Happy Birthday, Us!

Yesterday (December 22nd, because yes, it is totally still December 23rd) was The Starry Expanse’s fourth birthday! The project began around 6pm that night in 2008, with a rather optimistic conversation about the future of the official Plasma tools Cyan had recently promised to deliver. Our original plan, for the uninitiated, was to rebuild all of Riven within Uru, using Cyan’s official tools. We knew nothing about the tools (which were not actually released for another year), we did not own 3DS Max, and we had extremely limited knowledge of how Plasma worked.

What we did have was the combined power of two crazy fans, and a dream. An insane, ridiculously over-ambitious dream.

Well, four years later, we’re proud (kind of way too proud, probably) to finally be able to let you guys actually play something that we’ve made as a result of that conversation. It’s been a crazy ride so far, with multiple engine upgrades, an ever-expanding team of Very Talented People™, nearly $4000 in donations, and hey – official approval from Cyan Worlds. Not too shabby.

We’re sorry that we’ve been so quiet recently. We’re mostly all college students, and the fall semester is always a crazy time for us. Now that that’s over, however, we’re back to work, and things are moving forward. You can probably expect to hear more from us in the next few weeks.

SO: What do we have ready for you guys to play with today? Well, it’s pretty much what we showed off at Mysterium. It’s more polished, better-suited for public consumption, but everything you saw at Mysterium is there: you can explore Prison Island, open the firemarble dome, ride the elevator, birdwatch, even mess around with the environment. It’s all very pretty, and just a taste of everything that’s to come. Be sure to check the included readme file for an explanation of how to change the environment settings.

To be clear: we’re calling this a demo, not a beta. We’re showing off some of what we have done, sharing our baby with the public for the first time. We’re not specifically looking to find problems with it, we’re well aware of what’s still broken or missing. So you can relax, and simply enjoy the first public hands-on experience of our game. That said, if you encounter any major problems with the demo, feel free to contact us and explain the situation. We’ll do our best to help you out!

Well, I guess I can’t stall any more, so without further ado:

Direct downloads are graciously provided by our friends over at Myst-Aventure, and we are very thankful for it. We recommend μTorrent as a suitable client for downloading the files via BitTorrent. If you need help using it, feel free to contact us at our support address, or just ask in the comments.

We sincerely hope you enjoy this small demonstration as much as we love working on the project.


77 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Us!”.

Team members' usernames are in red.
  • JuniorGenius Says:

    Yaaaaaaay!!!! Thank you guys so much I can’t wait to try this out!

  • Qlex Says:

    Thank you! That’s a nice gift for Xmas.

  • Ufo-3D Says:

    YABADABADOOOOOOOOOO!
    Downloading my Christamas Gift right now.

    Just a question : as the DL seems to be very slow, do you matter if we (at Myst Aventures) host copies of this Demo to help spreading it?

  • icefire Says:

    This made my christmas

  • Merijn Says:

    :)
    And well-spoken, by the way.

  • Christian Walther Says:

    Yay! Awesome! What a nice Christmas present. I’m so looking forward to seeing more of Riven this way! Spent a whole lot of time admiring sunsets and sunrises in different weather already. :)

    A bit surprised at the lack of antialiasing even in “fantastic” graphics quality, and annoyed at being unable to cmd-tab away to look up the keys again in the readme.

    I recommend `hdiutil convert “Prison Island.dmg” -format UDBZ -o “Prison Island Compressed.dmg”` to reduce the download size by 300 MB and keep the image from being modified after download.

  • Marein Says:

    A joy to explore! Despite the bugs, this is looking to become a very beautiful game! Thanks guys, happy birthday and holidays!

  • Mitchell Bandes Says:

    At some point, we’re going to have to set up a torrent for this game.

  • Ahlisendar Says:

    This demo has a Zimbabwe power index of 3,476,128

  • Mitchell Bandes Says:

    First of all, this is absolutely amazing. I just want to make that perfectly clear.

