An Esther Binge: Korsakovia

By RPS on September 21st, 2009 at 11:25 am.

Kieron's flat has 3 toilets. Otherwise, it's unlike this.

[Everyone seemed to like what Master Lewis Denby wrote about Dear Esther last time. So when the mod-team behind it release a new project, we thought we’d better set him forth to examine it. And this is his report…]

In a sentence: it’s just really messed up.

Which is to be kind of expected from The Chinese Room. This is the team of researchers at Portsmouth University, investigating new ways in which the first-person perspective can be used to generate different responses from the player. Their last experiment was Dear Esther, which I think I’ve probably said enough about already. Korsakovia’s their new mod, again for Half-Life 2 (though Episode 2’s required to play this one), and can be found here.

The change in atmosphere is the most immediately striking difference. Both are very much mood pieces, but where Esther excelled through its slow, contemplative wandering, Korsakovia is twitchy and stifling. It’s all about panic. The research mandate this time was to see how players respond to a nightmarish situation with minimal narrative cues, in a world where none of the antagonists resemble anything usually portrayed in a computer game. The answer, for me at least, is that you run a mile.

Alec probably has this many monitors. Show off.

Korsakovia places you in the boots of Christopher, a sufferer of the rare Korsakoff’s syndrome, in a psychiatric hospital. I’ve been doing a little reading into Korsakoff’s and, well, it sounds bloody horrible. It’s a deep state of psychosis in which sufferers are unable to form new memories and struggle to determine between reality and fantasy. Which is an absolutely terrific premise for a horror game. So Korsakovia plays with the idea that you’re never quite sure what’s actually going on, and what’s happened before. The end of the world is repeatedly referenced, and the game’s narrated by a sequence of conversations between Christopher and his doctor. But they’re fragmented, broken by static, and often don’t make a lot of sense. They’re also brutally chilling. One of the first things we discover is that the hospital’s medical staff suspect Christopher may have ingested his own eyes.

Those who fell foul of Esther’s meandering, abstract storytelling might struggle with Korsakovia’s as well. There’s a much stronger thread running through the middle of it, and the narration isn’t randomised this time, but as far as actually being able to form it into something cohesive, I’d say there’s an even bigger challenge here. Yet it makes more sense. Where Esther held a great deal of information back, Korsakovia gives you exactly as much information as Christopher has. Did you really eat your eyes? Is the world really ending? Are these streams of black fog really out to get you? Christopher doesn’t know, so nor do you.

The black fog’s a highlight. This is The Chinese Room’s removal of anthropomorphic cues from the antagonist. Your enemy here is a collective of streaming, screaming plumes of vapour that regularly do their best to overwhelm. There’s a crowbar, but much of the game is played without it, so there’s a hell of a lot of running away to be done. But these smoke monsters – actually a lot like the one in LOST – are abominably fast, and the second one spots you, it charges from wherever it was, swallowing you up in an instant.

That doesn't look too scary to me, Denby. Are you sure? ARE YOU SURE? Come around Archway at gone midnight I'll show you scary, my lad.

Oh yeah: it’s much more of a game than Esther. With a crowbar – Half-Life 2’s original one, disappointingly – and a persistent enemy threat, it’s very much what we’d think of as a horror-based FPS. Only, you know, a lot stranger. It’s here that Korsakovia both succeeds and fails. Clearly, those who hated Esther’s lack of interaction are going to be a lot happier here. For me, though, there’s almost too much of it. The world is tremendously creative, the narration deeply fascinating to absorb. When you’re being chased by half a dozen sentient particle effects, it’s often a little difficult to take in.

