I often prefer to avoid talking too much about the influences and inspiration behind the things I work on until I have something that can be appreciated on its own. I like the idea of being open about the works that inspire me, and often celebrating or giving homage to those are a key motivation for me. Expectations are fickle though, and it's tremendously easy to give a false impression when talking about sources of inspiration.
Winter's Wake was inspired in part by my experiences with Myst and games like it. Though I spent a great deal more time playing Timelapse and Rama, Myst stands out in my mind for a number of reasons. While I'd played turn based first person dungeon crawlers before, this was the first adventure game/puzzle oriented experience I'd had. Not having a constant looming threat of combat made playing Myst feel more like exploring and less like surviving. Being able to stop and appreciate your surroundings can have a powerful effect on what you take in as a player (something I've more recently been reminded of through JP LeBreton's "tourism" endeavours), which I think supported the impact of the high fidelity visuals and allowed Myst to give a sense of space and presence that I hadn't really experienced before in a game.
Often when I am inspired by something, I don't seek to reproduce the style or implementation of the aspects I appreciated from it, but instead to try to find a way to understand and evoke the same feelings I had when experiencing it. When I talk about Myst being an inspiration for Winter's Wake and its engine Icicle, it might seem intuitive to assume that I'm focusing on detailed graphics, complex puzzles or a mysterious, sporadically presented narrative. When I think about the ways that Myst has inspired me though, what comes to mind are things like the sense of existing in an environment, exploring a detailed world from a fixed standpoint, and perhaps a combined sense of isolation and resilience.
When I think about my memories of Myst, they often revolve around a "what does the world reveal to me from this perspective?" type inquisitive feeling. This is the influence that (I hope) has manifested itself in Winter's Wake and helped define Icicle.
Memories of Myst
When Myst Jam was announced, I thought that I should probably do something to give more direct homage to Myst. Rather than create something new, I decided to focus on re-creating the things that I remembered from the short time I spent with the game. Initially I had considered showing a fragmented retelling of Myst made from key moments that stood out in my memory, but the short timeframe and narrow scope (I started within the last three days of Myst Jam), I felt that instead, picking one sequence that stood out in my mind and fleshing that out to be a first person (in the writing sense) exploration of what a player might think and feel while exploring the Myst island based on my vague memories. For now, I'm calling it Memories of Myst (builds are up on itch.io) - not the best name, but it'll do unless something better comes up!
Development has been fairly straightforward, and the tail end of the ship raising puzzle distilled down into several scenes that give a good sense of translocation (movement from A to B) that happened to map well with high traffic areas within the original game. Using a longplay as reference, I did what I could to avoid inaccuracies and tried to put in points of interest without making scenes too cluttered.
Memories of Myst provides fewer discoverability cues for interesting/relevant scene objects. I fee like this is a little more in line with the memories I have of playing Myst, where as a player, I felt that it was up to me to explore each scene and identify what was and what wasn't important.
Icicle's puzzle processing code is still fairly rough, and currently doesn't allow me to combine different logical operators among dependencies (I support AND, OR and NOT, but can't mix them), which made emulating the pillar puzzle's behaviours little more complex than it needed to be. The extra use-case has been beneficial for the engine and helped me identify and resolve some state processing bugs that hadn't reared their head in the Winter's Wake demo or Voices of the Past.
Caroline, who helped out a little with the audio for Winter's Wake, was keen to collaborate again and has worked on the soundscapes for Memories of Myst. Like mine, her recollections of Myst are vague, and it's been fun to explore and expand upon our impressions of the game.
With a few hours spare on the clock, I decided to paint up a super rough image of Myst's island, blurred to be non-distinct. This also helped me spot that I had my blue and red channels flipped and gave me yet another fixed bug for Winter's Wake.