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Reader Comments (42)

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 12:12PM (Unverified) said

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jettoki, "...but the fun of the game is what you encounter on the journey...."

But that's the problem with long travel times in MMOs, once you've leveled past the zone having to travel through it is no longer an adventure, nor interesting, nor truly risky.

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Posted: Jul 24th 2009 1:20PM Saker said

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Well put. Travel needs to be balanced, it needs to be fun, ideally a adventure itself can be had in getting somewhere. Of course it shouldn't be a boring grind either...
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Posted: Jul 24th 2009 2:56PM (Unverified) said

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Rambie: Part of the problem is the presumption that you can 'level past' a zone. EverQuest routinely overhauled dungeons or particular sections of zones to make them accessible to a broader range of levels. It was also a smaller, denser world than those of today's MMOs.

Norrath had no quest flow, because for all intents and purposes, there were no quests - just a handful of difficult, world-spanning tasks that saw players sneaking into enemy cities or scrounging for items at the bottom of rivers and oceans. It was more organic, less structured. It was not a well-organized or tightly-designed experience; it was more defined by social interaction than by the hands of a designer. High-level players routinely fought in zones right alongside mid-level players.

In short, it was not for everyone. For players who demand fresh content and a never-ending achievement grind, I'm sure WoW was a god-send. But I never got tired of re-visiting older zones or making the same trek across Antonica, no more than I get tired of re-playing Baldur's Gate II, re-watching Star Wars, or re-reading Lord of the Rings. Some people enjoy the familiarity of a dense, lived-in game world. It's a niche market that no one seems to cater to anymore.
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Posted: Jul 24th 2009 3:40PM Sunlover said

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I prefer the immersion that continuously being able to play the game provides over the boredom of waiting to get to the fun parts. When I put my character on autorun and can literally leave the pc while waiting for a long walk or flight to end or for my avatar to disembark from some long boat ride, that is no longer immersion, that's just waiting. There is nothing engaging about waiting to get somewhere. Simulating a boring boat ride might be your definition of fun and immersive, but not mine. Now, if on said boat ride the ship gets attacked by sea monsters, sinks, and I become washed ahore on a strange new island or trapped in some undersea dungeon with crazed mermen, that's different.

If you want to have your "immersion" and keep your long boat ride, that's fine. If you want to be able to have that needlessly long flight from one end of a continent to another, that's cool too. Just don't force everyone to do it all the time. Give us a choice- whether we'd like to enjoy a scenic flight/ride/afk opportunity, or a chance to get right back into the action/questing/partying/grinding/whatever.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 10:10AM Minofan said

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I'm perfectly happy to fling commutes on to the rose-tinted scrapheap of MMO conventions - alongside item degradation, forced grouping and death penalties - but I'm also perfectly happy to leave exploration and optional travel sequences in.

Would I give up Guild Wars and Free Realms teleportation? Never.

Would I play a game with compulsory flight paths and epic commutes? Never.

If a teleport-enabled games offered scenic / random adventure travel routes, would I use them from time to time? Sure - no harm in being picturesquely side-tracked every now and then.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 10:45AM J Brad Hicks said

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In a well-designed game world, the first time you have to travel from point A to point B and back can be wondrous. You see all kinds of things you never saw before, learn things about the game world and the game's story from seeing them happen around you. In a well-designed game world, no matter how long that first trip is (as long as you can at least get to a safe place part of the way in the amount of time you have available to play that night), it's never dull.

The 2nd time, or the 3rd, or the 97th, it's called "commuting to work." Not something I'd willingly pay to do.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 10:55AM (Unverified) said

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Using these "instant" transporters are a great way to hook up with friends places or to get to certain areas faster; but there is a lot of fun in the travel too. Walking to a new zone or to a new city can be an adventure in itself. Seeing the world that the developers worked so hard to make for you to enjoy and dodging enemies that are so high you cant see their levels makes for more enjoyment.

There are many a times that I just ran around from zone to zone for fun. Its all a matter of how impatient you are lol.

I think games should have these for those of us that do not have 4 hours to gain half a level because of travel times.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 11:24AM (Unverified) said

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I remeber the early days in EQ when if you wanted to run from Freeport to Qeynos, where I was KOS to half teh npc's during the trip, all I had was a short duration invis spell and my wits to keep me alive.

It was a long journy full of perils and alot of running away hehe, but it was a heck of alot of fun finding the best way for my charecter to get through to meet up with other friends accross the continets. I didn;t even mind the nessesity to build up faction to sell to some of the vendors, in fact I spent a fiar bit of time doging the Halas guards to get into the city as well.

I for one miss this kind of imersion, now in most of these games, it's lost the feelings of accomplishments and taken a part of the fun out of teh game.. at least for me.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 11:29AM agitatedandroid said

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I think half the problem of travel in an MMO is that it's so bloody boring.

Sure, as you're going through the world things are amazing and new. Then, you've seen that rock a thousand times. But, the thing that truly makes slow travel to completely boring and tedious is that there's no threat.

Take WoW, when last I played, my lvl 80 tank Paladin was a god. There was nothing short of multiple elites that made me think twice about going in a certain direction. Once you're at cap there is nothing that poses the least amount of difficulty for you. Those rare occurrences when something might aggro on you traveling through a lower level zone were just a nuisance.

I'm hoping that as we get more games that use a skill system rather than a level system that the habit of wanting to zip past those nuisances will fade. Maybe then we'll be able to traipse across a game world without feeling we're the only soul for miles because everyone else is porting from hub-city to dungeon and back again.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 11:41AM deadlock said

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I really do not like mmos where I can be anywhere in an instant. It is not like I love traveling, it is just that I like the feeling that the world is huge and the isolation in remote areas.

It is easier to hook up with random people if we got the feeling that everyone else (friends and guildmates) is far away. People kinda get friendlier.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 11:49AM Pingles said

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I just want the gameworld to feel solid.

I enjoyed WoW's landscape and the way it felt like connected sections of terrain. The Flight above these lands actually helped to stitch them together.

Conan and LOTRO lost me with the "instanced" feel of the zones.

Even Free Realms' porting doesn't seem to take away from the world's connected feel. It's great to round a corner and have the next zone start to become in-focus.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 12:13PM (Unverified) said

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I think it also has a lot to do with quest design.
I mean even Jeff Kaplan recently admitted that some of his early quest designs were just plain awful and unnecessarily time-consuming.

When I think back to the Barrens, STV, Ashenvale, and Desolace, theres was a pant-load of running around to be done. Sure, they were lovely large areas to adventure in, but having to run from one end of them to the other again and again and yet again suddenly began to eat away at my suspension of disbelief.

Of course all that's about to change with mounts arriving at L20 in WoW; had those been around back in the day it would've made those zones far more appealing to me I'd imagine.
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Posted: Jul 24th 2009 12:01PM Evy said

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It's got to strike the right balance, which can be hard to find. Instant teleportation can ruin immersion, but running for hours is boring. Somewhere in the middle is just right.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 12:28PM (Unverified) said

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There was a post on Keen and Graev about this very topic the other day, arguing that one of the things modern MMOs have lost is "the World". I'd certainly agree, and some games are far bigger violators than others. WAR is pretty much terrible at inspiring the feeling of a world. It feels so broken up with the different race pairings that I wonder why they even bother having a world map.

I think part of the reason we feel that EQ had a better sense of adventure in travel is simply that the geography did not correspond to leveling difficulty in the same way that it does in a game like LotRO or WoW. In LotRO the leveling path is generally Noobie zone -> Breeland -> Lonelands -> North Downs -> Evendim -> Trollshaws -> Misty Mountains -> Eregion -> Moria. In travelling this path you'll never have to pass through an area with mobs that are much higher level than you are. In fact, it's fairly easy to avoid aggro from anything that could kill you until level 60, if you were careful.

EQ was not laid out like this at all. The noobie zones might lead directly to one or two progressively higher level zones, but in order to continue leveling past 15 or so (at least with any kind of efficiency) you had to move to a place like Highpass or Befallen or something to find groups. This meant you might have to travel a bit. And by "a bit" I mean maybe blocking off an evening play-session to the journey.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 12:51PM (Unverified) said

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"I wouldn't want immersive travel in a game like WoW, for example, because it would obstruct the treadmill of achievements..."

I thought WOW did it well, I have fond memories of leveling in the Barrens but once I'd level past it I felt little need to travel through it again.

Most of the fun when I played tabletop D&D was the random encounters while traveling, thanks to a good and creative GM. That's what is missing from MMOs that have long travel times; once you level through it once, it gets boring fast. It's no longer an adventure because you've seen it multiple times while leveling in the zone and no longer dangerous.

If there were random encounters that scaled with your level, it could make long travel fun and worthwhile.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 1:15PM (Unverified) said

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Though I hated those dreaded horse rides in DAOC . It was still an epic feeling on Albion to go from Cornwall to Snowdonia. There is alot of immersion a developer can put in the game by means of a traval system. Hopefully a clever designer will develop a game with traval time sinks but include unlockable secret shortcuts. For the impatient.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 2:24PM esarphie said

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I can see all sides of the argument...

Some of my most vivid memories are from the early days of Everquest, and trying to get from one side of the world to the other. Back before druids became the de facto teleport service, my bard was in high demand running groups at high speed across the continent.

I recall finding out about the high level undead coming out in the woods after dark.. the hard way. And I lost count of the corpses I dragged around the landscape for people. What made that game world feel real WAS the 20 minute ocean journeys, (4 hours? what kind of memory de-enhancer are you on, anyway?) the runs across hazardous zones, and the cheers of the locals when you finally announced your arrival, and where you just ran from.

None of that would have happened had there been a choice between an easy and hard way... and EQ2 really lost the feel of scale completely by throwing in high speed boats that look remarkably like loading screens.

These days, though, the best compromise seems to be the "run someplace once, then get a taxi service unlocked" model of LotRO and WoW. I'd like it better, though, if like EQ of old they'd toss some forced runs through really deadly places instead of having such a smooth, manageable progression from one level zone to the next.

There is value to be had in a game from things that are difficult, and difficult in different ways. I see no problem in a world where some journeys are time-consuming and are not lightly undertaken. Being able to get from one point to any other point in a game world in less than five minutes makes that game world about 5 minutes wide... Good world design should encompass both ideas, areas that are interesting and varied where you can reside for a while and adventure, along with difficult journeys to new areas and new hubs of activity.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 4:30PM LaughingTarget said

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Since this was likely targeted at me, see my theory on how the Internet destroys reading comprehension. Read the words connecting 4 hours. A corpse run in the Ocean of Tears from a disconnect easily took 4 hours, and that's if you knew where you fell in. EQ had a problem of not disconnecting making you think you were still in game long after you lost connection, which usually dumped you underwater.

I ran the Freeport - Qeynos path more times than I'd care to have done. The best thing that ever happened was when I stumbled on that map bug that let me teleport across the entire Karanas zone (I was one of the pioneers of that bug). It stops being epic after the first run and just gets annoying.
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Posted: Jul 24th 2009 2:42PM (Unverified) said

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Simply, I want them both. When I am "playing the game," and I am in a hurry to turn in a quest, meet friends, or whatever, I want to be wherever I need to go in the blink of an eye. Teleport me, baby!

When I'm "living the game," and just traveling around in a relaxed manner, I want nice long boat rides and long horse trips. I want to FEEL that the world is huge and I'm just a small speck moving across its surface.

But make no mistake, that's ATMOSPHERE. I want the long travel for when I'm in the mood for it, and I want to get there instantly when I'm not.

Hello, cake! I wish to eat you now.

Posted: Jul 24th 2009 4:46PM Jenks said

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There's absolutely nothing today that compare to a game like Everquest's community, because of things like "slow travel" and "forced grouping." Games now allow you to pop wherever you want, kill what you need to kill by yourself, and log off in a few minutes span. You would have more interaction with other people by level 5 of Everquest than level 80 in WoW. I certainly miss that aspect of the older MMOs, and it will never return simply because people like easy.

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