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The Chinese Room Ltd. (formerly thechineseroom Limited[2]) is a British independent video game studio, best known for making experimental first-person adventure games, such as Dear Esther and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. Since August 2018, they have been a part of Sumo Digital.

Early Years[]

The Chinese Room originated as a mod team for Half-Life 2, based out of the University of Portsmouth in 2007.[citation needed] Their name is taken from the Chinese Room thought experiment. Some of the key people in the group include Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry. The Chinese Room's first three projects were mods for Half-Life 2, named Antlion Soccer and Dear Esther, and a Doom 3 mod called Conscientious Objector. The modding project was backed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.[citation needed] Of these, Dear Esther became a cult hit.[citation needed] In 2009, The Chinese Room developed Korsakovia, which was a survival horror mod for Half-Life 2: Episode 2.[citation needed]

The Chinese Room's old logo, as it was for the release of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.

After Korsakovia, The Chinese Room worked with Robert Briscoe to develop a remake of Dear Esther, this time as a full-fledged video game title, distributed through Valve Corporation's Steam distribution service.[citation needed] This stand-alone version of the mod received several IGF nominations, such as the Seamus McNally Grand Prize, Excellence in Visual Arts and Audio, and the Nuovo Award. It finally won for Excellence in Visual Art.[citation needed] The remake featured improved graphics but was based on the same engine as the previous mods, Source.[citation needed] The game was released in early 2012 and recouped its $55,000 investment in less than six hours of release when 16,000 copies of the game were sold.[citation needed] One week after launch, the game reached 50,000 copies sold and is now considered a cult hit.[citation needed]

In February 2012, The Chinese Room announced that they were developing Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, a survival horror game and the indirect sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent.[citation needed] This project was co-produced and published by the makers of the original game, Frictional Games, and was released on 10 September 2013.[citation needed]

The Chinese Room's original logo.

On August 11, 2015, The Chinese Room released Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture for the PlayStation 4, another first-person adventure art game that was backed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.[citation needed] In it, the player explores a small English town whose inhabitants have mysteriously disappeared.[citation needed] The game went on to win multiple BAFTA Games awards for its sound design and music, as well as for the performance of voice actress Merle Dandridge in her role as the protagonist, Katherine Collins.[citation needed] It was ported and released for PC on 14 April 2016.[citation needed]

During 2017, the team was working on The 13th Interior (Previously codenamed Total Dark), an isometric RPG set to be released for PC sometime in the future, an unannounced project codenamed Little Orpheus, as well as So Let Us Melt, a sci-fi game in development for Google's mobile VR platform, Daydream, which will feature music by Jessica Curry and narration by BAFTA-nominated actor Siobhan Finneran.[citation needed] After its first announcement, news regarding The 13th Interior has been sparse, and it is unknown if they are still working on this project.[citation needed]

Downsizing, Acquisition & Expansion[]

Citing lack of funding, health issues, and the stress that comes with being a small-time developer, Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry laid off the entire Chinese Room staff in late June 2017, which at this point amounted to eight people.[citation needed] They also ditched their Brighton office for home.[citation needed] In a blog post, Pinchbeck expressed his and Curry's intentions of keeping the studio running without an active development team, but that they would go dark for the time being.[3]

On August 14, Dan Pinchbeck updated the TCR blog with the news that the studio had been acquired by British independent game development studio Sumo Digital for £2.2 million, and that they're already working on new projects.[citation needed] Pinchbeck took the role of creative director at Sumo, while Curry is working as an independent composer for the studio. Pinchbeck describes the acquisition as "the end of a chapter", "a fresh start", and "a new dawn". He continues on explaining that they are going to add new faces to the team, and continue working on their projects So Let Us Melt and The 13th Interior, as well as trying to find partners to help them create a new title, which he describes as "Something bigger, something that joining Sumo enables us to pursue (...)".[4] The team released So Let Us Met on September 21. As of 2020, The Chinese Room is working on Little Orpheus, something they refer to as, "A pocket epic in glorious technicoour".[5]

Games[]

Titles Release Dates
Conscientious Objector (Mod for Doom 3) (2008) - Windows
Dear Esther (Mod for Half-Life 2) (2008) - Windows
Antlion Soccer (Mod for Half-Life 2) (2008) - Windows
Korsakovia (Mod for Half-Life 2) (2009) - Windows
Dear Esther (2012) - Windows, MAC OS X, Linux
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (2013) - Windows, MAC OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (2015) - Windows, PlayStation 4
Dear Esther - Landmark Edition (2017) - (Unity Port of Dear Esther) Windows, MAC OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
So Let Us Melt (2017) - Google Daydream
Little Orpheus TBA - iOS
The 13th Interior TBA - Previously known as "Total Dark"

References[]

  1. "The Chinese Room Hires 17", sumo-digital.com. Retrieved 25 Jun, 2019.
  2. Curry, J. "Welcome to the New Us", The Chinese Room blog post. 11 June, 2013.Archive.org snapshot from Jan 4, 2014.
  3. Pinchbeck, D. "Changes at the Studio - We're Going Dark for the Next Few Months", The Chinese Room Blog post. 24 Sep, 2017. Retrieved from Archive.org.
  4. Pinchbeck, D."Exciting Times - It's a New Chapter in TCR's Life as we Join the Sumo Family" Blog post. 14 Aug, 2018. Retrieved from Archive.org.
  5. Little Orpheus homepage
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