The latest patch for Mists of Pandaria includes weather. This is one of the more aesthetically awesome expansions for WoW. But really…weather? That’s nothing new in a MMO or RPG setting. Second Life
has been doing it for at least three years, and text-based games like Achaea implemented a weather system long before that. So what is it that makes weather so important to the in-game environment? Read on.
Dynamic Stat-Altering Effects
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re playing Final Fantasy XI. In addition to aggressive NPCs and an already diverse environment, imagine maneuvering through blizzards, gale-force winds, and dust storms. FFXI boasts a whopping sixteen types of weather that could vary according to what season it is in the game. Weather affects a character’s ability to dole out magical damage as well as their resistance to it. Not all games offer such complex weather systems, but the more that in-game weather affects my character, the more immersed I find myself while playing the game.
Speaking of immersion, have you played Skyrim
during the wintertime? I’m not talking about during the months that winter weather affects the area where you live for real. I’m talking about winter inside the game. When I walk, I hear my feet crunching on the snow. Yes, I was first blown away by the superb graphics. Just looking at the winter scenery commanded my undivided attention. But the extra sensory details, like the wind whistling past, are what caused me to become more immersed than I would in games without weather. Unlike FFXI, weather doesn’t really have much of an effect on your character. If it’s raining, the field is muddy but you can still walk at normal speed which means I don’t have to adapt for a changing environment. Here are a few screen shots to help those of you who haven't yet played Skyrim understand what I'm talking about.
Run for Cover
Yes, I am one of the over 6 million people who own Minecraft. I bought it for my Xbox 360 just to see what the hype was about. Before I knew it, I’d built an entire castle! Certain ores were needed to complete the last room of my awesome creation so down into the mine I went. I wasn’t there very long when I heard a loud “KA-BOOM!” echo through my headset. Double-you tee eff! Had some griefer sabotaged my hard work with dynamite? I quickly returned aboveground to find rain falling and thunder sounding. Yes, Minecraft is a very basic game and I was not expecting something like dynamic weather. This wasn’t just for looks – rain made my crops grow and I actually heard it hitting the ground. The Tundra biome turns water to ice. And if I get hit by lightning…let’s just say, “OUCH!”
Even in the most basic MMORPGs and text-based MUDs, weather adds a certain element that adds something extra to the overall atmosphere. One text MUD I play called Achaea has blizzards. Now, the whole point of a mud is to read all the text but try reading a room description or looking at what items are in the room with you during a blizzard. The result is a message that’s something like, “The blinding snow whites out everything around you.” Your only options are to wait out the blizzard (and hope that no aggro mobs happen to stumble upon your sight-afflicted self) or buy a stat-altering pair of goggles or spectacles from the item mall that help you see through the extreme wintry precipitation.
Whether you play MUDs
that are all text and feature ASCII art or something that offers visually dynamic scenery that’s worthy of hanging in the world’s finest art museums, weather plays a big role. What are your favorite aspects of weather inside a virtual realm? Do you have any weather-related experiences that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear all your comments!