Myst Saga - a Myst Fan Page
Myst - Classic Adventure Game Riven - The Sequel to Myst Myst III: Exile Myst IV: Revelation t V: End of Ages
Myst Online: Uru Live Obduction - Myst's Spiritual Successor Myst Like Games Myst Fandom My Myst Fan Art

My name is Matthew L. Hornbostel.  I'm a 30-year-old digital artist who has drawn significant inspiration from exploration of the beautiful and immersive worlds that are part of the graphic adventure genre.  

The long-running Myst video game series is a landmark in that genre, representing some of the best work this category of gaming has to offer, though there are many other adventure games that also deserve mention.   You may or may not be familiar with the Myst series, as the first two games in it were the most successful and they were released back in the 1990s.  Here's a really nice and balanced recap of the history of the Myst series and its developers, embedded from YouTube:



WHAT IS THE MYST SERIES?  WHY WAS MYST IMPORTANT?
The Myst series is a series of PC games known for its brilliant visual and sound design, and for puzzles that are often ingeniously clever but also very challenging and potentially frustrating, especially for players unfamiliar with the adventure genre.  Some of the main reasons Myst was significant include:

-WIDESPREAD, PHENOMENAL MAINSTREAM SUCCESS IN THE 1990s
The Myst saga began [as far as the public was concerned] in late 1993 with the release of 'Myst', a game which achieved massive critical acclaim and immense commercial success at the time, despite being a sleeper hit that was barely promoted at first.  It became the best-selling Windows and the best selling Mac game of the 20th century, and the second most sold video game of the 20th century across all platforms. [The 1990 classic Super Mario World sold more total copies, but on Nintendo's SNES] with a PC sales record which would not be broken until nine years later when 'The Sims' surpassed it in 2002.   Myst is considered to have sold somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 million copies on CD-ROM between its September '93 release and the year 2000, managing astounding longevity.  It's the best selling PC game of 1993, 1994, and 1995, according to sales charts - and while it was unseated in 1996, the first sequel to the game, Riven, was the top selling PC game of 1997.   Myst and to some degree Riven were major pop-culture phenomena at the time. 

-DESIGN INNOVATIONS
The original 'Myst', and its string of later sequels, are games in which exploration and careful observation of the gameworlds, and puzzle-solving are central game mechanics.  

Myst made a number of decisions that were rather unique and influential at the time within the puzzle/adventure genre.  Firstly, the game didn't have ANY dialogue trees on screen, no text parsing, and had no inventory save the occasional page of a linking book at the bottom of screen.  These two puzzle types - dialogue trees and inventory - were the most common and most overdone in the genre until Myst arrived, and most adventure games were third person.  Myst minimized interface clutter and was a forebear of the current trend towards modern clean minimalism in which distractions are limited.  In doing this, the game also amplified immersion - not only were the 3d worlds quite detailed for the time the game was made, and not only was the sound design quite good, but the overall effect was a sense of mystery and surrealist dream logic.

Why was there a piano inside a 1950's style spaceship, or a dentist's chair in the middle of a planetarium?   I don't know.  But the blend of familiar elements in unfamiliar ways somehow worked.  Recurring themes - water, gears, trees - were juxtaposed in ways that felt odd yet somehow just right.
The game's name evoked the word 'Mystery' directly, as well as 'Mist', or fog, which was not only visibly present in the distant parts of the worlds, but which was in itself a symbol of confusion and uncertainty.  The game gives no real tutorial and its cinematic introduction raises more questions than it answers; it's up to players to explore the gameworlds and make sense of what happened there - and ultimately to make a decision based on that observation and exploration about who to trust and what to do at the end.

It was an unorthodox design at the time and its creators had no idea if it would find an audience.   They were hoping to sell 100,000 copies, and thought that would be great 'if it happened'.  They were stunned to realize that their creative vision found a massive audience beyond their wildest expectations.
Myst was one of the first five titles selected for inclusion in the Smithsonian's recently established 'Art of Video Games' exhibit - along with four other all-time classics like Tetris.

