On Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Robert Yang writes an interesting history of the FPS in three parts, but it’s the intro to the first part that I keep coming back to. Yang begins his people’s history with Myst, a game that looms monolithic in my own personal gaming history.
He ends the Myst section with this:
Myst died a slow, painful death. The sequel, Riven, sold well but caused the New York Times to seemingly backtrack, downgrading its Riven review to “Technology” instead of “Arts.” Years passed with increasingly worse sequels and declining sales. Finally, the series’ funeral in 2005, called Myst V (did you even know there was a Myst V?) was sparsely attended; the longtime developer, Cyan Worlds, laid off all but two employees and ceased all projects before making a last-minute deal to remain operational with the generally defunct game service GameTap.
This is somewhat true. The series did degrade, but not because of Cyan Worlds. Ubisoft and Presto took over the franchise with Myst III: Exile. The third was still an interesting adventure through the Myst fiction, and included some clever design ideas to make the game’s series of still-images feel more like a realtime 3D engine.
Meanwhile, Cyan Worlds had directed all of their resources to the project codenamed Mudpie which eventually became Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. Uru was not Myst, via various technological shortcomings in hardware and software at the time, though the Uru and Myst fictions were the same.
So how does all of this matter in the context of Yang’s analysis? For one, with Uru, Cyan Worlds included an option for 3rd-person perspective, fragmenting the presentation of the game and bringing it right in line with Yang’s history. It was this mistake and a series of ambitious non-violent design goals in the face of an increasingly violent mainstream that virtually killed Cyan Worlds, not Myst’s lack of mod-ability or Doom shooting it in the face.