Indeed, as an overall piece, I find myself less impressed than I was with Dear Esther. I still like it a lot, and huge swathes of it are enormously interesting. But there are problems. I was surprised to discover Korsakovia cost over ten grand to produce, which must be pretty much unprecedented in the mod scene. For that cost – and okay, I’m sure a lot will have gone on the research side of it, and paying the team as full-time developers – I’d say you’d be forgiven for expecting a little more polish. Some of the level design is a little obtuse, the signposting particularly bad in a couple of places (though I know one section will have received a quick overhaul in time for release). The final sections rely too much on precision jumping for my liking – though parts of both Half-Lives did too, and it never held them back from greatness. The engine staggers from time to time, apparently a consequence of the huge amount of entities placed around the world. And that world isn’t exactly lavish. The Chinese Room’s previous work suffered from the odd case of visual blandness, but here it’s a bit more of a problem, chopping away at the atmosphere a little too much.

That’s a shame, because at times the creative direction is absolutely phenomenal. I’ll tread carefully to avoid spoilers here, since much of Korsakovia’s wonder comes from turning a corner and coming face-to-face with, well, that. Frequently, it’s really, eerily weird. I read an interview recently with lead designer Dan Pinchbeck, in which he said the team were “trying to see how much we can fuck with you,” and it resonates when you actually play the game. There are regular repulsive sights. A lengthy section in the middle made me feel physically unwell, thanks to some breathtaking, dizzying architecture. And the audio… well.

Jessica Curry’s a real star. She was responsible for the elegant and evocative piano motifs in Dear Esther, and takes full sound design control here. From the fusion of musical styles, to the alarming bumps and thumps, and particularly the utterly alien sound of the smoke monsters, it’s an absolute aural feast. That is, a particularly poisonous one that ravages your insides. The whole mod sounds unthinkably horrendous, in the most brilliant way you could ever imagine.

King Louie will be lusting after Man's red fire. The scamp.

It probably helps to consider Korsakovia in the context within which it was created. How do you respond to the lack of a structured story? How far can designers push the boundaries of art design? How necessary are recognisable antagonists? It’s interesting to see what theories you come up with about what’s going on, which bits are real and which are imagined, and what the purpose of these omnipresent smoke creatures is. Again, there’s an absolute truckload of quirky symbolism. Fire, electricity, television and – oddly – furniture all feature heavily. But it’s less integral than in Esther: it’s thematic stuff that you can happily float on by without it really affecting the experience. And that’s the key to Korsakovia. You don’t have to be interested in the peripheral stuff, because there’s actually a fairly meaty game to become absorbed in as well.

Pinchbeck has always said he doesn’t want his mods to become pure experiments. He wants them to be enjoyable user experiences that also inform us of how games work, and how players engage with them. In this sense, Korsakovia totally succeeds, and that’s why it’s such an enormously exciting project.

Korsakovia is available to download here.

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69 Comments »

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  1. Phlebas says:

    Sounds promising.
    Is that Christopher as in Nolan?

  2. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    I’ll copy and paste my impressions from the forum topic created yesterday (with some editing):

    Probably the most infuriating game I have ever played. I hope that with their next “game” they make sure they leave the gamey bits out. If the gaming bits amounted to merely running away from the Collectors then it would be fine. But using jumping puzzles that seem like they were left on the cutting room floor when Valve were making Xen because they thought it was too mean is just irritating. As is making you redo said jumping puzzle but this time with numerous Collectors around you and one invisible unkillable Collector. To make it worse, it isn’t even clear whether that is exactly what you are meant to do until you reach the summit. I ended up having to noclip this piece.

    There are a few moments of very poor level design, where it is pretty much impossible to know where you are supposed to go. Some more signposting was probably needed but that is forgiveable, as this is just an amateur project. What isn’t forgiveable is making sections that are just unbelievably irritating.

    Grumbling aside, everything else is fantastic. I’ve not quite finished yet (think I’m on the last chapter), but the atmosphere really is top notch. There are some really nice touches throughout, as the tension just keeps getting ramped up. Really, this is up there with The Cradle or Call of Cthulu as some of the spookiest gaming moments I have had. There aren’t that many single stand-out moments, although there are some, but the general sense of tension that oozes from every room, from every speech just reinforces my belief that gaming is the best place to do spine chilling horror.

