Oct 25 2018

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!

***

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!

***

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


Oct 31 2017

Happy 20th!

On this day, twenty years ago, to much anticipation, Riven: The Sequel to Myst was finally released to worldwide critical acclaim. Two decades later, our project to remake this game has become a symbol of how much it means to all of us on the Starry Expanse team. Riven was the high-water mark of the Myst series.

Twenty years of adventure gaming, puzzle solving, and online community discussion… Now, here we are, at the tail end of 2017. So much of the game development and computer graphics industries has changed in the twenty years since 1997, but we are honored that someday we will be able to bring this amazing experience to new players in order to continue its legacy.

To mark the occasion, the team would like to share something that we have been working on recently. We are always looking for new ways to share our work, and although we currently have no plans to publicly share a build of the game, we may have the next best thing:

(View may take a minute or two to load.)

Please note that these panoramic images are a work in progress and do not represent the final position of navigation nodes in realRiven, and neither do they reflect the final quality of the game. They are the result of our experimentation with Unreal’s stereoscopic capture feature, and while they are areas you have likely seen before if you are a regular reader of this blog, we are excited to have been provided a new way to show our environments, which seems fitting for the occasion.

 

Happy 20th Riven-der-Weende!


Apr 2 2017

Solid Materials

Our artists have been hard at work adding to the material library, our collection of commonly used surfaces that can be used in combination to recreate the detailed environments of Riven. Here are some recent examples, all created by texture artist Jacek Kalinowski!

Red dirt and basalt rock, Boiler Island

Our material system allows us to blend these surfaces together based on a texture mask, which gives our artists a lot of control over the fine details of each asset.

Deposited limestone, Survey Island

Riven is a world of stark natural beauty contrasted against intricate machinery, and our material system allows us to reproduce it in the highest possible detail. From the fine sand on the shore of Boiler Island’s volcanic lake, to the wear and tear on the Fire Marble Dome.

Rough brick, Survey Island

 

Welcome to our new team members!
Brandon Kouri (3D Artist)
Nathan Grove (3D Artist)


Aug 5 2016

Mysterium 2016 video feed

UPDATE: Watch the recording of the presentation here!

Original Post:

Today’s the big day! Follow Mysterium along with us at https://www.twitch.tv/mysteriumcon — presentation will start at 3:30 Mountain Daylight Time.

 

Twitch Stream Thumbnail

 


Aug 1 2016

It’s that time of year again!

Upon us in the month of August are potentially many events that may make or break the future of humanity. The most critical of these events, of course, is the 19th annual occurrence of Mysterium (the Myst fan convention). This will be our seventh year presenting at Mysterium, and our show this time is going to be quite the departure from previous years — so be sure to tune in!

We’ll post a link to a live video stream when the time is closer. For now, though, be sure to mark your calendar with the following details:

Date: Friday, August 5th, 2016
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Local Time (MDT / Mountain Daylight Time): 3:30 PM

Time zone conversions for your convenience:
Eastern USA Time: 5:30 PM
Pacific USA Time: 2:30 PM
UTC: 9:30 PM (Friday August 5th)

See you there! And if you’re bored in the meantime, take a look at some content from our previous Mysterium shows.

 


Jan 26 2015

A Whole New 2015

Well, it’s been a quiet year in the starry expanse, our hometown, out there on the edge of the… wait a second, no it hasn’t! This past year was our busiest yet, with the adoption of Unreal Engine 4, a huge chunk of Jungle Island, a working submarine, and so much more.

But the mania isn’t over. We’re launching into a new year, and in celebration of that we’ve prepared a cup o’ kindness rivaled by none other than Gehn’s journals themselves.

Vincent, our resident font artisan, has been hard at work meticulously studying and redrawing the glyphs found in the diaries of one of the most fascinating villains in MYST history. This is no easy task, but the results have been very rewarding.

The original and recreation of the Gehn font, both amazing, side by side for comparison.

(left to right) The  Starry Expanse re-creation of the Gehn font, compared to the original

The entire lowercase alphabet has been completed for this typeface, as well as all of the uppercase. If you look closely, you can see that some lowercase letters are drawn with just a slightly different pen stroke, or are just a little bit “off.” This is a purposeful effect, to give the journals’ text a human feel, instead of just looking like your standard printing press output. Each of these letter variants had to be hand-sketched. We think it paid off in the end, with certainty.

Variants of several letters in the Gehn font

Variants of several letters in the Gehn font

But what New Year’s celebration would be complete without a cozy rug, hot cups of cheer, and community bonding? That is why it’s our pleasure to announce the brand-new Starry Expanse Community Forum (community.starryexpanse.com) — a place where all our fans are welcome to gather for discussions about Myst, Riven, and anything related.

A screenshot of a curious forum posting being composed

The forum is for all kinds of discussion!

Speculations*, cautious optimism, and “fan theories” abound, as well as just general fun and games, we’re hoping this recently added part of the site will be your first stop for questions and answers about the project, as well as the Myst franchise in general. Sign up right now!

Happy new year to all, and may it be the most exciting yet!

 

* also Speculoos


Jan 22 2015

Cho…?

Well hello there! You may be coming to us from Twitter* — our site’s a bit of a mess right now (sorry about that!), but we may as well use this opportunity to point you in the right direction:

Have at it! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

* A big thank you to Rian Johnson!


Dec 25 2014

Happy holidays!


Aug 2 2012

Mysterium 2012 Presentation Today! (UPDATED)

Howdy all! This is your official invitation to join us for our presentation at Mysterium 2012 in Seattle! We’re presenting the last year’s worth of work and news today, Friday, August 3 right now!

Please note that while earlier today we were experiencing technical difficulties, those difficulties have been mitigated and we are continuing on with our presentation at this moment (now). Thank you for your patience!

If you’re not attending Mysterium in person, the event will be streamed live online here via LiveStream (or you can watch it embedded in this page below)! Hope to see you there!

Check out the LiveStream feed!

Watch live streaming video from mysterium2011 at livestream.com

Apr 12 2012

New Development Blog

You may be interested to know that today, we launched a new development blog! We plan to post here about our works in progress, insights, and general struggles we’ve faced while developing the game. Hope you enjoy!