The developer of Half-Life 2 mod Dear Esther has said that the reaction from elements of the mod community to his game’s upcoming commercial release is “not accurate or fair”.
Dan Pinchbeck has been the subject of some criticism since announcing that his 2008 mod would be getting a full commercial release via Steam this summer after Valve expressed interest in his work.
Some commenters on modding website ModDB believe a commercial release violates the basic principle of modding: that releases should be free. Some have also claimed that Pinchbeck always intended to release Dear Esther commercially, and was only using the tight-knit, supportive modding community as a means of generating buzz for his work.
Pinchbeck, however, believes the opprobrium is ill-targeted. “Back in June last year, we posted an update asking for people’s thoughts about taking the mod to indie,” he tells us. “The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and we started off negotiations [with Valve] after that.
“Obviously, if you are in talks about a licence, you can’t go around talking about it, so we didn’t go public until we knew things were tight enough to let people know, which is what we did. So the idea we’ve led the mod community on is just not really accurate or fair.
Pinchbeck is at pains to make clear that the criticism has come from a vocal minority. “It’s really important to note that the reaction from most of the mod community has been really positive,” he explains. “I don’t want to blow this out of proportion.
“There’s been quite a few people giving us grief that have bookended their comments with things like “I’d never have downloaded it anyway but…” so I’m not going to take them too seriously.”
Dear Esther was created at the University of Portsmouth in 2008, using Valve’s Source engine. Players travel across an island, guided by voiced monologues from the spirit of the titular Esther. Pinchbeck tells PCGamer the game is about “Grief, loss, guilt, faith, illness… But it’s also about love and hope and redemption.”
The 2008 original is being remade by Rob Briscoe, a former DICE staffer who worked on Mirror’s Edge, and it is this remake that is set for a commercial release through Steam later this year.