Long Distance Travel: Better with flying mounts

With the slow times waiting for beta to get started, one of the hot topics that keeps popping back up is about the convenience of travel with flying mounts. The forum community for WOW seems to be relatively split between people who think it would be a good idea to not let people fly at the level 100 cap in Draenor, and people who think that we absolutely need flying mounts at level 100.

I’m personally in the camp where I think we need flying mounts at level-cap because taking twice as long to get anywhere we need to go is unacceptable to me. To prove the point about why we really need to be able to fly at max level in Draenor, I’m now going to present two scenarios in Outlands with and without flying mounts.

First, here is the size and scope of Draenor compared to Outlands. If anything, the full size of Draenor is slightly larger than that of Outlands. The layout and size overall, however, is quite similar.

Outlands_Draenor_Scale

 So, how long does it take to travel in Outlands with and without a flying mount? For the first test, I went from the summoning stone by the Black Temple and attempted to travel to the summoning stone for the instances in Netherstorm. Due to how flight paths are laid out, these are close to the longest distances you can travel. This is made even more difficult by the fact my mage didn’t have high enough reputation to get the closest flight path to Black Temple (since those require either Aldor or Skryers reputation grinds).

Running on the ground & use of flight paths: Thus, from the summoning stone by Black Temple to my closest unlocked flight path takes a 2 minute walk via ground mount (it would have been a 1 minute run to the closer flight path that I didn’t have access to). The flight from Shadowmoon Valley to Netherstorm takes between 6 and 7 minutes, depending on which flight paths you take. My current route took 6 min & 23 sec to fly. This is partly due to the fact that it doesn’t take a direct flight path between the two points, but instead takes a circular path around the longest way possible. These gryphons appear to be afraid of the open spaces between the zones:

Netherstorm_Run

The complete journey took 8 minutes and 46 seconds to get from Black Temple’s summoning stone to the summoning stone in the Vortex Fields of Netherstorm, using only a ground mount and flight paths.

Netherstorm_Run2

Direct flight with a flying mount: Flying back from this summoning stone in Netherstorm to the Black Temple summoning Stone using a direct path on my flying mount, however, was much quicker. By the 2 minute mark, I’d made it from Netherstorm to almost the other side of Hellfire Peninsula.

Netherstorm_Flying1

By flying directly on my flying mount, I cut a 9 minute trip into a 4 minute trip:

Netherstorm_Flying2

Another example without flying mounts (Shatt -> Coilfang Reservoir in the neighboring zone):

Using a shorter bechmark of travel in Pandaria, I went from A’Dal in the middle of Shatt to the entrance to the Coilfang Reservoir pipe. Using flight paths and ground mounts to travel took just over 4 minutes (including landing in Teldrador and having to take the elevator, and swimming in the lake).

Coilfang_Run

When using my flying mount directly between the same two landmarks, the return trip instead took 1 min and 44 sec. So, in general, travel in Outlands without a flying mount takes twice as long as flying somewhere directly yourself.

Coilfang2

Same problems in Pandaria: If you think that this problem is unique to Outlands, I’d like to point out that the flight paths in Mists of Pandaria often have the same problems of taking long and indirect paths across the world. For example, it can be really awkward to use flight paths to get to the timeless isle. From the Shrine to the timeless isle takes about 3:40 seconds (so the path below is slightly longer than that). I haven’t had time to finish my bench marking, but direct flight should be about a minute faster for this path in Pandaria, though getting dismounted over the water on your flying mount is a little bit annoying:

Timelost_flightpath

In conclusion, unless somehow this flight system that Blizzard uses is significantly upgraded, including more direct paths from place to place, we’re going to run the risk of doubling our travel times at level 100 trying to get around the world to different zones. We’ll spend less time playing with our friends, less time actually paying attention while traveling, and instead spending more time going afk on long flights. Unless the flight path system is actually fixed, we are really going to need the ability to  fly places directly ourselves with our flying mounts at max level so we can spend more time playing with our friends.

There are other problems with not having flying mounts available to us. Those other problems include the travel time in terms of resource farming (e.g., herbs, ore) out in the open world vs from the comfort of our own garrisons (that would discourage us from stepping out our front door).

