Amnesia Wiki
Amnesia Wiki

The Chinese Room (formerly thechineseroom[2]) is a British independent video game studio based in Brighton known for their experimental first-person adventure games which focus on exploration and story-telling rather than gameplay,[3] such as Dear Esther and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture; as well as their collaboration with Frictional Games which led to 2013's Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.[4] Their name is taken from the Chinese Room thought experiment.[5]

Since August 2018, The Chinese Room has been a subsidiary of Sumo Digital.[6]


University of Portsmouth (2007–2011)[]

In 2007, Dan Pinchbeck was leading a research project for his PhD at the University of Portsmouth, where he worked as a professor and lecturer. The project had received a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the team ended up developing two mods for Half Life 2, named Antlion Soccer and Dear Esther; as well as a Doom 3 mod named Conscientious Objector.[7] The team needed a name to publish their mods onto Mod DB under, and thechineseroom was chosen as a reference to John Searle's famous thought experiment, after a joke about a system that could give the impression of intelligence without any internal smarts.[5]

Dear Esther was created by Pinchbeck as an experiment to see if it was possible to take most gameplay elements out of a video game in order to heighten immersion in the story, and he ended up turning to his wife, Jessica Curry, to compose the score for it.[8] The mod ended up becoming a cult hit, being selected for the Animation Exhibition at the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica and making Mod DB's top 100 mods of 2008 list,[9] as well as winning the award for Best World/Story at the IndieCade Independent Game awards in 2009.[10]

In May 2009, independent games artist and developer Robert Briscoe began working on a complete rework of Dear Esther, after his departure from Swedish game studio DICE. The remake was fully supported by Dan Pinchbeck,[11] and after wrapping up work on Korsakovia – a survival horror mod for Half-Life 2: Episode 2 – Pinchbeck and his team at the university would join in with Briscoe on the remake of Dear Esther.[12] In March 2011, the University of Portsmouth cancelled the research project due to disagreements regarding the contract, after which Pinchbeck and Curry would go on to found thechineseroom as an official company in order to have a legal home for Dear Esther.[5][8] In order to afford the Source Engine license needed for a commercial release of the game, the two turned to Indie Fund for financing, who agreed to fund the project after playing a demo.[7][13]

1705986-the chinese room logo

The Chinese Room's original logo.

The stand-alone version of Dear Esther was released on Steam on 14 February 2012, and within six hours it had sold 16,000 copies, recouping the $55,000 investment from Indie Fund in full.[14] Within a week, the game had sold 50,000 copies.[15] It would go on to win the award for "Excellence in Visual Arts" at the 2012 Independent Games Festival,[16] and at the TIGA Games Industry Awards 2012, it won the "Originality Award", along with the prizes for "Best Action/Adventure game", "Best Visual Design", "Best Audio Design" and "Best Debut Game".[17]

Independent studio (2011–2017)[]

In 2011, Thomas Grip and Jens Nilsson, the founders of Frictional Games, met up with Dan Pinchbeck at GDC Europe 2011. Pinchbeck was still working at the University of Portsmouth at the time, and together with Frictional Games, he started prototyping a game set in the Amnesia universe.[4][18] Originally, it was intended to be nothing more than a small mod for Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but the project quickly grew in scope,[18] and in February 2012, after the remake of Dear Esther released, Frictional Games announced through a viral marketing and alternate reality game campaign that thechineseroom was developing a full sequel to The Dark Descent titled Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.[19] Frictional Games would serve as the game's publisher, while Pinchbeck and Curry would serve as the game's writer and composer, respectively.[4] However, due to them no longer being a mere research project at the University of Portsmouth at this time, much of the year had been spent on turning their two-person bedroom start-up into a proper studio.[2]


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

On June 11, 2013, Jessica Curry announced through a blog post on their official website that they had hired a team of ten people, and that their fledgling studio would rebrand itself from thechineseroom to The Chinese Room, which included the unveiling of a new logo. She also announced that they were prototyping a new game, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, a spiritual successor to Dear Esther which would be developed alongside Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.[2]

The Chinese Room would hand over Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs to Frictional Games in February 2013, and move on working on Everybody's Gone to the Rapture a couple of days later.[20] In order to secure funding for the project, the team turned to Sony Computer Entertainment to publish the game, and after three years of hard work, it would be released as as a PlayStation 4 exclusive on August 11, 2015. Two months later, Jessica Curry would announce that, while officially remaining part of The Chinese Room as its company director, she would leave the company in order to "embark on a large-scale music project". She cited declining health, the negative experience of working with Sony as a publisher, as well as issues with the games industry as a whole as key contributing factors behind her decision to leave.[21][3]

