Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Give yourself anxiety with the story of how Myst barely fit onto a CD-ROM

Illustration for article titled Give yourself anxiety with the story of how iMyst/i barely fit onto a CD-ROM
Screenshot: YouTube

When Myst came out in the early ’90s, it was a huge hit. It sold millions of copies. For almost a decade, the title, created by brothers Rand and Robyn Miller of the game company Cyan, held the record for the best-selling computer game of all time; when it was ultimately dethroned, it was The Sims that was its successor. If you were old enough to play games and either owned a computer or had a friend who did around 1993, you almost certainly played Myst. (Some of you, however, were not yet born, oh god, oh god.)


Well, as it happens, Myst only exists because its creators were too naive to be worried that it might not work at all.

This interview with Cynan co-founder Rand Miller, a part of Ars Technica’s War Stories series, is fascinating—alternately impressive, nostalgic, and deeply, deeply stressful. The stress mostly comes from the portions of the interview in which Miller addresses the significant technical obstacles he and his brother faced, from working with computers incapable of rendering the detailed graphics at a non-infuriating speed, to the references to occasionally breaking for a cup of coffee before going back to toiling over something they had no reason to believe would be a massive hit. But the thing that may well give you teeny tiny hives is the realization that the Millers had no idea whether or not it would even work, after five years of effort.


The whole video is worth watching, but we’ve cued it up to the segment in which Miller describes how they managed to fit the game onto a newfangled CD-ROM.

Drink a nice glass of water, go for a walk, shake off the empathetic anxiety, and if you find yourself feeling nostalgic when you get back, just know that Myst and some of its sequels are available in various forms through Steam.


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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

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