Both Tweek and Alahmnat make a lot of good points on their blogs, and I have a few ideas of my own that I thought I’d share.
I agree that the Cleft is an idea starting place, it has history and is a setting on the surface, making it reasonable. I think that the Cleft itself should remain, even if just to show a glimpse of that history through journals, notes, and items left behind by Ti’ana, Gehn, Atrus, and Yeesha. Zandi (or someone) should be around to greet people and direct them to the caldera of the volcano. Once there, the player would commence the journey down the tunnels to D’ni.
The tunnels & Shaft
The trip down the Great Shaft itself would be quite quick, but with many interesting stops. The Eder Tomahn could serve a similar purpose to the one that they served in Myst V, having Nexus links to other Ages, and most importantly the KI machine. The initial KI would have simple chat features, being the very basic of KI types. Most importantly, the Cleft and tunnels to D’ni would be multi-player. Once at the bottom of the Shaft, there would be some sort of way to get directly to D’ni. Possibly a Linking book that takes you to the Neighbourhoods, possibly not. I do like the idea of walking all the way to D’ni, but many people would give up at that point. One possibility is that some basic forms of teamwork are required to get into D’ni, something as simple (or complicated) as filling a gap in the path with fallen debris. One of the original videos of DIRT shows an avatar running across a bridge and the bridge collapsing behind him. Although that sense of danger would be great, in a multiplayer environment it cannot in any way impede the progress of others.
The Neighbourhoods as I envision them are less like actual living spaces, and more as meeting spaces. In theory there could be an infinite number of personal areas behind the cavern walls, but I don’t think that many people really want a living space in-game. That said, there would be a limited number of hoods. Currently there are 3 (Bevin, Kirel, and Seret). I think that 5 would be good to provide meeting spaces. The goal isn’t to form a lot of separate groups, but to have various areas to interact with other players. Each hood would have a garden Eder Age. Right now there are 4 (Kemo, Gira, Delin, and Tsogal), but I would almost consider Jalak to be a garden. The important thing is that Gardens would not have puzzles. They’d just be cool places to hang out and explore.
Ae’gura, the city
Ae’gura is really the climax of D’ni. It’s the giant island in the center of the lake, a district with its own unique buildings and history. What saddens me most about the current state of Uru is that all of those buildings will forever remain empty. Ae’gura would contain the museum (with Negilahn, Dereno, Payiferen, Tetsonot, and Todelmer), as well as the library. The library would provide links to a variety of Ages, ones like Teledahn, Noloben, and Minkata. The Nexus links on Ae’gura would be severely cut back, likely only a single one at the end of Tokotah alley. The Guild Hall would be open, with links to the Guild Pubs. The Ferry Terminal would actually have ferries to take you to other districts, K’veer, and other islands.
Districts like the city proper, the J’Taeri district and others as mentioned in the Book of D’ni could contain links to many more Ages and more histories, such as diaries from D’ni citizens before the Fall (what? We have linguists for a reason!). Ages like Er’cana and Ahnonay could remain in the Watcher’s Pub (which is in J’Taeri). Nexus links would also be around to prevent unnecessary time in transport.
So far I’ve avoided the issue by making everything public, but people will want to have the chance to explore on their own without others. Age links in the Nexus would accommodate this, allowing for private Ages and invitations.
What storyline? That’s right, there is nothing pushing the story forward, nothing to hold it back. Ideally some force would be around to open new areas and Ages, but almost all of the storyline would be player-driven. That’s one fear that people are going to have to get over. Uru can’t live without player storylines.
The Guild of Writers could make Ages themselves and release them through a special library, a special Nexus, or a variety of other ways. Othe guilds could perform their functions equally as well (perhaps not the messengers in the beginning, but once a good community developed, then podcasts and news stories would come up).
The best of all, no Bahro, no Yeesha magic, no unbelievable circumstances that can’t have a pseudo-scientific backing.