Monday, September 6, 2010

Flying Machines!!

Lately my WoW experiences have just been full of flying machines. As a (frustrated) real-world pilot, I find this delightful.

It all started a few days ago, when I was exploring Northrend with Alaurai. I was wandering around the northwest of Howling Fjord, slaying a monster or two now and then, when I stumbled across a quarry. Fortunately, I didn't stumble into it, because it was very deep with very steep walls!

I wandered around a little, checking out the quests offered by the local NPC's, not sure if I should pick them up, since I was hoping to quest with my friend Sthenia in Borean Tundra when she hit level 68. (She did reach level 68 on Saturday. Congratulations, Sthenia!!!)

Suddenly I spied a couple of flying machines perched on a deck overhanging the quarry.  Yowsa!! I strolled over for a closer look. Typical WoW-style autogyro-type flying machines: rickety-looking, a wobbly shaft driving a floppy rotor, fat little turbines on short outriggers, stubby tail, and plump little floats with smiling shark faces painted on their noses. I hung around for a while, wishing I could fly one.

Before I left, I noticed a little guy in a hut near the flying machines, offering a quest. Should I pick it up? Ahhh, okay, check it out at least. Maybe something worth doing. Maybe not.

YOWSA!!! The quest was to climb in one of the flying machines, FLY it down to the bottom of the quarry, and haul some bags of something or other up to a platform at the top. Would I like to try this, the guy wondered?

WOULD I??!! Yikes!! I hop in that flying machine so fast I almost get beheaded by the spinning rotor.

I launch off the platform in a cloud of sooty black smoke from the sputtering turbines and start whiffling around the quarry. Every so often the engines quit. Don't panic! After a moment it restarts itself, keeps flying. Apparently this is normal behavior for these flying machines.

The first sack of goods comes up off the floor quite easily, and I fly it up to the platform, no problem. Ditto the second. But before I latch onto the third and final bag, I decide to fly this thing around a little, do some exploring.

I mean, after I land that third sack, my flying in gorgeous Northrend will be over for weeks, until I finally make level 77, right? And no more flying machines, ever, unless I get another character leveled up and make her an engineer, then forage, beg, borrow, and steal all the mats she'll need to make one of these things. That'll take forever.

Forget it. I've got the controls, I'm flyin' solo, there's no Air Traffic Control. I'm flyin' this thing outta here. Right now.

Oops. I wander just a little ways from the quarry, trying to see what I can see over there to the west, in Grizzly Hills or something, and suddenly a big red warning comes up: YOU HAVE DEPARTED THE AUTHORIZED FLIGHT AREA!! SHUTDOWN IS IMMINENT!! Or something to that effect.

I whip the machine around and head back to the quarry. The scary alert fades away, and the machine - and I - stay airborne.

At last I succumbed to the inevitable, flew down into the quarry and got the last sack, and plopped it at its destination. Puttered around a little more before landing and dismounting, terribly sad for the ride to end.

Eek! When I hit the dismount button, some sort of ejector mechanism launched my body high in the air!. After a moment a parachute popped out, lowering me gently to earth. Awww! How cute. Well, the wonderful ride was over, but at least I had a gentle landing.

I turned in the quest, getting ready to be on my way. But...what's this?? There's a follow-on quest from the same fellow, to pilot the flying machine again and slay some flying dragons which are attacking the quarry! And...and...get's a DAILY!!!

Now I have a DAILY assignment to go up to that (damned isolated, in the middle of nowhere) quarry and FLY that flying machine again! Every day!!

Furthermore, my first assignment was to do this RIGHT NOW!!!

I hopped back into my flying machine and shot off the platform, looking for dragons. Sure enough, here they come. But...all my weapons buttons are gone! In their place are just two little buttons: 1. Machine gun.  2. Missiles.  And way over on the right is a third button, for turbo boost or something.

The first dragon comes at me. I hit the machine gun. Bang! Bang! Bang! Not at all what I expected, nothing like a modern machine gun. Sounds like my hunter's gun, and fires slowly, about the same rate. I hit the missile button. A bunch of missiles blast away and the dragon goes down. Yippee! My first air kill!!

