Up All Night in Leuthilspar

Syl wrote about day/night cycles in MMOs a couple of weeks months years back.  Clearing of the drafts fodler here, as you might guess. Of course, one aspect of that is how long such a cycle should be.  At one end of the spectrum is World of Warcraft, where Azeroth turns on a literal 24 hour cycle, and server time is in-game time.

EVE Online also runs on a real-world 24 hour clock, though I am not sure that a day/night cycle makes much sense there.  It is always night in space, right?

Anyway, in Azeroth that means if you are like me… I live in the US Pacific time zone but play on a server in the Easter time zone, 3 hours ahead of me… you might spend most of your time in WoW playing at night.

Not that night is all that big of a deal in WoW.  Every single instance group screen shot has been taken during the night cycle and most of the time you couldn’t tell it was night.

The lair of Lockmaw

This is night. Stars in the sky.

There is, as Syl noted, a nice sunset period if you are on at the right time, and likely a similarly pleasant sunrise, though I’ve never seen that.  I’ve been online when it has happened, I was just deep in Uldaman at the time.

Other games have a much shorter cycle.  In EverQuest you passed through the day/night routine every 72 minutes if I recall right, 3 minutes per in-game hour.  That could leave you running around in the dark a few times in a single long play session.

Scarecrows in West Karana

Night, when the Scarecrows come out in West Karana

And at the extreme end is Minecraft, which has a 20 minute day/night cycle, which means if you play for an hour… and who plays Minecraft for just an hour when you’re into something… you will spend half that time in daylight and the rest in the dusk, night, and dawn portion of the cycle, during which time the night life will be coming for you.

Coming to get me...

Coming to get me…

Of course, the Minecraft example brings up what is probably the key question when it comes to a day/night cycle; should it have impact on game play?

In World of Warcraft there is almost no impact on game play.  As noted, you can barely tell it is night as the moon over Azeroth apparently reflects 80-90% of the sun’s luminosity during the night time hours.  And I am hedging by even using the word “almost” there, because something in the back of my brain believes there was a “night only” spawn at some point.  But that could be me.

At the other end of spectrum is Minecraft, which isn’t an MMO but is MMO enough for this discussion, where the transition from day to night changes game play dramatically.  It actually gets dark out, so lighting matters.  But even more so, as noted above, things come out at night.  Bad things.  Things that seek to kill you or blow you up.  So you either hunker down and wait out the night… or sleep if you’re alone on your server… or get out there and fight the encroaching zombie/skeleton/creeper menace.

Maybe that is an extreme example.

But I do hear calls now and again for not only a day/night cycle in MMORPGs, but that the cycle should impact game play, that night should be different than day, and that NPCs should behave in a way attuned to the cycle of the world and their lives.  They should go to bed at night.

That last bit… that is one of those things that always sounds better in theory that it does in reality.  And I say that as somebody who has lived a bit of that as reality in an online game.

Back we go again, back through the mists of time, back to TorilMUD and the days of text, triggers, and ANSI color characters as a substitute for graphics.

All text, all the time

All text, all the time

I’ve written about TorilMUD many times before, and specifically about the hardship of the elves of Evermeet, stuck until recently in their own little corner of the game until level 20 with few zone choices and not much in the way of gear available.  The sorrow of the eldar is never ending and all that, as my Leuthilspar Tales series has illustrated.

But we did have one advantage there on Evermeet, and especially in the city of Leuthilspar.  For the most part elves don’t seem to need any sleep.  Shops were open all night long and even the city gates, which the guards closed and locked at sunset, could be passed through after hours if you spoke the right word. (It was “peace.”)

The rest of the world however…

It was a sure sign that a player was fresh through the elf gate and in Waterdeep for the first time when, locked outside of town, they would stand there saying things like “peace” and “please” and whatnot trying to get the gates to unlock so they could pass through.

And imagine to confusion in the a poor elf’s eyes when a vendor in town suddenly announced they were shutting up their shop for the night and wouldn’t be serving customers until the morning.

Outside of Leuthilspar, shops had business hours!

The vendors wouldn’t go away… though I think one in Baldur’s Gate used to move into another room… they would just stand there as usual.  However, when you attempted to interact with them, they would announce that they were closed and admonish the player to come back later.

In a way, it sounds quaintly archaic in today’s world.  But TorilMUD, measuring from its predecessor Sojourn MUD, is past the 20 year mark as well.  It was a simpler time and a different audience in an era when game devs sometimes felt the user ought to conform to a much more rigid set of rules.

I couldn’t imagine a MMORPG today putting something like that in place.  But TorilMUD was smaller than even the most niche MMORPGs we’ve seen.  I would guess that maybe 10K people created accounts on the game over its lifetime.  During its peak it could get a couple hundred people online at the same time, which was considered quite the crowd.  In that sort of small, self-selecting environment, you can set different rules.

