Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Portals: I Wish I Could Take 'em or Leave 'em

Before it gets too cold, I wanted to touch on one of the hot topics in the blogosphere currently. Namely, the removal of portals from the game. I've read a plethora of articles, ranging from outraged to supportive, and wanted to throw in my two cents.  I promise to talk about leveling in the expansion as a Warlock tomorrow (as requested!).  For today, we're going to talk portals.

The issue appears to be pretty dichotomous.  People are either completely against the change and the new time sink it represents, or supportive of forced voyeurism.  I find myself firmly in the middle.  Sadly, while a rant would probably be more entertaining, I just can't get worked up about this topic either way.

On one side, we have the time sink issues.  I get it, traveling a large world is a bitch.  Look no further for sympathetic ears.  I rode around on my spiffy Dreadsteed all of last Wednesday, surveying the damage.  It was painful.  I was reminded how much I miss flying and the freedom it represents.  Flight points just aren't the same once you've experienced the roaming nature of Outlands and Northrend.

Boats hold no appeal to me either.  I mean, you have to find the correct dock, and it's not always clear which boat travels to which destination.  Sure, I understand that the ambient decoration gives you a clue, but is a wooden placard to much to add saying: "This boat takes you to Darnassus, Realm of the Nelfs and Goats!"  At least then I would feel more confident.  Not that sittin on the dock of the bay holds any specific thrill for me either, though I'm all right with the song. Actually, I find the lyrics especially apt: I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay, wastin' time.  Anyone else have that roll through their head whilst waiting on a ship?

Yet, on the other hand, I've come to appreciate the grandeur of the docks again.  The revitalized attention to aesthetic detail that characterizes the "new" old world.  The familiar, yet unfamiliar.  The Shattering really is a sightseers paradise, replete with ooh's, ahh's, and wtf is that's.  I'm also remembering all those things I used to do while in flight.  My addons are in tip top shape.  My bags are organized.  My quest log is focused (text read!).  My UI has never looked better.  As an added bonus, the kitchen gets cleaner, my bladder thanks me, and the guitar that is perpetually near my desk is finally back in tune. 

There are benefits to boring travel.  The world feels bigger.  The action is more appreciated.  The pacing is less frenetic.  Lack of flight is only temporary, so some relief is on the horizon, though it won't help you get to Outlands or Northrend expediently.  Still, with the majority of people trying to level to 85, I have to wonder how much of a problem it's going to be.  I mean, are we going to be traveling back to those places a lot once the new content is open?  I suppose only time will tell.  My point is just that today, now, is the worst this feeling is going to get.  It's only going to get better.

I've always striven to not simply complain, but to complain and offer alternative solutions.  This case is no different.  I have several ideas that would make me feel better.

First, and foremost, a thinly veiled shot at mage identity:  Grant a couple other classes some sort of ability to teleport to all the major cities.  I think part of the pain right now is that we're beholden to only one class to get around expediently.  This almost gives mages an additional, profitable profession.  Back in my days with Final Fantasy (the old one, not the new one), White Mages were the other people who could port as well.  They used to make a living standing on the street corners and selling their services.  It disgusted me then, and it disgusts me now.  Still, I'm probably prejudiced about that point.   Maybe a better idea would be to tie it to a profession that everyone could get, should they choose to level.  Make engineers portals work to main cities (and not random places in the world).  On principle, I dislike being enticed to roll a class simple to get around effectively.  How does this fit at all in the "bring the player, not the class" strategy?

Maybe that's too harsh, though.  After all, porting is really a staple of the mage identity.  I'd hate to give them a complex (/snicker).  Instead, what if we set up some NPC mages that will port you to cities for a set price.  Something to regulate the market, sink some money, and provide convenience.  Maybe something like 10 gold for a port.  Prohibitive for low levels, but not for max toons.  The attractiveness in this option lies in the flexibility of choice.  You would save money by traveling "normally", but it would cost more time.  Seems to fit with a lot of the other choices within Azeroth, no?  Time or Money has always been a trade-off.

But, you're a warlock, you might say.  You have summons!  Summoning doesn't help me get anywhere.  In fact, summoning, to me, seems very counter-intuitive to the whole Warlock sense of self.  I mean, we're supposed to be selfish, right?  Hence why we've traditionally lacked buffs and really haven't complained about it.  How does summoning benefit us?  I can count on one hand the number of times I've helped someone get somewhere, and do you think any of them deigned to tip me?  No way.  Maybe if we could be summon by a special Warlock coven in each city.  That'd be pretty neat.  Perhaps that's another solution, allow class specific teleports to certain places.  They already kind of do it for Druids, but make it convenient, useful places. 

