Friday, 26 April 2019 09:00

Three For Firmament: OPN Dev Talk with Cyan

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Editor's Note: with our Dev Talk series, Three For, studios sell us on their upcoming release in light of gaming history and current industry trends. Acknowledging the busy market that has become the indie scene and today's abundance of options for gamers, we draft tough questions challenging developers to make a case as to why their labor of love should end up in your library.

Q1. 25 years of hindsight

OPNOOBS: What made Myst... Well... Myst?

RAND: Ha, well I think the last 25 years of hindsight has given us time to think about what part of Myst seem to resonate with people. Not sure we’ll ever know for sure for everyone, but the quick answer is that it seemed like a surreal, yet viable place that people could visit  The keyword there is viable - it seemed to have a history with characters and items that had a reason for being there, even if the player didn’t really know all the details. It was convincing enough to suspend disbelief and get lost for a moment.

The longer answer is that it had a little something for everyone. If you are more of an explorer you could just enjoy the scenery. If you were an achiever you could tackle the puzzles. If you were curious you could uncover a deeper storyline. And those elements: the environment, the puzzles, and the story were somewhat balanced and supportive of each other in a unique way.

Q2. What happened to VR?

OPNOOBS: The gaming industry sold us on VR as the next big thing. "A revolution in gaming," we were told... and we believed it! Many of us starting saving up the moment Oculus launched its Kickstarter campaign. After all, we're PC gamers! We don't think twice before breaking the piggy bank every time Nvidia delivers. We are the 4K early adopters. The ones who risk the entire rig for a couple additional frames per second. In sum, AAA productions had an easy sell: our favorite franchises played in an immersive universe, unparalleled to what we've experienced hitherto, were bound to be big hits. Yet a couple years later, it's safe to say big studios did not catch the wave. Now the hardware has dramatically shrunk its presence on convention floors. and from a visual standpoint, the titles released share more similarities with Minecraft than Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, and Tomb Raider. What do you think happened, and why is the legend behind Myst investing in a platform struggling to succeed?

RAND: I think it’s similar to any expensive, new technology - it’s waiting for the sweet spot. There’s a wonderful place on the scale where magic, cost, and ease-of-use all converge to make tech mainstream. VR isn’t there yet, but it certainly hasn’t failed, it’s just growing slowly. We even know why - VR is plenty magical, it’s just that the cost and the ease-of-use aren’t there yet. So what that means is that big studios feel that it’s still too risky to start large game development investments for VR. That leaves the indies to carry the torch, becauseā€¦ well because indie devs work more on passion than pocketbook. The indies are drawn to that magic and want to turn it into something amazing. And for us in particular, we’ve seen that kind of risk work before. There are more consumer VR headsets right now then there were computers with CD-ROM when we made Myst.

Q3. Enter Firmament.

OPNOOBS: You have made several games since Myst and while they are terrific sequels to the title which defined a genre and transformed the hearts and minds of a generation whole, none have had its success and fame. Can this upcoming title be any different, can it push us forward as your original masterpiece has, and why?

RAND: No matter how hard anyone works on any particular project the world is still managed by chaos and complexity beyond our control. I’ve always thought of traditional success as very dependent on luck - but hard work and creativity provides another roll of the dice. We’re just trying to get a few more rolls.

But traditional success and failure is not necessarily what everyone should be judging their work against. I’ve changed my view of success and failure over the years. These days I measure it based on two criteria - 1) did I make the world a better place, and 2) did I learn something. If either of those is true then I can proudly pick myself up and move forward to whatever comes next.

OPNOOBS: You are a legend and a visionary. Thanks, Rand, for your intelligence, your finesse, and your humility. The game industry is so much healthier for it.

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Fred Brizzi

Fred is our loyal but certainly most undeserving Founder, President, & CEO (he’s just a big jerk). He started gaming with Alex Kidd on the Sega Master System and was brought by ID Software to the PC back in 1993, that glorious day DOOM hit the shelves. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and handsome boys, playing international relations by day but games by night. His aspirations, you ask? To leave the elephants and the donkeys at their zoo, strap himself down for the magic carpet ride, and ride the bustling escapade that is PC gaming 100% of the time. In fact, when he's not working for OpNoobs, he's apologizing to his wife for OpNoobs. Fred also coined the expression “Consoles? Glorified Netflix players.” He really wanted us to put that in too. He’s like very proud of that.