August 19, 2015

Spam Spam Spam Humbug 15 - Project New Britannia Goals & Needs

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The response to the announcement of New Project Britannia has been overwhelming, so let's talk a bit about what the project needs and where we want to see it go.

Intro

Ultima VI Gates of Creation by OC ReMix

New Patrons & Shout-Outs

I want to give a shout-out to Josh Nielsen, a.k.a. Joshontheweb (you can find him on Twitter: @joshontheweb). He's a long-time Ultima fan, and a long-time fan of the Codex as well; we've been mutual follows on Twitter for a few years now. And it turns out that he's actually working on Zencastr. Josh and I had a really engaging discussion on Twitter about Zencastr and some of the features that would turn it into a powerful podcasting platform, and it's cool that in addition to being passionate about all things audio (to our great benefit), he's an Ultima guy.

And I owe a few shout-outs, in particular, to Sergorn Dragon, Browncoat Jayson, and Iceblade, though for different reasons. Sergorn and Iceblade get the nod for their gentle (and sometimes not-exactly-subtle) prodding over the last few months; we've been sitting on the New Project Britannia idea for a while now, and I was the main reason for the delay. It took a long time — too long — to finally get a subdomain set up for it, and to announce it formally.

Browncoat, meanwhile, deserves acknowledgement for his hard work in putting together much of what will comprise this episode, actually. We'll be talking a lot about the things that New Project Britannia aims to create, what it needs to see those things created, and what resources exist to get the project off the ground and running.

Follow-Up From Previous Episode

You know, arguably, this whole episode is going to be follow-up from last week's episode, since we'll again be talking about New Project Britannia. Still, there were a few comments posted to the previous episode's forum thread that I'd like to draw attention to.

First off, both T. J. Brumfield and our own Linguistic Dragon spoke to the issue of how those who don't necessarily have talent as coders or visual artists might contribute to the project. Both Brumfield and Linguistic are passionate and avid writers, for example, but neither has any familiarity or skill with Unity proper. My thoughts on this are that while much of New Project Britannia will in fact require a high degree of technical skill, those who can write — and write well — can likely still contribute to the project in some way. After all, it would probably be a good idea to build up an asset kit of books, scrolls, and other documents all pre-populated with lore-appropriate text. Project teams could then take this kit and add a dash of readable, ready-to-go flavour to the bookshelves and nightstands of Britannia.

AvatarAcid had a similar concern; he's not terribly familiar with Unity and doesn't feel he has much skill as a designer or coder. Of course, if you've seen his work with Minecraft, you'll already be well aware that he has some significant skill with creating terrains in that particular game. And as such, he has graciously volunteered to contribute heightmaps of some of the terrains — he has actually already shared the maps for the Gargoyle Realm (from Ultima 6) and Morgaelin (from Ultima 8). I just have to convert these into the RAW format that Unity can import, and they'll be ready to go as downloads....the first downloads for New Project Britannia.

Speaking of people who do Minecraft things, kodenkm (you may recall his Pagan in Minecraft project) evidently has some talent with Unity, and has expressed his interest in the project. This is also a good thing; it's nice to see that a community is coming together around this.

That community also includes Iceblade, who — as I mentioned earlier — has been taking on the role of, almost, a producer. But he's also planning to bring the Forgotten World project over to Unity, and has already set about drawing up designs for different magic systems. The initial thought had been to have a single magic system, but upon further review it made sense to break that up into a few different systems to support e.g. a traditional Britannian magic system (which would also mostly work for Serpent Isle-based projects), Ultima 9-style magic (which would also work with Ultima 8-based projects), possibly Runic magic, and...well, I suppose we'd have to build something to support Shroud of the Avatar-style magic as well. So should New Project Britannia come to fruition, someone could conceivably craft an Ultima 4 remake that utilized Runic magic.

Finally, commenter Mark contributed a number of suggestions as to what some of the goals of New Project Britannia should be. He mentioned traditional Ultima features including: Day/night cycles, NPC conversation, NPC inventories, containers, NPC schedules, AI behaviors for good, evil and animal characters, weather, item interactivity, item volume and weight.

Podcast Topic(s)

Without further ado, then, let's talk about where we want New Project Britannia to go, and what it will take to get there.

Modular skydome

  • Customizable-length day/night cycle
  • Full rotation to support seasonal star patterns (with and without Ankh constellation)
  • Multiple layers to show planets and/or comets
  • Multiple layers to show Trammel, Felucca, or Daedalus in correct orbits (based on day/night cycle)
  • Optional layers to highlight above celestial bodies (aka Ultima 5 spyglass)

Multiple cameras

  • Third-person isometric camera
  • First-person "dungeon" camera
  • Third-person follow camera (SotA-style)
  • Bone-mounted camera on each model (for Ultima 7-style conversation system
  • Bird's eye camera (overland map, wizard's eye spell, peer gem)
  • Script to change camera upon trigger (keypress, enter dungeon, start/end conversation)

Models

  • Predefined rigging for standardized humanoid characters
  • Hopefully we can get people to create models and textures

Magic

  • Predefined reagent-based, spellcasting with mana usage
  • Customizable circles of spells
  • Predefined rune-based spellcasting with mana usage
  • Predefined and customizable item-based spellcasting (use item to cast spell, "proc" spells, etc)

Classes

  • Character Creation
  • Optional character classes with benefits/restrictions
  • Optional skills by class

Skills

  • Optional skill system (can be Underworld, SotA, or UO-style/complexity)
  • Chance to succeed/fail an action based on skill, or stat (if not using skills

Transportation

  • Predefined moongate travel scripts
  • Predefined vehicle control scripts (horses, carts, wagons, boats, etc)
  • Support for dual-scale transportation (click to travel or free navigation)

NPCs

  • Conversation system (keyword or free text based)
  • Quest triggers (including adding text to Journal)
  • Merchant buy/sell system
  • Bank system

Player

  • Track virtues and/or karma
  • Inventory with gumps for containers (freeform or grid)
  • Books and scrolls (readable and editable)
  • Spellbook/rune pouch (preselect spellcasting)
  • Paperdoll equipment

Maps

  • Support both single and dual-scale mode
  • Regional maps of all locations in Britannia (Ultima 7 era)
  • "Overland" map of Britannia for dual-scale travel

Unity Training Resources (Official)

Unity Documentation:

Unity Tutorials: http://unity3d.com/learn/tutorials/modules

UnityAnswers: http://answers.unity3d.com/index.html

Unify Community Wiki: http://wiki.unity3d.com/index.php/Main_Page

Unity Forums: http://forum.unity3d.com/forum.php (And, in particular, the Teach subforum)

Unity Live Training archive: http://unity3d.com/learn/live-training/archive

Unity Training Resources (Shroud of the Avatar)

Portalarium Unity Tutorials:

  1. Hangout of the Avatar ~ 8.8.13 ~ Unity Tutorial 1
  2. Hangout of the Avatar ~ 9.6.13 ~ Unity Tutorial 2
  3. Hangout of the Avatar ~ 9.13.13 ~ Unity Tutorial 3
  4. Hangout of the Avatar ~ 9.19.13 ~ Unity Tutorial 4

Portalarium Pen of the Avatar:

Digital Lycaeum: Starting a Fan Project with Unity

Community Tutorials:

(Start with the Game Engine Unity Learning Resources link; it has a huge number of links to tutorials, addons, etc. The other links are those found useful in addition to the ones listed there.)

Always remember: if you'd like to recommend anyone for a shout-out, send an email to UltimaCodex@gmail.com...which you can also use to suggest podcast topics, offer commentary or criticism about podcast episodes, and/or to volunteer your time as either an occasional or regular contributor to podcast sessions.

As well, if you haven't already, you should totally sign on with the Ultima Dragons group on Facebook, or with the Ultima Dragons community on Google+ . The Facebook group is easily the larger and more lively, but that just means that the Google+ one needs a few more members posting content there on a more regular basis. Also, don't forget to contribute to the #udic hashtag if you're on Twitter.

As well, please consider Liking the Facebook page for The Ultima Series, following the Ultima Codex on Twitter, or encircling the Ultima Codex on Google+. And whatever social network you favour, please also consider sharing any content posted to those social media profiles with your own followers and friends; spread the word, spread the Ultima.

Finally, there's the Ultima Codex Patreon. A $1 pledge will get you access to Spam Spam Spam Humbug episodes the day before they go live here on the site, and you'll be helping me both maintain and — with sufficient funding — expand the server infrastructure of the Codex to better deliver all the things you come looking for thereat.

Outtro

Ultima VI Gates of Creation by OC ReMix

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