Over the past several weeks, the World of Warcraft community was stirred into action by a quote from Blizzard’s Lead Designer Ion Hazzikostas which indicated that it was highly unlikely that there would ever be flying in Draenor, the current content zone.
In an interview at Polygon, Hazzikostas said:
"Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways.
At this point, we feel 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."
This statement created a massive number of emotional threads on the official WoW forums, as well as on just about any gaming website on the planet. Most of the discussion was centered around the idea that this decision “simply wasn’t fair” and that flying is a “player’s right”. Many feltthat they have spent inordinate amounts of time acquiring rare mounts through achievements and through ultra-rare drops and that one of the greatest pleasures is to show off a Time-Lost Proto-drake, Invincible, or Aenoaxx. In a sense, people feel ‘punished’ without this ability.
The debate has not only taken place in the community, but also within the halls of Blizzard’s offices.
Community Manager “Critho” wrote on the WoW EU forum:
During Patch 6.2’s development, we continued to discuss how flight would fundamentally change the way players experience all of Draenor’s ground-based content, and carefully weighed that against the benefits flying would bring to the game. Ultimately, after much deliberation, we came to the conclusion that the world of Draenor would simply no longer provide the experience we envisioned it if we were to reintroduce flight in this expansion.
It didn’t take long for a mea culpa on the part of the design team that offered an olive branch to the vocal portion of the WoW community most concerned with the lack of flying in Draenor. Blizzard has backpedaled a bit by now stating that flying will be available in WoD, but a series of conditions and a new meta achievement will need to be met. The meta achievement will be added with the forthcoming v6.2 patch, however, the actual ability to fly will not be included until a subsequent update is released. Ironically, players finishing the meta-achievement will receive a flying mount as a reward.
In order to earn the ability to fly in Draenor, at least one character per account will need to accomplish the following to gain Draenor Pathfinder which subsequently unlocks flying for all others at level 90+:
- Achievement: Explore Draenor
- Achievement: Master Treasure Hunter
- Achievement: Draenor Loremaster
- Achievement: Securing Draenor
- Achievement: Tanaan Diplomat (Alliance / Horde)
(Editor’s Note: All of the above can be completed before the release of the 6.2 patch, except for Tanaan Diplomat which would require getting Revered with three new factions. You can check your progress towards the meta-achievement by going to WoWhead.com)
Ion Hazzikostas wrote in a Developer Watercooler article published on the WoW community site the team’s reasons behind the change of heart:
We believe this strikes the right balance between ensuring ground-based content lives up to its full potential, while providing players who’ve already fully experienced Draenor’s outdoor world extra freedom to “break the rules.”
The community has been quite positive and are pleased by the fact that Blizzard has listened. Earning flying rather than spending a large amount of gold seems to be the compromise that many players were looking for from the beginning. It is seen as a reward for exploring and learning about Draenor the way the developers intended.
From our experience in Warlords of Draenor, ground travel has been very satisfying. Admittedly, both of us were a bit skeptical about being forced to the ground on launch, but it has since proved to be a fantastic way to see the world the way it was intended. Getting the ability to fly after experiencing the content Blizzard wanted us to go through seems like a most logical solution, and the meta-achievement makes sure of that.
Earning it gives good reason to go outside of the garrison again and finishing Draenor Pathfinder will grant a true sense of accomplishment and that feeling you get when you think, “Hey! I did it!”
There is, however, a troubling side to the whole situation: Flying is great but without any real need to do so, even gaining the ability may end up feeling pretty hollow over time. Without relevant quests or content that require air travel, or without the need to access areas that can’t be reached via ground travel, it makes the whole concession on Blizzard’s part feel like a “hollow victory”. (though completionists like we are will feel driven to get the achievement no matter what!).
The bottom line is this: Blizzard listened and compromised with its community. Players seem pleased with this decision but it remains to be seen how long until the gild is off the rose and people are once again dissatisfied and lurking despondently in their garrisons now that the world has been explored and flying has been earned.
This Week in Azeroth
While flying was the main topic of discussion this week, life in Azeroth didn’t only revolve around it. Several interesting article were posted to the community site including:
- Warlords PvP Season 1 to end soon
- Shipyard preview
- Timewalking Dungeon Preview - Arcatraz
- Patch 6.2 Armor Preview
- Q&A with Ion Hazzikostas
- Where do you stand on the whole issue of flying in Warlords?
- Are you for or against it?
- Did Blizzard strike the right note for a compromise?
- Will you be working for the Draenor Pathfinder meta-achievement?
Let us know in the comments.