May 18, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Online game rising from the dead

In a rare case of a dead game coming back to life, "Uru Live" is set to be resurrected.

The once-promising online multiplayer version of the hit "Uru: Ages Beyond Myst," "Uru Live" was in beta and had already attracted a passionate and vocal (if small) following when its plug was pulled on Feb. 9, 2004. Exactly who made the call to squelch it was never entirely clear, but both the game's publisher, Ubisoft, and its developer, Cyan Worlds, agreed that there weren't enough financial resources to keep it going.

But GameTap, Turner Broadcasting's game network, announced at last week's Electronic Entertainment Expo that it's planning to relaunch "Uru Live" in conjunction with Cyan Worlds by the holidays. The Uru community is beside itself with excitement.

"My first reaction was, 'Woo hoo,'" said Stephen Crocker, an Uru fan who's eager to play "Uru Live." "Quite a few people thought I was mad for running around screaming, 'Yes!'

"I will be pushing my way to the front to make sure I get to beta test and sign up to the new 'Uru Live,'" he added.

"Uru Live" was the latest iteration in the "Myst" family of adventure games, spawned by one of the most successful and popular titles ever. Originally released in 1993, "Myst" became perhaps the best-selling PC game in the world prior to the release of Electronic Arts' "The Sims."

Many online games have crashed and burned, but the situation with Uru is unusual in that it was the "Uru Live" community that convinced GameTap the game was worth getting behind.

That's because the community has stayed alive and active in the two years since "Uru Live" died, mainly through an unsupported freeware program called "Until Uru" that Cyan made available to anyone who wanted to host versions of it on their own servers.

"It was just heartbreaking when it closed down, and so to undo that is just wonderful."
--Ron Meiners, former "Uru Live" community manager

"One of the reasons we were so attracted to 'Uru Live' for GameTap is that it had this persistent group that kept it alive during the dark days of it not being a product," said Ricardo Sanchez, GameTap's vice president of content. "There's a community that would love to see it brought back."

Indeed, some fans were so insistent on continuing their "Uru Live" experience, even in the game's absence, that in the weeks and months following the shutdown of "Uru Live," groups of several hundred rabid fans set up small-scale versions of the game in two virtual worlds, and "Second Life."

According to Celia Pearce, who wrote her media arts Ph.D. dissertation on the phenomenon for the SmartLab Centre, a research institution in London, about 300 so-called "Uru refugees" set up shop in "There," while at least 200 more began building a scale-model replica of "Uru Live" in "Second Life."

"What I found was that these players had already established a deep connection to the whole series of ('Myst' and 'Uru') games," Pearce said. "But they'd been playing the games pretty much in isolation (prior to 'Uru Live'). So when they came together online, they really bonded very rapidly and intensely. And when the game closed, people were just heartbroken."

Uru Live

Andrew Chernauskas, a college student from Erie, Pa., agreed. "It was a shock," he said. "I had these great ideas of what ('Uru Live') could be...But suddenly it was closed off, before it ever had a chance to show itself. I first found out when two of my friends who played 'Uru' called me on the phone to tell me. It was a lot like gearing up all year long for a national cross-country meet, then tripping over the start line when you began."

It wasn't just the fans who felt the loss, either. To those involved in supporting the community, the closure of "Uru Live" was just as crushing.

"It's a wonderful and rare opportunity to go back to something that was a bit of a heartbreaker and have that come to life and do it again and do it better," said Ron Meiners, who was Ubisoft's "Uru Live" community manager at the time of the closure, but who currently works for neither Ubisoft nor Cyan. "So there's a lot of excitement about the chance to go back to a world that we thought was gone forever."

And for Rand Miller, CEO of Cyan Worlds, the chance to try again with "Uru Live" is an opportunity to finally let the game be publicly judged on its own merits.

"I'm not afraid to fail at things," Miller said. "The worst thing is where you get right up to the point where you start to learn and spend resources on (something) and you don't get a chance to succeed or fail. That's how we felt with 'Uru Live.'"

