Thursday, June 26, 2014

Immersion and Flying: A Short Story

I was once a hero of Azeroth having had saved the plant from destruction, take over or the extermination of its inhabitants on more than one occasion.  I've used my own abilities combined with those of my fellow heroes to achieve more than a few notches on my belt that would label me as a hero.  I've managed to tame of the most noble of airborne beasts to carry me on their back into battle because a true hero flies a grand beast.  Yet one morning, the morning I received a notice that I was once needed again, called back into battle, I found myself having forgotten how to fly and a hero no more.  Here is my story.

I grab my bow, the same one I have been using that was given to me by an ancient many years ago after I was sent on a quest to complete tasks not many would be able to do, as give a whistle for Fang to come join my side, as I go to answer the call, the call to once again go into battle because the heroes of azeroth are needed.  Once more me and my trusty companion will be called into action to do what we have done so many times before it seems.  We must save Azeroth from a threat that not even we fully understand.

Word has it that there is a world out there, one that seems eerily similar to one we have heard of from our very own past but it is not the same world, and there are orcs out there on that world planning to invade our world.  We can not let this happen, not again.  So many people died when orcs first invaded the world to have it happen again would be a failure on my part and the part of ever other adventurer out there that calls themselves a hero.

Once more we will step through the dark portal to take the offensive like we had some years back and bring the fight to the enemy, but not the same enemy lays beyond the portal any longer, a new enemy does, a new enemy and old enemy all rolled into one.  Like I said, it was not a threat that even we could fully understand.

I jump on my hippogryph and head over to the castle so I can get a mission assessment before I head off to this world, the one that seems like something from our past but is not.  I travel there as quick as possible when called because heroes, real heroes, do not dilly dally, they make haste and like the term or not it seems I am one of those heroes, everyone seems to greet me as such so I do my best to act like one.  Once there I am briefed before heading out from stormwind by some of the kings highest advisers, I am included in all the conversations because, after all, I have earned that right, I am a hero.

I head out, once more on my noble hippogryph and move as fast as I can to get to the staging point for the defense of the only world I've ever known as home.  It will not be the first time Fang and I have looked into the face of extermination and said, no, we will not die today, we will not lie down for you, we will not fold, we will win.  We have fought such great odds, we have been beaten, we have been broken, but we always come back for more because that is what we do, we are heroes.

Once we arrive we are instructed that we will be leaving for this alternate reality in just under two hours.  I want to go now, there is the giant portal in front of me, the swirl of lights seem a different color from what I last remember when I saw it first so many years ago.  It must have been the change in color that first alerted the people whom still stand guard there up to this day that something might be going on.  After so many years of being dormant the change of color must have been a sign, the sign, the one that caused our leaders to assemble us all here to embark on a new task, to save our world once more from blood crazed invaders who wish to do us harm for no reason other than we have something they want, Azeroth.

With two hours before we are to embark I decided I had more than ample time to head back and get some additional supplies.  Time is limited because I do not want to miss the window to go as part of the first to step foot through, which might be short.  If the commander said two hours, then two hours it would be, and I would be there and I would be ready.

I open my satchel and see I am a bit low on potions and start to consider that perhaps I should grab some additional ones, ones I do not normally carry, because I remember what it is like to go to a new world or a new land.  It might have been a few years since my hippogryph landed on new soil, but I do recall that sometimes when you first reach new shores you might be in for a surprise.  Making sure I get some healing potions might be in my best interest.

I whistle for Fang and say, lets go boy, as we head off back to the city, we have only a couple of hours to make sure we have everything we need.  Who knows how long it will be once we step through that portal before we can return here.  It is better to carry too much of a commodity than to not have enough when you really need it.

I fly over as fast as I can to the best alchemist I know, a gnome in Ironforge and ask him for 40 of his best healing potions.  He tells me that he has heard of the new task and where we are going, it seems that everyone has been stopping here to stock up.  He mentions he is out of a specific herb he needs to make the potions for me, but if I could get him the herb he needs and bring him some additional herbs he will give me all the potions I need for cost.  I would normally question anyone that said they would give me something at cost but not him, he is an honest gnome, a friend, and a decent person.

