May 22 2014

Font of Knowledge

We here at 59 Volts pride ourselves on the accuracy of our art assets. Every part of our game is painstakingly created from scratch, using the original game as reference – and we don’t stop tweaking our art until it is spot-on.

While this is probably obvious for the models and textures we’ve shown in the past, it extends beyond them, too. Today, we’d like to direct your attention to another aspect of our attention to detail – the handwriting fonts used in the journals throughout the game.

This is a more complicated task than it might initially seem. We aim to support more languages than the original Riven did (more on that soon!), meaning we need full glyph support in our fonts. The original, English version of the game does not cover all letters (accented characters, in particular, are totally absent), so we’ve had to go on the hunt for other localizations. We’ve drawn from the French and German versions of the game, to name a few, plus a number of promotional images from outside of the game itself. On top of that, we’ve had to deal with low-resolution images, font inconsistencies, and all of the other issues that we usually encounter when re-creating Riven assets.

That said, we’re happy to announce that our Atrus font is nearing completion! Here’s a sneak peek at what we’ve come up with so far:

Well, it hasn't!

Because this is a vector-based font, it can be scaled to huge sizes, with no loss of quality. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of our font, with a page from the original game (click to enlarge):

Side by Side

It’s worth noting that the page pictured here is simply a mock-up, that this is not a final texture, nor has it been applied to an in-game model yet. This is simply the easiest way to display the font.

Now that the Atrus font is nearly complete, work has begun on a font for Gehn, which is proving to be an even more difficult task.

Stay tuned for further updates as these in-game fonts are developed. The ending has not yet been, heh, written.


May 7 2014

Down the Hatch

Earlier this year, we announced that our development would be shifting to the Unreal Development Kit. We did move to UDK very briefly, but it turns out the story doesn’t end there. Shortly after we made the transition to UDK, Epic announced the release of Unreal Engine 4, which would outdate and replace the engine we had just switched to. We didn’t want to commit to UE4 until we were absolutely certain that it would suit our needs, but after more than a month of testing, we are confident enough to announce that we will definitely be using Unreal Engine 4 from now on.

Unreal Engine 4 is better than UDK in almost every way, and yet they work almost the same. Thus, upgrading has been a breeze. It’s so pretty, it makes UDK’s graphics look like Uru. And what’s more, it has far more platform support than UDK did – as of today, we are finally able to officially announce the addition of Linux support to our platform roster, as well as SteamOS.

We’ve been working on putting together a demo of what the engine is capable of (and we actually showed you an in-engine screenshot from UE4 a month ago, without mentioning it!), so here’s a demo of interaction with the Jungle Island submarine, running in Unreal Engine 4. Please note that the sub is still untextured, and the animations/GUI/interactions are not final in any way. This is more of a programming test, to learn the ins and outs of Unreal 4.

We’ll keep you updated on our Unreal 4 development as it progresses!


Apr 16 2014

In Gehn We Trust

It’s back-to-school season here at the Starry Expanse Project! Do you remember the rules of Gehn? If not, pull up a bench and we’ll teach you a thing or two.

The Hologram Pedestal

First, our lord and master Gehn will address the class, via his special holograph pedestal.

One...Five...Uh

Next, we’ll learn to count in the manner of our lord Gehn.

Yummy, nutritious fruit!

Feeling hungry? Maybe it’s time for a lunch break.

Come back soon!

We don’t know about you, but we sure learned a lot today.

It’s worth mentioning that clearly, the village schoolhouse is a work in progress. These are screenshots taken from within Maya (not Unreal), and are in no way representative of final graphics. We’re pretty excited about how it’s coming along, though!


Apr 2 2014

Unfortunate Circumstances

Yesterday, on April 1st, we announced that we would be switching to the magnificent DOOM engine, to take advantage of its gorgeous graphics and advanced features like sprite support. Unfortunately, since publishing that announcement, we have discovered some pretty major roadblocks standing in the way of that switch, and it is with heavy hearts that we must retract that announcement. Effective immediately, we leave behind our dreams of a DOOM-based realRiven, and return to the (admittedly lower quality) Unreal Engine.

As a consolation for this heartbreaking news, here is another development shot of an area we’ve been working on, running in the Unreal Engine.

The Submarine Control Room

We acknowledge that this in no way can make up for our departure from the beauty of the DOOM engine, but we think that with a lot of hard work, we will someday get Unreal to approach that level of quality.


Apr 1 2014

Engine Switch

Recently, we announced that we would be switching our game engine. Rather than continuing development in Unity, we would instead make use of the beautiful Unreal Engine 3. However, last week, Epic Games (the makers of Unreal Engine) announced the release of Unreal Engine 4, immediately making our brand new engine obsolete.

