Nothing about Warlords of Draenor conflicts me more than Garrisons, the new player housing system that we’ll see with the next expansion. When I saw the image flash across the screen during the Warlords of Draenor announcement I was like, “WHAT??? WAS THAT PLAYER HOUSING?!?!?!?” and immediately hopped on to Twitter to see if I was right. I’ve mentioned before how much I adore the idea of player housing in MMORPGs, yet I must admit that as more information was revealed I felt my excitement wane.
Perfect Player Housing
Before we get into my thoughts (and the thoughts shared by all of us at +10) on Garrisons specifically, I’d like to give you a brief description of what we have always wanted to see in a player housing system.
Neighborhoods and Private Lots
There are many different types of player housing experiences that, if featured in the same game, would make for one hell of an immersive experience. Imagine that you are a plucky bard who, when not helping your comrades save the world, travels home to the quaint neighborhood you and other players live in. Your house would be of a medium size and decorated with various instruments that you have found on your travels. Here and there are trophies to showcase your adventures. Your home is two stories with the lower level offering a general living space, a kitchen and bedroom. You can cook and rest here, or you can bring your guests to your upstairs lounge to celebrate your most recent success before the fire. One friend rushes outside and begins sending off fireworks, and before long the whole neighborhood has arrived to take part in the festivities. Soon your lot becomes too full and the party is moved to the town square where NPCs and players alike sell their wares. The party lasts long into the darkness before everyone turns in for the night, some returning to your house, others going to their own homes, while still others drop some gold on renting an apartment or staying at an inn.
The next morning you have some business in the nearest city (surely the auctioneer will have good news for you today–you will need to recoup your finances after last night’s impromptu party!) so you hop upon your trusty steed and wend your way through the cobbled streets of your neighborhood as you head to town, ready for whatever the day may bring.
But what about characters who wouldn’t necessarily be found in a neighborhood, such as the hunter I play in WoW? I would expect to find her tucked away in some distant corner of the woods, her simple home surrounded by purple leaved trees and the sound of a gently flowing stream filling the fresh air. She lives off of the wild and is less comfortable among other people, preferring the company of her wolf and the forest. She would have a small garden out back and venture to the stream everyday for fresh water and an opportunity to fish in peace. Her stabled pets would roam freely on her property, and a barn would house her most prized mounts. In her house she would have a simple yet sturdy bed, some sparce furnishings, and a wardrobe so she could put away her armor when not adventuring. Out front would be a flower garden she could tend in her spare time, the flowers (of which there would be varying qualities depending on how well tended they were) she would take with her to the city to sell to scribes and alchemists.
Though the seclusion may be nice, she would lack the protection offered by neighborhood guards and the liege lord to which our Bard pays his monthly dues. The hunter therefore would have to hire guards of her own to protect her lot from potential player invasions while she is away. The higher the level, the more formidable these guards would be. (Early on it would be safer to keep her most prized possessions in the bank in town while her guards level up…)
Perhaps you’re not the plucky bard, nor the elusive hunter, perhaps you are an organization dedicated to protecting the world and its peoples. You are a guild made up of nobles, artisan crafters and war heroes. You decide to make your base of operations in the neighborhood our bard lives in and it is to you that he pays his rent. You set the tax that he and all the other people in your small county must pay, and in return you offer them protection. From time to time you host grand parties on your lawn, allowing even non-guilded members the chance to a good time. But you must be vigilant, for should you prefer greed over duty other guilds may come in at any time to depose you, and your tenants may revolt. Be sure to build up your fortifications and invest in soldiers, for should you appear too weak tougher guilds may try to overthrow you in the constant struggle for power.
At this point I’m sure many have written off these descriptions as being for “RPers”. But to me that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The plucky bard and his friends needn’t be “in character” to enjoy an impromptu party. They are merely a gathering of friends–real friends who met in a game–who are hanging out and goofing off together. Anything that can promote a better community in MMOs is a plus to me, and a random gathering of neighbors and friends sounds like a great way to go about it.
