Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Uru: Ages Beyond Myst
Uru: Ages Beyond Myst was a computer game developed by Cyan Worlds and published by Ubisoft available on a single CD-ROM, featuring several diverse D'ni Ages designed in the style of the Myst game series. Although Uru and the Myst series share the theme of the D'ni civilization and culture, Uru takes place in the present time. Unlike previous games, where you play the role of a stranger who lived 200 years ago, in Uru you actually play yourself. The gameplay is more sophisticated than in previous Myst games, and the graphics are now in real-time 3D (cf. realMyst) rather than being pre-rendered stills. According to the creators Uru was inspired by Snow Crash, a book by Neal Stephenson that featured a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet.
Codenamed "DIRT" ("D'ni in real time"), then "MUDPIE" (meaning "Multi-User DIRT, Persistent / Personal Interactive Entertainment / Experience / Exploration / Environment") or "Parable", and later "Myst Online", Uru takes its players to "The Cleft," Atrus's childhood home in New Mexico, and invites them to "take the journey" to D'ni, and help the D'ni Restoration Council (DRC) rediscover the ancient civilization and its remains. As planned, Uru would not only feature a complete offline game ("Uru Prime"), but also an online component ("Uru Live") that would be constantly expanded. Alas Uru Live was cancelled shortly before it would have been launched, although it survives in part as Untěl Uru.
Uru uses the same engine as realMyst, known as Plasma . Cyan purchased this engine as part of the acqusition of Headspin, but the version in Uru is much more advanced than the one in realMyst. Plasma renders almost all objects on the screen, including most of the terrains and the avatars (which made it essential for Uru Live). In addition, Uru makes use of the Havok physics engine. Its use is especially noticeable when moving around objects on the floor, such as stones or pieces of wood. The use of the Havok engine apparently makes it hard to port Uru to the Macintosh platform, as Havok is currently not available for that system.
Puzzles remain a main theme in Uru. Uru Prime's puzzles are solvable by a single person, but Uru Live subscribers were able to solve the Uru Prime puzzles with others. Also, a few Uru Live-only puzzles required multiple persons to solve.
The story line to be played "out-of-the-box" is usually referred to as "Prime", and is usually played in single-player mode. In it, the player arrives near the Cleft, an earth gap next to a volcano. In front of the Cleft, a man who introduces himself as Zandi sits in front of his trailer, encouraging to you to discover the environment and to "join the exploration". Later, you stumble upon a hologram of Yeesha, Atrus' daughter, whose speech remains unclear throughout most of the Prime story, until she re-appears once you have travelled through various Ages, solving their puzzles. At the end, however, you are left uncertain whether you should have trusted Yeesha at all, or if she has actually abused your work for her own goals.
Uru Live was taken offline due to a lack of subscribers in early 2004. Cyan Worlds founder Rand Miller made the announcement to the Myst community on behalf of Ubi Soft and Cyan Worlds on February 4, 2004.
From the features it was meant to end up having, several — such as voice chat with fellow explorers or jointly-solved puzzles in new Ages — never saw the light of day in the public version, as the failure had already became apparent in the last of the several more or less public test runs, which took off much slower than planned in late November 2003.
Probably due to the preceding Ubisoft-run beta test from January to October 2003, the Uru Live idea created a massive following, causing many web sites to be launched, most of which are still very active trying in various manners to preserve what, in their eyes, made Uru Live unique and great. The sense of community was not just one of Uru Live's strenghts, but also the reason for the outcry and amount of anger amongst the fans after it had officially been put to bed.
Uru Expansion packs
Instead, two expansion packs for the Prime game were made: Uru: To D'ni, which mostly introduces the (formerly) online content to those who never had a chance to join Uru Live, thus focusing mostly on the City of D'ni, and Uru: The Path of the Shell, which extends the story of Prime and consists of multiple Ages that had not been seen before.
Uru: To D'ni
To D'ni tried to fill the gap created by the Uru Live's end by giving players — especially those who didn't manage to finish Live's content — access to the Ae'gura, Bevin, and Kirel neighborhoods, and the Great Zero which was used in much the same fashion as a GPS receiver when in the D'ni cavern. All had a damaged, incomplete feel, possibly as an Uru Live farewell message from Cyan to its fans. The story of To D'ni was very limited, although it featured some fan treats, like the many report notebooks about the kings of D'ni, and also journals by Douglas Sharper and Dr. Watson, in an attempt to finish off the idea of the D'ni Restoration Council.
Uru: The Path of the Shell
- "The gathered will tell the Path of the Shell"
Unlike the first expansion pack, Uru: The Path of the Shell was not free, but instead sold in two ways: as a boxed version in stores (either separately, or bundled with the Uru as The Complete Chronicles) as well as via paid internet download. All versions included To D'ni.
Shell was much more comprehensive in terms of new content than To D'ni. Also, instead of continuing directly where To D'ni ended, it picked up Yeesha's story, and featured several new Ages, such as Er'cana and Ahnonay, which were previously slated for a later introduction in Uru Live.
In August 2004, Cyan in cooperation with fan-based communities opened up Untěl Uru, where privately-owned, fan-run servers could be used to meet as if they were in Uru Live. Cyan stressed, however, that this was not Uru Live: there was to be no new content, bug fixes, or updates of any kind. In fact, Cyan has revealed that "until" was actually intended to be two separate Sumerian words: "un," meaning people or community, and "til," meaning to live or keep alive. Thus, "Until Uru" means roughly "the community keeps Uru alive."
Untěl Uru provided the same content and errors as the public beta test (known as the Prologue), with two exceptions. First, server administrators have additional access (for example, cones and barriers in the style the DRC had put them up can be positioned inside the caverns). Second, voice chat, which was unavailable in the Prologue for technical reasons, has been re-activated. Other than that, the same content is available — Prime, the Ahyoheek and Gahreesen Wall mini-games, and the ability to access large parts of the city together.
"The word "Uru" means "city" in Sumerian and also has a side meaning of "deep", and, of course, anyone who knows our storyline knows it has to do with that deep city. One of the nice sidelines of that name is just how it's spelled, U-R-U ["you are you"]. It represents what we've always done with our worlds, which is not make you play a roleplaying game where we force you into being someone you're not, you really are you in this place, so that also is a nice little sideline of the name itself." - Rand Miller
- MystWorlds.com: The first stop for all things Myst!
- Uru: Ages beyond Myst website
- Until Uru, a compensation for the loss of Uru Live
- Uru: The Path of the Shell website
- Uru Complete Chronicles
- Former Uru Live website, now Ubisoft (Publisher)'s Hub web site for the Myst franchise, "mystworlds.com"
- Rand's letter to the community about the closing of Uru Live
- The Echo E-Zine
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