Thursday, 16 July 2015

Reliving Myst

Myst Cover (fair use)
Are you old enough to remember Myst? 1993 was an important year for gaming with the introduction of Myst and Doom. Yesterday, in a fit of nostalgia, I bought the latest version (realMyst with free roaming option). It comes with some caveats: depending on whether you opt for playing with lesser graphic detail, you will find that it runs a little slow. It does not bother me much, Myst was far from a fast-action game and you cannot even die in it. You can also decide whether you want to break from the original point and click on established paths and go free roaming instead (you can neither pass through solid objects nor fall off the cliff). I tried the free roaming, but might go back to point and click to better experience the original game. The story remains the same, though.

The graphics are richer because they can be. Originally, it had only 256 colours, but the developers wisely did not use the usual garish 256 colours out of the box, but created custom 256 colour palettes for each scene. Myst was highly praised for its artistry: the original had an appearance somewhere between a watercolour drawing and and a Japanese woodcut. As a game, it contrasted (almost archetypally) with Doom: Myst being ethereal with puzzles to solve, and Doom being action/violence. When I first saw Doom, in 1993, I must admit to being concerned about such violence in a game. I really took to Myst, though.

Sometime after I get back from my trip to the backwoods of British Columbia I will be starting a series on the archaeology of modern popular culture, and Myst will get the ball rolling. In the meantime, watch this interview with the originators of Myst and Doom (caption by Vimeo):

DOOM MYST 20 Years After from NYU Game Center on Vimeo.
There are few games as important or influential as DOOM and MYST. While DOOM founded what would become one of the defining genres of video games, MYST introduced a huge new audience to the digital art form.

Join us for an evening with two of the most important creative forces behind these two world changing games, John Romero (DOOM) and Rand Miller (MYST), as they discuss their visionary works. The free-wheeling conversation, moderated by Frank Lantz, director of the NYU Game Center, will find the two legends meditating on their subsequent careers, sharing their thoughts about the development and future of the game industry, and commenting on the legacies of each other’s work.


  1. What a surprise to see you write about Myst! I have been an adventure game enthusiast for as long as I can remember. Even so, Myst was unknown to me until one Christmas or birthday in the late 1990s. To me it was indeed a deeply influential computer game, not having seen or played anything quite like it up to that point. But I suppose the one that left the greatest impression of all on me would still have to be Colossal Caves. Now see if you can remember that one! It affected my imagination and writing for years, and probably still does to this day.

  2. Hi Mark, I'm less of an enthusiast so Colossal Caves is unknown to me, but I will check it out. What really got me about Myst was its artistry in the time of Windows 3.1; when most business websites consisted of only a jpeg of a scanned business card. The technology of the time required only 256 colours, but it did not insist that they be Bill Gates' choice. Myst became less visible as the press is always more interested in "Doom";-)