    That said, I submit to you the idea that having to use both the keyboard and the mouse can actually be just distracting enough that it pulls you out of the game. It is possible to do everything with just the mouse. So, I would like to suggest a new control scheme; one that uses ONLY the controls of a typical mouse (left button, right button, scroll wheel):

    Explore Mode:
    Look around – Move the mouse
    Walk forward – Left click and hold
    (If you’re looking more than 45 degrees up or down, your speed slows considerably.)
    Run forward – Double left click and hold
    (You can only run if you’re looking no more than 30 degrees up or down.)
    Step backward – Right click and hold
    Crawl ↔ Crouch ↔ Stand – Scroll wheel five notches
    (Crawling is low enough to get under that one gate on Temple Island. Your ability to look around is limited.)
    (Crouching lets you examine the ground more closely. You can’t look up very far, but you can look straight down.)
    Switch to Examine Mode – Click wheel

    Examine Mode:
    (In Examine Mode, if you are standing within a specific spot, oriented in more-or-less the right direction, the camera will automatically move and fix itself to a certain view. Such spots include the frog silhouette on Jungle Island, and the kinetoscopes.)
    Look around – Left click and drag (don’t click on interactive items)
    (The camera will turn much more slowly in Examine Mode.)
    Interact – Left click/drag on interactive objects
    Walk forward – Double left click and hold
    Step backward – Double right click and hold
    (You will walk much more slowly in Examine Mode.)
    Get a closer look ↔ Back away – Scroll wheel while your cursor is over an object that can be examined more closely. (You can’t, for instance, zoom in on the sky or an empty patch of ground.)
    Check Books – Move your cursor to the bottom-left corner, and a book will appear, as if your character is holding it up. Scroll the wheel to switch between books in your inventory, and left click a book to open it up and start reading.
    Open Game Menu – Move your cursor to the top-left corner, and a menu icon will appear. Left click it to open the menu.
    Switch to Explore Mode – Click wheel

    Reading Mode:
    (When you enter reading mode, if your character is standing, the camera will ‘crouch’ and fix itself to 45 degrees downward. This will make it look as though you are sitting on the ground and reading. Upon exiting reading mode, the camera will return to its previous position.)
    Turn page – Left click and drag the page to turn
    Exit – Double right click

    Perhaps you can have a notebook as well, and use the keyboard to write things in it. But that should be the extent to which the keyboard is required.

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      In future versions of the game, we plan on implementing a number of different control schemes, including at least a couple that don’t rely on the keyboard.

      Thanks for your suggestions though, we’ll definitely take them into consideration!

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      Actually, this just occurred to me: you can switch the game over to being entirely mouse-driven right now.

      When the config dialogue pops up at the beginning, go to the ‘Input’ tab, and change the ‘Vertical’ axis positive input (currently W) to be the Left Mouse button instead. It works pretty well, too. :)

    • Mitchell Bandes Says:

      And I just realized: If you do adopt an all-mouse control scheme, it would be very easy to adapt that to a Kinect control scheme. It probably can’t be ported to the XBox quite so easily, but you can plug a Kinect-style controller into your PC, hook up your PC to your TV, and control it that way.

      That would be pretty awesome.

  • Thom Says:

    When will you have 32-bit???

  • Thom Says:

    Can’t wait, I’ll keep checking up on the site!

  • Chris Says:

    Happy anniversary and thank you so much! I loved it, especially in high quality. The only thing distracting was how localized the sound was when I’m wearing headphones – sometimes only one ear has all the sound. In any case, much love for what must have been a lot of work.

    • Starry Expanse Team Says:

      You’re welcome, and thank you! Sorry about the sound being the way it is — it was a bug that will be fixed in the next release of whatever we release. :)

  • Tim Says:

    Impressive work! When I first read about it, your focus on the dynamic atmosphere effects seemed kinda gimmicky to me, but now that I’ve seen it first-hand, I realize how wrong I was. The change in weather, time of day, and ambient lighting does SO much to increase the immersiveness of the environment. Great job!

    I only have a couple comments:

    1) As Christian mentioned, the lack of anti-aliasing is rather distracting at the moment.

