Crossing Over: Boiler Bridge

In converting a classic point-and-click adventure game like Riven to real-time 3D, many systems need to be reworked or tweaked to make the best use of the player’s newfound freedom of movement. Some, like control schemes for walking around in 3D space, have been tried and tested in many other games and we have a wealth of playtesting data to draw upon when making design decisions. Others, like the following example, can be more difficult to elegantly solve.

This is the bridge that spans the expanse of ocean between Boiler and Temple Islands, and we’ve cleverly called it ‘Boiler Bridge’. This bridge is very, very long.

In the original game, the player can cross the bridge in a trivial 9 clicks (or just 1, if using zip-mode). At our current player speed in realRiven, it takes approximately 45 seconds. This is a really long time to be holding down a button and staring forward, especially since the exploratory nature of the game means new players will be crossing multiple times.

The walk to Boiler Island, at three times the regular speed.

This is not the only example of long distances made difficult in real-time. Boiler Island also has several lengthy sequences in pipes and ducts that have the same problem. Luckily, these only need to be traversed once.

We have explored multiple methods to speed up the journey from Temple to Boiler without disrupting the player experience. Cutscenes, teleportation, and simply upping the player speed have all been considered and rejected for the same reason – it interferes with the player’s freedom of exploration and/or feels too ‘gamey’.

Surely a pontoon bridge would be safer.

We are currently exploring a way of cutting the travel time in half by moving the bridge underneath the player as they cross. This gives an appearance of moving at regular speed while at the same time moving towards the distant environment at double speed. Our newest team member, Hollister Starrett, has been hard at work on a prototype of this feature.

We hope to playtest this system alongside our navigation mechanics very soon, but in the meantime we are interested to hear any ideas you may have to solve this design problem. Have we missed something blindingly obvious? All ideas are welcome!

56 Responses to “Crossing Over: Boiler Bridge”.

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

    Although the ‘moving bridge’ is a very interesting idea to explore and it seems to be working quite well, I’m not sure it won’t become obvious after some passes that the distant environment is speeding up and slowing down in relation to us? There’s also the issue of the ‘seam’ of the moving and the static parts of the bridge, but you may already have ideas about that.

    Personally I don’t think I would mind if the player character automatically starts running when crossing the bridge. Maybe such an idea was rejected for feeling ‘gamey’, but if the illusion of the moving breaks that is even more so the case, I would think.

    • Hollister Says:

      We’ve definitely considered that, though it would seem that there’s nothing too close to the bridge to give a point of reference for the parallax. The only thing is the geometry at the ends of the bridge, but we actually have a solution for this which the post doesn’t mention. The speed of the player is slowly ramped up and down so that you’re at the fastest when you’re in the middle of the bridge. This makes it pretty hard to tell you’re speeding up, because by the time you’re full-speed, the edges of the bridge are far enough away it’s pretty difficult to tell. And there definitely is the issue of the seam, that’s something we haven’t fully addressed yet, though I have some ideas for a solution, personally.

  • tor Says:

    Feels like you’re overthinking this. Why not just let it take 45 seconds if you walk at regular speed, and have an easy to use control for running? You could even implement zip mode with a target placed at each interesting point along the bridge. The player will maybe walk at normal slow speed once (which is OK – this is a pretty cool moment in the game), then realize that there is nothing to interact with on the bridge, then run and/or use zip mode after that.

    I suppose there aren’t a whole lot of other place where running at this speed makes sense, but maybe running speed could be dynamic?

  • J64 Says:

    It probably sucks for a multitude of reasons (not authentic to the original, would break immersion if noticed, etc.), but this idea popped into my head as I was reading the article and I figured I’d throw it out there just in case it sparks a better idea.

    Make an “alternate universe” with a shorter bridge. The doors leading to the bridge would act as portals that take the player to this shorter version of the bridge for when they cross it, then the doorway on the other end would return them back to the normal world.

    And a worse idea, just because I think it’s totally ridiculous: Put a moped or a segway at the end of the bridge for the player to ride across.

  • imonobor Says:

    That is a neat idea, I remember Serious Sam: The Second Encounter had a similar system in areas that had no borders. Basically, when you move outside the boundries of the map, it silently moves you back. It had a flaw though, walking outside the boundries while looking backwards at the map disabled this and you could actually get really far from the map. Is walking backwards in RealRiven a thing and how are you gonna handle that problem?

  • Robert Says:

    Personally, I think you should take a page from Obduction’s book (and what other PC FPS games have done), and add a run feature to the Shift button. Hold shift + WASD and move around at a faster pace. Or add the option to hit Caps Lock for run (like in Obduction).

    You allow player agency to remain intact (actually adding to it) and give the extra option for those who wish to traverse faster in other places. And while speaking of player agency, your team is already going to allow them to go places and see things you couldn’t in the original Riven, like as in realMyst being able to deviate from the normal pathway of the original game (like walking on the grass).

    I’m sure the team has discussed this option amongst the others listed, but I feel this would be the simplest and best option.

  • jnm2 Says:

    1. This experiment is really really cool, I hope you keep it or something like it.

    2. Another idea is non-Euclidean space, where the distance is just shorter when you’re in the area of the bridge. It might be hard to work against your game engine to accomplish this, but it would be freaking awesome. I’ve seen various ways to do this in realtime 3D.

    One less math-intense way would be to literally adjust the map to move the islands closer together while you’re near the bridge and snap back while you’re in the tunnel on Boiler Island and while you’re entering the dome on Temple Island.

    3. You’d better give us a run key for the entire game either way.


  • Cameron Says:

    I would suggest a sprint feature for bursts of speed over short distances, this will keep players from running for long distances non stop.
    It also means the game mechanics for crossing the bridge to be already established.
    When a player gets to the bridge allow the player to sprint the enter length of the bridge instead of the short distance normally allowed.
    I hope this helps, and keep up the great work

    • Cameron Says:

      Also a sprint (Rather then run) function would be nice in those situations when, in the original game you have a trapped feeling during cut scenes.

      For instance, When you see the priest with the book and he flees, I think we all felt a little frustrated that all we could do was stand there.
      Imagine if we could have not just walked but sprinted after him, of course we still wouldn’t be able to catch him but being able to sprint makes the player feel like he just barely missed him.

    • Emily Says:

      This is definitely the option I agree with it. While I agree with the ‘just allow sprinting’ crowd’s point that it doesn’t feel ‘gamey’ and doesn’t need any fancy additions or modifications, I also agree with the other crowd that constant sprinting can often ruin the experience for many players.

      Having the option to sprint for a limited time both solves the bridge problem as well as avoiding excessive sprinting, thus appeasing both crowds.

      • Emily Says:

        (plus, as an addendum, I love the point that this could prevent the ‘trapped’ feeling around cutscenes by giving the player the illusion of total control; kudos, Cameron! 😀 )

  • jnm2 Says:

    Following the same principle, there’s also no reason the inside of the temple can’t be bigger than the island its on. Portal teleports you in exactly the same way.

  • RiverThomas Says:

    If you do end up putting this feature in, I’d really like it if there’s a setting to turn this on/off. Kinda like how you could enable/disable zip mode in the original.

    What I think would be a way better solution though is just a run option. I’m guessing since most games have this, including Obduction, you’ve probably already thought about a “hold shift to run” type system, and you probably already have reasons why you think it won’t fit in this game. However, with such a large game as Riven, running would really help when going back/forth to solve puzzles. Not just the bridge, but any part would get boring if you have to walk slowly but go past it 20 times because you’re trying to solve a puzzle, the only difference being that the bridge is straight instead of having corners, but that doesn’t mean that in other areas going slow when you keep going back and forth isn’t annoying. If there was a run feature, I’d much rather use that on the bridge than this almost skipping/teleporting feature.

    If you’re really looking for something specific for this bridge though, have you considered slowly going faster depending on where on the bridge you are? At the start/end of the bridge you’re at normal speed, in the center at fastest, and it lerps between. That way it wouldn’t really be too noticable, which may work (though you’d have to reset the speeding up/down if the player stops halfway so you wouldn’t shoot off if you decide to stop walking halfway across).

  • Ian Says:

    While I think the solution you’ve got is pretty elegant, I don’t necessarily think the supporting pillars should also be moving with the bridge. When you get close to the island at the end, you can see them run up the coastline and eventually disappear at the end.

  • GreighSkukk Says:

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but 45 seconds wouldn’t bother me very much. It’s a long bridge. It SHOULD take awhile to walk across it. Part of the immersion as far as I’m concerned. My vote is to leave it as is and move onto other designs.

  • Aaron P. Says:

    Have you considered a ferry/cart/tram, perhaps only available after traversing on foot once? As you say, the original designers got around the issue by simply reducing the number of cells between one end and another. You don’t have that luxury – one step is always one step in real-time. Faithfulness to the original may have to take a back seat to gameplay on this one.

