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Cyan’s Rand Miller On Obduction And Keeping It Mysterious

About 20 years ago, a man was plucked from his world and thrown into a mysterious new one: the island of Myst. Many have joined the man, guiding his steps and experiencing everything through his eyes in a journey that has had a lasting impact on the adventure genre of video games.

Rand Miller is the co-founder and CEO of developer Cyan, Inc. (also known as Cyan Worlds, Inc.), and is best known for creating the adventure game Myst with his brother Robyn. Last month, Cyan launched a Kickstarter campaign for its new game, Obduction. 

Although it isn’t a sequel to the Myst series, Obduction promises to recreate many of feelings that distinguished Myst and Riven, such as the experience of being stranded in an unknown world. Miller was gracious enough to do a question and answer session with us about Obduction and why Cyan has chosen Kickstarter.

Let’s start by talking about the decision to call the game Obduction. The story starts with the player’s abduction, so why not name the game Abduction? The project’s Kickstarter page describes obduction as “the act of drawing or laying over, as a covering.” Does the title convey a double meaning?
Yes! Or does it? Or is it a triple meaning, meant to throw you off? Or did we do that to make you think there’s a twist so that you’ll be surprised when there is no twist? You won’t know until you play. Clever, eh? 

What aspects or traits of the Myst franchise are present in Obduction? Is there a reason the campaign highlights Myst and Riven in particular?
We really are excited to harken back to that feeling that Myst and Riven brought to the table – being suddenly thrown into what feels like the middle of a much larger story in a strange new place. It seems like it resonates with people – not having to necessarily kill all the bad guys and level up, but to simply explore and interact with a rich environment, and figure out what the story is; how you can learn more and how you can affect it. Obduction changes the setting, the scenery, the story, the characters, the gameplay, the sounds, etc. – but it keeps that great feeling of becoming part of an interesting story.


In the 20 years since Myst, a lot has changed in terms of how games handle adventuring and puzzle-solving. Does Obduction draw inspiration from any other games or series, besides Myst?
I think Obduction’s gameplay is meant to be a tribute to Myst and Riven, particularly the aspects of gameplay that integrate the puzzles into the history, culture, and environment of this new place you find yourself in. But we’re heavily influenced and inspired by the feeling of exploration and quality of graphics in recent FPS and sandbox games like Assassin's Creed, BioShock, Red Dead Redemption, and even GTA V. Our thought is that there is certainly plenty of horsepower to build amazing new worlds, and maybe we can use that horsepower to create a place that players want to live in – instead of die in.

Obduction’s story is still very much a mystery. Is there anything else you can tell us about the story that isn’t already on the Kickstarter page?
We could reveal much of the story and play, but we would have a problem – that would basically ruin the experience. Since the story and play are so integral to our gaming experience, revealing those things ruins the very
things that are the rewards for pushing through our friction – namely puzzles.

In other words, if I tell you a key gameplay mechanism for exploring, you certainly won’t have the feeling of satisfaction as if you had discovered it yourself. And if we show you an image of one of the worlds you get to visit, you aren’t nearly as impressed when we reveal it to you in the game the first time. We had this same problem with Myst and Riven.

With that said, we realize that we can’t just provide a blank piece of paper and expect people to lay down money, so we’re trying to find the right balance. We’ve revealed just a hint of stuff on Kickstarter and we have a few more things to show – like certain sketches, names of places, unique gameplay elements, and maybe more.

[Next up: The role of characters and puzzles in Obduction, and a tantalizing new reward tier for the Kickstarter campaign.]

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