Sunday, August 17, 2014

REPOST: Let's Get Serious

In our second Repost this week, I tackle an issue that has actually developed a measure of accuracy from its original post date in April. This post was again chosen for inclusion in Blizzlist, for which I continue to be very grateful.


I hope everyone can agree, regardless of personal opinion toward flight vs. non-flight, that flying fundamentally alters how content is approached in a world where the gameplay exists wholly on the ground.

The PR exercise of 'making non-flight attractive' continues apace, in anticipation of Warlords.

Even the Marketing Department got the memo this time around.


Look closely and yes, this steed that got everyone excited HAS NO WINGS. Oh, and I have no doubt you'll be able to fly on this. Just don't expect to be able to to in Draenor in 6.1. Anyone want to bet there might well be the promise of free 90's attached to this deal along the way?

Yeah, didn't think so.

However, what this should now indicate to anyone paying more than scant attention to the way Warlords is being handled is that, like it or not, this is on Blizzard's terms. They are not going to back down on the no-fly, they are not going to be rushed on development timescales, it really will be ready when its ready, and it is not as if there is no historical precedent for either. There are bucketloads of both, and if the plan is as it appears to return us to TBC with a modern twist but to do it without the seeming convenience of circumnavigating content by just flying into it and flying away, there may be more to this move than simply reinforcing the desire that flying is now not an option. In fact, there's a paragraph of explanatory text I think everyone really needs to read:

In Draenor we’re designing max-level content, portions of zones or zones in their entirety that will be dedicated to max-level gameplay—and not just the top of a cliffside, or some dailies in the Vale. There’s a harsh change in how the game plays between leveling, and when you hit max level. Hitting 100 and instantly switching everything you do to raiding or Arenas is pretty abrupt, and we want to try to keep that questing experience available at max level with something more robust than daily quests. We don’t think having all of that content inside buildings, or constantly challenged by sky cannons, or with magical no-flying smoke, or within some kind of dismount bubble is the most straightforward or best solution to the ultimate issue in that World of Warcraft is not a flight sim, and that's just not what the content of the game is about. Even at level 100 there will be no small portions of the game world intended to provide relevant content even to max-level players. These zones may even unlock over the course of the expansion, or the content in them will progress in story and scope throughout content patches. Content has to be designed with the expectation that there either is or is not flight, and approaching ground-level content from the ground offers more compelling gameplay. Raids, dungeons, and PvP continue to disallow flying for this same reason.

That last statement is the killer in all of this: it may not just be your Garrison that has an intrinsic relationship with your progress in game this time around, it could be ALL the content in the ENTIRE expansion, and if that is the case then keeping people on the ground isn't just a convenience, its a part of the progression mechanic. That's a fairly big admission by Bashiok, even though he is quite careful not to confirm anything concrete because, as we know, that's not how Blizzard ever operate. However, if this *were* the way forward for content it will encourage people to start from Step One and not think they can turn up late and simply pick up at the end. At least part of the incentive here seems to be that if you start this journey there is now the real possibility it will feel far more cohesive than it did in previous expansions. There is, of course, another possibility which might actually benefit the player that turns up at patch 6.3 and starts from scratch: if the content doesn't unlock and then remain static, and you do that by travelling, then that's a HUGE step forward in keeping the game current. In fact, that might be part of the Holy Grail for Warcraft rediscovered right there.

Isle of Thunder. Hints of what was to come?

The Isle of Thunder was an exercise in unlocking progression for this who turned up first, but anyone who turned up late didn't get nearly as an immersive experience as the rest of us. If I read Bashiok's comments correctly, what if Warlords was being designed to unlock content ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS? That means that it wouldn't matter when you started a zone, you'd always be there at the beginning and wouldn't turn up late and find everything just in place without explanation. So, when you arrive for the first time you'll unlock the content even if half the server's already done so, and the game will remember your individual progress for EVERYTHING and not simply the quest areas. There's a massive downside to this however, and that's that there'll be no more getting your high level mates to drag you through a zone, because it could mean that everyone is phased to everyone else, regardless of their progress. However this would finally put pay to zone desolation like we see in Blades Edge with the Ogri'la. You could be in a zone and have people in different phases, unaware of other people playing until everyone's relative 'position' matches up.

It would certainly have the effect of making the game feel fresh to the solo player.

Extinct marketing material.

However, and this is crucial, there will be those who will not see any benefit in what is being suggested, and won't look at the long term consequences of this action. All they will continue to see is what the removal of flying prevents them from doing. I'd urge everyone to read Bashiok's complete statement at least once, if only to understand that the guys who make the game really do grasp the issues, but this is not negotiable. The choice then comes down to players. If you can't understand what's being asked of you, or you just don't care and think this is a way to make more money out of players, time to unsubscribe. Seriously, stop letting these guys take your money and go do something else. If you do this and then continue to complain about it, don't be surprised if the people still playing stop listening and move on.

For those of us who remain, this is the right choice overall for the game.


Gwendlyn Drayton said...

I must be one of the few that really doesn't care that for this one we won't be able to fly. I went to Ghostlands this morning to catch a pet, and guess didn't ruin my whole game not to be able to fly.

Also loving the labels btw ;)

Drea B said...

These are the people that decided that using realid on the offical forums was a good idea.

Sorry, but I don't consider them infallible nor do I consider all their design choices to be always spot on. Blizzard have themselves made comments about things they in hindsight consider were the wrong choice.

I'm not debating the good or bad of the no fly decision, I'm saying I feel the attitude that Blizzard cannot make a mistake and if you think they are, just quit playing is kind of extreme.