Today, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a paranormal mystery game, releases on Xbox One! You play as Paul Prospero (best name ever), a private eye who receives a letter from a young boy, Ethan Carter, pleading for help. But when Prospero arrives in Red Creek Valley, he finds evidence of a grisly murder, and young Ethan Carter is nowhere to be found. Using Prospero’s detective skills, you must explore the valley and investigate evidence to recreate a series of strange scenes that reveal a deeper, darker story.
With our interest piqued by the plot, we reached out to Adrian Chmielarz from The Astronauts, the team behind the game, to learn more about their inspiration!
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter tells a “weird fiction” story, with some possible paranormal elements. As your team wrote the plot, were you inspired by any particular writers?
When people hear “weird fiction” they usually think of some old forgotten horror writers from almost a hundred years ago. But, for example, the most known weird fiction writer not known as a weird fiction writer is Stephen King…
I mention this just to show that weird fiction as a genre is alive and well, we just really don’t mention its name anymore. In our case, our love for those forgotten writers—Chambers, Bierce, M. R. James, Blackwood – was the reason we reached for the term. Even the game’s title—The Vanishing of Ethan Carter—is a nod to the past, where titles like The Something of Someone (e.g. The Vanishing of Simmons by August Derleth or The Statement of Randolph Carter by H. P. Lovecraft) ruled the planet.
Yes, of course, it’s hard to consider H.P. Lovecraft a “forgotten writer.” And he was a major inspiration behind Ethan indeed, even if our game is not a cosmic horror story. Easily one of the best writers in the history, and someone who influenced our design greatly.
Last but not least, our hero is a detective, and we used kind of a Chandleresque feature of a detective narrating the story. It’s a different type of narration compared to what Philip Marlowe used to say, less down to Earth and more cryptic, but the general idea is very Raymond Chandler.
The game takes place in Red Creek Valley, which the player will explore during the game. Is the location a real place?
On the surface level, it’s not a real place, it’s just something we created for the game, like many creators do (e.g. the famous King’s Castle Rock town).
I guess it’s easy to think of Red Creek Valley as the real location because in order to make it, we used a technology called photogrammetry which allows us for nearly photorealistic visuals. In short, you make dozens, or even hundreds of photos of an object—a tree or a building—and then a special software thinks on it for hours and magically spits out a 3D, nearly game-ready model that looks like the real thing.
And not “on the surface level”? Answering that in any way would be a spoiler, and even this sentence in a way is a spoiler. So we better just stay quiet and let everyone discover the reality of the Red Creek Valley on their own.
We’ve heard some whispers about a new mode for the game as well! What can you tell us about Free Roam mode?
There’s darkness in the Red Creek Valley. There’s murder and ancient forces that normal people would prefer to stay away from. But what if we took all of that away and turned the place into a nice, pleasant environment to spend some time in, just walking around and admiring the view?
That’s the core idea behind the Free Roam mode. We have removed every trace of evil from the valley, and you can just have a nice Autumn walk without all the corpses. It’s still not a particularly cheery place, but with the mode, it went from slightly creepy to “just” melancholic. If you like moody places, turn off the music, just leaving the sound effects on, and immerse yourself in what feels like a real piece of Wisconsin.
What can players expect to see from the Xbox One version of the game?
There’s the Free Roam mode, and a lot of under the hood improvements and optimizations. Some of them came “free”—the game used the latest version of Unreal Engine—and some we simply worked hard on. We’re very pleased with how the game turned out.
Will the game be Xbox One X enhanced?
Yes! You can select your preferred resolution, up to full glorious 4K, with a really good frame rate. So you can choose from silky smooth 1080p, up to well optimized, true 2160p. That’s four times more pixels, and yet the game still runs nicely. And obviously looks quite sweet as well.
You can sneak into the Microsoft store and get your copy of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter for Xbox One today!