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Old 05-17-2017, 08:33 AM
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Default Is There a Problem With Fast-Travel Systems / What Do You Think Of 'Em?

Seems like every game that has a huge world benefits from a fast travel system (which they almost always have). That makes sense, and I agree with it. However, I wonder if the fact that a game includes a fast travel system indicate a flaw, in a sense?

Basically, if a game is huge, but includes a fast travel system, the player spends time enjoying traveling only once per "path to a landmark", since most people, I think, use fast-travel whenever possible to advance through the game more quickly. Would it make more sense for game worlds to be smaller, but denser and deeper, allowing the player to traverse it fully in far less time, and just not include any fast travel?

Of course, there are different implementations of the same fast-travel idea out there (i.e. some open-world games have teleportation points at any and every landmark, while others have specific points that still necessitate manual travel).

So I guess I'm asking if it would make more sense to design a world where the player trades the initial large amount of time spent traveling to each new location for a smaller world where it simply takes less time to travel around, and where there's no fast-travel available.

EDIT: And in lieu of this question, we can just go for the nice and simple "What do you think of fast-travel systems?"
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Old 05-17-2017, 08:52 AM
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Breath of the Wild wouldn't be nearly as good without its expansive overworld, nor if it were missing the ability to jump to any shrine, so you this time you can go east for half an hour instead of north like you did the first time.
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Old 05-17-2017, 08:57 AM
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When I played Skyrim on PS4 I used a mod to turn off fast travel, and then another mod to make my horse much faster. It was so much more enjoyable to actually run around and see the world instead of just jumping right to the next dungeon entrance. Plus, I spent time traveling down roads that I had never seen before, because I had to find different routes around the world. I ended up thinking a lot more about the regions, and looking at what else was happening in an area instead of just following one quest at a time.

Morrowind had three different fast travel systems: boats, silt striders, and a system of teleports. They didn't 100% line up, which meant you actually had to think a bit to plan out how to get somewhere. In other games that would be annoying, but it fit the theme and it ended up making things feel more realistic.

Really, it totally depends on the game. Just throwing fast travel in without considering world design, quests, movement, etc. isn't always the best idea.
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:01 AM
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Breath of the Wild wouldn't be nearly as good without its expansive overworld, nor if it were missing the ability to jump to any shrine, so you this time you can go east for half an hour instead of north like you did the first time.
JESUS CHRIST IT'S A LION LYNEL GET IN THE CAR ME TO THE SHRINE BY MY HOUSE
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:04 AM
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I feel it can cheapen the sense of place and scope a setting has and also runs the risk of encouraging the makers to indulge in lazier, less carefully considered, and more sprawling level design.

BUT! Not having it available can force the level designers to have to shrink things down or make sacrifices for the sake of keeping it convenient, or otherwise hauling ass everywhere will probably get old and tedious at some point...and honestly, no matter what you do, without fast-travel, it probably will eventually get tiresome anyway.

What I reckon are the best approaches, or some combination of the two:
-Things like a further-refined/improved version of the car in FFXV where you go somewhere quickly and even automatically if you like, but it all still is actual physical movement that you are experiencing firsthand rather than just BOOP, you're there after a loading screen. This does a better job of making it all feel cohesive and engrossing, and there are numerous ways to make the travel time interesting or fun in its own right, even if in a chill way.

-Make fast-travel not become available until late (maybe VERY late) in the game, so that the player is already very intimately familiar with the world before they can start just navigating it via menu; bonus points if you do something awesome like Wild ARMs 2 where you can intentionally make the 'teleportation' process or whatever mess up to get to secret areas instead of ending up where you're supposed to.
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:14 AM
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Not every game is the same and I'm fine with some of them having very large worlds that allow you to skip traveling from point to point when you want because you're an adult who has other things to do.

There are multiple ways to keep the player from abusing it, like limiting the number of locations you can travel to or having the travel require the use of an expendable (but not hard to replace) item.
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:36 AM
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I'm a bit atypical here - I think fast travel should be available immediately in a game, and it should take you to wherever you want to go on the map, within reason. But that's only because I have shit to do and my time is limited. I expect some kind of reasonable effort at world-building and exploration, but I also have serious qualms with a game disrespecting my time.

