If I recall correctly, (original) XBOX games would often go the the next level of whatever game by just loading a new EXE and start over from scratch, rather than bothering with some kind of "level loading and init" code.
In spite of being a 32 bit application using a dos extender, so not limited to the first 640k ram.
I wonder how influential the decision was to not tell Sony brass about it.
Riven came on multiple CDs. When you moved from area to area you had to swap the discs in your PC. I got part way through the game and it said "Please insert disc 5". I couldn't see any disc 5 and wondered if this was some kind of clever, 4th wall breaking puzzle.
Well, turns out the jewel case would open up an extra door and the 5th disc was there. It wasn't supposed to be a puzzle, it was just unexpected...
Certainly the 5 CD release was itself a stumbling block. It penalized exploring the island freely, which has some bad gameplay effects. When you're stuck on a puzzle in a Disc 2 area, should you keep exploring that area, or is it possible the clue you need is on some other disc? Which one? Are you willing to put up with the hassle? It wouldn't be so bad if each area was obviously self-contained, as they were in Myst, but in Riven they tried to change from a collection of puzzle boxes into a real world where the "puzzles" were diegetic. So there aren't really discrete "areas" anymore, or even puzzle themes restricted to an area. The clue you need may well be anywhere, which in combination with the disc swapping, makes finding clues into a huge chore instead of a delightful exploration.
And the biggest shame is it was built on very crappy technology (Quicktime) that even back in the day was held together with spit and string. For the better part of two decades, it was basically unplayable on any modern PC without major effort. So I haven't gone back to replay it since the original 5-disc release in the 90s. They did a re-release a year or two ago, which I guess is probably worth a shot, but my memories of Riven are just so soured by my experience. Meanwhile Myst holds a special place as a fun, quick little puzzle game.
Nowadays, though, the game runs fine in ScummVM. It's amazing how many games they've saved over the years. Myst III runs in a similar project called ResidualVM.
FWIW, if tech issues stopped you from playing Riven in the 90s, I really can't suggest giving it another try enough. If you get the ScummVM version, it's very likely going to work better on modern hardware (and, for that matter, doesn't require any discs). It's similar to Myst, but a much more artistically ambitious project.
Which is kind of funny, because the dev team between Myst to Riven was one of the transitions where they kept the team+tools the most similar between releases. (Myst 3 and Myst 4 had entirely different studios, with entirely different teams, tooling, and engines)
The next closest similar transition would probably be the Uru series to Myst 5 (but for wildly different reasons)
Assuming you must've gotten it after release because as far as my memory serves, the original Riven came in little brown sleeves clearly labeled 1 to 5.
I don't think your jewel case issue was an easter egg/trick. Just an attempt to fit 5 discs into 2 jewel cases.
Mine looked like this: https://imgur.com/LDkdx1k
Perhaps it wasn't the original release. Perhaps it was a regional difference. I agree, I don't think the case was intentionally made to deceive.
Much longer (1 hour 47 minutes) cut of this interview: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/02/an-extended-interview...
I didn't get a chance to participate myself, but you can see all the stacks everyone made at https://itch.io/jam/merveilles-hyperjam
Despite that flaw, I do like it. I hope they keep em coming.
Unfortunately, the gaming industry really does seem to work on a model where darned near every major game is a near-death experience for the company in question. It remains fairly common even today for relatively large companies to essentially be brought down by one bad release, resulting in them getting acquired by EA. If you look out at the studio landscape over history, it is still very, very frothy. There aren't really that many studios that have been around for even five or ten years; most of the names that will leap to mind are now actually particular name brands of conglomerates.
I think it's a real thing to a large degree, not a contrived framing.
(I would credit this to the way that games have been getting exponentially more expensive over time; in such an environment, the next game is going to naturally take most of your money, even if your previous game was a wild success. I think we're now about in the middle of that no longer being true. We're not done yet; AAA games are still trying to slug it out on the exponential curve, but more and more we're seeing successful games made at an earlier plateau of cost, including the entire output of companies like Nintendo.)
Yeah, this ignores the role publishers play, but I doubt a publisher is going to give a relatively new studio too many opportunity. You're game needs to make money if you want another shot.
But the Game Boy and DS were the biggest markets of their time. Perhaps we’re finally valuing smaller teams more than the Titanic AAA studios.
Very much worth watching.
(However it's bit more about organizational failures than technical failures.)
I never completed Myst, it was such a frustrating game. Granted I must have been 10 or 11 when I played it, I've thought a few times about going and playing it as an adult but I still have PTSD from the frustration it caused me.
I really enjoyed Riven, however. Fantastic game. Right up until the penultimate puzzle, and it's a doozy that basically requires you to have paid careful attention to things along the way (my notes were mostly sufficient), and to not be red-green colorblind (wups, I am genetically screwed).
I wrote in to support, and actually got a refund on the game.
I got a "making of" book about Riven, and I'd say that book is at least partially responsible for my interest in computer graphics and software development.
You do have to stumble around in the dark for awhile, but once you're pointed in the right direction things really brighten up. That's the only potentially frustrating part I remember, but again it's been years.
Even though I know how to solve it, I always struggle with that puzzle.
Two of my favorites are Andy Gavin on Crash Bandicoot:
and Sid Meier on Civilization: