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Myst In Retrospect: Uru, The Path of the Shell

February 11th, 2013 | Myst in Retrospect

Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t played Uru, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy it at gog.com.

Kadish's ego, depicted in 1/4000 size.

On many occasions I’ve mentioned Myst to an avid video game enthusiast and seen the same reaction: their eyes glaze over and they say that they thought it was boring. As I’ve established throughout these reviews, one’s enjoyment of these games is due in large part to one’s willingness to meet the game’s story at the level it’s being presented. Uru, as we have seen, tends to be even more difficult to appreciate, since its story is obscure at best, and feels somewhat empty even to invested players. This final installment, sadly, does nothing to correct that precedent, and unfortunately compounds it with an almost complete lack of storyline and some of the most tedious and repetitive puzzles ever devised. Uru: The Path of the Shell is not without its charms, but the inescapable fact is that it is, in all honesty, pretty boring.

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Sunrise: The Complete Anthology

February 2nd, 2013 | Artwork, Comics, Sunrise

The complete anthology of Sunrise, my now-completed webcomic, is now available for purchase. Until February 16, the option of a signed and/or drawn-in copy is available. See this page for more details, or see below and after the fold for additional pictures and information. Click here to go ahead and order a copy for yourself.

Sunrise anthology, in isometric-esque view

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A Found Poem

January 26th, 2013 | Et Cetera

trying to remember,

once upon a time, I would
create a single polygon the shape of the perimeter of the fence line.
project this to terrain/ground
wall plus this nonplanar face
set the proflie in wall plus to have a 30 degree bend at the top about a foot down (two points) -gives a “3d” fence with barbed wire geometry at top
texture with nearest (to have forced poles at the corners – do texture accordingly) -wasnt a CDB db
then those polys were all reset to view 2x
shade

(Source here.)

Myst In Retrospect: Uru, To D’ni

January 18th, 2013 | Myst in Retrospect

Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t played Uru, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy it at gog.com.
“[L]ooking back at the others about the table, he smiled and raised his goblet. ‘To D’ni!’ he exclaimed. A dozen voices answered him robustly. ‘‘To D’ni!‘” – Myst: The Book of Ti’ana, pg. 142

“There’s a couple things that the fans will like. I think the first is the fact that they get to go to D’ni. And anybody who knows our stuff on a little bit deeper level knows that D’ni is someplace you want to go.” – Rand Miller, interview from Myst 10th Anniversary DVD Edition

Onward, past the DRC's omnipresent roadblocks

Long before Uru was released, it was well-understood among the fan community that the game would finally allow players access to D’ni itself. This was, undoubtedly, the game’s strongest selling point among the fans. It was something of a disappointment, therefore, to find that Ages Beyond Myst offered only cursory glimpses of the Cavern: a couple small balconies, a rooftop, and a tiny office. Sure, you could catch a glimpse of Kerath’s Arch (a well-known D’ni landmark), but unless you were one of the lucky few who had access to Uru Live, D’ni seemed to be nearly as far away as ever. It wasn’t until the collapse of the multiplayer edition that the Cavern was opened to all, in the form of this first expansion pack, To D’ni. It was made available free of charge, which makes it clear that its intent is to grant D’ni access to as many people as possible following the demise of the online community. It’s not much of a game, per se, but it’s not really trying to be: we, the fans, wanted access to D’ni, and they gave it to us. In addition to that we also got some closure to the Uru Live storyline, a objective (albeit a somewhat dull one), and some foreshadowing of the expansion yet to come. Overall it’s somewhat impressive that Cyan Worlds managed to release something of this scope even while reeling from the destruction of its longtime labor of love, but the inescapable fact is that To D’ni‘s meager content is somewhat beaten down by its tedious and repetitive gameplay mechanics. To D’ni wanted to be more than a couple additional environments, but in actuality that would have been enough.

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What I Read: 2012

January 6th, 2013 | Et Cetera, Review

Welcome all to the second annual end-of-year roundup of various media I consumed this year. This year I kept a list, so this is guaranteed to be comprehensive. Instead of alphabetical order, entries are listed in the order read (within each category). As in last year, recommendations are in bold. Mini-reviews provided below entries, as applicable. Starred entries I only read part of, usually books of short stories. Note: also includes movies!
The happy winners
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Myst in Retrospect: Uru, Ages Beyond Myst

December 8th, 2012 | Myst in Retrospect

Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t played Uru, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy it at gog.com, and it’s actually on sale this weekend, so why not.

