Fans of the perpetually-puzzling Myst series were disappointed when the online installment Myst Online: Uru Live shut down in February, 2004. Recently, Turner Broadcasting System’s Gametap service relaunched the world of Uru. The Escapist spoke with Ricardo Sanchez, VP of Content for GameTap, about bringing back this long-lost world.
The Escapist: Why bring back Myst Online? What about it appeals to GameTap/Turner?
Ricardo: The GameTap team has always greatly admired Cyan’s work and many of us are huge fans of the Myst games. Because GameTap allows us to digitally distribute our content, Myst Online: Uru Live made sense because supporting an MMOG will require regular updates, which we already do each week. Also, we know that the franchise has a very strong fan base who desperately wanted to see this game go into production.
The Escapist: I believe I’ve heard that all the old puzzles will be there. Will there be new content developed for the game? In other words, is this going to be Uru as it was and no more, or will you be actively attempting to develop it further?
Ricardo: It is all of the old and lots of new! We will be adding new content regularly in the form of new Ages. With each new age, the Myst Online: Uru Live storyline will continue to progress. Additionally, since this is an MMOG, the players will directly affect how the storyline progresses.
The Escapist: How much of a role will Cyan Worlds have in the re-launched Uru?
Ricardo: We believe in content creators, so we wouldn’t even consider launching the game without the direct involvement of both Cyan and Rand Miller. Myst Online: Uru Live is being developed directly by Cyan including ongoing content updates, so they play a very big part in reintroducing Myst Online: Uru Live.
The Escapist: Very few online games get a second chance. What will you be doing differently from the first go-round of the game?
Ricardo: For one, we have an established base of users ready to play day one. MMOGs are also more generally accepted today that when the title was originally planned. The introduction of non-hardcore gamer friendly MMOGs and virtual worlds like Second Life make it much easier to take a risk on an MMOG Adventure game. Additionally, we’ve kept the forums going during this time and have spent time with fans to hear what they liked and didn’t like about the original. Based on all this feedback, we made appropriate changes that we feel would make the game even better.
The Escapist: From what I’ve read, there’s been licensing issues with the Havok physics engine used for the first iteration of the game. What will you be using to replace it?
Ricardo: GameTap wasn’t directly involved in the selection of the physics engine, but the Havok engine was replaced with other code.
The Escapist: What would you say to old players concerned this might not be the game they played and loved the first time?
Ricardo: I’d tell them to give the game a try. All of the original content that they might have experienced in the first Beta will still be there today, but they will now be able to experience new ages and activities which enhance the game play experience. Also, Rand had the opportunity to go in and improve aspects of the game that had to be finished prematurely for the first launch.
The Escapist: Where do you see this going? Uru always struck me as kind of a niche product. Do you see it taking off in a big way via GameTap or will you be content if it stays as kind of a niche thing?
Ricardo: Ultimately, we think that Uru will probably appeal to a smaller audience than WoW, but still be quite successful. With the introduction of GameTap Originals, continuing to create new and original content exclusive only to GameTap will remain a very big focus for us. Some of those titles will be niche, some more mass market. But even niche titles can be successful when presented to an audience that wants it. We actually see Uru as being something that a much wider audience can embrace because it takes out a lot of the barriers that relegate most MMOG games to hardcore audiences. Since GameTap allows us to reach a much wider audience, we hope to include folks who may not have been familiar with the Myst franchise originally.
The Escapist: Will GameTap be looking at other old/closed MMOGs in the future or is this just a one-time deal?
Ricardo: GameTap is currently in discussions with a very wide variety of game developers to potentially add to the service including independent developers and game producers, so I wouldn’t rule anything out.