Ages Beyond Uru: Cyan’s Myst Successor On Kickstarter

By Nathan Grayson on October 18th, 2013 at 10:00 am.

Witness the majesty and grace of the twin gumball moons orbiting chewed-up-and-spat-out gum world. Look at those soaring mounds, still wet with stringy saliva. Ah, such natural beauty.

It’s not hard to see why once-legendary developers who’ve lost their way flock to Kickstarter. Second chances are rare, especially in an industry where a single dud can sink entire 100-person studios. Rebirths and reinventions, meanwhile, used to be damn near unheard of. But now it’s all possible, and wouldn’t you know it? Everyone you fondly remember from your childhood is coming out of the woodwork. A true Myst revival, however, has been conspicuously absent throughout NostalgiaFest 2013, but then, I suppose it’s only fitting that exploratory, methodical puzzling took its sweet time getting to the scene of its own potential resurgence. So then, what exactly is Obduction? Pretty much what you’d expect: a spiritual sequel to Myst and Riven, powered by shiny Unreal Engine 4 tech.

So basically, it’s Cyan’s bread-and-butter, but set in a new, utterly alien world. The idea is that you’ve been abducted, and all you can do is try to cope with this menacingly pink and purple (yes, those colors can be menacing) land. Here’s how it’ll work:

“Obduction will be built with the same framework that made Cyan’s earlier games such a wonderful experience: stunning landscapes, deep storyline, engaging characters, dramatic soundscapes, and challenging yet intuitive puzzles. Obduction is an entirely new property, delivered using one of the most powerful game development technologies available today. Obduction is an adventure game for the new millennium that stays true to the concepts that made the genre great.”

And that’s pretty much all we know at this point. Seriously. The Kickstarter features zero gameplay, instead opting for (admittedly very nice-looking) concept art and vague descriptions. And sure, I get that Cyan’s a bit late to the Kickstarter party, but that doesn’t mean it can just show up with the meager goodies it would’ve brought if it hadn’t missed the first bus. I think we all yearn for the sense of wonder and magic Myst once conjured, but, “Hi, we’re developer X, we made that one game you liked a lot before you grew hair in really strange places” doesn’t really cut it anymore.

As of writing, Obduction had cleared $100,000 of its $1,100,000 goal and then some. It’s a solid start, but we’re not exactly looking at the next Star Citizen or Torment: Tides of Numenera here. Will it ultimately pass muster? It’s tough to say at this point. But Obduction really does feel like it’d be a shoe-in if it wasn’t currently a pile of napkin scrawlings and a series of excited hand gestures. Hopefully, succeed or fail, Cyan will learn something from this, as this first attempt feels slipshod and desperate. Also, while we’re putting hopes in the hope jar, let’s go ahead and pray that Cyan’s creative spark is still glowing after being buffeted by the winds of change for years. And also, sure, you’ve been good, so I’ll see if the deities can throw in a pony too. Just for you.

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58 Comments »

  1. Alien426 says:

    The German word “Obduktion” means autopsy or postmortem. Just sayin’.

    • SubzeroWolfman says:

      While that’s true, of course it’s from Latin, and obducere means kinda like “verhüllen” if I am not mistaken.
      Literally, lead into darkness, aight? ;)
      There you have it, German reverse logic. The important thing about an autopsy is not the UNCOVERING of facts, but the VEILING of the naked fact.

      Kluggeschissen, gern geschehen.

  2. xfrog says:

    They will reach the goal very easily.
    The artists in the team is all I wanted to know to be happy with. Myst franchise had very high production values and phenomenal artists and design. If I would see some random people working on this project I would be cautious but now I am more confident this will be a good game.
    The bad thing about this kind of game is that you cannot reveal much about it, it is all about discovery. It cannot have a beta for instance. But they are using Unreal 4 engine instead of creating their own, so I am optimistic about having a solid experience on that part too.
    So my two main concerns , how the game will run and how it will look are covered more or less by the announcement and I think they made some good decisions.
    As far as the story and the gameplay itself goes, I have to trust them on that!

  3. IanWharton says:

    OMG nostalgia means I have to… back away from this in horror?

  4. YoungSeal says:

    My money is on them making it as, assuming this article is accurate, they have made just under 150k in the last 40 minutes.

