Editorials & Opinion / PC Gaming

Fast Travel has Quickly Become Too Much

A recent Massively post asked the following question: Does instant travel trivialize MMO worlds?

Coming from an Everquest and Ultima Online background, my answer is definitely yes.

It may seem a little too Old Timer of me, but back in my day, we used to take boat rides from one continent to another, and not in the World of Warcraft sense.  In Everquest, riding the boat took forever – roughly 30 minutes in fact.  It was also a rather harrowing experience for someone like me, who was worried my brother was going to pick up the phone and get me kicked off the 56k line.  If that were too happen, there is seriously no telling where my character would be when I got back in the game.

But I do miss that damn boat.  If you weren’t there in the Everquest days, you might think I am crazy (you might even if you were).  Riding the boat reinforced the community aspects of the game when I played.  Instead of silently riding some fairly quick means of travel or god help us just clicking a menu, riding the boat meant you had other individuals in close proximity who had nothing to do for the next half hour but chat.  Often, you would get players training their race-specific languages while riding the boat.

However, I do know that an ever-increasing group of MMO players prefer quicker access to content for shorter overall play times.  I wouldn’t dream of making long rides on a relatively boring ship the only means of travel.

File:UOgate.jpg

When it comes to friendlier quick travel, I think Ultima Online did it best.  The world was rather large, with many islands to find on your boat (hey, it’s a theme!), but you could easily get from one city to another via the Moongate.  In addition, every player could use the Mark and Recall spells either by using scrolls or by knowing a little Magic skill, which allowed players to mark specific locations anywhere in the world that they could instantly recall to when needed.

In addition, highly skilled Magic users could open up their own moongates to locations they had marked.  This allowed players to all travel together to the same location.  Also, the runes used for marks could be put in runebooks which made organizing them far easier.  This also created a market where players would sell runebooks loaded with all of the major hot spots (dungeons, cities, player-run shopping malls,etc.).

My ideal system would mix these two with some additional tweaks.  The game world would have boat rides and moongates hidden in the woods.  The boats in particular would take longer than World of Warcraft’s but would definitely be shorter than Everquest’s.  Again, I think this helps you relate to the world a little better, helps to make it feel as large as most MMOs really are before all of the fast travel kicks in.

There would also be a Mark and Recall system very similar to Ultima Online’s, though it would be more widely available (i.e. not require any level of magic skill) but still function as a gold sink.  It would cost money to buy the runes to be marked and it would cost money to recharge your book so that you could recall more often.

Finally, for some people I do recognize a need to very quickly get to where the action is at.  As a replacement to ‘hearthing’ from World of Warcraft, I believe everyone should get an hour long cooldown to teleport to the location of any guildmate, friend, or major city.  I believe the major city aspect limits this enough that it can effectively promote exploring, because it gives you a way to get back if you adventure too far out, but it doesn’t let you zip around the world with no penalty.  The other two aspects would helpfully curb some of the socialization lost by having more quick travel elements in the game since you would need to make friends, join a guild, and hopefully talk to them.

What would your ideal system be?

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7 thoughts on “Fast Travel has Quickly Become Too Much

  1. I used to play hide and seek while riding the boats in Everquest. Those things were massive! Sometimes I miss the “good ol’ days”.

    I’m not sure if I have the patience in present day MMOs to go back to slow travel. I appreciate being about to hearth back to town. I like TERA’s unicorn warp drive system of travel. You fly on a unicorn to a warp gate and once you fly through it your unicorn goes into warp drive. This allows you to see the environment of the area you left and the one you are going to without a super long flight, but still gives you a nice overview of the areas.

    Just my two cents.

    • I think I am a little tired of seeing everything from flight, but I don’t disagree with the sentiment. I definitely couldn’t handle those long treks across a virtual landscape again, but I do still feel so much is lost when everything is nearly instantaneous. I would definitely be willing to keep hearthing though. That’s always helpful.

  2. Ah, the good ole days. I miss moongates and recall scrolls. I remember having close to 20 books with locations from all over the UO world listed. I like the idea of teleporting to the location of any guild mate, maybe that should be a guild perk. Just my two cents.

    • It could be a perk. The first time I saw the idea mentioned was when I was following Tabula Rasa (long before it became the game it ended up being). That was a central element, if I do recall correctly: the ability to play with your friends immediately at any time.

  3. Pingback: Quick Travel and Flying Mounts [Game Theory] | Diminishing Returns

  4. Wow, I remember “slow travel” I managed to master most of my languages thanks to the boats. I also remember when fast travel came to EQ. I liked it because I no longer had to pay a druid or a wizard for a port, but at the same time that is when I began losing interest in the game. It became too easy to get anywhere. Gone were the epic runs, or the heart pounding, face palming that came with dieing in Mistmoore when you were bound in Qeynos, especially if like me you played on a red server where running around naked meant at least a few more deaths.

    As for a perfect travel system, all i can hope for in games now days is that the fast travel system isn’t too rediculous like they turned it into in EQ where you clicked a book from one place to your destination. Travel was a part of the game back then, I loved and hated it at the same time, it is probably a major contributor to why I played EQ for over a decade. If i had to come up with the perfect system, I think I would keep fast travel but limit it. Instead of being able to click a portal to your destination, make it limited, click a portal to a destination that is closest to your target destination and still have a bit of a run to get there. I would keep the boats, i would make them quicker. Definately remove the ability to travel from one city to the next as easy as clicking a book or two.

    • Agreed. I always thought it was unfair that wizards and druids had those spells, especially when they wanted to gouge me.

      I think having a rapidly scaling expense could help. The further you want to go from where you are now would add a cost, and then the more specific within that region/area you wanted to go would raise the cost even more.

      Then you could skip the running if absolutely necessary, but it won’t be cheap. Of course, then you would need money to matter like it did in early EQ when it was a bitch to farm up … different topic all together!

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