Getting Myst-y eyed at PAX
It has been over 10 years since Cyan, Inc wrapped up the critically acclaimed Myst series with its 2005 release of Myst V: End of Ages. The fandom created in Myst’s wake has spawned books, comics, conventions, and even a tabletop RPG. And while other developers have tried to duplicate the success of Myst over the years, they have ultimately failed to achieve the same grip that Cyan’s adventure title latched into the gaming industry’s history.
Fast-forward to 2016 and it seems that Cyan is ready to write itself into the history books all over again. Back in 2013, Kickstarter allowed the Cyan team to realize its genuine vision for Obduction, the successor to Myst, when many publishers didn’t think there was a place for this type of game in the industry anymore. Working with funding from players rather than being tied to a publisher’s demands or deadlines allowed Cyan to get back to the same roots from which Myst first sprang.
Nate and I spent some time with Rand Miller and the Cyan team at the Indie Megabooth this PAX West. While Nate asked questions of Miller, I dove right into the game itself which was instantly recognizable as a Myst successor. The land around me was that you might expect to find in a rocky desert in central USA, complete with what seemed to be a mining settlement. However, the horizon and surrounding region were much more alien in nature. Floating rock formations hover over a purple backdrop in the distance, separated from the mundane landscape by some sort of force field. It was already enough to spawn countless questions.
Scattered around the ‘normal’ desert were high-tech hologram projectors imparting snippets of info about Hunrath, the settlement I was exploring, as well as what seemed to be lasers. More questions, like why does a low-tech settlement like Hunrath have lasers and holograms? We were told that while the team focused on creating this sense of wonder and inquisition, they also wanted to ensure that players did not lose interest from lack of guidance. One lesson from the Myst series was that many players struggled not just with progression, but with even getting properly started. However, Cyan also wanted to keep in mind that many Myst fans would want to explore freely, without feeling led by the nose. It is a tricky balance to strike, but the team seemed confident that neither new players nor Myst faithfuls will feel left out.
After I had piqued my curiosity with the PC version, I moved over to the Oculus Rift VR demo that Cyan is working on as a free update to the freshly launched Obduction. Miller told us that while VR was always a thing that the team wanted to work with, the Kickstarter and subsequent demand from fans and backers really helped to push the development here.
My first reaction upon starting up the virtual reality demo was that Obduction is an ideal candidate for the sort of experience that VR provides to the player. The sheer presence of Obduction’s environment left me in awe. While movement is still in the works, the team had it set up to travel by mini teleport jumps. The world itself, however, was 3D ready. 360 degrees of alien landscape, larger-than-life machines, and odd little insects fed the curiosity that had started with the PC demo.
Interestingly, the stereo sound design is what made me feel most transported into Obduction. Just by listening to the sound of a machine’s gears turning I could figure out how close I was to it. Walking (er, teleporting) right up to the gear shaft made me feel like I should duck each time it rotated past me. When the VR is ready, it will likely surprise and delight many a player.
Obduction has already launched for PC on Steam, GOG.com, and Humble Bundle (and on Mac to backers) as of August 24 with Oculus Rift VR on the way. Keep an eye here on Press2Reset for our upcoming review!