What is MYST?

From Guild of Archivists

A guide and FAQ for new explorers

Myst[edit]

MYST is a point-and-click adventure/puzzle game that was released in 1993 by Cyan - a game that shook up the world of video games. Myst is also the first entry in a series of media products that detail a rich setting that contains elements of fantasy, science fantasy, and some proto-steampunk sensibilities.

This document will provide you with an overview of the Myst games, the Myst setting, and the fandom community.

What is MYST, the game?[edit]

MYST is a point-and-click adventure and puzzle game, initially released in 1993. It has had several revised versions and has been ported to many platforms over the years.

The player is presented with a brief prologue scene and a book titled MYST. Touching the book transports you to the island of Myst, and you are left to your own devices. You begin the game knowing nothing about the story or the setting - it's a cold start. One of the key elements of the games are the linking books - books that take you to other worlds, known as Ages. Much of the play centers around finding these books.

Myst is a game with a relaxed pace. There are no monsters or enemies, and no combat. The game is largely non-linear and has no time-limit. You don't 'die' at any point, and there are no irrevocable decisions until near the end. You must simply explore and understand, solving environmental puzzles in order to explore further.

Your understanding of the story comes from exploring the environment. You navigate from a first-person view point, using the mouse to click on and interact with objects. Navigation is done by clicking directions on the screen to turn, move forward, climb ladders, etc. There is no real inventory (though there are one or two things you can pick up and carry). Your interaction with other characters is done through bits of full-motion video. There are no dialog trees, and the many things you find involving the characters are recorded messages or written journals.

Why is MYST important?[edit]

Outside of just being an entertaining game, Myst is an important part of video game history - one often forgotten about nowadays. While the gameplay itself is simple, the graphics were a major jump in quality at the time.

Myst also was one of the first PC games to gain widespread popularity. It was distributed on what was then a brand new technology (CD-ROM), and it was one of the 'killer apps' that lead people to buying CD-ROM drives for their computers. It was the top-selling PC game throughout the 90s until it was overtaken by the Sims in 2001. Even as of today (Feb 2024), it is the 23rd best-selling PC game of all time (better than titles like Doom, Diablo II, and Grand Theft Auto V).

Myst was also critically-acclaimed. Publications like Wired and the New York Times pointed to Myst as evidence that video games could actually be art. Myst was the first video game to have been inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

What are the different versions of Myst?[edit]

Myst has had several versions and remasters, and has been ported to many platforms. The original Myst was on Mac and PC. Nowadays, you can find a remastered version of Myst called Myst Masterpiece Edition on Steam and GOG.com. There is also a version called realMYST which is the Myst game but in a roamable 3D realtime-rendered environment. You can find that on Steam and GoG, as well as many consoles. Recently, Cyan released a new version in 2020 for the Oculus Quest, and then a later 'flatscreen' version of the new Myst in 2021.

The puzzles and story are pretty much identical, except that realMyst has some extra content available after the end of the original game. The differences across versions are primarily UI and movement styles, as well as graphics quality. The Myst from 2020 has the most changes - many of the devices one can interact with in game have been modified to be more VR friendly. It also includes an option to randomize puzzle solutions to add some challenge for players who are already familiar with the game.

What are the sequels to Myst?[edit]

There are five Myst games in total, as well as a 'spin off' series called Uru (which had a single player game and an online MMO version). All take place in the same game universe. The Myst games are:

The Uru section has more information about that series.

Are there other Myst things out there?[edit]

Yes, there are three novels in the Myst universe, as well as a tabletop roleplaying game.

The novels, in release order, are:

You can find them collected together in a single volume called The Myst Reader.

The tabletop roleplaying game is called Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of Myst and Beyond. You can find it on DriveThruRPG.

Do I have to play/read all of it?[edit]

Fans generally believe experiencing them all is best, of course. But each game is independent and you can enjoy each game on its own. One common caveat to this is that Myst V: End of Ages will make much more sense if you have played Uru (the spin off) first.

What is the story order of all of the games and novels?[edit]

The chronological order of the games and novels:

  • Book of Ti'ana
  • Book of Atrus
  • Myst
  • Riven
  • Book of D'ni
  • Myst III: Exile
  • Myst IV: Revelation
  • Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and (or?) Uru: Complete Chronicles
  • Uru Live
  • Myst V: End of Ages
  • Myst Online: Uru Live
  • Unwritten

Uru[edit]

What is Uru?[edit]

Uru is the spinoff series of Myst. It co-exists with the Myst games, but has its own purpose and theme. It also has a complicated publishing history.

Uru was initially published in 2003 as a single player game as Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. An online MMO called Uru Live never got out of beta.

Two small expansions were released for Uru: the first was To D'ni, and the second was The Path of the Shell. Uru and its expansions were collected and sold under Uru: Complete Chronicles. This is the release you want to look for to play the single player version.

Cyan released some server code to fans under the name Untìl Uru, and fans ran shards (independent servers) from 2004 to 2007.

The online game service GameTap resurrected Uru (with Cyan) in 2007 as Myst Online: Uru Live (MOUL). It ran for a year, then closed. MOUL has some additional content compared to the single player game. Content that appeared in the expansions for the single player game is presented differently in MOUL.

Cyan continues to maintain a server for Myst Online: Uru Live, which it calls Myst Online: Uru Live again (MOULa). They don't support it besides keeping it running, nor has there been any new canon story. However, fans have been running independent shards of Myst Online, as well as have been developing some content that Cyan has begun to add to the core version of MOULa.

Note: Uru is often the term that fans use to refer to the fandom itself as well.

What are the differences between Uru: Complete Chronicles and Myst Online: Uru Live?[edit]

The majority of the single player game and the online game are the same (and most of the online version can be done alone). However, at one point, the story and puzzles began to diverge. There is more story in MOUL, as well as more puzzles. Some require working with others. Some were meant to be community-level puzzles; completing those will require some research.

How do I get to the current version of Myst Online?[edit]

Go to https://mystonline.com

If you have any issues, go to the Cyan discord (see the Fandom section for link) - there is a channel there specifically for issues with Myst Online.

Lore[edit]

What's up with the magic books?[edit]

The books in the games, called Linking Books, take you to different worlds/universes (called Ages). The ability to create these books is called the Art. Writing a book to access a new Age is often just called 'writing an Age'.

What happens when you link?[edit]

When you touch the open page of a Linking book, you fade out of this reality and are transported to a specific place in the Age. The book you used remains behind.

How do you get back?[edit]

You use a book that links back to where you came from. So you either bring a book, or hope there's one there to use. Otherwise, you are stuck.

Do Writers create these worlds when they write them?[edit]

The canonical answer is that the Ages already exist and the books just create links to them (hence Linking Books). This is a big point of contention amongst characters in the setting however, and often affects how people treat the Ages and the people in them.

How does the Art work?[edit]

The Art requires special Books that must be made with special paper and special ink. A Writer uses symbols called gahrohevtee (great words) to describe the Age they want to go to. The book then links to an Age that matches the description. Since no universe can be described in complete detail, there are many possible Ages (quantum realities/parallel universes) that may match the description - one is 'chosen' randomly when the book is first used.

There are two types of Books: Descriptive Books and Linking Books. Descriptive Books make the first link to an Age and define the link - you can use it to then link to the Age. Linking Books are just Books that take you to an Age after it has been linked to.

Linking Books are smaller than Descriptive Books, and just link back to the place where the book was written. They are connected in some way to the Descriptive Book for the Age, however. If the Descriptive Book is destroyed, all Linking Books to the Age stop working. So, destroying the Descriptive Book makes an Age inaccessible.

Is the Art the only way to link?[edit]

That's a very long story. You'll need to read the books or play the games.

What is D'ni?[edit]

D'ni is a place and a people. The D'ni are an ancient civilization that used the Art to access places for resources and exploitation; their civilization fell 200 - 300 years ago. Atrus is a descendant of the D'ni.

