Missed Online: Uru Why?

Okay, that title has to be the worst yet.

Anyway, Myst is a franchise that has permeated the contentiousness of it’s fans. Those who love the game really do love it.

In my case I remember first hearing about Myst back in 2000 through an ad in a magazine for it’s real-time 3D remake, realMyst. At first I did not know what to make of it. I had never played adventure games before so I thought it was similar to SimCity for some reason. I was a kid, I was stupid. I also remember hearing about the Myst books from one of my busmates. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Years later I spotted a copy of the 10th Anniversary Edition which bundled the first three Myst Games on three DVDs for what must have been dirt cheap because back then I couldn’t think of a reason to buy it otherwise. I was really into cheap bargain bin games back then and I still am actually, most of the games I own fall into that category.

I brought it home, played it and was immediately hooked, I was honestly surprised I haven’t heard about this game before (aside from the realMyst ad) because it was so bloody brilliant. But, while it was one of the biggest games of the 90’s, it is simply not that big today. For one thing pre-rendered images and cinematics have been reserved for crappy kids movies and JRPGs, and the gaming public are generally more interested in either mass-murder or chatting it up with their buddies. Knowing murder would never work in a Myst game Cyan (who I should mention are the creators of the Myst series) decided to do the latter and attempted to take Myst Online.

While it sounds like a good idea in theory, it stops when one takes a good long look at Myst. Throughout the game are puzzles, several in fact, each of which open doors, and the doors stay open. If Myst was a multiplayer game it would be pretty boring because odds are someone else would have already solved all the puzzles ahead of you and all you need to do is go through all the open doors. It would be very, very boring. I guess it would work if all the puzzles were specifically designed to work in a multiplayer environment. However if you had to leave and then come back, possibly the next day because virtually no one can solve an age in one day…unless they cheat, you would need to redo all the puzzles again, and as you are solving one puzzle you might see someone go by and solve it while you are watching, pretty much giving you the answer which would take all the fun out of it. The only way I could see around this is to give each person their own copy of each age, that way you would be the only person in each age, but that would defeat the purpose of having the game online wouldn’t it?

I guess what I’m getting at is the idea of Myst Online, or Uru Live as it was known at the time seemed like a bad idea from the start and it didn’t really take off, so all the content they created for Uru Live was released in a single player edition: Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.

The name Uru has an elegant double meaning. It’s a Sumerian word meaning “city” (refering to the D’ni underground city), but is also an acronym for the philosophy of Myst. You are you. Throughout the series you were always meant to be playing you. Which is why you never talk or see your own face because it would ruin the illusion if it didn’t look just like you.

Anyway, after playing all the Uru content (Including the two expansion packs that were released at a later date) I can safely say I don’t see why it would have ever worked online. Unless there are significant differences between the single player and online versions, the puzzles don’t fit the criteria I mentioned above. So it simply would not work.

If those who have already played Uru don’t believe me then I reccommend you check the Age Ahnonay, my personal favourate. If the age has already been completed, then someone else who might be coming up behind only needs to do half the work. It becomes piss easy and that is not the Myst way.

There is also another problem that I did not think about until I saw it in one of the ages that were made for online play. Parts of a puzzle can be very far apart, so as you are solving one part of the puzzle someone else may do something that screws you up so now you have to go back and fix what they did before continuing.

But on the other side of the coin I must note, as I play the game I feel like I am missing something. Like the online community really made the game what it would have been. As I explore the D’ni cavern it feels dead, like really dead. Which I guess is accurate after the Fall, but if others were there I don’t think it would have felt so dead, and my activities in activating the Great Zero would not have felt so pointless, and if I had others helping me, it would not have felt so tedious.

So in conclusion, everything about Uru works better offline, except for the D’ni city which would be better online. If someone wants to correct me and tell me I’m wrong, by all means I welcome it.

So I said Uru Live was cancelled earlier, half-truths are funny that way. Approximately four years after the release of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Cyan cut a deal with Turner Broadcasting to release Myst Online: Uru Live on Turner’s GameTap system, which isn’t a bad system, or at least it wasn’t before they switched to something completely web-based. Anyway, while Myst Online was online, much content was released by Cyan. In total, nine ages were released, and that’s not including the various journals and visuals they might have added but I’m not sure about because I didn’t get a chance to actually play it because it was shut down a year later.

