Myst Online: Uru Lives

Regular readers, of which there are probably one, will remember about a year ago, when I wrote about Myst Online: Uru Live. An MMO centred around the Myst Universe, which failed and was released as a single player game called Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, before being resurrected as an online game by GameTap for about a year before dying again. The online version was a game I never got around to playing, but I wrote about how, as someone who only played the single player version, it didn’t surprise me it never took off and how it was a flawed idea from the beginning.

That post received a record amount of feedback, nearly 30 comments, which is incredible, considering I rarely get any comments that aren’t spam. Of course the feedback was from those who were fans of Myst, including some who were major players in the Myst fan community. So of course they told me why I was wrong, some a little more crusader-like than others. One of them posted a link on the official Myst Online forums, and you know I just realized, he said I called Myst Online a “flop”, in quotes, which I didn’t, you can check, and one of the commenters said I used the word “facts”, in quotes, which I didn’t, you can check, although the leader of the crusade did. I believe that is called a straw man fallacy. He even called my blog “contemporary game review journalism” which is kind of embarrassing, primarily because it’s not…it’s a blog, it’s one asshole’s small-time blog.

Anyway, when people made me aware of the concept of instancing in Myst Online, politely, I retracted a lot of what I said while explaining that it doesn’t make sense in-universe…or in-cavern as they call it.

Of course, just to boast my own ego, I’d like to mention that most of the feedback I got was actually positive. Saying they agreed with most of my points but I missed the point of instancing.

So since then, Cyan got their shit together and brought Myst Online back, under their own servers and free. I would have liked it if they said free to those who already bought the original Uru, but whatever, it would have been difficult to coordinate and this is more open anyways, so it’s all good.

The first few days were apparently insane, with thousands signing up for the game. THOUSANDS! I know we are all excited it’s back, but seriously, I didn’t even know there were a thousand Myst fans who still gave a shit about the franchise, much less paying close enough attention to sign up on opening day.

I know I wasn’t one of them. My interest in Myst, or for that matter, anything, tends to come and go in waves. So, about a month ago, as I was finishing up a piece on the upcoming Portal 2 (on that note, I still don’t have a partner!), I remembered a point I made about one of the inherent problems of co-op puzzle solving in the aforementioned Myst Online piece. So at the time I thought, “eh, wonder if anything’s changed with Myst Online.” Went to the site and found the game was back up…for the past 6 months…so I jumped on. Better late than never.

The interface is what I’ve come to expect from Uru, since ABM’s engine was ported directly from the online offering it was pretty much the same. There were a few changes, for starters the KI now operates as more than just a digital camera. You can use it to record journal entries, message other people, store a buddy list, which is a lot more than the offline version. Then again, all those functions would have been pretty pointless in the offline version.

There’s more, in ABM (the single player version) you start your adventure empty-handed a short jog from the Cleft. In Uru Live you start in Relto, with a Relto book, and in the middle of the Relto is a single pedestal which contains the linking book to the Cleft, where you complete the puzzle the same as ABM, but instead of being rewarded with a Relto book, you are rewarded with a Relto page which adds the four pedestals that were in your Relto from the beginning in Uru Offline.

It seems unnecessarily roundabout. Though I guess the purpose was to give players the option of skipping over the first journey, which is contained in the four pedestals, and heading straight to D’ni or any of the other ages, because there is a lot more content in Myst Online.

Uru Live has six quests, or Journeys, to complete. Each have their own merits and deficits, which I will tackle one at a time. Though if you only want to read about one of them, be my guest.

Index:
The Great Zero
First Journey
Second Journey
Third Journey
Fourth Journey
Fifth Journey
Collectibles
Instancing
Glitches
Future
Conclusion

The Great Zero
This is one of the three that were included in the single player version of Uru, but the online version gets a lot more complicated, and rightly so. As I said last time, calibrating the Great Zero felt pointless in single player. Not so much in multiplayer, but the tedium did not go away. The first step in the process is scouring the cavern for 30 markers, that are invisible unless you are looking for them and close enough. The same as the single player game. Then, your next step is where things differ and get more complex. In the single player game you had to find 4 markers, one at a time. In Myst Online, you have to complete 14 marker missions, all timed and they vary in length from eight to 25 markers.

