Real time clock in the HUD

How can you tell the difference between a desk of a gamer and a non gamer at a glance? Assume that the computer is hidden somewhere so you can’t really tell whether it is a gaming rig or just a plain mundane box. Also assume there are no gaming posters, CD’s and/or other related paraphernalia anywhere in sight.

Give up?

A gamer will more likely than not have a clock positioned in an easily accessible point so that they can glance at the time while sitting at the computer. Usually on top of the monitor, or next to it. A non-gamer on the other hand will probably have a wall clock or alarm clock somewhere in the room positioned in such a way that it is easy to see it while not sitting at the computer. That’s because a non-gamer can always glance down (or up) and check the time on their task bar. Gamers are ofter running full screen games which hide the real time clock.

You know what though? There is no reason for that! Most games have fairly complex HUD displays with healht/mana bars, ammo counters, mini maps, skill buttons and etc. How come a system clock can’t be one of the HUD elements? It’s not like it would take away much screen space anyway. For example, in WoW the clock is simply a tiny bump on the mini-map. It is four characters wide, and you can easily miss it if you are not looking for it:

WoW puts the clock on the mini-map.

But you know what? It helps! It really does. I love this feature!

Of course, one could argue that a real time clock would take away from the immersion. That is true. For example if you are playing a game that does not have any visible HUD elements, you wouldn’t want to add a clock, even though it would be convenient. It would absolutely spoil the effect and the immersion. But I’m not talking about these games – I’m talking about games that have large and complex HUD displays. I submit that a stylized clock made to look just like the rest of the on-screen widgets wouldn’t hurt most games. In fact, it would be a welcome addition. Hell, make it optional feature that is off by default and let players enable it at will.

It’s funny but most MMO’s I have played do offer this feature and I think I know why. They are actually better off reminding you what time it is in real world than not. If you lose yourself in the game and play for 12 hours straight, that’s 12 hours of bandwidth they have to pay for. If you constantly do this, then the costs of keeping you online start cutting into the profit margin they get from your monthly fee. So if they constantly remind you what time it is, chances are you will log out more often maximizing their profits.

On the other hand, single player games do not have such incentive. Conversely they don’t have a reason not to include a clock either. They don’t care how often or how long do you play their game -as long as you pay for it up-front they are in the green. So I suspect the lack of real time clocks in most games is simply a convention – or lack of thereof. In other words, most game developers don’t actually consider it as something you would add to a single player title. They should though.

What do you think? Would you like to see real time clocks in more games? Are there non MMO games out there that have them? Are there reasons other than the immersion argument that would make a in-game clock a bad idea? Let me know in the comments.

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8 Responses to Real time clock in the HUD

  1. JKjoker ARGENTINA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    i think an in game clock is a great idea, i often only have a couple of hours to play and i need to set a clock in front of the monitor, its kind of annoying needing another device when you are using one perfectly capable of doing both tasks

    you should have the option to hide it tho, if its immersion breaking just hide it by default, giving more options to the player is a GOOD thing (ive never understood those ppl that complain about quicksaving and cheating in single player games) as long as you dont end obfuscating everything of course

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  2. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    1. Install Xfire
    2. Launch any game from xfire
    3. While in-game, press Scroll-Lock + X to enter edit mode
    4. Change clock widget to always overlay
    5. Press Scroll-Lock + X to return to game
    6. ???
    7. Profit!

    Yeah, clock in games are excellent, but Xfire provides it for any game, using a transparent overlay, it’s excellent.
    Also, it has a built-in web browser, FPS counter, screenshot & video recorder, Chat and media player controller.

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  3. Karthik UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I use Steam’s in game “community” feature (the thing that shows up when you hit Shift-Tab) as a clock, and it works great. Doesn’t take away from the immersion either as it’s not on the HUD.

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  4. Owen AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    I remember a modification for GTA:SA or was it VC? That modified the gameclock to sync up to your system clock, so instead of a full day taking around an hour or so of real-time, it was perfect (in much the same way that you log into WoW at night, and it’s nighttime).

    Actually built into a game though? Few and far between.

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ IceBrain:

    Interesting. I never used Xfire, but maybe I should start. I always used FRAPS for screen-shots and video capture and never really needed external chat client that could be used from within a game.

    @ Owen:

    Actually I hate the day/night cycle sync in WoW because it means I only get to play in nighttime environment. Seriously, I’d love to experience a sunrise in the game but I can’t think of a scenario in which I would be logged into WoW at like 6am. I usually only get to play in the evenings – after 9 or 10pm. I eventually started playing on a West Coast server just so that I can actually experience some daytime scenery in the game during my normal gaming hours.

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  6. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I like the clock also, but I have one real clock right above my screen so I don’t usually use ingame clocks :P

    I like that Steam has clock on the new overlay. Xfire is good, but I don’t really see point of using it for me because all of my games (and friends) uses Steam.

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  7. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I sure could use this to emerge from Oblivion before my gf uses a baseball bat…

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  8. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @Luke Maciak:
    I don’t really use chat either, I mostly use the server browser to find local servers (I preferred the All-Seeing-Eye a few years back, but its servers were shut down), the clock and the occasional video recording a cheater so he can be banned (headshots through walls, sigh).

    But I prefer it over Steam, as I find it faster, slimmer and less intrusive.

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