This seems to be the week for nostalgia and retro! Yesterday had me reminiscing about one of my formative tabletop games. Today, a true landmark video game collection is being put together for Kickstarter. The original developers Cyan has worked for years to bring the entire Myst collection together for a 25th-anniversary edition.
It’s hard to explain to people of today just how technically amazing Myst was. At the time, I just wondered at its beauty and enjoyed its complexity. Today I can look back with older eyes and see just what a journey Myst made.
Heads up – if you don’t want a history lesson, check out the Kickstarter here!
Today in this web-connected world, having a hotspot or clickable area on an image is just how things work. But back in the late 80’s, this kind of tech was still in its infancy and worked on local computers only. One of the pioneering applications for getting images and text to work together like this was Hypercard on the Macintosh.
Information was held in card stacks, with each card holding dedicated information. On these cards, users could enter data, images and clickable prompts. Developers could then trigger scripts or actions depending on what the user clicked on or entered.
HyperCard in a lot of ways became the template for how the modern internet should work – just switch cards for HTML pages. It also became one of the first non-developer graphical languages thanks to it’s ease of use and massive support base.
Two brothers, Rand and Robyn Miller, used the easy to learn (well, for the time) system and started Cyan Inc, developing kids adventure games. Their first game, The Manhole, would probably be laughed at by modern gamers. Many people today look at ‘basic’ flash games on the web, and The Manhole is very comparable to this style of game.
There is one huge difference though. The Manhole, and indeed almost all games based on HyperCard style languages, was written and done more than a decade before Flash was around. A lot of HyperCard concepts can actually be seen in Flash, including the scripting languages and trigger events. It’s this ‘done before it was done’ aspect that makes games like this great to look back on.
Jump forward a couple of years, and advancements in HyperCard allowed Cyan to make improvements in their game. One of the biggest improvements was the addition to add animations to be run over static backgrounds, giving the games a massive bump in appearance. The worlds began to move, and you could see where something scuttled off to or a door opening slightly.
While still black and white graphics, the popularity of these games began to grow exponentially. Being able to ‘move’ in a virtual world and interact with it, compared to text-based adventures such as Zork, were catching on with a wider audience. There were mixes such as the Kings Quest games from Sierra, but while you could move a character on the screen, commands were still entered via keyboard.
Then in the early 90’s, Full Motion Video (FMV) games started to gain popularity. The Command and Conquer series used FMV to progress story elements. The 7th Guest took this one step further and allowed you to solve an adventure with FMV actors.
Then this came on TV.
Yes, the creators of The Manhole had upgraded their style – just a little bit.
This was a game fully in a virtual world, that you could explore freely from the first person perspective. Non-linear routes and out of the box thinking puzzles made Myst a major talking point for years. It’s popularity along with The 7th Guest fuelled CR-ROM adoption on modern PCs.
Yes, that’s right – CR-ROM was at one point like VR today, with people trying to push the tech and justify the investment. Myst helped a lot with that decision.
Myst’s sequel, Riven, was bigger in every respect. Better images, more involved puzzles, and an even greater talking point among fans.
The world of Riven was huge, and it was one of the first games I really lost myself in.
There were three more sequels, but due to a variety of reasons, I never played any more of the Myst series.
Well, until a few months from now. Cyan has managed to pull back all of the licensing and are now running a Kickstarter to enable everyone to experience the entire Myst series.
And not just the original games – the revamped graphically improved versions at that 🙂
There is another catch for me though.
If you back at the physical media tier (The Bookmaker, about AU$130 + shipping), you can get the DVDs in a specially made book that holds all of the disks. While a nice touch, I do agree this tier isn’t for everyone, and it is much cheaper to go the digital-only versions of all the games, but it is great for collectors and fans.
Except they went one better.
A major part of the game is the Myst Linking Books. These books show information, views, act as portals – they are almost the game in some ways.
And at the Maintainer tier, the Myst Book Box is upgraded to include an LCD screen showing various video from the game, with possible other goodies as well as teased by the project.
Now, I know the book is essentially the same with a window on it, but hey I am a fan and this is something that will make me smile for a long, long time 😀
This project is both a great example of a labour of love and fan service, and I am loving that it exists.
If you love games like The Witness and The Room series, see where they all started. You will thank me later.
Until next time,
Oh, just as a final note – this game isn’t in the Myst series proper, but shows just how popular Myst was.
A total parody, the game Pyst came out in 1996 and shows the effect on the island of Myst after millions of people had walked around messing with everything.
It was totally tongue in cheek, and was also a lot of fun to play 🙂