Thursday, December 2, 2010

Further ideas about more enjoyable flights in WoW

Let’s talk a bit more about travelling in World of Warcraft.

I won’t argue about if it was a good or bad design decision to close down the portal hubs in Shattrath and Dalaran. I think I’m pretty much done with that discussion. However I recommend you to read Tam’s thoughtful post on this of today. He disagrees with my support for the change and argues why the portals should have been kept, using his full arsenal of charm, wits and intelligence. It’s hard to resist this eloquence, so I humbly have to admit that I’m on the fence now. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing of Blizzard to do for all their good intentions? Read and judge for yourself.

Anyway – back to the topic for this post.

The enjoyable flight
When I started to play WoW, flying was one of my favourite things to do in game. The first time I used a flight path I was thrilled, almost as thrilled as I was the first time I used the subway between IF and SW and called for my family to come and watch it “Look, just come and look, how cool isn’t this, squee!”. For the longest I always looked forward to the next time I got the opportunity to get up on a gryphon. It was fun and exciting and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Eventually the freshness of it wore off – even for me, Larísa, the Merrymaker and nowadays I have to admit that I’m quite likely to go AFK as I’m flying, using one of the strategies I presented the other day. The recently changed landscape will of course increase my interest for the scenery for a while, but that effect will go away too.

Now, let’s assume that the portals will remain closed for whatever reason - disturbances in the Twisted Nether, Deathwing was mean, Blizzard hates all players and want us to suffer or they’ve screwed up the code and don’t know how to fix it.

Let’s assume that we can’t get away from travelling and ask ourselves: is there anything Blizzard could add to the flying experience that would make it more interesting, something that would keep me in game and by the computer rather than making snacks, reading blogs or emptying the dishwasher?

Steering or shooting
Well, I have a couple of ideas at hands. One is as simple as to let the players be able to steer the gryphon or bat just a little bit, like you do in those carousels at amusement parks. You can’t affect the course of the vehicle you’re sitting in, but you can affect the height of it. Imagine if you could dive down to the ground or up in the air as you wanted to. It’s a small and silly thing, but I think I’d like it. And wouldn’t it be kind of cool if you were out questing somewhere and suddenly, out of nowhere, a bat would skydive, like a seabird trying to snatch your sausage?

Another idea is to give you some kind of activity or even a mini game where you had the ability to shoot, bomb or possibly grab something from the ground using a hook. The reward could be small, bordering to insignificant, but it would give you the feeling of being more involved in the game rather than a passive observer.

Storytelling
What I’d most of all like to see however, is an option to talk to the mount. Just like Nils spoke to the flying goose Akka who he rode during his travels through Sweden in the classic children’s book The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.

My idea is that the mounts could be some kind of lore masters, offering their knowledge to the players.

Speaking for myself I have very little patience for lore as I’m out questing. My mind is set on killing, completing quests and moving on, and I don’t take much time to optional reading of books or NPC dialogues. On most occasions, I just click through it without looking closer. At the best I pay it a quick glance, but it doesn’t stick. This isn’t a behaviour I’m proud of; it’s just the way I work.

I think I’m not the only one to be honest. I believe there are many stories that are told in Azeroth with hardly anyone listening, and it seems like such a waste of creativity and effort. Couldn’t those stories enhance our gaming experience, if they were told under different circumstances, such as in the form of on-board entertainment?

I think a long distance flight would be the perfect time and place for some proper storytelling. Let the gryphon or bat speak up about something connected to our destination or to one of the zones we’re passing. Or perhaps they could just tell random tidbits from any time or place in Azeroth.

As you started your journey, you’d get a question: “Would you like to hear a story?” And if you clicked “yes”, he would start: “ Let me tell you about [insert NPC, faction or historical event]: ….”

Even better, they could also give the alternative to hear the story read by a voice actor, rather than reading it as a text. Reading huge chunks of text isn’t for everyone after all.

I guess it wouldn’t work well for short distances, such as Stormwind-Goldshire. But it could surely make the journey from Ironforge to Booty Bay feel a little bit shorter.

More than clams
I’m not a game developer myself, so I don’t know if my suggestions are doable or even entirely good. Maybe there’s a good reason why they haven’t put those features in the game.

However I do think that Blizzard could and should make an effort to try to make mounted travelling a little bit more interesting and interactive.

Opening clams isn’t enough.

19 comments:

SpiritusRex said...

What a great idea, Larissa! Sort of like hopping in a taxi and starting a dialogue a la "Hmm, so you're heading to Duskwood, ma'am? Strange occurrences there, for sure. In fact, this one time...."

