thechineseroom is the name of a development research project I run at the University of Portsmouth, UK. We're interested in first person gaming - particularly, using mods to explore questions about gaming that you can't answer by just analysing commercial releases or theorising about them.

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Hi - I guess the simple answer to that is that it DOESN'T make sense in the traditional way. My favourite authors are Boris & Arkady Strugatsky - who wrote Roadside Picnic, which led (eventually) to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. When you read their work, you can't grasp it all in a tidy way, it's like William Burroughs: but even though you're left thinking "what happened there?", it's still an amazing experience (I've read The Snail on the Slope at least seven times and absolutely love it, but still feel like I've only grasped about 10% of what is going on). Part of the thinking behind Esther was to try and have a game experience like that, where linear plot and neat conclusions are actively de-stabilised. So it's contradictory, abstract, messy and doesn't all add up, but it's like a crack opening into a space you can peer into and just make out a few compelling shapes. Apologies if that sounds a bit pretentious - it's been easier to write the thing than write about it.

Anyway, the short version is that when Dear Esther was written, I kept three possible interpretations of the events in mind and tried to avoid settling into any one of them. Depending on the randomised cues you get each time around, one of these is probably likely to come to the surface, although it seems to be generating some really interesting interpretations from other players as well.

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

I've got a few, keep meaning to write them up and post. Will do, promise!

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

The caves end was the bug on the new version - that's now fixed with the new one that's up, so you get a proper end. May make more sense, but this for me is more about the feel of it, rather than a tidy plot. See what you make of the fourth part...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Yeah, one of the things I need to do with the next version is strip all of the unused stuff out - will bring it way down in size. Thanks for that

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Ah, viva on the 17th. ****-scared right now, although the idea of being a Doctor of First-Person Shooters makes it all worthwhile...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Thanks for that - new version uploading now with that fixed. And yeah, it's all original script, music etc. So thanks - that means a lot!

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Hi - apologies about the bugs - fixed version going up now!

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther v1.1 (New, updated version)

Hi, we're working on this - looks like a transition error has crept in so we're trying to isolate it and fix - will let you know as soon as it's done

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Hmmm. That's the second report of that error. We did pull the version and tested it but couldn't find the problem. Will try again now - v1.1 will be offline until tomorrow

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther v1.1 (New, updated version)

Did you have the old version running at all? We've tested this on two separate machines without any problems - did you get an error msg?

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Cheers - let's hope so!

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Antlion Soccer

Yeah - you can run it locally or over the net. No server tech yet, but check the Readme file. We're going to try and set up a server at some point in the first half of 2009 and will announce it when it's up.

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Yeah, I think what I like is that it's really up to the player when the experience actually finishes - some people have said they sat in front of the black for minutes, kind of chewing over it. I really like that. It is more stressful in a way, but it does fit the mod better than any credit sequence, or easy revert back to titles. I guess I just didn't want it to end...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Yes, that's it. Cycled through a whole bunch of options but decided in the end anything other than a long black fade just didn't really fit...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

hey, thanks for the comments:

1. Walking speed - it's an issue for some people, but not everyone, and it's not really so much slower than some of the other commercial games out there (Cthulhu, Penumbra) - besides, the slower pace is kind of the point
2. Getting out of the map - been promising a fixed version for a month or two now and just trying to solve a bit of a conceptual problem with skybox edges on the fourth level and that'll get released, taking care of a lot of these, plus the whole thing has had the sound levels re-jigged. Anyone that can figure out how to disguise the edges of the skybox from the top of the mountain without fog effects, please, please drop me a line!
3. Making sense... well, that's kind of the point. The plot is ambiguous, and certainly isn't *easy* in the normal sense. Does it make sense... well, yeah, although it can be read a number of ways. Depends on how much investment you make in it. That's not been a problem for most players, who have actually really liked the fact it isn't so cut and dried, but like I've said before, it's not going to be everyone's tastes...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

where abouts exactly are you?

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther script

We have got plans (when I have time...) to convert the entities so we can subtitle. Don't know quite when that's going to happen though!

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Hiya,

yeah, we will be working on captions and translations. First up is a new release, once I've finished fighting with Hammer which fixes some of the issues, then sometime in November I'll get working on the captions so we can also go for some localisation

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Well... it's not for everyone I guess :)

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ SturmMOD v1.0 [ENGLISH / GERMAN]

This does sound really interesting - will dig out my copy of Far Cry and give it a go

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Follow the gull at the start - the entrance to the next valley is at the top of the cliff path on the left - but there's more to explore first

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Conscientious Objector

well... yeah. the electrical field is in there in case it ever expands, although its not really getting the downloads to justify the time on that (got about 3/4 of the complete game re-written for it, but time-poor!).. Part of what we wanted to look at with it is completely shifting normal story (including endings) in the opposite direction. But it's meant to be a nasty surprise... Bethsheda already did ending on suicide with Call of Cthulhu - it was tempting, though...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Thanks for that - Jessica's site is offline at the moment, but hopefully back up soon and there's more work streaming out of that. I don't think there ever was sheet music for the score as it was built in Logic but that's a real compliment so I'll make sure I pass it on - cheers!

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ New version update + research

hiya

sorry to have not got back before -= yeah, hopefully will re-release in a week or so - will let you know as soon as it's finished. Cheers for the response!

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther - Soundtrack

Site should be back up in a week or so. I've talked to Jessica and there should be some more streaming tracks out of it once it's re-built.

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther script

More or less, but they are randomised and a few have moved about in the final version. Plus, I'm going to do a bit more moving in the new iteration as well...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Antlion Soccer

Going to try and run an online test tonight (19th August) - 8pm-9pm GMT. If anyone is interested, PM me for a copy of the mod

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

well... getting out of the level - that's always going to be an issue for the first couple of run throughs, patching that up again now... it was playtested, btw, and like plenty of people who downloaded it without a problem (see the comments here), most folk didn't have too big an issue finding their way about. Just a little patience - it's much slower than a normal FPS. Yeah, it is disorientating at first, that's kind of the point. What's interesting is that the navigation hints are there - in a more or less completely deserted environment, you think the flight paths of the birds are accidental?

Level design is as much about short-term goal resolution as longer-term navigation. If this was a standard mod, with standard goals and sequences, yeah, it would suck. But clearly, it's not - there are no immediate conflicts to take care of. So one of the normal means of getting a player around an environment - like orientating them around target points made explicit by a stream of bullets or zombies - don't really work... Basically, we didn't use any 'pushes' to get the player around - it's all 'pulls' - and in places, yeah, that struggles. But that's interesting in itself...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

Follow the seagull. Look for clues in the environment - they are there...

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chineseroom
chineseroom @ Dear Esther

cheers- hopefully the displacements and decals will get sorted out this time around. Oh, and I've got plans for that chasm...

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