How important are day/night cycles and/or weather affects to you in a game's world/environment?

This post was inspired by @Brian Boru 's recent posts about specific game situations, and it occurred to me how much I appreciate it when a game world has day/night cycles as well as weather affects. It seems to me that this is more than just an RPG mechanic and can cover multiple genres, so I'm posting it here. They're separate elements, but close enough related and intertwined that I mention them both in one post.

For me, both those elements provide more immersion and suspension of belief in game world and make it feel like less of a game. A day/night cycle provides not only atmosphere, but different opportunities that a player wouldn't see otherwise. Breaking into a house/building during the night while people are sleeping, sneaking past a guard, meeting a contact at midnight. There are also the visual effects of the changing light and the rising/setting of the sun.

It goes hand-in-hand I think with variable weather, as weather patterns can affect the quality of the light. A dark, moonless and rainy night is far different than a moonlit and starry night, as a foggy morning is from a clear sky sunrise. From my limited experience, open-world first person games do this best. Mood, atmosphere, immersion, and gameplay all benefit.

These are not mandatory criteria for me, but when included I greatly appreciate them. Many of the games I've enjoyed don't have these immersive elements at all, or maybe there's a specific time of day and/or weather in a certain area or map that sets the mood, which can also be effective. How important are these features to you?
 
I think they're only really good/memorable when they are integrated with the gameplay as you suggest.

For example, I played the demo of Skid Cities which is a city building game. And for artistic effect you can choose the time of day and (for example) see your city lit up at night with pretty lights. But after flipping through each of the modes briefly I then played the entire game on noon lighting because it's the brightest and let me see best.

Some games that do it well; something like Northgard or similar. Where you need to stock up food/wood for winter and so need to keep an eye out all the time for how the seasons are changing.

Other games like GTA where there are different missions to do specifically at night time. So it's not just a visual day/night cycle but things like missions, NPC vendors, etc.. change positions from day to night.
I've recently been playing Age of Darkness which has day/night too, and the monsters are stronger at night and aggro at longer range, which you need to look out for.


I think some weather effects or similar can make the game feel more lively. But for the most part if I'm enjoying the core gameplay it's a nice added extra. And if I'm not then I might stop playing before even noticing the weather changes.
 
If there's an element of outside play (y'know, more than a one-off mission/flashback or whatever), then a time cycle is a definite must and a varied weather system is really nice to have, but passable in the right circumstances. I guess my problem is I play more sims/realistic pieces and so it only makes sense in my circumstances to have a true-to-life time cycle and weather system.

Games that I play that really benefit from it
• ATS
• CP2077
• ETS2
• F1 22
• GTA V
• Madden NFL 22
• Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition
• Phasmophobia
• RDR 2
• The Witcher 3

There's honestly not a game on my current playlist/installed that doesn't have an element of either a time cycle and/or weather system.
 
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Snowrunner has a nice day/night cycle but when it's daytime in the USA it's also daytime in Russia.

That seems like a nitpick (it is), but it's actually pretty annoying because if timezones made sense in the game, it would be worth it to work two maps at the same time and always be able to get work done during the day, because night time can be very hazardous. When night falls in the US, the Russian loggers get up and start the day. Would've loved that.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
I really like to have day/night cycles. Death Stranding doesn't, and it bothered me. Weather is a big plus, too.

It's nice if they are reflected in the game, but I would rather have them in there with NPCs standing around in a stormy night than not have any effects at all. (Definitely best if they DO react, though. The Witcher games were particularly good with that.)

One thing I rarely get is proper stars. Skyrim could do it well (or did I mod it?), but most games just plop a moon up and a few random dots. If you're in a dark environment pre-light-pollution, you should be able to see MANY MANY stars and possibly the Milky Way (or whatever your fantasy galaxy has) depending on the time of night! ggggggrrrrrrr....
 
Day-Night

I mostly avoid night if possible, due to difficulty seeing—my eyesight is a lot worse than it used to be, so any dark tends to be more frustrating than immersive.

Crysis has a night intro, and then a great dawn breaking scene as you crest a hill—one of my fav scenes in gaming. The night part is fine, cos it's that not-very-dark blue effect, rather than any blackness.

Far Cry Primal also has the cycle. I played with it on first playthru and it was a bit annoying because it caused more melee play—which I don't enjoy—as the wildlife is more aggressive. Subsequent playthrus I turned it off—either a mod or sleep mechanic, I don't recall—apart from whatever was necessary to farm some night-only wildlife for skins or perks.

Weather

I really like weather effects, as long as they don't impact visibility too much. Snow, rain, wind are similar to graphical beauty in just making the world more attractive for me, which is always welcome.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has a great mission in the middle of a blizzard. Visibility is definitely impacted, but in a shortened range way rather than a reduced detail way.

I imagine urban rain will be spectacular once I get a ray tracing setup, with all the reflections and blurrings.
 
Early in BG2 it's a good idea not to wander the streets at night. While in Half-Life it does not seem to matter as you move from one crisis to the next one.
Both BG1 & BG2 were more immersive because they had a day/night cycle. One of my favorite memories from early in BG1 is dragging my sorry party into Nashkel with low hit points, very few arrows left, and no memorized spells or health potions. Everything is closed but the Inn, so I couldn't sell any accumulated loot, but I was able to rest. Weather effects were minimal in those days, but if your party was in the wilderness during a thunder storm, you had a chance to get hit and/or killed by a bolt of lightning. Some players hated that feature, but I found it gave an added level of tension when exploring.

