kind of game is really nothing for you, then of course you buy something else.
or, you like to give it a try to play something which is really hard to find.

I will probably check it out at some point... I do like a good story... like Braid! It sounds to me a bit like ImmorTall which was featured on Alt+Esc ages ago. In that game you pretty much just held right, and watched as the characters evolved, and the story unfolded... it was brilliant, but you didn't do much...

I only asked because the way it sounded made it sound pretty much like you couldn't do anything at all, but from the screen shots it sounds kinda like what I do from time to time on skyrim... sight see, and take in the surroundings.. and if it has a story too, brill! :D

Elementary - Dear Watson:

I will probably check it out at some point... I do like a good story... like Braid! It sounds to me a bit like ImmorTall which was featured on Alt+Esc ages ago. In that game you pretty much just held right, and watched as the characters evolved, and the story unfolded... it was brilliant, but you didn't do much...

I only asked because the way it sounded made it sound pretty much like you couldn't do anything at all, but from the screen shots it sounds kinda like what I do from time to time on skyrim... sight see, and take in the surroundings.. and if it has a story too, brill! :D

well, the game is very linear. so you cant go anywhere else besides some little off tracks but they end pretty quickly that you are forced to walk back and continue the given track.
but still worth try. so maybe you should wait until its on special. unless you dont mind to spend 10$ on it now.
just telling you how the game is.

Soviet Heavy:

fix-the-spade:
Steam not the right audience? Steam's the best audience at all times, especially for frickin' reincarnated Source Mod! Those Indie fund chaps need their heads checking.

Anyway, I've got Dear Esther 1.0 somewhere, it's a great little (somewhat mind bending) story. Now to add version 2.

I thought the 2010 Source Engine update killed that version of the mod. I might be wrong however.

I was under the impression that it didn't actually kill thechineseroom's mods, just made them kind of glitchy/crashy for a lot of people. It's kind of unfortunate, because I never quite got around to finishing Korsakovia before the update, which is another fascinating thing they've done (as long as you noclip through the stupid jumping puzzles, and this is coming from someone who actually liked Xen in the original HL).

It's like an interactive Edgar Allen Poe story. A brilliant and unforgettable experience, if you let it take over you on headphones and in the dark. You'll be thinking for quite a while after it ends.

Also, most beautiful Source game to date. Robert Briscoe (Mirror's Edge) did the environments.

image

The narration is like polaroid photos tossed to you at random, leaving you to piece together a story of your own speculation from compelling hints of tragedy and bitterness, it makes you want to poke around and explore. I'm VERY glad to be playing this again!

Metalrocks:

Elementary - Dear Watson:

I will probably check it out at some point... I do like a good story... like Braid! It sounds to me a bit like ImmorTall which was featured on Alt+Esc ages ago. In that game you pretty much just held right, and watched as the characters evolved, and the story unfolded... it was brilliant, but you didn't do much...

I only asked because the way it sounded made it sound pretty much like you couldn't do anything at all, but from the screen shots it sounds kinda like what I do from time to time on skyrim... sight see, and take in the surroundings.. and if it has a story too, brill! :D

well, the game is very linear. so you cant go anywhere else besides some little off tracks but they end pretty quickly that you are forced to walk back and continue the given track.
but still worth try. so maybe you should wait until its on special. unless you dont mind to spend 10$ on it now.
just telling you how the game is.

Alternatively, if he wants a taster of what the game would be like then he could always download the original mod if he has HL2. Here: Dear Esther 2009. It's not as good looking as the Steam release but so far no one has said whether the actual content of the game has changed.

Also, yes I'd say the whole thing was like a cutscene except the game is too lazy to push you around the scene. And I suggest not falling off a cliff in the mod otherwise you'll encounter the water maggots from lost coast. Annoying buggers. Infact don't touch any large bodies of water at all if I remember correctly.

Nile McMorrow:

Metalrocks:

Elementary - Dear Watson:

I will probably check it out at some point... I do like a good story... like Braid! It sounds to me a bit like ImmorTall which was featured on Alt+Esc ages ago. In that game you pretty much just held right, and watched as the characters evolved, and the story unfolded... it was brilliant, but you didn't do much...

I only asked because the way it sounded made it sound pretty much like you couldn't do anything at all, but from the screen shots it sounds kinda like what I do from time to time on skyrim... sight see, and take in the surroundings.. and if it has a story too, brill! :D

well, the game is very linear. so you cant go anywhere else besides some little off tracks but they end pretty quickly that you are forced to walk back and continue the given track.
but still worth try. so maybe you should wait until its on special. unless you dont mind to spend 10$ on it now.
just telling you how the game is.

