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Tear Down The Walls! (Loading.. Please Wait...)

World Design Zones Travel Transportation Portals Seamless Loading Screens Zone Borders

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#1 Inquisitor


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 07:25 AM

TEAR DOWN THE WALLS! (Loading.. Please Wait….)
(To me the biggest mistake in GW2's world design)

Game Zone Borders and Transportation Effects:

In my browsing of game forums, I have come across some threads and posts touching upon the world design in Guild Wars 2 (GW2). There have been various opinions and defenses of Arenanet’s design of the GW2 game world. I would like to sum up my thoughts relating to this.

GW2 World Design: (An explanation of GW2 World Design)

The game world is broken up into ‘zones’. These zones are somewhat like the zones you would find in Everquest. Zones are defined areas of a world typically bordered off by natural impassable barriers, typically mountains and oceans.
Travelling between zones is accomplished in a few ways. The first way is to find a few special points along the zone border that has magical portals. You navigate your character through this portal and then you encounter some generic loading screen. You will be on this loading screen for however long it takes your computer to start loading the zone you will be entering. A second way to travel to a different zone is via waypoints. Waypoints are magical portals placed in various locations in each zone. You uncover these waypoints by first travelling to them. Once you unlock a waypoint, you can transport to that waypoint from most anywhere in the world for some coin. A third way to travel between ‘select’ zones is by magical portals called Asura Gates/Portals. These portals are very similar to the portals I mentioned in the ‘First Way’ above, yet they take you to select locations and do not require to be placed along a zone edge.
All ways above require one to be kicked out to a loading screen.

Why This Design Is Good:

The good thing about GW2’s World Design is that it provides a high level of convenience for the player for a minimum cost. Players may travel between many locations in many zones quickly and easily (providing they have unlocked the waypoints). The Asura Portals allow players to travel between select world locations without any requirement to unlock them (from what I know).
Having these two travel methods (waypoints & portals) provide a high level of convenience and one can argue successfully that it provides players the ability to join up with each other with relative ease. Which is a good thing, right?

Why This Design Is Bad:

You may have noticed that I left out one of the three ways of travel, portals along zone edges. I would like to say I could find something good about this. I would like to say that from a technical design perspective, there is plenty of good justification to have this. However, I just cannot. There are plenty of games that provide a near seamless world design, the likes of WoW, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Rift, Darkfall, Asheron’s Call …
So a near seamless world has been possible for many years in the MMO industry. So why doesn’t it exist in GW2?

I believe many MMO players and perhaps a whole heck of a lot more of us (even if we don’t admit it) appreciate a game world where we can feel we’re exploring, without the hassle or interruption from zone borders and even magical insta-portals. Without getting kicked out of the world into a loading screen..
Unfortunately, GW2 is not designed this way.
If you are the adventuring type and want to travel and adventure to new places by foot (or mount if they’re ever implemented), you will most always be required to find a select location along the edge of the zone you’re in and walk through a portal.
No, in GW2 you cannot traverse that mountain range to get to another area of the world. You’ll be herded like sheep along a few selected paths to areas of the zone line in order to go to the next zone.

This type of game world design is very anti-immersive.
The continuity of the game world is broken due to this design. It is very easy to feel like you’re not in a game world when you’re kicked out of the world into loading screens. Loading screens that while introduce you to some interesting art, break you out of the game world for up to 30secs, maybe more!
I’ve spoken to other fellow gamers who feel the same way.

Why is this a bad thing?
Let me put it this way, this method of game world design is NOT doing Arenanet any favors for many of us who appreciate a seamless game world presentation.

Is it a game breaker? No, not really.
Will it dissuade people from trying the game? It might.
Could have Arenanet have done better? IMO Yes.

So we'll just go with a defeatest saying like: 'It is what it is..'

But does it have to be.... ???

A Compromise?:

While it is unlikely that Arenanet will ‘Tear Down The Walls’ of the zone borders and open up the world, it still may be feasibly ‘possible’.
In the absence of this unlikely occurrence, I propose a compromise that will help ‘somewhat’ repair the feeling of being disconnected from the game world by loading screens…

Make animated transition screens when players pass through Portals, Zone-line Portals and use Waypoints.