Really, the overarching solution to everyone's complaints seems to be this: We crave options.  Whenever you tell us there's only one way to get somewhere, we're probably going to be a bit miffed.  Right now, there is really only one avenue to get to each of Outlands and Northrend.  There's sort of two to get Ironforge from Stormwind if you count the Tram, but what about to Darnassus?  Only boats.  Sure you can come up with convoluted ways, but I'm talking direct routes.  We're a society that puts added value on things like direct flights and digital downloads.  For better or worse, we just like having the choice to Buy It Now, even if there's added cost.  At least then, it's up to us.

Yes, my biggest and only beef with the current non-portal situation is the lack of choice.  Maybe today I want to stop and smell the roses, but maybe tomorrow I don't.  People changes their minds, and since WoW is all about accommodating as many people as possible, why so narrow a field on travel?  If they can make raiding accessible to so much of the population, then I'm sure they can come up with a better solution to the travel than is currently implemented.  You can argue that there's such a thing as "too accessible", but all I'm asking for is consistency.  Don't go zig one way and zag the other. 

Like I said, maybe it won't be a big deal once the expansion and new content drops.  I'm certainly willing to give it the benefit of the doubt before I fly off the handle.  Either way, I'm just going to make the best of it because there are a so many other really cool things they've done.  I suppose one confusing decision shouldn't negate dozens of other well thought out ones.  It all matters on the view from where you're sitting.  On this boat, the view may be vexing, but it sure is dazzling. 


  1. I don't mind the removal of portals too much. First off my lock has Alchy/Herb professions. So I always flew around anyway so I could gather. Made me tons of money that way.

    It's not like all portals are removed or you can't get somewhere fairly fast. If I had to go back to Outland each major city has a blasted lands portal to get me there quickly. So what if I'm not in Shatt. Most likely I was going to Outlands for some reason other than Shatt.

    The same will hold true for Dalaran. Yes the Zep is slower than portals but will we be going to Northrend to see Dalaran or for another reason? Only difference is Dalaran is much closer then either Zep landing zone for most of the real action there.

    So bottom line is that while nice they are not that big a deal to me either.

  2. I loved the portals, they were very convenient. But, at the end of the day, I can't be arsed to get excited over it. It just IS. Moving on. I got quests to run.

  3. Yeah, I do think the angst will go away once we have other things to focus on. However, a certain Paladin wife of mine has been persistent in musings about the subject due to a plethora of reading material... Thus, I had to write about it :-).

  4. "A Certain paladin wife..." you have more than one? o.0

  5. No, she's just very certain about the things she sets her mind on.

  6. oooo, I see a dog-house for Ful tonight. I direly miss the portals, especially while leveling alts, BUT darn it, when cata hits next week, I'll be on the boat to Vashjir and not worrying about flying to Undercity.
    ATM, I am more concerned with getting exalted with those goblins, so I can drive around Mt Hyjal on my 3-wheeler and giggle at those alliance and no new mounts..

    /point ful

  7. Fortunately, we only have a sugar glider house and that's inside. Plus, she wouldn't put them through that trauma.

  8. In fairness we're not able to fully appreciate the difference this change will make until we can fly in the old world. It's a bit of a pain at the moment running around at 100% on Horseback, but once you can fly over that mountain range at 310% speed it'll be a whole lot less to worry about.

    I think travel is critical to scale in an MMO. If it doesn't take any time to get anywhere you don't get a sense of how big the world is.

    Prior to playing WoW I used to play EverQuest. When they introduced the "Plane of Knowledge" with it's portal stone to every major place of interest it immediately and irrevocably ruined any immersion I still clinged to. My first trip from Freeport to Queynos (one side of the continent to the other) took me 6 hours and many many deaths. I had a very definite idea of just how big that world was, and I didn't loose that feeling till I was able to click wherever I wanted to go.

  9. I agree, the angst will probably wane quite a bit. However, I'd still like to have the choice... for a cost. I think a clever solution would to make a mage available that prices out the trips... "Oh, you want to go all the way to Dalaran, well this is a holiday so it's restricted travel and there's a pat down... 50 gold gets you there now." :-)