Monday, March 16, 2009

Addendum of the Mechanostrider

Larisa appears to be suffering from Post Traumatic (Mechano-)Strider Syndrome after my post on my rogue alt's new robo-chicken from yesterday. I don't disagree with her that the sheer amount of noise the mount generates can get a bit old (if not quite as old as spending a new Death Knight's first hours in the real world repeatedly enduring the shrill Deathcharger noise while training herbalism from scratch). Once upon a time, I hated it myself. What changed?

The World of Mounts in 2005
My first level 40 character was the Paladin, on January 23rd, 2005 if the census archives are to be believed. At the time, 100 gold for a mount was such a big deal that it was practically a right of passage for newly level 40 characters of other classes to post to the forums complaining about the free mounts for Pallies and Warlocks. The mage got started sometime shortly thereafter, and I'd guesstimate that I got my first chicken sometime in late August or early Sept 2005. At the time, I was just happy to be moving faster than walking speed, but I'll admit that I began to share some of Larisa's distaste for the clanking of the chicken.

In those days, we didn't have riding skill - you actually had to pay 100G (1000G for epic mounts) for a SINGLE mount and would have to pay it again if you wanted a different one. I decided that I really wanted a horse, both to get rid of the chicken and because I thought a gnome on a horse would look cool. At the time, there was no realistic PVP option (the AV ram was slightly cheaper than a robo chicken, but you needed to be exalted with AV, and I wanted a horse), and quest rep was very hard to come by (you got dramatically less rep for quests you'd outleveled). The only path was to farm runecloth (and cash with which to buy runecloth) and then to farm yet more cash with which to buy the mount - all of this while mounted on the noisy old non-epic robo-chicken. This took a pretty long time, but I finally pulled it off and got to ride an epic Swift Brown Steed around Azeorth.

Expanding the Stables
Over time, it became easier and easier to obtain additional mounts. The AV ram was temporarily available for a trivial amount of gold (in between the riding skill revamp and the honor system revamp just before TBC), so that was two. Farming honor right after the honor system revamp (which converted it to its current currency-like status) left me with enough tokens to buy a cat.

Even with the relatively cheap cost, though, it took me a while before I was willing to buy a chicken to add to the collection. I think I finally did it after I got a random mount macro set up, so that I would literally not know which of the four racial mounts was going to appear when I pushed the button. Still, in some ways that was a cop-out, as it meant, by definition, that I was only going to get the chicken a quarter of the time. Eventually I decided that I didn't want to spend the bagspace on carrying all four mounts, and so I started leaving three at a time in my bank. The chicken was almost always one of the three gathering dust.

Slowly, I obtained more options, such as a Talbuk from Nagrand, an Elekk from the Exodar, and a ram from the 2007 Brewfest. It was only with the 3.0 patch, and its infinite mount storage system, that I actually ended up collecting all the ground mounts I could buy off vendors, and having access to my chickens at any time. However, by that point I had so many options that the mechanostrider really doesn't come up frequently at all.

Besides, I can't really use a random mount macro anymore because half of my ground mounts are too large to fit through doors. Most of the places where I have to use a ground mount are cities with archways I have to pass through (look a few pictures down this post for an example of the problem) or PVP areas (where I don't want to make myself so obvious of a target).

(If you're on Hyjal-US and I've ever thrown a cone of cold or somesuch in your face as you exited a store, my apologies - I don't have a keybinding for dismounting, and I do have keybindings for various instant cast spells that dismount me.)

Lessons from the changing face of transit
So why, beyond my general fondness for storytelling, have I subjected all of you to this tale? It gets back to Larisa's dislike for clanking and all that time I spent in search of my very first horse way back when.

My guess is that I rode that chicken full-time for almost a year. Because they were so hard to replace, mounts were, in some ways, a part of your identity. The vast majority of players were riding around on their race's mount due to the effort required to obtain any other option. I got a number of compliments just because the sight of a gnome on a horse was exceedingly rare back then.

This is something that players who started the game in the post-TBC era have not experienced - Blizzard has chosen to change that sense of identity, replacing it with a new, wide-open world of customization (and, a cynic might argue, incentives for grinding). I do occasionally get compliments nowadays, but they're generally of the form "Where did you (and thus where can I) get that mount?" The accomplishment of obtaining your SECOND mount has been pushed to the wayside in favor of the in-game achievement reward for getting dozens of them. Even my Paladin, who ended up spending three years on the journey from level 50 to level 70, somehow found the time to hit exalted Ironforge rep so that he could ride a ram.

