Eagre Games is a small Central Maine-based game company whose raison d’être is to develop non-violent, beautifully immersive, story-driven games.
Games where you lose yourself in worlds that you didn’t think could exist, full of imagination and breathtaking graphics, and not your standard ‘point and shoot’ games which pretty much dominate at the moment.
The studio has been set up by Chuck Carter, who is the digital artist that has worked on projects such as Myst, the ground breaking graphic adventure puzzle game that was first released in the early 90s. He also also worked with NASA, the BBC, on Babylon5 and on Command and Conquer: Red Alert, so the portfolio is pretty varied.
Eager Games are running a Kickstarter campaign for their new game Zed, which they describe as “an adventure puzzle journey into unpredictable, nonviolent dreamworlds.” The game invites you into a world where you have to solve puzzles as the player helps an aging and dying Dreamer leave behind a lasting legacy for his granddaughter.
Full of wonder and puzzles, and a truly immersive experience, we at IND13 have fallen for the idea of this game. So we contacted them for a chat to find out a bit more, and were lucky enough to speak to Seth Mantye, the Vice President, in charge of Production and who oversees all of their operations.
First of all, can you tell us about Eagre Games and why this new studio was set up.
Eagre was set up by veteran game artist Chuck Carter, who has over 25 years’ experience in games. He decided to found his own studio to chase his dream of making his own game, and ZED is essentially that product.
Eagre Games doesn’t seem to make the usual games. More immersive story driven environments. Can you tell us more about this?
We aren’t trying to make usual games, we’re trying to make great games. We are using an art-style which is incredibly surreal, yet strangely realistic at times. This art style surrounds this user with something which is truly beautiful and creates a completely awe-inspiring experience. The first time I played ZED I was glad I was sitting, because things just look so good. The stuff that is being worked on now which we haven’t released to the public is even better. This all ties in with a story we’ve come up with, and that story is actually a very deep story. A friend of ours, Joe Fielder, was one of the lead writers on Bioshock Infinite and several other games. He’s currently working on Underworld Ascendant, and he’s helping us flush the story out in a more user-friendly way and it’s shaping up to be terrific.
The two games that you have made currently, Zed and Curio, are artistically amazing to look at. How do you balance the the visual and the gameplay?
As for balancing the gameplay, we have a lot of environmental interaction. You can’t see it in our art preview (demo), but later worlds we’ve built allow the player to explore virtually everything they can see. You can get sort of a feeling of this by walking on the rocks near the lighthouse in our preview, but it’s just a small taste of things. Our puzzles are also designed in such a way that players need to interact with them in order to interact with the world, and players need to explore the world to collect the Dreamer’s memories. The visuals are very much a part of all of that, and since exploration is so key to our gameplay it puts the visuals front and center and essentially makes gameplay and visuals go hand-in-hand. Every piece of this ties in with the story and helps players get a true gaming experience, rather than just gameplay.
Chuck Carter, who is the Creative Director and Founder of Eagre Games, has worked on so many defining games over the years, how he bring all that experience to Eagre Games?
Chuck’s experience has been phenomenal. He’s worked on everything from Myst to Guitar Hero. He works for NASA drawing visualizations of new planet discoveries, did special effects for Babylon5, and helped make the cinematics for Red Alert 2. I called him last August and he said “Hey, did you see that article in the Washington Post with the red planet” and I’d seen it earlier that day. I looked it up again and sure enough, there was a beautiful little red planet Chuck had visualized for NASA.
Working with someone with that pedigree is very mind-blowing at times, especially considering how frequently his work has shown up in my life. Chuck’s one of the most modest people out there and never talks about his experience unless asked (some of our team members had to beg him to talk about his resume for our Kickstarter campaign, in fact), but his years of experience have developed a huge “encyclopedia of know-how” that no other artist I’ve worked with has. He also knows what’s good and what isn’t, so he’s someone who gets art right the first time and doesn’t need to go back and tweak a lot of things – although he sometimes does anyways because he’s a frustrating perfectionist.
You have a few Contributing Artists, is it daunting (at first anyway), working with someone like Chuck. Or is it more like being around a Mr Miyagi type character (without the waxing of cars probably).
We have a lot of younger contributors on our project, you’re right. In fact, some of the people on our team weren’t even alive when Chuck worked on Myst and probably don’t understand how formative it was for a generation. One of our musicians saw our original trailer and called it “Myst-like” even though he never played Myst, and Myst was released when he was two.
“Myst-like” has become a term in itself and the fact that people who don’t know Myst know what it means speaks volumes. However, Chuck’s presence is very modest as I said earlier. He accepts and encourages input from everybody and allows a lot of room for expression and room to grow, so I don’t know that anyone has felt like the experience has been daunting.
With Chuck having been around since the early days of games and 3D art, how has it changed? I imagine that technology has made certain things easier, but does that mean it has less ‘fun’ challenges?
Technology has changed a ton even since I started game development and level design on Unreal Engine 1 (think: 1998’s technology). You can see Chuck in “The Making of Myst” documentary (I think it’s on YouTube) where he talks about how they made Myst in the engine. A single picture could take days to render. Now everything renders in realtime and we can package our levels in less time than it takes us to upload them using fiber thanks to Unreal Engine 4.
While I know very little about the art side of things, I can say that Chuck has been on top of 3D design and game art for over two decades which is extremely difficult for anyone to do. Chuck uses MODO and ZBrush and other softwares which simply did not exist back then.
Are the ideas for the games a collaborative process, or is it more a case that someone has the idea and everyone works towards that?
Our games are very much a collaborative process. Nearly every one of our employees has had ideas for how to make the game. Collaboration is really important. It allows for us to flush out good ideas and get rid of bad ones. With collaboration in gamedev hassles can arrive, however. None of us think the same way and we’ll sometimes spend several hours workshopping ideas so that everyone is happy, or Chuck or I will have to put our feet down and say “This is how we’re going to do it.” Occasionally someone will throw out an idea that’s perfect, and we’ll know it’s perfect because none of us discuss it.
The important thing, at the end of the day, is that with a small team we need everyone on board and working toward the same goals.
What are the plans for Eagre Games moving forwards?
As for Eagre’s next steps: Once ZED is done we begin work on a game called Curio. Curio is like ZED, but ten thousand times more amazing. We need to raise money for ZED so we can complete ZED, and then use the money from ZED to make Curio. I can’t give you any details about Curio at this point because Chuck will actually kill me if I do, but suffice to say you will appreciate it.
There is still time to back the Kickstarter campaign, with a variety of great rewards on offer. Head on over to Kickstarter now to check it out.