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Studio behind Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture mothballs operations

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Award-winning ‘walking simulator’ maker lays off staff

everybody's gone to the rapture preview The Chinese Room/Sony Computer Entertainment

The Chinese Room, makers of Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture in 2015, has mothballed its operations, according to its directors.

Dan Pinchbeck, in a lengthy interview with Eurogamer, described himself and co-director Jessica Curry as burnt out. The Chinese Room became well known for 2012’s Dear Esther, followed that in 2013 with Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (a sequel to 2010’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent) and then, almost immediately, began work on Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. That game won three British Academy Games Awards (and was nominated for seven more).

But in July, The Chinese Room began winding down its development operations. Pinchbeck noted to Eurogamer that the studio vouched for its outgoing staff to other developers, in hopes they could land another job elsewhere.

To Eurogamer, Pinchbeck described the pressure of independent development, particularly as it scales up for a studio working with a console maker. The Chinese Room is, arguably, the progenitor of the “walking simulator” genre with Dear Esther, and it was the structure of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, which was heavily promoted by PlayStation more than a year before its launch.

Developed in conjunction with Sony Santa Monica Studio, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture ran into cultural misunderstandings (The Chinese Room is based in the UK) and bogged down in making sure aesthetic details were authentic to the period in which the story takes place. Pinchbeck also implied the game’s vision was cramped by the corporate structure of the PlayStation producers managing it from afar.

The bottom line for The Chinese Room appears to be that it has no publisher for the high-concept games that have distinguished the studio. A survival-horror role-playing game called 13th Interior was mentioned as the studio’s current project, with the caveat that it likely wouldn’t come out any time soon.

“We don't have the capital to just keep a team in place, just to keep the lights on in that interim period,” Pinchbeck told Eurogamer.