You can see an example of what I’m talking about if you check out this Tera Online video(Timemark 46sec):

Now it doesn’t have to be exactly like Tera, but I think something similar, if implemented smartly, would definitely assist with making it feel that we haven’t left the game world. It will allow us to see firsthand that there’s MAGIC AT WORK instead of LOADING SCREEN… PLEASE WAIT….

Another suggestion:

Why not tear down the portals between zones and allow some transition as WoW does it?
At least along the predetermined points of entry to a new zone.

And, for those that don’t appreciate nor can fathom the feeling of being connected to a game world, we’ll leave in the option that you can still see your loading screens..

I believe the more a game maker can help reinforce a players feeling that they're constantly in the game world, the more the game becomes believable. The more the game becomes believeable, the more immersed a gamer feels, which leads to a higher level of loyalty to the game, which ultimately leads to more fun, and potentially more profits for the game maker!

Edited by Inquisitor, 16 June 2012 - 07:29 AM.

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#2 drkn


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 07:32 AM

Lineage 2 has no loading screens and rarely ever any 'thin predetermined points' where you could pass onto another location. It works fine there, but i don't really imagine it working along with 100%-ing the map in GW2, as well as it probably has more to do with the applied server technology regarding the population.
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#3 Tommyknocker


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 07:50 AM

I have never had a problem with seeing loading screens, and I am quite sure that anyone that has played any game with large terrain has seen these screens quite often. As for losing some players over this issue I cannot see it as it is more of a respite from playing (I use the time for a bio break or a fresh drink) than game breaking.
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#4 Ardeni


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:03 AM

I partly agree on most of the original post. Arenanet could definitely have done the transistion between the shards of the world better.

However, I don't think that a seamless world would be possible or even necessary in Guild Wars 2. It could make the game run heavier, which would cause lag to the lower end systems. Also, the shards are very big - it took me more than a day to explore one of them. It doesn't break my immersion when I have to load to the next area or when I use a waypoint. I understand that the loading is required.

I do think that the loading screens and portals could have been done better, though. The portals are useless. It would be better if they didn't even exist on the maps. It'd be much smoother to simply see your character to run to the distance and then the loading screen (or an animated screen of your character running, like in the TERA video with the pegasos) would appear. I think that the animated loading screens would be a good idea.

This design might indeed drive some people away from the game if they don't really know about it at all. I can see wow players answering "GW2? But that one doesn't even have an open world! Why would I play that?" when persuaded to try GW2. Should they read some information about the game, they would change their mind though. GW2 is, to me, an amazing game even if the world is split into zones. I bet that it is an amazing game to anybody who likes MMOs and who takes a moment to find out information about it. Sadly, everybody won't do that, which means that this could be an issue.
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#5 anzenketh


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:07 AM

I can think of a reason for them needing the loading screens. They may need it for their patching system. What other game do you know of that has ~36 hours of downtime in 7 years.
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#6 Healix


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:11 AM

The technical reasons for the way it is is that it's simple. In WoW, if a zone is overpopulated, they lag the enitre continent. If they crash the zone, they crash the continent. In a world like GW2, each zone is basically a server. Lag, crashes and errors are restricted to the one zone. If many zones start to lag however, if affects all the zones, or at least all the zones running on the hardware those zones were on, depending on how they're setup.

The best way they could get rid of portals would be to implement progressive loading, like other seamless games, while using a type of phasing to implement the overflow servers. There wouldn't be loading screens, but there would be pauses while transitioning "servers". It would make it much more complex though, opening up many more potential bugs and pushing the release date far back.
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#7 kgptzac


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:12 AM

As a GW1 player I see GW2's approach in zones a natural choice. Sure, GW2 is supposed to be much more persistent than GW1, but that doesn't necessarily requires seamless zone transition. The zoning/server structure is already there: each zone has a population limit; players can do /map etc. Simply speaking, getting rid of zones require major redesign of a lot of underlying stuff that GW2 has right now, which is unlikely to be considered by devs at this point.

Although I would like anet to get rid of ugly, artificial borders for each zone on the world map... you know, like how gw1 does.
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#8 Firetruck


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:12 AM

Holy jesus, no way. There are wayyyy too many things going on in the game world for the on-demand loading to encompass the entire world. Also, your suggestion for an animated loading screen would most likely cause everyone to spend MORE time sitting in front of their screens not playing.