GameTap thinks the dynamics of its network can make a go of "Uru Live," particularly because the distribution infrastructure and marketing resources necessary to operate and promote a game are already in place.

"Making it a part of GameTap makes the size of the audience we need to make it successful a lot smaller than if Ubisoft had it standing on its own," said Blake Lewin, vice president of new product development and innovation at Turner Broadcasting. "With GameTap making 'Uru Live' available, the costs are a lot less...and we can have more of a niche audience and still have it be successful."

It's still months before the game goes live, but those involved in the community are already rushing to forums to discuss the relaunch. And they're treating the game's new lease on life as a gift to be savored.

"It's almost like Christmas, this unlooked for, really, really wonderful development," Meiners said. "I can't tell you how good it felt when I heard that this would be happening. It was just heartbreaking when it closed down, and so to undo that is just wonderful."

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Adventure game (puzzles) online
This is more of a puzzle adventure game where the focus is on a single character unlike an RPG like World of (Repeti)craft where the focus is on groups.
What's so cool is that you are playing an adventure game with other induviduals grouping together online. Plus the graphics and art in an adventure game usually are the best especially comping from Cyan with its real standard look.

Online games usually can be very repetative and therefore addictive, but lately they have been getting better.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fans? Like ten guys in a basement in Ohio are still playing this

Again, another disconnect with "fans" demanding something from a
game company, the company going out on a limb to deliver it, and
the same "fans" not showing up/not buying the product.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes, fans
If you had read the article, you'd know that hundreds of
dedicated fans set up Uru communities in *other online gams*.
That's just a small fraction of the real number of casual Uru fans
which was obviously in the thousands when Uru Live first closed.
Recently, when Cyan opened a semi-official shard as part of the
free Until Uru service, over a thousand people signed up.

I don't know if Uru will get anywhere even close to the numbers
of multiplayer games like World of Warcraft. But, from the sound
of it, Gametap and Cyan don't need it to. As long as a small but
dedicated fan base is there, they'll find a way to make it work.
To quote a familiar refrain from Rand Miller, we can be
"cautiously optimistic" about the success of this new Uru Live.
Posted by Jared White (9 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, and they are many.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of them. This is not a joke, notwithstanding the fact that you seem to think it is.
Posted by Rob M. Blynde (3 comments )
Link Flag
California is in Ohio?
Well I'm a Myst fan in California, so its not just Ohio. My wife came from Ohio to California when she was about three, maybe that's what you are confused about? But then if you think she looks like three guys you really are confused!

Seriously, the Myst community has a very solid core of hundreds of active and vocal members - many with web sites, blogs etc. Some of them have been around since Myst itself - that's staying power. And then there are the thousands that just lurk. Its a really, really crowded basement.
Posted by asa160 (1 comment )
Link Flag
My basement
So my basement is in Ohio???
I'm a American citisen now then???
Actually my basement is located in Sweden and there are URU fans all over the globe so come out of your basement and join us instead.
Posted by lmfse (1 comment )
Link Flag
Not Basement
Maybe the confusion lies in the fact that all us Cyan/Myst fans are in the Caverns and it might just look like a basement to someone who hasn't visited before.
Posted by myst94836 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Not Basement
Maybe the confusion lies in the fact that all us Cyan/Myst fans are in the Caverns and it might just look like a basement to someone who hasn't visited before. And it's in New Mexico I believe not Ohio.
Posted by myst94836 (2 comments )
Link Flag
more than 10...
what's with the disrespect? Uru has had a long and steady community of 10,000s if not more. well over 100 active forums and a following that doesn't fade away like the so many fanboys you seem to have in mind. The interest hasn't been restricted to the 13-16 yr olds, but encompasses people from all walks of life, ages, nationalities.
Posted by oblio70 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Texas isn't in Ohio
There are MANY Uru Live fans alive and living above ground in Texas! However, we do spend a LOT of time in the Cavern (in New Mexico):)
Posted by Te'ana (1 comment )
Link Flag
Just Backwards
Sorry, but there are plenty of fans, not only of this game, URU, but the entire Myst series. And yes, they are still playing, not only the single player games, but are playing together online everyday in UnitlURU, a game that has had not one change, and no new content, for two years, except for the events the players have organized themselves.

