Mar 8 2017

To Divide and Conquer

Last month we shared some of our recent camera-matching work on Temple Island, and we noticed that there was some great discussion regarding  the coloured region map we used to place the SuperDome. To answer your questions, we thought we’d go into a bit more detail about what those maps are and how they help us reconstruct such a large and complicated environment as Riven.

Temple Zone Map

We have a similar ‘area map’ for each island.

We have made extensive use of a detailed top-down map of Riven’s five islands (you can find it in the Prima Strategy Guide) to break each island into what we call ‘areas’. This helps us organise ourselves, allowing us to group objects and tasks by area and making it much easier to visualise what needs to be done next. Breaking up an island into sections also means multiple people are able work on it at the same time without getting in each other’s way.

Old Boiler Zone Map

An earlier version of Boiler Island’s area map.

Unfortunately, the map isn’t always trustworthy. We suspect that most (if not all) of the interiors are just inventions based on a best guess, and there are other parts of the map (especially on Jungle Island) where the map clearly deviates from the actual game environment. This can be very problematic, as in the past we’ve tended to over rely on it for placing objects in a scene. This is especially prominent in areas that are mostly indoors, like Survey Island’s interior.

The ‘camera-matched’ environment compared to the area map below.

The ‘camera-matched’ environment compared to the area map below.

As you can see, not only is there a significant scale disparity between our camera-matched geometry and the overhead map, but the map even gets the shape of the pentagonal elevator shaft backwards!

To solve these difficulties, we have a simple rule. Whenever there is a conflict between the original game and the overhead map, we will always defer to the environment as represented in the original stills. They remain the best possible reference.

The overhead map has also had other benefits that directly affect how the game will be played. We use the same area layout as the foundation of our level streaming system, which will let the player traverse the entire age of Riven without needing to see a single loading screen (or switch disks!)

That, however, is a topic for another day.

A big welcome to our new team members:
Jonas Becsan (VFX Artist)
Jordan Cain (3D Artist)


Feb 4 2017

Monthly Update: February 2017

Last month, our art team worked hard on two primary tasks: creating assets for the greybox scenes we presented last year at Mysterium, and camera-matching new ones. Here’s a sneak peek at some examples that have been shared by various members of the team. Remember, all of this work is still ‘in progress’ — and we welcome any comments or questions you may have!

Objects in Gehn's Lab

Some objects you may recognise from Gehn’s lab on Boiler Island. These were created by the latest addition to our art team, Francois Hurtubise!

SuperDome on Map

Shots from the current “camera-match” of Temple Island’s SuperDome™

SuperDome Exterior Camera-Matching

Camera-matching the exterior of the dome. The red and green wireframes shows the work our artists are doing on top of the original Riven images.

Dome Interior Camera-Matching

Camera-matching the interior of the dome. Note the yellow wireframes.

As you can see, there’s lots of important work being done! And it highlights the benefits of the new pipeline we instituted last year — we have different areas in various stages of development, so we can move forward with camera-matching new areas while our artists start filling in more detailed assets in previously-matched ones. Looking forward to sharing more soon!


Jan 11 2017

Looking back, moving forward

Happy new year, Riven fans!

What a year we had! We welcomed seven new immensely talented people to the team, we were able to ‘greybox’ several large areas of the game which we proudly presented at Mysterium in Salt Lake City, and we even started exploring areas of development that we’ve not attempted previously — like motion capture solutions for our character animation.

Survey Island: Garden

We’re all aware that this update has been a long time coming, and we apologize for the radio silence since August — we’ve all just been so busy! To make it up to you, here is our new year’s resolution: We will be providing at least one update per month for the duration of 2017. We’ll keep you informed — and we trust you’ll hold us to it! And a special thanks to all those fans who reached out to us during this time to ask about the project; your support means a lot to us.

Survey Island: Lower Level

2017 is going to be a fantastic year for the Starry Expanse project. We can’t wait to continue sharing this journey with you.

Welcome to our new team members:

Chris Mumford – Developer

Ignatius Reillius – 3D Artist

Kyle Hovey – System Administrator

Leonard Schölch – 3D Artist

Liam Smyth – 3D Artist

Matt Laskowski – 3D Artist

Ryan Jung – System Administrator


Aug 5 2016

Mysterium 2016 video feed

UPDATE: Watch the recording of the presentation here!

Original Post:

Today’s the big day! Follow Mysterium along with us at https://www.twitch.tv/mysteriumcon — presentation will start at 3:30 Mountain Daylight Time.

 

Twitch Stream Thumbnail

 


Aug 1 2016

It’s that time of year again!

Upon us in the month of August are potentially many events that may make or break the future of humanity. The most critical of these events, of course, is the 19th annual occurrence of Mysterium (the Myst fan convention). This will be our seventh year presenting at Mysterium, and our show this time is going to be quite the departure from previous years — so be sure to tune in!

