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Myst IV: Revelation
Information about Myst IV: RevelationMyst IV: Revelation is the fourth installment in the Myst computer game series, developed and published by Ubisoft. Revelation was the first game in the series released exclusively on a DVD-ROM format; a multiple CD-ROM version was not produced as it would have taken twelve compact discs to fit all the data. Like Myst III: Exile (4 walls), Revelation combines pre-rendered graphics with digital video, but also features real-time 3D effects for added realism.
The plot of Revelation ties up loose ends from the original Myst. The player is summoned by Atrus, a man who creates links to other worlds known as Ages by writing special linking books. Almost twenty years earlier, Atrus' two sons nearly destroyed all of Atrus' linking books and were imprisoned; Atrus wishes to see if his sons' imprisonment has reformed them. The player ends up traveling to each brother's prison, in an effort to recover Atrus' daughter Yeesha from the brothers' plot.
Development of Revelation lasted more than three years; Ubisoft had as many as eighty employees working on the game. Musician Peter Gabriel lent his voice and a song to the game's audio; the original score was written by Exile's composer Jack Wall. Overall, reception to the game was positive; reviewers lauded the impressive visuals, sound, and puzzles. Publications such as Computer Gaming World took issue with the control scheme of the game. Revelation is the last game in the Myst series to use both prerendered backgrounds and full-motion video; the final game in the series, End of Ages, is rendered in real-time throughout.
GameplayMyst IV: Revelation is an adventure game in which the player experiences gameplay from the eyes of an unnamed protagonist. Players explore interactive worlds known as Ages by using the mouse or keyboard, solving puzzles and uncovering the game's narrative. Players cannot move freely across each Age; instead, as in the previous games in the Myst series, they travel by clicking set locations called "nodes", where players can rotate their view in any direction. Revelation also features a Zip Mode which allows a method of rapidly crossing explored areas by skipping intermediate nodes; areas that can be instantly traveled to are stored as thumbnail representations for rapid movement across Ages.
The mouse cursor helps to provide visual cues for player actions and movement. The cursor appears as a hand that changes depending on what the player is hovering the cursor over. For example, to move in a direction, the cursor changes to point in the intended direction. If players can view an item in greater detail, the cursor changes to a hand holding a magnifying glass. By clicking and dragging the cursor, the player performs actions such as pushing, pulling, and tapping items.
Revelation features several gameplay enhancements which aid puzzle solving and plot progression. Early in the game players receive a camera, which can be used to take screenshots or pictures (wallpaper) of clues. Players can use an on-screen journal to jot down notes instead of having to write down clues as with previous Myst games. Much of the game's story is revealed via flashbacks triggered by an amulet which has the power to relay memories attached to objects. Zip mode, the amulet, the camera, and the journal are available via a menu on the bottom of the game screen.
PlotAtrus calls the Stranger to his home to request his friend's assistance. Atrus is the writer of special books which serve as links to worlds known as Ages. Years earlier his two sons, Sirrus and Achenar, destroyed Atrus' linking books and imprisoned their parents in order to plunder the wealth of Atrus' Ages. The Stranger's intervention saved Atrus, who imprisoned his sons. As it has been twenty years since their imprisonment, Atrus' wife Catherine hopes they have finally repented for their crimes. Atrus is not as sure his sons have reformed, and so wishes the Stranger to act as an impartial judge. After an explosion knocks the Stranger unconscious, they realize that Yeesha, Atrus' daughter, has disappeared.
The Stranger sets out to find Yeesha. Traveling to the brothers' prison Ages of Spire and Haven, the Stranger discovers both have escaped their confinement. When the Stranger finds Yeesha again, Achenar appears and tells the Stranger not to free his sister. Achenar explains that his brother kidnapped Yeesha with the intent of switching minds with her, tricking Atrus and Catherine into teaching Sirrus the Art of writing Ages. Achenar insists that he has reformed and that he only escaped so that he could protect his sister. The ending to the game depends on the player's actions; in some endings, Sirrus succeeds in transferring his mind to Yeesha's body and dispenses with both the Stranger and Achenar. In the only good ending, the Stranger trusts Achenar and helps save Yeesha. Sirrus dies from the failed mind transfer, while Achenar is fatally poisoned by toxic fumes in order to save his sister. The Stranger returns Yeesha to her parents. Though pained by his sons' deaths, Atrus resolves to continue on and rectify his past mistakes by properly raising Yeesha.
