The sun in Drakan

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The sun in Drakan

Postby UCyborg » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:31 am

The manual mentions the sun where it describes Lens Flare Effects option. There's also this:

Image

But I don't remember ever seeing the sun in this game. Was it there in the very first version of the game that was released?
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Arokhs Twin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 5:52 pm

Yeah, come to think about it, no I don't remember seeing it. I've loaded up a few savegames and yeah, no sun. However the very old screenshots of the pre-release versions look very different to the release version of the game. Wartock canyons was originally a sunny level and I believe the fog & rain was used to improve the framerate by not rendering distant objects. Even now if you use the foghack command to remove the fog the framerate suffers. I have a demo CD with a cover I made from a screenshot that shows Rynn and Arokh in Wartock canyons with the bright sun behind them.

Most old screenshots show the islands level with the sun as in your example but in the final release it was foggy which was added to improve framerates. I guess they removed the sun from the skybox. These old screenshots were used during install and promo images but they never made it into the game. Hmm.
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby UCyborg » Tue Apr 03, 2018 8:56 pm

The manual also mentions Fixed Camera setting. This one is in the demo version. The sun must have been present in even older builds. The demo is the oldest publicly available build, right?

The fog does make flying quite underwhelming IMO. I loathe The Islands level the most because of it. Doubling the draw distance does improve things, but with the Drakan's engine, going further than that would turn it into a slideshow. Things can be done much better today. Take flying in GTA V for instance. Simply beautiful.
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Arokhs Twin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:49 pm

The demo I have (on the 1999 CD of PC Zone magazine) is the same as the finished game. There may have been earlier builds of the demo out there but I'm not aware of them.

Even on modern hardware the game runs like a slideshow when increasing draw distance to the maximum and disabling the fog. Guess they didn't know that at the time but the fog seems to have been put there to hide the distant pop-up graphics and increase the framerate. Later versions of the riot engine seem more optimised as TAG does not suffer this problem although it does suffer from distant pop-up mountains and distant objects.

Not the best engine for a flight based game but it was Surreal's first effort at making a game engine from scratch. I also suspect the average PC at release date couldn't play the game as it was originally intended anyway. I remember seeing an article early in D:TAG's development that Surreal had got OOTF (or part of it) running on a PS2 but framerate was poor hence an engine update and the switch to those awful low resolution textures so the game would fit in the PS2's limited RAM.
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby UCyborg » Wed Apr 04, 2018 1:47 am

The demo I have (on the 1999 CD of PC Zone magazine) is the same as the finished game. There may have been earlier builds of the demo out there but I'm not aware of them.
I only know about this one. It gives the warning that it's still beta.

The version my CD has is a bit newer (BUILD 374/445). I haven't found that exact copy anywhere on the internet. The version patched with the official 445 patch is BUILD 375/445. I did however find at one point the version labeled with BUILD 365/435. There's also something called Earthlink on that CD, which I found is US internet provider. I thought this is the official first version.
Even on modern hardware the game runs like a slideshow when increasing draw distance to the maximum and disabling the fog. Guess they didn't know that at the time but the fog seems to have been put there to hide the distant pop-up graphics and increase the framerate. Later versions of the riot engine seem more optimised as TAG does not suffer this problem although it does suffer from distant pop-up mountains and distant objects.
Just did a bit of flying across The Islands level with God mode cheat and being bombarded by other dragons. Most of the time, the lowest frame-rate was 37, once it momentarily dropped to 30, that was probably external factor though. That's with AiO Patch, Fog Distance set to 200%, all graphical goodies except Lens Flare Effects enabled, 1920x1080 resolution and 4x MSAA anti-aliasing forced via dgVoodoo2. The latter two don't make much difference, max GPU load as reported by GPU-Z was 23%, so very low GPU utilization. Dropping resolution to 640x480 gains some extra frames mostly because of lower field of view rather than having to deal with less pixels. Maximum CPU utilization as reported by Process Hacker was approximately 31%. On my quad core, this means one core fully utilized plus a second core utilized somewhat below 50%. My CPU is AMD Phenom II X4 920 and the GPU is NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti.

My laptop with 1,35 GHz AMD APU with Radeon R2 (CPU + GPU combined on one device) fares much worse with frame-rate fluctuating between approximately 30 - 40 in the first cutscene with Fog Distance at 100%.

The game's in-built benchmark would be more interesting if there were more scenes eg. camera flying over the islands with fighting dragons and through Alwarren. And running the exact same scene across different computers with matching graphics settings is the best way to get accurate and comparable results.

I think the distance pop-up problem occurs due to fog failing to obscure the geometry completely, especially at certain angles, it's very obvious when looking at the sides of the screen compared to the center. The Suffering has that issue too and it goes even more overboard with hiding things in the distance, some objects just fade away as you're moving away from them. That version of the engine is even multi-threaded, but it still does less than Drakan's, except for the fancy pixel shader effects. Drakan: OOTF only handles certain aspects of multiplayer in the separate thread while The Suffering does call Direct3D functions from both threads. The latter could also be the case with the LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring, which uses modified version of the engine used for Drakan: TAG, though I can't confirm the former. In The Suffering version of the engine however, they did forget to rename the mutex object they use to prevent running multiple instances of the game, it's called FELLOWSHIP_INSTANCE_MUTEX.
Not the best engine for a flight based game but it was Surreal's first effort at making a game engine from scratch. I also suspect the average PC at release date couldn't play the game as it was originally intended anyway. I remember seeing an article early in D:TAG's development that Surreal had got OOTF (or part of it) running on a PS2 but framerate was poor hence an engine update and the switch to those awful low resolution textures so the game would fit in the PS2's limited RAM.
True. From YouTube videos, GTA: San Andreas seemed to have fared better few years later, though obviously still limited by PS2 hardware. GTA was still 2D at the time when Drakan was released.

Any idea what size textures are in Drakan: TAG? Most in Drakan: OOTF are 64x64, the ones for the moon and certain objects are larger. Drivers for Voodoo 2 card have auto-mipmapping option for DIrect3D apps, which make Drakan blurry. Saw that while playing with PCem.

As for Drakan's performance on the hardware of the time, I found this. I'd be nice if he showed other parts of the game. He probably left Fog Distance at default. And then there's Matrox G400, the card of the time which was known for introducing Environment Mapped Bump Mapping, which might be the same thing you can enable in Riot Engine Options. If nothing else, I assume this card supported all graphics features of Drakan.

I'm also curious about the game's 3DNow! optimizations. One function in the game can use 3DNow! instructions, fully supported by older AMD CPUs. Mine is old enough to still have it, though there is no noticeable performance difference when optimizations are disabled. There might be a difference on the AMD CPU of the time.
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Mechanist » Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:25 am

Even on modern hardware the game runs like a slideshow when increasing draw distance to the maximum and disabling the fog. Guess they didn't know that at the time but the fog seems to have been put there to hide the distant pop-up graphics and increase the framerate. Later versions of the riot engine seem more optimised as TAG does not suffer this problem although it does suffer from distant pop-up mountains and distant objects.
In all fairness, one of the main reasons for the fog, draw distance, and low flight ceiling, is to conceal how small the levels really are, at least in terms of Arokh's capabilities.
Even just turning foghack on makes it painfully evident; not to mention the resulting pop-up scenery problem.

Arokh flies at a fairly decent speed - on the order of 80km/h, according to a quick test (assuming that 1 "length unit" = 10 feet, as it appears to be). Yes, I know the max speed is stated explicitly in the editor, but that would be cheating :wink:
At that speed, a roundtrip of Wartok Canyons (for example) takes about a minute, tops. Of course not counting any fighting, or investigating points of interest.

The (low-ish) fog max distance also effectively provides an in-game justification of the low flight ceiling: since (magical maps aside) we never see any navigation aids in the game, not even the equivalent of an NDB, then clearly we're talking VFR only.
Strangely, Rynn doesn't seem to even have a compass (but how does the map work, then?). Arokh might well have a built-in compass, such as birds do, but I don't think it would work at all well with all the steel junk that Rynn's carrying around. Maybe that's why she doesn't bother with a compass, either?
So... how are you supposed to know which direction are you flying, if you can't even see any of the ground?
Compare this to how real-world aircraft navigation worked in the early years of aviation, and the parallels are clear.