I need to get to the summit to get the herbs he requested and keeping track of the time every second matters, there will be no time to spare.  Take the tram, a taxi or fly?  A wrong choice could mean I miss the window of opportunity to get into the fray and I can not miss that, the king asked me personally to be one of the first ones through the portal.  I can not let the king down and more so I can not let the people of Azeroth down.  There are innocents all over the place and if I fail and the orcs come pouring through the portal those very innocents would be the ones in harms way and I can not have that.  Speed is of the essence and with that in mind I mount up on my trusty hippogryph and take off yelling faster faster as I head to stormwind so I an jump over to the jade forest and head up to the summit to get the herbs needed.

I take direct routes, the most direct routes, it is why I manually fly anywhere because the flight masters, while helpful and more peaceful as you do not need to control the fight, you can just relax the entire way, always seem to take me on a scenic view of the world.  I've seen the world a million times, I've shed blood for this world, I've shed blood on this world, I do not need to see everything a million and one times, I need to get somewhere and that means never taking the offer from our friendly flight masters because they have oddly enough trained their beasts of burden to take the most indirect routes imaginable.  Routes you most definitely do not want to use if you are in a hurry to get somewhere.

Not to mention, over the years I have seen far too many things happen while flying above the world, things that needed my attention, a rare and dangerous beast attacking a village that required me to land immediately and save the inhabitants.  The horde invading a small village in the middle of nowhere and I would be the only one that could help. The rarely seen herbs and ore that could not be passed up.  The call for help form someone near by that caused me to change direction.  All things I could never do while on a flight masters path. 

Those taxis are trained so well that no matter how much you yell or beg or plead, they will not stop, they will not wait, they will not change direction.  The village would be destroyed, those rare herbs and minerals will go unfound, maybe forever, and that call for help will end up unanswered.  The taxi does not care that something needs to be done, that someone is in need of help, that you have changed your mind on where you needed to go, or that you are in a hurry to get there.  You have no control over it.  You are weak to do anything and I can not, will not, ever be that person.  I am a hero of Azeroth, I am not weak, I control my own path and I stop for those in need and that is why I ride my noble hippogryph.  I keep it well taken care of, feed it well, and give it love, and in return it is always there when I need it and will carry me wherever I need to go on a moments notice.

Once I arrive in the summit I see the herbs that my friend had asked me to retrieve for him and land there to gather it.   Suddenly a tiger jumps at me, and I am forced to react.  I do not wish to kill you beast I shout but I will if I must, I finish, as I slay the beast.  I did not wish it any harm, I just wanted to gather the needed herbs so I have the materials needed to increase the chances for success on my current mission.  As quickly as I can I call to my hippogryph again and move to the next bushel to gather some more herbs.  A few small fights, a few time wasting fights against beasts I have no desire to kill and no time to spare to do so, and I have what is needed.

I hearth home which happens to be still at the shrine which does work out perfect as I am able to get one of the mages to send me directly to ironforge from there and I do so.  I rush to the gnome and wait for him to prepare my needed potions as I look to the time and see it is running short.  Too many battles, too much time wasted, but I can still make it, I should still make it.  All thanks to my hippogryph because if I had been forced to take a tram or a taxi and to run from herb to herb it would have meant more time traveling, more time fighting, more time wasted when I only had a short window to work with any lost time would have taken me from my destiny to be one of the first through the portal.

The gnome, my good friend who has always been there to help me, hands me the potions and I extend my hand with a few coins as was our original agreement.  He closes my hand with his short pudgy fingers and says, just do what you need to do hunter, stop them from coming here, do not let the past repeat itself.  These are on me, now get out of here, time is running short.  I smile and tell him I will do everything I can.  He says, I know you will, and I mount up and take off in a hurry as my time is getting short.

The flight, even with the most direct route that could be taken, takes a long time and I can hear the sound of time passing in my head as if the tick tick tick is beating in my ears but really is it my heart racing that I hear.  It feels as if those two hours passed more like minutes as my adventures always seemed to have to be rushed to be able to get all the tasks I wanted to get done in the small time I was allotted to do them.

I arrive just in time with only a few minutes to spare.  I pat my hippogrpyh on the head and say, good job girl.  She screeches and I feed her a treat putting my hand out in front of her and letting her peak it from there.  We wait with many of the other past heroes of Azeroth.  We have all done great and wonderful things and we are all ready to once again put out lives and limbs on the line in an effort to save the world from danger. 

