So it happened. Blizzard, via Ion Hazzikostas (AKA Watcher) finally admitted that flight won’t be returning.
Not just in WoD, oh no. That would be bad enough. But the big news here, and the one that has the players up in absolutely riotous arms at the moment is: Future expansions will not allow flying either. Ever.
That’s right, no flight ever again in any future WoW expansions.
Wow. Again, not the game, just wow. Again, not in a good way.
Subscriber numbers only really shot off like a rocket in TBC, the expansion where flight was added in, and they’ve lost 3 million+ subscribers in WoD where flight has been removed, which, if you need reminding, is not only the single biggest one quarter decline in the game’s history, but the single biggest decline in the game’s history during an expansion. And we’re only halfway through this one.
Can we spot a trend or causal factor here? Apparently Blizzard can’t, but I’m pretty fucking sure the rest of us can.
Flight for me is imperative in WoW. I’ve struggled in WoD, I really have. Being forcibly grounded in my garrison more or less because flight isn’t permitted has felt like being jailed. It’s been claustrophobic, limiting & smothering. A massive part of the game for me has always been the freedom to explore. That’s what I am, an explorer. I love to see new things, old things from new vantage points, vistas that no-one else has seen before or out of the way locations that few would ever bother to visit. One of the first achievements I rack up in every expansion previous to this has always been the Exploration achievement. I only picked it up a couple of weeks ago, after 7 months in Draenor. That should say everything right there.
The ability to have control over where you go, at the pace you decide, as often as you want, when you want it. The feeling of soaring into the sky and seeing the ground fall away beneath you until everything’s a teeny-tiny dot (or more realistically LoD clipped out). The ability to sit mid-air and relax, just looking out over the terrain, making a decision of what to do next, where to go.
We won’t ever have that again.
Flight vs No Flight
With Flight, there are so many possibilities for things to do when actively out in the world:
Oh, there’s an archaeology node just over there? Ok, let’s go!
Ah, there’s a quest I’ve missed on my way through levelling, I’ll quickly go do that, I’ve got 5 minutes before I have to go make dinner.
I wonder what the view’s like from up there?
I wonder what’s over there?
Ooh, that looks interesting what IS that?
Without flight, all of that quickly becomes:
Oh, there’s an archaeology node way over there? Behind that pile of mobs? Pfft, fuck it, I’ll stay in my garrison.
Ah, there’s a quest I’ve missed on my way through levelling. It’ll probably take 20 minutes to finish off by the time I ride over there and fight my way past umpteen mobs. Don’t have time for that, gotta make dinner in 5 minutes. Pfft, fuck it, I’ll stay in my garrison.
I’ll never know what the view’s like from up there. /sad hearth back to garrison.
I really cba to see what’s over there. It’ll just be a pain getting there. /ennui fuelled hearthstone back to garrison.
Ooh, that looks interesting, but it’ll be a massive hassle getting past all that terrain, and I’ll probably have to make a massive detour just to get up that small hill. Pfft, fuck it, I’ll go back to my garrison.
Lack of flight kills any trace of interest in me about going out into the world. Can you imagine what a pain in the arse archaeology is in Arrak, a zone so thick with mobs you can barely find a spot to AFK in? Exploring Arrak, Gorgrond, FFR, hell any of the zones, is at best, AT BEST, irritating without flight. At worst? A reason not to. A reason not to engage. A reason not to bother. A reason to just stay in your garrison.
And let’s face it, staying in our garrisons is something a LOT of us have been doing pretty much all expansion. Not out in the world, exploring, engaging, consuming content or playing with others. Nope, it’s been solo-idling in our garrisons, waiting for follower missions to complete so we can click-click-click-done our way through re-sending them out again. Pretty much a Facebook style experience that could very easily be re-created on mobile platforms with very little effort.
Very little effort.