The problems with timing and length are eased somewhat by the fact that the marker missions all take place in the same area of the cavern, mostly in Ae’gura, are visible from very far away, and are all located in easily accessible areas. They are very easy to complete. Just go across the main areas of Ae’gura, keeping your eyes open for every nook and cranny and balcony. Then checking Bevin, every nook and cranny and balcony. You should find them all pretty quickly. Though I fail to see what the point is. Best guess, it’s to ensure one can access all areas of the Cavern that have been released. More areas of the cavern will eventually be released my Cyan…supposedly. I think. That’s what they’re planning. So one can presume more marker missions will be released in the future.

But my biggest complaint about the marker missions is thus: If the D’ni conducted similar missions during their heyday, before the fall, they would have been unable to complete them, since some of the markers are in places that would have been inaccessible before the ledge near the library fell, and the bridge near the concert hall collapsed—for starters, and it wouldn’t have been safe if you jumped off a cliff without a Relto.

But all that said, it’s a fun ride, and once you’re done you get to use the KI to determine where you are in each age, like a multiversal GPS. Or at least it would be, if it worked outside the cavern. Since it doesn’t, the whole thing doesn’t give a whole lot of benefit. But even if it did, what’s the point? In the single player game it was the only way to access the Great Shaft and finish the To D’ni campaign. But here… I have no idea. I mean it’s nice and all, but what is the practical function? The only thing I can think of is to tell a friend where you want to meet. Or to create custom quests. Which is all well and good, but still feels unsatisfactory.

Journey of the Hand
This is the campaign from the original, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. The journey features five separate missions to touch the seven journey cloths in each of the six ages (one of the missions is spread across two ages). First in the cleft, then in the remaining five ages you receive once completing the cleft mission.

This is what I love about the Myst franchise. Each of the six ages offer a series of mechanical puzzles you have to complete to reach the next cloth. Some more than others. It’s what I didn’t like about Myst V, the lack of mechanical puzzles and a prevalence of find-the-magic-symbol puzzles. True, the whole magic cloth thing isn’t really what one might consider a mechanical puzzle, but the cloths are separated by such, so it’s all good.

Like Myst V it’s a quest that has no real importance. If you fail or walk away, it simply means the status quo remains, not that someone dies. Takes the pressure off a bit.

However one problem with this quest is the fact that it doesn’t need to be online. There were absolutely no multiplayer elements. Which is fine for the most part. But I wish there was at least one puzzle which used a multiplayer element, to give it a reason to be online.

But my biggest complaint involves the game’s core engine. Myst Online comes bundled with a physics engine, which seems to be the cell phone of modern video games, basically not having one makes you a bit of a loser. Which I’m happy with, but what I’m not happy with is how it’s implemented. In both Eder Gira and Teledahn the physics engine is used for a bit of puzzle solving. Which is fine, but the only way to manipulate the physics objects is to kick them around, which would make sense if a Bahro ripped your arms off earlier in the story, but that doesn’t happen. It makes gameplay cumbersome and difficult, and more importantly, it destroys immersion. Especially when the physics engine suddenly decides to stop recognizing your kicks, and you are forced to reload so you can finish the goddamn puzzle.

Some may say giving your avatar the ability to pick shit up will allow you to cheat at puzzles by bringing objects to other ages. Easy fix. Force the avatar to hold objects in their right hand, so they drop the object when they link out using their right hand. Not complicated people.

Run of the Spiral
The first journey I would say is appropriate for multiplayer…mainly because it requires it. But isn’t so much a puzzle, as an exercise in instruction following. Also, it made me realize why Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw hates multiplayer, because the quality of your experience is directly connected to the quality of people you’re experiencing it with.

Anyway, your task is pretty easy to figure out once you start playing around with the door and nearby cloths. It’s basically a combination lock you need multiple people to enter. You start by getting people together by going to Ae’gura, because that’s where most people will be waiting, and asking who wants to go for a Delin or Tsogal run. Ae’gura is like a communal area, just make sure you get there through the Nexus, because otherwise you might find it to be empty. Odds are there will be a few who will want to help out, even if they already completed the quest. Which is nice, and shows that most people in MOUL don’t suck.

I had to complete this particular mission twice, the first time was in Eder Delin, and I have to say, I would have rather stuck my nuts in a vice. Frustrating doesn’t even come close to describing it. First off, we had a lot of people involved, which one might think would make things easier. But the problem was: most people were the sort I would try to avoid in real life.

I led the run by taking my station at the door and getting people to pick a cloth. First, when I asked who had a cloth, some did not respond. There came a moment where I wish the game included a /bitchslap emote, when I tried to direct one person to take a cloth, and they didn’t respond.

I think the first problem is: we had too many people, some of which didn’t even need to do the mission. I was thinking at the time that everyone needed to participate, but with nearly a dozen people, some were left without things to do. The mission works best with eight people, so many were left standing by the door, waiting for it to open, not participating in the slightest. As a libertarian who thinks everyone needs to do their part, that bothered me.

However, those that were participating weren’t paying attention half the time, probably because they thought there were so many people there, they could flake off and no one would notice. Well we did. But one of the most annoying things was one of the participants wanted their mommy to take over my position at the door, because they can’t do things on their own. What is wrong with people? I would have figured most of the participants would be over three years old.

Thankfully one of the cooler people there, AuroraNorth, was kind enough to put an end to that, and helped me out in taking charge. The reason I was in charge was because when we started, the guy who initiated this run asked who was taking the door and I was the only one to volunteer. Then there were only a handful of people. After that, others started calling their friends, that’s when things started to suck.

As North put it, it was like a junior high classroom. However, I like my analogy of a Twilight chat room. Both work.

Later, me and AuroraNorth got to talking and she said she has completed several runs and that was the worst crowd she has ever seen, so it was probably just a fluke. I don’t suggest people think it’s indicative of the entire community. But it does go to show the inherent flaws of multiplayer.

Anyway, eventually we got the door open and I tried contacting a few of the people involved to see if they made it through, and one didn’t. Apparently his connection died just as the door opened. I wanted to help him do the run again but we ended up in Eder Tsogal instead.

We got two other people and had a four person run which ended up being a lot smoother. I mean, we did have to restart a few times because one person misunderstood my directions. But anyway, the ironic thing is, fewer people made the mission run a lot smoother, one would expect the opposite to be true, because with only four we had to each do a bit of running. But more people just means more idiots.

More recently, I was in the cavern late at night and someone requested a Delin run. We got one other person and I had to walk the guy who requested it through everything. It was like directing a small child because I’m not sure he fully understood what he needed to do. Then he suddenly logged off with no explanation. I think Delin might be cursed!

However, all that being said, both ages are well designed and very pretty and worth just spending some time in. As tends to be the case, I wish it were real.

Calculation of the Pods
To paraphrase Comic Book Guy: Cheapest, Puzzle, Ever. The first problem is the ages themselves. There are four, ostensibly, I’d tell you what I mean by that but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. Anyway, each of the ages consist of a pod, which is basically a three-story tall sphere. That’s it. There are five windows in each sphere that allow you to look outside, each with a button that activates a spotlight. As well as four buttons near the main power breaker that activates speakers, playing sounds of native wildlife.

All pretty interesting, the problem: it has nothing to do with the puzzle! You want to know what the puzzle is? Well then…SPOILERS!!!

Okay, at the right time of day, a portal will appear. Enter it. THAT’S THE PUZZLE!!! It’s a motherfucking timing puzzle.

Now of course finding out what time to show up is the hard part. We’ll start by talking about Payiferen.

If you visit it when it’s daytime in the age, you will notice light shining through four holes on one of the windows, and four linking symbols on the ground.

Four pods...four symbols!

When I saw that my first thought was: When a beam of light lands on one of the symbols, it opens the portal in one of the four pods. Which one is up to you to figure out. After all, that makes sense: four pods, four symbols. But no! The only purpose of the holes is to let one figure out how long a day is there, because that is when the portals appear, once a day on this one age. Oh, I forgot to tell you, it’s all one age.

