Blizzard is conducting an interesting experiment with World of Warcraft's next expansion, Warlords of Draenor. Players won't be allowed to use their flying mounts in Warlords' new zones.
WoW creative director Alex Afrasiabi revealed this plan during an interview with GamePlanet. He later reiterated it on Twitter:
Flying mounts were introduced to the game with the first expansion pack, Burning Crusade. All the new zones added in subsequent expansion packs have allowed players to fly through them. With Cataclysm, Blizzard went back and remade the two continents from "vanilla WoW" so that flying mounts could be used there as well.
Generally flying was restricted to players before they hit the current level cap. This forced players to stay on the ground and move through the zones with land mounts. However, Afrasiabi says that flight won't be unlocked in Draenor's zones even when players reach level 100.
I can see why Blizzard wouldn't want players to have flying mounts before level cap. They don't want players to just soar past enemies and grab quest items. It's harder to justify a complete lack of flying at cap, though. As "Dusthawk" says in that Twitter conversation, flight makes it much easier to farm up crafting materials like ore or herbs. It also cuts down on the commute time to raids or daily quest hubs.
It's also a little unseemly to make flying mounts irrelevant after this many years. Players have put a lot of time and effort into collecting these mounts. In some cases, they've paid money for them. You can still use them as land mounts but let's be honest, a dragon looks pretty stupid running along the ground.
Afrasiabi's assertion that an expansion without flying could be just as efficient as an expansion with flying is interesting, though. It suggests that Blizzard has some other plan for making farming or travel easier at max level. Players are going to continue complaining about the lack of flight in Draenor until Blizzard explains what their alternate strategy is.
Warlords of Draenor, the fifth expansion pack, is now available for pre-purchase. Players can choose from a $49.99 standard edition and a $69.99 digital deluxe edition. The latter comes with a bonus mount and pet for WoW, decals for StarCraft 2 and a pennant for Diablo 3. Both editions also include a free level 90 character boost that will be unlocked immediately after pre-purchase. Additional character boosts can be purchased for $60 apiece.