Apr 21 2016

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a Match

We’ve pulled together a few more images to share with you guys of the work being done by our various art teams.

The ytram cave on Boiler Island

The maglev station on Boiler Island

The beginnings of our wahrk model

The lower level of Survey Island

Not much else to report, other than that things are progressing very well around here, and that we’re looking for more help!

Dec 22 2015


Seven years ago today, in a half-joking AIM conversation between two friends from Uru Obsession, the Starry Expanse Project began. While at the time we were absolutely getting in over our heads, we like to think that we’ve proven our chops by hanging on until we managed to bring together a team capable of accomplishing the insane goal we set for ourselves all those years ago: to make a realtime 3D version of Riven.

And a few months ago, we decided that we would have our first fully complete area of the game done by November, Gehn’s 233rd age. November became December, and now we’re almost done with December, too. It turns out it’s really difficult for perfectionists such as ourselves to call something “complete”. We’re working on that.

Anyway, it’s been too long since we shared our progress with our amazing community, so we thought that in celebration of our seventh year of development, we would show you guys what we’ve got cooking.

While 233 is not yet fully complete (most notably, the exterior still needs work, and our lighting is way off in many areas), we’re really proud of how it’s looking. We hope you guys will like it, too – honestly, you’re the only reason we’re able to continue working on a project of this magnitude under the circumstances that we do. Your continuing support and generosity is what fuels our developers, and we really can’t say “thank you” enough.

Here’s to seven years! We’re still here, we’re still working, we’re going to finish this thing. See you in 2016!

Aug 12 2015

Mysterium 2015 Recap

This year at Mysterium (the annual gathering of Myst fans), we gave a presentation demoing our latest work – most notably, Gehn’s 233rd age. We had a lot of fun, and while the age is not completely finished, we’re really proud of our work so far. You can watch the presentation in its entirety here:

We had a lot of fun working on the demo at Mysterium. We have a tradition of continuing to polish our presentations right up until the minute we go on stage. We’re never satisfied!

Texture work in the hotel room Preparing for the demo


The area is definitely still a work in progress – for example, in the demo above we had not yet added the textures for Gehn’s desk. We have since added those in, and you can see them in the screenshots below, rendered in beautiful 4K for your viewing pleasure:

Inside the cage

A linking book

The office

The bedroom

The bedroom

(We’re also aware that there are some weird glitches happening in the water, these are an artifact of the rendering process we used to make the screenshots and won’t be visible in the final game)

We set up the demo for Mysterium-goers to try hands-on, and everyone had a good time.

Mysterium demo

Mysterium demo


We think it was a really successful Mysterium, and a great year for the project. Here’s looking forward to 2016! Stay tuned as we put the finishing touches on 233, and begin work on our next area.


Jul 8 2015

Bits and Bobs

Gehn’s desk in his 233rd age is supposedly organized just as his father’s desk was, in D’ni. Today, we have the beginnings of a few of the objects featured in that layout.

The inkwell

The vial

The pen

The pipe


These were rendered in Unreal, but they are currently using stand-in materials and textures.

Jun 17 2015


Work on 233 is progressing nicely…

Linking Book Pedestal

A Closer View

Jun 3 2015

Marvelous Maglev

Just a small update today, with an object some of you may recognize. This is a high-poly model, where an artist goes all-out to produce the most detailed, accurate, beautiful model of an object as they possibly can, without any regard for poly count or performance.

The Maglev

While we’re pretty confident that our engine could handle a model like this in realtime, the next step will be to create the low-poly model, which judiciously reduces our polygon count without sacrificing accuracy and detail.

Apr 14 2015

Forest for the Trees

The process of recreating a game like Riven requires a lot of guess-and-check work. Matt, one of our artists, has been gradually figuring out the exact placement of each tree in the Jungle Island jungle, and the precise shape that the pathway follows. This is a constant struggle for us – the placement and shape of every object is triangulated using the original game renders (and other various resources). We use temporary “blocking” geometry, in order to lay everything out in position, before final assets are modeled.

