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In Cavern: November 2007
Written by schlomo   

 NOVEMBER 26, 2007

Adventure Classic Gaming interviews Mark Dobratz

Reporter Phillip Jong interviewed Mark Dobratz, a Producer & Project Manager at Cyan Worlds on his work, some perspective on the initial ending of Uru Live, what players can expect from the game, and what the future holds for it and Cyan Worlds.

Dobratz initially worked for several small developers as an animator and working on motion capture technology, and several years at Electronic Arts doing production work on sports games. He eventually left for the “family feel” of smaller settings of Cyan Worlds. He approached them, and was hired. “When I was hired at Cyan, diving into the Myst novels helped, but the story of Myst is so huge that, even as I approach the end of my fifth year here, I am still learning things all the time.” He credits the teamwork and experience of Rand Miller, Richard Watson and Josh Staub with helping his learning curve. “This core team is the reason the Myst franchise has such strong continuity.”

His responsibilities as producer vary from project to project, from corporate relations between Cyan and Ubisoft, and resolving differences between them, to marketing and localization responsibilities, to weighing in on some of the decision-making, particularly for Myst V.

He recalls the cancellation of Uru Live as “devastating.” Rand called everyone together and laid it out in “one of the most somber company meetings we’ve ever had.” Cyan was for years invested in Uru and online gaming, whereas Ubisoft appeared to want to leave the online arena and instead rely on offline expansion packs. “The worst part of it all was that we never even made it out of the Beta phase before the plug was pulled. It didn’t feel like Uru Live got a fair shot.” The two companies as a result parted ways because they had two different visions.

Even while working on Myst V, Rand Miller kept its employees informed of prospects and opportunities. Cyan tried for months to develop other opportunities without success. Dobratz recalls the disappointment he felt at how honest people can be affected strongly by a lack of resources. “Cyan is such a rare, special place - it seemed wrong that it had to become another casualty of a market that rewards avoiding risk and panders to base motives.”

Just days after Cyan let go most of its employees in September 2005, he went with Rand Miller to Atlanta to see the possibility of working with Turner. Soon a “great fit” began to take place between the two companies, such that “within a couple of weeks” after the layoff, they were invited back to Cyan to keep working on Uru. “We managed to keep all but four.”

Former partner Ubisoft had no problem letting Cyan revive Uru Live to where all of the expansion pack content which was released back in 2004 was modified to fit the story in MO:UL. “We have entirely new Ages that we’re sneaking in between the expansion pack Ages, as we iron out the wrinkles of the rebirth,” he added.

Dobratz believed Cyan learned that to develop an MMOG, issuing content through episodic releases was better as it helps players maximize their time in-game, and gives more lead time to their marketing team. He also believes in adding more tools to help players customize the game and make it even more personal. However, those tools are not yet accessible and take time to produce. Yet Cyan is taking more “baby steps, as time allows” to make that dream a reality.


 NOVEMBER 25, 2007

Researcher to Examine Old Documents

Researcher J.D. Barnes is asking for explorer assistance in examining recently unearthed old documents to see if they are genuine. The documents were reportedly surrendered to Barnes by the ancestor of an eighteenth century Mexican prospector named Domasio Lara. “There is quite a diversity of materials,” he claims. The “Lara Documents” are an assortment of stories, illustrations, maps, possible Age descriptions, and even “trivial documents” like personal correspondence and recipes. Barnes asks for help in first restoring the documents, before they are cataloged and then subjected to chemical analysis. His weekly progress reports will likely be issued by the Guild of Messengers.


NOVEMBER 22, 2007

Coronation of King Kerath, 9663 DE

Today at 5:42pm Cavern time marked the start of an unknown D’ni holiday known as the Coronation of King Kerath. In the D’ni calendar today is Leevofo 27, 9663 DE, the twenty-seventh yahr of the sixth vailee, 9663 years after D’ni culture was established in the Cavern.

NOVEMBER 14, 2007

Cyan Working on Bug Fixes

“We are working on some bug fixes,” Cyanist Ryan “Greydragon” Warzecha announced today while chatting with a small crowd at Safety First 243’s(1) Bevin early this morning. “We fixed something that will make everybody happy,” he added. He also brought up the chance of explorers customizing bulletin boards in the Bevin classrooms.

Greydragon also stated he will be activating some Cavern features that regularly appear during the holiday season. “Santa has shown up in Uru before,” he disclosed. It was an obvious sign to among other things look for the Santa Hat that appeared for a short while last December.


NOVEMBER 11, 2007

Watson to Expand D’ni Dictionary

Dr. Richard Watson today invited the D’ni Linguistic Fellowship and any other interested explorers to assist in his work of translating D’ni words, and expanding the D’ni-to-English dictionary. He was partly motivated to ask explorers because of the “current shortage of ResEngs.” Cyan Worlds recently re-assigned ResEngs Bailey, Dogherra and Bronson to work on other projects.


Greydragon “Positive” on Season Two

Cyanist Ryan “Greydragon” Warcezha briefly visited the Guild of Greeter’s Bevin this afternoon with some thoughts about Season Two. “We at Cyan still have hope for a Season 2.” The developer of the Must/Uru series is still in talks with Turner and GameTap. “But truly I wouldn’t worry…I remain positive,” he finished.


Third Feast of the Maker, 9663 DE

Today at 9:39am Cavern time marks the start of the Third Feast of the Maker, another D’ni holiday whose meaning is currently lost to time. In the D’ni calendar today is Leevofo 18, 9663 DE, the eighteenth yahr of the sixth vailee, 9663 years after D’ni culture was established in the Cavern.

NOVEMBER 10, 2007

Second Guilds Meeting Held

Representatives from some of the existing guilds met in Kirel to discuss their latest developments. Some advocated for the creation of a Guild of Archivists, and Guild of Caterers. They discussed the possibility of helping those not used to browsing through forums by issuing news updates via the KI. Overall, one came away sensing that the duties and responsibilities are not clearly defined for the Guild of Writers, Guild of Maintainers, Guild of Messengers and the Guild of Cartographers.


NOVEMBER 7, 2007

Greydragon “Positive” on Season Two, Wants Fans to Video Episodes

Ryan “greydragon” Warzecha, community Manager for MO:UL stopped by the Uru Obsession’s Bevin this evening to share more news. “The one reason I came here today was to be positive…Cyan is doing just fine.”

He is working on a video on the "full ending" of Myst V during his spare time. “There was more planned then you saw…and I think it needs to be done…but I have to work with some of the video,” he explained. He also wants to work on a form to allow players to request changes to their Bevin.

He also hoped that fan groups like The Great Tree would produce video capture of episodes for the rest of the community. “Cyan has always wanted a way for explorers to see past stories,” he stated. Besides interviewing explorers who were there, he suggested, “do some filters on it…make it black and white…and add some effects.” And when the issue of recreating past events in Uru in video form was raised, he mentioned that Cyan may be able to offer fans some assistance.

He also mentioned that some of the tools to allow explorers to create their own ages already exist, yet have to be developed further, that Cyan was still discussing Season Two with GameTap, and that the missing journals from the Tokotah Rooftop and the missing Kahlo Pub memorial are probably bugs. “I will look into it,” he promised.


Plans for 2008 D’ni Games Underway

The Uru Live community is starting to make plans to hold the 2008 D’ni Games next January. A week’s worth of activities are planned, from Ahyoheek in the Bevins, a marker hunt in Minkata, a tournament in the Jalak arena, perhaps even a marathon in the City. Other games held in past years include Relto Island Hopping, Eder Kemo Sprints, Eder Gira Diving, and Tent Climbing. Organizers are presently discussing the legal, promotional and logistical aspects, and hope to organize teams made up of members from each guild. To find out more information on how you can be a part, visit the D’ni Games website.


