A morning with Dear Esther

[This was supposed to go up yesterday morning but I forgot, as I sometimes do, that large files take a very long time to process. Even though I recorded the video in the early morning, it took the rest of the day to transcode (from 57 GBs of uncompressed RGB frames to 8 GBs compressed XVID) and then upload to YouTube. In fact, while I was waiting for the remaining percentages to complete last night, I fell asleep and missed the monthly Minecraft night too.]

I was much more deliberate this time. In considering myself as a camera into this world, I made purposeful choices to create an effect as if I was moving smoothly forward and through the landscape. I constantly tried to make all transitions as natural as I could through avoiding sharp transitions of the point of view. It was a performance that was surprisingly difficult.

That was something I noticed from watching my own playthrough of Proteus the other day. While I was making naturalized movements from the perspective of a player, moving the camera to catch some new motion, it meant the view jerked around in strange ways to someone later watching it as strictly a video. There was constant evidence that I, as the director in the sense of the video, existed and had control over the whole experience. And it’s something I tried to avoid making as explicit this time.

The results of which, as I discovered several minutes into the recording, was that I wasn’t, as a player, taking time to consider the narration or explore the world. Since I maintained an attitude of always moving, it produced this continual forward momentum. I didn’t stop to examine anything and, once tasked with seeking out the end, I moved ever closer to this goal.

In reflecting on the video today, I wondered if this approach was antithetical to how Dear Esther presents itself. The game expects, to some degree anyway, that the player will wander the island and trigger more narration nodes in order to construct a more complete understanding from what is available. However, since I had played through it multiple times, I optimized the paths I took and bypassed certain areas I knew would only lead me to needing to turn around again. It meant that, instead of taking the couple of hours it originally took me to explore everything the first two times I played it, I could produce a video that was nearly a speed run in execution without strictly meaning to do that.

2 thoughts on “A morning with Dear Esther

  1. rwelean

    this reminds me of when my husband was doing a speedrun of Journey and I was like O_o

    it’s interesting how knowing someone else might be watching changes how you play!

    1. Dan Cox

      Yeah, it’s an interesting effect.

      I’ve become much more conscious of how I play since making these recordings the last few days. While I was playing Dominique Pamplemouse, for example, I started wondering about what someone might be thinking while watching my usual brute-forcing technique of going through every option starting at the top. Was I being fair to the game? Could I have been “doing it wrong”?

      I’m probably going to post a couple more of these as a way to investigate this. It’s proved to be really interesting to face my “gamer” self and how I’ve learned to solve situations. In fact, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to capture my reactions both in-game and out-of-game at the same time with the setup I currently have.

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