Holy moly!

Well. Just when I thought there would be nothing to write about today, we get The Big Announcement in a DevWatercooler post. I think it is worth quoting in full here.

We appreciate the spirited discussion on the topic of flying. The subject has brought out passionate viewpoints and  insightful conversations on our official forums and blogs, on community sites, and in chat channels. Your feedback has been a valuable part of the ongoing conversations within Blizzard as well, and today, we’d like to share some updated plans for how we’ll handle flight going forward.

The Thrill of Discovery
At the heart of the initial plan to restrict flight in Draenor (even after players reach level 100) lies the design goal of providing the best moment-to-moment gameplay possible in the outdoor world. From navigating the lava flows of the Molten Front in Patch 4.2, to breaching the Thunder King’s stronghold in Patch 5.2, to reaching the heights of the Ordon Sanctuary on Timeless Isle in Patch 5.4, to uncovering secrets deep within Gorgrond’s jungles on Draenor, World of Warcraft is full of memorable moments that are only possible when players explore the world by ground. And as we’ve continued to develop content over the years, we’ve focused more and more on providing players with these kinds of experiences.

However, while we firmly believe that keeping your feet on the ground is a key part of discovery in WoW, we also recognize that breaking free from those restrictions can be fun and rewarding as well, especially for those who’ve already fully experienced the game’s world content. With that in mind, we’re planning some changes in the near future that will allow players to enjoy their hard-earned flying mounts in Draenor—in a way that doesn’t compromise the excitement of ground-based exploration.

Mastering the Outdoor World
In an upcoming Public Test Realm build, we will be introducing a new meta-achievement called Draenor Pathfinder. You’ll earn this achievement in Patch 6.2 by mastering the outdoor environment of Draenor—exploring Draenor’s zones, collecting 100 treasures in Draenor, completing the Draenor Loremaster and Securing Draenor achievements, and raising the three new Tanaan Jungle reputations to Revered. Initially, this achievement will award a rylak mount: the Soaring Skyterror, one of the native beasts that roam Draenor’s skies. Players will remain ground-bound on Draenor until a small follow-up patch (6.2.x), when all players who have earned Draenor Pathfinder on at least one character will unlock the ability to fly in Draenor on all their level 90+ characters.
We believe this strikes the right balance between ensuring ground-based content lives up to its full potential, while providing players who’ve already fully experienced Draenor’s outdoor world extra freedom to “break the rules.” This also provides a general blueprint going forward for content to come. Players will explore new and undiscovered lands from the ground, and then once they’ve fully mastered those environments—a notion that continues to evolve with each new expansion—they can take to the skies and experience the world from a new vantage point.

Thank you for your heartfelt feedback. We’ll see you in (and soon, above) Tanaan Jungle.

I am, to put it mildly, thunderstruck.

I think someone at Blizz is still having a tantrum over having to give in, thus the extreme list of prerequisites for flying. (There are some stubborn points made in the announcement, such as the reference to “the excitement of ground-based exploration.”)  But the mark of a good compromise is that it makes everyone a bit unhappy and everyone a bit happy. So I find this to be an acceptable compromise. (However, I am not going to thank Blizz or congratulate them, because they should have made this decision months ago, it is the right decision but they should not have put the players through this, should not have forced this gigantic expression of outrage. When you have to hound your teenager for twenty minutes to take out the trash, and she finally does it begrudgingly and sulkily, you do not thank her afterwards, because it is her job to do it responsibly and reliably.)

And the best part of this is that, once you have jumped through all of the considerable (in my opinion excessive, but never mind, see my definition of compromise above) number of hoops Blizz requires, you will have unlocked flying on all of your level 90+ alts. Excellent! Finally, a reasonable policy from Blizz.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sure I will be soon ranting about the ten thousand achievements you have to get just to be able to continue something you have been doing for years in the game, but overall I think this is an excellent decision by Blizz. And they absolutely did the right thing by making it a BoA achievement.

Hats off to the literally thousands of players who expressed their opinions — some calmly and logically, some much more emotionally — in the forums and on Twitter. Hats off to the bloggers (the good ones, not me) who took the time to lay out their objections to the no-fly policy and the reasons it was bad. And hats off to whatever group at Blizz finally made the decision-makers see reason.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the staff meetings at Blizz the last couple of weeks. Though we will never be privy to it, it would be interesting to know what finally tipped the balance. Was it the number of unsubs? The outrage? A fear that the company was getting a negative rep that would spread to its other games? The imminent release of FFXIV? Not important, but interesting nonetheless.

There may be aspects to this that will come to light later, but meanwhile I am just going to enjoy the moment.


9 thoughts on “Holy moly!

  1. They went above and beyond with this. Flight at 90 and account wide? Amazing.

    But I have to wonder, how many people unsubbed with the reason of flight were needed to make them have such a huge turn around so quickly?

    1. Exactly what I was wondering, though I suspect we will never know. It is apparent, though, especially from Muffinus’s tweets, that there was significant disagreement within Blizz over the no-fly decision. I suspect the large number of unsubs gave the devs who wanted flight back a lot of ammunition.

      I totally agree with you about going above and beyond with the account wide part. It really is a stunning reversal.

    1. Yeah, me too. Have only 45 on my main that I will be using for the grand achieve. This is the grind I am least looking forward to, honestly. I am sure it will only take a couple of days of concentrated effort, but it will feel lots longer because i dislike it so much. But I am just glad that we only have to do it once — cannot imagine doing it on all my alts.

  2. “However, I am not going to thank Blizz or congratulate them, because they should have made this decision months ago, it is the right decision but they should not have put the players through this, should not have forced this gigantic expression of outrage”

    So very true

  3. Oops, didn’t mean to hit “Post”

    I wanted to say that I also wonder how much of this announcement timing had to do with June being the end of the 2nd quarter. If people resub before the end of the month then maybe they’d be able to hide the quarterly drop.

    Also, I wanted to say, I really enjoy your various perspectives and that even when I don’t fully agree, I enjoy coming here. I don’t really comment, but I do read.

    1. Well, certainly Blizz is out to make money for its stockholders, and two straight quarters of the flagship MMO losing huge numbers of subscriptions would not look great in the earnings report. Worse than any actual monetary loss, though — which I think would be quite small especially when viewed in the context of all of Activision Blizzard holdings — might be the perception that Blizzard may have lost its magic. If stockholders sense a company is on a downward rather than an upward spiral, they tend to pull out and send share prices down.

      And thanks for the kind words. 🙂

Comments are closed.