While I’m a fan of UO’s on-the-spot recall system, there’s just a ton of resistance to that from players and devs so I won’t even go there. I revisited a few MMOs to take a look at the various ways that they have given players faster and more convenient travel mechanics, and I found some really great ideas across the board.
The three basic methods of quick travel in Asheron’s Call are portals, spells, and slash-commands. Portals are tied to set destinations and teleport the player immediately there. They are often color coded to indicate the level range/restriction of the destination. Spells are mana-consuming spells that players can purchase from vendors or obtain from quests. The spells allow players to tie to lifestones (post death spawn locations) and most portals. There are spells for both recalling to that location and opening a one-way portal to that location. Slash-commands exist as well. These archaic “we couldn’t be arsed to make a spell or a button” commands allow for players to recall to miscellaneous locations – allegiance mansion, personal home, marketplace, etc. The combination of all of these allow players to gather faster, thus providing more time for actually doing the quests and ingame functions instead of wasting time getting everyone to the same location.
Another travel feature is that running in Asheron’s Call is a skill. This skill, like all others in the game, can be buffed or debuffed by players and mobs. The more points you put into it, the faster you run. By about level 60 or so, most players are pretty much rockets.
Oh noez! He’s going to say something good about Horizons! Actually, there’s a lot of good to be said about Horizons and I wish more people would focus on those aspects than the dev drama. In a recent run through the dragon-infested realm of Istaria, I noticed that when I was on the road I traveled much faster than on unpaved terrain. This allowed for normal speed while adventuring, but when you were simply trying to get somewhere, the game automatically gives you a boost. While there is that MMO-standard ‘Sprint’ ability – you know, the one that you can use in an MMO for a few seconds at a time with the cooldown of several minutes – it isn’t your only shot-in-the-arm for travel. The speed buff gained when on roads is a great way to aid players in getting to their destination faster with minimal impact on speed balance during the rest of gameplay.
The gameplay is humorous but the game design is definitely no joke. The Dungeon Runners team took a look at what aspects of hack-n-slash RPGs players liked and what they didn’t. They amplified the former to extreme and hilarious levels while reducing both reducing travel time in some ways and eliminating it altogether in others. Great big pillars in towns can be clicked on to allow you to instantly recall to places that you have been to. It’s done on the premise that you trekked there once already, so why make you shlepp out there again when you can just zap there and return to enjoying the fun. Scrolls are available to allow players to recall right back to town from where they are in the dungeon – no need to make a player search the maze again to find the exit if all he wants to do is quickly get out of the dungeon, be it for getting an ingame task done or for finding out why the lights in the next room over flickered or why the kids are now screaming… sometimes very related and equally urgent scenarios. They took this one step further and actually eliminated undesirable trips to town with the Bling Gnome. This entertaining little creature is a bonus item for those that purchase the retail box of Dungeon Runners. What does it do? Well, in short, it eats your loot and craps out gold. Srsly. Owners of a Bling Gnome can adventure longer since they do not have to pause the action because their bags are full. The trip to town to resell and return is completely eliminated through the use of the Bling Gnome’s odd but efficient ‘ability.’
Travel is a big concern for both devs and players. The contention is that the faster travel is and the more readily places are accessible to players, the smaller the world gets. Personally, I think travel should be faster in most MMOs. MMOs that have PvP or Exploration as the core of their gameplay probably aren’t going to benefit from more expeditious travel, but the majority of MMOs don’t go that route. They are about hack-n-slash grinding and farming. There’s no reason to hinder the players from getting to where they feel they need to be. There’s no reason to have to break the action for schlepping around areas of the world that the players have seen a thousand times already. As an MMO matures, more and more methods or avenues of travel should be added to facilitate gathering and getting into the action, which are the two tasks most MMO gamers are looking to accomplish.