NOVEMBER 6, 2007

Sharper Heads for Surface

Douglas Sharper appeared clueless as to where the DRC and the Bahro were. After a short appearance he too decided also to go home to watch his New England Patriots, and to “wait for the Bahro to come back and start my work again.”


Escapist article on MO:UL

An article by Escapist magazine again highlights the unique features of MO:UL and the Myst series in comparison to other games in the roleplaying genre. “The Myst universe is a far cry from the cut-and-paste fantasy and science fiction worlds in most games,” reporter Nathaniel Berens stated. He drew particular highlight to fan’s obsession with the D'ni language, which he called a “’cursive’ version of the numeral system,” and how roleplaying in MO:UL involves more than the amount of “loot” one collects and where the player can be himself/herself or another character of his/her own choosing when visiting many virtual worlds. Unfortunately for Berens, he mistakenly refers to Cyan as dropping Uru Live in 2004 “due to financial woes” when in fact it was another company who chose to terminate the release of Uru Live while still in the beta stage. Yet he echoes the sentiment of Cyan Worlds employees and CEO Rand Miller when he says that MO:UL “hasn’t yet reached its full potential,” in part because the D’ni Guild system and its ability to involve and allow fans to express their own individual creative talent still needs further development.


NOVEMBER 5, 2007

Yeesha Appears in K’veer, DRC Departs 

Yeesha and Bahro in K’veer

Yeesha and Bahro in K’veerYeesha appeared personally in K’veer at 5pm today, accompanied by Bahro escorts. She declared that since the Bahro were freed from the power of the Tablet, some have chosen to bring destruction. However, most are friends who have chosen to “battle and die” for the explorers, the Cavern and the D’ni. She identified the enemy Bahro leader as “missing a large patch of skin on his shoulder” that was taken by Esher. The enemy Bahro seek something she carries, so she will draw them away from the Cavern. In the meantime, she challenged all to “find a way” and to “make a home.” 

In other news, after 5:30 pm Victor Laxman issued a KI-mail referencing Yeesha’s visit as convincing evidence that “we too must find a way.” Therefore, he and Dr. Sutherland were also heading to the surface to look for other funding sources for the Restoration. “We leave you here to carry on the task Yeesha has given us.”


Photographs by Ayli

Yeesha Releases Myst Age

Around noon today, explorers found a new book pedestal in K’veer that led them to the library on the Age of Myst. Most assumed Yeesha released it because none of the DRC members made reference to it.

Myst was originally written by Ti’ana, the grandmother of Atrus. She, Atrus and Catherine used Myst as a refuge when they trapped Gehn in Riven. As Atrus linked back to Myst from Riven after trapping Gehn, the Myst book fell into the Star Fissure.

Later they raised their sons Sirrus and Achenar, who later became corrupted in character and used their father’s Ages for their own personal gain. Atrus trapped them in special Prison Ages, Spire and Haven, but was himself trapped in K’veer trying to rescue Catherine from Riven. At this time, The Stranger found the Myst book and used it to rescue Atrus, capture Gehn for all time and free Catherine. After Riven, both abandoned Myst because of the painful memories of their son’s betrayal. Yeesha later would refer to Myst as a cursed place, and in Myst V locked it to prevent access. Esher unlocked it to try to gain possession of the Tablet, a mysterious object that the D’ni used to control the Bahro. But The Stranger again chose wisely and the Bahro were freed and arrested Esher for all time.


NOVEMBER 4, 2007

Engineer Agrees to Lake Experiment

The DRC agreed to report pellet contribution totals for about a month to see if its leads to greater participation in the Cavern’s “Feed the Lake Algae" effort. About 4pm today Victor Laxman met with explorer JWPlatt to discuss the best possible way to do this. Laxman has long been concerned that sharp, inconsistent “exponential spikes” in contributions will harm more than help the lake algae. If the daily reporting scheme does not lead to spikes, then he will continue. If more spikes are generated, he would return to simply issuing a monthly graph that recaps donation totals.