The Half-Life games are good examples of great games that didn't have (or need) any day/night/weather effects, yet still were immersive.

It's nice if they are reflected in the game, but I would rather have them in there with NPCs standing around in a stormy night than not have any effects at all. (Definitely best if they DO react, though. The Witcher games were particularly good with that.)
One of my biggest pet-peeves of immersion breaking is when a game's NPCs don't react to day/night/weather changes. Merchants standing in the same place, day or night, sun or rain, with no appreciable reaction. As you said, the Witcher games handled this well. Also, I think the Elder Scrolls games, especially Skyrim, gave the NPCs a life in reaction to day/night cycles. They worked during the day, they had diner, they went to the tavern in the evening, and they slept at night; more like a real person would do. Their reaction to weather changes, not as great, outside of donning a rain hood. But still, a higher level of immersion than static NPCs just standing in the same place.

I really like weather effects, as long as they don't impact visibility too much. Snow, rain, wind are similar to graphical beauty in just making the world more attractive for me, which is always welcome.
Weather, as well as day/night, enhance a games experience/immersion for me as well, even if it's only just visual effects. But I really like it when those elements have an actual affect, not only on NPCs, but in exploration and combat situations. Believe me, my vision has also degraded slowly over the last 20 years or so (though currently I only need glasses for reading), and there have been situations in games where I've said, "I can't see sh*t!", but as long as that's only situational and not through an entire game, I actually enjoy those hardships.

I'd actually like to see more cause & effect situations applied to combat and/or exploration situations. Precipitation (rain/snow), day/night, wind velocity should all have effects on the players vison, especially in combat. Take bows for example. I'm no archer, but from what I've read you need to keep your bow string dry to be effective. Rain//snow should render bows to be less effective, and wind/light/dark should affect your ability to target.

Could be that I'm just over-thinking, and maybe it's beyond the reach of what is actually possible in game development, or maybe the majority of players wouldn't appreciate that level of detail in a game.
 
Could be that I'm just over-thinking, and maybe it's beyond the reach of what is actually possible in game development, or maybe the majority of players wouldn't appreciate that level of detail in a game.

It doesn't seem like it would be hard to implement, but I think you're right that most players wouldn't care for that much realism. I think it would also just be hard to do, as you'd have to balance the realism with actually making a fun game.
 
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players wouldn't appreciate that level of detail
It's the difference between a sim and a fiction, isn't it? You probably want sims to be as real as possible, whereas a fiction should avoid the annoyances of reality.

Far Cry 2 is a good example. It still has a dedicated fan base, but the majority didn't appreciate its mechanics of disease and deterioration—incl me, it's bottom of my FC list.
 
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It's the difference between a sim and a fiction, isn't it? You probably want sims to be as real as possible, whereas a fiction should avoid the annoyances of reality.
This is just my opinion, but I don't think that the "realism detail" is restricted to just sims/immersive sims type games, that they also apply to fiction, regardless of the setting. All games are fiction to one degree or another. And just from my point of view, including a few of those details adds to my suspension of belief in a game's world and less like a game.

Weather effects & day/night cycles can be great just for setting a mood or ambiance, but when they actually affect the game world (NPC reactions, exploration, combat, ect), for me those little details add a lot. But where does a game developer draw the line between detail & fun to get a perfect balance? It's as @Pifanjr stated:
you'd have to balance the realism with actually making a fun game.
A game developer has to make a profit, so finding that balance between fun & tedium has to be difficult. Related to this is an excellent PCG Magazine preview article (12/2022) about Jagged Alliance 3 by Phil Savage (I didn't see this article online, so I have no link). It's interesting to me because it briefly discusses how weather affects combat by having vision obscured during heavy rain, but so is sound, allowing for a better chance at a stealthy approach. Environmental cause & effect situations intrigue me.

but the majority didn't appreciate its mechanics of disease and deterioration
Again, I'm probably in the minority, but I appreciate/like those kinds of hardships in a game, especially in a first-person, open world game, like the Elder Scrolls or Fallout games. If a game doesn't include those elements, I look for survival mods that add disease/food/water/sleep requirements. Those kind of game elements add to my enjoyment by increasing my players hardships, without making combat more difficult.

Or the fact that you could slaughter an encampment, drive a few hundred yards, turn around, and see the place completely re-populated.
I'm going off topic a bit, but I really dislike ludicrous respawn rates. It reminds me of some areas in Dragon Age Inquisition, where I would clear an area to get to a certain settlement/person, then minutes later, have to traverse through that area again, and have to fight the same animals/creatures again. I love DAI, but the respawns were just badly implemented.
 
excellent PCG Magazine preview article (12/2022) about Jagged Alliance 3 by Phil Savage (I didn't see this article online, so I have no link)
Here you go:

weather affects combat by having vision obscured during heavy rain, but so is sound
Yeah, they had that in Far Cry 4 in one of the Himalayan missions—sight and sound obscured during a blizzard. Same effect as the much more common foliage and sneaking.
 
I enjoy having diverse weather effects and day and night cycles. It's hard to imagine and open world game without them. Spectacular weather storms in RD2 are the best. Also night sky is done well.

The only drawback is the lack of visibility sometimes, with RD2 that's heavy rain, sometimes there's a weird haze in SofW.

I usually get my character to avoid bad weather like heavy rain(while telling myself it's virtual and makes no difference). In STEEP you can move the time of day forward.

But I enjoy GTAV when it rains, getting even more slide on those mean neon streets.
 
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