I realized the moment I fell into the fissure that the Book would not be destroyed as I had planned. It continued falling into that starry expanse, of which I had only a fleeting glimpse. I have tried to speculate where it might have landed, but I must admit that such conjecture is futile. Still, questions about whose hands might one day hold my Myst book are unsettling to me. I know my apprehensions might never be allayed, and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written. -- Atrus

Friday, February 7, 2014

RMME Review #1: Myst Island

Spoilers abound herein.  If you have any problems, dial information, thank you for calling.

So I have begun a thorough inspection of realMyst: Masterpiece Edition as well as keeping an eye on the Cyan Forums to see what others are saying.  It seems like some (or many?) people are having technical problems with their copies.  I don't seem to be having any, personally.  Also, there are some criticisms about the look and controls, but again, I am not finding issues there.  I am also not a computer genius who can pick out stuff like something about geometry (?) and call it a problem.  Part of the issue of waiting a long time for something is that people become quite critical of what they've been waiting for.  It's the waiting syndrome.  The longer the wait, the higher the expectation.

It's like the new season of Sherlock, which is unlike the previous two seasons because there's a lot of stuff to unpack and it is more character-driven.  People had been waiting two years for season 3 and their expectations were higher than ever.  Thus, many were disappointed.  I on the other hand had a blast with it.  I about threw a fit when I saw that Sherlock [SPOILER] got himself a girlfriend, but then I remembered that one story (in the original books/stories!) that Sherlock becomes engaged for a case and I grinned at yet another nod to the source material.  Fandom is a scary relationship.  Sometimes you own them, sometimes they own you.  I'm not sure if that is something I'd be able to navigate so well.

So let's begin our review, shall we?  The opening is lovely with an updated falling Atrus -- now I haven't played realMyst (2000) in a long while, so I can't remember what is new and what is old.  I also haven't played Myst in a long time and I only glanced at it on the iPhone app, so again, it's like a new experience!  Which is a good thing!  It brings back the mystère.  (Screenshots made available via Fraps.)

Do do DO (that's me singing the opening music.  I agree, I am a regular Renée Fleming)
We now move on to the technical stuff.  The controls, the settings, and whatever else is technical.  There are two basic options for moving around.  There's Classic Myst mode and Free Roam mode.  Classic Myst is the point-and-click mode, but it's much more zoomy than original Myst.  I can't remember original realMyst, but I think it's like that too.  I played that all of once a long time ago.  Notice that you can change the speed.  There's an option for inverting the look, but I'm not sure what this is.  I toggled it on and off, but I didn't notice anything.  Perhaps someone could tell me what it does.

I selected Free Roam which allows you to look all over the place as in Myst Online: Uru Live.  Unfortunately you can't do this unless standing still.  To move, you use keys and to look around you use the mouse.  Clicking with the mouse is unnecessary because all you need to do is move the cursor to the side, top, or bottom of your screen and your view follows.  It's quite nice, I find.  However, it takes some getting used to in combination with the walking controls because you have to stop to look around.  Cyan has some bases covered here, though, and has made things easy for sinister folk (i.e., left-handed -- I'm not being mean, look up the Latin haha!) because the walking keys are both the arrow keys and the WASD keys, which, if you have even a small degree of ambidexterity, you can alternate between keys and mouse more efficiently.  For instance, if you are right-handed, use your mouse with right hand for looking and WASD keys for walking.  For left-handeders, the opposite-ish.  Cyan seems to promote equal opportunity.  Except for when it comes to translations -- so far.  Perhaps this will change in the near future?  You can also hold down the Shift key to run, Forrest, run in case you are in a hurry and have to leave for work in five minutes but not before you have gotten that blue page from Selenitic.

In settings, there are two tabs.  I will take a glance at tab one farther down, but here is tab two.  You see that you can adjust pretty much everything in the game.  I didn't bother touching this, and you can see where my settings are (the default).  Perhaps that's why I haven't faced any problems yet.  I'm in no hurry, and I like balance together with good quality.  I think it's a personality test!