It’s fair to say that we here at 59 Volts are tired of this constant upgrading and engine switching. To that end, we have some big news to announce – one final engine switch, to end all engine switches. And rather than move to yet another unstable, constantly changing engine like Unity or Unreal, we have decided to make the move to something with a bit more longevity. Something with a strong, well-established developer community. An engine that John Carmack, CTO of Oculus VR, has proudly supported in the past.

That’s right: our game is, even as I type these words, being moved over to the DOOM engine. We’re happy to report that this move has not set us back at all; the assets we’ve been showing off for the last couple of months (and indeed, everything we produced before the move to Unreal) are being put to use in the new engine. In fact, we’re chugging along so well, we feel confident to finally show off a bit of footage of the village basin area that we’ve been putting together:

Now, obviously we’re only in the first stages of development, so please keep in mind that the above video is a work-in-progress. That said, we are actually really happy with the accuracy of DOOM’s sky and water shaders, and we are not planning on modifying them beyond this point.

In addition to the village basin, we have begun work on a few other key areas of the game, too:

speculative concept art - subject to change

speculative concept art - subject to change

We’re so happy with the beautiful graphics provided by Doom, we’re even ready to show you guys what you’ve all been waiting for – the first public reveal of Tay, in all its realtime 3D glory!

Magnificent.

Magnificent.

Yes, the Doom engine certainly is spectacular. It’s really allowed us to accelerate our development, and we expect to be ready to release the game by the summer of 1995. Keep an eye out for it wherever computer games (or iPods, oscilloscopes, and/or pianos) are sold!

Coming soon!


Mar 19 2014

Under the Sea

We’d like to share with you another object that we are currently developing – the village submarine, one of the most iconic elements in Riven. Because the textures for the object are not complete, we don’t have it set up in UDK quite yet – these are work-in-progress renders from Maya.

The Submarine
Inside the Sub

 

The interior of the sub highlights one of the more interesting challenges inherent in the project – what do the areas that are never seen in the original game, but will see in our game, look like? In this case, the area inside the submarine behind the seat has been imagined by a member our hard-working art team, as it is impossible to turn around in the original game. You can see his work in this cutaway shot:

Submarine Cutaway


Mar 7 2014

Sticks and Ladders

As work steadily progresses on the Jungle Island village, we thought we’d share a very pretty shot of the area.

Sky's the Limit


Feb 25 2014

Catwalk

Keeping the Jungle Island content train rolling along, here’s the next area we’re ready to show off – the prison catwalk.

The Prison Catwalk

This is the pathway that leads to and from the prison cell in the Jungle Island village, right next to the gallows. Here’s a couple of views of the model overlaid on top of the original images it was based on.

Overlaid view 1 Overlaid view 2

 

Meanwhile, another artist has been working on the doorway and interior of the prison itself. While we won’t have the two pieces put together until they’re both complete, we can show you a work-in-progress demonstration of the door opening.

 

 
We’ll keep you updated as this area progresses.


Feb 20 2014

Help Wanted

Hey you! Yes, you, with the talents! Did you know that we’re on the lookout for new people to bring onto the project? That’s right; if you are interested in joining up, send us an email!

Right now, we’re looking for volunteers to fill the following positions:

  • 3D Artists. Our artists generally UV map and texture their own work, so having at least a basic knowledge of texturing is recommended. We are particularly (but not exclusively) looking for people with experience creating landscapes or characters. Except for character artists, applicants should be familiar with Maya, as it is our primary tool of creation. You must send us examples of your work, and we appreciate wireframes as well as renders. We may request that you create and texture a specific model for us as a trial.
  • Programmers. Specifically, programmers with experience in writing shaders, and/or working in UDK. You must include a resumé, and code samples or examples of previous projects will help a lot, too.
  • Sound Engineers and Foley Artists. You would be expected to be able to accurately reproduce sounds from the original game. Additionally, in some cases we would be asking you to work with the sounds from the original game, isolating them from background noise and that sort of thing. You must include samples of previous work, and we may request a few specific sound effects, as a trial.
  • Font Designers. We find ourselves in need of a number of fonts, mainly re-creating the handwriting found in the journals throughout the game. You must include examples of previous work.

As you can see, we require examples of previous work from every applicant. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!


Feb 16 2014

Jungle Island Wallpaper

While we continue to work on the Village Basin of Jungle Island, we thought we’d share a wallpaper that we put together to celebrate our work so far. We made this one at 4K, so it should be able to scale down to most resolutions gracefully.

Click the image to preview it, or click here to download the full size!

Enjoy!