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Deal may revive Myst Online

Tue., July 1, 2008, midnight

Spokane’s Cyan Worlds won a small victory Monday, regaining publishing rights to Myst Online, its complex 3-D world involving underground lands and lost civilizations.

The expensive-to-produce game was launched online in early 2007 by GameTap, a division of Turner Entertainment. In February, GameTap announced it would shut down the game for business reasons.

Since then, Cyan Worlds’ staff of designers and game developers shrunk to a handful of workers, company President Rand Miller said. “We’re hanging on,” he said.

While awaiting word on Myst Online, the company has unsuccessfully pitched other ideas to game publishers, he said.

Monday’s announcement opens the door to the chance that Myst Online may yet resurface and perhaps lead to future commercial projects, Miller said.

Unlike first-person shooters or games involving teams of warriors capturing territory, Myst Online involved intriguing puzzles. Players learned to communicate with others in the online world and explore and discover new areas.

Miller said that non-violent style of game development is dying out.

“Independent developers who do fairly large titles like ours have disappeared. There are not many of us left. They’ve either gone out of business or been bought by publishers,” he said.

Miller said it took several months for Turner and Cyan Worlds to work out how to regain publishing rights. No money changed hands, he added.

But the companies would share profits if a revived version of Myst Online again generates money.

“GameTap realized that unless something happened, it (Myst Online) wasn’t going to live. If it didn’t live, no one would ever get anything out of it,” Miller said.

For now, Cyan Worlds will run the game on servers it operates and likely charge a small fee from its users. Miller suggested the fee might be $25 per six months. That money would pay for the costs of maintaining the game servers, he said.

In a note to the Cyan fan community, Miller also said the company will allow community members to build new content and new features for Myst Online. Cyan had not permitted that previously.

A long term goal, Miller added, would be for Cyan itself to resume creating components and future content for Myst Online.

The first Myst game, released on CD-ROM in 1993, became a worldwide hit. It challenged players to discover secrets surrounding the island of Myst and the background history of the people who lived there.

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