Myst Online: Uru Live

Myst Online: Uru Live
Myst online logo.jpg
Developer Cyan
Publishers Ubisoft (2003–2004)
Cyan Worlds (2004–2007)
GameTap (2007–2008)
Cyan (2010–present)
Platforms Windows, (macOS)
Release Date Ubisoft
November 17, 2003
GameTap
February 15, 2007
Cyan
February 8, 2010
Genres adventure, puzzle, massively multiplayer online game
Mode multiplayer
Series Myst, Uru


Myst Online: Uru Live (usually shortened to Uru Live or MOUL) is the massive multiplayer online (MMO) version of Uru.

Mudpie[edit]

Mudpie was the codename for Cyan's project that eventually led to the release of Uru, but had conceptual differences.

The name is both a basis of jokes (regarding Mud Pie ice cream, Mud Pie cookies, etc.) as well as of backronyms, i.e. acronyms whose original meaning was apparently never actually agreed upon. Still, the backronyms are a reasonable, accurate description of the project's objectives:

  • The MU can stand for Multi-user, referring to the fact that Mudpie was, exclusively, a multi-user game. (Uru, however, is both single- and multi-user).
  • The D can represent D'ni or DIRT (D'ni In Real Time), the project Mudpie was original based on (DIRT, however, was exclusively single-player).
  • The P can mean Person or Player, signifying the role a user of Mudpie has: unusually, the role they play is themselves.
  • The I is sometimes lengthened to Integrated, but more frequently to Interactive, alluding to the unparalleled amount of influence every player has on the story, another key aspect to the game.
  • The E is typically regarded as meaning Environment or Experience.

Most importantly, Mudpie stepped away from the single-player nature of DIRT, radically replacing it with a multi-user model, commonly known as Massively multiplayer online game. To date, virtually every MMOG implementation is a role-playing one; MMOG is therefore often considered synonymous with MMORPG. In Mudpie, however, the user is not meant to play a role; they are to be true to themselves. This idea has been carried over to Uru and is perhaps most clearly visible through the avatar customization options: Cyan has over the years added additional adjustments such as more clothing, more distinct facial complexions, more hairstyles, etc., to make the avatar match the real-life appearance (or, at least, the appearance a user would like to have in real life when exploring) as closely as possible.

Mudpie mostly reflected a similar storyline to that of DIRT, but put a lot more focus on the City; with the multi-player aspect, interaction in the City becomes a lot more feasible and realistic, leading to such ideas as a collaborative restoration effort, or, as in Uru, one led by a controversial organization, the DRC.

In order to make Mudpie feasible, Plasma had to be rewritten, leading to version 20, with much improved networking facilities, and the ability to easily script Ages using the Python language. Unfortunately, this rewrite took significant amounts of time (and money) away from Cyan, who hadn't had a notable product since Riven, with the exception of the minor realMyst release. At this time, Cyan had an unusually high amount of employees working on the project, but in order to make the project financially feasible, they had to partner, and ultimately did, with Ubisoft, but this would significantly change the focus, and change the game's concept once more, towards a hybrid single- and multi-player one.

The first announcement of the game was preceded by an (Alternate reality game) called Preafter.

Ubisoft[edit]

Choru[edit]

In 2002, Choru[1] (the Closed Beta) was the first test involving participants that weren't employees of Cyan. It began in March with the five explorers (Rico, Blastercalm, Dr. Greer, IMForeman, and Rivenchan) who are listed as Premier Explorers in the Uru credits. It was a small group, but distributed across multiple continents. Throughout 2002 and 2003, additional testers were added. However, Choru remained relatively small. In the context of Uru's storyline, the Choru testers were referred to as Authorized Explorers; at the time of Uru's launch, there were only eighty-three participants on the Authorized Explorer forums.

The term Choru, alongside Ubiru, was coined by 75th Trombone in response to the then-impending Ubiru launch. Between March and May, Choru's former website stated "Choru we'll miss you".[2]

Ubiru[edit]

From January 2003 to late August, Ubiru built upon Choru, expanded testing from dozens to eventually a few thousands and moved testing from Cyan-hosted machines to servers of Ubisoft's instead. Curiously, its focus was on single-player game testing most of the time. A page on Cyan's old website listed all the participants.[3]

Prologue[edit]

Prologue, launched on November 17, 2003, was an aborted attempt by Ubisoft and Cyan at bringing Uru: Ages Beyond Myst to the masses for the first time.[4] It was public and NDA-less, though it did require an invitation. People who bought the game at retail were invited to apply for entry into the online portion of the game. Upon acceptance, in the form of an email from Jeff Zandi, they would then be allowed to sign on to one or multiple of the shards.

Prologue was unique in that it already had a story arc, surrounding a conflict between the DRC on the one side, and Douglas Sharper and followers of his on the other.

Rehearsal[edit]

For a while, Prologue grew at a continuous route, with two public shards by the names of Atrus and Katran, plus a third one used as a Rehearsal shard.

The Rehearsal was a test under NDA, an ongoing quality assurance of newly deployed Uru content, done by fans but overseen by Cyan. The NDA kept testers from talking about this little-known aspect for a year.

Each time new content was to roll out, once deemed ready by internal testing at Cyan, would be passed to those in Rehearsal, a group of a few hundred, in order to test for problems. It would then be deployed to the public shards a week or two later. This concept was introduced while, publicly, Prologue was still going on, around early December 2003. The GameTap version of Uru Live featured a similar shard, also known as Staging shard.

The Clerical Error[edit]

While it was to continue past Prologue and throughout actual subcriptions, none of this ended up happening, due to a mistake that became known as the Clerical Error, the Rehearsal in fact ended much earlier than the Prologue itself. On January 2,2004, mere weeks after Rehearsal had begun, an Ubisoft employee in Montreal accidentally invited all pending Prologue registrations, causing a script to send out thousands of invitations simultaneously, and many to actually join within the day. The two public shards were completely unprepared to handle the added node, and, in an effort to minimize the damage, the Rehearsal shard became a public one under the name Achenar; to undo the invitations was deemed unethical, even though it had been a mistake.

Due to the lack of an actual subscription-based Uru Live launch, and due to the premature Rehearsal cancellation even during Prologue, the idea was not truly tested at that time.

On February 9, 2004, the shards were switched off; this event left many people deeply saddened that their long-sought dream was, apparently, dead forever.

Uru Live[edit]

After several periods and stages of testing, Rand Miller announced[5] (on behalf of Cyan and Ubisoft) on February 4, 2004 that the project was aborted, and that servers would cease to run on February 9, citing failure to generate enough potential subscribers. Among fans, this has been in heavy debate ever since, with many accusing Ubisoft of not having given the project its due chance.

For many fans, the product represented a very highly and long-anticipated project of Cyan's, making its cancellation agonizing. However, many details of what went right and wrong were never disclosed, and a fair analysis is therefore, for better or worse, not possible in public.

Criticisms[edit]

While it went through various stages and forms of testing (Choru, Ubiru, Prologue and Rehearsal), Uru Live never actually had a "release"; it was constantly in beta. There were never paid subscriptions, and even the monthly fee was never disclosed, although a price point of $12–$15 was likely, based on what comparable MMO games cost.

Cyan (and many testers) apparently felt that the product was nowhere near stable enough to be ready, and that more time in working out problems (such as bugs, crashes, and lag) was needed. That, in turn, means that many never joined or showed interest to begin with, turned off for lack of stability.

It is conceivable that many would have signed up after an announcement that testing was over, that a sufficient milestone of stability had been reached, and that details on how subscriptions will work and what they will cost have been worked out and are publicly available, but none of this ever happened.

On the other side, Ubisoft had invested a sizeable amount of money and other resources (such as servers, community contacts, a new forum software and several websites) to bring it even to the state of Prologue to begin with, and any further day of delays and of insufficient stability probably meant further costs.

Some argue that Ubisoft generally wasn't as enthusiastic about a multiplayer online concept to begin with. From very early on in their involvement with Uru, they apparently started deemphasizing the multiplayer aspect.

