RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - If it's raining outside or hurricane season is in full swing, it won't just be real-life sports games affected but also sports video games with real-time weather starting to impact virtual players.
With game publishers just about perfecting ground visuals in games, the next step to boost realism is to replicate the actual weather, be it at a football stadium or on a golf course, which impacts how virtual players perform and how the game looks.
EA Sports has partnered with The Weather Channel to introduce real-time weather into its "Madden NFL 10" football videogame so if a hurricane hits the United States, gamers will also find certain stadiums more challenging to play.
"Tropical systems typically bring with them strong winds and heavy rain, so hurricanes on a path closer to a stadium would certainly affect gameplay, creating a wet field, wind gusts and more," said Tom Moore, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel. Broadband-connected consoles like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 allow the new "Madden" game to get constant weather updates.
"Our teams at The Weather Channel provide a data feed that allows EA to pull real-time weather for any location chosen as a venue within the game," said Derek Van Nostran, director of marketing for The Weather Channel Interactive.
"We also provided historical data for the past three years so that the EA producers would be able to match realistic weather conditions at every venue for games played at any time of year."
From a gaming perspective, players will see their virtual NFL stars drop more passes, fumble more balls and slip and slide in the gale force winds and rain associated with a hurricane or tropical storm.
"We basically have the traditional weather conditions covered," said Phil Frazier, senior producer of "Madden NFL 10" at EA Tiburon.
"We even support extreme heat and cold, where extreme heat has a huge impact on how quickly players fatigue as you play the game."
Frazier said weather conditions have a visual affect on the game as well.
Rain and snow games have a much different feel because of lighting tweaks and added fog effects while snow games feel cooler because of an added blue tint to the lighting.
Subtle lighting adjustments in rainy games make the game feel more dirty and the players' uniforms will get muddy if they're playing on grass fields.
College football fans will also experience real-time weather in EA Sports' "NCAA Football 10," which includes snow and rain.
The game's designer, Ben Haumiller, said bad weather will cause wide receivers to slip while running their routes and winds can impact everything from long kicks to field goals.
While football is a sport known for being played in any type of weather, the PGA TOUR stops play during rain but EA Sports' "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 10" allows gamers to play through virtual rain and wind storms that not even the pros would tackle.
"At one point during development there was some really extreme tropical weather hitting northern Florida," said Mike Cayado, supervising producer for "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 10" at EA Tiburon.
"When we entered the game onto the TPC Sawgrass course, we were playing in 30-40 mph winds. That has never been experienced before inside our game."
Outside of the visual impact of the game's authentic courses, when the grass gets wet the ball sticks and doesn't roll as much. "As a player you have to be making constant adjustments to these changing conditions and it really adds a lot of depth to the gameplay," said Cayado.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith