Exo is an impressive downloadable 35 minute immersive gaming environment created by Tabor Robak, inspired by Gatekeeper’s industrial sounds. I added a couple of questions from an interview of Noisey to Gatekeeper one month before launching EXO where they talk about how they decided to do an interactive visual experience for the new HD LP. And also two more questions from a recent interview at The Creators Project with Tabor Robak, where they talk more focused on the process creating the game, his influences and style. See more;
Suze Olbrich: When did you know that you were going to present this record visually as a game? Did you know right away that videos wouldn’t be enough for the HD LP?
Gatekeeper: We started working with Tabor really early on, just sort of talking about ideas. He had every version of our recording after a couple of months in. So we were taking the idea along as we were writing the music. The finished concept for the game only emerged when we finished recording.
We’re obsessed with creating a visual context for what we do, but we'd maxed ourselves out on music videos. In our previous labor with Thunderhorse, we were very involved in the making of the videos, and so it was cool to think about a visual component that would be even more immersive for a user but didn’t immerse us as much. We really gave Tabor the artistic license to do what he wants, as we have so much respect for him as an artist in his own right, but we were all pulling from a really similar source of inspiration in the project as a whole.
With video you can just sense that it’s energy has just sort of been dissipated. I remember my first year or two of youtube was amazing, and then after a while you realize even this form can be exhausting and boring. Video’s a lot of work and it’s contained in this little window that’s so familiar that it reduces everything to the same droning playlist.
Suze Olbrich: So how much can you talk about the game? Does it have a narrative? Narrative’s really useful but we like to have ambiguity in it.
Gatekeeper: The music is really visual and conjures up all these cinematic references, but what’s fun about that to us is the fact that those aren’t scripted and so people can kind of imagine their own narrative based on it.
For a lot of people that grew up in a similar generation to us, which is where we scrounged our references from, it could seem to exist within one general collective imagination.
For us, Exo, has always been this environment or planet or territory, so what Tabor is doing, what we could talk about a little, is that the levels consist of organic environments, beautiful CG renderings of them.
Recommended to read the whole interview at Noisey.
Julia Kaganskiy: How did you go about constructing this virtual world? Obviously the music is very evocative, so I’m sure that helped.
Tabor Robak: From the very beginning, what I had were the songs and my discussions with Gatekeeper about what would be cool to have in here. When we started this, my technical ability was very primitive. I didn’t know how to do any of this. The last thing I had made was BrandNewPaintJob.exe with Jon Rafman, which is also made in Unity and is a 3D environment but everything is very cubed off and rigid and it’s totally experimental because I didn’t know the tools. So as my knowledge grew over the year, the ideas that I could come up with also changed. But for the most part, it was very typical. Just listening to the mp3s on the train during my commute, trying to imagine what it could look like. With some tracks, like “Hydris,” the name gave me a starting point, but many of the other tracks, the titles are abstract or were changing throughout the band’s process of making the music, so I didn’t always have that to rely on. I tried to be mindful of leaving room for the music. That’s why there’s not so much stuff to do.
Julia Kaganskiy: Whoa. Wait. You didn’t really know how to use Unity when you started? How did you create these elaborate worlds?
Tabor Robak: Unity has a great app store that’s just as easy as the iTunes music store to use. So I’ve got a lot of great middleware [apps] that I’m using throughout the entire game. The throbbing to the music, that was somebody else’s code that I purchased and figured out how to plug in. The camera system that I’m using throughout is an improved version of what ships with Unity. All the trees and the rocks and the grass – I bought all these nature model packs and then worked on placing them in the environment, which was a fun challenge. To compose something that looks natural and random unfortunately takes a lot of thought.
Recommended to read the whole interview at The Creators Project.
See more at e-x-o.com