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"No, no this won't do at all," Braiglam said. "You must go back to my brother and tell him to reconsider."
"But I've already been there and back three times," Lomthalion argued.
"The fourth time will resolve all," Braiglam replied. "Hopefully."
Lomthalion stared down at his feet. He'd thought being a hero meant using his sword for good, not wearing out the soles of his shoes. As he turned away to make yet another trip to Braiglam's brother, he wondered why the two didn't just use their towns' postal systems and leave him out of it.
As game worlds become more and more advanced, they also grow larger and larger. The by-product of this improvement is the long distances that must be traveled between locations. For some reason, with this increase in world size, there is not a corresponding improvement in traveling systems. Indeed, there seems to be almost a perverse joy in sending players on quests that involve running back and forth between two distant points with no other objective but carrying a bickering message between a pair of NPCs.
We'll begin the analysis of this problem by doing a study of an older set of single-player RPGs in comparison with a relatively new MMO. First series we'll look at the Baldur's Gate series. While these games are eight and 10 years old and are not MMOs, they provide an excellent example of the positive evolution of world travel. In comparison, we'll look at Lord of the Rings Online because it is one of the most recent fantasy MMOs with a fairly large player base. Admittedly, it draws much of its mechanics from previous games like World of Warcraft, and it still suffers from the same shortcomings.
The geographical layout of Baldur's Gate was a series of about two dozen rectangular maps screens that abutted each other. The player's party initially could only travel between screens by traversing the map to the edge it wanted to cross and then move to the next screen. Once a map screen was discovered, however, the party could return there simply by traveling to the edge of any map. This world layout is very similar in concept to the zoned MMO (except, of course, for the faster travel BG had to old areas). Indeed, as per our previous discussion on the Dangerous Wilderness, BG I had various encounter locations on each map that would end in fights for the player. While not random and often not respawning, these encounters are similar in their basic nature to those of MMOs. To make an analogy, many of these battles are comparable to the old "random encounter tables" of classic tabletop games. The system functions but it can be very tedious, as well. In order to experience the full content of BG, every part of the map had to be explored. The repetition of this on every map became tedious.
In contrast, Baldur's Gate II map screens were not necessarily geographically adjacent. From the thriving Docks District of Athkatla, one could travel immediately to the distant Trademeet without having to traverse the remainder of the city or even the wilderness areas in between. This instantaneous transit made the game much more user friendly without eliminating the random encounters associated with travel. From time to time as the player jumped from zone to zone, combat would interrupt the journey as a group of bandits or a swarm of spiders descended on the party.