Housing Related Professions
With the arise of housing and neighborhoods, more careers are opened to you. A woodworker can craft high quality furniture and decor, while a tailor can design rugs, tapestries and curtains. Engineers will put together superior cooking stoves, while jewelcrafters can make beautiful and much coveted works of art. Cosmetic items will become a major commodity and everyone will be after the pieces that best reflect their homes or characters.
I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again: in an MMORPG I expect immersion. I expect things that don’t have any practical function other than to immerse you in a world. When I first started playing RPGs and MMOs I thought they would be like reading a book in terms of immersion, except you were the main character. I thought you would have a life and live in a believable world, but right from the get go the absence of a home was awfully conspicuous. Where does my character go between expansions when she has some downtime? Why wouldn’t she return home? Most importantly, why do so many gamers abhor the very idea of their character having a home in the first place?
Now I get that my style of housing isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but frankly the combat obsessed focus on gameplay isn’t to mine either. While I have nothing against some practical features for housing (a farm, perhaps some buffs, etc) I don’t feel that those should be the driving force behind it. And this is why I am completely at odds with the path Blizzard has decided to take player housing down.
But what exactly are the Garrisons, and why am I so torn on them?
Garrisons: Player Housing…Sorta
After the mostly successful implementation of the farm in Mists of Pandaria many assumed that proper player housing wouldn’t be far behind. But what would it be? Would it just be the farm, but better, with more customization and better location options? Would it have crafting stations or give special buffs? Would other people be allowed on the property or would it be phased for each individual who owned one? Or would it simply be a house in the middle of nowhere that offered no particular benefit and would only be useful for those damn rpers?
The latter seemed unlikely given how many times Blizzard said they would only add player housing to the game if they could make it have a meaningful function. Heavens knows we can’t add things to a game just for fun; everything must have a purpose in this made-up world of magic and orcs.
Garrisons in their simplest form are player housing. Each player has a garrision unique to them that isn’t shared with anyone else in the game. These garrisons can be located anywhere in Draenor (and even moved if you decide you don’t care for the location), and, unlike the farm, can be visited by friends and guildmates. The player who is party leader is the player whose garrison you will visit.
Initially it sounds pretty cool, but, true to their word, garrisons are far more than just a spot of land to call home. They are, as their name would suggest, military bases that players build and improve over time. The various buildings offer buffs and limited access to professions you may not have (for instance, if you have a mine on your property you can send followers to mine it for you). Followers are NPCs who come to your garrison seeking work. They, like you, will level from 90-100 and will need to be armored and sent on missions to do so. As of now it sounds like some followers will need to be recruited while others will come to your garrison if you upgrade your inn enough. Missions will not only level your followers, but also have the chance to get you gear and the resources necessary to continue improving your lot.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this sounds a hell of a lot like a city sim to me. If this also sounds like a hell of a lot of work to you, well, you’re probably right. One of the biggest complaints Blizz had about player housing was that it would take people out of cities and out of the world. This won’t?? I don’t see how a little cottage (or even a spectacular mansion) in some corner of the world that’s mostly for cosmetic and storage purposes with limited functionality would have been near as much of a timesink as this looks to be.
Which leads me to ask…
Are Garrisons Mandatory?
Perhaps the biggest complaint for Mists of Pandaria was its use of daily quests. As I’ve probably mentioned before I don’t particularly mind dailies as I prefer questing to dungeons and raids anyway. I really enjoyed all of the Hyjal and Molten Front dailies in Cata, and this time around I quite liked the Operation Shieldwall arc. Are dailies perfect? Goodness no. Do they get repetitive and dull after a bit? Yes, but so does doing the same handful of dungeons over and over again. With the dailies I mentioned above I felt like I was actually doing something in the world. Holding the hill in the Molten Front day after day against wave upon wave of baddies was, to me, kinda cool. There were explosions and fire and allied NPCs to fight beside. I’m not sure why, but it just really appealed to me. And if I didn’t feel like doing it, I didn’t.
