Does fast travel help or hurt games?
Take a moment and imagine you have a 30 minute commute. You jump in the car, back out of the driveway and go into autopilot mode. It’s the most boring part of your day. You have it memorized down to that deer that’s been lying on the side of the road since November. You make the trip twice a day and not only know all of traffic light patterns but the other cars that make the trip with you (if that lifted F-350 tailgates you again, you’re going to lose it). Not too difficult a world to imagine right? You’ve probably drifted off just reading this intro.! Are you awake again? Good.
Not everyone plays a game looking for the same experience. For those who are hungry to unlock achievements or who play on a tight schedule fast travel may be a valid option. While it may help them to “beat” the game to their satisfaction they will still be missing out on much of the gaming experience. To combat this dilemma some games include fast-ish travel options.
Horse-riding is a common solution in fantasy RPGs which manages to combine the best of both worlds. You still gain a complete tour of the world and retain the ability to participate in quests and combat, but at a greater rate of speed than walking. Grand Theft Auto has drivable cars that allow you a fast way to travel between destinations while again still allowing you to stop and follow a new objective if you so desire. This seems like the most elegant solution for when you need to travel distances farther than you would want or have time to travel on foot.
Modern graphics are reaching incredible levels of realism due to GPU advancements and cutting-edge graphic engines. Game developers and artists are able to immerse a player into the world of their choice on an amazing level. Looking ahead to projects like Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens, virtual reality is truly getting its foot in the door for an even more immersive gaming experience. Who knows, in a few years we may literally be stopping to smell the roses while in game.
If I were a developer I am not sure if I would include the option to fast travel at all. I wouldn’t want to give players the ability to skip over all the hard work I put into the game and just complete the big quests. In practice though, it all comes down to making games appealing to the masses, so developers aren't likely to remove the feature altogether.
What do you think? Should games be played slowly and thoroughly or should players have the option to skip the “good parts”?