Wednesday 13 November 2013

MMOs: Fast Travel

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

 "The journey is more important than the destination."

Apparently not if you need to meet up with your party at the entrance of the evil lair or attend an event in a distant zone "now". Fast travel is one of those conveniences that I'm on the fence about. If I only have x amount of time a session, do I really want to spend it running from point A to point B while dodging blood thirsty monkey-snakes? If I "skip" to the nearest portal or waypoint what would I miss by going on foot? Well, unless the game has dynamic spawns or better yet random encounters placed by a game master, then probably nothing you haven't seen already if you've run there before.

While I wouldn't want to remove it entirely I'd probably be ok if it required a bit more forward thinking to achieve, like maybe having to purchase warp crystals or rations that occupy inventory space (they don't stack) and the further you travel the more of those are required. In addition maybe using (consuming) rations outside fast travel gives you and your party a full heal while the warp crystals grant full mana or something. Most importantly though, these would only be available in friendly cities and villages. It would be up to the player to carry enough for a return trip, sacrificing loot space, to fast travel back.

Alternatively maybe "fast travel" involves going through a horrible maze with unkillable foes chasing you down to involve some risk in doing so. The Ways and Machin Shin in the Wheel of Time books are a good example of this, and the PC game really had it as a terrifying force you could only run from. Maybe that would get at least some people to use the slower form of travel to experience (or re-experience) the content of the game.

Seems like it exists in card form too.

What do you think about skipping content? Is fast travel the only way to bypass the "been there, done that" mentality? Is warping from point A to point B very different from starting with a level 90 character as all the WoW people are talking about lately? And is that a feature you'd like to see in other games, like paying extra to start at the final zone of Mario or the last quest in Skyrim with a fully powered up dovahkin?


  1. I think the skipping of the content is something particular only to MMOs. It boils down to being able to experience the current content with your friends. But to being able to pull it through as a developer, you need to have a lot of old content in the first place.
    For example in Elder Scrolls series, you can start playing Skyrim, even though it is the fifth instalment, of God knows how many games, you are not required to start with The Elder Scrolls: Arena.

    1. "Experiencing content with friends" is a good point Astalnar. That doesn't really happen in single player games.

      While it is true you don't need to play the Elder Scroll series (Skyrim is the fifth) in order, everyone starts from scratch at the beginning of each game, and you have 0% chance of meeting any player character that had played any of the other games. Actually, most (all?) non-godly NPCs too for that matter given the time gaps between each.

      If that wasn't the case, where you -had- to play from Arena and survive your way up to Skyrim, I might be a little irked when learning some guys can just start at the latest stage as if though they too had played the previous content with a character whose stats are on par with my own. It would be like I wasted my time getting there since there was a shortcut that got introduced later.