So assuming you understand the concept of time zones, once you figure out how long a day is, and the number of each pod (because each pod has a number), you can use the map in the D’ni museum to figure out the time difference between each of the four pods.

That’s all you get. The rest…well…you better hope you’re lucky.

I was. When I was first exploring the pods, I just happened to be in Dereno when the portal opened. Once you know that, the rest should come easy. But if you don’t happen to be in one of the pods when a portal opens, you’re fucked, because you’re missing a third of the clues needed to solve the puzzle. Not only that, if you never see the portal appear, you have no way of knowing what the puzzle is to begin with. It’s based purely on coincidence and luck. I don’t think a proper puzzle uses random luck.

This seems to be a puzzle that was intended to be played by everyone, so others help out. Everyone works together to figure out the timing of the portals. Which is an interesting way of implementing multiplayer. However, as I’ve said before, it takes away all satisfaction when someone else solves the puzzle for you.

THAT’S THE END OF THE POD PUZZLE SPOILERS! YOU CAN COME BACK NOW!

But that’s not all. The pods themselves also suck. The most you can explore is the three levels in the pod. Though, you can look outside. Hopefully you’ll see some wildlife. Dereno’s got some fish which is nice. But what really sucks is Tetsonot. All you get is the pod, because the windows are covered by…covers. One can assume it’s not supposed to be like this. Before the Fall, the D’ni were probably able to see outside, but I assume since then, something broke the windows and emergency covers were deployed to prevent the pod from flooding. So…how is that interesting in the slightest?

Here’s how I imagine the development team created this one. They finished the first three, then:

Developer A: “OH! We need a fourth age here.”
Developer B: “Dammit! Hmm…alright! Let’s copy-paste the pod from the first three, add some creaking noises and water, cover up the windows so we don’t need to model anything of interest, and knock off for lunch.”
Developer A: “Sweet! Let’s get Fajitas, I’m in the mood for something spy-saaay.”

Half-assed doesn’t even begin to describe it.

You know, I get the feeling some of the fanboys are going to comment and say I’m wrong about this one because my personal opinion differs from theirs, and because they believe Rand Miller was sent to us by the almighty Yahvo and can do no wrong…like last time.

Way of the Wavy Line with Four Circles
This is one I really like, it consists of one age, and so far, it’s the only one I have failed to complete. But that will change once they release a sixth one I’ll never complete.

This Journey consists of the age of Minkata. Now, one can be forgiven for assuming that one age alone would be rather dull…like the last one. But it’s actually five missions of a similar nature, and increasing difficulty. Basically it involves navigating. You need to chart out a specific direction and travel a set distance multiple times according to the instructions in the Minkata Journal.

The landscape is virtually barren, and you’re only indication of direction is the three shadows your avatar projects on the ground. Which is an interesting challenge. But it raises the question: why wouldn’t someone exploring the depths of an ancient civilization bring a compass? Maybe a length of rope, and a flashlight? It would have come in handy while I was exploring Eder Gira. Hell, Gordon Freeman had a flashlight, and he was only planning on operating an anti-mass spectrometer. I have no idea what function a flashlight would have served him.

Anyway, that part is relatively easy. What’s not easy is determining distance. The only method you have to determine how far you’ve travelled is time. You can also calculate how many steps your avatar has taken, but it’s a little more cumbersome. Since your avatar travels at a fixed speed, it means you can simply time how long you run and you have a rough idea of how far it is. Which I assume works…if you live next door to Cyan’s headquarters.

Unfortunately, this is where I explain why I haven’t completed this puzzle yet. You see, there are two problems. One, I don’t exactly have state of the art hardware. I was originally running Myst Online on a laptop with a broken cooling system, which basically meant when things got hot the machine would throttle itself down so it doesn’t melt. That machine has since broke, and now I’m running it on a netbook. But my humble 1.66GHz Atom processor is more than enough for Myst Online, which apparently requires a mere 800 MHz to run. The second problem is I live near the east coast of North America. Which is quite far from Cyan’s west coast headquarters.