    So, well done The Chinese Room for making another atmospheric masterpiece. Just stay away from trying to make a “fun”/”challenging” game. I would be interested in seeing them do something a little different next time around. They have really mastered horror, but how about something with a bit more narrative to it. Perhaps something like a romance or a dramatic piece.

    @phlebas – funny you should mention that, because it did remind me of Memento in some regards (although, it sounds like this Korsakoff syndrome is far more unpleasant than Guy Pearce’s memory problems.)

  3. MrTest says:

    You really should do more mod coverage, it’s the one thing that lets RPS down as a PC site, IMO. Good stuff, anyway.

  4. Dominic White says:

    While some of the platforming was execssively fiddly (really, without at least having a mantling mechanic, it’s an absolute pain to make some of these ridiculously precise jumps, and there’s WAY too much reliance on clumsy crouch-jumping), I loved pretty much everything else about it. They really go all the way with the theme, the voice acting is solid, and it really does make you feel like you’re exploring the patients crumbling, unstable delusions.

  5. Alex Norris says:

    Uh-oh; someone just compared this to the Cradle. That means I am not touching it, and that I’m now going to pretend it doesn’t exist.

    (I remember the beginning and the end of the Cradle, but nothing but the odd freeze-frame inbetween. In other words, the Cradle was so scary that my brain rationalised 90% of it away, and I am never playing through it again.)

  6. Lewis says:

    I’m not sure I’d say The Cradle’s the best comparison. It’s more… man, I dunno. Just really weird, rather than outright scary – a lot of the time, at least. The smoke monsters are just terrifying, but in an intensely panicky way.

    Silent Hill’s atmosphere with System Shock 2’s heart-pounding enemy encounters, I’d go for.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      I simply used The Cradle as a comparison of one of the few games that I have actually found scary, rather than suggesting similarities in style. Having said that, I would say that the scares coming from the oppressive atmosphere rather than moments that make you jump* does remind me a bit of The Cradle. The running away from the cloud things also shares some similarities with the more standard Thief level.

      In reality though, there aren’t any games that can be used as a comparison to this. It is certainly unique.

      *although there are some; the first time I heard the static, for example

  7. Alex Norris says:

    That still sounds scary. I don’t like horror in games. :( It took me about a year to finish Resident Evil, because I had to play with a minimum of three people in the room or I just couldn’t do anything. I’d inch across a room, then run back to the typewriter, save, stare at the screen and just give up.

    The only horror game I ever like was Eternal Darkness, and that’s because whenever they had you fighting monsters, they generally gave you a huge bloody sword. Give me a huge bloody sword and I think I could probably manage this.

    I wonder if impulse 101 works in Korsakovia.

    • Rostock says:

      You shouldn’t play the marine campaign in Aliens Vs. Predators then… I tried it out for 10 minutes then I almost shat myself so I just left it there.

  8. crumbsucker says:

    I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.

  9. MrTest says:

    Yay, HST reference.

  10. Neoviper says:

    I talked sent a few emails back and forth with Dan, he’s a pretty cool guy. Recommended a few games to me, even let me play an early version of korsakovia. Downloading now, totally looking forward to it.

  11. Schmung says:

    You can paid for making mods for the Source engine now? Where do I sign.

    • Pace says:

      You can pay people to help you make one, you just can’t charge people to play it.

