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    Default Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    This is an idea that occurred to me reading some fics online. What would be the consequences of having an MMO that included meaningful distances as part of gameplay?

    To help discussion, I'll define what I mean by meaningful distance.

    -Semi-realistic distances between towns for the time period. As an absolute minimum, major cities should be as far apart as they are in, say Skyrim. Further would be better - I'm thinking at LEAST half an hour to walk between cities, preferably more. Opposing nations would be significantly further away, probably.

    -No fast travel. No teleportation magic. No facility to return to a place you've already been with just a click. If you want to go anywhere, you'll have to travel the distance. Mounts and other means to give you a faster land speed are okay - horses can cut down travel time simply by making you move faster, maybe allow flying as well, but distance can't simply be ignored.

    -(Optional) some form of logistics management. Having to stop to eat and sleep regularly in game just gets annoying, but possibly a system where you have to have access to food at all times, even if you don't actually have to eat it.

    What would a game look like if it was built with these in mind from day one? What changes would have to be made? Could it still be fun?
    Last edited by Heliomance; 2012-10-15 at 06:05 AM.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    It would be fun for the right people, myself included.
    But most people hate walking.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Oh, pasted into a game as an afterthought, it would be terrible. But I think if a game was built around it, it could be made interesting. It would mean travel was far less common - you'd go to an area and stay in that area until you'd done everything there was to do there.

    Wars would be interesting, if you had to move the armies overland to the battlefield, and there'd be potential for quests out in the middle of nowhere that require planned expeditions to get to and complete. Things like that.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    No doubt it could be done well.
    But as I've said, most people hate walking. For those of us who like scenery, it'd be great, but for those who prefer action, they'd find transit times rather annoying.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Then that's something that would have to be taken into account. Something to do on the way would work, though I'm not sure what would be best.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    I don't think it would work to have realistic distances at all I'm afraid. You talk about half an hour to get between cities. It takes more than an hour for me to drive between the large town I live in and the nearest city, which is not that far away. It takes 20-30 mins to walk from the edge of my town to the nearest village, which is about 20 houses and a pub... Any game that tried to implement realistic distances would mean you were walking for days or even weeks on end to get anywhere.

    Anything other than realistic is the designers choice as to how far they think feels right, and for me it depends on the game.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Neither am I. The main difficulty with that idea is;
    What do you do with the routes that have to be travelled a lot? Like between say, two major cities? People are bound to go backwards and forwards so much that nothing will distract them.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    What would turn that interesting instead of tedious for me would be player factions. I don't just mean guilds, where everybody knows to be in the Capital by Sunday for the big raid. I think I mean something broader that isn't so quest specific. I really like the idea of playing the factions agent in a specific city. Managing who goes where when going somewhere isn't free seems like an interesting challenge.

    I don't think this would work with traditional quest structure. I'm not really sure what these quests would look like.

    If you want players coordinating across cities they'll need a way to communicate. Carrier pigeon seems thematically appropriate, but still might piss off impatient players. Instant message might break immersion, but I'd you don't include it players will just alt tab to chat. Did you have any thoughts on the matter?
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    That can be partially accounted for by the standard practise of having in-game time run faster that RL time. Half an hour IRL could be three hours in game or something. The point is making the world seem large, and changing the way people think about in game distances. One of the things about Skyrim that irritated me slightly is the way people kept giving quests on the other side of the province. Most people in a civilisation like Skyrim shouldn't have any business with places that far away, and the only way it's reasonable for you to do what they ask is the fast travel system. I'd like to see something that stops distance being a triviality.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    I think Skyrates has something like that. You set your plane to go somewhere, step away from your computer and let the plane fly, maybe check up on the plane now and then for possible combat.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Isn't World of Warcraft more or less like that anyway? Apart from cross-continent travel you have to jump on some sort of flying beast to make fast journeys, and those can take AGES--back when I used to play (which was a good five years ago, admittedly) one of the longest "fast travel" flights I remember took something like 12 minutes of real time!

    The fact is, having people take a while to reach their destination is only a benefit to the makers of the MMO--so long as the player doesn't get bored and stop playing, the more time it takes them to do stuff, the better for the game.