And the vendors didn’t just have hours, but would also only deal in specific goods at times.

But, at least the day/night cycle was short.  The ration was one real life minute to one in-game hour, so a day went by in just 24 minutes.  Not as fast as Minecraft, but close.

Anyway, such were the was of the past.  How niche would a game today have to be to get away with that sort of thing?

10 thoughts on “Up All Night in Leuthilspar

  1. Hordling

    Wow has dabbled over it’s history with night/day stuff. The two areas that have significant differences are fishing and pets. Fishing actually has seasonality AND day/night changes. Try to get winter fish in the summer, you’ll have to wait a few months. Pets have seasonality AND weather! The statistics on fish catches change day/night. Sometimes 100% like nightfin tuna, sometimes just shifts from 75% to 25%. Here’s some pet info I pulled off the net (credit to Bikutanda) :
    Snowy Owl is only available during the winter months.
    Qiraji Guardling only appears during the summer months.
    Baby Ape only shows up when it is raining on that particular Island (separate weather from the rest of the zone).
    Arctic Fox Kit Shows up during snow storms.
    Silithid Hatchling Shows up during sand storms.
    Restless Shadeling spawns at midnight, server time.
    Shadow Sporebat only spawns at night (after 22:00 I believe) around Khadgar’s tower in Talador..
    Silithid Hatchling – found in Tanaris only during Sandstorms
    Stone Armadillo – found only after dark in Desolace
    Widow Spiderling – found only after dark in Duskwood

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  2. splatus

    Ok, so this isn’t MMO either but I find the day/night cycle in Skyrim extremely well done. The landscape looks totally different, other critters spawn and I do believe some quest chains depend on a specific time as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bhagpuss

    Black Desert has both day-only and night-only vendors. It’s an MMO that’s almost built around inconvenience so it’s perhaps not that surprising.

    I remember having to wait until daylight many times in Might and Magic VI (also not an MMO but extremely MMO-like) where everything tended to close at night. Also in Ultima Online come to think of it. Personally my days of hankering after “realism” are largely behind me so I wouldn’t relish a return to that kind of thing. On the other hand I probably wouldn’t hate it if it was used sparingly and for flavor…

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  4. Krumm

    Wizardry 7 the Dark Savant had a particular vendor that had a shop in two different cities and magically opened only at certain times. The Ultima Series was notorious for having its NPCs lock up, spend some nice down time and then go to bed for 8 hours at night. Thinking of all the examples of sleeping NPCs it is largely D&D Role Playing games or clones of the genre. Id have to say though that mine craft does put fear in you as the sun begins to set.

    I my self wouldn’t mind if they did a more dramatic night shift for wow, but I like immersion. *bangs on window* “I need that stack of crystal viles now…I don’t care what time it is” “wake up” … I miss playing D&D. Say I just had a memory of a memory…didn’t you say like years and years ago that you had played D&D in highschool? I don’t remember when I started reading the blog or why any more other than having the same interests…minus pokemon.

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  5. anypo8

    While Minecraft doesn’t make you sleep at night, it at least gives everyone online the option. The bed is one of the weirder mechanics: can’t decide if I like it.

    Your Leuthilspar Tales link is apparently messed up somehow and points back to here.

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – The link is to the tag “Leuthilspar Tales,” which means it lists out all posts with that tag, newest to oldest. Since this post has that tag, it is the first one that shows up. If you scroll down you will find older posts on that topic.

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  7. FunkyBacon (@FunkyBacon)

    I seem to recall many years ago when I played FF XI hat certain stuff only happened in the night cycle. Like some special mobs coming out or something, but we’re talking a really freakin long time ago here, so maybe I’m not remembering right.

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  8. Syl

    Oh wow, ooooooooooooold post!
    It made me think back of the MMOs I’ve played since and definitely BDO sticks out from the lot. I really enjoy the blackness of the night in that game and the whole lantern deal in THEORY. Mobs also become harder after 22pm (ingame cycles, not real time) and certain NPCs dis-/reappear depending on time. But as you mention too, there’s a significance inconvenience attached to this and I’ve literally found myself sitting out night times because the questing just became unbearable solo. The balance on the lantern oil is also completely off, which sounds trivial but gets old after the 20th refill….Maybe it is better after all, if games keep the day/night-time differences to a mostly cosmetic level – BDO has the most glorious sunsets! :)

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I know that “bury the lede” is the unofficial motto of this blog, but I am still a bit surprised that nobody took up the correlation between length of the day/night cycle and how much impact such a cycle was allowed to have on a game.

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