Nexus is a big place. We saw last week what it’s going to be like getting from spot to spot in a smaller sense with last week’s overview of movement, but there’s more to movement in WildStar. After all, there are a lot of zones stretched out over big chunks of land, and even if you’re sprinting as much as you can you’ll eventually find that you can’t traverse an entire continent by foot, much less the ocean.
No, for this sort of transport you need something more robust. You’ll need vehicles, both personal and otherwise. You’ll need boats, you’ll need ships, you’ll need something that can move faster than you can move even if you can jump out of a dodge. But a lot of what you need will depend upon what the game’s layout looks like, so it’s time to fire up the speculation machine and ask some questions, starting with those of location.
I freely admit that during my time at PAX East I did not get to see much of Deradune. What I did see gave me a definite sense that it’s large, large enough that the designers worried early on about fatigue setting in, obviously, but also large enough that you can spend a fair amount of time exploring Deradune’s nooks and crannies without any difficulty.
Perhaps more importantly, there was something key I didn’t notice: zone lines.
When I first arrived in Deradune, it wasn’t because my character walked over from the last region but because my character landed there in a ship. Similarly, there was nothing to indicate that this was out of the ordinary. In fact, the big transport addition that’s been shown off for housing is a shuttlecraft that can take you somewhere.
In other words, you’re not going to be running through contiguous zones. You’ll be shuttling from place to place. The zones will be functionally little islands, with each one accessible only via flight.
Honestly, this makes a fair amount of sense if you think about it. It’s hard to give the impression of a full planet when you don’t have time to actually give players a full planet to explore, and no one wants to take the time necessary to actually sail around the world. (I’m told that’s quite a time investment.) You want to feel like you’re on a full planet, and keeping the zones discrete gives the sense of visiting different regions while still leaving a lot of planet just over the horizon.
On the ground
So how do you move around through a given zone? We know that players will have mounts, which are a staple of most games. But what other forms of transportation? Will we have the equivalent of flight points dotting the landscape? Quick travel to useful locations?
The one thing we know for certain is that players can access their houses from anywhere. That alone creates some interesting implications because if you can build a transport addition to your house plot, it presumably offers you more options than just leaving your house in its default state. My guess is that normally you can return from your house only to where you had first summoned it. And I think that has some pretty big implications for travel as a whole.
The usual motivation behind quick travel is to give players the option of getting back to important hubs in a hurry, places that can provide all of the comforts of home, except that in this case your actual home can provide all the comforts of home. If you need to stop for the evening and you’re in the middle of nowhere, your best bet isn’t to hoof it back to town; it’s to summon up your floating house island and go to bed. Most of the functions you could obtain from heading back to a hub can be built into your plot of land anyway.
I wonder if this also means fast travel between major settlements won’t be a thing. The idea of picking up a pile of quests at a hub is certainly less than beloved; maybe you’ll be getting your quests via radio transmissions and occasional finds while you make your way through a zone. Settlers can make quite an impact here, in theory, providing a small waypoint for players who don’t want to actually leave the zone to return home. Or perhaps Settlers can construct temporary high-speed transport…
Whatever the case, I have a feeling that we’ll be hoofing it a lot out in the field rather than zipping around. This is a new and unfamiliar planet; it’s going to feel like it.
Safe zones to move
One of the greatest irritations known to humanity is that feeling when you’re trying to get from one part of a game to another but you just cannot stay mounted. In World of Warcraft it was getting dazed or finding a waist-deep stream. In Star Wars: The Old Republic it’s getting your mount shot out from under you. Final Fantasy XIV? Your chocobo finally throws you to the ground after too much damage and darts off. The net effect is that the group of random jerks you were trying to avoid are now all around you, plus you’re slower than normal, so running is not necessarily an option.
As much as I’d like to say that WildStar is doing away with that nonsense, we’ve already seen the leaked patch notes indicating that sprinting and getting hit at the same time results in a de-sprinted character. So odds are good you’ll have to stay on your toes even when you’re just mounted up and roaring along. Unfamiliar planet, and all. Although it seems kind of silly that you can’t sprint to reliably run away from things.