2013-01-29 Editor and Stuff
For this update, I have some good news and some bad news. Let us just get the bad out of the way first. There is going to be a delay in the release of the next commentary entry. Why the delay? Well, I wish to give Ultima IX another playthrough before progressing. I may be fairly familiar with the game, but there are bound to be aspects I may have forgotten that are worth commenting on.
There is also going to be a delay in my start of this playthrough. The reason is part of the good news: bug fixing. There are number of bugs here and there that I wish to fix before I start the game up again. Part of the reason is I really want to play a debugged version of U9 as much as many of you. The other part is that I want to use this next playthrough as a test of my bug fixes.
Now for more good news. I am finally putting our tools to good effect. The advancements in our primary editor along with a rapidly expanding library of trigger command definitions have allowed me to crack the scripting around a number of bugs and figure what went wrong or what is missing. As a result, I have fixed in less than a week 5 different bugs. Yes you read that right 5 bugs. Some small and some more involved.
For those who have attempted to re-enter Deceit, they will find the the door is locked. I have corrected this issue and simultaneously fixed any potential problem where a player finds themselves stuck between the wall and the offending door being already locked before it even closes all the way. In addition, I have worked around a bug that even the world builders were stumped by. If you click on the globes in the Shop of the Two Moons (Moonglow's magic shop), an elevator will appear that takes you to the catacombs. If you click on one of the globes again, however, the elevator doesn't disappear. The scripting commands for this event are there, but they must have run into an issue with their conceal/reveal functions. Specifically, the elevator and the display case either shrink out of existence or enlarge into existence. Or at least they are supposed to. Upon reimplementing their script, the elevator shrinks out of the scene. The display case does appear, but it fails to enlarge leaving behind a tiny, little display case with a scale property of 1. It would be cute if it wasn't so frustrating. My best guess is that the enlarging reveal and shrinking conceal functions have code to stop the activity if a potential collision is detected. Honestly, it is amazing that what they did even worked once. Anyway, I changed the reveal and conceal command parameters so that the objects fade in and out, which looks great and works repeatedly. You can switch from the display case to the elevator and back all day without any bugs. I also fixed a bug with the crates in the catacombs not disappearing when they are supposed if you smash them.
I also fixed two related issues with the subplot of the Moonglow section: the Sage's journal miniquest. (The Sage is the mage whose son cried bandit.) In the game, you will find the offending brigand with the Sage's journal before the brigands have had a chance to ransack the Sage's house. In addition, the Sage's house remains ransacked. The Sage's house was actually meant to be cleaned up at a later point, but there is nothing that activates the script to do the work. I have fixed both issues and really makes this whole sequence feel complete.
And I owe much assistance to the work Hawkwind has completed on our Editor as the tool was critical to my bug fixing. And after replacing the placeholder icons, I can now formally introduce the Forgotten World Editor, which has been in development for the past half-decade or more. I have posted several screenshots in our Editor gallery such as this one, which should look somewhat familiar. You can see quite far with the editor as you can tell with this overhead screenshot. These next two images showcase some of the capability of the editor such object movement and property editing. Moving and rotating objects is accomplished by clicking and dragging along or around one of the axes, which is much easier than editing the coordinate or rotation data fields alone - though that is an option as well. Oh did I mention that our definitions for the object properties have advanced quite far especially for scripting objects. This editor has really shown itself to be quite capable of making a number of changes to objects including changing an object's type (which define the usecode, name, weight, etc.) as well as editing, deleting, and adding properties. About the only thing that this editor can't do for nonfixed objects is add them or change their model, and both of these are much more involved additions due to the highly visual nature of the editor. I will mention that at present doesn't implement the properties affects, so things like color tint aren't displayed...yet.
As I can't add objects at present, I resorted to older methodics for object placement, which works great for small maps that aren't very script heavy.... like Mariah's basement. The steps for old methodics are not too difficult, but they do take time. (skip to the next paragraph ahead if you aren't interested in a description) First, I have to edit the gamestate.ini to give the Avatar the various objects I want, which means going to our list of objects to look up the Type ID. And if the object is one that the inventory doesn't like, then I need to do a hex search for it in the types.dat database file and edit its weight value (yes objects in the game have weight). Then I load up the game and am taken to the map and coordinates designated in the gamestate.ini file. I set all of the objects down and step on a teleporter or leave the map through some other method in-game. At which point, I can then save and quit. The game has already extracted the nonfixed map files for that savegame in the savegame folder, so I simply replace the original nonfixed file in runtime with the savegame version that has the added objects. I can then repeat until I have all of the objects I want on the map. Next up is loading up the editor so that I can easily move, rotate, and edit all of new objects. And of course, I make backups as I go just in-game something gets screwed up.
On the last couple of playthroughs, I have actually been making sure that my Avatar eats sufficiently each day and Moonglow has very little food, so I decided to add some. I'll clean that up later, but also to show you how effective I can be. So why so much food? Well it certainly gives those barrels a purpose. Also, Mariah is definitely a wealthy woman considering the size of her house. She actually has a basement with plenty of storage space. Oh and there is one thing that always bugged me about Moonglow. It is a mage town yet there are no alchemy tables.... well there is now. While, I don't plan on doing much worldbuilding for the game patches, I felt that Mariah's house could do with something extra... in fact, I'll probably give Iolo's place a little makeover and who knows what might happen for Jaana.
I had originally planned to present more here, but I think this has already become quite a massive update. So stay tuned for something special next week.
2013-01-21 New Commentary
I have finished my next entry for our Ultima IX commentary. This entry takes us through Stonegate and discusses Ultima IX's magic and attribute in detail with comparisons to systems from prior Ultimas. I know the progression is slow at the moment, there are a lot of mechanics that needed to be covered first. The next entry will focus on the Compassion segment of the game, and I'm not certain will I will be able to publish it. Also speaking of U9's magic, please vote in our poll to the right. Thank you.
In other news, I have been diving into our editor, and the first thing I did was create a fairly complete list of "bookmarks," which are starting coordinates and orientations for the editor's camera. I decided to keep it to just the town locations and maps used during the game. This is really an excellent time-saving feature since it can still take a minute or two to get a location of interest starting from the corner of the main map. Anyway, when I was examining the Covetous level 4 map for a good starting location for the camera, I found an area I hadn't noticed before. This area includes several rooms with beds, a dinner table, and a lot of chests and gold. Unfortunately, this unfinished area can only accessed with the fly cheat during the game. For those interested, after transitioning from the lift map to the fourth level map, turn 180 degrees and activate the fly cheat. Fly straight and you will encounter this area. I have posted an overhead screenshot from our editor in our editor gallery (second gallery on this page). For some reason, the lava textures aren't loading or the map actually used the default texture for areas the player shouldn't see anyway. Oh well.
For those who did not see the post over at the Ultima Codex. First Knight has provided some recent screenshots of his work in Cove, which I have added to the Beautiful Britannia Screenshots gallery.
First Knight had this to add:
In the last 3 months I’ve developed a new method, which allows me to insert groups of objects from other maps. In fact, it’s a bit tricky, but works in the end. One of the screens shows a new weapon store in cove, which was reused from an old map. Now that Valclav has a nice store in Cove, the plan is to implement a schedule for him, so that he can walk home to Minoc in the evening and come back the next morning. Other screens show off a pair of caves, which were also reused from another old map.
So, with the added buildings (there is even a working windmill!), combined with some terrain motifications, the city of Cove…well, it looks like a little city now, don’t you think?
After that, I reworked the terrain of the Cove expansion, and created a more interesting landscape. One of the screens shows a river with a mountain in the background. Another screen shows the shrine (from some distance); it’s now located at the eastern edge of the island.
That is all I have to report for now but keep an eye on Ultima Codex since they often post about updates within a day or so.
- Iceblade Dragon
Hail and well met,
So around October, I found myself sucked into community for Star Citizen. Luckily that subsided a few weeks ago and I've returned to Ultima. So what have I been doing the past two weeks: Ultima 7. Never played it before and aside from needing some better quality music in the background, it has been a very enjoyable and immersive experience. I didn't even join the fellowship until day 20 with most of those first three weeks filled with dungeon diving, exploration, and side quests. In addition, I spent a great deal of time collecting and organizing a massive hoard of "loot": armor, weapons, and torches...food :D. I also spent some time working on making the Castle of Fire my personal home in Britannia costing a grand total of 3500 gold: 6 bedrooms, a rooftop kitchen complete with a functional baking oven (and I've got a ton of Flour), two armouries, a sowing/painting room, an alchemy lab (shame you can't make potions like in U9) ;), and a glass-enclosed dining room... and did I forget to mention covered cannon mounts. I know it is a little unrelated, but I went ahead and posted a several of screenshots of my U7 abode (Exult is awesome, btw). First four images of the second gallery.
You guys know I can't wait for a time when I can add objects directly to the U9 maps.
So what else, well I have been looking over my town designs and I've started working on a basic city layout for Trinsic using top-down images of in-game buildings. It's just something more usable than the simple, hand-drawn layouts I've currently done for several towns.
While FirstKnight remains ever busy IRL, he has still managed to make some excellent progress on the Eastern Expansion for Beautiful Britannia and work on Cove is progressing quite nicely.
Hawkwind has remained rather busy as well for the past several months, so little additional update on the editor. Still it works for editing nonfixed objects, which is what I need for patching, so I've got something to keep me busy.... once I've conquered U7 ;).
Oh, and it has been brought to my attention that I neglected to add our latest patch to our downloads page: 1.19h. It has been out for months now, so nothing new for those who found it over at our Codex page.
And do you remember that commentary I started. Well I've gotten the itch to continue. I've updated and fixed the first two posts and I have already written the core of my next entry that focuses on U9's magic system.