Fitting that, because that’s the amount of effort Blizzard are putting into WoW these days. Since 5.4 in fact. That’s why we don’t have flight. Because no flight means that they can put in less content and have it stretch out longer and further. Because you’re having to fight and get rid of the train of mobs you’ve pulled trying to get to B from A before you can tackle or find your quest objective, which frequently is a single click experience to collect something. Compelling gameplay indeed.
Or worse still once fighting your way through to B, to be told you have to actually go to C via a massive detour and kill X mobs and pick up a pile of “stuff” from them, and then come back to B again via a massive detour before moving onto D, E and back to your garrison for the hand-in…
I’m looking at you Harrison Jones…
All the while having to navigate terrain that’s badly made, meaning the obvious path isn’t actually the path, and frequently you have to make those aforementioned massive detours, again through tonnes of mobs, to actually get to somewhere which was literally yards from your starting position on the map. An exercise in frustration to say the very least.
Realistically Blizzard could have made the levelling experience a bunch of solo-scenarios in areas similar to those ingame atm, and have another solo instance with your garrison in it. For all the over-world travelling that most people do, they’d never notice the difference.
Further compound disinterest: Screwing with raid drops
The other slice of absolute genius that Blizzard managed to drop this week (they’re on a roll folks!) was the changes to itemisation coming in Hellfire Citadel, the raid coming in 6.2:
[blizzardquote author=”Some bellend” link=”The blue tracker link” source=”The official post link“]In World of Warcraft Patch 6.2, we’re making some changes to our Raid itemization with the goal of improving the Personal Loot experience, creating more interesting distinctions among items, and providing rewards that more closely reflect the challenge players face to earn them.
[Snipped out the Personal Loot stuff, not relevant]
In the early days of World of Warcraft, Raid bosses didn’t have that many items to drop—there were only 150 items in all of Molten Core, and more than half of those were set items. This small amount of total gear in a Raid meant there might only have been one or two items per slot in an entire tier that were appropriate for your class—and if you were a Hunter or a Shaman in a place like Molten Core, that meant your only option for a belt in the entire Raid zone was your class set piece. On top of that, if an item wasn’t class restricted, it was shared between many other specializations with wildly different ideas of which stats were good or bad. When very few items were available to fill any given slot, the desire to make sure they were useful for many specs led us to keep from straying too far from a 50/50 split on secondary stats.
As the game has evolved, we’ve increased the number of items that bosses drop per kill, as well as the variety of items they drop. We’ve made secondary stats more competitive with one another, and we’ve reduced the frequency of oddball items that were only useful to a few classes. This made more items useful to more people, but eroded the distinction and sense of identity that items held in the past. Too rare became the situation where you knew for sure that this drop was your awesome piece of equipment, and that feeling of finding a truly special item came less often than we would have liked.
To help bolster that sense of excitement, we’ve decided to shake things up when it comes to how secondary stats appear on Raid loot in this patch. Inside Hellfire Citadel, you’ll see a wider range of high and low secondary stat values on items than you have in a long time. Alongside some tuning adjustments that should ensure your attuned stats are the right choice, this change should also make it easier for you to identify which items are good for you in a more interesting way than just “equip the highest Item Level.” Our goal is to help make Hellfire Citadel Raid items more distinct and meaningful to you, and we hope you’ll let us know how things feel once you start collecting your new gear.
Item Level Ramp
As this expansion has progressed, it’s become increasingly apparent that there is a mismatch between challenge and reward for guilds that delve deep into large Raid zones. When the Item Level for rewards across a given difficulty of a zone is flat, a caster staff from Heroic Imperator Mar’gok is largely equal in power to one from Heroic Tectus, despite Mar’gok being the far more challenging boss. We often see and hear about guilds killing a late-zone boss like Blast Furnace for the first time, only to disenchant most of the drops because everyone already has loot from earlier bosses in those slots. On top of that, many guilds move on to higher difficulties before they fully complete a difficulty, because Heroic Darmac loot is stronger than Normal Blackhand loot—and you can get it for much less effort.
