Myst

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 18 December 1997. Last updated on 15 February 2014.
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Myst
This hand drawing is an early design sketch of the gear puzzle on the Myst island.
Myst
The Dock is where the legend of Myst begins and ends.
Myst
The lavish graphics give a surrealistic feel in Myst.
Myst
The sight in the Stoneship Age is simply awe aspiring!
Myst
Eerie decorative arts add to the mystic atmosphere of Myst.

Myst: Masterpiece Edition

Published by Ubisoft, Myst: Masterpiece Edition is the 2000 remake of the original version of Myst, featuring 24-bit true color (rather than 8-bit color) graphics and remastered soundtrack and sound effects.

The infamous quote "A great injustice has been done... and I, Atrus, have paid the price." is the phrase that has heralded the beginning of a new era in graphic adventure games. Myst is undoubtedly among the most controversial titles in the history of computer games. Many have hailed it as the ultimate interactive experience, while others have faulted it as just a fancy slideshow. Yet, Myst has become the best-selling adventure game of all time. Indeed, it can be considered that Myst hails the second coming in graphic adventure games. Just exactly what the fuzz is still remains murky in many critics' minds today.

You have stumbled across an old battered book. You pick it up and touch it. Suddenly, you find yourself transported to the beautiful islands of Myst. Myst is one but many alternate realms constructed by an ancient civilization named the D'ni. When Atrus discovers Myst, he notices that something has gone terribly wrong. His creations are being destroyed by someone else's greed. Furthermore, both of Atrus' two sons, Sirrus and Achenar, have been captured and imprisoned inside two magical linking books. With no further clues to help you on your quest, you decide to go on a search for the missing pages of these linking books. By recovering these pages, you hope to help free Atrus' two sons. Yet, when you discover a note from Atrus stating that he now suspects one of his sons to be the root of his betrayal, you are again completely puzzled as to the true nature of your quest in Myst. Not knowing which one to trust, who should you save? Both of them? None of them? Pieces of this mystery are slowly revealed to you as you wander around this mysterious world and decipher the many mechanical contraptions left behind by the former inhabitants of Myst and the four Ages. In the end, your final salvation will only come if you make the correct choice—a choice that will finally unlock the ancient betrayal of ages past.

Myst is Cyan Productions' first goal oriented game and its first game aimed primarily at an older audience. It is also the developer's largest project to date. Myst is the result of 2 years of creative collaboration by the development team. The company was formed 6 years ago when brothers Rand and Robyn Miller began working together developing children's software for the Macintosh. Its previous releases include the Manhole, Cosmic Osmo, and Spelunx and the Caves of Mr. Seudo. These products were recognized not only for the quality of their sound and graphics, but also for the richness of their non-threatening exploratory environments.

All the images in Myst are beautifully pre-rendered in 640x480x256 SVGA resolution. Rather than using Full Motion Video clips for transitional effects, the immersing experience is provided by a series of static images linked in a slideshow fashion. Over 2,500 photorealistic images have been rendered for this purpose. Each is painstakingly built by texture mapping onto a wire frame model. Movement around this lavish world of Myst is controlled by a single cursor in a nodal system. At each node, the player may have the choice to go forward, backward, or turn left, right or 180° around. The over one hour of QuickTime videos and animations are limited to aerial flybys of the islands of Myst and non-interactive monologues by Atrus and his sons. The sounds of the game are professional recorded by graphic artists and sound engineers. Not only have they added to the eerie atmosphere of Myst, they are also integral to certain puzzles in the game. In the original design of Myst, no music is planned. However, in the final release, several background tunes have been composed by Robyn Miller. In addition to their roles as designers of the game, Rand Miller also plays the role of Atrus and Achenar while Robyn Miller plays the role of Sirrus.

According to Cyan Productions, numerous programming tools are used in the creation of Myst. These can be divided as "Graphics and Construction" tools, "Music and Sound" tools, and additional miscellaneous tools. The Graphics and Construction tools include HyperCard (Apple), Think Pascal (Symantec), Photoshop (Adobe), Premier (Adobe), Illustrator (Adobe), Painter (Fractal Design), Morph (Gryphon Software). The Music and Sound tools include MasterTracks Pro 5 (Passport), Proteus MPS Plus (E-Max), Pro Tools Audio Interface (Digidesign), Sound Designer II (Digidesign), SoundEdit Pro (MacroMedia). Additional tools include Infini-D (Specular International), De-Babelizer (Equilibrium Technologies), MovieShop (Apple), ComboWalker (Apple), Picture Compressor (Apple), ConvertToMovie (Apple), MoviePlayer (Apple), SoundToMovie (Apple), QuickTime XCMDs (Apple), Fontographer (Altsys), Tilod PICS Import/Export filters (John Knoll). Images and animations are modeled and rendered on six Macintosh Quadras using StrataVision 3d by Strata, Inc. HyperCard is colorized using a proprietary version of Symplex System's HyperTint, written by John Miller.