-INFLUENCE ON TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT
Not only was 1993 a watershed for adoption of 3D animation technology, with Myst showcasing then-groundbreaking 3D art in game form and "Jurassic Park" in cinemas, leading to a vast exponential boom in the 3D animation industry during the following 4-5 years, but Myst was a vital key to the wide large-scale adoption of the CD-ROM format as a computer add-on and, by extension, the secured future of laser disc formats in the following decades, like DVDs and Blu-Rays.
CDs and CD drives were first available in 1989 but they were very costly to purchase and not much was available on the format.  This meant few people had cause to buy a CD drive, and that in turn kept developers wary of the format and meant that prices of the drives could not begin to drop substantially.  Before Myst, the biggest seller on CD was probably Microsoft Encarta [a CD encyclopedia] and even that was not selling all that well.  After four years of CDs not going anywhere, Myst managed to push the format into the mainstream and drove the price of CDs and CD drives down dramatically.  Electronics stores would often sell Myst and a new PC bundled together, suggesting to customers hesitant to buy a computer with CD drive, arguing that CDs were going to be an important media format in the future, and using live demos of Myst as an effective way to demonstrate why this was the case... and show people what CDs could do that floppy disks could not, namely rapid real-time reading and writing of video and higher-quality images and audio.  Granted, you could do all of that with other CD software, but the way Myst integrated it all in an artful way made for a far better presentation.

GDC (Game Developer's Conference) discussion of Myst's design process by Robyn Miller:



MYST'S FANTASY MYTHOLOGY

Influences on Myst's design included fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings, and the depth of cultural and historical worldbuilding and attention to detail that legendary fiction had, along with elements of other fanatasy works from Narnia to D&D, to science fiction concepts of the metaverse (being able to connect to other worlds and other planets across a vast array of parallel universes), and aesthetics of the late 19th century, in particular Jules Verne - and especially "Return to Mysterious Island" - which left a small group of people on a life raft drifting onto an island, uncharted, with some unexplained phenomena on that island which began to make sense as the story progressed.  The Miller brothers who formed the core team of developers on Myst are often thought of as a group of two (Rand, who owns the studio and plays Atrus) and Robyn, who composed the music and played one of Atrus's two sons, but there's a third Miller brother in Cyan, Ryan, who is underappreciated despite defining a lot of Myst's visual design, and modelling a lot of the areas seen in the first Myst game.  Other notable people on that team included Richard A.Watson, writer, storyteller, and outliner of the culture, history, languages, number systems, and lore of the imagined races and groups in the Myst canon.  Chuck Carter also was a part of that original core group - he was the other lead modeler/artist and has by now worked on 25 games during his career, from Myst to Command and Conquer series to the 26th - his new project, the appropriately titled Zed.  

Myst chose to use as its fiction's method of interdimensional travel, books called 'linking books' with some sort of special processed ink compound, which allowed the writer to write a description of a world they wanted to link to; and the linking panel would then form a link to the location in the metaverse which best matched the given description.  The ancient alien race responsible for linking were known as the D'ni; they did at one point build a settlement under the Earth in a large cave.  They are nearly human physiologically but often have yellow or pale irises in the eyes and other subtle differences, including lifespans of up to 300 years.  They were generally very careful to write descriptions that would link to worlds that were safe; i.e. that were meticulously attuned to their specific traits and would not include anything that could endanger or kill them.  This is a tenuous explanation for how, in Myst's meta-fiction, they happened to link to Earth, around the time human civilization first emerged, a planet which was intended to be, was carefully selected to be, hospitable to their type of organic life and which by chance happened to already have a very genetically similar lifeform present on the same planet (humans).  As for the use of books for interdimensional travel; it's fantasy, and farfetched admittedly, a seemingly magical technology and a symbolic nod to the way books and stories can act as a window into another world.  Myst simply asks us to accept that this symbolism was developed by an advanced race (which also had holograms and fusion power) into a physical reality.  The conceit is nice insofar as it's open ended - the D'ni can travel to anywhere in the metaverse, just about any place imaginable, and therefore, using their books, so can the player.  Oddly, the design of the D'ni is technologically advanced but culturally regressive; much of the look of their architecture and art is very classical or Victorian, and their political structure involved trade guilds and a monarchy, as well as widespread belief in a monotheistic deity who created all of the universes, and an arrogant imperialism and colonialism which assumes that the D'ni, through their technological power, rightfully deserve to colonize and claim other inferior species' worlds as their own.  This cultural stagnation is actually rather stylistically and thematically compelling and somewhat plausible as well.  Even in current modern-era information-age America, a majority of us believe in the same religion we did hundreds of years prior, we're still building houses with 1950s style and airplanes with 1970s designs... cars using engines that have barely changed in a century, driving on a highway system from the 1950s, and we are using Soyuz capsules from the 1960s-1970s to transport astronauts into space.  We still struggle with discrimination, bigotry, and nasty race relations and arrogant miltary adventurism and old ideas that simply are entrenched and don't ever seem to go away.  Myst's canon, once you dive deeper into it, is really a reflection of the flaws of the modern western world, a mirror image touching on issues we struggle with today.

