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"Riven" is the second game in the Myst series, and the fourth chronologically. It was released on October 31st, 1997 by Cyan, after four years of development. 

It takes place in the Riven, a collapsing age, which is where Catherine comes from. In it you must enter Riven, free Catherine, trap Gehn and signal Atrus. In this game we also see Gehn's "Age 233" and the age of Tay.


Several months after the conclusion of Myst, Atrus asks The Stranger (you, the player) for your help (which was earlier mentioned in the ending of Myst, but never fully explained) and sends you to Riven to free Catherine and capture Gehn. He hands you a Trap Book, disguised as a link to D'ni, and his journal and explains that he can't send you in with a way out, otherwise Gehn could potentially escape if you fail. He asks you to signal him somehow and sends you to Riven.

You link to Riven, but fall into Gehn's trap to imprison anyone who enters the age. You are immediately interrogated by Gehn's Guard (who is instructed by Gehn to question newcomers in D'ni, but forgets and talks to you in Rivenese). He steals the book from you and is about to link when he is knocked unconscious by a Moiety rebel, who steals the book themselves and drags Cho off. You are then allowed to explore the age at your leisure.

After solving a puzzle on Jungle Island, you find a Linking Book to Tay, the home of the Moiety rebels. Before you can explore it fully, you are knocked out by a rebel and imprisoned within one of the buildings. Shortly after, Nelah enters the room and speaks to you in Rivenese before returning the trap book and Catherine's journal, which contains the random combination for the manhole on Temple Island. She leaves and returns shortly after with a linking book back to Riven.

After more exploring, you manage to power up the Fire Marble Domes around the age and open them. Using another randomly generated code (this time from Gehn's journal on Crater Island), you open a lock to a linking book and link to Age 233. Again, you link into a cage and are met by Gehn, who attempts to convince you of his regret over his past actions and his change of heart. He wonders aloud that he wishes to see Atrus before he dies. However, Gehn finds the trap book and reads it, though he grows suspicious. He asks you to link through it first to prove your intentions are good. Gehn then sets the book down and powers up his linking books, allowing you to link to any of the islands on Riven, including Prison Island (which houses Catherine), before leaving you alone.

You can then link to Prison Island, where you meet with Catherine. Catherine is excited to see you, but realizes that Gehn is using you as a trap and fakes disappointment and frustration, casting you away after telling you to meet back with her after trapping Gehn. You then return to the 233rd age, where Gehn expresses his shock that you have returned. He offers the trap book to you again, which you link into. You then watch as Gehn cautiously links in himself, freeing you from the book and trapping Gehn. You are then free to explore the age, having been freed outside the cage.

You then return to Prison Island and use a random code found in the 233rd age to free Catherine. She is excited to see Gehn is trapped within the book and takes it from you. She then asks you to open the Star Fissure to signal Atrus and tells you that the code is within her journal before leaving to warn the Moiety.

You return to the 233rd age and find all the linking books torn except for the Temple Island page. You return to the island and to a large telescope and manhole found near the Link-in point and use the code from Catherine's journal to open the manhole and lower the telescope into it. This causes the Star Fissure to re-open, pulling in everything near it and starting the collapse of Riven. Atrus links in and meets up with you and Catherine and sees the prison book (containing Gehn). He thanks you for "giving him his life back", then links back to Myst Island, leaving you to fall into the Star Fissure, which Atrus hopes returns you back home (though we find out later in Uru: Ages Beyond Myst that it actually leads to The Cleft).

Like Myst, Riven features several alternate endings, which appear at different times in the game.

  • If the player opens the Star Fissure before visiting Tay, no one greets them as the fissure opens up and The Stranger falls into it in silence.
  • If the player opens the Star Fissure before trapping Gehn, Atrus rushes in and questions The Stranger on why they would summon him. Gehn sneaks up behind the two and shoots Atrus, killing him. Gehn thanks the player for all their work before Cho shoots and kills them.
  • If the player opens the Star Fissure after trapping Gehn but before rescuing Catherine, Atrus links in and is happy to see the trapped Gehn, but is disappointed to find out that Catherine is still imprisoned. He unwillingly returns to Myst and The Stranger falls into the Star Fissure as Atrus expresses he has a lot of regret and a heavy heart.
  • If the player uses the trap book in Tay, they become imprisoned within it and a short video shows of The Moiety burning the book.
  • If the player uses the trap book in Riven before meeting Gehn, they become imprisoned. Some time later, Cho is seen nervously reaching out his hand to the book's gateway image as Gehn commands him to do so in the background. Upon touching the gateway image, Cho trades places with the player, in effect freeing the player within the 233rd age's cage. Gehn immediately shoots the player and introduces himself as the player slowly dies.
    • If the player uses the trap book in Riven after meeting Gehn, the ending is virtually identical, but with slightly different dialogue. Gehn does not introduce himself (having already done so when the player first encountered him). Instead, he notes that the player has retrieved the book, but then takes his gun, says that "Circumstances have changed," and shoots the player.
  • If the player uses the trap book anywhere other than Tay after trapping Gehn, Gehn opens the book again and thanks the player for their "noble sacrifice" and begins to question your intelligence.
  • If the player fails to use the trap book three times in the 233rd age, Gehn grows frustrated and shoots the player, telling him that he really has changed and that there was once a time when he would have spared the player.
  • If the player uses the trap book in Tay after trapping Gehn, Gehn opens the book and remarks that he "and the Moiety will finally be able to discuss our differences face-to-face", then thanks the player in a similar manner to when they use it outside of Tay.

Ages Visited[]


This is the largest age in Riven in terms of explorable space. It consists of five islands, four of which are interaccessible by means of trams or bridges. The fifth is only accessible via linking book.

Islands of Riven
Age 233

This is the age where you first meet Gehn. It is so named because it is Gehn's 233rd try at making an age, and even his 233rd try is unstable and barely habitable.


This is the headquarters of the resistance effort against Gehn. It consists mainly of a large tree, with houses inside.


To be Added


The first design notes for "Myst II" date from late January 1994, not long after the release of Myst. Rand and Robyn Miller were on a break, traveling from Spokane to Seattle. Around that time the brothers met Richard Vander Wende in a computer conference, who had previous interest in Myst. After a 3-hours long chat, they invited him to Spokane. By that time the team consisted of the Millers, Chris Brandkamp, Richard A. Watson and Joshua Alton Staub. After Vander Wende's visit, he was the sixth to join the team[1] and relocated to Spokane that September.[2]

Financed by the popularity of Myst,[1] Riven began in Brandkamp's garage. Rand acted as producer, ensuring the feasibility of production, while Robyn and Watson were directors, responsible for the aesthetics of the game. Tony Fryman, worked closely with Rand, managed and scheduled the project.[2]

By the end of 1994 much of the world had been designed, taking from the neoclassical style of Myst, but Vander Wende insisted on them to integrate some storytelling into the scenery; for this he designed the Survey Island Wahrk room to illustrate Gehn's character, while serving the purpose for giving clues to a puzzle; this persuaded the team to adopt his approach.[3] One of Vander Wende's contributions to the team was regularly redrawing the Riven maps with Robyn, to make for a smooth and logical gameplay.[4] Robyn and Vander Wende designed sketches both of natural features and artificial structures, even small devices. The sketches were as detailed as possible with notes about the look and feel and material texturing, before 3d modelling began.[5]

The design team members regularly reviewed and playtested sections of the game, assembled a "gripe stack" and discussed them in regular monthly production meetings, refining or even discarding details (or even well-developed elements) according to the evolution of the story and the design philosophy.[6]

Like Myst, the game would be pleasant both to gamers obsessed with solving mysteries and more casual gamers who just love to explore and enjoy the visuals. Riven was designed to be larger and more difficult than Myst, yet more realistic and with more obvious backstory.[7] Cyan was most concerned with the story, the visual content and the player's sense of direction and moving around.[6] The game is story-driven and puts the player in its world, attracting the player's psychological interest; the design philosophy was to combine features of of story and computer art, with the plot being a part of the larger D'ni history, tying in with the D'ni culture.[8] Story, character and visuals are finely blended together, as each environment and setting is dominated or related to one or other character or concept.[9] Three cultures would appear in the game, and each had to have consistently their own distinguishing motifs:[10] the native Rivenese are associated with an earthy, organic, natural styling in their tools and structures that blend into the environment; and the Rebel Moiety with their African-inspired idols and weapons. In contrast, megalomaniac Gehn, representing the D'ni people, is defined by ornate Victorian/baroque motifs, powerful machines and intricate mechanical devices;[11][9] however, he had to made do with Riven's native material, like ornamenting a mechanical lamp with Wahrk tusks[12] but always in a brutal aspect, with hard-edged and chaotic objects.[9] As the story, character development and design philosophy evolved, some almost-finished designs and whole landscapes had to be abandoned as they didn't fit with the new directions; early sceneries, buildings, objects pertaining to Gehn had to be cut out as his character was further refined.[4][6]

The puzzles followed the same philosophy: Instead of being a series of disconnected challenges forced into the gameplay, the puzzles are an "invisible" web of riddles, spread across the world of Riven. They escalate with the narrative, and are also integrated in it, interralating the backstory, the scenery, the setting, and the characters who created their mechanisms and their purpose.[7][13]

Robyn, Staub (the CG production director[14]) and eventually Vander Wende, upgraded to Silicon Graphics Indigo workstations, and SoftImage.[2] The gear included SGI servers, one operating 2GB and the other operating 4GB of swappable RAM (one was a SGI Challenge L). Even with this computing power, rendering of the more complex scenes took from 30' to 4 hours;[15][16] Karl Stiefvater worked as CG technical director, and debugger whenever SoftImage was unable to handle scenes with a high number of polygons; he figured out problematic model designs and wrote SoftImage patches to address bugs.[15] To this was added the fact that each single of the 4000[14] scenes was rendered with the technique of ray tracing, necessitating to the computers to calculate the routes of about 40 light sources, along with the various shades, intensities and shape of shadows they create.[17] Internal complexities sometimes resulted to failed renderings, and eventually the team realised problematic situations which they tried to avoid, but having to compromise against the high artistic standards, if possible without affecting the final quality.[14] Some scenes were so heavy that needed 45' to open.[16] Part of the strategy of saving computer resources and render time, was using both high- and low-detailed models by case: for a tree near a camera, a high-detailed model would be used, whereas low-detailed models would be used for trees in the scenery, far from the camera, where their imperfections wouldn't be visible in the final image.[18] Creatures such as the Sunner, were designed with a SoftImage software update that made use of wireframe patches instead of polygons, offering more natural and "organic" movement.[19] At some point, a team of Robyn, Staub and Vander Wende made a trip to Taos and Santa Fe (an environment similar to that they imagined for the Age of Riven) and took hundreds of photographs of materials (aged wood, dried animal bones, colorful rocks, rusted and corroded metal, adobe and plaster) to create a texture library for their 3D models; a scrap metal yard they found in Albuquerque provided almost all metal textures seen in the final game.[20] Karl Stiefvater designed around twentyfive shader programs which gave natural looking effects, such as lighting, mist and sun flares on metallic objects. Stiefvater also designed three shaders to emulate the effects of water, for adjustable waves, reflection, transparency and color, and depth.[21] Sunlight was simulated not only by an extreme single bright light, but also a blue light (for the cool areas and shadows) and two separate warm fill lights (providing warmth and the secondary reflected lights).[17]

Scenes were often rendered according to a wider field of vision, while the use of perspective has been altered in in ways to enhance the perception.[22] Sometimes some objects or bends were placed in transitions to hide form the player landscape belonging to a different model.[23]

As in Myst, separate parts of the game were created individually by different teams and artists; but unlike Myst that took place in several Ages with different visual styles, Riven mostly took place in a single Age, and inconsistencies were undesireable. Over a year before completion, some portions were already finished and assembly began.[24] The various elements were reviewed for integrity and technical aspects by the "World Assembler" team led by Staub; they were assembled into massive scenes, had their interrelation calibrated, were lit, further tweaked and finally rendered.[25] Gameplay sequences, as well as wide angle views included combinations of several shots that had to be combined. The player's movements between shots had to be checked for continuity and consistency of shading, lighting, and object placement.[26]

It was during production of Riven when they decided to create their own headquarters to accommodate the larger crew and equipment; they temporarily relocated to a local strip mall, and used a vacant Comfort World mattress outlet as their base. Construction for the headquarters started in June 1995, in nearby Mead and was completed the next year, and the team moved there.[27]

The game was programmed in HyperCard by Richard Watson and Ryan Miller, compiling all the multimedia and interface together.[28]

A recurring theme was the number five, seen in several design patterns; it has to do with five being significant in D'ni culture, and Gehn being obsessed with it, plus that Riven was the fifth Age he wrote. While the game came in five CDs, and "Riven" has five letters, the Age itself separated into five islands. Gehn-made objects follow this pattern, including pentagonal buildings, five spokes or legs for circular objects, puzzles having five clues to be solved, actions that must be repeated five times, and so on.[29]

Riven took four years to produce.[27] Towards the end of the production the team had to calculate each image's impact to the process in order to optimise it and make it to the deadline; the largest images were saved for the end, and instead of sending them to a professional "rendering house" they had their own servers work for 24/7.[16] When working copies of Riven were ready, playtesters were hired (mostly the same people who also tested Myst) and tested working copies of Riven. Rand, Vander Wende or other member of the team, would watch the player from behind and take note of their reactions, in a way that studios test movies. It was noted what was engaging or easy to miss by the player, or interface problems (eg. a "hot spot" too small, when the player tried to advance forward to the next screen). Such small problems were corrected right on the spot by the programmers.[6] When some puzzles frustrated a large number of testers, or when they went off-track, the team contemplated about making some changes to the gameplay, but usually they decided to add more clues to the Journals.[28]


Riven includes 2 hours of music, composed by Robyn Miller, taking advantage of the experience he gained by composing for Myst.[30] He worked in his studio in the basement of the Cyan's building, with Korg Trinity and Yamaha VL-1, which he loved because of its Physical modelling synthesis. His compositions were edited with Opcode Studio Vision on a Mac.[31]

Robyn composed while watching animations and scenes of the game[30] and improvised while watching the filmed FMV scenes.[31] Characters and settings have their own theme, and music reveals the emotional center of each place. Miller tried to make the pieces emotionally generic, not forcing the player to feel fear or hatred for a concept, but both tension and calmness, and a general sense of mystery.[30]

"Gehn's theme" is the defining musical motif of the game; for example it is woven underneath the music of the Rivenese village, symbolising his influence all over. The whole song is heard when the player meets him in person. His territory was defined by one distinct instrument.[30]


Unlike the home-made sound effects of Myst, Cyan needed professionally designed sounds for Riven and turned to professional sound engineers. Marty O'Donnell and Mike Salvatori worked in their Chicago studio, while Tim Larkin of Brodebund worked from San Rafael.[32] They didn't use only sampled libraries, but also created custom samples from their own environments, then edited in Macromedia Deck.[33]

As in most video games, sounds in Riven include animation sounds, triggered to accompany some actions like clicking of a button, or the reaction of an animal; and ambient background soundscape, that become part of the scenery without distracting the player, implying action hidden from view.[32] Movement of objects implies mechanisms and machinery secreted in the floor or walls of the particular room. Even in less populated areas, ambiance creates a certain mood.[34] The Jungle Island is an example, with the warm and inviting beach (sound of waves and gentle tufts of wind), the luxuriant jungle, home of a vibrant complex ecosystem (lively sound of insects and birds, warm lush breezes) as opposed to the dry and harsh clearcut clearing (thin breeze and brittle sound of insects). The background sounds are a combination of several layers of repeating loops; the variant durations and combination of the loops minimize the feeling of repetition.[33]

Casting and filming[]

As was the fashion with other "interactive movies" of the era that utilised live action scenes, actors were recorded in sound stages before a bluescreen, and digitally composited on the scenery, moving around and behind the 3d generated props, making a more complex live-action footage than in Myst.[10] The game had a larger roster of characters and actors than Myst.

The scenes were conscripted by Vander Wende and Tim Greenberg; some of these dialogues were written in the fictional/constructed D'ni and Rivenese languages (developed by RAWA; those parts were memorized by the actors phonetically). The preparatory work also included the design of costumes and props (from daggers and Rivenese weapons to Gehn's dart-gun and fire-marble pipe) designed by Robyn and Vander Wende, and fabricated by the prop shop of the Seattle Opera Company. All the process took 10 months, and was followed by the actual filming at the PVR studios, San Francisco, all of which took 3 weeks. Vander Wende was the director and Greenberg his assistant. The filmed actors were composited along with the computer graphics into the final game, blocked out so that the actors are accurately staged to fit the shot.[35] The Ultimatte video system that was used, replaced the blue sections and replaced it with a chosen digital background in real time, allowing the directors to check and adjust the blocking of the scene, the placement of props and the lighting effects on the stage in order to match all the objects of the digital setting, the angles of light sources and shadows.[36]


A 3D remake of Riven is due for release on June 25, 2024.


The game contains a soundtrack, again composed by Robyn Miller.


Notes & Trivia[]

  • A controversial e-mail written by Cyan programmer Richard A. Watson explains that Gehn's trap book cannot exist within the rules of The Art and was placed in the game only to enhance the gameplay. He states that trap books can't trap a person within them, but instead link a person to a Prison Age. This directly conflicts with the information found in the game and remains a highly contested argument between groups of fans.
  • This game marks the first time D'ni numbers appear within a game. This also marks the first time that players can learn parts of the D'ni Language.


  1. 1.0 1.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 22
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 From Myst to Riven, p. 26
  3. From Myst to Riven, p. 41
  4. 4.0 4.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 37
  5. From Myst to Riven, p. 49-51
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 From Myst to Riven, p. 112
  7. 7.0 7.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 29
  8. From Myst to Riven, p. 81
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 From Myst to Riven, p. 84
  10. 10.0 10.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 35
  11. From Myst to Riven, p. 42
  12. From Myst to Riven, p. 43
  13. From Myst to Riven, p. 114
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 From Myst to Riven, p. 98
  15. 15.0 15.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 57
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named p99
  17. 17.0 17.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 79
  18. From Myst to Riven, p. 58
  19. From Myst to Riven, p. 60
  20. From Myst to Riven, p. 62
  21. From Myst to Riven, pp. 72-74
  22. From Myst to Riven, p. 82
  23. From Myst to Riven, pp. 110-111
  24. From Myst to Riven, p. 109
  25. From Myst to Riven, p. 108
  26. From Myst to Riven, p. 111
  27. 27.0 27.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 27
  28. 28.0 28.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 133
  29. From Myst to Riven, p. 32
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 From Myst to Riven, p. 104
  31. 31.0 31.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 105
  32. 32.0 32.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 100
  33. 33.0 33.1 From Myst to Riven, p. 103
  34. From Myst to Riven, p. 102
  35. From Myst to Riven, p. 92
  36. From Myst to Riven, p. 93

Myst Series
Main Series MystRiven: The Sequel to MystMyst III: ExileMyst IV: RevelationMyst V: End of Ages
Uru Series Uru: Ages Beyond MystTo D'niThe Path of the ShellMyst Online: Uru Live
Other Myst: Masterpiece EditionRealMystRealMyst: Masterpiece EditionUru: Complete Chronicles
Novels The Book of AtrusThe Book of Ti'anaThe Book of D'niThe Book of Marrim