I love how such a simple mechanic can add so much depth to a game. When used properly, time of day in a MMO can do more than just make the world dark or light.
Night time can:
- Bring out different types of monsters
- Raise the difficulty of an entire zone or area
- Reduce visibility to make it impossible to travel
- Give a reason for certain races to have different types of vision bonuses
- Make light sources important
- Influence the story and lore
I remember in the original EverQuest that my Dark Elf had no trouble seeing at night. I could run around and it really wouldn’t phase me one bit. I met a human in the North Desert of Ro and we decided to team up and fight Dervishes — a type of bandit set up in camps throughout the zone. We were on our way there when I realized he was running right at a mummy… “Stop, wait, what are you doing?!” I asked him why he ran right at the mummy and he responded that he couldn’t see him. It was then that I realized how different the races could see at night, and how blind humans were compared to my elven eyes.
I think Ive told the story a million times of Kithicor. That zone was moderately scary during the day, but when it turned night you simply didn’t go in. People waited at the zone line and chatted because entering at night was like asking for a corpse run.
Day time can:
- Be just as scary as day for some races. Think about a vampire race, or a race that sees better at night than day.
- Swap out the monsters in a zone.
- Provide a window of opportunity to travel
- Open shops for business
- Alter the ‘feeling’ of a zone to be happier and come alive
I see daytime as an underutilized part of the day/night cycle in every MMO. Most MMOs with any emphasis at all on time focus only on the night, with day being neutral. I say make them both equally as impactful on the gameplay experience.
How long should one day/night cycle be?
I typically play later in the day because of my schedule, and usually for only a few hours at a time. I need the day/night cycle to be fairly quick, but long enough to impact gameplay. EverQuest I and II timed it perfectly. I think a 72 minute full rotation works perfectly. Anything longer and I may only see night or day, and anything shorter will probably night give enough time for a zone to change or players to feel a difference.
How about you? What neat ideas do you have for the time of day, and how long should a full rotation take in a MMO’s day/night cycle?