Hollow Earth

Myst Online: How the game is not a traditional MMO

The Myst Online community is different from others in many ways. Violence, as you would expect from a game that lacks player-initiated violence, is virtually (pun not intended) non-existent. That said, it is not a utopia. Violence is almost never an issue (one or two threats with people over the years), however there is still intimidation and damage done within the community. As the power within the world deals with books, it is ironic (if not perhaps expected) that words are the weapon of choice within the community.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me—but a snide remark or a post of disrespectful criticism can and does harm this community more. Even a hypothetical threat of harm or death against a community member would likely be treated wholly different. Most who witnessed or were threatened would quickly report it to be dealt with. Among the stupidest in other MMOs, insults and threats are thrown care-free. In those communities, with the prevalence of virtual violence, any real threats are either disguised or not taken as seriously. In the Myst Online community, real insults are met and responded to and perceived ones are also reacted to.

So it’s through a different window we need to look at the Myst Online community, as it really is a different MMO. This is not to say criticism is bad, nor that a radically different type of criticism is required. However, given the special circumstances Cyan is facing along with the uniqueness of the community, we cannot simply say “this MMO does not stack up with others in the market”. I do not expect to be entertained whenever I play Myst Online. I expect to be interested, of course, and I always am. However, I am not always entertained. To do that, Cyan actors would be needed all the time.

So how do you get enjoyment from this game? My opinion is that, to properly assess the game, you should explore every facet of the game. This game has more facets (that I see) than any other, more potential for entertainment. In World of Warcraft, I count myself 4 separate facets. RP, strategy, community, and graphics of the world. In Uru, I count RP (to a deeper level than what I see in WoW or other games. As a recent review of Myst Online said, most RP stops at “hail!”), community (again to a deeper and more complex level), puzzles, world graphics (again, I think better than most other games), leveling/grinding (a unique kind to Myst Online with the leveling from the GZ, Er’cana, and the new rewards for showing off the journeys taken [the donuts, sparks]), and user-created content (the stained glasses and poetry along with the newly-added KI pictures).

Now, yes, some MMOs have some of these and a few have all of these to some extent but I don’t think any really have all of them to the level that Cyan has been able to. I talked to some people about the pellets and got the response that similar things had been done better in other games. I think that (pardon the cliche) they’re not bad, just different. Leveling and grinding is pretty much all the same everywhere. Leveling is summed up by “kill something/someone and gain ‘experience’.” I’ve always hated the “experience” part of that. As if your experience is a little number. Not exactly realistic. Grinding is summed up by “do something repeatedly and/or for a long time and get a resource or reward. Most of the time the resource is something like firewood or swords or… side of pig. The reward might be something as beautifully useless as “credits”.

Myst Online, unlike any other game, has unique versions of both of these. Think of leveling. You ‘level’ in Myst Online by completing the various journeys. Not only in that way, but by collecting the sparks (seniority leveling) and the relto pages (customization leveling). Not only that, but if you want to look at it this way, you get real experience. Experience gathering people for Delin, learning to gather (most of the time perfect strangers) people and co-ordinate them. As well as the lessons learned of pride, etc. Grinding being, obviously, the pellets (and to some extent the marker missions, though those are no longer something a lot of people do). While the pellets fit the traditional version of grinding I summed up, it does something not seen very much in other MMOs (though it is not unique). This is not something you do on your own. You do not drop a pellet and see the lake get brighter for you and you alone. You also can’t trade pellets for Kadish gold or some nonsense like that. You drop a pellet and see… nothing much. The glow that slowly fades in the silo. It is when you combine the efforts of everyone else that you (one day) see the results.

That’s, I think, something that makes Myst Online very different from other MMOs. I also think it’s something Cyan is intending to do. What makes Myst Online different from other games is that there is little to no player vs. player. While I certainly can enjoy PvP games, and would likely do well in them, I would not get as much enjoyment as I do from exploring Cyan’s worlds, figuring out puzzles, and making friends. Friends, not allies. As Allies imply assistance in battle, or a friendship for less than each other’s company. I feel more enjoyment from completing the Delin/Tsogahl journey as it is rather than as a single-player puzzle. I get more enjoyment from and understand better the puzzle in Ahnonay because it is multi-player. And I will get more enjoyment when the lake gets brighter because lots of people helped to brighten it.


Filed under: Gaming

2 Responses

  1. Erik says:

    Did you post this before or am I having a déjà vu?

    Anyway, I agree with your analysis.

  2. Whilyam says:

    Must be deja vu. I’ve had this in various stages of composition in my draft area for a while, but just got around to finishing it up and publishing it.

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