Dear Esther’s Briscoe Teases “STALKER-like” Project

By Jim Rossignol on October 24th, 2012 at 12:00 pm.


Speaking to Joe Martin, the artist behind the fabulously-pretty island of Dear Esther, Robert Briscoe, has announced he’s embarking on a one-man project of formidable ambition. Here’s the quote: “I fancy doing something on my own, something entirely of my own creation. Dear Esther was a great project…[but] this time around? I’ve always had this idea in my head of this sort of open-world, STALKER-like game without weapons. With a horror aspect to it. I’ve never had the opportunity to it because the scope of it is so huge…I can’t even believe I’m contemplating doing it! It’s so unreal…but this is the whole thing with me: I want to see if it’s possible for just one person to make a game on a scale that’s probably never been done before…”

Frankly I want to see if that’s possible, too.

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57 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Clavus says:

    I want to see if it’s possible for just one person to make a game on a scale that’s probably never been done before…

    Most likely not. Dear Esther took him years. If he wants the same level of detail with something the size of a STALKER game, I expect I’ll be retired by the time he finishes.

    • Premium User Badge

      Voice of Majority says:

      One person can start a project of this scope. In fact, it has been done many times before.

      • Dowr says:

        Yeah, ‘start’ but he means ‘finish'; which is something that is near impossible for one man considering the size of a STALKER game.

        • DJJoeJoe says:

          From what I remember of the STALKER games I played, they weren’t remarkably large in scope, or frankly that detailed in their crafted areas. Locked off zones with lots of empty rolling hills with nothingness, the most detail came from the buildings rather than anything else and even then it was purely basic buildings with nothing in them hardly (tin can, bed mattress, maybe a pile of junk).

          If I was sure the guy was starting on this type of project right now and I had a time travel device that would zip me 4 years into the future I’d be surprised if he wasn’t finished, based on my time with the games we are talking about here and also assuming he actually worked on it relatively seriously.

          I’d also like to see him do this but grab 1 or 2 peeps to help, even just through short commission work or whatever. More open worlds (maybe even true open worlds) is a good thing, something stalker never delivered on itself really.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            Google A-Life, then come and tell me a single guy can do it.

          • coldvvvave says:

            A-life worked?

          • Xardas Kane says:

            In my copy of the game it did. http://aigamedev.com/open/interviews/stalker-alife/

          • HexagonalBolts says:

            I think a lo-fi stalker that was procedurally generated could be done by one bloke, really lo-fi, like minecraft

          • coldvvvave says:

            How about the fact that stalkers were locked in their locations and did nothing at all unless they were scripted to do so?

          • Xardas Kane says:

            I’ve met DOZENS of stalkers walking around the Zone, fighting mutants or bandits. Wandering stalkers actually saved my life last night (playing through the game again). I am starting to wonder if you actually played STALKER for more than an hour.

          • lijenstina says:

            @coldvvvave

            No it’s the other way around. The npc will go to the Smart Terrain assigned by the engine. The smart terrain has a logic script attached to it with states – like sleeping during night, fight – if attacked. GSC version had ST assigned to specific factions or npcs. By removing that restriction you can have for instance Bandits or Stalkers or the Military on a specific camp – location. If a NPC is prohibited of being captured by the ST he will roam around the world.

          • Unaco says:

            @Coldvvvave,

            Have you actually played STALKER? Other STALKERs (and Bandits) roamed around and did their own thing… they weren’t purely scripted in the slightest. It was one of the great things about the games… the dynamic, spontaneous interaction of STALKERs and yourself, and bandits/wildlife. You could have a fight with some Zombies or whatever, and have it go one way… or reload a save, fight the same Zombies, but this time have a few friendly STALKERs helping you out.

  2. Xardas Kane says:

    So an open-world shooter without shooting? How is that like STALKER and not, say, any other open-world game? The horror aspect? Hardly Stalker’s defining feature in my eyes. And forgive me for being skeptical when a single dev boasts that he’s going to achieve what took a pretty big studio half a decade and an immeasurable amount of work.

