Answering your day/night cycle questions

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nick
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Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby nick » 17 Mar 2016, 21:55

I wrote this blog post in late 2014 as a post-Mysterium breakdown of our decision to cut the dynamic day/night cycle from the Riven remake. We never uploaded it at the time because I had planned to directly quote people who were connected to the original project, and we needed their permission. Before we secured that permission, the team moved on and the post was somewhat forgotten. I am uploading it now in the hope that it will answer some burning questions you may have, or even spark a debate, which I always enjoy.

Consider all of the content in this post my own personal opinion.


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If you saw the project’s 2014 presentation at Mysterium, you may have been shocked to hear Zib mention that we have cancelled our plans to implement a full day/night cycle into RealRiven. No doubt this was a surprise to many of you, as we’ve previously showcased our dynamic sky on both our website and as a key feature at Mysterium 2012. Our decision to discontinue this work has been the subject of debate for a long period of time, and although we’re confident we’ve made the right choice, we appreciate how much some of our fans were looking forward to this particular feature.

It was always our plan to implement a day/night cycle from the very beginning, inspired directly by RealMyst. Throughout 2011 and 2012 we put a lot of time and effort into developing our own sky system, which also incorporated weather patterns and lunar phases.

Image

[2016 edit: The sky system developed by Everett Gunther, who was working with us at the time, has since become the very popular Ultra Dynamic Sky on the Unreal Marketplace.]

This was a complex system, and we were in the midst of refining it when we started running into problems. I am not going to detail the technical difficulties here (although there were many) as I am sure we could have pushed through them and delivered an amazing looking sky.What I’d like to talk about are the several fundamental design obstacles we faced, which led us to the decision to drop it.

The first problem came about during our early testing on Prison Island. Adequately lighting the environment so the player could navigate at night forced us to add light sources in many new locations. You might have noticed the small fire-marble lights lining the walkway to the prison, these were some of our earliest additions. We do not make changes to the environment that do not exist in the original game lightly, and we knew we would have to continue this trend throughout all five islands. We had plans for clever ways we might be able to light the world, including bioluminescence in the jungles and lakes, but we knew we’d still need to add a lot of new light sources. This wasn’t a game-breaking issue, but it was the first indication that the implementation wasn’t going to be as simple as we thought.

Riven is a difficult game, as I’m sure you’re all aware. The clues the player discovers in the environment have to be as clear as they were in the original so as to not create additional difficulty. Night time, poor visibility due to weather conditions, and other similar environmental factors have that unfortunate consequence.

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A good example of this phenomenon is the Sunner lagoon. These creatures bask in the sun during the day, but would they be there at night? Would it make sense that they bask through the night? If they’re missing, players will lose vital clues to the game’s second biggest puzzle. Our natural inclination was to give the animals a routine, where they’d bask at certain times and at others they’d be out hunting. This behaviour would mean that there would be those unlucky players out there who would happen to not see the Sunners enough during normal play to be able to get the information they need to complete the game. It just wasn’t going to work.

The final nail in the coffin came when we broached the subject with several individuals who were close to the development of the original game. In Riven, a large amount of effort was put into making sure each shot was framed and coloured to perfectly suit the intended mood of the environment. Again, the Sunner Lagoon is a good example. Coming from the Mag-Lev cave, the player approaches the Lagoon in deep shadow, with the lagoon framed in the distance. As you leave the shelter of the ravine and reach the water’s edge, suddenly the world is full of brilliant blues and bright light. It’s a transition that was painstakingly set up for that effect. Should the time of day be dynamic, this effect would be impossible to reproduce, as we’d be unable to control the colour or shadow of the scene. This is just one example, but there are many others we could point to that show just how much the ambience of an area would be altered from the original creator’s vision.
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The sky system was a fantastic idea, and was visually impressive. It worked well in RealMyst, but we have chosen not to include it in RealRiven. There is a lot to say about the static nature of Riven’s climate being a deliberate choice by Gehn when writing the age as well, but that’s a lore discussion for perhaps another time.