Of course it still fails to explain why Arokh can't fly over mountains, but well, as it was famously said in Zork (or was it "Adventure"?), the playing area must have some limits - you can't expect to leave the game's intended area to go and visit the British Museum :)

Also, OOTF Is Not A Flight Simulator :)
Not in the usual sense, anyway. The physics are a little too crazy for that... Momentum? What momentum? :roll:

And without all the ground action, it would be quite boring, really. Fly around for a short bit, annihilate some fish in a barrel... lather, rinse, repeat.
It's exactly the resulting variety which makes it really fun.
Let's face it: as it stands, although the flying only constitutes a small part of the gameplay, it's also disproportionately fun. :D
Last edited by Mechanist on Wed Apr 04, 2018 5:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby UCyborg » Wed Apr 04, 2018 5:00 pm

"foghack" just sets rendering distance to/puts fog 60 units away from the camera. It's also invisible if there's no goemetry to cover, there's just plain color. Unmodified levels store visibility data that consider maximum possible distance of 30 units. Even with "foghack", engine still uses that data and doesn't render anything further away. "foghack" may reveal more of the geometry of which beginning is still within 30 units from the camera, but nothing beyond that is rendered, hence the popping up when the new geometry comes within the 30 unit radius.
And without all the ground action, it would be quite boring, really. Fly around for a short bit, annihilate some fish in a barrel... lather, rinse, repeat.
Yup, the mix of air and ground action makes this game a gem it is. Also noticed that the multiplayer modding community was mostly focused on designing ground levels.
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Arokhs Twin » Wed Apr 04, 2018 5:40 pm


Any idea what size textures are in Drakan: TAG? Most in Drakan: OOTF are 64x64, the ones for the moon and certain objects are larger. Drivers for Voodoo 2 card have auto-mipmapping option for DIrect3D apps, which make Drakan blurry. Saw that while playing with PCem.
I can't confirm as I can't open the files on the Drakan 2 disc but checking around it seems they are a mixture of 64x64 and 32x32 resolution textures. Also the PS2 renders the game at only 640x480 (NTSC) and 720x576 (PAL) interlaced so that's actually only 320 / 360 lines displayed at any one time. It looks better on the emulator upscaled than it does on the native PS2 hardware. Maybe it would look better on a CRT TV but that went to the dump long ago. If using the emulator on a PC I used 1024x768 resolution and played it on a LCD TV. Looks better than the computer monitor.

With component output which supports progressive scanning the game might render at the full 640x480 / 720x576 but I don't think this game supported progressive scan and I can't find anything to say one way or the other. All I can find is that although the PS2 supports 16:9 aspect ratio and progressive scan, most games do not support this and run in 4:3 aspect ratio with interlaced scanning.
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Mechanist » Wed Apr 04, 2018 7:25 pm

With component output which supports progressive scanning the game might render at the full 640x480 / 720x576
Wait, but wouldn't it then be rendering @ 30/25FPS instead, because of hardware limitations? It is rendering twice as many pixels per frame, after all...

NB, you also got your rows and columns mixed up - it isn't 320/360, but 240/288 lines; although your point still stands.

(...) most games do not support this and run in 4:3 aspect ratio with interlaced scanning.
Not at all surprising, considering that this was supported by pretty much 100% of TV sets of that time, as opposed to the alternative modes.


Re. the fog: it also does a decent job of creating a vague sense of dread, a'la Silent Hill. Although with Arokh, it's not like whatever lurks in the fog would be much of a danger anyway... :)

And such fog actually feels plausible in many of the areas, due to their specific topography.
One of my friends lives in a part of the city which is essentially in the middle of a miles-wide "bowl"; the surrounding lands slope (gently) up in all directions away. This results in a funnel effect, trapping the fog, and also makes wind much less effective at dispersing it. Thus the fog is often denser there than in Silent Hill :D

Also noticed that the multiplayer modding community was mostly focused on designing ground levels.
An interesting observation... albeit not quite what I'd have expected.

Yup, the mix of air and ground action makes this game a gem it is.
Clearly, although obviously necessary, it's not a sufficient condition by itself. One needs to look no further than, say, Divinity:DKS, to see why...

There's much more to it than that.
It's not just about giving the player a massively OP vehicle/weapon(s) - a lot of games do that, generally, but rather few are memorable in doing so.

I'd say that a lot of it also hinges on not making the player feel arbitrarily limited:
  • Can't fly too high... but even if you could, it'd do no good - couldn't navigate worth a damn with effectively no visibility due to all that fog, anyway.
  • Can't fly over the (edge-of-level) mountains... but why even try? Blindly searching in a random direction would get Rynn nowhere fast, and also the search takes her largely underground, in any case. Remember that she's also unfamiliar with the surrounding geography, as well.
  • Entrances/tunnels too narrow for Arokh to fit through... it's not his fault that human-sized beings make human-sized entrances (duh!). Also, dragons haven't been around for (most of) the last few centuries, so why should there be a lot of dragon-sized passageways?
  • Can't burn down the wooden gates/barricades... it's perfectly reasonable, really. Ever tried burning through a log of such size, IRL? It'd take hours, at best.

