Cyan Worlds slashes staff, suspends development

Myst developer's decision to close game-production unit sends employees packing; Myst V: End of Ages' release unaffected.


While much of the country was on holiday this Labor Day weekend, most employees of a noted developer went on a permanent vacation. According to a number of blog postings from now former staffers, Cyan Worlds has laid off almost all its staff and is in the process of shutting down operations. Prior to the layoffs, the company employed 40 "artists, programmers, designers, and support personnel," according to its official Web site. The site made no mention of the layoffs.

"Almost all of Cyan Worlds, Inc. was laid off today, including me," wrote URU: Ages Beyond Myst live content analyst Ryan J. Warzecha on Friday. "I know with the talent we have here people will find new places to go and do great things. It's sad to see a company with such talented people to basicly [sic] expire. I don't blame anyone for it happening. So today we had a company meeting in which [Cyan founder] Rand [Miller] said some kind final words. Then we had a hamburger and goodbye gathering."

Warzecha's comments were echoed in the blog of Bill Slease, production director of Myst V: End of Ages. "I've heard horror stories of how things like this go down at other companies, but they're being very generous here. It's obvious it breaks Rand's heart to let everyone go," he wrote. Slease also confirmed that Cyan will continue to exist as a company--for the time being. "It's not quite dead yet," he wrote. "There's a skeleton crew manning the ship for a little while longer, and if something works out, they want to hire back anyone who hasn't moved on."

While calls to Cyan's offices had not been returned as of press time, its publishing partner Ubisoft did issue a statement confirming that the developer had made a "decision to close the doors of their games production unit." However, the publisher was quick to stress that "while this event is a sad day for Myst fans and gamers everywhere, it does not in any way affect the upcoming launch of Myst V: End of Ages, which is already in manufacturing at this time." The game is set for release on September 20 for the PC, is rated E for Everyone, and will sell for $49.99.

As for Cyan's future, the company is expected to provide more information about its plans in the next few weeks, as many of its executives are currently traveling on business. However, should the company indeed shut down, it will mark the end of one of the game industry's more storied independent studios. Founded by Rand Miller and his brother Robyn in 1987, Cyan created a children's game that was "the first entertainment product ever on the new medium of CD-ROM," according to the company's official history.

However, Cyan earned its place in gaming history with the 1993 release of the groundbreaking adventure game Myst. First released for the Macintosh, it was eventually ported to the PC as well as the Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Atari Jaguar, and 3D0 consoles. Together with its sequel, Riven, the game sold more than 12 million copies on all platforms. It also spawned even more sequels, including Myst III: Exile and Myst IV: Revelation. It also spawned a spin-off game, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.

By early 2004, the series' popularity had begun to wane. Citing a dearth of potential subscribers, Ubisoft decided to scrap the planned online component of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, which had shipped several months earlier. And when Myst V: End of Ages was announced earlier this year, it was revealed that the game would be the last in the series--news that cast the future of Cyan in doubt.

To learn more about the final chapter in the Myst saga, check out GameSpot's previous coverage of Myst V: End of Ages. A 276MB demo of the game is also available on GameSpot DLX.

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