Over the last few months I’ve been ruminating over the role of travel in MMORPGs. I’ve played some irregular sessions of two more ‘realistic’ games, Black Desert Online ; a game where a mount or vehicle has a more tangible existence in the world than the norm, and can be left somewhere for good or bad. If you stable your horse in BDO it remains with that stablemaster NPC, you can run off elsewhere on some errand and find yourself further and further away from the mount and your only option to get that mount is to make your way back to where you left it.
It harkens me back to conversations I’ve had with a friend over Star Wars Galaxies and how spaceships in that game were similar to mounts in BDO – you parked them somewhere and if you then took a shuttle to another planet then your spaceship wasn’t available until you returned to where you left it. Despite the potential for inconvenience in either game, I do find a certain appeal to this level of ‘realism’, that mounts are more than a spell and that they remain where you left them last.
That said this kind of realism would be pretty awkward in a game with a strong or directed storyline: imagine trying to change Star Wars the Old Republic to use such a system. If Fleet Passes could even exist as an item, then every time you used one you’d risk stranding yourself as your ship would be left on whatever planet you last visited. That could make for some interesting social interactions (“LFG, lift to Quesh!”), but would be royal pain in the behind nonetheless. It would also place limits on storytelling, the use of the Graveyard as the new main ship in the recent expansions would mean the potential for plot issues – if we jump into the new chapter or story with a button what happens to our class ship if we happen to have been doing some dailies or other content in-between?
The idea of travel having more implications to it extend beyond where you park up at the end of a session. In BDO, for instance, your horse is only 100% safe if it’s with a stablemaster. If you dismount in a road to go chasing Fogans across a field there’s every possibility that some spider, imp or other critter may start attacking your poor horse as it stands idling. I’ve had this happen a few times, although the mount will edge away from attackers and has enough health to survive for a while. Imagine if you were back at Fleet and your poor ship droid holo-called to shriek “Terribly sorry to bother you, sir, but we are being boarded!”…