Get Ready For Diseases

Unlike later games in the series, diseases in Daggerfall are more than a mere annoyance. They mean serious business and could spell a permanent end to your adventures if left untreated. Diseases will sap your attributes to nothing and even kill you in a matter of days if you don’t manage to get cured.

So good news everyone! Starting with latest Live Builds you can become infected with diseases in Daggerfall Unity thanks to dirty creatures like bats, rats, and mummies.

Diseases actually began development a while back. Most of the research and back-end framework was built out by two rockstar contributors you should already be familiar with: Allofich and Hazelnut. Diseases have just been waiting for me to implement effect system to handle their payload and support their curing by spell effects. This is another great example of a successful collaborative effort for Daggerfall Unity.

Rather than roll out a dry article about implementation details, I’ve decided to use the Visual Diary format to tell a bit of a story and show all the different parts of the disease system in the context of normal play. I’ve decided to create a fictional day in the life of your average character to show how he might catch a disease and find his way to a cure. This is also great opportunity to show just how far gameplay has come, as everything that follows is something that could play out in Daggerfall Unity right now.

Let’s begin.

 

Continue reading

Spells: Front-End Graphics

It’s finally time for spells to get the treatment and become a regular feature in Daggerfall Unity. I have decided to approach this feature-set in a more visual way than I did the quest system, which involved several months of back-end work before I could even show a single screenshot. This time around, I want the process to follow the visual diary approach from day one to make it more interesting to watch things unfold. This also helps me stay motivated as it’s a lot more fun to hurl around glowing balls of magical death than build a runtime compiler for the quest system.

There will be some more code-oriented articles later in the series, but for now let’s take a look at the front-end graphics of spell-casting animations and missiles.

 

Setup

Before I can do anything else, I have to implement the basic cast/recast loop. Thanks to Lypyl, a baseline spellbook interface is already in the game. It doesn’t have any actual spells yet, just some temp line items, but that’s all we need right now.

I wired up the spellbook to the “cast” key (default is Backspace) so player can select a spell from their collection. It doesn’t matter which “spell” you choose at this point. Just double-click any item to let the game know you’ve selected something.

Continue reading

Taverns, Custom Loot, Climbing, Languages, Mod Features

A new round of Live Builds are now available with some great new gameplay and mod features to enjoy.

Tavern Rooms, Food & Drink

Thanks to Hazelnut, it’s now possible to rent a room in taverns. And thanks to Allofich, you can also purchase food & drink for RP purposes. During your tenancy, you’ll be allocated a bed and can use that tavern as a home base. Just talk to any friendly bartender across the Illiac Bay.

Rooms are saved with your character, so if you leave town and return later before your tenancy expires, your room will still be available. This all ties in perfectly with Hazelnut’s world persistence. You can leave loot piles in your room and return later to retrieve them. Just don’t forget to pick up your loot before your room expires or those items become property of the house. No refunds!

Continue reading

New Builds For 2018

Welcome to 2018 everyone! What a great few months we’ve had in Daggerfall Unity. Despite my general absence in November through December last year, work still continued on the project at an excellent pace. I owe a debt of thanks to everyone that continued adding features while I was out of the scene for several weeks. I want to make this post all about these contributions, and mention the people who contributed during that time.

We’re close to a stable “Quests 0.4” build now before officially moving on to 0.5 and spells. “Stable” in this case doesn’t mean everything is complete or bug free – just that quests should be relatively steady and playable based on our current position in the Roadmap at the end of 0.4. Work will continue on improving and tightening up quest system all the way to 1.0, but now it’s time to move onto something new. This often means exciting new bugs to fix so the stable build stands as good fallback point if anyone is experiencing too many troubles with latest versions.

You’ll find the latest downloads on the Live Builds page as usual. If you’d like the very latest code, you can check it out directly from our GitHub page. And if you’d like a full blow-by-blow account of all changes up to now, the Commits page has what you’re after. This post mainly covers featured highlights and the people who added them. In alphabetical order, they are:

Continue reading

Town Populations

I’ve had my head in the quest system for several months and really needed a short break. I also happened to need a solution for spawning enemies outdoors in cities (for example, the ghosts and wraiths in Daggerfall at night) and noted there was a good amount of overlap between spawning enemies and NPCs in town environments because they all need to avoid placement inside building geometry. And whatever solution I use for placement could probably be used for navigation as well. I had scheduled wandering NPCs for 0.5 cycle, but decided to make an early start on this while solving town placement and navigation. And what better way to test this solution than to actually watch NPCs walk around?

The first problem I had was how to find an appropriate placement position. My initial idea was to use the foliage placement array in exterior data. This formed a nice grid over each block, but it also marched over water and under buildings. That would not be suitable. I considered just dropping in mobiles and using a combination of rays and colliders to refine their position until they found open space, but that approach seemed way too messy and inefficient.

That’s when I had a eureka moment thinking about how perfectly automap image data lined up with the game world. Take the below screenshot as an example. In game, I’m standing outside the Odd Blades looking at the entrance door. On the automap, once unit conversions are done, I’m in exactly the same place.

