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How the classic puzzle game Myst came to Android

The last time I spent any time in Cyan Inc.'s Myst, the legendary 3D puzzler that remained the most successful PC game ever until The Sims debuted in 2002, I was barely nine years old, enamored with the prospect of sitting in front of a computer and clicking to travel between places and times. Myst, like so many games released in the early 90s, remains in my head as it was: simple, beautiful and exasperating, a feat of early computer game engineering.

The game comes to Android seven years after iOS, but thanks to recent graphical overhauls and a transition to the cross-platform Unity engine, it arrives more beautiful and immersive than ever.

Of course, 24 years later, to return to the original game would be impossible; there have been so many iterations since then, from graphics- and sound-improving remasters to mobile adaptations, the original seems almost quaint. And yet the brothers behind the game, Rand and Robyn Miller, who began development of the classic back in 1990, believe Myst's primary gameplay still shines, even as it finds itself debuting on another platform, Android, after yet another remastering.

"I'm still as enamored with Myst as I ever was," Rand Miller told me in a phone interview. "Myst was designed to be simple, and in transitioning to touch [on a smartphone or tablet] it loses a layer of abstraction." The game comes to Android nearly seven years after it debuted on iOS, but thanks to two recent graphical overhauls and a transition to the cross-platform Unity engine, it arrives more beautiful and immersive than ever.

The game itself isn't necessarily the one you'll remember from the early days of whirling 1x CD-ROMs. It's realMyst, an adaptation originally released in 2000 that added real-time movement to the stillness of the original; a true adventure game rather than a series of vignettes. The assets and locations are all the same, but in realMyst you actually walk between them — something that wasn't possible with the extremely limited hardware of the early 90s.

"When we were first porting our own games to Android, back in the early days, device parity was so crazy... it scared off most developers at the time."

To undertake the transition to Android, Cyan called on renowned Saskatchewan-based mobile publisher, Noodlecake (opens in new tab), to do the heavy lifting. Noodlecake, which has carved out a niche as the publisher entrusted with bringing prime iOS exclusives to Android — games like Alto's Adventure (opens in new tab), Chameleon Run (opens in new tab), Punch Quest (opens in new tab), Wayward Souls (opens in new tab), and Sage Solitaire (opens in new tab), which may not have come to Android at all other — found the game to be in good condition after the Unity conversion, said COO Ryan Holowaty.

Holowaty said that Cyan approached his company to port both realMyst and Riven, which will come to Android devices in the coming months, because of their reputation in deftly handling Android ports, a task daunting for many other publishing houses. "When we were first porting our own games to Android, back in the early days, device parity was so crazy — and we ran into a lot of problems. That's what scared off most developers at the time. There were too many devices to support, and they didn't know how to optimize the games [that were originally coded in Objective-C].

"Now, the specs and the hardware have balanced out, and it's a bit easier to be confident that a game will run great across multiple devices... but we developed a reputation for being the place for iOS developers to bring their games to Android."

Holowaty acknowledged that not all game ports are financially successful, but the relationships Noodlecake creates, along with the long-term success of the gaming franchise for the original publisher, is worth the trade-off. He noted that, with a game like Alto's Adventure, which debuted as a paid title on iOS, developer Snowman accepted Noodlecake's suggestion to make it free-to-play on Android. Some iOS developers, especially smaller teams, don't have the resources to bring their titles to Android, but feel it necessary from an imaging perspective to have the game present on both major gaming platforms. That's where Noodlecake shines.

The publisher also enjoys the feedback loop by having a number of high-profile titles living in one place. On iOS, for example, popular retro platformer Punch Quest is published by its developer, Rocketcat; on Android, it lives next to Alto's Adventure and realMyst.

The adaptation to a fully 3D environment introduced a number of compromises he and his brother weren't necessarily ready for.

But Myst is unlike anything else in Noodlecake's repertoire. It's vast and epic and, while optimized for mobile devices, perhaps requires a bit more patience than the average mobile gamer possesses. The controls, while sensible, are still limited by the game's original mouse click-heavy navigation, and without the ability to strafe you'll be doing a lot of backing up away from walls as you endeavor to tap on a sconce or manipulate a lever that could be a clue as to why you're roaming a seemingly-empty world full of ethereal music and scratchy vocalizations.

Miller acknowledged this issue, saying the adaptation to a fully 3D environment introduced a number of compromises he and his brother weren't necessarily ready for. "We lived in those models back in those static days. Moving to real-time 3D, we found the biggest issue was some of the things were able to control in 2D, like setting up shots and putting people in exact positions where they were able to interact with things to keep them right on trails — we had to deal with that, by improving the interface and ensuring the navigation was intuitive."

