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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Hits PS4 on July 14th

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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Hits PS4 on July 14th

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first-person mystery game and it’s coming to PS4 on July 14th. We thought it might be fun to introduce the game by sharing a few secrets behind the game’s development process.

1.) Why We Chose This Particular Title

The game is a weird fiction story, and weird fiction can be described as “horror meets pulp.” The best known weird fiction writers are Howard P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. To honor the game’s literal roots, we wanted its title to resemble the pulp horror stories of the 1930s and 1940s.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Hits PS4 on July 14th

We went through all the books and all the magazines, including the famous Weird Tales. We created a list of proposals that included titles like The Incident in Red Creek Valley, Midnight Detective, and The Case of Ethan Carter. But even though we liked some of them a lot, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was always our favorite.

The title is inspired by The Vanishing of Simmons, the story by August Derleth, a writer best known for being the first publisher of Lovecraft. There’s both poetry and mystery to the “vanishing” word, and that is exactly the message we wanted the title to express.

But why exactly is it Ethan Carter?

There is this great anecdote about a poet who met a fan at a party, and that fan passionately analyzed one of the poet’s works. “No, that’s not what it’s about”, answered the poet, “But your interpretation is much better, so from now on I’m going to stick with it.”

It’s the same with the name of “Ethan Carter.” There’s no clear inspiration behind it, it just came to us, subconsciously, and felt right. But then one day a fan asked us if “Carter” was a nod to another story from the Weird Tales magazine: Lovecraft’s The Statement of Randolph Carter.

“No, but we love this idea, and from now on we’re going to stick with it.” And that is why we tell everyone that it was Randolph Carter who inspired Ethan’s last name.

As you can see, in 1930s they really loved their “The Something of Someone” template (The Vanishing of Simmons, The Statement of Randolph Carter, etc.) for a title, and we respected that tradition with the title for our own game.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

2.) How the Game Got Us into Trouble

An ancient evil ruling a remote valley tries to stop a private detective from finding a missing boy. It’s a story that can happen almost anywhere, be it United States or Poland.

At least that’s what we thought. It’s only when we started marketing the game and telling everyone that the game is not taking place in any specific location when we realized that no, it’s not “a story that can happen almost anywhere” when your main character is named Ethan Carter, and not, say, Kajetan Woznica. Ethan Carter is a very British/American name. So that forced us to look for that specific place that would fit the story and the name. We chose Wisconsin due to its striking similarity to the vegetation and landscapes of our fictional Red Creek Valley that was based on the actual valley in the Polish Karkonosze mountains.

3. We Hated the Game’s Music, and then it Won Multiple Awards

Okay, we did not hate the music the entire time, just for the first three hours. Here’s the story.

The composer, Mikolai Stroinski, is known for his smaller (Dark Souls trailer) and bigger works (The Witcher 3). He expressed his interest in making music to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter by sending us his own version of the score to the game’s teaser. We liked it, so a few months later we asked him to be the first guy to try creating an actual game score.

A few days later, Mikolai sent us three tracks. We listened to them all and I wish I could tell you “and then there was silence”, but the truth is we were very vocal about our disappointment. It’s just not what we imagined the score would be, the tracks were too engaging, too cinematic, too fantasy.

We listened to the tracks again and then we called Mikolai and told him that we did not like the direction he chose but if he is okay with that then maybe let’s try again? Mikolai was a bit surprised but agreed to give it another go, and we split for the night.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

But then one of us called the others and said, “Gentlemen, this music is incredible, but don’t just listen to it. Make sure you actually play the game and play the tracks as if they’re already implemented as the game’s background music.”

And we did, and then there was light.

It turned out that what Mikolai has done was absolutely incredible, it’s just that we evaluated his work in the wrong way, listening to the tracks without seeing the imagery they were supposed to accompany. But walking around Red Creek Valley with Mikolai’s music in the background was an astonishing, otherworldly experience.

We called Mikolai, and, wearing sackcloth and ashes, apologized. Luckily, Mikolai took it all like a pro that he is, and continued working with us closely for the next year or so. And then his Original Soundtrack for the game won multiple industry awards. Thanks, Mikolai!

