Forum Scholar’s Guild: Distance Measurements In Daggerfall

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This article is part of the Forum Scholar’s Guild: a collection of peer-reviewed original research written by fans about Elder Scrolls lore.

How to measure distances accurately while playing TES2

To measure the distances, I used the same character and horse with the same load, health and stamina at 100%. To be sure all was the same, I used to reload the same reference savegame each time my character got tired.

To begin to measure distances in Daggerfall, one can go to the grand “Castle Sentinel” place. There are trees rows set like a star around Castle sentinel. Walk along a trees row and count the stride noises (two paces) between six trees: 25 strides. So, the distance between two trees is 5 strides with a good accuracy: 25 strides / 5 trees intervals. Count not from a standing position but at full constant walking speed, for a more accurate result.

Now it needed to convert sound strides in meters for a more universal measure, non dependent of the stride lengths of the many different players characters and their evolution. As there is probably no meter scale ready to use in Daggerfall, it needs to look for a familiar object to be able to say “this object measures x meters” accurately.

But what object to choose?

A “stride” may vary between 2×0.7m and 2×1.0m for an actual person. It brings 30% error and that’s not accurate enough. The size of a house, of a door, of a window, of a tree trunc? there are bigger and smaller ones, and it’s not easy to set a measurement just by a viewing feeling. Finally, what seemed to me the most accurate to estimate was a NPC’s height (not so strange, because everyone is very used to look at persons everyday, while talking to a person for example…)

I positioned the screen view zoomed exactly between two trees in order to see their trunks entirely. The distance between the middle of these two trunks was already identified as 5 strides. Then I cast an invisible spell so that the NPCs don’t stop in front of me and stay there all the time. Finally, I froze the screen with the “U” key (use magic object) just when a familiar walking NPC stepped exactly on the middle of the imaginary ground line that linked the two trunks. That’s important because if the NPC is before this line, it is quickly smaller on screen, and if closer it is quickly bigger on screen. And this measurement accuracy is the key point of all the distances set later for the whole Daggerfall map.

The chosen NPC was a green-clothed fair-haired breton peasant, young, strong, not tall. Bretons are more familiar to me as I’m french too. So I found it easier to choose that NPC. His eyes height looked less than mine through the screen, so my character looked higher than the NPC. That matched my subjective idea of a 1.60-1.70m breton farmer or sailor in the middle-age times (people less tall than now)..

So I instinctively estimated his height between 1.60m and 1.70m, a 6% error range, enough accurate for me. I may be mistaken but I chose 1.65m for his height. It makes a simple reference number of 50m for the max detail distance chosen by Bethesda (see Hacking the Distance View chapter).

Now measuring on the frozen screen, it’s possible to know the value of a stride:

  • (distance between the middle of the two trunks) / (NPC’s height) = 5.23 on-screen ratio
  • the NPC is supposed 1.65m tall (5.39 feet), so the distance between trees is 8.6295 m ( 1.65 m x 5.23 on-screen ratio ). As a personal confirmation, I found it could match my subjective distance impression for the 2 trees view.
  • the distance between two trees is also accurately 5 strides, so : ONE STRIDE = 1.7259 m = 5.64 feet ( 1.65 m x 5.23 ratio / 5 strides ). Here too, this long pace of 0.86 m fits well to a valiant and brave walking PC 😉

Now the meter scale is established and it’s possible to measure everything. Also possible to make bigger scales for bigger objects measurements.

  • the East townwall inside Sentinel town is 247 sound strides long: 425m (0.26 miles). I measured it walking with the same PC, counting sound strides.

Then I used this wall as a new ref to measure my different player’s speeds of the moment These are just to give an idea because they are changing from one PC to another, depending of the skills points, of the load, etc…

  • it took 2’16” to walk along these 425m, so my walk speed of the moment was 11 km/h (6.8 mph)
  • it took 1’30” to run along these 425m, so my running speed of the moment was 17 km/h (10.6 mph)
  • it took 0’54” to ride at full speed along these 425m, so my horse full speed of the moment was 28 km/h (17.4 mph)

Finally, it’s now possible to estimate the size of the whole Daggerfall worldmap! As the worldmap is huge, it needs an intermediate bigger scale than the Sentinel East wall to achieve that. A simple way is to measure a part of the map in the game, riding by horse at full speed, and then to compare this measure in the full world map on-screen.

This intermediate measurement was made in “Totambu” state, starting near the northern boundary at “The Screaming Giant Inn”, and ending near the southern boundary at “The Rheste Plantation”. It took 1h27′ to travel, rest halts excluded, mouse locked at constant 28km/h horse full speed previously measured. It results a distance of 40.6 km. Then, the on-screen map measures ratios show the whole world map of Daggerfall sizing around 314 x 530 km ( 195 x 330 miles ). Done!

There may be other ways to fix a scale. The accuracy of that one relied upon the estimation of a NPC’s height.

Hacking the distance view in Daggerfall

The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages indicates a hack from Thor-Eirik Larsen to increase the view distance in the DAGGERFALL savegames. Here it is:

Increasing View Distance (3 January 1997)

The first thing that really got on my nerves when I ventured into the wonderful world of Tamriel, was the limited view. I figured I had to fix that particular “bug”. In the file savetree.dat, Daggerfall stores the sound/music/detail settings as vars. Now, the program itself does not allow you to enlarge the red bar beyond the limits of clicking-area, but a simple hex-editor does, if you only manage to locate the vars. As the size differs slightly from time to time, one cannot use the same offset for every savefile. To find the vars, just max the bars, save, let your hex-editor search the savetree.dat for these hex-values 7F,7F,00,7F,00 (the first byte being the detail, you may have to search for 7E’s instead), and change the detail to FF!!!! When you load your game, you’ll notice that your range has been doubled making everything look much better! (Not as good as unlimited range, but beats the hell out of the first one :))

Original Text Written by Thor-Eirik Larsen

I enjoyed that hacked enhanced distance. Now with the previous scale measurement set, it’s possible to measure the actual ingame distance gained. The game pixelated display doesn’t get more precise, but one can actually view further and it fits well to the DAGGERFALL freedom feeling. Inside towns, the mouse click “info mode” points further, everywhere the player sees creatures further, foes running towards the player from further distance too, and it’s possible to shoot arrows and magic spells at them sooner 🙂

After this hack, I didn’t noticed any special crash along my many trials everywhere. It seems safe. But the downside is that with the distance view increasing, more and more objects are popping-up at once in the distance instead of appearing slowly from the distant mist. On the bright side, at maximum distance, the static and interactive objects have doubled (45% more distance, but objects increase with surface, = distance Power 2). Nowadays computers seem powerful enough to handle those double objects without trouble, and on a P25OMMX, the game didn’t slowed down.

The actual ingame distance isn’t linear with the patched value. Hence, to avoid objects popping-up, it is not useful to patch at the maximum distance view (0xFF value). Here are some key values:

Hex#st(m)gainobjects pop out smoothness
0x7F29(50m)0%Bethesda’s max choice, smooth everywere
0x9F33(57m)14%smooth limit on big towns borders
0xCF39(67m)34%rough on big towns borders, smooth limit in outlands
0xD740/TD>(69m)38%a little rough in outlands, smooth in towns
0xDF41(71m)41%rough in outlands, smooth limit in towns
0xEF42(72m)45%rough in towns at view sides, smooth at center
0xFF42(72m)45%max value, rough nearly everywhere

#st stands for “number of sound strides of the PC walking, an easy mean to measure distances in the game”

Many things seem to show that the 3Dengine decision match the 0xFF distance. The outlands random chaos regenerates when the player is further than the 0xFF distance (42 sound strides). Bethesda limited the view distance to 0x7F (29 sound strides) and used the 0x7F-0xFF range to make objects appear progressively in the mist in all circumstances. The first mist-range consuming case appears with the 0xCF hack value: when arriving from outlands onto the border of a big town, like the town of Daggerfall, the chaotic ground in front of the player changes suddenly into a flat ground with city walls popping up without soft transitions anymore. Before patching, they appeared softly across the mist. Then, patching more and more, in a second time around OxDF, trees in outlands pop up the same, then in a third step at 0xFF, houses in towns and everything pop up suddenly.

Certainly most of the players won’t care much of the first symptom (big towns popping up at once when arriving from outland). So 0xCF value seems a good starting point, increasing the view more than it hurts. And in spite of a gain of 34% already, enough trees smoothness remains to avoid a quickly bothering sight riding in the wild. Else, players who don’t care going in the wild may patch up to 0xDF to gain an extra +7% view distance with a good view quality in towns yet.

The player will benefit of that increased view only when the weather is good enough to allow viewing so far: in full daylight from 10am to 4pm, under sunny, cloudy, or rainy weathers (the rainy days without fog) equally.

The distance measures above are for objects in the center of the screen. The 45° lateral objects are shown much nearer by the game display. Having one Castle Sentinel tower hiding in the mist at center of the screen, if the PC turns 45°, the tower gets strongly out of the mist laterally. Like Tombraider 3D engine does, and maybe for most video games, a square map area around the player seems displayed at a circular distance around him, and not at a square distance, so that 45° objects are falsely seen around 30% nearer.

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