Tag Archives: Myst

My Favorite Game Postmortems

Myst

This game was confusing as hell to me as a child, but I loved its atmosphere.

 

I think the main takeaways for Myst are:

  • Rand and Robin Miller made a lot of simpler point-and-click games for children before tackling Myst.
  • Dungeons and Dragons was a large inspiration because of the emergent storytelling aspects. Rand actually designed a dungeon which was later used in creating one of Myst’s worlds.
  • The game took its mythic structure from Star Wars, its world-traveling from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and the island setting was inspired by novels by Jules Verne.
  • Myst was created for non-gamers, so they tried to avoid arbitrary puzzles that most adventure games suffered from in the day. They mostly succeeded, though Robin admits there are still a few bad puzzles in the game.
  • The two brothers approached Myst as a passion project strictly for themselves.
  • How long it took to render each image back in the day. Shots took 2-14 hours to render using a StrataVision 3D.
  • They subverted the one-way communication of the story with one-way devices like TVs and books rather than personal encounters.
  • They initially used diegetic music in their games (music that only occurs naturally in the world). When they finally added traditional soundtrack music to Myst, they were surprised how well it fit.
  • Extensive beta testing helped make the game playable to non-gamers.
  • Myst and their previous games were all made on HyperCard.
  • Myst took two years to complete.

 

Also, Phil Fish makes a surprising appearance 51 minutes in. Apparently he started out on HyperCard as well.

 

Diablo

The original ARPG, and one of my favorite games of all time.

 

I think the main takeaways for Diablo are:

  • The interesting meeting between Condor Games (Diablo’s developers) and Silicon & Synapse (Warcraft’s developers). The latter became Blizzard Entertainment. The former became Blizzard North.
  • The tiles in Diablo were borrowed directly from X-COM.
  • How they handled drawing the game with only 256 colors.
  • David Brevik had never coded in C before Diablo.
  • All the interesting bug fixes and work-arounds they had to implement because of the technology at the time.
  • There was a small bidding war between 3DO and Blizzard for Condor Games. Condor went with Blizzard despite 3DO offering twice as much money.
  • Most of the HUD (graphical interface) work was done in the last 3 months, with the help of input from beta testers.
  • They crunched really hard on this game for the better half of a year. Brevik says crunch deserves its bad reputation, but is also a “necessary evil” and not entirely a bad thing. From my own personal experience, I can definitely relate.
  • There’s a spell called “Blood Exchange” they removed from the game. It let you swap your HP with a monster’s HP, making the game really easy to beat.
  • Rogue, NetHack, Moria, Angband, Ultima, Wizardry, Doom, Dark Forces, and X-COM were just some of the influences for Diablo.
  • battle.net ran on one computer! It handled the entire multiplayer side of the game.

 

I also love the Ms. Pac Man and Marble Madness postmortems, but they’re literally so old (arcade era) that the advice isn’t really applicable to modern game design. They’re more like historic documents now. Which may be the biggest takeaway of all…

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