Gallery of the Ages

Greetings to fellow Riven enthusiasts everywhere! The Starry Expanse Team hopes you all are enjoying a beautiful autumn this year. Project co-founder Philip Peterson here, coming at you with some words from a soul that has stared at images of Riven for over ten years.

To open the season, I want to showcase a different side of the project. Quite frequently, in the course of modeling and texturing assets, and when referring to specific areas of the game during our meetings and various conversations, we find ourselves in need of the ability to quickly find a particular image or movie from Riven.

The most efficient way to do this, perhaps oddly, is often to perform a quick YouTube search, find a video playthrough of Riven, and scan through it to find the shot that we need. However, since Riven is a nonlinear game, causing these videos to be difficult to scan — and also because these YouTube links often go stale and end up broken (possibly due to the blatant copyright infringement that they sometimes involve) — links to timestamps in YouTube videos are not ideal for our use cases, which include embedding in documents and emails that might be read years down the road.

There is also the downside of video quality on YouTube, which is especially bad for things like these walkthroughs, as the source material (Riven images and videos) is already decently compressed, which when compounded with YouTube’s aggressive compression, leads to a bit of an artifactilicious mess.

There is a program called Riveal created by a guy called Ron Hayter, which you can use to extract Riven FMVs and static images. However, as the potential future Starry Expanse team member that you are, how would you link someone who is new to the team to one of these images? First, you would have to explain how to download and run the program, and also they would have to extract all of Riven’s images before being able to see the image you were talking about.

All of that changed when Chris Mumford joined the project.

Chris and the chest hair of salvation

When Chris joined the team with experience creating internal software tools at other companies (as well as some casual history operating nuclear submarines), he saw a problem and immediately took it upon himself and his two hands to craft a solution. Introducing… the Riven Reference Browser:

The Riven Reference Browser allows artists to quickly scan Riven for clues.

The Reference Browser allows team members to easily scan through all the shots in Riven, finding just the viewpoint they need, and then link that viewpoint to another team member. The utility even allows the user to see related images and viewpoints.

A specific viewpoint expanded in the Reference Browser

Each still shot from the original game can be grouped into viewpoints automatically because of the naming convention in the files in Riven’s release. In the breakdown of a particular viewpoint, each state of the scene can be seen. In the telescope viewpoint above, for instance, the telescope has been lowered to a different level in the left-hand state.

The result is an easy to use utility that anyone on the team can use to refer to an arbitrary picture from the game, for all of eternity… until the suns burn out and the universe dies a fiery heat death. But realRiven will be released before then, we assure you.

The source code for the utility is available on our GitHub, along with much of our core gameplay code.

There is still much left to do with the Reference Browser; the ability to search for “tree” and see all the trees is something that would be a huge boon to the material creation side of Starry Expanse.

Rock on, and thanks for following the project!

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We are always looking for new software engineers and game developers to join the project. If you are or know a talented software developer or artist, please shoot us a line at general@starryexpanse.com — we’re always looking for help!

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Welcome to our newest member on the project, Samuel Sefer, who has already made some very exciting contributions. More details to come!


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Team members' usernames are in red.

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