    2) The controls are infuriatingly difficult to use right now. It took me about a minute to finally activate the elevator—The mouse movements are just so sensitive that it took an extraordinary amount of effort to aim my cursor to the right place. This is where keyboard controls would come in handy (eg-press space to activate a door, lever, etc)—either that, or the clickable area on objects needs to be way bigger. I’m not sure what to do about the mouse sensitivity issue, but as it is it was way too sensitive on my computer and there was no way to adjust it.

    3) Also, there’s some viewpoint collision issues with the telescope viewfinder in front of the spinning orb: http://cloud.timmackey.ca/image/1R0s0q3d2I1U

    Aside from these small gripes, all I can say is great job! I’m really excited about this project.

    • Starry Expanse Team Says:

      Hey Tim, glad you like the environment effects!

      As for your concerns:

      1) Sorry about that; it was a setting we overlooked when producing the builds, and that should be fixed in the next release we put out.
      2) This problem is a hybrid, I think, between the engine misinterpreting the cursor data and having too small a field of view. I think the former problem could be at least partially fixed by changing your system’s mouse sensitivity settings. The OS does a fair amount of adjustment when it comes to mouse acceleration and sensitivity, so it can be difficult to predict problems in our testing/programming. If you can’t adjust your system to a lower sensitivity, email us at support@starryexpanse.com and we’ll see what else we can do. We’ll make sure this is given due attention before the game is released; don’t worry.
      3) This is a known problem and is one of the ones covered by “it’s a demo, not a beta.” :)

      Thanks for your feedback and hope you have a merry Christmas!

  • Mike Says:

    Broken download link (32bit version)

    • cho102997 Says:

      Mike, I just tested the link and it works for me. You might need to copy the URL and paste it into your BitTorrent client (it’s called a Magnet URI).

  • Gloix Says:

    What a nice gift you gave us :)
    I enjoyed the first demo and I’d like to see more in the future.
    Only thing that called my attention was the size of the download and I noticed that cloud system took up almost 500MB, which I find quite unreasonable. Are you guys thinking on another way of implementing the cloud system other that using still images in sequence?

    • cho102997 Says:

      Glad you like it! While it is a large download for just Prison Island, please keep in mind the final game will be many times larger. To answer your question, yes, there is a plan to produce the cloud images procedurally in real time instead of loading pre-rendered stills.

  • Anonymous Coward Says:

    Win 32-bit version crashes with an illegal instruction exception at this instruction:
    00b22f40 f20f5105b01db600 sqrtsd xmm0,qword ptr [player_win!AgPmEventLoggingEnabled+0x4c610 (00b61db0)]

  • Mike Says:

    Happy birthday! I know, I’m late for the party but I wanted to leave that this is great. Even in the fastest settings, it looks better than RealMYST, hehehe… You know, I always wanted to see the ending, the collapsing islands in realtime. Do you think you could do a preview of temple island with the ending “usuable”? I’d love to, but quality takes its time, I guess.

    • Starry Expanse Team Says:

      Thanks! We probably won’t reveal the ending to the public until release date, but you’ll certainly see some of Temple Island before then!

  • yoyodaman234 Says:

    Great job! I know that this is just a work in progress, but maybe some extra work on the sound is required. Eg. don’t have the music as a directional sound. Just a thought. But nevertheless, great job.

  • Mike Says:

    First thanks for the demo i enjoyed it.
    Here are my results of the demo (win32 bit):

    a) The clouds looks still flat.

    b) The demo stutters (hangs) sometimes.

  • Janaba Says:

    Congratulations and many Kudos to this stunningly awesome achievement. Thanks a lot for the beautiful sneak peek into your artistic baby and gem, dearest Zib and the whole Starry Expanse Team … What a wonderful Christmas gift … It is running perfectly well and smooth on Win7 64bit with a 1920×1080 screen resolution in fullview and the fastest graphics quality … The sound is great as well … Thanks so much again for this generous gift and I’m wishing you the most exciting and delightful transition into an even more exciting, successful and auspicious New Year 2013 … :-)

  • Orion Says:

    Finally got to test this out a bit, it looks pretty good so far! I’m really excited to get this when it’s finally finished.

    I don’t seem to be able to click on anything, I don’t know if I was actually supposed to be able to or not. If not, it’s still really awesome looking around.

    Mouse sensitivity is WAY too high. Even when I went into my computer settings to slow it down, it was incredibly fast movements.

