Of Gliders and Flying Mounts

ArcheAge - Gliding to the Sea

Since my initial look at ArcheAge for its Hobo Gamer post, my interest in the game has soared – much like the subject of this post. I think I may have found a new MMO home, and while I’m going to continue to pay attention to other MMOs, you can expect to see quite a bit more ArcheAge content on The Errant Penman.

Yesterday afternoon the Trion team took to Twitch to show off the game’s large variety of gliders, and when I tuned in, I found myself quickly experiencing some pretty serious glider envy. I’ve embedded the stream below so that you too can be envious. It doesn’t start until around the fifteen minute mark, so skip right through to see the content.

It wasn’t long before I realized that gliders were a much cooler feature than I had originally realized, but as I became further and further enamored by them, I became more and more uncomfortable with the idea. I’ve long been an opponent of flying mounts in games, but at the same time, I’ve played other MMOs with gliders without feeling that the game was negatively impacted in any way. What is it that sets them apart? Why am I OK with one, but not the other? That’s what I want to find out.

The Argument Against Flying Mounts

Popular criticisms against flying mounts levy charges that they empty out the word, allowing players to easily skip content and remain hidden in the skies. As roads are neglected in favor of flying, the game world seems more lonely and less like a living, breathing world. As players travel easily by “auto-running” above all obstacles, any feeling of a living world is lost as they essentially auto-pilot to their objectives, and although there are short term benefits to AFK-flying, the player themselves are harmed by the lack of any engagement as they travel.

Further, flying mounts are perceived to have a great negative impact on world PvP, allowing players to easily navigate the game world completely safe from any threat of PvP engagement, or even to escape mid-fight if they are able to exit combat. For a game like ArcheAge which is based around world PvP, this would have been a really big problem.

The wide acceptance of these criticisms is likely a large part of Blizzard’s decision to completely disable flying in the new zones of World of Warcraft‘s upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion, with no word on when, or even if, they will be enabled.

Of Gliders and Flying Mounts

So how is that gliders can perform such a similar role while seemingly avoiding the negatives?

ArcheAge - Eastern Glider

As the terminal velocity of a cat is non-lethal (click image for science), does that mean the Firran are safe up there?

As a game system, gliders are both much more expansive and much more limited than traditional flying mounts, coming together as a unique combination of features which work very well. It is my belief that ArcheAge has struck a near perfect balance between gliders’ limitations and functionalities so as to offer a fun and useful experience without detracting from the game’s long-term health. Let’s take a look.

Engagement required

Gliders are like sharks, if you don’t keep moving, you die. Not really, but if you’re not moving, you’re probably on the ground not going anywhere. Hovering in place above a location to avoid combat just isn’t possible; if you want to be in the air, you have to be actively playing the game to maintain that.

One of the most straightforward contributors to this is the buff timers associated with gliders. While restricting at early levels of progression where the first glider can only stay airborne for two minutes, higher tiers of glider can offer persistent flight for up to a lengthy ten minutes. Beyond that, all gliders (with the exception of a single rare one obtained by killing The Kraken) will slowly lose altitude as they fly, making indefinite or AFK flight all but impossible.

Dog-fighting (not the bad kind) and Other Abilities

ArcheAge includes mounted combat, and while gliders may not technically be mounts, they do come equipped with their own unique abilities (many of which were showcased in the stream above). For some gliders, this includes the ability to activate a special attack allowing you to shoot ahead of you or perform other special attacks, engaging targets both in the air or on the ground below. Other abilities include stealth, an upward boost, a smoke screen, a chain-teleport, and a targeted dive-bomb attack.

The most exciting part of all this is that any damage taken, or even objects collided with, will cause you to fall off your glider. If you’re running from a fight, the other person has options to bring you back down to the ground, and falling to the ground has some serious risks.

ArcheAge - Carriage on a Road

Risks like falling into a murderous windmill.

Risk

As community manager Scapes is fond of demonstrating in the live-streams, fall damage is alive and well in ArcheAge. In addition to the damage, players who are reduced to low health by the fall will find themselves momentarily stunned, giving pursuers the chance to catch up and seal the deal. In a surprisingly realistic move, players will take fall damage even when falling into water, meaning that the usually safe option of gliding above the ocean isn’t without its dangers.

Closing Thoughts

After putting some thought into it, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, gliders are materially different than traditional flying mounts, and I am in fact not a giant hypocrite. Good to know!

ArcheAge‘s gliders neatly address nearly all of the negatives from traditional flying mounts while still managing to offer the great majority of the benefits. On top of that, unique abilities and the innate requirements that players be engaged while gliding go a long way towards making travel more fun, more exciting, and more immersive. I’m looking forward to gliding across the world of ArcheAge, and I don’t feel bad about it at all.

#MMO #FlyingMounts #ArcheAge

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2 thoughts on “Of Gliders and Flying Mounts

  1. I would argue that you have simply refined your stance regarding flying mounts to instead be a stance on particular design elements and implementation decisions rather than a blanket statement. A good write-up regarding how this implementation differs from what is thought of as traditional flying mounts. I think the additional interactive elements adds a lot of potential to this aspect of the game.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Hobo Gamer: A Fresh Look at Guild Wars 2 | The Errant Penman

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