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Rand Miller - creator of Myst
We speak to Rand Miller, the man who created Myst, and ask him to spill the beans!

Tiscali: 10 years on are you still excited?
RM: Yes, it's hard to believe it's been 10 years. But the excitement is still there.

Tiscali: What kind of impact do you think the Myst series has had on gaming?
RM: It has made people realise that there's a much larger community of people who will play games. The Sims did the same, but the games industry rarely attracts these people.

Tiscali: How did the idea of Myst come about?
RM: We did some kids games in the late 80s that allowed you to explore a basic "world". Myst grew out of this, only with a bigger world and tougher puzzles. And then the story grew in importance. People love to explore and I love to make places for people to explore.

Tiscali: Myst attracts women and non-traditional gamers, was this intentional?
RM: Sadly not really (laughs) Maybe it was because my brother and myself aren't "normal" gamers and so we made the game we wanted, not knowing who it would appeal to. We did deliberately make the interface non-threaeting and this helps in Myst's wide appeal. There are now so many barriers for the public to play games. They are too complicated, or are hard to set up, or have instant death scenes, that people are put off. We let people explore.

Tiscali: Do you think people prefer exploration or puzzle solving?
RM: Our initial goal was to make the place. The puzzles were to create a reward and structure for playing. But there are two types of players and we think we have struck a balance between them.

Tiscali: What does URU bring to the Myst series
RM: We consider it a spin-off rather than a sequel, although the core story remains. The main thing is the real-time 3D graphics, which was a tough decision for us in terms of not wanting to lose the beauty of the original Myst visuals. Then there is the online version, which adds a consistent world and new challenges. The online version allows players to continue the offline game, and experience unique adventures and worlds. People are used to fresh content from newspapers and TV and we can offer that with URU: Live.

Tiscali: How will the online game work
RM: We are aiming to deliver new content on a regular basis, but it will be subtle and small as well as larger puzzles or pieces. But we will add be adding content every month, offering far more variety than just allowing you to level up as in Everquest etc.

Tiscali: Is the online content ready?
RM: We are putting the finishing touches to the initial content now, and we have two years worth of content mapped out. But up until recently we had been busy wrapping up the single player game. But is a bit like the Truman Show! We create a world and let people in, but we don't know how they will react.

Tiscali: How are you going to get people to jump over the technical barriers for online play such as downloading patches/drivers etc?
RM: There are many issues regarding PC drivers and broadband, but getting to that point is difficult. But for those issues under our control, such as patches, we have made them as transparent and user-friendly as possible.

Tiscali: Why should owners of the single-player game go online?
RM: Hopefully the teasers and glimpses of the online content will show people the benefits of playing online, such as the huge underground city where people can meet, or the library where you can collect books. The online world feels very much like "your" place where you can invite friends to come exploring with you. Remember that we were initially going to make URU online only, so the content and plan is very detailed. Also we have made the online game so that you can spend half an hour of an evening and still achieve something, rather than the heavy commitment needed for other online titles. Chatting and community will be important too.

Tiscali: What about the puzzles online?
RM: They won't be as hard as Riven! (laughs) We want to make them challenge, but not so much that they stop people playing. They won't be simplified for online either.

Tiscali: How important is broadband?
URU online will be structured a bit like a TV series, with an ongoing story underpinning new episodes. So URU is broadband only, which enables us to provide a high quality gaming experience. I firmly believe that content, like Myst, will drive broadband uptake.

Tiscali: So why go 3D then, why not do another big selling 2D version?
RM: Motivation really. We have a great team of people and they all wanted the new challenge of moving the Myst environment to real 3D. There is more room for 2D sequels, but the energy and excitement for me is in the new look games.

Tiscali: What are you most proud of with URU?
RM: We want to draw them into the wide and deep story and make them feel part of the Myst world. The ambience and atmosphere, with the great graphics and Peter Gabriel music, really hook you in, ready for the story and puzzles to grip you.

Tiscali: Any current games that you admire?
RM: I tried some online games, Sims and Dark Ages of Camelot. Camelot especially was interesting. I'd also like to try out Star Wars Galaxies when I get some time! Halo and Tomb Raider were both great exploration games. Once you killed the enemies you were relatively free to explore.

Tiscali: Where do see Myst in ten years time?
RM: It's hard to project that far as I prefer to deal with real-life constraints and the tools as they are given. But I do want the worlds to be even more convincing and for you to feel that you are actually in that place.

Back to Myst section.

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