Laxman also reported that at this time, a real-time lake light meter is not feasible, and the meter itself is still broken. Also, the October 2007 graph reports results in percentages rather than actual numbers, as it better accounts for positive and negative pellet contributions.

Overall, Laxman concluded that he is pleased with current contribution levels, and that barring the more sporadic instances, “the algae are doing fine the way things are.”

The graphs are available either on your KI or visit the DRC “Feed the Lake Algae” website .  


Explorer Involvement Attempt Fails

A group of explorers met with the DRC but did not win any concessions.  J.D. Barnes met with Dr. Marie Sutherland about 2pm today. He said he felt "charged” by some explorers to contact the Council. He stressed to Sutherland that explorers have skills that may benefit the Restoration. Sutherland’s reply was that she favored their participation in writing new Ages, but that the “tools and infrastructure” to do so is yet nonexistent. When Barnes suggested that they transfer Restoration work to explorers while the DRC focus on funding, he reported that “[she] seemed to like the idea, but once again, made no promises.” Barnes concluded, “I think it’s best if we continue as if we will get that support at some point. That is the only thing we can do.”


Stained Glass Art Setup Starts

Winnng entries from the Great Zero Stained Glass art contest will now be installed in the Bevins. “The three selected designs were submitted by Master Cloak, Keith ‘Tweek’ Lord, and Resolute Guardian. Special thanks to them,” Dr. Marie Sutherland announced in the City about 1pm today. She and Victor Laxman are the only DRC members still in the Cavern after the sudden resignation and departure of Cate Alexander days ago.


Adviser Pleads for “Robust” Guilds

It is possible for the Cavern to develop a strong and “robust” guild system like the D’ni once did. This was the short conclusion DRC Guilds Adviser Reteltee gave around 11:30am today at Kirel. “We explorers should not fear making the guilds strong, and enduring.” How well this guild system does depends on its ability to stay attuned to both guild and non-guild members.

To illustrate, Reteltee used an example from D’ni history. In 7104DE, the D’ni decided a Guild Council should rule instead of a king. This was the time period when the guild rulers were “young, fresh, and in many cases uncertain.” The guilds at the time faced an unknown threat to the Cavern, and that the guild were to find a solution. After suffering the threat for nearly fifty years, they succeeded, through some sort of referendum. The Council brought in commoners and low-ranking guild members to participate in the decision making, and the crises was averted.

Reteltee reports that his informational sources are already available to the public. The new guild system should not mirror the D’ni guilds at the time of the Fall because they were ruled by a small oligarchy of rich and socially elite members only, and who were closed to public involvement and participation. Reteltee also did not know where to find a copy of the Rehevkor, the text which taught the D’ni how to write Ages. His parting advice to all was to “continue building the guilds, continue collaborating and cooperating with one another.”


 NOVEMBER 3, 2007

 Kodama Bids Farewell "for Now"

The Restoration is on hold due to lack of funds, so Dr. Ikuro Kodama headed to the surface today to find new sources. He made the announcement in the City tonight around 10pm. “Marie and Victor are still deciding,” he said, while expressing a hint of optimism that he will return. As for parting words of advice, all he could say was, “Be careful.”


“They” Are Coming, K’veer Released

In what may be a veiled reference to the evil Bahro, Phil Henderson repeated that “They are coming” to those in A Beginner’s Bevin about 5pm today. “I don’t know what we will do,” he moaned. Yet his words still had a silver lining. “Wait…hope…find a way.”

Explorers earlier today reported seeing Bahro flying around Kerath’s Arch in Ae’gura.  At the same time, those who visited Ahnonay found a portal link to a new section of the Cavern called K’veer. 

