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News & Features Discussion  » General: The Lost Sense of Journey

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  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 13281

 
OP  12/24/11 9:12:15 AM#1

In his latest column, MMORPG.com Managing Editor Bill Murphy takes a look at the opposing ideas that we have both gained and lost parts of the journey within the MMOs we love to play. See what Bill's got to say and then let us know what you think in the comments.

Have we lost the sense of journey and discovery in our games? Are the days where players could get lost in an MMO’s world forever gone due to the trend of quest markers, smaller worlds, and hand-holding quests that guide you from point A to point B? Even one of the genre’s most recent successes, Star Wars: The Old Republic has given players every opportunity they can to not get lost in the game world. Quest markers (while optional) dot every task and it’s really quite easy to get around with landspeeders and teleportation being a part of the game from level one. At level 15 you get a sprint ability which makes it even easier to traverse the landscape, and a whole “planet” is easily navigated in minutes. But is this new ease of transportation an important feature or a limitation of what used to be a genre steeped in exploration?

Read more of Bill Murphy's The Lost Sense of Journey.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  Gel214th

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/11/07
Posts: 168

12/26/11 8:35:59 AM#2

Oh I could not disagree more.

I never saw long travel times as a feature of a game. I saw it as a timesink meant to increase subscription revenue. 

There was nothing to do on the ship in WOW , or while in the Speeder getting from place to place in SWTOR (which seems to have baked in all the systems that WOW and the rest of the MMORPG world are now moving away from).

If I need to sail on a ship then fly on a giant bird for 10 minutes to get back to a location, then give me something meaningful to do. Combat while in flight...something.  OR let me press the spacebar, click YES and get to my destination immediately. 

Forcing players to "experience' this Journey was never a good idea, and was never done to benefit players in my view. Some liked it, and others didn't. And fewer still saw it for the tool of developer profit that it was. I have also always dismissed the notion that it was supposed to force (there is that word from primary school and kindergarten again) players to interact while sitting onboard the ship. Well after the first few years when Developers realised this was NOT happening...why didn't they change the system to what people seemed to want? 

After I have seen the "massive world" once..or twice...I don't need to see it again and again. If you need to drive for 2 hours to get to your destination, even the most impressive and beautiful landscape becomes arduous when you are late for that meeting.

What I have never understood is why Developers never worked Fast Travel into Player Crafting. Where devices/magic could be crafted by players to be used for Instant Travel around a world. Drop a device at X point, and use a consumable to return to X, Y or Z whenever I want to. The components to create the Travel Device are made by a few different professions and must be combined. You create a constant economy where crafting always has some meaning as you can build different features and tweaks into different quality devices. Why not do this? Why?

Because Travel is supposed to be long because it's a timesink. And Timesink = Profit.

Game breaking? World shrinking...not at all. It works perfectly for Morrowind,Skyrim, Fallout and others. I have NEVER seen reviewers or players complain about losing a sense of "scale" of the world at all. You darn well know that Skyrim has a MASSIVE open world, and you have no difficulty in appreciating it.

It amazes me therefore, why gamers continue to accept that these fundamental aspects of gameplay suddenly change radically once a Developer's profit depends on you remaining subscribed and playing their game for as long as possible, dragging out the existing content as much as they can.

I have a question for Mr. Murphy:

When you played Skyrim, or Fallout...did you *choose* (because it is choice) to run everywhere instead of using the Fast Travel *options* available to you?

 

 

  BillMurphy

Managing Editor

Joined: 7/28/06
Posts: 1703

12/26/11 8:39:33 AM#3

If you read the article again, I lament the loss of expansive worlds while saying it's a good thing in other ways because there's more of a focus on true exploration and delving into a world.  In other words: long travel times is not exploration.  Getting side-tracked because you find yourself exhilerated by being off the beaten-path is.  ;)

  skeaser

Advanced Member

Joined: 6/13/07
Posts: 3687

Don't die mad, just die.

12/26/11 8:54:07 AM#4
Originally posted by BillMurphy

If you read the article again, I lament the loss of expansive worlds while saying it's a good thing in other ways because there's more of a focus on true exploration and delving into a world.  In other words: long travel times is not exploration.  Getting side-tracked because you find yourself exhilerated by being off the beaten-path is.  ;)

This is what keeps pulling me back to Vanguard. You can fast travel (teleport, taxi, flying mount) or you can go see what's in that cave or that dungeon or that crypt or on that mountain or in that valley. I love just roaming.


