Away From Reality

July 25, 2014

AFR #302 – Downer

Filed under: Uncategorized — tabulacandida @ 9:12 AM

afr302
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Now, I rag on Blizzard a lot– more than is really fair– for the sake of a joke, so let me be serious for a moment.

I’m actually fairly neutral on the Warlords flying issue.  I think it makes sense for us to start a new expansion on the ground.  The ground is where the action is and where quests happen.  It makes sense to me that part of the challenge of fighting our way into a new and hostile land is going to be navigating the terrain and dealing with wandering monsters.  I think flying from the beginning in Cataclysm was one of the many things (along with the disconnected questing zones, the railroaded plot, the cutscenes, and the quests that had us follow NPCs around and watch them do cool stuff instead of doing the cool stuff ourselves) that made us feel like we weren’t really part of the action.  I don’t mind that we’re going to start the new expansion with our feet on the ground.

What worries me is the possibility that we might not get to fly at all in this upcoming expansion, because I like flying.  Flying is fun.  Flying is one of the visceral pleasures of World of Warcraft.  As satisfying as it may be to get the ding and the swirl and the fanfare for your last level, there is nothing that quite conveys the sense of having arrived like soaring into the air and seeing the zones you’ve been questing through from a whole new perspective.  There is a joy in simply seeing the sights from the air and it gives new life to old content.  I would hate to see Blizzard deny us that primal pleasure out of a misguided design philosophy.

Here’s how Bashiok characterized the flying/grounded problem:

As an example, let us consider a quest to assassinate an enemy leader. From the ground you approach a fort with guards at the gate. You charge and are able to dispatch them and sneak in a side hallway. You methodically take out packs of roaming sentries, and some of them shout at you as they run toward you. You notice they’re in the middle of practicing dark and forbidden magics, and you take a moment to disrupt their ritual. Dashing into the main courtyard you spot your target, sneaking and fighting your way to him–and with a forceful slash–the fort’s captain is vanquished, and as guards are alerted you fight your way out, glorious and triumphant in your success.

Alternatively, from a flying mount, you fly over the gate, see some guy whose name is highlighted, land on top of him, kill him, and then fly away.

You can see what he’s getting at, and he has a point.  There is a basic formula in game design which states that challenge + reward = fun.  As a basic principle, it works.  But you can’t just increase the fun by simply increasing the challenge.  We all have a lot of experience with the kind of “penetrate the enemy base and kill the leader” kind of quest he’s describing.  It’s been a staple of WoW since the beginning.  I bet that, like me, as you were reading that description, you pictured some building somewhere in Azeroth you once fought your way into.  (For the record, mine was the orc camp in northern Desolace.)  Here’s the thing, though: killing all those wandering guards on your way in and out of the building is not actually fun.  It’s a part of the challenge that makes the quest as a whole fun, but you don’t make a quest more fun by turning up the dial on the stuff you have to do just to get to the thing you actually came here to do.  If trash-killing were actually fun, no one would skip the trash.  The fact that people do is not a sign that they’re missing out on an important part of the game, but that that part of the game just isn’t enjoyable in itself, and the game won’t be made better just by having more of it.

Now, there’s a place for trash.  It’s part of the flow and rhythm of the game; without the valleys, you don’t notice the peaks, but let’s not mistake it for something it isn’t.  Like I said, I think it’s fine that we’re going to start without flying, but to never give us flying at all would be to confuse the things that make the game fun with the things that make the game challenging.  They’re not the same.

25 Comments »

  1. For me it was the stone keep in Redridge that used to be full of elites. Always hated trying to find groups for that place.

    Comment by SneaksyRanger — July 25, 2014 @ 9:21 AM

    • Oh, yes, my corpse and I spent a lot of time there, too.

      Comment by wowafr — July 25, 2014 @ 3:11 PM

  2. I even get their point about wanting to keep us grounded for the first patch cycle. This is a wander around and discover things expac. But past that? I’m done. I want to fly to where I want to go, do the thing I came for, and leave. Discovery is only fun once. And frankly, more taxi routes actually mean that I’ll see less of the game, because I’ll get up and walk away.

