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back to article Myst: 20 years of point-and-click adventuring

For many years it was the best-selling computer game ever – at least until The Sims turned up. It created a whole new gaming genre, and it was a major help in getting a new computer storage format established. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we're talking about Myst. Myst debuted on the Mac back in September 1993 after two years in …

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Headmaster

Cosmic Osmo?

Not to diminish anything from Myst's achievements, but even when dealing with Hypercard based adventure games, wasn't Cosmic Osmo a lot earlier in its implementation of a comparable game experience?

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Re: Cosmic Osmo?

Osmo was great, but more like a comic strip. Myst was rich and deep and mysterious. I was building Videodisc-based games at the time and I was very very impressed.

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Re: Cosmic Osmo?

Yes, the same Robyn and Rand Miller created Cosmic Osmo which I ran on the Mac Classic at work — loved it!

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Re: Cosmic Osmo?

And in terms of being the best selling video game, Atari's Combat cartridge for the 2600 shifted millions more.

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Anonymous Coward

Sort of like a 1990s Twin Kingdom Valley then? amazing how far things had improved in just 9 years.

It seems computer technology improvements have stalled these days, nobody wants a big box of PCI cards full of dust.

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I was thinking just that. It seems like the next step on from "Twin Kingdom Valley" which in it's turn was a step on from the old text based adventures I remember playing oh so long ago :-)

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I always thought it was more like one of the later Freescape games — Castle Master, maybe — except that the relatively static movements were for a completely different reason.

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Myst certainly holds a place in my heart, as one of the earliest games I played when I was younger (and frankly without any idea what I was doing), progressively improving my thinking as I grew older until finally one day reaching a eureka moment and actually progressing into and out of the Ages. It's total lack of direction can be boring to some, but it can also be frankly inspirational, much in the same way that Minecraft achieves. What I wouldn't give to see a version of Myst reimaged for today's high density displays and GPU power.

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Dear Esther

You might want to checkout Dear Esther - quite similar but GPU tastic.

Kinda more a story than an adventure, but worth a look.

http://dear-esther.com/

stu

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Re: Dear Esther

I'll definitely take a look. Cheers!

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Happy

I'm sure it'll only be a matter of time before someone remakes Myst in Minecraft.

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Almost: http://binarymage.com/wiki/doku.php

Pretty cool, though. Book creation for infinite and random ages, and portals of all forms and sizes.

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Already done!

http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/918541-162-mystcraft-0106/

Not a Myst remake as such, but a Myst-inspired mechanism for creating alternate worlds.

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Happy

Arrrrrrgh!

IT'S IN MY HEAD the background music and that dull click noise when an action does nothing is back in my head after two decades and it won't go away!

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Re: Arrrrrrgh!

Get yourself the soundtrack album!

http://www.amazon.com/Myst-Video-Soundtrack-Robyn-Miller/dp/B00000603V

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Re: Arrrrrrgh!

I thought the soundtrack was as important part of the experience as the graphics. The Myst world is sort of abandoned. There were times where details like the lone sound of the wind blowing through the trees really cemented that impression of isolation, imo.

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Re: Arrrrrrgh!

It was certainly an important part of the experience. I didn't hate it, just surprised at the clarity with which I remembered all the sounds! That and how persistent they have been in my head this morning.

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Happy days

Even though I have gone completely over to Linux for everything else, I still keep an old XP box just so that I can play Myst and Riven (my personal favourite) from time to time. And of course the rest of the series. I think they are mostly all available on GOG now, for anyone wanting to try them on modern kit.

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Linux

Re: Happy days

Certain versions do apparently work under Wine - see for example:

http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=version&iId=19691

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Re: Happy days

I loved Myst and all the following games in the series (yes all) but Uru was a game too far. If you thought Myst was cryptic, ha, easy compared to Uru the obscure. I had to go to cheat mode to even get in and as for the purpose for the end game. Wow!

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Pint

Many happy hours in Myst lands

Clues are opaque. A couple of times, I found myself resorting to the internet and, when learning the answer, accepting there was no way I would have thought of the solution.

I considered that the real appeal of Myst; having to think. Not that it wasn't frustrating at times but satisfaction usually turned out to be proportionate to the effort invested.

I mostly got frustrated and cheated when the solutions were found but applying them was tricky or excessively trial and error. I never could match the keyboard notes to the tones required for an early puzzle and resorted to patching the save file.

The problem I had with later games was maintaining interest for long enough. There are a few times where I recall one has to be in just the right place and difficult to achieve even with a cheat sheet. I admit annoyance eventually gave way to boredom. Plenty to explore and enjoy but most of the games I never completed. Despite that I would still rate the series as excellent.

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Go

Matching the notes

Ah, the notes to be played were illustrated in one of the books in the library. No substitute for sitting down and reading through them! (Can you tell I used to work in a library?). The rocket ship was the first way we got off Myst Island: the dismay at not being able to get back is still fresh in my mind!

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Paris Hilton

Re: Many happy hours in Myst lands

One of if not the greatest game I've ever played. Graphically, Riven was a big step forward but its (and the other followers) riddles didn't cut it like Myst did.

