216: A Persistence of RAM

A Persistence of RAM

From the shifting day cycles of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest to the temporal loop of Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, developers continue to find creative ways to integrate the passage of time into their games. Dan Squire looks at the evolution of in-game time systems and how they help create a more immersive experience for players.

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I hate day/night cycles in games, all they really tend to do is make you wait around bored for the right time for whatever you're going to do next.

I love day night cycles, one of my most memorable experiences in my early gaming years was sitting atop epona on a hill, watching the sunset... then running from the redead that would climb from the ground at night :D

also, majora's mask, I wish someone would make another game like this, it was such a wonderful idea, the towns folk meeting at odd hours, thieves stealing hand bags, all things that, after witnessing them once, you could rely on them to happen again, allowing you to change the outcome or even stop it all together. "I know the thief runs this way, so if I wait here I can jump out in front of him!" such a wonderful mechanic

It certainly speaks to the diverse philosophies of play that the first two responses about day/night cycles wound up being so diametrically opposed. In fact, that in itself almost calls for its own separate article..

I think one of the first instances of time progression in a game I can recall is in King's Quest 2. As you completed each stage of your quest, the time would move on (and with it, some new places become available).

Quest for Glory used it's day/night cycle especially well. Different monsters, shops open/closed, and of course you can't break into someones house during the day...

I like the aesthetics of day/night cycles, but when it affects gameplay it can be obnoxious. Like The Elder Scrolls series, where all the NPCs sleep away half their lives. There is NOTHING to do in town at night, no shopping, no getting quests, nothing (besides robbing houses). Instead of adding immersion it is a huge barrier, because you constantly have to hit wait and count the hours tick down until it's the time you need it to be.

Awesome article, though.

One of the memorable games I've played was Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. It had a day night cycle that was controlled by your progression in-game. However it starts at night and everything felt really oppressive. Then you finally had the daylight shine through and it felt less like just trying to survive, you gained a bit of hope for the characters.
At least I did.

Interesting article. Now how about adding more examples from non-Nintendo games? Article could have been longer and more detailed too.

civver:
Interesting article. Now how about adding more examples from non-Nintendo games? Article could have been longer and more detailed too.

I used to be a shameless Nintendo fanboy. I didn't intend it to come out in the article, but I suppose some things can't be helped.

I liked how day/night worked in fallout 3, things were closed at night and it was easier to sneak about but as long as their were no enemies about i could till the bar, shop whatever opened by speeding up time.

For me, the shift between day and night is simply a part of the background aesthetic. Unless it adds something to the gameplay (as per Fallout 3) I pay as much attention to it as I do each individual rock and blade of grass. I admit that sneaking around Megaton late at night and nicking everything that wasn't nailed to the floor is one of my favourite memories in gaming, but the fact that I have a magical time lapse feature makes it too simple and breaks the flow of the game. Giving the ability to control the progression of time to the player renders the realistic flow of day to night redundant because the player simply chooses the time necessary for the objective and is never given the opportunity to appreciate what the day and night cycles actually do to the inhabitants and environments of the game.

Grand_Marquis:
It certainly speaks to the diverse philosophies of play that the first two responses about day/night cycles wound up being so diametrically opposed. In fact, that in itself almost calls for its own separate article..

I suppose that the opposite viewpoints may have simply been generated by the specific games that those two played. Poorly implemented day and night can easily ruin a game while well implemented cycles can add a whole layer of immersion.

If they want to put in a day/night cycle I am fine with it under 1 condition MAKE IT MATTER! There is just to many games that use the day/night cycle and the only thing it affects is me screwing with either the gamma in the game or the settings on my TV so I can actually see WTF is going on. Why bother with alot of details if you are just going to turn off ther lights and we can't see them to enjoy? And for the love of all that is holy don't have stores and such open and close accordingly. Nothing beats having to stand around waiting for some internal clock while Ican't progress any further because there is something I need.

3.141592654:
Giving the ability to control the progression of time to the player renders the realistic flow of day to night redundant

I heartily agree. But I also think they need to give the player more reason to appreciate the cycle before they can expect us not to abuse it. In Fallout 3 for example, closing all of the shops for a good player leaves you with very little to do. How about some stores that are only open at night, or characters that are only there at night? How about the addition of other people who are sneaking around and trying to break into things?

Adding other things that need to be taken care of, such as hunger and thirst, will give the player more to do during the cycle.

One thing that I think is a nice thing to have for games with an intricate day/night cycle is a kind of "schedule" that you can reference at any time so that the player can plan ahead for the things that they want to accomplish or what events they want to see or interact with. Without a tool such as this, I think that day/night cycles can be a bit of a chore to some players. The Bomber's Notebook from Majora's Mask immediately comes to mind.

The only games I liked day/night system were Pokemon Silver/Gold and Oblivion, because in both games it kinda added more spirit, and yeah, made them more immersive.

Pokemon moreso, since the time changed in real time.

I've always wondered why more JRPGs don't have a time system.

Persona 3 and 4 do it half-decently, but that's still not well...

KDR_11k:
I hate day/night cycles in games, all they really tend to do is make you wait around bored for the right time for whatever you're going to do next.

I'm going to have to agree with this. I've played several games with day/night cycles and while it starts out as a fairly interesting aspect of the game, later you find yourself sitting around doing nothing because the game wants you to do something at a specific time of day and its not that time yet. Etrian Odyssey, Pokemon Gold/Silver (which added specific DAYS, hoo-frickin-yay!), Rune Factory 2 come to mind. In all three of them I didn't mind or even notice the day/night cycle, but as the games go on and more events require waiting for specific times/days it got incredibly tedious to the point where I was just about ready to stop playing. In Rune Factory 2 specifically it got so bad that I'd leave the game going while I'd watch youtube videos or read.