    I’d never work on Nat Pagle rep if I had to walk to him. Krasarang is horrible.

    Comment by Berry — July 25, 2014 @ 10:34 AM

    • “Discovery is only fun once.” I’m going to remember that quote. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it said better.

      Comment by wowafr — July 25, 2014 @ 3:13 PM

  3. I think one of the general problems is that it doesn’t just let you skip past mobs, it lets you skip past *terrain* itself. Think back to the Starcraft/Warcraft RTSes (or other RTSes) — a unit being flying was a BIG DEAL. A defining characteristic. But they were also incredibly vulnerable to some attacks.

    There’s no such tradeoff in WoW. To be accurate you’d have to have stuff like anti-air batteries or mobs that attack you while you’re flying and can actually do significant damage — the point where you cannot fly in certain locations or you’d die in 2 seconds.

    I don’t think Blizzard objects to you being able to fly across the continent and enjoy the view. They object to you being able to nullify not just enemies but also terrain itself.

    Comment by Balkoth — July 25, 2014 @ 1:58 PM

    • The challenge of navigating the terrain is another good point, but navigating terrain isn’t ultimately any more fun than killing trash. Nagrand (when we were doing it before flying) was not a better zone for having a big hole in the middle, it was just a zone that took longer to complete. Once you figured out how to get from one side of the hole to the other, all it did was add another minute of riding time to get from point A to point B. That was, by some measures, a more “challenging” experience, but it wasn’t all that much more fun.

      I understand that Blizzard doesn’t want us skipping over the content they designed. That’s a worthy design goal. Frankly, I’d rather not be skipping content either. It’s a waste of Blizzard’s time and mine. But ultimately, if Blizzard doesn’t want us skipping content, that content has to be worth our time in its own right, not just an impediment to getting to the stuff we actually want to do.

      Comment by wowafr — July 25, 2014 @ 3:31 PM

      • “Once you figured out how to get from one side of the hole to the other, all it did was add another minute of riding time to get from point A to point B.”

        That’s not the point I’m trying to make.

        Basically, imagine this as a rule of thumb: would Blizzard care if there was a flight point at your destination?

        For your case, the answer is no — Blizzard would have been fine with more flight paths in Nazgrand scattered all around. The problem isn’t saving a minute of time by riding around the hole in Nagrand. The problem is skipping 90% of the defenses of the Shadow Council’s fortress in the southwest by flying over them with zero hazard. Or skipping 80% of the ogres in the northwest.

        Long distance terrain flying to get to a distant point faster isn’t a problem. Small hops solely to avoid terrain or monster obstacles is a problem.

        “But ultimately, if Blizzard doesn’t want us skipping content, that content has to be worth our time in its own right, not just an impediment to getting to the stuff we actually want to do.”

        That sounds like what the guild that hacked AQ’s floor said 😛

        And Blizzard tried a no trash raid once. It’s rated as the worst raid in the history of WoW. Wasn’t solely due to no trash but that was a large part of it.

        Comment by Balkoth — July 25, 2014 @ 3:53 PM

      • I guess I’m not expressing myself very clearly, so let me try again:

        I understand perfectly well that Blizzard’s design goal is for us to fight mobs and navigate the landscape rather than fly over them, because they believe that doing so is more fun. I know that this is what is behind their decision-making on flight in Draenor, and I agree with this design goal for our leveling characters.

        What I fear is that Blizzard has decided that this goal is so important that it justifies never letting us fly in Draenor at all.

        I don’t want to hit the skies as soon as we pop through the portal, but at some point I do want to soar. I agree that being on the ground as we level up is good for the game, but it is not so good as to be worth never getting to fly. Killing trash mobs and riding around canyons has some gameplay value, but not enough for me to willingly trade away max-level flight.

        Comment by wowafr — July 26, 2014 @ 11:13 AM

      • “I don’t want to hit the skies as soon as we pop through the portal, but at some point I do want to soar.”

