Marking Riven’s 25th Anniversary: An Update from the Starry Expanse Project

Greetings from the team at the Starry Expanse Project!

It’s been some time since our last update. Trust us — we know!

With today’s exciting announcement from Cyan and the accompanying Open Letter to Fans of Riven, our team has been given the opportunity to speak publicly about our collaboration with Cyan.

We are beyond excited to share in Cyan’s announcement that the Riven remake is finally official, and that our team’s efforts have been instrumental in providing a foundation upon which the new Riven can be built. Although our part of the journey has come to an end, the next chapter will be an exciting one to follow for all Myst fans.

Our project began with a laudable (and what seemed like an easily achievable) goal: To keep the promise made by realMyst and recreate its successor in real-time 3D.

A sampling of our team’s work over the years recreating Riven

As our plans became more ambitious, and we moved beyond recreating Riven in the Plasma engine as a mod for Uru, the team grew in size and matured and our skill sets diversified.

Several (in)famous engine switches later, we had transformed from a group of students and hobbyists into a tight-knit team of professional artists and programmers united by our passion for doing our project justice.

In August 2019 we were invited to come to Cyan HQ to share our work, vision, and plans for the future. We are so grateful to have been given this opportunity, and for Cyan’s willingness to dive into our development process and methodology, one uniquely suited to recreate this one particular game.

The Starry Expanse contingent outside Cyan HQ, Mysterium 2019

We’ve kept a pretty low profile since that time — which was a shift for us after so many years of public transparency — but while we’d handed the reins over to Cyan in the months following our meeting, they were not ready to make a public announcement just yet.

Now the details have been ironed out and the torch has been passed. After well over a decade of planning, developing, and endless camera-matching, this amazing world that we pored over for so long is going to be realized. Riven is real.

So what happens now?

Cyan has definitely got their work cut out for them, and our team (with one notable exception) are moving on to other projects, but our love for Riven hasn’t faded. We’ll still be both here and in our Community Discord, just like we have always been.

We are looking forward to sharing more of our story and the things we’ve learned along the way in the coming months. And we’re really excited to be able to talk to you directly again, after all this time.

We would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to all of our fans for their passion, encouragement, and most of all their patience. It’s been a long road. Thank you for walking the distance with us.

If you want to learn more about Cyan’s update, you can read it in full here. Likewise, there is an FAQ about the new Riven project posted on their website

If you have any questions about the Riven project, we encourage you to join the Cyan community Discord. For anything else Starry Expanse related, you can find us here.

31 Responses to “Marking Riven’s 25th Anniversary: An Update from the Starry Expanse Project”.

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

    Well.. ain’t that something! 🙂

    This is awesome news. I can’t imagine how exciting you guys are. More information for Spokane can’t come soon enough..

    Also, very important: next Mysterium (in Spokane, ha!) you guys *have* to make a panel to tell us the whole story there..! Can’t wait to see you there.

    Thanks so much to Zib and the whole team for sticking to the dream and making this happen over the years!

  • Khatie Says:

    I completely agree with Aloys…

    Thank you to the entire SE team for dreaming the dream. We often talk about the ending not yet being written but you all chose to begin the next chapter so thank you for picking up the pen.

    So happy to see this work continue.

  • Ken Says:

    Sorry to hear that after a decade you’ve been pushed put of the project 🙁 . Thank you for all of your hard work. Riven wouldn’t be what it will be if it weren’t for all of your hard work.

  • Ben Says:

    Wow that is great news. I have been patiently waiting for years, and I don’t mind waiting a little bit more, especially because now we know for sure it will happen.

    Still waiting for the firmament release. If I could pre-order the game, I would.

  • Brinton Says:

    Thanks for all the work you guys have done over the years. You’ve been a major source of inspiration for me, and I’m looking forward to how things go. We couldn’t have this remake without you!

  • Vern Says:

    I hate emails like this… Its confirmed that real Riven will NEVER be released… Riven is my number one game of all time (age 43) I watched the SEP develop real Riven for 7-8 years and the fact that cyan have emailed me today saying that development continues, is alarms bells saying it will never be released..
    To be honest, I waited for the remake of myst at cyan and it was a huge disappointment… I’d rather play the original… So maybe making these games real are not a good thing… I’m happy enough to play the game the way it was intended… With your imagination.

  • Ryan S. Davis Says:

    Congratulations! I’m excited the project will continue!

  • Sara Says:

    Thank you! And congrats!

  • Jamie Says:

    Excellent news. I wonder if this is the the thing Rand wanted to tell us about but could not. What will you do now?

  • Jordan Says:

    Thanks for all your work guys. Looking forward to seeing what Cyan does with it, and hopefully it lives up to the promise of the excellent work you were doing.

  • Benjamin Frere Says:

    Reading Cyan’s Riven FAQ, I’m very afraid…

    Reading the ”It is a modern remake and not the Starry Expanse Project” probably means it could be as different as the latest MYST remake (made with the Unreal Engine) was different from the original MYST: not the same aesthetic and with big modifications that were made for the three persons who have a VR set.

    I really liked the Starry Expanse approach of making Real RIVEN as close as possible as the original Riven.

    We wanted to walk into the Riven world we all know and love, but now it’s possible it will never happen :/

    I really do hope I’m wrong.

  • Vincent Krebs Says:

    Well, first, let’s truly hope that Cyan does not rush the in-game characters as they did with their Myst remake.

    And honestly…

    I find it quite harsh on Cyan’s part to state that the SE team merely “assisted in kicking off this project”.

    Come on guys, is this how you thank them?

    They have done all the job for you, they have been working like mad men, voluntarily, sacrificing all their free time, being students, and in the end who will get the profit?

    And what then? Not only do you not give them half the credit they deserve, but (that’s such a joke)… you only hire 1 guy and drop the rest of the team down to the toilet? I guess the “partnership” went one way, uh?

    And what about us fans, Cyan, who have been following, translating, kickstarting the project? To us you give no respect, you wait for what, more than 2 years, in complete silence, and eventually you come out with pointless (non-)information.

    Pretty laughable in my opinion, if not sad…

    • gilbert Says:

      I agree with Vincent (and others) on most parts. This was the news many of us were dreading, that current-day Cyan took it over. As a lifetime Riven fan I saw the passion in the process of the SE team, and saw the lack of it in the Myst remakes. The game is so ridden with bugs and childish programming mistakes… to think that Riven’s mark is a galaxy above that makes me shiver for any of their efforts.

      And as mentioned indeed calling SE just a kick-start is just in bad taste.

  • George Says:

    Maybe I’m being cynical here, but this just seems like a “graceful” way for Cyan to shutdown the SE project while minimizing backlash.

    They’re not using the work that the SE team did for 13 years, and only taking on one member?
    Maybe this is all in good faith, but this just doesn’t feel right.
    I hope Cyan’s official project actually comes to fruition.

    Best wishes to the SE team and thanks for all your hard work.

  • Arne Says:

    So basically you waited 2 years to tell us you just use the best pieces of the project and keep one person for the dev team? Is the rest not competent enough? Years of non information so you can make this dissapointing announcement on rivens anniversary? Im sorry for the fans,the project,the devs and the kickstarting people.

    It looks like that Cyan is not that small nice developer it seems to be.

  • Mike Says:

    I would love to see a remastered version! And more games like it. They’re like beautiful, scenic escape room games!

  • Blueshift Says:


  • Robert Kosten Says:

    Eh, I cant say this fills me with with glee. The open letter strikes me, as others have mentioned, as patronizing and luke-warm. Cyan has made a lot of bad and outright dumb decisions (e.g. A *very* disjointed amd mon-engaging Obduction, and unceremoniously killing off the Myst franchise, respectively). Would I have paid for starryexpanse? Almost certainly. Will I for RealRiven? Almost certainly not.

