Myst, Business, and Artistic Integrity

There has been a bit of public drama recently over the Myst movie project. The purpose of this post is not to delve into the drama, to drag it out into the daylight, or to step into the middle of the he-said/she-said. The purpose is to look at how this fits in to Cyan’s handling of the community and especially how it fits in to our efforts to see Uru completely open-sourced.

If there is one thing I have learned during my time as an Uru developer, it is that Cyan’s plans are unknown to everyone, including Cyan themselves. They are more than willing to change their direction and priorities – something which in most cases would be commendable. Certainly if Cyan had not been flexible over the past decade Uru would have ceased to exist in any form long ago. Unfortunately, they are so poor at communicating these changes that they seem at best mercurial and at worst vindictive.

This lack of communication has shown itself time and again in our dealings with them. I unfortunately cannot list all of the details here – I am not willing to reveal communications which were assumed to be in private – but suffice it to say that there are threads which Cyan simply ceased to participate in with no warning or explanation. Threads which at the time were, or so those participating were led to believe, central to Cyan’s plans around the future of Uru. To this day I do not know why Cyan ceased to participate in that (semi-)public discussion; I doubt I ever will.

But poor communication is not the only takeaway from recent news. The other, and I feel the more dire, is Cyan’s priorities – they have, inadvertently, finally communicated something to the fans: making money off of Myst is more important than artistic integrity. This is perhaps an inevitable result of their 19-year reliance on the Myst franchise to sustain their existence. But that inevitability does not make the result any less disappointing. And it does not bode well for our hopes of seeing fan stewardship of Uru.

I have said for quite some time that the best thing that could happen to Uru would be for Cyan to cease being involved. This is not because I have felt they have any malice, but simply because I did not believe they had the resources to give it the love and nurturing it deserves. In light of this recent news, my belief is strengthened. Cyan has shown not just a lack of resources, but a willingness to compromise D’ni. This cannot be allowed to become the future of our Uru.

I would ask you to tell Cyan what you think of their priorities, but unfortunately Cyan has shown little¬†willingness¬†to listen to their fans when making important decisions. Instead I ask you to let Cyan go from your lives. Choose to explore on a fan shard instead. Give your donation dollars to the developers, artists, and admins who are passionate about helping D’ni grow once more. Are you willing to see our great City stagnate and rot? Or will you be part of the new restoration and help to bring Uru and D’ni into a shining new future?

Why the GoW Maintains its Own CWE Fork

The biggest issue with any open-source project is making it accessible to developers. I think OpenURU has failed spectacularly here. They still require developers to sign up to get code access, have no system in place to show active development branches, use an overly-complicated issue tracking system, and have no clearly-defined path for contributions to be accepted. These are the exact same issues they’ve had for the past three weeks, and though I’ve seen some activity on their forums towards getting these things resolved, I still don’t have much confidence in their team. The other big issue is that their core development team isn’t regularly contributing. I don’t know whether that’s due to lack of interest, lack of time, or lack of the knowledge needed to actively work on CWE. None of those are conditions you want from your code maintainers, though.

Compare this to the GoW: We immediately setup the code in a publicly-accessible area, with a simple bug tracking system. We quickly fixed the code and build system so it would be compatible with modern versions of visual studio, and at this point have even fixed it for Express editions – this is a major win for making the code accessible to a wider array of developers. We have documentation on how to build the code, and even a video tutorial available. GitHub makes it easy to see who’s actively working on the code, and its integrated pull request system makes it easy for developers to request their changes be included in our main development tree. And of course, our core development team is actively working on CWE.

Had OpenURU been ready, the GoW leadership would have happily worked with them. But the fact that after three weeks there has been no major progress on any of the issues I and others have raised, shows that the GoW development fork was definitely the right decision.