        I understand. And what I’m saying is that Blizzard is fine with you soaring. Blizzard is fine with the comic you drew. Blizzard is fine with flying over the world and seeing it from the air.

        But they’re not fine with you simply using it on a whim to hop over a wall and using it as a miniature “teleport me to that spot” button.

        See the difference? And trying to allow the former while not allowing the latter is difficult.

        Imagine, for example, that flying mounts had a 10 second cast time and a 5 minute cooldown. Would you be fine with that?

        Comment by Balkoth — July 26, 2014 @ 11:48 AM

      • Balkoth wrote: “But they’re not fine with you simply using it on a whim to hop over a wall and using it as a miniature “teleport me to that spot” button.
        See the difference? And trying to allow the former while not allowing the latter is difficult.”

        The point as I see it: Balkoth, you’re reacting to something you thought wowafr said, not what he actually said. Wowafr discussed the problem of skipping content with flying, then *moved on* to what’s important *to him*.

        As wowafr originally posted: “You can see what he’s [=Bashiok] getting at, and he has a point. … Like I said, I think it’s fine that we’re going to start without flying, but to never give us flying at all would be to confuse the things that make the game *fun* with the things that make the game *challenging*. They’re not the same.” [original emphasis]

        You guys are talking about two different things. To try and compress:
        Wowafr: Not having access to flying *initially* is fine, but not having access to flying *at all* would not be fun *for me*.
        Balkoth: The ability to fly has made dealing with mobs trivial and depreciated our experience of terrain.
        Comparing apples and oranges as a measure of *personal* gaming experiences is fruitless (pun fully intended).

        As to flying: Yes, allowing flying while keeping the challenge factor high would be a more difficult project. But: Blizzard already did such an amazing job with the Pandaria zones, purely from the environment point of view, that I would love for Blizzard to step it up a notch. If they were to disable flight *entirely* it would seem like a step back.

        We already have flying mobs. We have PvP guards at towns that can flag you if you fly too close. In Nagrand, we have these hovering mounds of ground that you can land on. In Vashj’ir we are already, in effect, functioning in 3d rather than on a flat plane. Why not combine them and create, in Balkoth’s words, “stuff like anti-air batteries or mobs that attack you while you’re flying and can actually do significant damage” as a kind of a Vashj’ir-on-the-ground environment?

        I found moving around in Vashj’ir confusing, yes, but I think it would be a fresh, interesting problem to add into the equation of how to get your toon from A to B to do the quest. Disabling flight sounds like a very easy solution technologically, at least as I imagine, not being a programmer – it’s either on or off. (And if some actually knows whether this is true, please tell me!) Unfortunately, as a way to encourage and/or direct player activity – as a storytelling device, if you like – it *feels* like a cop-out, very much like the Assassin’s Creed excuse for not bothering to animate female characters. If flying-as-way-to-avoid-mobs has become problematic, you could for example treat it with a system-wide/across-expansions solution, like the impending squish to deal with ability/damage numbers bloat. Or make flying have a higher cost, like Balkoth suggests.

        If Blizzard were to toggle flying off utterly and completely for the whole expansion, for me, it would quite frankly come off as something in between a calculated FU and a juvenile tantrum (“look we made all this cool stuff and now you’re using the tools we gave you to do stuff we don’t like and that’s not what you’re supposed to do you need to play the game like we tell you and didn’t I do well now give me a cookie”).

        Comment by ejensen — July 26, 2014 @ 1:18 PM

      • “You guys are talking about two different things. To try and compress:
        Wowafr: Not having access to flying *initially* is fine, but not having access to flying *at all* would not be fun *for me*.
        Balkoth: The ability to fly has made dealing with mobs trivial and depreciated our experience of terrain.
        Comparing apples and oranges as a measure of *personal* gaming experiences is fruitless (pun fully intended).”

