We’re absolutely delighted to announce that The Chinese Room has joined the Sumo family and are already working on new projects!
There’s an interview coming out tomorrow in Eurogamer, where I talk at length about the ups and downs of being a small developer, and the challenges you face as a business-owner and employer as well as a game maker. It’s centred around the news that for the immediate future, we’re going dark as a studio.
In fact, this has been on the cards since earlier this year. Back in June, I had a health scare – nothing life-threatening, but enough to pull me up short and make us have a serious think about things. This was right at the tail end of development on So Let Us Melt, following a long period of ongoing pitches and negotiations to secure the follow-up project for the studio. To cut a long story short, the situation – between financial pressures, trying to keep the lights on for the employed team, the stress of end-of-development, health issues – just wasn’t a tenable thing anymore. It was time to take a break, recharge, recover and have a good think about the future.
So we let our team go. Lay-offs are never pleasant, particularly when you’re all trying to wrap a game. We did our best to try and help the team secure new positions, and then we all – the whole team – threw everything we had at wrapping the game. It didn’t feel fair to anyone, least of all people who had spent a year working on a project, to have its completion and release overshadowed by news about the studio closing, so we’ve held off on the announcement until we felt we were clear of all of that.
OK, two things. Firstly, it’s not the end, just a pause. The games are still on sale, merch, soundtracks, the Dear Esther tour, all of that. We’ll keep things gently ticking over: talking to fans, being on twitter, the usual stuff, just… less. We’re still making The 13th Interior (formerly Total Dark) – me and Andrew and Jess, pushing that forwards until it’s ready to throw a whole team at – and we’ve got plans (and funding) to go into a prototype period on Little Orpheus at the end of the year. So we’ll still be about, just not a fully active development team for the time being.
Secondly, we’re essentially artists, Jess and I, who made a hit game without realising it, and became a studio faster than we planned for. And it’s been an amazing few years where we’ve made and released games we’re very proud of, and we’ve worked with great people and made great friends. But we’re makers, fundamentally, and our roles were increasingly making it very difficult to be practically involved in doing the things we love and we started the company to be able to do. We’re taking time to figure that out; how we get to be creatives, not managing directors. That’s a whole other job and skill set and lots of people do it really well and love doing it. But it’s not for us – it just led to stress and burn-out and a desperate need to actually make stuff again- whether that’s art, music, games, writing. So this break is a chance to reconnect with all of that, and we figure we’ve earned that time.
We’ve always been proud of being open and honest about everything, so take this, and the interview tomorrow as just that. An honest reflection of where we’re at and what we want and need to do next.
Is it the end of The Chinese Room? No, I don’t think so. But it’s the end of a chapter, and we hope you can all be patient with us whilst we figure out what happens next.
We're absolutely thrilled to announce that Jess' soundtrack to So Let Us Melt will be available on vinyl and CD as well as digital download, courtesy of our friends over at Black Screen Records.
The special edition vinyl will come as a blue/orange 180g double in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve with original artwork by Atomhawk (who were also responsible for the Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture vinyl artwork) with a lovely spot varnish on the front cover and liner notes by creative director Dan Pinchbeck. All songs have been specially remastered for vinyl and will be pressed on audiophile 180g blue and orange vinyl. The packaging also includes a free download code that enables the customer to download the mp3s via Bandcamp. All pre-orders start shipping in late September.
Jess says “Recording this soundtrack was such a special experience for me - it was amazing to be back at the world-renowned AIR studios with many of the same musicians and choir members who sang on Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. My previous soundtracks have had such a wonderful reaction and I’m hoping that this one will prove just as well-received. So Let Us Melt is very different to Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but I’m so proud of it - I think it will surprise and delight fans in equal measure. I am thrilled that So Let Us Melt is being released on vinyl and CD and I am just completely in love with the artwork that Atomhawk have produced for the album. Sometimes things just align to make something really special and that’s definitely the case with So Let Us Melt. I can’t wait to get this one out into the world."
(and we're going to get her to do a special blog post all about the recording sessions - watch this space for details).
You don't need me to tell you how special Jess' music is, and what an event a new Jessica Curry soundtrack is for gaming. What I am going to say though, is that this one is really something. It moves through wonder and joy to shock and melancholy, amazement and mystery. It captures the playful energy of the singing machines as they make friends and build the world together; the epic drama of a story that spans an entire world and over ten million years. It is bright and brilliant at one moment, raw and hollow the next. It is full of hope and awe and a wonderful energy that sees Jess evolve beyond the moody atmospherics of Dear Esther and the pastoral beauty of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture to something fresh and deeply original. So Let Us Melt fuses choral traditions with contemporary minimalism, joyful and moving string and harp with playful electronics and samples. In So Let Us Melt, we hear a composer utterly at ease with her own unique and developing voice, breaking beyond themes and accents to create a sonic journey that perfectly captures the bittersweet wonder and myth-building of the game. This is an album full of warmth and life and it is unlike any other soundtrack you will hear this year.
Music has always been right at the core of our games. In some ways, So Let Us Melt is like a VR concept album, and that's really new and exciting. We're deeply proud of the music on this game- it's so far above and beyond anything else you will hear on mobile VR (and pretty head and shoulders above most game music, period). Even if you don't have a Daydream VR, you can still experience the story through the soundtrack.
