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All Hands On Deck: The Makers of Myst and Riven Are Crowdfunding A New Game


I only write for The Mary Sue once a week, so when I do, I prefer to tackle games I’ve been able to get my hands on. Sure, I see lots of stuff that looks nifty, or clever, or worth keeping an eye on. If I’m going to ramble, though, I like to ramble about experience, rather than intrigue.

But not today. Today, I will be writing about a game that does not exist yet (though I desperately need it to). Today, I am focusing solely on my selfish desire to play a game that I’ve been wanting for ten years.

The makers of Myst and Riven have launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new exploratory adventure game.

And it must succeed.

There are many games I can point to as pivotal experiences — stories that resonated, worlds I got lost in, events I recount with awe. But Myst was the game that started it all for me. It was the first game that made me lie awake at night, wishing I could be part of it. I took notes, I drew pictures, I played it again, and again, and again. I cannot emphasize enough how much the Myst games influenced me — my sense of aesthetics, the way I tell stories, the things I love about games as a whole. Even though I frequent many different genres now, there is still no experience I enjoy more than putting on a good pair of headphones, dimming the lights, turning off my phone, and stepping into a new universe. There has been an amazing resurgence of exploration-based games in recent years, and I am captivated by the ways they’re evolving. But no matter how unique those games are, no matter what new ground they venture into, I always — always — liken them to that defining moment on the dock at Myst Island. It was the first time a game ever made me feel that way. It’s what made me smitten with the entire medium.

That moment is invoked by Myst co-creator Rand Miller in the Kickstarter video for Obduction, the latest project by dev studio Cyan. However, he’s quick to draw a line between the two games. Obduction is Myst’s spiritual successor, not a rehash. A similar player experience is promised, but this is a different world than the Ages of old. From the campaign page:

Obduction’s experience supplies what every good storyteller does: a very personal window into a much larger world. Obduction begins with an abduction – your abduction. On a crystal clear, moon-lit night, a curious, organic artifact drops from the sky and inexplicably whisks you away across the universes to who-knows-where (or when, or why)…Why is there an old, abandoned farmhouse – complete with white picket fence – in the middle of an alien landscape? You’ll find out. From this point on the story becomes your story.

There isn’t much to look at beyond concept art yet, but I’m already hungry to explore. Skies heavy with planets, bubbles drifting through a mysterious swamp, a tree growing atop an icy stair — and this tough-looking lady, who looks like the sort of person I’d like to have a beer with.

I’m further encouraged by Obduction being built with Unreal Engine 4, which, going by the demo videos Epic Games has been putting out, suggests some serious eye candy on the way. I’m all for lovingly rendered bullet casings and muzzle flare, but I’m oddly pleased to hear about top-of-the-line visuals being applied to something other than war. I still think back on pawing around the Stoneship and Mechanical Ages with nostalgic reverence, and I’d be over the moon to have similar experiences on a modern engine.

The campaign page goes on to check off everything I want in a game. Puzzles. Environmental storytelling. A smoothly integrated soundtrack. A heavy focus on exploration and discovery. These are elements I value highly, and they’re being hawked by the very folks who taught me to appreciate them. Though not all of the Myst games would become favorites, I could always count on them to provide plenty of things to entice my brain. I trust that Cyan knows what they’re doing.

The question is, do enough people feel the same?

Even with Myst’s popularity in mind, I was surprised to see that the campaign amassed half a million in pledged funding in only five days, with nothing more than some general design notes and reminders of the glory days. But at the risk of sounding pessimistic, there’s still a long way to go before they hit their $1.1 million mark, and I admit that I’m curious as to how far fan loyalty will get them. It worked for Double Fine, who raked in $3.3 million on nothing more than “we want to make a game like the old stuff you used to play!” Will the same be enough for Cyan? We’ll see. Referencing past successes won’t be much of a draw for newcomers. That means it’s up to us veterans to rally the troops.

Which I’m more than happy to do. For the folks who made me fall in love with games, it’s the least I can do.

The Kickstarter campaign ends November 16, with the goal of a 2015 release. Here’s hoping for the best.

Becky Chambers writes essays, science fiction, and stuff about video games. Like most internet people, she has a website. She can also be found on Twitter.

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