The Appearing Of The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter

By John Walker on February 6th, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

In-game, they say!

I think about 50% of the gaming development community is either ex-Looking Glass or ex-People Can Fly. This lot, The Astronauts, are the latter, and these Polish Bulletstorm vets have just announced The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter.

Calling itself “Weird Fiction Horror”, emphasises that its focus is on storytelling. Okay, you have my attention. It describes itself as inspired by the “tales of macabre of the early 20th century”, featuring a detective with the “supernatural ability to visualise scenes of lethal crimes”. (Um, isn’t that called “looking” in the world of detectives?) A young boy has been kidnapped, and you end up in the mountains, discovering the mutilated corpse of a kidnapper, leading you into a mysterious investigation of an ancient force.

Which is so far, so every other hidden object game’s plot. But presumably this is aiming to be something a little more sophisticated, despite its pulp fiction inspirations. Built in the Unreal 3 engine, the teaser trailer reveals that there’s certainly some impressive artistry at work, if not anything useful about the game:

Which all leaves me with one rather large question: What sort of game is it? I’ve asked The Astronauts (which is the best developer name since… since People Can Fly) and will report back as soon as I hear more.

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38 Comments »

  1. Terragot says:

    Why the ancient forces?
    Why the supernatural abilities?

    The subtlety of the trailer hints that it could handle the tale of a missing child incredibly soberly. I guess they’re drawing inspiration for the lovely bones? Tricks from which I thought detracted from the subject matter.

    • edofyingfilms says:

      “Why the ancient forces?
      Why the supernatural abilities?”

      Because, WEIRD fiction.

      If you take out the aforementioned, then you just have fiction.

      • Matt says:

        Yeah, “weird fiction” is historically a genre name, not just a vague descriptor. Think Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and the like.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      For the same reason that, say, Assassin’s Creed needed all the futuristic bullshit, and Alpha Protocol needed all the ridiculous anime-style characters and Fahrenheit needed… well, its entire second half.

      That’s gaming for you, you just HAVE to throw in some kind of adolescent magic or cult or aliens or sci-fi or whatever at some point. I guess there is some kind of law or something.

  2. angrychair says:

    I’m guessing that the supernatural power of visualizing crime scenes is just a roundabout way of saying psychometry.

  3. Low Life says:

    I think this was included in a Sunday Papers collection a while back: http://www.theastronauts.com/2012/11/why-we-need-to-kill-gameplay-to-make-better-games/

    That might give some idea as to what their approach to game design is. Also: http://www.theastronauts.com/2013/01/short-games-revolution/

    edit: In fact, their blog seems quite interesting in its entirety.

    double edit: From the Polygon news article on the game: “If I really, really had to give an example, I’d say imagine an R-rated Dear Esther with gameplay.”

    • Saul says:

      That is a great blog. Thanks!

    • alms says:

      Ok, blog post makes an interesting point even though I’m not entirely persuaded that it works the way he says (it might be part of it though).

      The title is clearly inspired by HPL.

      The trailer looks amazing even though I can’t help wonder why someone would burn anything UNDER a tree.

      In short, they have my attention.

    • lordcooper says:

      http://www.theastronauts.com/2012/10/reboot-your-aaa-brain/

      If they can stick to this philosophy then I’m very interested in seeing what comes of this.

  4. Mario Figueiredo says:

    A quick note John: There may be a bit of a confusion here.

    The game describes itself as a Weird Fiction Horror. Weird Fiction was, as you know, a genre back in the early 20th century, lead by folks like H.P. Lovecraft and M. R. James.

    Pulp magazines published weird fiction stories.

    Pulp fiction was the movie. Nothing else. There’s no pulp fiction genre or anyone as ever tried to define pulp magazines stories as being pulp fiction.

    Just a pet peeve.

    • Xocrates says:

      pulp fiction is not a genre (because it encompasses several), but it is a valid term outside of being the name of a movie which intentionally names itself after the type of fiction it’s emulating.

    • Llewyn says:

      Possibly this is down to you not being a native English speaker, Mario, but “pulp fiction” was a well-established genre description for pulp magazine stories long before Tarantino was born, let alone before he made a movie with that title.

      A quick bit of searching throws up an example from the Washington Post from 1934. John’s not made it up.

      Edit: Can’t find a public-facing link for the article, but page 13 of the Post dated 8th March 1934 in an article titled, in the style of the age, ‘”New Woman” of 90′s, Riding a Bicycle in Bloomers, Upset Story Tellers’ Apple Cart’

    • Shookster says:

      At the risk of sounding like an annoying, crazy descriptivist here, it may not have started out as an actual genre, but I think that at this point, there’s enough common understanding when the phrase is used (and it’s been used quite a bit lately) that it’s become a real thing. Maybe it shouldn’t be. But it is now, for better or worse.

