Nine Inch Nails Guitarist Robin Finck Opens Game Studio With Spec Ops: The Line Dev

Introducing Eyes Out.

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Here's something unexpected and cool: Games industry veteran Cory Davis (Spec Ops: The Line, Condemned, F.E.A.R.) has started a new game studio with Robin Finck, the longtime guitarist of Nine Inch Nails and former member of Guns 'N Roses. The new Los Angeles-based studio is called Eyes Out, and its first game has an eye-catching description.

The game is described as a "single-player immersive cosmic horror game with strong environmental storytelling elements." No other details are available just yet, but the studio says fans can look forward to more information in the months ahead.

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Now Playing: Eyes Out Studio Announcement Trailer

"The team is made up of passionate world-builders and storytellers who believe in the powerful synesthesia that emerges from music, narrative, and interactive experiences," according to a news release from Eyes Out.

Davis was the creative director and designer on Spec Ops: The Line, and went on to co-found the independent studio Tangent Games, the independent studio behind Here They Lie.

Davis met Finck--who is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitar players of all time and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020--when he came to his studio to play an early version of Here They Lie.

"As a fan of his work, I was super eager to get his impressions. We dug in; our conversations began with music, distortion pedals, and amp feedback but quickly led us down the rabbit hole into discussions on the meaning of existence, and the power of games as a storytelling medium," Davis told GameSpot. "Soon we began collaborating on music for prototypes I had in development, but I found that our sessions constantly drove us to a unique space--one that began to set the tone not just for the sound and music, but for the world, visuals, and gameplay. Robin is such an open, honest, and fearless creator. A philosopher, artist, poet, musician, and explorer. Robin pushes me beyond the boundaries of my ability and perspective, into the unknown--something I've been seeking after in a collaborator for as long as I can remember."

Davis (left) and Finck (right). Photo Credit: Rainer Hosch
Davis (left) and Finck (right). Photo Credit: Rainer Hosch

As for Finck, this is not his first video game. The musician previously wrote music for the games Observation and NOCT. He spoke to GameSpot about what he learned on those projects and how this will shape his work on the new game from Eyes Out.

"I've learned that concept should be the first and last say, and that all else should serve to support it. I've learned it is more valuable to ask 'Why' than to ask 'How.' A solid design document can be a much-welcomed light through the inevitable fog. Our deep-dive script of backstory and reference would be 18 inches off the desk were it ever printed. It's important to invest valuable effort in crafting the details that support, and will ultimately direct, those design decisions across multiple departments at an early stage.

"It's a fun and inspired time in the process where everything is possible. There should come a point, after all the splatter has stopped writhing on the wall, that some ideas become probable, and as designers we recognize them and empower them to become reliable and executable. And I've learned that lively collaboration among kindred spirits is invaluable."

Regarding his partnership with Davis, Finck said he is a "true visionary leader."

"Cory is at once present and in front of us and cares about your cat, and at the same time out in space walking among giants, able to convey the depths of astral horseplay. And all of it, every bit of it, is real. He's a true visionary leader. He's capable and dedicated and open to forces unspeakable. And he's in the editor all the livelong day."

Davis and Finck are writing the music together for Eyes Out's first game. While you might have certain ideas in mind based on Finck's body of work thus far, the musician isn't ready to talk specifics about what the two are cooking up. But he did stress that the music will be "evil."

The Eyes Out studio logo
The Eyes Out studio logo

"Cory and I work in tandem on music. We're itching and scratching to tell you about it and even more so to share it with you. What I can tell you now is that it is evil. Much more to come," he said.

Audio design is often seen as an under-appreciated element of video games. Great audio in a game can really elevate the experience, especially so in the context of a horror game like Eyes Out is making. The developers have teased that audio will play a key role in the title--and of course it would, given that Finck is attached to it. Davis spoke about why he believes audio is the "most foundational and powerful aspect of all immersive experiences."

"Both a physical, present element adding character, style, believability, and uniqueness to the world, as well as subconsciously preparing and guiding us through emotional and even challenging experiences," he said. "Audio also creates a zone for mystery and self-interpretation, inviting us to leave behind our inhibitions--to be entirely present in the other-world that is unfolding. It's so exciting to be developing a new world in the horror space now with all of the new possibilities at our fingertips. Audio and music connect directly to our narrative and gameplay through the usage of generative, quantized, real-time world-warping techniques and a wide range of style bringing the world to life."

"We're shoving hard the divide between diegetic and non-diegetic audio, and really listening for new ways to reveal and express story through sound." -- Finck

As for Finck, he said teased that audio will play a significant role in how the new game's story plays out, which is exciting to think about, even if he's not giving away any concrete information yet. He told us more about how he thinks about audio design shaping the style and feel of a piece of entertainment.

"I love the subtlety and nuance of a quiet space. The opportunity that comes from a well set silence. And then exaggerating its dissolution. I like how John Carpenter would give sharp aural focus to a diegetic sound that only later would be revealed visibly," he said. "Like hearing the incessant click of a petrol meter, before understanding what is the cause of this sound, instills this tension and breadth of environment unseen. We're shoving hard the divide between diegetic and non-diegetic audio, and really listening for new ways to reveal and express story through sound. It's a significant narrative component. We probably shouldn't tell you why just yet. There is much to unfold here."

Photo Credit: Arkia Jahani
Photo Credit: Arkia Jahani

While the Eyes Out team isn't ready to full reveal its first game yet, it certainly has our attention. Davis said he's putting together a team of "passionate story-tellers and world-builders" who are looking to create something unique and special.

"We can't wait to pull back the curtain and show you what we've been cooking up. Focused on creating depth and pushing the boundaries of the genre in this new game universe that we will return to again and again," he said.

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