I get another, and another. Suddenly a whole gaggle of dragons descend on me. Yikes!!! My health is getting low, the machine is sputtering madly...I aim for the coast, hit the Turbo Boost button, and zoom!! Whew! Outran those suckers. I wait for my health to come up a bit, circle back, pick a dragon that's off by itself, and start shooting. He's down, then another, and before I know it I've got the day's quota of ten kills. I'm a double ace already!!

LOL! I land, get the ejector seat and parachute treatment again. I'm laughing with delight. I am GOING to make an engineer! No question! ASAP!!

I get on my big white kitty and ride off into the sunset.

But my flying machine fun isn't over yet. No sir.

A day or two later, after doing my FLYING daily (!!!) I am wandering around near Valgarde, the harbor in the southeast corner of Howling Fjord, and I come across a little guy on the dock, offering a quest. Hmm. Should I? I'm still trying to conserve quest list slots for when Sthenia makes it to Northrend and we can start questing in Borean Tundra. But maybe it'll be something interesting... I pick up the quest, scan it, click the map to see where it is. Hmm. Way over in the east, beyond the fjord. Can't get there from here.

I go back to the quest text, looking for clues about how to get there. Maybe I should dump this, wait, here it is...he says I should see that guy over there, who will give me a ride on his FLYING MACHINE!!!  Aaaugh! Flying machine!!! I almost dumped this quest!!

What guy?? Where??? Where is this guy!!! I'm riding all around the town, out on the dock, back and forth, clicking on everybody. You got the flying machine? No? Who? You? No? Where is he??!!!

I can't find him! He's hiding! Finally I hit WoWWiki. Nope. Their site is down! Augh! Try WoWHead. Okay. Here it is. The guy standing in the sea.

What sea? There is no sea. This is a fjord!!

Gak. Oh, wait. A little guy standing by the water. Not in it, but close. Could it be him? YES!!!!

Oh boyoboyoboyoboy!!! I'm flying! Clouds of black smoke, wobbly rotor, and all. I'm swooping over the harbor, down the fjord past the perpetually burning ship which hangs inexplicably over the passage, and out over the sea, icebergs and all. Fabulous!! Fantastic!!

All too soon it's over. The flying machine drops me at the quest site and vanishes. Awwww!

But wait. There's more. A couple of days later - yesterday - I make a decision. Okay, I'll hold off on more questing for a little while longer, but I could just go over to Borean Tundra and do that one little quest that takes me up to Fizzcrank Airstrip, right? Sthenia won't mind, surely.

I take the flying bird over to Valiance Keep in Borean Tundra and ride the big white kitty north. Soon I see some sort of flying machine overhead. And there it is, up ahead, the airstrip. I ride down the runway - no FAA here to yank my license, no stupid homeland security cops to come yelling out of the tower and throw me in jail for acting like a terrorist - and look at all the flying machines lined up on the runway. Wish I could fly one!

Wait. A big robot is towing a bigger plane down the runway. What's this? It's a bomber, getting ready to take off on a bombing run. Is there a chance I could go along? Maybe a bombing quest?

Off to WoWWiki again. WoWWiki has been resuscitated, but as for my hopes... Nope. No quest for the bombers. So I just sit and watch them take off and land, like in the old days when I was little kid, watching the airplanes take off and land from the airport near Poughkeepsie. Only now I can sit on the runway right next to them, watch them take off, chase them down the runway.

Leafing through WoWWiki, just to make sure...wait...what's this??? The flight master at Fizzcrank Airstrip uses FLYING MACHINES??!! But there was a gryphon perched next to him! You mean... I can fly on a flying machine?? To Unu'pe or Valiance Keep? <click> YESSS!!! I'm flying a flying machine again - across the countryside!

Of course, I'm not actually flying it, even though I'm at the controls, flying solo. It's on autopilot, just like all the flying beasts in the flight master system. But it's still great. Clattering away, wobbly rotor shaft, clouds of smoke...

I land at Unu'pe, take the flying beast back to Fizzcrank, take another flying machine to Valiance Keep. Woo hoo!!

But what if I want to go to Dalaran, or back to Howling Fjord? Will the Fizzcrank flight master give me a flying machine for one of those longer flights?

I don't know. And it's getting late. I decide to save that for another day.


Today is that other day. I'm at the airstrip. The flying machine is warmed up and ready.

I'm headed to Howling Fjord. I hear there is a zeppelin flying out of Westgarde Keep. And they're looking for Alliance players to go out on a bombing run...