Thursday, 20 March 2008

Weather in Games

We've just had about 30 minutes of 'dry' lightning here in Coogee , Australia- lighting up broiling clouds in the sky with subtropical heat and cold, twisting wind but not a hint of rain. Surreal.

Which immediately leads me to think of how weather works in games, and what powerful weather related moments I've played through. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. comes immediately to mind with it's day night cycle incorporating storms, lightning and clear skies. The weather in open world games can have a dramatic impact on game play, turning mundane situations into nuanced encounters, driven by chance.

Whereas the scripted weather systems I've played through, such as Half-Life 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3 have served less as game play enhancers and more as an emotional palette: subtly turning the day night cycle into a movement of progression and renewal, colours and seasons. I think scripted weather is partly hindered by the limits of particle systems and pre-built environments. Turning a day from spring to snow immediately increases the amount of man hours required for map building.

Sangband makes an interesting choice, and turns weather into an important play dynamic. As a druid, you can influence the weather to improve the damage of elemental spells. Each element actions in opposition to another: fire vs cold, acid vs water, poison vs wind, so that you strengthen a subset of your spells at the expense of another.

I can't think of a powerful scripted weather situation off the top of my head: I'm sure there are good examples out there. What's been the most memorable weather based situation you've played through?


Ids said...

I actually just remembered the weather system from ultima 7. I was nothing special, sometimes sprites of rain and shadows of clouds came overhead. But what I liked was that the npc's saw the coming of bad weather and talked about this. "Looks like rain" they said. Which I consider to be a nice way of intergrating the weather with the actions of the npcs.

Wouter said...

Dwarf Fortress has a pretty detailed wheather system, though since you are limited (in Fortress Mode) to a small piece of land, you don't always feel the full effect of the diversity.

I've had many a woodcutter drown as they were walking over thawing ice.