Based on Mudpie, Uru was at first apparently to become multiplayer-only: the working title Myst Online was jointly announced by Cyan and Ubisoft, and a now-defunct website created accordingly. In addition, when Uru was first stated as the final name for the product, some T-shirts were handed out to fans featuring the slogan "Online Ages Beyond Myst". Soon after, this was rather quietly changed to read just "Ages Beyond Myst", as can still be witnessed as the subtitle of the original box, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.

Focus began to shift further towards offline gameplay when the Ubiru testers were asked, surprisingly, to concentrate on finding problems in the single-player aspects of the game. This confused many, as the existence of an external beta test was unusual and primarily the case because Uru was to be online.

Also, round the same time as they cancelled Uru Live, Ubisoft also backed out of several other MMO games, such as The Matrix Online, which was subsequently picked up by another publisher.

Untìl Uru[edit]

After the cancellation of the original Uru Live effort, many fans were hoping for a self-hosted alternative, without new content, but still retaining the ability to meet in-game. This finally came to fruition on August 7, 2004, under the name of Untìl Uru.[6]

Though frequently spelt Until, the Untìl actually doesn't primarily refer to the English word, but actually the two Sumerian words un (people, community) and tìl (live, keep alive): ergo, the title actually means the community keeps Uru alive.[7]

Untìl Uru consisted of:

  • A modified Uru client based on the original purchasable Uru: Ages Beyond Myst client, replacing the Uru Live component.
  • The registration mechanism, i.e. a one-time fee to Cyan to activate the client.
  • The "auth" (authorization) server, hosted at and by Cyan, verifying the registration.
  • An open-source server, representing a shard.

Several such shards were created, such as Tapestry, and the system has seen satisfying success among many fans.

Regarding Untìl Uru's future beyond Myst Online: Myst Online: Uru Live's launch, GreyDragon announced the following:

Now that we've announced Uru Live's renewal, we've been asked to clarify our position on Until Uru. After careful consideration, here it is.

Cyan is committed to and dependent on Uru Live's success, so we are putting everything we have into it. Since our resources are limited, we cannot actively support Until Uru as well. With that said, we have no intention of taking back what we've made available—we intend to maintain the auth server so existing users of Until Uru can continue to access their Until Uru shards. However, because we're moving on to Uru Live, we've decided not to issue any new Kagi keys. We encourage any new users who want a taste (albeit an imperfect one) of Uru prior to Uru Live to visit the D'mala shard.
Until Uru was carefully named to convey hope and set expectations. We're excited that the time has come for us to move on.
Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!

— The Team at Cyan Worlds, Inc.


While somewhat ambiguous, this implied that:

  • Since Cyan would continue to maintain Untìl Uru's auth server, the platform itself was to remain usable;
  • Cyan's D'mala shard would be phased out in favor of Myst Online: Uru Live, and it would once again be up entirely to third parties, such as Tapestry, to run shards.

A message posted to D'mala users through the KI on December 19 clarified D'mala's future:

D'mala Explorers:

Thank you for all support on the D'mala shard this year. The Bahro scream that was just heard throughout all the Ages, and the subsequent simultaneous linking of every person back to Relto was a significant event. This event signals that D'mala's chapter in Uru's story has officially come to a close. The story will pick up from this moment in Uru Live.
Please note that we're leaving D'mala open for a while because, unfortunately, Uru Live is not yet available to everyone who is here on D'mala. But everything that occurs in D'mala from that event forward (including this KI-mail) should be considered OOC.
Thanks again for all your support. We hope to see you all in Uru Live soon.

— Your friends at Cyan


On Janurary 31 2007, Cyan announced they would be closing Untìl Uru on February 5.[8]

D'mala[edit]

D'mala was an Untìl Uru shard launched on February 15, 2006 and run by Cyan.

D'mala was used as a means to gauge interest in a revival of Uru Live, and in that sense, it has been a tremendous success, as evidenced by Myst Online: Uru Live. Between its original launch date and December 19, 2006, D'mala served as the canonical continuation of the DRC storyline. From the 20th on, Myst Online: Uru Live took over this role. D'mala, however, had briefly remained online, mainly for people in countries not currently supported by MO:UL. On February 5, 2007, D'mala and Untìl Uru were finally discontinued.

