Myst-Uru 2014

This is one of my infrequent articles about something Myst-Uru Live related. The first part of these articles is for those that have no idea what Uru Live is and explains, hopefully, enough for the rest of the story to make sense. If you know Uru, skip down to the heading What’s Happening

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A remodeled Watchers Pub

Image Note: Image by DoobesURU. If the image makes the game graphics look old, that is because they are basically era 2004. There was a time when Uru Live had far better rendering than Second Life. But, that era is past. Still the game is more immersive than the image would lead one to think.

There are several hundred of us, may be even a couple of thousand, in Second Life™ that came from the MMOG Uru Live. Some have become movers and shakers in the SL community and many SL residents know their names without ever knowing they came from Myst-Uru Live. I came from Uru Live when it closed for the second time in 2008. While the Uru Live and Myst community in general lives on, it has not progressed much since 2008, at least to my eyes from the sidelines.

Most of the advancement in Uru Live is behind the scenes. Things like content licensing (licenses to use the original game content), building open source servers and clients, and modeling new ages (like regions) are advancing, but you have to be into Uru Live’s small development community to know about them and participate.

Most of that community hangs out in the Guild of Writers forum. (link) It is there that you can get information about what is being developed, what people are thinking about for the open source version of Uru Live, and who is working on what.

The forum at OpenUru.org is the second set of developers and somewhat the front door to getting Cyan Worlds’ (like Linden Lab is to SL) acceptance of code and ages/regions for addition to the ‘official’ Uru Live. This is a more drama free zone too.

The Watchers Pub

If I remember correctly, there are 5 of these pubs. These were meeting areas reserved for members of the in world-guilds; Writers, Greeters, Maintainers, Messengers, and Cartographers. If you joined one of the guilds (join means putting on the guild’s in-game t-shirt and you could own all five, so it wasn’t exactly exclusive), you gained access to that Watchers Pub.

What’s Happening

Starting in April 2013 and remaining active to January of this year a Guild of Writers (GoW) thread started about remodeling the Writers’ Watchers Pub and basically asked about remodeling other guilds’ pubs. (link)

In that thread there is debate about a number of things. Not the least of which is whether it can legally be done. The best information we have is Cyan Worlds, the game’s owner, has decided none of the original content can be changed. But, on a practical aspect, some parts do have to be changed to allow new fan made ages/regions to be connected to the game. So, this becomes a debate about the degree of change to be allowed and may be allowed to make those changes.

Also, since most of the legal issues are about distribution of Cyan owned content, the idea of replacing that content with other fan made content seems to avoid many if not all the legal issues.

The debate then becomes a matter of whether to have the Writers, who’s members are the majority of current modelers, change all the guild pubs, or to have GoW members do their pub and let the other guilds do their respective guilds.

On a practical level, it is the GoW that has the modelers and programmers with the knowledge and skills to make the changes. Messengers tend not to be coders or modelers and the same may be considered true for other guilds. The Maintainers and Cartographers have had modelers/programmers, but most of them are no longer active in Uru Live. So, it is probably the GoW pub that will get remodeled.

There is interest by some in the GoW in remodeling the other guilds. It is nice that some of them look for input from the inactive groups. But, providing input is an action. And since the groups are inactive that seems by definition to preclude their providing input.

Even more complex is the problem of contacting people to ask for input that are no longer paying attention to Uru Live. Recent stats show: 17% of Americans create a new email address every 6 months and 30% of [list] subscribers change email addresses annually. (Reference) White there is some group that change addresses every year, two years, three years, and etc. there are no good stats on those numbers. The trend is changing to more permanent addresses, but spam often forces people to change their address. Whatever the change rate it should be obvious keeping track of fans that no longer follow their darling is difficult.

So, if you are a member of the; Messengers, Maintainers, Greeters, or Cartographers guilds and have any interest in how a future pub may be remodeled, visit the GoW forum and add your input.

My opinion is if you are not going to do the remodeling, actually build the model and texture it, you really have little right to demand a say in how things are done. But, when opinion is asked for, offering thoughts is the polite response. And once requested, failing to respond pretty much means one has lost their right to complain about what the active people do down the road.

We often see this behavior in Second Life of complaining after the period for feedback has passed. In some cases the Lab develops things on their own without asking for feedback. Viewer 2.0 is an example of that. Big fail in my opinion. Positive and constructive complaining in such cases is justified. I don’t mean positive as in the sense of approving. I mean in the sense of stating the user case of how some task or work flow works and why the changes complicates or prevents accomplishing the task. I mean constructive in the sense of stating what would work better.

Group Ban is an example of the opposite. We have had an opportunity to contribute feedback in some measure throughout the development process.

Development of the Materials System in SL was an odd mix of private behind the scenes development and requests for feedback that went mostly unnoticed. The Mesh Deformer was another mix of requests for feedback that went mostly unnoticed when most needed.

In the Uru Live case I think the requests there will go mostly unnoticed. Those that might have an interest and any history with the community have mostly moved on. They occasionally check back to see what is up, but that is random happenstance. This post may reach a few too. But, most fans will never hear about this development.

The Future

I’ll preface this with the obvious: no one knows what will happen in the future.

To me the future of Uru Live appears bleak. Cyan Worlds, the owner of Uru, is busy with a new kickstarter project: Obduction. This seems to leave them little time for working on a mostly forgotten game. (iTune App Original MystAndroid Myst+/- – Myst via ScrummVM on Android) I am however looking forward to Obduction.

The community has spent 6 years since the closing of Uru Live waiting for something to happen with the Myst series. Four of those years have been since the announcement the company would allow the game engine to go open source.

I suppose the idea was that since Cyan was pretty much done with the Plasma Game Engine and seriously considering Unreal and Unity as their way forward, they would be abandoning it. So, they may as well give it to the open source community. Whatever the reason, it is what they have done.

But, they did not give their game content to the open source community nor any of the game assets. They also adamantly refuse to allow their content to be placed in another game engine. The result is the game is stagnating.

As time passes the graphics quality of the game, that is a primary aspect of the Cyan Worlds’ reputation, is aging. In 2004 Uru Live was a visually impressive game. Now parts of Second Life are much more impressive. Once the Oculus Rift comes to the retail market and SL builders start to build for Oculus users in earnest, SL will become even more impressive visually. In the mean time Uru is stuck in 2004 render tech.

I can see no way that hobby game makers will have the time or skill to update the Plasma Game Engine to modern capabilities. It seems to me the simple solution is to move the Uru content to a new game engine and update the graphics by updating the textures used. But, that is no small task.

It may be that in the hidden corners of the heart of Cyan Worlds there is a dream of someday moving Uru to a new game engine. If so, then allowing the community to take those steps ahead of Cyan would greatly complicate such an effort. So, if that is the private dream, we will never get permission to move the game to another platform. That would mean the current open source work is probably a placebo. Or not… we can’t know. What we do know is Uru is aging and not much is happening.

But, there are those, this year, considering how to remodel the Watchers’ Pubs. Jump over to GoW and offer your thoughts.

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