Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Myst Creators Release Five-CD Sequel to Exploring Game

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Myst Creators Release Five-CD Sequel to Exploring Game

Article excerpt

When they finished Myst four years ago, creators Rand and Robyn Miller were blissfully unaware of what they were about to unleash. Like the rest of the world, the Spokane, Wash., brothers little expected their dreamy computer game would sell 3.5 million copies, shatter sales records and define a brand-new genre.

No such luck this time around. The Millers have been hounded for a sequel almost since the day Myst was released, facing game-fan expectations almost as outlandish as the fantasy worlds on their CD- ROM.

Finally their work is done, and for the faithful, the wait is almost over. The sequel to Myst, a five-CD opus called Riven, is on its way to stores at last, set to go on sale Saturday. "We designed something upfront not really thinking of limitations, and it's kind of surprising even to us how much of that we accomplished in the end," co-director Robyn Miller said in an interview. "It's not perfect, by any means; I can't imagine how any project this big could ever be perfect. But we accomplished more on this project than we ever had before." For the uninitiated, what the project team achieved in Myst and seeks to repeat in Riven was to create a fantasy world so interesting and appealing that the player comes to regard it as real -- real enough, at any rate, to want to spend hours there. As in Myst, the Riven player is transported to the new world and turned loose to explore it. Myst fit onto one CD-ROM. In Riven, the five disks are inserted one by one according to prompts on the screen. As the game unfolds, the player discovers places and deciphers puzzles and problems on the way to rescuing the heroine before Riven is destroyed -- though many outcomes are possible. Unlike many computer games, Myst and Riven aren't action-based or overtly violent. No missiles, monster trucks or punch-counterpunch strategies. Instead they let the player be a combination detective, adventurer and anthropologist, drawn onward as much by curiosity as by the rescue mission. The Miller brothers have been making games together full time since 1987, when Rand left a job at a bank in Texas and Robyn dropped anthropology studies at the University of Washington to start a company called Cyan. Cyan's first product came out that year, a game called The Manhole, about a world underneath a manhole. It was followed by a couple of children's products and, in 1993, by the wildly successful Myst. A key goal in the projects has been "creating a place that's full of discovery for people," said Robyn Miller, 31. "I remember the first time I went to the redwoods in California; I was very young, like 5 years old.... It was a magical experience, discovering a place that I hadn't dreamed existed. That's what we're trying to do." "We tried to create a place that was new and interesting to us, someplace we would actually want to go to ourselves and explore," said Richard Vander Wende, 34, who left the Hollywood film industry to join the Miller brothers on the Riven project. Vander Wende contributed so much they made him co-director, along with Robyn. Rand, 38, is the project's producer. While similar in concept, Riven goes far beyond Myst in sophistication. The visual effects, benefiting from four years' progress in computer hardware and software, have moved reviewers to such terms as "stunning," "exquisite" and "simply fantastic." Video sequences, small-framed and repetitive in Myst, are full- screen and much more varied in Riven. A roller-coaster contraption can give the player a genuine case of vertigo, for example. On a shoreline, the same wave doesn't wash in over and over; each wave is different. Rocks, trees and clouds are rendered with surprising realism, but appearances are deceiving. The clouds look as if they were scanned from a photograph, but actually were created entirely on a computer, publicist Rudy Porchivina said. …

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