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Exploring the Alien Worlds of Cyan, Inc’s ‘Obduction’, The Spiritual Successor to Myst

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[vc_row gradient_background=”titanium” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” parallax_enabled=”” col_height=”” css=”.vc_custom_1439322298817{margin-right: -225px !important;margin-left: -225px !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][impala_info_box icon_size=”20px” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_style_color=”#cacaca” icon_align=”left” title_color=”#ffffff” description_color=”#ffffff” spining_icon=”fa-spin” icon_position=”icon-top” text_align=”left” icon=”fa-angle-double-right” title=”Enjoy Our Content?” description=”Please think about supporting us via Patreon if you enjoy our content so we can continue to improve our work and compensate our staff!

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=745258&ty=h”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Rand Miller has been there since the beginning. Cyan, Inc.’s co-founder and CEO has seen the studio wax and wane since the 90s, but he’s never forgotten why he got into games in the first place.

“I still remember the first time I actually got my hands on a computer,” he says. “Back in the early 70s, I had a friend who took me to the university computer centre, and of course it was a mainframe computer with teletypes and CRTs everywhere. As a kid, I was always intrigued by computers, but could never get my hands on one, those were what the big, important universities had and we’d never touched those things, they were in ivory palaces.

“On top of that, I had no idea that computers could play games, I still remember the first time, sitting in front of this terminal, and not knowing anything about computers, this was in maybe 6th Grade, 7th Grade, and my friend ran a game on this terminal.

“It was a moon lander game where one line spits out, telling you how far you are above the surface, how fast you’re going, how much fuel you have left, and then a question mark of how much fuel you want to burn. So I was like, “what, you just type in a number?” So I did, the next line came out and I think at that moment, I was hooked.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=”” css=”.vc_custom_1439317399412{margin-right: -225px !important;margin-left: -225px !important;padding-top: 150px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;background-image: url(https://www.onlysp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Cyan-Unreal.jpg?id=63076) !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“It was literally one line, and I thought, “This is like magic”. That it was a breakthrough and something that I wanted to be involved with. It seems bizarre now that something so low-tech can be so interesting. But from my point of view, I was interacting with a computer and we were playing a game.”

From then on, Miller committed to learning how to program and build his own games, starting simply before registering Cyan, Inc. with his brother Robyn in 1987. They released a number of adventure games for kids in the late 80s and early 90s, before taking aim at an older audience with Myst.

Now, with Obduction Cyan are trying to move on from the past, building on the spirit of their previous titles without forgetting what made them special.

“I think it’s more about what drives me internally than thinking what people might like externally,” says Miller. “What really floats my boat is trying to think of new things and new ways, and interesting new stories and entertainment. I’m really drawn to the indie aspect of gameplay because of that very thing. I can’t come up with a lot of new ideas, but there’re some remarkable people out there who’re doing amazing stuff in the indie market, and I think that’s where the innovation’s coming from; and I just love watching what goes on there.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_single_image image=”63077″ alignment=”center” style=”” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” css_animation=”” scroll_hover_maxheight=”300px” scroll_hover=”” move_horizontaly=”” move_verticaly=”” scale_hover=”” css=”.vc_custom_1439317504795{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text]Cyan successfully took Obduction to Kickstarter, confident that there was still a market for their distinctive brand of adventure – over 22,000 agreed, to the tune of $1.3 million.

“It’s an amazing platform,” Miller explains. “And I think it goes hand-in-hand with the whole trend towards indie and more personal experiences with people more involved at a basic level. I don’t know what’ll happen with Kickstarter in the future. Like all things it becomes more and more sophisticated as part of its evolution. We looked at it as a way to get in touch with a base of fans and an extended base of fans, in a way that I don’t know how else we could’ve gotten to them. We thought people would be interested in a game that gave a similar experience to what Myst did, but you have no way of knowing, there’s no magic polling device we can put out there. And there’s no better way to poll people and get a serious response than making them actually put some money down. That’s not trivial, and if people are willing to do that, you can rest assured that they’re serious about what they’re saying.”

“It was literally one line, and I thought, “This is like magic”.

Cyan are another name on the long list of established industry veterans finding funding on Kickstarter. For Miller and the team, this wasn’t a glorified proof-of-concept or an easy cash-in on Myst’s good name, but a make-or-break deal.

