Week 685

What’s this? I’m blogging about my work on a weekly basis – a simple way to track and archive whatever it is I spend my time on.

On Monday morning, Robert August de Meijer was so kind to come over to my house with his Windows laptop, so he could snigger at my Mac and let me play Dear Esther, which is not yet out for OS X.

We are both surprised by the success of this somewhat pretentious interactive literary journey, selling 16.000 copies and recouping its Indie Fund investment within five and a half hours. The oddness of its popularity truly struck me when I was reading the comments on a review by Gamekings, a popular games show in The Netherlands aimed primarily at teenagers. It turns out quite a bunch of their viewers have not only played the game, but also really liked it!

In the end, the success of Dear Esther is a testament to the succes and demographic of Steam, I think, and the vibe of the mod scene from which this game emerges. In any case, traditional games publishers could never have predicted this, and would certainly not have invested. Maybe it also signals that the time is ripe for more artistic, experimental games, which, it should come as no suprise, I would embrace wholeheartedly.

Later last week, I wrote a 800 word review of the game, which will be published by nrc.next soon. In a nutshell: I like Dear Esther’s ambitions and general direction, but I don’t think the writing is very good (it’s overly vague and complex), and I don’t think the island setting works (only as a pretty backdrop but not to enhance the emotion of the narrative). I also feel the underwater scene two thirds into the game (I spoil it in my review) is the game’s best moment, proof that a set piece that’s more closely tied to the story is much more effective – if the goal is to evoke emotions, of course.

On Monday afternoon I met up with Sander van der Vegte to talk about Game Developers Conference stuff, mostly.

I also finished a column for Gamer.nl, which was published the next day. It’s about games being too cheap sometimes, and what this can do for your experience as a player. The column was published the next day and got some pretty funny comments.

Last week another column was published in the Dutch Official PlayStation Magazine. In this column, I tie Destruction Derby 2 to childhood antics in the neighbourhood I grew up in. I’m happy with how this one turned out, so you should really pick up the March issue of OPM if you’re interested in PlayStation games at all.

On Tuesday morning I met up with Robert Gaal, and we discussed his exciting plans and exchanged some ideas for Bashers.nl.

Later that morning I visited Nijgh & Van Ditmar, which might become my new publisher. We spoke about games and literature. (What else?)

I also finally published the game design podcast I made with Hugo van der Heiden of Nixxes, the Dutch programming house that co-developed the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

On Wednesday I drove to Ikea and Nintendo Nederland, to get my Wii repaired. My original Wii, which I got at the system’s launch, broke down while playing Zelda: Skyward Sword. Then they sent me a replacement system, which didn’t work either. I think I was flashed for driving through a red light though, which, if true, made this an expensive road trip.

I also dropped off all my tax administration paperwork at HW Administraties. This is the fifth year they’re taking care of my stuff, and the first time my taxes made me ponder the speed of life passing by.

On Wednesday evening I had a chai latte, a beer and another chai latte with Rogier Kahlmann, our columnist extraordinaire at Bashers, who also works for us at nrc.next. It was a good conversation.

On Thursday I was at home with my kids.

On Friday I packed my bags.

On Saturday morning I got on a plane for an 11-hour flight to San Francisco, together with Power Unlimited journalist Jurjen Tiersma. That evening we ate sushi and drank sake with the guys from Two Tribes, who I’m making Toki Tori 2 with.

On Sunday I crossed town in a hop-on hop-off city tour bus with Jurjen and the guys from Green Hill, passing the Golden Gate Bridge a few times too many. That night I went to a mixer at the IGN offices, where indie game developers showed their wares to various members of the games press. There, I got the chance to play Andy Schatz’s Monaco, and came away impressed. So well made.