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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
"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".