World of Warcraft Nostalgia: Mounts
Although you wouldn't think it, mounts, the simple tool you use to get around in World of Warcraft, have changed dramatically time and time again. They almost change as much as talent trees do. But what do I mean by change? Sure, a specific mount never changes how it looks (most of the time) but the way players treat them has, as well as how and when we obtain them.
On a side note: The mount training used to be dirt cheap but it was the mounts themselves which took up the bulk of the cost. This was later reversed to make getting different colored mounts easier while still retaining the same total price.
Vanilla Normal Mounts
This is the only real time in WOW's history where having a basic mount felt like a privileged and not a given. This is when you not only had to be level 40 to get your mount, you also needed around 100 gold. Having a 100 gold at level 40 was actually not that easy back then. You had to know well in advance that you needed the gold, spend your money rarely, and hope you get some nice drops to sell on the auction house.
Luckily for me, the first two characters I leveled were a warlock and a paladin, the two classes which got a free mount at level 40. However, when I did finally level a warrior I remember being torn on this issue. I had been saving up my gold but 40 was also the level you could start wearing plate armor and I remember really wanting to get my hands on some off the auction house. I ended up getting the armor, how crazy is that?
A lot of people ended up being in their mid-40's before being able to finally purchase a mount but when your were already used to hoofing it for so long, it wasn't that bad. It also gave more use to class abilities that would increase run speed like Aspect of the Cheetah and Travel Form. Two things which have much less importance today.
Another thing which I feel a lot of people forget, is that mounts also used to have a 3 second cast time. It doesn't sound like much but it could be quite annoying. Running away from an enemy player, getting out of combat, and then mounting up was almost unheard of with a 3 second cast. In fact, this wasn't really a sound strategy until it was reduced to a 1.5 second cast.
Mounts used to also be items in your inventory and not something you'd learn and then cast from your spell book like they are now. This meant that having multiple mounts was just harmful to your bag space and the idea of "mount collecting" was not too common. Warlock and Paladin mounts also cost mana as they were considered a spell and not an item. So they saved on bag space in exchange for a 100 mana cost. Not a big deal but I do remember having to wait on my mana a couple times in order to mount up.
Vanilla Epic Mounts
Having an epic mount in vanilla was actually not that common. It cost 1000 gold to get and that was no laughing matter. It was a huge grind to get that kind of cash, or dumb luck if you got a few boe blues and epics which somehow my friend did, and not everyone had the time for it. This also meant that having an epic mount gave you an incredible edge in pvp, be it world or battle ground.
Again, Warlocks and Paladins had their own class mounts to get but this time they weren't free. Instead you did a series of collection quests that had to do with getting a bunch of different materials from either farming, vendors, and/or the auction house. It was still cheaper but only by a couple hundred gold.
Epic mounts originally were just faster versions of the normal mounts and looked no different. Not too far into vanilla, this was changed and players were then able to trade in their mounts for the new, updated look.
As everyone knows, BC introduced flying mounts into World of Warcraft but only to Outlands. Even when they first came out, people complained about how game breaking they could be and you still hear such sentiments today. However, they were exciting and added a whole new way to look at the game world.
This time, getting the normal flyer at level 70 was no big deal. You would more than likely have the cash but the epic flyer was a different matter entirely. The normal cost was about 1000 gold and the epic flyer was 5000. Keep in mind that you got the chance to get both of these at the same level, so it was technically even more if you wanted to get the epic flyer right off the bat.
Although epic flying mounts weren't as rare as epic mounts were, it was still quite the grind to obtain them. I actually didn't get mine until almost the end of the expansion as I really couldn't stand farming.
Epic flying mounts were 280% speed, as they have remained, but the original form of the normal flyer went at a pathetic 60% speed. The logic behind this was that Blizzard wanted to keep epic mounts still relevant, so if you had nothing to fly over, your ground mount was the better option. Eventually the speed was changed to 150% as the relevance of ground mounts went away.
