Articles are the standard fare of the day. Typically long-winded and roundabout in content, they tie together many thoughts, observances, criticisms, and reactions into one post.

Where has it all gone? I remember back in the old days when night-time came, you needed to pull out a torch or you’d be walking through pitch black darkness. Better hope nothing catches you unawares, or it’d be a swift and horrifying death. Seasons seem to be above the realm of possibility these days as well, is it so hard to have a changing landscape every couple of weeks? I guess it’d mess with seasonal holidays if you’re off-cycle with the normal year, but I’m not here to play the real world anyway. Then there’s weather; rain, snow, high winds, dust storms, blazing sunlight, fog, all these things are found in a multitude of games, but none of them are really used very well. I’ve always had a fascination with living worlds, truly living worlds at that. Where all these things influence your quest availability by either altering it, adding difficulty or ease, or simply just not being available at all. Things that are large-scale as well, like barbarian tribes moving into a town under cover of darkness and rolling fog. Slaughtering anyone milling idly about, and being rewarded for repelling the attack. Something like that just wouldn’t feel the same if it happened in the standard broad daylight normal busy town square nonsense.

I would imagine story tellers and quest writers that are truly good at their job feel this pinch as well. Instead of writing out a quest that has certain conditions, they have to pick a spot in the world where the player could imagine these conditions to exist, or they get scripted in mid-quest. It’s one thing to have a quest available at all times, but when you know that one quest is going to spawn a fog cloud on the third step of it, well what does that do if not strangle the life out of the immersion? Instead, the quest giver would only be available for a short time when the fog is thick as something ominous happens and he needs you to go check it out. Instead of fog spawning, it’s present the whole time adding TONS of depth and intrigue to the whole line. No fog? No quest available! Maybe he’ll have you go do something else, like collect him some woozles or some nonsense.

This isn’t to say that your standard “Kill 10 rats, collect 10 rat tails” quests would go away. It’s not even to say that these environmental quests would be overly prevalent or exceptionally common. I just think that the immersion should be in place for every game world that is even moderately open in scope. As a side effect of that, some of these quests would make it in as more rare events. Hell, what about instead of collecting blue or purple loot, you collected blue or purple quest lines? Not necessarily more difficult, but FAR less frequent while being much more rewarding at the same time. It just seems to me that this would shake up the ever so linear quest lines in nearly every game in existence enough that people would actually go out at random times to try and find quests, instead of simply grinding at them for umpteen dozen levels.

Can you imagine? Tying in exploration and questing with environmental immersion. Quests that not only blend with the environment but are literally designed with that specific and unique environment in mind? Hell, you can even go out of your way with pretty much any fantasy game and add in magical phenomena that spawn even more rare quest lines. Sci-fi-esque game? How about radiation leaks, or solar flares, or space plasma! I always love a game that gives a little bit extra detail to make an area that affects your character in some way, but these are typically approached as gimmicks or afterthoughts instead of being random events of awesomeness. Sure the random part might be hard to justify, but when you’re talking about things that happen every day in our world, why can’t it in my game world?

Maybe you’re too used to how MMO questing works, the somewhat dynamic world never changes enough to justify having special quests for a tiny percentage of the game. I would argue however, that people will go out of their way for hours or even days on end to find that elusive tiny percentage. It’s exciting, running into something new or rare, and people WILL search it out if they know it exists. That’s also the wonderful thing about combining weather, night/day cycles, and seasonal changes into a questing system. The random quest that occurs during a snowstorm could be literally months apart in real-time. You might only get a quest during the spring in the middle of the night under the cover of fog to find a flower that blooms for one week out of the year.

Unique questing isn’t so far off, it’s just that you have to understand what unique is and how to develop for it. The first step is simple getting the systems into place. Get a good day/night cycle first, make sure night is DARK. So many games these days have a night-time that is nearly as lit up as the day due to oversized/multiple moons. That simply will not do at all. There’s no fear when you can see 200m away in the middle of the night. Once your days and nights are in, do your seasons. 12 segments, beginning middle and end of the four seasons. Sounds like a lot of work to make a map, but most of the time you’re just going to need 5-6 color variations on the ground cover, and then tag the flora for spring/summer/fall bloom cycles as they’re created and a fair amount of dead time for the winter. Typically once a plant blooms for a week or so, it’s just another piece of greenery until winter hits anyway.

Okay, so maybe it’s a lot of work. But really, it doesn’t need to be done all at the same time, it just needs to be a post release work in progress.  You know, an excuse to keep an art team on staff that can work on things like that instead of firing them after launch like so many MMO’s do these days. Hell, adding all different sorts of weather is a process that not many games even bother getting into. Is it so hard to make a rainstorm? It’s not just details, it’s the feeling that the world you’re walking in is alive, that it really is the escape to the fantasy world you dream of, or imagine yourself in when you’re reading a good book. It’s not just an adventure theme park that you play with your friends in, but a home in which your character lives out his life. Is that so much to ask?

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