Documenting Myst



Myst was built primarily on Macintosh Quadra personal home computers. The Miller Brothers utilized some third party add-ons to get their systems to use color for images. Apple continued to release updated versions of the Quadra line while Myst was being produced, and each time they did Robyn and Rand went out to buy them. The increased technical capability of the Quadra computer line allowed for the utilization of more advanced 3D software. Myst would not have its distinctive, detailed look without the hardware they chose to use.

CD-ROM was the format chosen for Myst. Sunsoft, the publisher for the game, was getting ready to break into the upcoming console market, which was to be based around CD-ROM games. Although this format created some issues for the Myst team, such as needing to group the data for adjacent areas closely together on the disc, it ended up being the “killer-app” for the medium, and helped to catapult CD-ROM into much wider usage later in the decade.


Myst was built using five programs: HyperCard, Photoshop, StrataVision 3D, Macromedia MacroModel, and QuickTime. HyperCard, a popular hypertext authoring system made available by Apple for its computers, would serve as the basis of Myst, handling all the navigation and structure of the game. The 2500 images that make up Myst were imported into the program and linked together with invisible buttons using "hypertalk" scripts, a precursor to the hyperlinks we use on the Internet today.

The scenes seen in Myst were designed and rendered in StrataVision 3D and MacroMedia MacroModel, and then cleaned up in Photoshop 1.0. StrataVision 3D included features, such as ray tracing and animation, allowing for the stunning scenes seen in the final product. It also allowed for the reuse of models created instead of having to redraw every angle of an area from scratch. These renders were then edited in Photoshop before being imported.

To achieve animations, the newly released QuickTime was implemented later on in development. By placing videos over the images, the resulting effect is the illusion of movement in an otherwise static screen. These programs took much of the complex programming out of the picture when creating a game and allowed for more focus on world-building and advanced looking graphics. These new programs “enabled” the creation of Myst as much as the technical specifications of the hardware.

Story Construction

The Miller Brothers constructed Myst knowing that they wanted to make an immersive and realistic world for adult gamers. Some of their previous work had introduced players to beautiful and intricate worlds, but mostly told a linear story for children. With Myst, through detailed graphics, they crafted an eerie abandoned location with a rich history. These lush elements helped to draw in a larger audience to the game, introducing non-gamers to the video game medium for the first time.  

Myst island and the various “ages” in the game are believable because they have their own history and unique feel. No object or building is arbitrary, including the various switches and mechanisms littered around the landscape which make up the game’s puzzles. The books and characters provide the interlacing context to elements you encounter while exploring. The game truly offered a living, breathing world to players. Each age was dynamic in its detail and depth, influenced by earlier works like Manhole and Spelunk, along with epic “mythical” movies like Star Wars. Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia also served as influences on the look and feel of Myst. Dungeons and Dragons, along with Zork 1 and 2 were also large influences on the brothers. They even used a map created from their DnD youth for one of the areas in the game. Myst drew on all of the Miller Brothers’ previous influences to create a deep, immersive world. Characters with complex relationships make the game realistic and add to the intrigue of the world. Ethical choices posed by the two brothers invest the player into their story and the fate of their father. The Miller Brothers actually played the two brothers in the video game themselves, inside of their office studio.

The game went through extensive testing before it was finished. Initially, the play-testing for Myst involved a paper walkthrough of the game, like Robyn and Rand had played in their youth. The players would be walked through the levels and told of their surroundings. This helped to figure out what in the game didn’t make sense or needed to be fixed. Also, because HyperCard doesn’t require extensive build times to render out a playable file, the Miller
Brothers were able to address the problem right then and there. Often, two players tested the game together, so that Rand and Robyn could listen to their conversations about the game and gain insights about its perception.

The world and story constructed in Myst by the Miller Brothers was one of the most rich video game experiences of the time, and it still holds up today. By using advanced graphics, well thought out and detailed story elements along extensive play testing, Myst was able to capture the imagination of gamers everywhere and solidify its place in gaming history.


Graphical Components

The creators of Myst wanted a rich and detailed environment for the game. For this game they realized that creating the entire word in 3D would offer them a lot of options. 3D rendering allowed for the use of color, which had not been used in Cyan’s previous games. After creating a “set” in StrataVision 3D, the creators took still shots of each location as if the player were standing and looking in that direction. In total 2500 shots were taken and compiled into Hypercard. Each movement taken by the player is just another shot from the 3D environment. The creators put a lot of time and effort into every little detail on the screen. The creators wanted a game that was immersive, and leaving out the fine details would change that. In addition, 66 minutes of video was recorded for the game, which was originally unfeasible until Quicktime was released.

With the use of StrataVision 3D the creators were able to create level changing and detailed terrain for the different ages. By using a grayscale image, the terrain could be painted as a flat image from above, and then taken into the 3D software to be extruded. Parts of the design that are darker represent lower areas, and lighter areas represent taller parts of the terrain. Using grayscale allows for 256 different heights. Once the ages were created, the designers would then paint the terrain with grass and paths. Once this was done, hundreds of trees and plants could be added to the terrain.

