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 PostPost subject: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 6:27 am 
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Hello everyone, I am new here. I'd like to know if somebody has information regarding Beta and Alpha versions
of early Elder Scrolls games such as Arena or Daggerfall. Any help would be appreciated. :wink:

Here are some early screens of Arena, the source of these shots is http://www.imperial-library.info but since the site has been updated I haven't found them again.
There has been no indication as to from who/where these were originally aquired. The last 3 are extracted by me from the demo of the game, they are not used and are most likely remnants from the beta stage of development.

Image Image Image
Image Image Image
Image Image Image
Image Image Image


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 10:55 pm 
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Amazing that they had already designed all of Tamriel so early.
If they were extracted from the demo perhaps the demo contains some leftovers


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 2:21 am 
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There might be some more things I haven't yet found in the demo, such as beta textures and inventory elements.
Here is another graphic which is actually extracted from the full game but still unused, it was most likely used when casting
spells but later removed. There are also graphics for gauntlets when using hand-to-hand combat, depending on which type of armor you were wearing.


Image


An intro graphic extracted from the game but unused, the background of the main character is different to the final release.

Image

This was found accidentally by a user on the Elder Scrolls forums, in the CD version of Arena. It appears to be an unused auto-map feature or maybe for debugging.

Image

EDIT:

Ok, I found the source on the Beta screens. They come from quite possibly the first
preview of the game in a slideshow which predates the demo by almost a year. I have also
found another slideshow of the game which is from the year of release. Interesting to note is
that some of the screens have been modified by replacing the old HUD with the new one.

Here are the links to the original source and second set:

Link - http://www.mediafire.com/?cuskv7uf28kj5s3
Link - http://www.mediafire.com/?ixxsh1612xfnak1


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:43 am 
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I've been doing a bit more research on this and comparing the shots to the final version, and It would seem that
the graphical quality was actually better in the earlier builds with graphics of a higher resolution and full use of the 256 color palette, mainly on the HUD and UI.
I noticed that the HUD shown in the screenshots not only had more functionality previously but went through several changes before completion.

The Beta HUD extracted from the game, but with a few differences.
- "Cast Spell Icon" is slightly different
- "Crossed Swords Icon" is slightly different
- Two new icons have been added, the "Time Of Day and Location" and a "Dagger" icon with unknown functionality.
- The Health, Mana and Fatigue? bars actually have a gradient instead of the solid color see in the final version
- The background for the player portrait is a different color
- The "Face" and "Speech Bubble" icons are gone

Image

This HUD was also extracted from the game and is closer to the final but not quite.
- It still retains the layout of the previous versions.
- The buttons have been finalized
- The Shield, Switch Player?, Dagger and Computer icons are still used
- There are two Player HUD's visible, maybe a final attempt at keeping some party elements in the game, but also justifies why some of the icons were still used.
- The color of the HUD is no longer Teal
- The possible feature to change the HUD size is still in this version as can be seen, the HUD from the final game is shorter than in the Beta so maybe the option existed because it took up too much of the screen.

Image

Another thing I noticed is the font quality was best in the Beta screenshots, halved in the release screenshots and then changed to a solid color in the final game.
All this stuff was probably cut to make it run smoother. Even when the game was released it was demanding of players machines, so this is plausible.


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:30 pm 
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1. Sex sells and the altered cover art

In January 1993 nobody was talking about Arena and in magazines you can't find any direct hint to the game. However in an article in Computer Gaming World you can see Ken Mayfield (Bethsoft's lead artist in these days) drawing a suspicious artwork.

Image

On the picture you can see a woman wearing a cape and a gauntlet. Since Bethesda was only working on Delta V (A space simulation) and a Terminator game, the concept art can only belong to Arena. This example shows one of the marketing strategies bethsda is planning to use for Arena: Boobs. An article on Gamasutra.com discusses the cover of CGW issue 12/93, which shows the arena box cover, in very much detail. The cover shows the well known Arena box cover, that we will analyze in more detail now. In mid August 1993 Bethsoft published a slideshow that contains a promotional version of the cover art, that is dated to Mai 27th 1993. When comparing this picture to the retail version, you will notice some things:

Image

First you'll see the images are mirrored (for better comparison I mirrored one, to make them both the same direction). You'll also see some more differences:
-The hand of the woman is slightly edited
-The Helm of the Barbarian is completely different
-The Barbarian has different shoulders
-The gem in the middle of the wizard's necklace is different
-A little ring at the neck of the legionaire has been removed
-The background is different

But the topic of hot women takes no end. Everybody knows that prostitues were planned for Daggerfall, but a screenshot from May 20th 1993 indicates the same for Arena.