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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Here's a thought for the benefit of the patience impaired. While a character was in transit could the player play an alt? I wouldnt mind leaving my main character out of commission until he reached his destination as long as I could still play someone else. Maybe you'd have to navigate to a city the first time you went there but afterwards you could use autopilot. Same idea a fast travel but slower.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Shouldn't this be in the Gaming (Other) forum?

    Anyway I think Daggerfall had realistic distances between towns so while you could run from place to place, most people used the fast travel system.

    Eve Online kinda has realistic distances - deadspace pockets (dungeon rooms) are all interconnected by acceleration gates (one way fast travel system), which can be traversed by normal flying, but expect it to take hours in anything other than the very fastest ships.
    As it's a sci-fi setting with FTL, fast travel is kind of needed (fastest non-FTL speed is about 24km/s, which would take ~75 real time days to travel 1 AU and star systems are several AU across).

    Atlantica Online has semi-realistic distances and also has an automove function to get to far off locations that can't be teleported to. The problem is, if you're jumped by a mob or another player and you're AFK, you're screwed.

    I think Age of Conan has some hybrid system, but I'm not sure.

    Unless you introduced some sort of automove or quick travel from major population centres, it'll turn people off as a major time sink.
    If I was playing Skyrim, I certainly wouldn't have completed the Thieves' Guild quest to capture Markath as it involves multiple trips from Riften, a journey that takes ~24 hours ingame time, or ~72 minutes real time.
    Note that this is for traversing the entire game world - if you introduced this as the minimum distance to get from Helgen to Riverwood, I probably would stuck with the game until being told to go to Whiterun.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heliomance View Post
    I'd like to see something that stops distance being a triviality.
    Simple - have certain events happen only at set times (weekly, monthly, annual, etc) in-game and tie the travelling into that. People will have to start planning their journeys better to co-incide with events they want to see/interact with, thus making distances (and time management) more of an issue.

    Suppose the stuff you wanted to buy was only available on a weekly market and you missed it by a day - you could either wait around 6 days (and incur boarding fees) or go round adventuring and try and get back in time for the next one.
    Last edited by Brother Oni; 2012-10-15 at 07:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    In the beginning, I would think it was very nice, because I love to explore. However, once I would have gotten through a location twice already, I would start to hate it due to the long distances involved. Fast travel should be an option, but with limits that are reasonable for the kind of world the MMO is set in.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Hmm... Depending on the time period... Trains are a possibility.
    I mean, everyone likes steam trains.

    But if the trains are magitech, that's just too much.

    Also, not at all a possibility in a fantasy setting because of the above.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    I think it'd be interesting to include a fast-travel system, but limit it. Towns have teleportation circles, but it requires an expenditure of mana or expensive reagents. It's impractical for moving armies, and won't take you to unexplored or enemy territory, but it eases the burden of getting from place to place in relatively safe circumstances.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by Elemental View Post
    Hmm... Depending on the time period... Trains are a possibility.
    I mean, everyone likes steam trains.

    But if the trains are magitech, that's just too much.

    Also, not at all a possibility in a fantasy setting because of the above.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    I wouldn't mind it if there was plenty to see, do, and explore along the way. If it's just bland scenery, well, it just becomes a time sink.
    Magictech trains could be OK if there is a strong tradition in the fictional setting of mixing mundane technology with magic.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    You could at least make it so that you have to explore new areas once or twice, and after that, they are available via fast travel. For extra travelling, you could make it so that particularly remote locations always have to be reached manually.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    Here's a thought for the benefit of the patience impaired. While a character was in transit could the player play an alt? I wouldnt mind leaving my main character out of commission until he reached his destination as long as I could still play someone else. Maybe you'd have to navigate to a city the first time you went there but afterwards you could use autopilot. Same idea a fast travel but slower.
    As long as the travel times aren't excessive for say a flight or train, some sort of mini-game, like how in the old west guys on a long-ish train ride would play poker to pass the time. Sprinkle a few mini-games like that across a lounge of some sort in the vessel and longer travel times could be tolerable. Heck, some players would probably start doing the normal adventuring stuff just so they could afford travel tickets to get at the mini-games, if they're good enough.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-10-15 at 08:03 AM.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    As long as the travel times aren't excessive for say a flight or train, some sort of mini-game, like how in the old west guys on a long-ish train ride would play poker to pass the time. Sprinkle a few mini-games like that across a lounge of some sort in the vessel and longer travel times could be tolerable. Heck, some players would probably start doing the normal adventuring stuff just so they could afford travel tickets to get at the mini-games, if they're good enough.
    Maybe? I like mini games when they're relevant and resent them when they aren't. River rafting in Oregon Trail (yes I'm old) was awesome. Poker in Red Dead Redemption was pointless. In theory I like the idea of getting rewarded for participating in this part of the game, but in practice I think I'd be pissed off at having to grind poker.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Final Fantasy 11 kind of followed this. There were no easy ways to simply travel a large distance, especially at lower levels. If you wanted to go anywhere you'd probably be walking, waiting for a boat, riding said boat (and hiding below decks in case it got attacked by high level pirates) or renting a Chocobo (which was the same as walking, but you moved faster and you couldn't attack/be attacked).

