by Stone Semyorka
Imagine developing an entire island in Second Life. Building an elaborate infrastructure. An island so fantastically beautiful it has fans doing handstands. And then one day just demolishing it, removing it entirely, deleting it. Unthinkable, you say? Well, that is the fate of our Myst Island.
Fourteen years ago I was sitting in front of a Macintosh color computer playing with a software technology called HyperCard. I arranged stacks of virtual cards in a deck programmed with a language called HyperTalk to do this and that. It was exciting to see my screen windows change with video wipes and dissolves. Baby steps for me, but…
Elsewhere in Rl, in that same year, 1993, when the big names in published Mac games were Civilization, Prince of Persia and SimCity 2000, the brothers Robyn and Rand Miller were shuffling their HyperCard decks into a far more remarkable and potent product that they called Myst.
It was a first-person adventure game with graphics so real for their time, so visually appealing, that they set the standard for years to come.
I would sit on the rickety swivel chair in my cramped home office, with lights low and speakers reproducing the intriguing music, absorbing my journey through that interactive world, moving my guy by clicking on places along the way and interacting with objects I found by dragging and clicking them.
Sound familiar? Believe me, it couldn’t hold a candle to what we can do today. But it was a great beginning.
The on-screen presentation was extraordinarily unusual for its time. I didn’t have enemies in Myst. Yes, it was a dark and mysterious place, and sometimes gave me the willies, but I couldn’t die.
However, it was a game, so I could lose. The whole idea was to resolve the puzzles along the way.
I was the Stranger who ventured along the island of Myst and used puzzles and complex mechanical devices to find books which I then used to visit worlds known as Ages — Selenitic, Stoneship, Mechanical, Channelwood — in search of red and blue pages for the books.
Like countless others, I struggled with the question of whether to free Sirrus or Achenar, said to be the sons of Atrus, the owner of Myst Island who had used the ancient practice known as the Art to write the books.
A 1994 Wired magazine article said, “Myst was better than anything anyone had ever seen. Myst was beautiful, complicated, emotional, dark, intelligent, absorbing.”
I would say, simply, Myst was huge — the bestselling video game for years. The game and its sequels sold more than 12 million copies.
There were four sequels: Riven, Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, and Myst V: End of Ages, plus three novels and two comic books.
So the idea of exploring a 3-D virtual world isn’t new to many of us. We’ve been thrilled by the idea and opportunity for a long time. In fact, for a whole decade before Second Life came to us in 2003.
It seems only natural that Myst was brought to its many fans in a virtual place where we reside, build mechanisms and move objects by clicking them.
Like the Stranger in Myst, we don’t die in SL and we can go places that give many of us the willies — like Hard Alley in Yulmu or the numerous islands of Gor.
Please note that I said we don’t die. The same can’t be said for our Myst Island.
The RL company GameTap built the SL island to call attention to its Internet video game Myst Online: Uru Live. That product launch is history now so Game Tap will remove our Myst Island from Second Life on July 11.
That begs the question. If our Myst Island was good PR for Game Tap’s Internet product during the launch, why wouldn’t it be good for continued promotional value in the future. Why take it away?
The pictures here are from our Myst Island known as Myst Online: Uru. If you care about this, send an IM to Game Tap’s in-world representatives Rizpah Galatea or Woody Blair.