Monday, 25 May 2009

Dear Esther, Come Back

The unique semi-interactive story-mod Dear Esther is getting a redesign.

Dear Esther is a beautiful 'interactive ghost story' from British games research team thechineseroom, built as a mod for Half-Life 2. Released back in June 08, it drew a mixed response from gamers. Either people adored it for its ingenuity, par less story-telling and powerful mix of the macabre and the curiously mundane or they loathed it for its slow pace, complete absence of action or puzzles and unpolished world design.

As you explore a cold, wind-swepped island in the Outer Hebrides, you listen to the rambling and half-insane memories of some meloncholical visitor to the island. It is never explained who he is, or was, whether you are the narrator or not. The game's (I use the term usely but in the nicest possible manner - the meaning of the word game is a debate I will not go in to here) most imaginative feature is that the pieces of narration you can hear at each point along your travels are each randomly selected from three very different possibilities. The idea is that every player will have a subtly different experience of Dear Esther and perhaps come away with different understandings of the story being told.

The excellent news is that this fascinating piece of experimental gaming is being redesigned from the ground up by professional 3D artist Robert Briscoe, who has previously worked on Mirror's Edge and They Hunger: Lost Souls, the commercial version of the popular Half-Life mod.

Concept art for the project is being provided by talented artist, Ben Andrews, who is apparently new to gaming concept art but what he's done so far has certainly got me very excited.

Check out Ben Andrew's DeviantART gallery here for plenty of pretty pictures. And you'd do well to keep up with Robert Briscoe's devblog here. No info as to when the remake may come out but do yourself a favour and check out the original - if there's a shred of humanity left in you, you won't regret it.

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