Piecing it Together: Building Boiler Island

Connecting the disparate parts of each of Riven’s islands together so they are both accurate to the original game and ensuring that they make realistic sense can be a challenge. Often it feels like assembling a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces never quite fit together.

The different ‘zones’ of Boiler Island. We work on each separately, and then combine them in-engine.

It’s no secret that Cyan cheated all the time when developing the final shots of Riven. Objects move between shots for better composition (plays havoc with our camera matching software), and sometimes whole areas were changed later in development which had knock-on effects that were never addressed (Survey Island is the biggest offender in this category).

One area in particular that we have been struggling with recently is the Ytram Cave on Boiler Island, newly modelled by our talented artist Andrea Notarstefano. This is a narrow tunnel with a walkway that connects to three other areas. Luckily one of those areas is a dead-end (which makes things easier), but the other two require us to reconcile the cave’s position with the rest of the island, and we’re having difficulties getting it to match the cameras we have placed in the scene.

As you can see, despite the cave (in orange) matching our placed cameras, it sticks out the back of the crater terrain, and fails to line up with the duct (in blue) which is meant to take us in a straight line to Gehn’s Lab. What a conundrum!

The solution, as always, involves compromise. Obviously the cave needs to fit in the terrain, but we don’t want to drift too much from the camera match which represents the layout of the original game. Our solution is to curve the walkway around by extending that first bend in the walkway, making it run more along the line of the terrain. We can then adjust the terrain to cover any gaps. We’ll also use some Unreal-engine wizardry to make it seem like the duct is running in a straight line, when it in fact doesn’t. Players will never notice the switch, and the cave will look as close to the original as possible.

I guess sometimes when a jigsaw doesn’t go together, you just have to use scissors. Just another hurdle to jump in the process of bringing Riven to realtime 3D!

22 Responses to “Piecing it Together: Building Boiler Island”.

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

    Thank you for your important efforts, which I think will be remembered for centuries to come.

  • ben Says:

    for these inside areas that don’t match up with the outside – can’t you just make it so it only loads when you’re inside? Seems like it would be the easiest solution to implement while also keeping it closer to the original

    • Robert Says:

      They would likely do that regardless so as to free up resources.

      Unfortunately, even if they cheated to match Riven exactly, the tunnel doesn’t connect to the Ytram cave, based on how it’s laid out by camera matching.

  • Ian Says:

    Cyan wall hacks confirmed!!! 😛

  • sean Says:

    i know the point is to ideally have an immersive 3d world with no interruptions. However, could certain areas be completely independent of the 3d landscape? For instance, on each entrance to this tunnel have the game switch model terrain when activating the door and force the player inside?

    In other words, at the outside entrance, if you click the door the actual 3d terrain you are in is switched. you don’t see this, as the next thing that happens is you are forced-walked into the newly switched terrain and the door closes behind you. then the tunnel doesn’t need to line up as you are now in a dedicated area independent of the previous outer world. think of it like the doorway is a portal.

    each instance this happens, the game would be switching the terrain around you as the animation pulls you through the doorway. but you wouldn’t see that, so the doorway area would simply have to be matched. hopefully I’m making sense.

  • Neptilo Says:

    What is that “Unreal-engine wizardry”?

  • Aloys Says:

    Where did you get the idea that the air duct to the lab is supposed to be straight? From what little we can see un Riven it could bend any way you pleade really.. That’s the darkest area in the game anyway.

    • Nick Says:

      You might be thinking of the outlet pipe from the boiler (which gets pitch black), the duct runs in a straight line – you can see one end from the other.

      • Vincent KREBS Says:

        Could it be possible that the mistake actually came from your misevaluating the actual altitude of the lab, whose position might be a bit lower than what you calculated ?

      • Aloys Says:

        You are probably right; got those two mixed up. 🙂
        But it’s one of these situations where I’m tempted to say: 99.9% of player won’t notice the difference.. Hell, I’ve played through Riven more times than I could count, and I couldn’t tell from the top of my head. It’s just an utilitary black corridor. I understand your quest for accuracy, but in this situation I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people won’t mind if you twist rules around a bit.

        • ben Says:

          there’s a certain omnipotent beauty to the ventilation pipe being straight across so that you can see the end, and this whole post is most interesting precisely because it seems to indicate that cyan intentionally went out of their way to have that appeal.

          i vote that they just have the cave load when you’re on the inside, and use some sort of magic to connect the pipe up straight and correctly. simple and best answer!

  • Jared Says:

    You should just try find out when the changes were made to cause the inconsistency and model it the way the most recent changes were. I don’t like the idea of pursposfully creating illusions or portals. Because the whole point of the project is to make it as real as possible

  • Travis Says:

    My idea for the camera system is have it exactly like myst and riven, then you can right click to go in ‘exile’ mode to look around 360 degrees, then you can hit w, a, s or d to go into free roam mode. Then you can left click to go back into ‘riven mode’ That way you can switch back and forth without pausing and changing the options

  • Anthony Kleine Says:

    I’m all for the idea of using portals or illusions to keep it closer to the original game. The original realMYST did this a lot and well and nobody ever noticed.

  • Ages Says:

    IIRC this was a problem for the development of RealMyst as well.

    Notably in Myst, the door to the secret tunnel in Stoneship was on the wrong side, so it was logically impossible for both ends to meet each other. In RealMyst they kept the mistake, and must have made it work by teleporting the user at a point that made it seamless.

  • Averagemoe Says:

    It doesn’t look like the extruding Ytram cave would be visible from the basin area. I’d have just made it so that it switches out that section of the outer rim when the player gets close.

  • Gabriel Morrow Says:

    Will the Starry Expanse be at Mysterium 2018?

  • Flake Says:

    Hey whats wrong with you ? (Fun) 🙂

  • Sander Vermeer Says:

    You guys should really use portal / model swapping techniques for troublesome areas.
    As long as it looks like a convincing world, and stays as close as possible to the original, you’re golden. It doesn’t matter if it’s physically incorrect, the original wasn’t as well!
    Players shouldn’t be able to look at the world from angles which point out these inconsistensies anyway. And even so, these inconsistensies should be hidden from the player using swaps and portals.

    But inconsistensies in item placement within confined areas should not dynamically change. Don’t move items to different positions as to match the original camera compositions. That will be very noticable and destroys immersion.

    Also, I don’t know to which extend they used different focal lengths in the shots of the original, but I imagine they vary a lot to accomodate the ideal composition for every shot. I propose a dynamic camera that automatically changes these focal lengths at certain key endpoints. For instance, when riding the elevator on Jungle Island that looks out at the ‘spherical village and lake’ (can’t come up with the name!), make it so the camera changes it focal length to match that of the original when looking down (if necessary). Or when sitting in chairs. Or when looking at the altar on Temple Island. When done properly, this enhances the original feel of the game. And of course, these lengths can be changed appropriately when in ‘classic, fixed camera’ mode.

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