“It’s amazing to watch how that whole process works, and a lot of it is voodoo to me. I think so much of it has to do with the viral nature of the world we live in. You get a very short chance to reach a microcosm of the entire world, and you get to see how viral you can go in that time. It is interesting to see the whole celebrity effect as well, not just in games, there’re people doing movies on Kickstarter as well. When you’ve got a twitter base of millions of people, it’s a nice way to raise some money to do a side project. For us, the Kickstarter campaign was a lot of work, with late nights and updates trying to get to our base amount kicking and scratching.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/2″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“The proof is in the pudding,” he continues. “It’s a great opportunity for one man in a basement, they get to raise a lot less money, but they need a lot less. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of backlash to the larger studios as well, generally speaking. Some of it depends on peoples’ perceptions of how much money a studio has. If you’ve got a lot of money and you’re coming to presell games, people think, ‘why, they’ve got a lot of money tucked away at home, what do they need mine for?’ That definitely wasn’t our case, Kickstarter was an enabling factor for us, and we couldn’t have done anything without it.”

Cyan’s current incarnation encompasses long-time developers from the early days of Myst and its sequel, Riven, as well as new talent pulled from their far-reaching fanbase.

“We’ve got about 20 people,” Miller says. “Myst, in many ways, opened the door for us finding people. A lot of people were influenced by Myst and look on it fondly, so they’re excited about building a little bit of a different kind of product. It’s not that difficult for us to find really talented people, we’ve beefed up our art department a bit with some excited artists who’ve done amazing things. That was the real push from the Kickstarter, getting a couple of technical people and some stability, then building up the art department so we can produce all the assets for the game.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_single_image image=”63078″ alignment=”” style=”” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” css_animation=”” scroll_hover_maxheight=”300px” scroll_hover=”” move_horizontaly=”” move_verticaly=”” scale_hover=”” img_size=”375×600″ css=”.vc_custom_1439318255767{margin-right: -250px !important;padding-left: -150px !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Over the years, Cyan’s brought a lot of artists and developers to the Washington State city of Spokane, and as their staff size fluctuated, some chose to stick around, to the benefit of the local game dev community.

“It’s actually grown a lot lately,” says Miller. “With Myst and Riven, Riven in particular, we hired a lot of really talented people from all over the States and in some cases, all over the world. Then with Myst: Online, we hired a substantial amount of people for that as well, and as we reduced in size, as the ebb and flow goes for any studio, a lot of those people migrated to other companies or started their own.

“There’s been a little bit of growth in the software and tech industry here in Spokane, but the big city in Washington State, Seattle, that’s a whole different animal. They’ve spawned so much innovation from Microsoft, Adobe and Amazon, all these core places that started there led to a lot of other development. A lot of ways, we’re in the shadow of that, but we have our own little subculture here in Spokane, it’s a bit of a smaller, tighter community.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” parallax_enabled=”” col_height=”” css=”.vc_custom_1439320829891{margin-right: -250px !important;margin-left: -250px !important;padding-top: 125px !important;padding-bottom: 75px !important;background-image: url(https://www.onlysp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ObductionConcept04.jpg?id=63099) !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}” gradient_background=”ash”][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_text_separator title=”OBDUCTION” title_align=”separator_align_center” align=”align_center” color=”white” heading_color=”#ffffff”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“What if you were abducted?” asks Rand Miller, CEO and co-founder of Myst creators Cyan, Inc. “If you were taken away to an entirely different, new place? What do you think you would do? Would you do everything at your disposal to get back home?.”

A spiritual successor to classic Cyan titles Myst and Riven, Obduction’s core concept is inspired by the same feeling of mystery and spontaneous adventure.

“I think the team that surround the whole idea of Myst are drawn to this notion of suddenly being part of a story that you have no idea what went on, you’re caught in the middle,” says Miller.

“In some ways it’s the Star Wars scenario, the crawl at the beginning says episode IV, and you’re like, ‘wait, what? I’m starting in the middle?’ I think that’s what our games feel like, that you’re plopped in, not just watching it though, you’re actually there like on the docks at Myst island, and you’re like, ‘what do I do here?’

“Part of the set-up is discovering what the set-up is. That’s really appealing to a sub-culture of gamers, to explore and figure out what the story is and how you can impact it. That’s what motivated Obduction, that same feeling; and starting over with that feeling, rather than doing another sequel for Myst where there’s a lot of background already filled in. This is a whole new place to start out on, and you don’t know anything about it this time.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=”” css=”.vc_custom_1439318701672{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_single_image image=”63082″ alignment=”” style=”” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” css_animation=”” scroll_hover_maxheight=”300px” scroll_hover=”” move_horizontaly=”” move_verticaly=”” scale_hover=”” img_size=”700×400″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Obduction draws on a lot of the same inspirations as Myst, but in the two decades separating the games, Miller and the rest of the Cyan team have had plenty of time to add new ingredients to the mix.

