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Here is a list of articles from the old roguelikedevelopment.org that I am trying to salvage:

Line of Sight - Tobias Downer

This article describes my observation of existing line of sight systems in roguelike games, and details the method I adopted for my own experimental engine.


 Early LOS (Moria)
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

When I first played Moria on my friends Amiga in 1990, I was instantly hooked on roguelikes. Dungeon exploration was one of the main 'hook factors'. As the player moved around the dungeon, a new part would light up revealing a little bit more. You really didn't know what would be around the next corner, or how the dungeon terrain would turn out.

Compared to more recent roguelikes, Moria uses very simple line of sight determination. The players light source can only extend 1 grid square around the player. When a player enters a room that is lit, the entire room appears and is memorised by the player. Determining whether a monster is visible is handled by tracing a line from the monster to the player. If a line can be traced without intersecting any wall grids, the monster is visible.

There is one rather large bottleneck in this system. It is required that for each monster that _may_ be visible, that a line is traced. For a map with high concentrations of monsters (such as spawning worms), this leads to poor performance.

For most cases however, the line of sight system in Moria is fast and effective. Moria was written in the second half of the 80's so it needed to be. With the increase of processor speeds and compiler technology, newer roguelikes have refined the LOS process further to create more realistic engines.

 A more realistic LOS (Angband)
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

In most recent roguelikes, the line of sight code has extended to encompass a 'field of view'. An easy way to visualise this, is to imagine a light source emitting rays of light up tp a given radius. Every grid that is hit by a ray from the light is flagged as visible. However some grid squares may be in shadow of the light source. The diagram below shows a simple example of this.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%      Key:
%%      %%%%%%%
%#...   %%%%%%%        @ Light source
%#......#######        # Wall hit by ray from light
%#.......@.....        % Wall in shadow
%#......#######        . Floor hit by ray from light
%#...   %%%%%%%          Floor in shadow (blank)
%%      %%%%%%%
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

There are several advantages to implementing such a system. If a grid 'knows' about any monsters that are standing on it, as well as flagging grids as visible, we can also flag all the monsters that are in line of sight of the player. We no longer need to do an expensive line trace between monster and player to determine monster visibility. It also allows us to incorporate nice visual effects such as fading out the areas of the map that are in the players memory but not directly visible.

 How do we go about writing such as routine?
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

For simplicity, lets say we have a field of view with a radius of 6 grids. One approach would be to trace a line between the light to every edge of the field of view. If we simplify this process a little, lets say our field of view is a square with the light source at coordinates (0, 0). The diagrams below shows the first three iterations of this method.

1st Iteration: Trace line between (0, 0) and (6, 0)

 +-----+-----+
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 +     @******
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 +-----+-----+

2nd Iteration: Trace line between (0, 0) and (6, 1)

 +-----+-----+
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 +     @***  +
 |         ***
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 +-----+-----+

3rd Iteration: Trace line between (0, 0) and (6, 2)

 +-----+-----+
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 +     @**   + 
 |        ** |
 |          **
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 |           |
 +-----+-----+

If any line trace hits a wall then the trace is finished and a new trace is started. Every grid that the line intersects is marked as visible.

Implementing such a routine is very easy. I won't go into how to walk along a line here. Look up existing line drawing routines or work it out yourself. One thing to avoid is using floating point numbers - keep all calculations in the inner loop as integers.

One point to note here. When you are tracing a line, you must be careful that you are checking _every_ grid that the line is going through. This is a little more involved than you may at first realise. Consider the following diagram.

    0   1   2
  +---+---+---+
  |   |   |   |
0 | @ |   |   |
  |  *|   |   |
  +--*+---+---+
  |   *   |   |
1 |   |*  |   |
  |   |*  |   |
  +---+-*-+---+
  |   |  *|   |
2 |   |  *|   |
  |   |   *   |
  +---+---+*--+

The line travels through grids (0, 1), (1, 1), (1, 2) and (2, 2). It we were to walk the line at intervals of 1 unit along the y axis, we would miss the intersection with grid (0, 1) and (2, 2). To solve this, we actually need to walk the line at intervals of .5 units.

This simple method outlines the basic approach for achieving line of sight determination. However if you were to use it, you will find the performance very poor. Let me explain the reasons why. Say we have a radius of 25 grids. A walk from the centre to the field of view edge, assuming no wall intersections, will take 50 iterations (walking at .5 units). There are a total of 50 grids on each of the 4 edges therefore the total number of iterations will be (50 * 4) * 50 = 10000 assuming no wall intersections. There are a total of 2600 grids (not including the centre grid) in our field of view. That means the algorithm is checking almost four times as many grids as there are in the field of view!

Obviously, we need to find a way to optimise the performance so that a smaller number of grids need to be checked. For my own experimental engine, I used the following method. It is almost identical to the algorithm first suggested and implemented in Angband 2.8.3.

 A better performance LOS (Angband 2.8.3)
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The most obvious way of optimising the performance is to subdivide the field of view and concentrate our optimisation on just one section. We can then mirror the process in all the other sections. If we subdivide the field of view into eight, we create 8 octant triangles as shown in the diagram below. For simplicity, I'm assuming a square field of view. The octants are numbered 0 to 7 and proceed clockwise around the light source. Each octant has shared edges with two other octants.

