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Obduction the thread

#51 User is offline   Shinkansen 

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Posted 03 March 2015 - 07:04 PM

An update! Biggest piece of news is that characters will be live action video, as in the pre-rendered Myst games.

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Sorry these updates aren’t more frequent, but we’ve definitely been preoccupied with Obduction production! So much has been going on here at Cyan - grab your towel, and we'll try to get you caught up.

First off, back in December we had a big “come to edit” meeting. We somewhat purposely over-designed Obduction knowing that the time would come to hone, cull, and machete our design down to just the good stuff. Those editing meetings (whether for movies, books, or games) are always difficult, but what comes out on the other end is so much better. Well, Obduction came through with flying colors, and we’re all really pleased with its more chiseled look and feel.

Secondly, one of the things that became evident during the editing was that the characters in Obduction could be represented both more realistically and more efficiently by using live action video. We made that decision and haven’t looked back. We are having some fun delving into the VR aspect of what live action characters mean - with some pretty cool early results. Look for more technical details in an upcoming Dev Blog post.

Next, production is really ramping up. We’ve pulled a couple more people onto our art team, and two more artists are starting soon. (Stay tuned for more updated team information.) We’re making art passes to build out the modeling, and we’ve included a few of these early screenshots, so you can get a taste of where things are at. Remember, these are just from our first modeling pass and don’t include textures, but we hope you can start to visualize just how cool Obduction is going to be!
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In addition to art, we’re continuing to flesh out game play and features. We’re making efforts to keep the game playable even as we start detailing the art. This lets us conduct behind-the-back pre-alpha play testing to make sure our design choices are okay and make any adjustments necessary. We’ve already made some of those adjustments and expect to make more to fine tune the flow and mechanics of the experience.
I have to say, it took me a minute to notice that those screenshots have no textures. They look that good.
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#52 User is offline   Lesley 

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Posted 03 March 2015 - 08:54 PM

Hehe I get more excited about this game every time we get more news. So happy about the live action video thing, I always thought that gave Myst a unique quality.
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#53 User is offline   Johnraka 

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 03:31 AM

View PostLesley, on 03 March 2015 - 08:54 PM, said:

Hehe I get more excited about this game every time we get more news. So happy about the live action video thing, I always thought that gave Myst a unique quality.


Yeah, the whole live action thing just made it all seem so much more real...
Can't wait for this...Posted Image
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#54 User is offline   Shinkansen 

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Posted 18 March 2015 - 11:51 AM

More info on the live-action actor integration. Biggest announcement is that that Robyn Miller, aka Sirrus and the composer of the Myst and Riven soundtracks, will be playing one of the "main" characters in Obduction. Rand Miller is doing everything he can to not have a part, but there is apparently a lot of "arm twisting" going on.

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Cyan's bringing live-action characters back for Obduction, Myst's spiritual successor

If you've read the site for any length of time, you probably know I'm looking forward to Cyan's latest game, Obduction—the one that started as a spiritual successor to Myst and has, by Cyan's own admission, started looking more and more like Myst the longer development's gone on.

Well now there's one more thing that's looking Myst-like: Cyan will be using live-action NPCs (i.e. full-motion video or FMV recorded with a video camera) instead of more contemporary CG.

Back in September when I talked to Cyan they told me there would be three NPCs in the game, and that those NPCs would be built in-engine. I recently met up with Cyan's Ryan Warzecha and Eric Anderson for a brief, relatively informal chat about the game though and they said they're back to FMV—something that was apparently announced in a recent backer update but which I missed completely.

"One of our bigger expenses was NPCs. We're world-builders. We're not animators or riggers or character modelers or anything like that. So we made the decision—we're doing live-action characters just like Riven," said Anderson.

"We're shooting them in stereo. They work in Oculus. They're integrated into the world and they look amazing," he continued. The pair cited the Senza Peso VR demo as an example of what they're heading towards, though "less trippy."

