The Mysterium fan convention is going on this weekend in Salt Lake City. I'm not there, but the events have been streamed on Twitch so I've been able to follow along.
The Starry Expanse team gave their annual report. This is a fan group that has been reconstructing Riven in a modern 3D engine. In fact they're on their third engine! They starting out with Plasma (Cyan's homebrew engine, which was used for Uru and Myst 5). Then they moved to Unity; now they're on Unreal Engine 4.
As a result, Starry Expanse has regressed somewhat, at least to the eye. In previous years the team had fully-textured playable demos of a couple of areas, built in Unity. Now, with UE4, they have larger areas, but untextured (except for some metallic-surface effects and ripply water). On the plus side: one of the tram rides is animated and ready to go! Watch the video to see it.
The other great Mysterium tradition is the videochat with Rand Miller. Cyan is of course head-down on finishing Obduction, but Rand took time out to chat with the fans.
These chats are generally not full of exciting news. (Because if you have a big announcement, you blast it to journalists, not little fan conventions.) Nonetheless, there were a few tidbits.
Obduction release countdown: The release date is August 24th! Obduction Kickstarter backers should receive email with details soon. The emails have already started going out, but it will take a few days to send them all. (There are 22000-odd backers and the emails are sent one-by-one from Rand's laptop.)
Obduction team size: Rand described the team as four programmers, six or seven artists, a couple of designers, eight QA people, and a few others doing this and that. He noted that people have multiple roles; Rand himself is doing some sound work as well as overseeing things.
He also noted that Obduction development has had a small, fast-moving, startup-like feel, like the original Myst:
This feels more like it's scrappy; there's not a lot of time and money and resources. [...] I know this doesn't seem fast to you, and probably with a Kickstarter a million bucks seems like a lot to you. But every bit of that money -- and then some, we had to get more -- has gone into this game, trying to squeeze every last little drop out of it.
(Cyan reported last year that they'd had development problems due to a publisher bailing on them at the last minute. So we know that they were seeking funding beyond the original Kickstarter. This statement confirms that they got some.)
Possible next projects after Obduction: They don't have one lined up.
It's hard to contemplate, and we know we should. If we were really a good company [...], we would already have had some guys lining up the next thing in parallel, and designing this, [...], so that our guys could roll into it, but we're just too into [Obduction]. Every bit of resources we have is into Obduction.
They're interested in porting Obduction to more platfoms, of course. They have lots of other project ideas on the back burner, but they'll have to see how Obduction does and what it might lead to. Rand noted that he's particularly interested in VR and multi-player experiences.
Republishing Myst 3 and Myst 4: (At least, I'm pretty sure that's what the question was! I couldn't hear the questioner.) They are getting closer but it's slow.
We just recently have talked more with the companies involved in those, and hopefully are making more progress. Again, this is much more interesting to us than it is to the companies who have those rights, who this means little or nothing to. [...] When one of our guys was on vacation in Europe, in France, he made a visit to certain companies to talk to them about doing certain things with this. So yes, as long as we can get the right people involved, at least theoretically we have them going "Yeah, we don't see any problem with that". But with big companies things bog down.
As we recall, Myst 3 was developed by Presto Studios and Myst 4 by Ubisoft; both were published by Ubisoft while Cyan was concentrating on Uru. Both are currently out of print. It's generally assumed that Ubisoft has the publishing rights and just hasn't bothered to re-release them.
Rand's statement doesn't leave us knowing much more than that. But Ubisoft is headquartered in France, so that's presumably one of the companies in question.
The Myst TV show: No news.
The brief excitement around Hulu's announcement last year has long since burned out. (Hulu announced that they were greenlighting a show on script approval, but that was over a year ago. Apparently they didn't approve the script.)
Rand's comments remain optimistic but noncommittal:
We still have exciting things happening [...] with the same company [...] Things start to get movement, and people start to be brought on board and attached to things. I still refuse to get too excited about it because it's been so long, and I really don't know how it works. But it feels to me that, yeah, progress is being made.
It could be one of those things that, [...] all of a sudden, boom! There's exciting things happening and announcements are being made and fun stuff's gonna be coming out [...] as soon as they get the right people attached and things start to move. There's potential for that.
But maybe not; maybe next year he'll be giving the same optimistic-but-noncommittal answer.
I believe that "with the same company" refers to Legendary Television. Cyan has been working with Legendary since 2014 to develop the Myst show concept.
That's all I noted down. Thanks to Rand Miller for the chat, and to the Mysterium crew for putting the con together.
Comments imported from Gameshelf
Andrew Plotkin (Aug 7, 2016 at 4:16 PM):
Just after I posted this, the backer email arrived. I might as well copy it here...
Physical rewards will ship sometime after the launch date of August 24th. We are finalizing the details of all the backer rewards and sending them off to the manufacturers. We will have more information on this in the next few weeks.
The Mac version is a work in progress. When we started Obduction three years ago, Unreal Engine 4 included limited Mac support. While we’ve been building Obduction, Epic has been improving the Mac version of Unreal, but it is still a little raw. As a result, it would be best to think of the Mac version of Obduction as an early release. Rest assured we’ll continue working with Epic and provide updates after launch. And just FYI, if you want a better launch-day Mac experience, Obduction works great under Boot Camp.
Obduction is a blast in VR, but the VR version has its own set of challenges. We’re working closely with Oculus and our other partners to tune the VR experience. Any Obduction backer with a Rift (sooner) or Vive (later) will be eligible to get the VR version. We’re figuring out the details of how this will work, and we’ll provide them soon.
Riv (Aug 7, 2016 at 10:44 PM):
You'd have to check with the team, but I think that the areas they showed this time are brand-new/in-progress, and much of their previous focused work (like http://www.starryexpanse.com/2015/12/22/seven/) was also done in Unreal--it's just that their recent goal has been to block up everything and then start drilling down into the lighting/texture of individual pieces, rather than taking the individual pieces from start to finish as they've done in the past.
Andrew Plotkin (Aug 8, 2016 at 2:05 AM):
Ooh, you're right -- thanks.
I was thinking of the golden elevator, which I'd seen textured in some earlier year but untextured this year. But you're correct that Age 233 was a fully-textured Unreal demo last year.
Andrew Plotkin (Aug 8, 2016 at 2:08 AM):
(I hope I'm not remembering a completely unrelated golden elevator demo.)