Draenor agoraphobia

I am noticing a certain pattern of play in Warlords of Draenor, and it is not a good pattern. DISCLAIMER: This is all based on what I see on my server and in my guilds, so I make no claim that it is what is going on throughout the game. But I bet many of you are seeing something similar to this:

1.  Players logging on briefly, cycling through each of their alts, then logging off.

2.  Rarely if ever are there guild chat entries asking for volunteers for garrison invasions.

3.  Tuesdays are busier, with people running their alts through LFR and the weekly world boss, but only if absolutely necessary for gear or the legendary quest line.

4.  On raid nights, people log in just before invite time, run the raid, then log off.

5.  Other than the above, very few logging on just to knock out achieves, or level up a secondary profession, or farm mats, or run old content. In one of my guilds, there are hardly ever more than 2-3 people logged in on non-raid nights. In my other guild there are usually a couple more, but it is a raiding guild and people are still working to make alts raid ready in anticipation of alt runs in a few weeks.

Two things strike me about this. One is that the low level of activity is what we normally see at the end of an expansion, not at the beginning. The other is that garrisons are a huge part of what people are occupying their play time with.

On the first observation, that this is end-of-expansion activity levels, this reflects what I and others have said about WoD from the beginning — there is just not a lot of content to this xpac. Once you have leveled a couple of characters, you have pretty much seen and done all the content there is. Raids are another matter, but even they seem to pale somewhat in comparison to the raids in Mists. And the gearing structure has rendered 5-man heroics basically useless once you complete the legendary quest line part of them. Early in Mists, we frequently ran guild heroics for the gear, for valor/honor points, or for guild gold, but we just don’t run them in WoD, not since the second or third week of the xpac. When Blizz removed valor as a currency, they pretty much removed any reason to run LFR or heroics. In my opinion, it had a huge — possibly unintended — effect on game play.

For all the development time Blizz spent on this expansion, I really expected more. A lot more.

On the second observation, that garrisons are the main part of the game now, their introduction has also had a gigantic impact on game play. The whole garrison evolution is a pretty unbelievable sojourn into the land of misunderstood player requests. Basically, garrisons came about in response to a request from many players for player housing. I don’t know how many players requested this, but it was enough that Blizz deigned to listen and respond. Good for them, really. But then it got weird. I am pretty sure that when players requested housing, they had in mind some cozy little place, maybe a bit like Sunsong Ranch only a tad larger, that they could decorate with some cosmetic items, maybe select from a couple different architectural styles, see their pets and mounts frolicking about, etc. But somewhere along the way Blizz translated this into our current garrisons — huge mini-villages with troops to feed and house and send off on missions, profession huts, individual mining and fishing areas, and NO PLAYER HOUSING.

On top of that, when the people who were not really big on player housing expressed concern that it was being forced on them, Blizz patted us all on our little heads and said there there don’t worry, if you don’t want to have your own garrison you don’t have to, it is just a game option. Slowly this line morphed into, well OK you do have to have the initial garrison but you never have to do anything more with it afterwards if you don’t want to.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Gotcha! Another classic from the creative folks in Blizz’s Screw With the Players Department. We now have these huge time-sucking garrisons that — sorry Blizz — are in fact pretty much required if you do any profession, gather any mats, get mediocre gear for alts, etc.

So not only do the garrisons require a LOT of time to maintain every day, but they have had other consequences for game play. One is professions and mat gathering. There is no need to go outside your garrison to gather raw mats for your professions. In fact, going outside to gather mats is a real pain in the ass — nodes are spread out, and Blizz’s other genius decision to disallow flying means that getting to them requires both time and annoyance because you have to fight your way through mobs to get there. Another consequence is that you can now get a ton of potential transmogs from your Salvage Yard if you have one. For some people, this means you no longer need to venture outside your garrison to solo old raids for transmog gear. It comes to you.

Don’t misunderstand me, I do not hate garrisons, I think they are fairly fun. But their overall effect, especially in light of there being very little outside content, is to keep people from interacting with the outside part of Draenor. Heck, it even keeps people from interacting with the rest of Azeroth — take a look at the deserted streets of any of the major cities if you want proof. It’s probably not correct to call it agoraphobia, in that people are not really afraid to venture out of their garrisons, it’s just that there is really zero reason to, so the net effect is the same.

So here we are at the beginning of a new expansion, one that was at least 18 months in the making, and it is looking very much like the end of an expansion. Garrisons are a game innovation requested by players, which do not answer the original player requests, and their pervasiveness has had some far-reaching and likely unintended consequences for game play. Not sure this is a winning combination.

When do we get the next expansion?

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

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