The following features remain up for debate:
- Moving clouds
- Times of day under specific circumstances (Tay, 233, endings)
- Minor weather occurrences (light showers, rising and lowering winds)

If you have further questions about this decision, I'm happy to answer them.

Daikun
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby Daikun » 18 Mar 2016, 03:06

If you were to implement moving clouds, would that affect the light sources too much? Even if you can't do day/night cycles, I think a cloudy sky would be neat.

I also like the idea of wind effects. I never thought of that one before.

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Arne
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby Arne » 18 Mar 2016, 15:36

No day/night cycles - i 'm sad :( . But wheather conditions are welcome :!:
it will all be ok in the end, if it's not ok it's not the end !

Gorobay
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby Gorobay » 19 Mar 2016, 14:15

The nights in realMyst: Masterpiece Edition are too dark, and I was skeptical that it would work in realRiven; I’m glad the day/night cycle, though technically impressive, will not be in the final game. Wind and moving clouds would be cool, but light showers would probably be more trouble than they’re worth. It would change the feel of the game: Riven is supposed to be sunny and pleasant! Also, it would be weird if the player approached the village for the first time and saw a little kid sitting out in the rain.

What do you mean by “Times of day under specific circumstances (Tay, 233, endings)”? Doesn’t the point about mood lighting apply there too?

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nick
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby nick » 19 Mar 2016, 21:48

Daikun wrote:If you were to implement moving clouds, would that affect the light sources too much?


It might, but I don't think that's a big issue unless the sky becomes too overcast, which we'd avoid.

Gorobay wrote:What do you mean by “Times of day under specific circumstances (Tay, 233, endings)”? Doesn’t the point about mood lighting apply there too?


I only mention those because in the original game the sky does change during specific events (during the ending, for example) and so we do need a system in place for altering the sky and light levels - but it will be for those special cases in order to match the original.

As for winds, we can usually take our cue from the sound effects used in the original game. We'd just add more realism to it by making the plants move etc.

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Yali
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby Yali » 27 Mar 2016, 14:47

Wow! ...and this Ultra Dynamic Sky is what I ended up purchasing for Black Moiety unknowingly! :lol: Riven fans do get around!

I agree wholeheartedly. The colour palette and lighting/texturing of Riven is to me its defining feature and one of, if not the biggest reason, (minus story and gameplay) that I fell in love with game all the way back in 1998. Its as if the Neo-Classical masters of the French Academy or the those of the Italian Renaissance created an interactive painting, exquisitely hand painted with the highest amount of detail in rich oils. I've never seen a game compare with this aesthetic and I think its why Cyan remains supreme in my mind for art in the industry. All their games have a very painterly quality to them, even realMyst.

I think staying true to this original aesthetic is extremely important and I believe Robyn Miller said so himself during Mysterium 2013 if I recall correctly.

I think moving clouds could work though, especially if they were very slow moving. 233 and Tay I also believe should stay more or less the same. You could say 233 is tidally locked and Tay you could kind of brush off. I think the cloudy night sky of Tay is what lends the scene so much of a sense of foreboding mystery while the red sky of 233 highlights Gehn's evil nature.

As for weather, Riven is a tropical island if I'm not mistaken. It would seem weird to me to include light rain storms. It seems to be the kind of environment I would think is eternally sunny like the pacific islands.
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Daikun
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby Daikun » 27 Mar 2016, 18:05

Yali wrote:As for weather, Riven is a tropical island if I'm not mistaken. It would seem weird to me to include light rain storms. It seems to be the kind of environment I would think is eternally sunny like the pacific islands.


Agreed. Considering Riven's water has weird properties, rain might not even fall normally. :?

dgelessus
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby dgelessus » 27 Mar 2016, 18:29

Daikun wrote:
Yali wrote:As for weather, Riven is a tropical island if I'm not mistaken. It would seem weird to me to include light rain storms. It seems to be the kind of environment I would think is eternally sunny like the pacific islands.


Agreed. Considering Riven's water has weird properties, rain might not even fall normally. :?