    But hey, what do I know, I thought Dear Esther was a pretty, but self-indulgent and over-rated tech demo.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Survival, atmosphere, using non-combat items to survive environmental hazards – there’s a fair bit that’s possible there.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        Minecraft has most of that as well. What made Stalker special in my eyes was the simulated world courtesy of that magnificent AI technology, the heart and soul of the game. And I don’t see Briscoe achieving anything even remotely close on his own.

        • Xerian says:

          If you truely believe Minecraft has any of these things, you must be a moron. Sorry to say. But Minecraft doesnt have actual survival whatsoever, nor does it have much of an atmosphere (especially a scary one), nor does it see you overcoming environmental hazards, or any other kind of hazards, with none-combat items. At all. But then again, you call Dear Esther an overrated tech-demo, so what does your opinion *really* matter?

          • Xardas Kane says:

            Really? It has a survival mode but has no survival? You don’t solve environmental puzzles? Building a whole freaking house to escape the zombies isn’t both survival and solving an environmental puzzle through non-combat means.

            But of course, it doesn’t really matter, since because I have a different opinion, it’s worthless.

            Idiot. Troll.

      • Sic says:

        Which counts doubly if he is referring to the original version of STALKER, the one that got left behind when they suddenly figured out they had to get the damn thing out the door.

    • Theon says:

      Read the short novel ‘A Roadside Picnic’ and it’ll make sense soon enough.
      Personally, I find this much more interesting than any Stalker-game.

      It’s funny how some people can take source material without shooting, make it into a shooter, and in turn inspire someone else to make a non-shooter.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        I HAVE read it. I am also a big fan of Tarkovsky’s movie adaptation. I don’t see how that relates to a Stalker-like game. Do note how he does NOT talk about Roadside Picnic.

        • Theon says:

          My guess is he just hasn’t read it.
          The Stalker games don’t exactly flaunt where they got their inspiration and influence from.
          I didn’t know the book was at all related, myself, before I came to the part about artifacts.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            Well how can you suggest he was inspired by it when he obviously doesn’t even know about it? Blade Runner was inspired by Metropolis. Batman Begins in turn by Blade Runner. That doesn’t suddenly mean Metropolis and Batman Begins have anything in common, if you get my point.

          • Theon says:

            I didn’t.
            Read it again.
            Carefully this time, if you please.

            The examples you make are also extremely far-fetched, and to not openly use previously made material as a preset, the way the Stalker-games so obviously do to A Roadside Picnic.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            You did. You did again in another comment. I read them both.

            Not that it matters, he said he’s read the book. But that’s beside the point. Claiming that someone is making Roadside Picnic: The Game, but “probably hasn’t read it” somehow does mean exactly what I stated. And no, my example is by no means far fetched.

  3. communisthamster says:

    Roadside picnic game? Roadside picnic game.

    • Theon says:

      This.
      I’m surprised it’s not mentioned by game creator, journalist or -indeed- any other poster than you.

      Somewhat hyped.

    • GameCat says:

      Roadside picnic game would be AWESOME. I remember beginning od Stalker: Clear Sky, where you must manage through anomaly-filled swamp, without shooting. And then it ALL went into horrible game about killing armies of other stalkers and killing more armies of other stalkers, and then about shooting a helicopter. Only forest level was great. It was fucking scariest thing in any game ever.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Stalker the game was far more similar to roadside picnic than the film in my opinion. What I’d like is a game adaptation of Tartovsky’s stalker: no shooting, ambient music and inferred but not necessarily real threat caused by the ambience. Perhaps map areas that loop back if you choose the wrong route, throwing screws is a must of course. They should even have the KGB destroy half the game during development and issue it in two separate pieces.

  4. kikito says:

    Even with heavily procedurally generated content, it’s taking this lone guy years to generate such a thing:

    http://procworld.blogspot.com.es/

    Also, Dwarf Fortress. I don’t want to type all my argument here, so you will have to procedurally generate it from my previous phrases and this article.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Yeah but that’s obviously well and truly beyond the aspirations of most tiny game developers – think much more lo-fi, look at sir, you are being hunted.

