A Return To The Island Of Myst

Every time a new version of Blender came out, I kicked its tires and made a Thing™. This time around, with the biggest update in a long long time, I found myself swamped, incapable of finding time to spend time with one of my favorite pieces of software. So I dredged up my own white whale and started working again a few minutes here and there on my hi-res Myst Island.

Why the... why?

I write software for a living. I have done so for two decades straight. I'm quite decent at it. But, see, the fun part is, and has always been, learning new things and challenging myself. And there is one thing I know I will always suck at: drawing. I just don't have the knack for it. Something's not wired properly in my brain and the image I have in my head always ends up like someone very ill tried to scribble something before passing out.

Soooooooo. I know computers, right? And I have images in my head, yea? Why not use the computer to do some drawing?

And it works, more or less. I'm definitely no genius with the tool, but I end up doing things that at least look like something.

Case in point:

The library, from the top of the circuit breaker

Pieces are still missing (spot the tree placeholder), and some stuff definitely need some tweaking (hello supernova in the atrium), but hey, a few hours here or there in a year...

Myst? That old thing?

I wasn't in the biz' back in 1993 when Myst came out. I had to wait quite a few years before I stumbled upon this weird gem. You see, Myst had never been a technical marvel, or a genre-defining game. It's its own thing.

But it's a game that resonates on a personal level for a lot of people at wits' end about the world. You're trapped on an island full of wonderful things, and you have nothing to do. The plot could be as easy as this: you find yourself on an island full of books and memories and mechanisms. You enjoy the simple life there. The end. Or you can just play with the stuff forever, or escape, or try to solve mysteries ,or bring justice for people who have been wronged. There's no time limit. No order to do things. Nothing dangerous.

For some people, it's a boring game. It lacks "action" and "tension". For me, it's comforting.

The gory details

At this point in time, most of the island has been reconstructed. It lacks a bit of vegetation, and a lot of texturing. I'm not happy with the light, nor with the lack of atmosphere.

It sits at 4.5 billion polygons. It's a 400MB blender file (which is not small). And it renders a frame in roughly 1h at 1920x1080. But I can go to 4K (about 3h) or 8K (about 5h) on a whim. Sorta.

It's got PBR textures and subsurface scattering. 95% of the textures are procedural rather than photographic, for enhance-and-zoom glory. It's got details so fine you can almost infinitely zoom on them. It's got 20 or so varieties of plants. And millions of grass blades. And it's a good way to pass an hour away from the worries and the stress. It's kind of home.

The pool and the library