Atrus, Crowbox, and You!

As most of you know, one of the things we’ve been working our tails off creating is the most immersive and beautiful version of Myst to ever exist – starting on the Oculus Quest Platform. 

As most of you also know… (wait, do you actually know this?) We recently released a very unique photo sharing app for iPhones (yes, we realize many of you are not on iOS, but we’re just getting warmed up. Give us a little time, if you can). 

What many of you may not know is the connection between the two. What could a luscious new VR version of Myst have to do with an iPhone app for sharing photos? Well… let us tell you…

In early 2020 – real early, when people were still optimistic about it being a good year – we began some preliminary work on Myst, which meant, for some reason, going through some of the old journals, As chance, or fate, would have it, we discovered a journal that had been written by Atrus which we had never seen before!

Until now. 

It was, of course, remarkable to read, but as the year progressed the journal became almost prophetic, and a bit eerie. We’d love to share it with you now. 

What a warm evening it was, very unusual for this Age, at least so close to sunset. I have decided to call this Age Crow, primarily because of the incessant calls of the large black birds that fill the trees that surround me. They never seem to end. 

Though they used to bother me, I have grown to miss their singing when I’m not here. Strangely, as the sun fell into the horizon tonight, the crows went suddenly silent. 

Perhaps, I should have been more nervous, but I found myself eerily calm, almost expectant. On cue, I saw a group of people approaching me, out of some kind of deep fog that seemed to be moving with them, almost carrying them. I instantly stood to my feet, better prepared to greet them, or run if I was forced to.

Quickly, I realized the group was definitely not aggressive. There was nothing to be afraid of. They were not joyful either though. In fact, they seemed rather sad. I could feel their sadness before I even saw their glossy eyes and mournful expressions. There was a darkness around them, not of evil, but of pain. As they approached, I noticed each of them wore minimal clothing, mostly what looked like strange animal fabrics, but oddly all of them wore a strange piece of fabric across the lower portion of their face, covering their mouths and noses. Some were painted with tree-like patterns and designs.  

It’s hard to describe what I felt, but it was almost as if we both knew we had much to talk about,and we soon found ourselves in deep conversations. They were a very friendly people. 

The men and women, told me many stories of their Age, of their culture, and of their lives, although oddly, they stayed some distance from me, and from each other, no matter how I tried to break these strange invisible guards that seemed to surround them. 

I eventually asked them about this ritual, and they told me that an illness had recently appeared and had been making many of them very sick. They believed the material  across their face and the distances between them somehow helped. I have no way to determine whether this is true or not, but upon learning it, I certainly did not want to bring them any harm, insult their norms, or become ill myself, and made sure to keep my own distance. 

As we continued to talk, they told me of an infected elder, of the death of many of their warriors and artists, and of an illness also infecting their lands, as though the very soil had a fever too. Given the heat that was still with us, it was hard for me to argue with them, and it was easy to empathize with their pain. 

But they were not a wallowing group of people: in spite of their woes I could see a jovial nature to them. As the night approached, one of the men brought a small box out of a leather pouch he had been carrying. Another man, as directed by this apparent leader, brought an identical box toward me, still keeping his distance, and set the box down on the ground. I was instructed to pick it up. 

I’m not much of a believer of magic, but when I picked up the box I was filled with wonder. An image showed itself, a wonderful fruit that looked delicious. I smiled as more images showed themselves inside the box, images of other people like those I was with, images of strange creatures, images of foods, and images of foreign places that I had not yet seen in the Age. The man explained each of the images, as he somehow controlled what I saw inside the box I was holding, sometimes changing it, sometimes enlarging it, sometimes pointing out small details, but always explaining and sharing. At one point I glanced up and realized it was not just me. The others were looking at their own strange boxes as he continued to show us these images. 

The images have made me think of my own children, of my sons, of the times they were younger and things were more joyful, for us. I wonder, sometimes, what I have done. I asked these people if I could keep one of the boxes for myself but they laughed at my question. 

“This box does nothing on its own. Only with each other do you find its value. It is for sharing, not for consuming.” I have been thinking about these words. 

I talked much more with these delightful inhabitants. Though I longed for them to stay, for them to show me more of their land and life, they disappeared almost as quickly as they had appeared into the fog that seemed to follow them away. 

