Myst is often regarded as one of the most important and influential PC games of all-time for good reason. And now it’s coming to VR for the first time via the Oculus Quest on December 10th with Myst VR. A PC version with optional VR support is slated for 2021.
First released back in 1993, Cyan Worlds’ classic adventure game originally launched for Mac OS and spearheaded the boom of the CD-ROM. The game sees you travel to the island of Myst via a special book. Utilizing point-and-click mechanics, it became an incredible success with 6 million copies sold, leading to sequels, adaptations, and numerous ports, most recently on Nintendo Switch back in May. Remakes also followed that allowed for free roaming with further interactivity as well as a slew of follow-ups from other studios taking heavy inspiration.
Cyan Worlds’ first VR game, Obduction, is a sort of spiritual successor to Myst and applies many of the principles and ideas it popularized in the 90s to a modern VR game setting. Since then Cyan has published VR games like ZED and continues working on their next new project, Firmament. In the meantime though, we’re getting a full-blown remake of Myst specifically for VR
Confirmed this will be “built completely from the ground up for Oculus Quest”, this new edition also promises “modern art, sound, interactions, and optional puzzle randomization for those who are up for a greater challenge”.
It comes after news that their other VR project, Firmament, has been delayed until 2022, and recent years have seen the studio pushing virtual reality with Obduction, alongside their own publishing venture. As such, we reached out for an interview with Cyan Worlds CEO, Rand Miller, who was kind enough to tell us more about this exciting new evolution of the classic IP.
Myst VR: Modernizing a PC Gaming Classic
Henry Stockdale, UploadVR: Firstly, thank you for joining me here, I’m a big fan of the original Myst. For any readers unaware of your game, could you please introduce yourselves?
Rand Miller: Sure! I’m Rand Miller. My brother and I created the original Myst game in 1993. It did pretty well. I’m still actively involved in Cyan, the company we formed, and Cyan has continued to focus on creating narrative-rich, exploration games.
UploadVR: Myst is such an iconic adventure game, one we’ve seen numerous ports, sequels and remakes for previously. What inspired you to create a VR edition?
Miller: VR is just such a no-brainer for Myst. The whole idea of the game has always been to lose yourself in that virtual world. Over the years, the technology has provided better and better ways for us to make the experience more immersive – and VR is definitely a giant leap.
UploadVR: We previously saw Myst updated in 2014 with realMyst: Masterpiece Edition. Was there a reason you’ve built this VR edition from the ground up, as opposed to adding VR support for that?
Rand: 2014 is like 100 years ago in tech years. ? Since that time we’ve learned a lot, and we’ve gained experience in various development environments. Our Creative Director Eric Anderson, and Development Director Hannah Gamiel both felt like it would be best for the product to build it from the ground up in the Unreal Engine. It was important for them that this Myst version not just include VR for various platforms, but that it serve as the graphical and interactive high water mark for all Myst versions moving forward, It truly is a complete reconstruction from the ground up.
UploadVR: Compared to previous editions, how does Myst VR play, can we expect any big differences to gameplay?
Rand: There are quite a few variations from the original Myst. Most of them have to do with taking advantage of VR hand controllers and playing in VR space. For example, to enter the combination to the safe in the cabin the player doesn’t just push a button – they grab a knob and turn it. So much more natural. Also, VR necessitates building parts of the world differently – like making interactive items in an area that are easily reached whether players are standing or sitting. We didn’t want to force players to bend down to interact with controls. We also made some global choices on things like doors – they all slide to open and close. This avoids that VR frustration where you pull on a hinged door and it opens awkwardly into you.
UploadVR: It’s also been confirmed that the VR edition will feature optional puzzle randomisation. Can you give us more details about how this works?
Rand: When you start a new game you have the option to play the game without the solutions that have been around since the original version. I must admit that I love the fact that I have most of the puzzle solutions memorized, but it definitely means that I don’t really experience the full game. This option gives a little more opportunity to play Myst with fresh eyes.
UploadVR: Cyan Studios has built up a reputation within VR recently through games like Obduction and the upcoming Firmament, alongside your publishing arm Cyan Ventures. Your studio is clearly invested in the technology, but what are your thoughts on the current state of virtual reality?
Rand: When I experienced VR on a Vive for the first time several years ago, it was clear that it was something special. Not just the sense of being in a space with 6 degrees of freedom, but the incredible use of hand controllers. But of course it was still expensive enough to be somewhat of a niche market. From Cyan’s point of view, we weren’t as interested in compromising the Myst experience for VR that didn’t have 6DOF or hand controllers. We started making VR games (like Obduction) and we learned so much with the experience, but we continued to wait for a sweet spot that would have the power to present Myst well, with 6DOF and hand controls, at an accessible price point so we wouldn’t exclude large numbers of our fans. From our point of view, the Quest was a turning point. We feel like the Quest as a baseline for the current state of VR has made VR a viable option for indie developers like us, and we’re pivoting in various ways to see where VR leads.
UploadVR: Was there anything you’ve learned from Obduction’s development that’s been applied here?
Rand: Where do I begin? We learned so much – the hard way. Probably the most important take-away was that designing the game for flat first, with VR in mind, was not ideal. It would have been much easier to implement the VR version by designing for VR with flat in mind. That’s the approach we’re taking with Myst, and with Firmament, our second Kickstarter game, and it’s already improved the development experience.
UploadVR: Within Cyan’s recent Kickstarter update, we were told that the innovations and optimizations being made for Myst would also benefit Firmament. Could you tell us how?
Rand: Well, so many ways. I’ll start with our art pipeline. We learned an amazing amount during Obduction and built some tools that helped streamline the asset production. But we took the entire exercise and based our Myst production on it, seeing how it played out in the whole process. As a result we’ve been able to tune our ability to build assets quickly and beautifully, but that still run well on various platforms. Myst has allowed us to test and hone that process. Then there is the variety of things we’re learning about interface elements in VR that started with Obduction and is proving valuable as we improve on Myst. These lessons are already playing a part in how Firmament is being developed.
UploadVR: So far, Myst is confirmed for Oculus Quest at launch on December 10th. Is this just for the original headset or can we expect an enhanced version on Quest 2?
Rand: The version of Myst that launches for Quest, plays even faster on the Quest 2, but it’s a similar experience. We’ll be looking into specific options for improvements for the Quest 2 after launch.
UploadVR: We know that the PC edition is planned to release after the Quest version launches, including 2D and Rift support, but when can we expect this to happen?
Rand: We can’t say for sure, but we’ve been building the high-end assets simultaneously to make the development of the other platforms relatively straightforward. With that said, I expect it’ll take several months to tune and polish the PC based VR and 2D versions.
UploadVR: Do you plan to release a PlayStation VR edition?
Rand: We’d love to release versions of Myst for as many platforms as we can. But as an indie company it’s wise for us to see how our planned versions do before making other specific commitments.
UploadVR: Lastly, is there any message you’d like to share with Myst’s fans?
Rand: We have the best fans in the world! We’ve waited to make Myst for VR until it could be experienced by as many of our fans as possible, and I can’t wait for them to experience Myst the way I’ve had the chance to for the last few months. The adventure becomes your world now more than ever!