I am not a fan of "wait points" in certain games, but in others it can add value to the games engagement. My examples of this topic will use Skyrim and its options to advance time by "waiting" or "sleeping."
The problem with this kind of system is that it detracts from the immersion of the game. Can anyone honestly say that they stayed immersed in any of the elder scroll games when they opened the “wait” menu and clicked "wait" to watch it tick down the hours until it was finished. Everything is instantly fourth-walled and the world jumps forward around you without a seamless feel.
Instead of waiting just anywhere, as in Skyrim, I would design to have practical locations considered as ”wait points” to be much more immersible and allow for a more natural feel. Yes, it could be stated that not giving the player the ability to wait anywhere is taking away their choices and freedoms in the game but think about it. I myself have taken a beating and then snuck away to a corner far enough away from enemies in the dungeon to “wait” and gain all my Health back. The same goes for standing in the middle of the woods and waiting, that does not seem practical even for the subject being a game. This doesn’t mean there would be plenty of places to “wait” it merely means that waiting is better placed into the world and adding to the challenge of the game.
Speaking of the wait itself being seamless I want to try and describe this as best I can. This kind of transitioning would be useful in more than just waiting such as blacksmithing, collecting resources, building, etc. Please remember that I am referencing Skyrim only because it accurately portrays a roleplaying world that these mechanics and adjustments would work well with. MMOs and other such titles that retain RPG elements could also benefit from this.
Imagine walking into the tavern. Patrons bustle about and you want get a drink before heading out to check a cave up the mountain. The patron who had given you the task said to head up and see if you can spot two people outside around dusk but right now it is early morning. What should you do while you have time to kill? Maybe you wish to sit back and just drink until it’s time to leave. You look to the bartender and choose to Drink (wait). The bartender says I’ll put it on your tab and the menu for how long you wish to wait appears. You choose 6 hours and the menu closes. The camera begins to rotate around the player as time seems to speed up. The patrons around you go about their daily business and you continue to take a sip of your ale. As the hours tick away so does the light sifting in from the windows. Once the six hours are up you pay the barkeep and walk outside to start your way up the mountain.
This is but an example of what we could implement into our games to maintain immersion but retaining the same effect. The only difficult task at this moment would be to show the changing of NPCs moving around the player, and even that can be removed if it is too taxing on the system. With this mentality though Taverns become useful again, finding a random shack to wait out the night or recover from a nasty fight blend into the world. The game itself is cinematic so use that to an advantage rather than not using all the tools available.
I hope this makes sense and can help in distinguishing better ways of designing games.