"Video seemed impossible until we really looked into what it would take and it's actually way cost-effective. We're doing it Cyan-style. We've got a little green-screen studio set up in the basement and it's two GoPros. But it works. It actually works really well," said Anderson. "It also means we can iterate on something more. If we try something and it doesn't work, we just shoot it again."

And the biggest news for longtime Myst fans? "Robyn's playing one of the main characters," said Anderson. That's Robyn Miller, co-founder of Cyan and also the actor for Sirrus in Myst (as well as co-designer, composer, et cetera). As for brother and Cyan CEO Rand Miller? The one who told me back in September that he absolutely hates acting?

"Rand...Rand's doing everything he can to get out of being in it. We're still trying to twist his arm," said Anderson. Warzecha chimed in with, "I think there'll be an easter egg or something."

Other than that, it was pretty standard stuff from Warzecha and Anderson—development's still moving forward, scope's just about locked in, and look for more details (and hands-on impressions) around PAX Prime in August.

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#55 User is offline   Lesley 

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Posted 18 March 2015 - 02:19 PM

Ugh, really Rand? You're a great actor. You brought Atrus to life as a character and did a mean Achenar in the first game too, I mean I like your Achenar better then the one in IV, he was legit terrifying instead of sounding like an overly intense cowboy.

Guy's gotta at least chip in and give us a cameo.
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#56 User is offline   Zephyr 

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 03:32 PM

View PostLesley, on 18 March 2015 - 02:19 PM, said:

Ugh, really Rand? You're a great actor. You brought Atrus to life as a character and did a mean Achenar in the first game too, I mean I like your Achenar better then the one in IV, he was legit terrifying instead of sounding like an overly intense cowboy.

Guy's gotta at least chip in and give us a cameo.


Ahah, "overly intense cowboy" sounds about right to describe Rev!Achenar :) I always thought that, amateurish as they were, the Millers gave a really strong mood to their characterization of Sirrus and Achenar in Myst. And they actually looked like each other, which is obviously good if you're gonna play brothers.

I'm really excited to hear they are going the live action route for Obduction. I was actually kind of afraid of what their ultimate decision would be regarding NPCs- Uru and Myst V left me pretty disappointed in that regard. It wasn't bad, but it definitely didn't carry the same weight atmosphere-wise compared to Myst and Riven-or even Exile and Myst IV. I can't imagine what a computer animated Gehn, or Saavedro, would have looked like and how it would have changed the games themselves. Running after Brad Dourif was much more fun :P.
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#57 User is offline   Shinkansen 

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Posted 24 March 2015 - 09:09 AM

View PostZephyr, on 23 March 2015 - 03:32 PM, said:

I'm really excited to hear they are going the live action route for Obduction. I was actually kind of afraid of what their ultimate decision would be regarding NPCs- Uru and Myst V left me pretty disappointed in that regard. It wasn't bad, but it definitely didn't carry the same weight atmosphere-wise compared to Myst and Riven-or even Exile and Myst IV. I can't imagine what a computer animated Gehn, or Saavedro, would have looked like and how it would have changed the games themselves. Running after Brad Dourif was much more fun :p.
3D NPC animation, if coupled with good voice acting, can work out well—see some characters in Mass Effect—but that requires a dedicated team of animators and character riggers (as the article points out). Given their limited resources (the Obduction team is between 20 and 30 people if I recall correctly) I'd rather Cyan stick to what they know best instead of trying to go out on a limb like they did in Myst V and end up with a mediocre product.

Not that I Obduction to be "standard" or "average" but it's never a good thing when good game developers try to bite off more than they can chew with their revolutionary ideas.
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#58 User is offline   Zephyr 

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 12:01 PM

Yes, 3D NPCs, if done correctly, can work flawlessly within a game-as with Skyrim, for example. But given Cyan's history with animated characters and the limitations they have to work with (size of the team, lack of adequate training in 3D animation etc.), it is a relief that they've decided to keep to what they're good at doing.

