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Mysterium news roundup

The Mysterium fan convention is going on this weekend in Salt Lake City. I'm not there, but the events have been streamed on Twitch so I've been able to follow along.

The Starry Expanse team gave their annual report. This is a fan group that has been reconstructing Riven in a modern 3D engine. In fact they're on their third engine! They starting out with Plasma (Cyan's homebrew engine, which was used for Uru and Myst 5). Then they moved to Unity; now they're on Unreal Engine 4.

As a result, Starry Expanse has regressed somewhat, at least to the eye. In previous years the team had fully-textured playable demos of a couple of areas, built in Unity. Now, with UE4, they have larger areas, but untextured (except for some metallic-surface effects and ripply water). On the plus side: one of the tram rides is animated and ready to go! Watch the video to see it.

The other great Mysterium tradition is the videochat with Rand Miller. Cyan is of course head-down on finishing Obduction, but Rand took time out to chat with the fans.

These chats are generally not full of exciting news. (Because if you have a big announcement, you blast it to journalists, not little fan conventions.) Nonetheless, there were a few tidbits.

Obduction release countdown: The release date is August 24th! Obduction Kickstarter backers should receive email with details soon. The emails have already started going out, but it will take a few days to send them all. (There are 22000-odd backers and the emails are sent one-by-one from Rand's laptop.)

Obduction team size: Rand described the team as four programmers, six or seven artists, a couple of designers, eight QA people, and a few others doing this and that. He noted that people have multiple roles; Rand himself is doing some sound work as well as overseeing things.

He also noted that Obduction development has had a small, fast-moving, startup-like feel, like the original Myst:

This feels more like it's scrappy; there's not a lot of time and money and resources. [...] I know this doesn't seem fast to you, and probably with a Kickstarter a million bucks seems like a lot to you. But every bit of that money -- and then some, we had to get more -- has gone into this game, trying to squeeze every last little drop out of it.

(Cyan reported last year that they'd had development problems due to a publisher bailing on them at the last minute. So we know that they were seeking funding beyond the original Kickstarter. This statement confirms that they got some.)

Possible next projects after Obduction: They don't have one lined up.

It's hard to contemplate, and we know we should. If we were really a good company [...], we would already have had some guys lining up the next thing in parallel, and designing this, [...], so that our guys could roll into it, but we're just too into [Obduction]. Every bit of resources we have is into Obduction.

They're interested in porting Obduction to more platfoms, of course. They have lots of other project ideas on the back burner, but they'll have to see how Obduction does and what it might lead to. Rand noted that he's particularly interested in VR and multi-player experiences.

Republishing Myst 3 and Myst 4: (At least, I'm pretty sure that's what the question was! I couldn't hear the questioner.) They are getting closer but it's slow.

We just recently have talked more with the companies involved in those, and hopefully are making more progress. Again, this is much more interesting to us than it is to the companies who have those rights, who this means little or nothing to. [...] When one of our guys was on vacation in Europe, in France, he made a visit to certain companies to talk to them about doing certain things with this. So yes, as long as we can get the right people involved, at least theoretically we have them going "Yeah, we don't see any problem with that". But with big companies things bog down.

As we recall, Myst 3 was developed by Presto Studios and Myst 4 by Ubisoft; both were published by Ubisoft while Cyan was concentrating on Uru. Both are currently out of print. It's generally assumed that Ubisoft has the publishing rights and just hasn't bothered to re-release them.

Rand's statement doesn't leave us knowing much more than that. But Ubisoft is headquartered in France, so that's presumably one of the companies in question.

The Myst TV show: No news.

The brief excitement around Hulu's announcement last year has long since burned out. (Hulu announced that they were greenlighting a show on script approval, but that was over a year ago. Apparently they didn't approve the script.)

Rand's comments remain optimistic but noncommittal:

We still have exciting things happening [...] with the same company [...] Things start to get movement, and people start to be brought on board and attached to things. I still refuse to get too excited about it because it's been so long, and I really don't know how it works. But it feels to me that, yeah, progress is being made.

It could be one of those things that, [...] all of a sudden, boom! There's exciting things happening and announcements are being made and fun stuff's gonna be coming out [...] as soon as they get the right people attached and things start to move. There's potential for that.

But maybe not; maybe next year he'll be giving the same optimistic-but-noncommittal answer.