        That’s not an accurate summary, though. This would be more accurate:

        Wowafr: Not having access to flying *initially* is fine, but not having access to flying *at all* would not be fun *for me*.
        Balkoth: Do you want to fly to travel across the continent, speed up long distance travel, and get an aerial view? Or do you want it to act as a short range “teleport me to that spot” button? If it’s the former, Blizzard has no problem with that and would like to make it happen…but it’s awfully difficult to do without allowing the latter as well.

        In other words, most people want flying for two *vastly* different reasons. And WHICH reason it is becomes very important.

        “Why not combine them and create, in Balkoth’s words, “stuff like anti-air batteries or mobs that attack you while you’re flying and can actually do significant damage” as a kind of a Vashj’ir-on-the-ground environment? ”

        They’ve tried. It hasn’t worked well. The birds in Skettis, the flak cannons in Blade’s Edge, the hovering flying guards, the defense cannons in Krasarang, etc.

        That’s not to say it’s necessarily *impossible* to do, but so far Blizzard hasn’t managed this successfully short of just disabling flying. They could literally just have the defenses target you from 50 yards away and kill you in one second, I suppose, but I think a lot of people wouldn’t like that either.

        “Disabling flight sounds like a very easy solution technologically, at least as I imagine, not being a programmer – it’s either on or off. (And if some actually knows whether this is true, please tell me!)”

        It is.

        Comment by Balkoth — July 26, 2014 @ 5:15 PM

      • I get the feeling we’re starting to chase our tails here. I think we all understand each other well enough now, so I’m going to call this conversation good.

        Thanks, all, for sharing. 🙂

        Comment by wowafr — July 26, 2014 @ 9:20 PM

      • Balkoth: “That’s not an accurate summary, though. This would be more accurate:” Thanks for improving my summary of your position.

        However. For *personal* gaming experiences, the reason for disallowing flight, or any other number of features, is irrelevant. A gamer either enjoys X or doesn’t regardless of what the design team thought or intended when building X. I’m afraid I still see no point in your arguments. Apples, oranges.

        On attempts to build flying environments: Thanks for pointing out those examples. I can’t say I’ve paid much attention to them, since I don’t particularly like Blade’s Edge or Krasarang and have largely ignored Skettis. Although, considering the vast improvement between the terrain design in Pandaria and earlier material, one can hope. 🙂

        Comment by ejensen — July 26, 2014 @ 9:27 PM

      • “However. For *personal* gaming experiences, the reason for disallowing flight, or any other number of features, is irrelevant. A gamer either enjoys X or doesn’t regardless of what the design team thought or intended when building X. I’m afraid I still see no point in your arguments. Apples, oranges.”

        Let me try a metaphor, then.

        Person A hates a weekly Conquest cap of 1650 because he wants to get a full set of conquest gear the same day the new season opens.
        Person B hates a weekly Conquest cap because he feels like he’ll be behind the curve and unable to catch up if he joins late.

        Two very different reasons for hating the weekly Conquest cap.

        But what did Blizzard do? They raised the weekly Conquest cap for people coming in later in the season so they could catch up.

        Player B is now happy, player A is still unhappy.

        If Blizzard did the whole thing with aerial defenses that just instantly shot you down if you got anywhere near, then the player who just wants to fly to speed up long distance travel or see the view is happy while the person who wants to be able to skip terrain/defenses/mobs is not. So the reason the player wants flight is important.

        Comment by Balkoth — July 27, 2014 @ 1:00 PM

      • Wowafr: “I’m going to call this conversation good.”

        The man said we’re done here.

        Comment by ejensen — July 27, 2014 @ 1:06 PM

      • I thought he said *he* was done with the conversation?

        Comment by Balkoth — July 27, 2014 @ 3:52 PM

      • We’re all done here. Everybody’s had their say, and I think we’re all clear on where everybody stands. We don’t all see the issue in the same terms, but we understand each other better now, and that’s to the good. Everything that needed saying has been said. This conversation is over now.

        Comment by wowafr — July 27, 2014 @ 8:04 PM

      • I’ve been attempting to find some form of contact information but can find nothing here or at your other comic (http://tabulacandida.wordpress.com/).

        Am I missing something that I should be spotting? If not, could you provide an email address or some other manner of contact information?

