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CEO and co-founder of Cyan Worlds Rand Miller was kind enough to talk with 80.lv about upcoming Obduction project and the future of modern video games. We’re thrilled to talk with the creator of Myst about modern game technology, partnership with the publisher and the financing of big adventure games.
How does Cyan survive in games industry for such a long time? It’s been almost thirty years!
I think it’s been about being flexible and efficient when we needed to be. We’ve been a company as small as two people and as large as 62 people, and we’ve managed to adjust that size, and projects as necessary. We definitely have had a few close calls, but we’ve managed to pick up projects when we needed to. Our Obduction team has some new faces and some veterans, but I think everyone here knows what Cyan represents and enjoys doing it.
How is Obduction different from previous Myst games and how is it the same?
Obduction is more about taking the feeling of Myst — that feeling of suddenly finding yourself in a unfamiliar setting and situation and giving you the freedom to explore to find out what went on, and what part you might play. Obduction embraces that feeling of Myst, but it does so with a new storyline – unrelated to the Myst universe.
What makes Unreal Engine 4 so good for developing big-budget open adventure games?
We needed an engine that was cutting edge enough that it had all the latest technology integrated, but it also needed to be mature enough to be stable and reliable for efficient development and quick development cycle. The Unreal Engine has been a really good choice.
How big is the upcoming game exactly? Do you have any troubles sustaining the original vision?
The scope is large — we were anticipating a Myst sized adventure, and it’s much more Riven sized. Our design changed through numerous iterations. We have added our own funds to the Kickstarter funding and we’ll have just enough to finish — with nothing to spare. So we’re constantly looking for areas to optimize or reduce — and on a regular basis we find things that we can edit that end up actually making the game better. We’re still looking for additional funding for a few reasons — not the least of which is that it would be nice to have some resources to market Obduction as well.
Have you tried working with the publisher to finance the game’s development? What are the pros and cons of working with a publisher for a company like Cyan, which is obviously bigger than most indie developers?
We’ve certainly worked with numerous publishers through the years. The pros are the funding. The cons are the strings attached and the broken promises. We almost signed with a publisher for Obduction, but at the 11th hour things didn’t work out. In some ways it was a good thing — allowed us to tighten Obduction up, polish a few rough edges, and have something even more finished to show around. We definitely have some new potential for partnering to help fill some holes and make sure that Obduction is as good as it can be.
How does the production process work in Cyan?
We start with the overall concept, and from there the design proceeds very architecturally. We draw physical, top-down, maps of the worlds as they are designed, with notes that document the story and puzzles. For Obduction we quickly massed the game to get a feel for scale, and then implemented many of the puzzles to get a feel for scope – and allow for early testing. Using the latest technology has definitely enabled our small team to do much more in much less time.
What’s your attitude towards modern adventure games?
I love the creative indie resurgence that is pushing the creativity of a whole new range of adventure games. I think the large publishers are less inclined to take risks with creative new ideas, and the indie developers become a kind of proving grounds where new ideas can spring up and encourage new ideas higher up the chain. My only regret about modern adventure games is that they’re called “adventure games” — that legacy description seems to categorize things in a way that doesn’t do justice to the many diverse and creative interactive experiences that are coming from the indie developers.
Now with the abundance of amateur developers more and more game appearing, where do you think the industry will go?
I think we’re on the verge of some exciting new interactive entertainment. As the small indies drive more creativity, some of them will have success and grow to large middle-sized creative studios. The large studios will be inspired to add new creative forms to their larger AAA productions. In many ways it feels like a natural process of an industry growing up – with many similarities to the motion picture industry. There is plenty of room for many diverse kinds of interactive entertainment.
What’s the tentative release window for Obduction?
We’re shooting for a release in the second quarter of 2016, primarily via digital distribution on Mac and Windows. With further relationships with partners the distribution methods and platforms could broaden.
Thanks to Rand Miller for his time. Can’t wait to play some Obduction in 2016.
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.