Fear of Flying

In one of those “note the date, something big was said” moments, Blizzard has announced… through a proxy at least, if not via an official press release… that they likely won’t allow flying mounts in Draenor… or maybe in any future expansion.  You can read about it over at Polygon, where the fateful words came as part of an interview.  I think this sums up the justification.

Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways

There is a bit of irony in that, seeing that Outland, an alternate timeline Draenor, was the first place to feature flying mounts, but Draenor will be denied them.  Flying mounts have been a thing in WoW since 2007.  But the interview goes into all the thing people tend to bring up as the downside of flying mounts.

Certainly, flying has been a contentious thing in WoW.  And Blizzard has no doubt been aware of the trade off that flying brings with it since The Burning Crusade.

Back then you only got to spend what seemed like a ton of gold on a skill and a flying mount… back when buying the mount was the expensive bit… when you hit the level cap.  At that point you got to fly and there was some content that required flying to access.

Then came Wrath of the Lich King, and there was much moaning because flying went away the moment you hit Northrend, at least until you got to level… 77? 78? not quite the level cap… at which point you could train Cold Weather Flying and move into some of the content that required a flying mount.  That was a hint at the problems to come, as once somebody has something, it is a hard task to take it away.

Cataclysm gave us flying from the first moment and pretty much proved to me that flying had its problems.  Aside from Vashj’ir, which was under water (though you could make the case that your under water mount was effectively a flying mount), you had access to your flying mounts in all of the new zones, which took much of the effort out of them.  There were a few points where you needed flying, but for the most part flying felt like a pass to flit past any opposition to get to a quest objective.  It basically sped up leveling, something I am not sure WoW really needed.

Blizzard pulled back from that with Mists of Pandaria, going back to the model of allowing flying mounts only at level cap.  There was even a bit of content that required a flying mount, though nothing like the level of content in Outland or Northrend.  But that led us back to the cycle of losing flying with the next expansion again, and Blizzard hemmed and hawed about flying in Warlords of Draenor.  There was a promise to look into flying, an assumption that we would get flying, but no concrete statement that it would be so.

And now we have the word… or perhaps it is just a trial balloon that Blizzard can deny was the official line if the rage grows too strong.

Personally, I get what is being said when it comes flying.  It does make the world feel smaller.  It does trivialize travel.  It does let players bypass all that annoying “content” to go straight their objective.  It does make an already too fast and too convenient game feel even faster and more convenient.  Exploration ceases to be a thing… there being little or no effort in exploring on a flying mount… and some types of adventures just don’t happen when you can fly.

It is just a shame that flying is so much damn fun.  Here is what I wrote back when I got my first flying mount in WoW.

Flying… it is good enough that it feels like cheating.

Yeah it does.  And I never get tired of it, especially when it comes to druid flight form.  I could easily spend an idle hour amusing myself with my druid just jumping off of tall buildings and then going into flight form as I fell.

Patience got me Flight

Druid just floating above the world…

Once you have a druid with flight form, even flying mounts feel a bit awkward.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

I love when I can fly and the flight form hasn’t drawn yet…

And, like any really good, empowering cheat, it is very tough to let go once you have used it once.  I never think, “Oh, I should just ride or walk, flying is too easy.”  I just fly.  It would take a serious effort of will to walk or ride when flying was available.

So I can see why people are upset at the even the suggestion that we might not get to swan about on flying mounts everywhere in Azeroth.  We’ve all had that bit of heroin in our veins by now, and it is a tough habit to break.

But I also can’t help but see something of a parallel between how a few people are responding to this and how some botters responded to their bans recently; petulance and declarations and speaking for the community as a whole along with threats to never give Blizzards another nickel.  The usual stuff.

I just can’t get all that worked up about it myself.  If I could press a button and turn on flying in Draenor, I probably would.  But I also have a bit of a fatalistic outlook when it comes to video games.  I try to look at things like this as obstacles to conquer as opposed to things that I should spend much time pouting/raging about.

And, coming of age with video games when I did, I also seem to give developers a lot of leeway in shaping their game to be played the way they want it to be played, as opposed to the way the players think it should be played.  That is one of the great philosophical questions of our age, the relative importance of developer vision versus player desire, and one that gets deftly avoided time and again when people, including myself, write about games.

That doesn’t mean I don’t bitch and moan about some decisions, or count the cost of a particular change… that’s great fun at times… or occasionally think I am smarter than the devs on a given issue, but you’ll note that I mostly focus on the games I keep playing anyway.  It is more a matter of my wanting to talk about games than any desire to impose my will.  Just last week I took the time to note that the harsh death penalty of TorilMUD was being relaxed.  I had suffered from that harsh penalty more than a few times in the past, but always considered it to be part of the game and altered my play style to accommodate it.  Now that has changed, and likely the game itself will change because of it… though given the low population of TorilMUD these days the range of the impact likely won’t be great.