 

So Daggerfall’s automap perfectly skins building footprints. This should mean I can take the inverse of automap data to work out which parts of the environment are open. I quickly prototype by placing white cubes on open environment and avoiding the building footprints. Take a look at the results.

 

This is beyond perfect. The automap doesn’t just contain data for building footprints, but for flat placement and decorative geometry as well. I have a strong suspicion Daggerfall also uses the automap data in this manner, it’s just too precise and detailed to be a coincidence.

With a solution in mind, I now have to execute the idea. I create a new class called CityNavigation which is added to the location GameObject at scene layout time by StreamingWorld. This constructs a navigation grid at the same time location and automap data is read so only a small amount of additional processing is done per location. With the inverse of automap blocked out, we get the following:

This is good – the white areas can be used for placement and navigation, but it’s not perfect. It also needs to account for tilemap under location. We can’t place NPCs on water tiles, and they should try to avoid those tiles when walking around. Rather than just block out unwalkable tiles, I take this one step further and allocate each tile a specific weight, where a higher weight means the tile is more favourable. Here’s the final navgrid where black areas are “no-go” and brighter areas are preferred over darker areas. You can probably see right away this creates a strong preference for the road network:

 

What you can’t see in the above image is that each weight occupies the upper 4 bits of a single byte. The lower 4 bits are reserved for a flag system, giving me up to 4 bits to control NPC behaviours. This will be important later in this article.

Now that I have a nice procedurally generated map of any exterior location, the next problem is converting between all the different coordinate systems. If you’ve ever tried to make a big world in Unity, you’ll know that precision problems kick in after a few thousand scene units or so from origin (position 0,0,0 in world). This manifests itself through jittery movement and shadows, imprecise feeling of control, and issues with physics system. The game map in Daggerfall rocks in over 819,000 x 409,000 scene units, way beyond what Unity can handle with fine floating-point precision. I overcame this challenge very early on by using a fixed point coordinate system for the world (Daggerfall units) and normal floating point units for the scene (Unity units). The world is built around the player in chunks close to origin, and when player runs too far in one direction, the whole world is brought back towards origin. To the player it feels like they are running continuously through a huge open world, when in fact the world is being constructed around them one chunk at a time. The player never moves more than 1000 units from origin in the X-Z plane.

What does all of this have to do with the navgrid above? Well, now I have yet another coordinate system to glue together. I have not only the Daggerfall units and Unity units, but the X,Y position inside the navgrid array where any virtual mobile objects have to move around. So the next thing I do is write some helpers in CityNavigation to convert from navgrids to world space, world space to scene space, and back again, and so on. This chewed up a solid chunk of Sunday to get working properly, and there’s still a few precision issues due to the large differences in scale. Something to refine down the track.

With all the math out of the way, I can now start placing mobile NPCs into the world. One problem though, I hadn’t written any code to render wandering NPCs yet. So I started with these guys just to confirm the navgrid through scene conversions were working. Sometimes in game development, you have to bust out some programmer art to get the job done.

 

With placement working, next came the process of building the mobile NPC billboard properly – including that stop-and-stare thing they do when you get too close to them.

Town NPC Billboards

With rendering done, I can start moving them around the navgrid using a simple motor. They will generally follow roads when encountered (because roads have a higher weight), but there’s enough randomness to let them change directions and wander around elsewhere on the grid.

And do you remember me mentioning the navgrid can store flags in the lower 4 bits? The first flag I created is an “occupied” bit that lets a mobile claim a navgrid tile before walking into it. This prevents two or more NPCs trying to occupy the same tile at a time. The next clip shows the mobile movement, path following, and dynamic avoidance of each other. I’ve cranked up the spawn count and movement speeds because it helps me observe the behaviour (and it’s kind of fun to watch).

Mobile Pathing and Dynamic Avoidance

Despite everything accomplished, I still have more to do. The next step is working out which races are placed in which towns. I put my travelling boots on and tracked around classic Daggerfall’s world until I found which races appeared in which climate zones. I built this into the helper which returns climate data for texture swaps, etc. and now the correct NPC races (either Redguard, Nord, or Breton) will appear across the game world.

 

The final step was to build a PopulationManager class. This code handles spawning/despawning of NPCs around player as you move through town environments so the location feels populated. After a bit of experimentation, I used a population index per 16 RMB blocks so that small towns feel like they have a smaller overall population than large cities. One of my challenges here is the draw distances in Daggerfall Unity are huge compared to classic Daggerfall. While classic can place NPCs safely in the fog out of sight, in Daggerfall Unity you can see two full city sizes distant across the map. This means that hiding pop-in and pop-out of NPCs is a little trickier. For now, I mitigate this by trying to only show or hide NPCs when player is not looking directly at them (as Daggerfall does) and only allow them to pop-in when a certain distance from player.

