A Flight Far Enough

Well then. Turns out we’ll be returning to the skies in 6.2.x after all:

In an upcoming Public Test Realm build, we will be introducing a new meta-achievement called Draenor Pathfinder. You’ll earn this achievement in Patch 6.2 by mastering the outdoor environment of Draenor—exploring Draenor’s zones, collecting 100 treasures in Draenor, completing the Draenor Loremaster and Securing Draenor achievements, and raising the three new Tanaan Jungle reputations to Revered. Initially, this achievement will award a rylak mount: the Soaring Skyterror, one of the native beasts that roam Draenor’s skies. Players will remain ground-bound on Draenor until a small follow-up patch (6.2.x), when all players who have earned Draenor Pathfinder on at least one character will unlock the ability to fly in Draenor on all their level 90+ characters.

The general mood surrounding this announcement, at least where I have looked, has been one of almost manic joyousness. And I largely share it. This is Blizzard returning to sanity, smartly pivoting around a smoldering crisis with some clever design. Even though my first thought was “hey, attunements 2.0,” I can’t even be mad. My long-standing opposition to attunements doesn’t apply to this particular implementation of them, even if I do feel like Blizzard just kinda threw every achievement they could think of into the unlock.

But just as you would with someone who has just returned from a psychotic break, I remain leery. Some very serious men¹ made some very serious decisions and those decisions almost stuck. In fact, Lore confirmed via Twitter that the “final decision” on this flying matter was the cause of the BINGO Live Q&A delay:

In fact, the conversation continues with the following revelations:

In other words, all these changes were decided on in just the last week.

Is it comforting knowing that Blizzard can make decisions with this degree of nimbleness? Or is it vexing that it took them until now to solve this “problem?” I don’t think anyone could argue that the proposed implementation to unlock flying is especially onerous². Arbitrary, yes, but so is paying a few thousand gold when you hit the level cap. But why was this design not the one at the start of the expansion? If this is a compromise, what were we compromising out of, and why was that believed to be better than this?

To an extent, I recognize this is me seeing a silver lining and looking for the cloud. The crisis is averted, and Blizzard conjured content out of thin air without even having to change anything else. Hell, it’s even going to drag damn near everyone outside of their Garrisons for the first time since they hit level cap. It is a clever designer Hat Trick in every respect.

Still… goddamn. I would have felt a lot better about the overall design direction for WoW had they came up with this plan before it became necessary.

¹ I was going to say “people,” but as far as I can tell, all the lead designers are dudes.

² One of the 6.2 reputations is a straight-up mob grind, and a second one is basically the same thing except killing rares. This deal is getting worse all the time.

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Posted on June 11, 2015, in WoW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. The best thing is how the player now cheer at them for “listening to them”, when in fact it had to be beaten into them. Every other game would have died in the process, but Blizzard can even abuse this to improve their “listening to their player” image.

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  2. My personal theory is that with WoW becoming more and more depending on Store Mounts and selling Tokens so people can buy spiffy Mounts, the ‘no more flying in coming Expansions, either’ was the crunch. People were even starting to demand chargebacks for their Shop Mount purchases, and if Blizz hates something its chargebacks. In short, the financial basis of the game was being threatened by Ivory Towered-Devs.

    The ironic bit is that what (probably) started out as a way to save development resources now will be taking MORE resources than ”reach level X, spend Y gold” would (you just know there will be discussions and tweakings and what not regarding the requirements etc.).

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    • Based on some of the cagey replies from the Community Managers, it seems like there was division among the Dev team in terms of flight vs no-flight, but the latter had been “winning” up to this point. Which sort of raises as sorts of questions in regards how much game design is being held hostage by a handful of designers clearly out of touch with the playerbase.

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  3. From the outside looking in, I feel like you guys are falling into a trap because, well, what’s the point of flying if you finish all of your outdoor content first anyway? Isn’t that essentially turning outdoor content to the same as old content that was part of why people were complaining?

    It really doesn’t seem any different from before – just that it’s in Draenor. But, it will be in a finished Draenor – at least for the outside.

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    • It makes a difference for the repeated content. In Pandaria, I was doing a “flying round” of all the pet masters more or less daily. Sure, I could have afk-gryphoned there, but I LIKE flying. In Draenor I never even took into account the idea of doing this, seriously, doing pet battle, hit gryphon, alt-tab battle in WoT, pet battle, etc. is not my idea of “playing WoW”. I was about to cancel my subscription, now I’m thinking to keep it for the summer and 6.2 and “decide later”.

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    • I’m not as thrilled with the tacking on of Apexis Dailies and the grindy 6.2 reputations – what do the tiger-people and killing of beasts have to do with flying? – but automatically unlocking flying starting at level 90 for your alts is a pretty big incentive. Also, I hadn’t planned on doing the Fishing achievements and such because fuck that, but flying to pools makes it more palatable.

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  4. Hell, it’s even going to drag damn near everyone outside of their Garrisons for the first time since they hit level cap. It is a clever designer Hat Trick in every respect.

    Yet they couldn’t see the win-win. *shakes head* Too decentralized in their decision making, or just that blind to what their players want and miss?

    One of the 6.2 reputations is a straight-up mob grind, and a second one is basically the same thing except killing rares. This deal is getting worse all the time.

    Pray they don’t alter it any further. ^_-

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  1. Pingback: Fine, You Can Fly in Draenor, But Only AFTER You Hit an Arbitrary Content Threshold! | The Ancient Gaming Noob

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