On October 21, 2015, it was announced that the company had moved to a bigger studio and that they were working on an isometric RPG codenamed Total Dark,[22] as well as a Unity port of Dear Esther.[23] In April of the following year, the studio announced that Sony would release a PC port of Everybody's Gone to the Rapture later during the same month.[24] It was also announced that the Unity port of Dear Esther would see the game released on consoles under the name Dear Esther: Landmark Edition on 20 September 2016, before its release for Mac and PC a couple months later.[25][26] The Unity port of the game would include remastered audio, extended accessibility options, and a developer commentary recorded by Pinchbeck and Curry, as well as the company's producer, Robert Briscoe. Its release would also unveil the company's new logo, which they still use to this day.[27] On October 14, musicians would play the soundtrack composed by Jessica Curry for Dear Esther at a sold out show at Milton Court concert hall in London, England.[28]

On March 1, 2017, The Chinese Room announced they were working on a game titled So Let Us Melt for Google's mobile VR platform Google Daydream, to be released in September of the same year.[29][30] The game would be narrated by BAFTA-nominated actor Siobhan Finneran[31] and also see the return of Jessica Curry to video game scoring.[32] There would be no more news on Total Dark during the year, and in August, it would instead be revealed that the studio had received a €72,339 grant from Creative Europe for a project called Little Orpheus.[33]

Downsizing (2017-2018)[]

On September 24, 2017, Dan Pinchbeck revealed in a blog post that the entire staff of The Chinese Room, which amounted to eight people at the time, had been laid off in late June 2017, meaning only Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry remained with the studio. They also ditched their Brighton office for home.[34]

Pinchbeck cited poor funding, health issues, the stress that comes with being a small-time developer, and difficulty finding publishers behind the reason for the downsizing. He expressed his and Curry's intentions of keeping the studio running without an active development team, and that work on The 13th Interior (formerly Total Dark), as well as Little Orpheus would resume, but that the studio would go dark for the time being.[3][34]

Acquisition and expansion (2018–present)[]

On August 14, 2018, Dan Pinchbeck updated the TCR blog with news that the studio had been acquired by British game development studio Sumo Digital for £2.2 million, along with plans to continue development on The 13th Interior as well as add new content to So Let Us Melt. He would go on to describe the acquisition as "the end of a chapter", ending with explaining that they were going to add new faces to the team, as well as trying to find partners to help them create a new title, which he described as "Something bigger, something that joining Sumo enables [them] to pursue (...)".[6]

The studio would immediately begin re-staffing, and by March 2019 they had added 17 new staff to work on new projects, among them veteran developers Ed Daly as studio director and John McCormack as art director.[35] In April 2019, The Chinese Room announced Little Orpheus as their next project, which they described as a "pocket-epic in glorious technicolour".[36] The game was released on Apple Arcade on 12 June 2020 to positive reviews.[37]

On 28 April 2022, The Chinese Room announced their team had grown to almost 100 people, and that they were working on two new titles using the Unreal Engine 5.[38] On 7 July 2022, The Chinese Room announced they had moved into a new office in Brighton.[39] On 20 September 2022, The Chinese Room released Little Orpheus for PC and consoles.[40]

The studio announced their new title Still Wakes the Deep at the Xbox Games Showcase 2023, a horror game to be released for PC and consoles in early 2024.[41] A week after this announcement, Dan Pinchbeck announced his departure from the studio after 15 years, citing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason that made him "[decide] to see [what was] out there in the world beyond the studio [he had] dedicated the last fifteen years to building (...)".[42]

At their PAX West panel on 2 September 2023, Paradox Interactive revealed that The Chinese Room had taken over development duties on Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 from Hardsuit Labs,[43][44] who were fired from the project in 2021.[45]


Year Title Platform(s)
2008 Conscientious Objector (Mod for Doom 3) Microsoft Windows
2008 Dear Esther (Mod for Half-Life 2) Microsoft Windows
2008 Antlion Soccer (Mod for Half-Life 2) Microsoft Windows
2009 Korsakovia (Mod for Half-Life 2) Microsoft Windows
2012 Dear Esther Microsoft Windows
2013 Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Nintendo Switch
2015 Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
2016 Dear Esther – Landmark Edition (Unity Port of Dear Esther) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
2017 So Let Us Melt Google Daydream
2020 Little Orpheus Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 5
Xbox One
Xbox Series X/S
Nintendo Switch
Early 2024 Still Wakes the Deep Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 5
Xbox Series X/S
2024 Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 5
Xbox Series X/S
TBA The 13th Interior (Previously Total Dark) TBA

External links[]


