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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Betrayal of Myst

I recently played the demo for Myst V: End of Ages. I wasn't impressed. Cyan has never pulled off real-time 3D successfully, so it's a real shame they're determined to use it in every one of their games. Clearly, what is driving them is a desire to remain at the cutting edge of gaming technology, but why? It certainly isn't to make the game better, because in every way this demo is a large step backwards from Revelation. The enviroments are more barren and boring, because the focus was more on the polygon count than on what those polygons were there to do. The control distracts from the exploration, dealing a fatal blow to any hope it might have had of being immersive. The graphics are nowhere near as pretty, and aren't very animated, no doubt to allow for a more stable framerate. Oh, and did I mention the framerate is low and inconsistent? With all these issues, it isn't possible to believe for a moment that you're not "just playing a game". So I ask again, why? Apparently, it's to be better accepted by the public. Bl'bah! To think that social acceptance should stand higher than the quality of the game! Cyan has lost my respect, and I hope Team Revelation can take their place if this turns out not to be the last Myst game. I can only wish.

Believe it or not, I am not emotionally crippled by the thought that I will not be getting another Myst. My life is just so much fun right now anyway that it's hard to care too much. I'm not playing many games, unfortunately, but even so my life is wonderful. Soon I will be finished tutoring VB for good, and I'll be able to buy games with the money. There are still many good games I don't have for the GCN, made by gamists who haven't sold out. I look forward to playing them.

Unfortunately, while I sit and enjoy myself, the rest of the world keeps moving. Eli will be starting his school year on Sunday, and he'll be going to a dorm. So there goes my only friend. My mother keeps bugging me to try and find another friend, but the idea is repulsive. What am I supposed to do, put up a sign?
Friends Wanted!
Will you be my friend?
If you are:
  • Hyperactive
  • A science fiction fan
  • A gamer
  • Slightly crazy
I would like to meet you!
I will bend over backwards to pretend I don't offend your sense of normality!
Call my number today!
No, I'm not going to go out there and make a fool of myself. No matter how much I argue, I can't get anyone to agree with me except for those who had no opinion before. Who is interested in my artistic ideas in a world where the creators of a craft will sacrifice everything they've worked for to get a few more sales? Who is interested in me, in a world which promotes normality above all else?

This is a world in which Nintendo will turn Metroid into a FPS for the DS just because Halo is popular. This is a world in which Cyan will make Myst in real-time 3D just because real-time 3D games are popular. This is a world in which everyone bends over backwards to be accepted, even if their actions should be completely opposed to their identities. How can I deal with such a world, except as I am doing? I sit here, by my computer, in my own world. I avoid contact with the world whenever possible, even though I want it, because no good can come of it. I am not meant to be a part of this World.

But there are a handful of gamists with integrity. These are the artists, like Michel Ancel, who dared to interpret gamism differently than the rest of the world. Beyond Good & Evil was ignored completely. BG&E was made in its own world, following its own rules, and if it didn't get accepted by the general public, so be it. But amazingly, it exists. Maybe that's all that matters.



Oh my goodness, get ahold of yourself.

1) For at least some of the Ages -- Noloben and D'ni we know for certain -- they were using content that was originally intended for Uru. I'm not saying it's "leftovers" or whatever because they're great, but they were never modeled with the intention of pre-rendered graphics. To say Cyan's caving into "social pressure" or whatever is absurd.

2) If you think they could have made the game pre-rendered in the time they had, you're quite wrong. They had, like, a year.

3) The framerate in the game is better than that in the demo. Don't ask me why. Also, maybe you're a bit too aggressive with your quality settings. Turn them down, see what happens.

4) If the controls destroy the immersion that much, you're determined to have it destroyed for you. I too would have liked to control the speed of movement; heck, there's probably a config file we could hack to change it ourselves. But in any case, three control schemes were obviously intended to make it MORE friendly for people. If you don't like the walk speed, put it in classic mode.

5) If you think Todelmer is "barren and boring" you're insane.