  5. Armante says:

    Not sure where you get the desperate angle from. That wasn’t a vibe I picked up form it.

    They are already at $250,000 and as word spreads I’m pretty sure they’ll make it. I for one backed it; partly nostalgia, partly because I enjoy the idea of a world to explore, discover and solve puzzles in. It will use Unreal 4, so we’ve come a long way from static pre-rendered images from the Myst days.

    I for one welcome the return of the Miller brothers and look forward to playing this, as opposed to another triple A big budget shooter. Variety is the spice of life after all :)

    Also, hoping they will include Oculus Rift support – it’s the one new thing I find very appealing in gaming right now, and after having played games for the last 32 of 42 years, I relish the idea of ‘being in’ an alien environment, lose myself in it.

  6. The First Door says:

    Well, Nathan reacted utterly differently to me to this pitch. I was just filled with excitement and didn’t see any cynicism to it!

    While, of course it might not make it, it might not be great, etc. etc… I think Cyan are one of those companies who deserve a little bit of love right now. They aren’t a company or individual who have consistent promised great things and not delivered, they’ve consistently delivered interesting, exciting worlds to explore.

    It reminds me of the Double Fine project, they just seem excited and humble, which makes me want to back them.

    • Premium User Badge phlebas says:

      Also like the Double Fine project, the game’s scope will be determined by the amount they get from the Kickstarter. Prepare for internet outrage.

  7. Premium User Badge Cinek says:

    TAKE MY MONEY!

    Myst universe was one of the best, and most engaging game universes I ever seen. Getting Rand Miller onboard can only make good things happen :) I will miss linking books, but gonna pledge anyway :)

    Go for it Cyan! I know you can do it!

  8. Aluschaaf says:

    I don’t get RPS’s consistent disdain of Myst, as the series represents everything they are always asking for: Exploration in interesting, creative places, no guns, beautiful art- and sound-design… Why the hate?

    • LionsPhil says:

      But if I remember correctly (and it’s been a long time), the game part of Myst was wandering from screen to screen via awkward controls, clicking on random things which made unpredictable things happen elsewhere. Actions were not predictable to deduce a solution—instead you just brute-forced all the possibilities until you stumbled across one. That’s not a puzzle. That’s just an arbitrary obstruction based on developer moon logic.

      (Yes, this argument also absolutely applies to any more “conventional” adventure game where you end up resorting to rubbing everything in your inventory on everything else.)

      • BooleanBob says:

        In other words, for some purposes an ungame is preferable to a shit game?

      • iGark says:

        The whole “pull a lever and something happens, go and find it” criticism is levelled at Myst quite frequently, even though it’s kind of untrue. My sister and I beat the game without the use of any walkthroughs, and many of the puzzles can be solved by first exploring, and then setting out to solve them. There’s a constellation-type planetarium, and in the library, there’s a book which gives you symbols matched to constellations. These same constellations are outside in the courtyard as buttons you can press. If you go into the tower and aim it at the courtyard, then you can read a plaque which gives you three dates. Plug these into the planetarium and you can get three constellations. Match these constellations to their symbols using the book and voila, you solved the puzzle. Guesswork? No. Tricky? Yes. But all the clues are there and you just have to look.

        Myst didn’t suck.

        • lowprices says:

          I can’t remember off the top of my head, but what was the constellation based puzzling for? Was it to open a door, or do something else?

          • foodandart says:

            Lowprices.. You solved the constellation puzzle and it lifted the submerged boat at the dock. There was a linking book inside down below, that took you to the stoneship age.

        • draigdrwg says:

          I think a lot of it comes from people encountering it while young. I played RealMyst a few years ago and while I remembered a few solutions, didn’t find a huge number of sticking points. Not even the damn keyboard puzzles and mazerunner. Certainly felt easier than Riven, where the puzzles often far less obvious.

          It did require noting stuff down though.. which I think later games solved a little with cameras and things.

      • Premium User Badge Coren says:

        I am not going to defend the Myst series’ awkward controls and the random clicking, but I couldn’t disagree more with you when you say said that “actions were not predictable to deduce a solution—instead you just brute-forced all the possibilities until you stumbled across one.”

        If there’s one thing the Myst games managed to do (and Riven is probably the best example of this), it’s to create puzzles that feel like an integral part of the world. They required you to understand how the world worked, how things were connected, and there was really nothing random about it. Sure, often the things that were connected were a bit far apart and/or hard to notice, but once all the pieces fell into place, it was just glorious.

        I guess the first game in the series wasn’t all that perfect in this respect (some puzzles felt much more artificial and out of place than in the subsequent games), but if you look at Riven and URU, there’s really no way you can see the puzzles as unpredictable or contrived.

        • The First Door says:

          I’m glad you wrote that, because you explained it much better than I could!

          The puzzles in Riven and Uru in particular could feel very random to begin with, but I quickly came to realise if I didn’t understand what a thing was doing, it meant I needed to explore more. It was my favourite part of the games, slowly learning how an exotic strange world works and then using it to advance. The Path of the Shell ‘time travelling’ age was one of my favourite puzzles as it relied entirely on understanding how the world worked… before realising you were totally wrong and had to re-evaluate it.

          • NthDegree256 says:

            Oh, yes, Ahnonay – the “time traveling age” – encapsulated the Myst “arc” for me better than anything before or since. The transition from “this is stupid and nothing makes sense or seems to be happening” to “holy shit, I understand exactly what’s going on behind the scenes now, and I know what I need to do next” to “holy shit, my previous explanation has been thrown out the window now that I know what’s REALLY really going on, and it all fits together, this is brilliant” is one of those experiences that almost makes me wish I could selectively erase my memory, just so I could have the chance to go through it again.

          • The First Door says:

            Indeed, it’s utterly fantastic that age. The reveal at the end as well, where they reveal to you with a flourish what you’ve already deduced, and see that you are right is beautiful. What I love is the fact that even then it throws a spanner into the works. Wait… *four* spheres?

            Having said that, The Path of the Shell is just fantastically designed throughout. Like the ‘Path of the Shell’ puzzle’s solution is so simple and yet you don’t think to do it without all the hints in the scripture scattered about.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I remember Riven and Uru being better for it, but Myst is the one which catches the flack, so it’s the one under the crosshairs here. That said, it’s been a heck of a long time, so I’m more willing to believe iGark’s account than my memory’s.

      • Premium User Badge Cinek says:

        I think that the problem you have is that you approach Myst like most of the other games – without thinking.

        Use your brain and suddenly everything will start making sense!

        • LionsPhil says:

          Ok, now turn on yours and look at all the people replying above you. They managed to make a counterargument without being an asshole.

          • Seraph says:

            Pretty clear who’s the asshole here (hint: it’s you, go hug somebody or something).

          • Premium User Badge bear912 says:

            I disagree with LionsPhil pretty frequently, and I certainly disagree with him here (I love both Myst and Riven), but he’s being pretty reasonable. No need to perpetuate mean-spirited arguments.

            That said, hugs aren’t a bad idea. Let’s all go hug something. Make sure it’s not a cactus, bear cub, or creepy man in a white van, though.

      • SubzeroWolfman says:

        Either you DO remember correctly, or we share a group delusion.

    • bill says:

      I’d guess it comes from most of RPS being too young to have played Myst when it seemed like a technological marvel, and having tried it later where the faux-3d was very hard to get to grips with.

      I started playing RealMyst a year or two ago and, freed of the horribly limiting movement system, it did seem just like the kind of thing RPS would like… but I didn’t get very far as it kept crashing to desktop on me.

      I should give it a go again since I got my graphics drivers sorted.. but I also have 11 billion humble bundle games to catch up on.

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      Whilst my fondness for Myst has decreased somewhat, I still contend Riven remains one of the finest games ever made. The incredible depth and nuance to the environmental storytelling, the exquisitely understated score, the lush and beautiful art direction and one of the finest performances in a game (Gehn) all contribute to something truly exceptional. You have to learn not just how to solve puzzles but thoroughly understand the local population’s iconography, their base five number system and come to appreciate how a startling amount of puzzles relate to their religious beliefs and practises.

      It took a person into a world so successfully that I’m disappointed it’s not as fondly remembered more broadly.

