Garrisons: Stop Expecting the Expected

Garrison GatesLet me be blunt and get this out of the way immediately: Garrisons are NOT player housing. I have played FFXIV and Wildstar, and THOSE are games with player housing. If you go into Warlords of Draenor expecting the same kind of experience with garrisons, you are going to be disappointed and that’s unfortunate. It would be better to instead go into WoD looking for a different kind of experience, because there is a LOT of good here. Unfortunately that good is trapped under the shadow of the “Housing HOUSING HOUSING!!” monster.

I COMPLETELY understand the appeal of regular player housing. Trust me. My Wildstar home is decked to the roof with all kinds of neat stuff. There isn’t really any of that customization with garrisons. You’re not going to have neighbors, and you’re not going to be able to change the roof/walls/flooring of your buildings.

“How can it possibly feel like home, then?”

pets pets PETSThere are other ways. For example, once you open your pet menagerie following a brief pet battle questline, the pets from your pet journal will wander around your entire garrison. Occasionally they’ll stop and chill with you.

If you choose to build a stable building, your mounts will wander around that area as well.

innIf you choose to build an inn, you can go in and see your followers and garrison workers enjoying a nice meal together. It gives it a very homey feel. In a way you could almost think of the followers as your customizable furniture, but…that’s awful. It’s kinda true though, since they’re the main feature of what brings the garrison to life.

left right leftThere are also the NPCs that will wander throughout the area, giving it a sense of hustle and bustle. Most of these NPCs are followers you’ve picked up throughout your questing travels in WoD. So I know that they seem like strangers now, but by the time you finish certain questlines you’ll be glad to welcome them to your stronghold. If they spot you walking by, they’ll either greet you as a friend or commander which is pretty nice.

The idea of the garrison is less about homey personalized housing and more about building a military foothold on Draenor. You’re not going to invite neighbors over for a BBQ, but you are going to defend the base from attacks, help it grow, and utilize it for strategic missions. You are, in essence, taking control of your own quest hub.

salute me!Yes. For once you get to be the maniacal taskmaster that sends hoards of minions out on dangerous missions. From your command table within the town hall, you’ll be doling out various forms of strategery to the followers you’ve amassed throughout your questing escapades. These “missions” (queeeests) range from 25 minutes to 8 hours and reward anything from new followers to gold to gear appropriate for your spec.

command tableDo…do you feel that? That’s the power. The power that NPCs like Varian and Thrall have wielded for all these years. Ah, yes, it feels so nice. Dance, my little minions, dance!!

You also get to kind of sort of customize your garrison by picking out the specific buildings you want. Certain buildings like the pet menagerie, herb garden, and fishing shack exist for everyone and must be unlocked via quests. Others like the barracks, inn, stables, and profession tents are chosen by the player. It’s like a sim game on rails, and long time players of strategic or sim games aren’t going to find anything challenging here.

SsssstablesAnd that’s okay. Because this is a multi-player game that shouldn’t be made or broken based on tiny buildings in one area of the game. The garrison profession buildings provide a nice bonus, for sure, but there’s a careful balance to maintain between “necessary” and “fun but gives a small bonus.” Once things start falling into the “necessary” range, people get shoehorned into doing things in order to progress more smarterer or betterer. As it stands now, I’d wager that every progression raider is probably going to have the dwarven bunker once they cap as it allows an extra raid bonus roll per week. Imagine if the garrison were FILLED with “must haves” instead of “want to have” and you can see why they put it on rails.

herbgardenRight now the garrisons are still a work in progress. There are parts of it that are clunky. Specifically you need to return to your garrison while questing to send your followers out on new missions. You’re provided a special hearthstone for this task, but having to hearth and then fly back to resume questing is a bit of a pain. Other games manage this by allowing you to teleport to the housing map and then teleport right back to the spot you initially left. Unless any changes are made, you’re probably just going to set things up to run, quest, and then return once you hit an area that has a flight path. This sometimes means you lose time on sending followers out on new missions.

But it’s still very early in beta and things are always subject to change. Hint. Hint hint Blizzard. HINT HINT HINT.

PondOh, and I should also mention that the alliance garrison is FRICKIN’ BEAUTIFUL. Seriously. I know we lost the ability to build wherever we wanted, but I think the alliance garrison in SMV more than makes up for it with its own ambiance.

So again I say – cast off your expectations or hopes for this to be WoW’s answer to player housing. It’s not. This is a different genre entirely. Perhaps someday WoW will add in real player housing, but poopooing the garrisons because they aren’t on that level is like comparing apples to coffee beans.  I think with enough polish and adaptation for it at endgame, this could be something that keeps WoD interesting well throughout the expansion for players like me. We’ll certainly see.

 

 

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5 Outdated MMO Tropes That Need to Go!

MMOs are a growing and evolving genre. It’s amazing to see how well they’ve progressed in the last couple of decades. And yet, despite all the growth there are still some nagging issues built into the core idea of what an MMO “should” have. MMORPGs tend to build on the ideas of games that came before, but unfortunately sometimes that means they take the negatives along for the ride.

I wanted to write a short list of some of these features that have aged so poorly, I feel it’s about time they be retired.Some of these can be attributed to insufficient coding abilities – which I think is less of an excuse than it was 5 years ago. Others can be attributed to just plain developer stubbornness, which is ridiculous given the growing scope of the MMO playerbase. Anyway, I can’t think of a good segue so…on to the list!

1) Factions.

I HATE UOkay, I wanted to get what I figured would be the most controversial item out of the way immediately. Why do I think factions are a waste in the modern game-scape? Let me put it this way…

If a player downloads your MMO and their first thought is: “Gosh, I really want to play with my friends, but I also really want to play the race I like the most. Since they’re on opposite factions, I guess I have to choose.”

Then that is a failure right off the bat. Playing with friends, or playing a character you feel you can most identify with and potentially enjoy longer. Hmm. See the problem here? There are several inherent issues with factions but this is the biggest one. Anyone who has experienced that indecision and sadness when first playing a factional MMO can tell you how much this kind of choice sucks.

“But Gloria, factions add another layer of storyline and content!”

Actually – I would argue that they don’t. Factional content in MMOs is usually relegated to the EXACT SAME kill/fetch/gather quests on BOTH sides. It’s the same mechanics, just with a different bit of flavor text added. You’re still killing the same bosses in dungeons, you’re still exploring the same zones with the same quests. It’s all EXACTLY the same with the exception of the storyline blurbs. And it NEEDS to be exactly the same because both sides have got to maintain balance, otherwise you end up with accusations of favoritism.

Imagine if the time spent essentially copying quests for both factions in the same zone went into building a second brand new zone instead? Or a new dungeon? And you could experience it with all your friends. In fact, you’d have more access to these dungeons because an entire half of the playerbase isn’t arbitrarily blocked off from you. That means lower dungeon finder queue times.

Factions initially were a way of extending samey-content to give the game an illusion of having more depth. After years of this, I really think factions do more harm than good and any time a new MMO uses factions as a feature, I immediately drop it a peg lower on my, “I GOTTA BUY DIS!” list.

2) Ownership/Tagging Quest Mobs

WELPLet’s all fight over the same 6 spawned monsters in a starting zone at the launch of an expansion or game. Boy that sounds really fun. That’s how I want to remember my first foray into a new world. Oh and that guy who runs up and taps all of them only to just AOE each and every mob down before you can get there? That is a cool guy. Yep.

I guess I don’t really understand the point of mob “ownership.” If people are in the area, it’s reasonable to assume that everyone is trying to get the quests done. Pitting people against each other in a race to be first for what is inherently a grind just adds a layer of unnecessary frustration.

“But people will take advantage of it!”

Look, if I’m killing a quest mob and Johnny Q Magey comes up and hits it with his wand just to get credit and then afks while I do the brunt of the work…I don’t care! Because I’m still getting my quest credit! *throws confetti*

3) Lack of body shape options.

THREE WHOLE OPTIONS?!In this the year of our lord after the year of Luigi 2014 we are still experiencing MMOs that have a single body option for male and female characters. And in most cases your options are generic thin lady and hulking manbeast. Above all else I find this sad. Customization for a character can truly make it identifiable for the person playing it.

There’s nothing wrong with “pretty” models – or even the ones that are super boobalicious. What IS wrong is the lack of choice given to players. Even Nintendo Miis can have their body shapes customized – and the most you use those for are streetpasses, let alone diving into an immersive role playing game.

What’s even worse is that in a lot of these games, the NPCs have a wide range of body types. You value your NPCs enough to give them variety but you don’t value your playerbase enough to give them that same option? Come on.

4) Expansions for subscription-based games.

And you'll pay it, too.Okay, I knew this would be the other controversial one. Allow me to explain my reasoning –

If I am paying a subscription fee each month, I know that I am paying to access content. In order for me to keep my fee active, I need a steady stream of content. In my years playing MMOs I’ve found that the idea of expansions stunts the flow of content rather than improves it. You wait and wait and wait and then this huge pile of new stuff falls right into your lap for you to rush into and enjoy.

Instead of having points of small content releases like patches and then dumping a HUGE BUNDLE O’NEW’SHIT on people in the form of expansions, subscription MMOs would do better to simply stagger medium content patches throughout the lifecycle of the game. A steady stream of new content is better than nothing…nothing…nothing..LOTS OF SOMETHINGS! ESPECIALLY when people are paying MONTHLY for said content.

You cannot dump a ginormous single content patch on people and say, “Now now, this needs to last for a while so don’t go experiencing it all at once!” because…hello? Have you ever met humanity? That’s not how our species works. Even worse is dumping said large content and then gating it off just outside of reach until a designated amount of time has passed.

Spread that content out – like a nice even coating of peanut butter on PB&J. That way you don’t have people who swallow entire mouthfuls and get sick of the taste.

5) Linear leveling.

neeeiiigghhhhWhat I mean by linear leveling is essentially when your character is dropped from starting zone A to questing zone B. You then quest through B and go to questing zone C. From there it’s off to D, E, F and so on and so forth until you’ve reached level cap. Zones are usually relegated to character level. So if you’re level 4 you’re gonna stick to the level 1-5 zone because it’s a killing field anywhere else.

This means that from level 1 to whatever, our characters are put on a little quest train that follows the quest tracks and gives them a safe and properly organized tour of the leveling content. Wee.

A necessity borne from the days of coding restrictions – this is something that needs to GOOO AWAAAAYYYY. Especially with the new scaling technology most MMOs have available.

Imagine your fresh-off-the-docks lowbie arrives on a new continent and it’s time to level. And what’s this? EVERY zone is available to you because the mobs are going to scale to your level when you get there! So where do you want to go first? WHO KNOWS! The exploration potential is unlimited!

“But Gloria, how would this work with the removal of mob tagging?”

“…shut up.”

Anyway, enough prattling from me. Obviously these are just thoughts I had bouncing around in my head.  Aaand I can’t think of a way to end this soooo. Bye!