There’s still a few bugs to iron out. You can still catch them pop-in nearby if you happen to look in the right direction at the right time, and they sometimes glide slightly in the wrong direction on spawn due to precision issues as they align to the grid. And of course you can’t talk to them yet, because the “talk” system won’t be introduced until 0.5 sometime. But overall, the feeling of crowds is quite satisfactory and Daggerfall-ish, and it’s wonderful to finally see these sprite people bustling around cities.

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the work that goes into creating even a small feature like this one. If you’d like to read more, I try to post regular micro-updates to my Twitter feed @gav_clayton.

 

Closing The Loop On Quests

For the first time yesterday, I was able to run a full quest in Daggerfall Unity from start to finish, and I’m very happy to say that a sizeable chunk of the quest system is now implemented. Following is another quick visual diary on what I’ve been working on lately. Where possible, I’ll share some information on what the quest system is doing in the background. There’s also a new video at the end.

 

Guild Quests

I have partially implemented guild quests with their usual service providers. Visit the quest-giver NPC in any Fighters or Mages Guild across Illiac Bay to receive a quest from a curated pool that is “mostly working” in Daggerfall Unity. This system helps me set the scope for testers, and introduce new quests over time as more of the quest system is built. Let’s take a look at this in action by following a quest from start to finish.

 

If you have  a sharp eye for Daggerfall quests, or have ever written one yourself, you’ll notice a lot is happening in the screenshots above:

  • Quest-giver NPC is identified by faction ID and the guild service window shows “Get Quest” as it should for that NPC.
  • The quest offer process is in place for you to accept or refuse job offered.
  • Many text macros are expanded automatically – such as random monster name, target location, player’s race, current region, and so on.
  • Reward is being randomly generated based on quest script.
  • Travel time is calculated from world using same logic as travel map, ensuring player has enough time to travel there, find the item, and return back.
  • The quest log information is generated and stored in the journal with current date, return location, quest-giver NPC, target monster, and how long you have to complete quest.
  • The quest-giver (Mordyval Moorhart) has also been tagged as the Questor NPC for this job. The quest system will keep track of your clicks on this person to know when you’ve returned with the wrappings.

If you travel to the named dungeon and explore it thoroughly, you will eventually find the mummy who is the target of this quest. If you don’t want to search you can use the ‘tele2qspawn’ and ‘tele2qitem’ console commands to teleport directly to the target spawn or item markers in dungeon. However you find it, kill the mummy and the target quest item is placed in its inventory for you to loot along with other randomly generated treasure.

Here are some of the things the quest system is doing under the hood in the above screenshots:

  • Tracking when player visits target dungeon and injecting the mummy into world.
  • Capturing script events like “injured foe” and “killed foe”. In this particular the quest, the mummy wrappings are placed on the monster when you injure it.
  • Tracking quest items, setting their background green, and displaying scripted text after picking up the mummy wrappings.

Now it’s time to return to Mordyval Moorhart for our reward.

In this step, the following stuff happens in the background:

  • Quest script detects you have clicked on the Questor NPC with the target item.
  • The QuestCompleted text is shown for a successful outing.
  • A loot container opens with your agreed-upon reward.

In classic Daggerfall, if you accidentally close the loot window without getting your reward that item is lost. I’ve made a small change where the reward is placed into a dropped loot container at your feet if you forget to collect it. This at least gives you a second chance to pickup your loot.

 

With all of the above working, this closes the loop on the quest process for a whole bunch of quests. It’s not just mummy wrappings, a lot of quests involving item hunts and killing monsters all operate inside this same framework. Where things fall down right now is with some of the special script actions that add flavour and complexity to quests. These remaining quest actions and conditions will be built out over time until quest system is at 100%.

 

Escort Quests

Sometimes a quest will ask you to take an NPC somewhere, such as rescuing the below person from a giant slain as part of a Fighters Guild quest. It seems the giant had been keeping this person for a snack.

A lot is happening in the above side-quest:

  • The quest script selects at random from a victim NPC, a map reward, or no map and no victim. In this case, the victim NPC was selected.
  • The random NPC Lysausa Gaerwing and her home town of Crosswold Borough are generated, giving her a bit of a backstory.
  • According the quest log, she wants to be delivered to Lord Mordoryan’s Wares, a shop in Oxville. Note the %g2 pronoun macro isn’t working yet. This is on my todo list.
  • When accepting the escort, a portrait (which usually does not resemble NPC flat in world) is added to your HUD to show this person is journeying with you.
  • The quest system tracks when player enters target building, displays the scripted popup, and removes NPC from your HUD.

 

Artifacts

A smaller task than above, but still necessary for the quest system is the ability to spawn artifact items. These special items are created by merging two sets of template data together to form one very powerful item with a larger than usual number of enchantments. While magic system isn’t in the game yet, certain groundwork still needs to be implemented. Because I’m looking at spells and effects in the update chain immediately after quests, now is a good time to start thinking about this stuff. Artifacts are still at a very early stage, and I might not return to them for a while.

The character above is holding Chrysamere from a quest script intended only to test these items can be generated by quest system. A big thanks to all the people who sent me their saves so I could test artifact import and creation. I still have some bugs to fix, but I’ve made a good start on this.