Sitting here like a Luddite, I missed out on much Myst. There is currently talk, by Cyan, on their official website, to release Myst Online: Uru Live into the open-source community. Thanks to my lust of open-source software, this makes me very happy, but I wonder where new content will come from, the community? No offence but I haven’t really seen a lot of good ages from the community. Also, that doesn’t fix my aforementioned concerns about how well this stuff works online anyway. Not that I don’t want to play it online, it would be nice to test out.

Apparently there were some differences between the online and offline versions of Uru, but without a proper list I can’t tell if they would work, as it stands now it’s a big fat no.

So anyway, here’s my idea, and I think it’s a good one: You know all that content that was released online? Well now Cyan can release it in expansion packs for the single player Uru. Make more money that way, and money is always fun. Call it “Way of the Wavy Line with Four Circles.”

So now you can tell me why I’m wrong, and it’s likely many fellow Myst fans will do so. In the meantime, I will be listening to Peter Gabriel’s music. Maybe he’ll tell me off too.

Update: A quick retraction and clarification.

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27 responses to “Missed Online: Uru Why?

  1. Dr CrisGer says something “will” be true because he wishes it to be true despite mixed opinion, despite the unknowns of what Cyan “will” actually do, and despite the very nature of open source. “Will” is a fantasy in search of prophesy. It’s the same thing that happens all the time in politics, especially during presidential campaigns in the Unites States when ALL the candidates are introduced as the “next President of the United States.” It’s a special Jedi mind trick and they actually believe it works.

    • Even though both sides say it and one will be wrong.

      But you know the word prophecy and when you talk about wishful thinking, it reminds me of religion.

      I am not a fan of religion, so many bad things have been done in it’s name. Also, when someone does something good only so they get rewarded after they die, makes me think they are doing it for all the wrong reasons. However considering humanity is such a self indulgent race I can over look that.

      But what I really hate about religion is the idea that the faithful must start crusades to defend that which they worship. It’s sad. I remember reading a comic that had a fundamentalist Christian on a shore watching a protozoa evolve into a man, he points to the bible he is holding and tells the man: “-which is why you don’t exist.”

      Fanboys are like religious fundamentalists who must kill all those who don’t agree.

      • Although I share a similar view of organized religion, I am compelled by fairness to dispute the common statement that so many bad things have been done in the name of religion. There have, but the same can be said about any organization (including the ironic organizations that promote anarchy). Bad things have also been done in the name of sports, medicine, science, preservation, education, child welfare, charity, economics, physics, peace and any other human endeavor.

        • Touche. It’s funny you mention sports because the Daily Show did a piece on just that last night. They held a contest for Douchiest fans: New York or Philly.

  2. It was a simple and absolute part of the plan for URU from the very beginning to have it be a living world with multiplayer as a totally fundamental part of it.

    And once again I must tell you that that was not the plan from the beginning, I’ve been following the course of Uru since they first started dropping hints about it (hell I even have some of the original DIRT stuff) and I can tell you DIRT was originally a single player game, it was only when DIRT became MUDPIE it became an online mutiplayer aspect.

    The only reason that was delayed and single player was released was that the engine could not run the game with more than 20 people in an area before becomming very laggy.

    I believe the decision for the single player game came from Ubisoft, not Cyan or because of any reason of lag, more of a money thing going on there.

    99 percent of all people I have talked to or seen in the game loved the mulitplayer part of it. A few wanted a single player experince and that was possible except for two puzzles which could be solved to progress the player easily with the help of others ..people were always willing to help and did so at the drop of a hat, myself included. There is absolutly no water in your continual claim that multiplayer does not work for the game. It is brillant.

    And once again, just because the 99% of the people you spoke to liked multiplayer doesn’t mean all liked it, I could ask 99% of the children (2 in this case) in my household if Mc Donalds is good food and they will say yes, yet the 99% of adults (my wife and I) would say no.

    As for the future of the game, Cyan will control ALL of the content, it will oversee any open source activity…and will decide what goes into it. It will NOT be a second Second Life. It is a simple fact and a fact of life that games and making them costs money, and Cyan has spent a lot of effort and funds making URU. They are NOT going to give it for free totaly to the players. Nor should they. The only people who want that are a vocal minority who want control of things for their own purposes and that is pretty silly in a virtual world when there are plenty of chances for control in the real world.

    I don’t quite know how you can honestly say that, Cyan haven’t even decided how they will handle it yet, and chances of them having complete control are slim, underground Uru shards have already taken control away from Cyan.

  3. I have enjoyed the chance to share some of the information about URU and MOUL that you posted about. I am very open about my support for and belief in Cyan and the way they have created their wonderful games. It was a simple and absolute part of the plan for URU from the very beginning to have it be a living world with multiplayer as a totally fundamental part of it. The only reason that was delayed and single player was released was that the engine could not run the game with more than 20 people in an area before becomming very laggy. 99 percent of all people I have talked to or seen in the game loved the mulitplayer part of it. A few wanted a single player experince and that was possible except for two puzzles which could be solved to progress the player easily with the help of others ..people were always willing to help and did so at the drop of a hat, myself included. There is absolutly no water in your continual claim that multiplayer does not work for the game. It is brillant.

    As for the future of the game, Cyan will control ALL of the content, it will oversee any open source activity…and will decide what goes into it. It will NOT be a second Second Life. It is a simple fact and a fact of life that games and making them costs money, and Cyan has spent a lot of effort and funds making URU. They are NOT going to give it for free totaly to the players. Nor should they. The only people who want that are a vocal minority who want control of things for their own purposes and that is pretty silly in a virtual world when there are plenty of chances for control in the real world.

    I have spend seven years and thousands of hours in the world of URU and MOUL in three phases of its existence. I know what the communty at large feels because I have spent a immense amount of time with them in all phases of the game, and know what is true and what is political noise. URU and MOUL is a wonderful game and a wonderful world. I urge any to spend time in it when it returns. and to read the plans that Cyan has for the future. There is a post on the MOUL forum that has the full thoughts of Rand Miller the creator of the Myst series along with his brother Robyn…. and you can see what he says in full detail.

    Rand Q and A + Panel: Mysterium 2009 at Cyan

    http://mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=18109

    I know that the overhwelming majority of the players of MOUL love the community feeling and the shared journey and that shared journey was the plan from the beginning for URU and an essential part of its visiion. There are thousands of other games out there and hundreds of virtual worlds to play in. If you dont like the demans that URU and MOJL make, ie that you learn about the backstory and enjoy the sharing then go to the other places. For those thousands of people who enjoy MOUL now and the hundreds of thousands who have enjoyed the URU single player game, URU and MOUL remain as a wonderful chance to explore and enjoy a unqiue world. Shorah and Peace.

    • Did I say Myst Online was a bad game? No! I said as someone who only played the single player games I don’t see how it would work online. Besides later that day I wrote a follow-up explaining how it would work thanks to the instancing concept they implemented. Maybe you should read it.

      Now as for Cyan controlling all of the content for the new Myst Online, I say fantastic, but is it worth it for them to do that?

      You know what, screw it, this deserves it’s own entry.

  4. My my. This is probably the most sensible summation I have seen in “ages”. I felt all along Cyan would have been far more sensible to release single player add on packs. Rather than to try and run a nursery school. You hit the nail on the head. These games are brilliant, but not suitable for internet multiplayer. All people want is violence. Damn shame they never stuck to single player. Cyan might have been thriving today if they had done just that. Hopefully the tides will turn and we will see Myst 6.

  5. You seem to have found Dr CrisGer. You need to understand he is a devoted defender of Cyan and the game. Well, maybe that’s obvious. It’s nice, and mostly harmless, but he does it with a religious zeal to the exclusion of some realities. I love the game and I love Cyan just as much as any fan, but a couple things need clarification:

    1. While many people like multiplayer puzzles, there was a LOT of noise from people who detested them in MOUL. I think Dr CrisGer knows this, but he outright misrepresents the truth of it. Many thought the people who so disliked the multiplayer puzzles and felt excluded were on the irrational side because there was enough else to do. But the fact remains, some were unhappy. There were other things to complain about too, but on the balance there were plenty of ways to really enjoy MOUL.

    2. Dr CrisGer made the correction already, but I will second that most ages are available for you to choose at any time to play 1) privately, 2) with a group, or 3) in public ages. Not all ages were available in all modes, but for the most part an appropriate instance mode was available where it made sense. But there were times instancing did not always make sense or work intuitively. It needed some work.

    3. Dr CrisGer says, “Cyan is planning to restore access through servers and content that they administer.” What he does not say, because he does not wish it, is that Cyan’s plans – unless they change their statements – for open source retain control only over their own content. He wants Cyan to have complete control. He is in the minority here, but an official Cyan server would probably be the most popular. Anyway, nothing is fact until Cyan makes it happen, so you can take what I say or what Dr CrisGer says with a grain of salt about what’s going to happen with open source.

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