This chapter is dedicated to documenting the significant and subtle changes between different versions of Myst. Across the multiple re-releases and remasters over the years numerous additions and changes have changed the way that Myst is played, from introducing full 3D movement to adding new levels and a hint system.
Compiled by Luke Voloshin
I: The Original Myst
Designer: Rand Miller
Composer: Robyn Miller
Platforms: Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, Saturn, 3DO, Atari Jaguar CD, CD-I, AmigaOS, Pocket PC, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, Android
Initial release date: September 24, 1993
The original version of Myst was a technical marvel and introduced many people to a completely new way of playing video games. When most people thought of video games, they thought of Mario, Mega Man, and Sonic. They thought of fast gameplay generally aimed for a younger audience with bright colors and cool music. When Myst came out, people got something else, something new. Nonlinear storytelling, challenging puzzles, a detailed 3D world, and a subdued soundtrack were only a few of the things Myst brought to the table and many took note of it. It would go on to be the most popular PC game of the decade, only losing its place as number one to The Sims in 2002.
Although the method of navigating Myst, the point-and-click, had been around for a number of years, the beautifully rendered 3D environments are what sets Myst apart from other games. Not only that, but the lack of enemies, timers, and player death went against everything the arcade era had taught players about video games. You could take your time to explore the intricately detailed world Rand and Robyn Miller created. This kind of gameplay would inspire many others to create similar experiences that focused more on storytelling and detailed world-building instead of action-packed gameplay.
As the first version of the game, the original Myst was heavily bound by the technical limitations of hardware and software of the time. The Miller brothers created a full 3D environment for players to explore, but the slow speeds of CD-ROM drives meant loading that world as we would expect it to today would take hours, if not days. In order to get around this, the Miller brothers rendered 2500 different stills of their 3D environments for players to navigate through. When they wanted to animate something, they would render small movies in Quicktime, rather than animate it in the engine in real-time. These optimizations to the game allowed many PCs to run the program and further increased the popularity of the game.
Myst’s approach to storytelling was lauded by many, but also criticized by some. Some critics thought the puzzles were far too obtuse and that the lack of hints or guiding marks in the game were indicative of poor game design. Some also thought that the static graphics weren’t as beautiful as others believed them to be and considered them boring instead. However, the large number of Myst clones shows that Myst’s approach to storytelling was interesting enough to gain a following, as did the game’s sales.
Myst fundamentally changed the way people thought of video games in the early 90’s as games, like Mortal Kombat and Tetris, that dominated the market, opening the door for quieter, more narrative-driven games to take the spotlight in the years to come.
II: Myst Sequels*Compiled by Andrew Chen
Riven (The Sequel to Myst)
Publisher: Red Orb Entertainment
Platforms: Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Pocket PC, iOS, Android
Initial release Date: October 31, 1997
(*The game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst is not included due to the nature of the game. Uru follows a story and gameplay path not like that of the other games in the Myst series. It is a MMO game that crosses over into real world events as part of the narrative. The exclusion of the game does not largely impact the story of all the other games in the series.)
Myst III: Exile
Developer: Presto Studios
Platforms: Mac OS, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Initial release date: May 7, 2001
Myst IV: Revelation
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Xbox
Release Date: September 28, 2004
Myst V: End of Ages
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Platforms: Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows
Release Date (NA): September 20, 2005
With the advancements in gaming, further additions and steps could be taken with the Myst game series aside from remakes and re-releases. What all the games share in common is the first-person exploration at different nodes, navigating by point-and-click, and so on. With that, there are many different changes that make use of the technological advancements between platforms, editing software, complexity of audio and video recording, etc.
Changes include improvement to textures, mapping, and lighting. The rendering of certain elements also occurred in the frame instead of pre-rendered still images. Audio improved on each title when used for the music and lines recorded during the live-action cutscenes. The notable exception is the final game in the series as it forgoes the traditional static image navigation of the previous titles and gives full range of motion for the player.
