Descent (D’ni Tiwah)

The Great Shaft

The Journey Begins…Again

Since the release of the series of novels expanding the Myst universe, many have been fascinated by one aspect of the stories contained therein: the path from the surface to the great D’ni cavern.

It is the path that the D’ni created to finally breach the surface after 10,000 years, creating such magnificent structures like the Great Shaft, before abandoning the project entirely.

It is the path that Anna/Ti’ana navigated to reach the D’ni people, the path Aitrus mapped out to allow Anna and their son Gehn to flee the cavern’s destruction. It’s the path down which Gehn guided his own estranged son Atrus to D’ni to teach him the Art and his own warped understanding of it. Yeesha also descended this path in a sort of rite of passage to better understand her people, her family, and herself.

To say the path has a lot of history is an understatement.

After the release of Riven in 1997, Cyan began working on an online MMORPG that would, at various points, be called Mudpie, Dirt…and it eventually became URU. It was during that time that Cyan began to create that very path to D’ni.

We eventually were able to travel to Descent in URU’s “To D’ni” expansion, although the path was limited to an Eder Tomahn located near the bottom of the Great Shaft. While jumping down would get you a view of the bottom, you’d eventually Link out back to Relto.

Due to URU Live’s demise in 2004, Descent was later reworked for use in Myst V. Instead of starting at an undisclosed location in the desert (as was shown in the Descent demo released years later), we start in the caldera of the volcano near the cleft, which had been inaccessible in URU. And the end of the path was cut off to make room for an Eder Tomahn that housed the Laki’ahn Book.

While Myst V gave us the most of the path so far, it was not the full path to D’ni that fans had wanted to see since the novels.

Gaining Access

The top of the Great Shaft

Up until the last couple of years, while the client and the Python scripts had been open sourced, while we could potentially add to it, directly modifying the Myst Online content was out of the question.

This all changed in 2019, when Cyan, while revoking access to the NDA-covered Intangibles content, also gave us the green light to modify the existing URU Ages. This is partially what led to getting fan Ages into Myst Online: URU Live Again.

Then again, in 2021, Cyan released all the Intangibles content to the public…which included Descent. This meant that all the content that we’d seen in the Descent demo was now free to access.

So now…we’ve come to where the real work begins.

Pushing Forward

The current surface entrance of Descent from Myst V

For a project this large and canonically important, it will be best to proceed methodically and carefully. For this, I’ve come up with a “Phase” system reminiscent of what Cyan/DRC used for their projects.

Phase 1 – Conversion

To start things off, we need to take the most complete version of Descent so far: the Myst V version. Note that many things in this particular version are not canon, such as the extra Eder Tomahns to house the Linking Books to Direbo. In fact, the Direbo Book itself isn’t canon as those pedestal(s) are meant for Nexus books.

Still, despite all this, it’s the best version to start with given it has many of the higher res textures, animations, and other things that will speed the process along. So for this reason, Phase 1 will be a 1 to 1 conversion visually of Descent to match Myst V.

Even so, there will be a few additions added for avatar convenience and to test out a few other things, but one to one is the primary goal.

Phase 2 – Expansion

This is where the fun really begins. At this point, the Intangibles content (and more) will start to be added to the existing Myst V content. This includes the river channel, the mines and the bug caves seen in the Descent demo.

After that, it’ll be up to us…and by “us”, I mean the community of concept artists, lore experts, and builders…to go beyond that. One of my goals is to showcase, in some form, a good portion of the points of interest recorded on Aitrus’ map, as shown below:

Aitrus’ Map of the Path

Phase 3 – Wiring

The Generator

The allure of any Age or cavern location is not just the visuals…but the puzzles and mechanics. Luckily, the Great Shaft has quite a few of those.

Phase 3 will involve wiring up all the various doors, machinery, and other components to function with avatars as well as things like footstep regions, sound effects, VisRegions, swim regions, and everything else.

We can’t exactly get to the cavern if the doors aren’t open, can we?

It also involved re-adding any content from URU’s version of Descent such as the Yeesha page, calendar spark, etc.

Phase 4 – Testing

The Bottom Chamber of the Great Shaft

This will be the most crucial phase. It will be a thorough and complete test of everything to make sure the path to the surface…and any additions…are working as they should before sending off the whole thing to Cyan for their consideration.

Most likely, this will mean a lot of time on Minkata Shard and its alpha variant. This will hopefully work out all the bugs and hitches in a multiplayer setting.

We’ll also implement the means to reach Descent in some fashion, although how to do that will probably remain under wraps to give people a bit of reason to search around as an initial mystery.

Phase 5 – Release

When things have been tested as comprehensively as possible, it will be time to package things up and send things off to Cyan for a final test on the staging server. This will work out anything that doesn’t quite mesh with Cyan’s server software, which was never open-sourced but for which we have many equivalent software such as DirtSand and MOSS.

When all is said and done…the MOULa server will be taken offline for the update and new files will be downloaded for Descent to bring the new version onto the “big show”, so to speak.

Then…explorers can take the journey!

Planning Ahead

I’m still not sure if the full path will be done in parts and opened up gradually over time for quicker releases or if a longer wait for a more complete path will be done. This will depend on how much help I can get to build the new parts of the path or if I myself can work fast enough to continue things.

Please keep in mind that this is all unpaid volunteer work…and that real life can intrude at the most inopportune times and take myself or any others away from the project, thus slowing it down. So it’s recommended that we all temper our expectations just a bit as far as how timely to expect things.

One thing is for sure: this is going to happen…and I hope to get the community as involved as possible to truly give us a sense that we, all of us, restored this important bit of D’ni and Atrus’ family history for ourselves and future explorers to experience and enjoy.

I won’t set a release date in stone…I’ll just say things will be finished “soon”. /laugh

I will say that everyone should continue to donate to the CAVCON as it will keep the cavern open for this and other fine Age projects coming down the pipeline.

Keep watching…some amazing things are going to happen!

What Lies Beyond?