A holiday surprise delivery from tech giant Apple came a few weeks early for Rand Miller, co-founder of Mead’s Cyan game development studio.
It arrived last week in the form of a heavy cardboard box with explicit instructions not to open until told.
“One of the things they said, just briefly, is you need to be home from 10 to 11,” Miller said this week, “and we’re going to deliver an asset to you. It was very mysterious.”
Like the tomes in the groundbreaking video game Cyan is known for, the mysterious box was opened. Inside was 2021’s Mac Game of the Year award for this year’s remake of “Myst.” Released in August, the title brings the 1993 classic into the current generation of computer power, providing updated graphics, randomized puzzles and other quality-of-life improvements.
The game, also available for PC, Xbox and the standalone virtual reality headsets manufactured by Oculus, was honored along with nine other applications available for download on Apple’s App store for mobile devices and computers. Miller said his team was able to video chat with Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook following the announcement earlier this month.
“This was a nice, unexpected surprise, to be able to chat with Tim,” Miller said. “He was really nice, a really great guy. I know he had bigger things to do than talking to us.”
Apple, in announcing the awards, released a statement from Cook praising the developers of the apps. They’re selected not based on popularity, but on evidence of “exceptional quality, innovative technology, creative design, and positive cultural impact.”
“From self-taught indie coders to inspiring leaders building global businesses, these standout developers innovated with Apple technology, with many helping to foster the profound sense of togetherness we needed this year,” Cook said in the statement.
But Cyan has been working with Apple technology from the very beginning.
The original “Myst” released first on the Macintosh operating system in September 1993, before being ported over to PC operating systems a year later. The game by Rand and Robyn Miller ducked the usual release schedule for video games, which was to start on the PC and move to Macintosh.
“The Mac was kind of an enabling tool for us,” Rand Miller said. “We liked working on it, we were putting in long hours. The technology that was available in the Mac was kind of what we used to make our games. As that technology got better, we made our games – our worlds – better, essentially.”
Acknowledgment from Apple, then, for the work bringing “Myst” up to speed in the 21st century felt validating, Miller said.
“Now, after a lot of years and a lot of cycles, it feels especially satisfying, and interesting, and unexpected, but really kind of gratified that it wrapped around in that kind of way,” he said. “It’s a nice feeling.”
“Myst” joins other recent Mac Game of the Year winners that all buck the popular gaming trends and genres, which have become dominated by shooting games such as “Call of Duty” and big, social playgrounds like Epic’s “Fortnite.” Last year’s winner was “Disco Elysium,” a role-playing game that features no combat and stars as its protagonist an amnesiac private eye often battling his own psyche. In 2017, Apple gave the award to “The Witness,” a puzzle game that wears the influence of “Myst” on its sleeve by putting players in the shoes of a nameless protagonist on a mysterious island requiring puzzle-solving to escape.
Miller said his team was honored to be among the other award-winners, which show the need for variety in the game-development industry.
“I love it when anybody recognizes what indie studios are doing, what smaller studios are doing, when things are a little bit unique and they’re different,” Miller said.
The recognition bumped “Myst” to the front page of Apple’s App Stores, which caused a considerable bump in sales just in time for the holidays, Miller said.
The Cyan team is hard at work on their next title, “Firmament,” which Miller said should be released by the end of next year. Announced as a Kickstarter-backed project in early 2018, the project has been slightly delayed, but will take players to a new world that has been built to be experienced with a virtual reality headset.
While the updated version of “Myst” is not yet playable on the Apple operating system in virtual reality, Miller said he anticipates the company entering the VR space soon. And when it does, “Myst” will almost surely follow.
“As soon as they do it, I’m assuming we’ll be able to get a version of ‘Myst’ out that’ll work with whatever they’re doing,” he said.
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