And if it means seeing the Miller bros act in the same game for the first time since Myst, I'm all for it :).
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#59 User is offline   Shinkansen 

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Posted 04 May 2015 - 07:04 PM

Interesting little article about how Robyn and Rand are back together, once again making mischief and creating new worlds.

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‘Myst’ founders reunite for ‘Obduction’
After more than a decade, the Miller brothers – creators of the wildly popular “Myst” series of computer games – were back together in the studio last week filming for the “spiritual successor” to the trailblazing franchise.

Robyn Miller, the younger of the two, stood by as Cyan World employees scrubbed his Civil War-inspired garb with dirt from the yard outside the team’s studio in Mead. He glanced down at his hand.

“Hey Rand, I have my wedding ring on,” he said. “Is that a problem?”

“Nope,” his brother said, peering down at a script on his tablet computer and chuckling. “Your character is married now.”

This easygoing creative partnership spawned a multimillion-dollar property in the early 1990s. The original “Myst” used sophisticated graphics and employed full-motion video to tell a multilayered story that took the computer gaming world by storm, setting a sales record that stood for more than a decade. Though Robyn Miller moved on from Cyan in 1998, he’s returned in an attempt to recapture the look and feel of “Myst” for a new generation of hardware and gamers with “Obduction,” a Kickstarter-funded project that will release for computers as well as a new series of virtual-reality gaming headsets.

“I’ve heard this from gamers: ‘Man, the engines are so cool. I wish we could just wander around without always feeling like something’s going to kill me,’ ” Rand Miller said.

When “Myst” launched in 1993, the game was competing with other titles that gave players visual puzzles to solve in a contemplative setting. Since then, the market has moved more to the twitchy shooter, with games such as “Call of Duty,” “Grand Theft Auto” and “Halo” dominating the sales charts. Cyan chose to return to its bread and butter when seeking crowdfunding for the game, but there are a lot of new tools at their disposal to pull off a nostalgic look and feel for “Obduction.”

As a gruff character with a Southern drawl admonishing the player for failing to solve a puzzle, Robyn Miller delivered lines into a pair of GoPro mobile cameras, reading his lines from a tablet computer. The two cameras were set up to mimic the visual capabilities of the human eye, and eventually render video on a three-dimensional head-mounted display.

Fans paid for this feature of the game by contributing $1.3 million in funding on Kickstarter.

“We’ve got to film not just for normal monitor play, but also the whole virtual reality side of it,” said Chris Doyle, a developer who has worked on titles such as “Star Wars: Force Commander,” “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” and “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.” Robyn Miller, whose most recent performance work was in the 2013 film “The Immortal Augustus Gladstone” (a film he also wrote and directed), said acting for a video game presented unique challenges.

“The hardest part about it is, there’s these longer stretches where they can’t be edited,” Robyn Miller said. “Because the player meets this character and then the character just does a kind of monologue.”

During filming of a scene, Robyn Miller’s character needs to give a clue to the player in his dialogue about what to do next. The brothers bantered about how exactly to word the hint, so the character didn’t come off as too standoffish but also voiced frustration to give the scene real emotion.

“I’m standing up there, and I’m trying to get into this player’s head,” Robyn Miller said.

Rand Miller said his brother’s suggestions and changes add to his writing, which often require Rand to perform the parts, to the confusion of his family.

“I can’t write this without saying the words out loud as a character,” Rand Miller said. “I have to actually say it at home, while I’m writing.”

Cyan has kept the premise of “Obduction” under wraps. While it isn’t ready to announce an official release date for the game, the start of filming signals development of the game is entering the final phase, Rand Miller said.

“The filming is when things tend to really lock down,” he said.

That means just a few more hours of filming for Robyn Miller, who will then leave his performance in the hands of multiple team members at Cyan looking to release another hit. Though Robyn left the company more than a decade ago, the brothers say they still have a great working relationship heightened by their complementary skills in writing and performance.

