Monday, July 15, 2013

Weird Ideas: Travel Time

I think that travel time is a really important factor in making an MMO feel like a world instead of a game. However, travel time is highly inconvenient. So I was musing about ways to incorporate travel time into an MMO, and came up with the following design.

Goal: An MMO where travelling between two towns takes one week of real time, without boring the player to death.

1. Have the actual travel be tied to an NPC that continuously moves, rather than the PC.

Having the player get on a horse and travel in a straight line for hours is just not going to work. So we need to have something do the traveling for the player.  My basic idea is a caravan. The caravan starts at the first town, Antwerp, and travels to the second town, Brussels. The player signs up for the caravan at Antwerp, and the caravan takes seven days to travel to Brussels.

Whenever the player logs in, she logs in with the caravan, and can adventure in the area around the caravan's current location.  The player moves much faster than the caravan, but the distance between towns would still require hours of travel time if you went directly.

2. Have the travel be tied to the guild level, not the individual.

One of the problems with long travel times is that it is easy for a group to get separated, and then be unable to play together. So the easiest thing to do is to move as a guild. Here, instead of the individual players signing up for the caravan, a guild officer signs the guild up, and the entire guild moves together.  That way, even players who haven't logged in for a while still log in near their guild.

I think these two ideas would go a long way towards making travel time more palatable. You still log in and can easily group with your friends. You aren't spending all your play time riding a mount in one direction. But you still move steadily. Movement time for everybody is the same, regardless of playtime.

But moving, and travel time is a big deal. It's something you prepare for, and don't undertake lightly. A caravan bringing a guild with goods from another town might be very important economy-wise, if resources are not distributed equally. I think it would go a great deal towards making location important again.


  1. It's a good idea.

    One problem though: is it still possible to ride the distance alone, spending 5 hours?

    If yes, and it's profitable, competitive players will complain that they are "forced" to ride 5 hours.

    Granted, they are the less likely to unsubscribe.

  2. - You travel with your guild.
    - Whenever you log on you're with your guild.
    - You're probably not involved in the decision where the guild caravan travels to, that's something the leaders decide.

    Now, what's the point of travel there? You just reduced a huge world to a lobby where you're always trapped in the lobby with your guild. The lobby just has different graphics every day. And you're never going to play with anyone else but your guild mates.

    Stuff like that sounds cool, until you realize that it's probably someone else navigating the cool caravan with the cool caravan UI and wherever the caravan is doesn't matter to you.

  3. That's certainly one way of looking at it. But on the other hand, is it really so different from an organization like the CFC in Eve saying that "we are going to war in Fountain"?

    The guild leadership has to come to a consensus somehow.

    The other option is you going on a vacation and coming back to find that your guild is on the other side of the world.

    Also, in my idea there is no cool caravan UI. The caravan's destination is set at the very beginning, before people sign up to travel. It's more like a travelling inn than anything else.

  4. As a fan of travel in MMOs, this is a rather intriguing concept. I think for me it all depends on how meaningful the travel tends to be, not only as in where I'm going but what I discover and get to explore on the way. the journey is the goal, right :)

    Tangentially, I did in the past muse on an MMO design where there's no such thing as fixed hubs and cities. instead, there would be moving caravans/traveling shops and services only. I prefer this for many reasons, one which is that it keeps things fresh; players don't stick to the same place on the map, but travel around more and do more things all across the world map as they look for the current caravan locations. I always found it sad how you tend to camp the same places in MMOs after max level and much of the outdoor world remains for leveling up only.

  5. If my guild embarks while I'm off-line, when I next log on, can I choose to appear where I logged off, or will I magically appear wherever the guild caravan happens to be?

    A weeks a long time; would I need to join my guild's caravan immediately, or could I get a few hours to wrap things up before reporting to the caravan master?

    Can I catch up to my guild's caravan on foot?

    Can friends who aren't guild-mates join my guild's caravan, or will they need to caravan on their own?

    If I'm adventuring with otherwise unaffiliated friends, can we caravan together, staying in sync during our journey?

    Are there any expenses related to caravanning? Do we need to hire guards, guides, wagons and drivers, etc?