Actor Jeff Bridges admits that although he stopped playing video games years ago, Myst was the last one he played and respected; he has stated in interviews that he liked the fact that it didn't talk down to the player but trusted them to observe and draw their own conclusions.
Many artists and game developers have cited Myst as influential aesthetically and narratively; the game has a cachet among some very creative people even if a lot of mainstream gamers found the actual game mechanics (puzzle solving) to be somewhat frustrating and tedious.
A generation of young teenage artists, musicians and programmers [like myself] appreciated the worldbuilding, lore, and aesthetics of Myst and Riven in the 1990s and since then those ideas have begun seeping into the games industry through a lot of indie titles.  Myst hit it big in '93 but the industry, that could have tried to expand on the game's creative strengths, largely got sidetracked by the emerging potential and sudden booming novelty of realtime 3D game engines, especially once FPS hits like Quake (1996), Unreal(1997) and Half-Life(1998) became popular successes.  The strength of the 3D engines at the time was their dynamic motion, and the corresponding weakness of course was lost visual detail.  A realtime 3D game has to render at 30-60 frames every second, so in terms of textures and geometry, there were clear limits to detail in that span from the late '90s to early 2000s compared to anything pre-rendered (Extremely detail-rich 3D rendered down into 2D graphics) and that made highly detailed realtime 3D gameworlds like Myst's or Riven's difficult to create with realtime engines of the roughly 1995-2007 time frame.  Now that it's increasingly possible to make detail rich immersive gameworlds in realtime 3D, the result has been a gradual resurgence of enthusiasm for slower Myst like titles that actually focus on the scenery and the setting and don't try to speed through it quickly.  This trend will likely intensify in 2017-2018 due to the rising viability of VR; the fast-paced VR games tend to get people nauseous very quickly and nobody has really found a way to solve that except to slow the game pacing down!

The television series Lost drew from many influences and sources, including Myst's concept of being dumped into a really odd setting, and trying to make sense of all the things there that at first didn't add up.  Sitcom star Neil Patrick Harris has acknowledged being a fan of the series.  There are others as well scattered around Hollywood and the games industry and assorted creative fields.  It's largely due to this that there are now efforts underway to make both a Myst feature film and a Myst TV series on Hulu+.

And the fact that you were looking into the world in a first-person view and your character was never named, gave the player a feeling of immediacy.  You weren't playing Myst as someone else but essentially as yourself.  The mix of beautiful visuals, intricate worldbuilding, ambient sound, and first-person play with a clean, intuitive minimalist interface was quite novel, and when the first game took off in '93, it was one of the first big moments where people realized that games could be a genuine, compelling form of art.   While the original game looks very dated now, it has been remade several times and has been followed up with four sequels, three novels, and an MMO, all expanding on the story and aesthetics of the original.

