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March 10, 2008

Flowcharts From Riven


I just saw a Boing Boing post that immediately brought me back to Riven days. The game had a number of endings and possibilities for a player and, during production, we quickly we began to get bogged down in trying to keep track of everything. So we created a set of flowcharts. Largely, they helped to clearly point out the holes in our design: to tell us what we hadn't thought of yet.

The flowcharts started out as sketches and were, of course, a total mess. During production, I put them in the above form to give us something we could actually use on a day to day basis.

Myst II flowchart (pdf)
Gehn flowchart (pdf)
Catherine flowchart (pdf)
Rebel Prison flowchart (pdf)

See more Myst!

March 10, 2008 | Permalink


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Very interesting! This might even be useful in figuring out quirks, problems or oddities in Riven X as we begin implementing "external" functions.

Thanks for releasing those. It sure brings back some memories.

Posted by: Jean-François Roy | Mar 10, 2008 10:40:58 AM

Riven X? Wow! Is this like an updated (perhaps higher-res) version of the game?

I've gotten so used to the NextGen graphics that poor old Riven sits idle on my desktop these days.

I'd kill to see that timeless work of art rejuvenated to stand up against the big names of today. I have From Myst to Riven and the original renders showed therein are jaw-dropping. I guess they were compressed for storage. In any case, if and when Riven comes back into the market, I'd like it to show its real colors.

Posted by: Yali | Mar 10, 2008 3:38:29 PM

I agree: both Riven and Myst deserve overhauls. Sadly, I don't see how that can or will ever happen.

Posted by: robyn | Mar 11, 2008 10:35:25 AM

Interesting that internal documents called Temple Island "Sink Island" - what did this first name refer to? And how many other islands have we been misnaming for all these years? :) (Well.. aside from the whole garden/spike thing..)

Posted by: Melinda | Mar 11, 2008 11:25:15 AM

Always nice to learn something new about Riven.
I hope that you think of getting back into the videogame industry someday.

As a big fan of yours I was really sad to hear that you no longer believed in the medium as a vehicle for storytelling. I strongly disagree with you in that regard. I don't know if you like videogames in a broader sense but I really hope you give them a chance once in a while. There are games out there with stories on par with books and movies. Not too many, but still.

Anyway, best of luck with your current and future endeavors and keep this blog as good as it has been until now :)

Posted by: Ehndow | Mar 11, 2008 3:08:57 PM

Good point Ehndow. Virtual/playable environments are the future of the art world. Myst, and more so Riven are the first artistic works to exist in full 4 dimensions. We've had 2d art: painting, drawing, etc. 3d art: sculpture, 2d+4d art: film, but only recently has an avenue opened up via technology to create full 4 dimensional art, aka worlds.

Videogames offer us a 3d world that we can explore, that fact alone defining them as 3 dimensional art, as opposed to film which only depicts the 3rd dimension. Videogames offer us worlds in the dimension of time; meaning they may change, and then on top of that, there is an added human element that exists with online gaming. Sadly, there are only a few games which I regard as having fulfilled this artistic potential: Myst, Riven, and possibly Uru. What I'm getting at is that videogames are in essence a form of genesis - the creation of a reality. Art up until now has been restricted in that sense. A painting may depict an alternate reality, but you may not be able to live and breathe it, certainly not at the level that a game like Riven or Uru has offered.

I don't see how virtual environments/games cannot emerge at some point in the future as a form of fine art, or even say the dominant one. It's the next logical step to go, and what can happen and yield a favorable outcome will undoubtedly happen.

AS it stands right now, we need more games like Riven. Portal came close.

Posted by: Yali | Mar 11, 2008 3:53:39 PM

Yali : I definately think at some point in the near future videogames will be truly mainstream and seen as a true art form.

I'm very interested in game design and it's undoubtedly the area I've been most interested in since I played Panzer Dragoon Zwei back in 1997 (I had played many games before but this was basically "it" for me : a realization).

I think games can be many things. In movies there is room for the summer blockbusters and the more "complex" (for lack of a better word) storylines. The same goes for books. And I think the same goes for games as well.

Looking at the videogame mainstream you would be hard pressed to name one game with a meaningful storyline but just like in other medium that is not always where you should look for the truly inspired works of art.

I think videogames are even more diverse in what they can be. Even though a game like Rez, for example, has a very basic "story" it's still undeniably a work of art. It has merit. It doesn't try to be a game with a deep and engaging plot, but it's still an awesome experience.

Games add a layer of sensory experience if you will. The problem with the medium (which is still young) is that it's still a bit too focused on gameplay and the technical side of things. But if you look at movies that happened in the early 1900s too with early cinema. They were basically thrill rides aiming to please the senses and not really stimulating the mind.