While people call longer travel time “immersive”, I really don’t see how immersed in a game you are when you are spending 3 to 10 minutes on twitter/forums/facebook or otherwise AFK while the flight path takes you between two points. If they want us to actually spend time immersed in the game, flight paths need to get us where we need to go quickly so we can deal with not having access to flying mounts in Draenor. If they really want us immersed in the game, they can fix flight path technology to allow us to spend more time playing and less time “/afk flight path”. If we had to do combat in the air while taking the flight path, that might be more immersive. Until then, though, slow flight paths aren’t going to increase the enjoyment of the game.

This old flight path technology is really a long-standing problem for Blizzard. Even with the faster flight paths now than when Vanilla WOW launched (with a 20 minute trip from Darkshore/Moonglade to anything on the south size of Kalmdor in Vanilla) it still takes 10 to 13 minutes to fly on the flight paths to fly from Darnassus to the southern tip of Kalimdor. I just don’t have that much time in my 1 to 3 hours of play time every day just for getting to where I want to go now that I’m almost 10 years older than I was in Vanilla WOW and have more life responsibilities. Some days, I just want to be able to get where I need to go.

13 Comments

  1. Lakh
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    How would you feel if rather than flight points + flying mounts, we had teleport points + ground mounts?

    It’s a common design in a lot of games. It can be both more efficient in terms of travel time while removing Bliz’s “airdrop questing” issue.

    Gathering professions are not an issue, that’s simply a question of distance-to-next-node (which is easily setup for either ground or flying, but can’t be setup for both without invisible-while-flying node types).

    • Lissanna
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      Given Blizzard’s hate of portals in general since Cataclysm, I don’t see them actually doing it that way. It is much more likely that we’ll have similar flight paths and ground mount setups like Pandaria, Northrend, & Outlands have.

      If they were introducing great new portal tech to reduce travel time, we would have seen a bunch of portals in the mage tower they previewed for garrisons. Given that those weren’t present, it’s a safe bet that overall we’ll be relying on indirect flight paths to get across Draenor rather than fast and convenient portal travel.

      If Blizzard hadn’t shown a dislike for any technology that allows players to get where they want to go faster (Portals, “have group”, flying mounts, and more), I would better trust their ability to make a continent that worked without flying mounts. However, they haven’t previewed anything that shows they would go back and add more portals into the game, or that flight paths are going to be any different than what we’ve already seen them do.

      • Posted March 16, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        It may be presumptuous to assume the original commenter’s intent, but I think the idea proposed is less like the main city portals we have previously seen in WoW where you hop to locales via a central hub portal (city, mage tower, what have you) and instead implementing a system like Guild Wars 2 or Final Fantasy XIV: ARR, where you bring up your map screen and click a discovered location (similar to flight points) and then by paying a modest sum (or in the case of FF14, a less modest sum), you are instantly transported to that location. So it kind of combines the functionality of a hearthstone and flight points into one neat package.

        It works to great effect in those games. Even ones with no ground mounts (GW2).

        Of course, the question then becomes what shall happen to our heorthstones (I prefer the old english pronunciation). Perhaps a free teleport to a pre-set chosen location?

        • Lissanna
          Posted March 16, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

          Except that Blizzard took away “have group” and cut down on their use of portals in Pandaria compared to Cataclysm. So, Blizzard has moved further in the direction away from what other games do in terms of using portals, teleporting, and quick-travel methods for their long-distance traveling. Blizzard could make flight unnecessary if they had a better quick-travel system to get across Draenor. I just don’t see those methods from other games making it into WOW after how much time the developers have spent talking about how much they hated “have group” and portals.

          • Dà Chéng
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:14 am | Permalink

            I agree with you that Blizzard might not like it. But would you like it?

          • Lissanna
            Posted March 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

            I’d rather have flying mounts than a portal system. I’d rather have a portal system over the currently designed flight path system. I’d rather have a fixed flight path system if we can’t get portals or flying mounts.

  2. Night
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    I too don’t really have time for any long “immersion” that has no real purpose. I keep hearing about the ability to just mount up and go up and avoid everything. Why can’t Bliz make some 3-D content. They have proven that they can make 3-D mobs/dangers. As seen anywhere with flying Dragon/griffen/bats etc, also in Vashjir (which has multiple levels of mobs/dangers), original Outlands with the forge camps/cannons that would shoot you out of the air. If it is a pvp thing then simply make casting form mounts available.

  3. Adirelle
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    I think Blizzard refer to the leveling part of the game when they use the term “immersive”. Right now their is not much direct flying paths because the flying network is a compound one : each flying point is connected to its nearest neighbors, each trip being specifically designed by Blizzard. Long trips are just chains of smaller trips. Do you remember when you could not chain two trips and you had to wait until each one complete to select the next one ? The current trip system is just an extension of that. They would probably have to overhaul the whole thing to add more direct trips.

    • Posted March 17, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      I re-published my Gview code for some of the old travel notation I did years ago.

      http://wp.me/P1q1oM-1D

      It has Pre-Cata and Initial Cata, by the time MoP Beta came around I stopped caring because it was obvious that Blizzard hated travel and had started the whole the world is too small so we have to make travel a pain in the ass BS.

  4. Gruffertus
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I think part of the thing here is that you’re (naturally) comparing it to the game that you’re playing, and the devs are (naturally) comparing it to the game that you can’t see yet. So when they can only say “No it’ll be fine”, it’s obviously hard to see why. But there are a lot of buttons they can press to address your concerns – the first to mind is just “All flight paths are 5x as fast and accompanied by Yackety Sax“. You’ve flagged up another as well – when you say “unless they rework the flight path system”, a new expansion sounds like a perfect time to do something like that.

    • Posted March 17, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      Ya however given past performance of Blizzards development team when they say “trust us we know what we see is better”. I don’t hold my breath anymore. Look at reputation systems, crafting failure and the Cataclysm to raiding that was the 10 & 25 man split shared lockout which destroyed the raiding community. Oh and took 2 expansions to fix it. With what many including myself said they should have done to begin with.

      It took those in the player-base able to read numbers and actually create projections based on trends to see what eventually happened to 25 man raiding and we commented about it while Tier 11, the first tier in Cataclysm was still going on to say just making it 15 or 20 man raids and be done with it.

    • Lissanna
      Posted March 17, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      If we never point out the problems, they’ll be unlikely to ever fix it. If we’re comfortable taking twice as long to get places, they’ll make us take twice as long to get places. My hope by posting things like this and bringing attention to problems is that there is still time to fix the flight path system to compensate for what would otherwise be really boring travel times. It’s just that in 10 years of game development, they have never really fixed an outdated flight path system (they have made improvements, but ultimately flying mounts made it such that they didn’t need to fix it).

      This is a new expansion, but it is still built on old technology. We know the limitations of their system and we know how the developers tend to develop things. So, we know what aspects of the game’s development needs to be improved to compensate for other changes made elsewhere. It’s not such a stretch to think that if it takes 8 minutes to travel across Outlands that it could take 8 minutes to travel across Draenor since they are the same size and scope. I included the Pandaria example to show how the current flight path design hasn’t really been improved upon all that much, except for increasing the density of flight paths in the zone by a bit (but still not having some of them connected all that well).

      We typically only get about 2 months of testing at max level in the beta for new expansions (or less). That time period won’t be enough to fix a broken max-level travel system if we don’t talk about it now. So, by pointing out potential problems for the future, my hope is that we can avoid having those problems hit the live servers at all. Without a beta to directly test, this type of system analysis still works based on current content. Since they haven’t yet announced any improvements to the travel system, it’s pretty safe to assume they haven’t put in an entirely new flight path technology.

  5. Posted March 19, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    You’ve pinpointed for me the most pressing concern about the potential lack of flying in WoD. While the idea of being grounded does appeal in one sense to the fact I’ll see the scenary better and finally use my favourite ground mounts more; the concern of the time taken to get anywhere vs how much I could actually be playing content in the same timeframe is pretty great.

    I have a screenshot of my 90 toon trying to get to a flight path in pandaria – It was the closest flight path to the flight path I was at, yet the actual route passed through 5 different flight paths making what should have been a direct flight into a farce of travel that seems to be acceptable. I would hope that should we be permenantly grounded in WOD then flight paths would be overhauled but I agree with you that unless it is pointed out now this might very well not happen at launch or even later into the expac if that is is the direction travel takes.

    I do not see the point in making people grounded in order to stretch out play time or make it more immersive if the travel times are so extensive they end up acting as a deterrant to play time.