January 21, 2011 Leave a comment
Inspiration comes unexpectedly at times, and these last two mornings for me are perfect examples of that. Here in “sunny” Florida, we’ve been having insane amounts of fog the last couple days due to a huge rain system that’s decided to basically chill out and grab a breather before moving on. So, as I did my daily drive into work, I found myself suffering in the visual department by orders of magnitude. Outside of the typical reaction to it, the situation triggered a portion of my that is constantly firing impulses about gaming. The slow metamorphosis of thought traversed around vision, weather, visibility, targeting and interaction. Round and round, a circle of repetition, not truly leading anywhere, but bringing forth a few conclusions and more questions.
When you look at the game-worlds that we play in, weather is sometimes added as just another measure of increasing the depth of the game we play in. No intended actual consequence is thought of in the implementation of weather, and I think there’s a level of impactful game-play that is missed out on here. Recall the film adaptation of Chrichton’s novel Eaters of the Dead, The 13th Warrior. The aggressor’s often used fog as a method of deception and trickery on their targets. The foreboding and thrill of one of the battle scenes was the result of the possibility of an enemy seeming to materialize out of a grey bank of nothingness. Now, compare that with the combat experienced today – the only place you find that in, is against a select subset of stealthed attackers.
In today’s games, typically, the limiting factor on perception are your graphical settings. Something that is outside of the game itself, and is determined by the capabilities of the computer doing the processing. Player A’s clip plane is much greater than Player B’s, so he was able to fire off a couple of shots before the Player B even knew the fight was happening. Additionally, even that is becoming less of an issue, in a world with automatic targeting. The requirement of line of sight removes the benefits of camouflage, and creates the necessity for an artificial system of stealth. Where the intent was to mimic a person being hidden, they instead vanish from perception.
Additionally, because of the mostly static world reality that we live in, players are never forced to suit characters for the climate they go into: bikini armor provides the same level of protection from the frozen tundra, as they do to the burdens of a heated desert. All gear is equally buoyant (i.e. not at all) when submerged in water. Swimming across a lake in full plate-mail with a claymore strapped to your back is completed with the same ease as going for a dip in your skivvies. It’s only after you proceed sufficiently past mainstream, triple-A title MMOs that you start to see armor considerations put into ANYTHING beyond a generic “Can my class wear this?”. The worlds that our players “inhabit” have very little actual impact upon what our characters choose to do.
I like to imagine a game world where my character LIVES in that space, and if I play a knight encased in plate and mail armor, being pelted by arrows from enemy longbows as I trudge through a grass field after it rains, I should probably be slowed down by all the mud. Riding a horse through the woods in the dark or in rain, is a sure way to trip and be thrown from your horse – and a fairly certain death. Sand dunes are rarely hard ground that provide sound footing to move adroitly across and swing large unwieldy weapons without becoming terribly imbalanced. The heat and humidity of swamp would be enough to bog (groooooan) down even the heartiest constitution, and the dense foliage would hide movement with ease.
I recognize the problems in this though. All of it requires the making of rules, and code, and implementation. Is it worth the time to create a system of fatigue as a response to the environment? In the scope and vision of creating a game, purely for the sake of just a game, probably not. The greatness of MMOs aren’t just to play a game though, they’re virtual worlds, and anything that puts the player more into the world is a step in the right direction. Which leads me to one of my classic thoughts: I want worlds, not games.