Here’s a quick shot of an area in the Jungle that’s being “camera matched” currently:Jungle blocking


We’ve shared a few of these images in the past, but the jungle is a seemingly never-ending area! Once the positions of the trees and other jungle objects are locked down and double-checked, another artist will start adding detail and bringing the place to life.

Feb 11 2015

All-Terrain Modeling

While we were pretty happy with our Mysterium 2014 presentation, many of the elements we showed off were incomplete. We’ve been working at polishing a lot of aspects of the Jungle Island Basin, and today we’d like to share a status update.

Davis, another talented member of our art team, has been hard at work for the last few weeks on an updated model of the basin terrain. While we have not yet textured the model (the sculpting is not yet complete, which needs to happen first), we think it’s just about ready to show the world.

The Basin

North wall

South wall

Most notably missing from last year’s terrain model were the vertical ridges that are such iconic features in the original game – now meticulously restored!

At the same time, Will continues the Sisyphean task of stick-walkway placement, in the village. Will has been assigned to this task since before last Mysterium, and it’s a doozy. He’s been placing sticks individually, to ensure that their locations are exactly accurate to the walkways in the original. Here are a few key areas he’s been working on:

Upper-level village walkways

Village walkways, now with 100% more lamp


We’re holding off on bringing these updates into Unreal until they’re closer to being totally finished – these images are just snapshots from Maya, and shouldn’t really be judged on their looks. We’ll focus on making them look great as soon as the modeling is complete!

Feb 4 2015

Back to School

This week, we’re showing off some of the texture work that has been taking place in the schoolhouse! When we demoed this area at Mysterium last year, it was in a fully modeled, but untextured state – now one of our artists, Tim, is working to rectify that!

We haven’t put the new textures into Unreal yet, but in the meantime here are a few renders!

The Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse from above


Note that these images are not representative of final assets, there’s still plenty of work to be done here. We’re pretty happy with how they’re coming along, however. You can see more of Tim’s work in last year’s Mysterium demo – he was responsible for the Villager that opens the door when you knock.

Meanwhile, work continues on modeling Gehn’s Office on the 233rd age. As modeling work wraps up on the upper level, Kelly has begun to look at the objects in Gehn’s Bedroom. Here’s her latest object, the nightstand:

Gehn's Night Stand

As soon as we’re happy with the quality and accuracy of the models, texturing can begin. Kelly modeled a bunch of objects for last year’s demo, including the schoolhouse area!

We’ll wrap up with a reminder that we now have a forum! Come by and hang out!

Sep 25 2014

Life after Mysterium

Every year after Mysterium, the team takes a bit of time off as a breath of fresh air after the mad dash to complete our demo in time for August. That brief period of exhalation has been thoroughly enjoyed by each and every one of us, and it is now safe to say that we’re back to work.

After our success with last year’s goal, we have decided to split our team into three distinct groups. The first group, which is the majority of the team, is focusing on finishing up the Village Basin area that we showed off at Mysterium. This includes completing the unfinished assets as well as fixing any remaining glitches and generally fine-tuning the engine.

Meanwhile, two of our artists are off blazing new trails for the project. We’ve discussed our camera matching process in the past, our technique of getting 1:1 geometry based solely on images from the original game. Matt, our expert camera-matching guy, has already begun to apply this technique to the rest of Jungle Island, which is the first stage in expanding our in-game area beyond the Village Basin. In these screenshots, you can see our progress on matching Gehn’s throne and the upper walkway in the forest (the line overlays are our work)

Camera Matching - Jungle Island

(The image is somewhat high-resolution, may load slowly)

Once areas are fully “matched”, we create very simple stand-in geometry for the area, so in-engine work can begin before the final assets are completed, or even started. The stand-in assets are then replaced, one by one, with final art, until the area is complete. This is the state of the 233rd age currently – it is fully blocked-in, and Kelly, one of our amazing artists, is beginning to create detailed assets, based on the blocking geometry.

Here you can see one of the elements she’s working on, albeit still in an early, unpolished phase:

Gehn's Oven

We’re very happy to be back to work – as nice as a break is every now and then, we all love working on this project, and are excited to be able to show you guys some pretty cool stuff in the weeks and months to come.