Ultima Game Developer: A Seamless, Dual-Scale, or Leveled World?

The early days of Ultima features a dual-scale map: when you explored a town or castle, or when you got into combat, the game “zoomed in” to a closer view of your surroundings. While you travelled, however, the map “zoomed out” to give you a wider look at the world. These games also featured a different perspective for dungeons, allowing you to see in first-person while exploring the caves and caverns of Britannia.

Ultima V World: Overland, Detail, Dungeon

Ultima V World: Overland, Detail, Dungeon

Later, beginning with Ultima VI but culmunating in Ultima VII and Serpent Isle, the world was seamless, with no transitioning (except for between dungeon floors). Combat, puzzles, and dungeon exploration all took place in a single view.

Ultima VII World: Seamless

Ultima VII World: Seamless

Ultima VIII, and many other games, feature a leveled gameplay. Each area is a seperate “level” or “zone”. When you move between these areas, there is a slight delay as one area is unloaded and the next takes its place.

Ultima VIII World: Leveled

Ultima VIII World: Leveled

When you create your Ultima-like game, what type of world should you use?

The answer depends on several factors: How big is your game world? What engine do you use? But mainly, what style of game do you prefer?

Some engines, such as UDK, have a finite size for how large a single map can be. This makes creating a huge, seamless map quite difficult (although not impossible). One way to get around this is to use an overland map to transition between two areas, thereby giving the appearance of a dual-scale game. Another is to stream different maps in when you get near the edge of one map, and reset the global player position (essentially allowing you to travel from the center of the map to the edge, and then “snapping” the player back to the center again). While different techniques will work for different kinds of games, each has its own problems and pitfalls to overcome.

What style are your game worlds: Seamless, dual-scale, or leveled?

Browncoat Jayson

Join me in New Britannia!

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10 Responses

  1. fearyourself says:

    For me, it is definitely dual-scale but that’s because I’m sticking to pre Ultima VI. Sanctimonia is going to seamless and I understand both perspectives.

    As always, it generally is the content that is important and less the is it seamless or dual. However, games like Morrowind that had huge wait times between zones were also very annoying.

    • wtf_dragon says:

      We’re using dual-scale for Ultima Return. It just works, especially given NWN2’s overland map feature.

    • Browncoat Jayson says:

      I’m planning a dual-scale as well, and even considering a 1st-person dungeon mode if we can’t get transparent ceilings working better. But I started with Ultima V, so that is “the” Ultima view to me. With UDK’s limited map size, it’s much faster to dual-scale than try to fake seamless.

      • Sslaxx says:

        Streaming wouldn’t work for you?

        • Browncoat Jayson says:

          Streaming works to a point. However, you still need to lay out those maps where they will fall in the actual world, or do some sort of teleport transition. Teleporting makes the maps not feel seamless anymore, unless you do some very difficult transition work.

          So what we are planning (and has worked so far in testing) is to use level streaming, but only based on triggers. Each map overlaps the others, but are offset toward the direction that section of the world should go. So when you leave one area, the travel map streams in, the main pawn is hidden and you take over a small “travel pawn”. When you get to another area, that pawn is hidden, the travel map closes and your main pawn is teleported to the new streamed level and you take him over again. So you never leave the main map, which means no load times, just some stuttering while maps load. Hopefully we can reduce the overhead on that to reduce slowdowns.

    • renaak says:

      Dual-scale is really the only option here, I’m really only a fan of the first five games.

  2. Iceblade says:

    Still haven’t come to a final conclusion regarding the FW version of U9. A full overland map does have its benefits especially with ship travel, but it does make development more difficult. Instead of each worldbuilder having their own map to develop, they would have to wait until the somebody else was finished with their editing. A complete map might prove problematic on the performance side, but this looks like less of an issue. Also, I don’t know what the max limit on map size is at the moment. The plain is go at least 3 times the size (lots of water and islands between major portions of Britannia)

    A semi-seamless main map has the zero-load time transition points, but the WB would need to be meticulous around transition areas (blocking view with mountains seem like such a cop-out) and figuring out a way to transition the Avatar/Player along with the ship they are controlling could prove impossible or insanely buggy.

  1. August 25, 2011

    […] Ultima Game Developer: A Seamless, Dual-Scale, or Leveled World? […]

  2. August 25, 2011

    […] A Seamless, Dual-Scale, or Leveled World? […]

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