Whenever people talk about adventure games, one topic guaranteed to create rousing debate is Myst. Regardless of where one stands, the impact of Myst and its successors on the genre is undeniable. For its creators, the departure from the status quo began when URU -- a short lived experiment in online 3D gaming -- was produced. However, reaction to that game was mixed at best, and controversy once again reigned supreme. So when Cyan announced a return to its roots with Myst V, many were ecstatic. The excitement was tempered, however, by the surprising news revealed in the game's title, End of Ages. As the name suggests, the conclusion of the Myst series will soon be upon us.
What does all this mean for the future of Myst and the team at Cyan? When Adventure Gamers was given the chance to talk with Rand Miller at E3, we eagerly seized the opportunity. In many ways, the chat provides as many questions as answers. But the results are high energy, good-humored and refreshingly candid. In other words, pure Rand Miller.
LM: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. First, I have to ask the question on everyone's mind. Is this really the end of Myst?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: We don't have any plans to make any further Myst games, although I don't know what the future holds. The story is tied up in a way that is satisfying from our point of view. It's not about the fireworks and fanfare; it's about the way we do things with Myst. Telling a great story in a subtle, quiet way and having substantial repercussions at the end to tie it all up, and this was a good time to wrap things up. This is a new beginning, really.
LM: Do you have any thoughts as to where you will take that new beginning?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: We have a few ideas, but nothing concrete. Starting with a blank slate is refreshing. We will pursue whatever anyone will pay us to do. If they won't pay us to do anything, we won't do anything.
LM: How do you feel about where you are now, with the impact of Myst and its conclusion?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: There are mixed emotions. There always will be when you wrap a long term project up. It has been a big part of our lives together, so this will be difficult.
LM: What is going to happen with Cyan? Will you keep the team together after Myst V?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: We are trying. We've got some great and incredibly talented people. This project has been tough, because it's had such a short timeline. We have done a lot of work in a very brief time. But we could do this because the people have been there a long time and they know what they are doing. They work efficiently and are incredibly talented.
LM: Myst in many ways helped create its own sub-genre. What are your thoughts on Myst's impact on games and on you personally? Good times… bad… roller coaster?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: Ah, it's a roller coaster! It's good and bad. The first one was absolutely incredible. It was a Cinderella story of the guys building a game in their garage, which was so incredible. I mean, how can that not be a blast! It was also so much work, which can take a lot out of you. But it is always refreshing to sit down in front of a monitor and watch people explore your world. To see them walk through places that started out only in your head and now they can go there as well.
LM: What motivates you when the work becomes so demanding? What do you do on days when you just wonder why you are there?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: I just don't go to work on those days.
With this one in particular, I was motivated by the challenge. The idea of having the real-time 3D, but being able to explore it the same way you did in the original Myst. That was worth pursuing. That was the one goal that thrilled me. At the beginning we thought it was just a trivial problem. We said, "Oh that'll be easy. That won't be a problem. How can that be hard?" Then when we got into it, and it changed to, "Oh my gosh!" It was anything BUT trivial. I don't know that we perfected it, but we got pretty darn close. Watching people who don't play real-time 3D games being able to sit down with just a mouse and one button and wander through a virtual real-time 3D world is deeply satisfying to us.
LM: What has been the response of testers or the public so far to this new real-time world of Myst?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: It's been pretty good, but it does vary, depending on their backgrounds. The people who tested it; we also tried to make the story a little bit of a dilemma for them. They have these two people here they can interact with. Which do they believe? To make this exploration personal, we have different modes that people play in and it's like a radio dial. Their tastes are as varied as their music.
LM: Can you choose which interface you use, between the mouse or keyboard?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: You have two primary modes of operation. One is as close to Myst as we could get within a real-time 3D environment. The other one is trying hard not to reinvent the wheel and saying, "well, people are familiar with the game; let's use the interface they are most familiar with." We didn't try to build a full mode interface ourselves. That's already been done well. For people who play shooters, they are used to wandering and seeing everything and going anywhere. If you are used to that, we want gamers to feel comfortable. It's a different kind of game but it would be interesting to take everything you learned from there and partake.
LM: Why don't we explore your new world, then. In Myst V, how do you interact with the people or creatures you will meet?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: There are characters and creatures in the game. In Myst games, we were always hesitant to use arbitrary ways to communicate with people. We didn't want dialogue boxes where you click-click, yes and no. In this game, there is a creature you need to communicate with. Well, what better way, especially in a Myst game, than to tie it back into writing or drawing symbolic gestures. So through the course of the game you actually learn symbols that are a rudimentary way to communicate with these creatures. If you draw the symbol on the tablet and then walk away from it, these creatures appear and read the slate or not, depending on what you put on it or how well you communicated with it. If you manage to communicate with them the right way, they will do what you tell them to. In some cases, what they do will affect or change the world.
LM: You learn these symbols in the game and then they will come, read the tablet and they respond according to whether you got the command right or not?
[Color=DarkGreen]Rand[/color]: It isn't about getting it right; it is about communicating. These creatures aren't alien but the language is alien to you. They have a language they understand. You are trying to initiate this contact. If they can understand what you write they go, "Okay, you want me to make it rain." And they will go off and make it rain for you.
They can change the world. Now, that is part of what you learn as you go through this. You will have the interesting feeling of changing the world by writing. It also helps you solve certain puzzles as you go along. For example, the rain is necessary at some point to see something happen.Continued on the next page...