There were some issues with hardware restraints at the time. 2500 different images would take up a lot of space. The creators were able to get around CD-ROM size constraints by using the "dithering" feature to make each image 8-bit. Adaptive color palettes of 256 colors were used for each age to take advantage of all the detail possible. With the release of Quicktime midway through the development, creators were able to use their compression software to take 500KB images down to 80KB, freeing up more space for video and audio to be added. After the images were stripped down, some details were re-added or altered using Photoshop 1.0.



Myst was developed on Macintosh Quadra computers over the course of two years. With 2500 3D rendered images and 40 minutes of music, the floppy disks of the time had no hope of handling the game, even the 3.5-inch Floptical LS with the largest available storage on the market with its 21Mb of storage space. Myst was built for the first generation of CD-ROMS in mind, which could hold up to 700Mb worth of data. The game itself took up 523.1Mb, leaving room for the 70.2MB video, “The Making of MYST,” as extra content on the CD-ROM.  

Despite having a medium to handle the size of their creation, the Miller Brothers still faced issues with file size and access speeds, as the first CD-ROMS only had a transfer rate of 100-150K. These CD-ROMS were dubbed 1x CD’s for their speed, and it wouldn’t be until 1996 before 12x CD-ROMS would be released, which processed data at 1,800K.

With so many 3D rendered images, Myst needed its assets compressed in order to run smoothly. Each image could be up to 500K in file size, totaling over 1250MB in memory when all 2,500 images are considered. Using Adobe Photoshop’s adaptive palette, each image was made 8-bit to reduce file size while still retaining a 24-bit-like quality, thanks to careful graphical design and choices. But it wasn’t until the release of Quicktime halfway through the game’s production before the Miller Brothers found their solution to file size and video.

Originally, including video wasn’t possible due to the software limitations of the time, but Quicktime not only enabled the Millers to include video of the brothers within the books, it also aided in reducing file size. Quicktime compression was used on both video and image to reduce both file sizes, bringing a 500K sized image down to 80K, or just 200MB for all 2500 images before compression, an 84% file size reduction from the initial 1250MB to store all the images.

Myst was a technical innovation within the gaming industry, challenged by software bottlenecks and aided by an ever-expanding digital world demanding more from their hardware. Were it not for new technology being released during its time, Myst may have not released at all, or would have been much slower to play.

Sound Design

With how integral sound is to the game of Myst, you would never guess that it come from a guy blowing bubbles in a toilet. The audio of Myst can be broken down into two major themes: sounds that relate to the puzzles, and sounds that were for a more realistic environment. The audio was created by the Miller Brothers and Chris Bandkamp.

The Miller Brothers use sound as key components to solve puzzles like in the Mechanical world when using the elevator. They, along with Bandkamp, use distinct sound cues, many of which they created themselves. Using a Proteus MPS +, a keyboard with 62 keys, hundreds of preset sounds and instruments, and the ability to capture and store custom sounds, they were able to record sounds for situations like the underwater bubbles for the sunken ship and the chimes of the clock tower.

Bandkamp noted as being a sound technician for the project. In an interview in “In the Making of Myst” he touches on his process for developing the audio for Myst, noting that he would often wait till they had finished the visuals for a scene. He said that after he saw the scene, it was easy for him to compose how the scene might sound.

Works Cited

Apple Macintosh Quadra 700 Specs. Updated March 23, 2020.

Ars Technica. Myst Co-Creator Rand Miller: Extended Interview. Feburary 21, 2020.

Capucci, Pier L. "Memories about 20 Years of Myst and StrataVision3D." Pier Luigi Capucci, 28 Oct. 2018.

“Classic Game Postmortem: Myst.” Performance by Robyn Miller Miller, GDC Vault, Zoo Break Gun Club,

Helander, Martin G., Thomas K. Landauer, and Prasad V. Prabhu. 1997. Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction (2nd. ed.). Elsevier Science Inc., USA., 923.

"The Making of Myst." The Retro Gamer. August 6, 2012.

Miller, Rand and Robyn Miller. The Making of MYST YouTube, uploaded by ristar200, 23 Jul. 2011,

Miller, Robyn. Classic Game Postmortem: Myst. Game Developers Conference Vault. UBM plc. Archived from the original on April 9, 2015. Retrieved March 26, 2020.

Myst Sound track

Parish, Jeremy, host "A deep dive into HyperCard and Myst." Retronauts, 11 Nov. 2017.

Proteus MPS + - .

"When SCUMM Ruled the Earth." #33. Myst. Classic’s Essential 50. 2010.

Wolf, Mark J. P. Myst and Riven: The World of the D'ni. University of Michigan Press, 2011. JSTOR, Accessed 27 Mar. 2020, 73.


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