I believe that games having a Day/Night cycle, that is, where the game changes from daytime to nighttime and back can aid greatly to a game’s immersion, double bonus points for adding lunar/solar cycles to it.
One of my primary criticisms of Star Wars: The Old Republic was the lack of day/night cycles. Now there is a decent reason for it missing, but I don’t know if I buy it. The main reason it is likely missing is that all the action happens on many different planets, and to be realistic, they would have to set different day/night cycles for each planet, but so what. So they need to add a few thousand more lines of code to customize the game engine and make it work, but it would have added greatly to the games immersion value. The lack of a day/night cycle and the way too many NPCs around had no names and did little to nothing but stand around are my two biggest gripes about an otherwise fun game.
Minecraft and Terraria, two of Ari’s favorite games, have day/night cycles, and add lunar cycles to that mix as to time events in them based on lunar cycles. So some enemies only show up at night, others only during the full moon… Both games tend to move that cycle way too fast though.
World of Warcraft also has a day/night cycle, though perhaps that cycle is too long as it is about 12 hours each… I can’t recall if they adjust it for actual server times or not, but it is set close to the server time… that is, I am not sure if days grow longer and shorter depending on the time of year, but is set to be close to normal time based on what time zone the server is in… The problem with such long cycles is that you may seldom if ever see the day or night cycle depending on what time you play. If you play regularly at a set time, you probably will never see the cycle opposite of the one you play in. I don’t recall if many, if any events were tied to if it was day or night.
Guild Wars 2 supposedly has a 2 hour cycle (80 minutes of day/40 minutes of night). The reasoning for such a short time is that many casual players will probably only play a couple hours a day, so this way they get to see both cycles, and there are events that trigger based on if it is day or night. However, I feel that 2 hours is a bit too short. Somewhere between 4 and 6 would likely be better. Going for 5 hours would break from the 24 hour Earth cycle, which means you can’t say that X number of days = 1 Earth day, which you can with nice even numbers or even 3 hours. The advantage of 5 is that it would pretty much grantee that the player would see different cycles each time they played, however you probably do want the game’s clock to run close to the server’s clock, so you are stuck with 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 24 hour cycles for a full day. As I said, the 24 hour cycle is too long, 12 is too really. So we keep going down. 8 is probably still too long. 6 is perhaps good (4 hours day 2 hours night, or 3.5 and 2.5 better yet) and gives plenty of time in the night cycle, where the present 40 minutes seems a bit short. 3 hours may still be too short. 4 hours is what I would think would be the minimum, don’t split it 2 and 2, but more 2.5 and 1.5 and it works out well. Of course all these, save the 5 hour one, means the player will probably see the same cycle, and if they only play a couple hours a day may not see the cycles, so we get back to the 2 hours they picked. I guess we’ll have to see when the beta opens up this weekend, but without having experienced it myself yet, it just seems too short to me, and I hope they reconsider and move the timing up to 4 or 6.
What would make all these better yet is if they added seasons… seasons could be closer to Earth seasons, so their calendar just has more days per year. That and lunar (and solar if applicable in the case of SWTOR) cycles… World of Warcraft somewhat does seasons. World events changes depending on the year and the like… I don’t recall if the trees change much during autumn, winter and spring. Not sure if GW2 has seasons or world events or not; SWTOR does not… nor do they seem to have word or galaxy events yet, though I would guess they’ll add those.
Weather also needs to be in the game. SWTOR lacks this, another point against it. WoW had it, though it never seemed to flow realistically as the weather and environment changes drastically as you change zones… while it is understood that the game world is compressed and that the distance actually traveled is much further than it seemed in the game, it still seemed to abrupt at times. It is supposed to still be a world after all, so set weather patterns for the world… with perhaps some compression near the zone borders…
This post is being posted late 4/26 and will be edited to add links some other time, right now I am going to bed…