I guess that's where the nostalgia comes from today. The low level game is the only place where your racial mount really says anything about your character anymore - that you actually are a gnome or whatever other race. For the first time in years (well, second time when you count the previous incarnation of Cheerydeth), I'm actually obligated to clank around on that old mount I worked so hard to leave behind all those years and levels ago.

And, as it turns out, walking uphill both ways to school wasn't as bad as I remembered it. After all that time with unlimited alternatives, returning to the metal bird for a brief visit every other week is like a brief flashback to older - not necessarily happier, but different - times. The clanking is like an old classmate you weren't necessarily fond of and haven't seen in years - the old annoying quirks are still there, but so are the memories, the good along with the bad. It's a little piece of history in a game that, like time itself, marches slowly forward, away from its past and towards some uncertain future.

In an era with dual specs, barber shops (and even paid sex/face changes), mount collections, and the checklist-like achievement list, there's less and less about your particular character that's unique. Paradoxically, I've been riding custom mounts for so long that riding the default one (even if I did buy all four colors for no real reason) feels like something different; a throw-back statement from a long time ago.


  1. I am still a diehard mechanical chicken lover (of the mount and no-combat pet variety).

    There was a time where I wanted a cat... but truth be told, I have only ever riden mechanostriders on the land, and only cenarion war hippogriff in the air.

    I doubt it will matter if I get a whole lot more mounts (although I find it hard to justify the cost.. gold or time). I could go buy all the Alliance mounts right now... but they wont be a Mechanostrider.

    I might chase the Turbo version... because at the end of the day, I am a Gnome, and I must place my bum firmly on something mechanical... which of course goes back to my old old argument about Gnomes and mechanical flying mounts... you can read that one (again) in a couple of days...

    /shakefist Larisa

  2. You don't have a keybind for dismounting? What does your mount keybind do while you're mounted?

    Personally, I've never ridden a mechanostrider longer than about the distance it took me to run my druid from the purchasing place to the nearest flight path -- not because I didn't like it, in fact because it was so small, it felt like I was going faster -- but because it didn't really fit with that character's identity and I thought "well, that was fun, now back to my regular mount".

    After reading all of these anti-strider posts, I'm not quite as sure that I want my dwarf rogue engineer alt to get exalted with gnomeregan after all. As cute as I think gnomes are, I've never actually managed to get one past level 20.

  3. @kiryn, the macro for random mount-up undoubtably doesn't work for dismount.

    but on that note, like all buffs, right clicking will remove it

  4. I use the Livestock mod for random mounting, and you can set it up to use the same keybind for mounting and dismounting.

    And I love the Mechanostrider. It's probably my favorite Alliance mount. Too bad Draenei look ridiculous on it.

  5. I can totally agree here. A nice perk (or the main reason? :P) of getting to Rank 11 was getting a free epic land mount, which was quite an achievement in itself - back in 2006. 600g weren't so easily grinded (ground?). But yes, I decided to be special and not get a Wolf again - like I had used one from 42/44 till 60. No, I decided to go for a Raptor. So while r11 saved me from the mount costs, getting my Troll rep up to Exalted was a different thing. I spent quite some time with the Ogres in Deadwind Pass. But I still love my hard earned Black War Raptor and kind of loathe the mount change as I can no longer link my "special" one (it was distinguished as 'Requires Level 58') after I consumed it. Now it's just like one obtained for BG marks. :|

    Oh, and should contain something helpful to change the macro to do a dismount while mounted as well. The GoGoMount addon I use does this very perfectly without having to macro it.

  6. Believe it or not, I simply don't feel like it's worth binding a key to mounting and dismounting. My main doesn't mine or herb, so I generally only dismount when I'm stopping to fight something, at which point the first spell I cast will automatically dismount me. It's very rarely time sensitive enough that I don't have time to click, and I'd rather save my conveniently reached keybinds for things that I actually do need in a hurry.

  7. Completing the epic Warlock mount quest chain, and finally getting my hands on the Dreadsteed, is still one of my fondest memories of WoW pre-BC.

    People would stop and stare, I would get whispers like:

    "Where did you get that, and how do I get one?"

    Great days.
    Now you just get to lv 60 and the trainer hands one over...

  8. My first mount was actually a chocobo mount for the belfs rather than the Paladin mount. I still love the chocobo mounts despite the antifans, funnily enough they are a sort of "chicken" mount too. I tend to use the Black Warstrider now though rather than the purple one I used when I was leveling.


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