Permanently Grounded

Forgive me, dear readers, it has been three months since my last blog post. I don’t even necessarily want to talk about what I’m going to talk about here, but, well, I couldn’t help myself.

The Announcement

This week, Ion Hazzikostas, the lead designer of World of Warcraft, had an interview with Polygon, in which he stated “that outdoor gameplay in World of Warcraft is ultimately better without flying. We’re not going to be reintroducing the ability to fly in Draenor, and that’s kind of where we’re at going forward.”

Let me be clear, readers — I kind of didn’t mind the concept of not flying until the “first major patch for Warlords of Draenor”, which was how this was announced to players before the game even launched. One might assume that flight would have been reintroduced in 6.1. When that didn’t show up, I personally thought “oh, hey, I guess they’re waiting for the next tier when we get into Tanaan Jungle. That’s fine.”

Apparently, this won’t be the case.

Some Thinking & Some History

So, I’m not pleased. But I took some time to try to figure out why I’m not pleased. How does the prospect of continuing on just as I have really affect me? Does it affect me?

Having started in Vanilla, where you not only didn’t have flight, but you didn’t even get a ground mount (and a slow one at that!) until level 40, I wasn’t used to flight when I started playing the game. The world was vast. Immense. Boats, flight points, all of these helped out a great deal, but to this day, it’s still a pain to go from, say, Un’Goro Crater up to Winterspring. The old world is freaking huge.

The new continents in each expansion… well, they’re not that big. They’re landmasses that don’t really come close to the size of each old continent in Azeroth. Which, you know, that’s fine. It’s an expansion. You’re not going to spend the rest of your WoW career in Outlands or Northrend or Pandaria, right? The old world is going to see a lot more action, particularly since we revisited it in Cataclysm, than the other continents and areas, which are much more transient in nature.

They introduced flying in Burning Crusade, but what a lot of people either don’t know (because they weren’t there) or don’t remember (because it’s been a long while!), is that flying was still incredibly rare! Epic flying was stupidly expensive (5000g) and regular flight was, well, I think it was around 600 gold. Gold, in those days, was really difficult to get. The people in my guild basically pooled their money to help people get epic flying. I think there were six or seven people in this group with my brother, all of whom would kick in some cash to help someone get their flying, and that person would then pay people back over a (long) period of time.

So it wasn’t always easy for someone to get flying, much less epic flying. I spent a great deal of time on an alt on Proudmoore, post-raids, chatting with my RL Friend the Resto Druid who was raiding on Pacific hours. I’d be doing circles on a ground mount in Nagrand, mining adamantium and fel iron and using my engineering thingy to get motes of air. This was perfectly reasonable and fine. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having flight on that character. This, despite the fact that there were several areas in Burning Crusade that required flight — various dungeon instance entrances (and this was before dungeon queues!), various farming spots… Back then, you couldn’t get to Elemental Plateau without flying (or being awesome friends with a warlock and some others who could fly!).

When Wrath of the Lich King launched, I grumbled a bit about not being able to fly, particularly after that Wintergarde Keep quest where you DO get to fly to save the various people from undead things, but when I hit 80, I threw my 1000 gold at the trainer and I COULD FLY AND IT WAS AMAZING. I didn’t even have the super-fast flying on Kurn then, it was only 280%. (I would later get 310% flying when I completed What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been in late 2009.) Various raid instances were either impossible or very difficult to get to without flight if you didn’t want to rely on a summon. Naxxramas and Ulduar come to mind.

Flight in Cataclysm was, and let’s be fair, totally expected. If they were going to blow up our old Azeroth, flying just made sense. (Ultimately, I would probably trade flight to not have lost Auberdine and Southshore, though…) But think about things like where the raid entrances were! Nefarian’s balcony up at Blackrock Mountain, the top of a spire in Twilight Highlands, the instance entrance for Throne of the Four Winds… I mean, we were clearly meant to be flying in Cataclysm content, the same way we were meant to fly in parts of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. What was different here is that, for the first time, we were permitted to start flying at the start of the expansion.

In Mists of Pandaria, I did the same as I usually done — levelled up, threw gold at the training and luxuriated in the glory of flight and its freedom. I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that I couldn’t fly until 90.

Throughout all of these expansions, there were places where flight wasn’t allowed.

In Burning Crusade, there was the Isle of Quel’Danas, plus the entire old world, even the new zones for draenei and blood elves.

In Wrath of the Lich King, there was Wintergrasp. I recall frequently clipping the edge of the zone and getting dismounting and cratering. Oh yeah, plus the old world.

In Cataclysm, there was Tol Barad, plus the draenei and blood elf zones and… that was about it, because you were in the old world and you could fly from the start.

