Remade Dear Esther To Get Full Release

There's art in them there caves
Dan Pinchbeck of The Chinese Room has sent word that his spooky and emotive Half-Life 2 mod, Dear Esther, which is currently being rebuilt, again in the Source engine, will get a commercial release later this year. Pinchbeck’s transmission tells us that “The re-make features a completely new environment that pushes the Source engine into uncharted territory; a re-orchestrated soundtrack by composer Jessica Curry, new areas to explore and an expanded story.”

More on this soon, I say. And there are apparently details in this month’s PC Gamer UK.


  1. faelnor says:

    Yaaaaay but also nayyyyyy because of [citation needed].

    I think it was pretty obvious that this would go commercial at some point. Quality is extremely high and I will pay for it as long as it remains < 10€. Hope it gets a release soon!

  2. Theory says:

    I say indeed. I’ve been following this closely, and it’s definitely worth our money.

  3. Eggy says:

    Quite a shame because it was supposed to be a free mod, but I can understand he wants to earn some dough for the hours he put in.

    • robert.briscoe says:

      To Eggy and everyone concerned about the cost, without talking figures at this point, I can tell you it will be extremely affordable, and Im going to do everything I can to make sure what you get in return is worth every penny!
      This is the culmination of two years of the most dedicated and creative work i’ve ever done, and im so happy to see it so warmly welcomed as an indie title. There will be lots more info to come, and im looking forward hearing more of your thoughts!

    • Ricc says:

      I wouldn’t believe “X pushes the Source engine into uncharted territory” comments from almost any mod-team, but Robert has already demonstrated, that he is more than capable. I’ll gladly pay for that! :)

    • Urthman says:

      Robert, is there any new gameplay or puzzles or story or anything added to the original, or is it the exact same experience with (much) more beautiful scenery to wander around in and explore?

    • Eggy says:

      It wasn’t the cost perse that had me worried. It was more about the limited audience a relatively unknown paid project reaches instead of a free mod for a classic game. But I hadn’t taken into consideration the points that chineseroom made. With proper advertising and no dependency on the HL2 games it will be much more attractive for people that haven’t got HL2 (they probably do exist right?).

  4. windupharlequin says:

    This is great news for two (well, maybe three) reasons.

    1) Putting this out as a commercial release should hopefully pave the way for other mods to do the same – which can only be a good thing. We’ve seen a massive expansion of Indie games in recent years, in part due to the increased awareness about distribution channels available. Having a mod be able to break out of the community for the particular modded game should hopefully become a far more viable choice.

    2) More people will hear about mods. As it is, there’s some fantastic content but it requires you to (usually) be involved to at least some level with that particular mod community. Similarly, I know many people who are put off from mods, simply due to how fiddly it can be to get them correctly working. Hopefully a commercial release will alleviate some of these issues.

    3) This mod looks superb, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. And then tell all of my friends to get it as well.

    • Mistabashi says:

      It would hardly be “paving the way for other mods to go commercial” since there’s already been numerous mods that have done this: Team Fortress, Killing Floor, The Ball, Red Orchestra, Alien Swarm, DoTA all spring to mind, but there’s probably dozens more I don’t know about or remember.

      But I get your point, Dear Esther was pretty well known as mods go but there’s still a huge portion of gamers who will never have heard of it, particularly the more ‘casual’ types who don’t read gaming blongs on a regular basis so having it show up on Steam for (presumably) a fairly cheap price is definitely going to give it more profile than it would likely ever get as a mod.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      There’s a little-known mod called Counter-Strike that went commercial too.

  5. Persus-9 says:

    Sold! Just tell me where you want me to send my money.

    I would guess the University of Portsmouth own the IP so quite interesting to see this go commercial. I hope the revenue finds it’s way back to The Chinese Room or something else worthwhile within the university. It would be very interesting to see an experimental university based studio become financially viable, that would be awesome.

  6. chineseroom says:

    So three things, really. Firstly, going commercial lets us do things we couldn’t have otherwise done, like reach out to gamers beyond the mod community, which means we can get our game out to anyone who hasn’t got Half Life (yeah, I know! Apparently, there are a few of them out there, in their Fallout-style bunkers). It also means we can leverage some additional investment into the project so we can do things like re-orchestrate the soundtrack, which means you’re going to get a massive level-up for Jessica Curry’s work, which is completely brilliant.