 

Conclusion

The quest system is doing great. It’s still a ways from being finished, but all the hard problems have been solved and now I’m just building out support for remaining actions and conditions, and fixing bugs along the way. The next items on my list are multi-spawn foes (e.g. kill 6 rats in a house) and more work on text support (like the %g family of pronoun macros). There’s bound to be a few more articles to go before I can call quests complete.

If all goes well, I should have the first real test build with the quest system in current state available in 2-3 weeks. This will have the Fighters and Mages Guild quest system in place for testers to run through available quests and help me find bugs. You’ll also be able to use ‘startquest’ console command to launch whatever quest you wish, even quests you write yourself, but things might not work properly if you go too far off grid for now. I’ll post more about the test build once it’s ready, including any limitations in the build at the time.

Thank you for reading! If you would rather watch quests in action, following is a pure gameplay video of Daggerfall Unity, except I’m using the console cheats to teleport to objectives in dungeons for the sake of brevity.

For more frequent updates on Daggerfall Unity, follow me on Twitter @gav_clayton.

NPCs, Items, Enemies, Quest Debugger

I’ve been hard at work the last couple of weeks, finally making serious inroads into the real meat of the quest system. Here’s a quick diary of my progress since last post. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve already seen most of this, although there’s a new video at the end you might enjoy.

In the last post, I talked about using buildings as quest sites. This has allowed me to start work on placing NPCs, items, and enemies as part of quests, and to support branching quest execution based on where player is in world.

When a named NPC is reserved by quest system, Daggerfall Unity handles all the book-keeping to move that NPC to the quest site. I tested this out using King Gothryd at first. Once the new quest site is determined and Gothryd is reserved, scene builders will no longer deploy him at the usual home location – unless the quest specifies the atHome flag at time of NPC reservation. In screenshot below, Gothryd has already left for the quest site.

 

The quest system then generates a SiteLink between target Place and Person resources. When the player visits the target location, scene builders need to place Gothryd at that location. Here’s Gothryd at the end of his journey.

 

I wanted to take a short break from NPCs and moved onto items briefly. There’s a few different ways Daggerfall uses Item resources in quests. They might added directly to your inventory, placed in a dungeon, or used as a permanent reward. Different quest conditions will also trigger based on whether player is carrying a certain item or not. I still have a lot to do here, but have made a start on the first case – adding an item directly to player inventory. The parchment with a green background below is the first real quest item in Daggerfall Unity. Specifically, it’s the letter from Brisienna.

 

At this point the quest engine is getting advanced enough that I need more detail on what’s happening under the hood at any time. I put together a quest debugger that shows the various Task and Timer states for a running quest. I plan to make this capable of step-through execution in the short term. The debugger shows which tasks are active/inactive and which timers are pending/running/complete. After setting this up, I could finally resolve many bugs in execution flow. I also added proper support for persist-until tasks, global variable links, and rearming tasks designed to switch on and off.

 

I’m pleased to say the quest system is all coming together rather quickly now. There’s still a huge amount of work to do, but most of the hard problems have been solved now and I’m just building out action support and fixing bugs. Here’s a little video of the current state of the quest system. Some of the early quests are working nicely now.

As a bonus, this video also shows the new skill tracking and player levelling by Allofich. Yep, it’s possible to level-up in Daggerfall Unity now thanks to his efforts. Great work Allofich!

Quest Buildings And PcAt Condition

Now that buildings and NPCs can be identified in the game world, I can finally start linking together parts of quest system to world. The clearest starting point is quest buildings, as a majority of quests in Daggerfall will send player to a building somewhere in the world.

If you’ve been following my progress on quest system for a while, you already know a lot of technical progress has been made on the back-end. Without forcing you to recap on past articles, here’s a brief summary of quest system in its current state:

  • Quest scripts are generated by Template v1.11 by Donald Tipton. This has long been the go-to solution for adding new quests to classic Daggerfall. By adopting this scripting format, it becomes possible to compile scripts between both Daggerfall and Daggerfall Unity for testing. And it means anyone with experience writing quests for Daggerfall can already write quests for Daggerfall Unity.
  • Daggerfall Unity has a JIT quest compiler which builds quest scripts at runtime. This means you can edit, start, and stop quests without once closing the game. This will be even more useful once the Quest Inspector UI is ready.
  • The QuestMachine execution environment runs compiled quests like small virtual machines inside your game session. It interfaces with the world and does all the necessary housekeeping for running quests.
  • Quests are made up of resources (Place, Person, Item, etc.) and Actions (perform some task). Some actions are also conditional (do task when condition is true). Almost all of Daggerfall’s high-level gameplay is driven by the quest system. Even some things you might not expect (such as Lysandus screaming VENGEANCE! at night) are accomplished by quests.

 

When adding building selection to game, one of my first problems was how do I locate the building in whatever town player is in. Daggerfall Unity doesn’t have wandering NPCs to mark buildings on your map quite yet. Not a problem for named buildings like taverns and shops because these are visible on the automap, but what about some random residence in town? How do I get the player there for testing?