Ultimately, the game, while still beautiful and eminently playable on Android, is not — and never will be — inherently attractive to a modern generation of gamers brought up on fast-paced twitch controls. That's a shame, because Noodlecake did a great job bringing the majesty of Myst, the game and the world, to Android, and at $6.99, it's a piece of gaming royalty you can pick up and take with you any time.

Download realMyst ($6.99) (opens in new tab)

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

  • Tempting. If the puzzles are the same as before may not be worth the $6.99 for those of us who have played the sh** out of this back in the day.
  • Not worth 7 dollars? I spend that on a sandwich.
  • That kind of puts things in perspective.
  • Right. Rather have the sandwich than a rehash of a game I played a lot back in the day.
  • I was there. Bought it on release day. Fecking awesome game. 7th guest was amazing too.
  • 7th guest was perfectly transported to Android. I love all those old games coming back to us. And as to solving the puzzles - I don't think I remember what I did back in the days, hahaha!
  • I am getting this when I get home from work today!! This time I hope it does not take me 3 or 4 years to solve the musical puzzle to unlock the Spaceship world.
  • Home, eat dinner, all set for work tomorrow, downloaded on my Galaxy Tab A 8", and ready to play!!
  • Funny, talked about the game with my wife just a couple weeks or so ago.
    Downloading right now!
    Great news!
  • Great item to add to family apps. Just over 9 cdn with taxes. About lunch money... ☺
  • Daniel Bader, how many articles per week do we need to see about vr porn? Enough already!
  • Uh might want to post on the right article, or something.
  • I have no interest in opening that article to post anything.
  • Surely you have an interest. You're posting about it.
  • Lol. Well said.
  • The non-interest involves opening the article, not in posting about it. I'll post in every other article if that helps bring attention. Grammar and reading comprehension provide immense help in reading the post to which you responded.
  • Bring attention to what, pray? What on earth do you have against vr porn? And why are you posting in such a snotty manner?
  • I wasn't responding to you, but to the guy above you...however, you call my response snotty but don't point out the phlegm that was in his and your posts? Lol Do you have something against prayer? Seems to me that our world would be a better place if we all stopped pursuing every one of our desires and help someone else out.
  • I'll have to check this out. Seems a bit pricey at $6.99 however... I'll have to see if I have my Myst cheat book I bought some thirty plus years ago.... I remember Myst as being really hard for me back as a young teen...
  • Think of it this way - you buy the game, no IAPs! Gotta love that...
  • Thanks Cyan! Now we need Riven.
  • Bought it before I even finished the article. Now if we can get some Red Alert games...obviously from the company that owns the rights to the games.
  • I think this is wonderful. I remember back in the day when Myst was the first game ever to be put on a CD-ROM. I loved it! I played all the games in the saga, I still have all the digitally remastered soundtracks, and I even have the Myst Reader in paperback and digital for my tablet. I am sure this version of Myst the puzzles will be the same - but no matter. It is the story, the atmosphere, and the mysticism (no pun intended). So, Cyan Worlds and Noodlecake will definitely be getting my $6.99! Myst set the bar all those years ago, and the ONLY apps that have come remotely close to immersive depth of the series has been The Room series of games. Funny thing - literally two days ago I was fussing around to see what great titles from the past were out there for the Android platform and I was dismayed that Myst was not there. Two days later, here it is! Live on, the Universe of Myst!
  • On a completely unrelated note, has anyone here played Phantasmagoria? I used to play that all the time in 1995-1996 and thought the graphics were Incredible!!! One of the first games to use live action footage i think. Anyway, back to Myst.......
  • I do remember that title vaguely...would have to see it again to stir the old noodle. I remember the live action Star Trek: Klingon and Star Trek: Borg from Simon & Schuster Interactive though...
  • I owned (may still have them stored) and played Myst, 7th Guest, Phantasmagoria, Klingon, and Borg. I used to really love all those live action style games. Had no idea that someone was porting any of these over to android. I'd love to see more of these classics given to smartphone treatment.
  • I remember Phantasmagoria: my then pre-teen daughter played it and it was a genuinely frightening experience for her. Now, if only someone would bring back Return to Zork...."Want some rye? 'Course you do."
  • Great game, great story, great universe. Can't wait to put it in the Family Library so my wife and kids can see what all the fuss has always been about.
  • Also, and maybe it's just me, but all of these games seem to be made for VR. Especially the Vive.
  • Just bought and installed it. I'm pleased with it so far.