Alternatively, if he wants a taster of what the game would be like then he could always download the original mod if he has HL2. Here: Dear Esther 2009. It's not as good looking as the Steam release but so far no one has said whether the actual content of the game has changed.

Also, yes I'd say the whole thing was like a cutscene except the game is too lazy to push you around the scene. And I suggest not falling off a cliff in the mod otherwise you'll encounter the water maggots from lost coast. Annoying buggers. Infact don't touch any large bodies of water at all if I remember correctly.

@Metalrocks

Cheers for the advice guys... unfortunately looking into it now (and not half-heartedly whilst having a busy morning at work) I may have to wait a while as my laptop won't be able to run it! :S (It won't even run the original half life properly at the moment!) But I will definitely look into it in the future! Especially if I want a break from my JRPG's and SRPG's! :P

sorry to hear that that your laptop cant run it. maybe do a virus check or newest driver for your card.
well, glad we could help.

Always good to see there's a chance for low budge indie titles without DRM. I haven't tried the game yet because I got years worth of backlog...

You know all those critics who say "Gaming isn't Art"?

This is. This deserves a place in the Tate.

That alone should make you want to support it.

No two people will ever see the same thing, and some people will walk away thinking "What the hell?"

But there'll be one guy left behind at the end of the day, sobbing his eyes out. Might be you, one day.

Nile McMorrow:

Metalrocks:

Elementary - Dear Watson:

I will probably check it out at some point... I do like a good story... like Braid! It sounds to me a bit like ImmorTall which was featured on Alt+Esc ages ago. In that game you pretty much just held right, and watched as the characters evolved, and the story unfolded... it was brilliant, but you didn't do much...

I only asked because the way it sounded made it sound pretty much like you couldn't do anything at all, but from the screen shots it sounds kinda like what I do from time to time on skyrim... sight see, and take in the surroundings.. and if it has a story too, brill! :D

well, the game is very linear. so you cant go anywhere else besides some little off tracks but they end pretty quickly that you are forced to walk back and continue the given track.
but still worth try. so maybe you should wait until its on special. unless you dont mind to spend 10$ on it now.
just telling you how the game is.

Alternatively, if he wants a taster of what the game would be like then he could always download the original mod if he has HL2. Here: Dear Esther 2009. It's not as good looking as the Steam release but so far no one has said whether the actual content of the game has changed.

Also, yes I'd say the whole thing was like a cutscene except the game is too lazy to push you around the scene. And I suggest not falling off a cliff in the mod otherwise you'll encounter the water maggots from lost coast. Annoying buggers. Infact don't touch any large bodies of water at all if I remember correctly.

There's no penalty to falling off cliffs, you just get put back where you jumped off. Although there's one massive drop in the caverns that feels amazing and is part of the route. Don't know of the differences, but there is slightly different music, tons of visual variety, and all-new environments done by Robert Briscoe (Mirror's Edge).

Definitely give it a go.

This does not surprise me! I played it once, it took me one hour to complete one story.

HOWEVER IT WAS WORTH THE 7.99 FOR JUST ONE HOUR!

You always knew where you were going, where you ended up the red flashing dot always showed your destination and when you lose sight of it, it really gives the sense of being lost... I have never felt good about approaching the end of a game and the ending was wierd but incredible... this has scratched an itch that not many games do!

I also agree with Rock Paper Shotgun... you don't need a second playthrough!

This is one of those rare games that although has multiple samples of text, multiple approaches and so multiple feelings, it is genuinely only a journey that should be taken once as it has a decisive end that wouldn't feel the same a second time around... OK I will probably play it through again so I can talk about it in more detail.

In summary PICK IT UP! This is a good example of how games can be both short and deep meaning. In my opinion, you do not travel through a second time as its story wouldn't be as powerful a second time around.

And To IGN... its a 10 not an 8, this is meant to be short, any longer and I think its meaning would be lost.

Take your journey.

I am torn.

On the one hand this "game" has a huge artistic appeal. It feels like a film by Stanley Kubrick.

But that is the problem. It is barely a game, it can not be used as an example to illustrate gaming as an art form.

Most devices that make this "game" artistic are not devices from gaming at all, but rather devices from film and literature.

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