    Secondly, Rob’s put a year of his life into this and produced something which is as good as any commercial game environment out there – and that’s just the art, let alone the detail and design overhaul of the player experience – and I think he deserves to get paid for that, basically, and so does everyone else involved. So that’s a factor too.

    Finally, what’s basically going to happen is that profits get broken down to make sure everyone gets paid, and then a stream of cash goes directly into a running budget which does just what Persus-9 says – it works to build thechineseroom towards a greater financial independence. And this is my current beef with games research – there’s not enough experimentation going on, not enough builds to try things out and innovate and support games as a medium by not just writing theory by actually doing development… so if we can start to prove you can make games that work commercially (and creatively, natch) as games but also are these high-risk experimental research tools, then we can start coming back at the criticisms of the redundancy of games research and rebuild a bit of worth in the eyes of the games industry and gamers. Or something like that.

    We’ll release a lot more information in the very near future, but we are really aware that pricing and value is critical and getting the balance between a high quality product and value for money is pretty central to how we’re approaching things…

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Outstanding! Best of luck, sir.

    • faelnor says:

      Thanks for the info Dan. Re. pricing, I would go for 5-10€ ($10-15) at most and I expect other people to be in quite the same range. But maybe it’s because I don’t have too much money these days.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Not really knowing anything besides the original mod and the screenshots of the rerelease, I want to throw € 6.99 into the ring as a number I’d feel very comfortable paying. Hype me up a bit more with a nice trailer and you could bring that to 8-9 €, easily. 10 or >10 I’d pay if it included an in-depth making of or audio commentary and “Outsourced – getting the best out of your aging graphics engine” pamphlet pdf.

    • KillahMate says:

      @stahlwerk Heh, I’ve emailed Robert Briscoe a while back suggesting all that and a bunch more stuff – basically, they’ve got it all covered. They’ve already considered every option, and while an audio commentary is unlikely in the initial release, they are planning for a lot of post-release stuff, including (if it’s feasible) audio commentary.

  7. fearian says:

    Every time I visit Briscoes site I get a massive Game Art Boner. The things he does with the source engine are magical, no man should be able to bend such an uncooperative engine to his will like this!

    Putting it simply, what he has made here is WAY BEYOND the level of quality you get in a commercial title. There is so much hard work and love put into this that It totally deserves a commercial release.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      “Every time I visit Briscoes site I get a massive Game Art Boner.”

      ^^^This^^^ Dude is 3D artist legend…

  8. Dawlight says:

    These news just made my day. I absolutely LOVED the original mod. I didn’t think anyone else did, and I just thought that the author made it as a quick experiment and then forgot about it. So yeah, there are not many games I’m really hyped about. There are Valve titles like Portal 2, but for some reason I’m looking forward to this just as much. There is some sort of nostalgic feeling you just don’t get from playing any other game or mod.

  9. Zwebbie says:

    There’s a bit of a shame in the commercial release; not because the creators don’t earn it, but because it’s going to be hard to market. I only really ‘got’ Dear Esther during my second playthrough, and would never have considered paying for it beforehand. It can’t be caught in buzzwords or trailers or screenshots. And that’s a shame, because I think a lot more people should play it.

    … On the other hand, a Steam release generates much more attention than a ModDB release, so maybe it will catch on better. You’ve got my money, that’s for sure.

  10. applecup says:

    Just work out some deal with Valve for a TF2 hat to be released if you pre-purchase. Then half the population of Steam will buy it.

  11. Lewis Denby says:

    Yep, the new PCG has a four-page feature/interview/hands-on mashup. Written by yours truly, natch. :-)

  12. Vinraith says:

    That’s reasonable, considering the quality of craftsmanship and the remarkably atmospheric nature of the game. I hope they don’t charge too much for it, though. Art games don’t tend to do that well commercially (so far as I know) and I know that while I personally will probably buy this (based on the strength of my experience with the original) I don’t expect to play through it more than a couple of times. Considering its brevity, I couldn’t see my way to paying more than $5-$10 or so.

  13. Seyon says:

    This is great. It can be hard getting friends to play mods sometimes. With it being a commercial release, I can buy it for them and then they will feel obligated to play. Muhahahaha.

