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Whenever I feel like being melancholy, I cast my mind over to Cyan Worlds, the once-successful studio that created Myst and Riven, then began to die from a thousand cuts. Myst was fairly well-received by the gaming community, though the release of DOOM three months later caused most people to forget Myst even existed. It was a decently fun game, if you like writing stuff down and figuring it out piecemeal(I very much do). Its sequel fared much better, with mind-boggling puzzles and FMV that still looks good today, surprisingly enough.
Cyan Worlds then decided to make an MMO based on Myst. It was a gamble, to be sure, but they were making money and had enough employees, and who knows? Maybe some people are interested in a Myst MMO. The game released in 2003 under the name of Uru. Content would be episodically released, and players could explore new worlds together.
There were many problems with Uru. It had no real draw for multiplayer. The Myst series had been about quiet, furtive puzzle-solving… not exactly something that transitions well into an MMO. There was no real advantage to having multiple people trying to do the same thing. Additionally, once someone was interested enough to pay the subscription fee, there was nothing to do after all the main content had been exhausted. There was no “endgame,” no raids to grind or loot to collect. You could not pimp out your character with armor made of ultra-diamond and a sword that could kill God Himself.
The biggest problem was World of Warcraft. As DOOM eclipsed Myst, so did WoW eclipse Uru. Eclipse isn’t really the right word, because an eclipse doesn’t last very long – WoW annihilated Uru Live. It came out a year after Uru did, but the year’s head start didn’t do much for the little MMO. Cyan poured money into this little project, designed to be the Next Big Thing, and all it did was quietly bleed to death. It was revived again and again, each time to less and less success.
Uru: Ages Beyond Myst was released at the same time as Uru Live. ABM was the single-player component to the game, and it sold significantly better than Uru Live. This is the game I played when we lived in the Airstream trailer and a tiny room. This game has integrated itself into my way of thought. It is a shame, then, that one of my favorite games of all time was not enough to keep Cyan Worlds solvent. Three more Myst games were released, the fourth of which was actually quite good, but there was no fanfare at all; the games were out in stores, and that was that.
During this time Cyan Worlds was shuffled from company to company. Broderbund, Mattel, Ubisoft, Gamecock (what an awful name). The rights to the Myst series were bandied about by Ubisoft, given to Presto Studios in 2001 to make Myst III and kept by Ubisoft to make Myst IV. Cyan Worlds didn’t develop the two sequels to the franchise that was theirs. With one final effort Cyan Worlds made Myst V: End of Ages, and ended the series – and their solvency.
Cyan Worlds laid off a monumental amount of employees. Either seven or two employees remained after the layoffs were done. Most of them were rehired after Cyan Worlds made a deal to Turner Broadcasting (likely involving the transaction of one (1) human soul, kept by the Turner Broadcasting gremlins from now until perpetuity). However, you can imagine that many of these employees were looking for other work after they witnessed their job security go up in smoke.
Today, they are in a sad state. They stay alive through ports of games to iOS devices, and crappy little apps that somehow manage to keep them afloat. In a June 2012 interview, Rand Miller said “We’re a very small shop at this point. We’re trying hard to pay the bills, and that involves balancing our ports and re-releases with our new IP. We’ve done a couple smaller mobile apps that we’re really proud of, but new IP has to get traction up against all the competition.” [http://www.modojo.com/features/realmyst_interview_with_cyan_worlds/] How the mighty have fallen, or at the very least how the decently well-off have fallen. “We’re trying hard to pay the bills.” I can only imagine the emails from their parent companies, quietly informing them that their support will be cut off if they don’t deliver on a new game.
Cyan Worlds as I knew it is dead. The company that produced pure fantasy, packed into the guise of a game, died when Uru Live went under for good. I remember playing Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, exploring the dead cities of the D’ni. Ironic that the city that once housed an incredible civilization also housed travelers like myself, and dreams of Cyan Worlds to create something that would change the world. Now… dust and echoes. A thousand-year-old searchlight crawling around the cavern, searching for life. Open books, a tiny window on the page whirling, never to know the touch of a hand again.
Goodbye, old friend. May Releeshahn ever keep you.
– Houston