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Project Spotlight: Daggerfall Unity

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Today we are talking to Interkarma, developer of Daggerfall Unity a Unity port of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall that brings the classic RPG to a new engine substantially improving upon stability and playability. Curious to try it out? Follow the steps outlined here.


First and foremost: could you give us a bit of an introduction to who you are and how you got into modding / programming?

 
I’m just a normal geeky guy. I was born in Australia and have lived here my entire life. Most of my early life was spent in rural/outback regions due to my father being an opal prospector. I often didn’t have any technology around, not even a television. But comics, board games, and books were usually there to fill in time.
 
I’ve always enjoyed pulling things apart to see how they work. Once I got into computers, I started doing that with software. Early on, I had an Action Replay cartridge for the family C64 that let me pause games at runtime, inspect their assembly code, make changes, rip out sprites, etc. I had a tremendous amount of fun working out how these games did some of the things they were doing and used this to write my own small games and tools. I built tools like a sprite editor, ADSR sound editor, a basic word processor, and games like a side-scrolling shooter, that kind of thing. I kept doing this as I grew up, trying to rebuild small parts of other games to see if I could do it. I didn’t make mods so much as hack around with code and try to understand how the original game was created.
 
I’ve always wanted to create my own original games, and have dozens of ideas I want to work on. It’s only lately though that I really have the time and experience to make that a reality.
 

For those who have never heard of it, how would you describe what Daggerfall Unity is in your own words?
 
Daggerfall Unity is a superset of classic Daggerfall. I like to describe it as “Classic Daggerfall Plus”. It’s not a remaster in the sense we’ve come to expect when this is done commercially. Rather, it’s a ground-up recreation of the classic game plus quality of life features and modding capabilities. The foundation of the idea was to port the classic Daggerfall experience into a modern game engine and give it modding support like later Elder Scrolls games. The default experience should look and feel a lot like classic, while providing for modders to remix, upgrade, and extend the base game in ways not possible in classic Daggerfall. With some of the mods available now, such as new guilds and airships, I feel like everything is working out even better than I’d hoped.
 
Daggerfall Unity is very much its own game though and doesn’t always do things exactly the same way as classic. Usually, this is due to bug fixes in Daggerfall Unity, or platform differences as the result of playing on a different engine, modern hardware, or higher resolutions. But we’ve worked very hard to ensure the game can be enjoyed extremely closely to its roots. Options like Retro Rendering mode are there to deliver a true 320x200 experience, most QoL features can be toggled on and off, and many control element can be finely tuned. With a bit of patience, players can dial in either an pure retro experience, or mod things closer to Morrowind/Oblivion quality levels, or find something in between. Daggerfall Unity is very flexible in what you can do with the game and most people can find a setup they enjoy playing.
 
 

From what I have learned, the whole project has kept you busy for an unbelievable amount of time. If you had to give an estimation: how many hours/days/years would you say you have put into creating Daggerfall Unity and what kept you going during all this time?
 
This all began in the year 2001 when I started building tools to explore Daggerfall’s textures, 3D models, map layouts, etc. These were Daggerfall Explorer, Modelling, Imaging, Cartographer, and Jukebox. I started with information on Daggerfall’s file formats available from the UESP and gradually built on this with my own discoveries. I did this on and off for around 12 years, picking away at Daggerfall’s file formats and little mysteries just for my own amusement. I even had a shot at recreating Daggerfall in 2005, but lacked the experience and community then to make much progress.

While learning Unity in 2014, I wanted something more challenging to work on. My wife suggested I try porting some of my Daggerfall code into Unity, to use something familiar while learning a new tool. Because most of my code from 2009 was written in C#, it was fairly trivial to port it to Unity. This is how Daggerfall Tools for Unity (DFTFU) was born. I had model importing working in a day, locations in under a week, and the whole world working within a few months. At this stage though, it was just a toolset to import assets. There wasn’t any real gameplay.

This all re-sparked interest in recreating Daggerfall, something I was interested in again by that stage. I officially started work on Daggerfall Unity in August 2015 and it has been like a second job ever since. For the next four years, I would spend roughly 6-40 hours per week working on Daggerfall Unity, building a community, managing the codebase, and so on. I’d make the time a by creating a few hours each morning and evening, and basically sinking every weekend into it.
 

What would you say is the main lesson you learned from your time working on this project? What would you tell your younger self about going into a massive undertaking like Daggerfall Unity?
 
If I was being fair, I’d probably tell my younger self to do something easier instead. Daggerfall is a huge and complex game, and my younger self made the mistake of thinking it was a simple game because it was an older game. That’s just not true, something I worked out really quickly once it came time to build some of the game systems.
 
But now that I’ve come out the other side, I wouldn’t want to change a thing. I’ve become a better programmer, learned how to manage a large project with several developers, and grow an online community. All of this will be invaluable as I move on to creating my own games, something I wanted to do in 2014. I just had to get Daggerfall out of my system first.
 

Did you get a lot of support from the Daggerfall community during development?
 
Absolutely! The support from the community has been incredible, and it’s the main reason I was able to make it this far. For those first couple of hard years when I was mostly working alone, the love and support I received was the only thing that kept me going. And from around 2017, the number of top-notch contributors exploded and we suddenly had brilliant devs like Hazelnut, Pango, Nystul, Allofich, Lypyl, Ferital, TheLacus, Numidium just pushing things forwards every day with a seemingly endless stream of quality updates and information. Even when I thought we had all the people we needed, devs like Meteoric Dragon came along and added loads of improvements, JorisVanEijden helped expand knowledge of the quest system, Jay_H built, tested, and fixed hundreds of quests, and Pango became an overmind generalist who can help with practically anything including community management. I maintain a full list of contributors at the below forum link.
 
https://forums.dfworkshop.net/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=233
 


Daggerfall (The Elder Scrolls II) was released in 1996, the same year Bill Clinton was re-elected, and Pokemon was first introduced to the world. My point is: Daggerfall came out a very, very long time ago! That being said, what makes Daggerfall as a game special to you and what made you want to revive it by developing Daggerfall Unity?
 
I played a lot of tabletop RPGs when I was in my teens and twenties. Games like Daggerfall gave me the feeling I was playing the videogame version of a tabletop adventure run by a great DM. There were just so many deep systems to explore and things to discover.
 
When I was playing Daggerfall back in 1996, the web was nowhere near as developed as it is now. Information was a lot harder to find. Daggerfall felt like this big black box to tease open and see how it worked. There were rumours about a dragon being in the game somewhere, and I’d set off into the wilderness looking for it like an idiot. There was always this feeling every time I went into one of those procedurally generated dungeons that I might really be the first person to explore it. There was just something very special about this game back then, and I couldn’t help but want to understand it more.
 
Everything since then has just been a gradual evolution of my love and interest in the game. It’s not something that happened all at once, but rather grew slowly over many years.
 

What can you tell us about the Daggerfall and Daggerfall Unity community? Other than diehard fans who grew up with the game, do you get a lot of people who are only now picking it up to see what it’s all about?
 
I’m amazed how many younger players are still trying out Daggerfall and Daggerfall Unity in 2019. This isn’t just the domain of older gamers like myself.
 
I feel that Daggerfall Unity helps make the game more accessible to new players. It’s a smoother and more comfortable experience with a lot of QoL features and new stuff to explore through mods. Given the modern popularity of The Elder Scrolls in general, I feel like it’s a great way to experience the series roots in a more comfortable and stable manner. I also encourage die-hard retro gamers to try out the original so they can experience what Daggerfall Unity is building upon.
 

Have you taken notice of Skygerfall - a mod for Skyrim that aims to bring the entire main quest of Daggerfall into Skyrim? What are your thoughts on it?
 
It looks amazing! I haven’t had time to play it yet, but I can tell it was made with love and attention to detail. I’m looking forward to giving it some playtime in the future.
 

Other than Daggerfall (Unity), do you have any other favourite games? Ever done any modding for those?
 
A few modern favourites are Elite Dangerous, World of Warcraft, Subnautica, Void Bastards, and Outer Wilds. I’ll play almost anything, but I prefer games that give me fun systems to explore and then just take their hands off. I get really annoyed when games constantly try to guide me, or too frequently break gameplay to show me a cutscene, or take away control of my camera to force me to see something.
 
I’m not much of a modder and have only tinkered with creating mods for other games. I tend to fall in love with systems first and gameplay later. Maybe because I grew up with basic stuff like card games and board games before I ever saw a video game, it feels like understanding rules and systems always comes before actually being able to play them. I’m the rare kind of person who prefers a heavy spiral bound manual filled with tables and formulas over an in-game tutorial.
 
 
Daggerfall Unity is currently released as an alpha. How can people get set up and help you with development going forward?
 
There’s not much left on the development side that isn’t already allocated out or being worked on by someone. Insofar as the core gameplay, everything is done now and it’s just bug fixes, refinement, and features unique to Daggerfall Unity. It’s hard to imagine getting more help than I already am. There’s always room for more mods though. I strongly encourage anyone interested in developing for Daggerfall Unity now to check out the mod scene and build something awesome.
 
Other than that, the best thing everyone can do is just keep being awesome to each other and help others create new stuff for the game. If we all continue lifting each other up, there’s no telling what people might be creating for Daggerfall Unity in a few years.

 
Is there anything else you would like to say to the Nexus Mods community?

I’d like to thank Nexus Mods for supporting Daggerfall Unity and making the lives of our players easier. I also hope the mods available today inspire other creators to make something new for the game. Considering some of the mods starting to appear, I can only imagine what the scene can look like in a few more years. I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes.


A big thank you to Interkarma for taking the time to respond to our questions. As always, if there are any mod authors or mod projects you'd like to hear about, don't hesitate to send a message to Pickysaurus and BigBizkit.

37 comments

  1. Outlawhurdle
    Outlawhurdle
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    Character models need work.

    and there's tiddies in the first 15s of the video, that's the real reason it's here - nexus knows its client base
    1. audixas
      audixas
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      This comment really shows how you know nothing about Daggerfall.
    2. DtheHun
      DtheHun
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      There are no models. Those are 2D sprites, faithful to Daggerfall.
    3. Bloodinfested
      Bloodinfested
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      The video isn't a full demonstration of all mods, there is a HD npc sprite mod.
    4. androidfan1981
      androidfan1981
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      "This comment really shows how you know nothing about Daggerfall."

      Uh yeah, genius, what he's saying is that since everything else is 3D modeled, the fact the NPCs are still those 2D Doom sprites is all the more jarring than they were in the 90's.
    5. ghemon9
      ghemon9
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      The character models are the same as it was in the original

      And the tiddies are present in the original, unmodded game aswell
    6. KruniacZioZio
      KruniacZioZio
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      The graphics weren't and aren't jarring.

      I swear, no one under the age of 30 should play certain games.
    7. civerius
      civerius
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      more jarring than they were in the 90's?

      I hope you were born after the 2000's, because this comment made absolutely no sense to me and KruniacZioZio. Jarring is a word i'd use If I stumbled upon a lifeless body, not to describe a game I didn't like, which is a perfectly good opinion.

  2. AdriensAlibi
    AdriensAlibi
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    Am I the only one who can't get the DaggerfallSetup method to work? I click the link on the download (this: https://wiwiki.wiwiland.net/index.php?title=Daggerfall_:_DaggerfallSetup_EN ) page and I get a 404 error every time. Is it somewhere else? I really want to try this.
    1. AdriensAlibi
      AdriensAlibi
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      Figured it out. You have to go to the french version of the page that has a newer .exe
    2. Qewf
      Qewf
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      Link to the French page?
  3. WhyteBlade1504
    WhyteBlade1504
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    This looks brilliant, keep up the good work.
  4. CoolRahman
    CoolRahman
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    Anyone remembers Daggerfall had nudity without mod?... later they censored it for future sequels?!! why?!!!
    1. Lapada
      Lapada
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      It was the early 90's
      Good ol' 90's...
    2. cdubz516
      cdubz516
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      It sure was...
    3. CoolRahman
      CoolRahman
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      i miss 90's :/....
    4. Frel76
      Frel76
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      Hot coffee happened
      ESRB happened along with games not being sold in major sales point if they got the AO rating
      Not blaming game rating systems per se btw. Without them it’s likely that those ratings would have been replaced by strong regulations killing any ability to have game with even a “mature” tone. As the debate then was mostly people seeing games as kid toys vs the ones seeing it as a new media (ESRB is closer to the latter trying to keep the former calm)
      but those things also meant that no studio with broad market ambitions could risk reduce their sales by putting a nip. Did you notice that most games with nudity came from non NA publisher/developers. that’s because ratings are different in those regions so publishers will be more open to have those.
  5. fredlaus
    fredlaus
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    Extremely well worked out. It is time for a TESII. Thank you Interkarma and the authors of course.
  6. drand01
    drand01
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    Thank you so much for the work and love you have put into DFU! I really enjoy playing it along with the mods that the community is creating.
  7. GravitationalPull
    GravitationalPull
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    what a yuge undertaking. thank you for all your years of hard work and determination. divines bless your patient soul
  8. DaedalusMachina007
    DaedalusMachina007
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    I admire and commend the sheer fortitude and tenacity of modders (nay, outright game devs) collaborating in a team to produce such an amazing piece of gaming history to preserve it for posterity.

    Flipping awesome <3
  9. harimau93
    harimau93
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    Kudos man! can't wait for the next beta reach soon,
  10. BinakAlgo
    BinakAlgo
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    amazing, simply amazing.