And far from demanding anything from the game company, Cyan, the fans asked Cyan to allow them to set up private servers to host the game after the online trial closed before the game actually ever went live, and Cyan, in its wisdom, and with a few stipulations about copywrited material, made it possible. Cyan put a ton of visionary work into making a game way ahead of its time, beginning over 8 years ago now. They had a ton of money already sunk into the development of the game, and suddenly, the tap turned off before it started to flow. And of course, Cyan was left with a huge amount of expense and no realistic way to recover it. For a while, things looked, well, not even cautiously optimistic. All but two people were let go at one point. Cyan, to say the least, was already way out on the limb, and someone had pretty nearly sawed it off behind them.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Here we are, two years later, and the game company is asking the fans to help them bring this game back to a full, modern online game, with the help of Turner.

And guess what, the fans said yes. There has been a host of folk enroll to beta test, and before that, plenty of interest experssed by those same devoted fans about paying to play the very same game they are now playing, for free, to havemore people enjoy the game with them, and to have some new content.

That is just mutual support, not going out on a limb, caving to a fan demand. And that kind of mutual support is what folks do in families. But even if you don't like these kind of games, you would be welcome in the family.

When the game revives and, for the first time, truly goes live, give it a try. Come home. We'll greet you with open arms. Oh, and don't bother knocking, just come on in and join the celebration. We'll all be in the party room, down in the basement.
Posted by Nighthawkeye (1 comment )
Link Flag
11,000 in a basement? Now, THAT'S a LAN party.
Sadly I don't have a basement.

I do have a membership at <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a> though - one Uru site of many - and one with nearly 11,000 members.

Oh how I dream we were all in one basement. With the amazing variety of talent in this community I'm sure something pretty amazing would happen.

Still, I suppose we'll let you go your way as we go ours. ;)

Posted by Foo222 (1 comment )
Link Flag
See more comment replies
Coming out of the basement
I'm a fan of uru.
Its a fantastic game.
Posted by Slightlybartfast (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Coming out of my basement
I am coming out of my basement just to post a little comment :

My basement is not in Ohio but in France;

My basement is large enough and so we are many there (more than 10);

There are many many basements all around the world;

I can't stop the happy dance since i heard the return of Uru Live but i always thought it would come back and I have spent many hours in my basement these last 2 years waiting for that and hanging in Until Uru in the meantime.

Sorry Everyone I have to leave you cos i really miss my basement where i have a direct link to the cavern :D Go look into your basement everyone, I am sure you may find a linking book there :D
Posted by zamuru (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Out of the Basement
Budgie sticks her head out the basement door...looks around the urulive website...turns..."Hey, you guys!!! It's safe to come out of the basement now!" Meanwhile, safely back on the Until Uru-D'mala Shard preparations are being made to....Oh, wait...that hasn't been written yet......
Posted by Budgie2 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Comes out of the cold, dark basement
Oooo, the spring has sprung in Canada and the grass is risen and the URU Live website is alive and growing. Ahhhh, as she breathes in the spring air. Me and the other 2000+ fans of URU who currently know about the game will be telling a few thousand more about it, I'm sure. /wave hi to all. /dance /cheer /clap
Posted by ToriaURU (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Wonders if he even has a basement
I too wonder where the mistake was was made I'm in Oklahoma not Ohio but oh well. Yes there are many people who still enjoy Uru its a community that has lasted over 2 years since the games closing and they still come together. Its an amazing community like no other I have seen open and welcoming.
Posted by UruNimitz (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Basement Linking.
That's one of the good things about linking technology. You can get there from here, even if here is a basement in Ohio. Linking with 10 Friends along is a wonderful experience. As far as Fans demanding from the Cyan goes, it just ain't so. We have a wonderful give and take relationship with Cyan. They ask for our input and where possible implement it as well. Most savvy businesses do give the consumer what they want but Cyan makes it personal. They join us in the game and on the fan forums. They have even asked to host the upcoming fan Gathering in July. We in turn continue to buy their products and support them to the best of our abilities. This includes all those who host UU shards (You must own the game to play)and all the Myst and UrU websites and Forums. Still others take their time to organize online events with only basics to work with. I was there at the beginning. I am still here and that basement linking book is getting brighter every day.
Posted by Ja'de (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Australia is a long way from Ohio
That is where I am from and I don't even have a basement.