  14. Big Murray says:

    This makes me feel slightly sad that I never got past the opening of the mod. I just got the voice telling me to “come back” constantly, and gave up.

    • stahlwerk says:

      “Come back” means you went off the path you’re supposed to take. In the first third of the mod it sometimes was a bit ambiguous where the game wants you to go, but it got better (i.e. more linear (can’t believe I’m writing this)) after a while.

    • Big Murray says:

      I know it meant I was going the wrong way, but I never found the “right” way.

      Meh, it’s my own fault for not perservering enough. The remake should be quite cool.

  15. shoptroll says:

    I never got to try this mod, and I noticed the moddb download is no longer available :(

    • LimeWarrior says:

      Same thing happened to me. I found out about it after they took it down. Luckily I found it hosted somewhere else after some google searches. Have played it at least 4 times since. I gotta say, if I hadn’t already experienced this and fell in love with it, I might not pay for the remake.

    • robert.briscoe says:

      The original will be back up soon, sorry that’s my fault, it was taken down a while back and was only supposed to be temporary but I neglected to put it back, doh!

  16. KillahMate says:

    Congratulations. They’ve earned all of it and more. Best of luck guys.

  17. Inigo says:

    The re-make features a completely new environment that pushes the Source engine into uncharted territory

    Oh how I love generic marketing hyperbole.

    • Dominic White says:

      You’ve clearly not seen the work-in-progress screenshots, then, because it looks prettier than anything Valve have done with the engine by a fairly safe margin.

    • ANeM says:

      Generic? Perhaps. Hyperbole? Not at all.

  18. Dervish says:

    I can’t wait for the comments proclaiming it to be 1) a must-play masterpiece that drives video games forward as a medium, and 2) too expensive.

  19. skinlo says:

    I thought because it was a mod, it couldn’t be published for money. Have the Dear Esther team purchased a full license then?

    • rei says:

      From the announcement: Briscoe and Pinchbeck first showed the rebuilt mod to Valve in 2009 and they were impressed enough to grant a Source license for a full independent release.

    • Armante says:

      That. is. Awesome. go Valve :)
      and to Robert, I’ve been following the development and can’t wait to try the new version. I missed out on the original, and decided to wait for the beautiful new work you’ve been doing. Congrats, and I hope it does well :)

  20. rei says:

    If you’re still here, Dan, Robert: should I stop waiting for that package you were planning to send out to the translators? :) Will community-powered localisations still be in, or will you be doing them professionally, or is that on the back burner for now (or completely off the stove, as it were)?

    • robert.briscoe says:

      One way we’re thinking of, is a seperate, downloadable, community maintained multi-language pack. There will be more info on this later, but we WILL have translations, I can guarantee that :)

  21. chineseroom says:

    We can’t integrate localisation into the released version without being liable under the licensing agreement so we’re working out how to take-up the many, many offers we’ve had. This is something I’m looking into at the moment. Put it this way, one way or another, there will be translations, I’m just figuring how we’re going to offer that.

    • rei says:

      Ah, I figured there would be some complication. Thanks for the reply!

  22. Navagon says:

    It’s been looking for some time now like it was above and beyond what a lot of commercial efforts are doing. It’s worth my money, I’m sure of that.

  23. Moonracer says:

    I really enjoyed the first version and I am more than happy to support and experience this upgraded future version. Looking forward to it.

  24. ANeM says:

    I will admit, I never actually played the original Dear Esther. I was having severe computer troubles at the time it was released and when I finally managed to fix it the internet hype-machine had largely moved on, and I had other things to catch up with.

    My interest was piqued about 16 months ago during a conversation with some friends. However, during my online search I ended up stumbling upon the remake. Seeing the gorgeous screenshots made clear my only option: I was going to wait for the remake, no matter how long it took.

    As such I look forward to the PC Gamer article, or whatever information from it manages to seep onto the internet where a poor Canadian might spot it.

  25. HelderPinto says:

    Go Robert!

  26. Tim Smith says:

    May I say the following.


    Thank you.

  27. heretic says:

    where to download the original? file seems to be gone from its original place on the mod website.

  28. Deano2099 says:

    I certainly don’t resent the creators or think they don’t have a right to monetise this, but I found the original mod more ‘interesting’ than necessarily ‘enjoyable’. I’d have played the remake were it free but can’t see myself buying it (unless we’re talking iPhone app level prices).