A number of software updates were deployed throughout the year of 2006, mostly to fix long-standing bugs and sometimes including minor additions, such as new clothing.

D'ni soccer ball[edit]

One patch provided on December 15 actually added a hidden goodie. Two balls in the same shape appeared: a green one in Kadish Tolesa and a purple one in Ae'gura. They have writing in D'ni script on them, but it is actually D'ninglish, not actual D'ni, meant to read D'ni soccer ball.

GameTap[edit]

Nuru[edit]

Starting in late spring 2006, fans were able to sign up for an invite-only beta test of Myst Online: Uru Live. Testing began on July 31[9] and had been dubbed Nuru, not to be confused with the fan term N'uru, which instead referred to Myst Online: Uru Live as a whole. Due to the NDA, few details are known, although the FAQ section[10] gave some information—including the release notes for several of the released updates:

  • July 31 [unavailable]
  • August 10 [un.]
  • August 24 [un.]
  • September 7 [un.]
  • September 21
  • October 24 [un.]
    • Labelled as the 8th; presumably there were two updates in between with unpublicized release notes.
  • November 6
  • November 17
    • Labelled as build "Live 1" (instead of "10"). Of note, starting with this build, the Uru Live website no longer features a publicly accessible download link. The release notes state that "we have [..] integrated the game into the GameTap universe", and that "Servers have been upgraded.", which along with the build's version indicate a major milestone.

There have been occasional comments that the test was going well or even exceeding expectations[citation needed].

On November 8, Ryan Warzecha announced[11] that "a major amount of invites" would be sent on the 9th.

On November 28, Nuru was superseded by Uru Live Preview.

Uru Live Preview[edit]

Launched on November 28, Uru Live Preview was a closed beta. Like its predecessor Nuru, it was invite-only, but unlike it, it lacked an NDA: that is, anything seen in-game by an invited person could be openly, publicly discussed.

A post on the Uru Live Forums[12] detailed what could be talked about, and what was still covered by Nuru's NDA.

The test was roughly analogous to Uru Live (2003) Prologue, but lacked a multi-player storyline. Another notable difference is the lack of multiple shards, suggesting that player interaction will be a smoother experience now.

The Open beta, which launched on December 12, superseded Preview.

Uru Live Preview is not to be confused with the Preview of Uru Live, which was launched on December 20, and introduced a storyline.

Open beta[edit]

Open beta was also frequently referred to as sneak peek. Unlike its predecessor Uru Live Preview, the open beta removed the requirement of invitations: anyone could take part immediately.

Open beta launched on December 12[13][14], and was scheduled to close again on December 18[15]. Following a Vault wipe, it was scheduled to be superseded by the Preview of Uru Live on December 20.

This beta was "open" only to GameTap subscribers. Previous Uru Live Preview invitees would continue to be able to participate. In countries where GameTap itself was not yet available, no additional people compared to the Preview were able to join, and in GameTap-supported countries peopleed need to pay a subscription fee to GameTap if they didn't already, even if they only intended to play the pre-release of Uru Live—however, due to a "99 cents for the first month" deal, and due to the short length of this beta phase, this essentially amounted to a very small price.

Because of these limitations, RAWA referred to this beta as ajar:

[...] the "beta plan" became more complicated with the "Preview" and the "GameTap sneak peek", neither of which are "closed" because they don't require a signed NDA, but they aren't fully "open" either, so I guess they're best described as "ajar".

— RAWA, DRC forums. [unavailable]


Preview of Uru Live[edit]

Not to be confused with the Uru Live Preview, it was the final phase of Myst Online: Uru Live pre-release testing.

Most notably, it differed from the open beta in that, much like Prologue from Uru Live (2003), a multi-player storyline arc was being built up[16][17]. It involves the DRC, the bahro, and the expansion of opened areas in Ae'gura.

Contrary to previous rumors, non-subscription testers from previous pre-release tests who had been invited up until (and including) Uru Live Preview could continue to play without any subscription fee, including invitees both from countries where the GameTap subscription service would be available (the United States and Canada) as well as countries where it is not (Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). Further, for the latter set of countries, a sign-up page was provided for others to join for free and without invitation.

Rehearsal (2006)[edit]

Like its original variant in Uru Live (2003), Rehearsal was a test of new content. Testers had to sign an NDA, and were selected based on their prior involvement in the community, as well as the amount of bug tickets filed during earlier tests.

Invitations to rehearsal were sent on December 27, 2006.

Uru Live[edit]

Myst Online: Uru Live launched on February 15, 2007.[18]

While the GameTap service itself was limited to the US and Canada, Uru Live was available in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States.

Uru Live featured many of the same aspects as the previous Ubisoft-published project of the same name, Uru Live.

Intro[edit]

Compared to the original Uru intro, this one has a voiceover by present-day Yeesha, rather than Atrus. Arguably sounding bitter, she briefly and figuratively recaps events around 2003–2005 (i.e., from Uru Prime, To D'ni, The Path of the Shell and End of Ages), but warns that trouble isn't over, though she remains vague over its nature.

She introduces the two beginning options: "alone", replaying a slightly altered Uru Prime, or "together", joining other explorers ("friends, and enemies"), and mentions that "finding a way" and "making a home" are crucial in dealing with the unavoidable fact that "destruction is coming".

Finally, she mentions a group ("they"; perhaps the "friends", the "enemies", the bahro, or simply the DRC), a male person ("he"; perhaps Esher or Dr. Watson) and herself coming to join in the quest.

At about one minute into the intro, an unknown building (possibly the Guild Hall) in the D'ni cavern can be seen with Ae'gura in the background. However, another image of the building was released earlier, during the time of DIRT and Mudpie.

Plans[edit]

Non-free plans required a credit card, or a GameTap gift card.

  • A perpetual visitor account could be obtained for free. All beta accounts that hadn't previously been converted into a subscription or merged into another (subscription) account were turned into visitor accounts. While visitors had limited access, the additional process wasn't lost, but merely unavailable, and could at any time be retrieved back by buying a subscription plan.
  • A limited-time offer was to subscribe for 99 cents for the first month. Afterwards, this would automatically become a regular subscription.
  • In North America, the "normal" path was to subscribe for $9.99 per month, not including taxes, but discounts could be had by pre-purchasing multiple months; at one time, an entire year could be bought at 50% off.
  • In EU countries, the "normal" path is to subscribe for $12.95 per month, including taxes, so the actual subscription was roughly the same as in North America. There were, however, no multi-month discount options.

Technical differences[edit]

The physics engine has been changed from Havok to Ageia's PhysX, which also features an optional hardware extension card for additional acceleration, though it is unknown if, and to what extent, Uru Live will benefit from such hardware. Havok's then-lack of Mac compatibility (later added[19]) was one of the main reasons for the move. By contrast, End of Ages uses the ODE open-source physics engine, which was apparently too limited for the complexity Uru Live required.

Changes to the Plasma graphics and networking engine are apparently major enough to prompt a new version, "205" (right between Uru's original "20" and End of Ages's "21"), and to make old data incompatible.

On March 22nd, 2007, Cyan informed existing Uru Live testers and customers of the Mac client's availability. TransGaming Inc. had been working to develop a Mac OS X on Intel version of Uru Live. This port was based on the Cider wrapper, a specialized, self-contained version of Wine.

Even without the Mac version, users of Intel Macs can also participate by dual-booting into Windows through Apple's Boot Camp. The main benefit of the Mac version, in addition to not requiring a Windows license, is therefore in not having to reboot back and forth.

New Ages[edit]

While originally Myst Online only provided contents from Uru Prime and To D'ni (and later Path of the Shell), over the first season, several never-before-seen ages were released:

Cancellation[edit]

On February 4, 2008, GreyDragon posted[20] an announcement from Ricardo Sanchez of GameTap that said that GameTap was discontinuing Myst Online.

