Magic & Effects Back-End

In my previous article, I showed progress on the visual side of spell-slinging and had lots of fun with casting animations and throwing around missiles with lighting effects. Now I have to regard the business end of the spell system and how all of this holds together under the hood. This article will be a lot more tech-oriented than my previous one, but may still be of interest if you’re curious about how spells will operate in Dagerfall Unity.

Please keep in mind this is all under active development so concepts discussed here are likely to be refined or expanded by the time everything rolls out.

 

Magic & Effects System

One major shift in this process was changing how I think about the spell system. I have a long list of goals I want to achieve during this stage of development, above and beyond just emulating Daggerfall’s classic roster of spells. Primarily, I want to create a central way of handling the majority of effect-based gameplay. This means advantages/disadvantages, diseases, poisons, spells, magic items, potions, and so on should all come together under the one system or group of related systems. Once I had made that decision, it no longer made sense to call it the “Spell System” as spells are just one part of the collective. So the Magic & Effects System was born.

This is why you won’t see the word “spell” very much moving forward but you will see the word “effect” a lot. In this context an effect isn’t something visual, it’s how something works. For example, an effect that heals the player is a script which increases their current health. This naming is taken from Daggerfall itself where spells and magic items reference effects directly using a type and sub-type.  You can read more about classic Daggerfall’s spells and their effect indices on this UESP page.

You will also see the term effect used by Daggerfall’s Spell Maker UI when creating a new spell. You can add up to three effects per spell as shown in screenshot below from classic Daggerfall (spell maker is not yet implemented in Daggerfall Unity).

 

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Guild Systems

Hi everyone, Hazelnut here. Interkarma has asked me to write a blog post about some of the work I have been doing recently, so for this post Daggerfall Workshop has been taken over by me! Muhahahaha… etc. I’m sure your regularly scheduled Interkarma posts will return soon, so don’t worry.

Anyway, allow me to introduce myself, you may know me from such features as horse riding, inventory upgrades, shopping, persistent state, icons, tavern rooms, ships and houses, as well as various other bits and bobs. So why did I spring up from nowhere and start contributing to DFU?

I bought Daggerfall on xmas after its release and played like crazy for 7 days until the end of the christmas break, then stopped. Because it’s such a huge game, never really got back into it for years due to lack of time & small children – until shortly before Morrowind came out. By then the game was simply far too dated for me to persevere, especially because I forgot about the WSAD option and I was using the default control scheme of stupid mouse pointer arrows to move. So I’ve actually never played beyond the first couple of character levels. Always wanted to, and do intend to once DF Unity is done. This is why I am absent for any discussion or work around the main quest! Spoilers! Yep even after all this time.

While the progress has been fantastic (Interkarma has Orc level stamina apparently) it’s a big project and takes a long time, and since I’m a software engineer for the past 2+ decades who now does software design so don’t get to write much code at work… I figured I’d see if I could contribute. Also my kids are all teenagers now, so I have more free time than I’ve had for 2 decades. I had no knowledge of Daggerfall and its data structures, hardly ever touched C# and never used Unity before, so it’s been quite a learning curve. Anyway, after I finished my work on ships, houses, shops and taverns I asked Interkarma what he thought I should tackle next and between us we decided it was time to implement guilds. I’d already done some work with the guild services menus, but now I needed to create the guild membership systems.

Guilds

Guilds in Daggerfall follow some common rules for promotion etc but offer different services and quests. The first thing to focus on was ranks and building some foundations that would make each guild easy to implement, allowing the common behavior to be shared. I also wanted to ensure that new guilds could be added by mods, as I was sure that several people in the community were keen to add new guilds having seen discussions on the forums, and I had some ideas of my own that would be best integrated into the base game by adding a new guild. I decided early on that the guild code should be designed to support modding from the start, and the only way to ensure this was to actually implement a guild mod early on to prove the concept.

So, quite a lot to take on. Fortunately I had 3 solid days free coming up to get started on this. The fighters guild is the simplest of them all so I started with that. First step was to test classic and see how guild membership worked with rank changes etc. To support modding, the guild classes are designed so that they know about the players membership status, rank, and what benefits and services the guild provides at that rank. Service and guild management code asks the guild class by calling the appropriate method when they need to know. They also supply guild specific messages to the ranking system which is shared. This means that a new guild can simply be added by implementing a new guild class and registering it with the guild manager.

Now by this time you could join the Fighters guild.

Join Fighters

Joining the Fighters

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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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Daggerfall Unity Now Playable Start to End

That’s right! The main story quest in Daggerfall Unity is now completely playable from start to end. I’ve spent the last couple of months playing through the story quest, building out engine support, and fixing all the major bugs I could find. It’s true this game still has a distance to travel (spell system is next major journey) but this is a huge milestone in the project’s life cycle. It’s no longer fair to say Daggerfall Unity “isn’t playable yet”, that’s not even close to accurate anymore. And thanks to regular contributors like Nystul, Allofich, Hazelnut, and Lypyl, some of the later features on the roadmap are building out ahead of schedule.

The quest system has consumed around a year of my development time to bring to this point. It represents the single largest group of features in the project so far, and drives almost every other gameplay system forwards. I feel confident in saying the magic system probably won’t be anywhere near as challenging. And once we pass that milestone, everything else is on the downhill run.

 

Getting Started

After you grab the latest DragonBreak build from Live Builds page, there are two ways you can play through the main quest. You can either start a new character and play normally (using quests offered by any Fighters Guild to help level up between main quests) or use the “setmqstage n” console command to force the game to a specific point along the main quest process. There are 7 total quest stages, thus “setmqstage 1” through “setmqstage 7” are supported. Each stage is a chain of around two to six quests that represent a particular story arc in the game. If and when new problems are found with main quest, testers can quickly restart and test just that stage without playing through the whole game from the beginning.

If you want to play the game as normally as possible, start a new character. Playing the game from start to end normally is also an important and time-consuming part of the testing process, so your time here is valuable, even if something breaks and you need to start again. But if you want to perform focused testing of the main quest, grab a high level character save and use the “setmqstage n” console commands. I’ll post more details in this forum thread as time allows. Please offer feedback in that thread or ask general questions, and post to Bug Reports forums with obvious bugs.

 

Stable Builds

The next step from here is to work towards a DragonBreak stable build and complete the 0.4 cycle. This might take several weeks as the main quest is a massive and complex system, there’s no telling what problems testers might run into. Once the stable build is ready, work will proceed on the spell system and 0.5.

 

Thank You

I also want to thank all of Daggerfall Unity’s contributors, supporters, mod-creators, and community members. You are all responsible for this project’s momentum, and for keeping morale high during those bleak periods of solid development where nothing visible seems to be happening. I am very excited for the future of Daggerfall Unity and the community building around it.

Cheers everyone!

 

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