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Hello again! Firstly allow me to apologise for the lack of updates here on my Devblog during recent events. As many of you probably already know by now, an announcement was made over the weekend that Dear Esther was going ‘commercial’(-I prefer the term ‘Independent’). Originally,  a press release was sent out last Thursday and was supposed to be embargoed until the 19th of Feb. Unfortunately one site decided to release last Friday, over a week early! Within hours the news was everywhere – cue panic!!

I was completely unprepared for it; I wanted that week to get the official website up and running and prepare some kind of teaser trailer/media to sweeten the deal. I’d also planned to write up a bit more of a personal and in depth post on the announcement here and ModDB for those of you who have been following my progress since the Project first formed. Needless to say it all went to hell last Friday, and have since been working like a mad man to get the official website and forums up (might be a bit rough, it was built in just over a day) our new IndieDB Page, and of course keeping track of the reaction to the news.

The positive reactions on Shacknews, RPS and other gaming sites initially left me ecstatic, however, visiting ModDB told quite a different story.

I’ve been quite taken aback by some of the reactions, and of all places, I was not expecting it there. The majority of negative comments focus around how people feel we have deceived the community and used the guise of being a mod as ‘marketing ploy’ to reel people in, etc, which was shocking to me considering that the motivation to go indie was born from the community.

7 months ago, at the end of June 2010, at the end of an update on the Caves level, I  linked to a blog post here, where I posed the question “What would you think of Dear Esther going Indie?”

It was something that had been floating around for some time, but aware of the consequences and complications of such a thing, plus the extra pressure it would put on me (I was supposed to be taking a year off!), I was just not sure it would be worth it. So I thought I’d throw it out there to the community and see how things lay. Despite one or two concerned comments, mostly regarding new content and cost – both valid points, but both of which I knew we could fix if the situation were to arise, the resounding reaction was “Go for it!!”  This was ultimately what gave me the courage to approach Valve along with Dan and see where we stood, at the time, I honestly didn’t think the quality of my work was worthy of a retail release.

Cue a long drawn out process of back an fourth, months passed, I continued working, and approaching xmas I’d all but practically given up on the idea, but behind the scenes the wheels were slowly starting to turn and in December we actually received some good news; With the help of Valve and the University of Portsmouth (UK) the prospect of going indie suddenly became a stark reality.

So that’s how we ended up here…

It wasn’t my intent to make people feel deceived nor dissapointed, especially angry! Our goal here isn’t to get super rich and buy jet skis, just a very simple one: to make a cool games which eveyone can play and have the benefit of being able to support ourselves so we can keep on making creative, fun and original stuff in the future.

Anyway, for those who may be confused, I hope this gives a bit more of an in-depth look the how’s and why’s of the whole Indie announcement.

Looking to the future there’s lots of exciting stuff to come, in the meantime, get over to our new IndieDB page, subscribe, and go check out our official site and forums and keep your eyes peeled for more soon!

28 comments to Rollercoaster

  • Do you have any idea how the payment will be? PayPal? Or via Desura…? Perhaps via Steam? That would be practically unbelievable. If it’s Paypal, damn, then I’ll have to wait 3-4 days for the transmission to go… Will we know long enough before the release WHEN it will be released? Thanks very much, keep up the good work!

  • I was going to use the forum on the dear-esther site, but it’s being spammed – and my little ego needs some attention ;) j/k

    I had made this thread over on the steam forums, about First Person being wasted on shooters, Dear Esther, Frictional games, and portal not withstanding.

    But in my rambling iterative thought process, I came to the conclusion that First Person is the most easily accessible gaming perspective, as it mirrors our own comprehension and understanding via our own natural perspective.
    The problem that the “broader” audience outside of the 10-20 million who buy First Person Shooters – (depending on taste), are good with joypads/WASD-mouse controls.

    And for a commercial release for Dear-Esther, to REALLY open it up, i’m suggesting to have an optional “nerfed” fps control system.

