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Deep-dive Q&A: Behind the scenes of Obduction, Cyan's move beyond Myst

Hayden Dingman | Oct. 7, 2014
We visited Cyan's offices in Washington and picked their brains about Obduction, a crowdfunded spiritual success to Myst.

RM: It's getting deeper and deeper and it's really satisfying. It's big, but I think we can pull it off. We're pretty good at this after the years. We kind of know what things will take long and where we should cut. The years of experience hopefully are going to pay off.

We are so lucky. I don't know if we'd be alive if Myst hadn't built this house. Not paying rent...having it paid for and having a space to work, it means your expenses are so much lower. The small indie guys that have to rent space, that's a huge chunk of change. I mean, you're here when we've kind of fixed up the grounds again and cleaned the place up, but for years it was pretty slim pickings.

I remember seeing pictures a few years back where somebody said the studio was "abandoned," basically. I didn't even think Cyan was still here until we talked last year.

RM: I mean, we didn't even run the sprinklers for a couple years and stuff just collected. We still had people doing stuff because I think we were, at that point...One of the smartest things we ever did was get the rights to the software to revert back to us, to get the IP to revert back to us. Any indie that can pull that off is smart. You can't always do it, but. The publisher's always right in perpetuity.

With Broderbund we said "Well, how about a long time but not in perpetuity. I don't even remember how long it was, but it was probably ten years or fifteen years. And they were thinking "Ah, we'll have milked it by then." But it was great for us because ten or fifteen years later the mobile market was coming up, and we were like "Oh man, if we could just convert some of these we could at least get bootstrap money to fund a little here, build up a couple people." It's worked, which is nice. We came back from the brink. It feels good. The place is in a little bit better repair, and we're just doing what we can.

And you know what? The small team...we've said this a few times. We got really big on Riven and even bigger on Myst Online. The small team is just...there's so much less thrashing. It's so much more efficient. There's a question, we answer the question. In Myst Online it was some guy in a building over there had a problem that he would ask his lead of his team, and that team would ask a producer person who would decide whether it was worth going to a design lead, and it was a month before a question would get answered. It's just silly. I love this. It feels good and we're slow to ramp up for that reason. We want to make sure we're kicking on all cylinders before we bring in anybody to twiddle.


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