Hey, it's that guy!

Imagine a new social network based on poems. The site will debut with a selection of original poems, and you and your friends will be able to read them and base your interactions on them. Gradually new poems will be added to the mix and the userbase will be able to slowly understand and help to build a narrative around the poems, creating a sort of living, breathing artwork. It’s a clever idea, and a couple poems released as teasers show that the site has a lot of promise. Sadly, however, when the site finally debuts, something has gone wrong in development. Instead of the vibrant scene you were promised, there’s just one page with a handful of poems. There’s not even anywhere to post a comment. The poems are still well-written, and you enjoy reading them, but you can’t shake the feeling that you could have been a part of something much bigger. Welcome to the beautiful and depressing world of Uru.

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Myst in Retrospect: The Book of Ti’ana

October 7th, 2012 | Myst in Retrospect, Review, Writing

Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t read The Book of Ti’ana, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy all three novels here.

Harbor in D'ni

We’ve reached the end of the Atrus-centric installments, which leaves only one direction to go: the backstory. Backstory is an important part of any fictional universe, as the additional details we learn from it add to the believability of the world overall. The Myst series, having created this vast edifice of D’ni to support Atrus’s story, has an almost infinite amount of space for additional backstory. We want to know more about D’ni, its inhabitants, and its history. Myst: The Book of Ti’ana, and our final two games, Uru and Myst V, give us a glimpse of the days before Atrus and the span of the D’ni society of old. As we move through the D’ni-centric arc, we’ll consider the following questions: can backstory itself be a story? If not, what does it take to make a backstory into a frontstory? Let’s begin.

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Myst in Retrospect: Revelation

August 21st, 2012 | Myst in Retrospect

Warning: Spoilers abound. If you’ve not played Myst IV: Revelation, I  recommend playing (most of) it before proceeding. You can buy it from Amazon.com or eBay.

The Lakehouse

Myst IV: Revelation is an impressive accomplishment: surely no other work of art in human history has managed to be so immersive and realistic while simultaneously preventing any degree of credibility. Where it’s good it rises to great heights…which unfortunately gives it that much more distance to fall. Exile set a fairly low standard, and while Revelation largely improves upon Exile‘s mistakes, it fails to emulate Exile‘s successes. This makes for a frustrating game: too flawed to be great, but with too many good bits to be written off completely.

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Myst in Retrospect: Exile

July 8th, 2012 | Myst in Retrospect

Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t played Myst III: Exile, you might want to consider doing so before proceeding. As far as I know there is no downloadable version of it available online, your best bet is to search Amazon. I’d recommend the 10th Anniversary DVD Edition, which is stable, can run on Linux, and requires no disc-changing.

“I started off seeing it from a kind of ‘artist’s perspective;’ I would look for the most interesting scene that I could come up with. But the problem I ran into was that every time I made it look interesting, it didn’t work for the interface because it was unrealistic. You don’t look at everything as a composition. When you’re walking through a room, you’re just walking through a room, you’re not stopping and staring at everything.” – Chuck Carter, Digital Artist, Myst (from “The Making of Myst”)

“The really early decision that we made was to try to create a story context that would really offer us the opportunity to create a lot of deliberate puzzles.” – Michael Kripalani, Executive Producer, Myst III: Exile (From “The Making of Myst III: Exile”)

Exiled in the land of lamp plants

After Riven was released, Cyan elected to go quiet for a while in order to research and produce a massive new project, a multiplayer adventure game code-named “Mudpie.” Mattel Interactive, which around this time acquired the publishing rights for the franchise, was impatient. Riven had just become the fastest-selling game so far, and naturally they wanted to reproduce that effect. Presto Studios, makers of the popular Journeyman adventure games, were called upon to pick up the slack. The game they created was Myst III: Exile. The Presto team did a good job, and in most respects the game is fairly solid, but throughout it has the slightly-off flavor of a work produced not by inspiration but as something to be sold.

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Where your comments go

July 7th, 2012 | Et Cetera

So lately I’ve been asking myself: Why does no one comment on my blog anymore? Well, apparently it’s because I’m a moron who doesn’t realize that comments are moderated by default. I’ve approved the significant backlog of old comments (some of which are truly delightful, I must say) and will be checking them from now on so that they’ll actually, you know, appear. I apologize to all of you who spent the time writing comments only to have them vanish into the aether. I’ll do better now!

Edit: I’ve posted replies to many of your old comments. Thanks for your patience, everyone.