Latest World of Warcraft expansion features Garrisons: your WoW version of Farmville.
That of course is an over exaggeration, though mechanics are similar the goal and outcomes are quite polar. Player love this instance that they can call their own, it has a lot of personality and very well designed making people spend more time doing Garrison activities than they actually want. A lot of people tried to approach Garrison construction like a math equation trying to solve it and receive the answer to a perfect way to build it. The answer is: it depends, not on the game, server or other players, but you personally as a player.
Blizzard experimented giving players a personal space by introducing farms in Mists of Pandaria, Garrisons expends on that idea greatly creating a feature that a lot of people enjoy now in Warlords of Draenor. So without any further ado, let’s see what it’s made of.
First major deviation of Garrison from its social network counterparts is existence in 3D space. Garrison is your own city that you’ve partially planned, helped building and defended. Players are free to roam around, enter every building and interact with NPCs just like they do in any outpost and although Garrisons are not of a size of a city: they certainly are bigger than any other friendly encampment player visits.
Moving into a 3D space has one major benefit: immersion. You really do feel like it’s your home, apart from guards and interactive NPCs it’s populated with characters you’ve met and helped in your travels, they greet you in their own way and may even accompany you if asked.
That approach has its negatives, like lack of practicality. After couple of weeks of tending to your Garrison it becomes annoying to physically move your character from place to place for a daily routine. At the times like that players start to feel themselves like delivery boys doing chores, which is as far as you can get from initial illusion of being a Commander/General. It takes roughly 20-30 minutes to perform a daily Garrison routine and players aren’t exactly happy about it: they want to play the game they are paying for, not another Facebook game.
Constructing a Garrison
Constructing your buildings wherever you please is not an option, Blizzard recognized that a lot of players will prioritize efficient routing to aesthetic looks, which would defeat the actual purpose of having them move around in the first place and decided to take planning into their own hands leaving player with an option to build specific buildings on reserved plots of different sizes.
Much like it had been done in Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth
Number of plots is very limited at first and requires a player to upgrade the Main building to increase number of plots available, but even with maximum level there still isn’t enough space to house all the buildings, so the player has to choose.
Garrison does not have any correct way of building it, there is no clear progression and no building is mandatory in any way. Whatever player builds – works, because the only purpose of buildings in the Garrison is to provide bonuses to various activities. Whenever you open a construction window the only question you need to ask yourself is: What do I really need? Can I benefit from it in any way? Which bonus do I prefer?
If players know which part of the game they are interested in, it will be easy to choose buildings that provide those bonuses and occupy the rest of the plots with the next best thing.
What if a player can’t choose and wants to build them all? That’s partially achievable due to the nature of those bonuses and the fact that any building can be replaced with a different one without penalty. Players can easily build a building, collect all the collectibles like pets, mounts, transmog armor pieces, achievements and move on to the next building. Some bonuses are account based, for example the Trading Post gives a 20% reputation boost to Draenor factions, built on a single character it provides the same bonus to all the characters on the account regardless if they have it in their Garrison or not.
Having your buildings built is not even half of the job done, they can be upgraded. Each upgrade adds to already existing list of bonuses and can be easily dedicated to a different playstyle entirely. As a rule of thumb bonuses start from being dedicated to a niche area toward being more universal, even if it’s just creating another way to earn in-game gold.
Each upgrade requires a blueprint that can be purchased for the in-game gold at the Garrison or acquired via completing certain questlines. Maximum level upgrades are locked with an account based achievements that are associated with that building.
Having an achievement as a roadblock for the latest upgrade is a great idea. Achievements are designed in a way that they require a little bit of input from the player every day for a period of time based on importance of received bonus. So no matter the baby steps you take to reach your goal you are guaranteed to reach it if at least some input is provided. More importantly the time that it take for the achievement to be completed is not to increase playtime (on the other hand it still is), but allow the player to accumulate resources that are required for an upgrade and blueprint purchase.