Take both into consideration and you have a major problem, lag. The more lag you experience, the further off your distance calculation in Minkata is likely to be. I experience a lot of lag. Which makes it almost impossible to navigate Minkata.

If my avatar had a personal odometer it might make things easier. But it doesn’t.

There is a workaround though. It involves geometry, trigonometry and vectors. I knew those grade 12 University level math courses would come in handy one day. It might be my only hope of finishing that age. But so far even that’s not working.

Anyway, my point is, I like it, I like the concept, but it pisses me off.

Path of the Shell
This is the same mission that was released as an expansion pack for Uru offline. It’s pretty much the same, what with the two ages, Er’cana and Ahnonay being identical to their offline counterparts. Except for a few major differences.

For starters, Ahnonay has been altered to require a multiplayer touch. Which I kind of like. But we go back to one of the inherent flaws of multiplayer puzzles. I remember helping one guy in his instance of Ahnonay, and by help, I mean I had to walk him through every step. As if he couldn’t figure it out himself.

There’s not much to comment on here. We get the opportunity to put the Er’cana machinery to good use, to help restore the luminescent algae in the D’ni cavern. Apparently, there was once a machine to measure the progress the community made in feeding it.

It was also known as Laxman's Dalek

But it was removed because it was “broken”. I’m reminded of the Great Zero Calibration Image (which I only read about) that was designed to show the progress of the Great Zero Calibration project, but showed no change between when it was first put up, and when it was announced the project was completed.

It never fucking changed!

This shows me the “DRC” sucks at showing progress. Something with their engine won’t allow it. They need to fix that.

Anyway, there is one problem with the Pellet project, it’s tedious beyond belief. I understand that grind is one of the reasons people play MMOs, but generally they tend to get a reward for all their grind, and secondly, I for one don’t play most MMOs.

The major changes between the single player and multiplayer versions of the ages include the elimination of numbers and patterns scattered throughout the ages, which in the single player version was used to solve the final puzzle, which also changed significantly. In single player Uru you had to solve a deceptively simple puzzle in the main hub area, the Watcher’s Sanctuary by looking up words in a book of prophecies using the aforementioned scattered numbers as clues. The numbers are gone, the puzzle is gone, but for some odd reason, the book of prophecies stays. I’m not sure why because from what I can tell they really don’t serve a purpose.

In Uru Live there are two puzzles to solve, one to get the Bahro Wedges like all the other Journeys, which basically involves collecting cloths like the first journey, and the other to access K’veer and Myst, and what bugs me is the second part isn’t obvious. I would have liked it if they had a third wedge hidden on Myst, but here’s the problem, there is literally nothing on Myst except for a few trinkets that few give a shit about. Plus, all you can access is the library, which is identical to Uru offline, but still, it feels kind of anticlimactic once you get there. Not only that, you can no longer enter codes into the fireplace, and it’s not entirely clear why.

Though what is nice is K’veer. The version in single player Uru is simply the room that once served as Atrus’ prison, nothing more. In Uru Live, the K’veer used is literally a copy-paste of the K’veer from Myst V. I’ve had a lot of bad things to say about Myst V, but I did like the fact that both the island of K’veer and the Great Shaft were a lot more interesting, a lot bigger and a lot more explorable. Some may call it lazy, but in this case, I say it’s excusable, and in fact, commended. Now they need to do the same thing to the Great Shaft.

Sparklies and other collectibles
Uru Live, like Uru Dead, has several things throughout the game you can collect. Relto Pages, Bahro Stones, clothing items, and Sparklies.

The Relto Pages allow you to customize your Relto personal age. Which is a nice touch. Since it’s sort of intended to be your base of operations, it should actually look like it belongs to you, unique. Of course there are a few problems. For one, most will probably just turn every page on, which instead just makes it a collection game, not an opportunity to customize. I disabled a few, because I found them annoying. Though I wonder if and when they will give us a page that makes it night in Relto, like Phil’s Relto.

