Thursday, July 26, 2012

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Myst Co-Creator Rand Miller Thinks Worlds Like Second Life & Uru Live Have a Future on Tablets

Second Life Myst iPad

Recently I corresponded with Rand Miller, co-creator of Myst (with his brother Robyn), and lead developer of realMyst, the new iPad game which takes the original PC classic and converts it into an immersive, 3D animated experience for the tablet age, and I asked if it inspired any thoughts about the future of virtual worlds in this era. Specifically, I asked him this: Based on your experience developing realMyst, do you think 3D virtual worlds like Uru (the Miller's discontinued MMO) and Second Life have a future on tablets?

And Rand Miller answered this way: "Absolutely. In fact I think they provide an more immersive experience by removing another layer of interface. Touching is believing." Miller incorporated tapping on the screen as a means of moving through realMyst, based on player testing. This and other implementations convinced him it is possible to have a 3D experience on a tablet:

"I think the 3D virtual entertainment experience has been relegated to battle and chat," Miller added. "The experience that Myst provided, that resonated with so many people - was the ability to calmly and deliberately explore a fantastic place, and feel like you were there. The gaming market is primed again for that experience, but this time it will be a realtime 3D adventure that takes people to another place. I wouldn't be surprised to see something like that happen soon, and if I'm lucky [the Millers' studio] Cyan Worlds could be part of it."

I actually agree. Related to that, here's a design lesson Miller told me he learned, when translating 3D interaction to the iPad:

"We originally implemented only forward movement - when you touch-and-hold you move straight forward. Then we took the step of adding in the same turning controls while moving forward. What we noticed was that players would immediately grok the swiping to turn while they were standing still, but for some reason their initial inclination was to invert the controls for turning while moving. (We later determined it was because while a player isn't moving the world seems more natural to scroll around like you would a horizontal piece of paper, but as soon as a player begins to move the world becomes 3D, and their first inclination was to move their finger to the path they wanted to take.)

"So being brilliant user interface designers we decided to have the best of both worlds. While standing still -- swipe to turn like scrolling, and while moving -- point where you want to go. Wow, was that a mistake! Good way to strain your brain. In the end we found that players picked up on the turn-while-moving controls very quickly."

Important takeaway for future 3D worlds on the iPad -- which, hopefully, we'll see soon.

Pictured: Miller's realMyst for iPad, and Alina Lyvette's Second Life for Android tablet app.


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Rand's "canceled" MMO? Uru is more then active, it's open source. The Community makes new assets that then get patched into the main server.

Eleri Ethaniel

Myst and games that that are *perfect* for tablets and other non-joystick/keyboard/mouse interfaces. Game designers just need to think outside the framework of joystick direction driven control. As a friend of mine says "I have 10 fingers that can touch a tablet, let me *use* them!"

When the wii first came out, people thought that it would create a resurgence in exploration-based adventure games, but none of the big companies went that direction.

Fortunately, with the advent of Kickstarter and direct delivery games, smaller studios like Cyan Worlds aren't hamstrung by needing to convince a publisher that they should fund their game, when the publishers are looking for the Next Big Thing rather than solid creativity and innovation.


Yay! I'm buying the Myst app tonight.

Graham Mills

fyi Lumiya runs on both SL and OpenSim grids. I wonder how many Nexus 7 purchasers gave any thought to it? I guess it's early days but it feels like an opportunity lost given they all had a voucher to spend on Play.

Roland Sassen

You can have all your virtual worlds on your tablets, please have a look at our proof of concept video at wonderschool

foneco zuzu

Question is, for how long you will have eyesight that will be able to enjoy it.
being younger we forget so much that we will regret often later!

Ajax Manatiso

SL on a tablet? Sort of like watching football on an iPhone -- everyone looks like an ant.

shockwave yareach

Sorry. But unless something really amazing happens during the creation of the tablet viewer, I won't be convinced that a tablet can run SL when so many uberpowered computers with much more ram and storage and dedicated 3D graphics cannot.

Graham Mills

Lumiya runs pretty well on a Nexus 7 -- I was able to navigate both up and down the winding paths on the Mont St Michel region. There are many unsupported features (see for a partial list) but if you check out the reviews on Google Play, they're actually very positive. ymmv, of course.

Adeon Writer

You got to talk to Rand. I'm jealous. Guy's two of my childhood heroes in one, both himself AND his role as Atrus. :)

It would be a dream come true if Cyan started making new adventure games <3 I owe my surname to his series! The Myst series was like nothing else out there.

Connie Arida

Would be nice for LL to do a free open source Android version of the viewer.Will be trying it out on my Nexus 7 though the non 3d Android app SL client works fairly well too.

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