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How to make traveling fun and convenient in a video game.

April 3, 2017

 

How the player navigates a game world is very important in game design.  The 90s are long gone, and so are the days of creating expansive game worlds where players must set out on foot with no way of speeding up their travel besides a horse or using a potion to increase run speed.  Open-World games have done a lot right when it comes to traveling within a game’s world.  I’m going to reference two modern masterpieces that really do a great job with traveling and exploration: The Witcher 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Both games are fantastic and I highly recommend playing them for both entertainment and/or honing your craft of game development, whatever that may be.  Each game focuses heavily on exploration, but I feel one game does a little better of a job than the other: Breath of The Wild.  In both games, once the player discovers a new area, they will then learn what places of interest are available within that area.  In the case of Witcher, discovering road maps, cities etc will then allow players the ability to fast travel back to those areas whenever they reach a point of travel in the world.  

 

 

One thing I like about Breath of the Wild over Witcher is that once you discover a place of interest such as a Shrine or a Shiekah Tower, you can fast travel back to that place at any time, not just at designated fast travel locations.  

 

 

I think this is smart because it empowers the player to focus more on what the game offers which is exploration, battles, quests, etc. Eliminating tedious, repetitive mechanics should be at the forefront of every developer’s mind because players don’t want tedious, repetitive mechanics!  This is where my idealogy begins with The Forbidden Arts.

 

The Forbidden Arts is organized into 3 areas of travel.  First, I’ll discuss the world map.  After the player completes the introduction of the game, they will enter the World Map.  The player will move around in full 3d, exploring the world map.  The best way to describe this is something like Mario 64.

 

 

In Mario 64, players control Mario in and outside Princess Peach’s castle.  This area Is the world map.  Players can then enter individual levels by jumping into paintings, among other ways.  In The Forbidden Arts, there are points of interest in the world map.  For instance, the player can enter the forest level by walking to the large tree in the center of the world map.  Or if the player has reached a significant point of interest in the forest they will probably have an option to return to that point of the level via another location on the world map.  

 

One awesome thing about Mario 64 is that exploring the world map was FUN!  Players could chase a super fast golden rabbit, swim around under the moat, shoot through cannons onto the roof of the castle and more.  In The Forbidden Arts, the world map isn’t just about going from level to level.  There are surprises galore and even bits of 3d platforming the player must complete to reach an important area or discover a secret. I’m not going to go into detail on all of this, but I will say that we have tried very hard to make navigating the world map a fun experience.

 

There are 5 world maps in The Forbidden Arts and it’s easy to get from one to the next. Players can run through each world map if they prefer, or they can simply open up the Overworld map and select which world they’d like to fast travel to.  So long as they’ve already been to this world, they can fast travel back at any time.

 

The actual levels within the World Maps are quite large and there are certain areas of these levels that players will revisit throughout the game.  Any area of importance they discover will allow for fast travel back to that specific area from the world map as well. So players don’t always need to start from the beginning of a level when they re-enter it.  

 

 

Also, players don’t need to complete a level to exit it.  Simply pause the game, and request to return to the world map and they’re all set.  It couldn’t be easier.

 

 

 

This brings up a final point: saving and loading.  The game will essentially allow players to save and load at any point in the game, so long as they’re not engaged in battle.  The game also auto-saves upon loading scenes or completing areas of importance.  I think by allowing players to manually save their progress at their time of choosing really allows full freedom to progress at their own rate, not my designated rate.  This is important because our levels are very large, and I can’t expect every player to want to dedicate 1-2 hours to complete a single level.  In Breath of the Wild I might play for 30 minutes or I might play for 3 hours.  But if the game was designed around designated save points it simply wouldn’t work with my lifestyle these days as I don’t have many days I can spend 2-3 hours straight playing a game.  I think this is important when designing an effective save/load system.  My goal was to make a system very comfortable to players and I think complete control is comfort.  It may take a bit more effort to design a system like this, but we think it’s well worth it.  In the end I am thinking about what I would want to experience and what would be most pleasant for me.  This is definitely not the only route to go, but there really is one important thing to consider: If a game or design mechanic doesn’t sound fun then it probably isn’t.  Games are supposed to be fun, and proper design ensures they can be.
 

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