And for our poll: it looks like Skeletons prove as annoying as ever and so that will be my next task... simple spawn point deletion. I think the delete works, but it doesn't I can easily remove the property. Then I'll see what I can do with Moonglow fixes, but there are a few things I won't be able to implement just yet like alchemy sets. Still I should be able to fix a few of bugs here and there. And maybe one of these days I will figure out why the Tydus camera tends to crash. And I will also be taking a closer look at the Covetous elevator. That thing sure is a lot more complicated than the one in Moonglow.
So speaking of magic and mages, our next poll question is about U9's magic. While our plans for changes to Ultima IX's magic system and spells are limited mainly to background text and story-related alterations, we do intend to at least make magic something more useful in the game. So what would you like to see done to make magic more interesting?
- Tougher combat - Make the enemies tougher and increase the number of opponents you may face at particular areas. This tougher fights should request in a greater application of strategy and would at the very least make magic a viable option for taking out certain opponents. For instance, you come across a pack of 6 wolves, you could cast a charm spell on one or two of them or throw a fog to allow you to reduce their numbers or spam with lightning to take several out at range.
- More puzzles that require spells to pass - Add additional puzzles where telekinesis, gust, ignite, and douse are required to further you route through a dungeon. While this would certainly include puzzles that involve casting telekinesis on a switch, there would be more complex puzzles involves lighting and dousing torches that fit a pattern or must be done in a certain sequence.
- Magic as an alternative for getting through dungeons - This option would entail having magic be useful to get around a puzzle or obstacle that could be completed by non-magical means. Dealing with the guards in Wrong is a perfect example: you can kill guards with melee weapons or bows or you could cast lightning or fireball; or you could run and sneak your way past them or use invisibility potions, freeze or charm to avoid fights. Another example, might be using telekinesis to flip a lever for a bridge rather than having to travel around to the other side through a much longer route. A reverse example might be solving a complex magical puzzle for a shortcut or taking a much longer route.
So like the virtues, there 7 combinations of poll options with an option to not make U9's magic more useful. Also there is a none of the above option for those who have no preference or who have a different ideas about what should be done with U9's magic system and implementation.
Until next time.
The Codex has recently posted their interview with us, so please check it out to get the inside scoop: http://ultimacodex.com/2012/10/the-ultima-codex-presents-an-interview-with-team-forgotten-world/
Also, FirstKnight has sent in an update to the Codex about BB with a preview of the terrain he has been working work, which includes three major landmass additions: the Western Deep Forest Region/West of Yew territory, a new mountainous region that occupies the region formerly known as the Drylands, and an all new Verity Isle complete with the town of Moonglow. The team is very excited by the work that he is doing and we are all looking forward to the screenshots that will be coming starting next month.
In other news, Hawkwind has been making some excellent progress with the editor, so expect some updates about that in the coming weeks with some Awesome screenshots.
And finally, we are posting a new poll. The old poll asked you what minor features you would to see implemented in FW. Karma penalties for stealing won out, but it was a close race with Item Crafting, Functional Inns, and GUMP-interfaced cabinets. All of which we would like to add at some point if possible.
With our last couple of patches, we have managed to squash most bugs previously mentioned in polls. Even so, I have a list of over 100 things to fix (excluding simple NPC scheduling fixes). Some of these fixes are really minor and others are far more involved and significant. So we are again asking you which bugs we are to target next:
- The Covetous Elevator seems to work for the most part, but good luck revisiting Covetous. The buttons appear to only work once, making up-and-down movement potentially disastrous for a playthrough. I intend to fix these elevator so that you can visit any floor as often as you want. Is this an important bug fix for the next patch?
- Skeletons are a nightmare in the game. They are painful to deal with even one-on-one, have the ability to reconstitute themselves, and can bug out a game. Taking a bone (the same bone everytime) is definitely an effective strategy, but placing objects in your backpack (especially repetitively) can sometimes lead to game crashes. On top of all of this is the fact that some skeletons come from respawn points leading to a big mess of bones and more bugginess. So I am proposing to remove their spawn points entirely from Covetous and most everywhere else at some point. Will that point be now or later?
- Another bug I hear about often is the Jordan-Flann-Valoria Shipwreck scripting bug. Is this one that people want to see fixed urgently?
- A bug that I have posted before is the Valoria-Signal Flare scripting bugs. It is also a few hit or miss sequence, but one that seems to be less annoying for players. Is this a bug people want to see fixed by the next patch?
- Another major bugged out sequence is the Aidon-Rat-Peg Leg Joe sequence. While this sequence seems to rarely work especially on more recent playthroughs, it is one I seem to forget about very easily. Is it also one you forget about a lot or one that really soils your playthrough?
- Not only does Moonglow suffer from crashes, but it is full of little issues from scripting to balancing. Some of the fixes that I would work on include reverting the Sage's house (that lighthouse like structure with the boy who cried bandit) at a certain point after it is ransacked, adding alchemy sets throughout the town, adding food, filling out Mariah's house and a few other areas, fixing Deceit so that you could actually re-enter it, expanding the library of the floating 'Lycaeum', and several more very minor fixes. So are these fixes (excluding the crash fixes) of significant interest for the next patch?
So those are the poll options. The option that wins will be included in the next patch with second and third place options being probables.