Garrisons 3.0

Megan O’Neill has an excellent post today over at Blizzard Watch, about the details of garrison class hall follower champion missions in Legion. It is well written and gives us the most information I have seen so far on the mechanics of this “feature”. For me, at least, it provided some real insight into how this mechanic will actually feel, how it will play out for me on a daily basis in Legion. It is exactly the kind of alpha test report I love to see, the kind that there are way too few of from the alpha testers.

Unfortunately, while it is an excellent article it is bad news.

Blizzard, I fear, learned exactly zero from the garrison experiment. Or rather, they learned well, but wrongly. They learned that they can cram this idiocy down our throats and we will docilely shut up, and just do it. How did they learn this? Well, look at the progress of the garrison concept —

  • Garrisons are completely voluntary, anyone who does not like the idea will not have to have one.
  • Well, actually, a garrison is required, but just a rudimentary Level 1 garrison, anyone who does not wish to spend time developing it does not have to, it will not affect their game play.
  • Well, um, anyone wishing to participate in 6.2 Tanaan must have a Level 3 garrison and they must expand it even further by building a shipyard.
  • Oh, and by the bye, everyone wishing to complete the legendary ring quest line must complete a significant number of shipyard missions. Yes, yes, Blizz heard all our complaints about the onerous feeling we got from doing all those garrison missions, so they “fixed” that complaint for us by making the shipyard missions longer in duration, with the added feature that when the missions failed we could actually lose the ships we had spent weeks upgrading to epic level! Plus, the mission rewards were generally much less than for the garrison missions, and — get ready — even garrison missions would no longer award decent gear! There, all better now? Ok, as a consolation we’ll let you get lots of gold from the missions, well on second thought you are all earning too much gold by playing alts so we will decrease the amount of gold available if you have more than one character with this garrison we forced you to have on every alt.

So you tell me, what did Blizz learn from their ham-handed handling of the entire garrison concept in WoD? That they could get away with feeding us some really big lies of a Trumpesque nature (“Let us clarify our position — what we meant by ‘voluntary’ is ‘compulsory’.”) They learned that they could force us to continue to do more missions for less reward. And they learned that even if we complained about the whole concept eventually we would shut up and just do as we were told.

See, the thing about garrisons is that they tend to increase our  play time, because we all still take a few extra minutes to do some garrison stuff in addition to the other things we actually enjoy doing in the game. Finish your raid for the night, then take a quick few minutes to do whatever garrison chores you are still doing before logging off. Don’t have enough time some nights to play? — Well, often in this case you will log on quick just to collect your missions and set up some new ones. And as we know, Blizz execs are judged by how much they increase active monthly player time. So of course they will not permit any change to the game that could result in fewer logged-in  minutes. Get rid of garrisons with their player time bonus for the execs? Never happen.

Instead, just tell the player base that you heard their objections to garrisons, and in Legion there will be no garrisons (wink, wink).

In fact, Blizz seems to have ditched the good aspects of WoD garrisons and kept the worst features to incorporate them into the Legion garrisons renamed as class halls. To wit:

Best features of WoD garrisons

  • It was, in fact, your own place. Not quite player housing, but close. You could decorate it if you wanted to, you could choose to have some pets wandering around, you could choose to have your mounts stabled there and visible, you could pick what structures you wanted to build, and you even had a private target dummy area where you could try out really stupid moves with no comment from the jerks in the area.
  • You could pretty much raise your own mats for gold or your own use — ore, herbs, fish.
  • You could gain XP for your alts there, so that if you did not wish to take your lesser played squishies out into the cruel world to get killed constantly, you could in fact do so and continue to advance them, albeit slowly.
  • In the beginning, if you did not wish to raid, you could still gear up decently. (This was, however, stopped as soon as special snowflake elitists began to whine that their gear did not look so special if just anybody could get it — how else were they to demonstrate their superiority to the Great Unwashed?)
  • The story line was believable — you were one of many military commanders in the area, marshaling forces to carry out tactical missions in support of a larger campaign.

As as far as I can tell, none of these, except for the gearing up  –more about that in a minute — are features in Legion class halls.

As to gearing up, my impression is that any gear obtained from missions will be strictly for the followers, but that is just based on Blizz’s early announcements which as we all know are subject to rather severe “clarification” at any time. The other aspect of gear for Legion missions is that you must do them in order to complete certain aspects of your mandatory artifact weapon.

