One of the many details that came out of the discussion of the New WoW New Player Experience is that travel has been greatly reduced. There’re more flight paths and lots of NPC’s offer you a temporary mount to get from quest hub to questing grounds.
I think we can all agree that in Ye Olde WoW Darkshore had way too much traveling back and forth. LOTRO is another game that gets dinged on too much time spent traveling.
In my [it was a joke people!] WoW in 5 Years post I postulated a time when there was NO travel. Instead, the quests and scenery came to you. It’s pretty clear that none of us would really want that.
So what’s the perfect amount of travel? We don’t want to have our time wasted, obviously. For many of us time is our most precious resource. But at some point reducing travel time gets to a point where it begins taking away from the game.
Here’s what I, personally, like about traveling:
1) The chance to encounter other people. Now in today’s landscape of highly instanced quests and dungeons and automagical instance-joiners, I’m the old man waving his cane at the youngsters. I miss the old days when you’d be traveling from point A to point B, and yup, maybe grumbling under your breath about it, when you’d encounter a group of players taking on a beastie just a wee bit too hard for them. They’d give a shout and you’d join forces, help them defeat the Evil and then go on your merry way, perhaps after adding a few names to your friends list.
The less we travel, the less likely it is to have this kind of encounter. On the other hand hardly anyone fights in a group outside instances these days, I guess.
2) Exploration. I enjoyed trying to find the most efficient way between point A and point B, and discovering neat things that the game’s artists had left laying around for me to find. A crashed gnome flying machine deep in the woods of a swamp; one that appears to be there just to be a cool thing to find? I love stuff like that!
Of course, no one is stopping us from exploring randomly at any time, so this is an arguable ‘Pro’ in this discussion, but a good world builder can look at likely travel paths between locations and drop some surprises to be found along the way. And I do find that I sometimes get caught up in ‘keeping up’ with friends and thus don’t take time to stop and explore and having to travel could be a nudge in that direction, reminding me to stop and look around now and then.
On the other hand, there’s nothing in the world more boring than running back and forth from point A to point B and back to point A and never encountering other players or discovering new things, and honestly the ‘chance encounters’ that I so took delight in were the exception rather than the rule. We all quickly figured out how to get best use out of various ‘teleport home’ spells that most games give us.
Looking at WoW again, just from the point of view of it being so familiar… I sure don’t want to go back to the way Darkshore used to be. But I kind of miss those random encounters and the sense of distance and scale games used to have. When it took you 20 minutes to get somewhere…you knew you were way the f’ out there in the middle of the wilds. That felt like exploring and you’d tend to work a little harder at doing everything you needed to do before you made the long trip back.
I don’t envy game designers finding the right balance here, particularly since the right balance is going to be different for every player. I’m sure that somewhere there’s a player that thought my joke post sounded like a great new system. And I’m sure there’re people that really miss those epic, peril-fraught treks accross Sossaria (that’s the Ultima Online world, in case you didn’t know).
I like enough travel time to feel like, well, I’m traveling. But I don’t want to spend an evening getting from point A to point B, either (well, unless it’s an evening spent on new discoveries and quick adventures with random travelers). I think Fast Travel points once you’ve reached a distant place are a good compromise but they tend to quickly be known by all and suddenly you’re back to no one traveling on foot any more.
I’ve got an idea (with no clue how the mechanics would work) of some kind of Fast Travel system that worked on a sliding scale. The more often you traveled to a specific location, the most often you could Fast Travel there. Maybe when you’ve been there once you can Fast Travel back once/day. After you’ve visited 5 times you can do it once ever 4 hours. And when you’ve been there 10 times you can Fast Travel whenever you like. Because the more often you go somewhere, the less likely it is that you’re going to discovering something new along the way in subsequent trips.
Anyway, I’m just wondering if anyone else had an idea of what’s an acceptable amount of travel time in their MMOs?