    • Philip Says:

      If it’s any consolation, handing the reins over to Cyan was the only way this project was going to get done IMO. As a volunteer outfit, we just didn’t have the resources to see it all the way through. I can’t speak for the entire team, but personally for me at least, after 10+ years I’m just tired and don’t have the energy to code something as complex as Riven with all its insanity to the level we wanted. In order for the project to be finished, something about the attitude we took has to be relaxed.

      • Vincent Krebs Says:

        Thank you Philip for sharing your state of mind. I don’t think anyone has problems with Cyan taking over, which is the natural outcome.

        The criticizing was, for my part at least, more about their somehow detached attitude and apparent lack of acknowledgment.

        Wish you the best!

  • Alex Says:

    What an anti-climactic end to an amazing project. I have no doubt that Cyan will butcher this like every one of their Myst remakes.

  • ktR Says:

    I’m speechless. After so many years of tireless work, and despite the multiple engine changes and other problems such as cheated images that could not fit in 3D space from any perspective, a great progress was made in the realization of RealRiven. Also the reproduction of the extraordinary sound in an unadulterated high quality and many more countless construction sites that have already been planned and implemented down to the last detail. This small, committed team has brought together a number of people with various specialist talents and, above all, ENTHUSIASM, RESPECT and PASSION. This team was the defining force for a RealRiven. And now all that remains,is to thank the team for never stopping working on this dream, and say Adjeu? Before halfway approved in the decade-long development and finally …. one employed and a lot of warm handshakes? The dream and the preparatory work withdrawn and a commercial realization announced, somewhat surprisingly, is that deserved? 🙁

  • Ted charles Says:

    While I’m not sure I have a ton of faith in Cyan to be able to produce a good remake of Riven especially after Obduction and the Myst remakes, I also understand the moves made by Cyan here.

    Many of you need to open your eyes to some bare facts; RIVEN IS CYANS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. In my opinion a Riven remake was inevitable. If Cyan wanted to issue a cease and desist to SE they could have. They didn’t, instead they worked with the team to utilize the assets they could, hire a team member that could add to their efforts, and continue the efforts in an amicable way.

    Can we all remind ourselves that while SE did some truly awesome things to start remaking Riven, it was a 13 year effort from volunteers. There was no way in hell a game would have EVER been released if Cyan would have even allowed it.

    Thank you Starry Expanse Team. I checked in constantly to see if there was an update about your project. Hope is a fun thing to have around.

  • Sheridan Says:

    I don’t know if Cyan will ever read these comments but I hope they take the mixed reaction simply as a sign for the passion people have for Riven and for their interest in a faithful reproduction.

    It would be so easy to phone it in. But Riven is more than an adventure video game, it’s a deeply fleshed out and thematic world, with a complex story that deserves to be told in an uncut fashion.

    WIRED magazine ran an article way back in September, 1997, fewer than two months before Riven finally came out, that paints Rand as being more concerned with finishing and releasing Riven, than giving the staff as much time as they needed to tell their story. After being under development for so many years, his anxiety that it would all come to nothing is more than understandable. But in the end, it was his brother Robyn’s artistic dedication that brought the game we know and love to life, not Rand’s anxieties. The brothers’ relationship was apparently soured by the experience of working together, and you get the impression that it was Rand’s impatience that caused it.

    I wonder, if having had so much time to reflect about this, Rand will give the new Riven as much time as it needs to tell its story faithfully… or, if he will release a product that does not do the idea justice… or, if indeed he will just freeze the project where it is, feeling Cyan doesn’t have the resources to do it right after all.

    He is simply human, and I wish him and his team the best whatever the case, but I hope he finally does realize how special Riven is, that it truly is the greatest thing Cyan ever managed to produce, and that it deserves all the magic he can afford to put in it. Lord knows we’d appreciate it.

  • Dan Says:

    Well, that’s a kick in the dick. Both to us as fans and you as creatives. So long – guess the idea was more fun than the actual work. Before we go, think you can get this knife that somehow got stuck in the middle of our backs? I know WE didn’t put it there.