DevelopmentWhen Mattel Interactive still owned the rights to the Myst series, development of Myst IV was contracted out to DreamForge Intertainment, developers of the game Sanitarium; Dreamforge was hired before Presto Studios was hired to develop Myst III: Exile. Dreamforge's Myst used real-time graphics, and was two years into development and twenty percent complete when Ubisoft, who had by this point acquired the rights to the series, cancelled the project and decided to restart development from scratch internally.
According to Genevieve Lord, Revelation's producer, concluding the story of the two brothers had originally been intended as the plot for Myst III, but due to a limited amount of time to develop the game, as well as to not interfere with Dreamforge's Myst game, whose plot details were still forming, the plot was dropped and then redeveloped when Ubisoft began work on Myst IV. Cyan, Myst and Riven's developer, set down "a certain number of rules" that Ubisoft had to follow, according to Lord, but otherwise the team was free to develop new ideas, keeping in the spirit of Myst lore.
Ubisoft's development of Revelation took over three years and more than eighty employees. Early on, the development team made the decision to use pre-rendered graphics for the game, to match the style of previous Myst games. This proved to be a challenge, as the studio had never developed a pre-rendered game before, and had to hire over fifty new employees who had experience in the field. Full production was started on the game before artistic direction and engine development tools were fully established, and the resulting lack of focus and communication meant that a bad working relationship existed between the game designers, programmers, and modellers for most of the production.
As an improvement over the prerendered technology present in Myst, Riven and Exile, Revelation uses its "ALIVE" engine to animate nearly everything in the game. The water animations, for example, are fully rendered for each location. The trees sway in the breeze, and the sky has moving clouds. Wildlife includes creatures that walk through the environment and occasionally interact with the player. The game also features a number of effects applied in real time, such as lens flares, dynamic lighting and an optional focal blur. In a trend started by the original Myst, the game uses live actors to play the game's roles in live-action video sequences. There are more than 70 minutes of video, and the game allows players to look around and interact with the video while it is playing.
ReceptionOverall, Revelation was received positively by critics; the game garnered 82% and 81% averages on aggregate sites Metacritic and Game Rankings, respectively; the Xbox version of the game received less favorable scores than the PC version.
As with previous Myst games, the visuals and interactivity of Revelation were singled out as the strongest features. Reviewers praised the use of subtle animations to bring the scenery to life; GameSpot's Greg Kasavin stated that the additions "truly helps make each scene in the game seem like more than just a panoramic picture, and instead it feels like a real place". Jack Wall's score and the sound design were consistently praised. The addition of the in-game camera and notes system was also positively received. PC Zone proclaimed that although it would have been easy for the developers to lose heart after the disappointing Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Ubisoft had instead produced "one of the most polished games" the reviewer, Paul Presley, had ever come across.
Certain reviewers criticized aspects of the gameplay that had not been fixed or altered from previous Myst titles. Computer Gaming World, for example, complained about having to hunt for the small hotspots which allowed actions to occur. A reviewer for The Houston Chronicle judged the method of traveling from node to node as tiresome to navigate. Another complaint was that the slow cursor animations made searching for actions occasionally tedious. Many publications noted the rather steep computer requirements; in addition to requiring a DVD-ROM drive, the game took up more than 7 gigabytes when fully installed. Charles Herold of The New York Times, the only mainstream critic with a negative view of Revelation's music, dismissed the score as "tediously literal."
Revelation would be the last Myst game that used prerendered graphics or full motion video. Cyan Worlds, the original developer of both Myst and Riven, used real-time rendered graphics for the next installment in the series, Myst V: End of Ages. Myst V was announced as the final game in the series.
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