A giant key-shaped obelisk with a streak of blue lightning running through its center rises above an icy island. Floating steel steps lead up to a Brutalist steeple contrasting with the aurora borealis sky. A futuristic spiral skyscraper looms above wintry terrain. 

These are all structures and landscapes created by local architect Scott Keyes, a Charleston native and designer at Steel Marsh Architecture, in his upcoming video game “The Eprologue.” The game, which took three years to brainstorm and create, will be released for $10 on gaming site Steam on Dec. 11.  

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Keyes took his skills from creating buildings in the real world and applied them to his own fantastical world, the “Dream World.” But, in the digi-landscape, Keyes can bend some rules, like gravity for instance. 

His buildings are epic and surreal, and most are inspired by science fiction.

Futuristic, dystopian monolithic spires with exposed concrete and metalwork are a far cry from the marshfront Southern homes that Keyes designs in Charleston. And that’s part of what he loves about video game design. 

“I wanted to embrace the freedom of a virtual world by designing structures that defy gravity and aren’t limited to other real-world restrictions like building budgets and construction schedules,” said Keyes. 

Another thing he loves is that a building designed in a video game can last forever and be enjoyed by so many more people. 

“While a house we design in the real world may be lived in by a few people in its lifetime, a video game house may be experienced by billions and will never be demolished,” said Keyes. “It is immortal architecture.”

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The ironwork gates and pillars of the Fireproof Building at 100 Meeting St. makes its way into the game as the “Archive Temple of Knowledge.” Provided

Some of the structures in “The Eprologue” are inspired by Charleston’s historic architecture, like the ironwork gates and pillars of the Fireproof Building at 100 Meeting St.. An almost exact replica makes its way into the game as the “Archive Temple of Knowledge.” 

A few themes within the game’s storyline are also derived from challenges faced in Charleston, such as overdevelopment, pollution, flooding from rising sea levels and catastrophic storms.

In the first-person role-playing game, there are goals to defeat “Devilopers,” monster enemies that can be attacked with a bow and arrow which also shoots fireballs. The ultimate strategy is to collect keys to turn back time before the Devilopers take over the world. Time travel also plays into the name of Keyes’ gaming studio, which he hopes to expand in the coming years: ChronoTecture. 

“It refers to how stories are built, using the passing of time and an order of events to get across an idea,” said Keyes. “In my game’s story, we play around with the idea of what a timeline is, as our characters attempt to use time travel to solve their problems.”

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Scott Keyes created the Dream World with a software called Unreal Engine, which uses a visual scripting system. Provided

Storyline for “The Eprologue”

After losing his cat Mobiius to lifelong illness, a father sees him again in a brief dream. The father then designs and builds a device called The DreamCatcher, which allows him to induce a lucid dream at will. When the father finally sees Mobiius again in the Dream World, the DreamCatcher glitches and the father experiences sleep paralysis, trapping him in the Dream World against his will. The only way forward for the father is as a spirit guide for Mobiius as he goes through his final dream. Mobiius’ final dream has him challenged with defeating the nefarious Devilopers, who are harvesting planets of their resources solely for selfish gain. Mobiius and his father must work together to stop the Devilopers, or their destruction could have devastating consequences beyond the Dream World.

To build his Dream World, Keyes used a 3D creation software called Unreal Engine, which incorporates a visual scripting system. In other words, it’s geared toward artists who don’t have to know programming languages in order to build their game. That was key for the architect. 

Keyes hopes the game will be the first in a trilogy, as he keeps expanding the storyline and creating new architectural renderings.

Back in the real world, he lives with his architecture partner and wife, Julie, whom he met at Clemson. She’s been heading up the marketing for ChronoTecture, and the couple enjoys playing video games in their spare time. 

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

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