“A lot of the influences are old, some are new,” explains Miller. “The older influences are Star Wars of course, that whole idea of being taken to new worlds that have existing histories and backgrounds. In addition to that, I remember stuff from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there’s one aspect of that book with a woods filled with pools that take you to another world, it’s that notion of a portal. That idea of portals to other worlds, that’s a huge inspiration for what we do.

“More recently, I’m a fan of sci-fi, so lots of recent movies are inspirational for me. I know this one wasn’t as popular, but Oblivion was interesting to me, I loved the art design there and the cinematic style, and the whole idea that the clean aspect of everything was up above the clouds, distant and separate from the truth. I thought that was really well done. I love the gritty nature of District 9, and how real that felt. All of our design is inspired by eclectic mixes of what we latch onto in our everyday life.”

Games like Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure and Wasteland 2 chose to pick up where their source material left off; but Cyan aren’t making Obduction Myst VI. Players find themselves taken to an alien world with an old, white farmhouse and a lot of questions – the story unfolds as you find out why.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/2″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“It has nothing to do with any of the previous stories,” Miller says. “The toughest part of interactive is that you have to have this balance between simplicity and complexity. If you start to get too complex, you begin to lose people, and if you’re too simplistic you lose people too. Myst was definitely on the simplistic side, and I think the time was right for that. It was just a simple story of which of these two brothers are you going to believe. Riven notched it up, and I think people were ready for that. We were able to weave the story much more integrally into the environment. If you go back and play that game, almost every aspect of what was built has a history, a part of the story to it.

“I think we’re drawing from both of those with Obduction. It definitely doesn’t have the budget that Riven had, it’s more like the Myst budget. But we’ve gotten better at putting story into the environment, even with that lower budget, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do. Obduction feels on the surface like you’re abducted and you want to go home, but underneath all that is a fairly complex tale that you can uncover if you like, it’s there for the taking, or you can stay on the surface if you’d like as well.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_single_image image=”63083″ alignment=”” style=”” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” css_animation=”” scroll_hover_maxheight=”300px” scroll_hover=”” move_horizontaly=”” move_verticaly=”” scale_hover=”” img_size=”450×560″ css=”.vc_custom_1439319220570{margin-right: -250px !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Obduction is a more streamlined experience than its predecessors. In Myst, you could access any of the game’s other dimensions, called ages, in whatever order you liked. But to keep the Obduction’s pacing right, Cyan are nudging players in the right direction while they’re free to explore.

“It’s not quite as non-linear as Myst,” says Miller. “Myst had a really nice gameplay mechanism where we could afford to let you choose which one of those ages you wanted to go to first. As a result of that though, the story is still fed to you in a linear fashion, what the brothers reveal as you bring back pages is still a very linear tale. There’s an interesting aspect of linear storytelling that I think is important. It’s nice, certainly early on in a game, it’s a little more reassuring to know I’m travelling on a path that feels like the one I’m supposed to be on – that’s what Obduction’s going to feel more like. You can go anywhere, it’s a very wide open exploration, you’ll feel like there’s a lot there. But in some ways, you’ll feel like you’re going down a slightly linear path at the beginning to fill in the blanks and give you a story.

“We don’t do that with a cinematic, we let that happen as part of that linear precursor, before things branch out more and more and gives you more and more options.”

Obduction also builds on the blueprint set out by Myst and Riven in terms of presentation. Live acting makes a return, albeit updated and expanded with newer technology.

.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=”” css=”.vc_custom_1439319368088{margin-right: -225px !important;margin-left: -225px !important;padding-top: 150px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;background-image: url(https://www.onlysp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ObductionScreenshot061.jpg?id=63089) !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“Because Obduction is this spiritual successor to the gameplay of Myst and Riven, we felt like we had that option,” Miller explains. “It does feel a little bit retro, but we have better tools for actually doing it as well. We’re harking back to that same feeling. There’s an odd disconnect when you’re putting full CG characters in as well. There’s that uncanny valley, which inevitably means that the subtleties of humanity scream out, and we can capture those a lot better with live action. But then you have other aspects of it, you can’t see it in all directions, so you have to design around and keep the character in front of those characters. We did try and film the characters in 3D with stereoscopic cameras, so that in a VR version of the game, you’ll actually see them in 3D as well. I think it works, I like where it goes, and I’m really happy with our results.”

