In World of Warcraft, and in any video game, movement is a fundamental part. Movement is an axis of how players of a given video game interact with the rest of the game world. Good movement can make the act of playing a video game feel fluid and smooth. Meanwhile, poor movement can make the act of playing a video game feel like a slog, and weaken the experience. World of Warcraft has always had a very consistent movement system, unchanged since the game’s first expansion.

In World of Warcraft‘s newest expansion, Dragonflight, a new form of movement was introduced along with the new landmass, the Dragon Isles. The new system, Dragonriding, offers dynamic movement options that are unique in World of Warcraft. Furthermore, the general majority of players received the system quite well, enjoying the feature. With this in mind, the development team at Blizzard Entertainment is expanding upon it. In the upcoming patch 10.1.5, “Fractures in Time,” this expansion of Dragonriding seems to be continuing.

Datamining has revealed that there are Dragonriding challenges in parts of World of Warcraft outside of the Dragon Isles. This is indicative of a plan to expand the Dragonriding system to every single area of the game, instead of just the one that it is currently available in, a massive change that will fundamentally alter the way that World of Warcraft is played.

The History of Movement in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

In World of Warcraft, travel has been pretty cut and dry over the last 20 or so years. Every player has access to the basic forms of travel – running, walking, and swimming. Players could ride mounts that increase their movement speed, allowing them to traverse the world at a more speedy pace. However, this still restricted them to the ground. This allowed the development team at Blizzard to keep a consistent scale in the game’s world. This was also great for the players, who could experience the epic World of Warcraft‘s RTS trilogy at a scale appropriate to their characters’ size and speed.

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As a result, players obtaining a mount became a huge milestone in the development of their characters. It was expensive too, often costing hundreds or even thousands of gold. A part of this idea exists even to this day, despite mounts becoming much easier to get overall. Mount collectors try to collect every single one in the game, oftentimes having hundreds of mounts in their collections (I should know, I’ve got 437 right now).

In World of Warcraft‘s first expansion, the Burning Crusade, Blizzard introduced flying mounts into the game. This was a huge change, one that has had impacts even to this very day. Now, the game had an entire other axis of movement – aerial. It became more difficult for Blizzard to balance out the scale of their zones, as now players could fly over them. This is a large part of why the development team had to update the continents of Kalimdor and Azeroth in the game’s third expansion, Cataclysm. Many parts of those places simply did not work with flying in the game. So, before players could fly in them, they had to fix them up.

What’s the Deal with Dragonriding, Anyway?

Flying had such an impact in World of Warcraft that Blizzard did not change any of the game’s movement systems for nearly 15 years after its introduction. Dragonriding is the first time since the introduction of flying that Blizzard has made a change to the movement paradigm of the game, and it’s a big one.

Dragonriding is a new system in World of Warcraft that debuted with the Dragonflight expansion, the game’s most recent one. It allows for faster flight, as well as active gameplay elements based on acceleration, gravity, and momentum. Normally, characters in World of Warcraft move at a static rate, multiplied based on the speed of their mount. Even if a character is falling or going upward, the player’s speed does not change based on direction. When a player is Dragonriding however, their speed goes up when they are going down, and goes down when they are going up – consistent with physics and gravity-based elements.

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Furthermore, players have control over their speed through active abilities that they can use to push themselves through the air. This makes flying while away from the keyboard impossible, as eventually the flight will run out of speed, and send the player falling to the ground. It also gives players more agency and freedom in their flight, allowing for high speeds and exciting movement.

What’s Coming in “Fractures in Time?”

With World of Warcraft‘s next patch, there will be new Dragonriding options added throughout the game. Specifically, the main form of dedicated Dragonriding content is in the form of “Dragonriding Races”. These are courses that the player can undertake in order to earn rewards and test their speed. Before “Fractures in Time” these only existed in the Dragon Isles, the part of the game added with the Dragonflight expansion.

Blizzard has added more of these Dragonriding Race courses into the open world. All of these locations were places where players could not use the Dragonriding feature before. From the looks of it, Blizzard is going to allow players to use Dragonriding in the entire game’s world. This will open up new travel options for players, and will make getting around World of Warcraft faster.

Currently, Dragonriding is only available for 5 mounts in the game. These are the five drakes that players receive through the main campaign. However, it looks like Blizzard is opening up all dragon mounts to this system, as datamining has shown updated animations for every dragon mount in the game, in line with the 5 previously mentioned drakes.

What Impact Will This Have?

Dragonriding is a system that changes the way players move through the World of Warcraft, and having it in every part of the game will change how they interact with those places. Dragonriding allows for much faster speed than normal flight, allowing players to move through zones at a much faster rate.

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During the Cataclysm expansion, flight being allowed in the old zones caused some of those to break, and Blizzard had to restructure them. This led to the entirety of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms being revamped from the ground up. It was a lot of work for Blizzard to do, and they have rarely done so since. Occasional updates have gone to specific zones, like during Battle for Azeroth, but never to the entire world. This Dragonriding update could herald another revamp like the one that occurred over a decade ago.

Furthermore, if this update is well-received like Dragonriding was, they may invest resources into creating systems similar to it. Even with this update, only the various dragon-based mounts are brought into Dragonriding. This makes sense, as it would be odd to have a flying robot moving like a dragon. Using the technology that they built Dragonriding from, Blizzard could make analogs of the system for other types of flying mounts. Here’s hoping!

Looking Forward

The introduction of Dragonriding into the rest of World of Warcraft looks to change how we travel in the game, in a big way. I personally look forward to zooming around the Eastern Kingdoms from my favorite zone (The Hinterlands) back to Stormwind in record time. Now, I just have to figure out which dragon mount to dust off for doing such.

Best of luck out there, and have a great time!

Matthew Blair

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