I stand beside all the races, even those of the horde, even orcs, and I can feel the importance of this mission when even the orcs are trying to stop an orc invasion.  A shiver runs up my spine at the thought of that.  Just think of what could be coming if orcs would be willing to kill their very own ancestors, even if from an alternate reality, to keep them from coming here.  When you would be willing to kill your own father to stop an invasion that must mean that it is something they are really worried about.  If they are worried about it enough to kill their own family, then I most definitely need to be afraid because I do not even share blood with these beings.

The portal begins to charge up, we will be able to enter soon.  You can hear the hoots and hollers from the people assembled as they are ready to bring the fight to them before they can bring it to us. The war crys, the chants, the comradery.   The orcs screaming for the horde, the dwarves toasting to past and future victories, the draenei having a look in their eye of worry perhaps about running into themselves as it is quite possible due to their long life spans, the tauren standing in quiet contemplation, the night elves looking like they are meditating but extremely forward focused, everyone preparing in their own way.

When the portal is fully charged we all rush through, all the greatest heroes of Azeroth, the people who lead the world into the age of mortals, to finish the job they should have finished back in the throne room when they should have killed Garrosh instead of letting him face a trial, a trial they had to know he would have never actually make it through to the finish. 

A death at the hands of the heroes of Azeroth would have been too good for him because it would have been a death with honor for an orc, even one with a genocidal streak, because for an orc a death at the hand of their enemy in battle is full of honor and for it to need to be the best of the best, the heroes of azeroth that needed to take him down, it would have been a death of great honor to him, but even if he did not deserve to go out with that sort of honor it was still a death that we should have served, a final blow we should have dished out.  Who is to say something like this would have never happen without him, but one thing is for sure, it would not be happening now if only we had finished the job we had set out to do.

The first great battle in the age or mortals and we failed because we were not able to do what needed to be done and kill.  We showed mercy, we showed we have morals, follow laws, feel no one is past being capable of being redeemed.  We showed our weakness, and now our weakness, proof we are not ready to be in the age or mortals, could end up being our downfall.

While I can not speak for anyone else I know when we brought Garrosh to his knees and beat the old god influence out of him I wanted to place a bolt right between his eyes, leaders be damned.  I bought him down, I lost family when he started to strip mine and conquer ashenvale, I had the right, I wanted vengeance, but I was told by some panda with more morals than brains that I am better than that.  Well guess what.  No I am not. 

I should have killed him when I had the chance, should have had him drawn and quartered, should have fed him in pieces to Fang as a victory meal.  He deserved death even if in death he would have gained great honor in his own eyes as his last thought and the thoughts of those who would still follow him even in death.  It might have created a martyr, it might have spurred people on to finish what he started and to cleanse the world of all non orcs, but at least the problem would have remained on this world, with these people and not have opened a can of beans like it has with an entire world of people coming to attempt to take over ours.

We needed to close this gate and to do so we needed to do it from the other side, just like we had done before in a time that seemed so long ago.  My hippogryph screams a war cry as it hears me do the same when we take off and head into the portal.

Once on the other side I find myself grounded, my hippogryph flaps its wings trying to get airborne but can not, once again it seems its wings have been clipped just as they have been many times before.  Clipped by a new atmosphere, one it has not yet grown accustom to, one it can not yet gain flight in.  I have experienced this before and it was not all that unexpected.  Many times when I go to a new land mass it takes some time for my hippogryph to get used to the weight of the air, or at least that is how that one human scholar explained it to me when I asked him about it some years back.

Usually it takes some times, no more than 24 hours, for my hippogryph to get used to the new area it is in and be able to carry my weight.  I dismount and look it in the eyes and tell it that I am going to go ahead and it can get used to the pressures of the air on this world without my weight on its back first.  Once it learned how to deal with it I shall come back and we can adventure once again.  I give it a treat and let it go on its way.

I always feel so bad when we have to go separate paths because we have developed a close bond my hippogryph and I.  I can see in her eyes that she believes it is a failure of hers why she can not fly, she does not understand the physics of it, that it is not her fault, she just needs to get used to it and all will be fine.  I know that.  Sure I could run around with her as a ground mount but it is not fair to her.  She was born to fly, she was born to be in the air, forcing her, even if she would be glad to do so, to run instead of fly would show a great deal of disrespect for her and I am not about to do that, not to a creature I have become so close to.