Towards the end of BC normal mounts were lowered to level 30 and had their price reduced significantly.
Besides flying mounts, BC changed another aspect about mounts as well, and that was variety. Previously, besides your faction mounts (which were even race restricted) there were not too many options. Sure there were a couple mounts to get in vanilla like the Zul'Gurub tiger and raptor as well as the Winterspring saber for alliance and Venomhide raptor for horde, but that was it really.
BC introduced several factions that had interesting new mounts and players started to really have a choice on what mount they used. You had the Netherdrakes, the Nether rays, Talbuks, and a few others here and there. Then of course there were a few more mount drops added to the new raids, Ashes of A'lar being one of the most sought after, and even engineers were given the ability to craft flying machines.
Even if they were still items at this point, mount collecting suddenly became a thing.
Wrath of the Lich King
Wrath really put into motion how we view mounts today. At this point, the achievement system had been added and collecting mounts now had an even greater point. Mounts were also now learned and no longer took inventory space. The variety that BC introduced, Wrath expanded on dramatically.
A couple patches into this expansion, normal and epic mounts were changed to how they are today. Normal mounts could now be learned at level 20 with a 4 gold price tag and epic mounts could be learned at 40 for 50 gold. Even the normal flying mount was reduced to level 60 with its price being brought down to 600, which was reduced even further later.
The beginning of Wrath brought us back down to the ground as flying mounts were disabled until level 78 when you could then learn "Cold Weather Flying". The forced ground mount tactic is something blizzard would revisit with MOP. Even "Cold Weather Flying" had its own transitions through the expansion. After awhile the training was turned into a bind on account item that you could send to alts to learn at level 70. Then it was just changed to being trainable at level 68.
Wrath truly was an age of mount variety and innovation. They of course, added more factions to get mounts with and added even more drops to raids but this even extended to 5-man dungeons as well, like the Blue Proto-Drake in Utgarde Pinnacle. Then they added a lot of achievements which granted mounts as well, some of which were 310% speed like the Ulduar hard mode master achievement. Tailors also could now craft a mount like engineers, and multi-person mounts, like the mammoth and Chopper, made their appearance. Later on, even 2-man flying mounts were introduced. Even the seldom used aquatic mounts came about by being able to fish up a turtle.
Truly this was the hay day of mount collecting. The epic mount price tag was no longer too big of an issue, and you would likely be able to afford one, even if you were a new player, after hitting max level.
Ever since Wrath, Blizzard has essentially expanded on this same model with a few innovations. More drops, more factions, more achievements, more "flying license" restrictions and more variety. The only real notable changes were making mounts scale with your riding skill so you had even more choice in what mount you'd like to use and the Cataclysm revamp which let you fly in old Azeroth. They also added a new mount training level which would make all your flying mounts go at 310% speed if you had not previously obtained a mount which could go that fast.
TCG and the Blizzard Store
One final aspect of mounts I'd like to talk about briefly is that idea of paying real cash for mounts. The first mount in the Blizzard cash shop was the Spectral Steed which is $25. Although nothing really harmful comes out of this, I always found this practice distasteful of Blizzard, as it is already a game you pay a subscription for. The mounts in the store are also made to look fairly awesome and some even have a unique model.
The Trading Card Game also has loot cards which you can redeem for in-game mounts, as well as other fun items. This I find less harmful as they are a little bonus for enjoying the card game. Again though, a lot of these mounts are unique and highly sought after. The picture above is the loot card for a giant chicken mount and it is indeed amazing. Then there is the infamous spectral Tiger which people have paid up to $1000 for.
There is a lot to talk about with mounts but I feel like I have talked enough about them. Please do leave a comment if you think I've left anything out of the history of mounts in this game. If you have suggestions for anything in the future you want me to talk about, please comment below and I'll get back to you on if I feel I can cover it or not.
Next Time I'll talk about Maraudon, a nasty, big 5-man dungeon that was quite an adventure when first introduced.