realMyst, thirteen years on

General discussion about realMyst.

realMyst, thirteen years on

Postby Eat_My_Shortz » Wed Jan 08, 2014 4:26 am

It's hard to believe that realMyst is over thirteen years old -- that's almost twice as old as Myst was when realMyst came out! I think back to the first time I played it -- the Stoneship demo. Such a phenomenal improvement over the original. Such a fantastic way to re-explore the worlds of Myst, every little piece of it familiar but more alive, with little things swinging in the wind, creatures roaming around (birds, bats, sealife), the new Atrus dialogue, the day/night cycles, not to mention the new Age. Quite an amazing experience given that it was, really, a tech demo for Uru.

I'm replaying it right now. Sitting in Selenitic watching the clouds go by and fade from blue, to red, to black, to white. I want to thank Cyan so much for building this.

It's interesting how it still feels modern to me, but at the same time, it's really quite dated. Get too close to an object and you'll see the polygons, as well as the pixels of the texture. The trees on Myst Island are only actual trees when you're about a meter in front of them; when you're further away they are just a "cardboard cutout" and you can see them noticeably pop between the two. Worse, the view distance is appalling! Especially on Myst Island. Try facing the library and walking backwards towards the beach. The tower, then the library, simply fade to white, then transparent, then disappear entirely! (Funny that I never noticed this back in the day -- it felt so real.) (This effect is hardly noticeable in smaller Ages like Stoneship, or even on huge ages like Channelwood, for some reason.)

Edit: Also, I just noticed that realMyst doesn't support widescreen -- you can set it to 1920x1080, but it just stretches everything horizontally. :(

So I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for realMyst Masterpiece Edition. I can't wait to explore every nook and cranny of the Ages of Myst again, and discover any new secrets. I can't imagine it will be anywhere near the level of improvement as realMyst itself was, but it will be a welcome revision nonetheless.

(Note: I'm talking about the PC version here. I don't have an iPad, but I gather the iPad version doesn't have many of these limitations.)
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Re: realMyst, thirteen years on

Postby matthornb » Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:41 pm

This thread underscores the reasons why RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition is a good idea.

RealMyst looked fantastic in the year 2000, but a lot of time has passed since then and it is showing its age.
Seeing RealMyst redone with more detailed models and textures, nice modern shaders and effects, etc, is very cool.

RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition, and the Starry Expanse Project (aka RealRiven) are both being developed in Unity, as far as we know, and Obduction in UDK...

Nalates, in one controversial thread, has raised the idea of porting Uru to the Unreal Engine - and while there were a number of serious criticisms raised, I can't help but wonder whether a revised Uru in Unity might be a viable alternative. The concerns about what it would take (in time, in money, etc) to do this are valid, but I get the weird feeling that if Cyan Worlds can port RealMyst (a Plasma-engine game) efficiently into Unity Pro, then maybe porting Uru in its entirety, is not out of the question.

Imagine that instead of a Cyan Worlds Kickstarter to make simply an 'expansion' or second season to MOULa, we focused on a bigger goal - taking all of Uru, touching up all the existing ages a bit visually, and porting it all, reassembling it all, in Unity Pro, making it all available on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android, as well as whatever newer consoles are supported by Unity - with a batch of new ages added on top of that?

The challenges in actually doing this would be immense but still, it's an intriguing thought. It might breathe new life into a game that is perceived as a failure. It may be crazy but... RealMyst was a flop on its initial release in 2000. It is now a profitable project (on iPad, and hopefully soon also on Mac/PC) a decade later. Could the same thing ever happen to Uru?

I hope so, but it's a long shot.
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Re: realMyst, thirteen years on

Postby Eat_My_Shortz » Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:59 pm

Sadly, I'd say this is highly unlikely.

Firstly, it's a much, MUCH larger scale project than realMyst. Not only does Uru have about 16 full-size Ages (and several smaller areas) compared to Myst's 6, but it also has the multiplayer component which drastically complicates the project. Now you have to deal with running servers (and paying staff to maintain them), and the game design requires avatars, clothing, instancing rules, building a working Ki interface, and many unforeseen details (like dealing with privacy and harassment issues). Also, if you were to truly continue the vision of Uru (and not just leave it static as MOULa is now), you would need to be constantly writing stories and acting them out in the cavern, as well as paying a team full-time to be working on new content and Ages indefinitely.

