Waterbirth Dungeon was released on the 1st of August 2005. Subsequently, the dungeon was expanded and the Dagannoth Kings bosses were introduced on the 7th of November 2005 under the title Waterbirth Island - deeper, darker, deadlier!
During the ongoing restoration process, we found that the next popular area to focus on should be Waterbirth Dungeon. Although the dungeon was partially updated during the HD overhaul, it mostly included terrain and atmospheric changes that were largely out of place and were seemingly unfinished.
The difficulty and complexity of an area restore is highly dependent on the level of overhauls the area has had past the 2007 era (Oldschool). This should normally make the dungeon relatively easy to restore, however, we felt this area deserved a bit of extra love due to its popularity and symbolism in Oldschool RuneScape. These so called remasters can be much more complex, as we try to replicate overhauls as Jagex would have done it.
It wasn’t long until we realized that a simple restore wouldn’t be enough to make this area truly come to life. One of the prime components to an area overhaul are upgraded wall-kits (the models that make up the cave walls in this case), something even the restored version seemed to lack.
Secondly, the terrain (everything that makes up the landscape such as overlays, underlays and tile heights) appeared to be updated to a grey-ish style. This style is similar (but not identical) to the Lighthouse dungeon terrain.
As a third point, the atmosphere had a strange orange tint. We can only assume this was a design choice, but one that didn't really work with the improved render distance and the modernized style of caves.
Part of the restoration process means we have to be able to add, manipulate and erase the objects on a map. Our so-called Map Builder is able to generate these new map files and insert them into our cache (meaning areas are preprocessed just like any other).
As you know, RuneScape consists of tiles that your character can stand on. Each region contains a grid of 64x64 tiles. If a region has 4 floors, it can consist of 4096 tiles. When looking at the game on a fundamental level, it is not much more than each of those tiles having a set of 'rules', which the player navigates through. In a restore and remaster we can modify the objects present on a tile, whilst still having to adhere to the collision rules that Jagex determines.
Modifying the existing map is done using our own hybrid tools. If you have ever played a game such as Minecraft or Terraria, then you may be familiar with WorldEdit mods. Although editing tiles by hand can be very useful, particularly when making small changes, a combination of manual edits and code can be especially powerful when targeting a large area while retaining detail.
The first major obstacle in remastering this area is upgrading the wall kits mentioned earlier. To accomplish this, we need to create new walls. We began by drawing inspiration from the already restored Lighthouse dungeon, as the two dungeons are interconnected and share a similar fantasy style (dagannoths).
The Lighthouse dungeon actually utilizes a relatively common cave wall kit with a unique gray coloration. To preserve the green coloration used in the Waterbirth maps, we took the HD kits and recolored it. Because RuneScape's engine actually uses the HSL color model as opposed to RGB, the values will seem meaningless in most cases, adding a layer of complexity.
Now that we have the desired new kits, the next step is to replace the existing caves with the new ones. Given the sheer number of tiles that require replacement, manually performing this task would be excessively time-consuming. Since the new HD kit incorporates a gradient object that smoothly transitions the cave into the black void, we devised an algorithm to somewhat automate the process. Fortunately, we already had an algorithm in place for this purpose. Ardougne was one of the first locations to receive remastered cave walls using the initial version of the cave wall generator, which dates back to HDOS v281.
As we begin to witness the results, it becomes apparent that we have also accumulated a significant amount of unnecessary clutter that needs to be eliminated. To do this, we can add some code to refine the process and remove excess objects ourselves.
Due to the characteristics of the newly installed wall kit, we have created an additional problem. To smoothen the cave terrain shape and the minimap, not all tiles are squares. An overlay placed on top of the underlay can cause a square to become a cut-out of the original tile. These cut-outs can be used to create a smoothness, often seen in paths like Varrock, and are used in every cave.
As a result of the differences between the older wall kit and the new one, there is now a noticeable gap in the cut-out where the old wall used to be, resulting in holes in the walls. To resolve this issue, we have developed an algorithm that can dynamically adapt the cut-out shapes based on the placement of the walls. Manually addressing this problem would be an incredibly tedious and time-consuming task. While a portion of the algorithm was already integrated into the Cave Wall Generator, the nature of the thin walls and the presence of a unique outer wall that doesn't require any surrounding terrain necessitated the creation of a new, more versatile algorithm. This updated algorithm also has the ability to reverse the process or account for water, meaning that all shapes can be mirrored when needed. The comparison provided below illustrates the terrain without the primary and wall objects, creating the illusion that the cave has expanded in size.
While the restored grey terrain may appear more modern, it is evident that it does not align with the chosen green style that we aim to maintain. To strike a balance between the two aesthetics, we can explore the possibility of blending elements from both styles. RuneScape HD introduced the concept of ground blending, which allows different types of terrain to interact and create seamless transitions. For instance, when light sand is placed adjacent to dark rock, the sand in the vicinity of the rocky terrain will naturally adopt a darker shade. Additionally, past overhauls introduced new patterns in the terrain, adding further depth and variation. Interestingly, the tunnels leading to the boss room have already undergone a mixed terrain overhaul. Taking all of this into consideration, we can replicate a simplified overhaul that combines both the green and grey terrain, aiming for a harmonious fusion of the two styles.
You may have noticed that the dungeon still lacks some detail. Some NPCs are unrestored, lights are out of place, the atmosphere can be improved, and additional decorations could be added. All of these elements are part of the restoration process and are addressed individually.
As previously discussed, the redesigned shapes of the wall kits can lead to compatibility issues with the existing terrain. This concern extends to the decorations placed on the walls as well. The provided comparison reveals the modifications made to the water streams, ensuring they are properly aligned and no longer appear to be floating. Additionally, the introduction of swamp bubbles and strategically placed lights enhances the immersive atmosphere within the dungeon.
There is undoubtedly much more involved in a remaster than what has been showcased here. Regrettably, it is impossible to cover every aspect within the confines of a single blog. We hope you enjoy this remaster, and feel free to ask any questions in our Discord. See you in the next one!
—The HDOS team.