If you owned a computer in the mid-90's, you more than likely played Myst. It was the best selling PC game for well over a decade (upstaged by The Sims in 2007), ushered in the CD-ROM era, spawned a number of Myst-clones, and has been ported almost as many times as Tetris. All from a grassroots game made by 7 people! And while the makers of Myst (Cyan Worlds) have recently fallen on hard times, it doesn't take away from the great style of storytelling they introduced, a style video game designers should consider revisiting. So how has this screen clicking graphical adventure influenced The Mercury Men?

Myst was different from most video games. You weren't under a constant barrage of enemy attacks, dodging fire, or leaping over lava pits. You weren't given some lengthy backstory. In fact, other than a short opening monologue, you weren't given any backstory at all. You were thrown into a mysterious situation and simply began to quietly explore the island and its ages. The story was told non-verbally through the exploration. You'd open a desk drawer and learn a lot about it's owner simply by its contents.

While The Mercury Men has much more leaping, dodging, and shooting, you will find moments where there is little to no dialogue, only the characters exploring their environment and situation. Rather than have a character talk us through what every little thing is, we allow the viewer to simply watch and form their own theories. It's nice to have a little mystery and curiosity in storytelling.

"We started our design work and realized that we would need to have even more story and history than would be revealed in the game itself. It seemed having that depth was just as important as what the explorer would actually see."
--Rand Miller on developing Myst's fictional history
We spent months developing the larger world of The Mercury Men before writing a single line in a screenplay. I could bend your ear for hours. (Unfortunately my wife has had to listen to hours of the history of the "league" and the "first men of Mercury.") While this wealth of backstory does hopefully give some depth to the events, out of it comes our digital props as well. We can reveal little pieces of the world while still leaving some room for you the viewer to fill in the blanks with ideas and theories of your own.

And finally, Myst holds a special place with me for an entirely different reason. I didn't meet my father until I was 16 years old and Myst was one of the very first gifts he bought for me. We spent an entire weekend hunched over an old Compaq computer monitor exploring that world together. Immersive and interactive storytelling was cemented in me instantaneously.

Like every video game, the idea of a film based on Myst was tossed around for years. But unlike every video game, Cyan Awards chose to do something unusually spectacular. They awarded the movie rights to THE FANS! Not all fans mind you, but a few filmmaker fans. You can check out their project at http://mystmovie.com. Really looking forward to what they're putting together.
It’s an amazing thing to witness a process like that - a “bootstrap” kind of operation that by sheer force of will and fan excitement manages to pull off something big.
--Rand Miller on Myst film project


  1. Ah, Myst. Some good memories with this one. This is the game that took my brother and I from Leisure Suit Larry and Carmen Sandiego into a higher realm of gaming. Oh, Laura Bow was great too.
    But I still remember how spooked I was playing the game on my own as a youngster. So beautiful, but too quiet.
    Love it.

  2. Not sure if any of you played all the way through Myst to it's sequel Riven, but remember the part in the forest where you round the corner and find a kid that runs away? Shocking chance to see an actual person in a Myst game. I'm gonna have to break out those games to play again.

  3. Favorite game ever! ...and "yes" seeing a live person in-game was a shock.

  4. It's good to see people still talking about and feeling connected to Myst. And thanks for the note about Myst:BOT and the project. Haven't had a chance to view your work yet but I am looking forward to it!

  5. Yes, but, who has read the books (Myst: The Book of Atrus, The Book of Ti'Ana and The Book of D'Ni)? I've read through them at least four times. Myst will always hold a special place in my heart.

  6. Funny to think that Myst and Riven could be considered forerunners of today's steampunk aesthetic...


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