It's not that they're technically incapable or lazy, they have their reason for making this decision.
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#9 RabidusIncendia


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:19 AM

Yes, portals or no portals is entirely a programming problem, not a design problem. This might have been relevant years ago, but I really don't see how they can switch their coding to this at this point since all of their loading, and how much they put in areas, is going to be completely dependent on their current code. They made the choice to make loading a but easier a long time ago, and that's just how it is.
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Fun while it lasted. I guess.

#10 Leeto


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:30 AM

Ye as wow player i hated it cause it like not world of tyria but zones of tyria, for me it didnt feel like its one big world for a single second cause i cant even run to other zone without loading screen. But maybe its needed cause every zone has more things happening then in many games whole world has, so i think i will just get used to this over time. I love evrything about GW2 but it has worst "open" world i have ever seen, reminds me cabal online.
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#11 Three


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:50 AM

There is a design decision here. I haven't played WoW for quit a while but I seem to remember that they didn't render creatures or players on your screen till they were pretty close to you. If someone was moving fast they'd be right up on you before they knew you were there. I didn't notice at first but once I did I moved back and forth testing the distance I could see NPC's. It wasn't that far.

Played another game at that time that had zones( City of Heroes) and the NPC's, players and enemies were visible much further off.

Both designs have strengths and weaknesses and I'm fine with a loading screen now and then. The zones are big enough that I've got no problem with immersion.
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#12 viper11025


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 09:00 AM

Worlds to massive to run on F2P and with the current system of server switches. I'd love if they added alternate paths at least to the game.

So, in conclusion your suggestion cant happen now, However more alternate paths between zones is highly possible. Most likely will happen, remember there are 3 levels to the worlds. Possibly more.
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#13 Inquisitor


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 09:06 AM

I can think of a reason for them needing the loading screens. They may need it for their patching system. What other game do you know of that has ~36 hours of downtime in 7 years.

Yes, from a technical standpoint, I can see how it may not have been possible to create a more seamless world due to their design to include the 'overflow' servers.
Their patching system MIGHT have some impact on how the world was created.
Good point.

Also, your suggestion for an animated loading screen would most likely cause everyone to spend MORE time sitting in front of their screens not playing.

I don't understand this comment at all. The time between the current loading screens and my suggested animated loading screen wouldn't be any different. It's simply the presentation. I do not believe implementing animated loading screens will create any difference in the time it takes to go from one zone to another.

The best way they could get rid of portals would be to implement progressive loading, like other seamless games, while using a type of phasing to implement the overflow servers. There wouldn't be loading screens, but there would be pauses while transitioning "servers". It would make it much more complex though, opening up many more potential bugs and pushing the release date far back.

They could make it so when a player is headed towards the zone-line, at some point the player's spot is reserved on the available server for the zone (regular or overflow). Once that point is reached, the zone on the chosen server starts to load in the background on the player's PC and the zone then has a progressive render.


In any case, the possible technical limitations to changing the game to a more seamless one now are noted.

However, I do believe better transitions screens between zones (like my suggestion above) wouldn't HURT the game.
And besides, it could be an OPTION so as to cater to those who LOVE static type loading screens. *SHRUG*
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#14 Joandir


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 09:25 AM

Portals are needed to give a player the visual they are going to change zone: would you risk to change zone without knowing it? About loading screens i feel natural with them; anyway they can become more informative about the shard exploration, events going on becoming more usefull.
I love to RPG but I really don't understand how you can be disturbed by a loading screen, breacking your "immersion"... no guys, your imagination is stronger than a loading screen ;)
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#15 Silverune


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 09:41 AM

Anitmated transition screens would get boring very quickly. I would hate to watch something like that long shinning tunnel sequence that you showed in the above video ever time I entered a new zone.
I do agree that WoW's seemless transitions screens were very good in the way that the ground subtley changed when going from something like a rocky area to green pastures.
But I think GW2 is fine as it is. Some nice artwork and a short loading screen I can handle that since I know I'm going to be in this new zone for some time.
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#16 Alleji


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:17 AM

However, I do believe better transitions screens between zones (like my suggestion above) wouldn't HURT the game.And besides, it could be an OPTION so as to cater to those who LOVE static type loading screens. *SHRUG*

Obviously it wouldn't hurt the game and I don't think there are people who are in love with loading screens... but pretty much nobody cares about it.
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#17 Maniaknl


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:33 AM

Don't get me wrong I like the idea of having an open world without these portals. But on the other hand..