Anyway, there is a mob howling about flying.  I won’t be upset if Blizzard holds to their current vision for flying mounts.  I think Blizzard has some legitimate points, ones that have been brought up time and again.  But if the heat is too much for Blizzard and they decide that putting the toothpaste back in the tube is beyond their means, I’ll be riding around in the air on my flying mount like everybody else.

Other bloggers looking at the whole flying mount thing:

 

16 thoughts on “Fear of Flying

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @tsuhelm – You can fly everywhere in WoW except the Draenei starter area, the Blood Elf starter area, and Warlords of Draenor at this point, if you are the right level and have purchased the right skill. (Also that area with the dailies way at the north tip of the Eastern Kingdoms too… can’t fly there either if I recall right. And Vashj’ir, which is under water, as noted in the post.)

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  2. Random Poster

    the biggest issue I’ve always had with it is I actually hate flying as we level. making it so that I have to go from point to point I see a lot of artwork it makes me feel more immersed in the world however when it came to max level I would rather fly.

    Previously I would use it to go back and look at areas and locations I had missed while leveling. Now because I can’t do that I just sit in my garrison which adds to the whole empty feeling in Draenor.

    Not to mention you have people who spent real world cash on mounts that could well…. Fly

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Random Poster

    the biggest issue I’ve always had with it is I actually hate flying as we level. making it so that I have to go from point to point I see a lot of artwork it makes me feel more immersed in the world however when it came to max level I would rather fly.

    Previously I would use it to go back and look at areas and locations I had missed while leveling. Now because I can’t do that I just sit in my garrison which adds to the whole empty feeling in Draenor.

    Not to mention you have people who spent real world cash on mounts that could well….Fly. Bigbearbutt has a couple of good posts up about it to

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  4. bhagpuss

    I would say, from my experience in EQ2 and Vanguard, that flying adds so much additional value in terms of sheer pleasure that the positives very heavily outweigh the negatives. Yes, it can trivialize some older content but mostly it trivializes content that was annoying to begin with and which I’m very happy to have trivialized. Moreover, once flying is in the game then there is absolutely no excuse for it to trivialize any content added thereafter. If it does then that is simply because the designer failed to take proper account of the mechanics of his own game.

    In the case of WoW, though, I think the biggest issue is taking away something players thought they had been given, and, what’s worse, because of what sounded from the original interview awfully close to “Daddy Knows Best”. That’s never going to go down well.

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  5. Azuriel

    Personally, I get what is being said when it comes flying. It does make the world feel smaller. It does trivialize travel. It does let players bypass all that annoying “content” to go straight their objective. It does make an already too fast and too convenient game feel even faster and more convenient. Exploration ceases to be a thing… there being little or no effort in exploring on a flying mount… and some types of adventures just don’t happen when you can fly.

    I couldn’t disagree more, and I honestly have no idea why these talking points continue being brought up. How is the world smaller, specifically? Is there a particular zone you remember going “huh, this feels smaller than X zone” when you fly over it? And how in the world is “travel” trivialized by flying mounts, and not trivialized by 9+ Flight Points per zone? There is nothing more trivial than clicking a FP and then Alt-tabbing out of the game, which is what I do 100% of the time.

    My speculation on the subject is that Blizzard is cutting flying to reduce future production costs. It was too late for Draenor, but with flying being, at best, restricted to certain areas in the future, that means Blizzard can go back to 2D sprites and skyboxes for their backgrounds. Think Silvermoon City, where the gameworld does not exist outside of the narrow streets. Or even most places in old Azeroth before the Cataclysm. We have already heard them stating content creation is slower due to increased graphical fidelity, so not creating entire continents of 3D space would result in considerable savings.

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Azuriel – “How is the world smaller, specifically?”

    I said it feels smaller, not that it was smaller. Please do not mis-state what is written clearly above and which you took the time to copy and paste.

    If you can travel from point A to point B more quickly and directly, without worrying about being restricted to flight points, the whole passage between those points takes less time and thus the distance feels smaller. That seems obvious enough that I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse with your argument.

    As for your speculation, that is true enough, though it does not explain why they would not allow flying in Draenor, where they already allow some forms of pseudo-controlled flight and seemed to still be deciding whether or not to allow flying.

    @Bhagpuss – “Daddy Knows Best”

    Like I said, the great unagrgued philosophical question here is whether or not the dev’s view of how their game should be played should trump the player’s view or not. Everybody is keen to tackle a specific issue or specific feature, but not the big question.

