Dear Esther

The most baffling Steam reviews

Christopher Livingston at

Before buying a game, it's a good idea to visit several different sources to determine if it's worth your time and money. Read reviews on gaming sites. Watch your favorite YouTube personality play it. See what people are saying on Twitter. Ask random people on the street. Call up your elected political representative. Buy a copy of the World's Number One Gaming Magazine. Buy several copies, in case something happens to your first copy.

You can even check out reviews on Steam, written by people who have played the game. Just use caution. While there are plenty of great writers filing reviews on Steam, there are also, shall we say, not-that. Here are a few of the weirdest, silliest, and worst reviews we've seen on Steam.

4k Screenshot Showcase: Dear Esther

Ben Griffin at

Every week, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

For some, Dear Esther stretches the concepts of what it means to be a game. "It's got no fighting or people in it so it's more like a book or something," they say. Which is weird, really, as there's a very simple method of defining what is and isn't a book. If it's on Steam then that's means it's not a book. Simple. A word of warning, however: this doesn't necessarily mean that if it's not on Steam then it's definitely a book, because plenty of things not on Steam are not books, like tractors and prosthetic limbs and that. Anyway, get a load of these 4K stalactites in this not-a-book round-up of shots from Dear Esther's old caves.

Surreal psychodrama Ether One lands next week

Ian Birnbaum at

Ether One has been teasing us for quite some time, but next week the Oculus Rift–capable exploration game is finally free to mess with our minds. To celebrate, we’ve got a spanking-new release trailer to check out the weird world of the memory repair technician, also known as a Restorer.

The Stanley Parable sells over 100k copies since releasing last week

Ian Birnbaum at

Self-referential mind-boggler The Stanley Parable is an experimental indie game that defies reasonable description. Beginning as a mod for Half-Life in 2011, it is simultaneously a game, a story and a joke, while also being none of those things. Frankly, it hurts just trying to write about it. The Stanley Parable is also a success: over 100,000 copies sold in the last few days. Developer Davey Wreden has now written a blog post detailing all of the things that went right and wrong in the run-up to the official release.

Humble Indie Bundle 8 discounts Hotline Miami, Awesomenauts, Dear Esther, and more

Perry Vandell at

Summer has always been a bit of a lull when it comes to video game releases. It’s the time of year where we hear more about the upcoming fall releases rather than actually, you know, playing games. Luckily, we have the Humble Indie Bundle 8 to keep boredom, UV rays, and those treacherous, shark-filled oceans at bay.

The Walking Dead and Far Cry 3 score big at BAFTA Video Game Award nominations

Phil Savage at

BAFTA have released the nomination shortlist for the upcoming 2013 round of their Video Game awards. PS3 exclusive Journey tops the nomination leaderboard - it's up for eight categories. But Telltale's The Walking Dead and Ubisoft's Far Cry 3 aren't far behind, receiving nods in seven and six categories respectively. There's also strong indie recognition. Dear Esther is nominated for five awards, Thomas Was Alone for three, and both Proteus and Super Hexagon both receive a mention.

The ceremony takes place on March 5th, and will streamed live on Tune in to find out if we live in a world where CoDBlOps2 can be given an award for "Game Innovation".

Vireio Perception drivers for Oculus Rift add support for Skyrim, Mirror's Edge, others

Omri Petitte at

Contrary to popular belief, the anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality headset doesn't run on pixie dust and elf tears. Like all hardware, it needs software drivers. And while its 20-year-old creator, Palmer Luckey, focuses on manufacturing more developer kits to meet the exceedingly high demand, enthusiastic 3D fans are already planning homebrewed custom drivers. One such project is CyberReality's Vireio Perception which extends Rift 3D support to first-person greats such as Portal 2, Skyrim, Mirror's Edge, and Left 4 Dead.

The Best Music of the Year 2012: Hotline Miami

Marsh Davies at

It’s a busy and varied field this year: exquisitely picked soundtracks tussle for our affection with gorgeous bespoke scores, covering every genre from bustling chiptune beats to orchestral epics. Dishonored's sparse but potent use of the sea-shanty was fittingly iconic, while Jesper Kyd’s Darksiders 2 score swept from Celtic pipes to Mongolian throat singing, and Spec Ops: The Line’s astutely selected records patched both Deep Purple and Verdi into its eclectic, psychedelic ambience.

Indie and Mod DB narrows top 100 nominations for pick of the year

Omri Petitte at

Choosing the best thing out of a pile of really good things is always a tough decision, but hey, we're used to it. You too can participate in the careful choicemaking by voting for your favorite mod and indie game of the year over at Mod DB and Indie DB, where the top 100 nominations were just plucked from a gargantuan pool of over 9,000 mods and 5,500 indies.

Pay what you want (above $1) for Game Music Bundle 4, with Dear Esther, Spelunky and more

Tom Senior at

Whether you're partial to the melancholy strains of Dear Esther, the thoughtful plinky plonky accompaniment to Indie Game: The Movie or the bluesy rawk of Shoot Many Robots, there's probably something in the latest Game Music Bundle to tickle your ears. You'll get the soundtracks mentioned above along with Spelunky and Retro City Rampage for any donation over a dollar.

Dear Esther speedrun clocks up 23 minutes, point valiantly missed

Tom Sykes at

This is cute, and kind of stupid: someone has done a speedrun of Dear Esther, the atmospheric FPS-without-the-S that, until now, we would have considered unspeedrunable. We can only speculate whether Simon 'default' Albacke Eriksson - discovered via Kotaku on the Speed Demos Archive - set out to subvert the art game by missing the point entirely, or if he simply wanted to see how quickly it could be over with, but he managed to finish the game in a not-too-shabby 23 minutes.