    I do not like the fact that I have to use the keyboard to move. realMyst is played entirely with the mouse, and I think that should at least be an option.

    Interesting to note, the colours seem almost too strong. I don’t know if this is just my computer, as I’m comparing it to the graphics of realMyst (that being my favourite of all the games).

    All complaints aside, I was sitting here giggling madly at the fact that I was able to look and walk places that were off the pathway.

    • Starry Expanse Team Says:

      Hi there, thanks for your feedback. This particular build is, as noted in the README and in the original post, simply a demo for show and tell rather than for beta testing. If you’d like to become a beta tester, you can sign up using the button at the top of the page. We do appreciate your feedback and will make sure mouse sensitivity is an issue that is addressed, though. FYI, the artwork nor the colors are finalized as we have yet to implement HDR and finalize the sky lighting.

      Nonetheless, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Seppolo Says:

    Happy Birthday!

    Thanks for the demo that really gives us a little insight into your work. I’m excited! :-D
    I have long pursued the project and I hardly wait.

    Keep it up.
    Finally a hope!

    With best regards from Germany.

  • Orion Says:

    I just wasn’t sure if clicking was part of the demo or not. Some demos let you do things, some are just to look around. Nice to know that my download was working properly. Again, I can’t wait to try out the finished product, and I’m glad to hear the colours aren’t finalized. As my mum said, “It’s a bit… pink.”

  • Elendil Says:

    Is it relatively easy for you guys to do an Android build? I’d appreciate that on my HD screen here.

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      No, unfortunately, mobile devices require a lot of extra work before a game will run happily. We’re not ruling out the possibility of mobile versions of the game in the future, but they’re a long way off. Sorry!

  • Bob Says:

    Wow! brilliant thank you

    Riven was always my favourite game from the Myst series, can’t wait to see finished game!

  • Heather Larkin Says:

    Beautiful work! So many good feelings playing this. I’m excited for this project and can’t wait to see what you do next!!

    I was feeling inspired so, I made a related comic: http://mystcomic.smackjeeves.com/news-archive/posts/120797/catherines-prison/

  • Chris R Says:

    Fantastic work guys. Congratulations. I really hope Cyan like it too. I’m looking forward to HDR but as it stands now it’s beautiful.

  • Floydman Says:

    Great work, Starry Expanse Team! I loved the demo and can’t wait to see more.

  • David Says:

    Amazing job guys! An absolutely fantastic remake of the prison island, and yeah far better quality than realmyst.

    In regards to the clouds, I think the reason they look flat compared to the original riven clouds is because its missing the darker shadows in the blue sky.

    Here’s some comparisons:
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/16312264/rivenClouds.png

    If you could somehow figure a way to have the darkness in the clouds that would make them even better – also I think having higher resolution clouds would help.

    Also, when the time is night time, you cant see the dome well enough through the viewer thing to click the button when theres the yellow circle. I remember there were issues like this in real myst where night time was a bit too hard to see :/

    The water looks great but could use some reflection of the clouds, the original riven the water reflects the clouds in the horizon.

    All the geometry and texturing is fantastic! I wasn’t expecting to see something so polished. The things you guys have added all feel very riven-ish and as soon as I launched it I was like WOAH…this is riven…I had that same feeling I had when I played it as a kid.

    All the best for the project :)

  • Aimfri Says:

    First, I didn’t notice the birds. I went back and forth, watching the sunset, bathed by the familiar sound of the spinning dome and the unforgettable music from the original game.
    Only after a few minutes, I raised my head to contemplate the prison’s roof and saw them flying in circles around it. ‘Oh my god’, I said to myself, ‘there are birds in Riven’. I giggled loudly, and was chilled to the bone with excitement.
    You people just amazed the shit out of me with about 1% of the actual game. I can’t wait to play the finished product. Congratulations and many thanks.

    A small technical advice, though. I noticed a small bug when I tried to manipulate wind speed on higher graphic detail settings : the clouds just went out and were replaced by the texture of the spinning dome, which was imprinted in white over the blue sky. If I manipulated the dome, the sky would reflect that. I can send a screenshot if needed. Otherwise, the graphics engine will need a good bunch of optimisations, because it stutters very heavily even on lower settings, but I suppose that’s ‘work-in-progress’ too :)

    Thank you again, and good luck !

