Ultima Game Developer: Full Day-and-Night Cycles
The night sky has important meaning within the Ultima series. Not only does the world feature two moons, Trammel and Felucca, but these moons are linked to the moongates. Moongate travel is a vital part of the travelling ability for adventurers in Britannia, so obviously the moons are important as well.
In Ultima’s history, however, the night sky was strangely absent from the games at large. The cycles of the moons was present, as was the light and dark periods of the day, in nearly all of the Ultima games. Only a few times was anything beyond this seen.
- In Ultima V, you could peer through a telescope or spyglass and see the eight planets, along with a few of the stars. When a town was being menaced by the Shadowlords, comets would appear near one of those planets.
- At the beginning of Ultima VI, the sky above Ter Mur was shown in a cutscene.
- In the manuals, a single image of the night sky was shown, in connection with the Cosmos.
- In Ultima IX, the sky was present and could be explored at will. According to some sources, this was created from a digital image of the sky over Austin. Additionally, the Journal mentions a constellation, the Hammer of Tulur, and the Ankh is shown when the Avatar ascends.
So, is it important to create a day/night cycle in your Ultima game? Yes, however you need not show the sky and moons at large, unless your game allows the players to gaze upon them. In their stead, simply display some other visual means for determining the phases of the moons, and the time of day. A standard isometric view, such as Ultima games have traditionally employed, leave the sky to the imagination of the player.
In a 3D engine, especially in a 1st person or depth of field 3rd person view, the entire sky may be required. A sky chart, sometimes called a Skybox or Skydome, can be created to display the sky, often with multiple overlapping ones (combined with lighting effects) to transition between the clear blue sky of the day and the starscape of night.
Even if you do not display all of the sky, it may be important to display a portion of it, such as through a spyglass, telescope or a cutscene. These limited glimpses can be much easier to control.
How much of the sky do you want to see?