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  7. Matt

    I don’t know that making the world seem bigger really does anything for me at this point. I was impressed back in 2005 with how big WoW was, but that was then. Now I have only so much time, and the last thing I want to do is spend 10% of it just moving around.

    I wonder if this isn’t just nostalgia getting the better of them, like when they tried to go back to the good old days of hard dungeons.

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  8. Azuriel

    @Wilhelm – In the sentence after the one you quoted, I specifically included the word “feels,” and that was supposed to be implied in the preceding one. As for this:

    If you can travel from point A to point B more quickly and directly, without worrying about being restricted to flight points, the whole passage between those points takes less time and thus the distance feels smaller. That seems obvious enough that I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse with your argument.

    This is a mechanical argument that I still disagree with. Again, was there a zone you got this feeling towards? I ask because I legitimately and truly never get this feeling, in Azeroth or in real life. When I flew back to to meet family in Nebraska, I didn’t look out the window and think the world felt smaller. I saw all those houses down there speeding by, like fireflies in the darkness, and knew each one of them contained people that I would never know, but whom had entire lives and experiences of their own. Down on the surface I could travel 10 miles in any direction and encounter an entirely new existence than the one I had known. Cruising by at 570 mph, all I could think about is how large the world actual is.

    I get a similar feeling every time I’m flying around in WoW. Speeding over Jade Forest, I always remember how that was 10-20+ hours of content down there. There are a total of 52 quests in Silithus. There are 318 in Jade Forest. Flying over one zone is a completely different experience than the other, to me. Maybe you feel differently, that size is a function of speed and that’s it, I dunno. I have just never legitimately seen it that way.

    As for why Blizzard didn’t just allow flying in Draenor, I would assume they didn’t want to put “Permanently removed flying!” on the next expansion box. Keeping it removed now, when they haven’t technically taken it away this expansion, is the way to mitigate the most PR damage.

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Azuriel – That’s fine. I disagree with you. But since this is a very subjective aspect of the game, I’m not sure why you’re so vehement on the topic to the point you cannot even allow for a different point of view. That multiple people seem to agree with me, including somebody from the dev team, seems to be reason enough for these talking points to be brought up. And it isn’t like I came out AGAINST flying, I just wrote about what I saw as the pros and cons. So, again, your hostility is baffling.

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  10. Todd

    Has there been any discussion of anything else that causes the same “problems” as flying? I’ve seen stealth mentioned, though only very occasionally. It has the exact problem in questing as flying. You can bypass everything but the target. Is that on its way out too? What about heirlooms, which were recently made easy to get. They certainly allow a player to bypass content,and they are even available for current content. I was able to get to 100 in 3 zones without heirlooms, and haven’t touched the other 2. With heirlooms it should be about 2 zones? How is this not a problem?

    I think the Blizzard is not telling the whole story. The only things flying does that other things don’t is reduce travel time (time spent doing annoying things in game: time sink) and force increased graphical rendering. I just wish they’d be honest about what they are doing.

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  11. Azuriel

    @Wilhelm – I suppose I can now empathize with those for whom game changes are not merely academic exercises, but something that directly impacts one’s enjoyment with the game. Removal of attunements, easier dungeons, introduction of LFD/LFR… I agreed with those design directions, but they didn’t really affect me all that much. Losing flying though? From now on? I didn’t even know I cared so much until that interview came out.

    My apologies for the aggressiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Knug

    Travel time reductions obscures geographical size. Case in point. Many folks fly from one side of North America in a 1/4 of a day. Eating breakfast in Halifax and supper in Vancouver later that day is easily done.

    Now, from where I grew up in Eastern Ontario, if you started driving at normal highway speeds (i.e. above the posted speed limit, like most folks) Not only does 6 hours behind the wheel not get you far across the map, but if you had been driving continuously for 24 hours you have just reached the western limit of Ontario. You are still less than half way to Vancouver!

    The incredible rate of modern air travel has indeed shrunk the world. Is it good or bad? It depends on whether the travel itself is important, or is simply getting to your destination important.

    In a MMORPG like EvE or the PvP portions of Lineage II, traveling the spaces in between is important because while you may not be interested in other folks they are interested in you (or at least your potential value to them). In the PvE areas of most MMORPG, the land between you and your destination may have opportunities and challenges, but if they are not what you are interested in, and you as a traveller are not interesting to other players, then nothing is lost by skipping over these areas.

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  13. Pingback: Stuck on the Ground | Leo's Life

  14. Solf

    Personally I don’t mind losing flying that much. I do mind (a lot!) the %$&$&% multi-layered maze-like design of the world they feel needed to inflict on us in Draenor in EVERY bleeping zone.

    Give me original WoW zones w/o flying any time.

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