Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 10, 2014
Why I don't walk in virtual forests

Yesterday Helistar suggested that progression shouldn't be the only reason why one visits a zone in a virtual world, that one could enjoy the zone just as being part of a virtual world. So I was thinking why I don't take a walk in a virtual forest. This is what I came up with:

  • Virtual forests are extremely small, you can cross them in a few minutes. You can't take an hour walk in a virtual forest without running in circles all the time. There are quite a lot of city park forests here larger than the largest forest in Azeroth.
  • No physical exercise. If I take a walk, I'd like to move my legs.
  • Lack of sensations: Not only don't I move my legs, I also don't feel the wind in my face, and I can't smell the flowers and trees, or touch them.
  • Lack of variety: The virtual forest consists of very few different models of trees which are repeated over and over. The exactly same tree exists in the forest many, many times.
  • Lack of realism: Especially in games like World of Warcraft a virtual tree doesn't look much like a tree at all once you get a bit closer. The leaves are basically just painted on as a texture.
In the end, I am in that virtual forest because unlike the real forest the virtual forest has monsters in it. But that only is an attraction if there is a point to killing those monsters, if there is some sort of challenge, and some reward.

The only possible conclusion is that you should change your Buy me a coffee button to read Buy me an Oculus Rift. By the time you have raised even half the total the Oculus will have evolved into a fully responsive body suits complete with Nasalis Rift(TM) smell and taste simulation.
Tobold: I seem to remember you taking a stroll across Azeroth a few years ago and didn't you also walk a level 6 Burglar all the way from Hobbiton to Rivendell. Plenty of virtual forests on those two non progression related trips.
Back in 2005 when I got my first mount at lvl 40 I rode from Booty Bay to the Scarlet Monastary. Did the same after farming two weeks for my first epic mount, and later in BC flew the route with my first flying mount.

I also swam around both Azeroth and Kalimdor. Not in one sitting of course but still all the way around without water walking.

So I do like a walk in a virtual forest, but it is a one time thing not ongoing content.
I'd like to walk in a virtual forest in a MMO or single player Fantasy game, but I think there's always the data constraint involved, both at the server and on the local machine.

Virtual game worlds are limited by both ends of the data stream, and typically there's a tradeoff in the game world to make varying terrain fit. If, however, servers and the local computers could handle a world 5-10x the size of the largest present MMO, you could potentially have some epic scenery to walk through.

(Of course, games like LOTRO mess with the system by speeding up the in-game clock to make the distances seem larger, but I prefer keeping the game time at a normal pace and increase the size of everything.)
Honestly at times I just walk around because of the scenery. Sure, it's not as good as IRL, but:
- IRL I need to take a car/bus/train and actually get to the forest. This is not feasible unless I devote at least half a day to it.
- I get to stroll in Moria, which not exactly easy to do IRL.... (and crossing it takes quite a bit more than "few minutes").

Of course there are the drawbacks you talk about.

BTW some random examples:
- whenever I have to go somewhere in Kalimdor I usually use my druid teleport to moonglade and then fly. Getting to Uldum along the west coastline is particularly nice.
- LotRO: full north (Forochel, snowstorms and aurora borealis) to south (Rohan) on horseback. Unfortunately you NEED a high level character or you'll die.
- Ryzom: solo-trekking. Anywere will do (the Lakes region and Virginia Falls being my favourite places, some PR areas as well).

Yes it's a pointless activity, but isn't it more or less the definition of a "game"?
but isn't it more or less the definition of a "game"?

I think that would better be described as "toy". "Games" have rules, toys don't.

Plenty of virtual forests on those two non progression related trips.

I didn't do the trips for the scenery but for game reasons.
I've taken a stroll in WoW's forests from time to time.
I'm more than willing to accept that *you* don't see any point in walking through virtual forests. That doesn't mean no-one else does. As for the arguments against doing so, only the one about lack of actual physical exercise is difficult to challenge. All of the other reasons amount to little more than a lack of or lack of willingness to use one's imagination.

I've spent a lot of hours just roaming around all kinds of forests in all kinds of video games. They can, often do, have a haunting beauty all their own. I frequently re-visit and re-explore ones I've been in before, too. It's relaxing and interesting and it stimulates the imagination wonderfully.
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