Frankly, I think day/night cycles shouldn't be tied to in-game events so much unless they're incredibly minor/not at all required for the plot. Otherwise, its up there with forced level grinding, fetch quests, and repeating dungeons/levels/stages/etc as a device that exists just to lengthen gameplay rather than enrich it. I don't want to wait for the sun to set so I can get the mystical Moon Key to keep going, I want to be able to go at my own pace, and I don't see why that should be such an absurd demand.

Maybe I'm being dense, but how the heck does the title relate to the article? I thought it was going to explore how the increase in RAM allowed the persistance of more details/characters etc. over time. Or perhaps use it to discuss some of the potential of causality in games, ala the Achron RTS in the Escapist Show.

But.. "Having indications of time in your game helps people get involved"? How does that relate to RAM or persistance?

I felt Infamous and Prototype both suffered due to the lack of a proper day / night cycle. Everything did change, especially in Prototype, but the distinction was just between the missions rather than just a general day / night cycle.

Mercs 2 also, but that let me launch nukes and also survive a tactical strike at ground zero, so I'll forgive it. Actually I could forgive all three games.

Not having it didn't make these games worse, but I feel they would have been better with it. Although having said that, I crash a lot more in GTA 4 at night...hhhmmm...but yes, I'd have to say it wouldn't be Liberty City without darkness.

Kwil:
But.. "Having indications of time in your game helps people get involved"? How does that relate to RAM or persistance?

A Persistence of RAM
as in
The Persistence of Memory
as in
That melty clock painting by Salvidor Dali

I didn't realise is until the second page, and Dali is one of my favourite artists

Day and night cycles are simple and effective, but one need look no further than to the Ultima series to appreciate the immersion created by simulated time. Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1987) was a fully realized, living, breathing world that trumps even Oblivion's best efforts. Everybody ran about their daily lives, working, eating, sleeping and it just felt like you were actually exploring a believable world that functioned without you.

In an age where it's too expensive to create 3D models and animations of every possible situation, Ultima V showed a glimpse of how restrictive today's graphics barrier can be.

Man, my main experience relating to this is that I played LoZ: OoT three times and each and every one of those three times the doors to the castle closed just as I walked up to them. It had to have been deliberate.

I'll also agree with, um, someone up there; I think Majora's Mask concept was awesome, and wish more games would play along with it.

As to the thoughts that this feature can either make or break a game; well, it can be well used or it can be poorly used. If it's poorly used, it only means that the graphics will change every so often and the stores will be closed, so you end up waiting around for long swathes of real-life time unable to do whatever you wanted to. I'd say what makes a good time-passage is simple: either the ability to move the time forward or having different events take place at night, unlike the unoriginal 'shops closed, enemies stronger' cliché - preferrably, both at once. OoT had both, so it's a very loved game. The problem are games who are aware of what the passage of time is but haven't got a very good idea of what it's for (or think it's just an excuse for showing off their pretty sunsets).

I wouldn't complain about Fallout 3 because it had a button that lets you skip up to 24 hours - it doesn't get much easier than that. Although I usually found a place to sleep.

Krumm:

Kwil:
But.. "Having indications of time in your game helps people get involved"? How does that relate to RAM or persistance?

A Persistence of RAM
as in
The Persistence of Memory
as in
That melty clock painting by Salvidor Dali

It's a good thing I've posted an image macro on the Escapist last week and keep myself on a very strict limit on them, because if not I would certainly post a giant facepalm picture right now.

Two Pages to say "Games have time in them."

Am I the only one that felt the article went absolutely no where, like it cut off halfway through? It covered the past, the not so distant past and... that was it... we missed out on the present and the future of what the author thought could be possible and where developers could take the time mechanic next.

It could have been a really interesting article, but it just feels... incomplete.

Void(null):
Two Pages to say "Games have time in them."

Am I the only one that felt the article went absolutely no where, like it cut off halfway through? It covered the past, the not so distant past and... that was it... we missed out on the present and the future of what the author thought could be possible and where developers could take the time mechanic next.

It could have been a really interesting article, but it just feels... incomplete.

Perhaps Klutz run out of time...

OT; Ahh harvest moon so much of my real life time was wasted on that game. Every morning I'd wake up and collect the various natural resources, then go and find the digital sweetheart of my dreams (I always picked the chick with pink hair) I'd time my route through the day intercepted her at some point so I could lavish her with gifts(Pinky would accept weeds as gifts which was always cheaper). The gifts were so she'd eventually fall for the stunning farmer that was myself, over the days and seasons I'd watched as it turned from black, to purple, to blue, to green, to yellow and finally red then she'd be mine to wed. Crops were planted so I could acquire maximum profit each month and none would be wasted. And if you spent enough time in the game you'd here the pitter patter of little feet annoucing the arrival of your child (who unfortunately didn't inherit your wive's pink hair)

I remember being blown away by Daggerfall's time charting. Day into night. Days into weeks. Weeks into months. Months into seasons. Seasons into years. This was back in '95 I believe. Maybe the 3D game to have time flow. Probably the first game to have this much time calculation. Not sure if Arena (the game before Daggerfall) had this sort of timeflow.

I think the discussion about how time is used in game can never be complete without mentioning of Japanese life simulation games. They are always tied intricately to time limit, and that lends quite a bit of urgency to the game play.

I thought this article was going to be more than just a glorified list of every game to have time based elements in it.
Jokes on me.
I am the only one who noticed the lack of substance here?

 

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