When they announced that you couldn’t fly in Pandaria until level 90 I wasn’t best pleased. I remembered how annoying it was in Outland when you had to wait until 60. Even on my very first character, who had never flown before, I was counting down the bubbles until I could fly. I have a loathing for Hellfire that is quite unreasonable. However, that attitude is completely unreasonable. I am thoroughly disgusted with myself for it. No flying is the best decision they could have made.
I wrote a post the other day about Warcraft and difficulty. I think some of the same arguments apply to flying and the ease it represents. I didn’t say this in that post but sometimes we can’t and shouldn’t have what we want. Some people think that should apply to raiding in that it’s ok if most people can’t raid as it’ll just inspire them to get better. I don’t agree with that, as I think that people are how they are, and they shouldn’t be forced to be something else just to get to play the game. Raiding should be accessible to a certain extent, much like it is already but people just need to change how they view it. Let the elite 1% or whatever batter down hard modes when they’re current. Let the rest of us mere mortals kill normal if we want to group up with a guild and work towards that goal. Let everyone else kill it on raid finder to see the conclusion of the story who don’t have the time or the inclination to be able to join a regularly scheduled group. Let everyone be happy with the level that they play and accept that even if they strive for more that it might be out of reach. I’ll never clear hard mode when it’s current as I don’t play like that and I don’t want too.
This applies to flying in a way. We wanted flying and we got it but did we know what we got? Did we realise what we gave up for it? I love flying and I never want to see it go. However, I’m not convinced that I always like it for the right reasons. I also think that we have the best of both worlds by restricting flying to level cap.
Awe and wonder
When I first started playing swtor, the planet (zone) for the 16-20 level range on Empire side was Balmorra. When I went out into that zone my first reaction was to stop running and just gape at it. The scenery was fantastic and it seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. It was so beautiful and just my kind of zone, all bright and open (I’ve never liked dark zones) and just so gorgeous. When I went into the Valley of Four Winds I got the same feeling. That zone just seemed to stretch on and on and it’s not the only one. Pandaria is beautifully put together, you really have to commend the art department for the fabulous world they’ve created.
Where was the exploration in cata? The other day I was exploring Kan-Lai on beta and there was an area of the map undiscovered, I managed to jump up a mountain to get to it. Not completely convinced that that was supposed to be possible but hey it was fun and I wound up at the Peak of Serenity. One day I’ll be able to fly here, today I jumped up a mountain. Finding the way up was a challenge which was a good. The only problem then was how to get back down again. I died a couple of times and wound up somewhere else which had a level 92 elite circling! I then managed to jump down some waterfalls and that was fun. Proper old school exploring that flying would have completely negated.
In the spirit of having my eyes opened to the world I went back to Hyjal. It’s a zone that I’ve quested in, on 8 different characters, and due to being the home of Firelands one I’ve flown over more times than I could count. I still remember when the boat rounded the corner for the first time in Howling Fjord on the way to Valgarde. I don’t if the graphics were better than Outland, but it was such a beautiful sight, and one I’ve remembered ever since.
I didn’t feel that sense of awe and wonder with any of the cataclysm zones. Were the art department on vacation? I don’t think so. Are the zones so much smaller than the new Pandaria zones? I’ll find out. It’s difficult at this stage, with how sick I am of cata content, to look at it through new eyes but I’m going to try.
Riding around Hyjal
My initial thoughts weren’t charitable. There didn’t seem to be any gloss in the zone. The paths were clearly marked and the roving mobs were well away. However, as I was riding up this hill I saw this big gronn walking the round towards me – a rare – how wonderful and something I would have missed flying high in the sky. Of course I run NPCScan but that’s not the same as spotting it for yourself.
I continued to ride around and the world looks different from the ground than up in the sky. Yes I was covering a fraction of the distance, between point A and point B, on the ground in the time it would take to fly. However, the zone suddenly feels huge and there’s all the twists and turns to get to a particular place. This is in stark contrast to my usual behaviour of auto flying. I hit the auto fly key and do something on my other screen, I check occasionally to see if I’m nearly at my destination but that’s it. I don’t look at the world around me and I think that that’s missing a large point of the game. The point of the game isn’t to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. This is a game and it’s supposed to be fun.
I don’t know how long it took me to get to Firelands, I should have timed it but I forgot. I’d posit that it took at least 15 minutes, likely longer. Part of this was that I was trying to pretend like that was the first time I’d seen the zone. If you’re new to it you’re not going to know what the right way is, you’re going to have explore and wind up other places, you’re going to have to think ‘now how do I get over there?’ whereas with flying you just go right over the top. It’s not easy to get to the Firelands entrance without flying probably because that goes against what was intended. However, when you’re down the ground in the lava, with fire streams around you, and you’ve having to move quickly because you’re burning. Well, that’s one hell of an introduction to Firelands.
The benefits of flying
Flying is lazy and people are inherently lazy. That was why I wasn’t happy about no flying till 90 in Pandaria. Even then most of me thought that was ok for my main, for the first character I’ll level through there. After all when you’re exploring something new for the first time it’s nice to be able to see it as intended. You notice so much more like the rolling clumps of Tumbleweed, or the little critter family packs. However, I was groaning inside at the prospect of levelling alts without flying, of the constant running around which obvious takes a lot longer. Then I realised that that was actually really dumb.
I am fed up of levelling. I very nearly have 8 level 85 characters (the 8th is level 84) and I am sick to death of levelling. It started out as being fed up with cata zones, the same quests the 8th time through aren’t exactly fun. However, the lethargy has spread to questing in general. At some point I stopped looking at levelling as being a journey and I just wanted to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. However, the problem is the endgame gets mighty boring when you’re there. What’s there to do on an army of alts but run the same content over and over. I’m hoping that this will change a little bit in Mists but that’s another post.
Would I be so fed up of cata content if I’d taken it a little slower? Attacked it from different angles? I don’t know but plowing through levelling till the endgame like a machine isn’t fun. The world is a big place, and it’s beautiful, and I think if we just take the time to appreciate it then it’ll be great. Do I want the convenience of flying? Yeah but I’d much rather keep that sense of wonder. I still feel it everytime I take the boat to Howling Fjord, it’s probably more because of the memory of that first time now because of the familiarity, but it’s still a great view.
Flying gives us convenience, it’s fast and it’s handy. When we’re farming mats or running dailies for the umpteenth time we’ll have that convenience. However, each class is different, and so we should maybe try and look at each one we level as a new journey. Try and keep that sense of wonder. They’ll be plenty of time for grinding when you get to level cap. I know that I’m going to have trouble doing this and I’ll get frustrated. I want it all despite knowing better.
The point of all this
I don’t know really, I guess I just wanted to share my awe and wonder at the beauty of Pandaria. We’re all human and we’re not perfect. Flying is great in that it gives us a new perspective, that we can look down on the world and have amazing vistas. However, it gives us convenience, it makes us lazy, and I don’t like giving up my crutch either. What’s easier isn’t always what’s better. This way we get to maybe feel that wonder and expanse of the world, then we get to have our convenience. We’re not losing anything but maybe we’re gaining something very important.