Game developing, the D'ni way: how myst/uru fans inherited the cultural legacy of a lost empire

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Watson, Nicholas
Pearce, Celia
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This research considers how the culture of game developer Cyan Worlds influences the gameplay environment and the culture of fans in Myst Online: Uru Live. The game has gone through two commercial releases and in both cases it was cancelled after a short time. Fans have attempted to salvage the game by producing their own server software and content creation tools. Recently, Cyan released their own source code and development tools to the fan community, giving fans an official channel for creating new content. This work builds off of Pearce's (2009b) study of the culture of Uru players and emergent play, but adds the dimension of considering the culture of developers themselves. A primary goal of this study was to determine how the culture of a game developer like Cyan shapes the constraints of the designed "play ecosystem" (Pearce 2009b: 7), and how it shapes the processes by which fans can salvage aspects of the game to create new content. One finding is that the design of Uru's gameplay environment is rooted in the cultural practices, personal philosophical goals and individual personality traits of its developers. Fans were able to assert ownership over the Uru story-world and the means of production of new content by proactively applying technical and problem-solving skills--the same sorts of skills that players must apply to solving puzzles in Myst games. This fan action, coupled with Cyan's goal of making an open-ended world, has helped to propel the initiative to provide open-source tools for creating new content. When fans produce new content, they draw significantly from an existing shared cultural repertoire of cues and conventions. These conventions are supported both by the software affordances of the development environment and by cultural precedent--they are readily adapted to Myst-like narratives and are easily "read" by experienced players.
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