There was only one riddle that really got me frustrated: the underground train. I drove hours and hours (not exaggerating!), even tried to draw a map, only to see the same places again and again. And just when I was really about to give up I found the exit - still don't know how.

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jai
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nostalgia

i loved this game when i was a kid. possibly the first game i paid for with my own money?

i spent ages playing it on the mac - no idea what i was doing and i don't think i really got very far. but days and days of going round and round in seeming circles suddenly rewarded when i discovered something i'd previously missed that opened a new area and then i'd repeat the process of wondering what i should be doing next.

i liked the iOS re-release too - i think i instantly seemed to get further in that after a few hours than i ever did as a kid. i feel i've accomplished something in growing up :)

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All I remember about Myst is that they used a whole bunch of pre-rendered video to make a game that could have otherwise fit onto a single floppy disk take up an entire CD ROM. Other than the FMV, it wasn't really much more advanced than Monkey Island, Sam & Max or Day of the Tentacle. It was a classic example of the "let's make it look good but play like on-rails shit" games that started coming out when CD ROMs were a new thing (well, new to the consumer market), beaten out for pure crapness only by the Simple Simon-type games such as Road Avenger.

The later games in the series, I'm not so sure about. They might have been better.

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Re.: ..."let's make it look good but play like on-rails shit"

Came here to say the same thing. Maybe Mac users, who weren't used to playing big complicated games as were available on PCs, were impressed, but Myst left me very bored and frustrated.

Take a step, wait for the CDROM, take another step, wait some more... I don't know how I managed to not blow my brains out, waiting for another frickin' chunk of code/data to load....

And all the eye-candy, and you can't explore. It was sooo boring. Maybe for Mac users, used to Apple's "You will do as you are told" policies, didn't mind, but I hated it.

Then, at the point where my feeling was that I was about thirds of the way through the game, it was over. Whaa? Not a very good puzzle, but yes, it was pretty. But you couldn't really play Myst. When Riven came out, I gave it a pass.

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FAIL

Agreed. It's stretching it to call it Myst a game - interactive movie would be a better analogy. Endless renders of a cold desolate world. Randomly clicking levers and bits of the screen that had no logical significance. Doing puzzles for the puzzles sake. No thanks.

I preferred adventure games where you talked to a skull call Murray and how he'd roll through the gates of hell with your head on a pike!

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Pirate

Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle beat Myst hands-down. Maybe not graphically - but then, the graphics in Myst are all pre-rendered anyway so it's not really saying much is it? Humerous scripting, great storylines and a better GUI go a long way.

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Happy

Pre-rendered FMVs

TBH, it wasn't the only game that did this. And games that relied on FMV's weren't necessarily bad, or even simple. Remember the Wing Commander series? The later installments (3 and 4) were a multi-disc thing mostly due to the FMVs (Look! Mark Hamill and the guy who plays Biff!) and that series still came out as an awesome franchise! (Let's forget Prophecy, please.)

So even the ones that were Interactive Movies would be pretty good, as long as they were mostly games and not the movie equivalent of "choose your own adventure".

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Go

Could never get into Myst games....Broken Sword / Monkey Island is where its at!

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Guessing and deducing

Ah, you know you're getting old when the Antique Codeshow starts featuring your favourites.

I got Myst to go with my top-of-the-line Gateway 2000 486dx [1] complete with CD-ROM drive, in 1994. I didn't stumble around guessing, though. I and my daughter (aged 12 at the time) tackled the MYSTery collaboratively in shortish sessions over many weeks, and in my bookshelf is the school exercise book in which we kept a journal and notes as to what we had found. We always approached the puzzles as a sort of cryptography crack - the premise was that the solutions were all there to protect the MYST books from casual exposure. Looking at the journal, I can see the little pencil-drawn icons she devised to notate the sounds from the Selenitic Age. Later, we approached Riven in the same way, and playing two-up like that was some of the best fun I ever had with a computer. I was sorry to see Cyan fold in the end; if there's anything new which echoes that sort of game-play with that sort of immersive depth, I'm unaware of it.

[1] OT PS I am typing this on the AnyKey keyboard that came with that computer: the only surviving component!

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Re: Guessing and deducing

So reminiscent of my own experience with all the Myst games, my wife and I would sit for hours contemplating the solution to a particular puzzle and exploring what then became available, like yourself, we had scores of drawings and notes that can still be found in between the pages of books and lying in drawers - testament to the sharing of a computer game in a way that has never happened since, not that we haven't looked and tried - happy memories :)

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Myst was the game Michael Bay would have made...

Full of the best effects achievable but utterly devoid of any content of any note. Lucas Arts games didn't look this good but they were far more entertaining.

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Meh

Whilst Myst was visually stunning, I seem to remember becoming very bored, very quickly because it was very slow and clunky, and my machine spec would have been well above average (these were the pre-marriage days when I had such extravagances as disposable income).

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Myst was one of those things you either got or your didn't. My favourite was Ryven, I used to love the imagery used, plus the sounds of insects buzzing and water lapping on the rocks, it really was a totally immersive experience.

