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?
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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!
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".
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  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.
 OT PS I am typing this on the AnyKey keyboard that came with that computer: the only surviving component!
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 :)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)...
They seem to be firmly targeted at women. They are often based on 'hidden object' games, but some are quite sophisticated puzzles, but they are generally a ghost story in a spooky mansion kind of thing.
Although none of them as hard as Myst, simply because they know their target audience is 'casual' and they'll not want to write things down on paper whilst playing.
There's loads and loads of them, look:-
Interestingly, HyperCard was far better for interactive stuff than PowerPoint ever was. I remember passing a lot of stuff to HyperCard because of this, and the first iteration of e-books I ever saw (Jurassic Park!) in there. Sadly the tech didn't go much further.
Then again, the entire WWW is it's spiritual successor!
I rather enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Myst and Riven. I found that spoiling a puzzle ruins the victory. I didn't need to with Myst, but due to an oversight on my part I ended up in a situation in which I couldn't progress. When I found the answer it allowed me to finish but soured the victory out of proportion with the actual cheat involved.
I consider Myst and Riven to be games that "got it right" in every department, allowing the immersion to be almost automatic.
AN example of a game where I feel everyone "Got It Wrong" was the much anticipated (by me at any road) Starship Titanic. It's brilliance in places was marred by awfulness in others - indecipherable graphics, mechanisms that were just annoying rather than entertainingly obstructive and hotspots that were too narrow for the job they were supposed to do.
These problems made the challenge become fighting the design rather than solving the puzzles and soured the game experience to the point I grabbed a cheat book and stopped caring about the game, even the places that had on first sight been so evocative I pined for the fact I couldn't walk further due to there being no more game in that direction (like I did in the Stoneship Age).
A game I wish would be reissued for modern kit is RAMA. It had an innovative game idea: a companion who would explain anything upon request. If Starship Titanic's design team had lifted that one they could have sidestepped the graphical design issues the game had in places. The different races that could be met and interacted with in RAMA made it a really nifty experience and a total time-suck.
But for sheer "I love to walk around here just for the hell of it" I reckon Riven still holds the gold medal. A true labor of love.
Myst was great for the time, and my CDROM could just about keep up. Riven was unplayable - too many trips to the CDROM to retrieve another sodding bird squawk.
Since we're on the topic of antiques, I have to mention my all time fave - The Neverhood. Cmon Klayman!
I still have the little metal toy that came with Riven. It's the creature that goes "squee" when you deflated the balloon plants on a hillside.
I always thought of Myst as a text adventure with graphics, if that makes sense. Instead of "go north" you clicked a particular direction and got rewarded with a particular image. I enjoyed actually having time to solve puzzles at my usual slow & stupid rate.
I enjoyed Myst. It was fun solving the puzzles, and frankly I prefer this type of game to FPS. However, your article said, "...And thus was the pure point-and-click adventure born."
That is not completely accurate. I believe it was actually born in 1983. The game was called "Dragon's Lair" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3XNQja0H7I). You had fast paced 'puzzles' to solve. Although, perhaps, they may have been little more than correct choices. I would say, however, that this was the birth of the point-and-click adventure. The developer wanted a visually exciting version of the old text "Adventure" game.
I was not aware of it at the time, but I played the very first publicly installed game in Rosemead, CA (Los Angeles area). I played a lot of arcade games, but this was different. So different, that as I recall, it required two quarters to play instead of one. In the first week I played the game, after actually seeing the installation, the developers would ask us questions about the play, and actually made adjustments. It was different, fun, exciting, and at times very frustrating.
This game was done for the same reasons as Myst. The computer rendering could not generate the rich imagery needed. Inside the arcade box was a video-disk player with all of the possible courses, so it was very similar to Myst's CDs.
IIRC, Dragon's Lair featured only pointing, not clicking - it was basically a script that played video as long as you pressed the B button within 3 milliseconds of this time and the A button within 10 milliseconds of this time, or GAME OVER.
