After years of debate, Blizzard has settled the fly / no-fly controversy with a resounding “Not going to happen.” Community reaction has been both overwhelming and unsurprising. No-flyers continue to cry “Flying hurts immersion!” while Flyers cries for “Freedom!” have been replaced with just plain crying.
Blizzard’s defence of their position has been mantra-like and I think was best summed up by Bashiok in April 2014 with his seminal ‘Knarity’ post. Seminal because his response has become gospel for the no-flight camp and, punningly, it also pertains to, contains, or consists mostly of semen… It’s one of those posts that makes you yell at your computer then argue your views with anyone nearby – even if they’re on your side.
So, to avoid family ructions, here’s the conversation I want to have with Bashiok… but can’t.
Jem: So no misgivings about putting the kybosh on flying in Draenor for good? Is this because you banked on the success of turning WoW into a MMSNPGwFAT (Massively Multiplayer Social Networking Platform Game with Facebook and Twitter) and now you got nothing but an acronym people think is a gold-seller?
Bashiok: It’s important to first dissuade concerns that we’re looking to slow down the game. We’re going to be making sure flight paths and other forms of travel are quick and efficient… Our goal is not to make travel time consuming or painful, and with players on ground mounts we know we’ll have to do more to try to ensure people can get to where they want to go quickly… BUT being able to lift off and fly over content compromises many of our goals in how the game world is approached, how it’s played and how it’s consumed.
Jem: So I dashed out of my garrison the other day… I was riding around joking and laughing with Commandojack when I saw a Large Tree. It was about 5 yards away on top of a waist-high embankment. I thought I’d be clever and just hoist myself up to grab it. I looked for my Hoist key… Climb key?… hmmm no Shimmy key either… Use Shoulder Muscles & Upper Arms key… mmmkay, I’ll run around. I opened the map. I immediately closed the map – no help there. I started off in the opposite direction of the Large Tree and, while my initial direction choice was indeed correct, I did make a few wrong turns along the way. So after 20 mins and 2 views of a Youtube video I reached the precipice opposite my arboreal goal. Just one short leap, a hearth back to my garrison, a chat with Justin and 4 hours later those 30 precious resources would be mine. But when I tried to jump… yep, Space Bar Fail. I got wedged on a rock, /stuck and next thing I’m back in my Garrison sans lumber where I can tell you Justin was none too happy. Is that how you want people to consume content, because it’s not very efficient?
Bashiok: Being efficient is great, being clever is great, and using your cleverness to be efficient is great, but how many of us have done the Tillers dailies up on the cliffside where the Hozen are, and waited for packs to pass by before setting down right where you’re supposed to, use whatever thingamabob you’re supposed to, and then lift off ASAP hoping-hoping-hoping nothing aggros? How many of us have become furious when we actually have to fight something!? Is that clever gameplay? Is that being good at playing the game, or is it using a mechanic to avoid having to play it? Is that what the game should be, and what our expectations should be as gamers playing it?
Jem: Yeah, but Bash… you don’t mind if I call you that do you?
Bashiok: urghh, no…
Jem: Bash, I fought those Hozen til my eyes bled out my ears. I must have killed like 245 million of them. But when it didn’t make a damn bit of difference to the sorry plight of the Tillers, I have to say my empassioned emnity waned. I thought to myself: is this good game design? Is this using cutting edge software technology and breaking ground in MMOs for gamers? Would this be better if I couldn’t fly? In the end it was Bill Murray, not a Talbuk, that got me through. I watched Groundhog Day and Bill’s hopelessness and frustration during the 452-day suicide montage made me see my spoiled, brat-like behaviour for what it was.
Bashiok: [sensing my sarcasm] …we want to try to keep that questing experience available at max level with something more robust than daily quests.
As an example, let us consider a quest to assassinate an enemy leader. From the ground you approach a fort with guards at the gate. You charge and are able to dispatch them and sneak in a side hallway. You methodically take out packs of roaming sentries, and some of them shout at you as they run toward you. You notice they’re in the middle of practicing dark and forbidden magics, and you take a moment to disrupt their ritual. Dashing into the main courtyard you spot your target, sneaking and fighting your way to him–and with a forceful slash–the fort’s captain is vanquished, and as guards are alerted you fight your way out, glorious and triumphant in your success!! Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Jem: Well first up, most classes can’t sneak but, yeah, once… maaaybe twice… C’mon though, do you really think your content is so engaging that I’m going to push play on that fantasy every time some NPC has lost his vegetable baskets? Don’t get me wrong, your sentiment is noble but, as a developer, you can only hope for that once.
