Here it is, where modern adventure computer games began: Myst.
If you have never heard of it, here is the history lesson: it’s from 1993, and was the best-selling PC game after its release, until The Sims exceeded its sales in 2002. It was originally made for the Mac, and much later ported to practically everything else.
(Photo: maximum games)
I played Myst with the hubs last weekend; one of us on mouse, the other navigating (or, *ahem, checking a walkthrough…) Our work schedules recently changed which means these days we don’t see each other during the week. Luckily, with weekends off together, we can plan our moments. This past weekend we went thrift shopping and found not one, but TWO copies of Myst. We got home, and decided to load up the game – why not?
In the game you are a stranger who finds yourself with a book on an island called Myst. This book can transport you to different locales. Along the way you meet two men – brothers – who are trapped in two separate books in a library on Myst. They are rivals, and each requests your help to search around these locales for pages missing out of their respective books. They explain why they are trapped in books, who is responsible, and also give you some idea of what Myst is. You must solve some complex puzzles, get the missing pages and find your way back to the library where these books are located.
The good: The graphics and audio are great, especially for a game from 1993*. This game had live action video integrated into the gameplay which was doubly cool for the time.
The bad: Loading and crashing problems. The navigation threw me off… and keep a pen and paper handy.
The library (Photo: Wikimedia)
Myst is a point-and-click adventure game whereby you play the stranger in first person. The game allows you to explore locales freely, which was fun. Each place was intricately designed in the graphics of the time, which are pretty decent.
Found an animated gif! This is the level of animation in Myst. (Photo: lparchive)
While playing Myst, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that Myst as a game might very well be the canon from which all adventure games I played from the early 2000s (and frankly today) got their ideas from. Myst is well-crafted for its time. For a game from 1993, it makes me realize there was not a marked improvement in adventure games in terms of graphics, puzzles and story for many years. One need only look at Cameron Files and the earlier Sherlock Holmes games to name a couple of examples. I suppose a refresh of this genre of game can be best noted in Syberia which definitely pushed the adventure gaming limits of that era with a great tale, improved navigation and gorgeous graphics. As mentioned, there is live-action video in this game, but no animated characters which might be one reason why this game’s graphics hold up so well.
Evidence to the game’s age became apparent to us immediately, however. Before we could even start playing we had some serious trouble trying to get the CD version of Myst working on my Win 7 PC (meant for Win 95!). We decided to forgo the effort and instead buy a digital copy of Myst on GOG (dot) com for $7. Unfortunately, we still had trouble running this version. Since Myst originated on a Mac, the game installer repeatedly asked to install QuickTime version 1pointsomething, only to be confused by the fact that my PC had a much newer version. This, in itself, caused the program to crash. Along with that, the screen resolution also had to be fiddled with. The save file was our friend since we experienced some in-game crashes along the way. We obviously managed, but anyone not computer-savvy would have likely given up the Myst-ghost long before us diehards.
Once we got the game running, we experienced other problems of the gaming mechanics kind. I said Myst is well-crafted, but not without some faults. The menu system is next-to-near non-existant. Well, it has a “save as” feature and a “hint” system, but the hint system is not helpful: “Don’t know what to do next? Why not explore the library?” Yeah, thanks, we were just there!
My Visual Arts degree going a long way here…My post-it scratchings used while playing Myst. (Yes, top left post-it does say ‘Zamfir’ referring to 1 of 5 noises we heard for a puzzle that sounded like a pan flute).
One tip about Myst from one gamer to another: make sure you have scrap paper and a pen handy. With every clue you come across, I would recommend you write it down, draw it, scribble it, scratch it, whatever – otherwise you WILL BE TOTALLY LOST. The navigation in Myst was tricky*, and with a lack of a map, it made this seem not like “Sarca’s kind of game”^. I actually found myself comment to the hubs that if I were playing alone, that I might have dropped Myst a long time ago because I was so lost. That said, I am happy the hubs was there to help me out and keep us in the game.
We finished Myst in two days, and, in retrospect, I am happy I got to experience where the point-and-click adventure gaming genre, that we are familiar with, began. I am not sure this is everyone’s cup, just by its rocky technical start. But overall, it’s something every gamer should experience once in their gaming life.
I am looking ahead to Riven: the Sequel to Myst. Also, I have Myst on the Nintendo DS – I might try that for sh!ts and giggles…
*Especially if Qix is the level of graphics you’re used to from this era…
**Insert 5 minute tutorial from the hubs on “What the hand signals mean in Myst” here. I was confused by the meaning of them… A hand pointing to the right spins you around; It doesn’t go right. (Just remember, all the hand signals you’ve learned from playing Big Fish Games do not apply here. <sheepish grin>)
^ Can’t find one’s way out of a fully-lit room –>THIS GAL (me).