  12. Bhazor says:

    Chased by monsters when I’m unarmed. Nice and scary. Great.
    Chased by monsters when I’m unarmed inside a large room. Loose but scary. FIne.
    Chased by monsters when I’m unarmed inside a large room looking for a crowbar which I’m not certain is there. Irritating but exciting. Fine.
    Chased by monsters when I’m unarmed inside a large room looking for a crowbar which I’m not certain is there by stacking crates in the very wonky source style. Very irritating and no longer exciting. Bad.
    Chased by monsters when I’m unarmed inside the blandest room (warehouse) looking for a crowbar which I’m not certain is there by stacking crates in the very wonky source style.Very very irritating.
    Chased by monsters when I’m unarmed who make a loud “scary” sound every five seconds inside an outrageously bland room (the warehouse) looking for a crowbar which I’m not certain is there by stacking crates in the very wonky source style. Very very very irritating. Very bad.
    Chased by monsters when I’m unarmed who make a loud “scary” sound every five seconds inside an outrageously bland room (the warehouse) looking for a crowbar which I’m not certain is there by stacking crates in the very wonky source style when all I want is to see the next bit of the story. Incredibly irritating. Rage quit.

    • Premium User Badge

      solipsistnation says:

      Me Too.

      Actually, I went and read the moddb page to find a spoiler to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do there, and, um… Stacking crates? What is this, 2001? I did get past that part, and to the next room (A jumping puzzle!!! So it’s actually 1998.)

      Korsakovia is a very intriguing concept with a seriously annoying game wrapped around it. The atmosphere? Cool! The monstery things? Pretty cool. (I didn’t figure out that you can beat them and just ran away a lot. I LIKE having to run away, but some kind of stealth mechanic would have been nice. I did manage to shut a couple of them in a closet, though. They can’t open doors.)

      The “Factory” level design? Ugh. The jumping puzzle? That’s when I rage-quit, especially after spending half an hour running around the damn giant empty warehouse trying to stack crates on top of other crates on top of shipping containers… Especially with two fake exits nearby that look like they should work if only you had a crowbar.

      The original Half-Life was so successful on both a plot and gameplay level because they took a serious writer and teamed him up with serious game designers. Here we have the serious writers (and I DO like the writing! Really!), but the serious game designers are nowhere to be found.

    • Bhazor says:

      Oh so there is no crowbar? Well more fool me for searching for two funking hours,

    • Ph0X says:

      Yes, I do admit that it was somehow annoying how at the end you could go to all the three different places without even having the crowbar yet, so you’d find the way and you had to go back find the crowbar then come back to break them.. Which is somehow bad level design.

      They had to give the crowbar then let you explore.

  13. tycho says:

    I agree with the criticisms of this as not a very good *game*, but wow, do they get atmosphere down…

    I hope game companies looking to do horror look at this for pointers in that regard – truly nerve-wracking stuff.

  14. Smee says:

    I wonder if making the player feel confused, lost and somewhat irritated is part of the “experiance” they were going for.

    *sigh*

  15. JonFitt says:

    OOh. Looking forward to trying this. Thanks for the tip.

  16. Nighthood says:

    To all those people who are saying the cradle was the scariest level ever, you are wrong. Stalker, Lab X18. That is all.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      I can honestly say that Lab X18 left very little impression on me. Certainly, it was atmospheric, but I never found it particularly scary. Thinking back on it, I can’t really recall much about it or the feelings I had for it, which is surely a bad sign.

      Perhaps, I was just in the wrong frame of mind.

  17. Alex Norris says:

    Wait, is X18 the one with the brain scorcher, the secret documents, or the psi-emitter? Because the secret docs and psi-emitter ones weren’t that scary, and the brain scorcher one is empty.

  18. ZIGS says:

    I’ll care about The Chinese Room’s games when they bother including Subtitles

  19. Pemptus says:

    Thanks for this. RPS really needs more mods coverage.

  20. RagingLion says:

    It’s a shame. Found Dear Esther really interesting and so was very interested to read this article. However, I really don’t like horror in games so I’m left being really interested in wanting to see what this game is like and yet not wanting to play it. Not sure what I’m going to do about that, unless I can persuade someone else to play it for me and watch them.

  21. Da'Jobat says:

    Hmmm. I was just playing this but now I have stopped simply because I wanted to hear more of the story, but was just getting infuriated by the smoke things and the lack of direction to the “puzzles” for want of a better word. Esther gets my vote.

