There are very few things in life that somehow make you very aware of your own being. That at times pull you out of the real world into an alternate reality, where you are free to discover yourself. Fairytales like Alice in wonderland and the computer game series of Myst are some of these things.
The Myst series
Myst is the first in a related series of adventure games. Created by brothers Rand and Robyn Miller and released by Cyan Worlds this game popularized adventure games like no other game had done before.
Adventure games are complex by nature and involve exploration and puzzle solving. Early adventure games were text-based. They contained descriptive text to narrate to the player the scene in front of them, very similar to books. Myst however changed all that.
Instead of using text the Myst games decided to use graphics. But to add realism and detail required by adventure games, 3D computer rendered graphics were not suitable. 3D computer graphics produce sharp edged, plastic looking, robot like scenes and the quality of the scene greatly depends on the power of the players computer. The Miller brothers did not make this compromise, and decided to use pre-rendered graphics for their Myst games.
Pre-rendered graphics are not rendered by the computer as the player plays the game. The scenes are rendered beforehand and simply displayed to the player. This means that the images can be very detailed and photo realistic. However it also means that all possible viewing angles and situations must be accounted for beforehand and images produced for these. This makes putting the game together a very very difficult and elaborate task. Never mind, the Miller brothers did it anyway, and made the most successful adventure game series of all time in the process.
Besides using pre-rendered graphics, they also used small video clips to add life to the still pictures. From Myst II onwards, some video clips also featured live people dropped onto the computer generated scene using blue screen techniques. To heighten the effect sound was very carefully engineered to match the scene and any animation therein. All this when put together made virtual worlds that engrossed the player for hours on end.
An example of these technique is clearly seen in Riven, the second game in the Myst series.
Games in the series
The Myst series consists of Myst, Riven, Exile, Revelation and End of Ages.
Besides this there is a exploration game called Uru that is not really part of the main series. The games are of varying level of difficulty. All the games are now published by Ubisoft. There is no need to play the games in-order and each game is a complete story in itself. But playing all games gives a bigger picture of the general story line and all characters involved.
This is the original Myst game. The graphics in the game are nowhere close to the goodness seen in later games of the series. But the puzzles are quite hard and it can take a while to figure out. The aim of the game is quite unclear when it starts and the player must figure it out. The story hinges on rescuing two people trapped inside two books, a Red one and a Blue one. This game introduces the player to key characters encountered in later games in the series, mainly a guy named Atrus. However playing this game first may put you off the series.
Riven is far more sophisticated then Myst. The graphics have evolved considerably. The puzzles are extremely hard and you can spend a very long time searching for answers. I believe this is the best game in the entire series. The story centers around rescuing Catherine, Atrus wife and capturing someone. Again at the beginning the player has a very vague idea of what he needs to do and the story is very well interwoven into the game play. There is a sense of mystery throughout the game. You will get hooked.
This is the simplest game in the entire series. The puzzles are clear and there are far too many tips scattered throughout the game to help you solve them easily. The story centers around Saavedro a guy who appears to dislike Atrus.
This game is another thrill. It comes close to difficulty to Riven but falls just short. The graphics compensate though and it is more fun to play than Riven. The story centres around Atrus's daughter Yeesha and his two sons (previously encountered in Myst).
End of ages
This is the last game in the series. It is also the game that diverges most from the others in that it uses 3D rendered graphics rather than the pre-rendered ones used in all others. The game remains an excellent conclusion to the series and allows the player to follow in Yeeshas footsteps to find the mystery behind the linking books.
Overall the Myst series is a very clever and successful bunch of adventure games. Though the series is old and has now ended, they will be remembered for their genius and have inspired many of the more sophisticated adventure games available these days. The games have touched all those who have played them and will always remind us that computer games do not always have to be about blowing virtual people with virtual guns. Sometimes they can approach the realm of art and like fables keep us engrossed for hours on end.