Interesting thought. The rain clears, the sun comes out, the ground heats up, the water slowly rises back out of the earth and floats a few cm above the ground... Must be fun to play with as a child :)

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LordNyriox
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby LordNyriox » 30 Mar 2016, 14:27

nick wrote:There is a lot to say about the static nature of Riven’s climate being a deliberate choice by Gehn when writing the age as well, but that’s a lore discussion for perhaps another time.


Just to set the record straight, Riven had a day/night cycle when Atrus first visited there (and met Katran a.k.a. Catherine). There was at least one major scene in the novel Myst: The Book of Atrus that involved nighttime in Riven.


dgelessus wrote:Interesting thought. The rain clears, the sun comes out, the ground heats up, the water slowly rises back out of the earth and floats a few cm above the ground... Must be fun to play with as a child :)


Likewise, a scene similar to this was also described in Myst: The Book of Atrus, except instead of rain lifting from the ground it was beads of seawater from the sandy beach.

_____

Now, back on the main topic.

nick wrote:

The following features remain up for debate:
- Moving clouds
- Times of day under specific circumstances (Tay, 233, endings)
- Minor weather occurrences (light showers, rising and lowering winds)



To be very clear, Riven is a dying world. Weather would be unstable at best, especially near the Star Fissure (which is effectively a crack in the very fabric of Riven's existence). I'm thinking random bursts of wind in an otherwise stale atmosphere, with some rain here and there on Jungle Island (there wouldn't be so many trees without occasional rain - or a lake for that matter).

Moving clouds would not be a bad idea, either. The original cloud graphic was very clearly made of thunderheads on the horizon, which indicates a brewing storm. How much of that was Riven's natural weather, and how much of it was caused by Riven's rapid destabilization, we may never know.

On the other hand, my comment about a stale atmosphere would not be really compatible with fast-moving clouds. They'd have to be crawling at best to really work. I think an hour or more to move 1 inch across the sky would be about right - enough motion to give a subtle dynamic feeling, but not enough to give the player vertigo or draw undue attention to itself.


On a (nearly) unrelated note, a slight rumble in the earth near the Fissure (and lava cracks in Jungle Island, etc.) in the style of the volcano crater in Myst V's first playable scenes would also fit for some environmental variation and sense of instability. Just an idea.


On the other two ages, Tay and 233, I feel like each would have its own unique weather patterns. In particular, 233 would be always hot and arid, with no clouds or daylight cycle. It should remain permanently and irrevocably inhospitable.

As for Tay, it is a living world, the last hope of the Riven people. It should have an active cloud motion (though eternally stormy) and a daylight cycle if the player decides to link in a second or third time. Needless to say, the daylight cycle should not be activated until after the player gets Catherine's journals (so as not to mess up the atmosphere of the original scene). That way, the daylight cycle could be a nice little Easter egg for players wishing to play tourist (like me), and give an impression of the hope that Age represents.

_____

Ugh - I didn't sleep a wink last night, and this heavy topic is giving me a headache. I'll take to you guys later. :>

~Nyriox
"That which is not truly real cannot indefinitely claim the power of that which is, although it can be infused into that which is real, and so create reality within itself."

~Myself, a long, long time ago

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nick
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Re: Answering your day/night cycle questions

Postby nick » 31 Mar 2016, 04:45

LordNyriox wrote:Just to set the record straight, Riven had a day/night cycle when Atrus first visited there (and met Katran a.k.a. Catherine). There was at least one major scene in the novel Myst: The Book of Atrus that involved nighttime in Riven.


I agree that Riven has a day and a night (although how long each of those lasts is anyone's guess!). My comment was referring to weather, cloud cover and temperature being unnaturally static.



LordNyriox wrote: On a (nearly) unrelated note, a slight rumble in the earth near the Fissure (and lava cracks in Jungle Island, etc.) in the style of the volcano crater in Myst V's first playable scenes would also fit for some environmental variation and sense of instability. Just an idea.


This is something we've always wanted to include, I think the more we can emphasize the instability of the Age (within reason) the better.

For the most part we're on the same page here, which is fantastic. :D


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