When Weather Impacts Gameplay – AirportSim
Handling airliners in thunderstorms, snow and torrential gusts in various parts of the world. Does this sound like something you’d like to take head-on? The change in weather conditions and time of day is an integral part of the gameplay in almost any virtual world. And while these features are nothing new, we’ve decided to reproduce them in exceptionally high quality in AirportSim.
There are quite a few reasons why the weather change system in many productions was (and still often is) a purely decorative element, ranging from technological limitations to design assumptions. In most games, the fact that NPCs perform certain actions as the hours pass is simply enough to provide an immersive simulation. Game worlds also react to changes in weather – for example, when it’s raining heavily, NPCs may flee under a roof for shelter. In a racing game, conditions are simulated to cause the slipperiness of a road and a car’s reaction to different types of surfaces consider not only the material they’re made of, but also the wetness or even the temperature.
In AirportSim, the player undertakes the various roles of an airport ground worker. In a production that simulates an airplane flight, weather conditions would be considered of great importance – after all, temperature, air density at different altitudes, wind speed, and direction could significantly affect the flight. Here the player does not take over the controls of the aircraft; they see and interfere with the planes between they land and takeoff.
Whilst the aircraft is in the hands of the ground crew, there are a multitude of factors to consider. Will the aircraft be protected from elements such as wind gusts, heavy rain, snow or ice? Is the aircraft safe and secure for ground crew to interact and perform their various tasks? How will delays impact the schedule? The cycle never ends.
To properly depict the specifics of airport work, we had to ensure that this particular aspect of gameplay was worked out to the smallest detail – and could even simulate the actual conditions prevailing at this exact moment at a specific airport… Let’s get to the point!
HOW DOES THE WEATHER SYSTEM WORK IN AIRPORTSIM?
Since our product has different game modes, the ability to control the weather is adapted to each of them; for example, in free-play mode, the player can – with the help of the in-game tablet – adjust each weather element in real-time. Thus, for example, the player can control the height and extent of volumetric clouds, the time of day the current scenario, the intensity of the rain, the thickness of the snow cover, or the intensity of the fog.
The player can also freely switch between weather conditions such as storm, rain, snowstorm, or a perfect sunny day. Any such change has consequences. In addition to purely visual ones, such as the color scheme, the changing gradient of the cloud base, and interactions with objects (for example, splashing water from puddles, traces of lights in volumetric fog), the player will have to remember to use the wipers, turn the heater on/off, or increase their vigilance when driving. For example, guiding an aircraft to the ramp during a “marshalling” task, a car may behave differently on a dry or wet surface. Mistakes such as driving off the runway (or entering it without permission) will be severely punished.
COMPLEXITY IS NOT EVERYTHING – LIVE MODE
While the complex system of weather changes may be interesting in free-play mode, it is during the execution of a scenario that the player will be able to appreciate it: the scenario has predetermined weather conditions, and a series of tasks that the player should perform while handling the aircraft on the ground. They are performed differently when the sun is shining and there is a light breeze, and even more so when a storm has just appeared over the airport while impatient passengers want to disembark.
How about a tiny surprise? In addition to the ability to control the weather yourself, a “live” option will also be available in free-play mode – this is based on simulating the weather from each airport implemented in AirportSim at the exact moment the player is playing the game. This means that if a storm is currently in progress at a given airport – it will also appear in AirportSim.
This is made possible by the integration of the METAR system, or, as you can name it – Meteorological Aerodrome Report – a coded weather report format used in aviation meteorology. The same temperature, pressure, wind strength, cloud cover, cloud height, or visibility data sent between airports will have a significant impact on what the weather and time of day look like at each airport in AirportSim.
All this is done to simulate airport ground handling conditions as accurately as possible and provide players with the most comprehensive gameplay.