How to design weather, time, seasons, and world details?

I’ve been working on the world details for Tohm, and I hope you all can share some ideas of your own or tell me what you think of what’s built so far. Generally, the goal is to empower builders so that they may create a very detailed world which changes over time, so that players have lots to explore and don’t end up reading the same text again and again.

All constructive criticism is VERY much appreciated!

Here’s a demo video:

youtube.com/watch?v=zd0v2MI-o-s

Here’s a summary:

  1. Weather patterns are region-specific, so weather messages can be more detailed and mention region-specific details like roads, buildings and townspeople in cities, animals and trails in forests, dunes in deserts, etc.

  2. Room descriptions can change with season, weather, and time of day, to keep them fresh.

  3. In addition to using LOOK to examine world objects (statues, tables, lamps, etc) in more detail, players may also smell and touch objects to get more information.

So, what do you think? How can it be better? Have you had any very positive experiences with world simulation in other games that you would like to share?

By the way, I want to say a big THANK YOU to Intfiction. I’ve been asking for feedback in other communities as well (most are specific to MUDs), and you all at Intficition have been the most supportive, providing lots of thoughtful, detailed feedback that really is valuable to the Tohm project.

At first, smell and touch seems like a wonderful idea. You have looking for using the sight sense, so why not have all the other senses as well? Listening, touching, smelling, and maybe even tasting, would only serve to create five times the immersion, like some sort of 5D text adventure, am I right?

…but it doesn’t work out that way, because once the player gets stuck, he’ll begin to scan his environment for clues, meaning he’ll go through every single thing around him, examining it. By default examining something isn’t just confined to looking at things, but once you introduce actions like smelling and touching, suddenly there’s several ways to examine things. …so the player will have to go through an action list per object now: Examine object1, smell object1, listen to object1, touch object1, examine object2, smell object2, and so on.

…so smelling and touching isn’t a good idea. Not in any IF game. I’m going to bed now. Good night.

You imply in the YouTube video that the weather patterns will eventually have an impact on gameplay mechanics. I think that is a very good idea. Maybe you can take it further by generating scenery objects based on weather and player interaction. For instance, if a character was marching through the fields outside of town when a rainstorm hit, when he walks into the inn he might leave muddy bootprints that will be visible to all players for a while.

It’s important to make sure that the weather patterns are visible to the player. As a player, it’s very easy to miss a block of text. It’s even easier to miss dynamically generated room description. Selective use of color or text formatting may be important, even though too much is distracting.

This is more true for single-player text adventures than for MUDs, where the experience of “getting stuck” while trying to solve a puzzle is limited to quests, at the very most. Even for text adventures and IF, I disagree. Exploration can be a reward in its own right, and that includes exploring the fine details of the environment. MUDs can use environmental details in gameplay mechanics in non-puzzle contexts, too. For instance, touching the candle could output a message to the room, or the messages could vary depending on the character’s skills or attributes.

Andreas is, ah, overly fond of holding up a rough principle as a universal rule. Just because the universal rule is silly doesn’t mean you should ignore the rough principle, though.

When you’re deciding where to apply your energies on a game, the big question always needs to be What kind of stuff is the player going to spend their time on? What kind of play experience are you encouraging?

And broadly speaking, the player will direct their attention towards things that the game rewards them for. ‘Rewards’ might be useful information, concrete in-game assets (like inventory items or experience or whatnot), or aesthetic (really lovely writing). Expectations play a big part in this - most players won’t expect that smelling things will be all that useful, so to encourage them to do it you need to give them rewards for doing so early and consistently. You also need to be very careful about not giving them a reason to abandon it - if someone smells a couple of things early on and gets generic messages, they’re likely to infer that smelling is rarely if ever useful, and forget about the command.

So if you’re planning on adding lots of smell descriptions, you a) need to make sure that everything has a smell description, and b) give the player incentives to slow down and (I apologise) smell the roses.

I would treat examining as a top level sense-generic action, and put smelling and tasting on the level of examining details. If you want someone to look at a jacket’s buttons you mention them first, and if you want someone to smell a jacket you hint it in the description too.