Released to the world September 24, 1993, Myst changed the way the world played games.
Fresh from their success with “The Manhole” and “Cosmic Osmo,” games designed for children, brothers Rand and Robyn Miller looked to make a non-pursuit, thinking person's interactive game marketed specifically for adults. Developed over a two-year period, Myst (the title came from Jules Verne's "Mysterious Island," which Robyn had been reading) drew on the existing technologies available, such as HyperCard and QuickTime, masterfully exploiting the Mac multimedia capabilities of 1993, squeezing the highest possible quality out of 8-bit sound and 256-color video. Nearly all the scenes were created with StrataVision 3D software.
Rand said, "I think we used StrataVision because it gave us so much control ... The texture capabilities of StrataVision gave us incredible control over details. Adding wood grain that not only looks like wood but also reflects light like wood. We also decided early on that we would ray-trace every image ... and StrataVision does ray-tracing very well."
Sometimes as many as 30 simulated lights were used in a room to create the proper illumination and mood. Because of the complexity of the scenes, it took hours for the Mac Quadras to render each final image (there were over 2,500 images in Myst).
The topography of Myst Island was created by painting a two-dimensional gray scale image and extruding this image in the third dimension, according to the brightness value of the image. Down to individual knobs and screws, the developers paid extreme attention to detail, using real photographs of wood and stone applied as texture maps, wrapped to three-dimensional models. They also creatively applied discrete light sources to create moods in the various rooms and underground chambers. The images were dithered to 8-bit color with an optimum color palette for the different Myst ages. QuickTime compression allowed some of these 500k images to be reduced to 80k with little visual degradation. All of the movies were edited with Adobe Premiere.
In reality, Myst runs in HyperCard, but not as a "stack" as you and I know it. If you watch closely on the "Making of Myst" movie, you will see screens of HyperTalk script and coding being sent via the HyperCard message window. The Millers largely relied on external commands (XCMDs) for faster display of color, QuickTime playback, color buttons, and custom code to turn off HyperCard features not needed for Myst.
In InterActivity Magazine, Robyn said, "We got a guy to write XCMDs not only to display color but to turn off some of the things in HyperCard that we didn't need. Like the black-and-white bitmap display. That whole part of it was taken away. We didn't need the screen buffer in there and it really sped up the color for us ... Obviously we used some QuickTime XCMDs, some color button XCMDs that we had written for specific points in the game. Like the map of Myst Island (in the Library), there's a red line that turns around. That's an XCMD."
said Rand, "we could change a graphic on the fly, or swap a sound
and play it again without creating a cumbersome problem. ... You have
the ability to tweak things up to the very end. ... My hunch is that if
we created Myst in C or Pascal, we would still be working on it."
Myst was one of the early adopters of CD ROM technologies, which in turn made the game a standard venue for showing off new computer systems.
The original Mac version is the best; Broderbund (not Cyan) later adapted Myst for Windows, running into technical limitations: The full-length soundtrack songs were cut short, the scene-to-scene transitions became rougher, the sound effects lost some subtlety, and the images weren't quite as good as on the Mac. Broderbund used almost none of the master full-length songs and sounds available from Cyan.
Myst Masterpiece was
released in 2000, based on the first Windows version, with all of its
weaknesses. It does have full-color graphics (24-bit color), smoother
animation, and the online help system. They still didn't go back to the
audio source material; the songs are the same clipped Windows versions,
so you don't get the whole musical experience.
the World of Myst by Alan Levine, MCLI