Getting the message brainless

  1. 285 Posts.
    The fog lifts from Myst Online
    Rand Miller’s Cyan Worlds and Ubi Soft will ally to publish the online version of one of the world’s biggest computer-game franchises.
    By Dean Takahashi
    May 23, 2002

    American game developer Cyan Worlds and French game publisher Ubi Soft Entertainment are announcing today that they will join forces to create Myst Online.

    The long-awaited move means that, some time next year, Myst fans will be able to gather online, explore the famous fantasy realm, and attempt to solve its mysteries; they'll even have voice communication as they do so. Rand Miller’s game-development company, Cyan Worlds, is creating the game with a staff of 50 in Mead, Washington, where the original titles were developed.

    Myst has a huge following among hard-core gamers who like the elaborate story, lack of violence, and combination of adventure gaming and puzzle solving that the original computer game pioneered. But co-creator Mr. Miller says the online game will also try to hook mainstream consumers who aren’t game aficionados, much like Star Wars games attract a wide range of fans.

    Myst titles have sold more than 11 million units since 1993—and thus the new online version was the subject of a bidding war among publishers and venture capitalists alike. Industry followers expect that Myst Online--or rival games like Electronic Arts’ The Sims Online or LucasArts’ Star Wars Galaxies--will test whether online games can reach a critical milestone: a million players paying monthly subscriptions.

    The online version of the game will break a lot of new ground. It is one of the first online games to exploit high-quality voice communications for players with a broadband connection. In order to attract the largest possible number of players, the game will also support text messages and more limited voice communication over a modem.

    Mr. Miller also describes the game as "alive," i.e., the environment is updated so frequently that whenever a player logs in, the world will seem to have changed since his or her last visit. The story line will continue the rich plot of the Myst franchise: within the game, players encounter the ruins of D'ni, an ancient civilization that had discovered a way to travel between worlds but that eventually collapsed due to mysterious catastrophes. Players can explore the city with strangers or gather with friends in their own invitation-only neighborhoods. Cyan Worlds is stoking fans with a taste of the story on

    Mr. Miller’s endeavors to bring his game online echo the twists and turns of the Myst story line. Initially, he and his younger brother and partner Robyn received only 10 percent of the $320 million in sales generated by Myst and Riven; the rest went to the publishers.

    Mr. Miller then started work on the new online game, code-named "Parable," in September 1998. But after buying out his brother’s stake in the company, he didn’t have enough money to finance the entire production. Fearing loss of creative control, he backed out of a couple VC funding deals.

    He was courted by numerous publishers, but in the end he decided to go with Ubi Soft because it had demonstrated faithful and ongoing interest in the franchise. Ubi Soft, based in Montreuil, France, had earlier acquired the rights to publish several games based on Myst, hired a contract developer and, with permission from Cyan, published Myst III: Exile last year.

    The challenge facing Cyan Worlds is that Myst fans have many more games to choose from than in the days of the original title, and sales are not what they used to be. Declining sales figures for consecutive versions of the game tell the story: the original Myst sold 7 million units, its sequel Riven sold 3 million, and Myst III: Exile sold 1.1 million units.

    Mr. Miller believes, however, that the online version--in which friends can socialize with each other as they play--will restore excitement and spark subscriptions.

    Ubi Soft will give Cyan Worlds an unspecified amount of money to develop the game. Last year, Mr. Miller estimated it would take $12 million to bring the game to market. Of that amount, Mr. Miller has invested $5 million. He said that his company may seek additional money from Ubi Soft if necessary.

    The game will debut on the personal computer, but Ubi Soft is excited about the opportunity to take the game to the consoles, says Jason Rubinstein, general manager of, the San Francisco-based unit of Ubi Soft.

    "We’re not necessarily the best when it comes to worrying about the money thing," Mr. Miller says. "We sit up here and make cool products and stay away from other distractions. We signed with Ubi Soft and got that distraction behind us. We knew we couldn’t do this on our own. We breathed a collective sigh of relief."

arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch. arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch.