Fires of video game dreams stoked by Morrison County teachers

Ryan Warzecha, 1999 Royalton graduate now living in Washington state, is living his dream of working for a video game company. He is currently working on the “Myst” successor game “Obduction.”

Ryan Warzecha, 1999 Royalton graduate now living in Washington state, is living his dream of working for a video game company. He is currently working on the “Myst” successor game “Obduction.”

Royalton’s Ryan Warzecha part of ‘Myst’ successor ‘Obduction’

 by Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

Ryan Warzecha is living his dream. He is a video game creator.

His fascination with video games likely ignited when the video game “Myst” was released in 1993.

“I was in seventh grade,” said Warzecha. “It was an after-school thing with classmates. Myst is a 3-D rendered world that I walked through, solving puzzles by clicking buttons. I loved being able to explore a different world in a non-violent video game.”

Warzecha’s yearning to create video games grew from that time on.

Jim Norwood, then an English and multimedia teacher in Royalton, was bringing new computers into the school.

It was a time when “everything taught in school was more traditional,” Warzecha said.

Along with Norwood, art instructor Carl Halverson saw new media coming up, the new computer arts.

“They were really supportive of me doing something different,” said Warzecha. “They saw I was really interested in working for a video game company; that was my dream. They supported me in building a portfolio for a career.”

During Warzecha’s junior year, Norwood taught a class in which a group of 10 students that included Warzecha put together a video game using HyperStudio.

“We used 3-D graphic programs and rendered those images out,” he said. “I realized, ‘This is possible — people do this for a living.’”

The video, “Alesis: The Crystal Quest” was shown at technology conferences to demonstrate what the students were doing.

“It was so cool that a group of kids put it together,” remembers Warzecha.

After high school, he earned an associates degree in multimedia technology at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson.

“Then I worked in web design for a while,” he said.

It was about that time that online chat and message boards were starting, and Warzecha became involved in the Myst community.

The first “Mysterium,” a gathering of Myst fans, was held in Spokane, Wash., in 2000. Fans met the creators of Myst from Cyan Worlds Inc.

“I wanted to work for that company, but needed to hunker down and do the things that would get me there,” said Warzecha.

As Cyan was on the verge of releasing “Uru,” Warzecha knew they would need a community manager for the online role-playing game.

He started working for Cyan in 2003. He lived that part of his dream for five years, before funding fell and he was laid off.

He worked in other areas of the industry in the meantime, maintaining his contacts with Cyan.

In January 2013, he started working with another former Cyan employee, Eric Anderson, originally from Excelsior.

They worked with a group of dedicated Cyan employees, some current and some former, to form a new game idea.

“The fans were ready for another game reflecting the Myst world,” said Warzecha. “Obduction is a whole new intellectual property with that same Myst essence. It is the spiritual successor to the Myst experience.”

Anderson put together a pitch video for a fundraising campaign using an online fundraising site called kickstarter.com, which gets the word out about independently-created projects. Other fans in the Myst community helped with images.

The fundraising goal was $1.1 million, but by the end of the 30-day campaign, more than $1.3 million had been raised by 22,000 backers.

Rewards for various levels of support range from a digital copy of the game to an Obduction artbook to an invitation to the game’s launch party.

“The whole campaign was awesome, connecting with people who really want to see this happen. They’re becoming advocates,” Warzecha said.

More team members are being added as concepts and design details are fleshed out.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Warzecha.

Because of his work on the project over the past year and the success of the kickstarter campaign, Warzecha will now be working full time for Cyan again.

He is the project manager on the Obduction project and the backer liaison. He also works in community management, taking the pulse of the fans to stay abreast of what they are looking for. The game could be released by the end of 2015.

There is still an opportunity to help fund Obduction at www.obductiongame.com.

Warzecha is also excited by the opportunities available to kids.

“What children are learning has exponentially grown — now kids are putting together web pages in third grade,” he said.

He recommends a video game-creating software called Kodu, by Microsoft.

“I love telling people about it,” said Warzecha. “My nephew is working on it already. There are so many options for kids. Parents often say how they hate kids to spend so much time playing video games. This is a way to get them into programming; inspire them.”

Perhaps the most lasting influence Warzecha took to heart from his own growing-up years was something Norwood never said.

“He never told me I couldn’t do it,” said Warzecha. “It all starts with great teachers and a great school. Living in Central Minnesota made me the person I am today.”

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