The solution I landed on was to add a simple quest compass on the HUD. This will show the direction, name, and distance to target door. Fortunately, I already track building entrances in the world. What’s needed is to build a set of marker positions based on active quests. I start by just adding a test sphere on quest target doors.

 

That blob above sits perfectly on the door to my quest building. Now I need to show that as text and distance. The HUD text overlay below align with doors in camera space and show distance to multiple targets.

 

And finally the building name. This marker can direct quest developers straight to all active quest sites in their current location. Of course, anyone will be able to turn this on from the quest inspector UI if they would like a quest compass. I’m almost certainly going to expand this system out for quest items in dungeons and other targets in the future.

 

I can now enable the quest journal, something Lypyl implemented perfectly some time back. I wire up the keybinds and UI to allow player to open quest journal, and find logged quest information sitting there as expected.

 

What you can’t easily see above is that some text macro support has been added as well. For example, %pcn resolves to player’s full character name, _buildingSymbol_ expands to building name, __buildingSymbol_ expands to location name, and ____buildingSymbol_ expands to region name. This is all part of the text engine inside Daggerfall I’ve had to reimplement in Daggerfall Unity.

With local building support out of the way, the next step is remote buildings elsewhere in the same region. This involves a bit more work, but in a few hours it’s possible to send player anywhere in the game world.

 

The final piece is to implement PcAt conditional action, which detects when player has entered target building and does something. In this test quest, I just display a popup and end the quest.

 

This is an important milestone for questing in Daggerfall Unity. It means a lot of the hard groundwork has been completed and the real work, the stuff visible to the player, can commence. This is a huge relief for me because I can finally show off my progress in a meaningful way with screenshots and videos. As important as all the code back-end is to outcome, its been very difficult to show progress which sometimes makes it feel like nothing is happening.

To celebrate visible progress, here’s the first video of Daggerfall Unity’s fledgling quest system in action.

 

For more frequent updates on Daggerfall Unity, follow me on Twitter @gav_clayton.

Identifying Buildings And NPCs

In my last post, I talked about the “Place” quest resource and merging map-level data down to block-level. The next step from here is to propagate this information to scene-level where the player ultimately lives. I decided to tackle this along with a start on Daggerfall’s interaction modes, i.e. Steal, Grab, Info, Talk which are by default bound to keys F1-F4. What I’m most interested in here is the ability to perform an info click directly on a building to discover its name.

First step was to quickly implement the mode switch itself. Key-kinds were already in place inside the InputManager class, all I needed were a few more lines of code to track which mode player was in and a new HUD label to present switch to user. After several minutes it was possible to flip between the 4 interaction modes.

 

Next, I needed a way of detecting when player clicks on a building. I already track player clicks in PlayerActivate class, and can detect clicks on static scenery and doors, but not on the building model itself. I go to work looking for an efficient way to manage this. Each Daggerfall model contains a radius value stating the overall size from its centre point. This seemed like a good place to start, so I overlay the radius as a sphere collider on test buildings.

 

Keep in mind that I’m not storing individual building models at scene level, the entire block of buildings above is combined into one large model. This is more efficient for rendering and results in fewer draw calls to the graphics card. So I don’t know which building player has clicked on – I just know they’ve clicked a combined block model and I need to resolve that back to a specific building. The sphere colliders would do the job, but they unfortunately suffer from a lot of overlap. Depending on where player is standing and where they clicked on the building, it’s possible for that target point to be inside two or three different building spheres. There are ways of handling this of course, but I decided to go with box colliders instead that will tightly wrap Daggerfall’s little box houses.

Before I can implement boxes, I had to go right back to the procedural mesh builders that extract data from ARCH3D.BSA (Daggerfall’s 3D model archive). During the vertex conversion process, I added some tracking for minimum and maximum vertex positions from origin to get the overall size of models in X, Y, Z space. Because the models are being constructed procedurally, and I have to process that information anyway, this step adds almost no overhead to the job of loading models at runtime. I now have what I need to construct a tight bounding box around any model effectively for free.

Then I just had to pass that information to scene builders. The end result looks like this.

 

Every building now has a nice crisp bounding box trigger collider. While this is great to visualise the bounds, I’m not happy with adding so many GameObjects to scene. A large city like Daggerfall will add around 800+ new collider GameObjects. If a few large cities are in the world at once, then it’s very possible that 2000-3000 colliders would be added to scene, the majority of which will never be used. Not ideal from an optimisation point of view.

To work around this, I used the same solution I came up with for doors. I store the box information for every building on the block GameObject itself using component DaggerfallStaticBuildings. This is just a small amount of raw data stored on each block. When the player clicks on a block in scene level, a single box trigger is instantiated and tested for each of the buildings in that block, usually no more than 5-14 buildings. The world-space point of impact for hit ray is tested against known buildings in that block (and only those buildings). If a hit point intersects with a known building trigger in world space, then everything we need to know about that building from scene layout time is returned to PlayerActivate.

