If you have played any MMO, you have likely run into a quest that needed you to circumnavigate the world to finish it. Visit some guru in a far off place or take a note to an officer in some city’s army, whatever. You have also likely found a time when you wanted to group with someone who you grouped with yesterday, but today find them to be on another continent. If the game had no travel assistance, like run speed enhancements or teleports or griffin mounts, you probably got a bit annoyed at the twenty or thirty or sixty minutes all this running around was going to take you.
And, if you are like most people out there, you probably wanted them to fix the travel issue with instant travel teleports so that you only had to travel a couple minutes to a portal, port, then a couple minutes to your destination, at most.
In my opinion, though, the problem here has been misidentified and the solution is completely ass backward. The problem is not the travel time, the problem is that you have to travel.
Travel should, to me, be a non-trivial task, like it is in the real world. If you need to run errands in your life, don’t you try to get a few of them together and make one travel loop getting them all done and returning home at the end? I know I do, and that’s because I don’t want to go out and come back for each item, especially if those items are far away. To that end, I try to do things near home if I can, or if I find I’m always going far away for stuff to move my home closers to my interests.
This is the problem with most games: not enough content close to “home” for the player. There should be content for solo, groups, raids, PvE, PvP, every level, every class, whatever boundaries exist in the game within a reasonable distance from “home”. Now, what is a reasonable distance is another argument altogether, but for now we’ll just vaguely say that reasonable is “a travel time for which the majority of players feel no disappointment in making both there and back”.
A long while back, I started down the road in my design thought processes of what I refer to as a “town-centric” design. (If you are so inclided, you can go read the thread and my posts over at the MMO Round Table.) And I still hold that, in my opinion, this is the best way to design a game: start with the player’s home and radiate content out from there. At some point if a player tires of one town, they can move to another town, at which point they will have all the content they need around the new town, all within a reasonable distance from the new town.
I love travel in games, and sometimes just for travel’s sake, but I hate when travel becomes a barrier to fun.