I think, however, that unfortunately after a while people would find the interaction to get repetitive and they would just decide to tune it out as well. :(

Steve said...

I would love to have a "Vehicle Dismount" button, that would stop the taxi at the nearest flight master, so if you mistakenly hit the wrong destination, or for some other reason decided to cut your trip short, you could.

And how about more direct flights? How silly is this: To go from Goldshire to Sentinel Hill, you first fly to the Stormwind flight point! However, to fly from Goldshire to Lakeshire, the flight is direct. Huh?

MORE STRAIGHT-LINE FLIGHTS! Please?

Grainger said...

I don't mind the flights, because it's a built-in bio/food/guild chat/real life break. Sure, some flights are excrutiatingly long, but for the most part it's acceptable.

My annoyance with the removed portals is the ability to log in and say "kk, I'm going to Kalimdor today" or "Hey, I want to do the daily fishing in Shatt". You're still going to need to spend time traveling, this just expedites it a small bit. I'm guessing maybe they don't want someone in Tanaris to hearth to Dalaran and portal to Undercity, so now you need 15 minutes instead of the 1 it would have taken before.

That being said, I am sure they could add a little something...maybe not so much the "audiobook" lore, but some text reading or some sort of mini-game would be a nice optional addition. (Don't they have an add-on for Bejeweled that people use?)

Klepsacovic said...

I can't help but want to scream, "Portals are not gone! The mages can still make them for you!" If we'd be hearthing to Dalaran, we can easily hearth to any major city and there are sure to be mages around eager to make portals, spamming trade chat with their portals, undercutting each other to the point that they will pay you to please please take their portals.

God forbid we should have to take a minute and interact with another human being. No wonder mages cry so much, if everyone is so opposed to ever having to speak to one.

Prelimar said...

i love ALL your ideas. the lore one is especially great — there's enough lore that even if it was route-specific, they could shuffle it a bit so it wasn't always the same stories/lore in the same sequence. i'll also second Steve's call for a "vehicle dismount" option. i'd even be OK with eating the cost of the entire original flight if that's what it takes.

Grainger said...

@Steve

I agree wholeheartedly. Some of the flight plans are really off-course.

It reminds me of the time I was flying from Boston to Florida and stopped in Detroit.

msp said...

Oh-oh.. talking flying mounts. Don't let Activision near them. *Gets on a taxi* "Treat your friends to smooth and refreshing Bud Light! Varian Wrynn selects Bud, the King of Beers!" =D

Seriously though, I'd very much like the lore option or Warcraft-related minigame of some kind. Combine the two into a trivia game and give achievements or titles? No idea if that would work.

Darraxus said...

An idea my wife had was to keep flight points, but make an option where you could pay more to teleport instantly where you want to go. It would be a gold sink for WoW and give more people what they want.

Gevlon said...

This is a great idea! On short flights the mount would just say some short gossip about some townsfolk in the destination town, on longer, some more lore.

Leah said...

Agree with all those ideas. I honestly think that those would be far more appropriate fixes for extended travel time then various afk strategies.

and yeah dismount button would be nice too. right now, logging out functions that way, but actual button would be lovely.

Syl said...

Awesome ideas and indeed, I'd listen to lore a lot more and would love to have some voice acting with that!
a sort of shooting mini-game could be fun too or fishing for shinies from up there! ^^

Magma said...

Steve, there is already a dismount at next flightpoint option, It's called logout.

Anne said...

I love the bird idea!

Personally, I think they instituted the FP system to make sure people get up and walk away from the game for a few minutes. Sitting still and staring at the computer for hours on end can mess with your body. So, instead of urging you to log off and get a life, like Guild Wars does (it does a "You've been playing for one hour." sort of notices that are kind of annoying), they slip in the perfect "excuse" to get you to take a break while still in the game. ;-)

Tesh said...

I love the idea of being able to control elevation, and of the ride being a gossip, like a monster cabbie.

I've always wanted to jump off of them, though. There are a lot of places I can't get to on foot that I could get to if I could just jump off the taxi. That itch to explore isn't sated by the taxi, it's frustrated by it.

Larísa said...

@SpiritusRex: Well, I guess the issue if it's repetitive or not depends a bit on the amount of various pieces they can offer us. Considering the amount of lore there is, reflected in Wowpedia and other places, there surely shouldn't be any lack of stories to put in there. Besides - there are some stories in the world that I can hear over and over again, and for each time they get even better. Not sure if the WoW lore is good enough for that, but you could always hope.

@Steve: aye. I guess we'd love the flight paths to be more like cabs than like trains - it would be great if it could be easier to stop them with a "please I've changed my mind, could you let me off at the next fp" button. The flight paths have always been a mystery, but I think they've improved and shortened them in the last year.

@Grainger: I've never tried out Bejeweled myself, but as far as I know of it's not Blizzard's own addon, but something someone else came up with. I think it would be neat if Blizzard themselves worked a bit on the travelling to make it a bit better for those who don't want to use it for AFK breaks. And I agree, I actually like those breaks. If it wasn't for them I could easily forget about getting away from the PC now and then, which is a good thing.

@Klepsacovic: I guess there's so much other screaming going on in the trade-chats that the portalling mages just don't come through? But you have a point. The thing that people are so upset about this might have to do with the fact that so many are more or less soloing the game nowadays. Having to ask for portals makes you give up a bit of your independence. Perhaps.

@Prelimar: Glad you liked it! Now only to bring over the message to Blizzard... *scratches head*

@Msp: I actually thought of some kind of quiz after posting this post but I didn't come around to go back and add it. But I think that would be awesome. You actually don't need any other "reward" but the response if you did the correct answer or not. A little nod on the screen that you're awesome and had all answers correct in the quiz would be enough to make it feel worthwhile to do it. Achievments and titles? Sure, why not? I don't think you HAVE to give it though, the quiz is fun enough as it is.

@Darraxus: That's actually an interesting approach, although I would rather like to see that the flights were a bit more fun than just a cheaper transportation.

@Gevlon: You're right on that. Even on shorter flights, some interaction with the mount should be possible, there's always room for a little bit of gossip.

@Leah: I'm glad you liked the ideas. Unfortunately it's way harder to persuade Blizzard to develop the game in a certain direction than it is to find ideas about things that are already in your own power.

@Syl: I'm glad you liked the ideas!

@Magma: yeah, but it feels a bit weird to have to use that. Almost like an exploit.

@Anne: Guild Wars really gives out that kind of message? Oh, how I'd hate that. It's blatantly patronizing. In that case I prefer the more discrete manipulating that Blizzard is doing.

@Tesh: It would be wonderful if you could combine all of this, wouldn't it? Listen to the gossip, fly close to the ground and when you see something that grabs your attention, just pull the emergency lever and jump off!

Leah said...

Larissa, if you want self set reminders, there's an alarm clock built into the game. it only goes by 5 minute increments, but it flashes a warning across your screen and you can set it to say anything you wish. I've used to fro everything from reminding myself to check on a cake in the oven, to reminding myself that its that time to take the dogs out and its especially helpful if you only have small chunks of time to play.

I suppose I'm a control freak, but I personally prefer to set my own limits and reminders rather then let someone manipulate me, even if the intentions are good :)

Nils said...

Interesting idea. Although I generally like to know about the lore, I find it very hard in WoW to experience it. Why are all texts in a small window in the upper left of my 1650x1050 screen?

But the mount talking to me?.. I don't know. It's a cool idea. But to make it appear whenever I mount something? no ... Most monts in WoW, also, are not appropiate for that kind of thing.

The most important thing about things like travel time is that the player accepts that it is part of the natural order. It is pure psychology.

Let me try to explain it with a controversal gevlon-like example:
In a world without social welfare people are happy to be able to be able to care for their family. In a world of social welfare those who receive it complain that it is not high enough.
I don't judge here (in contrast to gevlon :). Their behaviour is predictable, rational and generally humane.

Transfered to WoW:
In a world without any automatic transportation, automated flying feels great. But in a world filled with a lot of portals, automated flying feels like an annoyance.

Once again the 'fun' is not inherent in an activity itself.

Shy said...

I actually enjoy the fact that some aspects of the game require less attention.

Just about everything you do in the game now needs full attention, full focus...I think if you also had stuff to do while on a gryphon you would either tune it out pretty fast again (if it was optional) or you would grow tired/annoyed with it pretty fast.

Bristal said...

Ugh, I once rode an "historic" train ride from Reno, Nevada to San Francisco, CA (6 hours). There were historical "announcements" lasting at least 5 minutes every 30 minutes or so.

It was cool. For about 2 hours. You couldn't turn them off. You couldn't turn them down. They penetrated your Ipod music.

Do NOT make me go through that again in WoW.

The ports in Dal were there to make it easier to access the AH, buy PvP gear, and to DO Azeroth-only stuff since we were stuck in Dal. It kept the old world alive.

Now we're not stuck there anymore. Ports not needed. And now there's a mechanical AH robot at the engineering shop in Dal.

Now we have to use our heads and talk to people to get around. I love it.

I do think it might be time for mages to be able to make portable ports and sell on AH, though. Say, 50GP mats at least? Would you pay 100GP for a port whenever you needed it?

Gevlon would like that.