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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miller Brothers Free To Rom Creators Of ‘Myst’ And ‘Riven’ Now Searching For Separate Realities

Michael Murphey Staff writer

Taking a cue from the name of their latest computer game creation, the Miller brothers are splitting up.

On the same day that “Riven” was proclaimed the fastest-ever entertainment software product to reach 1 million in sales, Robyn and Rand Miller announced Friday that Robyn will break away from Spokane-based Cyan Inc. to start his own company.

The company, to be called Land of Point, is described as “a development group with a particular emphasis on film.”

Rand Miller says it’s a chance for his brother to “jump into a more independent role.

“I think we’ve got a big opportunity here,” Rand Miller said. “At the end of ‘Myst’ and ‘Riven,’ we had a choice about what we wanted to do. We could either move onto other things, or do more ‘Myst’ and ‘Riven’ stuff. This way, we get to do both.

“We can stay very close as brothers and friends, and we still get to do what we each want to do.”

Cyan and Land of Point will be linked. Robyn Miller continues as co-owner and a board director of Cyan. Rand Miller has a vested interest in Land of Point. The new company currently has five employees, including the Millers’ younger brother, Ryan, who also worked on the production of “Myst” and “Riven.”

Rand Miller said the two companies will likely pursue joint projects in the future.

Cyan Inc. was formed by the Miller brothers in Spokane a decade ago to produce computer games. The company struck gold with “Myst,” which was released in 1993 and has gone on to become “the top-selling CD-ROM entertainment title in the history of computer software,” according to PC Data.

“Myst” has sold more than 4 million copies. Before “Myst,” a runaway best seller in the CD-ROM format typically sold 50,000 copies.

Friday, PC Data - a leading market research firm for software and hardware sales data - proclaimed “Riven” every bit as much of a success as its predecessor. The sequel to “Myst” was the top-selling game in domestic retail sales for 1997.

“Since we began tracking software sales in 1991, “Riven” is the first product in the entertainment software category to rise to the top of the charts and take the No. 1 position for the year in just over two months,” said Ann Stephens, president of PC Data.

The No. 2 selling game for 1997, PC Data said, was “Myst”.

“To be honest with you,” Rand Miller said, “when we got word of the “Riven” sales, and the one-and-two placement, I just thought, ‘Even if we fail from now on, even if everything just fell apart, I could never complain.’ We’ve been truly blessed.”

During the long gap between “Myst” and “Riven,” computer game industry experts weren’t sure what the response to “Riven” would be. Broderbund Software, publisher of both games, was concerned that “Riven” might miss its window of opportunity as a result of the delay.

In the fast-paced world of computer gaming technology, five years amounts to eons. Competitors had the opportunity to jump in and capitalize on the success of “Myst” by producing variations on its theme.

But perhaps the best testimony about the breakthrough quality of “Myst” - besides its continuing popularity - is that no competitor was able to do that.

For the games, Cyan created an entire universe, with its own geography, history and physical laws.

“Myst” set a new standard for CD-ROM multimedia production. The Millers felt “Riven” had to do the same. Delays continued as they tried to improve the product. Rumors swept through the industry that the Miller brothers weren’t getting along.

But Rand Miller emphasized Friday that Robyn’s new path has nothing to do with that.

“Sure there were conflicts,” Rand Miller said, “just as there are in any creative effort.”

What really happened as the complex project evolved, he said, was a realization as to just where each brother’s strength and interest lies.

“Robyn’s strengths were in the directing part of it,” Rand said. “His vision is what defined “Riven”. I stepped more into the production role, making sure everything flows just right. From that point of view, this split is very natural.”

Robyn, he said, is the creator of worlds and is anxious to create new worlds that will provide settings for new stories. Rand Miller, however, is “real happy building more windows into the world of “Myst” and “Riven”, which we’ve already created.”

Rand Miller described his brother’s concept for Land of Point by explaining that various mediums - computer multimedia, film, or books - each provide a different window into the world they depict.

“Look at ‘Star Wars,”’ he said. “One of the factors of its success is that, even though it is presented as a movie, the world behind it seems much larger than the window that film provides.”

Land of Point has two film projects in early stages of development that are unrelated to “Myst” and “Riven”.

As for Cyan, Rand Miller says he wants to step back and “take a look at what other people are doing.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo