Three years in the making, Ubisoft is applying the finishing touches to its much-anticipated game release, Myst IV Revelation.
This latest baton-carrier of the phenomenonally successful Myst is set to ship simultaneously for Macs and PCs this October, and took a team of "at least" 75 people three years to create.
Myst IV Revelation reveals more about the scheming brothers Sirrus and Achenar, who featured in the first, second and third installments of the Myst franchise. I spoke with game producer, Genevieve Lord, who offered a glimpse beneath Myst IV's petticoats.
Extending the games genre
"It was a demanding project," she explained, "everyone wanted to do their best - 3D developers, the graphics team, games designers - we all wanted to do the very best we could."
"A lot of us had the feeling we were working on something legendary. The impression that we were making a difference to the games industry, which needs to find itself. We felt we were creating a new games genre," said Lord.
Those unfamiliar with the Myst series may not understand what the fuss is all about. Released in 1994 by Broderbund Software, Myst quickly set a new standard for computer games with its lush 3D scenery and its minimalist user interface.
An amazing alternate reality
Speaking then, game creators Rand and Roby Miller described the game: "You are about to be drawn into an amazing alternative reality. Myst is not linear; it's not flat; it's not shallow. This is the most depth and reality you've ever encountered in a game."
The game wasn't an RPG, a swords-&-sorcery yarn, a strategy title or simulation - it was a non-linear story set within a compelling visual experience. Myst IV Revelation takes up this challenge, updates it with today's advances in 3D and multimedia and introduces a game experience that's taken the equivalent of three lifetimes to produce.
Within its storyline, Myst IV Revelation features over 70-minutes of high-quality professionally produced video and (I think), stunning photo-realistic visuals. It ships on the equivalent of three DVDs, one a double-sided DVD. The movie footage in the game took ten-days to shoot, partially because the movie director had to rise to the challenge of shooting films that also needed to work with 3D elements.
Each environment in the game combines mouth-watering pre-rendered visual environments with interactive elements and passing effects - clouds, fire, water, sun, for example. The game uses Ubisoft's in-house developed ALIVE technology, which lets players 'touch' the environment and the creatures around them using a new hand icon.
Peter Gabriel gives music to Mac
Peter Gabriel and composer Jack Wall provide music within the game. with "Gabriel's people" reportedly having a specific hand in one specific part of a specific level.
Gabriel also made a song for the game, and all the title's music is delivered using a song sequencer, so no matter how long you play the game, you should never hear the same music twice.
Myst IV introduces a new feature, called 'Amulet'. Different areas have certain objects that offer clues in the game, for example, should a player pick up a certain object they will enjoy access to a movie clip, or voices that help them move forward within the game. The Amulet feature glows to help players recognise they are near such action.
No need to be baffled
Players of previous Myst titles will expect the series of puzzles they have to solve to move between levels. This new iteration introduces a new Help system (jointly-developed with strategy guide publisher, Prima), which you configure when you install the game.
Players can choose to use no help at all, some help, or complete help. Complete help will show players how to make it through the game, and how to solve each of the puzzles they are likely to meet. And the game designers have attempted to ensure a direct reward for every puzzle you solve.
Lord explained why the feature had been added: "A lot of people playing the previous games said they got discouraged because they were unable to solve particular puzzles, so they couldn't progress through the game."
Ubisoft is proud of its achievements. "We concentrated on the details so we could achieve the definitive Myst environment".
The game's about travelling through that environment: "Myst IV, it's not about puzzles, it's a story. We like to say Myst IV is an adventure."
The game ships in October, its UK price hasn't yet been decided.