Thanks for the good input. I should have mentioned up front that I'm working on a single player RPG, but many of the concepts from the online games apply. Here are the things I've picked up which I'll try to incorporate into my game....
- Travel should never feel like a chore. The designer needs to ensure that travel is either skipped or made worthwhile
- The game should provide 'short cut' option to skip over routes the player traverses frequently (with a pretty low threshold on the definition of 'frequently')
- When you do force the player to take the scenic route, be sure to present the player with things to do (encounters more interesting than random wandering attack sparrows)
- Free instant travel will dilute the experience of a large game world. Make the player pay for the service (doesn't need to be a high cost - just enough to make the player think before jumping through the teleporter)
- Instant travel options should make sense in the context of the game world. Travel that is instantaneous for the player may take a fair amount of time in the game world.
- Make sure the player doesn't get lost. The big problem isn't so much not knowing how to get where you want to go - the real problem is not understanding the significance of going north as opposed to south. While this is more a consequence of open-ended game design than a big world, the two go hand in hand. Give the player some way of really orienting themselves.
Thanks again for the input. Here's one other link I found that is related to the OP...http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=261605