Population goes per map, if a map is full you will be thrown in an overflow server.
If they don't split those parts of the map this isn't possible. I prefer loading times + portals over Lag + server queues + way to overcrowded area’s every day of the week.

About the transition animations: I must say they look fancy but they will get boring after a while.
You can say the same thing about the concept art showing on the loading screen.

However if you look at performance: Loading screens costs less CPU/GPU processing power thus a loading screen will be faster than a fancy animation. In the end I prefer to be done loading faster than having a fancy transition animation display :D.

Oh, and PS:
It's not like you encounter loadings screens every 5 minutes.. The maps are big enough to stay in them for hours of jolly good fun.

Just my 50 cents :)

Edited by Maniaknl, 16 June 2012 - 10:37 AM.

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#18 Rinn


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:54 AM

The loading screen has one important function. It's a border between maps and between difficulty levels. If you go trough a portal then you know that the new map will mean a different difficulty level too.
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#19 Prokofiova


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 11:05 AM

The OPs comparison to Everquest is interesting. Here's why:

1. Everquest did NOT have instanced dungeons. WoW did, "breaking immersion" for some people (myself included). But people grew to accept the tradeoff.
2. WoW still has zones, they're just bigger (Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, Draenor, Northrend).
3. WoW is down for hours each week. GW1 is down for hours each year. I'm just speculating here, but I think the whole server/zone architecture has something to do with that limited downtime. I always found the amount of WoW's (and now Diablo3's) downtime to be obnoxious.
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#20 Craywulf


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 11:11 AM

I think the current set up is a compromise of necessity. Do you think ArenaNet wants it to be seamless? Sure they do, but obviously for whatever reason(s) it's not technically feasible for them to do. The loading time isn't all that long, 2-3 minutes at the most, depending on your computer. I also noticed that loading times are longer for the first time you enter a new zone, and are dramatically shorter in length afterwards. I imagine once the game is optimized, loading times will be improved.
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#21 Ashdown


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 11:24 AM

I don't mind the loading screens in GW2. They're rare enough, and on my PC never last more than 10 seconds, to not get in the way. I played The Secret World beta last night and the amount of loading screens in ridiculous. Can't believe they want to charge a sub for that game, it'll go the same way as SW:TOR, I'm calling it now.
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#22 Jan Breydel

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 01:29 PM

I can see the point of the OP that this seperate zone design makes the game feel less immersive.
However I personally think that this is a small price to pay for the advantages it brings to stability of the servers etc.
The loading screens don't really bother me as they tend to be very short of duration and usually have a nice artwork background.

I personally think that dynamic events could and should break the zone barriers to reduce the feeling of separation between zones.
To give an example on how this would work with kessex peak - queensdale: What if the centaurs who at certain points siege fort salma could actually be succesful and occupy fort salma, instead of just sieging until players come along and stop the siege. What if, after they have taken over fort salma(which is located near the portal to queensdale), they would continue by invading queensdale as well. As long as players in kessex peak have not retaken fort salma the centaurs will continue sending troops into queensdale (and maybe even start new dynamic events there).

For me these kind of cross-zone dynamic events would result in a much much more immersive world and the annoying borders of a zone would quickly be forgotten. Also I would finally be able to give a score of 5 when they ask me how much a dynamic event influences the world :) .
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#23 llwydakers


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 01:49 PM

I never had a problem with zone portals, it gave me a chance to sit back and relax. But zone portals on city way points gets OLD. Especially since so many crafting stations are on a separate level from the bank/trading house. I can hit 5 loading screens in a matter of minutes, while actually seeing the next waypoint. I dont mind a loading screen when crossing zones, I understand things need to be loaded. But to unload everything, then reload it with different x,y,z coords seems a bit overkill.
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#24 Guest 34905

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 01:55 PM

The loading screens never took longer than 3seconds with me. And I mean that, not over a single 3 seconds.
If that is to much for you, well I feel sorry for you..

