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Interview with Rand Miller
With the release of Uru Ages Beyond Myst, Rand Miller – CEO of CyanWorlds - is once again attempting to achieve what he and his brother Robyn accomplished almost ten years ago with the original Myst – change the way adventure gamers play their games. Only this time, instead of hundreds of thousands of gamers purchasing cd-rom drives so that they can explore the lush worlds of D’ni, with Uru Live he is attempting to drag adventure gamers into the bold, new world (well, at least for adventure gamers) of online gaming.
It is a bold experiment and one not guaranteed to be successful, but if anyone can pull it off, it would be Rand Miller. We would like to thank Rand Miller for agreeing to this interview with Just Adventure and Jennifer Miller – the biggest Myst fan I have ever met – for her wonderful questions.
(Can I just add this editorial comment on HOW COOL IS THIS?!!!!!)
Uru is a whole new animal when it comes to gaming. What were the biggest challenges in developing this kind of multi-player, online adventure game?
One of the largest unexpected challenges was just building persistence into the world. The word “persistent” is tossed around rather nonchalantly in the MMO genre. But when you build working doors and elevators, and movable cones and rocks, and switchable lights and machinery, you have to make sure that it all works across everyone’s computer. If I leave the elevator down, it should be down when you see it a week later. If I turn on the light, everyone in that age needs to see the light turn on. If I kick a beachball everyone should see it roll across the screen and end up in the same place, where it stays until someone else kicks it. That stuff all seems so natural, but it is extremely difficult to coordinate everything that is going on in the real-time 3D world to make that work even somewhat naturally.
How far do you think Uru can go?
That’s a big question. If it refers to how long Uru can continue, there aren’t any built in limits. The story is big and the technology is adaptable, and it will last as long as we’re interested in presenting it and subscribers are interested in living it. Like a sitcom, or soap opera – it’ll go as far as the interest goes.
Uru is quite a change of pace from Myst and Riven. I know it’s taken some getting used to for all the fans. How do you feel this game will fair compared to its predecessors?
I’ve given up trying to predict this kind of stuff long ago – actually after Myst. There are too many unknowns. We just build worlds that seem like they are worth exploring and wait to see how people will respond.
Gehn was rumored to have written over 250 Ages, all of which were flawed and most of which died. Any chance in Uru that we might get to explore some of the remaining Ages?
I don’t think the DRC has run across any of Gehn’s works yet. But I would think that there is a good chance that they will at some point. I just hope they’re stable enough to explore, because I know they would be interesting.
We learn in Uru and in The Book of Ti’ana that the D’ni are not an idyllic people, that even with all the technology and cultural advancements they had, there were still many unsavory things underneath. The Age of Teledahn is the best example of this. How important was it to you to show that even the D’ni were not perfect?
Without getting too philosophical, choice is an amazingly complicated gift. The selfish choice comes naturally. And power is simply a choice effect amplifier.
I have always felt that Myst is like a high tech, much more intelligent version of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that I read in elementary school. Was the inspiration for the series something similar?
I never got into the CYOA books because I always ended up trying to read all of the possibilities simultaneously. I was too curious about the other options, and I was afraid I’d miss something. Needless to say it got rather cumbersome. I’m sure that that infers some deep psychological neurosis that I would just prefer to ignore.
I’ve read on the boards that some fans compare the huge mythology surrounding Myst and the D’ni people to Tolkien’s Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings. How do you feel about that? Was Tolkien an inspiration at all?
Absolutely. He built massive worlds, and then created small windows to view them. The worlds were much larger than the books, and that was the key to their success.
We’re as people, are used to complexity that goes beneath the surface. The reality of our world allows us to keep digging deeper and deeper. So when we build a story that allows for deeper digging, it feels real.
When realMyst came out, I remember you saying that this was finally how you had wanted Myst to be originally presented, as a world where everything could be examined and explored, but that technology hampered you back in 1994. Do you think something similar could be said about Riven?
realMyst moved closer to being real, and that is what I’m looking for. Technology allows us to keep moving closer and closer to reality, so I’m always interested in using it. I would love to explore Riven in real time.
Any chance for a realRiven?
No, too many other things to do. :-)
Do you play other adventure games? What are your favorites?
I have very little time for play these days. But I cut my teeth on the Infocom stuff. Couldn’t get enough of ‘em. I’m sure those early experiences influenced me.
I read over a year ago that Cyan and struck a deal with the Sci-Fi Channel to produce a mini-series based on the Myst world. Is that idea still in the works and what can you tell me about it?
My only comment is “don’t get your hopes up.”
Right now we are consumed with Uru. Building the content that is months away.
But we have a few possibilities for the future that we’ll keep to ourselves for now.
Any chance we’re going to get another GAP ad?
Only if they’ve started selling stuff for old men! ;)
Please visit the following links to learn more about Rand Miller and the world of Myst:
The Lysts - a wonderful website devoted to everything Myst.
Avid’s Resource Center - an exhaustive and comprehensive source of links to Myst related material and products.
You can also order many of Rand’s books in the Myst series at Amazon.