Fan-built Ages in Myst Online

Friday, August 21, 2020

Comments: 2   (latest 4 hours later)

Tagged: rss, myst online, doobes, uru, guild of writers, cyan, myst

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!

Really, the fan contributions have been trickling in for some time. They've primarily been client fixes, and not particularly visible ones. Internal improvements, right? Physics tweaks, minor crashes, adjustments for modern high-res monitors. Nothing newsworthy.

Then, on Tuesday, we got a substantive change. A new opening animation declared:

"Once again, the stream in the Cleft has begun to flow."

After many years, there's something new to discover.

Many skilled volunteers contributed to this effort. Their work should be an inspiration to us all.

Let us remember those who could not be here to celebrate this day with us.

The only visible change in the game world was a new barrier -- a couple of warning gates posted around a curtained alcove in the Watcher's Pub. But Cyan teased:

New Ages in MOULa?! Could it be? YES!! Join us for the historic unveiling... 1300 KI Time (That's noon PDT) on Thursday. If you have to work at this hour, ask your boss for vacation!

And by "Thursday" we actually mean FRIDAY the 21st! (grumble, grumble Twitter won't let us edit anything. grumble, grumble)

-- @cyanworlds

And lo, on Friday, it was so. Patrick Dulebohn, the coordinator of this fan-content update, gave a quick speech. The curtain was opened and we got access to...

(I'll leave a spoiler gap in case you want to find out for yourself!) Chiso Preniv, a comfortable library. This is intended as a repository for fan Ages to come.

The library has two linking books to further areas:

The New Guild of Messengers Pub. This is a gathering spot for the Messengers' Guild, the fan-volunteers who handle announcements and news archiving. All the fan guilds got gathering chambers back in 2007, but they were spartan. This is a seriously tricked-out update.

Veelay Tsahvahn, a memorial garden. Myst has had nearly 25 years of active fandom; it inevitably has had losses. This is a meditative Age with lists of the names of community members who have died.

(All three Ages are credited to Patrick Dulebohn. If you want screenshots, as well as a spoiler-tastic catalog of fan Ages upcoming and in progress, see this gallery at the Guild of Writers.)

Of course, this is just a first step. More fan Ages will be presumably be added to the new library in the coming months. Or years? I mean, the timeline hasn't been speedy so far.

In the greater scheme of Myst fandom... honestly, this is not going to change things. Myst Online is not relaunching and it's not going to become the Next Hot Social MMO.

To some extent, the choice of new Ages is telling. Both the new Messengers Pub and the memorial garden are for the fans -- they have no meaning to newcomers. No puzzles, no activities, no "Myst stuff" in the usual sense.

The fandom is tremendously loyal and enthusiastic, but it's also small and not really growing. About 200 people logged in for this unveiling, which is an enormous crowd in Uru terms; I'm sure it's the biggest we've seen since 2010. But in Internet terms it's not much. And clearly the active Cavern population will drop back off to a dozen-ish in a few days.

Nonetheless: exciting. And I promised I'd blog when it happened. So here we are!

I've also indulged myself by updating my Uru Live Change Notices web page. This was a web page (and RSS feed) which I ran during the Gametap era, tracking all updates and additions to the Cavern. The change list runs from 2006 to 2008... and now 2020. Enjoy.

(BTW, if you want to jump into MOUL, the secret trick is: Set UruLauncher.exe to "Run as Administrator". Otherwise it gets stuck downloading client data.)

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