The sky in Final Fantasy XIV is full of broomsticks with catgirls and dragonback elves. Within World of Warcraft, orcs fly around in massive metal rockets while humans pilot large-sized horses across the desert. In the more than a decade since the first time flying was introduced to massively online role-playing games that are multiplayer the airspace of digital games has become as dense as the ground, perhaps even more than that.
When game designers introduced mount flying to the online superhero games City of Heroes and World of Warcraft in the mid-’90s It transformed the MMORPG genre for the better and worse. One of the greatest desires of mankind is, as it turns out, has caused a lot of controversy within game world. For years, passionate players have complained that flying can make online games less fun, too easy, and sometimes even a commercial. Certain developers have even suggested that should they have the chance remove flying completely in their online games. However, as with Pandora’s Box of game mechanics flying will be around for the long haul.
Distance was the most prominent feature in the very first MMORPGs based on design. “Early MMOs didn’t have a ton of content,” states Jack Emmert, CEO of Dimensional Ink Games, makers of DC Universe Online. The games depended on subscriptions for revenue however, developers weren’t able to release an entire world each month to keep gamers interested. However, Emmert says, “Every trick was pulled. However, everything was designed in a manner that required players to continue playing repeatedly. It was logical to provide some distance.” The time required to get an item called a questgiver was a feature, at least for developers, and not an issue.
In a slumber on the ground, players could be spending between 20 and 30 minutes traversing across continents to their final destination (less in the case of an animal mount, such as a horse or a massive wolf). The mountains and the architecture created a series of paths through hills and around towers. From a distance players could see the range of colors and textures that designers have used to create the game. In more difficult MMORPGs including the 2002’s Final Fantasy XI, players were required to travel through dangerous areas on foot. This required stealthy potions that managed resources and skillfully avoiding the monsters’ glares. If they were to die it was best to have planned plenty of time to repeat their steps. The virtual world was more frightening as well as more strategic and intimate; but simultaneously it was larger, more thrilling, and more amazing.
There were additional benefits for keeping players on the ground. “The the more space you grant players to move around the world, the less ways you could use to build the worlds. It’s the same when it comes to flying” declares Ion Hazzikostas Game director of World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft was launched in 2004 and featured pre-determined flight routes to help players swiftly from point A to B, but it was not fully-agency flight. With predetermined routes in the air, game designers could suggest an unnamed city in the distance as an artistic flourish , without ever needing to build it. The most popular locations, such as the catacomb-like undercity and blood-elf capital Silvermoon City had no roofs. There was no way to know that, therefore why bother? (“Thanks flying!” wrote one user on the World of Warcraft subreddit shortly after the introduction of flight. “I didn’t know the whole mountain was a snake.”)
However, not all games can allow players to be so easily restricted. Jack Emmert had a hand in virtually every superhero MMORPG that is available starting in to 2005’s City of Heroes to 2009’s Champions Online, and he states it was “a lot of internal debate,” on whether to add flying. Designers worried that cutting down travel time would make worlds of MMORPGs seem less alive and vibrant. In the end, they concluded that it would be absurd to develop a game about superheroes without the capability to fly. Imagine the grounded Superman walking into the scene to rescue damsels who are in trouble! So Emmert’s superhero-themed games took an airship from the start. Champions Online, for example promises of feeling like a super-hero right from the beginning by allowing players to fly their avatar from the sky and intervene in a mafia-run gang who are terrorizing just a waitress who is innocent.
Other games also introduced flying a few years after their launch, and then changed for the better with the introduction of flying. The first time, flying was a controversial feature. To be able to ride the speedy “Gryphon,” players had grind until they reached level 70 before dropping serious gold on the Rare and Epic mount. At first, only advanced, high-end players were able to gain access to the best mounts that allowed them to avoid dangerous monsters, dominate the most effective places to mine resources and speed away from rivals in a player-versus-player combat. Less experienced, less skilled players were frequently reminding them of their low status by the mystical beasts that whizzed across the battlefield.
Some players claimed that flying caused World of Warcraft feel more “minimally” than “massively” multiplayer. John, an MMORPG Twitch streamer who is known under the name Zepla. “Everyone was walking in a group, moving from one place to another. When flying was added in World of Warcraft, it was as if people felt more isolated.” People who were just talking with each other during the game would linger over cities on their flying mounts , instead of waiting in crowds at an auction hall. Certain players complained that flying took away World of Warcraft’s feeling of community.
“The world feels a bit more populated when everything is at a slower, smaller scale,” Hazzikostas explains. Hazzikostas. “You are able to see someone next to you. They’re not fifty feet from you. There’s no doubt the fact that adding that dimension could end up making our cities feel a little more empty.”
Connections bred by proximity or at the very least, the sense of it. So did challenge. To conquer difficult terrain filled with monsters of high level, Final Fantasy XI players often demanded that one another guide them, thereby encouraging the formation of social bonds. To get a group to the correct cave full of creatures could take 10 minutes of dangerous traveling on foot, and in the event that one of the party members was killed, everyone had to wait until they get back. What else could you do except shoot the dead?
Contrary to Final Fantasy XI, 2013’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn features flying mounts as well as a plethora of easy-to-use features that make the game. (To be able to fly through a variety of areas, players must go through them in depth and then collect “aether currents”–knowledge about the region’s weather patterns.) Catgirls can not only skate across islands with a their broomsticks, they can throw their name into the line of players randomly that algorithmically assembles to form a dungeon-raiding team. Going between quests or from battle battle is more speedy and smooth, but it’s can be a very socially dispersed experience. After players have defeated an entire group of birdmen in the Full Active Time Event, also known as FATE, they could blast off in every direction with flying mounts, instead of being a group of adventurers. It is easier for players to participate and less demanding the improvements in Final Fantasy XIV have made it harder to interact with people in a common circumstances in game.
His team develops terrains and gameplay around places of interest such as social hubs. Perhaps, there are places where type-A players may meet other players, and look at their clothes.
However, it’s possible it’s possible that “meeting people” is no the primary goal of the MMORPGs. The days of players had to get to know one the other well enough to exchange IRL numbers , and to coordinate raids to talk for 30 minutes about their lives or night elves during an escort trip across the icy tundra. “It’s eggs or chickens: Do we get started by making it easier to team up and it was successful and is that now the norm? Is it an issue of pressure from the social?” says Emmert. “Is that the players themselves wanting the illusion of connections, but without the commitment of connections?”
The MMORPGs don’t serve as a chat room in 3D nowadays, according to Hazzikostas. In the past, the idea of bringing strangers together to explore the dark fantasy landscape could be considered a novel idea. “That’s something that’s normal nowadays. You can’t earn extra points for it,” he says. The genre has changed as has the other internet-based applications. Discord has thousands of Discord groups, with thousands of users, and designed for every single time of MMORPG players on each as well as every single server. Conversations are divided into tags such as “tavern,” “combat classes,” “raids” and even “other games,” where gamers who have a passion to Final Fantasy XIV can link with each other over a shared blood thirst in First-person shooting game Valorant.
Before we talked, St. John had been racing through the sky of Final Fantasy XIV with a group of players who she describes as”a “hunt train.” She joined the group on Discord and became part of one of the game-specific chat groups. It’s a social affair,” she says. “You start to recognize some of the same people who are always at these.” St. John streamed the experience live on Twitch for her 188,000 fans who are able to track her to her on-game stream should they wish to.