Myst

I remember when I first started playing Myst. I liked that it was pretty and its puzzles were straightforward logic (as opposed to timing based puzzles). But there was some wrinkle in it, aside from being incomplete, that made me keep going back to another point and click adventure game: King's Quest 6. Some would say because it's a rescue the princess story, or that it had player death (Myst is not violent), or that it had a narrator. Lots of games have those, but I'm not as fond of them. Today, I realize people lived in King's Quest, and that's why it appeals to me more. It was full of people, each with discernible personalities. By comparison, you see 3 people in Myst (not even the player is seen), and a few others are only mentioned.

"Screenshot of Myst Island, showing the well and library."

The ages of Myst have a mis-mash of odd things randomly glued together. It reeks of someone saying "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we had this here?" for everything, everywhere. You understand that people live here (or did), but outside of maybe 2 bedrooms in a few ages, none of these environments seem designed for humans. (Maybe people travel to many ages over the course of a single day?) Those bedrooms are always in pairs. One is aristocratically decorated, the other, macabre. Aside from journals (and maybe the equipment left behind), there is no evidence that anyone other than two people lived in these places. I don't recall seeing a kitchen, bathroom, or living space, and few workspaces or storage areas.

The Mechanical Age strikes me as the most odd. When Atrus wrote it and arrived, there was about 5 people living there. With a metal house, they somehow defeated an armada. There is no evidence of a fight, or of arms, armaments, or munitions to do so. The only thing remaining is a black flag seen through a telescope when the house points a certain direction.

That 486 I was using when I got Myst would always crash at specific places. It would always crash when raising the bridge to the clock on Myst Island. It would always crash at the top of the underwater tunnel, or (skipping ahead) that sound lock in the Selentic age. Once I figured out that darn spaceship, that is. Even though I "played" piano growing up, I could never hold the tune accurately or long enough to input it correctly on the other side. I eventually figured out that you could get the Windows Sound Recorder to record the whole computer. So I recorded the notes, and played them back when looking at the other side of the ship. Being a member of the PC gaming master race has perks!

"Screenshot of the Mechanical age, showing the house/fortress."

The next computer, an off-brand (bankrupt?) Pentium 166 based machine, could play through the entire thing. I could finally beat the game! Satisfied, I hardly ever touched it again. By that time, I judged Quicktime for Windows and RealPlayer as evil, and never wanted them on my PCs. (I'm not sure why I'm bringing up RealPlayer (Myst doesn't use it), but I hated it for the same reasons. I might as well pile it on.) They weren't malware or virus level evil, but both were restrictive (no fullscreen?), used resources when not needed, not useful enough, and looked alien (if not ugly) in Windows.

I dropped Myst off at a thrift store years later, but I played some other games in the series, and even read the novels. Those had more interesting characters in them.

Cyan Worlds is still in business, and had a 25th anniversary Kickstarter for Myst earlier this year. I backed for digital versions of all the games, and took the GOG option. It includes soundtracks for some of the games, but not the original. I remember liking some of the music for it, and wanted the soundtrack when I was 10 or so. There was a retro game music bundle some years ago that had the Myst soundtrack, and I bought it.

Around 2000, Cyan released the Myst Masterpiece Edition (remaster with 24-bit images). Later in 2000, they released RealMyst, which was a better improvement I think, because it was Myst entirely in 3D, making it a modern videogame. They remastered that in 2014 as RealMyst Masterpiece Edition. The rewards include the 2000 and 2014 masterpieces. The 2000 one runs in ScummVM, eliminating Quicktime, but it lacks the original binaries, so I can't play it the way it's meant to be played on 20th Century. I decided to play the 2014 release, and Myst has never looked this good.

When I started playing this again for the first time in 15 years, I still remembered the solutions to some of the puzzles. Somehow, I remembered which buttons to press in front of the library to raise the ship. Most importantly, I remember the short way to win, down to the number of the pattern to put into the fireplace (and some of that pattern itself)! For all it's hours of wandering around, you can beat Myst in about 5 minutes.

Although this game might be pretty boring or frustrating at times, it is very different from the last game I finished. I found it enjoyable, and for that, I am thankful. Look forward to me playing the other Myst games, someday.