|A lonely impulse of delight|
|Drove to this tumult in the clouds;|
|I balanced all, brought all to mind,|
An Irish Airman Forsees his Death – WB Yeats
At the beginning, I was massively critical of the introduction of flying mounts. I thought it would herald the end of world PvP and encourage people to gank alts without fear of reprisal even though it was limited to Outlands at that point. Indeed as the Burning Crusade progressed, we saw a sea change in people’s attitudes. Prior to the introduction of flying, on my server at least, most of the alt slaughtering was done to make you log your main for some world PvP because people correctly assumed that if they killed your level 20, half your guild would turn up. However with TBC, lower level characters in Hellfire would be attacked and when the cavalry arrived, the aggressors would die once (if you managed to sneak up on them) before ressing, mounting and flying off into the sunset. There was a classic moment in Wrath where myself (Holy Priest) and Mr Harpy (Prot Warrior specced purely for PvE) went to rescue a guild mate’s low level Warlock. A Ret Paladin and a Frost Mage had been beating him up repeatedly all across Hellfire Peninsula. We arrived and without even stopping to look at our specs, Mr Ret Paladin runs off leaving the Mage to our tender mercies. This (sadly) is now a pattern that’s been repeated across expansions. People are used to being able to take to the air to avoid PvP and whilst Blizzard have started to address with it with items like the Hardened Shell, it’s asking a lot of people especially those who play on PvP servers to potentially remove their safety net. I suspect most people are semi okay with the idea of being killed by the opposing faction whilst leveling, gear, spec, which faction has the most people questing in any given area all factor into the equation but it’s a totally different ball game at the level cap.
What started to sell the idea of flight to me was those hidden treasures lurking in the hills. Beautifully detailed scenes that could only be viewed from your very own flying mount, for example Challe’s nursery in the mountains of Nagrand was my first major “ooh” moment of TBC. Exploration in WoW has always been a huge part of the game for me, my Priest made it to the Troll village between Winterspring and Darkshore long before Naxxramas mark 1 was released and mountaineering in Dun Morogh always held a fascination for her. For further discussion on why not being able to fly would effect exploration, I’d strongly suggest reading this as the Wyvern’s Tail goes to the subject in much more detail.
Then as if to cement the use of flying mounts, Blizzard added them to the pet store. I’ve only bought one myself, the Fey Dragon and I won a Heart of the Aspects in a screenshot contest but at a quick count there are seven mounts available on the battle.net store as we speak and all of them are flying mounts. Yes, a couple of them would work okay I would imagine on the ground, the Swift Windsteed being a prime example of this but purchasing all of them would set me back £125. That’s a lot of money to spend on something which might not be fulfilling it’s true purpose in all current content for the life of the next expansion. Sure, Caveat Emptor applies to most things in life but with competition out there it could backfire fast.
Unfortunately allowing us to use flying mounts on the ground is not really compensation for the removal of flying itself and in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s got the potential to be annoying. I get sea sick watching the Heart of the Aspects bounce along the ground in battlegrounds and the thought that everyone is now going to be outdoing themselves trying to hide quest givers under the biggest wing spans they can manage whilst leveling is not something I’m particularly looking forward to.
That’s bad enough but couple it with the fact that Blizzard have stated that only our most used mounts will make the stables in our Garrisons and I’m starting to become decidedly grumpy. Yes, I can have Spike my Ironbound Protodrake in my stables but only if I ungainly stomp across terrain crushing small flowers and making bunnies freeze with fright.
Then of course there is the threat that this will become a permanent fixture whether across the whole of Draenor or perhaps in certain areas.
and we will play it by ear from there out.
Keeping everyone on the ground especially post level cap also requires a decent balance between tanks, healers and dpsers. Having to ride everywhere solo becomes painful if healers are only capable of weak dps and mobs hit like trucks. Obviously until we get the beta, we can’t do more than speculate with this but based on some of the things the developers have said already this does make me a little nervous. It also raises some interesting questions for material gathering. All my Druids are herbalists… probably no surprise there and I fully agree that fluttering above the ground pulling up flowers by your teeth is cheating but having to ride through twenty vicious mobs to pick one herb isn’t that appealing either. I found myself wondering if this ties into the Garrison idea. Why would say Herbalists actively pursue collecting their own materials when they could nurture their garrisons and let NPCs do it for them. Making gathering more of a chore could potentially make the Garrison a lot more appealing especially to people with limited time on their hands. That’s before we even touch on archaeology with it’s tendency to space out the digs at the four corners of the map.
Finally we come to the elephant in the room…. Flight form. I quested for it twice, I earned it as much as I earned my Benediction and it’s a part of what I love about my Druids. Without the ability to spiral swiftly into the air and then turning, plummet straight back to earth, falling like a stone, I’m not a proper Druid. Would I ever waddle along in bird form if my wings were clipped? Of course not, that would be adding salt to the wound. In fact it’s because of my Druids more than anything else, I sincerely hope that Blizzard do add flying to Draenor once we’re at the level cap. Exploration can be done on foot, bought pets can be ridden on the ground but take the sky from me… and I’ll never find serenity!
In conclusion, whilst I’m fine with the idea of no flying whilst we’re leveling, I think I would be concerned if we couldn’t ever fly on Draenor. The game and indeed the player base have changed since flying was added and that convenience has become the norm, rightly or wrongly. Perhaps we as players do deserve some tough love and the Proving Grounds before Heroics and no flying is the Blizzard version of no supper and having to write “There is a fine line between having an active imagination and misbehaving. Pretending to be Gretel and locking your teacher in a cupboard because she’s going to eat you is most definitely the latter” 500 times. However these days I’m an adult. The delinquent inside is firmly locked in a cage within my mind and she only escapes when alcohol makes the bars go hazy. Sure, I could play better but it’s the carrot not the stick which Blizzard should be employing here. Make us want to get better don’t grind us down with the sense of our own failure, especially if this entails being repeatedly ganked because there is no escape and chased into pack after pack of mobs (I play on a PvE server, am perfectly capable of holding my own against fair odds and am practiced at disappearing if it’s not so I’m not massively bothered about myself).
Perhaps those pesky flight masters will soon be retiring to Gallywix’s Pleasure Palace made rich by all the toll money.
Personally I do take flights because that’s my blog reading and my making another cup of tea time plus my sense of direction is dubious at best and I’m likely to end up miles away from my actual destination. Not to mention the handy fact that if you take a ride, you can’t end up out over deep water, drowning but still I’d like the choice to fly myself.