This was unwelcome news to me, as my plan had been to visit my class hall only as often as necessary to use it as a quest hub. I knew there would be followers, but I had no intention of pursuing that particular side game. I was not interested in them in their bodyguard role — honestly bodyguards in WoD were far more trouble than they were worth because of their tendency to always pull everything in sight. And unless you used them to accompany a healer, they died very quickly anyway.

I also had no real intention of spending time sending them on missions, because it seemed plain that Blizz was done with missions that actually gave reasonable rewards. Good, I thought, one aspect of the game that I disliked anyway, that I could ignore in Legion.

Wrong. It seems that we must do missions if we wish to get full use of our mandatory weapon. Every day. On every alt. Possibly as many times as we have specs on said alt. Blizz execs apparently saw that many players were sick of garrison missions and there was a possibility they might ignore them as I intended to do, which of course would affect the “active play time per month” metric. Can’t have that!

And, judging from the Blizzard Watch article, these are not simple click-and-go missions. No, they require some amount of planning and tailoring, and as an added bonus your followers can die on them and you will have to develop new ones from scratch.

Please, oh please, developers of  Master Plan, Mission Manager, and similar addons, do your thing for Legion and update your addons.

See, here’s the thing. Follower missions — no matter how they are disguised — are basically a side game, no different than Hearthstone or for that matter Candy Crush Saga (mark my words, within a year we will have some version of this incorporated into WoW). I hate games like that, I find them insipid and boring. This is not to say some people don’t enjoy them, and I have no wish to impose my opinion on them. But don’t make me play them, Blizz, because all it does is make me angry when you shove them down my throat.

I feel the same way about pet battles — the activity is basically a card game. You select your cards, figure out an order in which to play them, then lay them down one at a time, wait for the other player/computer to do the same, then see who won. Now of course one could argue that all of WoW comes down to this, because even raid combat boils down to the same process, and that is true. The difference for me is the time — I play WoW because when the process is iteratively executed in milliseconds it gives me the illusion of actual skill and control. When the process plays out over many seconds/minutes/hours/days, I find it dull. And I hate being forced to play this way, when that is not even close to why I was drawn to the game in the beginning.

So, Blizz, I know I have no choice but to accept class halls and champions and missions in Legion, if I want to keep playing WoW. But do me a favor and don’t blow smoke up my you-know-where by trying to tell me they are the best parts of WoD garrisons, that you heard and responded to our garrison complaints. You responded to your bottom line, and you are going to continue to force us into this auxiliary game play come hell or high water. For once in your corporate existence, just be honest about what drives your design.

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.

2 Responses to Garrisons 3.0

  1. gnomecore says:

    This is all so true. I wish all side games were like pet battles. Pets are all in themselves. They have their own achievements, their own collections and are not incorporated in lore, PvP or PvE aspects. So they’re very easy to ignore.

    I can’t remember when I ran through mine or herbs or any work orders on these toons. It’s just a garrison endgame for them. I did all the building achievements (except PvP and pet ones). So now it’s basically a place to hangout. Like Halfhill farm – when your achievements and professions are capped, you may just plant trees all over and enjoy the sunset. Or you could grow resources for sale – it’s the same in Garrison now.

    Although I do feel obliged to spend 15-20 minutes a day to handle my 11 toons’ mission tables. We only need free gold there, so I’m doing only gold missions, things you could sell (follower upgrades and gear) and resources to keep ships and followers running.

    I’ve reached 100 with a new toon recently. The only gate for developing my garrison was that 2k resources, 5k gold requirement to upgrade townhall to tier 3, but it slowed me only for 1-2 days. I had absolutely no problem with building other houses, or a shipyard (which is already bringing me stones for the epic ring). The toon effectively used the herb garden to level her Herbalism and never touched the mine. Maybe garrison is obligatory, but it’s not that big of a boredom at the moment and it was leveled with me very naturally.

    Still I will be happy when they cut all the income from mission tables.

  2. Honestly, anyone who believes “it’ll be different this time!” after WoD’s shenanigans deserves to have their money taken. We need to be aware consumers and pay for the product we get, not the one we are promised. “No garrisons” was #1 on my Legion wishlist when the expac was announced, along with flying being in from the start. Just another mark in the “do not buy” column for me.

    Okay, so they’re not central they say. They’re just a way to deliver dailies. Then why do we need them at all? What do we gain from having to go to another place with a bunch of spamming, jumping, yelling people of our class? If they’re not important, why are we getting them at all? I don’t remember anyone asking for class halls, ever.