Secondly, it doesn't have anywhere near the brand recognition. Most gamers have heard of Myst (even if they haven't played it), so making a modern version of Myst is a good bet: a lot of people who never played Myst are going to decide it's finally time to try it. However, most people have never heard of Uru, so a modern version of Uru is likely to be passed over.

Sorry, it would be nice, I agree, but I'm content that we still have MOULa (and realMyst ME, and Obduction).
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Re: realMyst, thirteen years on

Postby matthornb » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:26 pm

I actually agree that it is highly unlikely.

That's why I called it 'a long shot'.

Yes, it's a much larger project than RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition. I'd say 4 or 5 times as big, just porting and touching up the already-existing ages. Add multiplayer functionality on top of that and it's even bigger. But while it is certainly very unlikely, it's not entirely impossible. If I had a say in how to tackle it, this is how I might go about trying to make it happen:

Why? Good question. Look at how well the Obduction Kickstarter did - and the fact that if it gets to $1.7 million by the end of February 2014 (it still might, actually, but likely won't at this point) it is set to actually have a multiplayer play mode (albeit more limited than Uru's) called 'Roadtrip Mode', and five worlds (four plus a hub) made from scratch, which would make it about as big as RealMyst. Now, I don't know how much the cost difference is in practice, between making 5 worlds completely from scratch and porting about 20 that already exist to a new engine, with a few minor assorted visual improvements. I'd guess though, and it's a very rough guess, that a straight-up port of Uru as-is to Unity might cost around $3 or $4 million to do. Now as for the name recognition issue, you're right that no publisher will touch Uru again. (No publisher wanted to fund Obduction, either) But the fans are absolutely obsessive in their dedication to all things Myst, and they funded Obduction to the tune of over a million dollars and it wasn't even a 'Myst' title, it was 'Myst-like' and made by Cyan Worlds, heck, we didn't even have any actual in-game footage to look at when we funded the thing, just concept art, descriptions, and an intro cutscene. On Obduction we had relatively little to go on, and it was a new IP so name recognition wasn't just weak, it was effectively non-existent when the Kickstarter began.

Now imagine how thoroughly many of us here would back a relaunch of Uru in a multi-platform format that could actually run on Mac and PC and the next-gen consoles & tablets... we actually *know* what Uru is and love it. There's an Uru server that people can play on for free - MOULa - but seeing Uru have another real chance at life in a solid game engine (as opposed to the largely static condition it is in now) is a dream we pretty much all share, and would buy into in a big way if the idea were put out there by Cyan Worlds in Kickstarter form.

But what about new content? We could barely pull off a $1.3 million Kickstarter, and one that's ABOVE $4 million seems impossible to reach. Yet, presumably, it would have to be above $4 million, perhaps $7 million even, if the plan, the initial launch, called for a year's worth of new worlds. Which is why I'm convinced that the only way to bring down the costs is to trim back the single biggest cost factor in the games industry - salary. My idea is really really straightforward. The in-house staff for developing new worlds would consist of about ten Cyan staffers: a sound effects artist, musician (Tim Larkin?), concept artist(Martiniere?), and a couple of core creative puzzle/content/game designers, along with a couple of quality-control people who could process a lot of the 'grunt work' like objects that need to be modelled, etc. That work - writing scripts in Unity, code... and modelling geometry, creating custom texture art, etc, would be broken into a lot of smallish chunks and basically farmed off to a couple dozen different people, the best talent in the fanbase (Guild of Writers) who could volunteer to do the work for nothing or next to nothing during development. The quality control people at Cyan Worlds would have to process the submitted content, verify that it meets the company's standards, and load the usable stuff bit by bit into the in-development ages. In other words: A collaborative approach towards content development might be able to bring production cost down to 40 or 50% what it'd otherwise be, without any particularly noticeable loss of quality.

So... maybe instead of the whole thing costing $7 million, we would be talking $5 million. That's a lot but not entirely impossible to raise with Kickstarter.

But again, even so, it's still highly unlikely.

And yes, I am very glad we have MOULa, and RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition, and Obduction. Absolutely.

Sorry for hijacking the thread... I was just mulling over this idea (porting Uru to Unity) that popped into in my head when I read the first post, and trying to figure out some way in which it might actually be feasible. I think it still isn't there yet though.
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