End of Uru

Myst Online: Uru Live is being shut down less than 24 hours from now. I report this with some sadness and some frustration — frustration because I only learned today that this was going to happen. If I had heard the news when it was first announced two months ago, I would have made more effort to experience it while I could.

I actually registered an account on Uru a few months ago, shortly after completing Myst V, but never got around to playing it much: it seemed like there was a lot of ground to cover to catch up to where the regulars were, and I just didn’t feel like I had the time. Also, it seemed like a lot of the new content was best done with a group — things that would involve running around to a sequence of points on a very tight time limit if tackled alone, but which a group could handle trivially just by stationing people in the right places before the timer starts. I never got deep enough into the social aspect of the game to join or organize groups to for this purpose, and also had the handicap that I was a latecomer who wanted to see the stuff most players were already bored with.

Nonetheless, I intended to sit down and play through the whole thing at some point, and now may never have another chance. As a completist, this limited opportunity of access to content has always bothered me about online games. From what I saw, Uru was actually unusually completist-friendly as online games go, keeping previous Episodes accessible like a stack of magazines in the attic. But such a stack, unlike the Stack, is not under the control of its players. I know that I probably won’t actually complete every game I’ve started during my lifetime, but I like to think that I still could reopen any particular one if I choose. It seems like there are two different mindsets here: Some people are more inclined to see games as events akin to live performances, something you participate in, but which then passes, along with its moment. Others approach them more like books, something that can be stored and returned to. The performance attitude may be more realistic: ultimately, everything is transient. But how transient is often up to us. In my lifetime, cinema has transitioned from a transient medium to an archivable one. Sometimes it seems like games are going the other way.

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3 Comments so far

  1. maguro on 9 Apr 2008

    Hey man, love your blog. It is so great to see a fellow gamer buried in three thousand hours of engaging gameplay actually come out with a blog like this. I am RIVETED. Keep it up.

  2. malkav11 on 9 Apr 2008

    It certainly does. And I rail against that trend every chance I get. I realize that a large percentage of the gaming populace seems inclined to treat games as a disposable entertainment with only the latest and prettiest games worthy of their time and attention, but for all that, I think there’s a substantial minority of gamers that want to dig up old treasures and play them again/for the first time. Or heck, just be able to find games from three or four years ago, which can be a daunting process. Witness the popularity of, e.g. Home of the Underdogs.

    And the shift towards online content worries me because at least with prior games, it may be difficult to track down a copy but if you can, you’re set. When games like Auto Assault and Uru Live shut down, you’re out of luck (more so with Auto Assault. Uru originally launched as an offline-playable game with an online component that was eventually boxed as well due to cancellation. So while Gametap’s temporary resurrection added some content that may be lost forever, a sizable chunk can be found and played even so.). And I worry about Steam, which ties my access to completely offline games to company servers that may someday shut down on me without recourse.

  3. Ross on 11 Apr 2008

    Actually, I think the movie industry would be perfectly happy if cinema became a transient medium again. It’s not like chaning the format every few years is an attempt to make us re-buy old stuff: they legitimately don’t care if no one ever sees old movies ever again, and when they move everything to digital, you can bet your posterior that someone’s going to at least try to move to a model where movies can be “end of life”‘d.

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