Then in Mists of Pandaria, you had… well, the Timeless Isle and those old draenei and blood elf zones. You could fly pretty much everywhere else.

In Warlords of Draenor, you just can’t fly. Period. And now we have confirmation that we will not be able to do so.

So I find myself thinking about how this affects me. Does it affect me? Can I go back to just being on the ground? I mean, I played for over a year on the ground in Vanilla, plus lots of time in Burning Crusade, the levelling-up time in Wrath and Pandaria, plus my time in non-flight zones (Timeless Isle, most recently), as well as these first few months of Warlords of Draenor.

Managing My Own Expectations

I can, of course. I have done so for the last several months. And what the last several months has mostly meant is logging in, doing Garrison stuff and occasionally flying out to Nagrand (via flight point, obviously) to trap 21ish clefthoof bulls.

Will having the ability to fly change my in-game priorities?


Does it actually change the quality of my in-game life to not have flying?

No, because I haven’t had flight since Pandaria anyhow.

So why am I displeased?

I’m displeased because it was heavily implied that we’d have it at some point, but while re-reading the phrase from Bashiok, it’s clear to me that they never planned to bring it back. Read it for yourselves:

We intend to disallow flying while leveling from 90 to 100, and have flying become available again in the first major patch for Warlords of Draenor.


Reading that initially, I read “We will disallow flying while leveling from 90-100” and then “but flying will be available again in the first major patch”.

They covered their asses well. Look at that. We intend. Just because they intend something doesn’t mean it will happen. Personally, I saw that and assumed because the first part was true, it would follow that the second part was true.

My fault for assuming, I guess. But I think a lot of other people made the same assumption.

The Loss of Trust

As such, a lot of people are talking about trust for Blizzard right now. Frankly, I don’t have any trust for them any longer. They lost me in Firelands. Up until then, no matter what nonsense they threw at us, I was pretty much okay with them, believing that there were things I didn’t know, believing that there were things I didn’t understand, other kinds of factors that led to their various decisions. I supported them, believing that they knew what was best, believing that they were doing good things for the game and for the community.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when, despite the introduction of LFR, content nerfs continued through Dragon Soul. And, as a result, I left WoW for about 13 months. (And then resubbed a few months after that, but I have not raided in any kind of serious fashion since then.)

Flying isn’t the end-all and be-all for me. It’s that we were led to believe flying would come back this expansion. It doesn’t affect my daily WoW life that I can’t fly, but I don’t take kindly to being led to believe something will occur that won’t. (Hey, where is the dance studio, anyhow?!)

There’s also the fact that some mounts are really meant to fly. My Violet Proto Drake is not meant to waddle on the ground.

Nor are my drakes from Dragon Soul (I have both the meta and the one from Heroic Madness), my bird from the Firelands meta or my Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher.

It’s not as though I don’t have some nice ground mounts — I have Baron Rivendare’s mount, which is awesome. I have my paladin’s charger, also awesome. But using these huge flying drakes on the ground is pretty dumb-looking. I like using some of these fancy mounts. But not to see them waddle on the ground. To see things I worked really hard for get relegated to use in the old world… it’s disappointing. Someone on Twitter is even talking about false advertising in terms of buying mounts from the shop. (I don’t know that I’d go that far, but, to be fair, I’ve never bought a mount from the shop.)

Speaking of posts by people on Twitter, don’t miss Ross‘s post at Feckless Leader: “Yep, We’re Still Talking About Flying“, in which he talks about how maybe this is the beginning of the replacement of flight, not just the flat-out removal of flight. (I wish I had his hope and trust.)

And, of course, if you don’t regularly read Alternative Chat, shame on you. Go read her post about flying.

But What About THE GAMEPLAY?!?!

Hazzikostas talked about how it’s silly for people to fly to their mob, land on the hut, kill the mob and fly off again.

Okay, that’s fair. So stop having such simplistic quests. Add in “kill X number of mobs” to the quest. Or put the mob in a cave. Or underwater. Or something.

Frankly, I will say this — the terrain of Draenor sucks. It’s all hills and canyons and how in the actual fuck are you supposed to get up THAT hill and how do you get out of THAT canyon and seriously? This would be a lot less frustrating if I could fly!

Half the reason I don’t go out into Draenor is that I don’t really have a reason to do so, but when I do go out there, venturing out from my Garrison, I end up frustrated as all get out because there’s no obvious way to get to point B from my point A. The maps are not remotely detailed enough to take height into consideration. I see my objective on the minimap and, in the world, it’s like three stories over my head, dangling off a cliff. How do I get up on that cliff? The challenge should be in getting the objective, not in navigating the inhospitable terrain to get to the cliff, the way I see it. If the terrain weren’t crazy, I wouldn’t mind being without flight, really, when I’m out in the world.

