Dear Esther's dev: Embrace failure

Dear Esther's dev: Embrace failure
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

November 1st 2012 at 6:24PM

Robert Briscoe's on why a healthy attitude to failure, and turning down a job with Valve, can make you an indie star

Speaking on stage at today's ExPlay festival, Robert Briscoe, lead artist and designer on thechineseroom's Develop Award-winning game Dear Esther, made a passionate case for embracing and risking failure as an indie dev.

During his session, titled 'Dear Esther – A Journey from Experimental Mod to Award Winning Indie Game', Briscoe delivered a detailed timeline of the creation of the game he co-created, which he started in 2008 as a result of his involvement in the modding scene.

"Don't give up, don't restrain your ideas to find success, and let your ideas guide you," he said to indies looking to match Dear Esther's success.

"You should believe in your game," he later added. "Too many aspiring indies are afraid of failing. Don't be. You can learn from failing, especially if you have community feedback. You can evolve those failures, and let it go back into your game to make something better."

He went on:"The experience of having those successes and failures is what makes making your game – and making your game – a unique experience."

As he went over the history of making of the indie hit, which sold 250,000 copies in six months, he confirmed that work on the title also attracted Valve, and a job offer from the Portal studio that Briscoe ultimately turned down to continue work on his own project.

Valve, however, remained essential to the game's success.

"I really believe that Steam has been a vital gateway to our success," said Briscoe. "We sell the game through our website too, but to give you an impression of how important Steam was, it accounted for 99 per cent of our total sales. It's really good to hear that they are now opening up submissions."

And he detailed how the game nearly lost everything in March 2011 when funding was cut after difficulties arose between Portsmouth University's legal department and the original source contract. Fortunately for Briscoe, Indie Fund stepped in and saved the project.

Briscoe's other key advice to indies was to be open as you make your game, with a view to building a community that can ultimately help promote your release.

"The truth is that our success came from the way we approached development from early on," he said. "It was just a case of building a community and getting people involved in the game. That was better than any PR campaign we could have organised."