Although you can’t build your Garrison wrong, you can definitely do it sub optimally. Just like in F2P games you can keep on going for a long time before smashing into a donation wall if you do intelligent decisions to maximize your efficiency. Garrison’s main resource is called Garrison Resources (GR from hereinafter) this is the resource most players find themselves lacking when building their Garrions. Unlike other F2P games you can’t buy this resource for real money or purchase it in any shape or form. WoW is already a subscription based MMO, adding additional layer of micro transactions would simply be unreasonable, instead, they ask for the most valuable resource subscribers can give: play time.
There are many ways to get more GR and all of them requires you to actually play the game (evil corporate business, isn’t it? ;-)). Garrison has a number of buildings that generate GR by issuing work orders with materials collected in the world, leveling areas are filled with treasures and rare mobs that reward GR, daily random dungeon runs and follower missions (which we will look into in a bit) also reward a significant amount, and if you don’t feel like doing any of that and don’t mind slow progression: the passive GR generation will take care of it. The system doesn’t force you to adjust your playtime, it gives you enough tools to make you comfortable with how much time you are willing to invest into this feature, and when you fixed GR scarcity you can replace those buildings with something different at a cost of construction. This feature is brilliant in so many ways:
- There is no right answer to the optimal built, it all depends on your play time
- With no right answer to the problem it sparks a dialog with other players, friends and guild members about their strategy
- Bonuses from buildings and upgrades are well balanced in a way that players are asked to build what they like and will enjoy rather than what they absolutely need, making it a personal preference, not a necessity
Blizzard isn’t first to add something like that in their game, but they are definitely most successful so far.
Your personal followers
Followers are your personal henchmen that you recruit on your travels, train, equip and send on special missions for gold, XP, loot, GR, etc.
Followers are fun, most of them have their own stories, personalities, they live in your Garrison and even accompany you in your journey around Draenor. Sending followers on missions is a simple matching game: missions have challenges and followers have abilities that counter them. Follower who meets all mission requirements has a higher chance of missions being successful. That gets very repetitive very quickly; thankfully, there are community addons that can trivialize this process by suggesting you the best followers in slot and calculating the success rate beforehand.
After sending a follower on mission you have to wait, most of the missions take 3 to 4 hours with few requiring 30-90 minutes and a couple of 8+ hours encouraging player to login frequently just to collect rewards and start new ones (too bad there is no mobile app).
After reaching maximum level your followers can be further leveled into a higher tier giving them increased number of Abilities (assigned randomly) and unlocking the ability to upgrade their equipment level.
Missions get progressively more difficult requiring more followers and increasing number of challenges. Number of followers that players can utilize is limited.
If you get more followers they will simply get benched waiting to be replaced, like in a soccer team.
Players need to keep a close eye on abilities that followers have and make sure that none of them gets over or under represented to cover higher range of missions.
If you wish to get to the most complex missions with a chance of getting a raid quality loot, get your notebook ready and start planning your dream team and how you are going to get it recruited, leveled and equipped asap, it’s a time consuming task, but can be completely ignored if you aren’t into that. Besides, missions scale with your followers, challenge is there, if you are ready for it.
Garrisons is masterfully designed feature. It doesn’t dictate you the way it’s supposed to be played; alternatively, it provides user-friendly tools to enhance player experience in certain areas. At times the amount of things one can do with a Garrison plays against it as people keep conditioning themselves to maximize the efficiency even if that means remote-desktopping from work every hour (real story). The real value of the benefits provided by the Garrison is known to those who aren’t afraid to experiment. Every time I visit other player’s Garrisons I see different builds and hear different reasoning behind them.
If there is one thing that Garrisons should be criticized for is a fact that they made Capital cities feel deserted. People don’t have enough reasons to physically leave their Garrisons: most of the crafting materials can gathered there rendering gathering professions close to useless, LFR, LFD and Arena systems allow you to queue wherever you are, and, worst of all: your bank and even auction house can be stationed at your Garrison. It’s kind of sad realizing that people act like hermits in an MMO game. Weird…
If you wish to explore Garrisons in greater depth and read about all possible strategies, followers and bonuses: visit wowhead.com/garrisons these guys made an excellent job covering all related material and providing it to the community asap. There are still a lot of things that I didn’t talk about simply because they are closely bound to the WoW mechanics or simply aren’t developed enough at this point. But, hey, it’s a new feature, it obviously lacks content, but it’s foundation is very solid.