    That said, I personally have no problem with a ‘long walk’ from one end to the other. It’s not like we’re talking about several minutes of inactivity. Maybe you just spice it up a bit with some dynamic scenery below/to the side, or add a zip-mode like prompt after crossing it once for the incurably impatient. I think you’ll find that most players already know what they are getting into as far as an exploration / puzzle game.

  • mors Says:

    You don’t need to over engineer this. Just add a run feature alongside walk. Run is 3 times as fast. Obduction has it, Uru has it. Every other game has it. And it’s a feature you have to add anyway, as I doubt you’ll have zip mode, and after a while it’ll be quite boring to walk at snail pace after visiting the same area many times.

  • K'laamas Says:

    I’m still curious why you don’t want to implement a “Run” feature–it seems like the logical real-time equivalent of zip-mode. And even though this isn’t an acrobatic-avatar-type-game (like, say, Uru), I’ve always thought the ability to run (& to jump & crouch) would add to the real ness of 1st person, real-time games. (Not being able to jump or crouch to peek over or under objects was a little annoying at times in Obduction)

  • GotGears? Says:

    This is awesome! If you can get this to work seamlessly I think you should include it regardless of if there is a run or not because the run likely won’t be 3x speed so it’ll still be a long trip. Especially for the tunnels you mention, I think this is incredibly clever!

  • Samphire Says:

    Are you still planning on including a 1:1(ish) node-based point-and-click mode, or is wasd 3d movement the only option planned for now? This problem vanishes if you zoom from original node to original node.

  • Antony Says:

    There are some areas not even this long where I’d appreciate kicking on the run toggle.
    No need for tricks; I think leaving Riven geometry as is will allow players to appreciate its scale, or find other means of transportation if it’s that annoying. If we’re talking zip points, perhaps you could make entire islands zippable. Some will appreciate the game mechanics.

  • mystman12 Says:

    You know, I feel like most everything in this game should be as realistic as possible. If I came to this bridge in real life, I’d have to walk across it in its entirety, or I could run across it. Couldn’t you just add a run button, and allow players to run across if they desire, and walk if they wanted to take in the view?

    Also, if I remember correctly, crossing this bridge in the original release of Riven required you to change discs, didn’t it? That probably took about 45 second, right? So it’s actually the same amount of time! :p

  • Albert T Colon Says:

    Can you not simply add a myst like device, such as a thin moving platform on rails? If not, simply add a command to allow running across the bridge or any lengthy expanse… it may diverge from the original, but games need to evolve without being constrained by older objectivity… strive onward writers!

  • Daniel C Says:

    I think there should be an option for the player to choose, much like the original in which one had the option to “teleport” to some places.
    The important thing is it should be an option.

  • Sam Says:

    Just make it a shorter distance away or create fast travel for the poor factors needed before that are now factors of a fully 3D game.

    This article is quite a bit dumb. This is an easy design decision to overcome.

  • Dromaeosaurus Says:

    Another possible option would be to add a fast-travel system to allow players to quickly jump between the main islands after you first visit them. You might be able to use linking-books to avoid breaking the game flow with menus (although I’m not sure if linking-books can work like that). It certainly has drawbacks, but it might be something worth thinking about.

  • Paul Says:

    There’s no need for any invention, but rather turn it to your advantage! Create vistas for each part of the bridge so the player can stop and wonder, take printscreens or whatever. A “wow-moment”, something to show to the grandkids…

  • Brad Says:

    What if to make things work nicely, just move the boiler island closer? This will cut down travel time without needing to tweek speeds or illusions or anything.

    Or, just leave it at 45 seconds. If it’s good enough for Ghen when he’s turned the power off, it’s good enough for a player.

  • Mr.Sam Says:

    Honnestly, you are going too far and overkill that question.
    If we have the choice between 3 navigation (same camera placement click by click, Zip mode and free move), there is no problem.
    Actually, I would like to cross the bridge in real time and real distance. If Im bored to do it, ill switch in other displacement mode. Thats it, keep it consistant please, dont go in the “fear of give something uneasy to do”, you are making realRiven, just do it as it is.

    Thats the best and easiest solution, imho.
    Ill strongly hope you will consider this message 😉

    Keep up the good work !!

  • Happy camper Says:

    That’s one bridge too far, chuck it out and replace it with a more convenient method of transportation I say… mag lev anyone 😉

  • Artur Says:

    That moving bridge idea is very clever! But honestly, I don’t like it very much. I wonder, wouldn’t shortening the catwalk interfere with the “feel” of that place, reduce its vastness? I recall that one of the reasons you dropped the day/night cycle was that it would hamper the atmosphere of some discoveries, like the colors during the revelation of the sunners laguna, which in the original game was planned more carefully then the player might consciously notice.
    To resolve the boiler bridge problem, I would try a modified “pressing shift to run”, which could normally (in other places in game) speed the player up about 2 times their normal speed, but seamlessly increase up to 3 times when near the center of this particular bridge. Tor and RiverThomas suggested something like it above.

    One other thing bothers me – speed aside, but then you look at the animated gif above, boiler island looks much closer than in the original – it can be seen especially when descending the stairs and looking at its shore. Is it because it hasn’t been yet camera-matched yet, or because the camera has different perspective setting?
    Nonetheless, I absolutely love your work on Starry Expanse! Good luck!

  • Ben Says:

    Wont you be adding a run feature anyway? I suspect that getting from any given spot to another faraway spot on a different island will take much longer than in the original game if you can only walk (not just on this bridge), and even in the original game, moving around the whole at the end of game could get tedious or time consuming, since you have to do a lot of traversing/exploring vast areas. If anything, adding a run feature will make the game feel more realistic since in reality, people can run. Maybe the run speed on the bridge can be faster than the rest of the game, since I doubt that would be noticeable. The method you have seems to work pretty well though, so maybe use a combination of the two.

  • 75th Trombone Says:

    This is a super neat effect, but add my +1 for a simple Run button like every 3D Cyan game has had. If someone who hasn’t made regular use of the Run button starts walking at normal speed across the bridge, show a prompt reminding them how.

  • Lapbunny Says:

    From the game standpoint, I wouldn’t force the effect on people. 45 seconds is long, sure… But as Greigh, Aaron, and mystman12 already mentioned, I’d honestly take the 45 seconds if it makes me say “fuck this is a long bridge” the first time. Especially if it makes me take in that it’s a *long fuckin’ bridge.*

    That being said, though, it’d definitely piss off anyone backtracking. The run button seems like the most useful idea, but if you really wanted to do the visual effect I’d trip a flag the first time you go over it to activate the effect…

  • jamie marchant Says:

    Nicely done :).

  • Aloys Says:

    I’m all for a having a full fledged zip mode…

    They started this with Myst because it was a gameplay *need*. And now that the movement system is even slower we’re even more in need of taking shortcuts. As much as I usually enjoy taking my time wandering in Riven or Myst, there are just those (many) occasions when I want/hate to run around to complete some puzzle. I simply couldn’t see myself playing Riven without zip mode.

    Riven without Zip mode would be a step backward.

    Aim somewhere, cursor turns to a lighting bolt, click, current view freezes and crossfades to the new location. Why bother with something more complicated?

    I guess the obvious obstacle is whatever background loading system you have that might collide with this. But a small loading stutter would definitely be acceptable, and still much faster than travelling the actual distance on foot.

    I suppose it would be a bit of work setting it up, manually placing ‘zipable’ triggers, rigging the logic behind, etc. But I’m 100% sure it’d be worth it.

    Now, for the specific topic at hand the assisted movement ‘conveyor belt’ system you’re looking at is nifty, clever even, and might just work. But a Zip mode would be really welcome all through the game regardless.

  • Bishop Schulz Says:

    Now that is nice, i like the video showing the movement, feels less gamey and more realistic even at double bridge underneath speed.


  • ted Says:

    This is a super cool idea, but there are so many places in Riven that would benefit from a run mode! I would love to get shift to run.

  • Averagemoe Says:

    Won’t the player notice that the bridge supports are moving along Boiler Island’s terrain?

  • Skiloh Wilkinson Says:

    Sorry to be blunt, but why the hell adjust it at all?! Most enjoy the ambience and realism of the environment. It breaks the mould of the instant gratification, quick fix action stereotype. There was far more running/walking around in Myst Online and I LOVED every moment of the scenery. That view too!

    • Emily Says:

      I wholeheartedly agree. Myst is all about being immersed in the world around you, and the full walk, as you said, is a perfect example of that. However, many players are not a fun of such waits, in such cases a run option would be appreciated. Perhaps a ‘burst sprint’ option could be available, however disabled by default?

  • Magic88889 Says:

    While I’m of the opinion that maybe it should be left alone, I can understand where you’re coming from.
    If you do this, I think you have to balance the acceleration. While I understand the desire to have it not take so long, you still need to feel that distance. Nine clicks is a lot for one bridge, the realtime 3D version should feel the same.

  • Nintendo Maniac 64 Says:

    While I think your solution is brilliant, I also think it’s unnecessary.

    realMyst has a run button, why can’t realRiven?

    And some people like myself have a tendency to take their time walking from place to place in such exploratory games – I don’t like rushing around so much in these types games (especially with Riven’s “scenic vistas”), and I definitely know I’m not the only person that plays this way (see the youtuber “kurtjmac” and both his “far lands or bust” and “eidolon” series).

  • Tom Says:

    I believe a “run” function (by holding down Shift) is your best option. In my opinion, it doesn’t break immersion and feels less “gamey” than the old Zip mode. Plus, there are many other areas, when I played the game, where I would travel lengthy distances with a flurry of clicks. If you focus only on this particular area and don’t put in a “run” function, then the rest of the game is going to feel monotonous. Especially Jungle Island and the trip to get the submarine, even if you know what to do, getting there will take a long time without a run.

    As a long-time fan of the series who has been waiting for a Real Riven since Real Myst, I want to be able to experience as much of the game as possible in real time with as few tricks as possible. Am I the only one looking forward to walking across that bridge in real time?

  • David Clark Says:

    Although this is a really cool idea, I feel like you’re gonna have a lot of issues doing it this way. Depending on where the light is coming from, you’ll probably be able to see from the shadows that the bridge is moving over the water, plus the bridge itself will end up looking shorter than it really is when you’re on it. If you adjust the movement speed (or rather that bridge speed) as you approach then the player might feel the effect of slowing down and speeding up if their eyes are on the island instead of the bridge. I think a run button is probably more effective, or change the bridge is it’s actually an escalator (like in the airports) that changes direction based on what direction you’re moving. A run button would probably make more sense if you don’t already have one.

  • Peter Weersing Says:

    If what we see is 3 times the speed, then it all takes about 33 seconds to cross. And that, in my opinion, is totally accetable. We are playing Riven here. A masterpiece as you all know. And if the bridge is this long by design, and it takes that long to cross then that is what it takes. Please don’t break you’re head on this. As a real fan i couldn’t even care if it took a minute. I would enjoy the journey every frame and every second.
    Pulling tricks while the player crosses the bridge is not necesary and time consuming to develop. So please keep it as original as possible.

  • Anthony Kleine Says:

    I like the shown prototype of the bridge moving under the player. It’s really convincing. I wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t pointed out.

    A lot of people here seem to be forgetting that in the original Riven you can click through these nodes as fast as you want – so no, it does not “feel the same” when it takes 45 seconds to cross.

    After crossing it a lot it will just start to become annoying and will come across as a lame way of padding out game time if it is left completely alone – or make players suspicious they are missing something on the bridge considering so much emphasis is put on it. At the same time, the bridge is such a great image and I do not think it should be replaced or made shorter. To me, a visual trick to decrease the amount of time it takes to cross is a good middle-ground solution.

    • Artur Says:

      Well, the visual trick actually makes the bridge shorter – not literally perhaps, but simply you don’t cross so much of the bridge itself while traveling he same distance. This might distort the feeling of the scale of the islands. That’s why I would prefer the run option.

  • dsto Says:

    I think a running option (available anywhere in game) would be best. I don’t think it feels too gamey… Seems like the analog to zip mode. Also would interfere less( than the moving bridge solution) with the player’s sense of scale of the bridge

  • BuddhaMaster Says:

    Immerse the Player with ambient sounds!
    Make the bridge creak, a gust of wind, seagulls or other wild life, even a lonely Butterfly (remember Myst Island?), a bug buzzing by.

    Make the crossing an adventure!
    You are all alone up there, a million miles down to water and rocks.

    Let the player feel the alien world, or give him some comfort by said things.

    Let him know SOMETHING’s gonna happen, but dont make it corny.
    And then, nothing happens.
    Thats the best!
    You just passed a 200 Meter bridge- and nothing happened!

    Maybe a gust of wind (almost mockingly) at the end that reminds you of lonely, giant emptiness.

    Make it dry. Let the player between expectation and nothing.

    Remember passing Seagulls from Myst at the pier? Id stand there watching for five minutes and enjoy the subtle variations (theres about 5). Get those on that Bridge! Easteregg. Or that fat bug sitting on the tree stump. Those Sea Creatures will call you, check the waters! Frightening heights, deeeep way down. But experience a faint shadow passing the waters.

    Feel the bridge!

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