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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Arokhs Twin » Wed Apr 04, 2018 11:07 pm

Ah yeah I did get that mixed up. The game must render at a rate of 30 / 25fps interlaced as only 240 / 288 lines are being rendered at once. These are combined for the 60 / 50hz scan rate of the display. A progressive display has to display the full 480 etc lines per frame so if the console can't keep up with that there will be stuttering or other artifacts.

I've just read that the Ps2 only outputs 480 lines in progressive mode regardless if PAL or NTSC due to hardware limitations. I doubt drakan would run at 60fps 480p it's too graphically intensive for the ps2 but some games clearly can. I know some PS2 games had a 60hz option for PAL territories as most PAL TV's can display NTSC video or PAL at a higher refresh rate via the "scart socket / euro connector" - at least TV's sold in the UK anyway. There were even a handful of games that supported 1080i over component out. Must be clever programming to squeeze that out of a ps2 with good quality graphics.

P.S. for USA / Australian readers the scart / euroconnector is a universal connector that carries composite, S-video and RGB video & sync signals. Only HDTV TV's had component inputs and they were few and far between when the PS2 was in its prime and almost certainly why a lot of games didn't support it. Also Digital TV in the UK was a new thing then and the HDTV standard was yet to be decided, some early CRT HDTV's are incompatible with the current standard. Although DVB was always used the modulation method was changed rendering very old DTV equipment useless including my prized CRT HDTV which I liked very much...
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby UCyborg » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:19 am

Turns out the game supports putting sun on the level through the sky object in the editor, have to set the Lens Flare setting correctly, where the problems begin. There has to be predefined Lens Flare object in the database. Multiplayer Common has one. Defining your own seems to be impossible as the interface for selecting textures appears to be broken.

Image
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Hallfiry » Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:46 am

Possibly relevant, as the Drakan demos are discussed here: Between 2011 and now I have collected 5 distinct beta demos of Drakan and posted about them on BetaArchive:
https://www.betaarchive.com/forum/viewt ... 14&t=21406

1999-04-15 90%
1999-05-26 95%
1999-05-27 95%
1999-05-29 95% (German)
1999-06-03 96.3%

You can download them all here:
http://kultcds.com/Games/index.php?page=game&game=41

EDIT: Just for good measure, here's a list of CDs that I know contained demos of Drakan:
CD Action (38) 07/99
Gambler (31) 07/99A
GameStar 09/99
GameStar CZ 07/99 CD1
Gry Komputerowe 08/99
Joystick CD 108
Klan #31
Level 06/99
Online Today 10/99
PC Accelerator #13 CD1
PC Gamer (Italian) CD #044 B
PC Games 08/99 Bonus
PC Jeux CD 024
PC Joker 09/99 CD 2
PC Player 09/99 A
PC Praxis 12/99
PC Team CD 49 Ludi
PC Zone #79
PC Action 07/99
Power Play 09/99
Reset #27 07/99
Swiat Gier Komputerowych 07/99
Xtreme PC #21 07/99

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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Arokhs Twin » Wed Jun 27, 2018 5:49 pm

Awesome, thanks for this. I thought there were several demos of Drakan in various states of completion. I had the PC Zone demo which was like the final version.
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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby Mechanist » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:32 pm

There has to be predefined Lens Flare object in the database. Multiplayer Common has one. Defining your own seems to be impossible as the interface for selecting textures appears to be broken.
Interesting, because I tried fooling around with it, and I was able to select textures for the lens flare class just fine :shock:

Didn't do anything special, either... just added the texture-containing database (in this case, The Keep) to the dependencies of the database containing the new Lens Flare object, and selected one of the textures in The Keep DB in the usual way (white selection square); it then appeared in the selection box for the lens flare textures.

About the only thing which might have had an effect, was that immediately before doing that, I was using the texture selector for the Particle Fountain class - maybe there's something about the editor state that changes when the texture selector is successfully used for another class first?

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Re: The sun in Drakan

Postby UCyborg » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:39 pm

I think it's supposed to show cascading menu with databases to allow to select the texture easily. Good point about clicking textures Databases->Textures tab previously having the effect on the list. Also easy to crash it when clicking things randomly, like the menu in the window for selecting lens flare textures and the Databases window with textures. I got it to show two textures in the menu on the same line.
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