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.
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.
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.
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)
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!
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!
Shots from the current “camera-match” of Temple Island’s SuperDome™
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.
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!
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.
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.
2017 is going to be a fantastic year for the Starry Expanse project. We can’t wait to continue sharing this journey with you.
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)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you are feeling particularly generous, you can donate some money to us, to help fund the project. Even though our primary funding goal has been reached, we could always use more funds. The more we get, the easier it will be for us to finish the game in a timely manner. If you donate, your name will be included in the credits!
Just make sure to include your name where the page tells you to!
We are not a non-profit organization, nor are we tax-exempt in any country. All money is to be used for the sole purpose of furthering the Starry Expanse Project, and not the personal gain of any member thereof. That said, we are not obligated to disclose how we ultimately use our funds. Donations are not pre-orders, nor do they represent the purchase of any goods or services. Donations do not entitle the donor to any share in, or profit made by 59 Volt Entertainment. Donations are not a guarantee of the delivery or execution of any goods or service, apart from the previously mentioned credit. We do, however, guarantee that all purchases will contribute to the Starry Expanse Project. Donations are non-refundable.