To address this, we are structuring Hellfire Citadel so that the Item Level of the loot awarded by bosses increases as players proceed deeper into the zone, culminating in Archimonde—providing both the ultimate challenge and the ultimate reward.
We’re doing this for a few reasons. First, it feels good to get higher-level items as you progress through a zone. One of the more prominent pieces of feedback we got about Blackrock Foundry was that it felt unrewarding for challenging bosses like Iron Maidens to drop loot that was just as good as—or possibly worse than—Gruul’s.
This also breaks up where your best items are in a good way. The power of the items that you can get in a particular slot will differ based on how far through the zone you are. The best boots for you will likely be different if you are on Normal Gorefiend than they would be if you’re on Heroic Mannoroth, which would be different than if you’re on Mythic Iron Reaver, and so on.
We can’t overstate how much we appreciate your feedback on topics like this, especially when you’ve taken the time to join us on the Patch 6.2 PTR and experienced the changes for yourself. As always, everyone’s encouraged to join us and other testers in the PTR Discussion forums as we prepare to unleash Hellfire.[/blizzardquote]
So, let’s TL:DR that pile shall we?
First off, and most importantly, Weapons, trinkets and tier pieces will all be differing item levels. Now, if that was the same for each player that might be fine, but oh no, it’s sure as shit not the same for each player. Fuck no.
Players that use 2H Swords or Int Staves will be able to get the max iLevel weapons (705 for normal, 720 for heroic and 735 for Mythic), whilst.. well, here’s the breakdown:
1H Strength Sword: 695 + 700
2H Strength Sword: 690 + 705
Wands: 695 only
Agi Dagger: 690 + 700
Int Staff: 695 + 700 + 705
Agi Staff: 695 Only
So whilst Int Staff & 2H sword users get a nice 705 weapon from normal mode Archie, Agi staff users (Monks & Druids) get shafted (get it? Shafted, with a staff? Pfft, fuck it, I’ll go back to my garrison) and casters that prefer a Wand get “rewarded” with a lowly 695 weapon for their equal efforts. A full 10 item levels lower.
Add into that, various players’ trinkets will also follow the same mixed iLevel ethos where one player’s BiS trinket is 705, whilst the player next to him, her BiS trinket is perhaps 690, 15 iLevels lower.
And furthermore, secondary stats being skewed one way or the other will add further complication into the gearing equation, in an expansion where Blizzard were supposedly simplifying gearing.
Suddenly we’ll be going from
“It’s a higher iLevel, but it has slightly less of my preferred secondary (attunement) stat, but the increase in iLevel will compensate for that” to:
“It’s a higher iLevel but it has way less of my attunement stat, will the increase in iLevel compensate for that?”
It’ll get to the point where we’ll need to sim shit out just to figure out if something’s actually an upgrade, given how instrumental our secondary stats have become now.
GG Blizz, you did a really great job at simplifying that gearing issue. Bring back reforging ffs.
In fact bring out a store mount, that flies, with a reforging vendor on the side, and allow ONLY that mount to fly in current content going forwards.
So with all that said, Blizzard have in all honesty killed off my interest in playing the game past Warlords.
Reliability and fairness in raid drops is something that SHOULD be sacrosanct, set in stone, that one guy’s gear will be the same in iLevel as the next. That they’ll both have a fair shake of the stick when it comes to drops and that you’ll never feel jipped or robbed of equality when it comes to the main reason, if we’re completely honest, that a lot of raiders play the game for: Gear. Lewtz. Purplez. Epixx. Take that equality and fairness away from players and they will not be happy, and I don’t think a lot of the community has caught onto this atm, as I think a lot of them are assuming that there are drops for everyone at each differing item level.
And add in the lack of flight in future expansions, robbing players of control of their agency over their own travel, their ability to take on whatever the hell they feel like taking on at any particular moment, given their own personal schedules and availability. We shouldn’t have to plan out 30+ mins just to tackle 4/5 quests in a quest chain (looking at you again here Jonesy).