4.) We Had to Censor the Reality

Graphics aren’t always that important in video games, but they are extremely important in our game. In order to offer never before seen visual quality, we used a technique called photogrammetry. In short, you photograph the real world, and then special software spits out a 3D game-ready asset that looks exactly like the real thing, like something that could never be achieved by hand. Of course, it’s never that simple, but that’s the gist of it.

However, with assets like that, and the realistic “global illumination” lightning offered by the Unreal Engine, the game looked… too real.

I mentioned earlier that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a weird fiction story, and with that comes a certain mood of otherworldliness, melancholy, and unease. While believability of the environment is important — hence our use of photogrammetry — it cannot dominate the artistic intent.

It’s nothing new in art. True Detective TV series is a good example. It’s obviously something believable and with that extra touch of authenticity, but at the same time it’s highly stylized, soft, and impressionistic, with that famous yellow tint.

So we created our Red Creek Valley that looked and felt like a real place… and then we had to remove bits and pieces of that realism and added some post-processing and shader effects that made it less mundane. You still feel the wind in your hair, but you also feel there’s something special, something supernatural about the valley.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

5.) We Forgot What the Game Was All About

It’s often said about game development that you never know the exact destination, just the general direction, and “pretending otherwise is costly and painful.” These are very true words, and one of the reasons why we never produced a detailed game design document for the game.

Our design started with a certain idea of what happened to Ethan Carter. And then it took us a year of design and story-writing to get to the point where the story told was exactly what we wanted it to be. However, all these months of writing made us lose perspective on what’s the real core, the real heart of the story.

We remember writing a very long e-mail to our writers, Tom Bissell and Rob Auten, explaining that even though we know how to get to the ending, we’re still unsure of how to explain everything that the player experienced. And to wrap up the project, we need that final push, that one explanation that unites everything into a coherent tale. We proposed three different takes on the detective’s journey, and sent that wall of text to the writers.

The answer was just one sentence. “Hey, but wasn’t the original idea that [this and that happened]?” We looked at each other and laughed. Yes, yes it was, and it was the perfect story. We just kind of forgot about it and for some reason moved on to new proposals and new solutions. It’s very easy to get carried away like that when you spent two years on a game. You get so used to the old ideas that after a while they’re no longer as exciting as the new ones, and the new ones are exciting just because they’re new, not because they’re better.


These five stories from behind the scenes are just a few examples of the confusing, wonderful process that game making is. And trouble or not, we love every second of it.

After well over two years of hard work The Vanishing Ethan Carter is finally here, and it’s the most disciplined, but also the most creatively liberating thing we have ever done. We hope you’ll like this supernatural mystery when it hits PlayStation Store on July 14th.

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33 Comments

  • Hi Adrian! Very glad this game is coming to PlayStation (and so soon!). It is simply stunning to look at, and intriguing to witness. Also I really appreciate hearing your behind-the-scenes anecdotes from its development. I can kinda image a lot of other developers can relate :-)

  • freshprincepbg

    Price?

  • Roaming_Ryu

    * removes game from Steam Wishlist *

    Thank you for bringing this to PS4.

  • Tuppery_Numnak

    I am so thrilled they brought this to PS4. 5 days.

  • Ethan Carter was vanished by Kratos on July 14th.

  • This game looks SOOOOO good. I am looking forward to playing it when it drops on PSN.

  • Thundercleese_83

    Not cool, Sony! You need to put a “free gaming time and money maker” on the next PS4 update. There is just too many awesome games… All right, you won! Take my money for this one too!

  • thefoxymoron

    This was exactly what every studio posting on Playstation Blog should strive for. Excellence. This was not only a great look of the game with actual gameplay footage, but also a unique insight into how it came about and fascinating antidotes about how you hated the music at first! I’m very impressed and look forward to buying your game next Tuesday!

  • Never thought I’d see the consoles in such a severe state of playing catch up to what’s been available on PC for so long… I played this on Steam and it’s an utterly amazing and unique game, but cmon, Sony… A continuous stream of PC port announcements is not your style :(

    • You realize this was announced for PS4 before the PC version was released, right?