An ideal system is probably one where you can fast travel to a region but not a specific landmark. I'm actually thinking of the flute/birb in A Link To The Past. Let me go where I want to conveniently and quickly but not necessarily trivially. If I have to hoof it a bit after, that's fine.
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:53 AM
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I think that's it good that games include fast travel systems for people who want them, but I rarely choose to engage with them myself. I sunk a couple hundred hours into Oblivion, and I don't think I ever used the fast travel in it.
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:55 AM
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I think it's more challenging and impressive when a game can pull off a large world without a fast travel system where traveling doesn't feel tedious/repetitive, but there are plenty of games with fast travel systems that feel lazy/hollow as a result. And of course, there are plenty of games with "mild" fast travel systems like people have mentioned (the first Dark Souls with the lordvessel, or Link to the Past with the flute), where you either don't get the fast travel system until much later in the game, and/or the fast travel systems are limited in a way. In the end there's a careful balance to be struck in any game with an overworld of some sort, where you want the overworld to be fun to travel through, by whatever means.

Personally, I'd like to see a comeback of the airship. I understand the technical limitations behind why this is orders of magnitude more challenging in a massive 3D game (loading is difficult), but technical limitations can eventually be worked around. Imagine how cool it would be in Skyrim to fly (with full controls) across the world, wherever you wanted to go, in 15 seconds instead of waiting through a 15 second loading screen, able to land at anything interesting you see along the way. In fact, I remember doing just that in Morrowind by stacking ridiculous enchantments to make my character able to fly at super speed, then soaring across the sky to the next town instead of hopping on a bug bus or whatever weird travel system they had in that game. It felt amazing. More of that, please.
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Old 05-17-2017, 10:03 AM
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I don't like "easy" fast travel systems. They make the world feel smaller and using it to complete quests makes already mediocre quests feel even more like busywork. This is an issue to me in most western RPGs - fast traveling from quest marker to quest marker is not particularly interesting in the Fallout games. I suppose that's as much a symptom of bad quest design as it is the fast travel system, though.

I do like fast travel systems with limits. My brother came up with a self-imposed fast travel limit in Breath of the Wild -- he only allowed himself to fast travel from the top of Sheikah Towers. I adopted that method and really like how it worked out.

Really, though, it comes down to the world and quest design. While I liked Dragon's Dogma's fast travel system, even pre-Eternal Ferrystone, the world design is such that you spend a lot of time sprinting between Gransys and Cassardis if you don't want to waste precious Ferrystones. Later versions of the game that reduce the price of Ferrystones and add additional Portcrystals around the world did a lot to improve this. Too bad the PC version gives you an Eternal Ferrystone extremely early at no cost...

Incidentally, I've always felt the immediately available bonfire warps in later Souls games allowed them to get away with less complex level design.
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Old 05-17-2017, 10:05 AM
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Morrowind was unplayable for me until I started using the console to fast travel. Striders don't count. And schleping across the countryside only to be assaulted by 1000 fucking cliff racers is the worst.

Skyrim running around didn't bother me as much and I often just wandered around looking for things. But having the option to just go to where I wanted to at without having to do it is also appreciated.

In conclusion, Syria is a land of contrasts.
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Old 05-17-2017, 10:05 AM
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As far as fast travel goes, I don't mind having it available as an option but generally I refrain from overusing it. Like, I may use it if I want to turn in a quest or bring crafting goods back to this one place right now, but I prefer to hoof it over teleporting in 3D games. Discovering secrets and cool stuff on the way to your destination is part of the fun!
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Old 05-17-2017, 10:18 AM
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I get what you're saying that maybe it would be in everyone's interest to have smaller, denser worlds instead of these sprawling expanses, and I agree, but I'd think that even those smaller worlds would require some method of fast travel. Fast travel is practically a necessity in any game that has plenty tons of nooks and crannies to plumb, secrets to uncover and sidequests to do.

I think the best way to discourage fast travel is to make the world interesting to explore for its own sake— for its environment, not its quests. In my time with Xenoblade/X, I preferred to hoof it on foot (or by robot) if possible, because I found those worlds so enthralling.
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Old 05-17-2017, 10:31 AM
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It occurs to me that another game that does "fast travel" well is Final Fantasy 14, with it's "airship-if-you-want-but-the-Aetheryte-is-right-there-provided-you-touched-it" approach.

Earthbound's teleport PSIs work similarly.