An interesting concept and from what I understand fairly well-executed, but somewhat lacking in the depth department.
That is s good technical point. The larger construct to keep in mind is that both Dragon's Lair and Myst were games that delivered a richer video experience by way of an interactive video disk than the capable technology of the time. Both had 'scripts', if you will, you could only move in the game where pre-defined imagery allowed you to go.
Myst certainly allowed much more expansion to the interaction of the game than did Dragon's Lair. Both games were a visual extension of the old "Adventure" game, IMHO.
All Myst is - is an Infocom text game with eye candy. I tried point and click with a game called "Scratches" - It sucked. I had tons more fun with Sword of Fargoal, and the early Ultima's. Eye candy is fine, but the play is the thing. I'm currently lost in the New Vegas wasteland, and loving it.
>But puzzle solving is timeless, and so is adventure gaming
It is timeless. It has been garbage since invented and still is today. The only time I don't hate puzzle solving in a game is when it is so well done that I hardly realize I am solving a puzzle (think Half life). Even friggin Uncharted (2, 3) with its juvenile puzzles annoyed me. Yes there are visceral thinking gamers and then there are twitch killers that simply love blowing shit up and tea bagging other players corpses and I am definitely of the latter. Oh and RTS blows too.
Sorry, but there wasn't any guesswork involved, unless you just weren't paying attention or had no patience. It was all logic and deduction. I completed all four without having to look up a thing on the internet, though Riven and Revelation were pretty tough. (I don't really consider the fifth to be part of the same series...I bought it and played though some of it, but it's not really the same so I kind of lost interest.)
Also I have to take issue with the assertion that "puzzles are typically solved by acquiring long lists of items". In fact there are no items that you acquire, aside from the book pages. That was deliberate, to get away from the often-arbitrary "inventory puzzles" in previous adventure games. Instead, puzzles are typically solved by observation and manipulating the environment. I'm pretty sure these games helped train my real-world powers of observation to be less bad....
I can just imagine if they'd made Myst today, for a mobile device. You fire it up, click to move, click to move, open a thing, click to -
"You're out of Cliks! Wait 870 seconds for your next ClikPak, or buy more at the ClikStore! 10 Cliks $.99, 25 Cliks $2.49, 4000 Cliks $39.99. Or you can send Cliks to your Facebook friends, and maybe they'll send some back!"
Myst was one of my favorite games as well. I think it stands out for me as such a novel experience because it was one of the first games I purchased when i got my first CD-Rom drive. I played it on my 486-DX33 (33mhz, no that's not a joke =). It had a whopping 8mb of ram =D These days I doubt I would have the patience to work my way through some of those nastier puzzles but I'm glad that I did when I was younger. There certainly was something indescribably appealing about the world presented by the Myst game and later the book series. I enjoyed both immensely.
"Still, many gamers found Myst's approach too slow, and its puzzles too opaque."
"Straightforward, yes? Well no, because achieving both requires a high degree of lateral thinking or, to be honest, plenty of inspiration. 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."
Did we play the same game? I remember something so pathetically simple and with so little interactivity that I finished it in two sittings.
I loved the adventure-game genre for as long as Infocom kept churning out devilishly complicated stories that could keep me engrossed for session after session on a timespan of weeks and weeks. Myst and the stampede of imitations it inspired are what killed the genre for me.
I prefer the parody of Myst whereby you visit the island after all the day players have passed through and left their mark on the world, it was called Pyst.
Regarding The Neverhood, the creators of that game have just run a kickstarter campaign to bring a new klaymation game to fruition called ARMIKROG, the Brotherhood of Neverhood can rejoice, you will be back in klayspace soon enough. :)
I remember getting Myst because of a friend raving about how brilliant it was, and the video, and the 3D, and the Behind The Scenes video clips.
I joked about them having to fill out the CD somehow, which was Not Appreciated...
