Saturday, August 22, 2020

Hadean Lands: minor update

I have posted an update to Hadean Lands on Steam, Itch, and the Humble Store. This includes improvements to the UI framework only. (No changes to the game content.)
The game now supports OS dark theme. If you have your system OS theme set to "dark", all of the game windows (including the journal, map, preferences, and so on) will use a light-on-dark theme.
The story window will still be set to the color theme you last selected (Dark, Light, Sepia, Slate). You can adjust this to match in the preferences.
The preferences menu now has two system-responsive options: "Light/Dark" and "Sepia/Slate". These allow the story window to adjust if you switch your OS theme back and forth. I don't know why you would, but the game allows for it. (New players will see "Light/Dark" as the default preference.)
Other changes:
  • The Electron framework has been updated to 8.4.1. This should fix the "harfbuzz" library error that some Linux users were seeing.
  • There is a "Display Cover Art" menu option in the View menu, should you wish to bask in that.
  • The Mac version is now notarized.
Let me know if you run into any problems. Thanks!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Fan-built Ages in Myst Online

I've been writing about the idea of user-contributed content in Myst Online for almost long as Myst Online has been around. Then the game got cancelled in 2008. Then it was brought back as a static legacy server (source code available).
So people started experimenting with the tools for creating new Ages. A bunch of fan-run "shards" went up, both to test client fixes and to collect fan-built worlds.
Did I write about this new activity? Nope. I did not.
Playing around in the shards was a hassle. I'd have to figure out which sites to watch; I'd have to run variant client software; I'd have to keep track of bugs and age format details and who knows what else.
I don't mind going shoulder-deep in a steaming pile of half-working software! It's literally what they pay me for. But I have so many IF tools and systems on my plate that I just didn't need another one. So I said, look -- I'm going to blog this stuff for the typical Uru user. And the typical user doesn't know or care about shards. They log onto MOUL, Cyan's official shard. So I'll write up new content when it's imported into MOUL.
That was, oh, I think it was 2010 when I decided that.
Guess what happened today!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The parser and the Myst plot hole

Occasionally someone asks, "Could Myst be done as a parser text game?" Sure! But you wouldn't want the translation to be too literal. Some of the puzzles would be less fun, more difficult, or more tedious when rendered in text form. So it's worth going back to rethink the design.
(Ironically, the sub maze -- Myst's most-reviled puzzle -- would translate pretty well. The relevant clues could be worked into environmental text. Plus, text IF has no movement delays, so if you missed the cues, brute-force mapping would be rather less tedious...)
But the most interesting design question is: do you allow TAKE? Myst is full of objects, but you can't carry any of them except book pages. (And one lit match.) But parser IF is all about the joys of acquisition! Do we stick to the limitations of the original game? Or shall we update the puzzle design to include keys and crowbars and lamps and all those other adventuring tools?
And while I was thinking about that, I realized... huh. The original game missed something.
To recap briefly (and spoilerifically): when you find enough red or blue pages, the evil brothers tell you how to open the secret fireplace compartment. That contains the last red and blue page and the green D'ni linking book. The green book shows you Atrus, who tells you to find and bring him the white page. His copy of the Myst book (his exit from D'ni) was sabotaged, and he needs the white page to fix it.
But in fact Atrus doesn't need the white page! And Atrus should know it! There's a simpler way to free Atrus which has nothing to do with the white page. This alternate solution isn't implemented in the game, but it is absolutely possible according to the logic of the story.
If you feel like solving the puzzle, I'll leave a bit of spoiler space.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Mysterium starts Friday, online

Every year I write a Myst news wrapup post after Mysterium. This is because I enjoy hanging around the fandom, and then I pick up news, so I post it. Last year I even visited Cyan HQ; that was a trip and a half.
This year, of course, there are no trips. Trips are virtual. This means that you can hang around Mysterium as easily as me! It's the usual online setup: talks on Twitch and/or Youtube, chatter on Discord. Schedule is here.
Let me also bump your recollection of the Myst documentary Kickstarter, which has a week left. It's been running slow. I know a documentary isn't as exciting as a new game (also running slow), but a bunch of historical material will come out of this. We've already gotten this snippet of raw Achenar footage from the original Myst production files. Come on, you want more.
Opening stream is 7:45 pm Eastern on Friday. See you there.