And for me the world doesn't feel closed, small or w/e.
In WoW it just happened by background downloading the next map. So there were also a select few points where you went to the next zone, and in that transition you were often guided through a long cave/narrow passage of sorts.
I don't see the difference between that.
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#25 turbo234


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 01:58 PM

Are we really complaining about 4 second loading screens?
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#26 Breno


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 02:24 PM

"OMG, a four seconds loading screen has appeared!! That's so immersion breaking!! How can I pretend I'm a big boobed Norm this way?? The game is ruined!!!"

It's not my intention to hurt someones feelings, but oh, Lord. A game is meant to be played, not to be lived. I really dislike this "immersion" generation.
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#27 JP Blackout

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 03:33 PM

I don't really mind the loading screens in terms of breaking immersion. But then again, I really don't care about immersion at all. The thing that bothers me is that there are too many loading screens. One that comes to mind is in The Mists. If you were standing too far away from the golem area waypoint you would get a loading screen! Thats ridiculous! I am in the same zone and there still is a loading screen. But if I were to get a little closer, near the gap between the golem area and glory chest vendors, there would not be a loading screen. I feel like that is not acceptable. Having loading screens is fine, its a game. but having them to this extent is a bit much, even for me.

My suggestion would be to make the loading screens more lively, change up the art work or even a short video. The current loading screens seem dull and repetitive.
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#28 Shadow Heart

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 03:36 PM

I don't mind the loading screens. What I don't care for are the portals at the end of the zone, it just seems strange. I think an obvious sign saying this way to xxx posted on a road or path, or even carved into the rock.

Either way, if nothing is changed I'm still playing. Just minor cosmetic stuff in my opinion.
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#29 Inquisitor


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 06:31 PM

Ok, some really good points and opinions here.

Of course not everyone is going to share my passion about an MMO's game world design and level of immersion with me.
For me an MMO is typically a game I plan to spend most of my time in, adventure in, and see the game virtually every day.
I also typically don't jump around to other games nor do I consume multiple games quickly and try to power level through them.
So, for me, anything that helps me feel like the world is HUGE without interruptions from loading screens is a very welcome thing.
Like I said before, these loading screens are not game breaking, but to some, causes a rift of discontinuity in the game world.

I compared GW2 with Everquest on zones and their borders. I felt the design concept was similar. Everquest wasn't a bad game, and that game had huge zones (perhaps a lot as big or bigger than GW2).

For people who don't care:
Well, I feel sorry you don't. But then again I can't expect everyone to look at an MMO and its world design like I do and understand the importance of it, no matter how small a matter it may seem on the surface.

For people arguing against an animated loading screen:
I do not believe an animated loading screen is going to take sooooo much CPU/GPU processing power as to noticeably stall out and extend the time it would take to transition between zones.

If you find you'd be bored with some animated effect for a loading screen vs. a static picture with text on it, well then this is a matter of preference and that's why I mentioned having it as an OPTION.

Besides, so many other games have loading screens, isn't it about time a game of this caliber do something different and more interesting? Personally I think Anet kind of skimped in this area. AGAIN, no, not a game breaker... but really, I believe Anet care so much about their game that they also care and hope to make their players feel as much as possible that they're in the game world and never kicked out of it. Loading Screens do not help achieve that.

I love a lot about this game. My biggest disappointment are predefined zones surround by impassable mountains.
Yes, the zones are big. However this game is not an open seamless world. If it was, I really believe that game would be a 9.5 out of 10.
For me it's an 8 out of 10. I hope there's something in the future Anet can do at least to how they present how people transition to different zones.
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#30 Firetruck


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Posted 16 June 2012 - 08:56 PM

For people arguing against an animated loading screen:
I do not believe an animated loading screen is going to take sooooo much CPU/GPU processing power as to noticeably stall out and extend the time it would take to transition between zones.

A loading screen takes about 5 seconds for me. The animation would probably increase it by a second or two. With that, I've gone through an "extra" loading screen every three screens because of the animation.

And yes, I do chain-travel waypoints and asura gates to save money, so this is relevant.

I understand you want them to... innovate on loading screens or something... but docking off a point and a half for it? More like half a point, and an extra point because of the disagreeable community.
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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: World Design, Zones, Travel, Transportation, Portals, Seamless, Loading Screens, Zone Borders

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