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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.