The Ending Has Not Yet Been Written
"At their core, every MMOG is about community. Yet Myst is associated with solitary exploration. Cyan went to great lengths to instill in the player a sense of isolation. How could that possibly translate into a massively-multiplayer experience?
"When Cyan dropped the project in 2004 due to financial woes, the game stayed alive through unofficial "shard" servers. The community remained in the cavern, creating their own stories. Only recently has Cyan returned to support its players, but the players never lost their resolve. Why? What makes Uru special?"
Nathaniel Berens explores the user-created worlds of Myst.
After reading that article, I suddenly want to say "Oh, NOW I get it!"
You see, I've played my share of Myst and a friend of mine has played through the Myst games more times than I can count. So when Uru came out, my friend specifically had me try the trial version of it. I played it a bit with the mindset of "Okay, so where's the book that helps me free the good guy?" Now I know that playing Uru with that linear of a mindset was my downfall.
What an amazing achievement Uru is capable of. When we live in an age where everything is known and seemingly nothing new can be proven without a superpowered microscope and a sponsored laboratory, who doesn't want to recapture the explorer's spirit where all you need is some basic tools, a virtue of patience, and the belief that there's something more out there just waiting to be found. MMOG's have created an adventurer as something more of a class than an actual state of mind, but Uru brings the term back to it's roots.
As a matter of fact, Uru takes a completely different look at "roleplaying". From the stories in this article, it seems that the actual roleplaying in this game is discovering the roles of a long forgotten civilization. In a game where barely anything is truly given to you, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) can find their own unique story in the caverns of the D'ni.
As a person, what interests you more? The World of Warcraft full of mystical creatures, devastating spells, epic mounts, and races that all serve a purpose, or perhaps a game where they explore the World of Warcraft centuries after it has collapsed, trying to piece together character's lives based on their inventory and postings, digging up a mount and finding out how it lived and where it originated, or uncovering the long forgotten meeting place of a guild only spoken of in myths and legends to search it's scrolls for meeting minutes and other writings.
I, personally, would be more enthralled with the latter. This was a very informative article Mr. Berens that has gotten me to realize what Uru is really about and made me wish there was a Guild of Greeting when I tried the game.
There are, broadly, three kinds of online text-based virtual environments.
The MUD is the most widely-cited, since it appeals best to the conventional gamer with its wish-fulfillment narrative of power and phat lewtz. MUDs were, if memory serves me, the most prevalent type of text-based multiplayer game during that period, and the comparison to EverQuest and WoW is so obvious that it almost seems redundant to repeat it.
The social MUSH is another common type, one which focuses on user-created content and is not so much a game as a virtual space for interaction between real people. Needless to say, this is a clear antecedent to Second Life, There, Habbo Hotel and so on.
There is a third type, the roleplaying MUSH, which was moderately popular back in the day (I played on a couple of those for a few years). Up till now, I had not seen a graphical offshoot of that, and had assumed it to be an evolutionary dead end. Oddly enough, though, Uru appears to be the logical 3D extension of the roleplaying MUSH. I'm curious to see where this goes...