How Many Miles to Babylon?

So yesterday I was trudging my weary (but sophisticated and intellectual) High Elvish way through the lion-dotted hills of Chrace towards the looming mountain pass into the Shadowlands; or as we call it, “Tier 2.” I was helping my elvish brothers and sisters locate various missing relatives and knocking off a few underdressed dark elves along the way. Eventually the uppermost question in my mind was, ‘OK, so where’s the next flight master?’

As it happens, he was a whole zone away. And that made me happy.

Warhammer is a game that likes you to walk long distances. And whenever you are in a long stretch without a flight master, that’s a period where it’s harder to meet up with people in other racial areas or access the bank or auction house in capital cities. Quests do a good job of leading you through the local Public Quest areas and to the next warcamp, it’s hard to get very lost. But it is still a long way to walk, and if you bind near a warcamp (which most people do) then you’ll have to walk back to get to your quests.

As long as the landscape is varied and full of intriguing places to explore, quests to do, NPCs to meet/kill, and lore to learn, I’m happy to go by foot. The long journeys make a gameworld feel more coherent and less like a mass of levels and zones. It’s more immersive. I want my world to feel like a coherent WORLD and that means it needs a sense of distance. There’s a balance to be had between player convenience and immersion and that means that sometimes distance can feel frustrating. But at the same time, it’s an in game rite of passage to make long solitary journeys. WAR so far hasn’t thrown up anything quite as obnoxious as WoW’s trip from Darnassus to Ironforge that all Night Elves had to make if they wanted to hook up with their non-elf friends, although there are routes that send you dangerously close (or through) RvR zones …

Some people obsess about efficient use of time in games but frankly, if we were concerned about efficient use of time we wouldn’t be playing games at all. The time spent wandering through the world makes us keener to pick up a mount and appreciate the faster speed once we have it. Like getting your first car, there’s a childish glee in speeding through areas where you used to have to walk.

I don’t have a mount yet — 15g and rank 20 is what you need for that. And I’m enjoying my slow rambles. It isn’t that it is never frustrating. Walking up and down the same path can get tedious and although the quests mostly don’t require that, running up and down to your bind point certainly can. But at the same time, it is very immersive. There’s no better way to feel the distance than to walk it.

It also encourages you to think of other things to do along the way. You can jump into a scenario from anywhere, and there are always Public Quests nearby where you are, in every zone. I’m sure that there will eventually be more transport in the game, people are bound to complain about it. I also hope that Mythic think of a way to make it easier to access the bank, because crafting materials can easily fill up low level bagspace. But I’m equally sure that the long walks encourage people to pick up more of the quests and get more involved in the zones they are travelling through.

To get back to the efficiency point, you can play an MMO as a resource management game. Time is a resource to be managed and to win the game, the goal is to amass as much gold, xp, influence, renown and gear as possible in the time available. Wasting time is bad play. A game that is designed to encourage long periods of time in which you can’t gain any of the above is bad design. But that’s not the only way to play a MMO. We aren’t all oriented on the same goals. And if you play like that, you’ll end up putting a monetary value on lots of simple but fun activities like making friends, exploring, and roleplaying. Some of the activities that make MMOs more than just multi-player games.

There’s a fashion at the moment called The Slow Movement which is all about taking life at a slower pace. I like to think that jogging through the world is a way of experiencing Slow Gaming.

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4 Responses

  1. At first I was a bit annoyed by the big areas I had to run to get back to a FP, but later I started enjoying the long runs as it enforced the sense of being small in a big world.

    I also enjoyed the flying between zones (destruction with its wyvern that is, order’s gyrocopter looks silly) and that it doesn’t show you travelling the entire length like in WoW; the cutscene where it sent you off flying is enough to convince me that I’m flying to get there.

  2. I don’t mind the running around itself, but I do wish we could access the bank and the auction house without going to the SINGLE city in our realm. I’ve been on vacation this week, with all the time in the world to play, but in my normal life I get to play an hour, hour and a half, of an evening and maybe 5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. A lot of stuff I could be sharing with my guild is going to be sold because I can’t take 20-30 minutes out of my evening playtime every day to run to Altdorf.

  3. It’s fun, but you can’t deny that some of the quest chains are emulating the Battle of Hillsbrad a bit too closely with the “Go here, come back, go there, come back, etc.”. It gets worse in zones that don’t have quests you can knock out one after the other and turn in all at once…. like effing Norsca on Order side.

  4. […] either a “Recall to Capital City” or “Recall to War Camp” ability? Unlike Spinks, I don’t find running to the War Camp to catch a flight to town to put things in the bank or […]

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