Dear Esther: “Over-stimuation kills atmosphere,” says Pinchbeck

Friday, 9 March 2012 13:43 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Dan Pinchbeck, creative director at thechineseroom said during his lecture at GDC that when developing Dear Esther, the team found that when you over stimulate the player with a buoyant atmosphere, it can cause over stimulation and “kill” the atmosphere.

During the Gamasutra-attended lecture, Pinchbeck said that for “the longest time” he thought stark, empty spaces in a game were “a bad thing,” but found that as development progressed, “a lack of stimulation does not equate to a lack of experience.”

“In fact,” he said “a lack of stimulation allows for other experiences to grow. You can’t feel rage slowly and you can’t feel loss fast. In Dear Esther, we found that the less hand-holding we did the more the experience intensified.

“It didn’t matter to us that he player is following a logical chain through the story. Instead we wanted to infuse the player with ideas that we could then play off later in the game. Story became like an asset we could play with, particular symbols that we can use as mental and emotional assets that can be used to manipulate their experience.

“We wanted the player to feel more than understand.”

During the game’s launch week on Steam, the indie title moved 50,000 copies and earned back its financial backing within six hours of release.

Currently, Pinchbeck is collaborating with Frictional Games on Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.