Five years ago tomorrow, we released the commercial version of this Half Life 2 mod we'd made back in 2007. Back then I was working for the University of Portsmouth and Jess was a working as a sound artist and composer, and we’d teamed up with the game artist Rob Briscoe, who’d started reskinning the mod as a downtime project after working on Mirror’s Edge. It was a real labour of love and I don’t think any of us had the slightest idea where it was going to lead.
Esther’s story has been told lots of times now, so let's talk about the Landmark Edition. About a year ago now, Rob got in touch and said he wanted to think about a port over to Unity, mainly as a way of preserving the game into the future. It sounded like a really good idea, and pretty much straightaway we suggested that a Unity port would open the door to a console version of the game. Especially because Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture had done so well on PS4, and we had an amazing bunch of fans over on that platform it just made perfect sense to go for it. We also decided that if we were going to do a new version of the game, we didn’t want to do a whole reboot thing but leave it as a recreation. Dear Esther is a part of gaming history in its own small way, and it seemed more honest to leave it there, doing its thing as one of the originating titles in the whole walking simulator genre than to try and modernise it and turn it into something it never was. There’s something so minimalist, so pure about the game that it felt better to let it be what it is. But given the last five years have seen Esther get talked about so much, popping up in academic papers, online discussions, all kinds of places, we thought it’d be cool to get the three of us together and do a Director’s Commentary and try and open up some more details of what we thought when we were making the thing in the first place.
So early in 2016, we reached out to a few people and found ourselves chatting to the lovely folk over at Curve Digital, who have a great track record in publishing to console games from smaller developers. We were not only prototyping Total Dark, but also committed to another project, so it meant we could let them pick up the lion’s share of the work. They did a cracking job and we released PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game in September last year. They’ve racked up over 50,000 sales since then, which is really amazing.
Around the same time, Jess also created a live performance around the game, and took it to the Barbican’s Milton Court concert hall. The event sold out, and in October 2016 musicians and performers from Dear Esther and our other games came together to perform the game’s soundtrack to a live playthough. Oliver Dimsdale, who did an incredible job of playing Stephen in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (he was nominated for a BAFTA for his performance) took the helm as the narrator, Rapture’s conductor James Morgan led the musicians, and Machine for Pigs soloist Joanne Forbes L'Estrange sang. It was a really amazing, powerful night – you could have literally heard a pin drop at the end of the show, and Jess is already working on an international tour.
Meanwhile, Curve handed back over the alpha PC build of the game and Stu, our lead coder, stepped up to finish it off, with support from the rest of the team. Over the last few months, it’s been put through QA, store-page assets created and checked, and all of the behind-the-scenes production stuff has been going on, and now it’s here and out tomorrow – available on Steam, Humble, Green Man Gaming and, for the first time, GOG – which is really cool.
So here’s the REALLY EXCITING STUFF
Firstly – the game’s launch. We figured that we didn’t want to charge our existing fans all over again. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you and we wanted to say thanks. So when the game launches at 6pm GMT tomorrow 14th February 2017, we’re going to gift every existing Steam Dear Esther owner with a copy of the Landmark Edition, absolutely free. It’s just our way of saying thanks for the last five years and for being such ace fans. It means a lot to us. Hope you enjoy the Landmark Edition.
Secondly, if you’re a PlayStation user, from tomorrow you’re going to be able to get the Dear Esther dynamic theme absolutely free. It’s really very cool so make sure you grab it. There's also more console news coming very soon.
Thirdly, stay tuned for a mega-exciting announcement tomorrow at 6pm GMT when the game launches – can’t say more now, but follow us on Twitter because you REALLY don’t want to miss the boat on this one and its EXTREMELY time sensitive.
Fourthly (YEAH, THERE’S MORE) – to celebrate the launch, from tomorrow 12 midday GMT, all our merchandise is going be 20% for a week for celebrate the launch – maps, postcards and T-shirts so make sure you grab ‘em now: https://jessicacurry.bandcamp.com/merch
Finally, check back here tomorrow because we’re going to be launching a competition with a single awesome prize of a TCR mega-bundle:
- Digital copies of all of our games for PC
- Full merch swag bag – T-shirts, postcards and maps!
- A signed copy of the Dear Esther OST on vinyl
- A super-secret special extra thing we can’t tell you about right now but you’ll REALLY WANT
Thanks for reading – we’ve got 24 hours to do final prep so we’re off now to get on with it – and thanks for the last five years folks, here’s to the next five!