In summary - this series has become known primarily for a few things - its intricate and beautiful art direction and creative, deep world-building, its hauntingly atmospheric ambient sound design, using a surrealist steampunk aesthetic before steampunk was really a trend, pushing CD-ROMs into the gaming mainstream as Myst was the first truly successful video game sold on CD discs, and the most controversial part of the saga - the puzzle design, which was often great but also something of a mixed bag with some notable missteps scattered across the series.  Such missteps - difficult, confusing self-contained puzzles that some players couldn't make sense of - are scattered among other clearer ones in the series, and this led both to the series' player base dropping off sharply after Myst and again after the first sequel Riven, and the proliferation of sarcastic memes like this one (with language toned down from the original variant):

Myst meme humor

It's hard to ignore a game that was as commercially and creatively successful as Myst was, and many later games have drawn inspiration from Myst in one form or another.  Just look at Quern, Dream, Haven Moon, The Witness, Mind: Path to Thalamus, Xing: The Land Beyond, and many other recent genre examples that have drawn from the design ideas Myst established.  


PROMOTIONAL VIDEO INCLUDED ON THE MYST V LIMITED EDITION DVD:





MYST'S PUZZLE PROBLEMS
The puzzles in Myst games are usually well-integrated into the gameworld so that they feel like they logically belong in it; which makes it hard at times to tell what is and is not part of a puzzle.  Compounding this confusion is the relatively high difficulty level of many of these puzzles and the fact that many of them are self-contained (not part of a series of puzzles that are all similarly and somewhat repetitively structured, as in games like Portal or The Witness).

It's very common for players to get stuck at some point or points in the Myst games, simply unable to make some key logical leap or mental connection between two or more things scattered across the gameworld.  This has resulted in a large number of players either resorting to looking at a hint guide when stuck, or giving up in baffled frustration.

This is why the initial success of the first game was not repeated with the later games in the series.  Many people bought the initial title, but a lot of them never completed it.   They were drawn in by the beautiful 3D rendered artwork and the style of the game, but they lacked the patience to finish it - and never continued past the first game.   This seems to be the main reason why the rest of the series was unable to recapture its initial runaway success.  There is to this day a massive disconnect between the niche fanbase that loves the series because they played a lot of it and realize how much good content was there to uncover (once puzzles were solved), and the people who hate the series because it left them confused, frustrated, unable to progress at some point, and feeling like the puzzles were too obtuse.

The first game in the series topped PC sales charts for most of the first three years it was available, the second was the best-selling game of 1997, the third was the best-seller of the month it was released, and things continued trending downhill from there, to the point where these games have gone from millions of players, to a core fanbase of perhaps 25,000 who really love this series and perhaps another 50,000-100,000 who sort of like the games but don't consider themselves 'fans' as such.  And then there are many millions of younger people who either don't know this series exists, or played the original but didn't keep following these games beyond the first one or two, or found them too slow or too frustrating and actively dislike this style of game.

Because infographics are apparently a big thing now, I've cooked up a very rough one here.  It is a timeline showing major events in the series, and the production staff at Cyan.  Note that Myst III was made by Presto Studios (now closed) and Myst IV by a larger team at Ubisoft Montreal.  The staff in these other studios are not included in the count, but if they were you'd see the all-time peak in 2004 as Myst IV was about to be released.
Myst timeline and Cyan staff
There's an obvious pattern here.  After the first two games hit it big, the production effort exploded; but the later games didn't sell as well and production leveled off essentially, then all came crashing down, and a lot of the people working in the Spokane-area studio were laid off - albeit with a temporary, partial reprieve while Uru ran the second time in '07.  The studio then began slowly rebuilding.   I have a question mark on 2017 but it seems clear now that with positive reviews (77/100 aggregate reviews on MetaCritic at time of this writing) and positive player ratings (80% positive) it's selling somewhat well and may mark the start of a resurgence in the Myst series and the birth of a new franchise (Obduction series?) alongside it.  Obduction, usually at a roughly $30 price - has sold close to 100,000 copies [best guess anyway] so likely has made near $2.4 million, not the kind of cash a giant AAA game would make but enough to make it profitable.  We can already see signs of some of what Cyan is planning now that their most recent game is available.

The puzzle/adventure genre in general seems to be mirroring this specific series; it's been making a modest comeback after years of absence and numerous critically acclaimed failures.