On April 10, 2008, hundreds of fans gathered in the game to await the cancellation with friends and fellow players. Several ResEngs as well as GreyDragon visited with explorers in A Beginner's Bevin. At 12:01 AM Eastern Standard Time, Rand Miller's avatar logged into the game, and Myst Online was shut down. It was removed from the games in GameTap's library, being replaced by Uru: Complete Chronicles the next day.

Myst Online: Uru Live (again)[edit]

MORE[edit]

On June 29 Cyan reacquired[21] the license for Myst Online: Uru Live, though GameTap was receive a cut if Cyan made significant profits.

A largely explorer-based Uru was planned[22] to launch as Myst Online Restoration Experiment (MORE), but was eventually put on hold in October 2008.

MO:ULa[edit]

In February 8, 2010 Cyan opened Myst Online: Uru Live (again). Like D'mala, it is a single shard maintained exclusively by Cyan. Unlike D'mala, it contains all of the bug fixes and content releases that occurred during MO:UL.

On the day of release, the interest was so overwhelming that for the most time, the servers were down or slow to the point that most users could not access the game. Cyan had not expected such an amount of players[23] and were running the game on servers incapable of handling the loads. On February 8, Cyan shut down all servers and started moving to larger ones, although still with many problems regarding the Launcher and log-in procedures, as well as lag and sporadic server kicks. Additional server adjustments were made, and later the game became quite stable and playable, networking wise.

On September 18, 2014, the server crashed in what became known as the Great Crash. While the accounts survived, all avatars created about a week before that date were wiped. The game reopened on September 26.

On March 2016, because of an increase in grefers activity, account creation was disabled,[24] and did not come back until July 26, 2017,[25] with a new mechanism for new accounts that requires an authentication SMS.

On October 28, 2019, Cyan announced[26] that the game assets are open for fan modifications.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. lonelyto25, "On Uru and Choru". Uru Obsession forums. February 17, 2004. Archived from the original on December 5, 2011.
  2. Cyan Worlds News, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on May 23, 2004. Before and after the site showed news about Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.
  3. "Uru Beta Testers", Cyan Worlds website, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on April 7, 2007.
  4. Toria's Uru Explorers, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on June 18, 2018.
  5. Rand's letter to the community, Cyan Worlds website, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on April 8, 2007.
  6. Untìl Uru official website, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on July 10, 2006.
  7. "D'mala Untìl Uru Shard FAQ", Myst Embassy, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on June 17, 2018.
  8. greydragon, "D'mala, Until Uru and player created content.". Myst Online forums. January 31, 2007.
  9. Page on the Uru Live website [not archived]
  10. "Questions and Answers", Myst Online: Uru Live website, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on April 28, 2007.
  11. greydragon. Myst Online forums. [unavailable]
  12. Myst Online forums. [unavailable]
  13. essjay, "Latest News from GameTap about UruLive!". Myst Online forums. December 7, 2006.
  14. Page on the Uru Live website [unavailable]
  15. darkstar, "Latest News from GameTap about UruLive!". Myst Online forums. December 7, 2006.
  16. Myst Online: Uru Live, page on Yahoo! Games, accessed November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on October 18, 2007.
  17. Myst Online forums. [unavailable]
  18. greydragon, "Launch Date Announced". Myst Online forums. January 25, 2007.
  19. "Havok physics engine comes to Mac, thanks to Blizzard", MacWorld website, September 13, 2006.
  20. greydragon, "Myst Online: Uru Live Season 2 Status". Myst Online forums. February 4, 2008.
  21. "GameTap gives Myst Online back to Cyan. Cyan says it's opening the game to fan development", Spokesman Review TXT blog [unavailable]
  22. Chogon, "MORE Urulive status - Strange times.". Myst Online forums. October 7, 2008.
  23. Jamey, "Rand is in the city". Myst Online forums. February 10, 2010. "I think a couple thousand have signed up so far (...) I thought it would have been a couple hundred"
  24. Virg, "Account Creation Service Issues". Myst Online forums. March 27, 2016.
  25. Chogon, "Account Creation back ONLINE!!!!". Myst Online forums. July 26, 2017.
  26. Chogon, "Fan developers: Modifying MOULa Assets". Myst Online forums. October 28, 2019.