“We still have our moments, though,” Rand Miller said, laughing. “If we didn’t, then I think that would be weird.”
Still no word as to whether they managed to wrangle Rand into playing a role or not. :)
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#60 User is offline   Zephyr 

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Posted 05 May 2015 - 10:40 AM

Thank you for sharing this article, Shinkansen! Very interesting. So Robyn is once again faking a southern accent... Nice! :)
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#61 User is offline   Shinkansen 

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Posted 06 May 2015 - 01:26 PM

Speaking of actors, here's a kickstarter update regarding shooting.

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Quiet on the set!

The filming from last week is "in the can", so now let's talk about it.

On Tuesday we had John and Aaron from Studio Transcendent come and visit the office. Chris Doyle, our Director of New Experiences, has been working with Studio Transcendent to make sure our full-motion video is VR-ready. The expertise that Studio Transcendent has provided has been a real time-saver. We at Cyan are grateful for the time and experience Aaron and John brought to the Obduction project.

Wednesday was a very full day of shooting, with the morning reserved for Patrick Treadway who plays the character of the Mayor.
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Patrick is a local Spokane actor who has worked alongside such talent as Ellen Travolta, Jack Bannon, and Academy Award winner Patty Duke. He's performed with the Actor's Repertory Theatre, Interplayers Professional Theatre, Centre Theatre Group, Spokane Theatrical Group, Coeur D'Alene Summer Theatre, Lake City Playhouse and others, as well as to appear in the films End Game (2006) and Give 'em Hell Malone (2009), The Ward (2010), and the new television show Z Nation (2014).

After lunch we were able to start filming Caroline Fowler as Farley.
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Caroline spends most of her time raising three wild kids. She also enjoys singing and playing music with her friends and their bands.

And all day Thursday was dedicated to “CW” who is played by Robyn Miller.
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Robyn co-founded Cyan, Inc. with his brother Rand and played as Sirrus in Myst. More recently, he wrote, directed, and starred in The Immortal Augustus Gladstone (2013)

Actors, thank you for such amazing performances! It’s so satisfying to see the characters come to life!

I'd also like to thank Chris, Rand and Richard for the months of prep that made a great shoot possible. Finally, thanks go out to Ben Fowler for his lighting expertise and equipment, Sarah Spier for helping us with makeup, and Robin Miller for costuming and general filming support.

Here are some photos from the set!
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Now this is purely speculation on my part, but I get a very strong 'Gehn' vibe from the Patrick Treadway character. I don't know why, just a feeling.
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#62 User is offline   Zephyr 

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Posted 14 May 2015 - 10:44 AM

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Now this is purely speculation on my part, but I get a very strong 'Gehn' vibe from the Patrick Treadway character. I don't know why, just a feeling.


I got that exact same vibe, too! Interesting...
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#63 User is offline   Lesley 

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Posted 14 May 2015 - 03:58 PM

View PostZephyr, on 14 May 2015 - 10:44 AM, said:

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Now this is purely speculation on my part, but I get a very strong 'Gehn' vibe from the Patrick Treadway character. I don't know why, just a feeling.


I got that exact same vibe, too! Interesting...


Lol, I actually was scrolling through the thread and saw the picture and said 'oh my goodness Gehn expy' just before I scrolled down and saw you guy's posting about it.

He definitely looks like a shady character, at the very least. =P
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#64 User is offline   Topher Bear 

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Posted 03 July 2015 - 07:30 AM

I am trying to work out what spec graphics card I need for Obduction. All cyan seem to do is refer people to ue4 specs, but this still leaves me baffled on two points.
1. Will Obduction be as resource hungry as most modern rpg's? i.e. will minimum spec be enough for an adventurer rather than a frame rate junky
2. The min spec refer to cards no longer available and the numbering system has changed since then. Reading around I even came across comments saying a card numbered higher than min spec was below min spec. I think the issue there was a difference in letter! It's so confusing, I have no idea.

