Cameron Sorden writes:
''A few weeks ago, I was reading an Age of Conan interview with Shannon Drake where he was discussing several of the features that would be present in the game. One of the questions he was asked was why Funcom made the choice to use world zones for AoC instead of a seamless world. If you haven't heard the terminology before, games with world zones are games like EverQuest, EverQuest 2, and Guild Wars, where you have a loading screen when you pass from area to area. Seamless worlds include games like World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, where you can pass between different game areas without a loading screen. Seamless worlds still have loading screens, of course-- just not for most major zones that you'll be traveling through.
Shannon's answer was interesting. He admitted that their choice was partially due to the trade-offs required when designing a next-gen game (graphics are a major resource hog), but then he also talked about immersion and world design. Although Hyboria was supposed to be an enormous landmass, they didn't want to make a game that took forever to walk across. On the other hand, they didn't want to reduce the epic scale of the world by reducing a cross-continent journey to five minutes. Now, maybe that's just their canned answer to keep the fans happy with loading screens, and maybe it really was part of their game design-- probably a nice helping of both. Either way, it's worth considering. Do loading screens really help your game immersion?''