Winter Update: Taking a Closer Look

Our presentations at Mysterium are a special opportunity for us to show you what we’ve been working on, and for our team members to collaborate more closely to complete difficult tasks together. This past year was no exception, and we’re grateful to the Mysterium committee for filming and editing the video of our presentation so everyone can watch (or rewatch!) it:

There’s a lot of creativity and hard work behind the scenes of our presentations, and there are always details we don’t have time to talk about during the show itself. Now that the video is available, we wanted to take a closer look at two aspects of our demo that didn’t get much time on stage, but provide a unique look at our talented artists’ processes.

The lighted poles, as seen in the original game

These lighted poles line the Mag-Lev dock, and epitomize a question our team members are always asking themselves: what is that? Robert Kreps, one of our 3D artists, found himself trying to decipher the nature of the lights while working to recreate them. “I noticed that there is no indication of any sort of bulb or filament in the glass, just a hazy blue color,” Robert shared. “Also, in many of them there were some strange pixel artifacts, and these artifacts have no consistency between different viewing angles.”

It was these artifacts that led him to a theory: the blue orbs aren’t lights, they’re glowing gas. “Much like how neon is used to illuminate signs in our world, there’s no reason Gehn couldn’t have discovered a naturally luminescent gas and encapsulated it in glass orbs as a permanent light fixture,” Robert says. With this as a new starting point, he went about setting it up in the game engine, using a gas-like noise texture applied to a particle emitter. “The particles have an ever-so-slight random rotation and scale over time, along with a soft fade-in and fade-out, and of course, a blue tint,” he explained. “Once the particles all blend together, you get the final effect.”

The gassy light orbs, recreated in our demo

Those listening closely to the sound during the demo may have noticed something new in the elevator room: an original music track, composed by our audio guru and composer Hollister Starrett. Take a listen:

Riven’s soundtrack isn’t something our team takes lightly. “I had to make sure my track had a canonical justification for being there,” Hollister explained. In the full game, “The Red Cave” music establishes the motifs of the area and sets up the musical reveal of the Wahrk room’s theme. However, given our demo area’s narrower scope, Hollister felt it would feel empty with only its small selection of ambient sounds; he decided to write a new track to fulfill the narrative and atmospheric purposes of the space in the original game. “This entire sequence is an incredible tension builder,” he says. “I took some of the motifs from the Red Cave theme and set to work making a track that would build the tension and really compliment the striking elevator sequence.”

Hollister playing the Yamaha VL1 synth

As Hollister talked about at Mysterium 2018, our team purchased both models of synthesizers Robyn Miller used to make the Riven soundtrack, which provided a strong and consistent aural foundation for his new composition. In the latter part of the track, there’s also a new sound — a unique woodwind instrument, inspired by Gehn’s Maral-Obe (also created in the Yamaha VL1 by Robyn Miller). Hollister designed it to fit into the story, as well as the soundtrack. “In my mind, it is a double-reeded woodwind that looks similar to an ancient Greek Karamuza used by the villagers, particularly in rituals worshipping Gehn and the Wahrk.”

The new music track in production

“Adding new content to a game you have such respect for artistically is no easy task,” Hollister says. “But if done right, it can really compliment the pre-existing content and serve to show how much thought and care was put into the original. I truly hope to have achieved that with this track.”

A final note before we close out this post, and look ahead to 2020. As you know, there are a lot of exciting changes happening at the Starry Expanse project, which means we may be posting less frequently than usual. We remain excited about what’s coming down the pipeline in the year ahead, and will keep you posted as things continue to develop. More to come!


25 Responses to “Winter Update: Taking a Closer Look”.

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

    Glad to hear something from the team.
    Keep up the good work !

  • The Green Butterfly Says:

    Happy New Year!
    Nice to hear from you guys again with these interesting updates!

    I wonder, shouldn’t the gas inside the orbs get energy from electrodes (like in neon signs) so they can emit blue light? Is it me, or does some kind of metal wire enter the orb? It’s hard to see…
    If they just absorbed naturally occurring light, the orbs should emit less light in the darker maglev stations, but they seem to emit the same amount of light everywhere. Since blue light has quite a high energy, it could absorb UV light (not visible to the human eye) from emitters in the top of the pole that shines into the orbs from below, but the pattern of light in the orbs should be different then with more light being emitted from the bottom. Also, if you use a lamp already, why not make it emit visible light in the first place? It’s Ghen of course, he’s capable of such things, but still.

  • auahz Says:

    On this render the orbs can be seen very well: https://i.imgur.com/W1eLt.jpg
    Looks like the poles enter the orbs and extend to the top.

    • LuigiHann Says:

      Good eye on the poles. Could make more sense of how the lamps are powered, this way.
      It does seem like they’ve otherwise captured them very well, since that render has a similar flowy/gassy look to what the team came up with.

      Might also be worth studying the video of the Maglev pulling into Survey Island. It’s tough to tell with the compression but it does look like the light and dark bits of the orb are static, not actively flowing.

    • LuigiHann Says:

      Those orbs do look great, and I can only imagine how many revisions they’ve been through. Always fascinating in a remaster to figure out where you really need to add things.

      And that elevator track is pretty perfect. It really does feel like it could be a lost Riven track.

      Looking forward to seeing what you’re able to accomplish with increased access to Cyan’s resources.

    • Aloys Says:

      I always assumed those were simple blue firemarbles, nothing technological. Just like those in the corridor leading to the Moiety book room with the ‘tennis table paddles’. https://imgur.com/a/D4spCjS

  • mystman12 Says:

    That music track is fantastic! Interestingly, the beginning gave me some serious Super Metroid vibes. Sounds a lot like the music in the statue room, which also happens to be filled with water.

    Here’s a link to the Super Metroid track: https://youtu.be/HES6O0DzqeM

  • James Says:

    I love the new track. Fantastic work, Hollister! Thanks so much for sharing this. I always enjoy reading these updates.

  • Aloys Says:

    That music track is really good. It does a great job of emulating Robyn’s composition style, and fits the area. If I didn’t know I could believe it’s from the original game.
    However I have to say that I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea. I thought the goal of the whole project was to recreate Riven as it was. Not to add original content to it. So why?

    • Iman Says:

      That’s a fair question! As of right now, we’re not planning to add this track to the main game — this was written exclusively for the Mysterium demo, since that particular slice of the game didn’t include any music. We wanted to make sure you all had a chance to hear Hollister’s wonderful work in the meantime!

  • Sean Says:

    Curious why you’re adding content. Nonetheless less excited to see this in person one day…

  • Wes Says:

    Love the track as a stand alone tribute to Robyn’s work and potential background music for your demo; but not really feeling adding content to the original game as this is supposed to be a one to one recreation. If there wasn’t any music in that particular portion originally, then I believe you’re changing the creators original intent. Which in my mind is a big no-no. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    If however the team decides to add some of the areas that were cut from the final release of the game; I could see the need for new music to compliment it. Hollister is definitely the man for the job.

    My two cents.

  • Wangmauler Says:

    Just… Wow. I’m amazed at how great this soundtrack is looking to be… I’m an audiophile, musician and sound snob myself, and this just FEELS like an extension of RIVEN. Thank you for everyone’s amazing work!

  • Andross Says:

    First, so great to hear from you, I was worried when there was nothing at Christmas.

    Second, M3 Exile also features similar orbs which are orange in colour, however they are a similar in size and purpose, so they might be worth another look. I think the gas is a likely sounding explanation. Perhaps it is some by product given off by the organisms in the water, which might explain why the tunnel coming into the caldera is lighter than it probably should be?

  • Xylochoron Says:

    I think the pixel artifacts just have to do with the gif image compression used.

    Also thought they were just fire marbles.

    Also unsure about adding tracks to the game, “special edition” territory. So the villagers were now excited enough about worshiping Gehn that they played their own instruments during execution, ok

    Maybe the elevator coming up was exciting enough without having to accentuate it with an extra track and are we going to end up with a special edition in the end…

  • adreamvoyager Says:

    I still would like to see an Alembic fluid simulation be applied to the water when the Elevator Rises up. It would be a really nice touch. Unreal can definitely handle it, and they can be generated in blender if needed.

  • Flake Says:

    Have you plans to support RTX (Ray-Tracing) includes Day and Night cycle.?

  • Elmo Says:

    “Have you plans to support RTX (Ray-Tracing) includes Day and Night cycle.?”

    Without the extra work, will this even be released in our lifetimes lol.

  • Flake Says:

    Spring update please

  • Anthony Says:

    So with everyone practically staying indoors, are people finding more time to work on this?

    • Anthony Says:

      (Me replying to self)
      …and guess what, Unreal Engine V (5) has just been announced, and it looks awesome. Perhaps the game should steer towards that now.

  • Airetama Says:

    I’m an old gamer but I’m a new Myst fan.
    I never got to play the originals back in the day but I played realMyst Masterpiece Edition for the first time last year and really enjoyed it.
    I also just finished Exile, which I really liked as well.
    As much as I’d like to see a realExile, it’s probably not gonna happen anytime soon, so I played the original, and at least in this one you can look 360° around you.
    I’m having a hard time going back to the old screen-by-screen gameplay, so I just wanted to let you guys know that your game is the one I’ve been anticipating the most these past few years.
    Yeah that’s right, even before I played Myst I and III I heard about your project and was excited for it.
    Can’t wait to finally play this masterpiece that is Riven.
    Good luck in continuing and completing this fantastic project.

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