I’m hard pressed to think of something that doesn’t become monotonous through repeated exposure. Sex? … but then there’s that saying about the jar. Heroin? … the first few times are supposedly a high but then it’s just Requiem for a Dream in Frankston with less attractive actors. Skydiving? Skydiving is something people never get sick of even when they’ve done it a thousand times!! Hey now… wait a minute… isn’t skydiving kind of like flying?
Bashiok: [ignores my cutting barb and continues] 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… 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.
Jem: Alright, I just need to stop you there! For one, our inability to fly on Draenor has never been explained by any in game mechanic, so it can’t be THAT much of an obstacle for your devs. For two, rich, engaging, max-level content that provides hours of play every day all due to the magic of no flight? I don’t buy it. Especially given that this no-fly expansion is widely regarded as the lightest on content and the most boring in the history of WoW. Quests continue to stick to the same old formats, gather stuff, kill stuff, or escort really annoying npcs. Chris Metzen hasn’t written a new plot line since Warcraft 3. And, if WoW players wanted Platform games, Facebook games or to see which one of six expressions my toon was emoting when trash dropped from Blingtron on Twitter, we’d all be playing Super Mario FB Edition.
But let’s say you’re telling the truth… with flying off the table, and your creative thinkers freed from the shackles of those pesky sky cannons, are you planning to give us sooo much new stuff to do we’ll exist in a constant state of role playing bliss and never have to repeat anything more than 5 times? I suspect you’re making a rod for your own back there.
Bashiok: 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. Ground-level content from the ground offers more compelling gameplay.
Jem: You know, you didn’t actually say anything there except ‘even’ and ‘ground’.
Bashiok: We’re going to be making sure flight paths and other forms of travel are quick and efficient.
Jem: You said that already.
Bashiok: World of Warcraft is not a flight sim.
Bashiok: [sighs] 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.
Jem: Yep, it allows people to skip it if they want. You said it yourself: “Not everyone that plays the game cares how quests and outdoor content are experienced… Some may begrudgingly trudge through the content just so they can get to the part of the game they do want to play…” So why not let them? Unfortunately for me I’ve been playing MMOs a bit too long to still get a kick out of imagining myself as Yerl’s sista suffragette as we hack and hoof our way through enemy lines. But I would never deny that experience to other players. And there’s still loads of other stuff I love about WoW. But I’ve grown up and matured along with the game, so why are you forcing me to experience it like its still Day 1?
Bashiok: I’m sure some of you see the fortress example with the flying mount and see nothing wrong, if that’s how someone wants to play the game they should be allowed to. We’re not trying to create a slow and laborious game, or expect people will be yelling “YIIIPPPEEEEE!” while fighting a mob that aggroed when they tried to pick an herb. But… as much as we let players choose how they improve their characters within the world; leveling through dungeons, or PvP, or questing; choosing to do Arenas, or raids, or both; we’re still always wanting to create a holistic experience that supports all of these things. That doesn’t mean we think it’s a good idea to force people to read all their quest text, or stare at and appreciate the pretty new models, or anything like that, but it’s not unreasonable to see that combat and content exist on the ground, understand that, embrace that, and make decisions to support it.
Jem: So I guess what you’re saying is, your dev team want to use existing zones for new patch content and you can’t think of way to make players experience it without flatout banning flying everywhere, all the time, forever. You’d think that with $1.3 billion profit you could hire some bright young things that could, but meh, honestly if you think that hindering my every move with a train of mobs that donks me on the back of the head so the majority of players can enjoy a late patch quest or two once and the vast minority can fake-RPG with NPCs over and over again – who am I to judge?
For me, the lasting engagement in WoW content doesn’t come from Blizzard at all, it comes from my fellow players. The jokes, the laughs and that special kind of ‘Woot!” you only get after downing a boss you’ve been wiping on for weeks or that time when you were the last man standing from 1% and got the kill as your fallen comrades rallied for you in vent. And let’s not that fateful day when Horde won an Alterac Valley “For STEVE! – the guy who wrestled alligators and died a warrior.” Whatever you enjoy about WoW, whether it be thrill of a gawd-awful transmog, collecting 1000+ pets, levelling 100 toons to 100 or Riinaa’s favourite pastime of ruining someone’s day with a good old fashioned gank, not being able to fly isn’t going to take away those precious moments – well, maybe it will for Riinaa – it’ll just take me longer to get to them.
Here’s the fine print: This conversation is made-up. Bashoik’s responses are wholly taken from: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/12666436539?page=5#82. This article is intended to be a humorous reflection of some of the community’s views during these dark, dark days, to make a few salient points to Blizzard, and remind us all that despite the massive quality of life issues not being able to fly will create. The true joy of WoW doesn’t usually happen on the back of a Griffin… except for the guy in the transmog.