A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

  sumo0

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/18/10
Posts: 121

12/26/11 8:57:07 AM#5

i like the way that mortal online does it where exploration is a part of the game imo ofc. the map is actually fairly small as it is now, but i had alot of fun the first month with exploring. you dont get a map or pointers anywhere, and i have heard of people who were lost for 3 days in the jungle:P i dont play it anymore though because of bugs and the likes.


i miss the oldschool games where you would have to run/ride and prepare for that to lower the chances of getting killed by something or someone on the way to whereever.


so i would love to see a AAA ultima online 2. but gamers want someone to hold their hand through their entire gaming experience these days:(


  Gel214th

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/11/07
Posts: 168

12/26/11 9:00:24 AM#6

Originally posted by BillMurphy

If you read the article again, I lament the loss of expansive worlds while saying it's a good thing in other ways because there's more of a focus on true exploration and delving into a world.  In other words: long travel times is not exploration.  Getting side-tracked because you find yourself exhilerated by being off the beaten-path is.  ;)



 


Yes..I see that difference in my understanding of the article.


I suppose fundamentally I don't think these "expansive" worlds have ever been properly utilised. So I don't see us losing anything that was worthwhile.


  mlambert890

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/06/05
Posts: 133

12/26/11 9:05:56 AM#7
@gel214th... I know you've built an impregnable tower around the idea that PROFT=motive=bad....

But it makes absolutely no sense... As Bill points out, the games have been moving farther and farther from the "time sink" model you refer to (ironic you choose WoW, the progenitor of "easy mode", but ok) and yet have become more and more profitable.

An MMO wants you to stay subbed. Shocker! I think there is a contingent of MMO players who really have no business playing them because they really want single player games and so are on a rat race to "win!!!". These folks view *everything* as a "time sink designed to milk $$$$$$$"

If *SWTOR* is still too much of a "time sink" then it's time to stop playing MMOs

I see where Bill is coming from, but totally disagree. It isn't the game mechanics, it's personal perspective. Folks whose first games were EQ, UO, et al will forever lament whatever few features those games had as being key to their sense of wonder while missing that the only thing really driving that sense of wonder was that it as new.

I've watched folks sit in awe of WoW. Full sense of wonder. In the future, they will say XYZ game "ruined the genre" just as EQ veterans say WoW "ruined" the genre.

I started on Meridian59 and have played too many MMOs too count, but never to obsession, and fell the genre has steadily gotten better and more diverse.

If wandering landscape is what does it for someone, they can easily play DF, MO or

WoW proved, however, that the addressable audience can be made FAR bigger by doing things a certain way. SWTOR is now attempting yet again to expand the demographic. Maybe it will work, maybe not... But I truly do not believe that having an EQ style "where the hell am I????" mechanism would have either helped them get more subs or make them more profit.
  Lobotomist

Hard Core Member

Joined: 5/20/07
Posts: 4810

I got so much trouble on my mind Refuse to lose.

12/26/11 9:24:12 AM#8

Lost sense of Journey was found...in Skyrim


While it still have quest pointers on the map. And quick travel - but while travelling towards your goal, its enough to look left and right and ask yourself : "Oh look at that mountain peek, wonder whats there" or "Look , a dirt road leading to the forest...wonder whats there"


And you are guaranteed to find another quest that will take few more hours.


Actually, sometime I have to hold myself not to stray of the path..least i forget about my main quest.


And since there is no QuestXP per se. You dont care about doing or finishing quests...


You just do your thing, whatever you want :)


 


Who knows, maybe one day we see this in MMOs ?


Perhaps in Pathfinder MMO ?


 


 


 


 


  Tardcore

Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/13/09
Posts: 2370

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to post."

12/26/11 9:44:17 AM#9

Meh. The days of vast crafted worlds are over. Now days all we are left with is a chain of self contained shopping malls. Orc world right next to the Elven Grotto, Beds Bath Bards and Beyond, Dwarfs backwards R US, a few goblin delicatessens, the Jedi Bouncy Castle, and around the corner, Ragnars Raving Dungeon of Death, please form an orderly queue, thank you for not smoking.


"Gypsies, tramps, and thieves, we were called by the Admin of the site . . . "

  Gel214th

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/11/07
Posts: 168

12/26/11 9:47:48 AM#10



Originally posted by mlambert890
@gel214th... I know you've built an impregnable tower around the idea that PROFT=motive=bad....

If *SWTOR* is still too much of a "time sink" then it's time to stop playing MMOs
 

Well yes, I think that SWTOR is built around a foundation of anachronistic timesinks.

