Recently, I had the chance to visit the Eagre Games studio, and was lucky enough get an early look at the work they are doing on ZED. Since we’ve discussed the game before, I thought it’d only be appropriate to share my early impressions!
Chuck Carter and Kyle Frick were the two developers who talked to me about the game’s current state and walked me through a very early, rough demo. While they couldn’t discuss everything about the game, they were wonderfully open about the process, their current aims and goals, and how they’d like to see ZED develop. The game was very rough around the edges, but that’s to be expected in such an early state.
Honestly, I love seeing games this early in their development; it’s a great peak at the process and direction the team is moving, and has a raw sense of energy behind, letting you get glimpses of the potential the game has and the possibilities that’ll be carved out of these early mock ups.
Check out our Interview with Eagre Game’s Chuck Carter to Learn More About ZED
From the very beginning of the demo, ZED felt dreamlike. Things began in an apartment, then I opened a door that led me into a lush wooded area, which then transported me to a pseudo-industrial maze, before being thrown into a hall of doors. My last glimpse of the world ended in a surprisingly scary Victorian mansion that seemed one part hotel, one part subway station and one part Stephen King homage.
The variety of environments and art in ZED, even at this early stage was astounding. The games environments, assets, and style was varied and surreal. There’s a superb use of normal, everyday objects and items in odd ways that make things feel…a little bit off. ZED is absolutely nailing the dream-like vibe it’s aiming for, and that makes me VERY optimistic about the game as a whole. It’s dreamlike, slightly off and slightly creepy, and just like dreams, even the most beautiful pieces often don’t seem right once you start looking at them.
One major thing that had not been implemented yet was the game’s narrative, but I saw the first markers of how you’ll make your choices in the game’s story. Peppered throughout a couple of the levels I saw were a series of what I’ll call “Choice Towers” (see above). These marked points where you’d have to make a decision based on the information you’d gathered thus far. No narrative yet implemented, so my choices had no context and boiled down to left or right, but I like the idea.
Chuck Carter also confirmed that these choices will be found throughout the narrative and you’ll have to make these choices based on your understanding of The Dreamer and his world.
He also confirmed that the choices you make will effect the game’s ending.
While there was no voice acting or direct narrative dumps in the game at this point, there was a fair bit of passive storytelling. Throughout each area I walked through, graffiti was plastered across many of the walls. Much of it was place holder, but I still think that this is a wonderful addition and interesting way of telling you about this world and the character of the dreamer. Much of it was cryptic, and of course it’s all subject to change, but I loved the sense that you might be able to get some extra insight by paying attention to the writing on the walls.
However, of everything I saw and investigated, it was the music that surprised me the most. I’m not sure what kind of music I was expecting to hear in ZED, but it was not the haunting, almost Eastern melodies that floated into my ears as I wandered through these dreamscapes.
Just like the environments and visuals, the music was beautiful and inviting, but didn’t feel quite right, only adding to the surreal, dreamlike atmosphere of the game. Alex Parish’s work really blew me away and I cannot wait for more of it.
All in all, I’m astonished by just how good an atmosphere the team at Eagre Games have already constructed. The full force of narrative, scope and voice acting haven’t even been brought into the game at this point, and yet, even with this small slice of the game, the art style and atmosphere is cohesive and compelling, even with it’s variety. The environments and music work wonderfully together to make things feel surreal and dreamlike; slightly creepy and yet comforting and inviting. I’m beyond excited to explore this world of dreams, to be frightened by the nightmares in the corners of The Dreamer’s mind, and left stunned by the beautiful impossibilities of his imagination.
My thanks to Charles and Kyle for letting me interrupt their work day, and allowing us to share this early glimpse of ZED with our readers.
You can learn more about ZED here, and be sure to check back in with IndieHangover for more updates.