But it is crazy. The ground is never just flat. This is not Vanilla. And I’m glad it’s not Vanilla. I remember walking into Hellfire Peninsula and being like “HOLY CRAP, THE GROUND IS SLANTED” when Burning Crusade launched. And I like that. I just don’t like being forced to travel around and over and up and down for the sake of absolutely nothing. There is no reason to make the terrain as treacherous as it is in some parts except to slow us down and annoy us.

That’s when I miss flight. It doesn’t make the gameplay any more enjoyable for me. It makes me feel as though I’m a rat in a maze. And that? That does not endear me to the designers of the game.

Want to hear more about this and other subjects? Don’t forget to tune in to the Kurncast — a (mostly) weekly podcast, (mostly) focused on World of Warcraft. Tune in today, on iTunes or Stitcher!

16 Replies to “Permanently Grounded”

  1. I believe the thing is that flying is so ingrained in people’s perception of WoW that it’s hard to take it away and still have the game be WoW.

    After all, people use flying as essentially a way to “stop and park” for a few while they go AFK and attend to some business around the house. I used to do that all the time while questing in BC zones and onward because I started playing on a PvP server, but even after I switched to a PvE server I found it too convenient to not use.

    Taking away flying makes a world bigger, but there’s a cost to taking away something that players have gotten used to having.

    Then again, I doubt people are going to quit WoW just because of the lack of flying in Draenor 2.0. If anything, it would contribute to a player’s decision to drop their subscription, but not be the primary reason.

    Still, here’s something to consider: it costs more in development dollars to make a world “flying friendly”. Look at how much effort it took to put flying in the Old World, and even then the BC starter zones were simply out of reach. By getting rid of flying, Blizzard can refocus those development dollars on other things, such as HotS or Overwatch. Note that I didn’t say WoW itself, because I suspect that going forward Blizz might look at WoW as a cash cow to support their efforts in eSports. We’ll have a better feel for the future by this fall when the traditional new WoW expac will be announced, but having watched their initiatives in eSports lately, I have to believe that’s become their major focus.

    1. No, WOD was designed with flight enabled. The feather of Aviana and the goblin gliders are proof, as well as the fact that flight form was bugged in the beta and druids could fly for a bit.

      They built the world to fly, and I’m not sure it is even something that have to put more time into any more. Iv’e seen multiple people say the tech is inbuilt in designing worlds now, it isn’t an extra. The old world had to be redone but all new content is already flight ready. I don’t know if that is true, just what I’ve seen.

      The destruction of trust I think is pretty major. They handled this incredibly badly right the way along and they just look like devious shifty people now. They needed to be upfront a long time ago and not lead ppl on with calculated statements. People should have been told this a long time ago.

      They also shouldn’t advertise their latest store mount with a picture of it in flight over Shadowmoon Valley. It’s unbelievably stupid to do that.

      1. Initially, perhaps it was. Then they decided that it wasn’t worth the effort, and that (to them) the positives of grounding people were greater than the minuses (player complaints).

        To me, Blizz lost their trust when they consistently refused to fix the story problems going from the Cata revamped Old World to BC and Wrath zones. I’ve periodically tried to rope people into the game, but after a couple of zones they simply throw up their hands and give up, because the story makes no sense.

        1. Redbeard – ooh, what’s that like? I haven’t brought a toon from new Old World to BC. How ridiculous is it?

          1. I did it for both Cata and Mists (dropped for Warlords, but it’s not like it changed much).

            It is…. painful at times.

            You get used to the “new” Cata way of things, and you don’t notice too much (outside of “WTH did all these Pandas come from?”) until you get the Heroes Call Board to go to Outland. Then you realize how out of whack things are. (Think going from the DK starting zone to Outland and you’ve got the idea.)

            If you’re Horde, the entire “Thrall goes to Outland and meets his Grandmother” questline has been edited to simply end without the obvious conclusion. After all, Thrall isn’t Warchief anymore. The group quests have also been sanitized to no longer require grouping (the lone exceptions are in the BC starter zones, where Luzran/Knucklerot and the Draenei equivalent are still there).

            But you see the quest hubs, the quest environment, and most importantly the pre-Wrathgate and pre-Cata tone of the questlines change once you step through the Dark Portal.

            If you go up to the group surrounding the Dark Portal, you’re sent off on a quest to sabotage the “other side” before you actually go through the Portal itself. But once you’re on the other side, the animosity level is ratcheted downward to exactly where it was in the old Vanilla and BC days: more Cold War plus Detente than Hot War.

            Once I went to Hellfire Peninsula, I had a really hard time going back to the post-Cata Old World for any questing when I repeated this in Mists. The post-Cata world didn’t feel right, and at least I knew the story and the background. Someone else new to the game would be totally confused. And I don’t even want to think about going from a BC starting zone to the Cata Old World.