I like the nightlife. I love to boh-hay.

Though what they have offered us is pretty cool. Er’cana plants, Butterflies, a TV screen, grass.

It's beautiful!

I made a good use out of this feature, I think, only adding what I like. I don’t know if others did. I can’t know, because I’ve only been to a few other Reltos.

Next is the Bahro Stones. The stones scattered throughout the ages that link to specific parts of other ages or in the same age. The only real difference between a Bahro Stone and a linking book is, the stones add the link-in point to your Relto bookshelf, which adds an element of collection to it. Which is nice, but I have a few problems. One is the fact that some stones aren’t available all the time because the Bahro like to fuck with you. I spent days waiting for the Bahro Stone that would link me to the Great Shaft to appear before deciding to look for it in a different instance. Which is a bitching expedition I will get into later. It worked, but I really don’t see the point of hiding it to begin with. Is it simply to piss us off? So we keep coming back to D’ni? What?

Then there are those that have no point whatsoever! There are some that lead us to dead ends in D’ni and some of the ages. Which is fine if there is something there. Two of the stones lead to isolated locations in Teledahn, one has a Relto Page lying around, which is fine, another has absolutely nothing, which is pointless. Also, can someone tell me why one would want to link to the top of Kadish’s Pyramid? It’s not exactly a great view.

What am I looking at?

Who knows maybe there’s a secret multiplayer puzzle involving this stone… Holy shit. I need some help with this.

Anyway, some of the stones lead to dead ends in the age of D’ni, but that’s fine by me for two reasons. In the original release of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, you weren’t able to access D’ni, and the dead ends sort of gave you a glimpse of cavern, no matter how limited. It was a kind of teaser for the online version. In Uru Live, there are Great Zero markers in these isolated areas, so it adds a bit more complexity to those little scavenger hunts.

Next are the Sparklies. These are little things you can only collect once you have a special Relto Page. When I first noticed them I thought they looked like one of those sparklie energy beings from that one episode of Stargate. There are 12 scattered throughout the ages. Actually 11, but there are supposed to be 12. One for each month. They were originally released for one month at a time, each month. I guess to give people a reason to pay for their subscription every month when it was a paid service. But now they are all available at once. Except for the one in Minkata…or so I hear. I can’t confirm this because, as I’ve said, I haven’t actually completed that age.

Each one adds a blue flame to an island in your Relto , and once you collect them all, supposedly the island gives off fireworks. I just don’t understand why all but one are available.

The only other thing to collect in Uru Live are friends. Get to it.

Instancing
Instancing is the concept that allows Myst Online: Uru Live to be not shit. As I’ve said before, having a puzzle solved for you takes away all satisfaction, and if it wasn’t for instancing, that would be exactly what Uru Live would offer.

Instancing basically means each age is copied for each explorer that exists. Every change you make to an age, you make to your instance alone.

There are three levels of instancing. The public instance, which basically means no instancing; The hood instance, which you share with the other members of your neighbourhood; and the private instance, which is yours and yours alone.

For the most part instancing is simple. Most ages only have private instances, and when you’re in one it’s pretty easy to identify who it belongs to. Open your KI and it will say whose instance and what age you are in. Pretty simple. It gets more complicated when you talk about your hood instances.

You see, some ages, like Eders Delin and Tsogal, are only available in hood instances, which is fine, but the problem is, once you are in the age, there is no way of telling which instance you are in. However, all you have to do is remember what neighbourhood you got there from and you’re fine. So it’s no big deal. What is a big deal is how the D’ni cavern is instanced. Under some circumstances you can access the public instance of D’ni, but sometimes you access your hood instance…Why? Fucked if I know. There apparently is a purpose to the hood instances of D’ni, but the only one I can think of, is to kill any sense of activity in the cavern. So I looked it up and the reason seems to be to give a break to the servers, which apparently can’t handle too many people in any one age or instance. I like my reason better.