For now I have a white polar bear that is in need of a little bit of attention and I guess he is going to get it, at least for the 24 hours or so it will take for my hippogryph to get used to the new land mass we happen to be on.

Shortly after my arrival I learn that the king has made me a commander.  I am not even a commissioned officer of the standard military, but apparently I have been given a parcel of land and told that I am to build a station there with a full selection of people whom will work for me.  I am supposed to build an army and lead it.  Just like the commissions in the wilds when we landed there just in the recent past that put military officers in charge of their own digs, quarries, and barracks, I would now be put in charge of my own.

I was taken aback by this idea, as I said, being I am not part of the military I should not have been given a base and a piece of land all to my own before an officer that had earned the right.  I might carry the tag hero of azeroth because I have been in the middle of what seems like every major battle that has taken place over the last 10 years, but I am still just an adventurer.  There must be someone more qualified to lead a base than I but for some reason, perhaps a shortness of forces on this side of the portal, it seems as if I have been deputized without even being told that is what it was.

I spend the better part of three weeks getting to know the area, building my base, and finding out any information I can on where I can find the largest threats to our world so I can eradicate them before they can bring harm to my world.  All this time I watch as my hippogryph walks around the stables in my garrison occasionally pecking at the ground and then looking up to the skies, the skies it should be flying in.  There is a certain sadness in her eyes, I can see it, I can feel it deep in my very soul when I look at her.  She feels broken, she feels as if she let me down, but I know it is not her.  We have been here for a while, she should have adapted to the air here, she should be able to get into the air with no problem.  It is me, I know it is me.  There is something I have not learned yet, some secret I need to find out, some way for me to teach her how to spread her wings again and sour into the air and feel the wind against her face as she goes screaming through the air.

For some reason I find myself a bit more concerned with my hippogryph at the moment then the orcs.  We have them at bay.  We are on their world, defeating their troops, holding back their efforts, so it is only a matter of time before we find all their chiefs and end this threat.  But my hippogryph should be flying over my garrison, it should not be trapped on the ground in the stables.  It is just not right, not right at all.

The following weeks all bring more heart ache day after day.  I receive a missive that my friends are being attacked by the horde in a neighboring town and instead of being able to get on my mount and get their quickly by air I am forced to ride the long route on the ground.  I end up picking up battles I have no time for, my friends are in danger and need my help and here I am fighting this spider, how useless can you get. 

They are fighting with the horde when they should be fighting the enemy, this always happens, fighting among each other instead of the larger threat and instead of me being there to try and help them, or to try and calm the sides down so we can get back on task, I am fighting some firelisk that took it upon himself to dismount me.  And it happens over and over again and all I can imagine is my friends, the ones that asked for my help, screaming out wondering where I am, why I did not come, if I had ignored them or abandoned them because it took me an hour to get to them instead of the 3 minutes it should have.

I arrive to four broken bodies, they were ambushed by a dozen horde, even if I had been there we probably would have lost, but at least we could have inflicted a few more injuries on their side.  Maybe enough to make them think twice before doing so again.  I help my friends up and tend to their wounds as best I can, I only have basic medic training and can only make simple bandages, but I can provide them with some food as well to get their energy levels back up some so we can make the trek back to the city.  The long trek back to the city that will no doubt see us in battle after battle when all we want to do is get back to the city so we can take a moment to rest.  I might complain about the long journey to help them and getting attacked, stunned, dismounted, nearly every step of the way, but at least I was not the one with cracked armor, a broken sword and a feeling like no one came to help even when I asked for help.

Even if we would have still lost the battle I can't help but think I let my friends down by not being able to get here on time.  I could blame my hippogryph, I could say if only it had learned to fly things would have been different, I would have been there sooner.  But it is not her fault, it is mine, mine for not being able to teach her how to fly in this new world.  Some hero I am, I can not even teach my own hippogryph how to do something it naturally learned at birth.  I am no hero and each day that passes by reminds me of that more.  Each time someone dies I could have saved, each time someone asks for help and I can't get there, each time I need to go somewhere but don't because it will take to long to get there.  Each and every day I am reminded why I am not a hero.  Not even in the slightest.

