Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an upcoming experiential game from the Chinese Room, makers of Machine For Pigs and Dear Ester.
“The world has ended, but you remain–a lone survivor left exploring an idyllic little town in the English countryside picking up on the remnants of lives once lived. But unlike Dear Esther’s rigid, linear approach to first-person narrative, Rapture is an open world that you can explore at your own pace. And boy is it a beautiful one.”
“The 1980s were really interesting — pre-mobile, pre-internet, one of the last times when the world was still remote,” Pinchbeck reflects. “It’s coming up on the tail end of the Cold War, there’s eco-paranoia in these little remote communities. In these little, remote communities, you can have all of these apocalyptic visions — we really wanted to play with a sense of being very, very English, and with how normal people might cope.”
Story is told though small moments that the player comes across when navigating the environment.
“Could you make a game from those small moments,” Pinchbeck poses. “And is that actually a more interesting apocalypse? What if we took a remote valley in the 1980s, and we effectively ‘scatter’ story into the world and let the player loose in it?”
“It’s about trusting the player, isn’t it,” Curry adds. She says she finds the overt signposting of many modern games unpleasant, and sees the cult success of Dear Esther as proof people want to take on less heavy-handed, more complex stories — and that there is no divide between supposed ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. “We’ve had as many emails from teenage boys as we have from the ‘games intelligensia,’ because [Dear Esther] was a human story,” she says.
The naturalism, then, of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture‘s vital, soft vintage world is to bring the focus onto the village, onto the lives of the people who lived in it and how they related to one another: “It was really important to have a world that supported small, intimate moments, that didn’t scream for attention,” explains Pinchbeck. “It’s not about an intellectual puzzle; it’s about a sense of being.”
“The biggest thing, for us, is encouraging a sense of discovery”
I think this sense of discovery is what makes these games good, and possibly what Soundself and The Endless Forest lacked, the idea that you were progressing in some way, but still feeling relaxed.
“We don’t just want to use traditional game aesthetics ‘because it’s a game,'” Curry explains. “And that’s not saying we consider other art forms ‘more highly,’ but people who play games also all watch films, read books, listen to music, and we think it’s important something doesn’t just look and sound like a game for the sake of it.”
“I just take it as a given that if you design games, you probably play a lot of them, so it’s about the vocabulary outside that,” – Pinchbeck
“If something looks and sounds beautiful, by the time onlookers had the chance to say, ‘well, what is this all about, then,’ they were already invited into the world, already had their jaws on the floor, taken away by the music and the visuals.” – This is why it works better than The Endless Forest
“he feeling of being lonely can be quite beautiful, and quite creepy as well.”
Environment artist Rich Court joined the team last September out of university. “We’re trying to go for a painterly feel,” he says. “We want everything to feel natural in there together, drawing from real life.”
James Watt talks about how he looks at emotions and the real world, rather than games, for inspiration.
“Senior VFX artist James Watt worked with Codemasters and Rebellion before coming to The Chinese Room. Slightly fatigued of making muzzle flashes, he says he’s glad of the opportunity to work on other effects: “pollen and butterflies and other bits and pieces… I’ve been feeling my way through them to a certain extent,” he says, emphasizing the influence of the real world, not video games, on his work. “I’m trying not to make anything that looks too much like anything else.””
“Visual effects artist James Watt was hired when, asked about what games inspired him, replied that he was instead inspired by life and the real world — a philosophy not of imitating other games, but of imitating the world. ”
“Skies of pale slate and rose, wan sunlight. The land is blonde and green, and its flowers are elegant, mute: pollen-dust of bright yellow, blossoms of white lace. There is a particular shade of blue — royal — that people often paint their doors or garages, and there is the siren-red of phone boxes. I live on a heath, and often red city buses pass against the backdrop of silvereen clouds, seas of blanched waving grasses, the graphite line of a steeple in the distance. ”