For once, the weather proves an interesting topic of conversation. While the fact that it's now becoming stiflingly hot and humid over here in England is something shocking in itself, you don't really feel like talking about it, except to moan. When you've had a lifetime of either a) humid and hot or b) wet and cold, you generally dislike everything to do with the weather.
RA2's Weather Storm.
In the past, there hasn't been a truly interactive environment to play in - RA2 had the Weather Storm, which let lightning destroy anything underneath it, and TS had the Ion Storm - but nothing that could actually be described as “weather”. As far as I'm aware (but feel free to prove me wrong) no other RTS game has included changing weather that affects how the game plays in any way - cosmetically, yes, of course - but not any “proper” effects. However, that looks set to change.
In the recent Q&A I had with Chris Rubyor, he said that the team are contemplating the various possibilities for weather affecting the gameplay in future releases. Which releases we don't know, so don't go asking me that. Likely it's the next tiberian or RA release, but whatever game it's for, however, the prospect is an interesting one to say the least.
What can weather to do a game? Change how it's played in some cases, depending on the effects it offers - but is it worth it? Mark put it very eloquently: “it'd just be more pixels moving across the screen making it slower than usual.” In Generals' or Zero Hour's case, this would most certainly be true: the engine (SAGE) isn't as optimised as it could be and it does give lag and slowdown when some of the more spectacular effects come on-screen, even with few units around. In the future, though, when SAGE is tweaked, it could implemented without too much hassle for users without the top-end systems.
If they add it in, I hope they go for it and make it something that isn't considered a neat little novelty - the prospects for including it and making it an integral part of the game are fantastic ones; at least, if you have an (over?) active imagination. Imagine missions where you have to adapt your strategy because it starts pissing down - your infantry slow down as they drag their boots through the mud, tanks skid and can't stop moving as fast as normal - everything you do has to be judged dependant on what conditions you're fighting in. I don't think that any units should take damage from this: having infantry susceptible to the climate would make them start losing health in most situations. Losing your army because of the weather would be nothing more than a hassle, and there's a point where realism needs to be axed in favour of enjoyment.
...and the little island of Armoured Fury is having some slight rain in the northeast, with sunny spells for the south and east, highs of 19 degrees...
Right now I can imagine problems with that, though; the amount of micromanagement. Few people like to have to tell a couple of Chinooks to go to a Supply Pile, let alone change the movement of each of their vehicles. The only way around this would be to choose, at the host's screen, whether weather (confusion, confusion…) will be involved. This should content the majority, and unless the game is designed with weather in mind, keep it balanced. In the case of superweapons in Generals, the option isn't available because the superweapons are a factor in the balance, and “NO SUPERWEAPONS!!!!!” games may be unfair to some sides (China's upgrades, for example, won't be available). If this applies to weather, then a careful level of involvement must be chosen. While a fully-interactive environment would be ace, it shouldn't interfere with competitive gameplay or leave some people annoyed at how their old strategies fail miserably due to fog.
Another tough decision would be to have weather as a random effect when enabled, where rain, snow, gales and anything else would come and you wouldn't specify which, or being able to say which types you want to include. Having everything slow down would make RA2 players even more frustrated at the pace,
Should they simply be told to adapt? Perhaps. With all the new additions, mightn't you learn to play depending on the weather anyway? My verdict on that is no. You have to realize some people don't like to have so many factors affecting their play; they just want a bit of fun. It should be toggable, then, if that's actually a word. If it isn't, I made it up.
With the RTS genre continually expanding and exploring new ideas, we could see environment becoming a major addition. On the other hand, the audience may have mixed opinions and judgements on it. Such is the nature of game creating - it won't be an easy creation and design process.