The end result is zero new collider objects in the scene and only a small amount of overhead for storing building data and testing hits, which happens only when the player clicks on a city block. The net result has practically no performance impact and still fits nicely hand in glove with Unity’s physics setup. With all of that in place, player can finally make info clicks on buildings in scene.

While I was working on this, I decided to add shop quality text. When the player enters a shop in Daggerfall, the overall quality level is presented to player as a popup. Each shop has a quality value between 1 and 20 with a total of 5 different quality popups. I’ve long assumed it was just qualityValue/4 to get the popup, but testing proved otherwise. Daggerfall weights the quality text a bit more in the mid-range that the extreme low or high ends. After checking shops in Daggerfall city and Gothway Garden, I think I have the weightings worked out. Anyway, It’s something that can be easily tweaked later if needed. Now when player enters a shop, the quality text will popup like in classic.

 

Because the popup actually prevents player from entering building until they click a second time, I added a quick INI option to present quality text to HUD instead, with a configurable delay. With this option configured in INI (ShopQualityPresentation=1), you can enter every building with a single click and watch the quality text scroll off HUD. You can also set ShopQualityPresentation=2 just to turn off quality text completely.

 

While I was on a roll with the whole info setup, I made a start on identifying static NPCs. These are the flat people standing around inside buildings and interior environments like Daggerfall Castle. This will be critical to dialogue as part of questing system eventually, so might as well break some ground for later. The first part of this was simple, just detecting when player clicks on an NPC.

 

Yep, that’s an NPC alright. Exactly how an NPC is detected had to evolve a little over the process of getting this initial text in place. I previously did this by detecting if the billboard had a faction and a gender – something I assumed only NPC billboards would have. This turned out not to be the case and there are plenty of factionless NPCs standing around. Also, the NPCs in building interiors had a different metadata setup to NPCs in dungeons. Just like Daggerfall to use two different data structures for effectively similar things. I ultimately determined NPC status by the texture archive flat belonged to. There are a small range of NPC-specific texture archives and this served better than faction to determine if player has clicked an NPC or not. In the process of doing all this, I actually gained some better understanding of a particular bitfield and found a new gender bit assigned to NPC records.

Before I can identify an NPC properly, I need to use their faction information. An NPC with faction type=4 is an individual NPC which means their name comes directly from faction data. Other NPCs just get a random name generated based on their gender. So before diving any farther down this rabbit hole, I have to implement factions for the player.

I had written faction file reader around a year ago, but this just reads the initial database from FACTION.TXT in game data. In Daggerfall, this initial faction data is assigned to player character at time of creation and persists with player all through their adventuring career. Every interaction can raise or lower their standing with a particular group. To start tracking faction data properly, and to make this information available to NPC info clicks, I added the PersistentFactionData class to player entity. This class represents the player’s current standing with all factions and provides basic lookup functionality. This has already been wired up to save/load system, so when you save a game in future builds, your faction data will be saved as well. This is also an important milestone for the questing system.

With faction data on the player, we can identify individual NPCs like King Gothryd and Queen Aubk-i.

 

But it means that group-based NPCs don’t resolve properly by faction alone.

 

These NPCs need to have a random name based on gender. Thankfully I’ve already written the random name generators, as these were required for building names and elsewhere. The only thing I’m missing is the correct seed value to generate the exact NPC name that Daggerfall uses. For anyone unfamiliar with random generators, the same seed value will always output the same result. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the seed value Daggerfall was using to name NPCs. You’d think this would be obvious like it was for buildings, but sadly not. I decided that one random name is probably as good as any other for these non-essential NPCs and just used their record offset as a seed value. This means they will always have the same persistent name generated each time, it just won’t be the same name as in classic. If the correct seed value is ever located, I can just feed this into the generator instead and the correct name will pop out. Until then, it probably doesn’t really matter. Say hello to random NPC Alabyval Coppersmith.

 

At the end of this little coding adventure, all of the following has fallen into place:

  • Change activation mode between Steal, Grab, Info, Talk.
  • Identify buildings and static NPCs.
  • Shop quality text is now displayed when entering a shop.
  • Faction data now exists on player entity and persists with your save games.
  • The foundation for checking NPCs in scene are ready for “Person” quest resource.
  • The raw data needed for “Place” quest resource now in scene.

With all that done, I can go back to working on “Place” resource and “pc at” condition for quest system. You can see what a rabbit-hole this whole quest setup is. It touches on so many different parts of gameplay that sometimes I need to go in a different direction for a while before I can loop back and progress on what I’m trying to build. But it all adds up, and every tiny step brings us closer to real gameplay.

For more frequent updates on Daggerfall Unity, follow me on Twitter @gav_clayton.

It Lives!

With some back-end and core actions out of the way, it was incredibly satisfying to watch the quest system spring into life today. The two bootstrap quests are now launched with a new character. They don’t do much more than popup messages right now, but everything starts somewhere.

The work from here is “just” building out all the remaining actions and conditions for quest scripting. I say “just” because it’s still a huge amount of work. But it’s finally starting to feel like I’m getting somewhere!

