Former EA employees are working on ZOR: Pilgrimage of the

Clint Jorgenson and Gavin Yastremski talked to Game Rant about how their work at studios like EA led to them working on ZOR: Pilgrimage of the Slorfs.

Working on fan projects and small indie games is one way to get noticed and increase your chances of getting bigger roles in the industry. Toby Fox started out working on things like the EarthBound Halloween Hack, but after he became famous with Undertale, he got the chance to work for Nintendo. He got a Mii Fighter costume in Super Smash Bros. and made music for the Pokemon series.
ZOR is a mix of different types of games. It is a deck-building roguelike with survival and crafting elements set on grids that look like tabletop games. Righteous Hammer Games, which is best known for Solitairica, a roguelike-RPG version of Solitaire that came out in2016, is a small studio for the size of its current project. Clint Jorgenson, the studio's founder and creative director, and Gavin Yastremski, an artist, are the only ones working on the majority of ZOR from their garages (with some contractors pitching in). But Game Rant talked to Jorgenson and Yastremski about their previous work at studios like EA and how those skills have helped them in the independent space.
Plants Vs Zombie Garden Warfare Zombie athletes
In the 1980s, Jorgenson got his first computer, and he said he was immediately interested in graphics and programming. He couldn't do this as a job when he worked in a lumberyard in the 1990s, but the dotcom boom made him realize that digital art could be a career. After failing out of electrical engineering, he went to the Vancouver Film School and learned how to use programs like ActionScript and Flash. He then briefly worked in movies. One of his first jobs was making fake computer screens for 2002's live-action Scooby-Doo (a practice he called "fantasy UI").
Soon after that, Jorgenson got his first job in the games industry, working on EA's Def Jam: Fight for NY. That was the start of a 13-year career at the company, during which Jorgenson worked on every Skate game, a few SSX games, and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Jorgenson met Yastremski while they were both working on the PvZ spin-off. Yastremski, like Jorgenson, went from a short career in film and TV to a nine-year career at EA thanks to connections with a professor at the Art Institute of Vancouver who had worked on SSX.
Yastremski said he was "blessed" to learn 3D software in high school, which gave him a taste of video game art. "It totally blew my mind," he said. "I knew this was what I needed to do when I graduated from high school." During his time at PopCap Games, Yastremski worked on Garden Warfare, GW2, and Battle for Neighborville. Then, for about nine months, he worked on Apex Legends by Respawn Entertainment as an environmental artist.
Jorgenson said he was happy at EA and "lucky" to work on a number of great games, but he started to feel worn out. Kevin Ng, who worked on Bully and Skate, started making independent mobile games a few years before2014, when he founded Wonderful Lasers. Jorgenson was motivated by Ng's success, and he said he wanted to move away from AAA development's focus on specialization and become more of a generalist. In2015, he and Joe Van Zeipel, who also worked on Garden Warfare, started Righteous Hammer Games.
Jorgenson and Zeipel "jammed on ideas" before leaving EA, but they decided to remake Solitaire to learn Unreal Engine. During this process, Jorgenson came up with the "mechanical mash-up" of Solitaire, which uses the same kinds of skills as iPad games like Puzzle Quest. Rob Blake, who worked on the audio for Garden Warfare and is also known for Mass Effect, helped make the game's "over-the-top and unrestrained" energy a success.
"We were so happy to be doing our own project for the first time that we let our imaginations run wild. But yeah, it kind of happened by accident. Not everything was planned."
Shortly after Solitairica, prototyping for ZOR started, but Zeipel left Righteous Hammer to work as a user interface designer on Dauntless at Phoenix Labs. After seeing other people get government grants, Jorgenson decided to "throw his lot in" and apply for funding through the Creative BC organization in British Columbia. The grant he got could only be used to hire people, so over the next few months he worked with concept artists and 3D animators to create a "vertical slice." Yastremski left Respawn soon after hearing about this project because he was "always blown away" by Jorgenson's UI work on Plants vs. Zombies and wanted to have more creative freedom away from the constraints of a "giant, highly polished product."
Yastremski helped ZOR's artistic vision become clearer. He was influenced by the works of Jim Henson and Don Bluth, especially the "dark, kind of creepy, and cute" worlds of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and The NeverEnding Story. With a more complicated 3D style and extra funding for roles like quality assurance and audio through Epic Games' MegaGrants program, ZOR's scope grew. The project was supposed to take two years, but it has already been going on for four years and won't be finished until this month, when it will be released in Early Access. In October 2019, a teaser trailer was used to announce ZOR. Jorgenson said, "We definitely announced it too early," because the game's ambitious goals made it hard to figure out when it would be released.

More: backrooms game