It utilises the mechanics of a slow run speed, carrot on a stick Sprint power at 15, widely scattered Taxi points and Bind points, and a Fast Travel system that is on a 30 minute cooldown. All this and the quests force you to criss cross areas that are several times more massive than they need to be (especially since SWTOR's zones are Instanced in a way that people argued in the past made a MMORPG NOT a MMORPG). Forcing players to level up another character to experience a different Advance Class works hand in hand with this.

Most of these have nothing to do with enhancing my enjoyment of the game, they are simply Timesinks meant to drag content out.

I don't think MMOs are not for me.

I have great fun playing CHampions Online where I get very fast travel almost from the start of the game.

RIFT is the same thing, I can get a Mount at the start that boosts my speed by 60% immediately.

World of Warcraft Cataclysm was awesome...but then I invested in the fastest mount I could buy ;-) (See a pattern here? lol).

DCUO I'm a fricking Hero that can Fly as I start my adventures.

In Rift I am not even locked into any particular Role, depending on my Class I can fulfil all roles as I wish. No Timesink of being forced to level Alts to experience more and varied gameplay (unless of course I WANT to level an Alt).

Champions Online...I can be anything I can imagine, and then SWITCH to something else entirely if I want to.

Guild Wars 2? I am soooo looking forward to that title. If you have even read a few of the developer articles you will see how differently they approaching this Genre.

So I should stop playing MMOs, or MMOs are not for me? Hardly.

Old school MMOs with punishing timesinks and masochistic gameplay mechanics designed more to have me pay more than enjoy myself; these are what I have no patience for.

And yes, the mechanics of SWTOR trip over that line more than a few times especially with regard to travel systems, world size and "exploration".

  sumo0

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/18/10
Posts: 121

12/26/11 10:04:39 AM#11

EDIT: double posted by mistake:P


  zinger71

Novice Member

Joined: 8/29/11
Posts: 55

12/26/11 10:08:25 AM#12
I don't always mind the forced travel experience. It gives me a chance to take a poop and grab a fresh beer.
  Scot

Elite Member

Joined: 10/10/03
Posts: 5232

12/26/11 10:49:30 AM#13

I think we have lost much of what was good about journeys in a MMO, you can't replace that with more shiny stuff. A journey, the simple sensation or travel is a big component in what makes a MMO feel like an online world. If you are always using teleports you might as well be in a lobby and picking what scenario you will play today.

Part of the art is to give journeys the feel of location even if you cannot do that. The taxis in SWtOR often seem to do that; one in Kass city springs to mind, you fly over and can look into areas you cannot get to. The Sprint power was a mistake though, I was hardly taking ages to move from A to B as it was before I could do that.

Lotro went from all needing to turn up to a raid location, to one needing to turn up, to you just needed to have been there before. I never minded Hunters porting us in, but now we may as well just sat in the proverbial lobby.

DAOC horse rides might have been too long; 15mins to cross the country with two changes of horse was a time sink. But we have gone from that to one click and you are there. Also it depends on what you get once you get there; 15mins never seemed that long when I was meeting up with the guildies.

But everything has to be designed with solo play as the priority these days. So short travel and shinnies are here to stay.

  elocke

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 6/15/04
Posts: 4108

12/26/11 11:03:59 AM#14

Completely agree with this.  Old Forest back at LOTRO's launch is the epitome of how this type of content should be done.  So sad they changed it, even if it does make progressing my levels and storylines faster.


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  Sovrath

Elite Member

Joined: 1/06/05
Posts: 17126

12/26/11 11:08:02 AM#15
Originally posted by elocke

Completely agree with this.  Old Forest back at LOTRO's launch is the epitome of how this type of content should be done.  So sad they changed it, even if it does make progressing my levels and storylines faster.

Actually, Old Forest in closed beta. There were several iterations. Steiffel told me that the guy who created the old forest was an old school gamer. He was then told that most people don't enjoy getting lost, the danger, etc. so he made different versions until  the current one came to be. Honestly I don't even see how the current version can be considered a forest.

 

I wonder if people know that there used to be trolls on the road on the way to Rivendell. The game used to be more dangerous. I really miss it.

  Uproar

Advanced Member

Joined: 2/19/04
Posts: 412

I was once Tailrot, Uproar, Bandage, Thus(tin) Hammered, Rock, and so many more. Aye gamerest.

12/26/11 11:10:22 AM#16

Nothing to do while on the boat?  Nothing to do while walking across the country?  Well if those words come out of a person's mouth, then I am afraid they simply do not understand what was lost.

