Blizzard ticked off a lot of World of Warcraft players by not allowing flying mounts in new expansion Warlords of Draenor. They caused an even bigger uproar this week by suggesting that flight may not be a part of future expansions, either.
Flying mounts have been available in WoW since first expansion Burning Crusade back in 2007. Players have been able to fly in every expansion up until Draenor. The only limit traditionally was that players had to pay a large amount of gold and hit the new level cap for the privilege.
Lead designer Ion Hazzikostas said in an interview with Polygon that they expected there was at least a 50% chance that flying mounts would be enabled in a post-launch patch for Warlords of Draenor. However, they've been happy with how the change has played out so far.
"The world feels larger, feels more dangerous," he said. "There's more room for exploration, for secrets, for discovery and overall immersion in the world. At this point, we feel that outdoor gameplay in World of Warcraft is ultimately better without flying. We're not going to be reintroducing the ability to fly in Draenor, and that's kind of where we're at going forward."
He doesn't state any plans to remove flying from expansions that currently support it. However, he said that they don't plan to include flight in future expansions. If they do, it would only be for specific zones that would benefit from the feature. It sounds like we won't again be given an entire new continent or world to soar above.
I can see where Blizzard is coming from. Flight makes traveling across the game world far easier but it causes some issues for designing quests. If you need to assassinate an orc warchief, you can just fly over his entire camp and land on his hut. Everything else - in this case, the entire camp that the development team laid out - becomes almost irrelevant.
Blizzard made flying less necessary with the introduction of player garrisons as well. Players no longer need to soar around the world to gather ore and other resources. Most of what they need can now be gathered from their own fortresses on a daily basis.
What bugs me about the decision, though, is that players have spent a lot of time - and sometimes money - to earn flying mounts. They can still be used as ground transportation where flight is restricted but this isn't a perfect solution. Some flying mounts - particularly dragons - just look goofy shuffling down roads. Still, prioritizing gameplay over vanity seems like the smart move.
I'm not sure that there's a way to keep flying but also prevent it from ruining outdoor quest designs. The only idea that comes to mind is some kind of hazard to flight. For example, players currently get attacked by airborne guards if they try to fly over an opposing city. Could Blizzard do the same thing for quest areas?