    The people who haven’t trained up on these skills have an instant backlash to the control. Like my wife, parents, sister, rts crowd.
    and Inpart of my surmary, had a mixed concept of those given by Frictional games in amnesia, and to those on Epic citadel on the iphone is the only logical thing I can think of.

    You have some form of reticle, which moves across the x/y of the screen. The closer the mouse is to the center of the screen the more none-existent the view moves,
    The last 1/3 of the screen moves the screen round fairly fast.
    (similarly to the old flight sims of old when you had mouse enabled). I’ve done similar “scroll faster near the edges” on flash sites I’ve built in the past, but I think we can appreciate First Person being a little different :)

    So if there was any object interaction via old adventure games/ amnesia, you could still do complex mouse movements round the centre of the screen with your objects and your view not be affected.

    Totally taken from epic citadel, you click on the place you want to walk to.
    Double click to run.
    This may need some AI routine or navigation mesh(?) so the player would automaically walk around, or back away/side step from obstacles.

    It would need some MAJOR play-testing to get even close to being right.
    Such as -as soon as you “stop” moving the mouse, or you start moving, the “pointer” fade from view.
    And maybe a “squad” / RTS marker be placed on the ground (game spoiling for Esther, maybe have an in-game, joke sea-gull landing there – damint wouldn’t work for the caves. maybe a subtle particle effect, smoke emanating from the ground, more phosphorescent in the distance, but grey to being normal smoke the closer the player comes to it.)

    The FPS community would go nuts if it was the “only” control, so if there is to be some nerfed FPS control, it’s definitely optional.

  • I know going indie is a big step, especially for mods! Counterstrike, Day of defeat… And I would LOVE to see dear esther on the side of the home page on steam as the #1 game. However, the players who feel almost like they had an adventure discovering this great game on the internet originally, and who spread the word about the internet are weary about the game being so popular, because they feel special. They feel Like they contributed to this, and they should, because I know i’ll spend an hour searching through moddb for good games, but not many will. The community for dear esther is close, and interested, and doesn’t want to be forced to fade in with the others who only have found this game because of an add, or cause Gabe Newell felt like he should put a sticker on it. Although i will be supporting the game no matter what, and have ya’ll thought of as fundraiser!?

  • Uberduder

    I am one of those people who is upset by the commercialization of this mod, but I don’t think people understand the reasons behind people’s anger. Prehaps I can clarify. I support this mod, and it is not me who is making it, I understand that, before anyone says anything, and I’ll most probably end up buying it myself. I suppose you could say it depresses me more so than angers me. Up in till this point the remake was easily my most anticipated mod. The original was so captivating, and the only thing really missing was a boost in the art/graphics department. The thought that stuff like this could be made for free was a happy one, and what’s more by people who just wanted this stuff to exist. That it all of a sudden goes commercial after people had spent so much time tracking and anticipating the progress of this was unexpected and dissapointing. Not that I feel self-entitled, mind you, but it was unexpected. That this happened 80% through the production cycle makes it worse. I find that this mod (/game) more closely resembles art than a game, so that it goes commercial feels much like the difference between a public art gallery and one with payed entry. Part of what makes a mod so appriciable is that it is free, not because of lack of quality on the part of the mod, but because it makes the content feel so much more a gift. I don’t know if that makes any sense to any of you.

    And on a similar note, I really hope that the commercialization brings something into this that wouldn’t have existed otherwise, as I would feel more inclined to accept the commercialization as a plus if those benefits were clear. I have trouble seeing what can be improved this late in the developmental cycle. Prehaps a mention of planned improvements in your next article/interview or something would help quel the anger from some people?

    In any case, for money or no, I am glad that this stuff is available to the public. One small step for the game industry and one large step for the I.Q. of mankind. Not to mention writers and voice actors everywhere.

