The original Myst was one controversial game. It broke ray-traced 3D graphics into the mainstream, became the reason for people to buy CD-ROMs when they first came out, and completely broke every expectation that people had about video games. To this day, the Myst series remains the ultimate accomplishment of creating an absorbing, immersive virtual world. But half the gamers out there today still say they hate it.
Now Cyan has announced their plans to open-source Myst-Online. This is becoming a cliche for projects that take too long to finish and lose momentum. Sometimes it’s the project’s salvation; getting the community involved and letting users take part in the process of shaping it takes care of those blind spots that the company missed, when they didn’t know what the users wanted. Sometimes it’s also the kiss of death; open source projects are harder to monetize and tend to die off after giving birth to their own successor.
3D gaming remains out of reach for the web. The best you can hope for is pre-rendered ray-traced scenes; a 3D first-person shooter even on the level of Half-Life just isn’t doable from a web browser. Even our best Flash, AJAX, and Java technology seems to be incapable of doing more than puzzle games and flat-map games. And before anybody says ‘Second Life’ or ‘Spore’ – that’s running on your PC, with a web connection to a server, same as any MMORPG. And it doesn’t have near the polygons.
We have to wait for computers to get more powerful, but whoops, right at the peak time for the market, computers are slimming down, into notebooks and UMPCs. So when, if ever?