But the major problem is, it’s difficult to determine which instance you are in exactly, because there is no indication, except the hood instance you’ll find to be vacant. But other areas, like K’veer, you might expect to be vacant by coincidence, even if you are in the public instance. But I’m pretty sure there is no public instance of K’veer. Because I once accessed it through the Nexus, which is supposed to lead you to the public instance. Then I decided to look through my buddy list and noticed one of them was in K’veer…no she wasn’t. I was the only one there, unless it was a different instance, but how the fuck am I supposed to know what instance I’m in!? All I’m saying is there needs to be some way of knowing without having to read up on the complex rules of instancing, some of which might be bugs. Especially considering some of those bugs might be fixed soon enough, you don’t know.

Next is sharing, which allows someone to access someone else’s instance of an age. Great idea! The problem I have is the fact that you can’t share the Cleft…Why? Because Yeesha said so? Why do I have to listen to what that crazy arrogant bint says? In case you didn’t know, I hate Yeesha. It’s why I wear the DRC vest all the time.

Some may ask why I would want to visit the Cleft with other people anyways. It’s not like there’s any multiplayer puzzles in the Cleft. There’s also no multiplayer puzzles in any of the first five ages, and you can share those ages. Why not share the Cleft? You can share everything else! Of course the Nexus is unsharable, but that makes sense, it’s merely a way-point anyways, and it’s not like there’s any difference between instances of the Nexus.

I know I’m nitpicking, but that’s kind of what I do, so get over it.

Glitches
As I mentioned earlier, some of the rules for instancing might be bugs, much like a lot of things.

As is the case with most programs, a few bugs is a lot. The game is by no means bug-ridden. But I, in my limited explorations of the cavern, have encountered a few bugs.

First is in the main area of Ae’gura, though this probably happens in a few places. I noticed there were many people listed in the cavern on my KI…but I couldn’t see any of them. I remember I was asking for help in a puzzle and someone offered and when I ran back and forth looking for them and they said they were right next to me, I realized something was wrong. Linking out and linking back in fixed the problem, but I’m not sure why it happened in the first place.

Then there was a more recent issue, when one person asked for help with the Er’cana pellet puzzle. I volunteered quickly, but when he tried to get me to link to his Relto, his avatar froze in the offer-book position. Waiting for me to link. But my avatar wasn’t doing anything. It was still under my full control, so no linking happened. So he had to restart his client. Good old Alt-F4. Then we tried again once he logged back in and when I tried linking…we both froze. It was an odd moment. My avatar touched his book (not a euphemism) but did not link away. So we both had to restart.

It was annoying to say the least, and any glitch in a game has a tendency to pull you out of the game and shatter immersion. Try explaining what is happening when a game glitches out using in-universe terminology. You can’t.

Then there are the graphical glitches. I’ve only encountered them a few times. Like in Minkata where the light blue sky turns brown at certain and very specific angles. The interior of the library sometimes won’t render when in third person view.

A cloud of nothing.

Then there was that time I tried taking a picture of a stone tablet with my KI, and the stone tablet didn’t appear. Well it did appear partially.

What the fuck is this!?

Then there was a more recent problem I encountered, when one of my buddies, in fact the guy who’s avatar kept freezing, messaged me. His name is Andrew Garrison, and for some reason it said he was messaging me from Andrew Gahreesen’s Relto.

Yeah, that's his age, there is no Andrew Gahreesen.

Gahreesen is one of the game’s ages, and apparently, due to a weird event a while back Gahreesen was referred to as Garrison. So it probably has something to do with that.

Garrison told me Uru is the glitchiest MMO he’s ever played, and he’s played quite a few MMOs in his life, like Eve and WoW, so that’s saying something.

However, considering it’s a free game right now, and Cyan obviously don’t have much in the way of resources to maintain it in any significant capacity, they can be forgiven for a few glitches here and there. But it still pisses me off. I think they need to start a Bugzilla for Myst Online.

The Future
Now in order for Uru Live to have any longevity, we need more. I myself have reached a point where there isn’t much to do in the cavern, and that will continue to be the case until more content is released.

Now, this is a topic I’ve covered before, and since then, some of the Myst franchise has been released on Steam, which was one of my suggestions.

I DID IT!

See! I got them to do that! I have influence! Who knew?

