There are a lot of really great features to look forward to in WoD, and this weekend Corey Stockton confirmed yet another to add to the list: Darker Nights!
@ucaniguana We are working on something for this, hoping to debut it with 6.0. Should have more details soon.
— Mumper (@mumper) July 1, 2014
This is something a lot of you probably are getting really excited about, and rightfully so. MoP did SO much to expand on the lighting engine and WoD looks to be taking it to the next level. Especially with how much detail and splendor has gone in to each zone, its really enriched by having this high contrast between night and day. If done right, it could make things look even more beautiful, but even if left as is, I feel there is still plenty of wonder the current system brings.
Unfortunately, I can say with confidence that people advocating this don’t quite understand what they are asking for.
First, examine these two images. They are likely the best example of what I am about to discuss, and are taken from the WoD Alpha.
In order to full understand why and what short comings this system will undoubtedly have, you need to understand what IRL night and day will need to have in common with in game.
As you will see in the screenshots above, the first step is contrast. Honestly, even though these are from the Beta, its possible that screenshot of the Night sky isn’t actually new or different from whats in the game now. One thing that I know everyone will be upset about is the fact that they are going to have to make day more bright in order to facilitate a darker night. This is really non-negotiable, and you can see it clear as day (no pun intended) in the first image. The sky is literally orange to help emblazon the iris and create dramatic contrast from the dark blue/black on the second image. Of course, this means its a success, but I can all the threads popping up now comparing the night sky to the current one and saying there is barely a difference.
Another concept many people don’t understand about IRL night and the color black in general, is it is quite literally the lack of color. White, on the other end of the spectrum both literally and figuratively, is the combination of all colors feasible. Colors themselves are different lengths of light energy, making black devoid of light. This is why the sky turns black at night, because with the sun gone, all light and therefor color is vacant.
So how will this be processed in game? There are two ways in my mind, both of which will likely disappoint people. You see, in classic, they had dark nights as well as very severe weather which effected the game quite a lot. The fact that this weather and night skybox actually removed light from the landscape, make the world MUCH harder to see and navigate through. In the very early stages, they actually dimmed the world to facilitate this, and eventually decided that this sort of change was altering the game too much, as well as incompatible with the graphical developments they wanted to use.
So one of two ways is that they return to this model. It unfortunately appears this will be the case, as you can see in the images. Take a moment to open both on two separate tabs, and then cycle through them. When looking at the day image, look through the break in the trees, and then click over to the night image. You will immediately notice your eyes struggling to make out what was clear before. This is quite literally because of the void. Instead of the imagery being bathed in light, they have actually removed the source, and once again terrain will be effected. View distance seems to be a primary culprit, but its likely that any large and rocky terrain will be more difficult to navigate as the light ceases to permeate each bend along the way. This will no doubt disappoint anyone traveling, but perhaps with the lack of flying mounts it will be less noticeable.
The other way they can address this is by placing pockets of light in key locations. You can tell they are struggling this implementing this, at least as far as these images go, because the shadows are not actually different. It appears as if they have just tinted down the brightscale, which makes sense, but does really strange things to the light-based imagery that was there before. Notice the torch in the image and the shadow of the tree covering it. If they add actual radiating light from it, as many items and places do already have in WoW, the shadows would have to react to it. This is a more appropriate handle of void, and would effect the terrain MUCH less, as well as brightly illuminate specific areas, showing off the dazzling lighting system. Unfortunately, this wont happen in most situations, and re-rendering the entire shadow table to change as the time transitions to emulate sun setting is not something they will have time for. It will likely happen in places that are more commonly dark, people will notice, and then complain about it not happening in the normal open world.
The final concern I have interest in is the actual transition between night and day and vice versa. This is an incredibly important part of the real life contrast and if not handled properly, there is no point in even trying the system. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly how it works now. It appears as if, once it is the time they have designated as night time, it is as dark as it ever will be. I haven’t noticed a gradient, but that doesn’t mean its not there.
Regardless, this will certainly draw the ire of anyone serious about this concept, and I just can’t see it happening. At one point, there was an entire weather and day based calendar in WoW, which showed you what weather was persistent, and what time of day it was exactly. That has long since been gone after the inclusion of an actual calendar, and I can’t see it returning. Its likely they will have some transition gradient, but to elongate it based on area, and actually make the sun and moon dance in the sky as they do eternally in the real world just seems unlikely to me. Perhaps I have no faith, but the promises they make about these things usually don’t include finer details. They just hear everyone complain about night barely being different, and change the sky box and how it emits light.
Surely, people find a way to complain about everything though, so its not in any way a surprise to me.
I for one, am looking forward to seeing this in action. I wouldn’t mind doing a time-lapse video on exactly what they choose to enter in, but just remember. Night is quite literally devoid of light. You are asking for this. I hope you realize what this means!
It has the potential to be truly ambient, but it will also make traveling and questing vastly different from being done in the Day.
Hell, maybe they even make some mobs act differently at night? That would be neat…