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Jack Gardner

Gaming News:Myst Developers Return to Crowdfunding with Firmament

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The creators of Myst, Riven, and Obduction are back with Firmament, a first-person adventure game that seeks to be unlike anything players have seen before. To that end, Cyan Inc. has released its preliminary vision of Firmament onto Kickstarter to raise money to complete its production and gauge potential player interest in their latest puzzle-filled mystery. 


Players will awaken in a mysterious location, frozen in the mountains of an unfamiliar land. In the next room, they will encounter "the device" a strange collection of lights and clockwork that was left on a table in the outstretched hands of an icy corpse. As players approach, the device comes to life and relays a message from its previous owner, a woman who had planned to explain everything in person. That is, until some unexplained something ruined those plans. Armed with scraps of knowledge, the player must venture forth and uncover the secrets of Firmament with nothing but their wits and the aid of the device that was left in their care. 



"We are a small indie developer and we love the idea that what we are doing is not building games; it is building worlds." says Rand Miller, the CEO & co-founder of Cyan Inc. The teaser shows off just what the worlds of Firmament look like, with concept art and early in-game visions of surreal landscapes and architecture. While the game begins on snow capped mountains, the game will range into lush, temperate lands, soot-covered early industrial/steam-powered locales, and the strange, technological door at the heart of it all. Through it all, an aesthetic of magic and steampunk leaves an unmistakable trail. The inscrutable and anachronistic technology serve as part of Firmament's thematic callback to Myst. Oh, and the soundtrack? Yeah, it's being overseen by Russell Brower, the composer behind World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, and Hearthstone.  


That design sensibility carries over to one of the big divergent elements of Firmament compared to its predecessors: The device. The clockwork friend exists as both a tool and an ally. It serves as a character in its own right, able to respond to player decisions and actions. It does not speak, but it's able to understands the player's gestures. In a move that's sure to invite some comparisons to the Kinect, players are able to direct the device to perform various tasks by discovering and using hand gestures. In fact, a main part of the gameplay involves working together with the device to learn how to communicate with one another without words. That's actually really cool if the technical hurdles can be overcome and it works as intended. 


The team at Cyan has embraced VR and built Firmament from the ground up to support virtual reality headsets and sensors. In fact, that might be the primary reason their gesture-based approach to communication with the device will succeed. Of course, the team recognizes that not everyone is able to play games in VR, so a non-VR option will be available. They just heavily encourage people to play Firmament in VR if they can. How exactly the gesture controls will work on a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard remain to be seen. 




As of this writing, the Kickstarter is nearing $1.1 million pledges from 13,569 people in its crowdfunding campaign. However, it only has three days left to reach $1.3 million. There's also a stretch goal of $1.4 million to add Mac, PS4/PSVR, and multilingual support. The campaign, as one might expect, is packed with backer rewards. One of the most interesting is that fans who back the game at $250 will be able to see and play the proof of concept that Cyan Inc. developed for their own internal use. It's not often that those early vertical slices make it out into the public, but seeing some of that behind-the-scenes game development is always really interesting. 


People who back the Kickstarter will also receive exclusive DLC for the finished version of Firmament that will reskin the trusty clockwork companion - including one skin that's a direct throwback to Myst. Another exclusive for backers will be some additional unique elements that haven't been revealed. On top of that, players will be able to personalize some elements of the narrative in the exclusive DLC, like naming a special book or leaving behind a significant date that will appear in the campaign.


Overall, Firmament looks to be the kind of project that Cyan Inc. does best, an atmosphere heavy adventure full of more questions than answers. The game is expected to ship in July of 2020, though the success or failure of the Kickstarter could cause that window to shift somewhat. Here's hoping this unique project succeeds.


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