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)


18 Responses to “To Divide and Conquer”.

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

    Good News. Thanks 🙂

  • flykas Says:

    I like that you pay so much attention to details and precision. This is also why I like myst :]

  • John Says:

    Are you using the videos from the linking books?

  • Terry Says:

    Would it be possible to run this game on a supercomputer, and take screenshots then turn it into a pre-rendered version?

    • The Green Butterfly Says:

      I would like it too if there was an option to play in an “original Riven mode”, it would also be a way to play the game as detailed as possible on an ancient pc that can’t handle the graphics of the 3D game or for an app-version (which has a size limit of 2 GB).
      Perhaps it’s even possible to make 360° rendered images like in Myst III or ad depth like in Myst IV. That would be awesome!

    • Andross Says:

      You could, but I’m pretty sure you light differently and process differently for a prerendered game, so it would perhaps be a bit silly. Just think that an average computer now will be 4x more powerful if you buy it in two years time. You’ll be wanting a new one by then anyway if your computer is more than a few years old now.

  • Alexander Says:

    So, suppose the interior and exterior of survey island don’t match – will you alter the scale so that they line up perfectly, or will you just fudge it so that everything is the same as the original and you just never see the interior and exterior together?

    Also, how accurate are the in-game topographical maps?

    • Andross Says:

      I think they answered that pretty well, they’ll go by the in-game screen shots which may mean that there are some areas which may be much bigger on the inside than what would actually be possible to have given the outside dimensions.

  • RIUM+ Says:

    I’d love to see a technical run-down of how you guys do the camera matching. Perhaps a topic for a Mysterium presentation some time?

  • The Green Butterfly Says:

    Very interesting! You can make more of these blogs if you have the time for it!

  • Vincent KREBS Says:

    So what about the acting ? How is it going with Carles Dance ? 🙂

  • shadyparadox Says:

    So what will become of the impossible water levels on Survey Island?

    The Wahrk Room is supposed to be underwater obviously. But you supposedly head DOWN the stairs to the little side hall that leads to the maglev. This never made any sense to me, and also destroyed the sensation of being underwater.

    So do you leave it as is? I don’t know if that’s even possible. Do you flip the stairs around to walk down to the console in the Wahrk Room? Seems that would affect the vibe too, and I think the elevator was what was supposed to take us underground/water in the first place. Do you add a long flight of stairs leading up to the maglev? That would be quite a way for the scribe to run. But maybe you can make a chase out of it rather than depend on two still movies as before?

    • Nick Says:

      Hi Shady,

      It’s an interesting problem, and it’s not the only structural issue on that island. We do have systems in place that can reproduce Survey exactly as it’s seen in the original by seamlessly shuffling around player and environment positions in the background – so that’s one option. We’re always very hesitant to alter the environment in any significant way, even if it makes more sense in the end.

      Thanks for your suggestions – the stairs going down instead of up is an interesting solution that I don’t think we’ve considered before.

    • Vincent KREBS Says:

      I am not sure if it’s really under water. If it were Cyan would have had the player go in the depths by taking a kind of elevator. There is still the possibility of a video camera, after all the image you get with the fish graved in the cliff with its missing wooden eye is transmitted thanks to an optical device you can see when you wander around the lake. Of course, the problem with that hypothesis would be that it cannot really account for what happens whenbthe Whark gets angry, it really feel like this nice cute pet is actually on the other side of the glass…

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