Quick Travel and Flying Mounts [Game Theory]

Log in.

Click portal.

Kill something.

Click portal.

Log out.

Does that sound familiar?

In yesterday’s Gamedelver, Ctmurphy explores the disadvantage of fast travel in MMOs: namely that it is massively immersion-breaking.

This is an area about which I feel quite conflicted.

Although I consider myself more of a casual MMO players these days, I still fondly remember the sense of awe on exploring a new virtual world. Quick travel and Dungeon Finder tools are essential when you can only play in 30 minute sessions, but there is something quite special about making your way from one town to another, travelling by slowly by foot and exploring the scenery that was lovingly crafted by developers. Perhaps it’s the lighting through the trees or the way that the tiger attacks a lone deer in your peripheral vision. It is hard to be overwhelmed if your daily experience is limited to the small number of areas where ‘level appropriate content’ is to be found.

For this reason, I have a strong dislike of flying mounts in MMOs. Don’t get me wrong, I love receiving my first Netherdrake in WoW. The feeling of power is initially fantastic and your view of some of the environments is unmatched.

However, in retrospect, I believe this was a strongly contributing factor towards my speedy completion of the 80-85 content and the subsequent boredom with Cataclysm. If quests ask you to collect 5 objects or kill an enemy, and you can skip all barriers from doing this, there is no feeling of achievement on completion. I also suspect that flying mounts in Azeroth were effective in properly killing off world PvP on my server. Certainly it spelled the end for city raids, as far as I can tell.

The problem was that players had requested this feature for a long time and many bought Cataclysm specifically because it was included. They were hoisted with their own petard and the world is worse off as a result of it.

Be careful what you wish for.

I think it is too late for WoW in this respect: Pandora’s Box has been opened. But in new MMOs, I am always relieved to see that they have not yet allowed flying mounts – or better yet have no intention to.


About bernardparsnip

Gamer, Blogger, Poet
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3 Responses to Quick Travel and Flying Mounts [Game Theory]

  1. ctmurphy46 says:

    Thanks for the mention. In the future, if you’d like, you may call me Tyler (maybe I need to start signing too, ha).

    I definitely agree, and I think the refocusing on flying mounts is a good step. Specifically, a good step toward discussing two of my major faults with World of Warcraft’s travel.

    First, it introduced (to the best of my knowledge) flying taxi systems. Previously, you had the preset paths of Dark Age of Camelot’s horses, but never flying. Flying, even in that circumstance, ruins a lot of the game. Sure, you can argue that it enhances the world by making you actively want to go somewhere, but I feel that it often provided enough of a close up that I already felt pretty much THERE. Plus, I had seen so much of these areas from afar, that a lot of wonderlust was missed.

    Second, I always felt WoW’s sense of scale has been horrible. I would say it directly is a result of the flying aspects throughout the games life. For example, in vanilla, nothing ever feels as large as say the Fironia Vie statue in the city of her namesake in Everquest’s first expansion. The various ships and zeppelins never feel as large as Everquest’s ships either. Additionally, since you are flying all over the place, you were rarely faced with looking up toward a place you would eventually ascend to (with some exceptions). In general, the world felt flat.

    With the advent of flying, the game also started to increase mount speed, which led to the world design being necessarily larger. Here, you finally get some of that scale that makes you feel like a part of the world, but by then you have a free control flying mount that never leaves you on the ground for large.

    For example, compare a place like Winterspring, which is very mountanous, to a place like Icecrown (from on foot). With the exception of Winterspring’s bridge, I don’t think I ever really felt like I was surrounded by mountains. Instead, they were just obstacles.

    In Icecrown, however, everything looms over you to really communicate the size and terror of the Lich King’s forces and domain. The mountains themselves also represent areas that you must ascend, but even they are dwarfed by more mountains and fairly large flying ships. Of course, a lot of that is lost if you never land long enough to look up.

    Overall, I think flying mounts do a lot more to actively deteriorate a world’s wonder and make skipping content far too easy. They also change perspective and scale significantly, which is made worse when your game does so little to feature larger terrain and wonders.

    (I do also realize there is a player perspective switch from first person to third person involved, but I think the points still stand on their own.)

  2. Good point about the % mount speed increases – I neglected to touch on that. I think the arms race whereby Blizzard offered faster and faster mounts as a carrot to keep people playing has been terrible for immersion.
    It appears that they have settled on 310% for now for flying mounts, but I can see a 400% in the future if people complain.

    Ultimately I believe the priority should not be make movement around the world quick/easy but rather make it easy for people to play with their friends. Summoning stones, whilst not perfect, at least necessitated several of the group to make their way across the world and enabled some brilliant world PvP back in the day.

    • ctmurphy46 says:

      Summoning stones were brilliant and did help out a lot with making world PvP, even in its limited form, a lot of fun. I always loved when two opposing faction raids were happening at the exact same time and both needed the summoning stone. My guild has some amazing moments of, “Everyone zone, we need to kill some Alliance.”

      I think the big issues arose the most when you combined increasing speed with the decreasing status symbol of having a very expensive mount. Eventually, the game got where it just required you to have a flyer, then required you to have a fast one if you wanted to get anywhere, and now I have no idea what is next. I imagine mounts that can breathe in outerspace (actual, not TBC).

      There is probably another whole layer to this argument when you look at the decline of utility/true jack of all trade classes when moving from Everquest and Dark Age to World of Warcaft. The archetypal example, the Bard, always had the movement speed buff which gave your party some real zip to move across the land.

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