Modern FPS engines can do all sorts of remarkable things, from radiosity lighting to HDR lighting and reflections. The Lost Coast levels are rumoured to have only one light source - the Sun. Nohing quite beats seeing a map for the first time where the sunlight is just absolutely perfect and believeable.
This isn’t good enough.
All these maps seem to be stuck in one portion of the day; Dust is stuck at midday, Cobble in mid-afternoon, Italy stuck on a clouded over morning. Conditions don’t change, suns don’t set and moons (well, one moon) and stars don’t appear.
I realise this is just a technical limitation and quite a feat to implement both technically and artistically, but the recent Grand Theft Auto games pull it off (albeit with a 30 minute cycle and a number of limitations). Hell, even Half-Life 2 managed to fake it by making subtle changes to the sky and sunlight settings between maps. But it’s not real-time.
Cutting to the chase, I want features like these for one simple reason. To make game-playing (for example, Counter-Strike) more involved by having game-time (i.e. the time of day in-game) reflect local-time at the server. So, if I were to join an American server right now, the map would be set at a couple hours past midnight, so it would be dark and people would be sneaking around. If I were to join one in China, it would already be mid afternoon. If I were to play continously for 24 hours on one of these servers, I’d be able to see an entire cycle of a day pass by.
Imagine that: playing your favourite map in the afternoon when it’s still quite light, then having to adapt to it slowly getting darker as the day went on. The game world could reflect the exact conditions you see through your window. Take in phases of the moon, time of year and local weather conditions (all easily programmatically sourcable), and suddenly the game world reflects the real-world. Game-time has become local-time.
It could work another way too - instead of the game emulating the weather conditions at the location where the server you’re playing on is based, each map could use conditions at one specific place on Earth. de_italy, for example, could copy the weather conditions in Rome (right now it’s a fairly sunny later-morning there, with a little cloud). That way, everyone in the world who plays de_italy will effectively be playing de_italy in Italy.
Of course, many people play games in the evening, and I’m not sure many of them want to be stuck in an eternal cycle of maps set at this time, but they could choose to join a server in another country and timezone, or just choose a server without any of this ‘game-time/local-time’ nonsense.
Then there’s also the issue of gameplay. Fitting gameplay to a map set at one point of day is tricky enough - taking into account different times of day and even weather would be even more difficult. Although, maybe that would make the whole thing more exciting.
But despite these issues, problems and technical impossibilities… it would be cool though… wouldn’t it?