I've been spending my free time this week play testing getting from A to B along the road network I've built in Ancient Sumeria. And for a first pass I wanted to play test something ala Oregon trail.

It sucked.

Travel between nearby cities takes days. Many profitable journeys would take you from one side of Mesopotamia to the other. Which would take weeks. Journeying to far off lands... months. In my present mode you can travel during daylight, and have to either camp on the side of the road or journey into town and rent a place to sleep.

It is a lot of clicking for a lot of pointless toil for a lot of going nowhere fast and accomplishing little. So I'm glad I played it out before I handed it to people.

So why am I spending so much time on details I'm not intending to expose to the player? Primarily because I am an unabashed geek. But secondly, trade is important for the game's setting. Travel and trade were so important in Mesopotamia, that the Code of Hammurabi had whole sections devoted to the going rate to rent carts, boats, and laborers to operate them. This was the first time in human experience that people didn't have to devote every waking hour to growing/hunting/(wishing they had) food.

For the next release I'm going to put together a montage mode where the computer will go through all of those steps and perform all of the obvious choices. You'll get get a summary of the journey at the end of what injuries your party suffered, and treasure they uncovered, and news they discovered. I'll have the computer tally up all of the expenses at the end for feed and lodging and staff salaries and provide you a receipt.

If something huge comes up that requires a player decision, the journey will take a pause get the player's response, and then carry on. Events I'm thinking about along these lines are:

Stopping to help a strangerYour party encounters a stranger in distress. Sometimes they just take your help and say "thanks." Sometimes they provide a reward. Sometimes they turn out to be a god or goddess in disguise. Sometimes they are a band of thieves who are laying an ambush. You never know.
Hear an old legendWhile camped for the night traveler around the same campfire share a legend of an old ruin. And that ruin happens to be nearby! The player is given the options of looking for the ruin and exploring it.
Beast encounter Depending on your scout's ability, sometimes you get the drop on them, sometimes they get the drop on you.

Beasts include:

Herd of prey animalsmeat, skins, trophies
Predatory creatureskins, trophies
Mythical beastmagical items
Band of thievescurrency, cargo, slaves

If leading a trade caravan isn't the player's cup of tea, they can hire NPCs to do it instead. The player could just be a merchant, dispatching hirelings to pick up cargo at point A, and deliver it to point B. And that has me thinking about all of the different roles that I need to implement. But that more or less grew into a separate blog entry: Making NPCs do your dirty work