uRiven = Starry Expanse Project

Update: 2014/02/04 – Added a video, below the fold, showing a portion of Ercana, a part of Uru Live, that was moved to Cry Engine 3. This is no where near a finished product. It was just a quick move to extract it from Plasma to Blender to 3DS and finally to Cry3. It is a very rough video, but it shows the possibilities.

By now you know I am a Myst-Uru fan and somewhat active in that community. I have Myst-Uru sites included in my Feedly reader and Facebook follows. This popped up in a Cyan Worlds post on Facebook: Unreal Riven. It is an article about the development of a new rendition of Riven, one of the series of games that makes up the Myst games.

Starry Expanse Project

Starry Expanse Project

I found the article interesting because I have thought the use of the Plasma engine to build fan content was a dead end for years. Now I find out Cyan has been working with a group that long ago abandoned Plasma for the same reasons I have espoused for 5 or 6 years.

In the Myst-Uru community there have been long forum debates about how people could best build content for Myst Online Uru Live. On the forums we find factions that feel use of the original game engine, Plasma, is the best choice. The developer-owner of the Plasma code is Cyan Worlds. But, they made the code mostly open source (2010?).

Plasma as developed by Cyan used third party proprietary software. All that non-Cyan proprietary code had to be removed from the open source version of Plasma or those sections had to re-licensed by those that wanted to use Plasma to develop client side versions of Uru Live.

The community started out and continues making those changes to Plasma and the 3D Studio plugin. Originally they community had started developing code that imitated the 3DS plugin for use with Blender. The code that works with Blender 2.49 is still around. However, with the release of Plasma to open source, attention shifted to getting Plasma and the 3D Max Studio plugin working. That work is still in process years later. The community is still working just to get things to a slightly improved 2008 state.

Even in 2008 there were those that felt the Plasma engine was not ever going to work as needed. They started out looking at Plasma as Cyan released the parts and finally the full engine. But, by April 2009 some doing significant work were abandoning Plasma and moving to Blender. By that time many of us had moved to Second Life, OpenSim, and other worlds and were building Uru recreations in those platforms. Others were playing with recreations in Unity and Unreal.

The Plasma route was considered the path of least resistance. I was often told over the last five years that it would be too much work to move Plasma games, like Uru Live, to another engine. People would just develop the Plasma engine and all would be well.

So, the Guild of Writers and OpenUru.org have gone down the Plasma path. There are apparently some legal issues that somehow restrict use of Uru Live content to the Plasma engine. Cyan Worlds has effectively said they WILL NOT license Uru Live content for use on any other game engine. The result is Uru Live content has been placed in other game engines illegally. Those doing so keep a low profile and few people ever see Uru Live in the new engines.

Riven Steps Out

The post on the Starry Expanse Project (SEP) blog shows an early departure from the Plasma game engine. (SEP on Facebook) The reasons for moving away are clearly stated in the recent post linked to above. Plasma just can’t cut it any longer. Well, it hasn’t been able to for some time. I am just surprised to find a faction that was espousing that philosophy and having Cyan Worlds’ approval.

The guys at SEP planned to provide mobile support in April of 2013. They were specifically targeting Nokia, they dropped that idea. In February of 2013 they were considering supporting Oculus Rift. At the time it didn’t look too likely.  These are things Plasma will likely never support.  And if it does it will years, possibly decades, after other systems provide support, if history is any indicator.

Now the 59 Volt group is giving up on Unity and moving the Starry Expanse Project to the Unreal game engine. Unreal has support for most platforms, including mobile devices. Unreal is also free for the current project. Something several people disputed when I made such a statement about that possibility.

The move of uRiven to Unreal pushes the engine development off to a neutral party that is funded by the larger general game community. This means less of an opportunity for a click to control development as anyone can participate in SEP development. It also means multiple device support on various platforms as Unreal supports a wide range of devices.

Uru Status

Uru Live is an odd creature. The actual Uru Live content is only legally running on the Cyan servers, AFAIK (I haven’t kept up this last year). Fan content is legally running on a number of private servers.But, as best I can tell there is still no way to legally license the content from Cyan. Cyan is now busy with a new game, Obduction, and unlikely to move on getting licensing and serving of the original Uru content handled. But, they may surprise us.

The result is Uru Live remains in an old graphics game engine that it is difficult to build content for. People are much more excited about the new engines and platforms. As Cyan moves to those platforms for there new games, they might reconsider where the Uru Live conetent can be used. At least I can hope.

Bug Chucker

Bug Chucker is a free (with ads – paid version ad free) Cyan game-app that runs on Android. It is an Angry Birds like game but more complex. While I think more challenging it has features that make aiming easier. I play it when I have a few minutes. I like it better than Angry Birds, which I no longer play.

Cyan Wolds App: Bug Chucker

Cyan Wolds App: Bug Chucker

Check it out.

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