Tuesday, May 26, 2015

No Flight, Part 2

Azuriel feels that Blizzard has unstated reasons behind cutting flight:
So here’s my theory: Blizzard is removing flying to cut future production costs. 
In a world without flying, or restricting flying to specific areas, Blizzard is free to replace large swaths of the map with 2D sprites and skyboxes. This is the exact reason why you still cannot fly in Silvermoon City: the city outside the narrow roads simply doesn’t exist. Stormwind had the same issue prior to Cataclysm, if you’ll recall, but they did spend the manpower to construct a fully 3D space. They had to, because otherwise every character with a flying mount would immediately see the seams of the gameworld.

I think resorting to conspiracy theories is excessive. Let's just take Blizzard at face value, and accept that they don't like the way flying changes the game.

It's not like this attitude towards flight comes out of the blue. In TBC, the very expansion which gave us flying, we also got Sunwell Isle. Sunwell Isle was a max-level open world questing area where flight was prohibited. Raids and instanced content have never permitted flight. Some of them, like Firelands, were large enough and open enough to allow it.

PvP zones have never allowed flight. If the PvE gameplay issues with flight aren't bad, why are the PvP ones so much worse?

So from the very beginning, max-level content has not really coexisted with flight. Occasionally it's allowed, but very often it's prohibited.

However, I really liked this article from Matthew Rossi at Blizzardwatch. He argues that Blizzard "is absolutely right — flying detracts from gameplay in a host of ways. But taking it away from the player base is worse."

Flying is such a great reward, precisely because it is so powerful, that players love it. The sense of freedom, of being unbound from the 2-D world is very potent. For that reason alone, it should be kept as a reward for reaching max-level, and we should just live with gameplay issues.

I think this point of view makes a great deal of sense. That the sheer reward of flying outweighs the gameplay issues it brings.

Blizzard should bring back flying for max-level content, but try to make it a bit less convenient, while keeping as much of the feeling of reward as possible. In particular, I would single out the ability to hover as what causes the most gameplay issues with flight. I wonder if simply having flying mounts always be moving forward would be enough to keep them in check.


  1. Sorry but repeating 50 times that flying detracts from gameplay doesn not cut it. It's still fundamentally false. The'danger' in the world has been removed completely, and this independently from flight. The same for reasons to be on the ground, even worse, the reasons to be out in the world. I've not felt threatened by outside mobs in a long time, expecially at low levels, when you don't have flight.
    If this were Ryzom, where aggro can get you one-shotted even at maximum level then the theory would hold, but in WoW it just doesn't.
    Blizzard has also gone to extremes to avoid any possible competiton/interaction/exploration of the outside world.
    - looking for something? No need to look, it's just there right on the minimap, it being resource nodes, pets or rare mobs.
    - the 'dot on the map' quest objective approach has killed exploration completely. You never need to look at the world to locate what you are looking for.
    - anything leading to a possible competition is removed: even if for some unknown reason you decide to go get minerals and herbs outside your garrison, there's so many of them that the presence of mobs and of other players is completely insignificant, Rare mob kills are shared.
    - world PvP. Even assuming you can make it work..... same as before, you don't need to go out there for any reason, and when you need a nice gryphon flight will get you within meters.
    It's completely ridiculous to focus on flight as 'detracting from the gameplay'...... What gameplay? WoW's main focus is character progression. You get zero of it from the outside world.

  2. The flight attitude IS out of the blue, insofar as we've had max-level flight for the last 8 years. Yes, Sunwell Isle didn't have flight. No, nobody is complaining about that. They want Tanaan Jungle to be flightless? Go for it, no different than Timeless Isle, Thunder Isle, etc.

    The raid/dungeon point is pretty irrelevant. Most dungeons don't even allow you to mount at all, so perhaps Blizzard should remove ground mounts from the game for the same reason?

    Flying mounts in PvP would just result in people hanging out 41 yards above the flags in a kind of Mexican standoff. If players had a special item to knock people off flying mounts (AA rockets and such), I'd be all for it.

    Hell, it's already a bit absurd that Ion and the rest talk about airdropping into an enemy encampment with impunity when said impunity is and was easily solvable back in the expansion that introduced flying in the first place. Fel Cannons? Skettis birds? That debuff which appears when you fly by opposite faction camps in TBC? Give guards ranged attacks and have their aggro radius extend upward. Problem solved. Or as I already suggested in my post, give players a reason to actually care about engaging with the rest of the encampment. Why is clicking on a cage in the middle of a bunch of useless time-sink mobs considered a quest worth saving?

    So from the very beginning, max-level content has not really coexisted with flight. Occasionally it's allowed, but very often it's prohibited.

    That's quite the historical revisionism. In TBC, there were entire zones, quest hubs, and dungeons/raids (!) which weren't reachable until you had flight. There were 5 such areas in TBC, if I remember them all: Skettis, Nethewing Ledge, Tempest Keep, that Throne of Elements area, and Ogri'la. Maybe Twilight Ridge, if you want to count that. Wrath had two entire zones where you needed to have flight to even get around successfully. Cata needed flight from the beginning simply because getting dismounted randomly in the old world was untenable. And, hey, was there a lot of people talking about how questing lacked exploration elements back then?

