Gordon Currie was, for some seven years, the webmaster of RivenGuild.com. The site grew to become one of the largest Myst fan sites on the web. When Presto Studios wanted to create a web site for Myst III: Exile, they turned to Gordon and his design company, Eldoren Consulting. His company was also responsible for the web site for realMyst.
RivenGuild grew so much, though, that the costs began to mount. Paying for hosting became problematic. And when Ubi Soft bought The Learning Company's entertainment division -- including the publishing rights to Myst III: Exile -- in May of 2001, the situation took a turn for the worse. Initially Ubi Soft helped fund RivenGuild. However, Gordon's contract for the Myst3.com and realMyst.com websites ended on June 1st; Ubi Soft decided to handle those websites in-house, and also stopped funding RivenGuild. As a result, Gordon shut down RivenGuild on June 1st.
After a brief hiatus, Gordon is once again in the community eye. He is helping develop the community section of the DreamCatcher website. He's also making plans for AdventureGamer.net, his site for developers of adventure games. To top it off, he's working on an adventure game called Eldoren, which is based on a short novel he began writing back in 1998.
Even with all of this going on, Gordon took the time to sit down with me and talk about his various projects.
Stephen: The last thing that many people heard about you was that you were having to close RivenGuild. Now you and your design company are doing contract work for DreamCatcher and you're developing an adventure game. What was the transition like?
Gordon: Closing down RivenGuild.com was very sad and yet it also directed me down some new roads, if you will. I missed the daily contact with fans but I also faced financial ruin if I didn't get some funding. The traffic was high and I was not getting the support I needed.
The transition has been quite good and the DreamCatcher work I am doing was an answer to my prayers. These guys were looking for someone to help them develop their online community and they honestly put the adventure gaming fans ahead of their business. I was wanting to work with a company that could benefit from my experience, but to be honest, I was picky about who to work with. After I flew out and met with DreamCatcher, met their staff and heard what they want to do for adventure gamers, I was sold. My business dealings have been great, they treat me well, and most of all, they share my passion to look after the fans.
My game is being developed as a sideline but I have spent a great deal of time and personal income at this point to get it underway. Building a world and writing a book series was a huge undertaking. Making it into an adventure game is a great deal more work. But I love it and the project is so much fun to work on that I can't walk away from it.
Stephen: What lessons did you take away from RivenGuild and its eventual demise? Are their things you would have done differently regarding the site?
Gordon: Definitely. It was a labor of love and I spent many hundreds of hours on it over the seven years. But I should have developed a business model that would allow me to cover costs. The advertising situation on the net as well as the dot com failures changed the playing field. But record growth at the site continued. My ability to build a community and unite adventure gaming and Myst fans fueled growth that ultimately created a monster site.
Now don't get me wrong -- it wasn't all about money. I guess my heart broke when the current publisher of Myst3.com didn't choose to continue supporting RivenGuild. I realize now that it was probably an odd arrangement with a publisher supporting a fan site, but ours was different. And it represented a huge following. I got the sense that these guys, the new publishers of Myst, didn't share my vision and wanted to create something they could own. The fact remained: they don't own fans. No one does.
I did learn a number of valuable lessons about people, business and the Internet. In fact I haven't disappeared, as some might think, and everything I have learned is being passed on into future projects. DreamCatcher's support has really helped me move ahead and my excitement about working with and supporting adventure gaming fans is at an all time high!
Stephen: The adventure game you're working on, Eldoren, is based on a short novel you wrote. What led you to consider making it an adventure game?
It seemed the more I wrote, the more I wanted to play this story. Sound weird? I thought so at first but I shared some of the concepts with Rand Miller at Cyan a few years ago and a few other CEOs of game developers. They all felt that I had the great beginning of an awesome game. I then started researching puzzles, character development and it seemed like a great move.
I want to say that if Eldoren did not come out as a game for any reason, I intended to take the entire project public and either publish the three books traditionally or even look at publishing the story and worlds online. The story has to be told. I can't get it out of my mind!
Stephen: What is Eldoren about? What kind of gameplay experience do you want players to have when they play Eldoren?
The Eldoren story is about a city, a monarchy and a great search by one man to discover his past, and ultimately his future destiny. His family, namely his sister Sandarin and his Mother, Queen Hedron, play significant roles.