    • Spark

      I believe it was mentioned that going indie will allow them to re-record the soundtrack (and then some) with an actual orchestra and in turn allow Jessica Curry to be more involved in the project, or something like that. I’m very excited about that news, probably the highlight of the information blow-out we’ve had this week.

    • Hobbes

      I understand that some people are disappointed, since we all like free stuff, and especially when we thought it was somehow ‘promised’ to us. It’s the calls of ‘art should be free’ confuses me. Art galleries are only free because the modern state pays for it via taxation (justified by the social value of art), or philanthropy (justified by easing the guilt of the rich…) and that most of the artists displayed within either had extremely wealthy patrons or sold their art on the market (both justified by the personal value of the art). In an ideal world the Tate would fund the development of games like Dear Esther and the DE team would all be as rich as Damien Hirst, but I’m not going to hold my breath for that. Until then I’m glad I can support this fantastic corner of the gaming world, and I look forward to buying Dear Esther as some compensation towards Robert, Dan and the team’s immensely hard work.

  • Splam Bub

    Those that protest about the indie decision either have an unnecessary aversion to paying for deserving products, or lack of access to their parents’ debit cards. They also have no ground to stand on, as far as the argument goes.

    Let me introduce myself. I am a poor university student, with a passion for quality games. They are the reason why I am studying computer science. I live off the kindness of my government, under a few thousand pounds of debt.

    I will buy this. Not because I enjoy the feel of my hand inside my wallet, but because the people who have designed this game possess skills so impressive that they deserve to be paid.

    If you feel justified in the belief that you deserve to play this for free, more so than me, you are either selfish, or are living in (and posting from) a damp cardboard box.
    To Robert and the team, you have my firm respect. Good luck.

  • Diriel

    It would be a lie to say that I am not a little disappointed, not due to the fact that I am now having to pay. The modding community is quite a close one. I know it sounds somewhat stupid, but you felt like part of the family of modders. Whereas now you’ve left that group, it just feels a little less intimite.

    However, with that said. I fully agree with the people that are saying that this game does deserve to make money. I will happily pay anything that is not completely extortionate to play the new game and I will not enjoy the game itself any less than I would have had it still been a mod.

    The fact that Valve granted your commercial licence simply re-inforces the quality of the game, and I for one still can’t wait.

  • Plazmataz

    If a craftsman started working on some wood carvings, and someone came up to his shop and asked him what he’d probably do with them, he might be inclined to reply, “I don’t know, it’s just a little project. I’ll probably end up giving them away for free.” Hundreds line up in the streets, not interested because the art is beautiful, but because they heard whispers that something somewhere was free. The craftsman steps out of his shop with the finished product and says, “They turned out far better than I had expected, and took far longer than I thought. I’ve decided to charge a small amount for each carving!” Then all the men who had lined up expecting a handout go back to their homes grumbling, and only those who were genuinely excited to own a beautiful work of hand-crafted art remain.

    As it should be.

    There is some sort of disease that has spread across the minds of millions of young internet users that seems to corrupt their brains into thinking that good things are always free. Just because it’s not free doesn’t mean it isn’t a masterpiece. And people claim that they were being “led on,” during development. What makes you people think that you were entitled to anything at all? If Robert had felt like it, he could have decided to not release the work at all. Now he’s doing something that will benefit him a little for his hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of labor, and you begrudge him that? If I’m mistaken, and you all have invested that amount of time into Dear Esther, then I take all this back. If I’m not mistaken, then the work is belongs to Robert and Dan, and they can do as they please with it. If you actually care about the product and not just about your wallet, you won’t mind this a bit.

    • NykO18

      “If you actually care about the product and not just about your wallet, you won’t mind this a bit.”
      What if you care about both your wallet and the product?
      You know, like 95% of people…

    • Plazmataz

      Two points.

      1. If something is offered to you for free and then by circumstance you don’t get it, you don’t have the right to complain; it was free. Beggars aren’t entitled to anything. By paying, you become entitled.