As almost everyone else has mentioned, it really depends on the game, the world that's been built, and what "travel" is meant to accomplish.
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:04 PM
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Even with XIV, aetherytes only bring you to cities and quest hubs. Actually doing things requires getting on your chocobo and moving out to the hinterlands.
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:37 PM
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If a game wants to respect a player's time, a fast travel system is a must. However a game should try to present a contiguous world by incentivizing alternative methods of traveling. For instance in FF15 you could fast travel, or you could:

1.) Drive by car automatically or manually. You could listen to old soundtracks, listen to interesting banter between the characters, or stare at the enjoyable scenery. If you saw something interesting you could jump out at any time. I felt this method of travel added to the sense of the world.
2.) Ride a chocobo because chocobos are awesome.

Or take Xenoblade Chronicles X. You could fast travel, or you could make repeated space jumps in your giant mech and laugh as you crush all ants in your way.
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:44 PM
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Yeah some games benefit from the act of traversal being so enjoyable you don't make much use of fast travel anyway unless you're in a rush: sunset overdrive and dying light come to mind. Zelda is also real fun to move around in, even if the game can often punish you for doing so (not saying it's a bad thing, but it can definitely set you back to wander too far in the wrong way).

As much as I love how old school MMOs like EQ before planes of power etc. handled moving through the world where you had to actually get boats and stuff to get around, the fact is most people play MMOs to chill with friends and that means anything that gets in the way of that is going to have its fat trimmed.

In a lot of other games, moving around is too much of a pain in the ass, take something like OG Nier, even with its small overworld it sucked to move around and you just resorted to dodge rolling through those plains a million times during the game.
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Inactive Blacksmith View Post
Or take Xenoblade Chronicles X. You could fast travel, or you could make repeated space jumps in your giant mech and laugh as you crush all ants in your way.
This sounds cool on paper but was actually kind of a pain in the ass, because a lot of time out in the field is spent picking up resources, which you can't do in battle mode, and battles automatically start if you piss off any enemy, no matter how insignificant. So you're cruising around grabbing loot, and suddenly you can't anymore because apparently you stepped on a level 10 sheep that was three pixels tall, and now that sheep and/or its surviving family are mad at you.

HEY GUESS WHAT

I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR SHEEP FEELINGS AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE TIME OUT OF MY DAY TO ADDRESS THEM. I GOT SHIT TO DO

NEXT TIME TRY GETTING OUT OF THE WAY OF THE GIANT ROBOT FROM SPACE

I engage this topic and others at length in my upcoming book, Owning a Giant Robot Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Mightyblue View Post
Even with XIV, aetherytes only bring you to cities and quest hubs. Actually doing things requires getting on your chocobo and moving out to the hinterlands.
XIV largely gets it right, though the addition of flying (and it's increased movement speed) in the expansion areas make the original areas a bit of a slog to run through (Ugh, I have to go to the Waking Sands again? Ugh, I have to go to the Burning Wall again? etc. etc.).
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Old 05-17-2017, 01:40 PM
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XIV largely gets it right, though the addition of flying (and it's increased movement speed) in the expansion areas make the original areas a bit of a slog to run through (Ugh, I have to go to the Waking Sands again? Ugh, I have to go to the Burning Wall again? etc. etc.).
This. I can't stand having to go to the Waking Sands. It was cool the first few times you hop a chocobo or drive yourself but, for the love of god, put an aetheryte crystal there.

I understand some people like traversing through the countryside in whatever game they are playing, for roleplay reasons or I-just-like-to-get-into-shit reasons. Accommodate those folks. On the flip side, I'm the kind of person who finds the thrill of traversal wears thin fairly quickly. It was fun the first few times but now I want to get on with the gettin' on. I think that can be accommodated too.
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:45 PM
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I liked how Fast Travel worked in the Dragon's Dogma remaster/PC version, where it actually exists, but exists only to get back to the Hub City, unless you spend the time and effort to make your own warp points by using rare items. And even then, I don't think it's possible to get enough of those items to make points at every important place on the map.
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Deptford View Post
What I reckon are the best approaches, or some combination of the two:
-Things like a further-refined/improved version of the car in FFXV where you go somewhere quickly and even automatically if you like, but it all still is actual physical movement that you are experiencing firsthand rather than just BOOP, you're there after a loading screen. This does a better job of making it all feel cohesive and engrossing, and there are numerous ways to make the travel time interesting or fun in its own right, even if in a chill way.
I'll be honest: I loathe FFXV's car rides. You're basically stuck in a 2-4 minute loading screen where you can't like, walk away and go make a sandwich because the imperials might drop in on you, and the environments you're driving through aren't particularly interesting. Like, I can maybe kinda see how some people might get some novelty out of it, but for me a majority of the continent just looks like my commute to work.
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:47 PM
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As far as I'm concerned, Final Fantasy XI is the case study for analyzing fast travel. It started with very limited and sometimes tedious options for travel, and ended with modern sensibilities with fast travel going to tons of different places.

