Tuesday, April 6

Travel times

One of the most heated debates at the moment on the Fallen Earth forums is need for instant travel options. The world as it is now is split in 3 sectors, each having content for their respective level range. Sector 1 for level 1 to 17. Sector 2 for level 18 to 32. Sector 3 for level 33 to 46 (soon 50). Crossing S1 on horseback takes about 15 minutes. Going from S1 to S3 takes more than an hour. I think it is great. It really helps to the sense of the enormous wasteland I live in. If I want to be cross sector I really have to plan for it, and I really enjoy the fact it greatly inconveniences me.

Now there are other folks who argue that travel is just boring and stupid. We need instant hubs from one town to the other. There are already lifenet regeneration pods everywhere, so we should be able to use that. According to them it is now impossible to have social interactions with your clan mates. If it takes half an hour to get to a mission it is not worth it. Also any kind of social gathering are impossible to do.

But I think that as soon as something like that is implemented the world collapses. If everything is instantly available there is no world anymore, just quest hubs. Now an S1 player can be sure he will run into only players his level. Those players are just as stuck in that location. Real common sense human contact is the result. Our clan has a weekly meeting in central S2. I have been there a few times now, and just love the idea we all took the effort to ride/drive that 10 to 30 minutes to get there and meet the others. It only adds to the whole feel of wastelands. I know it is just a bit of a ramble, but I just wanted to get it off my chest.


  1. One player wanted to argue that long travel times is what killed Vanguard. In my view it is exactly the other way around. Vanguard's world disappeared when they introduced those easy hub riftstones.

  2. Two more notes. Thanks to my Saints Incorporated associate Andi for the lovely picture. And time stamps seem to be off by an hour. Or have they always been on Dutch time?

  3. I'm on your side with this one, it reduces the game world and the feeling you have of space is lost, AoC have just implemented fast travel across zones, those wagoneers will place you near any res point you like now, AoC hardly had massive travel times anyway, the max to get anywhere was maybe 10-15 minutes, it wasn't needed and certainly wasn't something the players called for but the devs decided to throw it in anyway.

    Maybe it's an age thing and maybe it's pandering to the 'casuals', probably a mix of both. If games keep heading down this road I wonder where the challenge in gaming is actually going to be? Perhaps we are too 'old school' and not 'casual' enough to desire a world that feels like it is one instead of pockets of action centered around major quest/raid/dungeon zones, I don't like the quick fix approach taken by many gamers on the other side of the fence.

    The argument stands that 'you don't have to use fast travel' but so many are going to miss out on exploring these worlds unless they have to, I think even they might admit to benefiting from doing without if the artists have done their job properly.

    Fellow explorers unite! :)

  4. Hmmm, 15 Minutes across S1 seems ok to me.
    I'm not very hard core about travel times really, but a 15 minute travel radius for fun stuff sounds good. I don't need to be able to travel to each area that fast. But I don't relish the thought of having to travel from A to B at 30 minutes each night. That cuts to much into my playtime. But I'd expect to spend a night or two in S2 slowly making my way towards S3. As long as balancing elements such as player population density and commercial/quest hubs are taken into consideration I'm happy. And Quest hubs can be a little less hub-y for me then they normally are by the way.

    That brings me to the Vanguard response. Hmm, I always thought it was the combination of factors like travel time, dispersed player community (which was busily ostracising themselves from sane society with their vitrolic opposition to people with different ideas) technical issues (memory leaks increasing with travelling through zones) and some content issues that were the main problem for Vanguard. While I still think some fast-travel options were necessary I do agree that the plan as implemented wasn't the best. Then they took that plan and made it worse.

    Saiying a single thing was the death of a game is just plain silly. Picking travel times, being one of the few issues actually addressed (badly) within months of release, is just plain dumb.

    I think the only AOC Veteran reward I took was the spell that works like binding to Old Tarantia. Once you set that up you can effectively insta-travel from Quest Hub X to Old Tarantia and back. Handy to get rid of superfluous inventory e.t.c. I can't imagine the type of lazy sod who needed those bind spots for every map/location in the world. Actually, I can. But I don't want to have nightmares tonight so my mind shies away :-)

    Prior to those vet rewards I bound in Old Tarantia and never changed from that. With that bind everything in the world was under 15 minutes away (unless you'd just used it).

    Just thought of something. Travelling in clunky, buggy Vanguard was somehow way more satisfying than it ever was in AoC's gorgeous instances. I think for me fast/insta travel suits a heavily instanced world better. Maybe also one more focussed on fun over immersion rather than vice versa. Mind, to me immersion is fun, but sometimes in a masochistic way :-)

  5. Yep, I think the lack of any travel time in City of Heroes works perfect. There it makes no sense at all to have travel times. It is a city. One of the strong point of Fallen Earth is that sense of desolation. Fast travel would kill that. It is not simply MMOs need fast travel yes or no. It depends on the game and its setting.

    Spending every evening half an hour running makes no sense. But spending every evening half an hour running because you feel the need to pick up that chicken egg you know is on the other side of the world just means you missed the point of the game.

  6. Time sinks are not "challenge". There's an argument to be made for spatial distances and the sense of a "world", but if all you're doing is taking time, there is no "challenge" there, just a grind.

    Also, speaking as a hardcore Explorer, I detest forced long travel time. When I want to go off the grid, as it were, I do *because I want to go explore*. If I'm forced to explore or stick with slow travel, it's nowhere near as much fun. I don't even like WoW's flight paths. Once I've flown them a few times, I just start them up and go do something else. That's not meaningful gaming, that's a dumb time sink.

    When I want to explore, I explore, whether or not the designers want me to. I can no more suggest that raiders should be forced to explore than suggest that explorers should be forced to raid.

  7. I don't think travelling is a good time sink. Although I do love just riding my horse through the wastelands, but that is besides the point. The reason the lack of fast/instant travel works so beautiful in Fallen Earth is because it works sort of as a fence.

    Fallen Earth doesn't force you to make long travel journeys. It forces you to be clever about where you are, when to travel, and who to team up with. Instant travel would kill all that.

    A high level player has to rely on a level players to collect items that are in abundance in their area, but gone further on. Instant travel would kill that interaction.

    In some games it is just a useless timesink. In Fallen Earth it is one of its great features. Or that is at least the way I see and experience it.

  8. I think the difference between how you see travel times and Phe or I do isn't a difference between instant-fun and grind but between instant-fun and immersion.
    For us travelling to and fro is part of the immersive element. Immersion and fun overlap but aren't always the same I guess.

    if I have to run back and forth between Point A and B with A being the storage vault and B being the place I can craft a 100 yards further, it gets to become a grind to me really fast. Having to travel from quest/harvesting zone A to intermediary zone B for 10-20 minutes once a day is actually fun to me because it adds to the immersion for me.

    Grind is grind. Any repetitive action that the player feels annoyed by is grind. Doesn't imemdiately mean it's a bad feature to be banned from the game completely.

  9. Oh, and one more thing. I think something is complete rubbish game design if there is something I can 'do' in game while at the same time I can read a book or watch TV. Why, oh why, would I not want to play my game when I play my game?

    I have no idea how the WOW flight path thing works but it sounds to me it is staring at your character auto piloting through the world. Either do instant travel, or if time is somehow relevant allow me to log out and do something else. (Not) staring at the screen is bad.

  10. I agree with Phe. Thinking strategically about what you're going to be doing is part of Fallen Earth's appeal.

    You're spot on about what WOW flight paths do, though I understand one of the expansions gave people flying mounts they could control.

    That kind of travel doesn't add much to immersion OR fun and is really just a waste of time in my book. Some peopel do MMO's in a kind of multi-tasking way. Watching TV, playing MP3's checking e-mail twitter and whatnot in between. I can imagine they'd like that kind of travel.
    personally I try not to dilute my concentration that much.
    heck I don't even put on music of my own but stay with what the game provides.

  11. Flying mounts in WoW are only for the two expansion areas right now (Outlands and Northrend). The next expansion due out later this year is going to totally revamp and redesign the original lands and allow flight there finally. The flight paths aren't always a bad thing. I remember the first time ever taking one. It was quite a memorable experience. The problem is when you've been there done that a thousand times and you need to get from say, Darnassus to Gadgetzan and the quickest way is a 20 minute flight... that is just frustrating. There are alternatives, but those typically rely on knowing people or getting them to help you. Which takes me into the next comment...

    Having things in a game that force me to rely on others is a two edged sword. In a way they're great! But then, when you can't get anyone to help or can't find anyone with what you need (which is always the situation I run into), then it's just a huge turn off. Why should I waste my time working toward a goal, when that progress is brought to a halt because people are unreliable? That's part of the reason I quit playing Guild Wars. The henchies are unreliable for help on the more difficult areas and it wasn't uncommon to stand in a common area shouting LFG! for 30 minutes or more and finding no one to join or help.

    If you're going to force players to rely on other players, then you gotta have a very good system for matching players up with each other.

  12. Good points Fractured. And a good thing you mention Guild Wars as well, cause I kept thinking about how I like the way Guild Wars solved the travel issue.
    Flight paths can be cool the first time round, but get old real quick.
    As most here know *frowns in the direction of Phè* Guild Wars had a great system for this "forcing" you to explore yet kept repetition from turning into tedium (hey, with 14-18 year olds your main clientele that's a major design concern) by making you find each Mission area by travelling the world, usually led around the nose / by the hand by quests and the like. Once you found a specific Mission Area that location became an insta-travel destination. So you could eveuntually travel to each Mission staging area with the flick of a Map yet you'd explored each area at least once.
    Of course there were flaws to the system and planned or not ways around it e.t.c. but to this day I think it quite neat.

    However, Guild Wars is on the Gamey end of the spectrum. A game like Fallen Earth is on the Worldly end of the spectrum. So GW's solution wouldn't work in Fallen Earth. It does point out there are ways around these kind of problems. You "just" have to find a solution that fits in with your world/game.