As they left, the birds appeared again. As their caws returned, it seems the air also cooled. I miss the people already. I wonder if I will be able to find them again. Perhaps, even bring my sons. I wonder what they would think.

I will ask them. 

It was a few months after reading the journal that Rand found himself sitting on his deck with a group of friends, including Tony Fryman, watching the sunset over the nearby hills. It was warmer than usual, he would later say, and the world found itself in the middle of a global pandemic. 

Tony had recently been camping and had taken some pictures of a strange bird that had been sitting on the banks of a river. He wanted to show them to Rand and everyone else, but there were lots of photos and everyone was trying to social distance. 

“Let me email or text them. I’ll enter in all of your names, attach them, and send them,” Tony said in his southern drawl. 

“Meh,” said everyone. “That’ll take too long.” . 

“I could AirDrop them?” 

No one wanted more photos on their phone to have to delete later. No offense, Tony. 

“Tony, you could upload them to your photo sharing site,” someone in the group suggested.

“Ugh, a photo sharing site? I don’t want to take time to upload these, or to share them with the world. I just want to show you a few photos while we’re sitting here together!”

“Wait!” Rand stood to his feet. “We should make an app! An app that would almost let you take over… well my phone. You could somehow control what I see, you could zoom in, highlight portions, you know…  In fact, you could take over all of our phones! It’d be like the slideshows my dad used to show his friends, but for the 21st century. Wow, it’s almost like…” 

A crow called from a nearby tree. 

Well, after about a year of development and testing and tweaking and modifications, Crowbox (as it came to be called) is out! It’s available now! 

Do you need another photo sharing app?

Yes! Of course you do! 

Crowbox lets you instantly take over someone else’s phone, while staying socially distanced, and show them all the photos you’d like. And let’s be real, hopefully this socially distancing stuff is over soon, but even then, Crowbox lets one person control a group of people’s phones to look through pictures without any clean up afterward and without the need to upload photos beforehand either. It’s fast, easy, and private! And it syncs up real nice with Photos as well, to make things even more simple. 

You gotta try it! 

Atrus would be proud.

Get it today! Find out more at crowbox.com

PRESS RELEASE: Cyan Reveals Development of Myst for VR

 

SPOKANE, Washington, September 16th, 2020 

Cyan, the indie studio that created beloved classics Myst and Riven, has reimagined Myst and created the version fans have been asking for since Unreal Engine and VR went mainstream. It’s Myst – in a whole new dimension!

This definitive version is built from the ground up to play in either VR or flatscreen PC. It will be released first as a VR-Only title on the Oculus Quest Platform, with the PC version – including 2D and support for additional VR hardware – to follow at a later date.

We’ve been waiting for the stars to align to create a VR version of Myst – and I’m so excited to announce that alignment! Myst has always been about creating a world to lose yourself in, and VR takes the Myst experience to an entirely new level. It’s an almost magical experience for me, after so many years, to wander around the Ages of Myst and truly feel transported! We hope it will be for you, too.

~Rand Miller, CEO 

Myst made its debut in 1993 to critical and popular acclaim and went on to become the best-selling PC game of the 20th century. 

Visit the starkly beautiful Myst island, eerily tinged with mystery and shrouded in intrigue. Explore the deeper connections and uncover a story of ruthless family betrayal.

The highly anticipated modern, definitive Myst experience has finally arrived, including new art, sound, interactions, and even optional puzzle randomization!

You can now be a part of the surrealistic adventure that will become your world- like never before! 

Details of this release:

  • The Quest Platform version of Myst (VR only) will be released first.
  • The PC version (2D & support for additional VR hardware) to follow at a later date.
  • Myst will release to additional platforms following the Quest Platform & PC releases.
  • Myst is fully redesigned and created from the ground up using Unreal Engine.
  • Many of the puzzles have been reimagined and engineered to include optional puzzle randomization and enhanced accessibility.
  • Myst will initially be available for $29.99 USD on Quest Platform.

