Exploring Myst Online on the eve of launch

A few short hours remain before the official release of Myst Online: Uru Live and the caverns are buzzing with excitement. A trip down to the city docks reveals small collections of players huddled together in both dance and wild speculation as to what the D'ni Restoration Council has in store for tonight's release.

You either get it or you don't and with Myst Online, it doesn't just click if you do. It consumes. The mere thought of a massively multiplayer version of the worlds foremost interactive Hypercard is enough to send most gamers into exile, left to wonder where their favorite medium went wrong. The core of Myst Online does in fact boil down to pointing and clicking on random objects. Much like previous entries in the series, however, such a black and white description does nowhere near the justice it deserves.

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From the moment you receive your Ki (your all-in-one PDA), a world beyond random switches and levers is opened. You're plugged into a neighborhood with other players to meet and greet. You're taking screenshots of important clues and captioning them appropriately. You're creating journal entries to archive the facts combed from the endless mountain of books. If World of Warcraft and the ilk are fueled by Mountain Dew and pizza rolls, Myst Online is powered with fine red wines and tiny cheeses. It is to be savored and utilized to please the nether regions of your palette. It is a slow, consuming burn and once you've put in the time and entered your first Linking Book, the pointing and clicking merely becomes a vessel for your knowledge.

How else are you going to discover the arcane secrets of that touch plate puzzle if you don't read the 40 page journal of the man who designed it? Or how about figuring out the D'ni numbering system without resorting to Google? Chances are you're not.. Unless, of course, you implore the help of the community.

And now, the massively multiplayer portion of the game makes sense.

The problem with Myst throughout the years has always been the difficulty of entry. It's easy to get flustered over the piles of books and astrological flimflam. If you've got the nerve to become something of a social butterfly, Myst Online provides the support you need. Even if you can't tell your elbow from your neighborhood, the Guild of Greeters DRC are at your service, providing an hourly tour of the Cavern that covers everything you need to know to get started.

The entire project -- nearly ten years of development in the making -- is beautiful. From the amazing worlds found within the Linking Books to the elegance of its social networking, Myst Online: Uru Live is a captivating experience. It won't change the mind of the cynics who can't help but loathe the series and that's understandable. For the passionate nerd, however, Myst Online is almost required loving.

[Update: We got our ever so helpful groups mixed up. Still, the Guild of Greeters are a valuable resource to the game!]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.