Gameplay in Myst is divided into 2 parts. The first part involves solving various puzzles scattered around the various islands and Ages of Myst. There are 4 Ages—the Selenitic Age, the Stoneship Age, the Mechanical Age, and the Channelwood Age. Each Age is accessible only by a linking book found on the Myst Island. Each Age bears a distinct theme in both its appearance and its puzzles. The Selenitic Age is a barren wasteland left behind after a great meteor shower that spewed fire and scorched the land. The Stoneship Age is a sunken island with an abandoned ship that has broken into two and fused to the land. The Mechanical Age is a vast fortress built on a group of rocks that protects the surrounding island masses. The Channelwood Age is a water covered land that bears a sophisticated network of walkways linking the houses of the local tree dwellers who have survived the big flood. Majority of the puzzles in Myst are environmentally rooted. There is no inventory screen. Most deal with activating various switches, such as levers and the marker switches, that operate various mechanical contraptions on the islands. Success in solving these puzzles will allow the player to complete the second part of the gameplay—a treasure hunt for the missing pages of the linking books that have imprisoned Sirrus and Achenar. There are 2 books: a Red Book and a Blue Book. Sirrus has been imprisoned inside the Red Book, while Achenar has been imprisoned inside the Blue Book. Both will plead to the player to help them escape from these books. The only way to free Atrus' two sons is by returning the missing pages to the correct book. The final puzzle resides in the library back on the island of Myst.

At the time of Myst's release in 1993, there is simply no adventure title that can match the caliber of its graphics. All the scenes are painstakingly modeled and texture mapped in extraordinarily details. Even the smallest objects, such as the knobs on a cabinet, are artistically rendered. The lifelike, photorealistic look of the entire Myst complex is simply breathtaking! Yet, to say Myst is just a pretty slideshow is an insult to its designers. All the puzzles in Myst are well integrated into the game, albeit some of them are a bit esoteric. Several puzzles, such as the Antenna puzzle in the Selenitic Age and the Power System puzzle in the Channelwood Age, deserve special praises. The sense of accomplishment attained when one completes these tough puzzles is addicting. The sounds and music are also well done. They are professionally recorded, digitized and carefully chosen not to be intrusive. The realistic howling of the high winds and the rippling sound of the water add much to the tranquil atmosphere of Myst. One can easily spend hours leisurely strolling around the islands without any purpose other than to enjoy the scenery. There is no death traps, no time limits to distract the player.

For years, many professional game critics have been baffled as to the reasons for the immense popularity of Myst. Some cite Myst to be an immersing experience that draws the player in and does not let go. Others cite its clever puzzles to be the key to its success. Debates to the merits of Myst are numerous and heated. Needless to say, Myst has changed the way players view graphic adventure games and the way designers make graphic adventure games. Its lavish graphics set a new standard to which all other graphic adventure games are now compared. It is hard pressed not to hear the coined phrase "Myst-like" used to describe yet another Myst imitator!

A few faults have been frequently cited for Myst. There is a lack of interactivity with the environment. The tranquility of Myst translates to an experience too solitary for many gamers. While the static imageries are all beautifully rendered, the animated visuals are very grainy and in postage stamp sizes. Some of the puzzles are bit farfetched. The ending is completely anticlimactic, serving no more than a lead for a sequel. Atrus simply congratulates on the player's hard-earned success with a brief monologue, and then leaves the player alone. While such sightseeing is a joy in a beautifully done game like Myst, one can only take so much eye candy without craving for a bit of action. Lastly, Myst has set a dangerous trend in adventure gaming. Many adventure game designers have taken the license to make "Myst-like" games that sport superior surrealistic graphics but in great expense of gameplay. The numerous imitators have led many critics to rebel against this genre of adventure games and dismiss the true merits of Myst.

Myst is a landmark game that hails in a new era in graphic adventure gaming. Its superior graphics and sounds create a surrealistic world that completely immerses the player into an alternate and timeless reality. As the best selling adventure game of all time, Myst has become a legend in its own right in the eyes of numerous Myst imitators to follow.

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