We’ll post a link to a live video stream when the time is closer. For now, though, be sure to mark your calendar with the following details:

Date: Friday, August 5th, 2016
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Local Time (MDT / Mountain Daylight Time): 3:30 PM

Time zone conversions for your convenience:
Eastern USA Time: 5:30 PM
Pacific USA Time: 2:30 PM
UTC: 9:30 PM (Friday August 5th)

See you there! And if you’re bored in the meantime, take a look at some content from our previous Mysterium shows.

 


Jul 14 2016

July

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it! Sorry about that. Rest assured, the last few months have been extremely active for us, and we have a lot of cool stuff to show for it! Our camera matching has come along really really well, and we’re in the process of loading our matched assets into Unreal now.

We’ll be presenting as usual at Mysterium this year in Salt Lake City, so we don’t want to show off too much just yet. But as a taste, here are a few shots of the fruits of our labor since April:

Boiler Island

The woodchipper on Boiler Island

Gehn's lab
Camera match of the Gate Room from above

Gate Room block-in model perspective shot

Survey Island

Survey from the sky

Keep in mind that these are stand-in models, the first step in creating art assets for our game. They’re definitely a work in progress, but having them done gives us a template to follow when sculpting high-poly models, and allows us to start work on interaction programming. Pretty soon we’ll have a fully playable game! Then we just have to make it look pretty.

That’s all for now, we’ll see you in August!

Zoom.


Apr 21 2016

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a Match

We’ve pulled together a few more images to share with you guys of the work being done by our various art teams.

The ytram cave on Boiler Island

The maglev station on Boiler Island

The beginnings of our wahrk model

The lower level of Survey Island

Not much else to report, other than that things are progressing very well around here, and that we’re looking for more help!


Apr 19 2016

Help Still Wanted!

We have a really incredible team here at the Starry Expanse Project. Our artists are talented, our developers dedicated. Even the guy who runs the blog is alright!

What’s more, we’re always looking to expand our wonderful team. If you’re interested in joining up with us, there are definitely areas where we could use the help. Particularly:

  • Developers, particularly those with Unreal Engine experience
  • and

  • 3D Artists, particularly those interested in our camera matching process.

If you fit one of those descriptions, or if you have some other talent that you think would benefit our project, please please please do not hesitate to get in touch with us! It’s also worth noting that if you’ve previously applied to join, don’t be afraid to say hello again. We’re much better equipped now to handle a large team than we were in the past.

So come one, come all! We can’t wait to meet you.


Mar 17 2016

Matching Pace

It may not have escaped your notice that it’s been a little quiet around these parts recently. It’s been a slow couple of months for the Starry Expanse Team, a lot of us have been very busy with other commitments that pull us reluctantly away from the project. The first quarter of the year has traditionally been a slow period for us, so this wasn’t entirely unexpected. We anticipate things to start picking up again soon, as they always do!

However, we’ve not been idle these past months! We’ve been focusing on a new development philosophy which we think you’ll really appreciate. In the past, we’ve focused on presenting an island, or a section of an island, for each update. This has allowed us to explore our development pipeline and refine our methods, but it has also been a very slow process. Too slow, if you ask us! Now that we’ve mastered our process, from camera-match to final polish, it’s time for a change of tack.

Temple Island

Temple Island

Map Island

Since January, we’ve been working on camera-matching everything in Riven. Yes, everything. Our new goal is to have as much of the game as possible playable by Mysterium 2016, albeit untextured and unrefined. This, as always, is an immense challenge – but we’re just as eager as you to see it finished.


Dec 22 2015

Seven

Seven years ago today, in a half-joking AIM conversation between two friends from Uru Obsession, the Starry Expanse Project began. While at the time we were absolutely getting in over our heads, we like to think that we’ve proven our chops by hanging on until we managed to bring together a team capable of accomplishing the insane goal we set for ourselves all those years ago: to make a realtime 3D version of Riven.

And a few months ago, we decided that we would have our first fully complete area of the game done by November, Gehn’s 233rd age. November became December, and now we’re almost done with December, too. It turns out it’s really difficult for perfectionists such as ourselves to call something “complete”. We’re working on that.

Anyway, it’s been too long since we shared our progress with our amazing community, so we thought that in celebration of our seventh year of development, we would show you guys what we’ve got cooking.

While 233 is not yet fully complete (most notably, the exterior still needs work, and our lighting is way off in many areas), we’re really proud of how it’s looking. We hope you guys will like it, too – honestly, you’re the only reason we’re able to continue working on a project of this magnitude under the circumstances that we do. Your continuing support and generosity is what fuels our developers, and we really can’t say “thank you” enough.

Here’s to seven years! We’re still here, we’re still working, we’re going to finish this thing. See you in 2016!