Editor's note: Rob's piece here concludes his series of essays for Eurogamer on the seasons in video games. For more, be sure to check out Video games and the life of summer, starring Witcher 3, Firewatch and Dishonored 2, The power of spring in Horizon Zero Dawn, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and The Last of Us, and Video games and the power of winter, which looks at Skyrim.
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6th February 2013
While the mystery buried within The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is certainly intriguing, from our perspective, it's the journey of its developer that is most fascinating. First released in 2014 on the PC, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has undergone several surgeries on its way to this new release on Xbox One. In porting the game to PS4 years ago, its developer, Warsaw-based The Astronauts, completely overhauled the game by porting it from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal 4.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux, the remade version of the game released on PS4 in July, is now available on Steam as a free upgrade to the core game.
Unreal Engine 3 enjoyed a long, prosperous life on last-gen following its 2006 debut, but the new UE4 has yet to hit its stride in the new console gaming era. We're almost two years into the current generation, but by our reckoning, only five UE4 games are now available on PS4 and Xbox One. Without Epic itself setting the bar this time around, there's the sense that we haven't seen the engine at its best. However, with the release of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Polish development team The Astronauts might well be the first studio to deliver on the powerful middleware's latent potential.
UPDATE 3PM BST: The rebuilt PC version, which incorporates Unreal Engine 4 and the changes made for PS4, is still "a few weeks away", The Astronauts' Adrian Chmielarz told me this afternoon. Remember that this is free to owners of the existing game on PC.
"The PC UE4 update is a few weeks away," Chmielarz said. "We need to make sure that PC gamers do get what is expected: proper support for different screen ratios, extended configuration options, etc."
ORIGINAL STORY 12:30PM BST: The rebuilt-not-ported PS4 version of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter will be released next week, Wednesday 15th July. It costs £13.94.
Outspoken Polish video game designer Adrian Chmielarz last year came up with the goods. After an epiphany sent him away from the Bulletstorms of his past, towards deeper no-combat experiences, he came up with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and it was a gem - a compact evening of entertainment that lingered in memory far longer; a mirror prompting introspective exploration. "Peerless mystery storytelling in an engaging, open world," we declared.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has shifted 60K copies in one month, developer The Astronauts has announced.
Not bad for a few hour game with no combat made by a small Polish team - even it is a team led by Bulletstorm director Adrian Chmielarz.
Other fun facts: Western Europe accounted for half of its sales, though it sold best in the Unites States. The game also contains 159,390,000 blades of grass.
I would hate to spoil the many surprises that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter holds for its players, so don't read this article until you've finished the game.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter begins by telling you that it is not going to hold your hand, and it is true to its word. As you emerge from a railway tunnel into an area of woodland in the shoes of detective Paul Prospero, there is no convenient low branch under which you must PRESS CTRL TO CROUCH, nor any low walls inviting you to PRESS SPACE TO JUMP. As far as the developer, Adrian Chmielarz's The Astronauts, is concerned, you can look up the buttons and then figure it out on your own. When you do, you discover there is no jumping in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter whatsoever. It's not that sort of game.
What sort of game it is remains splendidly elusive for some time, allowing you to simply enjoy your surroundings. The first thing that happens is you find yourself being snapped at by elaborate mantraps in the woods. They never quite get you, but you can feel the tension in every creaking branch as you walk slowly through the brush. Beyond the treeline is an old railway bridge that gives you panoramic views of a huge lake - more of an inland sea - and the dam, town and hills beyond. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is set in one of those permanently autumnal corners of America where the late afternoon sun paints everything with a mixture of warmth and sorrow, and the game's artists wield this evocative palette like the old masters, sending you to Steam's screenshot button every few seconds.
You have been summoned to this place, Red Creek Valley, by a letter from a boy called Ethan Carter. "There are places that exist that very few people can see. Ethan could have drawn a map," says Prospero, whose noirish intonation is a cool match for the sparse, brilliant writing throughout. (Anyone who thought Alan Wake was an airport potboiler with delusions of grandeur will feel thoroughly vindicated by a couple of hours with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.) But there's no one around, only suggestions of what might have happened. Over the railway bridge you find quite a graphic suggestion: a pair of severed legs, a blood trail, a corpse and some scattered debris.