I am now just a cog in the machine, I am running a garrison, under the leaderships orders, I am a front line solider, I am not a hero any longer and nothing says that more then the day I finally decide to hang up my bow, to give up my unwanted commission, and to stop ever referring to myself as a hero again.

It was all when an orc appeared at my garrison gates, I had my troops pick up arms, but not make an advance, he was alone and he did not seem like a threat, but there was no reason to let the defenses down.  It is better to be prepared than to be dead.

He tells me that his village is under attack and he needs help, they are just a simple farming village and they can not defend themselves, when they refused to give provisions to the iron horde they started to trash the village and just take whatever they could find, and that also means their way with the women. 

He figured if I could take a few of them out and maybe take out the leader they would go away.  He is right, that is usually how it works, take out some of the ranks and the man in charge and they disband, as an adventurer I have seen this scenario a million times it seems.  He said he came to me because he heard I was a hero on my world and thought being I was close I could help him.  I told him I would try by best.

My best was not good enough.  It took me too long to get there.  I managed to kill the leader and many of his troops with little problem and I defended the village from being completely over run but the damage had been done.  Huts had been burnt, fields have been torn up, women and children had been killed and I could see the fresh blood still flowing along the dirt paths of the village.  I chased them away but I was too late.  I see an orc female, barely alive, and run to her to see if I can help but my minimal medical training is nothing that can help with the injuries she has sustained.

She whispers up to me, thank you hero, and then passes away.  I scream as loud as I can.  I am no hero, I did not make it in time.  If I had made it in time you would still be alive.  How could she call me a hero?  Am I a hero because I was willing to save some orcs even if we were here to fight orcs?  No, these were innocent people just trying to live their lives, orc or not, they did not deserve what happened here.  I am not a hero for helping them, I failed them.  Women and children are dead, farms destroyed, huts burnt to the ground, all because it took me too long to get here.  I was too late, too late because I could not even teach a flying beast how to fly.  How exactly does that make me a hero?

I head back to the city and assemble a group.  I know where one of the orc leaders are.  I am going to take him out.  I am not going to show any mercy, we are no longer in the land of pandas and I do not need to listen to their rules or law.  An orc will die at my hands this very day.  The trip back to the city is long and there are many battles along the way, too many for my liking.  I want to get to killing orcs, not tigers and other wild life, this is just annoying, nothing more.  Each step, each time I am stopped, I can't help but think if I could just teach my hippogryph to fly I could get this done instead of wasting time.

After I finally make my way back to the city and get a group together, we head to where my information had lead me to believe one of the orc leaders are hiding out.  It takes us a long time to make our way there, some take taxis to get closer, some try to go on foot, none of us are apparently heroes, real heroes, because none of us have been able to figure out how to teach a flying creature how to fly.

We are enough of warriors, fighters, and adventurers, to deliver a swift blow to the orc leader when we find him.  His death is quick and with no fanfare, no drama and no bells and whistles, just direct vengeance and it felt good but was it good enough to make me feel like a hero again, was it good enough to get the image of that woman that died in my arms just hours earlier because I could not get there in time out of my head.

That evening I went to my barracks and one of my followers said, nice work today sir, you are a hero.  I just looked at him, could not even figure out any words to say, I gave him a halfhearted smile with no real feeling behind it and moved along.

I stopped by my stables and saw my hippogryph, she looked so happy to see me.  I reached into my satchel and pulled out a treat and handed it to her.  She pecked at my hand eating it from there and then did what she always does, she looked up into the sky and I could see that hint of sadness in her heart once again.  I just whispered to her, I know, I know, and then I head off to bed.

I take off my armor and kick my boots off and place my bow on its mount on the wall as I lay back in my bed and look out the window and I feel exactly how my hippogryph must feel not being able to take to the skies.  My friends being alone in battle when I should have been able to make it there, innocent women and children dying because I could not make it there faster, all because I could not take to the sky.  My sadness is just like hers, I can understand it and I am no hero.  Maybe one day when I take to the sky again I might be, but for now, I am just some grunt in the kings army.  No better than anyone else, no one special and most definitely, not a hero.  Heroes fly.

