Pixelhunter – Obduction

Wandering around mysterious islands for kicks has been in fashion since at least as long ago as Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, but videogames took it to a whole new level, finding in their isolated, overgrown settings a perfect microcosm of a game world with a natural boundary and a contained sense of mystery; Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider being but two recent manifestations of this in the mainstream. Yet whether it’s the survivalist drama of Miasmata, the bleak meditation of Dear Esther, or the psychedelic quirkiness of Proteus, the island setting has been fully embraced by Indies. It’s this sense of mystery that Jonathan Blow hopes to harness in his forthcoming puzzle game The Witness, a game that has been unsurprisingly compared to the king of all island puzzle games: Myst.

Now Cyan, the developers of that pioneering game, which became the best selling PC game of the twentieth century, are looking to reclaim that territory by turning to crowd funding for their new project, Obduction. There may be no island specifically, although I suppose you can count the weird alien landscape you find yourself in after being abducted as a similarly hermetically sealed ecosystem.

they were surprised that adventure games fell out of favour so thoroughly and so quickly.

Just as the new game seeks to be a spiritual successor to the company’s older game, its creator, Rand Miller, is attempting to recapture the feeling you got when you first found yourself on the jetty of Myst Island. As of the end of their Kickstarter they have just over a million dollars to achieve it.

Apparently Obduction is a game that Cyan has had on the back burner for a long time. An interview with Polygon outlines how they were surprised that adventure games fell out of favour so thoroughly and so quickly. They’ve spent the best part of the last decade tweaking and reissuing their original creations on a variety of platforms, like a former football star polishing his trophies and unable to move on, so it’s good to see them finally working on a new IP.

Or perhaps they’ve just been biding their time, confident that the genre would have its time in the sun again. Rand Miller’s pitch video contains the now familiar complaint of publishers not being interested in niche projects, a state of affairs that has resulted in Kickstarter fast becoming the de facto source for designers to bring old fashioned or left field ideas to market.

Looks like we’re not in Uru anymore…

The game is being made using Unreal Engine 4, to create the kind of rich, immersive landscapes Cyan were once famous for – indeed when Myst first appeared in 1993 its graphics were considered to be state of the art. This is thankfully accompanied by a move to real time 3D, although there will interestingly be a legacy ‘slideshow’ style mode for nostalgia purposes or to ease fans who may not have played a game since Myst into the twenty first century. One can only imagine that the experience of a non gamer coming to Obduction would be perfectly analogous to the fish out of water experience it seems the protagonist will have. Cyan seeks to allow the player to tease the story out of the world through interacting with it rather than dish it up in cinematics and audiologs.

The Kickstarter will be closed by the time this is posted, with the game meeting its target and then some, and expected to ship in late 2015. In the meantime for your island wandering needs I recommend Another Code by Studio Cing or the Dragonborn expansion for Skyrim, or, you know, just treat yourself to a holiday.






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