When Blizzard first announced that Warlords of Draenor, the latest expansion for World of Warcraft, would not allow players to use their flying mounts in the new zones, the developers said it was an “experiment.” Blizzard’s staff wanted to see if keeping players grounded would add a renewed sense of danger to the world, while also preserving the integrity of Draenor’s quests. Understandably, some players were upset, and Blizzard promised that it would reevaluate the issue later in the expansion’s lifetime.
True to its word, Blizzard took a second look at the issue, but the company’s decision isn’t going appease players who were hoping to battle the Iron Horde from the skies. In an interview with Polygon, lead designer Ion Hazzikostas confirmed that mounted flight will not come to Warlords of Draenor – and might never appear in newer content.
Blizzard first introduced flying mounts with WoW‘s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, in 2007, but Hazzikostas said that as the years went on, it became apparent that flight was having a negative impact on the game.
Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways.
While there was certainly convenience in being able to completely explore the world in three dimensions, that also came at the expense of gameplay like targeted exploration, like trying to figure out what’s in that cave on top of a hill and how do I get up there.
Hazzikostas said the game feels larger with “more room for exploration, for secrets, for discovery, and overall immersion” when players are confined to the ground.
In addition, Hazzikostas implied that “no flight” is no longer an experiment. From now on, ground-only travel will be the starting point for future content, including new expansions.
“At this point, we feel that outdoor gameplay in World of Warcraft is ultimately better without flying,” Hazzikostas said. “We’re not going to be reintroducing the ability to fly in Draenor and that’s kind of where we’re at going forward.”
Hazzikostas admitted that Blizzard is still open to adding flight options to specific expansion zones. However, in general, it sounds like players should not expect flight to be a main feature in the game.
As expected, there’s already a lengthy post about the announcement on World of Warcraft’s main forum, which racked up 288 pages worth of replies less than 24 hours after Hazzikostas’ statements went public. Many players are using the thread to vent their frustrations, and some are canceling subscriptions.
Some player wonder why Blizzard didn’t stick to the model of previous expansions, which gave characters flight access after hitting the maximum level. This maintained the setting’s integrity while players leveled up, but provided more convenient access to the world at large after that process was complete.
Long-time players’ frustration is understandable. World of Warcraft has been out for more than 10 years, and the past 8 or so featured flight. Blizzard actively encouraged players to seek out and collect a wide variety of exotic flying mounts, including drakes, cloud serpents, and flying carpets. All of those mounts will remain in the game, but having their wings clipped doesn’t feel great.
For its part, Blizzard said that it will continue working on the game’s taxi flight paths to make getting around Draenor as convenient as possible. It remains to be seen how this will play out over the long term, but it doesn’t look like this decision is going to help World of Warcraft return to the 10 million subscriber mark it had following Warlords of Draenor’s positive reviews late last year.
Warlords of Draenor is out now on PC and Mac. The game’s next major patch, which features a new zone and raid, is currently in testing and will be out “soon”.