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Chuck Carter, the Maine-based video game designer behind one of the best-selling PC games of all time, has finally released his own game: the years-in-the-making “Zed,” out this week for PC and for virtual reality headset Oculus Rift.
Carter, the creative mind behind Eagre Games in Ellsworth, was one of the lead designers, with brothers Rand and Robyn Miller, of “Myst,” the first PC game to sell more than 5 million copies. Since 2013, Carter has been based in Maine, where he first launched his studio, Eagre Games, in downtown Bangor. In 2018, he moved Eagre’s office to the Union River Center for Innovation in Ellsworth. “Zed” is Eagre’s first published title.
Carter has been working for the past four years on “Zed,” a single-player adventure game that takes place in an imaginative fictional world. A successful Kickstarter in 2016 funded much of the work on the game, and last year, Carter re-teamed with Rand Miller, CEO of Cyan, the company that created “Myst,” to publish “Zed.”
“Zed” is available for PC, but was primarily designed to be played utilizing a virtual reality headset. It’s currently playable on the Oculus Rift and on the HTC Vive headset, and can be downloaded via Steam.
Though Carter has worked on many video games over the years, including the “Command and Conquer” series, and has designed art for clients like Disney, NASA and the BBC, he is best known for his work on the seminal video game “Myst.”
When it came out in 1993, “Myst” was groundbreaking for its immersive fictional world, Myst Island, into which players are dropped as the game begins. They must figure out the secrets of the island and the mysterious family that lived on it via interrelated logic puzzles, which allows the player to travel through time, unlock clues and discover hidden corners of the island.
Where other popular games of the early 1990s were hyper-violent — think “Doom” or “Mortal Kombat” — “Myst” was the opposite. In “Myst,” patience and creative thinking were the skills that would see a player through to the finish line, rather than fast reflexes. “Myst” was also one of the first games to explore the possibilities of gaming as an art form. Its influence can be seen in more contemporary games like “No Man’s Sky,” “Monument Valley” and “Fez.”
Carter’s “Zed” is similar to “Myst” in that the player spends most of the game exploring an imaginative, often surreal world, while solving puzzles. The game’s protagonist, an elderly artist named Malone who suffers from dementia, must piece together his memories and identity via items found in various important locations from his life. Unlike “Myst,” which for most players took days or weeks to finish, “Zed” takes just a few hours to complete.
During the development of “Zed,” Carter gave an interview in 2016 to the Bangor Daily News, where he described his game as a very personal meditation on art, getting older and memory — and a tribute to a former mentor of his who suffered from dementia.
“As I get older as an artist I wonder sometimes: what would it be like if I was losing my memory? If I didn’t have that capability to finish things because I can’t remember them anymore,” Chuck said. “ZED sort of grew out of that personal kind of fear and angst you have about getting older.”