Where Obduction does stray off the path however, is how the world is structured. Rather than an island hub like Myst, different environments in Obduction open up as it progresses.

“It’s a little bit of a deviation, in that early on in the game, you’re inspired by a character,” says Miller. “You meet, or at least have cursory interactions with, some other characters and your motivations are set by them. We stray from that in the game, because later on you decide whether you want to continue listening to what particular people are telling you. In some ways it’s similar to Atrus in Myst, but we play on that a little bit more, where there’s one character in particular who steps you along if you’d like him to.

“We struggled a lot with this aspect of things. We liked that Myst hub, but if we tried to constrain ourselves too much, everything with that system felt too much like Myst. We’ve managed to give you a world to explore and then open up different sections of it before you go to other worlds. And there are very diverse other places you end up going to after experiencing your initial homeworld.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_single_image image=”63101″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”” img_link_target=”_self” scroll_hover_maxheight=”300px” scroll_hover=”” scale_hover=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]The environments are built in this way to be more in keeping with otherworldly Obduction’s setting, where you explore alien planets rather than isolated alternate dimensions.

“With Myst and Riven, you weren’t sure what time and place they were set in,” Miller says. “It was like that Middle Earth alternative thing. Obduction is not that way. It’s meant to feel like, ‘I’m walking along, and I’m taken away’, and you end up in a place that has echoes of cultural Earth in it, from different time periods and different places. They resonate in a very different way from how Myst did. There were aspects of Myst that felt Earth-like, but it didn’t feel like it had come from Earth. There’re aspects of Obduction that’re going to feel like they came directly from Earth.”

Another aspect of Obduction that’s taken a lot of thought is the gameplay. There’re no concrete rules for what goes into a narrative-driven game other than an engaging story, and building compelling gameplay systems can be hard. But Cyan hope that Obduction’s mix of puzzles and exploration will keep players’ attention.

“One of the interesting things about narrative exploration games is that they’re difficult to make,” says Miller. “It’s not like you have a gameplay system laid out ahead of time for us. If you’re doing a shooter, you pretty much know what the gameplay’s going to be. I’m not dissing that, it’s a great achievement system that really, at its core, is very motivating. But that means that all that I have to do is think of a story and a skin that fit into that gameplay system. A narrative exploration game has to start with a brand-new story every time, and that story has to weave itself into the environment, and the environment has to weave itself into the puzzles. All of those things have to not conflict with each other, and that’s a difficult balancing act.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“The gameplay puzzles you use have to feel fresh, you can’t just repurpose the clock tower from Myst and stick that in there. We’ve got to make sure that everything works. That’s a monumental undertaking. It’s not until we bring people and watch over their shoulder that we start to realise whether or not they’re getting the hint that they’re supposed to. We tweak things according to those responses, so the overall process is very demanding, and there’re no guarantees, but I guess we’ve done enough of them that we end up with something good at the end.”

Obduction2

Cyan’s games are known for their esoteric and devious puzzles, and Obduction won’t be any exception. Designing the best brainteasers is an iterative process, one which can involve months of tweaking to get the best results.

“There’s no one way to do it,” he says. “Some puzzles are inspired by the environment that you’re designing. If you build a wall, then you’ve got to have a way through that wall. We call those doors at first, but no one just wants a door. You’ve got to figure out how people are going to be drawn through something and redirect them to a cascade of decisions that they have to make that might open that door.

“Another thing that happens is sometimes we’ll just design a good puzzle. You do it in an almost backwards way, try and merge that puzzle into the environment.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]“Redesigning puzzles happens all the time. Either it’s too difficult, or it’s too much like another one, or you want something that feels a little more sophisticated. It feels like they evolve, not a one shot deal. It feels like over time, with a lot of other people’s input, the puzzles grow as part of the environment.”

A lot of people never managed to finish Myst, but Miller’s keen to make sure no one misses out on Obduction.

“We struggle with that all the time,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with how we want to define the game and how much of the story we want to tell. Is it more satisfying for the majority of people to have a narrative exploration, or to build in a lot more achievements and have people solve those puzzles? How much play time do people expect for how much money they’ve paid? If there’s no friction, if people can just wander through these places, are they going to feel cheated?

“If puzzles are too hard, you begin to soften those, if they’re too easy, you strengthen them a bit. Overall, we’re looking at Obduction and saying we’d like more people to finish it than maybe finished Myst.”

