Four years ago today, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, an MMOG in the Myst series, which had been in Beta for about six months, was closed by its publishers, UbiSoft. Anyone who knows Ron and I will be familiar with the story, with which he was intimately involved as Uru's community manager at the time (and for some time afterward!), and which was the subject of my Ph.D. thesis and forthcoming book. On Monday, GameTap, who now operates the game, announced that they would be closing it down in 60 days.
Uru's closure was a traumatic event for the first generation of Uru refugees, a group whom I have come to refer to as the "Uru Diaspora." But as we have since learned, Uruvians are a tenacious lot: smart, resourceful, and well-trained by Cyan, designers of the Myst series, to solve what have been described as "Mensa-level" puzzles. Subsequent to the first closure, they immigrated into other worlds, built new cultures, created their own version of Uru and its artifacts in various forms, and even hacked the software to reopen the game on player-run servers.
I have to give GameTap, and especially Blake Lewin, who spearheaded this effort, a lot of credit for building on the fact that three years after the game had closed, it still had a thriving and ardent fan base in the thousands, and one comprised largely of a neglected gamer demographic: Baby Boomers.
Initially I was deeply saddened by the news, but after visiting with some Uruvians this week, I'm actually less worried. The first-generation Uru refugees have all been through the ringer, and are beginning to advise the second-generation soon-to-be-refugees as to their alternatives. It also seems that Cyan may be trying to cook up a preemtive gesture in anticipation of the inevitable re-hacking of the servers that happened last time.
At this point, I'm not sure it is possible to even close down Uru. The players will keep it alive somehow. And now, in greater numbers, they will no doubt do so in a variety of exciting and creative ways. As sad as I am to the closing of the game, I'm actually looking forward to seeing what these players will do next!
As Uruvians are often fond of saying, quoting Yeesha, the main character of the game, "The ending is not yet written."