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Holmes

Hell yeah. Pretty sure the designers visited the Canaries.

Anyway, who in the world downvotes this? Hyperactive Apple addicts?

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Riven was just plain gorgeous and haunting. I still want to visit that golden dome on the archipelago, and can't quite believe it isn't a real place.

Meanwhile, Myst - an excellent thing was the way the imagery revealed an increasingly dark and psychotic story, with plenty of 'Dafuq did I just see?' moments.

And none of it was obvious. It didn't spoon feed you - you had to find your own way in your time, which made it more satisfying than more linear games.

The series peaked with Riven. The later games had some nice moments, but the puzzles started to rely more on timing and dexterity, and somehow the atmosphere started to seep away.

But Myst Uru online is still available, and it's free now. I haven't played it, but it looks interesting:

Myst Online

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Never got into myst

I never got into myst, , I had an amiga and played all the lucasarts classic , manic mansion , monkey island etc I love adventure games but the only reason I upgrade to a PC with a CD/DVD rom was because monkey island 3 came out

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I got my copy for free

bundled with my Performa 5200, presumably to show off its CD-ROM drive. What's more, I made it all the way to the end on my own, although that interminable underwater maze with the bathyscape nearly killed me. I still remember the keen sense of disappointment that came with finding out that the spaceship wasn't actually going to take me into space. I must still have the disk kicking around somewhere.

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1st game on 1st PC

Myst was the very first game I ever bought and played on my very first PC, a P200mHz HP running Win95, back in '98.

Lord, that led to a whole string of similar adventure games, mostly from Sierra, until Half-Life and System Shock 2 came out and I got hooked on FPSes.

Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.

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Ah yes, Myst ...

The beginning of games for people who don't like or play games.

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Re: Ah yes, Myst ...

It was refreshing because it was clearly written by a guy who didn't like or play computer games, and tested it on ordinary family and friends who didn't necessarily play computer games.

I preferred the more sophisticated Riven though (on Playstation 1), that's an imaginary world I'll never forget.

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Something similar

I remember playing the first 2 versions of Myst that a friend had lent me and getting extremely frustrated and rewarded at the same time. Fond memories of phoning him up at 2 in the morning for a "clue".

Another game I found recently in the same lines is Machinarium. I personally think this is a totally underrated game and should be worth looking at.

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Re: Something similar

+1 for Machinarium. Not exactly the same style as Myst and Riven, and a fair bit shorter, but it's an excellent game that definitely appeals to Myst-lovers. Also, the soundtrack is a work of art in its own right!

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Happy

Loved it!

Great review, though slightly depressing to know that Myst is now 20 years old!

I remember playing Myst on a Mac LC475 in 93-94. Preferring sometimes to escape the real world, Myst was perfect and totally immersive to me. I remember trying to plot the underground railway on the Selenitic Age because I didn't realise that the sounds made by the rail car related to another Age and so I wandered around for hours, totally lost, trying to find the end. Myst succeeded in making you work for your eureka moments, pushing you to make apparently unrelated connections to complete a section of the game.

Riven I absolutely loved and spent about six months playing nothing else. I even took to long drives to figure out a problem whenever I got stuck. Like many players I also took to noting down puzzle solutions in a little book. I think it was the genius of the games that made you feel like you were an explorer.

The following sequels, whilst great to play and beautiful to look at, didn't really engage me as much as the originals, probably because I felt the puzzles to be too convoluted and obscure when compared to Myst and Riven.

Purchasing both titles for my iPad was a no-brainer, but would love to play them again on a desktop. I heard somewhere that the original source files for Riven were lost and so a higher res version cannot be re-rendered for today's PCs?

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Anonymous Coward

What's in a name?

Robyn, Rand, Ryan Miller. Wonder how many of their siblings' or parents' names also start with "R"? Is it no wonder they grew up to pose puzzles.

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never really played myst too much

But my wife loves those adventure style games, there are lots of them on shockwave for download, we spend some nights going through a few of them together, some are, as was apparently the case with Myst, obscure, and often involved a lot of running around like a goon trying to find the clue or piece of a puzzle to open say, a door, that could easily have been opened with one of the objects lying around (yes I yell at the 'dumb' in game player saying he needs a hammer to smash a window or a piece of glass, where there is a perfectly good blunt object right in front of him that would do the same job!)

Either way though, it did inspire a genre, and one that does not need to go running around in a beautifuly rendered sandbox, that requires the best graphics cards and processors on the market to be enjoyable. My wife does not really play FPS or other run run bang bang games, so this is a good compromise.

It is also welcome bonding time, something we can do as a couple which does not involve bumping uglies ( my preferred thing to do as a couple, but not in front of the kids)...

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Unhappy

darnit, guys...

I haven't finished the game yet and you classify it as an antique...

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I found the aiming was a bit unreliable. Often you'd end up slamming 6 rockets past a target before actually hitting it. Couldn't ever figure out the laser trip mines either. Still, good game.

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Anonymous Coward

This just reminded me of Spycraft : The Great Game i think it was called...man I need to hunt that down somewhere.

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