Developer Memos: #2 Travel Systems

I’d think it would be obvious … no NORMAL person wants to spend their precious gaming time waiting in line to travel. In real life, I spend a good deal of time waiting as it is, why, in the name of all that is holy, would I PAY to wait?

Prime example, Star Wars: Galaxies, where, until the most recent patch, players had to wait up to ten minutes to travel to another planet. Plus, up to another five minutes if they needed to travel across the planet by shuttle (intraplanetary travel). Post-patch, the interplanetary starports are five minutes: an improvement but still annoys the piss out of me. And by that, I mean I actually use that time to go piss and get a drink.

Why not instant travel? I’ve already taken the time to run my ass over to your stupid starport travel area, I paid my pretend money for a ticket, send me now where I want to go. And if this is a server load issue, then how bout EXPLAINING THAT?

There’s been various forum discussions about this, of course. Naturally, the Roleplayer Nation came out against improvements to the SWG travel system as standing around like cattle is, apparently, the perfect opportunity to socialize with people I don’t know (or care to know) and roleplay ad nauseum. For the most part, Sony remained characteristically mum about why the demanded improvements weren’t made sooner.

Another problem with travel is zones that are larger than many third-world nations. Nice for immersion, if you’re into that sort of thing (unlike me), but sucks ass if the game doesn’t provide increased run speeds (of a good duration … Shadowbane, I’m glaring in your direction here), NPCs that will send you across the great void, or player magic to teleport you. And no, I don’t want to beg strangers (some stranger than others) to teleport me to my destination.

I can think of one game that expected players to run across a zone the size of Egypt to arrive at a noob training area. I AM NOT MAKING THAT UP. Not making this up either, they’re making a sequel. WHY?? WHY?? (No, I won’t put the link here because I cannot in good conscience aid the perpetuation of suckassery.)

Wasted time (i.e. time away from productively improving my character) is the largest barrier to me enjoying their game and calling a night of gameplay a “fun evening”. You know, an evening that was more enjoyable playing their game instead of watching reruns on HBO. And travel waits add up.

I classify travel wait as a deal breaker. If I can’t pick up “faster travel” as a skill or a purchased game item, I’m going to have to LOVE their game, almost more than life itself, to continue. If it is a skill item, it shouldn’t take away too much from my combat (fun) skills, or else I’ll have to purchase an alt account. Guess how much I’m going to have to love a game to actually buy another box and pay for a second subscription. GO ON AND GUESS!! (ya, lots of love would be required.)

And there have been games I’ve loved that much. It’s a short list, true enough. Seems to me it would just be easier on all of us, devs and players alike, to design a user-friendly travel system from Day One.