If this doesn’t look like an awful lot of progress for a few months work, remember it’s a black triangle milestone. This is a pioneer of more interesting stuff to come.

December 2016 Test Build

Hello everyone! This will be my last post for 2016. It’s been a great year for Daggerfall Unity with solid updates across the board. I was hoping to have basic quest support in by now, but sadly not everything goes to plan. This will return as a priority early in 2017 so watch this space!

One thing that always amazes me is the quality of work this community is willing to put back into Daggerfall Unity. It’s always a pleasure to find a new pull request on git from someone willing to contribute their personal time to make this project even better. So this post is going to focus almost exclusively on contributions from community members. It’s time for kudos and credits all around, and you’ll see very little of me this post.

 

Texture & Mesh Replacement

This feature began with Uncanny_Valley and has lately been updated and maintained by TheLacus. It allows for runtime injection of new textures and meshes into Daggerfall Unity’s scene builders, setting the stage for updated models, higher resolution materials, and improvements to Daggerfall’s vanilla UI. It’s still early days but the potential is incredible. Here’s a few screenshots of new assets by community members.

 

At time of writing, mesh and texture replacements aren’t quite ready for download. But now support for this is baked into the core, you should start seeing community-created packs in the near future. You can read more about mesh and texture replacement in this thread on the forums.

 

Early Bow Combat

New contributor electrorobobody added basic bow combat to the lineup of supported weapon animation. No counting arrows yet, and you’ll need to roll a new character for your free silver bow, but it’s awesome to finally burn down enemies with ranged kiting. Looking forward to bows becoming a strong part of the game in future.

 

Save & Load Weather

Daggerfall Unity added basic weather events a while back, but they would not be saved and loaded with your games. Thanks to midopa, the current state of weather will be saved and loaded. This will only get better once correct weather events are wired up based on climate and season.

 

Enemy Steering

Another epic update by midopa. He added a little steering to enemy AI to prevent enemies from stacking on top of small creatures like rats. As hilarious as this problem could be, it’s good to see a workable solution for this bug. It’s still possible for enemies to slightly stack in edge cases, but the problem is much improved and they will no longer ride around on each other (imagine skeletons surfing rats and rat-rat-rat stacks).

 

Potion Recipes

The perennial InconsolableCellist returned with some amazing updates for us. Credit goes completely to him for working out potion recipe format and integrating with Daggerfall Unity. This also means potion recipes will display properly in inventory, and they’re even usable to see the individual ingredients. This is really important ground-work for a bunch of other things down the line.

 

Books

I wrote the initial book reader UI ages ago, but InconsolableCellist wrapped it up along with random book drops in loot, correct tooltips, and all-round awesomeness. Books currently exhibit the same formatting problems as classic (because it’s the same book data). That’s something yet to be fixed.

 

Exterior Automap

Nystul has done it again with the perfect companion UI to his dungeon and interior automap. Yep, exterior automaps are now a thing! It even supports proper tagging of buildings, zoom, and rotation. As always, I’m completely blown away by how complete this is right from the start. It’s still waiting on full building name integration and building identification in scene, but that will come. For now, all the buildings are tagged by type. Go explore!

 

Spotlight: Allofich

I can’t give Allofich high enough praise. He has worked incredibly hard tuning up different areas of Daggerfall Unity to make it more true to the original. He fixed a wide range of UI problems, identified sound effects, linked sounds to their correct actions, fixed clothing and item problems, and so on. Check out his full list of commits here. It’s hard to show these off properly in screenshot form because the changes are either subtle improvements or related to audio, but below is one of the UIs he has cleaned up. Note the poor texture joins in the “before” image (circled). Huge props to Allofich for his work!

 

Thanks To: AnKor

OK this is embarrassing. I was looking everywhere for the animations used when player was riding horse or cart. These turned out to be in the overlooked CFA image file format. Somehow, I had completely disregarded these files which are a format holdover from Arena. Yep, I’m only human. Fortunately, AnKor pointed this out on the forums and I was able to implement CFA support in no time. Now we have this:


It’s only a short jump from here to having these transport options in the game.

 

Thanks To: Testers

I also want to send out a huge thanks to all the amazing people who tested Daggerfall Unity in 2016 and reported the bugs and problems you found. There are simply too many people to list, but you know who you are. You’re on the forums, and Twitter, and Reddit, and sending me emails. You guys rock!

 

Bugs and Problems

Yep, we got ’em! Any large update like this will bring its fair share of new bugs. If you come across a bug during tests and would like to report it, please lodge this in the Bug Reports forum. Don’t forget to read the Guidelines to help you provide the best information to developers.

Contributors, please keep an eye on the Bug Reports forum for anything that might fall into your wheelhouse.

 

Where To Download?

You can always download the latest version of Daggerfall Unity from the Live Builds page. If this is your first time downloading Daggerfall Unity, welcome! Other information on Live Builds page should also help you get started. If you have any troubles, or just want to discuss updates, please go to the December 2016 Test Builds Updated thread on forums.