I believe that "with the same company" refers to Legendary Television. Cyan has been working with Legendary since 2014 to develop the Myst show concept.

That's all I noted down. Thanks to Rand Miller for the chat, and to the Mysterium crew for putting the con together.

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Mysterium news roundup

The Mysterium fan convention is going on this weekend in Salt Lake City. I'm not there, but the events have been streamed on Twitch so I've been able to follow along.

The Starry Expanse team gave their annual report. This is a fan group that has been reconstructing Riven in a modern 3D engine. In fact they're on their third engine! They starting out with Plasma (Cyan's homebrew engine, which was used for Uru and Myst 5). Then they moved to Unity; now they're on Unreal Engine 4.

As a result, Starry Expanse has regressed somewhat, at least to the eye. In previous years the team had fully-textured playable demos of a couple of areas, built in Unity. Now, with UE4, they have larger areas, but untextured (except for some metallic-surface effects and ripply water). On the plus side: one of the tram rides is animated and ready to go! Watch the video to see it.

The other great Mysterium tradition is the videochat with Rand Miller. Cyan is of course head-down on finishing Obduction, but Rand took time out to chat with the fans.

These chats are generally not full of exciting news. (Because if you have a big announcement, you blast it to journalists, not little fan conventions.) Nonetheless, there were a few tidbits.

Obduction release countdown: The release date is August 24th! Obduction Kickstarter backers should receive email with details soon. The emails have already started going out, but it will take a few days to send them all. (There are 22000-odd backers and the emails are sent one-by-one from Rand's laptop.)

Obduction team size: Rand described the team as four programmers, six or seven artists, a couple of designers, eight QA people, and a few others doing this and that. He noted that people have multiple roles; Rand himself is doing some sound work as well as overseeing things.

He also noted that Obduction development has had a small, fast-moving, startup-like feel, like the original Myst:

This feels more like it's scrappy; there's not a lot of time and money and resources. [...] I know this doesn't seem fast to you, and probably with a Kickstarter a million bucks seems like a lot to you. But every bit of that money -- and then some, we had to get more -- has gone into this game, trying to squeeze every last little drop out of it.

(Cyan reported last year that they'd had development problems due to a publisher bailing on them at the last minute. So we know that they were seeking funding beyond the original Kickstarter. This statement confirms that they got some.)

Possible next projects after Obduction: They don't have one lined up.

It's hard to contemplate, and we know we should. If we were really a good company [...], we would already have had some guys lining up the next thing in parallel, and designing this, [...], so that our guys could roll into it, but we're just too into [Obduction]. Every bit of resources we have is into Obduction.

They're interested in porting Obduction to more platfoms, of course. They have lots of other project ideas on the back burner, but they'll have to see how Obduction does and what it might lead to. Rand noted that he's particularly interested in VR and multi-player experiences.

Republishing Myst 3 and Myst 4: (At least, I'm pretty sure that's what the question was! I couldn't hear the questioner.) They are getting closer but it's slow.

We just recently have talked more with the companies involved in those, and hopefully are making more progress. Again, this is much more interesting to us than it is to the companies who have those rights, who this means little or nothing to. [...] When one of our guys was on vacation in Europe, in France, he made a visit to certain companies to talk to them about doing certain things with this. So yes, as long as we can get the right people involved, at least theoretically we have them going "Yeah, we don't see any problem with that". But with big companies things bog down.

As we recall, Myst 3 was developed by Presto Studios and Myst 4 by Ubisoft; both were published by Ubisoft while Cyan was concentrating on Uru. Both are currently out of print. It's generally assumed that Ubisoft has the publishing rights and just hasn't bothered to re-release them.

Rand's statement doesn't leave us knowing much more than that. But Ubisoft is headquartered in France, so that's presumably one of the companies in question.

The Myst TV show: No news.

The brief excitement around Hulu's announcement last year has long since burned out. (Hulu announced that they were greenlighting a show on script approval, but that was over a year ago. Apparently they didn't approve the script.)

Rand's comments remain optimistic but noncommittal:

We still have exciting things happening [...] with the same company [...] Things start to get movement, and people start to be brought on board and attached to things. I still refuse to get too excited about it because it's been so long, and I really don't know how it works. But it feels to me that, yeah, progress is being made.

It could be one of those things that, [...] all of a sudden, boom! There's exciting things happening and announcements are being made and fun stuff's gonna be coming out [...] as soon as they get the right people attached and things start to move. There's potential for that.