      2. As for caring about both money and the product, just decide which you care about more. As with everything in a capitalist market, if you can’t afford it you don’t get to have it, unless you’re willing to make a monetary sacrifice in order to get it. If you don’t want to spare the money, you shouldn’t complain that something has a price tag on it. It’s a lot like going to the store and complaining that video games cost money, because damn it, you don’t like spending money. In fact, it’s exactly like that. If you like not spending money more than you like Dear Esther, your solution is simple: don’t buy it. Just decide which one you care more about, and then make your move. Complaining accomplishes nothing.

    • NykO18

      I disagree with the last sentence. Complaining does accomplish thing, more often than not complaining anyway. What do you think those people in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc. are doing right now? Complaining. Sure it’s unfair to compare this with the present situation, but I still think Dear Esther should have been kept free.

  • TheLostSkeleton

    Ok so how is this the 11th hour if we didnt know we even COULD go indie until just over a month ago?? Do you really believe we waited until a couple of days ago and just said “fuck it lets get a license and go indie!” Sure it may be a suprise but I really dont see what TIMING has to do with anything, this happened when it happened, it wasnt planned from the start, and we released the news as soon as we found out. I dont want to sound like im ranting but did you even read the article? I made it quite clear that the original goal WAS for it to be a mod, but because of the community’s encouragement to go indie we decided to try taking it further.

    I’m not saying you did it out of malice or anything crazy like that (I know you’ve probably dealt with your fair share of angry nerds these last couple of days, but rest assured I’m not trying to insult you).

    What I AM saying is that it’s the difference between:

    We’re going to upgrade this currently free game because we’re going to sell it.” (Cave Story)


    We’re going to upgrade this currently free game.” (Months later…) “And it’s not going to be free.” (Dear Esther Remake)

    One puts it in to a user’s head that they are paying for an upgrade, and that the upgrade exists exclusively to be paid for. The other puts it in to a user’s head that they are getting the upgrade for free, only to have that offer rescinded at a later date. You are, essentially, telling folks that they should pay for content that they’ve already categorized in their minds as being “free”, and that’s what is causing so many people to get up in arms.

    Yes, there are people who answered you months ago with enthusiasm for this direction, and no doubt a lot of the people who supported that decision are the ones wishing you well right now. But it’s not as though everybody on the internet gave their opinion on the matter, and you are getting far wider coverage for making the decision than you did for question asking what decision you should make.

    What I’m trying to say in all of this is that if it was me, I would’ve left Dear Esther Remake free and kept the “We want to publish your indie game” offer as a feather in my cap for whatever comes next.

  • Lewk

    Awesome news. So now that you have a Source Engine license, what version of Source will Dear Esther be released on? AND if a newer version, will we see any new engine features being taken advantage of?

  • TheLostSkeleton

    The problem is that you waited until basically the 11th hour. You got everybody’s hopes up of, “oh man, I am going to download and play this totally sweet Dear Esther remake when it releases for free”. If you’ll excuse the crude comparison, imagine your girlfriend is doing something special during sex and right before you climax she stops and says “That’ll be $15, please.” Are you going to be happy? You were so close. You thought she was doing this out of the goodness of her heart. Instead, you’ll be finishing yourself off – or begrudgingly agree to her terms and fork over the dough.

    It was EXTREMELY poor timing on your part. Look at Cave Story – another case of something that was free to play on the PC that eventually went play. When they announced it would cost money, they also announced the visual enhancements, the remastered soundtrack, and the ability to play the game on the Wii. It felt like they were freshening it up to sell it.

    Had the beautiful visuals of the Dear Esther remake been part of the “You have to pay for this” package from day 1, there probably wouldn’t have been any argument on the matter. Instead, you’re announcing the decision to go “commercial” when hype for the once-thought-to-be-free version is at a fever pitch – users already feel entitled to this version of Esther being free, and you’re taking that away from them.

