Encounter a cornerstone digital artist: Chuck Carter – illustrator for Myst


Chuck carter originally wanted to be an astronaut, but with maths skills sorely lacking, he switched to art and eventually digital arts when the medium became available.
He was one of a small community of Mac users in the late 80s that were exploring the new frontier of digital arts, including Kai Krause. Chuck is most well known as being one of the illustrators for Myst, a landmark graphical adventure game that sold in the millions. His focus is now on the production of interactive worlds for children which will be delivered via the iPad.
Read the full interview in the September edition of 3D Art Direct.

Myst lives on as an open source on-line game at mystonline.com

3DAD:  Thomas and John Knoll brought out Photoshop version 1.0 in the late 80s – it must have been quite an interesting early community of artists back then, being that John Knoll worked for Industrial Light and Magic. Did you get involved with this early community – who were some of your peers at the time and what did they work on?

CC: When 3D became the “new” thing at about 1989 – 90, my artistic life was changed forever. The early stuff held a lot of promise, but it was still in it’s infancy and slow. But a group of us worked over the old AOL network chat rooms (Kai Krause was among us – Kai’s Power Tools back then was a word doc you followed when using Photoshop, accessing it’s channel operations). We all shared ideas, art and newly learned expertise and were a pretty small group – mostly Mac based back then. It was fun as we were among a very few people doing graphics full time using computers and all of us were simply feeling out what was still totally a new world graphically.

I corresponded with John Knoll back then only a couple of times – mostly for a new tool he wrote that let us view film strips in Photoshop 1.0. Allowing us to export out the strip as a PICs file which we used in Myst for a few bits of animation we had in the the game. (I seem to remember Premier 1.0 was part of that – but I forget)

A couple people I know work for Pixar now, one at ILM and the rest are scattered to the winds.  A few names come to mind and are working at various studios but honestly, for the most part I have no idea what they are doing these days.

3DAD:  You worked alongside at least one other artist at the time on Myst– how was the work divided up – what were you and they responsible for?

CC: There were only two of us who worked on the game art – Robyn Miller and myself – we divided up the game worlds – Robyn took Channelwood, The main Myst Island and the Stoneship Age – I had the Mech Age, The Selenetic Age and it’s underworld (If you go back you’ll see many references to Jules Verne in the game – starting with the name – Myst – short for Mysterious Island) and the final prison, D’ny (Sp?)

We basically fed off of each other – we had many discussions about evolution, Rush Limbaugh and art with Robyn.  Anything to pass the time some days and while it could get a little loud – we had fun and we got along great.  But for the most part, we each worked from our houses (Me in the basement and robyn in a spare bedroom and Rand would make the rounds to copy the levels and art onto an early optical drive he carried around with him.

3DAD: Myst’s gameplay is unique amongst other adventure games in several ways. The player is provided with very little backstory at the outset, nor are any goals laid out. I remember that objective of the game was to discover the objective of the game! If I remember rightly, there were no obvious enemies, no physical violence, and no threat of “dying” at any point, Did these unique game play points appeal to you and did you come across these again when working on other games?

CC: Rand and Robyn were proponents in games of non-violence. Thus the game was driven by exploration and discovery as well as solving the many puzzles you needed to answer to move deeper into the world. They wanted to immerse you in their universe – to show you their world. The story would fill in gradually as you explored the worlds.  Like an onion, there were layers of information that needed to be uncovered to “win” the game.

Personally I’m a huge fan of first person shooters and I enjoy conflict in games – though for my latest personal projects, I’m more interested in exploration than anything else.

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