was developed from 1990-1993 in Mead, Washington, just outside Spokane,
by a small indie studio called Cyan. The game was
in late 1993 and by 1994 was a massive hit. The devs had no
it would acheive such success - they hoped it'd sell 100,000 copies, in
the best case. In the end, it sold about 7 million.
was one of the first games on CD-ROM, and the first in that format to
be a major sales success. Only about 5 million of Myst's
were direct to customers; the rest were sold to computer sellers and
distributors at a bulk discount and bundled with new high-end PCs of
that time. The retailers wanted some way to demo the
of CD-ROM discs and CD drives, and Myst looked like the best example of
what could be done with the new-but-not-yet-widely-adopted format.
There was a span from roughly 1987, when the first CDs were
burned, to 1993, where they were still expensive as a format and nobody
bought them much.
Because of Myst, several million
computers were sold with the new technology and economies of scale
brought the cost of CDs and CD drives down noticeably in the months
after Myst became a smash hit. Everyone now watching movies
playing games on disc formats like DVD and Blu-Ray, should acknowledge
the significance of the fact that optical discs did take off, because
at first it wasn't a foregone conclusion.
Myst's use of the new
format made the game able to wow players with then cutting-edge visual
and sound design. While 256-color 640x480 graphics seem
now, at the time, they were quite good. But it was not just
technical side and gambling on the CD format that made Myst a hit -
Cyan also took the project seriously creatively; putting an estimated
$650,000 into the project and carefully modelling and texturing the
pre-rendered gameworlds despite the slow computers available at the
time. The meshes for these worlds were typically about
polygons in detail per world, not very complex by modern standards, and
while rendering each frame of those worlds took 2 hours back then, it
is now possible to render them all in more detail, at 60 fps or more
with the recent rerelease (RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition) - and it's
also possible to play the game in realtime 3d on iPad in slightly less
detail, with the iOS version.
developers didn't intend to
make high art, or something 'pretentious' but they did try to immerse
the player in their world and make it believable. They didn't
know if there was any market for a game with realistic, immersive
worlds and they wondered if the game would tank. They didn't
what the market would be for Myst, but they made it all the same,
because it was a design they liked and that they wanted to see
was originally intended to have only endogenous sound, i.e. there would
be a logical source for every sound the player heard. It was
after Rand Miller's brother Robyn tested some music loops on top of the
game that they decided to include background music even in places where
no music playing device was visibly present in the gameworld.
This works of course for movies; nobody really questions
the soundtrack is coming from when watching a film, and it doesn't
generally break immersion for viewers. This underscores the
extent to which the devs took the issue of a believable gameworld
seriously... a rule which was later refined even further with Riven's
more worn, grungy and lived-in environments and puzzles all of which
felt seamlessly integrated in those worlds like they had a good reason
to be there. Even now, with Obduction, they try to balance
narrative plausibility of the puzzles with the aesthetics of the world,
and playability, solveability. Often these three factors
adjusting and compromise to get right. At times in this
one of them fails badly - a puzzle looks like it doesn't belong in the
story, or it is not well balanced for players, or it just looks out of
There were some small focus groups playing the
game as it was heading for release, and reactions varied, but the one
quote the studio and the publisher immediately latched onto was the
short description one tester gave when asked to sum Myst up in a single
'The surrealistic adventure that will become your world".
Here's the 'Making of Myst' which was included on the original CD release circa '93:
I actually don't think the gear puzzle was a bad one like
says in his GDC talk; for me the Selenitic mazerunner and the piano
were the two that
drove me nuts as a teenager. But that is a lot of the problem
puzzle design is not easy to do right and what works well for one
player might be frustrating to another who simply doesn't get it.
To be fair though, the piano puzzle is easier now that there
higher resolution versions of the game available.
was one of the first five games included in a recent Smithsonian
exhibit on the history and art of video games. They thought
deserved a place of recognition alongside influential gaming classics
like Pac-Man, Tetris, and Super Mario World.
game was rereleased with 16-bit graphics (not 256 color) in, I think,
Myst: Masterpiece Edition, later rebuilt in realtime 3D as RealMyst in
fall of 2000, then again in 2013 as RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition.
(This is currently considered the definitive release of Myst)
Myst (1993) - 256 colors, low resolution, full music soundtrack,
prerendered graphics with 640x480 resolution maximum.
Masterpiece Edition (1995) - 16-bit color depth, slight reduction of
soundtrack, otherwise same as the first release. Different
sources state different release dates like 1995, 1996, 1998, or 2000,
there's a lot of confusion online related to when exactly this hit
stores, but I think 1995 or 1996 sound about right.
(2000) - Realtime 3D in the Plasma 1.0 game engine which Cyan developed
in-house and which would be developed further later on for Uru and Myst
5, with a linear fog effect obscuring everything past a certain
distance to add atmosphere and reduce rendering load on PCs, and a few
other simple 2000-era shader effects and animations like waving cloth
and particle effect rain, day/night cycles in some worlds, and a new
world at the end (Rime) which is given to the player as a reward for
reaching the end. Rand Miller rerecorded his role
for this one, but the other two characters in the game remain low-res
FMV from 1993.
RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition (2014) - though
some players asked why it was worth releasing the game a fourth time,
the fact is that the game was due for another update given the fact
that the previous version was over 12 years old.
RM:ME added a lot
more visual detailing to textures, meshes, lighting, water, and various
effects, and added day/night cycles to some worlds while inexplicably
removing them from others. This, combined with other assorted
flaws like the optimization issues and high-end system requirements at
initial release, as well as the $18 initial price point, and the
continued use of the old low-res 1993 FMV performances along with some
other things which could have been updated, have resulted in a mixed
reaction from players.
HERE IS A COMPARISON OF SCENES FROM REALMYST (2000) and RM:ME (2014):
HERE'S A FIRST TIME MYST PLAYER INITIALLY CONFUSED WHILE PLAYING
REALMYST: MASTERPIECE EDITION:
My take on RM:ME is, if you're new to this series:
It's worth getting if you've never played Myst before as it's, while
imperfect, still the best version of the game currently available.
If you're a fan:
- Worth it if you're a BIG fan but otherwise wait for it to go on sale.
If you dislike the Myst series and aren't a fan:
-Don't buy it. If you didn't like Myst in 1993 it's unlikely
you'll like it now, even with a graphical overhaul.
Myst series and Obduction are creative works by Cyan, Inc.
copyright infringement is intended as this is a non-profit
informational fan page.