  1. (17 July 2023) "Saying goodbye to Dan Pinchbeck", Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Curry, Jessica (11 June 2013). "Welcome to the New Us". Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Yin-Poole, Wesley (4 October 2017). "The doors close on The Chinese Room – for now". Eurogamer. Retrieved September 10, 2023.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 De Matos, Xav (22 February 2012). "Building A Machine for Pigs and expanding the universe of Amnesia". Joystiq. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Pinchbeck, Dan (14 February 2014). "Dear Esther- Two Years In... (Part Two)". Archived from the original on 3 Mars 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pinchbeck, Dan (14 August 2018). "Exciting Times – It's a New Chapter in TCR's Life as we Join the Sumo Family" Archived from the original on 17 August 2018. Retrieved September 10 2023.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Oxford, Adam (24 May 2009). "Dear Esther: An open letter for story telling in games". Arts and Humanities Research Council. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Interview: Jessica Curry". PRS for Music. 20 September 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  9. "Top 100 Best Released Mods and Indies of 2008". Mod DB. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  10. "Dear Esther wins Best World/Story at IndieCade 2009". Mod DB. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  11. Briscoe, Robert (3 May 2009). "Mods and the Motherland!", Archived from the original on 10 February 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  12. Briscoe, Robert (24 May 2009). "The Magic of Concept Art", Archived from the original on 25 Mars 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  13. Briscoe, Robert (6 November 2012). "A Retrospective/Post-mortem on Dear Esther", Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  14. Yin-Poole, Wesley (15 February 2012). "Indie game Dear Esther profitable in less than six hours". Eurogamer. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  15. Chapple, Craig (27 February 2012). "Dear Esther surpasses 50,000 sales". Develop. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  16. "2012 Independent Games Festival Winners". Independent Games Festival. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  17. "TIGA Games Industry Awards 2012 Winners Revealed". TIGA. 2 November 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Gauntlett, Adam (2 July 2013). "You’re at the Heart of A Machine For Pigs". The Escapist. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  19. Pearson, Craig (10 February 2012). "Frictional Teases Next Amnesia". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  20. Pinchbeck, Dan (21 October 2015)."New offices, new producer, new projects...". Archived from the original on 24 January 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  21. Curry, Jessica (9 October 2015). "Why I'm (sort of) leaving The Chinese Room". Archived from the original on 6 November 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  22. Pinchbeck, Dan (26 July 2016). "Hey, so... Whatever happened to Total Dark?". Archived from the original on 30 August, 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  23. Pinchbeck, Dan (21 October 2015). "New offices, new producer, new projects...". Archived from the original on 24 January 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  24. Escaillet, Foucauld (4 April 2016). "Ask Us Anything, the Rapture PC edition!". Archived from the original on 9 July 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  25. Escaillet, Foucauld (6 April 2016). "Dear Esther is coming to consoles!". Archived from the original on 12 July 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  26. Escaillet, Foucauld (25 August 2016). "We have a Dear Esther: Landmark Edition release date". Archived from the original on 17 September, 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  27. Escaillet, Foucauld (20 September 2016). "We have a brand new logo!". Archived from the original on 25 October 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  28. Pinchbeck, Dan (13 February 2017). "Dear Esther: Landmark Edition hits PC and Mac tomorrow at 6PM GMT!". Archived from the original on 12 May 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  29. Pinchbeck, Dan (1 March 2017). "So Let Us Melt – A new TCR game!". Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  30. Pinchbeck, Dan (6 September 2017) "So Let Us Melt – Coming to Daydream VR on Thursday 21st September". Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved September 10 2023.
  31. Pinchbeck, Dan (14 September 2017). "Introducing our amazing narrator for So Let Us Melt". Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  32. Pinchbeck, Dan (15 September 2017). "So Let Us Melt – a new soundtrack by Jessica Curry". Archived from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  33. Purchese, Robert (24 August 2017). "Creative Europe spills beans on games including The Chinese Room's Little Orpheus". Eurogamer. Retrieved September 10 2023.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Pinchbeck, Dan (24 September 2017). "Changes at the Studio – We're Going Dark for the Next Few Months", Archived from the original on 12 November 2017. Retrieved September 10 2023.
  35. Handrahan, Matthew (19 March 2019). "The Chinese Room has grown 10x since Sumo acquisition". Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  36. Front page of The Chinese Room's website as it looked in April 2019. Archived from the original on April 13 2019. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  37. "Little Orpheus". Metacritic. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  38. (28 April 2022) "We're working on Unreal Engine 5!". Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  39. (7 July 2022) "Office tour preview". Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  40. (20 September 2022) "Little Orpheus out NOW on all platforms!". Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  41. Hester, Blake (11 June 2023). "Still Wakes The Deep Is The Next Game From The Chinese Room". Game Informer. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  42. Kerr, Chris (17 July 2023). "The Chinese Room creative director and co-founder Dan Pinchbeck has left the studio". Game Developer. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  43. (2 September 2023) "We're working on Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2!". Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  44. Robinson, Andy (2 September 2023). "Chinese Room is taking over Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2". Video Game Chronicle. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  45. Litchfield, Ted (2 September 2023). "Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 has been quietly rebuilt by Dear Esther developer The Chinese Room with 'different gameplay mechanics and RPG systems'". PC Gamer. Retrieved 10 September 2023.