Allowing flying mounts in World of Warcraft was a terrible mistake that should never have been corrected.
For those not up on their history, here’s the deal: Flying mounts were first added in The Burning Crusade, better known as “the first time Blizzard actually launched a WoW expansion.” At the time, they were pretty darn cool, and while a few people voiced concerns about them, most of the playerbase was focused on the idea that we could freaking fly. That seems legit; I know far too many of my superhero characters were given the ability to fly just because, you know, flying.
Warlords of Draenor does not allow flying mounts right now. It might never allow flying mounts in Draenor. The designers have said that flying mounts were a mistake and probably should never have been added to the game, which I entirely agree with. But I also think we’re at the point that questioning whether or not they were a mistake is beside the point. They’re a mistake that’s been made, and they should have been in WoD at launch, same as several other features.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I consider Warlords of Draenor to be a sub-par expansion. My opinion on that has not changed; I spent the last installment of this column noting the ways in which the expansion has cycled multiple game mechanics back around, and the first installment of this column discussed expansion issues. Yet today I come here not to bury Warlords of Draenor but to praise it.
For all that World of Warcraft has removed or made worse many gameplay elements over the years, there’s a part of my heart that will always be invested in the game, and for all the missteps that can be made, there are still things of shocking beauty. So let’s talk about things that are completely praiseworthy in WoD, starting with something that I’m happy to say my opinion has changed on in the time between the beta and launch.
After more than a decade of operation, a curious thing has happened to World of Warcraft: It’s circled back around on an awful lot of its design principles, not in the sense that Warlords of Draenor is only a hop and a skip away from the game’s original incarnation, which is demonstrably untrue, but in the sense that a lot of what has changed over that original incarnation has slowly wound up coming back to the same place.
This is something that I think has been cycling around for a while, due in no small part to the simple fact that designers are people too, and the people designing WoW are big fans of the game’s original design without understanding the iterative improvements that happened over the years. Whether or not these changes are good or bad depends on individual taste, but it’s educational insofar as understanding why the game is what it is now.
Remember when World of Warcraft launched? I sure do. I remember when the game’s developers strapped into a helicopter and broke into the building of every game’s development team and forced them to change their code to more closely align with what World of Warcraft was doing, instantly transforming Warhammer Online into a close clone of their own game. And then there was that time that stores stopped handing out copies of Star Wars Galaxies to potential players, with a cleverly disguised installer that made people think they were going to be playing a Star Wars game right up until the character creator. “Hey, that’s not a twi’lek! Oh, well, as long as I’m here…”
Wait, that didn’t happen? Of course it didn’t. That would be absolutely ridiculous. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to the narrative told by some portions of the MMO fanbase.
I really didn’t want Massively Overpowered’s inaugural column about World of Warcraft to focus on the negatives. But I can’t in good conscience ignore the fact that patch 6.1 for Warlords of Draenor is not getting the Iron Docks that many players were expecting. It’s not that I think it’s a grand betrayal of player trust; it’s not. Things get shifted around in development. Stuff gets held back for the next patch. It happens. This feature was never promised for Tuesday, and it isn’t coming out then. Seems fair.
No, the problem here comes down to one of perception, presentation, and the simple fact that there’s plenty to do at level cap in Warlords of Draenor… but also absolutely nothing to do.
It seems ironic that an expansion that led to an enormous subscriber surge is also seemingly tone-deaf on a number of points, but it also seemed ironic when Cataclysm followed Wrath of the Lich King by undoing a good portion of what made the prior expansion so popular. So why is there so much negativity, even from people who do like the game? How can a game be replete in things to do while at the same time have nothing to do?