Reference:RAWA/MOUL forum posts

This page is a collection of responses that RAWA made to conversations on the now-read-only MOUL forum. These are not in-cavern responses by Dr. Richard A. Watson, the lead member of the DRC. Where possible, links to the original threads are included, though some topics were not preserved by before the forums were taken down. In those cases, the text that was originally copied to the Archive is the only available copy.

Where is the cleft?[edit]

Posted: Wednesday March 10, 2010
Original: Myst Reader vs. URU: Where is the cleft?

heimdall wrote:

I didn't read the 3 Myst Books until long after I started to play Myst URU.

Both the landscape and the sign at your starting point indicate that the Cleft is truly in New Mexico.

However, in the Myst Reader (specifically, the Book of Atrus and the Book of D'ni), there were enough context clues to indicate that the Cleft was somewhere in or near Arabia.

I have read enough on the Internet to believe that the "true" location of the Cleft is in New Mexico.

If that is so, then does it mean that details in the Myst Books are not to be treated as canon? I mean, if I see a discrepancy in the location of the Great Shaft, then what other discrepancies can there be?

The Cleft was already known to be in New Mexico when I started working here at Cyan in 1992, and I was first learning D'ni history from Rand. It's important for it to be there for back-story reasons. Just one simple example: Rand and Robyn lived in New Mexico growing up; they never lived anywhere near the Middle East. Other reasons for the Cleft in New Mexico are out there, but still have not been discovered, so I'll leave it at that.*

Robyn's original short story written long before Myst had Anna and Atrus living in a nondescript desert in a nondescript location, and that was carried over to the outline for the Book of Atrus. When the first draft came in from David Wingrove, I flagged the additional information that now implied a middle eastern location for the Cleft as details that needed to be made more vague. I was overruled. A nondescript desert was not as interesting, and the difference in location could be attributed to "artistic license" since, even back then, the novels were intended to be "based on Catherine's journals" (a fact which the introductions and acknowledgement sections of those novels make reference to).

This revelation that Myst, Riven and the novels were fictionalized accounts of a larger story tied into the To D'ni story that was taking place on Cyan's website at the same time during Riven's development. To D'ni (not to be confused with the "To D'ni" expansion pack for Uru) played out over time on a hidden portion of the cyan website from '95 to '97, ending with one "winner" who got a beta copy of Riven before the game was released. When you entered that area of the website, the words "To D'ni" in the D'ni font ("b'D'ni") flashed on the screen. That same phrase in the D'ni font was hidden in the background during several interviews that Rand and Robyn gave during Riven development.

In this light, the change of the Cleft's location could be seen as intentional misdirection by the people who wanted the D'ni story told. This fed Zandi's irritation with Cyan's amount of "artistic license" when he visited Mysterium in 2001. It later tied into the "Preafter" story with Zandi (2002-2003). Enough of the "actual details" of that story were given in Myst, Riven and the novels to those who would be "Called" by them, and there was enough "fiction" for anyone else to just dismiss them, as briefly alluded to by Zandi in his introduction in the Cleft.

Looking at the big picture of the D'ni story, the change of the Cleft location for the novels is now as much a part of the story as any other facet.

Do I wish my notes to remove the Middle Eastern references from the novels had been heeded the first time? Only for the selfish reason that it would make my life simpler not having to repeatedly explain the reasons for the supposed "later change TO New Mexico" since Uru was released. :) But for the bigger picture of the D'ni story, I have to admit it makes a great deal more sense for the location to be wrong in the novels for the reasons given above.

So, where is the Cleft? It depends on how deeply you want to dig into the D'ni story.

Those who played Myst and Riven as self-contained games: Cleft? Who cares where it is? It isn't in the games. Those who dug deeper and read the novels: The Cleft is probably somewhere in the Middle East. Those who have dug deeper still and participated in the online/real-world stories (To D'ni and Preafter): The Cleft is in New Mexico and always has been. Reports to the contrary were mis-direction by those who didn't want D'ni discovered by any except "the Called" who would be able to find it even with the mis-direction.

This is all well and good, until we get to Uru, which is the story of those "Called" going to D'ni (as Zandi tells you at the Airstream). That being the case, Uru has to take To D'ni and Preafter into account, because the "Called" only exist at that deepest level, even though Uru is available to those who didn't dig that deeply for whatever reason. Those people will have to decide how they want to resolve the paradox: learn more about the larger story of D'ni, or dismiss it as "retcon". I would love it if people would choose the former, but am resigned to the fact that most will choose the latter.

Hope that helps,


* No, I won't give any hints. The rock-cutter is patient. I waited seven years for the connection between the D'ni letters and numbers to be discovered by the fans. Other "seeds" have been planted that may never be discovered. I'm ok with that. :)