Hollow Earth

The Beauty of Modesty

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in the Age-writing community. It’s a phenomenon which may point out one of Cyan’s less noticeable, yet critical, deviations from traditional gaming.

Indulge me, if you can. If you have Uru and Drizzle/the Uru Age Manager installed, load it up and link to nearly any Age. Load my Age of Fens, or the spectacular Age of Rell-Too. Load up almost any Age you see and I will bet that it is grandiose. Over the top, giant, staggering, etc. In Fens, there are massive trees in a massive swamp with massive mushrooms and massive sail-caterpillar-half-circle-roundy things all sitting in a massive basin. In Rell-Too there are massive spires on massive islands dotted with massive diamonds with a tiny cable car spanning massive distances etc.

Now load up a Cyan Age. Kadish or Teledahn or Gahreesen or Minkata. Look at them. Sure, they’re massive. hey have large forests, mushrooms, fortresses, sand, etc. But notice that there is a different feel to the size. They’re not attempting to impress you with the size of the cliffs, they’re having you run around solving puzzles or otherwise interacting with your surroundings. Now load up Gira or Kemo or Delin and Tsogal if you have Drizzle. Or the pod ages. They’re small. They show off the beauty of their surroundings, the plants or animals.

Now think back to Myst and Riven. The Ages in them were fairly small with only a few truly grandiose items amongst them (mostly in Riven with the Golden Dome and Survey Island). There is something spectacular in being mediocre and it is something Cyan seems to do quite well.

I’m not talking about things that are breath-taking, the views are almost always good at that. And I don’t mean that the spires in Selenetic aren’t spectacular, but they simply aren’t the size and mass at which I see fan Ages inflating their objects. The emphasis seems too easily moved to showing off an Age with mile-high canyons and cliffs. This isn’t just an Uru fan-based phenomenon either. Think of all the traditional games. They all have their giant towers or their giant swords or their giants bosses. In the end, the little guys are the minions and the little boulders are just the pebbles on the beach.

If you look at Cyan’s most popular games, you see that they (and the franchise) are best when things are modestly breath-taking. When you get to the end of Channelwood and you’re sitting in a bland room with just the book in it. It is a more difficult kind of spectacle which holds an audience.


Filed under: Gaming

3 Responses

  1. Tweek says:

    Personally I disagree, whilst Kadish, Teledahn and Gahreesen are not trying to impress you with the size of their cliffs they are trying to impress you with the size of other things (trees, mushrooms, fortress, Kadish’s vault, etc).

    I do agree that there are a lot of largish fan Ages, but there are also smallers ones (like Maw, Bimevi), perhaps we’ve just not seen more of these smaller Ages because people feel larger ones would be more interesting.

    • Whilyam says:

      My point is more that Cyan is impressing you with the beauty of those objects, not just their size. The giant mushrooms are part of the world and not just the only thing there. The trees and fortresses, etc. are also much more detailed.

      Also, I would disagree about Kadish’s Vault. I am more impressed with the impossibility of a suspended vault rather than its size. For me, in the Cyan Ages, the size is less blatant, less in your face, and more simply part of the landscape. Whereas in some fan Ages, the size seems to be the only thing being shown off.

  2. Erik says:

    I agree. Even the smallest things are really detailed in Cyan’s Ages. That kind of detail is what make Cyan’s Ages great, even if you are sometimes restricted in the places you can go to. Better to have less freedom and more quality and story, than to have a huge landscape that you can cross with nothing really exciting to it.
    Some user-created Ages are a bit frustrating because of the distances you have to run through a repetitive landscape. That’s something Cyan always avoided. Well, except for Minkata, but that was deliberately of course.

    Personally, I think your office Age is one of the best user Ages currently released, even though it’s so small. It is detailed and it’s easy to feel immersed. In fact I felt as if I visited Douglas’ office! Of course it would be great if the Age got expanded, as long as that same ratio between quality and movement freedom is held. :)

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