About Cyan

Cyan is a legendary indie games studio headquartered in Mead, Washington, best known for award-winning games Myst and Riven. Cyan is currently working on its next VR adventure game, Firmament, which recently completed a Kickstarter campaign raising $1.43 million USD. For more information, visit https://www.cyan.com 

About Oculus

The Oculus team at Facebook Reality Labs lets people defy distance—connecting with each other and the world—through world-class VR hardware and software. The Oculus content team pursues the creation of best-in-class games, narrative experiences, and new VR use-cases like fitness, productivity, and travel. Oculus joins other teams at FRL dedicated to cutting-edge research, computer vision, haptics, social interaction, and more. Facebook Reality Labs is committed to driving the state of the art forward through relentless innovation.

Myst Links

Dynamic Slope Quantization for VR Comfort

Background

As a preface to this, we will be discussing terms like “smooth movement” (moving the player smoothly throughout the game-world without them having to move in real life), “teleportation” (immediately snapping the player to a virtual destination after a brief “blink” of the camera), and “room-scale” (where a player has enough space in real life to walk around in (like a big room) while playing the VR experience, enabling them to move about in their VR environment as they’d like).

As VR developers, we run into many challenges, least of which is making sure that people who adorn a VR headset remain comfortable while in our experiences. Often, whether or not an experience is comfortable is based on how the user moves or is moved. While moving the player in a smooth way would seem to be more natural (since many of us do that in real life to get around), it will often cause motion sickness in VR, whereas instantaneous movements in VR (like teleportation) can be more comfortable. This VR motion sickness cannot only occur when moving horizontally but also vertically. This leads to many VR experiences having very flat environments to prevent any vertical motion issues.

We have a history of building highly detailed worlds in our games. We’ve been supporting both flat-screen and VR experiences using the same game environments for both. While making flat levels or spaces might work well in a VR-only title, it would be much more scrutinized on a flat-screen where players are much less likely to have motion sickness and often expect a wider breadth of navigation capabilities throughout environments. Also, there are game design advantages to conforming the player movement to the environment, as opposed to locking them onto planes that could potentially not match that same environment.

I’ve developed a technique for allowing players to traverse slopes, stairs, or any amount of reasonable vertical movement in VR by taking advantage of the fact that instantaneous travel has some comfort benefits. It also allows you to keep people in room-scale experiences reasonably close to the floor of the game environment. We’ve been calling it Dynamic Slope Quantization internally.

Our Method

Our VR camera is attached to an in-game object that represents the real-world floor of the player; let’s call it the floor component. That floor component is attached to a capsule, which is our character representation and moves around the in-game environment.

[Graphic courtesy of Derrick Robinson]

As the player walks around their room in VR, we are constantly moving that player capsule to match an equivalent in-world position if possible. When we move that capsule, we have to offset the floor component attached to it by the opposite of the movement of the capsule. This ensures that the VR camera doesn’t compound movements and that the capsule “syncs” up to the player’s real-world position. This also includes offsetting the height that the capsule moves. The effect is that you’re walking on a flat floor. If you didn’t offset the player location, you would have a constant movement effect, the capsule would never truly match the real-world player location, and you’d get a roller coaster feeling when going up and down the in-game environment.

At this point, you’ll want to sum up all the vertical distances that the capsule has moved. Then, you’ll want to figure out a height that you want the resynchronization of the floor and capsule to occur. We chose 20 cm which feels pretty good. Once this distance has been crossed by the capsule, you take the floor component and snap it back into the capsule where it would normally reside. This should be wherever we’d expect the floor to be in-game. That’s all it should take for the effect to work.

Here’s some pseudo-code to give you an idea of what that would look like. This code example uses Unreal Engine 4 structures but should be easy to implement in your environment.


//Code to move capsule to where the HMD is located
//CapsuleTravel is added to over time to keep track of how far
//the capsule has moved over several updates
float CapsuleTravel = 0.f;

//Find the HMD location in the Game World Space
FVector HMDPosition = GetHMDPositionInGameWorld();

//Find the Player Capsule location in the Game World Space
FVector CapsulePosition = GetCapsulePositionInGameWorld();

//Build a game world movement vector to tell the movement component where to move.
//There are probably more efficient ways to do this, but it works for these purposes.
FVector MovementDirection = (HMDPosition - CapsulePosition) * FVector(1,1,0);

//Move the character.
MoveCharacter(MovementDirection);

//AFTER PLAYER HAS MOVED to be where the HMD is located. This ideally would happen before the
//player would see anything.
FVector UpdatedCapsuleLocation = GetCapsulePositionInGameWorld();
//Find the vertical distance the capsule traveled after moving to match the HMD.
float HeightDelta = UpdatedCapsuleLocation.Z - CapsulePosition.Z;

//Accumulate the total vertical distance the capsule has traveled.
CapsuleTravel += HeightDelta;

//If the distance goes over the vertical distance threshold, go ahead and snap the floor component back into it’s default relative location.
if(FMath::Abs(CapsuleTravel) >= VerticalThreshold) // We chose VerticalThreshold to be 20cm.
{
    ResetHMDVerticalHeight();
}
//If we haven’t crossed the vertical distance threshold, we need to offset the floor component
//by the amount the capsule traveled to prevent the player’s HMD from also moving vertically.
//We also want to offset the floor by the amount the player capsule was told to move to make sure it only moved the amount we told it to
//and not double it.
else
{
    FloorComponent.AddWorldOffset(FVector(-MovementDirection.X,-MovementDirection.Y,-HeightDelta));
}

In order to keep the player as close to the floor as possible, you’ll want to sneak in floor height resets when possible and comfortable. For example, I found it worked well to immediately sync the floor height when the player begins to smooth-move and then to not quantize the player’s floor height until the player stops smooth-moving. Upon the player’s execution of teleporting or snap turning is also a good opportunity to reset the player floor height.

While we want to make sure everyone is comfortable playing our games, for our future VR games, we see this feature as a comfort option. We hope this little trick can help VR developers make their environments with fewer compromises, and not have to worry about the consequences for people who are susceptible to motion sickness in VR.

 

-Karl Johnson

Senior Software Engineer

twitter:@smapty

AREA MAN LIVES takes on Boston 

Hey all! Ryan from Cyan Ventures here, and I’m excited to be back from Boston with incredible things to talk about. Since we have returned, the Numinous Team has been actively working on multiple aspects of AREA MAN LIVES. In this post I’ll introduce you to the team and discuss some of the highlights of our trip. Let’s get rolling…

This was my second time in Boston. You might remember a group of us from Cyan travelled to  PAX last year to show Firmament in the Kickstarter Forest and help the Eagre team with ZED. As a person who generally stays on the west coast, let me say, I love Boston. 

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A Window Into Cyan’s R&D Efforts for Firmament

Cyan has a strong history of pushing the boundaries visually with each game we produce, and the work we’re doing with our latest project- Firmament- is no exception. This often means that we have to engage in a fair amount of Research and Development to add functionality to the tools that we use. Here’s a video we recently put together with our Art Director Eric where he shows us some of the behind the scenes work it takes to make the world we’re building look as fantastic as possible!

Cyan's R&D Efforts

Firmament is an entirely new property – the beginning of another exciting new Cyan universe. It is a deeply immersive narrative adventure game for both VR and PC that is delivered using the state-of-the-art power of Unreal Engine 4. Firmament will be designed for VR on the Rift, Vive, PSVR, and Index, but will be completely playable on normal flat monitors on Windows, macOS, and PS4 as well.

As an aside, if you haven’t had a chance to back our campaign to help support the creation of Firmament, it’s not too late! We are still offering everyone a chance to get the game as well as the exclusive backer rewards we offered during the Kickstarter over at Fangamer. These rewards won’t be available once the game is released, and if you’re the sort of person (like us) who digs having a physical boxed version of the game (We see you! We hear you!) this is the ONLY time you’ll be able to get your hands on one!

From the Newsroom – February 2020

realMyst Masterpiece Edition for Nintendo Switch

realMyst: Masterpiece coming to the Nintendo Switch!

Last year we mentioned that realMyst was coming to the Nintendo Switch. Well the time is near and you can order a limited edition, starting February 28th! 

https://limitedrungames.com/products/switch-limited-run-63-realmyst

Remember, this is a Limited offer: Preorders close on Friday, March 27th at 11:59PM Eastern Time.

The e-shop digital release will be available soon. When we have more information on the digital release date, we will let you know. 