    Definitely gave journeys to other cities much more significance. Also made traveling incredibly perilous at low levels.

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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    This would work out horribly, both for the designers and the players.

    The developers would have to spend much more time on scenery and the game will weight more bytes.

    The players would get sick of all the walking. I personally would get sick of it almost immediatly (in fact, comments in this post convinced me never to try skyrim just becuse of the walking). I`m actully surprised some of you say you would like it.
    But I don`t think you`ll like it for long.
    Walking the same road over and over again, for half an hour each time, spending literaly hours on just walking. I`m sure anybody will eventully get sick of it.

    Fast travel will make the distances meaningless. If it takes you 30 minutes to get there in walking, but just 2 minutes to get there in fast travel, it would take you 2 minutes. People would take fast travel whenever they could, unless they are intrested in something in the way. Making fast travel less available or expensive will irritate people, as they`ll have to walk 30 minutes when they just want to do something in the other city.

    However...
    For an exploration focused game long distances could be an advandge - a lot to explore. But it would still be horrible if you`ll have to walk the same paths over and over again.

    Quote Originally Posted by GolemsVoice View Post
    You could at least make it so that you have to explore new areas once or twice, and after that, they are available via fast travel.
    I agree with you, but instead of fast travel, I think it should be immediate travel - you get there immediatly, not in 5 minutes.

    Quote Originally Posted by GolemsVoice View Post
    For extra travelling, you could make it so that particularly remote locations always have to be reached manually.
    Then the distances would only apply when it`s most annoying. Players would just ignore those parts.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    In order for it to work, you'd need to put as much effort into designing the landscapes in between cities and towns as into the cities and towns themselves. Including larger numbers of small settlements and isolated farms, etc. would be helpful in accomplishing this. I find that game landscapes tend to be somehow cluttered and sterile somehow. Also, as mentioned above, a realistic distance between cities and towns would be days, not minutes or hours.

    Another option would be the existence of "travel parties", whether riverboats, bands of people heading to the same place like in the Canterbury Tales, aeroplanes/dragons (where appropriate), coaches for hire or whatever. You pay a fee, get on board, and then the journey becomes non-interactive (although an interacive option would be nice). Game time passes, you arrive in your new location, presto. That cuts out the problems of walking for those players who would hate it.

    A game that handled this well, that I recall fondly, was the original Baldur's Gate. At least half the maps in that game were for wilderness or sections of road (or surrounding area) and there was something to do on each of them. But the player wasn't forced to interact with them in such a way that it became boring. In order to get anywhere for the first time, you had to tramp the whole way on foot. If returning to a distant location, you told the game where you wanted to go, and it assumed you took the quickest road back, adjusted the in-game time, and there you were. Unless you had an encounter along the way.

    That sort of system, though, works well in a single-player RPG but is difficult to coordinate in a MMORPG. Making time in-game run faster than normal time is an option, but in most cases it already does, so you'd have to take care it doesn't get ridiculous. Characters travel outrageously quickly, because if you had to trudge around at 3-4mph you'd get bored within about a minute.
    Last edited by Aedilred; 2012-10-15 at 12:53 PM.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by akma View Post
    The developers would have to spend much more time on scenery and the game will weight more bytes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    In order for it to work, you'd need to put as much effort into designing the landscapes in between cities and towns as into the cities and towns themselves. Including larger numbers of small settlements and isolated farms, etc. would be helpful in accomplishing this. I find that game landscapes tend to be somehow cluttered and sterile somehow.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by akma View Post
    This would work out horribly, both for the designers and the players.

    The developers would have to spend much more time on scenery and the game will weight more bytes.

    The players would get sick of all the walking. I personally would get sick of it almost immediatly (in fact, comments in this post convinced me never to try skyrim just becuse of the walking). I`m actully surprised some of you say you would like it.
    But I don`t think you`ll like it for long.
    Walking the same road over and over again, for half an hour each time, spending literaly hours on just walking. I`m sure anybody will eventully get sick of it.

    Fast travel will make the distances meaningless. If it takes you 30 minutes to get there in walking, but just 2 minutes to get there in fast travel, it would take you 2 minutes. People would take fast travel whenever they could, unless they are intrested in something in the way. Making fast travel less available or expensive will irritate people, as they`ll have to walk 30 minutes when they just want to do something in the other city.

    However...
    For an exploration focused game long distances could be an advandge - a lot to explore. But it would still be horrible if you`ll have to walk the same paths over and over again.



    I agree with you, but instead of fast travel, I think it should be immediate travel - you get there immediatly, not in 5 minutes.



    Then the distances would only apply when it`s most annoying. Players would just ignore those parts.
    This is why I say the game should be built around it from the ground up. Thus there wouldn't be anything that required you to go back and forth between cities that are an hour away from each other. You'd start in one city, do everything there was to do there, and then later you'd move on and go somewhere else. In the real world in the middle ages, people didn't go back and forth travelling all the time. Journeys were things that you planned for, and were significant.

    Also, I think you misunderstand what I mean by "faster". I never suggested that if a journey take 30 minutes, a way exists to do it in 2. You're right, that would make the distances meaningless again. But having a flying mount only available at higher levels, that makes a half hour journey doable in 15? That would still be meaningful, but would make having a flying mount awesome.

    The entire point of the idea is to make it so that people don't just pop over to do something in the other city. That's not a bug, it's a feature. Going to a different city is a big choice, and means you can't just pop back home for dinner or whatever. It would make populations more insular, and I think it would give different cities actual different feels, as they'd be populated by different people that actually only have a limited amount of contact.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

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    Read up on procedurally generated content.
    While, if implemented sensitively, it could help with the workload of generating such an environment, it would need to be deployed with extreme caution. Entire map areas that were procedurally generated would really be a step backwards in terms of immersive game design.
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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Everquest had many of those features:

    Low level characters had to walk everywhere. Higher level wizards could port, but they were the only class that could do so. Wizards actually had a nice side business as taxis

    Zones were fairly large and major towns were far away. I don't know if there were 30 minutes away, but they weren't necessarily close.

    You had food and water and you were penalized if you didn't have any.

    Other aspects:

    Soloing was practically impossible except for pet classes and druids (who were able to "kite")

    Death penalties were harsh

    You had to do corpse runs

    Leveling took a long time

    Recharging spell mana took a long time. They even forced people to look at their spell books while recharging mana.

    Healing hit points took forever

    If you wanted to cross the ocean, you needed to take a boat. A boat ride took about a 1/2 hour and nothing happened.


    The end result: players were notoriously conservative because recklessness could set you back days of gameplay. People liked it, solely because it and Ultima Online were the only games in town back then. Once the next generation games came along (ok, when World of Warcraft came along) it was popular anymore. WoW is popular for a reason. Generally speaking, people want to kill stuff, not travel.

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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    I could see meaningful distance working really well in MMOs, but the MMORPG is the wrong genre for it. Something like a turn based strategy game, where everyone can send in one turn a day, everything is resolved simultaneously, then another turn becomes open could work beautifully, particularly if turn length were managed properly, so that they only took 15-30 minutes even in the end game, and simply not taking turns provided at least some advantage (e.g. those not moving benefit from rest, or fortify, or whatever).
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Meaningful distance in MMOs: A discussion

    Also, for the sake of clarity, Skyrim has a fast travel system which allows you to move between any two visited locations (locations encompass everything, from towns to dungeons), so you're only really walking to any one place once.

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