Sunday, October 21, 2007

Travel Times in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by [a gamer]:
No player is going to want to spend 12 minutes traveling from earth to Alpha Centauri at cruise warp speeds. or the dreaded, 12 hour trip to a remote planet
"No player"? Do you really believe that everyone wants exactly the same kind of gameplay from a large, complex, massively multiplayer game world?

I can see how someone might come to this belief that "no player" could possibly want travel to be anything other than instantaneous if they assume without question that all that matters is the goal, the destination. But that's a badly flawed assumption. It's just not true that every gamer is motivated this way. And declarative statements about how gameplay "has to be" based on such invalid assumptions are, to put it politely, unpersuasive.

Different people want different things. Are some people highly goal-driven? Absolutely; they like knowing exactly what to do next and getting to it immediately; they're happiest when they can level up as quickly as possible. And they want their games to support this worldview -- a world-y type game that's optimized for this kind of gamer needs plenty of extrinsic rewards.

There are also people for whom (as the saying goes) the journey is more important than the destination. There really are people who don't feel a need to attack (and beat) every challenge now, now, now. There really are people who enjoy seeing the sights, chatting with friends, exploring systems, who are perfectly fine with extrinsic rewards (loot, cash, XP, levels) coming slowly or even not at all as long as there are plenty of opportunities for intrinsic rewards that come from the satisfaction of exploring interesting things and meeting interesting people.

These more laid-back gamers are as deserving of game content as anybody else. Their money spends just like anybody else's, and a good MMO will be designed with content they like, too.

So taking 12 hours to get somewhere in Star Trek Online is fine... as long as starships are detailed enough and space is complex enough for the journey itself to be as interesting as the destination, and as long as there are also ways for the goal-focused gamers to be able to get to the content they like without excessive waiting.