Take it in while you can--"The only place in the game I think you currently never go back is the starting forest," says Anderson. Overall, Anderson says the game is "not as non-linear as Myst, and it is slightly less linear than Riven."
I also got a few details about the node-based navigation system that Cyan's building in addition to a freeform WASD/Mouse mode. The early system was freeform in large outdoor areas; in other words, you could click anywhere and it would walk you towards that spot. Only in areas where there are objects to interact with does it resort to hard-set nodes. This means node-based players will get to explore more than, say, realMyst, while still being able to control the entire game with a mouse.
Myst in Space
I point to a whiteboard in the conference room where I'm seeing Obduction and ask if it's secret game design stuff. Rand Miller laughs, then does a double-take. "Actually...That is actually super-secret. That's some of the key gameplay towards the end that we just changed."
Don't worry--none of it made sense to me. It's a nice lead-in to discuss how Cyan is developing Obduction, though, compared to its past Myst titles. "Richard [Watson] and I are sort of the first front of design," says Miller. "Then we present to the whole team, and they have the chance to mull it over without us in the room, and it's kind of like 'Put down your ego time.'" He laughs. "Oh, I dread these days."
"Before when [Cyan] was this big, big machine, it was Rand sort of designing in a vacuum," says Anderson, later. "Nowadays it doesn't really work that way. I think, as much as it's tough for him to have to flex with all this feedback, he likes it because we have this iterative 'make it better, make it better, make it better.'"
I got an abbreviated look at the entire design process and it starts, believe it or not, on paper. Ryan Warzecha, Project Manager on Obduction, pulls out one of these maps for me to see--the first large environment you'll go to, which is a bizarro, alien Old West/Mad Max-type world known as Hunrath. It's literally a circular map drawn out on a piece of paper with words and scribbles everywhere.
That map then literally becomes the basis for the 3D model stage--it's scanned into the game and projected onto the ground as an initial layout.
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