In pictures: Inside Cyan's 'Myst Vault,' the living history of Myst and Riven

Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

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I recently drove out to the Spokane, Washington headquarters of Myst creator Cyan Worlds to talk about their upcoming game Obduction. You can read my preview here, and a deep-dive Q&A about the Obduction development process here.

While I was at Cyan's offices, however, I thought I'd take a look around the studio and peek into the fabled "Myst Vault." I return bearing pictures and, in some cases, stories from Myst co-creator Rand Miller—like, for instance, that MythBuster Adam Savage was once unknowingly involved with the studio, or how Rand Miller really feels about The 7th Guest, or the book that inspired Myst's iconic tome.

You'll find that and much, much more below.

Cyan's entrance

Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

RAND MILLER, Myst co-creator: I don't know if we'd be alive if Myst hadn't built this house. Not paying rent...having it paid for and having a space to work, it means your expenses are so much lower. The small indie guys that have to rent space, that's a huge chunk of change. I mean, you're here when we've kind of fixed up the grounds again and cleaned the place up, but for years it was pretty slim pickings.

I mean, we didn't even run the sprinklers for a couple years and stuff just collected. We still had people doing stuff because I think we were, at that point...One of the smartest things we ever did was get the rights to the software to revert back to us, to get the IP to revert back to us. Any indie that can pull that off is smart. You can't always do it, but. The publisher's always right in perpetuity.

Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

With Broderbund we said "Well, how about a long time but not in perpetuity. I don't even remember how long it was, but it was probably ten years or fifteen years. And they were thinking "Ah, we'll have milked it by then." But it was great for us because ten or fifteen years later the mobile market was coming up, and we were like "Oh man, if we could just convert some of these we could at least get bootstrap money to fund a little here, build up a couple people." It's worked, which is nice. We came back from the brink. It feels good. The place is in a little bit better repair, and we're just doing what we can.

Adam Savage and the enormous dagger

This is sweet. That the end of Riven there's this sequence where the whole world is destroyed, everything collapses, and we've got all these workstations and all this incredibly expensive hardware and software, but we're thinking, "Well, destroyed worlds are so many particles. We should do a real version of it. Just a small miniature version." And this big Riven dagger falls down like [explosion noise] and dust should fly up.

Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

So the art department's like "Okay, someone make the Riven dagger and we'll just build out all this dirt everywhere. So Tony gets in touch with some prop guys in the Bay Area and has that sent up, and by the time we got that the CG guys had already been like "We did a mock-up, I think we can do it all in CG. Let's just do it in CG."

But that was still...Sweet prop! We'll hang that up! But then what we find out is that...Eric Anderson, our art director, he sends around this video. Come to find out that it was basically Jamie and Adam, the MythBuster guys, who he called, back when they were still a prop company. And it was Adam who built this thing. He says it in an interview, "I don't play many games but I built this cool crazy dagger thing for those guys." And we didn't know! It's hanging here and we're like "What?! That thing's special now! We thought it was just a cool-looking dagger!"

Concept art

Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

RM: This is concept art by either Robyn [Miller] or Richard Vander Wende on Riven. This is stuff they...Oh my goodness the Riven stuff, you can see a lot of the evolution. It's kind get to see the way brains are working. The original espresso machine or whatever it's called. You can see the different variations. This is all stuff we originally threw out, and my brother Robyn pulled it out of the trash cans and said "Yeah, we should keep this." It's nice to have it here.


Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

ERIC ANDERSON, Art Director: Uru, during the early days, we were having a hard time trying to figure out what the heck the city itself looked like. We were having a hard time wrapping our brains about it. And we were working with some architects who suggested "Maybe we can get some clay and work some stuff out." So for a few days several of us on the team who were going to build the city mocked it up, and this is the result.

Clothing, Part 1

Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

RM: These are two of the costumes from Riven. The cool thing about this is we designed these...We had money for Riven, obviously, which was sweet. But we don't know how to get costumes designed. So Tony, who's our president now, called around because he was the producer for the thing, and found the Seattle Opera and who made clothing and costumes for the Seattle Opera. We sent them sketches, we'd send them sketches that were not as detailed as this, and then it comes back, we're like "Oh this is so cool they sewed shells and beads into this and all this detail into this thing." That was really an eye-opener because all we'd done was Myst. You know, small-scale. So it was kind of fun having all the extra fun stuff.

Cyan Worlds Studio Tour

These Myst III: Exile action figures were sitting nearby.

My brother was in one of these. John Keston was this 70-year-old marathon runner who played Gehn in that costume. He was like the perfect casting, he was so good. I did Atrus, and I don't even think we have an Atrus costume. I think at the last minute we went in San Fran, we were filming at Blue Screen Studios in San Fran, and we just went to some local costume theater place and picked up a bunch of costumes, and then had to return it later, so we don't have any of the Atrus stuff.

Keep reading for the inspiration behind the Myst book, Gehn's gun, and much more.

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