E.Y.E. is a dystopian cyberpunk/sci-fi/fantasy “50% FPS, 50% RPG, 100% immersion”1 game from French bedroom developers Streum On Studios, who have, much like Natural Selection, Red Orchestra, Killing Floor and Nuclear Dawn, decided to undertake the long hard road from modification to full retail game on the Source engine.
Halt. Enter The Metastreumonic Anarchist Conspiracy Movement website.
Confused yet? I know I am. The only thing that’s absolutely clear is that E.Y.E., by all means, is a labour of love (do check out the fantastic concept art above). In the game, players become a planted spy seeking to discover a traitor in E.Y.E., a twofold group of Secreta Secretorum monks fighting against the Federation:
The story takes place in a dark future that has seen unending wars between the Federation - a several worlds union, and the Metastreumonic Force - an ancient and mysterious power.
The player embodies an infiltrated spy in E.Y.E - a group of elite monk warriors - made up of two rival factions in constant internal power struggles, themselves serving the Secreta Secretorum you work for: a multi-thousand-years-old secret organization desirous to steal power from the Federation. The organization ordered your infiltration to control and survey E.Y.E actions, as well to unmask a traitor to the cause.2
Metastr…? Secretoru…? (Scivela…?) Though there exists a wealth of background information on the game’s website, the more I learn about the game, the more confusing it gets, as much of the material available is multifaceted and obscure.
One simple explanation for the lack of en clair is simply that the team is all-French (a forum Q&A thread in French is available to those more fluent in the language). Je ne parle pas français, alright, and therefore rendered unable to accurately present to you the game’s more elaborate fictions and features.
That being said, I can tell you what the core game is about: Futuristic monks, manipulation, secret organizations, strife, conspiracy, and Frenchness: In fact, the game aesthetically and thematically resembles the output of another French studio, Arkane Studios, including Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah and The Crossing, the latter two even more so due to its use of the Source engine:
The beginnings of the E.Y.E. project in fact date back to the year 2006, with the studio itself subsequently founded in 2007. To give you a better idea of the last four years of game development, an August 2007 launch trailer details some rather confusing and Half-Life 2 –textured action that is delightfully inferior to the team’s most recent 2009 trailer:
A visual layer of polish has been applied, and Streum On Studios have additionally chosen to delay the game’s original 2009 release in exchange for additional content3. The curiously pitch-shifted voice acting present in the trailer above remains a curious discordant note in an otherwise polished trailer, but the controls and the HUD no longer display mod-ness, neatly illustrating the difference between a modification and a full-blown game.
Another reason for the complexity present in the documentation for E.Y.E. is that in all actuality, its origins trace into the late 1990s: In 1998, project lead Jonathan Cacherat designed a role-playing board game, AVA, that subsequently united the current Streum On Studios team. Their first finished project, also based on AVA, was the Half-Life 1 co-op multiplayer modification Syndicate Black Ops, released in 1999 and finished in 2001.
The game is still available for download and fully Steam-compatible, and positions players in the shoes of Syndicate assassins who are contracted for delicate cleaning missions and assassinations. The game displays a strange flair of humour (see weapon selection images below), a deviously high level of difficulty and, notably, vast, vast amounts of playable content. I found the game to be surprisingly fun to play with your friends, and it seems as though some of the ideas and content present in SBO will also been seen in the forthcoming game.
The developers have cited Warhammer 40K, Deus Ex and BioShock, (as well as Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell) as influences for SBO and E.Y.E., and the latter promises to contain a whopping 25 weapons, ten PSI/physical powers, 14 cybernetic implants, a separate hacking mode, and most curiously, “psychological and mental traumas [sic] management”. Also to come with the game are selectable classes and occupations. Like Syndicate Black Ops, E.Y.E. comes bundled with a co-operate campaign designed for 2-4 players, and additional missions for 4-8 players. The team also promises that single player, multiplayer and co-op are all interrelated in some way. Death, too, has no penalty; whether this means Vita chambers, regeneration, instant respawns or immortality remains to be seen.
Streum On Studios’ press kit optimistically targets the following platforms for release: “PC, XBOX360 (potentially) & PS3 (potentially)”.1 E.Y.E. was originally slated for a 1st quarter 2009 release, but is now delayed infinitely for an extra layer of polish.