  22. A Little Green Rosetta says:

    X18 is the one where the boxes fall up to the ceiling, leaving me paralyzed as I realize the laws are physics are just a suggestion here.

  23. Robert Yang says:

    Copy and pasting my comments from ModDB:

    The sound design, as always, is your strong suit. Great work with the voice overs and the soundscapes.

    The level design, however, is kind of bad. I’m stuck on the warehouse section, and I’ve been told I actually need to find a ladder hidden in the corner instead of finding a crowbar to break the lock and kill the smokeballs – how was I supposed to know that? That’s what you trained me to think with the previous hospital level, and now that’s the wrong way?

    The level before was big dimly lit boxy concrete rooms filled with props and crates. I’m not saying it has to be “realistic,” but rather it has to be “convincing” and “interesting.” The copy and paste doesn’t help achieve this.

    (The smoke balls are particle systems parented to invisible fast zombies, right? Smart, though I’m not sure how well it works because fighting fast zombies with a crowbar wasn’t much fun, back in HL2)

    I’ll try to play through more.. but I urge you to sign on Robert Briscoe to face-lift this mod as well. Heck, I’ll even offer my own help if you want it.

    […] “meaningful gameplay” arises from the player making a conscious, informed decision as part of their own strategy – e.g. “I’m going to go for that power-up in the middle of the lava so I can do double damage”, etc.

    Endless copy and pasted corridors (I’ve gotten to the hotel part now) don’t support meaningful gameplay because I don’t have a goal because I don’t have the slightest idea of what’s happening. Basic goals, like “I need more health” aren’t even possible because there’s no health indicator. I mean, yeah, the guy is insane and that’s why the level construction doesn’t make sense – but right now the execution feels less intentional and more amateurish.

    I don’t buy “this mod isn’t about visuals” – did you read the posters and the signs in the beginning hospital level? Those provide meaning to us and enrich our understanding of what’s happening – but then if you bother to read the clipboard, it still reads “HEV mark V hazard suit” – it’s this inconsistency that’s confusing.

    Imagine this without the voice-over and soundwork: it’s an amateurish HL2 level where you kill fast zombies with a crowbar.

    I’m sorry, I don’t want to sound like a bitch. I really really wanted to like this, and I’m all for experimental game design, especially in the HL2 mod scene, but so far this is striking me as one of the less successful experiments, and Mr. Pinchbeck needs to recognize his weakness (visual design, mainly) so he can enlist help in that department or work on his own skills with that.

  24. Robert Yang says:

    Oh, and I thought Lab X18 was meh, mostly cheap scares and tricks. But the Cradle is pure craftsmanship – spoiler!… I remember the first time I finished the Cradle, I just started laughing out of joy because it was so ingenious. But then again I’m a freak, so whatever.

  25. Thirith says:

    I’d say that the narrative complexity and psychological astuteness of the Cradle is unmatched in any game. Other game levels may be as freaky on the surface, but the Cradle stays with you if you allow it.

    • Bhazor says:

      If by narrative complexity you mean “So we have an orphanage, it’s not going so well so lets turn it into a sanitarium. Brilliant! Also if we keep the kids we can save on the paperwork!”

      If by psychological astuteness you mean strobe lights, creaky stairs and monsters that wander around making scary noises while wearing a strobe light.

      There were plenty of neat bits in there (the whole attic sequence, the electro therapy chamber et al) but the cheap scares and a setting that combines four cliches in one really count against it.

    • Tom says:

      Got to agree with you there.
      All the levels in Thief 3 had moments of awesomness, which I could screenshot and post in here and the shots would like they were from the Thief game we’d all hoped for. It is a good game (kinda bland story), but nothing compared to the first two.

  26. Lewis says:

    Am I the only one that thought The Cradle got a bit silly as soon as you met the little ghostly girl?

    Except that the shadow effect thing was tremendous.