K’veer is the name given to the mansion situated on an island in the Cavern. Before the Fall of D’ni, it was the home of Lord Rakeri and his son Veovis who was once with the Guild of Writers. There, Veovis and A’Gaeris planned the destruction that led to the Fall of D’ni. Later, K’veer served as Gehn’s headquarters, and where Atrus first learned how to write Ages. It is also the place where Atrus was imprisoned while trying to rescue Catherine, and where the Stranger later found and released him. In Myst V, the mansion also served as the resting place of the Tablet, a powerful object which the D’ni apparently used to force the Bahro to do their bidding.

Explorers were also able to add a K’veer link to their Nexus by registering at the station on the island.

Source 1   |   Source 2

NOVEMBER 2, 2007

Ahnonay Released

Ahnonay released lineFor the first time since the Prologue beta four years ago, and without much fanfare, Dr. Marie Sutherland appeared at the Watcher’s Pub to a thronging crowd around 4:30pm Cavern time with the new Age and placed it on the pedestal.

The DRC issued a KI-mail shortly afterwards, telling veteran players who saw Ahnonay in the Prologue that “the Age is not exactly as you remember it.” The Council also had this advice: “explore the Age with a friend or two.” 

By all accounts Ahnonay was the creation of Kadish, a Guild Master in the Guild of Writers who also owned the Watcher’s Pub at one time. He claimed he was the Grower, a person who the Watchers said could control space and time. Therefore, Ahnonay was written to demonstrate his “power” to travel through time and space.

Explorers first link to a structure known as the Ahnonay Cathedral. At the end of the hall lies the Ahnonay linking book. Each time one returned to the Cathedral after visiting the island, heavy machinery would then rotate one of three spheres, and send them to another version of the island the next time they visited it. Kadish apparently led tour groups through the Cathedral to further the illusion that they were traveling backwards and forwards through time. 

Explorers also found a few specimens of strange plant and animal life on the Age. Quabs are small crab-like creatures with two huge black eyes, and which are fearful of people. In the stormy version of Ahnonay, strange blue-white growths of crystal or Ning Trees dissolve to the touch.

Source 1  |   Source 2   |    Source 3   |   Source 4   |   Source 5

Watcher’s Pub Picked for New Release

Before heading off to discussions with the other Council members, Dr. Marie Sutherland announced in the City at 10am today that Ahnonay will be placed in the Watcher’s Pub. The released is scheduled for 5:50pm Cavern time.

Shortly afterwards, the DRC issued a KI-mail stating that the new Age’s presentation will take place at 5:30pm Cavern time. 


Ahnonay Release Possibly “Tonight”

Dr. Marie Sutherland appeared in the City with news of Ahnonay’s release “tonight or tomorrow.” With Cate Alexander’s sudden resignation from the DRC still fresh, she sympathized with the crowds. “She told me just a few minutes before she told you.”

She had no news on who will lead the DRC, and how the explorer guilds may join in the Restoration effort because their focus is on Ahnonay. Discussions still continue among the remaining members.


NOVEMBER 1, 2007

Adventure Classic Gaming interviews Rand Miller

Reporter Phillip Jong interviewed “legendary game designer” and Cyan Worlds CEO Rand Miller today on “the mystery behind the Myst mythology,” Cyan’s turbulent history, Uru Live’s rebirth, and his future prospects.

Miller gave some background on the mystery of Myst. The name mainly originated from Jule’s Verne’s Mysterious Island, which his brother Robyn read at the time, and the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They wanted Myst and its sequels to “feel like a real place” and to “step away from dying,” which they felt was a “brute-force way” of keeping players from finishing too quickly. Regardless of the deep spiritual and philosophical undertones, the brothers emphasized by their work how art has the ability to communicate truth powerfully yet quietly. “Its not about a hammer or doctrine, its about truth and a whisper – for those with ears to hear,” he stated. But art to be expressed requires technology, which is itself not static. And so, when the delivery of Myst changed to real-time 3D (e.g., RealMyst) it was a learning experience.