I go to bed thinking maybe tomorrow this nightmare will end and I can get back to being what I once was, a hero of azeroth, instead of just being the keeper of this garrison and a rank soldier, just like everyone else.  How easy you can go from being a hero to a nobody when you can't take to the skies.  Yes, I can feel the sadness in my hippogryphs heart because it is in mine too.


  1. Strong stuff.

    Good stuff.

  2. 5 stars!
    2 thumbs up!
    Big applause!

    Great story and really drives home the point that flying is part of what makes the game feel epic. It can't be taken away just because "Blizz doesn't like it".

    Your points about missing things because you're on a flight path are spot on. I took one just the other day because I wanted to go afk for a minute. NPCscan went off and I ran back, but I was on the flight path so I couldn't do anything. When I flew back, the rare spawn was gone (I probably CRZ'd into another server or something because I couldn't even find the corpse...) #BlameCelestalon

    1. Thanks. It was more an answer to those people saying there is no immersion in flying and that it takes away from the game. All I have to say to people that say flying takes away from immersion is that they do not have an active enough imagination.

      There are surely some other points thrown in there for good measure however. Glad you liked it.

    2. All druids know that flying is immersive. Especially if they went through the questline to get flight form back in TBC. :D

    3. I had forgotten about that one, and with good reason being I did not level a druid until wrath, but that is a very good point. Thanks for reminding me of that one.

  3. An enjoyable read. :-)

    OT: They are starting the beta. I don't know what to think, frankly, because the content in the alpha builds is very unfinished. I am starting to suspect they are going to cut a lot of corners and postpone a lot of issues (like, for example, the tuning of raid bosses) until after WoD just so they can release some time in Autumn. I realize this might look to some as "damned if they do, damned if they don't", but that's not it, the content is really unfinished, and releasing it both late and unfinished and cut off is in many respects worse than releasing two or three months later than late.

    We'll see how it goes.

    1. Thanks. I was in the mood to do a different type of post so I kind of made something up on the fly.

      They might be releasing a beta but it is a beta only in terms of words. Make no mistake, it is still in alpha.

      The game should have been released, finished, 3 months ago at worst. They took their sweet ass time and now they are going to rush it. We will end up with a giant pile of crap. They have already made sure of that. This will be worse than cataclysm.

    2. This just in: Karabor is not going to be a capital of the Alliance.


      Really, I was so looking forward to this. I was planning to roll a new Alliance draenei alt just for that. Blizzard...

    3. Blizzard really screwed up on that one. I swear they really amaze me sometimes. Who the hell spends all that time making great new cities meant to be hubs to not use them?

      This is why the expansion is so late, because they are morons that can't make up their mind on how to do anything.

  4. Quite enjoyable, although maybe lacking a little subtlety ;-)

    Flying, or lack of it, can definitely work both ways as far as immersion goes.
    You obviously go to great lengths to point out the negative side in this tale so it shouldn't be read alone but rather, as you mention in the comments, as a counterpoint to those that believe removing flying is required for immersion.

    As usual, the reality is somewhere between these two extremes and people will find immersion in different ways.

    Blizzard find it easier to build an immersive world if there is no flying, as we see in each expansion as the main storyline is always told without flight.
    Perhaps if they said that it makes their job easier people would accept it more readily. I know I would accept virtually anything now if it made it easier for them to get this expansion out!

    By the way... I think I would have left my hippogriff to fly freely around Azeroth until I found a solution, rather than keep him cooped up in the stables.
    You are a cruel master! xD

    1. That lack of subtlety was intended, but I think you knew that. ;)

      There is a great deal of story in not having flying either, it can go both ways. I is more about the imagination and how freely you let your mind go with it. Immersion is not just blizzards job, they just give you the platform, it is your job as the player to get into it. Sure their design can help you along the way and good design will, but you can I can walk into a text based chat room with nothing but black and white type and start a tale back and forth that is amazingly immerse.

      I might not really RP any longer, has been a good 10-15 years since I have, but that is what it is about, letting yourself get involved in a story and making the best out of what you have. That is why I say to anyone that uses the argument that flying takes away from immersion that they are full of it. It just adds a different aspect to it.

      But I love my hippogryph, and I wanted her there with me to learn to fly and experience things with me just like she has been, at my side, for the last 6 years (I think) since we first met.