Thursday, September 13, 2007

Meaningful Transportation

Players often expect 'meaningful travel' from MMOs, and they become frustrated when travel becomes trivial. I think some player frustration could be alleviated if there was a clearer separation of transportation from travel in MMO gameplay.

From both a social and gameplay standpoint, transportation in an MMO can't take more than a few minutes. An emotionally invested (hardcore) player will have a higher tolerance for longer travel times, however, ultimately, it's an MMO's job to get players playing with each other, and if it takes too long for players to meet up, transportation becomes a huge deterrent to group play.

Games use a variety of strategies to create the illusion of distance. There's teleportation via interactable objects or player-cast spells; rail transportation, which includes vehicles and mounts that go along fixed paths in the world; player-owned vehicles and mounts that increase player run speed; and any combination of the above.

If fun can only come from fiero, the joy you feel at overcoming adversity, then options for transportation are limited. For example, if players start out in different areas of the world, and each player must fight through tough mobs to earn a griffon ride to the dungeon, they'll experience fiero, but they'll also lose time that could have been spent with each other.

I think it will help hardcore players to think of the situation this way: What is a dungeon if not a place where groups run a long distance while fighting mobs? If you think of the dungeon as the place where 'meaningful travel' occurs, suddenly, the act of getting your friends together in front of the dungeon - transportation rather than travel - doesn't have to cause fiero - you can trust that the fiero will be there for you inside the dungeon, and it will be accompanied by and magnified by the social fun you will have.

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These postings are mine alone, have not been reviewed or approved by any employer or company, and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone but me.