The most important thing has already been mentioned: incorporate the fast travel inside the game world, limiting the use of loading screens. In Mother and Earthbound, you ride the train and watch your dude ride the train; in FFXI, you wait for the airship/boat and then ride the thing the whole time, with the ability to talk to other passengers or fish or look at the scenery (which changes depending on what part of the world you're in).
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Old 05-17-2017, 05:41 PM
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I mentioned it earlier, but I really do think old JRPGs had this figured out really well. At first, you walk around a small area, and you're gated by what you have access to on foot. Then you get a mount, which lets you access some more areas, and travel across older familiar areas more quickly. Then a boat, which opens up much more exploration, allows for even faster travel, but is still gated by places you can successfully dock. Finally an airship, which lets you travel faster than ever before, and access more than ever. Each new mode of transportation opens up more locations while being "faster travel" than the mode before it. Then certain locations force you off of the fast travel systems to explore on foot again.

This integration of incrementally increasing travel speed and gameplay is a core element that I think is sorely missed from "just warp 99% of the way to the objective, walk to objective, cutscene, repeat until credits" systems, and I'd love to see more examples of this brought back into more modern games.

You know how people made a weird flying machine in breath of the wild out of mine carts, and it's awkward and it sucks and it's still awesome? Give me that, but for real, and make it 100 times faster. Make it only capable of landing at fast travel spots, so it doesn't break the game. Make it fast enough that I can get from one fast travel spot (now landing zone) to the most distant fast travel spot in the world in roughly the same amount of time loading takes now, except instead of sitting at a loading screen watching the same warp cutscene a hundred times, now I'm soaring across the sky. Hell yeah!
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Old 05-17-2017, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by SolarLune View Post
Seems like every game that has a huge world benefits from a fast travel system (which they almost always have). That makes sense, and I agree with it. However, I wonder if the fact that a game includes a fast travel system indicate a flaw, in a sense?

Basically, if a game is huge, but includes a fast travel system, the player spends time enjoying traveling only once per "path to a landmark", since most people, I think, use fast-travel whenever possible to advance through the game more quickly. Would it make more sense for game worlds to be smaller, but denser and deeper, allowing the player to traverse it fully in far less time, and just not include any fast travel?

Of course, there are different implementations of the same fast-travel idea out there (i.e. some open-world games have teleportation points at any and every landmark, while others have specific points that still necessitate manual travel).

So I guess I'm asking if it would make more sense to design a world where the player trades the initial large amount of time spent traveling to each new location for a smaller world where it simply takes less time to travel around, and where there's no fast-travel available.
Even though you aren't necessarily presenting this case against fast travel as your own argument, I definitely agree with it. I dislike fast travel.

I can't say I hate it absolutely in all circumstances, but my tendency is to not like it.

Removing fast travel from a game would probably be bad in most cases. But if a game is designed with a less powerful travel, then a competent developer will design a different game than had they included very powerful travel.

I think the psychological basis for disliking it has to do with how it can make you view the game world very abstractly, undermining the way you were previously thinking of it as a seamlessly connected space.

~

I've actually often wanted some kind of limited, "ground level" fast travel in a large variety of games, not just the ones with sprawling worlds. Something that could drastically speed up everything from "walking to the next house in a village" to traveling across the entire map (to places you've already been), but without being a cheap, instant teleport. One idea I often settle on is something like a blink ability since this lets you travel between areas more quickly but it still requires you to sequentially navigate in your mind to get there. That's a very appealing property to me when imagining a better fast travel system.

To keep it versatile for both minor movement and long treks, perhaps the ability should have variable blink distances depending on how long you hold the button. The idea is that you should be able to blink very long distances, much, much longer than 'normal' blink mechanics. I'm not sure exactly how you would limit the ability so it's only used when the player is moving through well trodden territory. The idea is that, hypothetically, it could be added to any game without becoming the kind of player ability that affected combat and so on.

Last edited by dosboot; 05-18-2017 at 04:26 AM.
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Old 05-17-2017, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by dosboot View Post
I've actually often wanted some kind of limited, "ground level" fast travel in a large variety of games, not just the ones with sprawling worlds. Something that could drastically speed up everything from "walking to the next house in a village" to traveling across the entire map (to places you've already been), but without being a cheap, instant teleport. One idea I often settle on is something like a blink ability since this lets you travel between areas more quickly but it still requires you to sequentially navigate in your mind to get there. That's a very appealing property to me when imagining a better fast travel system.

To keep it versatile for both minor movement and long treks, perhaps the ability should have variable blink distances depending on how long you hold the button. The idea is that you should be able to blink very long distances, much, much longer than 'normal' blink mechanics. I'm not sure exactly how you would limit the ability so it's only used when the player is moving through well trodden territory. The idea is that it could be hypothetically added to any game without becoming a player ability that affected combat and so on.
So I guess the Black Panther soul doesn't really meet your requirements. But it sure is gosh darn fun to use.
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Old 05-17-2017, 07:36 PM
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Based on recent experience, dosboot, I think a more effective method to accomplish what you're setting out for is to be able to put the game on fast-forward. Kind of like what you can easily do with most emulators.

When I was replaying Trails in the Sky the 3rd, I had Cheat Engine up and used its speedhack function to make the game run at like 3x speed, and let me tell you, it made things so much better. No more 'every fight is at least a minute long' or 'jesus, warping is supposed to be fast, why is the animation so slow'.
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Old 05-17-2017, 07:49 PM
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Maybe it's a little too far into the weeds for this discussion but I feel like some of the conversation regarding fast travel is really a conversation about immersion and what we want from games.

An example that comes to mind is basically the question, "To role play or not to role play?" Maybe one person really wants to get into the inner life of their Skyrim avatar - and I used the term avatar on purpose. Maybe they're interested in developing an internal story, or making in-game decisions in line with what this character (or extension of character) wants and needs, and they desire the interaction with the world and game mechanics to be an extension of that character development. I can easily see where "pull up this menu, fast travel here" would cause the illusion to dissipate somewhat. It's fingers being snapped in front of your face, the suspension of disbelief - required for things like believing people can cast spells - pretty much demolished.

The other side of that coin is people like myself, who always view games in much the same way we view movies. I'm watching or experiencing what an artist (or group of artists, as it the case) has designed for me to consume. I am never a part of the character, and while I may sympathize or empathize, I'm always aware it's just a game, and thus my immersion is limited. And so pulling up the menu and fast travelling is part and parcel to the experience, just another switch to flip in a stream of switches the developer has given me. No illusion is broken because no illusion was ever created to begin with.

Quote:
I don't like "easy" fast travel systems. They make the world feel smaller and using it to complete quests makes already mediocre quests feel even more like busywork. This is an issue to me in most western RPGs - fast traveling from quest marker to quest marker is not particularly interesting in the Fallout games. I suppose that's as much a symptom of bad quest design as it is the fast travel system, though.
And also, this. It seems like the best way to discourage fast travel is to design your game in such a way that fast travel doesn't need to be included in the first place.

In any case, vote YES on Fast Travel in November 2018. (Or don't! It's fine, either way. Really.)
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:14 PM
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So I guess the Black Panther soul doesn't really meet your requirements. But it sure is gosh darn fun to use.
No, it absolutely would (perhaps to a greater or lesser degree). The Black Panther soul in the Castlevania games does speed up movement without simply letting you instantly teleport. You still get the experience of recalling the navigation route and seeing all those intermediate areas pass you by. That's what I like.

I do wonder about implementation issues with super-speed movement (which is why I presented the blink idea). It's hard enough to navigate a simple 2d game like, say, Final Fantasy 4 when the emulator is running at 100-200 FPS. If you could get a N64 emulator running that fast, I imagine it wouldn't be much help to navigate Ocarina of Time.

(But yes, when talking about player solutions instead of designer solutions, I would use various fast forward speeds as much as the next guy.)
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Old 05-17-2017, 11:22 PM
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LancerECNM LancerECNM is offline
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Originally Posted by Pajaro Pete View Post
I'll be honest: I loathe FFXV's car rides. You're basically stuck in a 2-4 minute loading screen where you can't like, walk away and go make a sandwich because the imperials might drop in on you, and the environments you're driving through aren't particularly interesting. Like, I can maybe kinda see how some people might get some novelty out of it, but for me a majority of the continent just looks like my commute to work.
Yeah, I feel you on this one. They're pretty awful. Ironically, I only started to really dig the game once I got the slower, but more interactive travel method: Chocobos.
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