I am overjoyed that this game is being given another chance, and it should then prove to everyone that it has more fans than "10 guys in a basement in Ohio".
Posted by Raphiluru (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Yes, California is in Ohio
I am from California but live in Ohio. When I'm
not stuffing my face with Buckeyes I am in the
basement along with everyone else visiting URU
caverns. We knew all along it would never die,
long live URU LIVE!!!
Posted by treesa52 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Basement? Who is in the basement?
Yeah I have one, a nice big one. It holds my work out equipment, the clay studio, the laundry, and furnace to keep my studio nice and warm on the second floor of the house. That is where I play UU, when I'm not in the living room playing it with friends and family. While I live in the US and have a basement, I am, at this moment, with Zamuru (also known as Zam) in her living room in France. I have also been in the Netherlands with a large group of UU fans. It was because of the unifying spirit of this game that brings people together that I have met all of these wonderful Urupeans and have been invited to visit while in Europe. We all have spoken in very lively terms about the come-back of Uru Live, since, yes, we do talk on a regular basis from our studies, living rooms, and the occasional basement.
Posted by ghaelen (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Major letdown for non-US URU fans!!
Yes that's right. URU fans outside of the US have been sniped again. Shame on UBISOFT (a Canadian company) to allow GameTap (a US company) to allow US-exclusive distribution rights - since GameTap isn't accessible outside of the USA. Let UBI/Cyan/Gametap know your disappointment in this decision and email them.
Posted by Joe_Raby (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Non-US Fans Supported!!
You have bad information.

First, Ubisoft has NOTHING to do with Uru Live this time. It's all Turner, GameTap, and Cyan Worlds.

Most importantly, Uru Live will be available in its own space for international subscribers, separately from GameTap.

Get your facts straight.

Sorry to put sunshine on your rainy day.
Posted by JWPlatt (1 comment )
Link Flag
Major letdown for non-US URU fans!!
Where is your bases for saying this?

I mean come on, just saying it does'nt make it true.

We have had information, that even though gametap is closed to US clients only. Uru Live will be International.

To close off the international client market would just be silly.

Also as far as I know UbiSoft are done with URU. Why hold on to something you killed, either eat it or let it rot! In my eyes they did the latter!
Posted by DarK501 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Not a let down at all...
This has already been discussed, and it has been confirmed (on the excellent URU Obsession forum) that there will be another route into the new version for non-US residents at the same access cost.

Apparently the fact that a significant number of the fans that wouldn't let go of this are outside the US was a major factor.

Gordon, in Scotland
Posted by Sno-Cat (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not a let down at all...
This has already been discussed, and it has been confirmed (on the excellent URU Obsession forum) that there will be another route into the new version for non-US residents at the same access cost.

Apparently the fact that a significant number of the fans that wouldn't let go of this are outside the US was a major factor.

Gordon, in Scotland
Posted by Sno-Cat (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
UrU rising from the dead!
What great news that Uru is coming back! I have all the myst games and love them all too! I'm really looking forward to meeting the "community" and being a part of it. Glad it will be available in the U.K. too but not sure how much it will cost. Having never played an online game before, but heard of many, a lot of them are beat em ups which I hate. Games such as this are great for people like me not able to have super quick reactions, but wanting to play.
Look forward to meeting you all soon!
Posted by Whizzy Wheels (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Posted by Papa G (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Was there ever a "fix" for the "Blue Screen Crash" in Uru? Sadly I had to quit playing Uru because I could not get beyond the crash point.
I now have a computer that has Windows 7. I would really like to play that original (?) Uru game if I knew how to get beyond the crash and if it would work on the new system.
Posted by bookmark55 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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