SWToRStrategies: The Wall of Crazy….or…it was a dark and stormy night!

SWToRStrategies: Wall of Crazy (WoC) is the latest column that aspires to look into certain concepts and ideas that could make into our favorite game. The term “Wall of Crazy” is something that Bioware used in the past to describe crazy ideas that developers have during meetings and could eventually materialize if given the right resources. The most recent example, is the implementation of the Guild Capital ships and Guild Battles.

These two features were something that were promised very early in SWToR’s lifespan and took quite sometime before they became reality. I suspect Bioware that decided to limit news releases relating to their WoC since in many cases impatient fans want concepts like these to be implemented within weeks not years (like it happened with capital ships).

The first WoC idea we’re going to look into is weather and day/night cycle effects.

Day/Night cycle and weather effects from Star Wars Galaxies

1. Description: Many other MMOs have used to weather to either impact how the game is played as well as provide additional immersion to the game. Rain, snow, fog and others could offer a more dynamic environment to SWToR. Since the game is taking place on “a galaxy far far away” developers can be free to experiment with other more creative ways to make planetary weather more interesting and less Earth-like.

Likewise, a day/night cycle could offer an additional layer of dynamic realism to the game. For example, imagine a night Cycle in Tatooine where certain events took place only when it’s night. In the past, Bioware has pointed out we don’t see day/night cycles because Star Wars universe planets have significant longer day/night life cycles as compared to Earth. At the same time though, one could argue that time is not a major consideration in SWToR. I can pick up a “very urgent” mission from a non-playable character (NPC), log-off and come back in a week and complete it without any sort of repercussion. Weather as well-as day/night effects could fall under the same concept

 

2. Background information: According to rumors, Bioware used a heavily modified version of the Hero Engine to build SWToR. The development engine evolved from an unreleased MMO called Hero’s Journey. While the before-mentioned game never got to our hands,  it evolved to an engine that Bioware is currently using for SWToR and Zenimax used for development purposes in Elder Scrolls Online. If you head over to the Hero’s Engine website  and read through its features, you will discover that one of them deals with dynamic and light environmental schemes. In addition, HeroEngine wiki makes reference to implementing weather systems using this development package.

 

A demonstration of how a day/night cycle works in the HeroEngine

 

3. Day/Night cycles and weather effects would happen because:

  • SWToR gamers want weather/day-night cycles added to their game. You might think your voice has limited power but Bioware has been actively seeking feedback from fans using many different mediums such as Cantina Tours, fansite posts and community discussions at the SWToR forums. Back in 2012, there were a number of different discussions and requests over the SWToR forums in regards to this topic. While this feature isn’t in the game, a lot of things have changed in SWToR since then.
  • Hero Engine makes it technically feasible to add these elements to the game. Even with a heavily modified version, common sense would dictate that Bioware would be adding features to it not removing features of the software.
  • Weather and night-effects are an important element of the “Story Pillar” that Bioware advertised so much before SWToR’s launch. They help with immersion and an extra layer of reality. Assuming that Bioware remains faithful to some of the original concepts of the game, then this could be a great enhancement
  • Timing. The game has matured a lot since its release where the push was for more end-game content. The last two expansions (strongholds and starfighter) that Bioware is moving off the beaten path and has discovered that it needs to be unique enough to get people back in the game.

Weather in Elder Scrolls Online using the Hero Engine

 

4. Day/Night cycles and weather effects would NOT happen because:

  • SWToR gamers don’t care so much about weather and day/night cycles. As stated in no.3 above, the voice of the community carries a lot of weight, and influences how Bioware makes decisions.
  • It’s difficult to monetize weather and day/night cycles in SWToR. That’s of course an assumption on our part but it would definitely be a first if these effects were implemented for subscribers only.
  • Cost of adding these effects from planet to planet outweigh the benefits. The greater question would be though – is it worth the effort and the time spent? Would weather and day/night cycles be enough to boost SWToR’s numbers? There are very strong arguments on both sides of the fence.

 

5. Probability of day/night and weather cycles making it into SWToR : Medium/Low. Our take is that weather and day/night cycles are not in Bioware’s top priorities at the moment, simply because there isn’t enough demand for them. At the same time though, the release of newer MMOs (Everquest Next and WoW’s latest expansion) that promote dynamic and sandbox-like environments as their main advantage might just force the company’s hand. From a technical point of view, they certainly have the tools to incorporate this feature. If the Austin-based developer wants SWToR remain a unique and fresh Star Wars gaming experience, then getting off the beaten path is definitely the only option.

 

 

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