Assistance is extremely available in the game.  I think if this had been the case in original Myst, the Field Director for the excavation project I participate in might have stuck with the game when he decided to try it 20 years ago.  The not knowing what the hell to do discouraged him from continuing.  RMME does not shy away from giving you as much as you could possibly want:

In the game there is a little interactive guide when you click on stuff you can move.  For example, when you turn on a Marker Switch two white arrows appear that indicate the directions in which the switch can move.

Helpful arrows for those who perhaps are concerned about moving stuff they shouldn't.
This feature is turned on by default, but you can easily switch it off in settings for a more traditional exploration experience.  So keep your pants on, and don't be so hasty to disapprove of new features like this.  For some it makes the game more play-worthy to have access to help like this.  Cyan lets you turn them on or off according to your taste.

The main page shows your save games.  You save by dragging the top right frame (your current game) to one of the boxes on the left, much like you do in the iPhone/Pad apps.  Very simple, easy, and basic.  Now, one of the features, which seems to have some people in knots, is the flashlight.  Yes, there is a flashlight!

At the bottom of the ESC screen, to the right of the volume control you see a little icon in the shape of a flashlight.  You can use it in dark places when all other lights go out.  I discovered in my two hour exploration of Myst Island that the flashlight automatically turns on at a certain point of darkness, but all you have to do is press ESC and click on the flashlight and turn it off.  I know some people do not like this feature because darkness is part of the gameplay and puzzles.  Personally, I think it's freakin' awesome and hilarious, so don't listen to the nay-sayers!  It's optional like the interactive guides, so you can choose not to use it OR you can close the door in the cabin, turn on your flashlight and pretend you are a jewel thief -- you know, because of the safe.

Shhh!  I think I heard a noise!
Ok, so the actual island and day night cycle.  Segments of the cycle are hourly.  I began playing at around 10am and it was daylight.  Then after a while I wandered off to make more coffee and got entangled in a conversation with myself and when I returned at around 11:00, it was sunset.

I decided to wait around for daybreak and read through the journals and read my emails, just to get the times right for the day/night cycle.  The moon is pretty amazing, and it's really cool to see it make its progress across the sky.

Daybreak occurred an hour later, so I guess sunrise-sunrise is approximately two hours.  (*sings "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof*)  With daybreak I noticed there are two horizons.  The dual horizons are visible in all liminal stages (sunset, moonrise), but especially here.


It's brief, so I don't think it detracts from the beauty of the cycle.  And look at the water.  It's brilliant!  The reflection grows as the sun rises.  That's some attention to detail if ever there was!

There are two new (?) cool things I noticed.  One is you can see the window in the tower and two is you can see a reflection in the rocket ship!

Check out the reflection!

The window in the tower.
The tower made me laugh because it was clear that I haven't played Myst in a while.  I went to the elevator and pressed the button to go up, but it didn't go anywhere!  I kept pressing it, wondering why, until I realized I had to close the door myself first.  Uru has spoiled me!  It reminded me of when I rode the Luas in Dublin for the first time.  When I had reached my stop I waited for the doors to open.  They didn't and the tram continued its journey to the next stop with me in it!  I discovered I was supposed to press the little green button to open the doors myself (Ireland likes to conserve energy; they are very energy-efficient there).  I, of course, am used to NYC's subway and Chicago's L-train systems where the doors magically open for you (the conductor controls the doors).

Anyway, next stop is Mechanical Age.


Tobias said...

Unfortunately, some suffer more serious bugs, myself included: The game won't even start, but just taunts me with a black screen and a cursor. Boo. I'm glad they're working on it though, it looks awesome. I've seen screenshots that have higher quality than yours, do you have an old computer?

Briana Jackson said...

My computer is not yet a year old -- and her name is Hathor :P. I'm not really going for any special quality, btw. This is just a low-key venture. I just post whatever screenshot fraps gives me when I hit F10.

It's so weird that there are so many bugs! I feel so guilty that I haven't experienced any yet. But I understand there are some coming up in Selenitic, so we shall see. I hope you can play soon!

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