  • Overleaf Says:

    Moments like this are always multi-faceted and hard to process. It’s really understandable that the SEP team would be burnt out after such a long and dedicated effort, but I can’t help but be disappointed in Cyan’s approach – especially compared to, say, Valve’s to Black Mesa. It’s often very dangerous for the creators (or some subset of them) to attempt a remake or remaster of something, because it’s all too common for them not to understand the nature of the appeal of the original.

    My impression is that Cyan is not the company it once was, and certainly not the company that made Riven. Their Myst remakes are much more ‘re-imaginings’ than remasters, and that bodes very ill for any similar remake of Riven – a game which I think has never been bettered artistically (certainly not by Cyan).

    One hope, I guess, is that Cyan’s Riven remake could serve as a platform for a true-to-the-original mod in the spirit of the SEP.

    Lastly, I found Cyan’s missive on the new ‘direction’ for the project glib, corporate and disrespectful; much less than the SEP’s contributors deserved.

  • Nikolay Says:

    I’m inclined to agree with the negative comments here. This is a disrespectful way to end it all from Cyan’s side. So they started their own remake from scratch, cool. Why the need to shut down SE? Because it would hurt their sales? Or perhaps they were concerned it would be better than theirs? Why not reuse at least PART of the amazing 13-year long work the team has done? I’m sure licensing wouldn’t have been an issue, maybe they could have finally rewarded the hard work of the SE team by buying the creative rights to the assets they have created. But no, they literally disbanded the entire project, hiring only one from the team, in order to start from scratch. 13 years of work down the drain. As an artist myself that knows how hard it is to create such things, this hurts a lot. I can’t imagine the pain the team must feel. And yet they try to pass it off as “good news”, why? Cyan literally cancelled your project.

  • Anoniem Says:

    This is bad news, but not unexpected. I’ve been voicing my concerns about this since I learned about the project in 2010 or so. When will people ever learn? Stay away from intellectual property you don’t own. I’ve seen so many projects like this burn over the years.

    Yes, I get that you were intense Riven fans and I know what that’s like. Riven is definitely in my personal top 10 best games ever and I’d love to walk around on its islands so much, I can almost feel the sand of Riven’s beaches under my feet. But… you knew this would happen so you should’ve either made a new game, perhaps a spiritual successor but 100% your own in terms of anything that a lawyer’s claws might get purchase on, or resisted the temptation.

    When the SE people told us they had Cyan’s permission, they weren’t straight with us. Instead they had an order to pull the plug the moment Cyan thought the market was ripe for a Riven remake. I suspected as much, but I think many people who donated to the project weren’t under the the impression that they were not contributing to an eventual game, but just to some toys for the SE people to play with. Or tools to upskill themselves if I wanted to put it more charitably. And many who didn’t donate were still emotionally invested, so I don’t think they’ve been fairly treated.

    All that aside, I haven’t been impressed with Cyan’s output in recent years and one particular set of remakes makes me fear the worst for their Riven remake: the RealMysts. I played the first RealMyst when it came out in 2000 and despite the clear, obvious technical limitations of that game, I still think it’s the best RealMyst, and by a wide margin. The 2014 version looks like My First Unity Game and the 2021 version like Just Another Unreal Demo. How did that happen? I think that when Cyan rebuilt RealMyst using new models and textures the art direction got lost. Mood is so intangible, yet it’s key for an enjoyable experience. In 2000 I could just lose myself in Stoneship’s atmosphere…

    Let’s consider the implications of this for the Riven remake. The SE project’s posts on this site have been focussing on recreating Riven as faithfully as possible, only deviating where the original didn’t look quite as good as it might have due to technological limitations of the time. We were to someday, decades off haha I’ve got a bridge to sell you, be able to walk around freely on those same islands we’d so far only seen through a 608 × 392 pixel window. But going by the verbiage in Cyan’s official communications on the subject, they’re instead going to again throw away the original art direction, some of the unnameable but essential atmosphere that made Riven so special.

    This is sad news, but I have to stress again, not unexpected. When will people ever learn?

    • Iman Says:

      Hi, SE team member here. While we can respectfully disagree on matters of opinion, I want to correct some misinformation in your post — namely that we misrepresented our arrangement with Cyan, and solicited donations disingenuously. This is conjecture, and simply incorrect.