Anyway, that post basically revolved around the question of how they can make money to support Uru Live. Let’s assume they’ve done that. What should they do with that money?

Development of Uru Live is currently at a standstill, and the cavern needs more content. Part of that could come from the fans. But something needs to come from Cyan, specifically bug fixes, engine upgrades (which Uru is in desperate need of), and content.

Engine upgrades could include some graphical enhancements, a way of adding friends even if you only know their username, and fixing that whole instancing problem. The bug fixes are obvious so there’s no point in getting into that, but I want to focus on the content.

During its heyday, a lot of ages were released for the game. Which is the first problem. I honestly could not care less about any of the ages. What Cyan needs to focus on is releasing more areas of the D’ni cavern, like the City Proper, the Great Shaft and areas of Ae’gura that haven’t been released yet, like the Guild Hall and the Concert Hall. Maybe more of the Library and whatever is behind the Museum. Possibly open up more areas of the various neighbourhoods, that would definitely be interesting, perhaps some social stuff like a special games room could be added.

The reason I suggest they focus on the cavern is simple: We can see it. We know it’s there, and we can’t touch it. Ever play a game where you get to a point where you can see your goal, it’s in your sights, but behind bullet-proof glass or something and you have to go through another 20 hours of gameplay to get there? Frustrating isn’t it? Well that’s exactly what this feels like. We know it’s there, you can’t hide it from us, just let us in! It may be fine in most games, but that’s because you can do something about it. This we can’t, so we’re frustrated and helpless.

But what sucks the worst is when we know most of the work is done for them. I’m of course talking about the Great Shaft. We already saw most of the Great Shaft in Myst V. Why can’t we see it as part of the rest of the cavern? Here’s an idea, integrate it into the Cleft. Open a gap in the fence to let us climb up the mountain, into the Caldera, so we can make the Decent.

I know most people will mention the support beams that were in Myst V but not Uru, and since Uru is taken as canon over the Myst games, there are no support beams, so they will need to remove them.

So, to those people I respond by saying: Do you think the Shaft should collapse? The D’ni were brilliant engineers, you’d think they would have included the support beams so the entire three-mile long vertical shaft wouldn’t cave in, especially with all the seismic activity in the area. It’s basic engineering people. Besides, it wouldn’t be the series’ first retcon.

So Cyan, focus on the cavern, not the ages. The ages are fine, the ages are nice, but I’m probably not alone in wanting to see more of the cavern first. The fans can handle the ages…assuming we do it right. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do any ages, but I just think the cavern is more important. Hell, you can even put a new journey in the cavern, that would be cool and different. Also, the Decent, you could make that count as a journey, give us a wedge once we complete it.

Conclusion
Now of course, all that being said, Myst Online is not a bad game, and is worth spending some time in if only for the atmosphere. But the forced multiplayer, the phoned in and frustrating puzzles, the numerous glitches, and the lack of new content are worth doing something about. Get to work Cyan!

NB: I know this post is long, 7,000 words, but there was a lot to talk about, and that’s why I threw that index in at the top.

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3 responses to “Myst Online: Uru Lives

    • I’ve dealt with this before. Most fan content, and this applies to all games, not just Myst, is terrible. Not only that, I worry about how it will relate to canon. Specifically regarding the cavern itself. Not only that, I don’t think Cyan will authorize content that is stuff they already released with things added on. Like additions to Bevin and the Ae’gura Guild Hall and Concert Hall.

  1. People often tend to cover Uru flaws with the cloak of charity, because of the potential there was, but you’re right about a lot of things that don’t make sense in Uru. But, unless Cyan will fully open-source Uru, it’s unlikely anything will change.

    About the Bahro stone to the pyramid in Kadish: when someone uses the button inside the pyramid, you can see the big ball on the roof turn around from up close. It’s just a little bonus, like in Teledahn, you can actually see the water being drained, if you let someone else do it for you, while you yourself keep an eye on the water.

    K’veer is multiplayer by the way, when accessed through the Nexus. It was a lot of fun to see the crowds in K’veer when it had just been released.

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