Warlords without flying… it’s not so bad.

One of the most controversial subjects surrounding Warlords of Draenor has been the tentative decision by the developers to disable the ability to fly for the entirety of 6.0 and possibly beyond.  This would mean you cannot buy the ability to fly once you hit level 100 like you did at level 90 in Mists of Pandaria and 77 in Wrath of the Lich King.  Needless to say, that change probably wouldn’t feel very good if it were implemented in Pandaria right now with no other changes, and here’s why:

  • The fastest way to travel would become flight paths, which often take a very indirect route.  Not only are they sightseeing tours, but they also often have you going to towns or other flight points that are far out-of-the-way before heading to your destination.
  • Gathering professions become more time-consuming.  It takes longer to get from one node to the next due to traveling at half your usual speed, and also having to avoid parts of the terrain, creatures and other landmarks and obstacles that are between you and your target.
  • Questing at max level becomes slower because you can’t skip stuff you don’t need by flying over it.  You’ll have to fight your way through mobs to reach your objective much more often.

This is basically what players think about when they are told that you won’t be able to fly in Warlords of Draenor, and that’s fair.  What you don’t know about are all the adjustments to reduce these problems while accomplishing their stated goals.

Travel

It’s safe to say that Blizzard’s intention is not to increase time spent traveling to your destination.  There really isn’t much reason to want to do that.  MMORPG game design is about providing adequate rewards for your time, so reducing the reward or increasing the time spent acquiring it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without adjusting the other part of the equation.

As an example, if you want to fly to Shrine to Timeless Isle, this is the kind of flight path you’re looking at.

WoWScrnShot_042814_220643

Not exactly straightforward.  Where your taxi actually flies is even worse.  Way worse.  It’s obviously faster to the teleport trinket, but it’s also faster to fly out there yourself.  But the same kind of flight path will be better in Warlords.

FPcomparisonWoDIf Timeless Isle were a Warlords addition, the flight there would be much more direct, and very likely be faster than flying out there yourself.

Gathering Professions

If flying were to be removed from Mists of Pandaria, the time needed to gather and cost of materials would likely be much higher than it is.  Blizzard can adjust this kind of thing going into a new expansion, however.

Herb nodesIf this is how many herb nodes normally exist in a zone, you can offset the time required to farm a certain number of herbs by simply filling in some of the blank areas with more herbs, and increasing their density or spawn rate where they already exist, allowing players to pick the same amount of herbs per time spent.  Material costs of crafting can also be decreased, if necessary.

Questing

Needless to say, wherever flight is available, it’s easy to land on quest objectives, gather or kill them, and then fly off without much else in the way of conflict or gameplay.  This will certainly be changing.  Questing will feel more like it did on Isle of Thunder or on Timeless Isle, and the intent is for landmarks, packs of creatures and so on to have a presence in the world that you notice and feel instead of just being able to ignore them all.

On Timeless Isle, reaching Ordos can be dangerous for characters new to the area.  As you travel up the mountain, you first start encountering some packs of weak Yaungol, and steadily meet more and more dangerous enemies as you travel further into the heart of Ordon territory.  This makes the road up the mountain and where each creature is placed actually have some meaning in how you approach the area.  The physicality of Azeroth or Draenor matters a lot more.  You’re seeing and experiencing what its denizens see and experience, and the idea is that it makes it a lot more memorable than simply being “another mob you fly to, kill, and fly away from”.

A concern is that this will cause basic tasks to be more time-consuming, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  Many quests have historically had you travel to a site for a quest or two, go back to the main hub to turn them in, then get sent to a new quest area for another pair of quests, then back to the quest hub and so on.  It’s not inconceivable to imagine the quest design team designing more quests to complete on the spot and sending you to the new quest area without that trip back to the hub a lot more often.  It’s also fair to say that quests that, on average, take more time, are also likely to offer a proportional increase in their rewards.