The sequels largely keep to the formula and story of the original Myst with elements of the puzzles, movement, and styles of the worlds. You can interact with puzzles at your leisure, making notes of all the clues, and be immersed into the game world through the graphics. For some of the versions re-released with improvements, the scale of the worlds can seem different or smaller than the original. The most popular sequels are Riven and Myst III, not as popular as the original game, but still popular among fans as they both sold well.
III: The Masterpiece EditionCompiled by Mariah Gwin
Myst: Masterpiece Edition
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Publisher: Cyan Worlds
Release Date: January 2, 1999
Platforms: Microsoft Windows and Mac OS
Myst: Masterpiece Edition (1999) was released six years after the original release of Myst (1993), introducing improved graphics allowing for a drastic increase of colors compared to the previous 256 Myst was originally limited to. It is a single-player game hosted in a 2D environment, similar to the original version, and does not allow for some of the features later available in versions such as realMyst, notably the free roam option. Traditionally the player would click in the direction they want to go and the hand of the cursor would rotate to indicate that direction, then the player would appear in that frame or space.
Currently Myst: Masterpiece Edition is available for Windows systems 7, 8, and 10. It is also available on Mac OS systems 10.13 or higher, but is not compatible with Mac OS 10.15 Catalina due to Apple’s discontinued support for 32-bit games.
The Masterpiece Edition was created primarily to improve the visual colors, graphics quality, and audio fidelity of the original Myst, but even compared to games today the files themselves are incredibly small. However, their combining video into the interface was groundbreaking.
IV: realMyst and realMyst Masterpiece Edition
Compiled by Julie Pahukoa
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Publisher: Cyan Worlds
Release Date: November 15, 2000
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Android
realMyst: Masterpiece Edition
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Publisher: Cyan Worlds
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Android, Nintendo Switch
realMyst was released in November 2000 for PC as a 3D reimagining of the original Myst (Wikipedia). The designers moved from the pre-rendered 2-dimensional photos to an immersive 3D world and expanded the storyline to include a sixth age called Rime. Further enhancements include making the world more atmospheric: waves lap, grass sways, crickets chirp, the weather changes, and the sun sets and rises. While it was a big change from Myst, the experience wasn’t quite as immersive as everyone had hoped due to low frame rates. The new Free Roam movement option helped to create the illusion of exploration, but frames were frequently dropped, which affected the player’s ability to be fully immersed in the experience.
The Masterpiece Edition of realMyst was released in February 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Myst. Its a more polished and refined version of realMyst developed with the Unity engine (Dingman), which fixed the problem of dropped frames issue via an auto-quality option found in the previous version. realMyst: Masterpiece Edition also adds a few new tools. The "Help" menu offers hints if a player gets stuck in a puzzle, and the flashlight tool assists with exploration when the sun goes down. The game's audio is 3-dimensional; if a player turns their back to the ocean, the sounds of waves move across outputs to simulate them coming from another direction. A feature was also added that allows players to easily compare the current version to the original: holding down the Shift key will show the player the original 2D image as featured in Myst, so players can toggle back and forth and really get an appreciation for the graphical improvements.
In both realMyst and realMyst: Masterpiece Edition, the addition of the Rime age acted as a tie-in to Riven, the second game in the series. At the end of the game, assuming the player has made the choice to bring Atrus the missing page from the Myst linking book in D’ni, the player is rewarded with a clue about Rime upon their return to Myst. Reading the Rime book points the player toward the dimensional imager to enter a code and press a hidden button, which reveals a secret panel. On the panel, the player can spin a dial, which rotates a turret on the island near the spaceship. Entry into the turret, and entering a second code from the Rime book, reveals the Rime linking book back in the library. Once in Rime, the player can experiment with the electricity and auroras to change colors, but the final puzzle involves selecting the correct sequence of crystal shapes and colors under a viewing screen. Activating the right combination as detailed on a nearby sheet of paper tunes the viewing screen to an image of Riven.
Another nod to other items in the Myst series that appears in realMyst is the grave of Ti’ana. It is located on Myst island, and there are no other clues about its significance in the game. Ti’ana is Atrus’ grandmother, but one would only understand the reference if they were familiar with the Myst books and had read the 1996 novel The Book of Ti’ana (Hamilton).
