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!

 


Feb 15 2014

Setting Phasers for ‘Stun’

In the past, we’ve shown you bits and pieces from almost every area in Riven. We kicked things off with an early version of Temple Island. We spent two years demoing Prison Island, and last year we showed you an area from Survey Island as well as a rough layout of Boiler Island. Our tactic thus far has been to work mainly on small areas of the game, breaking Riven into bite-size chunks that we could easily achieve.

Still, there are a couple of major areas of the game that we’ve avoided in the past, and one sticks out like a sore thumb.

Notice anything missing?

Notice anything missing?

Well, for Mysterium this year, we decided to throw our old strategy of playing things safe to the wind, and set about creating Jungle Island. And really, what better way to put our new engine through its paces than by throwing the single most complicated area of the entire game at it?

Our efforts are being concentrated primarily in the village basin, where there are a few different areas being worked on at once. We’re going to keep you guys up to date as things progress, but we thought we’d start the show & tell off with one of the most iconic objects from Riven, the village hut.

knock, knock

knock, knock, knock

It’s worth mentioning that these are screenshots from within UDK. We’re kind of in love with the way UDK handles light and shadows, and we’re pretty sure you will be, too.

(this one is in Maya, not UDK, but it's still really cool)

We have all 38 huts modeled and in place, and now that the materials for the first hut are complete, it will be a simple feat to put the finishing touches on the others.

We intend to continue with small updates like these throughout the development of the village basin area, so stay tuned!

 


Feb 14 2014

More Soon

There's a great deal you should know, but I'm afraid I must continue my writing.


Feb 1 2014

Unreal Riven

Five years ago, when we first discussed the prospect of remaking Riven, our intention was to do it as an expansion for Uru. The original name of the project, before it became the Starry Expanse Project, was actually uRiven (after Uru). Without any official tools to make content for Uru, we produced everything in Blender 3D and exported it to a format that Plasma (Uru’s game engine) could parse. However, after a while, we outgrew Plasma. It was outdated, it could not achieve the graphics we needed, and worst of all, it was no longer being maintained or updated.

And so, the project migrated to the Blender Game Engine. It was the logical next step at the time – we were already using Blender for asset creation anyway, so why not just use the built-in engine for the game itself? Well, it eventually became obvious why: the Blender Game Engine was difficult to work with, and while it could be prettier than Plasma, it was never faster, and at its core, it was simply inefficient.

To make a long story short, we shortly thereafter moved to an engine called Unity 3D. Unity was our first professional engine, and unlike ever before, our goal seemed to be within reach — this was an engine that was used for actual games, and while it had a significant learning curve, it could produce great results. We jumped onto the Unity ship, and the future was bright. With Unity, we showed off Prison Island and an area from Survey Island at Mysterium conventions. It was a huge step up from the Blender days. But, with our knowledge of game design sprouting like a beanstalk, and our team sporting many times more talented artists than ever before, the shortcomings of Unity for our project were becoming more and more apparent.

* * *

By the beginning of last summer, we had begun discussing the possibility of leaving Unity behind. Concerns about Unity’s graphical capabilities had been raised — in particular its ability to efficiently render large, detailed areas. The areas we had produced up to that point were fantastic, but they were already putting significant stress on Unity, and in terms of complexity… well, they were mere specks compared to Jungle Island, the largest island we would have to be able to handle. It seemed that the need for a change of rendering technology was inescapable.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the release of Unity 4.0, a paid upgrade from Unity 3, which was what we had been using up to that point. As many of you know, we had to raise money in order to afford our Unity 3 license, and we are very thankful toward everybody who donated. Because of this, we were not happy about the prospect of having to either purchase an upgrade or risk becoming obsolete.

The search for a new engine began in earnest after Mysterium 2013. If not Unity, then what?

UDK logo

It wasn’t long before our gaze fell upon the Unreal Development Kit. UDK is a free (provided certain licensing restrictions) framework built on the Unreal Engine. It’s also the engine Cyan is using for their new game, Obduction (they’re still collecting donations, by the way), and in fact, Cyan themselves recommended that we use it for our project. It’s an extremely powerful platform that has been used to produce beautiful AAA games for years, such as Bioshock and Mass Effect. Its lighting and particle capabilities far outstrip those of Unity, and its ability to handle large, detailed areas is in another class altogether.

What’s more is that UDK maintains similar cross-platform support to Unity; games made using UDK can be run on OS X, Windows, and any of a number of mobile platforms. It even has Oculus Rift support baked in. UDK gives us everything that Unity had, and on top of that, it’s faster, it’s more beautiful, and it’s free.

Since the switch, we haven’t looked back. Unity is a great platform, and for a while, it was the platform we needed. While we were disappointed that we were not going to be able to continue with it, we look forward to showing off just how amazing Riven can look with this new engine.


Jan 28 2014

Catching Up

Hey there, long time no see!

Lately the project has been radio silent, as often happens between Mysteria.

We like making a splash at Mysterium, so in the past our strategy has always been to save up the big news and content for our presentations. Our logic has been that if we’ve already shared all the stuff we have, there will be nothing left for us to present at the convention. That said, it’s become clear that we’ve taken this too far recently, having posted practically nothing during the 362¼ days that are not Mysterium.

With that in mind, we want to include you guys in our development process more than we have in the past. We want to return this website to what it was intended to be: a place for us to share screenshots of what we’re up to, explain our thinking on certain issues we’ve been grappling with, and that sort of thing. We’ll still save some surprises for Mysterium, of course, but we intend to crack the floodgates of information a bit between now and then.

So stick around, and expect more from us in the coming weeks!


Oct 17 2013

Obduction

If you’re interested in Myst, Riven, and good games in general, then you probably should go and check out Cyan’s new game, Obduction! They’re currently raising funds for it over on Kickstarter, and it looks like it contains everything we loved about Riven, and more! Please consider tossing them a few bucks!

UPDATE: The Kickstarter was a success!! Thank you, everyone!