But already there are games like Ico, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Knights of the Old Republic, Soul Reaver 2, Indigo Prophecy etc that, each in their own way, tell a story and actually make it the focus of the experience.

Save for KOTOR, none of those games were notable successes though. So, like in all areas, the "good stuff" (yeah that's subjective) does not always go hand-in-hand with big marketing stunts.

That being said I think people underestimate the difficulties of creating a videogame story versus creating a movie story or a books story.The added layer of interactivity can make it harder but it also makes it, in my opinion, a lot more powerful when done right.

Also I think there is room for both linear and non-linear storylines in videogames. It's a matter of choice. Ico (or its sequel) is a good example of how a linear story can have depth by introducing subjectivity. Knights of the Old Republic a good example of how a non-linear (despite not being the epitome of non-linearity) story can be engaging as well. etc etc

I think the medium has tremendous potential, and being someone who enjoys books, movies and videogames alike I can say that my favorite stories are actually videogame stories.

Anyways sorry for the long rant. Just be sure to check out Too Human (an upcoming game) as a good example of how there are people doing great things for storytelling in videogames.

PS:Sorry for any typos and synthax errors in advance :P Long posts...

Posted by: Ehndow | Mar 11, 2008 4:35:12 PM

Riven X is nothing grand like a higher-resolution or real-time remake of Riven. I wouldn't even begin to pretend I have the skills, talent and resources to do that.

It's simply a brand-new engine on top of the original assets, with the objective of allowing all those people coming to the Mac platform in recent years to enjoy this landmark game without having to boot in Windows!

Posted by: Jean-François Roy | Mar 12, 2008 12:37:27 PM

I've never heard of Riven X, but what an amazing idea! Even I can no longer look at the game, and I've refused to buy Windows. Jean-Francois Roy, you've just received automatic membership into the brotherhood of the Republic (of Tinselman)! So celebrate!

Now all we need is Riven for the Iphone!

Thanks for above comments! When I left Cyan, I had no taste for games of any kind. But after being away from them for awhile, I played a game (with my kids), and I was "enlightened"! Zelda Wind Waker for Nintendo. I know it's cartoonish and cute, but I thoroughly enjoyed the graphic style, and, for the first time ever, found myself lost in a game world. When we weren't playing the game, I was thinking about the world, and wanted to get back to it. And when we were playing, I felt like I lone explorer, uncovering a lost world for the very first time.

And the strangest part was this: I could have cared less about the story! It was the mood, the visuals, the gameplay, the exploration, the sound and music. Those were the elements that really drew me back.

Since then, I've considered games once again but not sought out ways to develop them like I once did.

Lastly, the reason particular islands have odd names on these charts is because we created the charts before we had settled on names for the islands. Another interesting fact: the Illustrator File for the Age 5 flowchart is titled, "Myst II Flowchart". This is because we hadn't yet given the game a name, a process which seemed to take forever.

Posted by: robyn | Mar 13, 2008 6:05:33 AM

What a great name it ended up being! Riven = torn: torn like the Age's physical fabric and torn like the Age's culture, divided between the old Riven and the new D'ni way.

The other cool thing I liked about it was that the name itself had 5 letters, the v - Roman numeral for five - was at its center, and appropriately stylized. Genius!

Oh, and while I'm here, I'd like to ask if it was you who designed the K'veer basement/Dunny. I've never been so mesmerized and frankly affected by a fictional design in my entire life (and it affected me quite a bit, as I was 5 when I first entered that room). The sheer uniqueness and complexity of the patterns and the various other ornation in that room completely spawned my style, vision, and philosophy as an artist.

I actually designed a couple objects in 3d and in sketch that I imagined could be found in other areas of the island, based solely on the look and feel of that first room.

I hope you get back into the industry. It could really benefit from a talent like you.

(By the way, I also hear Cyan is looking for a new art director ;) )

Posted by: Yali | Mar 13, 2008 7:43:52 AM

I had an odd experience in the Gehn flowchart (I mean, playing the game). I had become conditioned so that when a quicktime/animated sequence came on, I would just watch and be totally passive. It never occurred to me that I could actually click on the book during that sequence.

This was the only part of the whole game that really caught me out. I think it's ironic, but it really was a bit of a design flaw -- probably would have been good to "recondition" the users somewhere earlier in the game to click during a movie sequence.


Posted by: S Woodside | Mar 17, 2008 9:32:41 PM

It doesn't have the ending when you touch the book with ghen in it, when you're in the moiety territory. He thanks you i think

Posted by: Alex | Mar 22, 2008 10:38:43 AM

Man, the games seems short when you read the charts :)
Might be because I am realy slow at playing games, and too dumb to figure out the puzzles.
But I loved the story more then the puzzle solving anyway.

Posted by: Lars-Erik Franson | Feb 16, 2009 4:35:47 AM

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