      We’ve always been upfront about the fact that we were working with another company’s intellectual property. It’s why, when Cyan gave their blessing to our work back in 2012, we breathed a sigh of relief. They knew about us — and not only were they allowing us to continue, but they were also rooting for us to succeed. That really was the extent of it; Cyan did not interfere with our development, or give us anything resembling “an order to pull the plug” in the future.

      Our goal was always to create the best version of Riven we could, and to release it as a game for everyone to play. We were lucky enough to have fans who believed in our work and supported us with donations, which we only ever used for project expenses. That support made it possible for us to make enough progress that Cyan agreed to meet in 2019, to discuss a tangible plan for collaborating more closely and completing the game.

      It wasn’t until after this meeting that we learned of Cyan’s plan to take over the development of a Riven remake, which was a significant change in direction that took us by surprise. While we weren’t permitted to talk about this change publicly until their announcement last October, we immediately stopped all active development and shut down donations.

      We completely understand any disappointment about our project coming to an end (believe me, we do!) — but we’ve never misled our fans, promised anything we knew we couldn’t deliver, or misused donations. While we didn’t get to complete the journey we’d planned, I’m proud of our team and everything we accomplished along the way.

      • Anoniem Says:

        Please don’t throw words like ‘misinformation’ about so lightly. I think the way everything has played out shows I was right. Even just now you write ‘Cyan gave their blessing to our work’ while this was clearly not the case and you knew that at the time. On this website and elsewhere the SE team has repeatedly used language that clearly implied the existence of a licence agreement or waiver or something similar. If you didn’t get a signed contract of some sort that made it impossible for Cyan to put a stop to the project, then you had an order to pull the plug because that’s the way the law is written and in 2023 you’re asking very much of me – too much – if you want me to believe you didn’t know that or that Cyan didn’t explain the legal situation to you. Whether they interfered immediately or later isn’t really relevant and I don’t understand why you think it matters.

        I don’t see the point of restating what your original goal was, we aren’t really in disagreement there. It was a wonderful goal, I understand it very well and I’m profoundly sad that it was probably inherently unattainable from the very outset.

        You go on to write that fan donations made it possible for you to meet Cyan. Now, for reasons I’ve already explained, I haven’t donated, so I won’t comment on whether ‘Please donate so we can meet Cyan.’ is a reasonable interpretation of ‘The more we get, the easier it will be for us to finish the game in a timely manner.’ But in this context, immediately closing donations would have been in 2012, not in 2019. I never suggested the donations were spent on a holiday trip or something, that wasn’t the issue. The problem was that during this period (2012 to 2019) the SE people repeatedly implied that Cyan had provided the aforementioned legal permission when this was not in fact the case. I’ve scrolled through countless pages of old comments on this site and I think that before recent events most people here were under the impression that the project wasn’t in any danger even though you knew Cyan could terminate it with a snap of its fingers.

        If during the lead-up to the 2019 meeting Cyan left you under the impression that they would be collaborating with SE instead of nixing the project, that would be a really shitty move on their part, but you could and should have known in 2012 that this was going to happen at some point. And then the first remake of RealMyst came out in 2014. If it really was such a surprise to you then ‘When will people ever learn?’ applies to you too.

        I really wish you hadn’t typed that last paragraph. Some things I just don’t even like to think about people, let alone type. But unless everyone in the SE team is unable to read their own text back and imagine what it will impress on the readers, and nobody in the SE team ever reads the comments on this site, you must have been aware of the disconnect between impression and reality. It’s really unfortunate that you chose to formulate your reply the way you did, that was really unnecessary and it has erased from my mind a lot of the benefit of the doubt. If you had written for example that in 2012 you thought that if Rawa said SE had his blessing that meant that Cyan couldn’t cancel it and you had somehow convincingly argued that point, and that you slowly realised your mistake but couldn’t figure out how to communicate it, who knows… I might have believed you. I might have thought other things too, but I would’ve left those unwritten. But instead you remove all doubt and force me to end on a low note.

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