With the player base ageing alongside the game, players have less and less time to devote to the game in a single stretch. The obvious exception to this is raiding, where we can set aside a defined portion of our time to devote to this structured group activity. Sometimes for some of us, getting that time every week is a negotiation process, because we have wives, husbands, children, jobs, other interests all tugging at our available time meaning that we just want to dip into WoW and get something done in the 10/20/30 minutes we have free before the spouse gets home, the dinner needs made, you need to get the kids ready for bed or before you have to go to work.
The Devs are losing the will and/or the plot
Putting less and less content into the game? SoO lasted a full 14 months before WoD launched, and that one-shot per character content is stale as hell 8 months and a laughable 6.1 patch later.
Stretching the meagre content that is there tissue thin by giving us irritating busy work with random mobs between objectives?
Raising not only subscription prices, but expansion pack prices too? For what? Less content?
Putting real money Store Mounts in the Blizzard shop that we will never be able to use to their full potential in any and all future content? (Full disclosure: I bought the Mystic Runesaber last week before all the above shit came out)
Selling gear for real money (Apexis 675 gear is being sold for gold in 6.2, and buying WoW Tokens gets you that gold, so…)
Communicating less and less with the community. The developers have en masse abandoned the forums & twitter, funnelling all their official communications through their @Warcraftdevs twitter account, or through non-wow specific 3rd party website interviews. See how Watcher info-dumped bad news regarding no more flight on a Friday afternoon before a long bank holiday weekend on a 3rd party website completely unrelated to World of Warcraft, rather than on a Monday morning on the official website?
Listening to the community less and less. A community that is desperately trying to make you see sense about the inane decisions that you seem to keep stumbling into time and time again this expansion?
Listening to the vocal minority far too much. Mythic raiding only caters to about 2-5% of the player base as a whole. It makes the rest of us feel 2nd class. And only a very small minority have supported the no more flight stance on forums and on twitter. Yet these are the people that the devs are listening to far too much. Not the overwhelming majority that are in outrage over Watcher’s revelation yesterday. TOO MUCH ECHO-CHAMBER EFFECT.
It’s just really compounded failure upon failure, with lack of foresight and stubborn-headedness.
I have 4 months left to run on my current 6 months sub, and 10 times more than I need to fill out the rest of Warlords with WoW Tokens. After that? I think I’m done.
Unless Blizzard do a 180 on this decision, and let’s face it, that’s not something they’re strangers to, breaking promises they made before people handed over their money just to relent on those promises once they had the punter’s cash safely tucked away.
“We won’t have flight at the start, but we’ll likely re-introduce it pretty soon after launch”
“We won’t be re-introducing flight in future content ever again”
It all points to a company that doesn’t care. That doesn’t care about subs numbers, or the future of the game. It’s like WoW has become this huge burden to them, a chore to maintain, an obstruction to their future endeavours, something they feel obliged to do whilst working on other stuff they really want to do. Like Hearthstone, HotS, the Warcraft movie, Overwatch etc.
It’s a real shame, because it used to be the greatest MMO in existence, one that we thought would run for another 10 years or more. But it seems once they got over that particular anniversary, any and all enthusiasm for carrying on suddenly evaporated.
It’s the keystone for the rest of the Blizzard gaming universe for me, the one I mainly play whilst playing Blizzards other games on the periphery, such as D3, HS, SC2 etc Without that, I’ll likely not bother with those in future either. Hell my Steam back catalogue is probably ready to file for divorce right about now and file for maintenance money.
Perhaps they should just give us Sargeras in the next expansion and finally call it a day and shutter further development (no, they haven’t already done that, as much as it may seem so), before the remainder of the player-base does that for them.
And if you’ve read this entire thing, massive well done, because this is probably the biggest blog post I’ve ever done here, at just over 3,200 words. /salute