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Until Uru
the semi-living remains of Uru Live

by Robert Washburne

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Util Uru - click to enlargeBack in 2004 the three most popular oxymorons were “Jumbo Shrimp,” “Military Intelligence” and “Uru Live.”

Uru Live, for those of you who have only recently joined the Adventure community, was the attempt by Cyan Worlds to turn Myst into a Massively Multiplayer Online Game. The thought was that while you still have several “Ages” to explore on your own, there was a Neighborhood and the capital island of D'ni itself which you could explore with others. You could make friends and invite them to come to your private Ages and help you with the puzzles.

Util Uru - click to enlargeA monthly fee would allow you continued on-line access to the server where new Ages would continuously appear. The only problem was that it just didn't work. You could only get about twenty people on the server before it would crash. Cyan Worlds claim that they were only a couple of months away from fixing the problem when their money ran out and their investor would not front them any more.

As a result, Uru, Ages Beyond Myst ended up shipping with the ability to play on-line, but with no server to connect to. Cyan tried to make the best of the situation and released all the work they had already done as upgrades which could be played as a single player. It wasn't enough, however, and Cyan Worlds ended up laying off everyone except the founder and CEO, Rand Miller.

Util Uru - click to enlargeBut the project did not completely die. About 4000 people had taken part in the Beta test for Uru Live and many of them managed to keep a few underground servers running. Eventually, Cyan Worlds re-opened one official server to allow die-hard fans to run around the neighborhoods of D'ni once again. This project is called Until Uru. One person on the Uru forums, with the handle of Martin, offered the following timeline. This information is not guaranteed to be accurate, but it is close enough to give you an idea of what was happening.

A Quick Timeline of Uru and Projects in the Public Eye

Util Uru - click to enlargeNov 2003: Uru: Ages Beyond MYST shipped. Out of the public eye, Uru Live Beta ended and 'Uru Prologue' began as the more public online seed for Uru Live. Still, access was limited.

Jan 2004: Cyan's publisher pulled funding for Uru Live. Due to a "clerical error," everyone who has signed up for Uru Live is let online immediately.

Feb 2004: Uru Prologue shuts down.

April 2004: Cyan releases for free the "To D'ni" expansion for Uru.

Util Uru - click to enlargeJune, 2004: Cyan and Ubi publish, for a nominal fee, "The Path of the Shell" expansion for Uru.

Over Summer 2004: A group of dedicated and talented fans operating off of the COBBS bulletin board, operating under the banner of "H'Uru", produce their own server for Uru which is later dubbed ALCUGS ("A Live Compatible Uru Game Server"). A patch for the client side systems is also developed. Nothing is released yet, however... and the server is very unstable.

Util Uru - click to enlargeAugust 2004: Cyan introduces Until Uru and releases binaries (no source) of the original Uru Live server for operation on Linux and BSD operating systems. There is no support. An authentication server is put up and fans are able to purchase "Kagi" authentication keys for a few dollars. Cyan also makes client patches available for Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and Uru: Complete Chronicles (abm+pots). Cyan cannot provide any further support for Until Uru at that time. The Alcugs server effort collaborates with Cyan so that anyone connecting to Alcugs will also need one of the authentication keys.

Util Uru - click to enlargeNovember 2004: The ALCUGS project goes public with their server. The ALCUGS server permits playing The Path of the Shell content online, though many puzzles malfunction when multiple explorers occupy an age. The source code to the ALCUGS server is also made available.

Over 2005: Dedicated and talented fans continue to work and begin to produce the first fan-made Ages for Uru. The AgeBuilders group is formed.

September 2005: After the release of Myst V, Cyan is unable to locate sponsors for further work and closes its doors. A week later, Cyan re-opens and scrambles to hire back its talent when talks move in a positive direction with a mysterious new investor.

Util Uru - click to enlargeNovember 2005: No more Kagi authentication keys are available. No new explorers can join Until Uru.

February 2006: Cyan introduces their own Until Uru server, D'mala; previously, all Until Uru servers were operated only by fans. Keys to join D'mala are made free upon request, but these keys are not the same as Kagi keys and will not permit new explorers to visit Until Uru servers other than D'mala. Interest in all other servers rapidly dwindles among most fans anyway, and work on ALCUGS appears stalled. However, the AgeBuilders continue to work diligently using fan-operated servers (either Until Uru or ALCUGS).

April 2006: Cyan heralds the return of Uru Live in late 2006, sponsored by Turner Broadcasting.

Util Uru - click to enlargePresent: Until Uru shards are still present, but most activity is on D'mala. A limited number of bugfixes and features have been made to Until Uru as Cyan has accepted patches from talented fans. However, Cyan's focus remains on Uru Live and cannot devote any but the most limited resources to work with Until Uru. Cyan has offered a proverbial olive branch to AgeBuilders by promising not to shut down Until Uru and ALCUGS authentication, but indicates that new Kagi keys will not ever be made available again. Cyan accepts that existing Kagi keys may be traded to new explorers, and offers to change account information for anyone who wants to give theirs away to another person. Cyan indicates that in the future, there will be some sort of Uru Live servers set up specially for AgeBuilders (implying that the projects won't necessarily continue on Until Uru or ALCUGS servers forever).

Thank you, Martin.

Rand eventually did find the funding to finish Uru Live and host it on GameTap. You can find his interview here:

The official FAQ for Uru Live is now here:

But, until Uru Live is available sometime during the 2006 holiday season, there is still Until Uru. Its home page is here:

And its FAQ is here:

Util Uru - click to enlargeBasically, you start with the original Uru, Ages Beyond Myst and then download and install a free patch from the above web site. This turns Uru back into a server based game just like it was intended. However, you must get an invitation to be able to join the server (See the FAQ for details). You must play the whole game again, but this time you can invite others to join you.

This is not a new game. It is just the old game quickly patched up just enough to be playable. It is not the Phoenix rising from the ashes. It is the the body parts from dead projects being reanimated via unholy science. But it is cool.

Util Uru - click to enlargeThe FAQ will tell you that nothing has changed from the Uru Live beta, but that is not quite true. A new area of Gahreesen has opened up and is quite fun. Also, there are quite a few entertaining bugs to be found (all of which have been promised not to be fixed. All the work is going into Uru Live. Nothing will be done to fix Until Uru.).

Take a look at the screenshots. The worlds are gorgeous, as we would expect from Cyan Worlds. But do you see Zandi standing through his chair holding the book with his... erm... I mean the book is just floating there all by itself.

Util Uru - click to enlargeThere is a place where you can walk up a rope and stand on the top of a tent.

There are a couple of places where you can frolic on invisible floors.

I was able to jump over a rail in the museum, hoping to get to a lower floor, but the floor was fake and I fell into the void. The rather abstract shot is what I saw above me as I plummeted into the nether world.

Util Uru - click to enlargeThe bottom line is that this is a free teaser which will give you a hint of what Uru Live will be. It's buggy, but fun. And did I mention that it was free? At least it's free if you already own Uru.

The only question remaining is whether Uru Live will require a special premier membership with GameTap, or if the regular membership will get you Uru Live as well as Sam & Max. Hmmm... GameTap is starting to look very interesting...

Util Uru - click to enlargeUtil Uru - click to enlargeUtil Uru - click to enlargeUtil Uru - click to enlarge