Although Uru and the Myst series share the theme of the D'ni civilization and culture, Uru takes place in the present day. Unlike previous games, where the player is a stranger who lived two hundred years ago, Uru allows avatar customization so that 'you are you,' as implied by the game’s spelling. The gameplay is more sophisticated than in previous Myst games, and the graphics are now in real-time 3D (as in realMyst) rather than being pre-rendered stills.
Urus reception, though generally positive, was not as highly received as previous Myst titles. The game sold only 450,000 units, compared to millions of copies for the first three games.
In addition to the single-player game, Uru features a multiplayer aspect originally called Uru Live; Live did not ship with the game and was eventually cancelled in development. GameTap later released the multiplayer version as Myst Online: Uru Live on February 15, 2007, but this incarnation was similarly shortlived; it was announced in February, 2008 that GameTap would shut down Uru Live, and the game went offline on April 10, 2008. GameTap gave Cyan the rights to Uru Live, and Cyan plans on resurrecting Myst Online once again.
Puzzles remain a main theme in Uru. Uru Prime's puzzles are solvable by a single person, but Uru Live subscribers were able to solve the Uru Prime puzzles with others. Also, a few Uru Live-only puzzles required multiple persons to solve.
From the features it was meant to end up having, several — such as voice chat with fellow explorers or jointly-solved puzzles in new Ages — never saw the light of day in the public version, as the failure had already became apparent in the last of the several more or less public test runs, which took off much slower than planned in late November 2003.
The Uru Live idea had created a significant following, probably due to the preceding Ubisoft-run beta test from January to October 2003. Many web sites were launched, most of which had been trying in various ways to preserve the Uru Live concept. In August 2004, Cyan in cooperation with fan-based communities opened up Untìl Uru, called UU for short, where privately-owned, fan-run servers could be used to meet as if they were in Uru Live. Cyan stressed, however, that this was not Uru Live: there was to be no new content, bug fixes, or updates of any kind. In fact, Cyan has revealed that "untìl" was actually intended to be two separate Sumerian words: "un", meaning people or community, and "tìl"(with an accented i), meaning to live or keep alive. Thus, "Untìl Uru" means roughly "the community keeps Uru alive."
Untìl Uru provides the same content and errors as the public beta test (known as the Prologue), with two exceptions. First, server administrators have additional access (for example, cones and barriers in the style the DRC had put up can be positioned inside the caverns). Second, voice chat, which was unavailable in the Prologue for technical reasons, was re-activated. Other than that, the same content is available — Prime, the Ahyoheek and Gahreesen Wall mini-games, and the ability to access large parts of the city together. }} The various fan-run servers were shut down for the relaunch of Uru Live, as Myst Online: Uru Live. In February 2007, Uru Live was revived on Gametap and open to everyone who subscribed, but was subsequently shut down on April 10, 2008.
The story line to be played "out-of-the-box" is usually referred to as "Prime", and is usually played in single-player mode. In it, the player arrives near the Cleft, a fissure next to a volcano in New Mexico. In front of the Cleft, a man who introduces himself as Zandi sits in front of his trailer, encouraging you to discover the environment and to "join the exploration". Later, you stumble upon a hologram of Yeesha, Atrus's daughter, whose speech remains unclear throughout most of the Prime story, until she reappears once you have traveled through various Ages, solving their puzzles and uncovering their dark pasts. At the end, however, some players are left uncertain whether they should have trusted Yeesha at all, or if she has actually abused their work for her own goals.
According to the creators, Uru was inspired by Snow Crash, a book by Neal Stephenson that featured a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet . This does not refer to the story or content of the game (which is deeply rooted in the D'ni/Myst universe), but rather the format of the multiplayer environment, Uru Live.
The game was originally codenamed "DIRT" ("D'ni in real time"), then "MUDPIE" (meaning "Multi-User DIRT, Persistent / Personal Interactive Entertainment / Experience / Exploration / Environment"). It was known by this name for most of its development time, before becoming known as "Parable", then "Myst Online", before finally settling on "Uru", the Sumerian word for 'deep city'. It is also a play on the phrase "You Are You", a reference to the fact that players are themselves in the Myst series and not player characters as in most computer games. In-fiction, Uru is a D'ni language word meaning 'gathering'
Uru takes its players to "The Cleft" in New Mexico, the childhood home of the main character of all the Myst games, Atrus. The player is invited to "take the journey" to D'ni and help the D'ni Restoration Council (DRC) rediscover the ancient civilization and its remains. It was planned that Uru would not only feature a complete offline game ("Uru Prime"), but also an online component ("Uru Live") that would be constantly expanded. Uru Live was cancelled shortly before it would have been launched. A community-run incarnation of Uru Live, called Untìl Uru, was made available, before the return of Uru Live proper was announced in May 2006.
Uru uses version 2 of the engine used in realMyst, known as Plasma. Cyan purchased Plasma 1 as part of the acquisition of Headspin, but the version in Uru is much more advanced than the one in realMyst. Plasma renders almost all objects on the screen, including most of the terrains and the avatars (which made it essential for Uru Live). In addition, Uru makes use of the Havok physics engine. Its use is especially noticeable when moving around objects on the floor, such as stones or pieces of wood. The use of the Havok engine apparently made it impossible to port Uru to the Macintosh platform, as Havok is currently not available for that system. Due to licensing and technical issues, Havok has been replaced with AGEIAs PhysX in the reincarnation of Uru Live.
When Uru Live was cancelled, two expansion packs for the Prime game were made: Uru: To D'ni, which mostly introduces the (formerly) online content to those who never had a chance to join Uru Live, thus focusing mostly on the City of D'ni, and Uru: The Path of the Shell, which extends the story of Prime and consists of multiple Ages that had not been seen before.
To D'ni tried to fill the gap created by the demise of Uru Live by giving players — especially those who didn't manage to finish Live's content — access to the Ae'gura, Bevin, and Kirel neighborhoods, and the Great Zero which was used in much the same fashion as a GPS receiver when in the D'ni cavern. The story of To D'ni was very limited, although it featured some fan treats, like the many report notebooks about the kings of D'ni, and also journals by Douglas Sharper and Dr. Watson, in an attempt to finish off the idea of the D'ni Restoration Council.
Unlike the first expansion pack, Uru: The Path of the Shell was not free, but instead sold in two ways: as a boxed version in stores (either separately, or bundled with the Uru as The Complete Chronicles) as well as via paid internet download. All versions included To D'ni.
Shell was much more comprehensive in terms of new content than To D'ni. Also, instead of continuing directly where To D'ni ended, it picked up Yeesha's story, and featured several new Ages, such as Er'cana and Ahnonay, which were previously slated for a later introduction in Uru Live.
Uru Complete Chronicles was the re-release of Uru Ages Beyond Myst, Uru: To D'ni and Uru: The Path of the Shell, many other items were updated like more support for Intel drivers and some other bug fixes.