Cyan Ventures publishing a new game: AREA MAN LIVES

AREA MAN LIVES Logo

Numinous Games, the award winning studio that created “THAT DRAGON, CANCER”  is creating a new game called “AREA MAN LIVES” based on their previous release of a title named “Untethered.” 

For those unfamiliar with the project, “AREA MAN LIVES” sets the player in the hot seat as a small town radio show DJ. As the game begins, the on-air sign lights up, and the producer reminds the player that they have to speak, out loud, to begin the show. The player continues to interact with their voice, recording commercials and interviewing callers. They play records and pass the time with their odd-duck producer until their shift ends. Only when local townspeople start calling in does the player discover just how strange their coastal community can be. When the stakes are raised, can the player do anything to prevent the death of the area man who insists on saving the day?

Check out the full article, press release  and our merch page

Cyan Ventures will be at PAX East – Indie Megabooth

If you happen to be in Boston this coming weekend, come see us in the  INDIE MEGABOOTH section of PAX EAST!  We will be showing off an early version of AREA MAN LIVES and giving away some really fun items. Hope to see you there!

 

AREA MAN LIVES – A new collaboration between Numinous Games and Cyan Ventures

We announced Cyan Ventures with the belief that now is the time to explore the possibilities in VR storytelling. Our goal is to foster visionary game narratives from independent developers. It is for this reason we are excited to announce our next venture into this space.  

“AREA MAN LIVES” is a collaboration between Numinous Games the award winning studio that created THAT DRAGON, CANCER and Cyan Ventures This is a re-imagining and completion of a former title developed by Numinous Games named Untethered.

For those unfamiliar with the project, AREA MAN LIVES sets the player in the hot seat as a small town radio show DJ. As the game begins, the on-air sign lights up, and the producer reminds the player that they have to speak, out loud, to begin the show. The player continues to interact with their voice, recording commercials and interviewing callers. They play records and pass the time with their odd-duck producer until their shift ends. Only when local townspeople start calling in does the player discover just how strange their coastal community can be. When the stakes are raised, can the player do anything to prevent the death of the area man who insists on saving the day?

AREA MAN LIVES IS SLATED FOR A 2020 RELEASE AND WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR QUEST, RIFT, VIVE, INDEX AND A HANDFUL OF OTHER HEADSETS.

Full press release

Teaser Trailer via You Tube

Wishlist  via Steam

Join the discussion  –  Discord

Like Us  – Facebook

AML Merch 

From the Newsroom – January 2020

Upcoming Changes to the Myst Online Forum and Cyan Forum

Shorah Explorers!

Cyan has been going through a bit of a refresh lately and as a result, we have a few announcements to share with you regarding the future of the Myst Online forums, the Cyan forums, and future community discussions.

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Exploring in the Cyan Vaults #2

Rand recently handed me a stack of papers he thought I might be interested in…

‘You should put this in the newsletter. It’ll blow people’s minds!”

“Old invoices? Really?” I think…

“Not just old invoices. It’s the invoice for the dagger!”

Turns out Cyan commissioned M5 Industries to build the dagger that graces the lobby of Cyan HQ… and the prop itself was built by none other than one of our favorite makers in all the land: Mr. Adam Savage.

Here’s a link to Adam briefly talking about it during a podcast recording! [Very slight Riven ending spoilers by Adam!]

As he mentioned, the original intention was for the final scene of Riven’s “good ending” (where the giant dagger plummets into a newly opened rift) to be filmed live.

The work order contains the plans for not only the dagger, but the rift which was going to be built as 2 tables that could be pulled apart at the proper moment- letting the dagger plunge into the depths while cameras rolled.

In the end it was actually easier to create the final plummet in CG, but you don’t spend $4,000+ on a prop just to throw it away… so the full-sized dagger was re-purposed as a striking greeting for our HQ entryway!

One other bit of esoteric fun that we noticed was that it appears the folks at M5 Industries used a Mac to create their fax cover sheet… that’s very clearly the iconic ‘Chicago‘ font, created by the legendary designer Susan Kare being used. Amazing!

As an aside, this is no longer the location of M5 Industries (and the phone numbers are all disconnected as well), so if you have any notions of making a pilgrimage… please leave the poor folks that currently reside in the location now alone!