6) Metroid is not an FPS. It's a more of a First-Person Adventure. No game where you can bloody LOCK ON to enemies is an FPS. It's an adventure/platformer, it doesn't focus on hair-trigger reflexes or accuracy, and it's brilliantly done, and it feels like Metroid. You're determined to hate it, which is your prerogative, but your reason given here is incorrect and invalid.

Fin) "I am not meant to be a part of this World." Sounds to me more like you're determined to not be a part of this world.

First of all, thank you for posting the most intelligent comment yet on my blog. :)

I must first object to the outrageous assumption that I consider Metroid Prime to be a FPS. In fact, I have been extremely vocal about classifying it as an exploration game like Myst, or more specifically an "action exploration game". I don't expect you to read my previous blog entries, so suffice it to say that I have never enjoyed a FPS in my life, and Metroid Prime 2 is one of my favorite games ever. What I was referring to (which I indicated by mentioning the DS) was the upcoming Metroid-themed FPS for the DS entitled Metroid Prime: Hunters. It does not have a lock-on feature but uses control which has been described as a copy of PC FPS controls. More importantly, there appears to be little or no emphasis on exploration, to be replaced with new types of weapons, new playable characters, etc. I am outraged because Nintendo is willing to completely ignore Metroid's identity as an exploration game (in every game from Metroid 2: Return of Samus on to Metroid Prime 2: Echoes) and turn it into a typical FPS to get more sales. I think you will agree with me that this is a very bad thing. I think this whole misunderstanding stems from my stylistic decision to not spell out any more than is necessary on this blog. I hope this does not bother you.

My criticism toward Cyan is not limited to this particular game. They should have seen the problems as early as RealMyst and either gone back to pre-rendered before that remake got too far in production, or spent a lot of effort correcting their mistakes. My feeling is that they went with real-time graphics for the sake of competition, since clearly they didn't have a valid reason from a control perspective. Perhaps this is oversimplifying the matter, but that is how it looks from my end. This blog is not a statement of absolute truths but personal ones, with the aim of understanding how they affect my life's course. In any case, pointing out that these worlds were modeled for Uru does not change my opinion that Cyan should not have been modeling anything for real-time. Uru didn't bother me because although I didn't like it at all, I still got a Myst game I liked from Team Revelation. But now it looks like there will be no more Myst games, and all I have to look forward to is this deeply flawed game. That is why I am so upset.

The control was well-intentioned but a bad idea nonetheless. I prefer to have one good control scheme to three bad ones. I would honestly be curious to hear why you think I might be determined to dislike the only remaining game in one of my favorite series.

I'm not sure which Age Todelmer is. I was referring to the beach Age (whatever its name is) featured prominently in the demo. Since this demo is my only way to get a taste of the game, I have no choice but to assume it is representative of the version in stores. I don't like spending money on games I won't like. The most prominent landmarks of the areas I tried to stroll through seemed to be a bunch of rocks. Compare this to any one of the Ages Team Revelation crafted in the last game, and you will see why I refer to it as barren and boring.

I would suggest that you are determined to find me guilty of being determined of something. It is in fact very difficult to accuse me of being determined not to be part of the Real World from a social perspective when I spent so much time in the past few years trying to get along with the people around me. But there was always a wall between us, no matter how hard I tried to reach out to them. Spending time with them was a pretense. At first I wanted to believe I could be one of them- it was only with much time and effort that I concluded that I did not belong with them.

I am glad to see an angry face here (no joke!), and I hope you will stick around for a while and criticize my other posts. If not, I would like you to know that it was a pleasure to hear from you.

Re Metroid: Okay, yeah, I saw "DS" and my brain saw "Newish Nintendo system," so yeah that's my bad.

Regarding realMYST: realMYST was more or less entirely a test-run of the Plasma engine they were using for Mudpie (later to be Uru: Online Ages Beyond Myst, later to be Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, later to be cancelled). They'd just acquired Headspin, they wanted their feet wet, so they built the thing.

(There was some weirdness about Sunsoft taking over development, then giving it back to Cyan. I don't really know what that was about.)

And they've said repeatedly that realtime 3D was always their vision... just wasn't technologically feasible at the time.