  27. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Korsakovia cost over ten grand to produce, which must be pretty much unprecedented in the mod scene

    Unprecedented? Unprecedentedly high or low? Most mods don’t have a budget, as they are made by people working in their spare time, but their income still comes from somewhere. I’d hazard a guess that if properly accounted for, most quality mods would’ve cost many, many times more than that.

    • Lewis says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by that.

      To be clearer: Korsakovia’s design and development was funded by the University of Portsmouth, for a budget of £10,500.

    • Pace says:

      If the people making most mods were paid for their time then £10k wouldn’t add up to much. The fact that somebody involved in this one got paid for something doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

  28. gryffinp says:

    Honestly, I played for a while, got bored and annoyed, tried backtracking, then things started happening and I was very rapidly so terrified that I closed the game.

    Interestingly, it never occurred to me to crowbar them. Funny thing, I’ve been playing FPS’s of all varieties for quite some time now, but show me a very strange enemy and I flip the fuck out and completely forget to try to attack them.

  29. gryffinp says:

    I did however discover that if you hide in bathrooms they wait outside.

    • Ph0X says:

      Haha, now that’s quite interesting…. I wonder if there really is an entity in the bathroom that sets it as a NO-GO place for the enemies…

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Yeah, the waypointing is poorly done, so the AI easily loses track of you if you go through a doorway (any doorway, not just bathrooms).

    • gryffinp says:

      Oh is that what happened? I closed the door.

  30. IdleThreatsandBadPoetry says:

    All I needed to know is that the Dear Esther team has released their follow-up. This sounds great. I won’t bother reading the whole description. I’ll just explore it for myself, preferably after dark.

  31. J. Edgar Hoover says:

    So whats this “The Cradle” game I’ve been hearing so much about? I’ve never heard of it.

    • Wooly says:

      It’s not actually a game, but rather one terrifying level of Thief: Deadly Shadows.

    • Jambe says:

      Talk about atmosphere! I was totally absorbed until I got so godammed pissed that rage replaced fear as my primary motivator. After that point I began to hate the mod.

      I want these people to design a game where you explore a creepy place. I don’t care if it has an ending — or any discernible plot for that matter — I just want them to scare the shit out of me. Make a creepy world for me to check out and get chased around in. I’ll be damned if this lot couldn’t do that without absurd jumping sequences and “haha you don’t know where to go” level design.

      I would pay them for it. A good bit, too, depending on how much content was there.

    • Tom says:

      A great level in Thief 3. Although personally I don’t think it’s quite the piece of brilliance most seam to think it is. Nothing’s beat Life of the Party when it comes to Thief. In fact nothing beats Thief 2 in general.

  32. postmanX3 says:

    So I have to fight things in this mod?

    Well, I guess I’ll just watch a walkthrough on YouTube, whenever that pops up. I rarely play single-player mods that involve fighting (sounds ridiculous, I know) because modders never seem to know how to stage good encounters versus bad one. The approach to creating combat scenarios in SP mods seems to always boil down to “copy-paste large groups of Combine or zombies.”

    • Ph0X says:

      Well, to be honest, I would of appreciated not having to fight, but serious, don’t ruin such an amazing experience by watching it on youtube.

      It definitly is worth playing, and there’s almost no killing. Most of the time you can simply run away (most of the time you dont even have a crowbar…). The only time you REALLY have to kill is when they are blocking a doorway which you can still somehow avoid.

      Also, I too hate any mod which is based on killing (I don’t even bother looking at zombie/shooting games) but this one, atleast, had a somehow original type of “enemy” if you can even call it that. So those couple kills were atleast somehow different from any other game. And again, it’s only a crowbar.

      So definitly try it because it’s a totally different feeling.

  33. Ph0X says:

    I though I was the only one feeling some wierd sickness inside of me by the middle! I guess not.
    I also had some of the longest chills ever. At some point I was having 5-6 of them in a row…

    This definitly troubled me deep inside, but it was an experience i’d still recommand anyone.

    Only the greatest ones can cause such feelings inside a player.

  34. E. Vango says:

    If anyone could give some tips on killing the fogs, that would be very helpful. The game is awesomely terrifying, but in just the second chapter the wisps are too infuriating to fight. I can’t get past them. Amazing atmosphere, though. Here’s hoping the Chinese Room stick to non-combat exploration stories in the future.

    @J. Edgar Hoover
    They’re referring to the Shalebridge Cradle level of Thief 3, which I have not played but understand causes one to shit mountains.

  35. apnea says:

    Echoing the view around here that the bleeping level design is very much frustrating. I respect the Chinese Room team for their Dear Esther project, and I wanted to enjoy this one equally, and preferably in one sitting, but I pretty much ragequit-ed at the beginning of the warehouse, after about twenty minutes of moving crates and following false leads.

    I think they lost something from Dear Esther by adding “game” elements that aren’t anything more than old-school gimmicks (jumping puzzles, stacking, pushing or destroying objects, avoiding electrical arcs (seriously?), etc.). If they’re not prepared to adapt game mechanics to their story (which is a strength of indie gaming generally), they should forsake the empty challenges and concentrate on atmosphere, tension and exploration. What Dear Esther accomplished, essentially.

  36. Joseph says:

    Ph0x, thank you for the link to perfect stride, I just downloaded and played and finished 1 and 2 (but for 2 changed strafe back to a+d and turned off a+d=jump) and I absolutely love them. I’m a big bhop/surf fan, do you know of any other mods/games like this? “Grappling Hook” looks kinda cool, just watched the trailer for it on moddb.

    Only game I’ve bhopped/surfed in is CS 1.6, if anyone has any recommendations for other games with bhop/surf maps/scenes (besides tf2, that’s really bad), would be very appreciated. I watched a video of a pro bhopping through maps in world record time in Quake 3 and that looked heaps fun but perhaps it’s not nearly as easy as they made it look.

    Sorry pretty off-topic, RPS should post about perfect stride then I’d have somewhere to put this.

    • Ph0X says:

      Well like you mentionned, quake 3 has “Defrag” which is one of the best bhopping mods ever.
      For tf2, I personally enjoyed scout/soldier/demoman/engie jump maps. They were quite entertaining.
      There’s also KZMOD which is a pretty decent source kz mod which nice physics.

      Other than that, not really, they rarely make any mods which is based on freestyling and movements like this one.

    • Joseph says:

      OH yeah I forgot about the TF2 jump maps, yeah they are quite a bit of fun. I was just thinking of the surfing when I was talking it down, no air control and it’s a frag fest. Ah I didn’t know about KZMOD, cool.

      Might check me out some Defrag too, thx for all that. Here’s hoping the Perfect Stride creator makes some new maps/versions too.

  37. Nero says:

    I also was looking forward to this and I agree with what many people have said already that the atmosphere is great. A few times have I felt scared or just jumpy (one time only sudden statid made me jump). I did finish the first big jumping section (though fell down through stuff etc a few times) but the second with the tv and invisible thing I gave up and noclipped up there and then moved on like normal. At times I feel very lost but by exploring and I come to some place and more story audio comes up then I know I’m going the correct way. Just got a short way to go I guess.

  38. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I’ve now given up on finishing this, as I’m completely lost in the half-submerged hospital, and there’s no clue where to go.

    Awesome atmosphere, great, chilling story, and the enemies are terrifying: but I think Dan Pinchbeck needs to hire a level designer who knows what they’re doing.

    I noclipped outside one part of the submerged hospital level, and found the mapper had succumbed to the cardinal sin of BSP level design: enclosed everything in a huge box. So the *whole level* is always being rendered. No wonder some people are having framerate issues.

  39. fuggles says:

    Truly, desperately awful. No clues as to where you go, ganked by enemies you encounter by exploring and I can only imagine you have to construct an enormous pyramid out of boxes, only I gave up and god + noclipped the rest. There is no way that this was worth £10k or play tested by anyone not involved in the mod.

    On the plus I now know how to use the half life 2 console – thanks Korsakovia!

