Graev and I were reminiscing tonight about fast travel in the original EverQuest. These days, fast travel is known as a WoW Mage’s teleport to any city, or a hop on a flight path followed by an afk session. Fast travel used to be a truly player-driven interactive and social experience.
Teleporting was a way for players to develop relationships with other players, create a reputation as someone who is helpful, reliable, or simply capable, and ultimately a way to make some fantastic money. Not everyone could teleport because not every class had the spells. Only Wizards and Druids were able to teleport, but that was fine since in reality not everyone wanted to play those classes. For many players, the ability to teleport alone was reason enough to trudge through the first 29 levels just for the ability to finally be able to teleport people to fairly common locations. For others there wasn’t a desire to play a kiting, mostly solo class that could sometimes do well as an off-healer, or a class that was basically a glass cannon.
This type of player-driven fast travel is necessary to help create a sense of a huge world that requires actively seeking the aid of someone else. Having the obligation to have to find another player creates scenarios for the aforementioned social dynamics to occur, and it also creates a reason to risk the trip. That danger involved with crossing the world fuels the need for the portal, but it also gives a reason for a dangerous world to be rewarding and begging for exploration.
In general, for player-driven fast travel to be done right, teleport locations should be generalized, and not specifically to cities. That’s what made the EQ portal system so robust. Some of the Druid Rings or Wizard Spires were out in the middle of nowhere important, requiring the traveler to still make a lengthy journey, yet they cut off an hour or more of boat rides and running.
Here’s hoping EverQuest Next, EverQuest 3, the supposed greatest sandbox of all time, takes a page from their own best hits and brings back the player-driven fast travel.