    • The Random One says:

      I tried to generate your argument procedurally from other sentences in the page but it told me to buy shoes in a shady Chinese site.

  5. kament says:

    I can only wish him luck. Such a goal is certainly worthy, though I’m not sure it can be achieved.

  6. Premium User Badge

    neofit says:

    Reminds me of:

    Percy: I intend to discover, this very afternoon, the secret of alchemy —
    the hidden art of turning base things into gold.

    Edmund: I see, and the fact that this secret has eluded the most intelligent
    people since the dawn of time doesn’t dampen your spirits at all.

    Percy: Oh no; I like a challenge!

    /ducks

    • Theon says:

      Unlike alchemy, I don’t recall having heard of people making great attempts at making A Roadside Picnic: The Game before.

      Might be my hearing’s just gone bad, though, after all the years in my lab, mixing sulphur, lead and quicksilver and such.
      One day… One day, my son.

      • Claidheamh says:

        One day? We’ve had alchemy for a while now. And we also know it happens naturally, and have most of the mechanisms explained. Although, nowadays, it’s called nuclear physics.

        • Theon says:

          Oh, so the creation of gold out of simpler matters -the prime concern and reason for alchemy- happen naturally now, does it?

          I think you’ll find that far from “most of the mechanics” of nuclear physics have been discovered and documented, too, sadly.

    • phelix says:

      Damn you, now I need to watch Blackadder again.

      • Theon says:

        Not that I don’t find it one of the most entertaining shows ever made, but… why, exactly?

        • Prime says:

          Percy and Edmund are two of the characters from the show. Blackadder’s first name is Edmund. :)

  7. Innovacious says:

    He was working on a zombie/horror sort of thing a long time ago called the willows. I used to follow it on his blog.

    http://www.littlelostpoly.co.uk/category/the-willows/

  8. dE says:

    Oddly enough, I’ve always thought about a tourist version of Stalker. Often while playing that game, I felt the combat drew me out of the game, leaving me to mutter “shoo, go away, don’t disturb me when I’m bathing in atmosphere!”.

  9. elvencode says:

    If you use an engine that already supports features you need for your game and you put out (possible) complex things like combat you can focus on art and (basic/medium) scripting. If you are good in those two things i think it’s not so strange to be able to do something.
    This if you know what you do. If you spend many time deciding the gameplay or/and redoing art again and again it can take so much more time.
    If you consider doing a game with excellent/good art, excellent/good gameplay dynamics (not just walk around an enviroment and talk with people, take some items, etc) probably you need geniuses or a lot more time ;)

    At the end of the year i’ll quit my current work and take 1-2 years doing a game of my own. I’m planning/studying technology and art for about 10 years in my spare and work time and finally i decided to try this adventure. After delivering the technology and gameplay i’ll see if i need some help in the art (more in texturing that anything else) :) My first project is a first person space survival game in an abandoned space station with freedom to combat or solve problems in various ways, with some parallel stories inside. I’ll open a development blog soon.

  10. robert.briscoe says:

    Hi Guys,

    Rob here, I just wanted to chime in here and say that the whole open-world-Stalker-type idea was, and still is, just an idea. Right now I’m still brainstorming, and of course, what I want to do and what I can do are two different things and is also something i’m just trying to figure out at the moment.

    Oh and yes, I have indeed read Roadside Picnic :) it’s my main source of inspiration, along with the original Stalker movie.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Everyone should probably read this before making any more comments

    • Xardas Kane says:

      This is why you don’t just “tease”, as they say in this article, a project before you’ve even started pre-production on it. People understandably get the wrong impression. :D

      But good to hear you have read Roadside Picnic, that wasn’t mentioned in the article. In this case I am greatly excited if this actually happens. Thumbs way up.

      • PopeJamal says:

        Yes, please stop expressing yourself freely in public. Also, do EVERYTHING everyone else wants you to do AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

  11. Brainkite says:

    I love STALKER.

    I mean it.

    More than Bioshock, more than Dishonored, more than Half-Life.