      2. Jemmy – ahahaha, I hadn’t even REALIZED the newest mount was set against the SMV backdrop, mostly because I don’t buy such things. That is HILARIOUSLY awful. Wow. Thanks for pointing that out!

        I agree, it does look like they’re devious, shifty people. I haven’t trusted them in quite some time. This doesn’t help.

        I tend to agree, re: development of the world, btw.

    2. Redbeard – I’m not sure that flying is that ingrained… Certainly, it’s been a large part of my WoW habits for many years, but I’ve spent a good amount of time not flying. When I think of WoW, I don’t think of soaring through the air on my gryphon or my Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher or my Lifebinder’s Handmaiden. I think about shooting my bow or healing my tank or downing a boss. (Hilariously, I don’t do most of those things any longer — except shooting my bow.)

      As to “stop and park”, I hear that — although, as a night elf, I always just hit shadowmeld. :D

      I do think people will quit over this. If not just because of this, then because it is one more thing and ends up being the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      As to the dev dollars, I think the way they make the world now has changed substantially. The textures weren’t complete in Vanilla and that’s one main reason why we couldn’t fly until they redid the old world. Having seen snippets as to how they create the world now, I don’t think that’s the case any longer. However, I think you might be on to something with WoW being the cash cow that supports their other endeavours.

      It’ll be interesting to watch. :)

      1. I believe WoW’s flying is more ingrained than at first glance.

        Because of the ease of flying, to assist those with too low a level to not use it Blizz added a ton of flight points to the Old World. Additionally, they made it so that those flight points would automatically appear. All of this enables players to use the advantage of flight without actually having the ability to fly. Blizz has since backed off from the automatically appearing flight points –you now have to discover them just like the old days– but because of flight (with an assist from phasing) Blizz changed how questing worked in the Old World.

        When I play other games, I still hear people grumble from time to time on “how they miss WoW’s flying mounts”. It’s not quite as obnoxious in SWTOR as it was a few years ago, but you can occasionally hear people in Gen Chat wish there were flying mounts so they could zip around a planet faster. If nothing else, I expect people to complain more in Age of Conan where regular ground mounts are hard to come by for the F2P player, but they’ve apparently gotten used to it there.

  2. Thank you for sharing you perspective on this; I love reading what other folks are thinking because frankly, it helps me better understand where I’m at. Like you, flight isn’t the be-all, end-all, but where we differ is that I’m pretty sure it is affecting my day-to-day in-game. I’m just trying to figure out why.

    Planning on forcing myself this week to rediscover how I’ve enjoyed so much of this game over the years: tethered to the ground.

    Thanks for the link. Looking forward to the next Kurncast.

    1. Ross – Thank you so much for sharing your perspective as well!

      If/when you figure out how it’s affecting your day-to-day, please do let me know. I’m very interested to see how it affects other people’s experiences. I’m well-aware that I do very little in-game. :)

      You’re quite welcome for the link — thanks for commenting and for listening!

  3. It is interesting that you bring up trust. Looking back at the Diablo III launch fiasco, the game was able to survive until they removed the RMAH and fixed other issues in large part due to the years of goodwill and trust Blizzard had built up over the years. Were the the same situation was to arise today, I am not sure they would have the same opportunity given that people who play Blizzard games tend to play more than just one Blizzard game.

    1. Raynman – fantastic point! The goodwill and trust they’ve built is eroding. I don’t have it any longer, as mentioned, but the issues they’ve had throughout many of their titles will likely mean that future issues will be less-well tolerated by players of multiple titles.

      Great point!

  4. At blizzcon they spoke of keeping as much “fantasy” in the game as possible, as when you can live kind if vicariously through your character it is a lot more fun. What is better than the fantasy of flying on dragon, griffon, even rocket back? I will never forget the first time I flew in BC, it was exhilarating and fun, and not something I had been able to do in many other games. One of the main things I love about wow is the fact you can go underwater, and its anazing, and you can fly! I am very disappointed with how it is being handled here, especially when I think the Pandaria model of waiting till max level works well. I also feel very let down for the first time by my favorite game.

    1. Eluvia – Agreed, riding on dragonback is bad-ass and fantastic (in multiple senses of the word). I agree, waiting until max-level is a decent model. That way, we’re forced to explore the world on the ground and levelling-up quests are not able to be skipped the way they describe. (Flying up, landing, killing one mob, mounting up and flying away.)

  5. Flying is not an issue for me. I just think with the uproar that has occurred, Blizzard will rethink it. As a druid I should get something for my loss lol.

    1. Mingokid – Poor druids! I never think about how screwed they are by various changes like this.

      I wonder if they will rethink it. Something to keep an eye on!

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