Myst Online goes open source, fans to make their own worlds
When GameTap shut down the servers for MystOnline: UruLive earlier this year, it was a major disappointment for the small, but dedicated, fan base the game had acquired over the years. Those fans will now have a chance to shape the future of the game, as developer Cyan Worlds has announced that the source code for the title will soon be released, giving fans the ability to mold and update the now-open source game as they see fit.
UruLive has experienced a tumultuous existence since first being launched in 2003. The massively-multiplayer title was originally to be published by Ubisoft, which promptly left the project while it was still in beta. The game was kept alive on a number of fan-run servers for nearly three years, at which point it was picked up by GameTap. This deal continued until February of this year when GameTap dropped the game; however, in spite of all of these problems, the game has maintained a steady, loyal group of fans.
"Cyan has decided to... make MystOnline available to the fans by releasing the source code for the servers, client and tools for MystOnline as an open source project," Cyan Worlds CEO Tony Fryman told Spokane, WA paper Spokesman Review. "We will also host a data server with the data for MystOnline. More is still possible, but only with the help from fans."
According to Fryman, the developer simply does not have the funding or resources necessary to support MystOnlinein an official capacity. With such a strong connection to the property, giving the reins to the fans is a good way to keep the title from slipping into obscurity.
"After the shutdown of MystOnline with GameTap, we again were thinking of 'how can we keep the dream alive,'" Cyan CTO Mark DeForest, the man in charge of moving the game to open-source, told Ars. "Our first thoughts were to work on MystOnline on the side, get the servers up and with the help of those many talented fans, MystOnline could slowly grow back up to something viable. This was the MORE (MystOnline Restoration Experiment) project.
"Then the downturn in the economy hit. One of Cyan's revenue streams was indirectly affected by Wall Street and that dried up over night. This forced Cyan to put MORE on hold. So, again, how can we keep this dream alive?"
It's an interesting question, and Cyan found a brave answer. "After weighing several options, the only thing that made sense was to get those talented and skilled fans directly involved with MystOnline by opening the source to them."
"I think there are many reasons (why the game has such a steadfast fanbase)," DeForest explained. "In my opinion, I think because UruLive/MystOnline is still a very unique virtual world experience and these fans do see that promise. Most MMOGs focus a lot on the 'game' part and not on the experience part, after all that is what is currently making money... But this group of core fans see that underlying experience part that they want to keep alive." Given the long-running support that MystOnline has received from fans for several years, it seems as though the game will be in good hands. Currently there is no word on when the game tools will be released, though Fryman expects it to happen "quickly."
Where will the game go from here? It's up to the fans. After the release of the code and tools, they're welcome to do whatever they'd like with it. "I'm not sure I can predict where UruLive/MystOnline will be in the future," Deforest told Ars. "But our hope is that it becomes something bigger than even we have ever thought of."