I'll go out on a limb here and say Myst games didn't kill the genre.   Firstly, because it never died, it just became less mainstream due to other genres emerging, and second, because there are a lot of other high-profile flops in the category that preceded the collapse of the Myst series.  Grim Fandango (1996) was a critically lauded adventure game and it tanked on the sales charts.  The Last Express in 1994, also flopped despite having some really revolutionary design ideas.  If anything, the Myst series lasted longer than the rest of the genre, due to its recognized 'brand' and in that way propped up the visibility of the category in general... but even the Myst series saw all sorts of problems starting with the slow sales out of the gate for 'RealMyst'(2000) and then the sales failure of Uru, both of them Myst games which aimed for relevance in the modern age with realtime 3D visuals, before the technology was able to do that really well.  So I don't think this was a problem with Myst specifically.  I think the entire genre, even good examples of it, failed routinely, mostly because there were other types of games drawing attention through sheer technical and creative novelty during that timeframe.  That was a span in which realtime 3D technology and multiplayer were advancing by leaps and bounds and open-world gaming became big.

I think other older genres like platformers also suffered to some extent from this advent of new gaming categories; the critically acclaimed game 'Psychonauts' offers us a case study in how a wildly inventive 3D platformer flopped badly on the sales charts in 2005.

Then in 2007 Valve released 'Portal' and it reminded people that puzzles [and platforming, for that matter] could actually be a rewarding game mechanic, and in 2008 touchscreen mobile devices hit it big with the iPhone, and in 2010 again with the iPad.
These turned out to be great platforms for puzzle games like 'The Room' and 'Monument Valley' and I would hazard a guess that this span from 2007-2010 was roughly when people began drifting back to puzzle games to some limited extent.

Same thing often happens with genres, by the way - they are often cyclical.  A genre (of movies or TV or games) will go through stages of growth, where it explodes into public consciousness with some really well-executed new variant, then becomes oversaturated with less imaginative and less consistently good copies of the early success, which leads to a string of high-profile flops, which leads to the genre collapsing, being declared dead, or 'dormant' or niche, for a while, followed by the cycle starting over again when somebody takes the genre, gives it a few clever twists, and makes it fresh again.  I think 'Portal' did - to some extent - for puzzlers and platformers what 'Star Wars' did for the B-movie category of science fiction.   It took something that was supposedly small and niche and maybe dorky, and made it imaginative and creative and clever and outright cool by applying a pastiche of new ideas to a well-worn format.  




MYST NARRATIVE OVERVIEW (LEADING UP TO 'MYST' and largely drawn from the Myst novels and details of the games)
The Myst narrative assumes the player is traveling through portals embedded in the panels of books known as 'linking books', to various worlds in the 'metaverse' (i.e. a vast assortment of other worlds scattered throughout thousands of parallel universes).  

The linking books were created by an ancient human-like race called the D'ni, a culture that has largely self-destructed several times over, and which now only has a small population, and which had at one point settled in a large cavern below the surface of the Earth.  The original homeworld of this culture was Garternay, but that was wiped out due to an asteroid impact.  Some survivors settled in a cavern on Earth, thinking this would be safer, but the enclosed space which would protect them from any future asteroid impact, became a tomb for them when a toxic gas was released in the cavern by a few radical figures including Veovis.  T'iana, a young human woman who had traveled to the cavern and discovered it, was among the few survivors.  Aitrus, Ti'ana's D'ni lover, died in the escape saving T'iana and their baby son Gehn.   (Gehn would later name his own son with a variant of the same name, Atrus, after his father.  Gehn had his own life trying to rebuild the D'ni civilization, and reclaim its past glory, including occupying other worlds and enslaving their inhabitants.  He fathered Atrus but essentially abandoned him and hated the fact that Atrus's mother died giving birth to him; for years he could not stand to look at his own son bcause it hurt too much to think about his wife's death.

This turned out to be in some sense a blessing for Atrus as T'iana, the grandmother, would raise him, in a humble little home dug into the deser a few miles above the cavern city, called the cleft, and the humble but kind upbringing helped keep Atrus from becoming too arrogant or hate-filled.