    • Premium User Badge Rikard Peterson says:

      I remember (occasional RPS contributor) Richard Cobbett’s Myst bashing on Usenet years ago. :) That was my first experience of the Internet. (I bought my first dial-up modem in early 1997, I think.)

      The Myst games are far from being favourites of mine, but I can see their appeal. They did inspire a bunch of games that were crap, though.

  9. Jalan says:

    Hopefully this opens the door for something to happen with Myst. Uru/etc. just didn’t cut it for me and Myst V was a woeful way to “end” the series. So far the only thing to look forward to is The Starry Expanse Project and that’s still going to mean a considerable amount of time sitting in wait.

    • Premium User Badge Cinek says:

      I don’t know why all the hate for Myst V. Yes, ending was far from great (though I never got an impression that it was “horrible” like some people say – it was nice, optimistic ending giving chances for imagination on what D’ni might be like in future), but as a game it was a solid (though perhaps one of the easiest) part of the series, I’d argue – more creative and nicer to play than Myst 4 (and actually giving player a meaningful choices was a nice move away from traditional “solve the puzzle” approach).

      Similar with Uru – people argue it doesn’t make sense, etc. but IMHO in terms of storyline that’s one of the parts that fits best into the lore – if you read book suddenly URU makes so much more sense and brings up a creation of deeper universe.

      • draigdrwg says:

        I think there’s a few reasons.

        Firstly it very much felt more like Uru 2 than Myst 5. It felt like they packaged up a lot of stuff that would otherwise have gone into Uru up to make a game. In some places this was more obvious than others.

        So if you weren’t an enormous fan of Uru’s storyline, that didn’t help. If you hadn’t played Uru at all, you wonder where the hell did all this mystic stuff and weird beasties come from. The previous games were all about sorting out Atrus’ dysfunctional family so it’s quite a leap to suddenly be playing around with magic tablets and saving some race of creatures.

        The engine probably didn’t help.. there wasn’t much of a gap between Myst IV and V, and Myst V (which also has a few storyline issues IMHO – but more naturalistic puzzles than III) looked fantastic. The combination of the 360 degree pre-render stuff and the realtime effects meant you had a fantastic looking world which felt far less static than any previous games. V had some nice bits (the age with the ridiculously , but the Uru engine was aging at that stage, and nothing in particular there felt like it really needed to be realtime.

        The puzzles didn’t feel particularly challenging either, what with that D’ni bloke turning up every 5 minutes and 90% of the problems being solved with that tablet.

        Thats all just my opinions though. Confess it’s been a long time since I played it.

      • Jalan says:

        draigdrwg’s line about Myst V feeling like Uru 2 is essentially spot on. Uru as a means of expanding the lore was great but as a game it just didn’t succeed at being the sort of experience Rand talks about Cyan being fond of making (granted this is just my take on it – I know some people loved Uru and I can respect that but I’m not among them) in the pitch video for Obduction.

        I personally didn’t care for Myst IV either – outside of the music for it. While it served to better bookend the story of Atrus and his family than Myst V’s ending does, it suffered from puzzles that were far too infuriating to be considered fun by anyone not a puzzle masochist of some sort (DAMN YOU SERENIAN DREAM CHAMBER, DAMN YOU I SAY!) but otherwise looked great (for the time, at least).

        • The First Door says:

          The whole Myst vs. Uru thing is interesting, I think. Uru was definitely my favourite, because it focussed more on playing with machinery and working out how the world worked, where as the puzzles in Myst and Riven were a little more abstract. It comes down to a matter of taste, I suspect.

          Having said that, I really didn’t like Myst IV either. I seem to remember a puzzle where you had to sort books was what killed it for me as the spines were such low resolution I couldn’t read them properly!

          • Jalan says:

            The only thing close to that I remember is the bookcase in Yeesha’s room and I don’t recall the textures being low-res (the books were all written in D’ni and if there were clues missed as to how to translate the language, I can see how this could really anger a few people).

            Not to say that puzzle was any better than some of the more maddening ones in Myst IV though (except for the one with the vibrating crystals that was unsolvable until the game was patched if I remember correctly).

            Ultimately the randomness killed the fun of puzzles in the game for me – reaching the apex of frustration with the ridiculous light chase in the dream chamber on Serenia (not even the soothing tones of Peter Gabriel could mitigate the rage I experienced on that one).