But maybe not; maybe next year he'll be giving the same optimistic-but-noncommittal answer.

I believe that "with the same company" refers to Legendary Television. Cyan has been working with Legendary since 2014 to develop the Myst show concept.

That's all I noted down. Thanks to Rand Miller for the chat, and to the Mysterium crew for putting the con together.

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Mysterium news roundup, 2015

Been a while since I cranked this machinery, hasn't it?

Mysterium was in Boston this year. It was fun! There isn't a whole lot of news out of Myst fandom, but I can point at a few things.

Obduction development continues. Cyan had a special preview trailer for fans attending the convention. Looked great, albeit very still-in-production. Yes, they want to release a trailer for everybody to watch, once they've got things more polished. ("Later this summer".) The game itself is running "a little late" and doesn't have a ship date yet.

There is no news on the Myst TV show front. (We recall that back in May, Hulu expressed interest pending script approval. Nothing has been announced since.) Rand Miller offered a lot of optimism but no details.

(For a liveblog of the Q&A session with Rand and the Cyan staff, see this Tumblr post.)

Starry Expanse development also continues. (This is the fan-made Riven-in-3D project.) You can watch the team's presentation and demo of Age 233 (Gehn's office). Or look at screenshots.

The convention built a "room escape" game in one of the hotel rooms! This was a fantastic construction, with journals and audio recordings and motion detectors and Arduino-controlled consoles. Cyan even contributed some audio of Atrus (Rand Miller) speaking. And... the game didn't really work. This is a darn shame. There were hardware bugs, software bugs, puzzle solvability issues. Several teams attempted the game; none solved it.

For a detailed post-mortem, see this Tumblr post. (With video tour!)

Disclosure: I was invited to help out with the puzzle design. Further disclosure: I got too busy and flaked out. Sorry! I contributed some ideas to the original brainstorming session, and I commented a bit during the design process, but that's all. Major props to Tonbury for the puzzle design, Taniith for heroic construction work, and Riv for a light-up linking book (the way out, which nobody reached). I wish we had had four more weeks for playtesting and polish.

And finally... well, not finally but pretty late on Saturday... I was on a panel about narrative games. I was joined by Ichiro Lambe (Dejobaan Games) and Dean O'Donnell (professor at WPI). This was a hoot, although somewhat unstructured; we bounced around topics and generally attempted to sound smart. Do we have video? Er... not yet. (Everything went out over Twitch but it hasn't all been wrapped up for Youtube yet.) I will update this post when that's available.

That is the news. (Or lack thereof.) Next year, hopefully, much more concrete information on Obduction and the TV show.

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Mysterium news roundup

I didn't go to Mysterium this year. I wanted to; it was held in Spokane, so the attendees got to visit Cyan's offices and chat with Rand and Robyn Miller and basically geek out all over the place. It didn't fit in with my summer plans, though. Fortunately the fans took copious notes. Here's the current Myst news:

Obduction development continues. Unreal 4 engine.

Cyan has posted a gigantic folder of Myst Online concept art (dropbox link). This is early material -- I'm guessing 2000 to 2002. A little bit of this wound up in Myst Online, and a bit more has leaked out online, but most of it is new to me.

A group of fans have gotten permission to work on Myst Online content -- updating areas from Myst 5, building areas from the concept art above, and importing original fan Ages. These may wind up in the official Myst Online server, although the final decision is up to Cyan, obviously. They say they're aiming to have something playable by the end of this year. I hope that works out. (More discussion in character.)

The Starry Expanse project (a fan remake of Riven) has made excellent progress building Riven's Jungle Island. Here's a video tour (youtube) of what they've done. You'll see that some textures are missing, and the water effects need work, but what they've got is fantastic.

Unwritten, the Myst-setting RPG, has been somewhat delayed but is making progress. They've shipped their Kickstarter tchotchkes; I have a nice D'ni-style notebook and some wooden tokens. (This is a Fate-based RPG, so there are Fate tokens.) The game manuscript itself has gone through a couple of rewrites, with input from Leonard Balsera. Last I heard they were aiming at shipping this month, but I get the impression it'll be another couple more.

There was a pancake printer. I don't know either.

Further notes from the convention:

Mysterium is back in Boston next year, and I hope to be there.

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