D'ni is also a place, the city the D'ni lived in—built in a gigantic underground cavern—that exists miles beneath the New Mexico desert (Eddy County, to be specific).

How do you pronounce the name D'ni?[edit]

The official way is close to dih-NEE or duh-NEE. The earlier games use DUH-nee, however.

What are the Unexplored Branches?[edit]

Unexplored Branches (UB) is the extended universe of the Myst franchise. This section of lore is considered less canonical than lore in the games and books. Things that are considered UB lore include: lore released in Unwritten supplements, unused lore released to fans by Cyan, and fan content added to the primary MOULa server.

Advice[edit]

This advice isn't spoilers - it just points out some important points that might make your experience more enjoyable.

Any general advice?[edit]

  • Read everything.
  • Touch/fiddle with everything.
  • Take notes/pictures.
  • When in doubt, see if you can turn on the power.

What should I be wary of?[edit]

There are a few places where it is easy to miss something; this is common in a lot of point-and-click games. You may have to click all over to find things you can click on. Also, it's very easy to miss a path, turn, or item so keep checking around.

A common issue is missing that some items or elements in the game can be used multiple ways, some that might not be obvious at first. Make sure that you play with different game items and controls to see what they can do.

Do I really have to read everything?[edit]

Yes, and no. There is a lot of stuff that is just lore. But there are hints amongst the lore, and there are puzzles where you have to understand the lore to understand the puzzle. You just never know which is which.

What else should I know?[edit]

  • Some of the Myst games have 'zip' modes that can be activated to travel around areas you have been more quickly. This can be very helpful when you need to run back and forth. Check the settings of the games for this.
  • Look for settings that turn off or on hint systems, depending on how you want to play.
  • Some of the games have long animations that you have to wait on to move on. The first few times you should watch them. But there is usually a key that will skip the animation - this is useful if you are walking past it for the umpteenth time.
  • Not every interactable thing is important - they are just flavor. Part of the trick of the game is figuring which things are which.

Fandom[edit]

Where do I find Myst fans?[edit]

The primary place is Cyan's official Discord server

There is also a yearly gathering of Myst fans called Mysterium

What do Myst fans call themselves[edit]

Myst fans often call themselves ‘explorers’, in reference to what players were called in Uru. Some people use the tongue-in-cheek term “D’nerds”.

Random Trivia[edit]

  • The co-creators of Myst, the Miller brothers, appear in Myst. Rand plays Atrus and Achenar. Robyn plays Sirrus. Rand goes on to play Atrus in all the subsequent games.
  • Cyan made Myst, Riven, Uru, and Myst 5. Myst 3' was created by Presto Studios (now defunct) and Myst 4 was made by UbiSoft.
  • The antagonist in Myst 3 is played by Brad Dorif, the same actor who played Grimer Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings movies.
  • Peter Gabriel voices a character in Myst 4, and one of his songs appears in the game. Another of his songs appears in the single player version of Uru as well.
  • Cyan created a game in 2016 called Obduction. While not in the Myst franchise, it was billed as a spiritual successor of Myst, made using modern graphics. It's really good, you should play it.
  • The language of the D'ni that appears in Riven and later Myst games is a constructed language made by Richard Watson, one of the programmers who worked on Myst and subsequent games.
  • The word for "hello" in D'ni is shorah.
  • Famous Myst fans include Matt Damon, Neil Patrick Harris, Adam Conover, Adam Savage, Jeff Dunham, Rowan Farrow, and Steven Sondheim
  • A parody of Myst called Pyst was made by a different developer, and was available in stores for a while. It stars John Goodman (yes, that John Goodman) as the King of Pyst. He even sings a song.
  • The Miller brothers appeared in a Gap advertising campaign.
  • Rand Miller appeared on a postage stamp in the country of Palau in its The Information Age: Visionaries in the Twentieth Century stamp set.