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Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 12:15 AM

Exclusive: Chair Entertainment's Donald and Geremy Mustard Shed Some Light On Their Plans For 'Ender's Game'

N'Gai Croal
 Chair Entertainment co-founders Geremy and Donald Mustard

You've read the press release that we just posted unveiling the partnership between Orson Scott Card and Chair Entertainment for Ender's Game. But that's not all. We caught up with the founders of Chair--creative director Donald Mustard and his brother, technical director Geremy Mustard--for an exclusive email interview about the announcement. Here's what they wrote back to say:

How old were you when you first read "Ender's Game"? What do you remember most strongly from your initial reading of the novel?

Donald Mustard: I was 10 years old when I first read "Ender's Game." I read a lot as a child and had already made my way through most of the John Carter and Tarzan books when I noticed "Ender's Game" on our bookshelf (way to go Mom and Dad for having such good taste!). Within the first three pages I was absolutely blown away by the book. It was unlike anything I had ever read. I had never (and rarely still do) experienced such a compelling and well developed universe. I loved how smart the characters were written and how visceral and important their actions were. I loved the Battle Room and the intricate strategies that were used by the students. But most of all, I loved the character of Ender Wiggin, how his brain worked and the way he was always able to outthink and outwit his opponents. You read the book and you want to be like Ender, think like Ender.


"Ender's Game" is a true literary classic; the kind of book you love more each time you read it. It's truly an honor to be part of the team that gets to take the "Ender's Game" universe from words on a page into an interactive, visual medium. We know that just like us, there are literally millions of people who have waited a long time for this game, and we can't wait to play it either!

How did you first meet Orson Scott Card? How did you end up collaborating on the screenplay for Advent Rising?

Geremy Mustard: Donald and I had the core idea for Advent Rising since we were much younger and as we began to make plans for the game, we were really interested in seeing if we could get feedback from an accomplished science fiction author to see if our ideas all made sense. I don't think we ever actually thought we'd convince anyone to help us, but we thought we'd at least give it a try. Orson Scott Card was our first choice and we were able to track him down and pitch him our idea.

He's been approached many times before and doesn't usually get involved with work on games, but he agreed to meet with us for 30 minutes. We ended up spending about four hours with him, after which he offered his assistance with the game. It was amazing to be able to work with someone whose work we had admired since we were both very young. Our work on Advent was able to build a very strong foundation of friendship and trust and we all hoped we'd have the chance to collaborate on something bigger in the future.

How soon after you began work on Advent Rising did you start discussing the possibility of working on an Ender's Game title? What factors were involved in the negotiations?

Donald: Honestly, I've dreamed about what it would be like to work on an "Ender's Game" videogame since I first read the book when I was about 10 years old. It's the book that immediately made OSC my all-time favorite author and what lead us to approach him with Advent Rising. "Ender's Game" was something we'd always talked about, but until recently the game rights were not available. As a studio, we prefer to focus on our own IP, but when OSC approached us about collaborating with him to create the first-ever "Ender's Game" videogame, we knew we couldn't pass up the opportunity. We met with OSC, shared thoughts on what we both envisioned for the game, and determined it was something we both wanted to do.

Is your intention to focus the first game on the Battle Room, or will it encompass the entire story of the first novel?

Geremy: While the premise behind "Ender's Game" would lend itself well to a variety of different gameplay scenarios, our intent is to focus specifically on the Battle Room. It's probably the idea that resonated most with us when reading the books and we feel the unique characteristics of the Battle Room will make a very compelling, competitive game play experience.

The press release says that the first Ender's Game title is targeting downloadable platforms. Does this mean that it's going to be an arcade-like game, in the vein of Geometry Wars and Undertow, or will it be a more fully-featured game like Warhawk or Tekken 5?

Geremy: We intend to begin development later this year, so we still have quite a bit of design work to do before we'll be able to discuss the game in detail. However, we're confident that the technology we're using will allow us to make a game that is full-featured yet still suitable for the downloadable space.

How do you collaborate on a game like this? Will Card handle the story and script while you make the game, or is it going to be more fluid than that?

Donald: Our main objective is to create a game that remains authentic to the books and offers an exciting gameplay experience for all levels of gamers, whether they are longtime fans or new to the "Ender's Game" series. Our team will be working closely with OSC so that everything from the way the characters look, to the different uniforms of the teams, to the Battle Room itself is authentic and helps to really bring the universe to life for gamers.

Will this be an Unreal Engine 3 game, like Undertow?

Geremy: Yes. Our team has been working with Unreal technology for many years now and we think it's perfectly suited for the type of game we envision for Ender's Game. Having used UE3 for Undertow, we've already laid the groundwork for some of the core features we plan to implement. We learned a lot from the development of Undertow and this will be a great advantage to us as we begin work on Ender's Game.

When do you expect to release Ender's Game? Will it only be on Xbox Live Arcade, or do you have plans for Playstation Network and/or PC?

Donald: We're currently working on another project but plan to jump right into development on Ender's Game once that is complete. We have the core idea for Ender's Game in place but will have a much better idea on when it might be released once we're able to complete the design phase. We've been very encouraged by the growth of the downloadable marketplace and feel its expansion will continue rapidly as gamers become increasingly more comfortable with purchasing games in a manner similar to how they now get their music, movies, etc. We hope to support all viable downloadable platforms so that our games will be accessible to as many gamers as possible.
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Member Comments

Posted By: Evilbaby (January 29, 2008 at 4:05 PM)

yeah really I agree.  Actually in terms of the "playability" of the plot of Ender's Game the Zero G portion of Battle School is the only thing that really makes sense.  I mean unless your gonna go through the entire story as an RPG it just doesn't make sense.  I mean the majority of the story is so internalized by Ender that the idea of just walking around as Ender, or worse as some random launchie following Ender around, just doesn't sound appealing.  And past the Battle School part of the story, the interface that Ender uses is certainly not graphically intensive.  The description of issuing oral commands to little dots on the screen also not that playable.  Of course based on the interview it seems that they have already figured it out.  Yay Chair for already taking steps to make sure the game doesn't suck.

Even the idea of a FPS in the Zero G room of the Battle School seems limited by the narative.  Obviously the biggest advantage is "variabiilty" of the Zero G room in size shape and composition.  The gear/weapons though don't change(or at least didn't in the narrative).  However,  I would love to see some of the "leveling" aspects of Call of Duty 4 make their way into this.  Classes, character variability, and even the "look" of the Zero G room don't seem like there is much room for change as far as the story was concerned.  I'm excited to see what direction they take this whole thing.

Also i'd love to get my own "squad" going in some hot multiplayer action, which leads back to a big arcade room with a leader board on the wall and my fairy land minigame!

Posted By: garthgantu (January 29, 2008 at 1:38 PM)

Good question, EvilBaby... though I think OSC might balk at an attempt to approximate that "universe within Ender's universe" game given that today's technology still couldn't quite pull of the vision as outlined in the book.

Even if the game is essentially entirely a Battle School environment, with little to no RPG activity as Ender or another student, I'd be pretty happy, as long as the game is true to the Battle School battle environment!

I agree, the expectations with this one will be very high...but the potential payoff is huge too: millions of sci-fi fans PLUS millions of shooter game fans :)

Posted By: Evilbaby (January 29, 2008 at 10:28 AM)

The real question is will we get a playable "Fairyland" mini-game?  I'm excited about this.....but I think its a pretty big leap from a game like Undertow to what I at least envision an Ender's Game to be like.

Good luck....don't f-up my child hood.

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