Myst Journey

Making of Riven

Riven is the sequel to the highly successful computer game Myst. It was distributed initially on five compact discs, and was later released on a single DVD-ROM, along with a 14 minute long making-of video. The Myst style of gameplay in which the user clicked on objects in prerendered still frames and videos was maintained in this sequel; however, it was enhanced by many animated scenes. It is widely regarded by players of Myst and other adventure games to be the most difficult game in the Myst franchise. Riven was released on Mac/PC CD-ROM disks on October 31, 1997 and was later made available on a DVD-Rom disk.

Riven expands to and is based on the ultimate past and historical background of Myst, fully described in the three books.

The game contains a great deal of information on the culture and language of D'ni. The D'ni language was first used in this game, both in written form and spoken by Cho, a Rivenese person trained to speak basic D'ni phrases. The system of D'ni numbers is also introduced in the game, and it is necessary for the player to learn and read D'ni numbers to complete the game. There is also a system of symbols used for describing colors that the player must learn and apply to solve a puzzle.

From Myst to Riven

There was an illustrated coffee table book made during the development of Riven. It details how Riven got its realistic look, which is a combination of two key factors: ray-tracing in rendering, which video games are only in recent years are able to achieve in real-time; and hand-crafting of each shot with intricate modeling, photo-realistic textures, purposeful lighting, and subtle effects. And of course, it's attention to detail which shows in every aspect.

It was originally released a few weeks after the release of Riven. While no longer officially published, it can still be found via Amazon or eBay.

Graphics improvements compared to Myst

Simple geometry and low texture resolutions made high contrast between light and shadow in the original Myst. Renders for each Age was displayed in a palette of only 256 colors, which, though expertly devised, limited the tonal range of finished images. The screens had 543x332 pixels, taking up approximately three quarters of the screen. It took about two years to make Myst.

The screens in Riven has 608x392 pixels and 256 colors for each image, taking up almost the entire screen. Riven contains over 4,000 fully-rendered scenes and 1,000 QuickTime movies (over three hours of astonishing animation). Some of the scenes took over an hour to render on Cyan's SGI Indigo Workstations (they had 13 of them). At the time the game was made, the various islands which make up Riven was the largest wireframe models anyone had been working with. A single Riven island is represented by about 2.5 million triangles. Intricate detail can be found throughout Riven, from wind-shifted topsoil blanketing a mountainside, to the knotted woodgrain of a table top, to Riven shimmering water, which undulates, reflects and glints in the sun. Riven was in the making for over four years.

The models in Myst were quite simple. For example, there are whole forests of trees on Myst Island but no leaves. When Myst was originally constructed, each tree was modeled using just two cones -- one for the trunk, and one for the foliage. The ground cover for the entire island is a single texture image painted onto an extruded surface. In all, the island has one tenth of the geometric detail of a Riven island.

Although the Graphics Engine for Riven isn't the exact same engine as was used for Myst, it is very similar. Brøderbund had been working on better visual effects since Myst, likening Riven graphics to those in the Mac version of Myst. If you've seen both the Mac and PC versions of Myst, you know the difference.


  • Alias for rendering
  • DeBabelizer and PhotoShop for texture editing/compositing/touchups
  • Media Cleaner Pro for movie compression
  • HyperCard for prototyping the game/exporting data files to Broderbund/Sunsoft/etc.

Concept Art