  10. lowprices says:

    My instinctive reaction to the word ‘Myst’ is to boo and hiss, which isn’t entirely fair as I only ever played the first game. Maybe the sequels expanded the formula and removed what I disliked, but the first Myst was a series of pretty but dull postcards. It was like navigating your way around someone else’s holiday photos of Bruge.

    Still, good luck to them, I say. Clearly there are a lot of people who like Bruge.

  11. grundus says:

    It’s probably because Myst was one of the first games I ever played, but I loved it and still love it now. It’s just a shame I can’t seem to get it to run properly; I have to alternate playing the same save file on the Steam and GOG versions because each seems to CTD at a given point. The Steam version didn’t give me handles to move on the rocket ship, the GOG version crashed when I was aligning the microphone, etc.

    This is exciting, but I think I’ll refrain from chipping in right now.

    • Doomsayer says:

      Myst is on phones and tablets, so if you have one of those than you can get it there.

  12. Premium User Badge elderman says:

    Disappointed about the lack of Linux support. “Maybe” means “no” in these cases, and I would have been looking forward to this so much. It’s surprising to see at a time when it’s almost become de rigueur for Kickstarter projects to support Linux. I’ve been surprised by how many companies feel able to guarantee it. I wonder what motived Cyan’s choice of engine.

    More broadly, I wonder what the calculus is these days in developer decisions to support Linux at launch. Is it future-proofing? Do Linux ports pay for themselves?

    • smapty says:

      @elderman, we’d love to support Linux, but we can’t reliably do so until Unreal Engine 4 supports Linux.

  13. SillyWizard says:

    $1.1m seems a bit much. It really bugs me when it seems like companies are using Kickstarter as free advertising + excessive free money.

    Of course I don’t know how it’s being budgeted or if this is in fact a reasonable request, but seeing what some other projects offer for far less, this seems tacky.

    • Stochastic says:

      Honestly, $1.1m is not very much money at all to support a team of their size. If anything it’s too low of a goal. According to Wikipedia, Riven cost between $5 and $10 million to make, and that was back in 1997. When games like GTA 5 have budgets north of $250 million, $1.1 million doesn’t seem excessive.

      • airmikee99 says:

        Yeah, I’d have to agree. $1.1 million isn’t a whole lot for such a large team that’s brought so many other AAA titles into the world. Others projects with lower goals don’t have the same talent and credentials that the guys from Cyan already possess.

  14. LeanRight says:

    I have a bad feeling about this whole thing. First he said they want to make a fresh new game, then he is saying how similar to Myst is going to be.

    The demo looked like it was a demo for UE4.

    And because of this: “The game is being designed with a flexible scope in mind, so that as the budget grows, the game grows. More places; more puzzles; more mystery; more complexity; more adventure!”, the puzzles cannot be integrated into story.

    Not optimistic.

  15. JRay says:

    There’s definitely a “we’re kind of making this up as we go” kind of vibe that worries me. That said, the Myst franchise is one of my all-time great gaming loves. I’ll have to wait a bit longer before deciding whether to fund.

  16. The Random One says:

    Alternate alt text: “You are in a weird field west of a white house. There is a bunch of strange shit here.”

  17. Wulf says:

    Hopefully, succeed or fail, Cyan will learn something from this, as this first attempt feels slipshod and desperate.” — Nathan

    You know, this is exactly what I’ve come to hate so much about RPS and why I got so bitter in regards to this site and its community. Ever since the Quinns review of New Vegas, I feel that the site has drastically dropped in quality, now there are just so many snide remarks, attacks, hit reviews, and scandalous shenanigans in an attempt to generate controversy.

    It’s like watching The Telegraph slowly going downhill until it becomes The Sun.

    This line in particular, was this necessary? Yes, some people at RPS don’t like Cyan, I get that, but it seems cruel and callous to try and sabotage their efforts by throwing that in there when it’s as blatantly untrue as Quinns review of New Vegas was. This keeps happening. It’s like there’s no metric for quality that you have to judge yourself against, no one watching the watchmen, so to speak. It’s gotten to the point when often Kotaku will offer a more balanced opinion on something than RPS will.

