The Chinese Room Ltd. (formerly thechineseroom Limited) 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.
The Chinese Room originated as a mod team for Half-Life 2, based out of the University of Portsmouth in 2007. 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 Doom 3 mod called Conscientious Objector. The modding project was backed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Of these, Dear Esther became a cult hit. In 2009, The Chinese Room developed Korsakovia, which was a survival horror mod for Half-Life 2: Episode 2.
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. 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. The remake featured improved graphics, but was based on the same engine as the previous mods, Source. 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. One week after launch, the game reached 50,000 copies sold, and is now considered a cult hit.
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. This project was co-produced and published by the makers of the original game, Frictional Games, and was released on 10th September 2013.
On August 11th, 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. In it, the player explores a small English town whose inhabitants have mysteriously disappeared. The game went on to win multiple BAFTA Games awards for its sound design and music, as well as for the performance of actress and voice actress Merle Dandridge in her role as main protagonist Katherine Collins. It was ported and released for PC on 14 April 2016.
As of 2017, the team is 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.
Downsizing and FutureEdit
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. They also ditched their Brighton office for home. 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.
On August 14th, Dan Pinchbeck updated the TCR blog with the news that the studio had been acquired by Sumo Digital, a british independent game development studio based in Sheffield, UK, and that they're already working on new projects. 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 (...)".
|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: Episode 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|
|The 13th Interior||TBA - Previously known as "Total Dark"|
|So Let Us Melt||TBA - Google Daydream|
- ↑ Welcome to the New Us Blog post by Jessica Curry posted on 11th June 2013 - Archive.org snapshot from Jan 4, 2014
- ↑ Changes at the Studio - We're Going Dark for the Next Few Months Blog post by Dan Pinchbeck, posted on Sep 24, 2017
- ↑ Exciting Times - It's a New Chapter in TCR's Life as we Join the Sumo Family Blog post by Dan Pinchbeck, posted on Aug 14, 2018