Eidolon

Armed with a hunting bow and  fishing rod, Kevin Maxon, a Western Washington University senior and game design major, works to uncover the mystery of what happened to cause society’s fall in the single-player video game he created, Eidolon.

Maxon’s game setting is in the year 2400, in a distantly post-apocalyptic Western Washington, where all that remains of humanity is crumbling steel ruins of buildings and documents recording the destruction of civilization.

“The player’s story is driven by rules,” Maxon said. “This is the whole story of survival and exploration and trying to hunt these things down, a story of curiosity and exploring this big vast world.”

Maxon first began creating the video game in fall 2012. He formed a team of students to create a complete video game out of his imagined world. The expected release date of Eidolon is hesitantly set for June 2014 and will be available for both PC and Mac computers, he said.

Maxon began Eidolon as a senior project for his degree in his game design major, which he designed through Fairhaven. In the process, it turned into an idea that he wanted to explore deeper and develop further. Eidolon became a game that Maxon wanted to create completely, not just as a school project, but also as a way to begin his career as a game designer.

In the second week of November 2013, Maxon registered an official name for his new game design company, Ice Water Games, and launched the company’s website with the help of Western senior and fine arts major Zoe Vartanian.

With all of the time and effort the creators have put into making the game, they plan to charge money to buy Eidolon once it comes out. The group plans to keep the price low, Maxon said.

They plan to sell the game for about $20, said Adam Murgittroyd, Western senior, computer science major and part of Maxon’s team.

While the game they are creating is a story-based game that covers a large area, and takes a lot of time, Maxon plans to use a smaller, condensed version of the game for his senior project, he said.

The plot of the game revolves around the collapse of civilization, following the invention of a technology that eliminates sickness and death only for people who live in certain cities, Maxon said.

Maxon’s interest in post-apocalyptic themes can be traced back to an art class he took his freshman year. The professor asked the class to draw the world 100 years in the future as part of a drawing exercise, he said.

Because of the intensive work required to produce a complete video game, the group tends to work independently on the different aspects of coding, sound effects, art and writing. The group then combines their work when they find time to meet up.

“It was literally just a group of friends who said, ‘That sounds really cool, and I would like to help you out with that as much as I can,’” history alumnus Aron Miller said.

To create a sound effect for creaking wood, the team tried many different ways to make different wooden objects creak. They finally settled on opening and closing a creaky door and stepping on a creaky floorboard again and again, Vartanian said.

Because the game relies heavily on storytelling, the group seeks offers from interested writers to help compile the game’s stories and written documents, Maxon said.

While the game is still under a lot of work and not ready to be released, the creators have discussed releasing expansion story packs if players express enough interest in the idea after the release of Eidolon, Maxon said. For the time being, their main focus is on the game itself.

One entertaining glitch they have encountered during their creation of Eidolon was that a deer would spawn above a lake and splash down directly into the water, Vartanian said.

Creating a game from the ground up has its share of problems and glitches, but so far the team has handled them in stride, Maxon said.

“Every time there’s a problem or a bug, it feels like it could be the major problem that could kill a project,” Maxon said. “So far everything has always been resolved just fine, and we have moved forward.”

Despite these problems, the game is on track for its release in 2014.

The team does not plan to stay together after the completion of Eidolon. Maxon plans to work on his company, and the rest of the team is headed down different career paths, Maxon said.

As the sun sets over Western Washington in Maxon’s video game, he stops to rest and eat by a lake. He takes out a journal page he uncovered during the day and reads over the words scribbled down years ago by a man long gone. This adds to the documents Maxon accumulated detailing exactly what happened so long ago  to cause civilization’s downfall.

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