Chipping Away: Jungle Island Terrain

Whether you’ve been following us for some time or just discovered us recently, it’s no secret that reproducing the environments of Riven in a modern game engine is a considerable undertaking, and of all those tasks, terrain is by far the most time consuming.

Historically we have avoided committing too much development time to terrain because in many ways it is secondary, and just wraps around more important features of the environment. Our priorities have always been to first block-in the navigable areas and interactable objects, followed by large set dressing, and only after that was complete would we start on terrain.

We’re now at a stage in the project where large parts of the game are ready for a detail pass, and so our intrepid 3D artist Jonas Becsan has been hard at work sculpting out the terrain on what is inarguably the most challenging location in the game – Jungle Island!

We’re eager to share more of our workflow with you, so stay tuned for a more technical breakdown of our process early next year. Stay tuned!

Note: Edited 2017-12-11 for clarity

16 Responses to “Chipping Away: Jungle Island Terrain”.

Team members' usernames are in red.
  • The Green Butterfly Says:

    I hope you keep posting (nearly) monthly updates too next year!
    Happy holidays!

  • Peter Weersing Says:

    Great update! Looking forward to more. It really gives a great idea of the immense task that you are so proudly and passionately taking on. And with impressive results i would like to add.

    All i want for christmas is…. Oh well 😉 maybe next year? !

    Keep up the great work everybody. It’s a dream coming true. And you are making it happen.
    Happy holidays!

  • Stefan E. Says:

    Jonas, keep on going. We will love you for your sphisticated terrain.

  • Nate E Says:

    this really is a dream coming true. fantastic. never stop never stopping!

  • Flake Says:

    Amazing. Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward what is coming next year 🙂

  • jamie marchant Says:

    Very nice.

  • Niccolò Scaringella Says:

    Keep up the great work! And congratulations for what you have already done.

    Your 3D version of Riven will have a great success when released, I’m sure!

  • Flake Says:

    Come on guys give us some feedback for january.
    Thanks 🙂

  • Aloys Says:

    I know you guys have spent a lot of time on this, but I’m surprised by how you approached this…

    You are using 3d sculpting tools when Riven’s islands were done with a 2D height map against a grid. And I feel this doesn’t fit for two reasons:

    1- Because of the heightmap process Riven’s islands were essentially extruded. So they do not have over hanging parts and they have a very pyramidal/concentric look to them. Which the 3d sculpting approch avoids. This might not be entirely realistic, but it worked pretty well and anyhow that’s how it was and I thought you guys are all about being close to the original art. 😉
    2- Pixel density on your normap map will be problematic. Looking at your gif above I assume you will be baking your normal map on your low poly mesh, but in order for this too look good you’ll have to use a really high resolution map… 4K, or maybe even several discrete maps.
    To get a good pixel density Cyan used a triplanar shader,(back when it wasn’t named like that) and that is doable in Unreal, and would look great. That’s the usual go-to solution for terrains. (and again, that’d be closer to the original art).

    The way I’d create this kind of geometry is to start with a flat very high resolution grid, and sculpt it with brushes set only to move the vertical axis. (I know it’s possible in Blender and Mudbox, not sure about Zbrush). And then maybe decimate it down to a more manageable polycount.

    • Niccolò Scaringella Says:

      What Mr. Aloys said remembered me an important fact about textures: Cyan used, at that time, real world textures, and this made Riven a game that even today has a nice look (resolution apart). I always wondered how to remake this kind of work, if Cyan does not have anymore its original texture. But even if they have (and give) them, those textures may have a too low resolution…
      I’m sure your are making an impressive job, but I’m curious about this interesting point!

    • Philip Says:

      Hey there! So while I would purposefully like to avoid getting too into the details of what is happening with the terrain (it’s a complicated story which we will reveal in due time), the short and simple of it is that while we are using some detailed portions like this piece, that is not the entirety of the picture and we are adapting our workflow to what works in a timely manner without sacrificing visual quality. We do often project the general image of being super concerned with the details, but while details are important, increasingly important to us is timeliness as well, so we’re trying a couple of combined techniques. 🙂

  • Pedro Says:

    Great work my friends. Wishing you all the best. <3

  • Albert Says:

    Looks fantastic! When is the next update coming?

  • Smurf Says:

    Anything new comming up soon? January came and went without an update, I need my fix 😉

  • Peter Weersing Says:

    Can we, pretty please with sugar on top, have an update of any kind? I’m an addict and really need my dose….

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