Power to the Gamers
The day is finally here! The day when developers reach a dead end and have two choices: close down the MMORPG or give out the source code and let the MMORPG live on through the fans! In all my life of playing MMOs have I ever seen the latter done, not until now (well not that I'm aware). From what started out as an idea to created a modable MMORPG has evolved into a proposed open source project.
Let me give you the timeline of events. In late 1993, a small company, Cyan Worlds, run by the Miller brothers released a game called Myst. This game blew the face off of the gaming industry. Myst was the first widespread game that was played by non-gamers. It was also the first game to be released exclusively on CD-ROM and held the title of highest selling PC game for nine games until The Sims exploded on PC in 2002.
Myst was simple in that is was merely a point and click adventure (you click on the screen where you want to go and then you go there). Because it was all pre-rendered and used footage of real actors that would react with the computer generated environment, the visuals were absolutely stunning in comparison to almost anything that came before it - especially since Myst required very little as far as computer resources to play. The player was responsible for listening, observing and searching for clues to decipher, decode, and unravel puzzles and mysteries to try and un-piece the complicated jigsaw that was the Myst storyline.
Five months after Radiohead gave us multiple orgasms with OK Computer, Riven: The Sequel to Myst was released upon the world. While its sale weren't as omfwtfbbq as it's big brother, it still was the highest selling game of the year and at last count in 2002, had sold around 4.5 million copies.
In May, 2001 came Myst III: Exile. Exile brought a completely new edge to the Myst franchise, allowing the play to look around them whilst standing on the spot. This coupled with it's ridiculously photo-realistic pre-rendered environments left the gaming world awe-struck and amazed.
In 2003 Cyan released Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. Meant from the beginning to be a multiplayer game, Uru had players exploring the 'cavern', the abandoned city of the once great civilisation, D'ni (pronounced D-nee (as in make the sound you would for a d, then light pause and then say nee) simple), of whom the character in the Myst games are descendants of. Uru was a spin-off of the Myst series and not a direct sequel of sorts. Uru was the first in the Myst Franchise to use real-time rendering and allowing the players to walk around their environments as opposed to point and click. Because of this the graphics were good but not photo-realistic as we'd seen previously.
The online multiplayer section of Uru was constantly delayed and never released. It was finally cut and those who had bought Uru were then left playing a game meant to be played as an MMO as a single player game. Back to the isolation of the first three Myst games as irony would have it.
2004 Ubisoft released Myst IV: Revelation. Definitely my favourite game in the series, Revelation uses the same principle of point and click navigation with 360° free-look with pre-rendered environments, except this time, on top of the absolutely stunning picturesque, pre-rendered world, Ubisoft used an engine known only as 'ALIVE' to animate everything from water, to flora, to the cloud in the sky, to the fauna to dynamic realtime effects like optical focal blur, the ability to 'tap' any surface and hear the results, as well as extensive use of live actors. Revelation, like it's big, big brother, Myst, was the first ever game to be released exclusively on DVD-ROM (releasing it on CD-ROM would have meant an excess of twelve individual CDs just to house the content - can you imagine the disc switching!).
2005 brought us the final game in the Myst series: Myst V: End of Ages. EoA was an average game. It was more a sequel to Uru than Myst and was completely rendered in realtime which meant it's graphics were no-where near as impressive as what fans had seen from Exile three year before. It's puzzles had repetitive goals and it lacked the depth the that previous games contained. Plus the player really couldn't give a toss about the characters involved in the game itself (which is a bad, bad thing in a single player game).
In 2007, in an attempt to give the Myst and Uru fans what they truly deserved, Myst Online: Uru Live was released on Gametap. I was apart of the closed and then open beta (my name's on a credits reel - somewhere), and I've got to say, exploring the D'ni cavern and unveiling the rich history of the D'ni whilst interacting with fellow explorers was some of the best fun I've had on a long time. But because Gametap, like most American organisations, are of the opinion that North American's are the best thing since sliced bread and anyone else from any other country and nothing more than pond scum, I never continued on after it's official release (GT expected non-NA players to pay through the nose for their services). Probably because of the previously mentioned issue, GT cease the MO:UL service a year later because of lack of players (I wonder why GT, I really wonder why?).
At the end of 2008, when GT agreed to stop being wankfaces and gave the rights of MO back to Cyan Worlds, the latter announced the Myst Online Restoration Experiment (MORE). The cavern would be reopened but instead of the creation of new content, users would be given the tool to create their own content. If released it really would be the first modable massively multiplayer online game. Unfortunately, due to the laying off of most of the Cyan Worlds staff, couple with the financial crisis, coupled with the fact t hat Cyan need to actually work on project that make it money, coupled with the fact that no company wants anything to do with a project that has a subscription fee to cover server costs and nothing else - MORE was put on hold. Until now…
Cyan has decided to be the lightning, the rain transformed, and release the source code of the servers, client and tools for MO as a complete open source project. Oh the possibilities! Considering the temperament of hardcore Myst fans, I can see a great future for Myst and a big step for gaming industry. As the open source project has only just been announced, no content, or manner of how the content will be released, or even a release date of said content has been released, so it's all on the edge of our seats, nail biting, getting ourselves super-excited, nervous time right now.
So here's to developers biting the bullet and giving their games back to the gamers!