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Interview: Myst III (Phil Saunders)
July 3, 2001 | Michael Phillips

Since its release, Myst III: Exile has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, making it a great commercial success for developer Presto Stuidos.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Phil Saunders, Creative Director for Myst III: Exile at Presto Studios. We discussed the early days of Exile, behind the scenes digital magic and Apple's role in gaming. Read on to learn about how life was breathed into this latest Myst title.

IMG: Could you tell us about yourself and your work on Myst III: Exile?

Phil Saunders: I am a native of Toronto, Canada. I graduated with Honors in Industrial Design from The Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. I started out during college doing freelance product design, some special-effects work, and eventually some theme-park design work for Japan. After college I got a job designing cars for Nissan Design International in San Diego, which brought me together with Presto and the Journeyman Project games. I left Nissan after four and a half years and joined Presto full-time as Creative Director in ’95.

On Myst III: Exile, I was essentially the game industry equivalent of a film director. I was involved in designing the gameplay, and directing the story and visual conception of the game. During production, I oversaw puzzle and aesthetic design, and art directed the visuals and audio, as well as designing a couple of the ages myself as well. I also did all of the storyboards and art directed the video shoot.

IMG: Were you supportive of bringing Exile to the Mac OS?

Phil Saunders: You bet! All of us were. We’ve been a Macintosh development studio since day one. Our first title, The Journeyman Project, shipped initially on the Mac, and was ported to the PC at a later date. It wasn’t until 1999 that we shipped our first PC only title, because Activision just wasn’t supporting Macintosh gaming at the time. I myself am a hardcore Mac-head. My first computer was a home-built Apple ][+ and my current home computer is a G3 Powerbook. I can’t imagine not owning a Mac.

IMG: Were there any major challenges in doing the Mac OS version of Exile?

Phil Saunders: Porting Myst III from the PC to the Mac actually turned out to be a lot easier than we originally thought. The technology team had done a good job of keeping the code platform independent early on in development, and I believe we actually spent only two weeks porting over to the Mac. Roland Gustafsson was the lead programmer on the Mac side and wrote all of the game code, did all of the scripting of the nodes, and all of the game application level coding. He’s a Macintosh expert, which really helped in the port from the PC to the Mac. It was quite painless really.


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