In January 2007, Blizzard released World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. This expansion included flying mounts in Outland. You had to reach level 60 to purchase flight training and a mount. You could only fly in Outland, the new continent. In the Cataclysm expansion flight was possible in all areas, except the starting areas.
Now, after all this time, other MMOs are adding flying. Guild Wars 2, in Heart of Thorns, has added flight, well Gliding actually, where you can glide in the whole world, but only for a limited distance.
In a few days on May 17, 2016, Tera is adding flying mounts. Again these mounts have limited range. Why are these games dumbing down flight?
Not for Technical Reasons
It does not seem that flight is being dumbed down for technical reasons. It’s no harder to do, although allowing flight changes some things about the game, for sure.
The Wow mounts can fly all day long. No fatigue, no limited flight. If you set to hover over a town in Outland and take a break for five minutes, you are still there in hover when you get back. If you stay too long you will be logged out of the game, but not sooner than you would be if you were standing on the ground.
Why this limited flight in GW2 and again in Tera?
You can sell or demand skill to fly better? Well Wow required upgrades to fly faster.
The game is too easy if you can fly? Only if you design the game so that it’s easier. Wow has typically restricted flight in new zones so that you need to complete the zone before you can fly there. Although Outland in the Burning Crusade was designed as a flight zone from the start. Originally you could not fly in the older zones, but as we pointed out, in Cataclysm that was changed so that you could fly in all but the starting zones.
I’m not clear on why these games are restricting flight. Perhaps out of some misguided feeling of “fairness”. But it’s misguided. Perhaps because it’s more work to do it right and make flight work everywhere.
In GW2, you “master” the ability to use updrafts and ley lines to fly further. No money, in game or real, involved, just exploring and training.
In Tera, my understanding is that better mounts and possibly training is required to fly further. Presumably for game or real currency.
Of course, in Wow flight training and mounts cost game currency.
Zone to Zone Travel? How Might This Affect Flight?
I notice that in Wow you can easily move between zones. There are no fixed portals. If you climb a mountain anywhere along the boundary between zones then you seamlessly move between the zones. This has been true since at least Burning Crusades and perhaps in the first release, although I never played that version of the game.
When flight appeared in Wow, you could certainly fly between zones seamlessly. You could fly anywhere you could walk or swim. You could not fly if travel required a ship or zeppelin.
In Guild Wars 2, there are portals between zones. It is impossible to move between zones at any other places.
In Tera there are no obvious portals between zones, although it is generally not possible to cross the zone boundary at arbitrary locations.
I suggest that the GW2 and Tera game engines have issues that should have been addressed and that unrestricted flight would point out these issues.
Game Play Changes Due to Flight
These games both have tasks and achievements that change in nature based on flight. For example, there are achievements for reaching Vistas in GW2. These are difficult to reach places, usually by jumping puzzles. With gliding, reaching some of these becomes much easier. For some of them, gliding has been restricted so that they are not too easy. Un-restricted flight would have made most of these trivial. This same set of issues will occur in Tera, although these achievements are not such a large part of the game as with GW2. In Tera, my understanding is that flight will be possible in the upward direction for a limited time, so most of this climbing achievements will be much easier unless flight is restricted near them.
I think this just shows that for GW2 and Tera flight was thought to be hard when the game engines were designed and so the achievements and climbing and jumping puzzles were added because of that. Time for an upgrade to flight and those achievements can either be trivial to get or moved to the obsolete list. After almost 10 years of seeing flight in games, these games can get with the program and allow proper flight.
Combat is Not Allowed in Flight
None of these games allows, or is planned to allow, combat while in flight.
Actually, that is not true. Wow has several quests, in Outland and elsewhere that provide skills that you do from a flying mount. In Outland you bomb portals, and hostiles. In the Death Knight starting area, you do several types of skills in a quest while flying. There is a quest in Northrend where you battle dragon riders while flying.
These quests are done from a managed flight, so it is more like an arcade game than doing combat from free flying, and you are restricted to a specific zone and specific foes during the quest.
But unrestricted combat for any quest is not supported and no PvP is permitted from flight.
Currently Wildstar does not provide flying mounts. But there are many places in the game that provide flying mechanics: Taxis, quests that provide flight between areas, and so forth. There was a huge contentious forum post with 1800 replies about 2 years ago discussing flying mounts. Clearly a big deal for some of the player base. I don’t think there would have been 1800 replies for something that was easily agreed.
Seems to me that there were not very many responders in this poll from the post. How many 1000s played the game at that point so that only 500 people responded?
GW2 and Tera have taken the cheap – to develop – and greedy – by charging players – for flight benefits. While GW2 does not have Pay to Fly, they do charge $50 for the Heart of Thorns update, which is a lot to pay for Gliding. Tera is free to play, but probably Pay to Fly – faster and longer.
GW2 and Tera both need to upgrade their game engines. GW2 is still using portals and both restrict movement between zones, which Wow has shown since 2007 can be done in an unrestricted way.
Wow is more fun if you want to fly. Below are some recent pictures I took on my travels. I want free flight in the games I play, so I can see the games I play.