A precedent was set way back in 1993, and it’s still being matched even today. That precedent is immersive storytelling. From the scintillating sounds that bring an intangible world to life to the minute details that instigate realism. Cyan’s Myst set a new target.
Since then, all future games aspired to reach peak realism. Whether it’s the graphic horror in games like Silent Hill or the real-life depictions of the natural city life in games like Grand Theft Auto. Realism became the core element of gaming.
The dawn of a new age
If you were one of the 6 million people who bought yourself a copy of Myst in 1993, it would have been unlike any other game you’ve played before. Not even the initial release of DOOM that same year could compare to the sheer detail of the first scene.
Before you lies a dock, with actual rippling water on your right and specifically jagged rocks on your left. The sloshing sounds of waves would resonate from your speakers and you’d likely be hooked. And even though you weren’t able to freely move (ah, the good old point-and-click), your eyes couldn’t help but marvel at the screen.
The story continued…
Four years later, when sharply boxed characters began morphing into something more rounded, Cyan released Riven. While point-and-click remained, the graphics still out-mastered its fellow competitors in 1997. The sights and sounds shone with confidence, and Cyan held onto the figurative peak of realistic gaming.
But when The Sims came out in 2000, it overtook Myst’s best-selling record, and the franchise became a cult classic. But they kept delivering under the circumstances. They had a fanbase to impress.
In 2001, Myst III: Exile was released, evoking fresher graphics that were better than their previous creations. But Cyan wasn’t involved in this production, and instead handed the reigns over to Presto Studios. Indeed, their influence is well noted.
Two years later, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst was released, which saw the end of point-and-click and the return of Cyan. Then came Myst 4: Revelation in 2004, which was developed by UbiSoft, a company many modern gamers would be familiar with. And finally, Cyan returned for the end of an era with Myst 5: End Of Ages in 2005.
Naturally, the early 2000s saw a huge jump in game development. In 2005, for instance, top-selling games like Gran Turismo 4 and Madden NFL 06 reached the bar of realistic style. But many Cyan fans (myself included) would argue that their level of detail still could not compare to the glistening realism of Myst 4: Revelations or even Myst 5: End Of Ages.
In fact, it wasn’t until the 2006 release of Gears Of War when realistic gameplay finally hit the target. And that’s mostly thanks to the release of the Xbox 360 in late-2005. High definition gaming had finally arrived.
Credit’s where credit’s due
Cyan is still going strong, even today. They’ve upped their skillset with new productions like Obduction, which feels so eerily realistic. But then, a lot of games post-2010 have reached that level of realism, too.
But we can’t forget the unsung heroes that started it all: Rand and Robyn Miller, the founders of Cyan and the creators of Myst. We gotta give credit where credit’s due.
If you love the Myst series, you’d be happy to know they’re planning a documentary about the series. They’ve got a Kickstarter campaign which you can back right now. Here are the details for that!