Image

The Global.bsa features some sprites titled as "babe"... (I couldn't convert them, yet, but the name says everything)
Another screenshot from May 20 shows a slave market featuring a nearly naked woman. (bottom left)

Image

The first screenshot showing a character is dated to May 25, 1993.

Image

Eye catcher of the picture is the beautiful Woodelf woman named Jehanna Khel. The name Jehanna may be a reference to the city Jehanna that is described as following in the old datafiles of arena:
"Jehanna, a city as beautiful as her name."

2. AD&D ?

Since the first slideshow was released in August 1993, it's hard to find earlier screenshots. Since the French always were something special for Bethesda, it seems like only french magazines featured screenshots before the slideshow was released. Three of them can be categorized as "may 20"-shots because they have no interface.

The first shot shows a typical illustration of Lord Bel or another Demon from Dungeons and Dragons.

Image

The next screenshot shows another famous D&D creature that doesn't appear in the retail version: A Beholder. This creature is mentioned in more than half of the .inf files of the retail version.

Image

The last screenshot shows an early version of the lich, that looks very different from the retail version.

Image

Around this time (May/June 1993), a man named Nicholas Vargish applied for a job at Bethesda and got a little studio tour. Julian showed him the current version of Arena and in September '93 Nicholas made an usenet post about it. Nicholas wrote that Arena had reflections in puddles (did it have these in the retail version?!) and crashed very often. In a second post, he mentioned very nice weather effects. In an email, he explained to me that he had to code a rotating cube as test for the job, but then he decided not to try to join the company.

3. Gladiators, Team-Members and Stickmen

When reading through the old city descriptions of Arena, you'll notice that every city had a gladiator team waiting for you to challenge them. The same principle was planned for TES IV: Oblivion, which had a Arena in every city, too, but the idea was discarded during the development of the game. A french article tells us more about the story: the gladiator teams fight against eachother and the winner will get the throne that (for some reason) is threatened by demonic forces. From the beginning there always were dungeons for the player to explorere, to strengthen his characters before fighting other teams. Because fighting alone is boring, the player should be supported by a team of other characters. In the EXE of Arena you can find strings like "Team Leader" or "Team Member 2".
In an interview with Power Play in 1994, Vijay Lakshman revealed a list of features that were scrapped:
"We wanted to create a real "Arena", were players can fight against NPCs ad win gold and prizes. For example, we also wanted to include the option of playing via network and having a party, with bargaining, hiring, firing, etc. Of course we couldn't integrate all of this."

On four screenshots that are from around June 1993, we can see an early version of the party-interface:

ImageImage
ImageImage

The first picture shows the Crystal Tower on the Summerset Isles. Very special are the dragons flying around the tower and spitting fire.
The second screenshot might show the hideout of the party. In the GLOBAL.BSA you can find a "Start Game" screen, maybe showing the same building.

Image

The third screenshot shows kind of a treasure chamber.
The fourth screenshot clearly shows a Tavern.
My theory for all these "scenes" is, that the game had a many hand drawn scenes for special places, that were later removed. More examples can be found in the manual of Arena:

ImageImage
ImageImage
ImageImage

The only ones that are still used today, are the ones for the main quest. For example the last two (in slightly different versions).

The Codex Scientia (Arena guide) also has many of them:
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098389.or.97806.jpg
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098423.or.70060.jpg
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098449.or.52598.jpg
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098464.or.85843.jpg
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098476.or.25733.jpg
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098488.or.94132.jpg
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098499.or.20197.jpg
http://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/2012-11/1353098511.or.85886.jpg

Some can be found as unused distant buildung sprites:
Image

That the interface of this version was far from being finished isn't hard to see. The character names weren't displayed and some of the buttons were playceholders with little stickmen instead of "real" people.
On screenshots from August 10th 1993 we finally see the finished interface of the party-version. The placeholders are replaced, characters are displayed properly and some details of the interface were polished.

Image
Image

The first screenshot shows the Crystal Tower again, but this time the scene looks different: The dragons are positioned a bit lower and they don't spit fire.
The second screenshot shows that the bulk interface could be minimized to show more of the actual screen.
The journalist David Pipes described the party-based-fightin-system back in September 1993:
"It is a first-person perspective role- playing game, again with very good graphics and
sound, and a party to accompany the player. Players will control multiple characters in combat, in real time. They will be able to plan tactical actions and instruct the others to follow through, then watch it happen as they fight."

4. A little company and a lot of testers

In 1993 Bethesda was already well known, foremost for its hockey games, but still the company was quite small, as Vijay Lakshman described it in 1993:
"There are about 12 people. Six programmers, 2 designers and 4 artists. That's it. And of course various other
people who come and go on a part-time basis, just help out for specific projects."
Bethesda tried to make code as efficient as possible and so Arena was written in ~90% assembler code. A huge number of testers were hired to test games for Bethsoft 8 hours a day and to write bug list. The programmers would fix these bugs during the night and weekends.

Here is a photo of the Arena development team:
Image

5. New concept, long delay and the beginning of faking

The original release date for Arena was in October 1993. In september 1993 David Pipes still reported of a party-based game. Around this time the beta test for Arena was very likely to be already running and maybe during this process the dev team noticed that the gladiator-theme was obsolete and the sidequests and dungeons were much more fun. So the release was delayed to 1994 and the game was changed drastically, by removing the gladiators and the party.
At this point something weird happened: The old slideshow screenshots looked cool and were selected by hand to be the best possible screenshots. the only porblem was, the interface was totally different from the new one. So Bethesda took the old screens and just copy-pasted the new interface on them. This process created 4 groups of screenshots:

-The original Slide show shots from August 1993 and earlier
-The new slideshow shots
-Demo-Fakes
-Ads and retail box

This screenshot exists in all 4 versions:
Top left original, top right Demo, bottom left new Slideshow and bottom right Ads/Box.
Image

By moving the release of Arena to the next year, something funny happened with the title screen of Arena:

Image

When looking closely, you can see that behind the copyright text, nearly the same text is written in black. Maybe they had to change it, because Bethesda wasn't "limited" anymore and the copyright year became 1994 instead of 1993.

6. Buttons that changed the world forever

The first slideshow featured two very interesting screenshots. One shows the map of Tamriel with all larger cities and the other one shows the map of Morrowind.


Image
Image
The map featured one more button than the retail version. Its use isn't known, but we know what it created:
When looking on the map of tamriel, you might notice that the city Daggerfall is located at the iliac bay instead of the ocean outside. On the ingame province map the city is outside. But why? It's very easy to understand when you imagine the fourth button. It would have covered the entire city making it unclickable. So the position of Daggerfall was changed. The correct location at the Iliac bay was used in TES II, but for the Oblivion codex maps, they used the wrong position.
The fourth button moved one more city and changed the landmass a bit. In Blackmarsh, the city Soulrest would have been covered like Daggerfall, so it was moved a bit to the north. When the Codex maps for oblivion were created, they looked at the Arena province maps and since the cape next to Soulrest was covered by the button the artist improvised and made it smaller because he couldn't see how far it should reach into the ocean.


7. Preview for upcoming attractions

In the Interview with Power Play that was already mentioned above, V.L. mentioned, that they knew from the beginning, that Arena would be the first part of a series.
Already in September 1993 Bethesda stated that there will be Addons and Campaign-Mods for Arena in 1994. When Daggerfall was announced in 1994, the planned release Date was January 1995 and Arena characters could be ported to Daggerfall. Both didn't happen. Daggerfall itself names its assets "Arena2".

A photo of the Daggerfall Dev Team:
Image

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Last edited by Hallfiry on Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:42 pm, edited 14 times in total.

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:01 am 
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Thanks for the new info and screens! The early interfaces are very interesting and the faces looked more detailed. Can you give a source for the magazines/issues these early shots are from? The Beholder monster is actually mentioned in the files of the Arena Demo. Also, the creature in the cropped screenshot is a Lich with unfinished arms.

Image

I've got a retail beta which uses the beta cursor/arrows and the sound doesn't appear to work, not sure if there is anything else. To find a real beta copy with loads of differences would be awesome! Here's a link if anyone's interested:

http://www.mediafire.com/?w1qyxw5u2voqqh3


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:06 am 
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Some of the articles I used:
http://download.abandonware.org/magazines/Generation%204/generation4_numero059/Generation4%20059%20-%20Page%20046%20%281993-10%29.jpg
http://download.abandonware.org/magazines/Generation%204/generation4_numero059/Generation4%20059%20-%20Page%20047%20%281993-10%29.jpg

Images removed - domain images are hosted on has been compromised with malware.

Dated to September 1993:
Images removed - domain images are hosted on has been compromised with malware.

Thanks for the beta.

btw, I actually saw that it looked "like" the lich, but not the same.

Also, where did you find a reference to the beholder in the demo? I can't even find one in the uncompressed exe...

EDIT: Why is there so many Razor1911 stuff in the "beta" ?

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:49 am 
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Cool, I'm going to see if anything more can be found. :cool:

The Beholder reference is in the DEMO.INF file, where it mentions BEHOLDER.DFA.

The Razor1911 stuff is in there because this was a release made by a cracking group slightly prior to retail. This was back when releasing betas was seen as 'bad practice' among warez groups.


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:08 pm 
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The Beholder is actually mentioned in 62 of the 93 inf files of the retail version, I just checked it. That indicates that it was removed very late during the development.

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:44 pm 
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I'm guessing that a 1993 build of the game would hold more answers and content, where the Beholder monster would be included along with other unused ones, I'm sure.
Also, I've found the uncropped picture of the unfinished lich and it looks quite different from the final.

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/12 ... 19930.png/


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:27 pm 
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Wow, I totally oversaw the early joytick issues. The other screens are cool, too!

EDIT: I updated my article with new shots and I also included the artworks from the manual.

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:02 am 
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Another one! This time showing what appears to be a tavern interior.

Image


Last edited by Awooo on Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:43 am 
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Great find! My theory that buildings like taverns, shops, etc where drawn (and possibly animated) pictures, gets more and more likely.

The funny thing is, that I looked through these magazines many times and couldn't find that picture. Seems like I need new glasses :D

Very interesting is, that it's a photo taken from a screen at CES in June 93 in Chicago. That implies that Bethesda released only very few screenshots (or had no press kits prepared) and the french guys had to take photos on their own. Also it proves that they had a playable version or a trailer at CES.

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:09 am 
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There's a chance that the CES version got out but the best place to start looking would be to find former testers who might have copies in their possession. Since it was also shown at ECTS '93 that also could give a lead.

EDIT:

Yet another interesting find, A Korean version of the Elder Scrolls Arena. The shoddy looking box appears to be the work of pirates and very possibly this might be a leaked early copy. The game was only ever officially released in English and French, the latter being a rare item indeed.

https://secure.flickr.com/photos/321824 ... 011513369/


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:09 pm 
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I think the Korean version is official. It was published by SKC Soft Land, a typical Korean publisher of that time. They also published the mid-90s Blizzard games, like Warcraft 2 and Diablo. I'm very sure that the Korean letters on the cover are simply a Korean "translation" of the word ARENA. Only because Wikipedia doesn't mention the Korean release, doesn't mean there was none ;)
Funny example: the chinese version of Warcraft 3: Warcraft III by Unalis
The asian Nightelf is ridiculous.


I also think it's not very likely that a Summer CES or ECTS version leaked (I think it was schown on both ECTSs, in April and September.)

About the testers: From my experience with Blizzard testers and reporters, the chance is very low, that one of the testers
a) has a prerelease version
b) is willing to leak it

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 12:50 am 
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Thanks for the clarification, I should have looked into the publisher a bit more. I wonder where else the game got a release that isn't mentioned. A shame that leads are so limited but even if it didn't leak, I have a feeling that it exists somewhere. Todd Howard has unused assets from Daggerfall lying around, the cutscene for the prostitution feature that was left out for example:

http://www.svatopluk.com/daggerfall/museum/sex.stm

This makes me think that among things like the Arena source code, other builds along with all the assets/tools could be there.


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 3:06 pm 
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Arena source code would be 90% assembler, so I guess many people (except me :P ) wouldn't understand it. Also, source code is very unlikely, since the testers got the compiled game to test. So only the programmers from Bethesda might possibly have it. The problem is, that Arena is freeware, not open source, and a french translation team wasn't allowed to change stuff in the exe of Arena for translation.

About the assets of Arena:
Do you have any idea for the wicked img format? there are some different versions of img and one uses a compression algorithm that I can't break.
The only way to display them is renaming them to title.img, but that only works for 320x200 images:
Image
-> Nudity was planned for Arena, like in Daggerfall(?) and Battlespire.

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 11:33 pm 
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The source code is definitely with the devs, too bad the Daggerfall source got lost, though you've probably heard of DaggerXL. The compressed .IMG format has been unreadable so far, I have used the method of renaming a file to TITLE.IMG but all the inventory graphics such as overlays are compressed also things like the fast travel animation. Then again I've yet to put any real effort into learning programming so my knowledge would be limited in this area.

This guy might create a new tool for Arena at some point:

http://galfar.vevb.net/wp/2011/arena-an ... -findings/


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:30 am 
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Sure I heard of Dagger XL.
In which way did the Daggerfall source code get lost?

Actually I've read through the source code of win Arena some months ago and it helped me quite much with the xored files (I use an easier way to decode them, than that strange bitshifting stuff the WinArena guy made.)

About compression alorithms in Elder Scrolls games:

Arena: Unknown, none, xored stuff, exe compressed with pk-lite professional (expandable with unlite)
Daggerfall: byte-shortening and rle compression, or simply none
Redguard: none
Battlespire: LZW or none if files are small
Dawnstar(?): Some png files, can't remember the rest

Sometimes I work on finding the Arena compression algo, maybe I find it someday. (what I know is, that the beginning of the image data looks kinda regualar and the rest is very random, maybe it's an offset table or so).

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:20 am 
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The Daggerfall source was lost when Bethesda were moving offices I believe. Maybe it will be possible to contact Todd Howard on the Bethesda forums for information regarding these games or even Julian Lefay, lead programmer of Arena. However getting a hold of him could prove to be difficult. :(


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:54 pm 
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I have good experiences with "contacting dev members about 1000yr old projects". Most of them just becomes happy that he sees such ppl who are still interested in their 1000yr old work. And in most cases they try to find a little time to look around for some goodies. Ofc its not true for all dev teams, but it's always worth to try. (Nothing to loose and hope dies at last)

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:32 pm 
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loxotron wrote:
I have good experiences with "contacting dev members about 1000yr old projects". Most of them just becomes happy that he sees such ppl who are still interested in their 1000yr old work. And in most cases they try to find a little time to look around for some goodies. Ofc its not true for all dev teams, but it's always worth to try. (Nothing to loose and hope dies at last)


The only developer who I ever contacted who was friendly and tried to help me, was the lead programmer of Project Nomads. I actually didn't interview him about the game, I only asked if it is related to another game that was never released and he mentioned some details about the early development when answering.

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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:01 am 
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Awooo wrote:
The Daggerfall source was lost when Bethesda were moving offices I believe. Maybe it will be possible to contact Todd Howard on the Bethesda forums for information regarding these games or even Julian Lefay, lead programmer of Arena. However getting a hold of him could prove to be difficult. :(

Would be great if Julian Lefay could shed some light on Arena compression (but would he even remember details like this after 15+ years?).
He even posted on DaggerXL forums some time ago: http://forums.bethsoft.com/index.php?/topic/1246597-julian-lefay/
so it looks like he checks out Arena/Daggerfall community from time to time.


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:15 am 
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Julian would definitely be the one know the technical side of Arena and possibly have stuff from that era too. I say we give it a shot, who knows how close we could be to a :beta: but where to start looking is the problem.


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 PostPost subject: Re: The Elder Scrolls Arena and Daggerfall Betas        Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:46 am 
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Here are the passwords for the 1st dungeon portal, the beta works fine!
http://pastebin.com/UiZnqsLw


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