V: Console and Handheld Versions of MystCompiled by Dylan Steen
Shortly after the original release of Myst in 1993 the game was ported to several game consoles available at the time. The Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and SEGA Saturn were the first to receive ports in 1995. The following year in 1996 the Sony PlayStation and Philips CD-i received their versions of Myst. The Amiga got a port in 1997.
After this initial wave of releases, there would be little new activity until 2005 when Myst was ported to the Windows Mobile platform. This period would see a renewed interest in the game and an abundance of new ports to more modern devices. In 2006 and 2008 the Playstation Portable and Nintendo DS each received custom built versions of the game that included the Rime Age content which had previously only been available in realMyst.
In 2009 the iOS version made Myst more accessible than ever. Unlike many other styles of games, the point and click controls of classic Myst translated quite well to a touch screen. In 2012 the original Playstation version was re-released as a digital download for Playstation 3, Playstation Portable, and Playstation Vita. The Nintendo DS version was ported to the 3DS this year as well. The iPad would also see a release in 2012, this time of the updated and reworked realMyst. Android users would get their version of realMyst in 2017. Finally, the most recent port of Myst is a soon to be released version of realMyst: Masterpiece Edition for the Nintendo Switch.
Looking at all of these various iterations of Myst, it’s interesting to note how the time and platform they were released for greatly affected the critical reception. The novelty of playing Myst on portable devices wasn’t always enough to counter the negative experience of playing on a tiny screen. Even so, the wider availability of the game meant that it was more accessible than ever.
An interesting note is how “at home” the game feels on iOS. A connection can be drawn between Apple’s user experience philosophy and how it applies to the game whether it’s on the original Macintosh hardware or the iPad. The Macintosh’s mouse, which helped popularize the input method, only had one button. It was an extension of the user’s hand, which was able to “touch” an icon on screen to select it. This is a different philosophy from the standard PC mouse that has a left and right button asking the user to make a choice of clicking left or right rather than simply directly selecting as they might do with their finger. This is why the game works so great on a touch screen. It was designed with an original one button Macintosh mouse in mind, and its gameplay translates beautifully to the iPad especially. Navigating feels natural, and doesn’t require any ugly overlays or additional controls to enjoy. Your hand simply replaces the pixelated hand cursor from the original version.
Cyan Inc. RealMyst. Cyan, 2014, www.cyan.com/games/realmyst/.
Dingman, Hayden. “RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition Review: The Same Myst You Know and Love, but Prettier.” PCWorld, 22 Mar. 2014, www.pcworld.com/article/2109283/realmyst-masterpiece-edition-review-the-same-myst-you-know-and-love-but-prettier.html.
Kasavin, Greg. “Myst V: End of Ages Review.” GameSpot, 19 Apr. 2006, www.gamespot.com/reviews/myst-v-end-of-ages-review/1900-6133977/.
Kasavin, Greg. “Myst IV Revelation Review.” GameSpot, 28 Sept. 2004, www.gamespot.com/reviews/myst-iv-revelation-review/1900-6109136/.
Hamilton, Jason. “Myst Timeline and Chronology.” MythBank, 31 Oct. 2019, www.mythbank.com/myst-timeline-and-chronology/.
Osborne, Scott. “Myst III: Exile Review.” GameSpot, 4 May 2001, www.gamespot.com/reviews/myst-iii-exile-review/1900-2715657/.
Sengstack, Jeff. “Riven: The Sequel to Myst Review.” GameSpot, 1 Dec. 2003, www.gamespot.com/reviews/riven-the-sequel-to-myst-review/1900-2532838/.
Steam. “Myst: Masterpiece Edition on Steam.” Steam Community, Valve Inc., www.store.steampowered.com/app/63660/Myst_Masterpiece_Edition/.
Steam. “RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition v2.0 Released!” Steam Community, Valve Inc., 27 Jan. 2015, steamcommunity.com/games/244430/announcements/detail/231142125568569395.
"Myst." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia. 23 Mar. 2020. Web. 27 Mar. 2020.
Gameplay | Reviews
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- myst_versions_image_16_RealMyst Bridge.gif