-- from the Gatekeeper's Diary, 27421c - Book of Skyrthren
As far as gameplay experience, I want people to look for clues, discover secret meanings, and get a sense that they are in the adventure themselves. They will find that in following the characters throughout the game, they will learn about their own feelings and experience the enjoyment of finding out more about their past. They will also face struggles, hardship and moral issues that many will find challenging.
My influences for this story and world came from reading the Dune series, Lord of The Rings, and Star Trek as well as my own research into Mayan prophecy, astronomy, ancient Egyptian history, and the English monarchy. One of the key influences when I started to write book one was Michael Penner's ambient music. He is a music composer and Myst fan who was managed to capture in his music the feelings I felt when I wrote the story. It was eerie and yet very exciting.
Stephen: You've managed to get Francis Tsai, lead artist on Myst III: Exile, and Christian Piccolo, another artist from Presto Studios and Cyan, working on concept art for your game. How did you convince them to come on board?
Gordon: I have always admired both their portfolios. I also met these fellows over the past couple of years and loved the level of detail they put into their conceptual drawings. I shared with them my story and the work they have developed for me is absolutely stunning. In fact they managed to take my thoughts, wishes, desires and cryptic drawings and turned them into awarding winning conceptual drawings. These guys are both professionals and I highly recommend their work.
Stephen: How is progress on Eldoren going? When do you hope to have it completed?
Gordon: The game is in development. The books are about 90% written, but I have continued to make changes to them as the story and world grow. The backend of the story is researched but these worlds we create are always so big that you never really complete what you start. I need to sign a deal with a publisher so that a development team can assemble prototypes and finalize the game.
During the past few years, I have had the opportunity to witness some incredible technology at both Cyan and Presto Studios. I can't divulge what I have seen but it has influenced me a bit in how we present the game. I am not building a game that appeals only to men. In fact, a great deal of effort went into the building of the female characters and they play very significant roles in the story.
I expect to announce something positive before Christmas. Realistically I think we are looking at 18-30 months before it is out but at the same time, some of the technology we are looking at could speed up this process. I will say, I would love to see this game be available on the Mac and PC as well as a console (hint, hint: XBox).
Stephen: What style of adventure game will it be? Based on your past dealings, I'd expect you to employ a style similar to the Myst series of games.
Gordon: This is tough to answer as we are looking at a few different styles. I can say it will involve collecting and managing an inventory, puzzle solving, moving throughout the world and deciphering technology ranging from ropemaking to ancient aircraft that fly. And I can't give away much more than that for now.
Stephen: In your open letter to the RivenGuild community, you said that you found your experience running Myst3.com and realMyst.com to be a "frustrating, disappointing" one. What do you feel went wrong with those two projects?
The Myst3.com and realMyst.com projects were awesome. I guess my disappointment was with the changes in direction the new publisher made. A lot of the work I had done for Myst3.com was leading up to a longer term project. I wanted to build on our success as Myst 4 was developed. The frustration came in dealing with people who were not always fair or up-front, in my opinion. I don't think they understood the needs of the fans and many decisions were business-related. Let's face it, though, publishers are in business to make money. But I feel that they need to always place the fans first. And that's why I am enjoying a positive relationship with DreamCatcher Interactive. If I left work with them tomorrow, I can look back and say that it was a great 4 months working with a company that I feel deserves the title "The Adventure Company."
Stephen: Could you tell us about AdventureGamer.net?
Gordon: This site started as sideline to Rivenguild.com. I wanted to create a network of sites and resources on the Internet that would allow adventure gaming fans to build and create their own worlds. At the same time, I was developing Eldoren and introduced the game on that site. I loved the name "Eldoren" so much that I ended up incorporating a company and running my business under this title.
I haven't done to much with AdventureGamer.Net based on the fact that I didn't want to repeat my mistakes running RivenGuild. But that will change soon as there are some cool developments coming. Soon.
Stephen: How do you hope to raise money to handle any traffic increases for AdventureGamer.Net?
Gordon: I am going to focus more on sponsorships and see if I can't organize some more ecommerce in terms on online sales of games etc. I am prepared to put some of my own funds in but I need to limit that amount. I guess it all comes down to how big do we want this site to be.
Stephen: Has your opinion of game companies changed through the years that you ran Myst fan sites?
Gordon: I don't think so. I certainly know and appreciate now how much work goes into building a product. It's like raising a child. These people that develop adventure games don't do it for the money. Really. It's like it's their destiny.