    • What about those of us who don’t play games on their PC? Plus if it’s (in your words) utterly amazing and unique then surely you would want as many people to experience as possible and enjoy the same experience you did?

  • This game looks magnificent! I am excited to try it out. Additionally, I hope that VR support is being considered. VR seems very well-suited towards slow, first-person, exploratory titles. I would love to “stand” in this world!

  • I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t already on board with this game, because I was, but this was easily one of my favourite PlayStaion.Blog posts in recent memory. I really enjoyed the personal insights and anecdotes; they helped reaffirm a purchase I already intended to make.

  • Any word on price? Plus discount??

    • On UK PlayStation Store is priced £13.94. I think on US PS Store it will be around $15.

  • MisterJumpMan

    I’ve been waiting for this to show up on PS4. Glad to see it arriving next week.

  • I knew about this game but didn’t know it was actually coming to PS4, had resigned myself to not getting to play it. This news has made my morning.

  • I don’t even like adventure games and I want to play this! I had a feeling by the name it was influenced by Lovecraft loved the lovecraft stories involving Randolph Carter.

  • stabacadaver

    I thought of Alan Wake when I seen this which is not a bad thing. I might end up giving this a try if it’s around $15.

  • Hooray! I’ve been waiting for this game to come out for awhile! Thank you so much for the blog post/announce! It was also really interesting to hear a little bit more about the game, especially the soundtrack. I can’t wait to give it a try!

  • plaztiksyke

    Looks really fantastic, and I really like your candor.

    It’s tough for visual designers of PS4 games — no GI or multi-bounce lightining, and things look “last-gen” despite the higher-res textures and render target. I’m interested to hear/see more about what UE4 next-gen features you had to tone down, and how you did that while still making the game look/feel “next-gen”.

    So much talk of the music, I assume it’s 24-bit FLAC on PS4?

  • yowzagabowza

    That’s a long post for there to be no price….
    I fell asleep watching the gameplay video so im definitely not buying this. I may play it if it comes to plus sometime.

  • Adrian! I’ve seen you on twitter, great guy that truly loves gamers

    I’ve been interested in this game for a while, I’ll definitely be picking this one up! =)

  • bbswarrior_11

    Very excited this is finally coming out. And to think Everybody´s gone to the Rapture is gonna be up soon.

  • brooklynzak

    Wow! Can’t wait to get a PS4 and be able to play this.

    Thanks so much for your insight into the process, Adrian. This is the kind of game that gets me excited about games.

  • Wow this game looks amazing. Can’t wait to play it.

  • I’ve played this kind of games before, though not my personal preference, I must play this one… as a Lovecraft fan. I loved all the Randolph Carter saga (for those who are interested, there’re actually many stories for that character) and I see this is kinda going into that place… I’m intrigued… very.

    Crossing my fingers, wish you bests of luck with this game guys

  • MR_PER___SON_GUY

    Played It twice on PC, seen hours Cryoatic’s walkthrough on it twice, and will play it again on the PS4. I’m telling you now, this is THE most beautiful game you will ever experience in your whole entire life. Well worth your time and money, that is if you’re into these kind of games which I obviously am. 10/10

  • whereymyconary

    I feel like whenever I look towards new games coming out I start making a list of most anticipated. This game for whatever reason has always been on that list, for what reason I’m not totally sure why. I do like adventure games and nods to horror games is always a plus but why this game in particular. Mysteries.

    Anyways excited for this game hoping the leaked info on price cause that would make it a day one for me. Or week one as it usually turns out. Have a no reason to preorder something that lives in a digital licensing space and not my actual library of games.

  • Nightshade869

    Have been waiting for this since E3 2014

  • It would be pretty awesome if Sony made this available in the NA store for pre-order. Now I’m stuck waiting for them to update the store… Which we know happen at their leisure…

  • dirtylemons

    I don’t have the greatest gaming PC (by far), and wasn’t able to run this, so I’m really glad it’s arrived on PlayStation. I’m still wrapping up ‘Arkham Knight’ for the time being, but I am looking forward to trying this out next.

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