The reasons the devs dropped flight in Draenor was largely due to design considerations. Bashiok illuminated this a year and a half ago:
Flying trivializes combat. A lot of people like to say we're trying to force world PvP, or that we just really want people to look at the pretty trees we made, but those really aren't the reasons that drive this same decision we've made every expansion. Flying allows you to escape or enter combat at-will. There's a reason why flying isn't allowed in dungeons and raids, or battlegrounds and arenas, and that's because it would trivialize the core mechanic of the game in those areas - combat. For much the same reason it trivializes how content is approached in the outdoor world based on the simple fact that you can lift off and set down wherever you like.I completely buy into that reasoning for leveling, and heck even max-level solo content (note to the reader: there's a big "but" coming later). When you're playing D&D, your players often go off-roading, and circumvent all your planning. In a tabletop RPG, this is something that should be run with and celebrated. In a video game, however, you don't have that flexibility as a designer, so you try to ensure that players approach your content in a relatively narrow, controlled set of circumstances.
So that's the main reason. But sure there are a lot of other problems it can cause for content design such as zones having to get a lot bigger because flying mounts can travel so quickly (and thus making ground travel in them take much longer), it reduces the impact of elevation within zones, it completely removes the ability for us to pace or present content in any structured way, and in general removes our ability to determine how and when players approach a situation, see a vista or location, or charge into/out-of a combat situation. It just greatly reduces any gameplay we want to create by allowing infinite choice in how content is approached to best suit a player's intention to (usually) avoid that content.
As a player, yeah, that kind of sucks. "The man is limiting my gameplay! I don't like the man's gameplay!" I kid--mostly--but there's a grain of truth in that if you give players a method to circumvent content and go straight for the goodies, they'll take it.
But here's the rub: what unique max-level content is there in Draenor right now that isn't instanced?
- Apexis dailies
- Garrison quests
- Elite hunting/trapping in Nagrand
- Treasure hunting
Most of those, aside from treasure hunting, could be mitigated by introducing no-fly zones, perhaps on the days the dailies are active. "Flying riles the beasties, so no flight except on designated paths!" "Go kill a bunch of Socrethar's army, but watch out, they have anti-air batteries!"
Treasure hunting itself can be fun. I enjoyed it a lot while leveling. But at the same time, those folks who're using addons/maps aren't really doing the content as intended anyhow, and good luck seeing treasures hidden away on the ground while you're up in the air if you're not using those maps. It's also 7 months into the expansion, how many folks are still treasure hunting at this point? Probably more than 0, but I imagine the grand majority of the player base is done with it.
And finally, garrison quests. Blizzard originally claimed that garrisons weren't required content, but by that measure, neither are raids or 5-man dungeons. You're missing out on most of what Draenor has to offer as solo content if you skip your garrison. So why not just gate flight in Draenor at the end of the garrison quests? They can keep the design principles intact for those quests, and give players another carrot to finish that storyline. I mean, we're talking basically 3 months worth of weekly quests to get flight, so it isn't like folks could get it straight out the gate when they hit 100.
But interestingly enough, when I asked Twitter what they wanted to do with flight, it had little to do with Draenor-specific content.
.@Talarianjs The thing that jumps to mind as answer to that question is Archaeology - that seems it was designed with flying in mind.— Yoco (@yoco68) May 15, 2015
@Talarianjs Archaeology, Fishing, Sometimes just flying thru the air enjoying the view while waiting on a queue. Increased gathering.— Manech (@MichaelJPetty) May 15, 2015
@Talarianjs Archaeology. I just want to zone out and dig without having to fight a bunch of stuff along the way.— Ryan Alexander (@RGAlxndr) May 15, 2015
This tells me that Archaeology is broken content as is. I agree with Yoco that it was clearly designed with flight in mind. Perhaps it should be redesigned to be less random, and allow you to spend more time at a site to reduce travel. Right now it's basically an excuse for Blizzard to send you cross-continent on a whim. Rather, perhaps it should be a more engaging mini-game unto its own so that it doesn't need to lean on "combat" as the gameplay, as it sounds like a number of people don't care for the two to be mixed.
With 6.2 coming out, and Tanaan being the new content, they could easily put a no-fly zone around it and allow for flight everywhere else, allowing the designers to keep current content as designed, and letting players explore Draenor to (mostly) their heart's content.
While I agree with the designers about flight basically wrecking content, that Pandora's box was opened, and closing it is exceedingly difficult. I mean, how often do you hear people complaining about the lack of flight in Guild Wars 2? Wildstar? Final Fantasy XIV up until the devs announced that they were adding it?
@Talarianjs People want it because Blizzard took it away :P— The Year of the Alt (@AlternativeChat) May 15, 2015
It'd be interesting to see how many folks have actually left the game due to a lack of flight. The plural of anecdote is not data, and the sample size/methodology is flawed, but I have only 1 person on my Twitter feed that responded who isn't currently playing, and no flying was but one of many pieces of information he used as impetus to quit. So I guess the question for many players is, where's the straw?
WoW is back to the same level of subscribers as it was before the expansion launched, and only Blizzard has the list of reasons people reported for leaving. But unless Flying was a major issue, I don't see them bringing flight back as long as it's performing the way they expected with respect to players and content. But as mentioned above, I don't see a good reason why flight restrictions couldn't be carefully lifted, which still allows for Blizzard to maintain their design considerations. #WoW, #Flight, #GameDesign