Other Complaints

There isn’t really all that much to worry about when it comes to the removal of flight.  Getting where you want to go won’t really be any harder than it is today.  Gathering materials won’t be any slower than it is today.  Questing may occasionally be slower, but the rewards will reflect it.  There are a couple of fair complaints, though.  One would be that you can’t use your favorite mount.  There are plenty of awesome ground mounts that haven’t seen much attention, though.  Another might be that you find moving through the third dimension enjoyable, but considering how unpopular the Vashj’ir quest zone was, I’d find it hard to believe if many people are highly attached to it.

One legitimate complaint is that having your flying mount buttons greyed out doesn’t feel very consistent.  “Because we say so” is not a very immersive reason for flight to be disabled, and “Because Lightning” and “Weird Time Stuff” weren’t really any better.  A suggestion I’ve heard a few times is to make flying dangerous in areas where it’s is less than ideal for the quest experience, but that never seems to work well.  Being attacked while flying tends to be a very binary experience since you can’t fight back.  Most of the time, you just get knocked to the ground and die, and adding mechanics like these will simply annoy, frustrate, and disorient players who unwittingly fly into a no-fly zone.  Some might remember clipping the edge of Wintergrasp during Wrath of the Lich King.  So in this case, the method they are choosing is the lesser of two evils they were faced with on the path to reaching their goals.

So, honestly, there isn’t all that much to complain about.  The pace of your gameplay won’t change all that much, gathering won’t be any more difficult, and the ability to quickly get to areas you need to get to will be provided to you.  I’m looking forward to seeing an entire expansion from my feet in the way that I saw Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle.

That’s what most are worried about.  The convenience of flight is going away.  But really, it isn’t.

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4 responses to “Warlords without flying… it’s not so bad.

  1. Completely agreed. The idea of an enemy fortress on top of a mountain ceases to have any meaning if you can simply skip to the top. There’s a reason we can’t fly in Zul’Farrak, for example, though obviously it would be faster to dive bomb the bosses.

    Were you playing in Vanilla? Remember the elite troll area in the Hinterlands that you had to fight your way to the top? Imagine that with flying…wouldn’t be remotely close to the same.

    • I’ve played basically since original release, so yes, I remember what Jintha’alor was originally like. The equivalent of a public dungeon, it was one of those areas that basically taught you how to play and be aware of your surroundings and work together… and avoid altogether if you didn’t have friends with you. Working your way to the top might’ve taken 30 minutes or more. There’s an intangible element it adds to questing gameplay to have dangerous areas where you can’t just skip to the objective.

  2. I’ve more or less grown indifferent to the prospect of no flying in 6.0- I can’t say I like it very much, but I am willing to give it a chance and see how much more conducive towards a better game experience it will be.
    Personally, I feel that Blizzard is overselling that aspect, but no matter- I can live with it.

    What did concern me, however, was Bashiok’s recent blue post that suggested no flying wasn’t just a 6.0 thing, but potentially a permanent WoD feature. This almost certainly a turnaround from their initially announced plans (i.e. that flying would only not be available for the first patch or stretch or content), and is not one that I think is a good idea at all.
    For me, Pandora’s Box was opened a long time ago- flying is a “thing” in the game, and turning it off for even one patch doesn’t make much personal sense to me. The prospect of simply scrapping it for an entire expansion however, seems absurd. We know Blizzard can and has designed certain zones around flying- Storm Peaks being one of my favourites in this regard. No flying point blank would kill off that potential for future zones they might introduce, and that’s honestly something I feel it to their ultimate detriment.

    • I actually agree that Storm Peaks was an exceptional quest zone for its atmosphere and story, it’s one of my favorites (alongside new Darkshore, Nagrand and Vashj’ir) and it wouldn’t have worked without the ability to fly.

      It certainly does show that they can make great content with flying enabled, but their consistency in doing so hasn’t been very good. Storm Peaks was excellent to do once, but the travel time made it a lot more tedious after the first time through.

      That’s fundamentally what they are getting at, I think. They are also fully capable of making great quest zones where flight isn’t enabled, and there are more examples of that than there are with it enabled. The problem they likely see with it is that you spend more time traveling than you do fighting with flying enabled. Without flight, you spend more time fighting and less time traveling, and it’s pretty clear that people dislike traveling. I think their experiment with this makes a lot of sense, as the game’s appeal should be in character progression, group combat and item collection, not traveling.

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