I get that there are a lot of hardcore raiders out there. And I get that to be hardcore you can’t necessarily take a day or week off from doing things like dailies. But I also think that’s just part of the challenge of being hardcore.
I don’t raid, I just don’t. I’ve tried LFR but I never know what’s going on since no one cares about the lore. And since the lore is the only reason I would do a raid… It takes me a long, LOOONG time to get comfortable around people, and frankly I’m a pretty bad player. When all you do is quest you don’t really need to learn your class that well, so I haven’t. Couple my lackluster skills with my anxiety and you can see why I’ve never set foot in a real raid with other players.
So while I can sit here all day and say that dailies aren’t a bad thing because you can just take time off whenever you want, I understand that for some people that isn’t possible. I also understand that for some specs dailies simply aren’t much fun (Syn pretty much stopped playing his Paladin after he hit 90 because of them).
Because of this (and the nature of WoW players in general) I am fairly worried that people will deem garrisons mandatory as well, and I just can’t see that ending well. What may have started out as another fun mini-game idea (quite like the pet battles are), appears to have grown into something necessary to progression rather than a true side-game. When you consider how many people quit (or at least threatened to) over the dailies in Mists, I can only imagine how many more will do the same over these garrisons.
But I could be wrong. Garrisons could be far less involved than they sound like. I don’t think we have any idea as of yet how long it takes to improve buildings or level up followers. I’m still certain people will decide it’s mandatory content, but maybe it will be enjoyable enough for people not to mind.
What About Guilds?
After my initial response of “OMGPLAYERHOUSINGAAAAHHH!” subsided, I started second guessing myself. Wait, if the garrison is a military base surely that means it’s a guild hall of sorts, not a personal lot, right? To which I thought, “OMGGUILDHALLAAAAHHH!” The garrisons looked (and still look) like more of a guild function than a player’s personal home. And to be quite truthful, I wish they were. A guild version of the garrison would be easier on altaholics, would allow for the guild as a whole to prepare for raids, and not put as much emphasis on the required grind per individual. Yes, the version I see in my head would probably still have raid leaders requiring raiders to take part in leveling the garrison and it’s followers, but it wouldn’t have been quite as overwhelming.
But garrisons aren’t guild halls, and frankly I don’t get why. People have been asking for guild halls nearly as long as they’ve been asking for player housing, and while I still feel player housing is better suited to limited functionality, guild halls could add a whole new level to not only what it means to be in a guild, but to PvP as well. It feels like such a missed opportunity here.
I Would Rather Have a Cottage
I hate to sound like a whiny brat, but I’m pretty disappointed by the garrisons. I’ve wanted housing since I first started playing and yet…that’s not what this is. Much as they try to argue that they’ve finally done what we asked, they didn’t. They made something simple so overly-complicated it isn’t even funny, and it really would have been better as a new guild feature. People complain all the time about the community, yet here was a thing that could have been a great way to do something with other people.
I’m not saying that a housing system should have been as customize-able as the Sims or as involved as Wurm or Minecraft. But I’m also not saying it should have simply been a cottage in the middle of nowhere with no purpose whatsoever. A marriage of the two could have been great, and it wouldn’t have felt necessary for those who weren’t interested. And that’s the most important bit–it should never have been mandatory on a player-by-player basis.
Garrisons could be fun, and initially I was super excited for them. But the more I think and read about them the less enthusiastic I become. It’s starting to look like we can’t even use racial architectural designs–all Alliance will be stuck with human inspired buildings, all Horde forced to use Orc designs. Bleck. More than any other new feature added to Warlords, this is the one that has me most unsure. Are you excited for garrisons or are you afraid they’ll monopolize much of your end-game time? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting us @10tofireresist.