Obduction is built in Unreal Engine 4, a big step up from the static, pre-rendered ray traced images used in the original Myst. The new tech lets Cyan more fully realise their creativity, allowing them to craft their vison without compromise.

“The move to real-time has been enamouring to watch, because as it gets better and better, you can build more realistic worlds and that’s appealing to us,” says Miller. “Unreal 4, will all of its state-of-the-art aspects, is just like a kid in a candy store; we can build things that we couldn’t consider before. When you can put in the grass, and the trees, and the reflections and glare, the glimmers and shimmers of reality that really help it feel like a real place. That’s just goodness.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=”” css=”.vc_custom_1439319792408{margin-right: -250px !important;margin-left: -250px !important;padding-top: 150px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;background-image: url(https://www.onlysp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ObductionScreenshot02.jpg?id=63088) !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text css_animation=””]Obduction tries to stay true to its roots, while simultaneously updating each of its systems to take advantage of developing technology. It’s something that will undoubtedly appeal to gamers who experienced the original Myst, but hopefully delivers a fresh enough twist on the formula to find new fans. Kickstarter churns out a lot of games that’re obsessed with the past, but Obduction seems to be set on carving out a bright future.

“Obduction has been a new experience for us,” Miller says. “But it feels more like when we did Myst, oddly enough. My brother and I had done these small worlds for children early on, and when it came time to do Myst, it felt a lot like we were an indie studio – smaller, shoestring, working by the seat of our pants.

“A smaller team works tighter and cleaner, everybody feels like they have more impact on the product and that’s what Obduction feels like to us. Everyone’s got a say, and it has that real indie feel again. Time will tell whether we’ve got something that’s worth exploring or not, but even the journey has been much more satisfying for us.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=”” gradient_background=”” full_height_enabled=”” midnight_logo=”” fixed_background_enabled=”” top_svg=”” bottom_svg=”” background_pattern=”” parallax_enabled=”” border_radius=”” col_height=””][vc_column width=”1/1″ gradient_background=”” border_radius=”” border_column=”” icon_size=”64px” icon_color=”#666″ icon_position=”fa-bg-center-center”][vc_column_text]Follow OnlySP on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news, reviews and interviews.

You can find Cyan, Inc. on Twitter and at their official website.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

James Billcliffe
Lead Interview and Features editor. Eats, games, and leaves. Tweet at me! @Jiffe93

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6 Comments

  1. Great write up James, I applaud Rand for continuing the legacy that defines Cyan. George Lucas is to the film industry as Rand Miller is to gaming. It takes a real studio to continue to craft artistic brilliance while most AAA giants consistently churn out insipid content to the masses. Sure, adventure games claiming to feature “live action video” and “puzzles” don’t sell overnight in today’s market but they craft a segment big companies only wish they could aspire too. The effect is that of cult appeal, a lifetime following and quality fan-base. The same kind of following that brought Star Wars into the record books.

  2. Great write up James, I applaud Rand for continuing the legacy that defines Cyan. George Lucas is to the film industry as Rand Miller is to gaming. It takes a real studio to continue to craft artistic brilliance while most AAA giants consistently churn out insipid content to the masses. Sure, adventure games claiming to feature “live action video” and “puzzles” don’t sell overnight in today’s market but they craft a segment big companies only wish they could aspire too. The effect is that of cult appeal, a lifetime following and quality fan-base. The same kind of following that brought Star Wars into the record books.

    1. Cheers, Sean. Cyan’s games really do have that cult feel, and I’m looking forward to the updated live action – it was a lot of fun in the most recent Tex Murphy adventure.

  3. Somewhere in the mid-late 90’s was when I got to play Myst for the first time. I still remember lumbering through the world, not sure what to make of it, then slowly piecing together what it was I was supposed to do. In the end my teenage self lacked the mental fortitude needed to complete the game without a strategy book (the internet wasn’t quite as prevalent back then as it is today) but I still remember going through it and marveling at the diverse worlds. Rand is an inspiration for my own writing and I look forward to this game.

  4. So when’s the release date??

  5. I am so looking forward to see what Rand has planned for his fans. I know he and his team won’t disappoint. I have never considered myself a gamer but I remember how pulled into the myst and riven series I became after discovering it (via my schoolteacher brother at the time). I loved the idea of being drawn into a book and finding yourself suddenly a part of a strange world. Brilliant stuff!

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