There are secrets buried in the first video from Eyes Out. It’s just two minutes long and filled with overlapping shots of drums, mics, guitars and snakelike cables packed into a lonely desert hideaway, all while an unsettling, ambient score gathers layers of sound. Over time, the scenes are flooded with red and the film is overcome by a horrendous groaning scream. Thin white text flashes across the screen, telling a disjointed story about burying bones and walking with the bloom of a burgeoning universe.
Among this vibrating chaos, there are hints about the kind of studio Eyes Out will be and even what the team’s first game might look like. Or, more aptly, what it might sound like.
Eyes Out is the new video game studio founded by Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck and veteran AAA director Cory Davis, and the team is already hard at work on its first title, a mysterious horror game with an emphasis on experimental audio.
“We want to create mind-bending experiences that cause you to question reality,” Davis said. “That's what we're really excited about. We’re all fans of horror, but specifically this kind of — it's a new and emerging space that doesn't just sit within the extremely violent and dark and terrifying, but also reaches into the vibrant and even surprises you with moments of bliss or self-reflection. Horror really has a lot of room to grow.”
Finck added on to that thought, saying, “We're playing in this field that provides an emotional and psychological response, which really, I feel, is heightened as a singular experience. And we're really fortunate to be attracting developers who are so genuinely passionate about these types of conversations.”
Davis has built a successful career as a video game designer, directing and crafting high-profile titles including Spec Ops: The Line and Here They Lie, but he’s also a composer. In fact, the first word of his Twitter bio reads, “musician.” Meanwhile, Finck’s Twitter bio has just two tags, both of which speak for themselves: @eyesoutofficial and @nineinchnails.
Note which one comes first.
Finck got involved in the video game industry about six years ago, after striking up a friendship with Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson at Burning Man. Finck ended up handling the soundtrack for Noct, a top-down horror game published by Devolver in 2015, and his interest in development was piqued. He dove further into the video game industry, attending conventions and connecting with creators.
“I was just really inspired by people and their enthusiasm, the forward tech of it all, and the collision of art and music, design, agency, narrative, and also the experience of really becoming immersed in all of this,” Finck said. “It really feels like the most focused and the most highly attuned experience to imbibe this sort of storytelling. And that continues to turn me on. And this led me, fortunately enough for me, to meet Cory as he and his team were completing Here They Lie.”
Eventually, Finck found himself at Sony Santa Monica, playing an early version of Davis’ VR horror title, Here They Lie. He was floored by it. Finck and Davis got to talking, and they haven’t stopped since.
“We immediately were talking about sound and music and the weight of that and the experience,” Finck said. “And we kept on in the coming days and weeks and months. And then eventually were working together on music for projects that Cory was heralding. We have a simpatico workflow and creatively sync in a lot of ways.”
Davis remembered feeling a spark at that first meeting, too.