Is Riveal still being developed?

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Is Riveal still being developed?

Postby dgelessus » Sat Sep 30, 2017 6:21 pm

Hello everyone! I have no idea if this is the proper place to post this - I would have posted this on the MOULa/Cyan forums, but that would probably be against the rules against reverse-engineering of Cyan games.

I'm aware that sadly the original developer of Riveal, Ron Hayter, passed on a few years ago. Does anyone know if development of Riveal has perhaps been taken over by someone else since then? Unfortunately it's difficult to find any useful information on Riveal, a web search mostly finds mirrored downloads of the last released version.

The reason why I'm asking is because I thought if nobody is developing Riveal anymore, it might make sense to decompile the jar and make the source code public - that way others could theoretically continue working on it or reuse the code. I experimented a little and got far enough that I could compile and run the decompiled source code (after some manual fixing). Before I work on this any more or upload the code anywhere, I wanted to be sure that there really is nobody still working on Riveal.

(I'm also a bit unsure if this is even a good idea. After all, it's still copyrighted and someone else's personal work no matter what. Any opinions on that would be welcome too.)
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Re: Is Riveal still being developed?

Postby Deledrius » Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:14 pm

As far as I know, I haven't seen anyone working or announce working on it. To my knowledge it was never open-sourced, sadly. Doing so at this point (since his permission is unobtainable) would indeed legally be a copyright violation. That is not the same question as to the morality of doing so. If you were to implement your own program using his software as a reference (and not using any of his code), or even better work with someone else to create a clean-room implementation you'd probably find few objections.

It would indeed be a shame to let the program disappear and die, forgotten solely because of backwards copyright terms.
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Re: Is Riveal still being developed?

Postby Sirius » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:36 am

I've always wished we had an open source library for reading Myst4 archives. I wouldn't have time to work on it right now, but my hope is that one day we can recode the engine to support more OS and have the game render in higher res etc. Maybe even add VR support.
At some point I tried decompiling the sources of Riveal, but didn't manage to do much with it. I don't remember exactly, but I think some of the variable names were lost or something.

[EDIT: I realize now I've been mixing up Riveal and Revelator :oops: Nevermind me :D ]
Last edited by Sirius on Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Riveal still being developed?

Postby dgelessus » Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:17 pm

Thank you for the replies!

Deledrius wrote:If you were to implement your own program using his software as a reference (and not using any of his code), or even better work with someone else to create a clean-room implementation you'd probably find few objections.

That would be a good option, and probabaly the least "questionable" way to handle it. That would of course require a proper understanding of how Riveal's internal code works, and I'm nowhere close to that right now. I'm just at the point where the decompiled code is runnable, and I haven't even tested much more than simply starting the application and clicking around in the menus.

Sirius wrote:I've always wished we had an open source library for reading Myst4 archives.

FWIW, Ron Hayter also wrote a second tool, Revelator, which is essentially a version of Riveal specialized to Myst IV. I've never used it myself, but the main difference seems to be that Riveal extracts absolutely every image from the game files, whereas Revelator tries to filter out any files that are not "interesting" to most people - textures related to graphics effects and such.
His website also hosts the Myst 4 Viewer by Nathan Gilbert aka Tahgtahv. The name should be self-explanatory, though I haven't tried that one myself either.

Sirius wrote:I wouldn't have time to work on it right now, but my hope is that one day we can recode the engine to support more OS and have the game render in higher res etc. Maybe even add VR support.

Theoretically you could write your own engine that uses the image files produced by Riveal, and then extend it to load the real game files later.

Sirius wrote:At some point I tried decompiling the sources of Riveal, but didn't manage to do much with it. I don't remember exactly, but I think some of the variable names were lost or something.

Decompiling Java bytecode usually isn't too bad - the only things that get lost by default are what is optimized away by the compiler. The regular compiler from the Oracle JDK only does very simple optimizations, like inlining/folding constant expressions and removing if (false) branches, so not much is lost.
Unfortunately all versions of Riveal that I know of have also been obfuscated. This means that all non-essential metadata (local variable names, line number tables, generics info) is removed, and most classes/methods/fields are renamed to a, b, c, ... instead of the original names. This obfuscator is particularly "funny" and sometimes uses Java keywords (if, else, while, do, for, ...) as names. This is not a problem in compiled code, but makes any decompiled code invalid at first. Nothing that can't be fixed with lots of find-replace though. :)
Last edited by dgelessus on Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Riveal still being developed?

Postby Tsar Hoikas » Sun Oct 01, 2017 4:44 pm

I think my answer is really a question... Is there something Riveal does not do particularly well? Or is it just interest in not seeing the tool die out? I can certainly understand working on something to prevent it from being lost to the ages, but if there's something it doesn't do, it might be worth making a new tool that does that thing well.
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Re: Is Riveal still being developed?

Postby dgelessus » Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:06 pm

Tsar Hoikas wrote:I think my answer is really a question... Is there something Riveal does not do particularly well? Or is it just interest in not seeing the tool die out? I can certainly understand working on something to prevent it from being lost to the ages, but if there's something it doesn't do, it might be worth making a new tool that does that thing well.

Mostly the latter. Also, since many of the formats understood by Riveal aren't documented anywhere (as far as I know), the Riveal code would be a useful source of information on those formats.
Riveal does indeed work very well, and there are no obvious issues that I know of. Java and OSes evolve over time though, and if compatibility issues do appear at some point, it would be useful to fix the code as necessary, so Riveal can be used without installing old Java and/or OS versions in a VM.
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Re: Is Riveal still being developed?

Postby Tsar Hoikas » Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:20 pm

That makes sense. To me, there's no really right approach here. I remember at one point there was a big discussion on /. about what happens to people's stuff on the internet after one passes away. The copyright laws are certainly no help as they are made to protect the ability to make money, but Ron surely had no desire to make money off Riveal. But, at the same time, we don't know what he would have wanted for Riveal nor do we have the code, as you well know. :|
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