Now only a few scattered survivors exist, including Atrus and his family line, and a few other groups of D'ni survivors such as Esher, some members of which are bent on recapturing the 'glory' of the past - by subjugating more primitive cultures and worlds.   Megalomania, arrogance, and colonialism are frequent traits among the D'ni - traits which had repeatedly led to the group's downfall, and which are reinforced by the mistaken thinking in some cases that by creating links, they are 'making' worlds, and not merely connecting to them.  This has often led to the hazardous belief that alien residents of these worlds are therefore creative property and not people... and that the D'ni themselves are 'gods' relative to inferior races.  Atrus's father, Gehn, believed this and obsessively tried to rebuild the D'ni cavern city after the fall.  His son, Atrus, as a young man, fell in love with a woman (Katran, sometimes referred to as Catherine) on Riven, one of the somewhat unstable worlds Gehn had linked to.  Atrus did not believe these denizens of other worlds were inferior (as his father did) and he not only married Katran but taught her how to write links as his father had taught him.  The two had some time together on Myst Island, in an extensive home buried and kept secure under the surface of the island, and managed to conceive two children, Sirrus and Achenar.  Gehn was estranged from his son and bitter about the fact that he had love for an inferior being, and had given her the ability to link... and Atrus resented Gehn for his tyrannical treatment of the Rivensese people and denizens of the other worlds Gehn had previously exploited.  It certainly didn't help that Atrus and Katran had both surpassed Gehn's writing ability and knew that Gehn's careless tendency to introduce unintended inconsistencies or flaws into the descriptions of ages he wrote, often led to him linking to worlds that were doomed to eventually self-destruct.  

The tension would get worse - Atrus led a small group of D'ni survivors scattered throughout other worlds, a few hundred in all, and was trying to relocate them to a habitable new world which was ideal for them to rebuild a society together [Releeshahn] and this meant he could spend less than an ideal amount of time with his sons.  Gehn, in spite, captured Katran and imprisoned her in a remote part of Riven, so between a somewhat absent father and an entirely absent mother, Sirrus and Achenar would grow to adulthood poorly supervised and somewhat resentful.  The psychological damage from their upbringing led them to begin abusing the creatures and primitive people/races in worlds they had access to, and greed, alcoholism, sadism, and other issues took hold.  Sirrus and Achenar inflicted damage on worlds such as Narayan and Channelwood, exploiting the worlds for treasure and resources and exploiting the residents as well.  Atrus had at one point tried to confront Gehn about Katran but failed to rescue her; he found a crevasse in Riven, leading to a spacetime rift and jumped into it with the only link out - a link to Myst Island -  he linked out through while falling.

Eventually Sirrus and Achenar, having learned enough to write a simple link themselves, conspired to trap their neglectful father in a book which looked like a space in the cavern city but which was actually a blocked-off cave tunnel that looked the same.  Atrus fell for it, and once this happened, the sons were free to rummage through Atrus's safely kept possessions, especially two linking books to worlds called Haven and Spire, which were off-limits to the two sons.  These were, in fact, also traps.  So, for some time, Atrus was trapped.  Achenar and Sirrus were trapped, and Gehn was stuck in Riven, and so was Katran, in Gehn's prison.  The Myst book fell through the rift and re-emerged in Earth's lower atmosphere, landing on Earth.  You, as the player, are given a hint as to what happened, but little more - the opening of Myst shows a fissure opening up, Atrus falling through it, then vanishing, and his voiceover about 'conjecture about where my Myst book might have landed'.  The book falls past opening credits and lands, you open it, you link to Myst Island.  That's where backstory ends, and the game series begins.  


The Myst canon stretches between the five standalone games, three Myst novels fleshing out the background canon further (also sold as a three-in-one book called the Myst Reader), and the realtime 3D MMO Uru, also known as Myst Online.  Uru was supposed to have ing monthly releases of new worlds, but as a subscription-based game, it was not profitable and was canceled, picked up by another publisher, later canceled again, and finally released as donation-supported freeware.   The game, while free for players, is not actively updated, and has been quite stagnant since it reached freeware status in 2010.   The lore of the Myst series is fairly extensive, though sometimes weaker than it should be.  (Myst IV had some pretty bad acting which compounded the flaws in the storyline, and Myst V's storyline felt somewhat tangential to the rest of the games, and fairly thin).  I'm not saying those games were outright bad, as they did have some strengths and fairly positive reviews, but between those last two titles and the dissappointing outcome of Myst Online, the studio that made this series nearly collapsed and teetered near the edge of bankruptcy briefly around the end of 2008, forced to lay off most of its staff.   Then - slowly - Cyan began rebuilding itself, making mobile ports of Myst and Riven, as well as churning out some really dumb unrelated iOS apps, until they had the resources to start hiring people back and were in a position to begin approaching bigger projects again.


OBDUCTION SCREENSHOTS:

Obduction screenshots

OBDUCTION OVERVIEW
The developers behind the Myst games have recently released OBDUCTION, a new PC game available on Steam, that has a similar tone to the Myst games but no real connection to the Myst canon save for a number of Myst easter eggs and references found in bits of the game.   Obduction is supposed to give players a completely new lore, a new mystery to unravel without the weight of previous stories weighing it down with pre-existing narrative mythology.

What should you know going in?  Not much, except that as with the Myst games, you will need to observe your surroundings carefully and persistently in this game to make sense of things and unlock new areas with what you learn - the story begins at a campsite near a lake, where an organic alien 'seed' pulls you off into another place - a place filled with detritus and random objects from Earth, surrounded by a vast alien landscape.  Obduction is not a typo, as many have assumed.  The word 'Obduction' is an obscure English word used mainly in geology (the inverse of subduction) and in surgical procedures.  The word means 'to layer over, as a covering' - and both this definition and the similarity to the more common word 'abduction' seem relevant to this story.   It's a bunch of bits of our world, including objects, rock formations, pieces of buildings, and some people, dumped haphazardly into another one.  This is an amalgam of times and places, crammed together, reaching from the 19th century to the near future.   Given some time and a bit of wit, you'll find this world is one of a number of alien worlds with subsets of other races that have also been pulled out of their homes and dumped into their own 'enclosures'.  And this has led to tension both between races and within them, and ultimately you'll need to make a choice about who you can trust.  

Obviously you will want a fairly solidly high-end computer to make this game look its best, as it really shines visually with its spectacular art direction (by Stephan Martiniere, who also supervised the visual design of Myst Online andf Myst V)  implemented in the excellent Unreal Engine 4.  The environments are very very pretty to explore, and the sound design is wonderfully atmospheric.  This game also marks the return of Robyn Miller, the composer of the soundtracks to the first two Myst games, and here he's pushing his skills forward with modern audio equipment.  The characters in the cast are developed with stereo FMV integrated into the world, and a lot of holographic recordings, and it's a decidedly retro thing to do given that most current games use full 3d characters.  Here the only 3D characters/creatures are alien/nonhuman in nature, and whenever you see a human character... it's video of an actual person.  The overall game is mostly very polished, and quite impressively ambitious for a game made by a team of sixteen people, but there are some occasional details in the game which still feel slightly glitchy at time of release, and Mac users are out of luck as the studio is still trying to get the Mac version to work better before launching it.  At one point while playing I got a vehicle to physically overlap with a rock, which was probably a defect or inaccuracy in the rock's collision mesh.  Objects at a distance also flicker slightly at times, and the game's loading-screen transition, while highly creative, is also sort of slow, especially when loading the larger areas.  There's also one environment especially which feels disproportionately small compared to the others, and I can't help suspecting that they wanted to add more there but couldn't finish it in time.   Cyan pretty much admits this - that there were a few extra spaces to explore, that they were forced to cut out, reduce, or block off, to stay on schedule and within the budget they had.   There were plans to add an entire additional world beyond even these extra bits, but that bonus tier of the Kickstarter was never reached.  As for the puzzles, they scale well - I think they're a bit better than usual for Cyan, starting off simple and getting progressively more complicated.  Some of them are really tricky in the second half, but having played the game myself I only got stuck and needed hints twice, and in both cases it wasn't a 'how the **** does that make sense' reveal of the solution but more of a situation where the answer made sense and I was kind of kicking myself for not putting together the information that was right in front of me.  In one of those two cases, though, I already had the solution and goal in mind and knew what I was supposed to do, but was executing it poorly.   If I had stuck with it another 20 minutes or so I probably could have solved that one on my own simply by adjusting a few settings a bit more carefully.   The puzzles in Obduction generally range from moderately easy to tough but fair - all of them are solvable and none of them are anywhere near as maddeningly designed as certain specific puzzles in Myst IV and Uru.  (I am referring of course to Myst IV's timed puzzle in the lower part of Spire, which has minimal margin for error, and the basket puzzle in Eder Gira in Uru, which not only strains logical credibility but also is tedious to execute correctly due to the clunky physics system.)

