If you haven’t ever heard of Myst, much less Riven, then we don’t know what to tell about adventure gaming in general. Though the point and click adventure genre owes as much of its success to Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry, Full Throttle and other classic titles, it also owes its popularity to Myst. The game’s gorgeous visuals and intriguing story helped bring more awareness to the adventure genre, even if it’s abstract puzzles led to much frustration. After several years of traditional Myst titles, Rand Miller is returning to the adventuring forefront with Obduction developed by Cyan, Inc. Though it can be considered a spiritual successor to Myst, Obduction is very much its own mysterious beast.
GamingBolt spoke to Miller about the game’s origins, the mechanics Obduction will use in this age of choice-based adventure titles, development on Unreal Engine 4 and much more.
"There’ll be plenty of switches and knobs. Designing Myst-like adventure games involves a lot of work trying to make the puzzles feel like they belong in the world – not just arbitrary or contrived."
It’s been a long time since the Miller brothers came together for an honest to goodness Myst title. How does it feel, especially with the support received through Kickstarter?
Rand Miller: It’s a great feeling to be working on a larger project that will give players the same feeling that Myst did. Although my brother has only a limited roll in Obduction (live action actor and music composition and performance) we really enjoy working together and hope to have some even larger projects we can work on in the future.”
What occupied your time after the Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and before Obduction?
Rand Miller: We primarily kept busy by converting some of our legacy games onto the mobile platform. It provided a small income to keep things going, and was a great way to stay up on the latest platforms and engines.”
Obviously it’s a new age of adventure games with various properties like Telltale Games’ IPs, Square Enix’s Life is Strange and even first person titles like SOMA and Outlast reinventing things. Will you try to adopt the design philosophy of Myst and Riven for a new generation or go in a completely different direction?
Rand Miller: We’re definitely not trying to re-invent anything with Obduction. It’s meant to be an entirely new storyline, unrelated to Myst, but with the same feeling of exploration and discovery.”
Personally, I remember back in 2001 when Myst III: Exile was all about manipulating switches and knobs and various buttons in order to progress. What kinds of puzzles will Obduction look to bring forth?
Rand Miller: There’ll be plenty of switches and knobs. Designing Myst-like adventure games involves a lot of work trying to make the puzzles feel like they belong in the world – not just arbitrary or contrived. But it means that we build puzzles around the items that people can understand and connect with other items – turning power on, opening a door, powering an elevator, learning how to start a complex device, looking at the environment and seeing what might affect something in a way that allows you to progress. We’ve got all of those things in Obduction, in a very diverse and unexpected environments.”
"UE4 has been vital in helping us be incredibly productive with a very small team. We’re attempting to put together a really large gaming experience with a small, and very talented team of artists and programmers."
What will the theme of Obduction be like? Is there anything you can tell us about the story past the initial abduction?
Rand Miller: We don’t like to give too much away, because the discovery is the reward — finding out what is over the next hill is a essential part of what makes playing a game like Obduction satisfying. Beyond the initial abduction the player finds themselves in some very unusual and complex places that will take plenty of exploration and investigation to understand.
How has Unreal Engine 4 helped in crafting the wide expansive environments that Obduction is pushing? What are your thoughts on its uses for lighting and ambient occlusion?
Rand Miller: UE4 has been vital in helping us be incredibly productive with a very small team. We’re attempting to put together a really large gaming experience with a small, and very talented team of artists and programmers. We don’t have any room for inefficiency. Our team has been able to make the most of UE4 to insure that everyone who contributed to this project is getting the most bang for their buck. It’s amazing to see how much we’ve been able to accomplish!
It’s been two years now since Obduction was funded on Kickstarter. What is the current state of development and when can fans look forward to playing the game?
Rand Miller: We’re shooting for a release in the 2nd quarter of 2016.
Robyn Miller has been working on the game’s soundtrack – and many will agree that this catered immensely to the ambiance in Myst and Riven. What are your thoughts on the music thus far and what goals were kept in mind for the sound design?
Rand Miller: Robyn has only just started creating the soundtrack, but we’ve already received a couple pieces for one of our worlds. It’s wonderful to see what his music adds to the environment – the emotion, the tension, the relief — it’s already adding so much to the experience. Our goals are the same for Obduction music — that the music and environments should work together — driving and enhancing each other, without ever getting in the way.
"We’re interested in building the most immersive worlds we can — and when we walk around in a VR version of Obduction it provides an entirely new level of immersion. We’re very excited about VR."
What are your plans for Obduction down the road? Will it become a whole new franchise like Myst?
Rand Miller: That would be great, but it’s not really up to us.
Will Obduction be coming to consoles at any point? Is there any interest in developing for Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U?
Rand Miller: Yes. We’ve already done some successful tests with consoles.
What is your take on DX12 and the possible improvements it can bring to games development? Furthermore do you think it will be adopted quickly by developers?
Rand Miller: At this point we’re concentrating on UE4 and getting the most out of what it has to offer. As Epic is able to take advantage of advances downstream we (and plenty of other developers) will get a boost.
Do you think DX12 will help out consoles in anyway?
Rand Miller: Eventually all graphic advances work their way through everything. Sooner or later!
What is your take on the whole VR thing that is going on and do you have any plans to support it?
Rand Miller: We’re interested in building the most immersive worlds we can — and when we walk around in a VR version of Obduction it provides an entirely new level of immersion. We’re very excited about VR.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Rand Miller: Thanks for your time.