   +------+------+
   |\     |     /|
   | \  5 | 6  / |
   |  \   |   /  |
   |   \  |  /   |
   | 4  \ | /  7 |
   |     \|/     |
   +------@------+
   |     /|\     |
   | 3  / | \  0 |
   |   /  |  \   |
   |  /   |   \  |
   | /  2 | 1  \ |
   |/     |     \|
   +------+------+

If we optimise our algorithm to work only for octant 0, we can easily swap x and y, and change the signs of the terms to reflect on any of the other 7 octants. For example, walking through x in octant 0 is the same as walking across -x in octant 3 or 4, across -y in octant 5 or 6, and across y in octant 1 or 2.

The second rule of optimisation is to pre-compute as much as you can and that memory allows. Since we only need to process 1/8th of our field of view, we have decreased the amount of memory required to store our lookup tables.

Remember we used the analogy of a light source emitting rays of light? If we pre-calculated every ray of light that travels through the octant, and also find the rays of light that are blocked if a given grid is a wall. At runtime, we can scan through the octant grid, moving away from the light source, lighting up the grids that have at least one ray of light hitting them. Any grids that represent a wall will flag the rays that hit the grid as blocked, thereby putting others in shadow. The following diagram (hopefully) demonstrates this principle.

       0       1       2       3       4
   +-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
   |       |       |       |       |       |
   |       |       |       |       |       |
   |       |       |       |       |       |
 0 |   @11 |       |       |       |       |
   |    65322221111111     |       |       |
   |     65333 22222  11111111111  |       |
   |      6|54333  |22222  |     11111111  |
   +-------6-55--333#####22222-----+#####111
           |6  554 #333    #  22222#       #
           | 6   5444  333 #       22222   #
           |  6   55 444  333      #    2222 
 1         |   6   #55  44 # 333   #       #
           |    6  #  5   44    333#       #
           |     6 #   55  #444    333     #
           |      6#     55#   444 #  333  #
           +-------6#######5------444####333
                   |6      |55     | 44    |
                   | 6     |  55   |   444 |
                   |  6    |    5  |      44
 2                 |   6   |     55|       |
                   |    6  |       55      |
                   |     6 |       | 5     |
                   |      6|       |  55   |
                   +-------6-------+----55-+

The diagram shows the pre-computation of 6 rays of light where each line (except 1) intersects the grid at (2, 1). Lines 2 and 6 'brush' past the corners of the grid, and lines 3, 4 and 5 travel through the middle of the grid. Because there is a wall at grid (2, 1), lines 3, 4 and 5 would be flagged as 'blocked'. This means no rays are able to hit grid (3, 2) or (4, 2) thus putting them in shadow.

If we pre-calculate each line to every grid corner in an octant discarding any identical lines, and sort into a list, we produce a list of all unique lines sorted from the horizontal to the diagonal of the octant. We can then pre-calculate a lookup table for each grid square in the octant, and store the range of rays that are blocked if the given grid is a wall. For example, in the above diagram the grid at (2, 1) would block all rays between 2 and 6. The grid at (4, 1) would block all rays between 1 and 4.

We can store the list of rays in a bit vector, or boolean array. If a wall grid is found, we simply flag the bits between the outer bounds of the given grid as blocked. A similar test can be used to determine if an unblocked ray hits a grid. Simply test each bit in the vector between the two outer corners, if an unblocked bit is found then the grid is visible.

This method is very fast since it requires most grids to be scanned only once. The exception is along the horizontal, vertical and diagonal which are shared between two octants. These grids need to be scanned twice, once by each shared octant.

It is easy to adapt the algorithm to produce a circular field of view as opposed to a square field of view. Simply use the Pythagorean theorem to determine if a given coordinate (x, y) is within the radius;

 (x * x) + (y * y) < (radius * radius)

Angband uses an octagonal field of view;

 max(x, y) + (min(x, y) / 2) <= radius

We could also use this algorithm to determine if a given grid is visible from another. There are two ways of doing this. Find the octant the destination grid is in relative to the source. Then do the 'blocking ray' method described above. When we reach the destination grid, if no rays are hitting it, its not visible. The second method is to find the destination grid, and for each ray that intersects the grid, trace a line from the source. If one of the traced rays hits the grid without intersecting a wall, the grid is visible.

 Performance
=-=-=-=-=-=-=

I implemented this algorithm in Java and used a radius of 25 grids with a circular field of view. It performed particularly well when there were only a few wall grids, or if the source was enclosed by many wall grids. It didn't perform so well between these extremes. However on my P120, the worse case tested speed was 5 ms (200 a second).

 Acknowledgments
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

For a more detailed description of this method, download the Angband 2.8.3 source and look in the file 'cave.c'. Thanks go to Mat Hostetter and Ben Harrison for developing and implementing the algorithm.


If you have any questions about this article, feel free to email me at geoffd@iglou.com.


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