GDC 2012 has just kicked off. We're live on the show floor

Owen Hill at

The Games Developers Conference has just begun in San Francisco. Devs from every corner of the industry are congregating to talk about their craft. It’s a very exciting time.

GDC is less console iteration and booth babe than E3. It's more about quiet announcements and candid industry chatter. That said, this year’s show is already shaping up nicely, especially for us PC gamers. We have men on the ground, sniffing out scoops in real-time.

Will Valve open the Pandora’s box that is the Steam Box? What’s the mystery game that EA are due to announce on Tuesday? What will Sid Meier have to say in his keynote speech? Are Hitman Absolution’s crowds extremely good or a bit good? Read on for the highlights.

Dear Esther sells 50,000 in one week

Tom Senior at

When Dear Esther turned a profit in six hours it was already obvious that it would exceed expectations. Dear Esther's Indie Fund backers were originally unsure about funding Dear Esther, but it looks like their faith has been well placed. It sold 16,000 copies on Steam on day one. A week on, it's sold more than 50,000.

Developers, Thechineseroom made their sales public over on the Dear Esther blog, saying that the 50,000 figure is "an extraordinary amount for an indie release."

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs due later this year

Chris Thursten at

When clever ARG-crackers uncovered this message on, the internet leapt to the conclusion that the next Frictional game would be called Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and that it would be coming out later this year. It was even rumoured that the game was being created in collaboration with Dear Esther developers thechineseroom.

Dear Esther turns a profit in five and a half hours, sells 16,000 in a day

Tom Senior at

A post on the Indie Fund site responsible for backing the development of Dear Esther says that the team have recouped their investment of $55,000 in just five and a half hours and is currently the third best selling game on Steam.

"To be honest, we are a little surprised by how many people bought Dear Esther so quickly," say the Indie Fund. "We were expecting the game to have a niche appeal. In fact the situation is quite different." Dear Esther has so far sold more than 16,000 copies in its first day.

The Fund were slightly reluctant to fund the game in the beginning because they were worried it go down well with Steam's mainstream audience. "We appear to have been very wrong about all this," they say. "We are happy to have been wrong."

For our verdict on Dear Esther, check out our Dear Esther review.

Dear Esther review

Chris Thursten at

You wander the cliffs, caves and sheep-pens of a windswept Hebridean island. A single voice reads out fragments of letters, and through these you gain snatches of information about the island and other people who took a walk similar to yours.

Their stories bleed into each other: the travel writer who visited the island in pursuit of a legendary hermit. The shepherd stranded here without friends or family, whose situation reflects the hermit’s. Dear Esther is about heavy subjects: isolation and tragedy tie the island’s visitors together.

Dear Esther trailer has beautiful island vistas

Tom Senior at

The first official Dear Esther trailer has appeared on the Dear Esther site, celebrating its four IGF award nominations and upcoming release on Steam on February 14. It offers a short but haunting glimpse of the island that you explore for the duration of the game. As you move over its hills and through its caves, you'll uncover scraps of narration that resonate with the environment, resulting in an interactive letter of "love, loss, guilt and redemption." It also looks as though it's going to be the most beautiful thing ever made with the Source Engine.

Q.U.B.E. recoups Indie Fund investment in four days

Tom Senior at

Q.U.B.E. is the first project released to be bankrolled by the Indie Fund, an organisation made up of a series of successful indie developers looking to provide hands-off financial support to exciting new game makers. A post on the Indie Fund blog, spotted by Joystiq, says that they have recouped their $90,000 investment after just four days.

"In the short time that it’s been available on Steam, Q.U.B.E. has sold over 12,000 copies," say the Indie Fund. "Indie Fund recouped its investment in Q.U.B.E., and now we’re looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Toxic Games."

Dear Esther release date and price announced

Nathan Grayson at

I'm not exactly sure what to call Dear Esther. Is it a game? Is it an "interactive narrative experience"? Is it something else entirely? Your guess is as good as mine, but I do know one thing: It's pretty damn great. Originally a Half-Life 2 mod, the absolutely chilling exploration-focused adventure is being remade as a standalone game. Better still, Mirror's Edge level designer Robert Briscoe has taken a running leap onto the project, which ought to give the game's hauntingly beautiful island even more personality.

According to the maybe-not-a-game's official blog, it's releasing on, er, Valentine's Day 2012. Because nothing says smooches and other insipidly cute couple-y things like complete physical and mental isolation. So that's fun. You'll be able to pick it up for the piggy-bank-friendly price of $9.99 as well, so it's pretty much a no-brainer - if only to experience a game that's totally unlike anything else you've ever played. If you're interested, definitely check out Dear Esther's official website.

Dear Esther revealed: an indie Source Engine game

Lewis Denby at

"Grief, loss, guilt, faith, illness... But it's also about love and hope and redemption" That's how Dear Esther's designer describes his game.

Imagine a Source Engine title without any guns or physics puzzles. Dear Esther emerged from a research question proposed by Dr Dan Pinchbeck in Portsmouth University: "What would happen if a game was to focus purely on storytelling, to the exclusion of more traditional interactive elements? The project has gone from humble mod to commercial release on Steam, redesigned by one of the team behind the stark environments of Mirror's Edge. It's got potential to change how you think about games forever.

Issue 224 of PC Gamer UK has an in-depth feature on innovative title, but we like you so much that we're giving away our interviews with the designer, developer and sound designer for free. Click more to get the scoop.