Uru could not possibly have been made pre-rendered, since there was originally going to be only Uru Live. Then Ubi made them change courses to Uru Prime, then cancelled Uru Live, so all we have to show for it are the single player games. But the true vision for Uru simply cannot be done prerendered.

And then they had a year to more or less design Myst V from scratch. Not nearly time enough to build and render all those polys.

Regarding Noloben (the demo Age): It gets a bit more interesting than that with a little investigation, although the demo cuts you off right before the first cool part.

All the Ages are a bit smallish, but there's still a decent bit of puzzling to be done. The game is probably sized about like the original Myst, if Myst Island were a bit more linear.

Todelmer is the space Age, and it is beautiful.

Laki'ahn is the most rushed-looking of the Ages, and also has the worst framerate, and also (in my opinion) has the worst puzzles.

Tahgira is a snow Age, so it's by nature barren, but still very pretty. And the puzzles there don't seem to be integrated at all, but a blurb in the strategy guide actually proves it pretty clever.

And then there's Noloben. Tell me this about the demo, did you climb up anything at any point? If not, you've missed pretty view #1 of the Age (#2, really -- I think the beach is pretty too).

The hub Age is something that, if you've been a Myst fan for any period at all, you've been waiting for for a long time. :)

Regarding Rev: Yes, the Age design there is excellent, physically speaking. But man, Spire and Haven build you up, build you up, build you up, and then have LAME climaxes. And then all that Dream stuff is as non-Mystish as you can get. The plant concept is okay, the element spirits are WAY pushing it, but the pointing icons around is just upsetting.

It's a shame; if you took the good stuff from Myst III and the good stuff from Myst IV and put them together, you'd have a better game than Riven.

And but so anyway. I think you should give Myst V a chance. It's no Riven, but it flows nicely. It doesn't build you up then let you down.

The bad endings SUCK, but the good ending is nice.

Regarding determined to find you determined: Well, there was just a bit of "My tastes are not within the realm of human understanding" aroma to the post, and enough mistaken conceptions that I got a bit huffy. Sorry about that. <.<;;

Whoops, I really messed up this comment. I've deleted the faulty version. Let's try this again.

I'm surprised you would mention Exile's "good stuff". There is only one thing I enjoyed about the game- the ending to that eastern puzzle Age. Other than that, it was badly conceived, badly implemented, contrived and very boring. There were a few good ideas here and there, but it was impossible to appreciate them because the developer did not give any thought to ensuring intuitive control. On the Adventure Gamers forum ( I detailed the critical flaws, if you're wondering where I'm coming from on this matter. Intuitive control is critical for an exploration game. Myst IV understood this. Metroid Prime understood this. From what I've seen, Myst V does not.

50 bucks is pretty expensive for giving a game another chance, especially considering how many good Gamecube games I'd like to buy. I really would love to have another Myst experience, but it's too risky a purchase. On the other hand, if the Ages are as good as Revelation's, I'd be willing to overlook the near-unplayability. Are they? For instance, "Snow Age" doesn't sound particularly inspired. What genius or beauty does it bring to the stage?

Just to give you an idea of what I love about Revelation: Tomahna was brilliant for its juxtaposition of the everyday with the fantastical, and for how truthfully it conveyed a sense of family life even though it created an entire design philosophy of its own, completely different to ours. Spire (my favorite) found strong emotions in barrenness. It was realistically chaotic, yet very clearly laid out. Everything about it was drop-dead gorgeous. Haven was very innovative in its reliance on animal life, and created an entire ecosystem of beautiful creatures, giving each its own distinct traits. Serenia entered completely new thematic material, an in interesting fantasy setting with its own unique mythology. I have never been anywhere like it in any game. In short, Revelation is one of the greatest recent works of art I have had the privilege to experience. Sorry about the hyperbole, but I do love singing its praises. And there are very few games more deserving of hyperbole.

From this perspective, judging exploration games first by the world design and second by the intuitive and transparent control, where does Myst V stand? As a great work of art alongside Revelation, or as an unpleasant mess alongside Exile?

I did eventually play Myst V. It was terrible. Here are my thoughts from right after playing it.


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