I currently have a radeon hd5450, but not to know the cheapest card I can get that will run it smoothly

thanks
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#65 User is offline   Capella 

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Posted 04 July 2015 - 12:32 PM

Until Cyan releases an official system requirements list, we're honestly not going to know for sure.
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#66 User is offline   Shinkansen 

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Posted 21 October 2015 - 03:47 PM

Two updates: picky publisher problems produce postponement.

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Publisher problems delay Obduction, Myst's spiritual successor, until 2016

"Obduction production continues at full speed while we reassess," says Rand Miller.

A Kickstarter game delayed? Shocking, but true folks. On Tuesday, Cyan announced that Obduction, its spiritual successor to Myst, is delayed to early 2016. It’s something the company had been going back and forth on for a bit, but is now confirmed—due to some extraneous circumstances.

It’s even less surprising in the case of Obduction, considering Miller hinted at me last year that the game was bigger than Cyan anticipated and might be pushed back. That future has come to pass. Here’s the note that Miller and Cyan just sent to Kickstarter backers:

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“First, Obduction is amazing. We couldn’t be happier with how it’s progressing.

About six months ago we realized that Obduction had evolved with enough content to be a bit larger than the Kickstarter-sized experience we had planned. With that in mind we decided to see if we could raise some small additional funding to move Obduction to that larger vision—instead of moving the scope back down.

We had serious interest from several sources including a small publisher...Long story short, we were expecting yesterday we would finally sign and move forward, but instead we found out that, in spite of all the good faith negotiating, early assurances (that we based some rather important production decisions on), and even gestures on our part to sweeten the terms of the contract (if that was the problem)—the publisher did a 180 and reneged for what were apparently financial reasons.”


And the upshot:

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“Obduction production continues at full speed while we reassess. We will determine the adjustments required to move Obduction back to the original plan—reducing the scope in an intelligent way, so we can complete it, polish it, and test it.

We’ve used a few months of our schedule for work on the larger vision, so we’re a few months behind. We’ll be reworking our production schedule based on what we figure out in the next week. Obduction is definitely still coming, and it will amaze you, but it will be delayed by a few months.”


Sounds like a bit of a mess, but as always I’d rather a delayed game than a broken one. And what I’ve played of the game so far has indeed been impressive—you can read our exclusive hands-on preview with Obduction here.


Meanwhile, playable preview provokes positive perceptions at PC Gamer:

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Hands-on with Obduction: Myst's spiritual successor straddles the line between familiar and alien

In which we spend two hours with Obduction and come away impressed.

This story’s been a long time coming. By now you’ve hopefully heard Cyan’s spiritual successor to Myst, its new game Obduction, has been delayed into 2016. If you hadn’t heard, well, now you have. Head over here for the details.

That’s the boring stuff, though. That’s the business side of this whole thing, and frankly it’s something Miller hinted at as early as last year, when I went to Spokane and he said the game was much bigger than Cyan anticipated. And I doubt it’s surprising to anyone who’s backed a Kickstarter game.

The real news is I’ve played Obduction—two hours of Obduction. After PAX this year, I retraced my route from 2014 and once again ended up in Mead, WA, at the house that Riven built. I walked in and was led to a laptop, on which was that day’s build of the game. Whatever was done on September 1, that’s what I played.

A whole new world
A quick side note before we get going: The Obduction build on September 1 was “playable,” meaning the game could be completed start to finish. All puzzles were in the game. However, it still wasn’t playable in the way you’d want, as a few art assets were missing and puzzles were still being refined. I also had a few complaints about the controls at the time—I’ve been spoiled by Frictional’s first-person adventures (SOMA), so Cyan’s current realMyst-esque scheme feels dated to me.
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Any of this might have changed, as Cyan wanted me to wait until the delay news was out of the way before publishing this hands-on. Obviously a bit of time has passed. Miller told me this morning that nothing I saw has changed though—they haven't rescoped the bits I played, so this is all still pertinent information.

