gardensThe first stages of Riven's design bore a strong resemblance to MYST, with neo-classical architecture and graceful gazebos dotting the landscape. When Richard Vander Wende arrived, bringing his character driven design principles with him, Survey Island was one of the first things to be changed. It was originally called Garden Island because it was going to include, among other things, an old style formal English garden. The 'official' story is that Gehn decided to teraform the island wiping out old elevator roomall these gardens etc, and replaced them with what we now see on Survey Island. Another interesting thing that was changed when Garden Island became Survey Island was the gold elevator and it's room. This room's original function must have had something to do with the grid puzzles. In this picture you can clearly see grid representations of the five islands floating in the water. These grids were then moved up to the upper level of the island in the form of the map room and the mock versions of the islands. The gold elevator itself has also changed fairly dramatically. It was once almost like a large column that rose from the water. It was also highly decorated with intricate lattice work, particularly on the arch above the door. This arch decoration was replaced with D'ni writing in the final version. (Check out the mistakes page to see what is actually written there.)

wahrk tusks

In an entry found in Gehn's journal on his 233rd age, concerning the 'Great Whark', he writes: "...I would have perhaps captured more of them while the local population was still plentiful..." How did the local population of Wahrks come to be endangered? By Gehn's wanton slaughtering of them, that's how. The most prominent evidence of this slaughter are the hundreds of Wahrk tusks rimming Survey Island. I haven't had the time (or patience) to count them all, but you can be sure that there's a lot of them. All meticulously placed to either represent Gehn's power over the Wahrk, a creature highly regarded and feared by the villagers, or simply to scare off any intruding natives (or maybe just because it looked cool).

survey room entrance

There are also a few other places where Gehn has used some of the Wahrk tusks. There are a few surrounding the area where the gold elevator rises out of the water. There are also two abovelight fixture the entrance to his survey room on the lower level of Survey Island. He's also using some with his light fixtures in his office on Book Assembly Island.
elevator room

holeWhen Atrus first visits Riven in the "Book of Atrus" he comes across a curious body of water floating above a geo-thermal vent. Originally this pool led to the surface of the island, but after Gehn screwed around with the surface, the pool became subterranean. Atrus nearly drownedelevator trying to swim through this pool to the surface but was saved by Catherine's cousin, Carel, which is how he met Catherine in the first place. The hole in the centre of the large rocks above is where the pool used to come to. Below this is now where the gold elevator rises.


To aid Gehn in his study of Riven's collapse he created 'model' versions of the islands. These 'models' are what you see on Survey Island. At the time he constructed these islands, what is now known as Prison Island was still in view of the other islands. The crack that splits the islands down the middle (ie. the one you walk along), represents the fissure in the planet's crust that is tearing Riven apart.


The scope used to stop the Fire Marble Dome on Survey Island and the path underneath it have quite a lean to them. This lean was caused by an over zealous Wahrk swimming around in the 'tank' below. The Wahrk bumped into the walkway knocking over it's support and making one side of it sag, screwing with the scope's alignment with the dome and making it hard to co-ordinate your click with the correct colour symbol.

lava vent

Riven is very unstable. One cause of this instability could be the fact that it is 'floating' on a layer of molten rock. You can see this molten rock in a couple of places in Riven, but nowhere is it as obvious as on the lower level of Survey Island. The area below the golden elevator is a large geo-thermal vent which can be seen by it's colour, and (if you were actually there) by it's heat.

map room

Gehn's Map Room, located in the Wahrk lake, is adorned with D'ni writing, carved directly out of the metal shell of the dome-like structure.

In D'ni it reads:
"onrayot Gehn lehshokhoo seht b'tahgahm bihv"

Which translates to:
"Our lord Gehn has instructed
us to know all."

scribeIn Gehn's delusional attempt at recreating the D'ni empire, he set up a mock version of five of the D'ni guilds, enlisting select natives from Riven into their ranks. The five guilds he set up were; the Maintainers, Educators, Surveyors, Bookmakers, and Builders. These guild members where given special privileges and allowed access to islands that he had restricted the other villagers from.
scribe in maglevIf, when you come to Survey Island for the first time, you take the gold elevator to the lower level, then follow the path to the survey room, you'll bump into one of the guild members. He'll very quickly run out towards the MagLev. If you quickly follow him out the door, you'll get to see him turn the MagLev around and take off for Jungle Island. The scribe is played by Tony Fryman, the production manager for Riven.

colour viewerWhen pressed the buttons on this viewer will turn on some lights. The D'ni symbols on the buttons correspond to six colours of the spectrum. The most likely purpose for these lights was so that Gehn could call his various Wahrk pets, probably for feeding. This theory is supported by thetotems fact that a Wahrk will respond to the red light in the game. The lights are held in place underneath the Wahrk totems found in the lake above. If you look closely you'll see that the totems are painted various colours, probably matching the colour of the lights below them.

village viewerThe viewer on the left was used by Gehn to 'spy' on the villagers. It was from this viewer that he witnessed one of the villagers swimming out to the wooden ball in the centre of the lake, prompting him to order members of his Guild of Surveyors to catalogue the other 'Moiety eyes' found on Jungle Island. He also used this viewer to watch Catherine in her prison and ensure that nothing out of the ordinary was goingcatherine on. It obviously wasn't very effective as Catherine was still able to send a letter to the Moiety that was then given to you when you visited the rebel age, Tay.

wahrkEver wondered what an angry Wahrk would look like? Well it's easy enough to find out. When you press the button on Gehn's viewer to turn on the red light, a Wahrk will be attracted by it. If however you keep calling it, it starts to get annoyed. Finally it gets to the point of trying to attack you. Fortunately there is a pane of glass between you, which the Wahrk slams into, probably receiving a nice headache to add to it's troubles.

east path
As the designs for Riven evolved many things changed. One such thing was the 'East Path'. Richard Watson of Cyan has put up a page (found here) which discusses this area. Here is an excerpt from RAWA's page that talks about it.

"Years before the events shown in Riven, the islands were connected by bridges. This path used to be the bridge between the Garden Island and the Jungle Island. Since the islands were rapidly spreading apart, these bridges needed constant maintenance. Eventually, Gehn developed the Magcar system. It was easier to maintain (the rails were made to expand as the islands separated, only needing to be replaced when they'd reached their maximum length) and allowedsurvey map quicker access between the islands (when first developed, Gehn did not yet have working Books.)"

This early design map for Survey Island clearly
shows the pathways and bridges that were replaced
by the MagLev system.

Since a lot of the information I have put up here is based on my own interpretations, some of it may be incorrect. If you think there is a problem with anything here, please fill out this form, and send it to me. Or, if you have anything that you think I should add, also please fill out this form. Thank you.

Last update, 01-Sept-1999 author:Stewart Bradford
temple island
jungle island
book assembly island
survey island
prison island
tay (rebel age)
gehn's 233rd age
misc. information
easter eggs

All Riven images and text 1996, 1997 Cyan, Inc. All rights reserved Riven Cyan, Inc.