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.