Eerie early 20th century supernatural adventure The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is coming to PC on 25th September, developer The Astronauts has announced.
You can pre-order it now for £14.99 / $19.99 on Steam and GoG where the pre-order exclusive Special Edition comes with a digital soundtrack, "Making Of" documentary, a high-res poster, and a Red Creek Valley map.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is coming to PS4 at an unspecified point, but for now you can watch a new 13 minute slice of gameplay footage narrated by the game's creative director Adrian Chmielarz - who was previously the director of Bulletstorm.
Occult mystery game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter comes to consoles first on PlayStation 4.
The Witcher 3 is out today, and so we've hauled another exciting Witcher-related article out of the Eurogamer archive for you to read again or enjoy for the first time if you missed it. Here, Robert Purchese reveals the story of the Witcher game that never was in an article first published in June 2014.
Bulletstorm lead Adrian Chmielarz has released a gorgeous new trailer for his upcoming "weird fiction" game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
This marks Chmielarz's maiden effort at his new studio, The Astronauts. It follows the spooky task of "occult detective" Paul Prospero as he searches for a missing child.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has been in development for nearly two years and hosts some rather stunning "photogrammetry technology," in which objects are photographed from several angles so they can be reconstructed in 3D.
A very impressive-looking indie detective game.
Weird fiction horror game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter will be released roughly four months from now, creator Adrian Chmielarz has told me.
"We are going to have probably the worst possible release date, which is the middle of summer..." he groaned, speaking to me at Polish conference Digital Dragons. "It's hot and it's summer - do you really want to play a game about autumn?"
It's a PC game for the time being, but PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions are definitely on the cards.
There are plenty of great horror stories in the world and there is no shortage of great detective fiction out there either, but for some the two go best hand in hand. For his studio's first release, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, former People Can Fly creative director Adrian Chmielarz is betting that they mesh particularly well in a video game, and that this combination captures the imagination more effectively than mere jump scares.
Upcoming vintage horror curio The Vanishing of Ethan Carter will use a revolutionary visual technique in which the artists take a boatload of photos then use the magic of technology to recreate digital 3D representations of said pics.
2014 is upon us, and it promises riches and glory unlike any year before it. With their launches under their belts, the next generation of consoles will, hopefully, show us what they're made of. Virtual reality headsets may make their mark on the mainstream. And with a raft of crowdfunded games due out over the next 12 months, 2014 should tell us whether all that money we pumped into promising projects on Kickstarter was worth it.
Polish developer The Astronauts has released three moving screenshots of weird fiction horror game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
Independent developer The Astronauts has released the first screenshots of PC horror game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
"Why is Nathan Drake a mass murderer?" Oh I don't know, but it's the question not the answer that's important. It symbolises a seismic shift in attitudes towards games that may mean, "possibly even for the very first time", that the next generation of consoles also becomes "the next generation of game design".
There was a concept for Bulletstorm 2, and People Can Fly founder Adrian Chmielarz believed it would have made "an amazing game".
Yesterday Bulletstorm creative lead Adrian Chmielarz announced his new PC "weird fiction horror" game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and today he has detailed the mysterious title in an exchange with Eurogamer.
Last Autumn the creative lead on Bulletstorm, Adrian Chmielarz, left Gears of War: Judgment developer People Can Fly to start a new studio with his colleagues Andrzej Poznanski and Michal Kosieradzki. The newly formed outfit, dubbed The Astronauts, has revealed its first title, a "weird fiction horror" affair called The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
Inspired by macabre early 20th century pulp, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter casts you as a detective with the supernatural ability to visualise the scenes of crimes (sound familiar, Zack?). Tasked with saving a young kidnapped boy, you'll discover the horrifically mutilated body of one of the kidnappers leading to a larger mystery involving a "trail of corpses" and an "ancient evil," not to mention the missing boy.
"What we care about the most is that the players feel like they're really there. Immersion is our number one priority," said designer Adrian Chmielarz. "It's a game about exploration and discovery. We're not abandoning the gameplay - on the contrary: we're trying to strip it down to the bone and make sure it's always meaningful and truly makes the experience better."