    I’m not saying this just to attack — there’s no swearing or angry words, I’m just pointing out what I see as a problem. I kind of used to like this site, a long time ago, until it got crazy and the writers went a little on the sociopathic side with popularity and power, to the point where the site became more about the cult of popularity than the news. It was kind of neat back then, years ago, when RPS was small. Now you’re bigger than Kotaku and worse than Kotaku.

    It’s… I don’t know… how can I put this? It’s amusing that I’m reminded of the D’ni with this, in that when they were small, they were reasonable and a good peoples. And then they became proud, they looked down on the least, and became dismissive, arrogant, and opulent. It was their duty to mock and deride what they felt was their lessers, their least.

    And here we are, mocking Cyan because RPS doesn’t like Cyan.

    To me, this felt like a passionate presentation, to try to bring about the rebirth of a series of games which were well loved by its fans, including myself. I won’t use weasel words and say many, because I don’t know if we were, but we existed nonetheless. It was a show of the merits of the Myst Universe, and of lore; of crypto-zoology; of bizarre architecture; of language; of creativity; of cleverness; of art.

    It wasn’t meant to be aimed at everyone, of course. It’s not meant for everyone. I am sad though that this is what you’ve become — so proud, that you feel it’s your duty to snark, be sarcastic, and to belittle. Seeing yourselves as gatekeepers, standing tall, to protect us from the filth. That’s really depressing, considering what RPS used to be.

    But then, things change.

    First it was the bizarre hatred of console users, which I’ll never understand. (Why belittle someone for their choice of platform?) The community followed suit on that, hating on anything even remotely related to consoles, even on sensible accessibility and good design. And things have gone downhill from there — to the point where you’re overweight, abundant kings feasting on slop and dismissing anything that doesn’t entertain you.

    I kind of do still miss the RPS from years and years ago. You guys really could use someone to watch the watchmen, because one again, this was unnecessary. This was as unnecessary as the Obsidian hit review (just because some of you hate Obsidian), this is as unnecessary as referring to fans of Nekro as mindless minions who were wasting your precious time, and this is as unnecessary as making console owners feel uncomfortable because a PC is outside of their price range.

    I’m sure there’ll be excuses and apologism, notes about thin skin and so on. But still, people will read this and they’ll be looking for how Cyan is desperate, they’ll be cooking up their own ideas of how desperate they must be, because RPS reckons they are. It’s just an abuse of the position you’re in right now to do that.

    I really do miss RPS from before it went to hell.

    • Seraph says:

      I’m with you comrade. I find myself enjoying RPS less and less as the days go by.

    • tormos says:

      RPS is and always has been about sharing opinions and editorializing to get past the BS standard of “objectivity”. Nathan said what he thought about the Kickstarter campaign. If he’d said “I didn’t watch this but I imagine it was a bit shit because I don’t like Cyan” you might have a case but as it is I feel like he’s just giving his opinion. The whole hating on console peasants thing is (and, to my understanding, always has been) somewhere between a joke and a reaction to the fact that practically no other games news source has a PC focus so the PC tends to get crowded out/shat on by developers.

      In conclusion RPS is awesome and you need a hug

    • avp77 says:

      I don’t read RPS much these days, but I followed the link to this story from the BBC News site. Bravo for this comment that sums up my reaction the needless editorial antagonism that seems to often be floating around here.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      The politics of power blind those who are impacted the most, i.e., the writers.

      Adam and Jim are still awesome though.

    • Rider of Dark says:

      I read the articles for the comments more than for the articles themselves. I find that some of the regular commenters to be as worthwhile for their responses, if not moreso than the entirety of the article. Plenty of people showing up to voice their thoughts against that of the author. That’s what I think makes RPS worthwhile.

      Yes, there’s bias to be found in the articles. I think it’s made pretty clear that the writers write their opinions on stuff. That line is almost a stab in the back. And in bad taste. However, Cyan isn’t a big name studio. I don’t think they’ve released any big titles in years. Cyan is an old studio trying to make a comeback. So caution is warranted.

      That said, I loved Myst, and Riven. Partly because it was great to explore a strange world, partly because playing and beating them was a family affair. I sure hope Robyn gets involved, too.