        Comment by Balkoth — July 28, 2014 @ 12:16 AM

      • Given that I got an email notification saying you replied to a comment below, I’m guessing you’re simply ignoring my previous request for contact info. So I suppose I’ll ask this publicly, which I was trying to avoid:

        Just so we’re clear on where we stand, you’re threatening to delete comments and/or ban users if they carry on a polite and not-trolling discussion between themselves related to a topic you posted because you don’t want it on your website? Because that…offends you somehow? I’m honestly trying to figure out why us discussing flying and reasons for wanting it is bothering you so much you’re demanding we stop our conversation.

        Comment by Balkoth — July 31, 2014 @ 12:22 PM

      • I am not sure we’re reading the same text. What makes you say Wowafr is threatening to delete comments and/or ban users? Please be explicit.

        Comment by ejensen — July 31, 2014 @ 2:16 PM

      • He said “We’re all done here….This conversation is over now.”

        He’s cracking down and demanding that we stop our conversation and the only way he has to enforce that decision is to lock comments (which he obviously hasn’t done), delete comments, or ban users.

        Do you see a fourth alternative if we continued our conversation and he enforced his demand?

        Comment by Balkoth — July 31, 2014 @ 2:27 PM

      • Let us make things completely clear.

        I have never threatened to delete anyone’s comments.
        I have never threatened to ban anyone from the discussion.

        I have never deleted a comment that was not patently commercial spam.
        I have never banned a user from this site.

        I hope very much that the boundaries I set will be respected without the need for deletions or bans.

        This is not the Blizzard forums. This is my site for my comic. Everyone else is a guest here, and I expect you to act like it. AFR is open to discussion from anyone, but as the creator of this site I will step in when I need to to ask people to end a thread that I don’t think is adding to the quality of the site. I expect everyone to be civilized enough to take a polite hint when I set such a boundary. Anyone is free to disagree with me as strenuously as you like, but I have no obligation to host or participate in a discussion that I don’t want to.

        I have explained how I feel about the issue of flight in Warlords of Draenor. Ejensen and Balkoth have both had plenty of opportunity to explain how they feel in this sub-thread. I understand their positions, and I think they understand each other’s and mine. Frankly, I don’t think we’re all that far apart, we just seem to be looking at the issue from different angles. None of your opinions offend me. No one’s desire to share those opinions offends me, either. In fact, this has been the most interesting comment section I’ve had on a comic in a long time and I’m glad you were all a part of it. I’m going to end the thread while it’s still informative and productive, before it becomes an empty rehashing of positions that produces more heat than light. When this sub-thread gets to the point where we’re all just re-explaining our positions, it’s time to wrap things up. Simply, that is not the kind of conversation I see any point in hosting. If you want to keep talking about flight in Draenor, by all means do, but take it to the forums, or your own blogs, or the WoW Insider Queue, or MMO Champion, or Reddit, or Twitter, or any of the hundreds of other places online for WoW discussion. It will do far more good there than here. This conversation was a useful one; let’s not let it get stale. The civilized thing to do here is shake hands and walk away.

        In case any of the above was unclear to anyone:

        I do not owe a forum to anyone. I enjoy responding to comments, but I do not owe anyone a response, or contact information, or my participation in a conversation I am not interested in having. I and I alone will set the boundaries on what discussions are beneficial to my website. You don’t have to agree with my decision. You don’t have to like it. All you have to do is respect it. This is not up for debate.

        Comment by wowafr — July 31, 2014 @ 4:05 PM

  4. Sorry – didn’t mean to butt in. I guess we were typing our replies simultaneously. My bad.

    Comment by ejensen — July 26, 2014 @ 9:28 PM

  5. Despite all the bickering here…
    *ovation*
    I’ve been trying vainly to make exactly this point. Thank you.

    Comment by ayshela — July 31, 2014 @ 2:26 AM

    • Thanks! I hope we’ll see each other in the skies over Draenor *at some point*.

      Comment by wowafr — July 31, 2014 @ 10:08 AM


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