Today’s topic is one that I find fascinating because it contains numbers, and I like those! However, there is something very important for you to understand about these numbers and that is that they are subject to change. We are still in relatively early days of development for many aspects of the game. It is clear the developers have a good handle on what they want and how they want to get it, but some of the detail will only come through testing and iteration. That is the case when we discuss the size of the world, or more accurately the time it takes to travel across it.
When the news came to the forums this week that we are looking at 48 hours to cross from one side of the map to the other, I was, well… rather confused! I have mostly played theme park games up until now and try to get from one side of the map to the other just isn’t a useful metric. Let’s take the behemoth World of Warcraft. How long does it take to get from one end of Kalimdor (a continent) to the other? Who cares! It is never something you are going to do as part of normal game play. When quests lead you between areas with much back and forth the overall time to travel a continent is irrelevant, even if it is less than an hour as the crown flies (according to this source).
In an open world sandbox game where people are encouraged to travel and explore, like Chronicles of Elyria, it can really make a difference. But is that a good travel time? It is across the whole map, but how are we travelling? What does that actually mean for a player? How will that impact my game?
I did have a lot of questions but Jeromy ‘Caspian’ Wash was on hand to give us a better understanding of how that overall number was arrived at, and what impact it has on us as players. Though let me quickly mention once again that these are the current plans and may well change. While this is true of everything at this stage in a games design numbers always seem so definite so I feel it is worth pointing out again.
The estimate of 48 hours across the map was at walking speed, as the crow flies, assuming the entire map is land.
Well that makes a lot of sense. Obviously travelling changes a lot of the timings, are you walking or using transport? What terrain are you travelling through, how much can you follow a straight path or do you have to go out of your way because of mountains and the like? Or the big one, seas! Caspian goes into his thoughts about these various parameters and the effects these might have on the time in his post here.
In the end we get to some interesting examples based on travelling by mount or wagon:
Those looking to set up trade routes between kingdoms can expect either 6 hours straight to a city, staying the night, and then returning the next day, or what most people will probably do – play 2-3 hours a night and spend 2-3 days going in each direction. So a full round-trip trade run would be approximately 4-6 RL days.
This opens up a lot of space for adventure. There will be plenty of time where people are on the road travelling and carting goods about, perhaps stopping at road side rest points and interacting with people there. Protecting their cart along the route and ensuing they get adequate food, drink and rest will make up a good portion of game play. Obviously if you plat a lot more your time in real life days decreases. Or if you trust your offline player character to make the journal then they may be there when you get back from work. Though there is of course the risk that their behaviours were not quite sufficient to fight off those bandits that attacked and now you have to explain to the trader why you can not complete the contract.
What about those not heading along the main roads:
So… the day in the life of a local explorer is a 5-10 minute walk outside of their village to find something interesting. Walking in that direction another 20 minutes will land them in another small village.
That seemed a little small to begin with then I realised how easy it is likely to be to miss that village. It is not a circle of villages after 20 minutes after all! In fact it suggests there will be a lot of open space around and room for all sorts of interesting things to crop up. There are also likely to be less hospitable areas, areas where you wouldn’t actually want to found a small village. They would likely be a much more risky to travel into, as you are not going to be able to restock provisions as readily. However, what we know from Elyria now is when you go towards the risk you also go towards the reward.
All in all these numbers sound achievable, which is always reassuring when you are looking at a game in development. They also seem suited to the game play, again reassuring. However, I think a lot of these things are about feel. How big does the world actually feel like it is when you play, and that can be a lot trickier to pin down. It can be effected from the movement animation speeds, to how far in the distance the game can render, to what sort of things you actually encounter in the world. It is another case of having to jump in and see if the balance is right. Oh and did I mention those numbers are subject to change?