Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Comforting Azuriel on flying in Draenor

Azuriel is somewhat disappointed by the seemingly chaotic way that Blizzard decided on flying in Azeroth. Me, I don't believe a word of this story of how they came up with this decision. I believe the *real* story went like this:

A Blizzard designer presented the plan of unlocking flying in Draenor in a later patch via an achievement already early in the development phase of Draenor, and everybody agreed.

Somebody remarked that there would probably be a lot of complaints about having to do a bunch of achievements to unlock flying. They needed a plan to make this achievement unlock more popular.

Blizzard decided to first keep mum about flying in Draenor, then make a fake announcement that there wouldn't be any flying at all in Draenor or any future expansion.

They wait for the predictably protest and then present their original plan as a "compromise". Everybody is happy.

I honestly think Blizzard just decided to step back and listen to their customers. That's all. They don't do that kind of stuff too often, but sometimes yes, they listen us. Removing flying from Draenor is a choice I've never understood, no matter how hartd they tried to justify it with goofy reasons. Grounded flying mounts -which often require a lot of grind/work to be obtained- was silly and useless.

I'd love to have flying in 6.2 but I can accept some more attunement to unlock it (once again). Let's not forget it will come in 6.2.x, which may be... not very soon™.
The only reason to get rid of it was just cost. Presumably the QA on flying is a PITA, which is why you couldn't do it in the original world until they redid the whole thing. Guess they were hoping to save money in the future expansions. It's about the only reason I could think of that makes any sense.
Third opinion here: I actually believe it went like they said it did.

If you look at the Draenor outdoor content it was made with no flying the norm. Just do the stables dailies to get your 6 mounts, very easy quests but a bit of exploring necessary to get to the mobs. Took me a couple days to remember the way to the one in north east Nagrand. Also the majority of treasures out in the world were clearly hidden to encourage a little jump'n'run. Normal questlines at the Throne of Elements, a lot of rares.

All of that will be trivialised by flying and I totally believe that they wanted to disallow it forever.

But yeah, Blizzard does listen to the players. Remember vanilla WoW were pretty much no communication between Blizzard and the players took place. Bugs and blatant imbalances went on for months without even being acknowledged.

There are many examples of Blizzard listening: be it reducing dailies in MoP; making 5man harder in Cata and easier again in MoP; introducing emblems to counter drop luck in BC; getting rid of emblems and introducing Valor in WotLK.

I don't think the current outcome of flying was planned all along from the beginning of WoD.
Here's my theory:

1. The devs really had a vision of the game that did not include flying. Or maybe they were cheapskates and wanted to cut corners on zone design during the next expansions.
2. People whinned on the forums
3. People unsubbed
4. Seeing potential profits slipping, flying was re-introduced in a way that did not make the design of the new 6.2 zone obsolete.
My personal opinion is both that no flying is better game design and once it was added in game it is very tough to withdraw.

The first thing I will do with flying is get all the treasures. Flying, thankfully, ruins all jumping puzzles.

When Coke came out with "new Coke" and then reintroduced Coke Classic, they essentially had more grocery store shelf space due to their mistake. When asked if it was deliberate, a Coke executive said something like "we are not that clever or that stupid to have planned for this."

Adding flying might not have been the plan, but they knew they always had a fallback plan.
Rugus, Blizzard always give in to whining! That's why the forums are so full of it. It works! I am not surprised at the decision to give in to the outcry, but I think their solution is yet another nail in the coffin of their virtual world.
I agree 100% with Tobold. It's one of the very basic rules of negotiating: Go in with as much as you possibly can (and some more) in order to come out with what you want.
I think you're giving Blizzard way too much credit here. I don't see the evidence that they are as good at planning ahead as you seem to think.
Your theory's primary flaw is the assumption that Blizzard knew in advance exactly how all of this would play out, which is practically ascribing super powers to them. Life isn't like that. Blizzard is staff by people who are no smarter or insightful than average and are just as inclined as everybody to believe their own PR.

I am far more likely to take this whole event at face value, as I have worked with teams that have developed plans in a conference room, where they convince themselves as to how things will work out, only to be totally blindsided by a different reaction from their customer base. Happens all the time. In fact, that seems to practically be the SOE/Daybreak business model at this point.

Furthermore, you've done this all with the gift of hindsight, where you could mold your theory to fit the facts. If you had at least called it in advance, I would have been impressed with that, if still dubious of your theory. Making stuff up after the fact... not so much.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people see blogging as a PvP activity and react with outrage to any throwaway joke theory.
Welcome to the internet...
I really think this proceeded exactly the way the Blizzard developers said it did.

At first, they wanted to try no flying. They thought it worked out well, and they firmly believed, and still believe, that it's best for the game. The first patch included no actual content, so they didn't have to make a statement then. The second patch included real content, so they were forced to come forward.

They decided not to allow flying because they firmly believed it was the best course for the game. They accepted player complaints and lost subscriptions as worth it, for the long-term benefits.

But player complaints and particularly subscription losses were much higher than they anticipated. We saw threads reaching 100 pages of simply players posting their cancellation messages. It was truly unprecedented.

Like I said earlier, the WoW developers still firmly believe flying is bad for the game. That's where their contemptuous "spiritied discussion" line came from. The players put a gun to their heads-- they had no choice but to reverse the decision.

Unfortunately, many of those that quit did so as no flying was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, and once they uncouple themselves from the WoW teat, those players are unlikely to ever return. The people that really did quit over flying (and there absolutely were some!) will return. The end result will be another large subscription loss. Unnecessary friendly fire on the part of Blizzard.
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