The OST will be available to order on Thursday 21st September and it's limited edition only, so make sure you bag a copy early. Head over to our friends at Black Screen Records to grab it!
We're incredibly excited to announce that the narrator of So Let Us Melt is the extremely wonderful and brilliant, BAFTA-nominated actor Siobhan Finneran.
I've loved Siobhan's voice for years. You might recognise her from the comedy Benidorm, or costume drama Downton Abbey, where she played O'Brien, or the ghost thriller Midwinter of the Sprit alongside Anna Maxwell Martin. Those of us old enough to remember - and if you are not, you REALLY ought to watch it anyway - go right back to Alan Clarke's Rita, Sue and Bob Too which also starred other favourites George Costigan and Lesley Sharp. She's been UK acting royalty for a long time now...
Anyway - what really did it was Happy Valley, probably the best TV police drama of the last 10 years (if not longer) and one of the best things the BBC has produced in living memory. It's staggeringly good - inspirationally well written and acted, and Siobhan's performance as Clare was just incredible. We'd started work on So Let Us Melt when Jess & I sat down and watched the second series (seriously, you HAVE to watch this show, it's unbelievably good). Siobhan started speaking and I knew right then, that's the voice of this game.
It's really exciting when that happens but also dead risky as well, as you've got to then try and get the actor you want! Fortunately, we were working with SIDE UK again - they handled voice duties with us for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - and they helped us reach out and convince Siobhan to take part. And she just lifts the game up so much - another stellar performance that delivers just the right mix of warmth and drama the game needs. Directed by veteran voice director Mark Healy, Siobhan has delivered a really wonderful performance. We really care about this stuff and it's been an absolute privilege to work with such an amazing actor and get such fantastic voice-work into the game.
We're absolutely thrilled to announce that for the last few months, alongside continuing to prototype Total Dark, we've been hard at work on a brand new game. It's called So Let Us Melt and it's the story of Custodian 98.
Back in spring 2016 we got approached by Google. They were putting together a roster of developers to make content for their new mobile VR platform Daydream. We'd done some playing around with VR before - we did test runs of Dear Esther on Oculus for example, but it just never really happened for one reason or another. But mobile VR - that was really interesting and something that just captured our imaginations...
It's been an amazing, challenging, inspiring period, figuring out this new tech and boiling down the essence of what we do to fit onto not only a mobile platform but a VR mobile platform at that. But I think the team have come up with something really very special. They've taken that emotional depth and beauty we're obsessed with and managed to squeeze it into this little box. And then configured it so when you get that headset on, you're injected into a real world: a world with scale and depth and characters and drama.
We're not saying too much more about So Let Us Melt for now - there's lots of work still to be done - but we're hoping to finish it later on this year and we'll keep you posted on progress.
UPDATE (11.44am GMT) - this should now be resolved. Please get in touch with us if you're still having trouble finding the game in your library. Thanks!
There's been an error on the Humble store which has led to existing owners of Dear Esther having it removed from their libraries.
This is a temporary error, just a simple communication breakdown. We're removing the original from sale, not from existing libraries and we're working to fix it right now so no-one loses their game.
Rest assured you'll get the game back... these things happen occasionally and we'll resolve it as quickly as we can.
Thanks everyone for taking part- it's been a really fun couple of days. We just got a correct answer in, so we're really happy to crown Dave as the winner - we'll get the swag bag out to him next week, and the Limited Run edition as soon as we have our mitts on it.
In the meantime, here's the solution.
On Rosa's amazingly cool map of the island, there's a bunch of letters and numbers - a series of codes (and no, we're not going to tell you what the others are and mean!). But one of these sets is 57 52 11 and 08 29 26 - which is the co-ordinates for Boreray, the island that Dear Esther is based on.
If you join those sets of numbers on the map, they create a line - a journey. If this is superimposed in the right way on a map of the UK, the journey runs from Exeter to Boreray, via Wolverhampton and Edinburgh - the other named locations in the game. 57 corresponds to the start of the journey - so 57 = Exeter.
This was really fun, we had some great responses and we're definitely going to do something like this again sometime. If you took part but didn't win, thanks anyway - and we'll do more giveaways and comps over the next few months, so keep following us on Twitter or checking back here.
To celebrate the launch of Dear Esther: Landmark Edition on PC and Mac, we've got some amazing news for PlayStation 4 owners: the game is getting a special physical edition via the lovely folk over at Limited Run.
It's strictly 5000 copies only and pre-orders open this Friday 17th February. Stocks rarely last more than a couple of hours, so make sure you grab a copy.
Link is here:
Also - we promised a big comp, so here it is. One lucky winner is going to nab the following goodies:
A copy of the Dear Esther: Landmark Edition Limited Run PS4
A signed vinyl copy of the Dear Esther: Landmark Edition by the amazing Jessica Curry
Digital copies of Dear Esther: Landmark Edition, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture on PC
One each of the deeply cool "Dear Esther" and "Walking Simulator" T-shirts designed by our very own Alex Grahame (you get to specify a size)
A copy of the brilliant map of the island of Esther designed by Rosa Carbo-Mascarell
A set of the digital postcards of the game.
All you have to do is answer one simple question:
First email we get with the correct answer wins the lot.