World of Warcraft players are, in a very literal sense of the word, grounded. Many of them don’t like that one bit.
Hoping to hit up a WoW forum or comment thread to chat about raid issues or how weirdly detailed male orc butts used to be? You might want to wait a bit. People are almost exclusively talking about one thing right now: flying. It’s out of the picture, and players are pissed.
Ever since World of Warcraft’s second expansion, Burning Crusade, players have been able to obtain flying mounts—usually after seeing much of each expansion’s new content on foot and hitting the new level cap. However, Blizzard’s decided to change that for the most recently released expansion, Warlords of Draenor, and likely WoW expansions to come. Speaking with Polygon last week, lead designer Ion Hazzikostas explained:
“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. While there was certainly convenience in being able to completely explore the world in three dimensions, that also came at the expense of gameplay like targeted exploration, like trying to figure out what’s in that cave on top of a hill and how do I get up there.”
“The world feels larger, feels more dangerous [without flight]. There’s more room for exploration, for secrets, for discovery and overall immersion in the world. 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.”
Despite the fact that Blizzard plans to make automated, taxi-like flights between major locations as convenient and plentiful as possible, players have not exactly given the change a resounding “zug-zug” of approval. Flight, after all, is something they have in other areas, and many of them have spent heaps of gold on rare flying mounts. Many players are downright infuriated:
Some have even envisioned ways to make flying work better in WoW, in hopes of addressing Blizzard’s seemingly unshakable concerns:
Not everyone hates the idea of footing/hoofing/sprightly dancing (in the case of blood elves) their way across WoW’s endless vistas. Or at least, they’re willing to be constructive about the idea:
Some players, however, will tell you that flying is only a drop in a near-bottomless bucket of grievances, and this explosion of general anger at Blizzard seems to suggest as much. Flying, in some ways, seems like a focal point for diffuse rage against the most recent expansion, a lightning rod smack dab in the center of a brewing storm. People are upset about other “removed” features, raids, and—perhaps most of all—Blizzard themselves.
Blizzard isn’t blind to players’ debatably sighted rage, but their responses so far have been piecemeal at best. They more or less reiterated their previous statement on the subject in a forum post, adding that, “We appreciate everyone who has taken the time to weigh in on this topic. You’ve provided some great insight and feedback, and we ask that you please be respectful of one another as you continue to discuss your thoughts and experiences.” Blizzard will also be doing a fan Q&A about flying... on June 6th, nearly two weeks from now.
Current and former WoW players, what do you think about the flying issue? Even when you couldn’t fly until you hit the level cap, did you feel like it discouraged you from exploring, from finding pleasant surprises you couldn’t see from your celestial steed? Personally, I didn’t feel like that was a problem, but I do think there’s something to Blizzzard’s assertion that flying makes their worlds feel smaller, even less intriguing. After gaining the ability to fly, I stopped feeling a sense of wonderment. I started viewing the game world more as a series of points (A to B, C to D, etc). I witnessed less life, less activity, less PvP. I’m undecided on the issue overall, though, and I haven’t played the game in a bit. What’s your take?