The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

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C.H
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby C.H » Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:13 pm

I can't decide if I prefer the notion of using sprites, voxels or low-poly 3D models. The original Daggerfall already has a strange mix of the two (wheelbarrows are 3D, but barrels of all things, the classic RPG clutter items, are sprites with no collision at all?).

One deviation I'd love to see from the original Daggerfall is in actual dense forests - and low poly 3D trees would certainly work best there. An example of what I have in mind can be seen in the trees from Hexen II (which may be brush-based, I don't know).

:3 I can basically quote that and say we are "on the same boat", the trees in Hexen is what I thought of as well, though in Daggerfall they need to be meshed to each sprite of course.

And certainly for a game like Daggerfall (this may be nostalgia more than anything), I've always found a certain charm in how flat and abstract everything is. Only the necessary details for conveying the nature of a place are used, without being tastelessly meticulous in decals and other superfluous "visual noise" modern games rely on. These old games are so moody and surreal feeling, in how they do not strive for any idealized representation of anything.

Yes, the simplicity leaves so much for the mind. Striving for realism (and freedom for that matter :!: ) in games leaves a larger desire for even more realism (and freedom), it is never enough.

The only issue is that, and I imagine this is why all the original sprites in the game lacked collision as well - Bethesda didn't want any randomly generated trees or lampposts blocking off buildings or anything like that. Seeing as Lucius said he wanted to add roads to the wilderness though, the new terrain generator could simply place little/no trees along them.

This should not be a problem, speaking from some experience with the combination of randomly generated content and passages & roads (programming). I like to think simple boundary/distance/position checks should be sufficient. Several ways to accomplish this should be available. And if anything will be generated in real-time, avoiding lag/spikes could be a matter of easing out the amount of loaded content over time, outside view-range for no visible fade-ins/pop-ups.
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C.H
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby C.H » Wed Dec 28, 2011 12:35 am

The amount of 3D models and sprites requires a careful balance so the sprites do not look out of place. I think NPCs etc. maybe should not be 3D models as they need much work and can consume quite the processing power, also; a 3D modeled NPC standing with a sprited bush might distort the experience. I think Bethesda originally hit the 3D model/sprite ratio quite well.
However, with a full 3D engine and mouselook, sprites become flat and vertical images real fast, though using sprites for NPCs and so forth does not need to limit the visual and gameplay experience. While sprites in the usual manner have been one large, animated sprite per object, we have the procedural animation system. I think of "bone systems" with individual non-animated sprites fixed to them, together making a whole sprited figure that is real-time animated. That will give NPCs more depth and freedom to interact and what not, while still discarding the whole conventional 3D model deal with it's polygons and computations. This way, a guard's arms and sword will stand out from the guard's flat sprite body as he chops at something. It has potential be visually pleasing and it worked in other games from the 90's, in my opinion.
Let me show you in this recording; you can see how the figures interact more with the environment and have greater depth, basically being sprites:
http://www.mediafire.com/?ylsq5h53li48gnu (It is a 27mb .avi file recording of the Looking Glass game Terra Nova, in DosBox.)
A simpler system that is only part of the one seen in the recording, is shown here, from the Russian game Z.A.R:
Image (should say /45, giving 8 angles/views)
It uses sprites with respect to vertical angles instead of horizontal angles only, for every 360/45 degree in horizontal plane, resulting in a little more realism/illusion of depth. This does not use procedural animations though.

Of course, this still needs someone to add more data graphics wise, as well as the programming. :|

(edits: Updated video-download link.)
Last edited by C.H on Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:19 am, edited 5 times in total.
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StoneFrog
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby StoneFrog » Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:13 pm

The static NPCs in Daggerfall have such characteristic poses and details about them that I think a 3D model would actually do them less justice than their original sprites. Whilst it would be nice if these NPCs could move about and fight back (like in later TES games), that's probably more of a long-term goal.

That skeleton system is really...interesting looking. I've never seen any other games use that technology. Rise of the Triad had different permutations of a sprite's "pitch" based on where they were vertically in relation to your view, as well.
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby Klasodeth » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:07 pm

I think going the voxel route for characters could turn out to be a nice compromise. Voxel characters could have the level of detail that would otherwise require several thousand polygons, and they would probably fit well with the pixelated look of ordinary sprites. It strikes me as being perhaps the best way to make the characters 3D while preserving the retro look that would allow them to fit in with the rest of the game.
I'm frequently online in the #xlengine.projects channel at irc.freenode.net as Klasodeth, Klaso, or KLA.
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Freak2121
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby Freak2121 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:50 pm

A voxel character would be very hard and time consuming to create and animate, however.
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby StoneFrog » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:52 pm

Voxel-based characters might look more awkward than sprites in some situations, if you ask me. Things like the hair and drapery on court nobles might look particularly strange in voxel form, unless we sculpted them on a very fine level of detail.
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lutojar
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby lutojar » Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:26 pm

as for 3d modeled npc (as voxel as polygonal) - we all should forget about this idea once and forever. We'll never find enough modellers/riggers/animators, and also there are lots of work for Lucius to implement support for all this in engine.
The only realistic way - just refine original sprites. Without any aditional stuff like vertical angles, or additional animation frames
It is what really can be done.

But for things like trees, bonfires, barrels I don't see big problem to make it in 3d low poly
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C.H
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby C.H » Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:26 pm

@StoneFrog: Yes, the NPCs have that characteristic look to them, they are part of what makes Daggerfall what it is of course, and I actually agree that going full 3D-model on them could take the charm away. :)

And yes, lutojar hit the nail on the head quite well I think.
Unless we had a efficient/magical generator to do our work, it is probably best to leave this simple and closer to the original look and feel of Daggerfall...

Ultimately, though, luciusDXL is the one to tell what goes and what does not, engine-wise, which is what it all comes down to.
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby StoneFrog » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:17 pm

Were we to remodel all of the decorative sprites in the world (fires, barrels, etc) we ought to bring them up to par with those seen in late 90s games like Redguard and Hexen II.

lutojar wrote:as for 3d modeled npc (as voxel as polygonal) - we all should forget about this idea once and forever.

The only 3D modelling I'd like to see employed for NPCs would be for possibly making higher resolution prerendered sprites (as with the lich video posted earlier). But keep them as stiff, untextured and creepy-looking as the originals. :)

My only other recommendation for monster sprites would be to perhaps double the number of frames in their animations - in the original Daggerfall demo, lots of the enemies have 8 frames per walk cycle as opposed to the reduced 4 that they possess in the final game. A comparison of the Flame Atronach from the demo and the final game.
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C.H
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Re: The future of graphical mods for DaggerXL

Postby C.H » Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:19 pm

The only 3D modelling I'd like to see employed for NPCs would be for possibly making higher resolution prerendered sprites (as with the lich video posted earlier). But keep them as stiff, untextured and creepy-looking as the originals. :)

I think that could work, enhancing graphics while staying true to Daggerfalls poly-count. Now where is the maker of those videos, Theseus3000? :)

My only other recommendation for monster sprites would be to perhaps double the number of frames in their animations - in the original Daggerfall demo, lots of the enemies have 8 frames per walk cycle as opposed to the reduced 4 that they possess in the final game.

Perhaps they tried to make the animation loop better in the 4-frame version.

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