    Blizzard had a model that already worked - and worked well - for longer than it didn't have flying. Why the change here, now, and for such flimsy reasons? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

  3. Hell, it's already a bit absurd that Ion and the rest talk about airdropping into an enemy encampment with impunity...

    Actually I hope that's a joke. Let's see:
    - my druid main, in raid gear: one-shot anything, click on cage
    - my druid main, leveling: stealth, click on cage, if aggro shadowmeld, leave
    - my shaman alt: wolf form, run, drop earth elemental totem, click on cage
    - my mage alt: run, blink, frost nova, greater invisi, click on cage
    - my rogue alt: run, vanish, click on cage
    - my blood DK alt: run, aggro everything, outbreak, bloodboilbloodboilbloodboil, mobs? where? click on cage

    If they want the world content to be challenging there are ways, but in this case simply removing flight is BY FAR not enough.

    ....and flying mounts hovering over land and sinking in water are still ridiculous.

  4. Helistar said:

    Sorry but repeating 50 times that flying detracts from gameplay does not cut it. It's still fundamentally false. The'danger' in the world has been removed completely, and this independently from flight.

    I don't think Rohan mentioned danger. However, I do agree with you, Helistar, that removing danger detracts from gameplay, whether it's through flight or through outlevelling.

    One thing that would help address this is to make the skies dangerous. We had this over the fortress at Domination Point, where flying mounts were shot down causing plenty of damage to falling adventurers. We had it in Northrend, where during a quest at Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight, one mounted a drake to battle with other drakes. And as Azuriel noted we had it even further back with Fel Cannon, Skettis birds and so on.

    Blizzard could simply populate the skies with flying enemies and the ground with various kindsof flak.

    Rohan, you made the point that removing hovering would help. It might, but it would certainly detract from immersion and common sense if naturally hovering mounts, such as the various tailoring flying carpets and engineering helicopters (and mimiron's head!) couldn't hover.

  5. Finally, Azuriel asked a dangerous question:

    Why is clicking on a cage in the middle of a bunch of useless time-sink mobs considered a quest worth saving.

    Azuriel, this is the first step in a logical progression, that you must follow to its bitter end. Once you lose your immersion in the world and start to think in gameplay terms, why is any quest considered a quest worth saving? Why is any game considered a game worth playing? Aren't they all ultimately time-sinks that just involve clicking buttons and pressing keys? Pretty soon, you'll be switching off your time-sink computer and stepping out blinking into the sunlight. Or you could think of clicking on the cage in story terms. You are saving a prisoner from a terrible fate, and at the same time visiting a terrible fate upon his tormenters (do not look back, do not see the terrible immersion-breaking respawns that Blizzard will visit upon the world).

  6. Dacheng, flying carpets not being able to hover might be less immersive. However, it is better than flying carpets not being able to fly.

  7. I agree that Azuriel's explanation is not plausible. Blizzard is not exactly known for cutting features in order to save on production costs. If anything, the opposite is true.

    You might think it's equally implausible that they would change the flight model if that model "worked well" for 8 years. Well, maybe. Though they did remove talent points just recently, and those had also worked well for 8 years. As far as I can tell, they just thought both changes would make the game better.

    Dacheng, there is nothing wrong with asking questions like that. In fact, whenever you decide whether to play a game, or to do specific content within a game, you must ask yourself questions of exactly that nature. If you think some quest isn't fun, you shouldn't do that quest; and if a developer thinks some quest isn't fun, they should rework it.

  8. I think the BC era use of flak cannons in certain areas is a very good idea. I don't mind preventing hovering on mounts. I would also add a cooldown on the ability to summon flying mounts - once every 3 minutes maybe? That way flying couldn't be used nearly so well for the paratrooper method of questing. I do not think flying should be removed completely though. At the very least they should activate it in WoD when the next xpac goes live.

  9. Argh!

    Nobody, and I mean nobody... is suggesting that you should get flight right away in an expansion. You don't get it UNTIL you do the quests that the area provides. At the very least, you have to wait until you're max level.

    All you "anti-flying" wonks act as if people will be questing up to 100 on their flying mount, what with the hovering and para-dropping onto the quest mob.

    When you get to use your flying mount, YOU'VE ALREADY DONE ALL OF THAT. If anything, granting flying upon the completion of a zone PROMOTES immersion by giving you a reason to do all the quests. I know I've skipped a ton of quests in Draenor. Shadowmoon Valley is probably the exception is that I think I've done all the quests there.

    So why shouldn't I be able to fly there? The world looks pretty cool from the air. At least I think it does... I've never been there. Sure. I shouldn't be able to fly in that zone to the far west that I've almost never been to... I should need to explore it, find all the flight points, do the story line quests, etc. before flight is unlocked.

    From what I understand, I can't fly in Draenor, period... because some cave that's really hard to get to has a chest in it that might contain a leveling blue.