  • Christoph Says:

    Thank you so much! There are no words to describe how happy I am about this… it’s so nice from you to share it with us. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mitchell Bandes Says:

    And in other news, I am happy to report that you’ve just reached the $4000 mark in donations.

    (sees donation counter)

    Erm… just how long does it take for the counter to update, exactly?

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      Yep, we just passed $4000! Thanks for the donation that pushed us over the edge!

      And the donation counter is updated manually, and it can take a couple of days for the numbers to work their way through the system. Sorry for the delay!

  • Adam Says:

    Oh my god! So excited! :D

  • roflplatypus Says:

    i know you said not to post bugs, but i had really bad lag (~1 sec) while walking (this is on an amd fx, 2 x radeon hd 7970 gaming pc, so it’s not the hardware). also, sometimes when i looked up, the sky went glitchy and started flashing between blank and gray with blank spots – it was just weird.

  • Mark Says:

    This is really amazing work as of this release. I would say 95% of orginal Riven taste and flavor XD, the same old feeling of playing it, despite of minor bugs mentioned above.

    I believe the real-time 3D machanism imposes many challenges upon you guys really cause I’m an amatuer game programmer myself. not just 3D modeling & rendering but 3D simply creates more possibilities compared to the original silde-show gameplaying. I’m surprised nobody mention this above, that, when you’re inside the elavator, pull the wire, and the elavator sounds like it begin to go up, but you can still walk around since it’s real-time, you can step out of the elavator before it goes away and leave the empty elavaor up in the cell and you are still at ground level, HURRAH! Now the rendering clips within the prison chamber and…you know what’s happening..XD

    I know you guys must’ve aware of this problem already. But this really makes the game even more fun to play, doesn’t it?

  • Orion Says:

    Wait, were we supposed to be able to go up in the elevator? Or well, do anything at all? Because I certainly couldn’t. Unless Mark is a beta tester, then ignore me completely, because that would mean he’s playing something different than the demo.

    • Gorobay Says:

      I experienced the same bug as Mark. Yes, the demo should be interactive.

      “You must make sure you have some kind of debugging plan! What if someone gets stuck in the elevator?!”

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      Yes. the elevator is interactive – if you look up and pull the wire that’s hanging from the ceiling, and the elevator should rise. Mark’s bug is simply that you are able to walk out of the elevator before it actually begins rising, and you are left behind.

      Additionally, the firemarble dome is currently interactive, but you need to press the button at just the right time. This mechanism is nowhere near perfect yet, unfortunately, but it does work.

      And don’t worry, nobody is in the beta yet. This demo is the only build that has been released to anybody.

      • Orion Says:

        Thank you! I finally got everything to work, turns out I have to click the center of the triangle to make it pull. Got the dome to work too, but had some trouble getting close enough to look inside it when it opened. Ahh well. Activated the elevator glitch, that was certainly entertaining.

  • flake100 Says:

    Any News ?

  • Python Blue Says:

    Very impressive! Downloading this level, now!

  • Xaos Says:

    What a nice project! Thanks alot!
    Do you plan to release Linux version of realRiven?

    Thanks.

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      We want to support as many platforms as possible, but for now we’re devoting all of our efforts to providing the best possible experience on Windows and Mac OS X.

  • Jeremy Says:

    This demo went beyond my expectations. Detail is awesome and the ability to manipulate the weather, watch the sun angle change throughout the day is great.

    Can’t wait for the final bug-free product no matter how long it takes. Great job so far.

  • Starry Expanse Project : 3D Riven remake | Cjed Audio Says:

    […] five years ago a fan team started a 3D port of Riven, The Starry Expanse Project, and provided a tech demo two years ago (Prison Island, 600 MB) for Mac and PC. Some videos are available from youtube (also […]

  • john458 Says:

    Downloaded for Windows 64-bit. Unpacked in a folder on the Desktop. Ran the exe file and nothing happens. The game does not start. What could be wrong?

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