Friday, June 12, 2015

Flying's Back, Alright

Well, I honestly didn't think they'd do it. I also realize I lied about not doing another flying post, but I feel like this is a monumental decision and there are some words I'd like to put all in a row about it. 

If you're late on the uptake like me, who was very confused to hear people talking about flying in Draenor yesterday, Blizzard has made a concession to bring flying to Draenor. That's right, everybody!

Backstreet's back! wait

The way they have decided to implement flying into Draenor is to award it to you, account wide, after you've accomplished a meta-achievement that requires you do a ton of stuff in Draenor on foot, first.

The way this change has been implemented is getting a wide variety of praise, complaints, death threats, and the rest of the usual - but let me tell you why it's absolutely perfect.

One of the biggest problems with Draenor's "content" was that there was no reason to do it. One of the biggest reasons this expansion flopped was that Blizzard added a bunch of stuff to do around the world of Draenor and made "having it be done" the only reward for doing it.

Video games are a unique form of interactive entertainment. You can't just give your players menial tasks and say "look at all this stuff you can do!" It either has to be appealing and fun on its on, making doing it for fun the drive behind it, or it has to reward the player in some meaningful way. The reward also has to be substantial enough to motivate the player to want to perform the task required for it. This is why no one cares about farming reputations at 5 rep a mob for some rehashed mounts and pets that are still going to cost them tons of gold.

This is not only in World of Warcraft, this is video games period. Blizzard made this mistake in Draenor, and it's why their "tons of open world content!" idea tripped and fell on its face. The only people who cared about all the menial, boring chores in Draenor's open world were completionists.

Achievements, as a general rule across the entire spectrum of video games, are not actually a reward. Achievement points are a bare basic, completely optional statistic that do absolutely nothing for character progression.

so meaningful wow

The only achievements that have any considerable value are those that reward something, and the more solid that reward is, the more important it is typically seen as. An achievement that rewards a bland title is one step above pointless, while an achievement that awards a pet or a mount can be considered pretty valuable. Achievements that reward a player with proof of their skill or talents are also valuable.

"Do all the freaking quests," or "Collect all the crap," are in no way meaningful to anyone outside of completionists. They award you nothing but some more points to pile onto your stack and anyone with enough time, endurance, and patience and do them. They have now, in this implementation, added an achievement which awards a very valuable, meaningful reward, thereby giving purpose to the content they created.

Furthermore, in creating a very good reason for people to want to participate in this content and complete these achievements, they have effectively solved their own issue where they were restricting flying because they wanted everyone to experience the beauty and splendor of Draenor up close and personally on foot.

so far most people are only familiar with their garrison

This was not an awful goal for them to have. I'm actually on board with this mentality - it was only after realizing that they didn't add any good reason to actually indulge in Draenor's open world content that I conceded they should just give up and put flying in. They genuinely found a great way to mend both parts of this design failure.

With no purpose or drive behind exploring Draenor fully on foot, only people who cared about doing it would have done it, while a large number of people would still have not even bothered. Now, basically everyone will see it. This new design change is actually a far better way to get their lovely Draenor continent the attention they wanted. They no longer have to worry about people using flying to trivialize their open world content because they are requiring that you experience that content before you can even fly in the first place.

Of course, the final accomplishment of this new design change is that we get flying in Draenor.

all right whoo hoo yeah great job! we can all go home now

There is also something to be said about this entire ordeal. Blizzard was very steadfast about their original decision. Some fervent forum posters have declared that this event shows Blizzard is not confident or bold enough to stand by their decisions if there is push back by the playerbase. I feel like these people haven't been paying attention to the absolute intensity of the flying debate.

The original post on MMOC was posted in, constant, and current for over an entire year. There were camps of people basically protesting for flying back, for months at a time. When Blizzard quietly declared the absolute, definitive death of flying for Draenor and all future expansions, the community exploded. This entire situation was unique in its scale alone.

It was bizarre that Blizzard wasn't changing their stance. They have reverted bigger changes over less outcry. The absolute scope of this entire situation is staggering. Like I said before - there was not a movement of people, proclaiming the glory and perfection of a flightless world. There were just people who were more or less on board with no flying, people who couldn't care less, and people who were vehemently, fervently, and passionately in favor of flight.

actual protest against blizzard's flying restriction

In fact, I and many others believed that Blizzard's reluctance to change their stance on the flying issue was a glaring problem - realizing this and compromising to add flying to Draenor under these conditions is highly positive. At the end of the entire ordeal, they found an even better solution that will make a larger number of people happy. I don't see any way this kind of clever development and ability to compromise and adapt to its playerbase could be misconstrued as a negative thing. It's a bright and sunny sign signifying what we can only hope to be progression towards a better future for our beloved game.

If the life story of World of Warcraft and Blizzard's interaction with it and its playerbase were made into a history book, "The Flying Debate" would be its own chapter.

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