Around the World in 80 Seconds (minus loading times!)
You stand there, gazing out towards the sparkling, endless sea with an amazing pink
and red hued sunrise at the horizon. Breathing in the crisp, salty ocean air, you mentally prepare yourself for the journey ahead. You are going to the recently discovered continent, a place many adventurers are seen traveling to these days. You inhale deeply one last time, admiring the serenity of it all. Then, you tap the bell to the left of you, twice. Instantaneously you are teleported to the new continent. Phew, glad that perilous journey is over! Time to IM some buddies and see if they want to form a group to grind some goblins for some much-needed experience.
Travel and the ways to implement it properly have always been an issue in MMORPGs. The method by which game developers choose to handle travel varies greatly and should solely be dependant on the target audience, though most MMORPGs today seem to give in to the pressure exerted by the players, whether those players are part of the intended audience or not.
Several of our beloved MMORPGs have trod the well-worn path of player pressure. This is a shame, because there are a staggering variety of games out there for people to play, which, theoretically, should allow for numerous types of players to have at least one game that conforms to their playing standards.
EverQuest provides the earliest and best example of the travel issue. At EverQuest’s release in 1999, travel was a gruesome and vigorous process. If your friend started off on a different continent, you would have to either wait for a while to join forces, or make the long trek as a newbie. Choosing the latter option meant that you were either brave or stupid, or maybe stupidly brave. With the latter option, Death himself was sure to come a-knockin’ at your front door many times. While wizards and druids did have teleportation spells, their services often were not cheap and a member of these two classes wasn’t always around.
As time progressed, however, travel became increasingly instantaneous. With the introduction of the Shadows of Luclin expansion pack, the third expansion of EverQuest, a new zone called The Nexus was invented. Using various teleportation spires scattered throughout the lands of Norrath, one could be transported to the Nexus. Within this zone were four other teleportation rings that allowed players to teleport themselves to each of the five continents. No longer would you wait 15 or more minutes for boats that only voyaged between designated areas.
Though the Shadows of Luclin expansion pack introduced a new and faster method of travel, the world didn’t feel small. While the world had, in a way, shrunk, it was minor compared to the devastating impact to travel introduced with the fourth expansion, Planes of Power (PoP).
In PoP, the planes of Norrath were introduced to the players, which included the Plane of Knowledge, commonly known as PoK. Within this plane, players could instantaneously travel to each of the playable racial cities along with a few various other destinations. The large and expanding world of Norrath now felt extremely tiny, as if it had shrunk to only a fraction of what it used to be. Old zones were no longer traveled to, as there was no need. PoP was a major blow to EverQuest.
In two of today’s games, EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft, travel is, for the most part, instantaneous. In EQ2, griffons and mariner bells are the commonplace mode of traveling. With griffons, traversing one of the many large zones of EQ2 becomes safe, and doesn’t take but a few minutes. Mariner bells instantly gratify the player with access to their destination zone. Boats were once a part of the game during the access quests, though they were nothing more than a small instanced zone. Once the access quests were removed, so were the instanced boat-riding zones, though some instanced boat zones are still optional.
World of Warcraft (WoW), with a multi-million player base, has similar modes of travel, although perhaps less instant than the travel of EQ2. In WoW, you must wait for a boat or a goblin-made balloon for access to a different continent. Travel across the continent, however, is limited to walking until you reach certain points scattered throughout the continent. After reaching these points, wyverns and other flying creatures becoming the primary method of travel.
Travel within the massive, pixelated worlds of MMORPGs should depend solely on the targeted player base. Some games, such as the revered EverQuest, gave into the pressure of the complaining player base, making travel instantaneous. Games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2 have held true to their target audience, though that audience is mostly composed of “today’s MMORPG players” who wish to have travel take less time.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is, thankfully, an entirely different story. Sigil has a firm and secure grasp on The Vision ™, and they are unfaltering with the concept of their upcoming MMORPG. Sigil is developing the game as they see fit, and with their intended players in mind. They are in no way giving in to the voice of the complainers (a voice that can become scarily deafening!) and are staying true to all that they have promised.
Travel within Vanguard will not be instantaneous, though it won’t be tedious either. Travel is being implemented with the “old-school players” in mind with a robust, fresh, new take. It will be something that is long, enjoyable and meaningful. It is something that will require teamwork and cooperation. Players should eagerly await the unique and compelling implementation of travel, an all too important game-play aspect, in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.
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