The only puzzle that actually bugged me was the one people refer to as the Gauntlet, which is conceptually not difficult, but requires a lot of backtracking between different areas, back and forth, and that would be okay except for the fact that those loading times are fairly long on anything other than a top-of-the-line PC.

The game is VR-compatible, and apparently astonishing to behold on the Oculus Rift, and updates supporting the HTC Vive are ongoing.   For Rift owners, however, this is probably a must-buy as it is arguably one of the most impressive titles currently available as far as Rift integration is concerned.
A PS4 release is in the works with Gear VR support as an alternative to the Mac OS X and Windows versions.  

Finally, there's the CEO of the studio, Rand Miller, who basically organized and envisioned the entire project, the PR, the schedules/budgets, and the overarching plan for the production.   He is Robyn Miller's brother and this is the first time they've worked together since they released the second Myst game (Riven) in 1997.    And of course there's the rest of the current Cyan team, built around these core people, like Eric A. Anderson, lead 3d modeler who had previously worked on The Witness with Jonathan Blow, and Cyan legend Richard A. Watson, who is kind of the storyline/lore guru in-house, who figures out alien languages and numeric systems and other bits of historical and cultural detail that sell another culture as believable.  He joined the studio partway through development of the original Myst, so he has a lot of history with Cyan.



THE FUTURE OF THE MYST SAGA AND CYAN
Obduction was recently released (late August 2016) to mostly favorable reviews from critics and positive ratings from players.   The game had been funded with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, which raised over 1.3 million dollars, allowing the Myst devs (Cyan, Inc.) the resources needed to complete the project and branch out from the Myst series.   This said, they haven't abandoned Myst - they would like to continue the story they started with Obduction AND continue the Myst series.   There is a Myst feature film in early development, which has had a tumultuous start and has some successful talent backing it but isn't yet greenlit, along with a Myst TV series in the early stages of production as a Hulu Plus exclusive (I'm guessing that Hulu wants its service to include a fantasy franchise with rich lore, now that Game of Thrones has turned into a massive television hit), and Cyan is reportedly planning to create a cross-platform Myst game tying in with this series.  The new title is rumored to run on desktop PCs, laptops, and high-end tablets, with Android and iOS versions planned.  Given how fast tablets have been improving, it's not too hard to imagine a polished and detailed realtime 3D Myst game running on them when the show debuts roughly a year or two from now.  

Cyan is also attempting to overhaul the older Myst titles; nailing down a plan to re-release Myst III and IV on a few digital distribution services like Steam, as they were released in 2001 and 2004, respectively, and need to be updated to use current download/distribution services and solve compatibility problems with current operating systems like Windows 8 and 10.   Cyan has also released a high-quality realtime 3D remake of the original Myst (RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition) on Steam, in recognition that the last rerelease of the game was a lower-res realtime 3D variant at the end of the year 2000 and technology has advanced dramatically in the past decade, and Cyan is also supporting a fanbase effort, to remake Riven (the first Myst sequel) as a fully realtime 3D game.  Let's just put it this way: the studio has a lot going on right now and their future looks bright, especially now that Obduction is a bonafide if modest success, topping Steam charts the day after release, and still ranked in the top five a week later.  (SteamSpy's estimate of Obduction players)




Return to main page Visit Cyan.com Visit Obduction.com



The Myst series and Obduction are creative works by Cyan, Inc.   No copyright infringement is intended as this is a non-profit informational fan page.