    I can’t blame anyone for getting mad at a decision like this. I’m a little bit mad. There’s nothing technically wrong with what you’re doing, but you could not have picked a worse time to announce it.

    • Ok so how is this the 11th hour if we didnt know we even COULD go indie until just over a month ago?? Do you really believe we waited until a couple of days ago and just said “fuck it lets get a license and go indie!” Sure it may be a suprise but I really dont see what TIMING has to do with anything, this happened when it happened, it wasnt planned from the start, and we released the news as soon as we found out. I dont want to sound like im ranting but did you even read the article? I made it quite clear that the original goal WAS for it to be a mod, but because of the community’s encouragement to go indie we decided to try taking it further.

  • darklord42

    Also, with this as an independent title, is there a chance that we may eventually see this project on other platforms such as MacOSX and maybe Xbox?

    • We’d love to yeah! Im hoping that if we make enough sales from the Pc version we’ll be able to fund a Mac release also, possibly even other platforms depending on how things go.

  • darklord42

    You sir do not need to apologize for anything. Its a shame the cat was out of the bag before you were ready for it. I know I said it before on the moddb page, this is a true work of art. It would be a real shame if that to enjoy this, one had to make a separate purchase of a source game. If that were the case, there would be little chance that this project would reach the people who would enjoy it most. This is great news. I wish you the best.

  • Ace

    Going indie was a fantastic move. The mod community may be upset but they are a vocal minority compared to the gaming community at large. There are countless fantastic mods that go unexperienced by most people simply because they are mods.

    This is the era of indie titles. People these days are open and eager to try small indie games in search of unique experiences. With the right price point and some press attention, Dear Esther will flourish.

    Just get the price point right for what it is. Remember that people already know they want Dear Esther will pay anything, whereas the majority of sales come from curious people who want to see what their friends/sites/etc are talking about. If the price point is low enough to not turn away curious customers, word of mouth sales will spread like wildfire.

    I wish you the best of luck and can’t wait to play it myself!

    “I honestly didn’t think the quality of my work was worthy of a retail release.”
    You are ridiculous, this is some of the best looking work I’ve seen in the industry – not just in the Source community!

  • NykO18

    Not sure this was a good idea. I for one, won’t play Dear Esther now that it has gone commercial. Why you ask? Because this is simply not the kind of game that attracts me in the first place, let alone spending money on it. If it was free, I’d still give it a go, just to be amazed at your work and look at all the things you’ve done. Now I don’t think I’d pay just for this. Unlike Spark above, I think you’re missing the opportunity of sharing it with more people by making it commercial. This has never been just a regular mod to me, I always saw it more like a work of art, like the projects from Robert Yang. Which means ‘interesting, but I would not pay for it’. Just my opinion though.

  • Tommy

    For all the effort, commitment and sheer creativity you’ve thrown at this, it would be a massive shame for Dear Esther to remain a mod – not simply because you deserve some level of reward for the work, but because games of this stature and brilliance deserve and need widespread recognition for the indie community to thrive, and for budding game developers to have a chance of getting their voices heard. You’ve done the right thing, and what’s more, you did it with the overwhelming support of your fans and followers. Ignore the rantings of over-entitled idiots who are used to getting everything for free. They’re the ones missing out.

  • Spark

    Going indie was the best thing you could have done for Dear Esther, it simply wouldn’t have made an impact or reached a broad audience as a mod. Now, as an indie game, it’ll be reviewed by mainstream gaming publications and websites, have advertisements on Steam and have a more effective word-of-mouth reaction.

    As a mod it’ll just be viewed as that, a mod for a dated game. It’ll be popular in certain communities for a while(like ModDB) but elsewhere it’ll be shrugged off and eventually forgotten (if it was even noticed at all). Congratulations and I hope this project gets the recognition it deserves, which is now an actual likelihood as it’s an indie game.

  • ggtr1138

    Congrats for going indie, I’m thinking that’s a very good decision. I’ll buy “Dear Esther”, your work will be rewarded.