    ( what a relief! )

    Can’t wait for “Sir You’re being hunted” and that new project.

  12. povu says:

    I do hope that if DICE gets to make Mirror’s Edge 2 that they ask Mr. Briscoe to come back as an environmental artist.

  13. SuperNashwanPower says:

    I think the idea is ok, but in all honesty what I want most is another game that is basically like STALKER, or preferably IS STALKER. With shooting, the zone etc. Yes I am going to whinge now.

    I still haven’t got over the loss of the studio closure (i’ve got to the bargaining stage in the Kubler Ross model), and just to keep the wound open, that Survarium thing comes out. I don’t play MMO’s, and I especially don’t fancy a COD style PvP map, which is what it seems to be turning into. All these folks coming out and saying “we’re gonna make something a bit stalkery that totally isnt stalker” is sort of making me feel taunted.

    Yes I am being melodramatic but all I want out of life is a proper STALKER sequel (and maybe a £60,000 pay rise). A disembowelled version with only 60% of the bits is like someone resurrecting a discontinued favourite childhood biscuit, and leaving out the filling.

    Wah. Will look on this project with interest, but I sort of feel like STOP TORTURING ME CRUEL AND INHUMANE WORLD.

  14. dethtoll says:

    Considering the environment artist’s portfolio was the most interesting part of Dear Esther, I’d be up for it. Just so long as it doesn’t include bad poetry by boring British hipsters set to too-loud emotional strings and piano.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Aww come on. Realising exactly WHO brought about the demise of the narrator’s beloved was heartbreaking, poetry or no. That game had me in tears.

      Yes, I am an emotional wreck, but fuck it. It was sad.

  15. DarkShroom says:

    the guy is clearly mad…

    he should also not use any 3rd part code right? he should be coding that 3d engine himself?

    he gets a load of success an doesn’t want extra help..wtf? mad.. or paranoid

  16. Rizay says:

    He should make the game based off of the 1979 russian movie “STALKER”. in that one, the zone would kill you if you had a weapon..

  17. KaZAamM says:

    I believe that the game is a “stalker” type game, not in the sense that it resembles the game Stalker, but in the sense, that you are the “stalker”…

    If you look at the game Dear Esther, and you think of a way to use a “stalker” within the game, you can imagine a narrative story that is completely linear in nature, but tells a riveting story. Your part is to remain unseen until the end. You can weave a good story around that concept.

    It could be broken into chapters. Get caught, or loose the one you are stalking, and you start the chapter over. Dialogue must be listened to, perhaps a questionnaire after each chapter, to see if you understand the story so far?

    Lets say you are stalking a serial killer for instance. You are not a cop, but you meet a person that eerily looks like the sketch in the newspapers you saw that morning. So you decide to follow him. He takes you all over the city… you remain undetected and witness some brutal murders as well as feeling the tension of the narrative as you go through the story till its conclusion. The sounds of the action that is unfolding can be also narrated at the same time, weaving a delicious story around the action that you get to see. You can create tension much in the same way as the game Amnesia, albeit the game would not be interactive at all.

    This would still be a story based game just like Dear Esther, but it tells a story where you must move to keep up to the story as its unfolding. I believe this is not just possible, but probable for one person.

    I also believe that this may have been his intention of the use of the word “stalker”. I may be wrong, but if you look at the logic of what Robert Briscoe created so far, this would seem to be in line with his way of thinking.

    It would not really be a game in the true sense of the word, but neither is Dear Esther. This would be just a computerized environmental movie/novel where art and narrative come together to tell a great story.

  18. KaZAamM says:

    Now if you took this concept of ‘stalker’, and then utilized a divergent story method in a similar way to the game The Walking Dead and created 5 points of either or decisions, you could come up with a game that would have 25 different endings.

    The task of having 25 endings however, is far too much for one person to accomplish. I don’t believe that this has been done before though. With gaming engines getting more and more realistic, a crew of 6 people could create a project like this within a years time.

    More and more games look more like movies anyways. Why not a game that is essentially a movie/novel that is told through the medium of a gaming platform? We watch animated shows all the time, this would be very similar.