 

That’s it for 2016! Thank you everyone for visiting and all your kind words of support. Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and all the best for 2017!

 

For more frequent updates on Daggerfall Unity, follow me on Twitter @gav_clayton.

Building Names

One of Daggerfall’s long-running puzzles is how to generate the correct building name for any given building in a location. Daggerfall’s binary data exposes this information only as a seed value with no obvious correlation to the final name. From today, I’m happy to say this has been solved and I will be able to generate proper building names in the future. This article is a summary of the technical journey, minus all the dead ends and frustration.

The seed value used to generate building names has been known about for some time. This can be found in the BuildingData structure (link to UESP). The first step along the way was to generate some known values by changing a known seed value in MAPS.BSA. I started at the location Ashfield Hall in the Daggerfall province, which has a single tavern and some residences. Taverns are a great place to start as they have a very obvious PartA + PartB structure. For example The Bat And Skull. In Ashfield Hall, our single tavern is the The Howling Stag with a name seed value of 27748.

The first thing I did was change the name seed value for The Howling Stag in MAPS.BSA then start up Daggerfall to see how the name changes. Here’s a small sample of names generated from seeds 0-3. Keep this list in mind as we’ll return to it later.

0 = The Dancing Chasm
1 = The Knave and Scorpian
2 = The Pig and Ogre
3 = The Thirsty Fairy

Now I have somewhere to begin. I know the building is a tavern and have a sample group of seeds that result in specific names. The next trick is to work out how Daggerfall derives these names from the seed value.

I open up FALL.EXE in a hex viewer and search through for strings like “The Dancing” and “Chasm”. These strings are easy enough to locate, but these are just resources packed into the executable. What I need is the actual PartA and PartB tables Daggerfall is selecting from at runtime.

To get this information, I first have to use the DOSBox debugger to dump out memory from Daggerfall while it’s running. I can then search not just for strings, but for memory offsets pointing to those strings. I write a small bit of code to do the searches for me, and it doesn’t take long to find the correct offset tables for Part A and Part B of tavern names. Just think of this as a pair of arrays. In this case, both arrays are 36 elements long. Here they are as captured from the spreadsheet I dumped them out to.

TavernNamePartsAB

So how do we go from a seed of 0 to The Dancing Chasm? This is where most of the difficulty started. It was obvious Daggerfall used a random number generator to pick both parts, but the trick was to find the correct random number generator used by Daggerfall’s C compiler circa 1994-1996. Fortunately, I also needed this for correct texture table generation (still an open problem at time of writing) and had previously researched the correct random generator, known as a linear congruential generator, specific to Daggerfall. Here it is for completeness.

static ulong next;
public static void srand(int seed)
{
    next = (uint)seed;
}
public static uint rand()
{
    next = next * 1103515245 + 12345;
    return ((uint)((next >> 16) & 0x7FFF));
}

There are two methods here, one to set the seed (srand) and another to generate the next random number from that seed (rand). This is pretty much the standard ANSI LCG but specific to Daggerfall’s needs. Implementing this manually ensures that critical random number generation will always work just like Daggerfall, regardless of platform.

Now that I have the right random number generator, let’s feed it our test seeds from earlier and see what comes out. Starting with seed=0 and generating two numbers (indices into Part A and Part B name tables above), I get the following results.

PartA = 0
PartB = 12

First obvious thing is the spreadsheet starts from 1, not from 0. Just need to +1 each number to match the tables above (although zero-based arrays will be used in actual code). Matching these numbers to the above name table we get: Chasm The Dancing. OK, so Daggerfall obviously generates PartB first then PartA. Let’s try that again with the +1 and order swapped.

Seed = 0
  PartA = 13 (The Dancing)
  PartB = 1  (Chasm)
  Result: The Dancing Chasm

Using our handy table we can match row 13 with row 1 and we get The Dancing Chasm. Good! Let’s run some more tests and prove the concept.

Seed = 1
  PartA = 35 (The Knave and)
  PartB = 27 (Scorpion)
  Result: The Knave and Scorpion

Seed = 2
  PartA = 30 (The Pig and)
  PartB = 9  (Ogre)
  Result: The Pig and Ogre

Seed = 3
  PartA = 16 (The Thirsty)
  PartB = 36 (Fairy)
  Result: The Thirsty Fairy

So far, so good! Building names are output just like Daggerfall given the same inputs. Let’s try the original, unmodified seed value of 27748 which should give us The Howling Stag.

Seed = 27748
  PartA = 21 (The Howling)
  PartB = 33 (Stag)
  Result: The Howling Stag

And there we have it! Building name generation from initial seed value resulting in a string exactly matching Daggerfall.

From here, I still need to extract hard-coded name tables for other building types like armorers and weapon-smiths. This isn’t hard though, I just need to find the tables using the same methods as taverns. I also need to assign full building data from MAPS.BSA to the correct models in Unity scene and wire up API methods to query this data when inspecting or entering a building. One challenge at a time though.

For regular small updates on Daggerfall Unity, I can be found on Twitter @gav_clayton.