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.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

A few years ago, I noticed an interesting phenomenom in online gaming; although it will be more conspicuous in the guild ecosystem, I have observed it also in the general populace.

One drama queen will be slain and finally, BLISSFULLY, is out of my gaming life, but, like lopping off a head of the hydra, another drama queen will arise to take the former’s place. After careful analysis (five minutes of drunken thinking one night), I concluded this was because nature abhors a vacuum.

Every stage must have a drama queen. WHY? I do not know, but drama queens are drawn to captive audiences like flies to shit. God love ’em.

Back in my EverQuest life, when I belonged to a high-end raiding guild, we had to endure a nightly live performance. For you noobs out there, a high-end raiding guild is like smoking EverCrack with a pressure cooker. I wasn’t really PLAYING EQ anymore, it was my second job and I was working it. Every night we had an assignment, and if it took two hours to complete (rare), I would get a full night’s sleep. If it took until 5 the next morning, then I got zero sleep.

I played with the same people every night, in just a handful of zones, killing the same handful of boss mobs, usually for zero personal reward, other than the reward of a job well-done and a guildmate pleased with his/her/its new elite lewt. (I am making that up … after about six raids, I was over the “helping others” thing.) Most nights we logged off barely speaking to one another.

Along the way, we recruited this druid, female (maybe), who, initially, was a valuable addition to our numbers. As time went on, my patience began to wear thin as she was CONSTANTLY chattering away in guild channel about her nonexistent sexual relations with her husband (did I need to know that?), what weird ass p0rn she had looked at while at work, or what her dog was doing at any given moment. And! she would end every sentence with lol.

Few days of that shit and she went straight to my ignore list. Sure, there were some embarassing moments when it was obvious that I had /ignored a guildmate, but the peace was well worth making up some bullshit lie why I hadn’t heard her seven responses to my question in a public channel.

Eventually, a few other guildies /ignored her also, to get some respite from the prattle, and it got so prevalent, that we had to arrange a system where we took turns taking her off ignore and reporting if she ever said anything important. I rarely took a turn — I couldn’t be trusted.

Fast forward a few weeks and the guildleader admits defeat in trying to reconcile The Ignorers and The Ignored. So he shitcanned her (after three hours of makeshift psychotherapy –comforting her while she sobbed, ranted, then sulked). W F E. Thanks for stopping.

NOT EVEN ONE WEEK LATER, one of our clerics starts up on the guild stage. How come she’s not the cleric lead? She’s just bitchy lately because she’s pregnant. Her hemorrhoids are so painful, she can’t sit through a whole raid (unless there was cleric loot coming up). Christ.

After a few weeks, I was begging for death.

I realize now that it IS too much to ask that we just play the game. Nightly dramatics, courtesy of the Queen Collective, are mandatory.

It’s always open mic night online. *insert sarcastic clapping*

Bipolar Toons … The Mystery Solved!

We had an interesting issue arise in our SWG guild recently. Not interesting to me, of course — as a seasoned gaming hag, I’m all over this shit early. But, it was fascinating for our guild noobs to witness. Fascinating like a freak show is fascinating.

One of our members was pulling a psycho, bipolar, disassociative personality routine on us. One night, he/she/it was cooperative, rah rah for our side and all that. Next night, moody, sullen, wondering when the hell we’d get off our asses and fetch him/her/it some uberness.

Needs to up the thorazine dosage?

Wrong. (You ARE new around here, aren’t you?)

It’s obviously the Dual-Driver Syndrome. (I should also mention the rare, but not unheard of Multiple-Driver Syndrome — three or more drivers for one toon. There’s more drama with one of these hoes than a trailer park with hourly rentals.)

Whenever I run across DDS toons, I like to have a little fun with them at their expense. Once I’m sure I have Driver2 on the hook, I “remind” it that it owes me virtual money, or promised to help complete an annoying quest, maybe even a powerlevel for my alts … all courtesy of it.

It’s the perfect crime because, unless Driver2 wants to confess and claim no knowledge of such an agreement between the toon and me, it is trapped into doing my bidding. All night, every night. Until Driver1 gets back and asks me wtf kind of crack I’m smoking.

This latest DDS toon was being driven by this woman and her RL boyfriend. The woman was roleplay married to this other toon which irritated the hell out of Driver2, the boyfriend. Naturally, each time I knew it was Driver2, I made sure to chat, in a very conspiratorial manner, about the intimate exploits (all made up, of course) between the toon and the fake husband.

Driver2 held out for quite a while, refusing to confess, until I finally tired of my prank and asked the toon, “When was it that you and (fake husband) were going to meet irl again? It was soon, right?” (ffs, just confess, mf’er.) Driver2 logged soon thereafter.

In yet another one of those instances where I am so right I frighten even myself, turns out it was true … Driver1 and fake husband did have a RL hookup planned. She admitted as much to her RL boyfriend and he dropped her like a disease-ridden whore.

I would feel guilty about my small part in this drama … if I had a soul left.

I think it got nerfed a few years back.