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Old 05-27-2009, 12:03 PM   #1
Bandango
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Free and Worth Every Penny - Issue 9: Dear Esther


I think itís safe to assume that anyone reading this most likely has Half-Life 2 or some other game that uses the Source engine. That being the case, I hope itís kosher for me to suggest a Half-Life 2 mod for this weekís FWEP. Normally I wouldnít, but the game I have in mind is one of a kind. And for that matter, maybe not even a game. Itís more of an interactive narrative than anything else. If it is a game, itís a strung-out-stroll-on-the-beach simulator. Dear Esther is something I havenít seen before, and though it may be flawed, itís an interesting look at what could be.


A disclaimer to anyone who holds disdain for pretentious indie games: Dear Esther is a pretentious indie game. There are exactly three ways to interact with the world. You can move (slowly), look, and jump, and you donít actually ever need to jump. The entire game is communicated through environment and through cryptic narrations spoken by the character you control. Fortunately, these bits of narration are delivered by what sounds like a professional actor, so there is no cringe factor to speak of. These excerpts are doled out in time to visual cues as you progress through a linear path on a mysterious island. The deeper into the island you travel, the more disturbing/interesting the visual cues and audio clips become. The story told isnít the usual fare, but Iím not going to get into it because that would completely ruin the game.


And Iím also not going to tell you that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. When I played through it I definitely came across some technical issues. I was able to get myself outside of the map (I tried) and I had some trouble transitioning between areas. Things happened that probably shouldnít have, and I felt the linear nature of Dear Esther to be oppressive. For an adventure as vague and incremental as this, the lack of flexibility was a major disappointment. But, as it was, Dear Esther still pleased. At the very least it is an interesting experiment in story telling. At the very best itís a different kind of game that hints at new ways to play. Either way, you should try it and decide for yourself.

Dear Esther
is:
-a Half-Life 2 mod.
-something new.
-something I havenít quite made my mind up on just yet.

Get it here-
http://www.moddb.com/mods/dear-esthe...ther-v11-fixed
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Old 05-31-2009, 08:50 AM   #2
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Another great entry!

You should really get these on the COG front page sir.
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Old 05-31-2009, 11:30 AM   #3
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Cool, downloaded. Just a quick question: where do I copy these files to get it to install?

I copied the contents of the zip to this location: C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\SourceMods

After restarting Steam, it shows up.
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Old 05-31-2009, 11:08 PM   #4
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After "playing" through, I suggest that this is not really a game so much as it is a story of sorts, since you simply walk from area to area. Well, except for the boss at the end, that was pretty tough.

The story hinted at is somewhat interesting, and apparently different elements of it are semi-randomly revealed each time you play. Honestly, it was interesting, but I don't know if I want to bother going through it again. I'd rather just find a description that collects all the narratives and establishes the story for me.

Oh, and you can interact in a couple of other ways. You can turn your flashlight on and off, you can crouch (and sometimes need to) and you can pick things up (though I don't think you ever need to.) And, although you cannot run, timed jumping can get you moving fairly quickly.
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Old 06-02-2009, 08:45 PM   #5
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Yeah I wouldn't necessarily call this a game either. It struck me as an interesting experiment. I feel like I got more into the head of my character than happens in most games, and I think that's because of the variant, vague, constant narration. Also I'm a sucker for any media-- movies, games, comics, whatever-- that uses background to communicate story... like the writing on the walls in Portal or the posters and clutter in Brazil.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:43 PM   #6
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Downloading now. I've actually been pretty interested in interactive storytelling stuff.
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Old 06-03-2009, 12:00 AM   #7
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I uh..... I don't think I get it.
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Old 06-03-2009, 12:00 AM   #8
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And, although you cannot run, timed jumping can get you moving fairly quickly.
This was a life saver.
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Old 06-03-2009, 06:36 AM   #9
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Yeah I found myself jumping for speed, but I couldn't help but feel like it was breaking the mood. Just goes to show how impatient us gamers are.
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Old 06-03-2009, 07:46 PM   #10
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This was a life saver.
I honestly don't think I would have made it through without being able to do this. It was an interesting experiment, but I think it needs more interactivity.
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Old 06-03-2009, 08:41 PM   #11
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Agreed.

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Old 06-03-2009, 09:21 PM   #12
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Yeah I found myself jumping for speed, but I couldn't help but feel like it was breaking the mood. Just goes to show how impatient us gamers are.
There was one part where I saw the lady walking off in the distance. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be far enough back that she seemed to disappear behind some rocks or something without me realizing it. I was able to pick up enough speed, though, that I mostly caught up to her and blatantly saw her disappear before my eyes.
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:22 PM   #13
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So....... what was the deal with the story anyway? Was it something concrete that I missed, or is it supposed to be vague? (Feel free to use spoiler tags, of course.)
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:45 PM   #14
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So....... what was the deal with the story anyway? Was it something concrete that I missed, or is it supposed to be vague? (Feel free to use spoiler tags, of course.)
It is supposed to be vague. You can gather additional tidbits by playing again, since there are several different dialogs that can be played. Or, you could download the full transcript from the mod site. But, I am not sure exactly what is going on.
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Old 06-03-2009, 10:35 PM   #15
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So... some random thoughts I had:
It seemed that maybe there was some kind of car accident or something that the main character is describing. He injured his leg and someone died maybe? This is all in his mind as he recovers from the accident? Something like that?????????
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:44 PM   #16
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So... some random thoughts I had:
It seemed that maybe there was some kind of car accident or something that the main character is describing. He injured his leg and someone died maybe? This is all in his mind as he recovers from the accident? Something like that?????????
While I was searching for wtf this game was about, I found quite a bit of speculation about the game at Gamers With Jobs about what the story is. I haven't fully read the comments there, but it was worth a look.
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Old 06-08-2009, 11:27 PM   #17
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I imagined that the main character was some sort of scientist or doctor or something, and his wife was dieing/had died of some incurable disease. All the bizarre inscriptions across the island were the crazy scrawlings he made while trying to come up with some sort of treatment for her, during or after the fact.

The island had been a vacation spot for the dude and his wife. He became obsessed with the place and started researching its history after she died. He found something to relate to in the writings of the mapmaker and in the story of the hermit.

All of this is my best guess. I really have no idea, but these were the things I was thinking as I played. That's probably why I liked the game. It forced me to interpret in a way most games don't.
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Old 02-14-2011, 07:58 AM   #18
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This is coming this summer. Full release on Steam

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So now we're positing that the deliberate stagnation of technology is a good thing? Hardware makers should just stop making new shit why, exactly? Because you're too cheap to buy a new card every few years?
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Old 02-25-2011, 12:13 AM   #19
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This looks great. Very exciting.
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