    • Scandalon says:

      Consider: Most of us wouldn’t call “Schindler’s List” as something that is “enjoyable”, but nobody thinks twice about it costing Actual Money to go see it.

  29. J-Han says:

    Based on the comments here it looks like I’m one of the few people who actually got through to the end of Dear Esther…. I’m glad it’s getting some publicity though. I only just mentioned it on my blog yesterday, although I had no idea it was getting re-released. I’ll definitely be buying this game artwork to support it.

    The more people who buy it and hear about it, the closer we’ll get to a culture that generally accepts game engines as a medium for real artistic expression.

  30. Resin says:

    Can’t wait.

    Paying an artist for awesome work – I can support this concept.

  31. Forceflow says:

    Have my money, Briscoe!

  32. dethtoll says:

    I hated the original. What, pray tell, makes this worth the money for someone who thought the original was ugly, couldn’t fathom the plot because it had no subtitles and therefore was forced to try to listen to a barely comprehensible Brit accent that was losing a war for volume supremacy with LOUD THOUGHTFUL MUSIC?

    • robert.briscoe says:

      Luckily you’ll be pleased to know that I have applied copious lens flares and DOF as well as a teal and orange tint to everything in the remake to make the graphics more appealing, and have made the volume levels much more random and incoherent as to enhance the experience. We also asked the voice actor to re-record his lines in a strong scottish accent for authenticity. The Soundtrack has been replaced with thrash metal and we now can provide subtitles in both latin and klingon. So hopefully you’ll have a much more pleasent experience this time around! :P

    • Armante says:

      hahaha that just made me snort my coffee. too funny

    • dethtoll says:

      Sarcasm. How droll.

    • Armante says:

      I love sarcasm

    • Mistabashi says:

      Just a thought but maybe you could find something better to do than scouring the internet for blog posts about games you don’t like so you can tell eveyone that you don’t like it in your oh-so constructive manner…

      I bet you’re looking forward to RPS doing a retrospective on this game in a few years time so you can post your anger about how you were once harrassed by Robert Briscoe for trying to make a few constructive criticisms, and how he launched into a tirade of abuse against you and set his “sycophants” on you. That’s your modus operandi, right?

    • KillahMate says:

      The remake is the prettiest thing on the Source Engine, has subtitles, and a rerecorded soundtrack. So what exactly is the problem?

    • Subjective Effect says:

      He very sadly became bitter at some point is all.

  33. Inglourious Badger says:

    For some reason this makes me even more excited about this

  34. faelnor says:

    Removing the original will make sure that I don’t buy the remake. Careful here…. Hope it’ll be back online soon.

  35. IvanHoeHo says:

    Great news!
    I’m prepared to pay 20 of your American dollars if it comes with a lossless version of the soundtrack.


  36. skalpadda says:

    I’ve been checking Robert’s devblog every now and then ever since I first heard of this. Every new update is a fantastic delicious treat for the eyes and I’ve been singing mad songs of praise for this remake to every gamer friend who hasn’t managed to edge away quickly enough.

    In short, I look forward to the opportunity to hand over some money for this and sitting down with a nice cup of tea and a tray of cookies and experiencing the new improved Dear Esther. :)

  37. tomeoftom says:

    This is amazing news!

  38. Renk says:

    My first reaction was a dramatic Darth Vader style no! but then i took a moment to look back through the work of Robert Briscoe on the dev blog and suddenly my wallet was in front of me and I forgot what I was doing.

  39. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Huh, fair enough, as long as it doesn’t cost too much… can you fix Korsakovia at some point though? Still just crashes in the same spot every time for me :'(

  40. ManaTree says:

    Excellent. Full price buy.

    A TF2 hat tie-in would most certainly help out sales, I bet.

    This does lead me to think, though, Valve now has actual leverage power in selling other games through promotion (we’ve already seen this, of course, but most notably with Sam and Max S3, Minecraft and Monday Night Combat, among others).


  41. Brumisator says:

    sooooooo… the game is on Desura… for free.

    What gives?

  42. Phonograph Phil says:

    I loved this mod and one of the things I loved about it was the music as it immerses you so well into it. I helped a friend write a brief introdcution to Jessica Curry’s work on this project, have a look if her music interests you – link to