Myth-fan game The Ages of Ilathid is an upcoming adventure game that will bring nine new ages to the Myth universe and further expand this popular series. What made this project interesting to us is the fact that the authors of Myst gave their official seal of approval, making this a more official project than just a mod for this legendary adventure title.
In order to find what's going on we shot couple of questions to Jennifer Parsons and Paulo Monteiro, leaders of the team working on the game.
BSN*: Greetings Jennifer, could you introduce yourself to the readers of Bright Side of News* and tell us how did this project start, who were the initial crew and what was the main motivation behind it?
Jennifer: [explain early history of Ages of Ilathid here, Paulo?]... I myself joined Ages of Ilathid two years back as a concept artist and eventually ended up as "de facto project leader." I still prefer to think of myself as Paulo's secretary. ;]
Paulo: *walks into the room with white coat and stethoscope on* Oh, hello. I'm Paulo Monteiro, the original Project Leader of TAOI. I'm on leave from the project as of now, since I'm currently an intern at medical school, but I hope to be back soon. Jennifer is doing a magnificent job of holding the fort.
Ilathid started in early 2004, based on ideas that were kicking about in my head from long before that. We had a few major storyline rewrites since that time, thanks mainly to Kelly Christiansen and Elyse Arner, both of which are no longer with us. The main motivation was to homage Cyan with a game that was on par with Riven, but many other things appeared since then - one motivation now is to give fans of the Myst Universe and of the adventure genre in general something they haven't had for a long time.
The initial crew, as far as I can remember, has as core members Chris Maroglou [Programming], Joel Ronvël [mainly 3D, but he can do everything, including holding the fort alone when I'm away], Heidi Richter [Amazing 2D art and concepts], Kelly Christiansen [she's the author of several novels, under the alias crystalwizard, worked at Storyline], Vera Yatsula [again, 2D art], Alex Coblentz [Music - you can see some of his work in the demo], Eric Burnett [concepts, art and hosting]. They came with me from Verenia, a project that had recently closed down and on which I held the post of 3D artist. Its postmortem, which I co-authored is available at Verenia's Post Mortem page and is an excellent aid for new devs, showing them the most common mishaps in a volunteer project.
BSN*: Except the game style - what are the connections to the Myst universe, is it a continuation of already established story or something new?
Jennifer: Ages of Ilathid is set right before Myst III: Exile. The game's character--you--are a D'ni survivor who is searching for Linking Books within the ruins of the Cavern of the D'ni, sent by Atrus himself. After becoming trapped in a room when the ceiling collapses, the player's only option is to find his/her way out through a hidden Linking Book that leads to another world. As the game progresses, the player encounters familiar Myst elements [linking book travel, the Art of Writing, and other elements of the D'ni culture] set against the background of the completely original civilization of Ilathid. The game's storyline deals with entirely new characters; this is necessary both to avoid potential conflicts with Cyan Worlds' canon and because the eventual plan is to use live actors and it would be difficult to find look-alike substitutes for Atrus, Catherine and other previously seen Myst characters.
Typical Myst scenery is back...
Paulo: It is a spinoff, as Jen described, meaning that while the story has strong roots in the Myst universe, it quickly becomes semi-independent save for a few key elements, like the basics of D'ni culture [the Myst universe's main civilization], and, of course, the concept of Linking Books, the almost-magical books that transport you to the worlds they describe. Other than that, we stay away from the Myst storyline, not only because it's finished, but so as not to interfere with any possible future works from Cyan set in the Myst/D'ni universe.
BSN*: Are you making a game just for Myst fans or one that you would like to play yourself?
Jennifer: Both! Our game targets all adventure and fantasy game lovers, especially if you like puzzles and a good story. You certainly don't have to be a Myst fan to enjoy playing it, although if you are it will be even more fun. It's a balance; we try to stay true to the spirit of the Myst games [in particular Riven], but we nevertheless make sure to keep the interests of the general gaming public in mind. It's important that someone who has not played any Myst games before will be able to pick up our game and not miss out on or be confused by what's going on. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they should be able to pick up the game and not be any more confused than a Myst player would be anyway. ;)
Paulo: I believe that I'd never make a game or any other kind of entertainment that wasn't pleasing to me, personally. Mind you, that can be a mistake if you don't let the game evolve with the ideas and work of all collaborators, if you let only your ego to drive the game - it becomes too artificial and uninteresting to others. For example, the graphics you see in the trailers weren't like that on the start, the concept evolved much, and they improved greatly. Those that least improved were those that least evolved. So I only prune ideas when they become incompatible with the very essence of the game [like making it multiplayer, for example].
All aboard the crazy train...
BSN*: What are the platforms you targeted for running Ages of Ilathid? Windows are probably a given, what about Linux or Mac OSX?
Jennifer: We are targeting Windows and Mac. We originally wanted to make a version for Linux as well, but we couldn't find any Linux programmers who were interested...
BSN*: Do you use your own tools to create the game or some already available on the market?
Jennifer: The only software we use which is not generally available to the public is the game's engine, based on the open source engine Pyzzle, made on the Python Programming Language. It has, however, been reworked dozens of times and still will be, until we can make it fully multi-platform.
Continued and Concluded on the next page.
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