      I’d say pulp fiction is fiction that was published in pulp magazines or resembles the fiction published during the “pulp era.”

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pulp+fiction
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_fiction_magazine#The_pulp_era

    • iucounu says:

      I’m under the distinct impression that there *is* a valid use for the term ‘pulp fiction’. It’s about the economics of publishing. When wood-pulp paper manufacturing was invented, we quickly got cheap fiction magazines and serials and ‘dime novels’, whose form and content were dictated by economising on production and editorial costs. You’d pay tiny amounts for stories, edit as little as possible, and sell them by the yard. The ‘pulp’ magazines were a distinct category from the turn of the 19th century up until WW2, when television and paper rationing killed them off.

      Interestingly, now that the logistics of publishing are somewhat divorced from the paper industry, we’re seeing the economics of pulp coming back on the Internet. It’s how I’d classify a lot of what does well on Kindle.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I think at the start of the game when you’re setting up the localisation options, it asks you “[English / Portuguese / Italian / German / Spanish / French] motherfucker, do you speak it?”

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      So, after you guys (and gals?) posts I went and tried to dig it further. I was completely unaware of this description, never seen it before. And being a self-proclaimed literature buff of that time-period it immediately annoyed me.

      Trouble is, from your links and all I could find on my own, while I do see the term being used here and there, it is sporadic and almost always attributed to a non authority in the matter (like RPS :p).

      I’ll accept this compromise: It’s apparently a case of meaning as use and I won’t pursue this pet peeve of mine anymore. I won’t just ever use the term as I don’t like it.

      Cheers!

      Edit: Oh, and thanks a bunch for the leveled responses! :)

  5. Hoaxfish says:

    I’ll wait for the Cillit Banging of Ethan Carter

  6. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I’m a bit at odds with the authors here. I got more a Poe vibe from the melancholic movie, game title, plot, and down to the crow at the end, than I got a feeling for Weird Fiction.

    I may be biased by Pulp Magazines cover art though. It’s hard not to when this is a game. But my initial impression is that we need moar data.

  7. Tei says:

    The presentation of this make me think of peotry and other good things. I don’t like finding stuff games, but his existence make me happy somewhat.

  8. deadly.by.design says:

    If it’s nothing like Bulletstorm, I might actually like it.

    Seriously, I was turned off by that demo in ways no other game has managed.

    • phlebas says:

      It’s not called The Shooting Of Ethan Carter Up The Jacksie, so initial indications are positive.

  9. Sic says:

    On the surface of things, this looks absolutely amazing. I hope they succeed in making it into a great game.

    Again, on the surface of things, this looks like a genuinely good concept. It’s the kind of idea that doesn’t make me embarrassed to be a gamer (which is seldom these days).

  10. SuperNashwanPower says:

    This video is an allegory. An allegory for EA.

    There he is. Old. Wizened. Some gamekeeper, protecting profit and product. See his big stick, ready to beat over the head anyone who tries to play with the product. There is his carrion bird, ready to prey on the corpses of fallen organisations. The ones consumed by its master.

    Then see what the gamekeeper is burning. He is burning the things of children. The things of carefree happiness.

    He is burning fun.

  11. empyrion says:

    I like how the raven not only sits so close to the man but to the fire as well, looking at it. It’s like a trained pet raven. That must be awesome to have.

  12. Gap Gen says:

    PRESS Q TO BURN EVIDENCE

  13. Davidsve says:

    I’d love to play a slow, sad old man with no apparent abilities. I’m really tired of muscular douchebags. Hope there’s a lot of investigating and as little action as possible in this one.

  14. Lars Westergren says:

    Really like the artwork, and the setting. Would have been even happier if he had a non-supernatural ability. Detectives that “can get into the mind of a serial killer” or “see exactly what happened at a glance so we don’t have to do any of that boring writing-coherent-plots-without-glaring-logic-holes stuff” are a dime a dozen.

    Clarification – I presume it is not actually a hidden object game, since it is based on U3 engine? That was just a (“the plot sounds somewhat like one for a hidden object game”) joke?

    I also doubt we will play as the grizzled man in that trailer, much as I’d like it. Looks more like he is burning the evidence, so more likely a villain.

  15. tnzk says:

    There’s already a weird fiction series out there. It’s the Blackwell games from Wadjet Eye. And it’s a very good series.

  16. Cowboybibop says:

    Hype o’ meter mode: BUZZING