Cyan’s turbulent history perhaps started with the sudden departure of brother and co-creator Robyn Miller as he wanted to pursue more work in writing and music. Several others including Rand filled his shoes until his other brother Ryan Miller stepped up. They also outsourced the development of Exile and Revelation to Presto Studios and Ubisoft Montreal Studios because they were already moving towards Uru. Miller observes that these developers did not fully blend in the puzzles with the surrounding world as Cyan would have liked. Miller also felt he was not the best person to play Atrus, as he is not as “uninhibited” in manner as other actors. But the greatest challenge was the failure of Uru Live due to lack of time and money. From it he learned that “the most satisfying way to run a business is with your own [money].” And with Uru Live’s rebirth, they are now trying to implement as much of their vision as they can, and to keep new content flowing. “We’re doing our best to make that happen, and at least now that we’re up and running, this time we’re learning at every step along the way.”


First MO:UL Newsletter Issued

Cyan Worlds issued their first edition of the Myst Online: Uru Live Newsletter on the MO:UL website today. “We hope to use this newsletter to keep you informed of the events, creations, and insights of fellow explorers around the world. Keep your eyes open for links to the handiwork of the amazing talent of the Myst Online community,” CEO Rand Miller stated. Future editions will include “hints and design sketches” of new Ages, “story updates and background” leading to Season Two, and links to “extraordinary” work produced by the online community. Anyone can subscribe to the newsletter through the MO:UL website.

The newsletter also announced the start of “Exodus,” the Season Finale for the game’s first year. It promises more changes will come with the release of Ahnonay, K'veer and Myst Island. Over the last nine months, players gained access to both new and familiar Ages and sections of the Cavern.

The newsletter also encourages new users to test-drive Uru, visit the Guild of Greeters for hints and direction, browse the many resources on the MO:UL Forums, and to get involved in a number of activities set up by the MO:UL online community.

DRC Launches Lake Algae Website

The DRC today opened a new “Feed the Lake Algae ” section on its website. For months since Er’cana was released, explorers have been feeding pellets cooked in the Age’s ovens to the lake algae in the Cavern to restore the day and night light cycle the D’ni enjoyed for thousands of years. The site contains graphs showing monthly and daily contributions starting with October, 2007.

White Reacts to Resignation

Nick White visited the UK Explorer’s Bevin about 2pm and offered reaction to Cate Alexander’s sudden departure due to business reasons. “She was always in it for the money,” he clarified. As for Sharper, “rumor has it that he became a Bahro.” He quickly departed “to see what I can find out about the DRC.” 

Around 3pm the DRC issued a KI-mail citing that Alexander departed because the Restoration was not giving her “sufficient return in her investment.” The other members were also discussing a “course of action” for the coming months.


Cate Alexander Resigns

Shortly after Sutherland’s visit, Cate Alexander announced she is leaving her post at the DRC and the Cavern. ”It’s a business decision. I will no longer be funding the project.” She reassured that the Cavern is not closing, nor is the DRC disbanding, “as far as I know.” The remaining members are now tasked with finding new funding sources, “and they can,” she added. Promising she will visit from time to time, she praised the Council as “fantastic,” as well as the explorer community. “This has not been an easy decision. Because of you all.”


Release of Ahnonay Imminent

Ahnonay is receiving “the finishing touches” and should be ready in a day or two, and K’Veer will be ready too. Dr. Marie Sutherland made the announcement in the City about 10am today. She did not have any other report on Atrus or Yeesha, on when the Kis will be bug-free, on whether Dr. Watson will rejoin the DRC, the missing Takotah Rooftop journals, nor the availability of the tools used to make linking books, and the Gahrohevtee, the language used to write new Ages. She left to speak with Cate Alexander.  

Also today, the monthly spark also disappeared from Phil’s Relto. “All we know about the sparks is that they’re connected to the Bahro,” Sutherland replied.  


Last Updated ( Friday, 25 January 2008 )
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