Most important: Practically none of the story/world-building—a.k.a. Cyan’s strength—had made it in yet. That means no journals. Very little set-dressing. The build was basically the scaffolding of the game, the bare minimum required for me to flow puzzle-to-puzzle.

It’s an impressive scaffolding though.

Obduction's changed quite a bit since last I saw it. Last year Miller and Co. walked me through the first two worlds, Hunrath and Mofang, in their very early stages. At best, you’d see a vaguely house-shaped group of unshaded polygons. At worst, you’d see a section where the word “House” was scribbled on the ground as a placeholder. And the terrain was just big cubes—grey for rock, orange for sand.

It was enough to give me a sense of the world and a sense of the scale Cyan was going for, but little else. I had to infer the rest through Miller’s descriptions and what little I could glean of the art style from concept art and the closer-to-done intro area.
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Those days are for the most part gone. Hunrath still had a few areas of untextured orange and purple boxes, but the majority of the world looked like...well, a world. And it’s mesmerizing.

Hunrath is a mining town—the remnants of a mining town, all whitewashed houses and rusted-out railroad tracks tracing mazes around pillars of red rock. Or, at least, that’s what it looks like for a quarter mile in either direction. In the distance, the red rock gives way to a purple alien landscape, with nothing but a strange force field separating the two.

The town’s empty, silent except for your footsteps kicking up dust and a few alien creatures scampering around. You walk up to the first of the houses. Locked, of course, but there’s a weird projector-looking device sitting nearby. You turn it on and—in classic Cyan form—a holographic woman appears, hinting at some sort of conflict. From how long ago? Who knows.
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These projectors (there were a few in what I played) were the only bits of story in the build I played, and shed very little light on the greater conflict. I’m pretty much going to ignore them, except to let you know that they were shot with real actors and real cameras, a la Myst. I expect longtime fans will love this (I did) while newcomers will be more mixed in their reactions, as there’s still a level of artifice to the look.

There’s still the question of the locked door though. Locked doors, actually. This is a Cyan game, after all, and you’re going to need to work through a bunch of puzzles to figure out what’s going on.

What I played of both Hunrath and Mofang felt like classic Cyan—classic Myst—full of levers to pull and buttons to press and cranks to turn and et cetera. Sometimes it’s recognizably realistic, like the minecart I rode around Hunrath or the empty diesel generator sitting in a trainyard. Other times it’s awesomely alien, like the hundred-foot-tall engine at the heart of Mofang (pictured above), massive chains wrapped around the center’s whirring gears.
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The early hours seemed quite a bit easier than, say, Riven, but it’s hard to know how the game will progress—especially because pretty much everything I played was mechanics-based. Last year Miller told me Obduction switches towards other types of puzzles in the back half, but I’ve yet to get there (and language/symbol puzzles are typically what stump me).

The hardest part at the moment—Cyan’s biggest challenge, I think—is letting players know what’s a puzzle and what’s merely scenery. These environments are so large, at one point I actually had to ask, “Have I...missed something?” because I felt like I’d wandered so far without encountering a major puzzle.

But hey, that’s what set-dressing is for. Again, I was playing a stripped-down version of the game that was basically just scenery and puzzles. When the game’s full of more objects to stop and look at, it’ll hopefully feel more natural to keep walking. And there’s some merit to such a freeform approach—it’s what made The Vanishing of Ethan Carter feel more like a real world and not just a video game level.

Bottom line
And that’s what Cyan does best: Create worlds. Obduction will feel familiar to any Cyan fan because in many ways the team’s still doing the same thing as ever. You’re a stranger in a sometimes-strange land, straddling a line between the familiar and the alien. Grasping at hints of home.

In Myst, it was a warm, well-lit library. In Obduction, it’s a garage door or a white picket fence or a mailbox set against a brilliant violet sky.

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