Introduction


Myst was hugely popular in my family.  We loved the visuals and it was from that play through at Christmas in 1993  that Morpheus was born.  It took five years, but the extended family and friends-- as the indie game studio Soap Bubble Productions designed, developed and directed the production of more than an hour of footage, full 3D modeled environments, all of the editing and the combined total of years of multiple $15,000 workstations rendering 24/7 for the final product.  Two things about this time in gaming history.  1) While there were indie development studios, there were no indie publishing and distribution platforms like itch.io.  2) 1997/8/9 were actually pretty rough years for game makes.  Games were making the transition to 3D.  Companies were dropping like flies.

Soap Bubble Productions was in talk with multiple A-list publishes during development-- all of whom were not exactly interested in signing for an unfinished product.  The line was always "Come back when are done."  Well Soap Bubble Productions finished but because of the video game recession of that time there was more difficulty in securing a publisher.  Soap Bubble Productions eventually signed with Piranha Interactive-- one of the smaller publishers operating in North America.  Unfortunately for Soap Bubble Productions, Piranha Interactive was about to be shut down by its owner.  Soap Bubble Productions received a small advance which ended up being the only money Soap Bubble Productions was ever paid for Morpheus. 

Only 50,000 copies of Morpheus were printed, and most of them were seized by distributors for unpaid debts.  They were sold in big box retail and later on Amazon.  The family was crushed by the news.  After 5 years of work and little to show for it Soap Bubble Productions was shuttered and most of the original development files were copied to 1GB Jazz disks.  

5 years ago I was looking to do a playthrough of the game again and I came to the stunning realization that I did not have a computer that could play Morpheus.  Apple has recently dropped support for Classic apps and Morpheus can't run on 64-bit machines because QuickTime 3 can't be installed on 64-bit machines.  I made a decision that I would port Morpheus to modern hardware.

My first attempt was to recompile the code to link against modern QuickTime libraries.  I couldn't get it to work, so I started rewriting the engine in Qt framework.  I actually got pretty far-- none of the puzzles worked but you could navigate around the world.  I also cross-compiled Mac, Windows, Linux and Maemo (Nokia mobile platform) versions.  Qt was beginning to support Android and iOS but it would not be until several versions later of Qt frameworks before support was official.  Long story short... I spent most of my development time updating my code to work on newer versions of Qt than on developing new features.  I also had a change of jobs and was not doing any more C++ development.

Then my wife was diagnosed with cancer and I took a couple of years off during her treatment.  When I wanted to pick up the effort again I immediately ran into bugs with Qt that prevented the game from running on Mac OS.  I threw up my hands and started over as an HTML/WebGL project.  What you see here is the result of that effort.

Morpheus, while having the simulation of a 3D environment, is very much a 2D game.  The only "3D" is rotating a cylindrical projection of a 2D image rendered from a 3D model.  Everything in the game has been pre-rendered and stored as video or image files.  These assets are orchestrated through a custom game engine that reads a data map that describes the whole game-- how all of the assets are linked together, and the available input controls.  The original game engine was written in C++ by my father and compiled for Mac System 8 and Windows 16-bit. 

The remake is written in Javascript using NodeJS, express, mongodb, three.js, react, redux, rxjs, lodash, webpack and whole bunch of smaller libraries.  The game engine was converted from an event cycle to event driven.  All of the assets were converted to web friendly formats.  My goal for Morpheus is to first re-release it as a multi-platform game with its original graphics, then remaster the original graphics while not into a higher resolution at least a less-compressed version.  Finally, I would like to take the original 3D assets and either re-render them as high resolution assets or convert the game into a "RealMorpheus" style game that gives the player full freedom to walk around.  That is all way down the line....  right now I am focused on fixing bugs, readying for release, getting build pipelines set-up and the like.

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