Those "unnecesary timesinks" as those who share that affliction can only think to call them are opportunities.  Sinks have more then drains, they were also once a place of gathering, a place where a team / family came together to get something necessary done.  No one enjoyed the task so to speak, but they enjoyed gathering there and socializing while they got that task completed.

Boats?  I met more future guildies, group members, even friends at boats in Everquest then anywhere else.  It a community approved socializing point.  Even the most timid would let loose and open up for conversation after standing there for 10-20 minutes.  Walking across the country for 15 minutes to get to new hunting place allowed people to talk or even just to simply take turns auto-following each other while grabbing snacks, bathroom breaks, changing laundry, etc.

There is a big reason solid communication is gone in today's games, and simple rude offensive, non-imerssive even diversions remain.  No one feels like they are in a community.  There's no where to do the dishes anymore.

  elocke

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 6/15/04
Posts: 4108

12/26/11 11:13:46 AM#17
Originally posted by Sovrath
Originally posted by elocke

Completely agree with this.  Old Forest back at LOTRO's launch is the epitome of how this type of content should be done.  So sad they changed it, even if it does make progressing my levels and storylines faster.

Actually, Old Forest in closed beta. There were several iterations. Steiffel told me that the guy who created the old forest was an old school gamer. He was then told that most people don't enjoy getting lost, the danger, etc. so he made different versions until  the current one came to be. Honestly I don't even see how the current version can be considered a forest.

 

I wonder if people know that there used to be trolls on the road on the way to Rivendell. The game used to be more dangerous. I really miss it.

Yep.  And it wasn't overtop the dangerous like some people call for these days when talking about making things hard, it was realistic and doable and didn't completely make the game impossible just had to find alternative ways to do things if one wanted to still solo.

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  cagan

Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/16/04
Posts: 274

12/26/11 11:40:15 AM#18

I love the free world in skyrim. I never ever used a horse, I always walked around exploring new things. But it gets tedious to walk back and forth between two cities so then I use the fast travel/teleport option. Same with LOTRO, I walked everywhere discovering the whole map, but to do my dailies I just use the fast travel, it gets old after 4-5 times


Edit:  what I dont like about SWTOR is the scenery pictures, I can never ever discover that huge tower in the background, knowing its just a picture :( kills the atmosphere for me...

  saker

Hard Core Member

Joined: 2/11/04
Posts: 891

Make a WORLD,
Not a Game.

12/26/11 11:40:25 AM#19

1 of the reasons I'm not immpressed by most recent games, the feeling of smallness that comes with instancing and a lack of big "outdoor" areas.  1 of the things I actually liked about Rifts is that they have little treats hidden away in spots all over. You know the old saying about it's all in the journey. These games are by their basic nature not supposed to have an end. 1 of the things I think has corrupted them so is this whole bs idea of "end-game", there's not supposed to be a end, or a final goal! I'm reminded of the title of 1 of the founding games of the genre "EverQuest" (it's even got it in the freakin name! -EVER-). I believe you need a good balance as 1 of the posters above mentioned Vanguard, as far as e-z transport(s) goes. Big expansive worlds are definitely what I want, I don't get any sense of immersion in these instanced little worlds. I love to be able to just travel around and even possibly get lost in the wilderness. There's been this horrible encroaching WoW-ifiying of these games making everything E-Z, and handed to people. It's supposed to be a adventure, not much adventure without some danger... Needs to be some possibility of loss... I believe ArchAge is supposedly going to have possibilities of pirate attacks, and sea monsters when you're out in the boats! I love it! Bring it on! I'm alittle (no guess not really) surprised a smart company doesn't try having a system where different servers might have different levels of "danger" in the world (at least as a experiment), I suspect they might just be surprised there might be a lot more of a audience for harder worlds then they might have thought. But then creativity, and experiments, not exactly at their high point these days.


  User Deleted
12/26/11 12:40:39 PM#20

I am aware of course that most games are "smaller"... along with all of the points made in the article.

 

Yet *I* can get lost in most mmo's that I play.   Altho to be honest this is why I don't group that much.   This is not even something that started recently.   I remember Ultima Online and my pvp partner being like "can we go kill someone now?".   While I wanted to know what was ... over there.

 

Oddly I would almost say the games have changed to meet the average mentality.   In almost all games I've played I like to explore and go places I'm not supposed to.   It has been very rare for me to ever find people with the same interest.   I have and then we end up grouping for a long time but its not common.

 

So in a game like TOR I see masses following the "golden path" and only going out of the way if there is some kind of update... lore.. holocron etc   Me?   I'm still way out in the middle of nowhere... no quests.. no updates of any kind.

 

I just want to know what is there... so for me the sense of journey is not lost at all.

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