Are flight paths just lag?

| Friday, May 11, 2012
I quit playing Civilization V for a while.  I didn't quit because of the economic problems or the roads costing too much or anything wrong with the game mechanics.  Instead, I just got tired of the performance.  It runs slowly.  Saved games load slowly.  Turns run slowly.  It's all slow.

I was spending a lot of time playing without playing.  Not much fun.

It got me thinking, is this any different than a flight path or any sort of travel time?  Waiting for games to load and AI to move is just that, waiting.  It's not a time of contemplating the difficult tactical decisions that the AI must make (usually incorrectly) or a recreation of the slow communication and slow history of days gone by.  It's just waiting.

So when I get on a flight path and it tried to take me from Orgrimmar to Silithus and I'm going to be waiting for 10-20 minutes (I don't remember, but it's long (which is what she said)), am I seeing the scenery and feeling a sense of distance and size?  Am I in awe of the size of the world and the magical feeling of flight on a magical creature?  Probably not.  More likely I'm tabbed into another window playing TERA (if ya know what I mean (but not that way (seriously that's fucked up, why would you even joke about that?))).  Or I'm tabbed out writing blog posts about flight paths and wondering if they are the same as lag.

Maybe they are different though.  Lag is something broken.  Yes, I know that computing takes time, but in Civ IV everything happens somewhere between instantly and almost instantly, and completely different games (with much prettier graphics) run much more smoothly, whereas Civ V has uniquely bad performance.

Flight paths aren't a technical problem.  They're intentional design.  They're something that developers chose to put there, for some reason.  They're designed to be there, taking scenic routes, adding that sense of world.  They aren't so scenic and worldly after a thousand flights, but without the first one, you're playing Zone of Warcraft and ZOW is a pretty lame game.

8 comments:

Sven said...

i think sometimes it helps to have those enforced breaks from the game as well:

"Here - you can't press any buttons for 10 minutes. Go get a cup of coffee, put some music on..."

What I hate are the break-free delays (e.g. WOW ships). Then you have to sit by the computer waiting for the damn thing to arrive, get on, then wait again until it reaches its destination and then get off. Don't wait too long though, or you'll end up back where you started.

Andy said...

Even if you're tabbed out of WoW, you're still aware of the time it takes, which means you're still being made aware of the fact that Azeroth is a large place, which I think is the point – I seem to remember some comments from the developers to the effect of that in Wrath, when everybody just portalled everywhere, it made the world feel like a small selection of hubs with nothing in between.

They've had to strike a balance, too, between making the world feel large, and making it annoying and inconvenient. So, now you have to fly to more places, but you still get to jump into a random dungeon whilst standing around in your capital city.

Kring said...

At least we have connected flight paths these days. Back in the old days you couldn't go AFK because you had to talk to the next flight master every few minutes. And every flight master had only a limited amount of paths he offered. You had to remember how to travel from the EPL to the WPL because the game didn't assist you with that. And there wasn't a direct flight. :)

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I think flight path increase the size of the world. Back in vanilla, pre all those portals, it just took some time from Ironforge (only Alliance AH) to e.g. Silithus or Dire Maul. We're talking about 15 to 20 minutes.

There wasn't an option to speed that up. There wasn't a raider only trinket for teleportation to a raid nearby. There wasn't a reputation portal to a dungeon nearby. There wasn't a huge amount of portals in your main city conveniently connecting you to all questing areas.

Going to Silithus to grind some reputation was a decision. It took you 20 minutes to go there so you better spent some time there. And hearthing back with your 1 hour cooldown stone was a decision too. You wouldn't just "return to base" for logging but log out where you are if you intended to spend additional time there the next day.

The system back in vanilla without all the portals was a good system because it emphasized the world.

In the current world of warcraft, flight paths are only an annoyance. That started already with Outland. Much smaller world and the main hub conveniently in the center. Outland never felt like a world as the original world did. (Flying mounts also increased that problem.)

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So yes, either remove all teleportation (more or less like vanilla) or remove all travel time (like GW2). The thing in between doesn't really work (for me).

Craftygod said...

This is one of the biggest differences I've noticed as I've played TERA some. I actually have to travel to places again. At first, it was bothersome, and I was asking myself why I had to mount up and ride to the areas I needed instead of just portaling to them. But, now that I've played for a few days, I'm starting to enjoy it a bit more because the world does seem more immersive. If I want to go to a certain destination, I must make the conscious decision to ride to it. In fact, as Kring stated, last night I was standing outside SM (an instance) looking for a group, and I decided to log out there since that's where I'll start tomorrow. In WoW, I would have gone back to town to get the rested XP, but with no easy way to get back to where I am at the moment, I felt like less hassle was better than the increase in XP gain for a short amount of time.

Azuriel said...

"[...] still being made aware of the fact that Azeroth is a large place."

Oh, please. Let's make Azeroth an even BIGGER place by having everyone move around at 50% of their normal walking speed. The size of the world DOUBLES!

And let's not forget how microscopic GW2's world is, with all their instant teleporting FPs, amirite?

Andy said...

Well yes, that's why I said right after that bit that they have to strike a balance. I make no claims as to their success in getting the balance right in your opinion.

Keidot said...

In my early beginnings on my druid I came to moonglade at lvl 10 and then made the mistake of taking the druid only flight back to thunderbluff.
I must say I was more annoyed by the time I had to sit out than baffled by the size of the continent.
My play time was very limited and this wasted it.

Paul said...

Rift's "FPs" are actually teleporters. It's a far superior way of doing things.

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