Chuck Carter, Veteran Developer of Myst, Discusses His Latest Project
For many people who grew up playing computer games in the 1990’s, Myst was a departure from anything that had come before it. It represented a new direction in gaming that redefined how the industry would eventually evolve.
Here in Maine, we do not often think of the state as being a home for video game development, but Chuck Carter, a veteran developer of the Myst series, has been working in the state for several years and his newest project, Zed, may put Maine on the map for the gaming industry.
Chuck has been a partner and presenter of the Maine Science Festival since 2015. We recently sat down with him after the successful completion of his crowdfunding campaign for Zed on Kickstarter and asked him to share some insight on where his career started and where he thinks it will go next.
Maine Science Festival: How did you first get involved in the gaming industry?
Chuck Carter: Back in 1991 I had the opportunity to meet the Miller brothers in Spokane, Washington. They were the founders of CYAN and they were impressed with my early 3D work and in particular a game I was working on using 3D to go from point A to B by using pre-rendered images of the small world I had built. They told me about this project they were starting – and I was already a fan of their work from their early games like the Manhole and Cosmic Osmo – so I told them I was interested. The project they invited me to join was the first of the Myst series – a popular video game series back through the 90s and early 2000s. So Myst is the game that launched my career.
MSF: What is Eagre Games? CC: Eagre Games is a game company based in Orono, Maine – And we specialize in creating fully immersive first person, non-violent and story driven games.
MSF: You recently successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for your new project, Zed. Can you tell us a little about Zed?
CC: Zed is a game where you explore the strange and exotic dream worlds of a dying man – who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. He wants to finish one last project for his unborn granddaughter, so he can leave a small bit of his story for her as she grows up. But he can’t remember what he’s doing so as a player, you help him put together the pieces before he dies.
MSF: How much has the video game/gaming industry changed, especially in terms of technology, since you first began or even since you worked on a project like Myst?
CC: The biggest changes are computers and software. And this thing called the internet which did not really exist in anything like it’s present form back when I worked on Myst. The computers were painfully slow, plodding and I’m still amazed we were ever able to do much of anything productive on them.
Now computers work nearly as fast as we can think and when doing computer graphics at a level needed for games of design, this is a huge efficiency bonus. The lag is negligible when doing high end graphics, the software does so much more and makes what used to be tedious tasks easy and nearly automated – speeding up efficiency and the quality of work.
For instance, when you’re iterating with elements in a project, the ability to change your mind and try new things is tremendously helpful when the changes are as easy as they are now with today’s technology.
The advent of high speed internet is also a game changer – especially when working with people outside the office in other states or countries. Without the fiber we have at our disposal we would be hard pressed to do business as nimbly as we can. Back when we did MYST we had to ship files via FedEX or by courier. Now this is not the case. As for what this means for games – the players user experience is much closer to reality now with how we play games in that the graphics are so high quality when compared to 23 years ago… Back then the tech was the limiting factor, graphics were primitive, and while games were just as fun – now they are getting closer to movie quality in some cases. This allows for new and more interesting ways to tell stories or build on ideas in ways unheard of back in the Myst days. And with the advent of VR (Virtual Reality) – it’s really getting into uncharted territory with game applications only being a small part of the changes in tech to come.
MSF: What steps should someone take who may be interested in working in the gaming industry as a designer or developer?
CC: First off you need to have a real love of games – and not just playing them, but you need to explore how they are made, look at the free high end software available online like Unreal Engine 4, Unity and a lot more and make your own games. Decide as early as possible whether you want to be a designer, artist, technical artist, animator or developer and find a good school to go to of which attire are many and specialize.
Study writing and what makes a great game – look at the field objectively and see what kinds of games you like, then ask yourself what is it about those games that interest you. Making games is hard work – making good games is harder still and there is a lot of competition in the industry with only the best and the brightest being hired. So you have to have a lot of motivation, drive and most importantly passion and when combined with the right role you choose, you stand a better chance of getting into the game industry.
Also I’d suggest they consider making their own games – the indie game movement is growing leaps and bounds and there is always room for new games.
You can learn more about Zed and Eagre games at www.eagregames.com