Myst Turns 25 (and boy, do I feel old!)
Cyan celebrates the Myst anniversary with a Kickstarter gone wild
Written by: Cindy Kyser on April 20, 2018
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Publisher: Cyan Worlds
Is it possible that 25 years have passed since I loaded Myst on a PC and entered a new era in adventure gaming? I had been playing adventure games for years and was a fan of Infocom interactive fiction starting with Zork and early Macintosh graphic games by ICOM such as Shadowgate and DejaVu. But nothing had prepared me for the magic of Myst.
I received the game as a Christmas gift and it sat on a shelf, unopened, for months. One day, on a whim, I installed it and was hooked within minutes. It was unlike any game I had ever encountered. Playing a few hours each night, it took me more than a month to complete. Back in the day, there were no walkthroughs and no YouTube gameplay videos. I was on my own. By the time I finished, I had a sketchpad full of maps, notes, and symbols. At one point, I spent days charting a complex maze on paper because I failed to recognize that the sounds I was hearing were navigational clues.
Meanwhile, my husband became intrigued and started playing. This led to fights for computer time and a household ban on any mention of Myst puzzles. It became a battle of wits, with both of us unwilling to admit a failure of our own intellect. You cannot imagine my resentment when he blew through the same maze in minutes, never using a pencil and paper!
I also remember that Myst concluded with one of the most unremarkable endings in game history. I recall sitting in front of my PC and thinking, “It can’t be over… I must have missed something.” After days of searching for anything that might trigger a more satisfying ending, I went to Compuserve to seek out other gamers. They confirmed that my “Myst-ical” experience was, in fact, over. This first effort to find other people who shared my passion for adventures was my entry point into the fledgling online gaming community. It opened a world of virtual relationships that ultimately led me to JustAdventure.
I still love “Myst-like” games – those with fantastic environments, perplexing puzzles, and a story told with minimal character interaction and dialog. They provide an escape from reality and use a side of my brain that doesn’t get exercised in daily life. Over the years, I’ve played a lot of adventure games, some more memorable than others. However, the Myst experience remains indelibly imprinted on my consciousness.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Myst, Cyan has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release of “an exclusively packaged collection of all of the Myst games.” At a minimum, backers receive all 7 Myst titles, reworked to run on Windows 10. Other goodies, billed as “special, Atrus-approved, authentic game artifacts” are available, depending on the amount pledged. These include a linking book, Ghen’s pen and inkwell, and original design sketches from Riven. While the games will ultimately be packaged for sale on G.O.G. and Steam, the artifacts will only be available to Kickstarter backers.
Cyan’s campaign launched April 9th and, in just over a week, they are approaching $1 million dollars in pledges by over 6,000 backers. This is four times their original goal. Wow! I knew Myst had a loyal fan base but this is remarkable.
Cyan was started in 1987 by the Miller brothers Rand and Robyn. Their first release was a ground-breaking children’s game called The Manhole. My daughter was very young at the time and I recall her delight playing this game because it was much more captivating than the standard “edutainment” software of the day. Myst launched in 1993 and was followed by Riven in 1997. These two games have sold over 15 million copies, making them the “best-selling computer games of the 20th century.”
Cyan continued with additional Myst titles, including Uru: Ages Beyond Myst in 2003. I purchased Uru believing that multi-player online capabilities were coming soon. In a disappointing turn of events, the online feature was cancelled and, as a stand-alone game, Uru did not live up to my expectations. As a result, I paid little attention to Cyan until they launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 to fund Obduction. Released in 2016, this title was well worth the wait and incorporated many of the elements that made me fall in love with Myst. My opinion was shared by our own Bob Washburn who gave Obduction high marks in his review of the VR version.
25 years is a long time and the adventure genre has ebbed and flowed. Cyan has been a constant presence through it all and the overwhelming response to their current Kickstarter campaign is proof of their lasting impact on adventurers. Based outside of Spokane, Washington, Cyan has much to celebrate with a growing team and a huge fan base. Although Robyn Miller departed to pursue other interests, Rand Miller remains actively involved. For more information about the company and its games, visit its web site.