The Chinese Room are the studio responsible for story driven titles such as Dear Esther and the upcoming sequel to Amnesia: A Dark Descent, A Machine For Pigs. After nominating them for a few awards for Dear Esther, BAFTA decided to make them the subject of the Indie Games Showcase, held at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. Luckily for me, BAFTA very kindly gave me a ticket. It was a really interesting event for both gamers and developers alike, as Dan Pinchbeck (creative director), Andrew Crawshaw (lead designer) and Stuart Yarham (lead programmer) spoke passionately about everything from their games, the industry, setbacks, criticisms, family and studio creation and expansion, amongst many other things.
Dan, the head of the Chinese Room, spoke for half an hour on his journey from being a humble modder, working at a university, to putting out a game with that same university's money, to forming a fully fledged development studio. He also told the story of Dear Esther. It started when Dan took a look at the industry, and realised there was not enough innovation as there should be. So he started to make Dear Esther, firstly as a Source Engine mod, to see if a completely story driven game could actually work. After it was released, he was approached by Robert Briscoe, an environment artist who had recently worked on Mirrors Edge. He had an idea to remake Dear Esther, and completely overhaul everything to make it a standalone title.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is due to be released on September 10th
It took them much longer than anticipated, and after two years, Pinchbeck hoped to sell around 20,000 copies. This would mean he could pay Robert Briscoe (who was doing it purely out of love for the project), the voice actor and composer. To this day, they have moved around 850,000 units. This staggering number of sales opened many doors for them, including the one to Frictional Games, that allowed them to create a new Amnesia sequel from scratch. This led to the creation of The Chinese Room, a studio focussed on making not only innovative games, but on making the games that they feel passionately about, and actually want to make. They predicted that it would take six to eight months, but as they worked on it, they realised that they could turn it into an incredible game with more money and time. Two years later, and the game is due to be released within the week.
The Chinese Room showed off their upcoming PS4 project, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
The Indie Games Showcase was a great opportunity to learn about the industry that we all love so dearly, and to see the people behind indie games, and their stories of risk, reward, getting recognised in the industry and words of advice for budding developers. If you ever get a chance to attend one of these events, I highly recommend it. To find out more about BAFTA Games and future events, make sure to visit their website: www.bafta.org/games