So I played it on my new PowerMac 6100/60AV. (Or maybe it was before the upgrade when it was still the Macintosh Centris/Quadra 660AV.)
I was not impressed with the game play. It took ages to move around the island. And you had so few options of things to do when you got there. The puzzles were a combination of obvious and tedious. Easy to see the solution, but sometimes difficult to implement it.
But the real problem was the bugs. Cyan had done all their development on Quadra 700s. If you had a Quadra 700, or a machine with the same chipset (I believe the LC525 was one) everything worked fine. On my machine, and many others as reported on the Internet, the sound cues didn't work properly, meaning my brother spent a weekend or something left handing around the railway to map a solution. And there was one fairly simple puzzle, you had to visit three different positions to get the code to operate the way out of the age, where you couldn't get to one of the clues. Which meant trying all the remaining combinations once the others had been set.
I believe they fixed all these problems before they ported it to Windows.
The only game I think was worse to play, although it was over much quicker, was The Journeyman Project.
I enjoyed Myst. It ran well on my PC, and I remember many pleasant hours spent solving the puzzles, with help from my brother (who in turn learned clues from his friends).
Fast-forward about 6 years, after my move to the Seattle area I learned the design team (Cyan) was from Washington State, and their Myst island had been inspired by one of the San Juan islands.
I've visited the spot by boat a few times (it's wonderful) and think about Myst when I do. The pictures here don't do it adequate credit:
Every time I go over to nearby Portmerion and look at the concrete ship by the hotel, I am always reminded of Myst.
If I ask my younger (relatively speaking) friends if they know what I am gibbering on about, they always look blank.
While Myst was and still is an astonishing game lets not once again forget about the existence of an equally as astonishing masterpiece named Obsidian (by Rocket Science Games).
Let me point out however that this company was appropriately named. Obsidian is infinitely more difficult than Myst. It took me months before I reached the FIFTH CD (yes, there were five CD's in total) and I eventually gave up. I have been gaming for 20 years now (with much experience in puzzle/adventure games) and Obsidian is the only game I have given up on (and I'm quite stubborn when it comes to not going online for walkthroughs as I enjoy the satisfaction of completing a seriously difficult game on my own).
Personally I did not find Myst difficult at all (completed it in about five hours a few months back and the last time I touched the game was in 1994). Myst had its plus points in many other areas however which have already been mentioned in the article.
Take my word though. If you enjoyed Myst... play Obsidian. It has an astonishing story. An absolutely unreal environment with concepts and ideas which are truly unique to this game. And its puzzles... my lord. Your problem solving skills and patience will be pushed to their absolute limits.
Trust me on this.
I actually played Obsidian a few years ago, and didn't find it nearly as hard as you claim. It was less difficult than Riven or Revelation; I finished it (with no cheating--I agree about not going online for hints) in a few days. It's worth playing, certainly, although the first "world" is substantially better than the rest of the game, which makes the overall experience somewhat less satisfying than it could have been.
I used to work in the call centre that did the tech support for Obsidian when in came out. Although we weren't allowed to give hints, everyone working there found an excuse to play through the game "looking for possible issues".
There were very seldom any calls about technical problems, but lots of frustrated players saying it must be broken since they couldn't advance!
The game in widescreen, not because it was cinematic, but because there wasn't the processing power to do full screen video.
I still remember screaming "How fast!?!" when its benchmark revealed that my appallingly expensive single speed CD-ROM drive was about 0.4 speed, so I had to go out and buy a double speed Mitsumi. Which was cheaper than the single speed had been, but that's computing for you.
These games were great, But I doubt they would have been so successful were it not for the emergence of the internet with a walk-through only a click away when you got really stuck.
I would really love to see these games resurrected but they need to try much harder to level up the problem solving, teaching you early on how to solve the difficult puzzles that occur later, sometimes the off-the-wall out-of-the-box nature of the puzzles meant for many a walk-through was a disappointing requirement.
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