With the arrival of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokémon fans everywhere rejoiced at the revival of one of their most treasured generations. However, Nintendo releases new Pokémon games so intermittently that fans of the successful series now look for other ways to satisfy their Poké-palates. Junior Evan Starr is developing Pokémon Ethereal Gates, which successfully incorporates the nostalgia involved with the original Pokémon while also throwing in some fun new twists. Amid a tough schedule, Evan sat down with us to discuss his own version of the classic and beloved franchise. Here’s an edited transcript of what Evan has shared with Calvin, Managing Editor of Enigma:
Pokémon Ethereal Gates has a planned demo release of August 20, 2015, and Evan’s team will release the full game sometime in 2016. Fans should look out for beta-testing starting in July. Ethereal Gates features 243 original Pokémon with 6 legendary Pokémon as well as 8 new gyms. The game also includes completely custom music, an original plot, and more! Ethereal Gates will be free to download. Check out the game’s Facebook page for updates here as well as its Pokecommunity thread here.
Who are you? How would you introduce yourself to the Tufts community at large?My name is Evan Starr, and I’m a junior studying mechanical engineering and getting a minor in astrophysics. I was on the swim team before, but I am now huge in the comedy sphere. I’m on the board of Major: Undecided and involved the Stand Up Comedy Collective. And I like Pokémon. A lot.What first prompted you to begin this ambitious project?I first began this project 7 years ago to this day (April 12, 2008). In middle school, I was really into pixel art and Pokémon spriting. I was looking online for a community for these things, which led me to a forum for a community that was very creative with what they did. I thought that it would be great to pull this community together to create a whole new generation of Pokémon, and at first, there really was no real intent to create a game. Someone then introduced me to the program RPG Maker XP in 2010, which I have been using ever since. I created the Pokémon Helio version in 2011, which received good reviews, but we then changed the name to Pokémon: Imperial Sky. Six months ago, we really revamped the game and plot, and we renamed the game Pokémon: Ethereal Gates.What is your role in this project? What can you initially tell us about the game?My role is the game director, so I wrote both the plot and dialogue. The game is meant to be a brand new Pokémon generation that is separate from the rest. It takes place in the Leneka region, which is based on New Zealand, and features a lot of fun terrain there. The villainous group is called Team Mythos. The plot is really interesting, because the main evil guy, Julian, is looking for ways to raise the dead based on myths that he has heard.One person can’t possibly develop an entire Pokémon game themselves. Who else do you collaborate with on this project?We are a team of five: Mark, Aaron, Sean, Josh, and me. I am the game director. Mark, the art director, has been with me since almost the beginning for the past seven years. Aaron is the programming director and is a wizard with coding. He helps us throw in the ambitious features of this game. Sean, the music director, is studying music composition at the University of the Arts. And there is Josh, who helps me with Pokémon’s stats and movesets. I met Mark through the original forum. Aaron found us on the forum and had seen some of our stuff on deviantart, so he reached out to me. This year, we found Sean through a mutual friend. And last, Josh was actually my roommate last year. He was really into the competitive side of battling, so I asked him to help me out with that stuff.What are your plans for Ethereal Gates?We want to get a demo out this summer and a full game released once we finish. I want to stick with this game and see it through, which I think is extremely possible. We’ve put in a lot of good work in the past few months. We’d also love to eventually get an article on dorkly. But, I definitely want to finish this game.
What features of your game are similar to the Nintendo games? What features are unique?The game is a comfortable return to what players are used to in Generations 2 or 3. There’s this open world to explore, but there’s still that plot that drives you forward. We are really reaching out to the nostalgic fans — people who want the old Pokémon but also are looking for something that is new and fresh. We also will feature 3D cut scene, similar to those found in Generation 5!There are a few new features that we have introduced that fans will really enjoy. Ethereal Gates actually has a Dark-type gym, something not found in any of the Nintendo games. The game has a new item, the shovel, which will work like the fishing rod but for land. Players can use the shovel to uncover more earthy Pokémon, like Ground types and such. There’s also the new HM, Air Glide, which is similar to diving, but while flying. All of the menus and interface are new and redesigned as well as the custom music and 243 brand new Pokémon.What sorts of things do you wish you had known earlier in terms of this project? What are some limitations you’ve run into?One of the biggest limitations has been realistic writing. When I first started this, I was so ambitious. We quickly discovered that a lot of the things we wanted to do would take a lot longer than we thought. It tooks us a really long time to finally figure out how to put this together, but now we’re here!What are three things on your Tufts bucket list?I’ve never painted the cannon, but I plan on doing that soon to advertise Major: Undecided’s tenth anniversary. I also want to take an econ course, since it has been difficult to take being a mechanical engineer. Last and maybe most ambitiously, I want to release a comedy album with just a bunch of musical sketches.Which of the Pokémon that you have created is your favorite?That’s like asking to pick my favorite child… so of course I have an answer. My favorite tends to bounce around, but right now I’d probably have to say Weebrick, the Dwarf Pokemon. It’s a fairy/ground type. When the 6th Generation introduced the fairy type, we had to decide what to do with this, so I came up with the idea of Weebrick. I really wanted to create two type combinations that haven’t been done before. Weebrick is just a dwarf with a pick-axe for a hand and a giant beard. He has the ability Huge Power, which makes him really really strong. His official description is “in a glorious past, the world was filled with millions of these magical and clever creatures. However, their enormous appetite has driven them nearly to extinction, and their ancient dwellings have been lost to negligence.”