My shaman finally trained cold weather flying. I pressed jump and took to the skies, soaring.
And then landed and decided I didn't like it much. So now my shaman mostly rides around. It's slower and inconvenient, but I feel much more connected to the world.
I mentioned this to Iapetes and we ended up talking about Icecrown. He didn't think you could ride everywhere there. I suspected you could. Obviously this doesn't include the flying bases. The coastal areas can be reached, one-way. This isn't supposed to sound like he said this I said that he's wrong I'm right. It's not as if he was very insistent, it's just a perfectly reasonable doubt, since the zone is clearly designed with flying in mind.
I decided to try it out, see where I could ride. It turns out: pretty much everywhere, it's just inconvenient. The paths are not always obvious. Some are loopy or nowhere near a convenient spot. They are mostly unmarked, existing as just open areas in mountains. Finding them was a little bit like the old world exploration: ride until you can't, then try the next branch, see if you can hop over that (jump jump jump jump jump, nothing). The zone map is completely useless, which I loved. The area which looked like it was open was completely blocked.
Getting to Jotunheim (Vrykul area on the west coast) was a matter of finding some unmarked route through the mountains. When I did finally find it, I got that little thrill you get from a first boss kill (not the one you've been wiping on for a month, but maybe a first Attumen kill). I also found routes to all the elevated gates/walls and the DK area. Those weren't very difficult to find, but weren't entirely obvious either and certainly not short,direct routes.
Exploring Storm Peaks
The bigger surprise was Storm Peaks. Most of it can also be navigated by riding. Some quests cannot be done, neither faction base can be reached (Grom'Arsh Crash Site and Frosthold), and obviously no Ulduar; but all the rest can be reached. However the area with K3 is cut off from the rest. Some of the paths are obvious and even marked on the map, but I found a few which were unmarked and hard to find. Some paths also go through elites and overall the travel time is much higher; it could take fifteen minutes to do what normally takes one. If anyone else is able to find more paths, I'd love to read them.
This got me thinking of a new idea: Optional Exploration. It's what it sounds like. You can fly all over, but there are paths to discover if you want. Finding them doesn't give rep or XP or gear, but just a little bit of satisfaction. You'll see the zone in a new light, as connected and as more than just a place to do quests, but also as a place where beings live. I felt like I was wandering around like the NPCs might have done while searching for where to make their bases.
I hope to see more zones which are designed for flying, as Icecrown and Storm Peaks clearly are, but which can be ridden around. They are ideal for optional exploration. It's a start, but it could use a bit more.
Go forth and explore optionally! See new sights and wonders! Do what is entirely purposeless, except that it is fun and this is a game!