Saturday, March 15, 2014


Ashes of Al'ar was 'unavailable for comment.' From MMO Champion.

The gloves are not simply off with Warlords, there's already a Mickey Finn in many players' Ironforge Ale. Yesterday, whilst some were distracted by Heroes of The Storm Technical Alpha streams, Blizzard announced that all mounts will work in Battlegrounds come the Expansion. I assume the Ashes of Al'ar and all other mounts without legs could still hover above ground and *look* like there's flight going on, but that's where the illusion ends. Those of us who have been paying attention know full well this isn't as a response to player concerns in PvP, this is to enable a possibility that was made in an interview by Alex Afrasiabi that Draenor might be about to become the first version of the game since Vanilla where flying was not an automatic default for players at max level not simply after 6.1, but throughout the entire Expansion. If that were to be the case, a large proportion of mounts (including significantly many paid for with real money from the Blizzard Store) would effectively become redundant. Making this a decision to enable everything in Battlegrounds means, by extension that it won't matter if your mount can walk now or not if everyone gets tethered to the ground in Draenor.

Needless to say, this again changes the complexion of an Expansion that becomes more fascinating the longer we're made to wait for it.

Having lived in a world without flight for some time, it is very easy to see why so many people may be about to get very angry indeed at its loss. However, in terms of redefining gameplay, this is probably as radical as thing could likely get outside the auspices of completely redefining character abilities. That's something players need to grasp, perhaps now more than at any point in the game's evolutionary process. Blizzard can't redefine character abilities once they're at a stage when balance is achieved. That leaves them a limited number of choices as to where conflict and challenge can be injected into gameplay. Boss fights are one option, so is environment, and the amount of control the game can have over a player is severely limited when they can simply hop on a flying mount and stick themselves in an axis where ground rules won't apply. Therefore it should really come as no surprise to anyone that the idea of a No Fly Expansion has come to the table when as designers the Devs have perilously few options remaining to inject deliberate obstacles into a player's path.

Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz in the eardrum...

The biggest potential losers in this entire equation, yet again, are the long-term playerbase: gold makers, gatherers, those with multiple alts who need to save time. PvP gets a massive boost on those servers where simply mounting up and flying away in the new zones is no longer an option. Bear in mind it is only Draenor where being unable to fly will be an obstacle: flying doesn't go away anywhere else, so you can still show off your Ashes and clog up the Mailbox by the Stormwind Bank with impunity. It also means having a Druid with Herbalism isn't going to give you an advantage for gathering, and the Sky Golem's simply a fancy Iron Suit. Apart from that, absolutely no difference between here and any other Expansion. NO REALLY THERE ISN'T.

This is pretty crucial in the whole equation: flying is a convenience. It is not essential for gameplay, and when it was the way it changes the landscape of the game world was not always for the better. We got a redesign of Azeroth to accommodate it, but that in itself has probably created more problems than its solved. There are still areas in game where you can't fly, and nobody goes there, which is not how things should be at all. By tethering people in two dimensions no content is trivialised. It allows a measure of control that does not exist as soon as you allow people to move into a third axis. Most importantly of all, it forces players into decisions that they might not even consider if flying is an option, like ACTUALLY FIGHTING AND USING THEIR SKILLS. That's the key to all this: you can't simply skip everything and go right to the end. You are forced to make the journey, and I for one cannot approve enough of that mindset.

Personally, I heartily welcome our no-flying overlords. I embrace the possibility of going back to just being on the ground, and can see an argument for making the entire world no-fly in the future. It won't suit everyone, that much is already obvious. Whether they pack up their mounts and leave... well, we won't know for a while yet. This is a big risk for Blizzard, that much is already apparent. Whether it pays off...

I wonder how long we'll have to wait for a Beta Client?


Anonymous said...

Check out my solution - if slightly crude in execution - of how flying or no flying could be handled. See this forum post:

I am suggesting in that post that flying could be introduced as a reward mechanism based on how active we are doing quests and such, and doing them especially in groups.


Jaedia said...

Oddly, this is one of the first things that has interested me about Draenor. A no fly zone.. Flying makes the world feel tiny and insignificant. When it takes a while to get somewhere and there are mountains and buildings towering over you, it feels so much more epic and immersive. Sure, flying is nice, but it's not a necessity.

Erinys said...

I'm exceedingly torn on the topic. So torn in fact that I suspect I could write a few thousand words on the subject.

I wish they'd announce even a ballpark time frame for the beta.

Val said...

-sigh- I was scared of this when I saw hints. Note, I'm FINE with no flying at the beginning of an expansion. I love pulling out the ground mounts for awhile...

But one of my biggest enjoyments in the game is flying. Flying around taking pictures, flying around just exploring everything I can, flying around and enjoying my mounts.

I was really looking forward to eventually be able to fly in Draenor, a place where their art would make the world beautiful for screenshots...and now, there's a chance for none ever there?

Yeah, I guess to some it's simply a 'convience', but to me it's a an enjoyment factor later and one of things I absolutely have loved about WoW. I can't even begin to explain how saddened I am about potentially losing one of my favorite pastimes in WoW.

It'd be like disabling pet battles in Draenor...and yet, adding a bunch of amazing critters that would have been perfect for collectors looks-wise.

Before the announcement that they were waiting and seeing, and I was simply expecting a way to EARN it back after 6.1 I was looking forward to Warlords. Now... how much more money do I want to sink into a game where I've paid real money for some of those potentially not be able to enjoy them the way I absolutely LOVE at endgame in WOD in Draenor. Gah, and just as we were getting new character models too.


arcanewordsmith said...

I'll be elaborating on this more over on my own blog at some point, but the short answer is this doesn't bother me in the slightest. I think it's a good thing really.

Paul Smith said...

How about: Loremaster of Draenor gets you the flying skill. Simples :)