    • Lewis says:

      I playtested, actually. Much earlier in the project, granted, and more in a “do these enemies work?” sense when it was basically just a few decontextualised rooms, but still.

  40. Günter says:

    Maybe this is just the mapper in me, but all of the stretched textures, blocky architecture, bad prop placement and terrible level design killed the mood for me.

  41. Lewis says:

    Oi! Just noticed this, hidden beneath the smoke monster screenshot:

    “That doesn’t look too scary to me, Denby. Are you sure? ARE YOU SURE? Come around Archway at gone midnight I’ll show you scary, my lad.”

    I’ll have you know that screenshot took about ten attempts as I was perpetually running away from the bloody thing while mashing F6 in a blind, but very professional, panic.

  42. Tom says:

    Wonder how much Minerva cost to produce?
    I’m thoroughly enjoying this mod. It’s highly evocative and very, very sad.
    But 10G’s?! On what?!

    Also, this may be just me being stupid, but that final jump? You know, the one with the fire and lightning at the bottom of the stairwell in the hospital… is that the end of the game? Would seam fitting if it was.
    Or am I being silly?

  43. chineseroom says:

    hi all,

    i usually avoid getting pulled into these conversations as I don’t know that my opinion is really relevant and don’t want to come over all diva-ish, but can we just clear up the money thing for once and for all as it’s really kind of insulting to the other people on the team who worked on this, and our other mods. Everything coming from thechineseroom is based within this research project of mine. So really, rather than thinking of them as mods, with a traditional ‘volunteer’ team (and that’s IN NO WAY a comment on professionality, just on lack of payment), the people who have worked on our mods have been paid to do so. The projects further my academic career as a researcher, as they are designed to look at research questions. So to co-opt people to spend large amounts of their time for nothing would be deeply unethical.

    So there are two points here. One is that ALL mods have a cost value in real terms. The people who make them are clearly very talented, and often professionals working outside normal employment hours. If they were to be paid, they would come with an hourly rate. They chose to work for nothing on mods, but this doesn’t mean their time is worth nothing. In a perfect world, a large number of mod makers would be paid, because their work is of a professional standard and deserves to be paid. I just happen to pay people to work on my mods. That’s the difference. If that offends anyone conceptually, well, ask yourself if you’d be happy to work for your boss for nothing whilst they financially profited from your work. In essence, if I profit in terms of getting research profile or publications from the chineseroom without paying people, that’s what I’d be doing.

    Second point is this. £10K is peanuts. It is absolutely tiny in comparison to the budgets of even small commercial games. Anyone who thinks this is a lot of money in development needs to spend a few minutes on Google for a bit of development finances education. It is nothing. Try dividing it down by £200 per day for staffing costs (that’s less than either the actor’s union Equity, or the Musicans’ Unions’ recommended costs, btw, and about what the Arts Council: England recommend as a daily rate for early-mid career artists) and you get 50 days. Now think about the fact that the team on Korsakovia comprised of a developer, programmer, composer and two voice actors (I don’t charge my time to the dev costs – and the standard rate for academic buy-out is bout £20 per hour). Suddenly, 10K doesn’t really stretch very far at all.

    So can we please put these kinds of comments to one side. Korsakovia took about 6 person months to develop all in. That would give you a £20Kp.a. salary if ONE person developed it. Now go have a look at entry level graduate salaries for game developers and put this line of debate to bed. Please. Any criticisms of game design, AI, art, level, mapping, mechanisms, whatever else, are really important to me and I want to see as much feedback as I can get to work out exactly what happens for better or worse in our (my?) work. But these kinds of comments are really missing the point…

    thanks, dan

  44. GreenReaper says:

    There is actually a health indicator; the screen gets more cracked the more you are hurt, until all four corners are cracked. Then you die.

  45. Soliduck says:

    For what it’s worth, I loved all of the jumping puzzles to death.
    The last level is literally something I have always wanted to see in a game.