Monday, August 10, 2015

The Grand Garrison Mistake

As of this moment, I simply cannot stand my garrison. Just a few moments of walking around in my garrison reminds me that I'm sick of it and I'm sick of Warlords.

That's just how I feel. I'm sure not everyone does, but I'm definitely not the only person. But why? What did they get wrong?

Garrisons were a decent idea that got implemented poorly. There is one particular aspect of garrisons that is not only a problem on its own, but caused a huge problem in Warlords entirely.

To start off, we're going to backtrack to our Sunsong Ranch.

flashback fade out, queue music

On all eight of my level 90 alts during Mists, I farmed up reputation and did a bunch of quests to unlock all sixteen farmland plots, the water spigots, the pest killer, Mr. Plow, and all that jazz. I logged in each day on each alt to do different numbers of chores, depending on the alt in question. Visiting my farm, harvesting my crops, and planting new ones were on the list for each one of these alts.

To do this, I logged in inside of the Shrine, or sometimes inside of the Halfhill Inn. I flew south to the farm, where I did my farming chores, and logged out inside of the Halfhill Inn, or hearthed back to Shrine.

always a good stay at the lazy turnip

Tending to the farm each day on every alt was not exactly fun, but it had a huge leg up on our garrisons. Aside from tending to the farm taking less time than all of our garrison chores, the farm was not the place we logged into and out from. It was our own little spot in Pandaria, but we didn't hang out there.

Sunsong Ranch and our garrisons almost seem to have no connection, but our farms were technically the precursor to our garrisons. Blizzard liked the idea of the farms a lot and wanted to expand on them. They accidentally expanded way too much. Sunsong Ranch would have been just like our garrisons if Blizzard had had the mind to make them so in the first place.

Having your main city hub and main point of interest be the same place and also having that same place be phased out from everyone else leaves you isolated and alone. You log in at your garrison. You do chores in your garrison. You log out in your garrison. You don't see another player until you actively choose to do so, usually by going to the closest thing we have to a main city hub, as even leaving your garrison does not guarantee that you will see another player - no one else is leaving theirs, or they have already quit the game.

the whole game is the barrens

Regardless of how often you play with other people, WoW is an MMORPG. A huge part of the game has always been that there are other people around. Regardless of whether you like other people or not, a huge part of the game has always been that there are other people around. When you take away that aspect, you notice when they are not there.

If you play WoW, but consider yourself to be a single player type of person who doesn't raid or do group activities, you will still notice the desolate environment of a lonely garrison existence. Even if the other people are merely props to you, they liven up the game. You know they are there, and it affects the way the game is perceived.

This isn't a secret. This isn't a groundbreaking realization I'm having. I've mentioned it before and I know a ton of people feel this way. I'm putting so much stress into it because I feel it's the absolute number one reason that garrisons missed their mark.

I understand why garrisons, lorewise, were made as a central hub. It's a base of operations. They took you out into the wilds of Frostfire Ridge or Shadowmoon Valley and you established a war base. I get it.

it's for, you know, war stuff

But, if garrisons didn't have a hearth, a bank, hell, even take away the mailbox, and maybe if the only thing resembling a central city hub wasn't off on the edge of nowhere, garrisons would have gone over a lot better.

Being in a main city makes you feel a certain kinda way. We've logged in and hearthed to populated main cities for 10 years. Suddenly, we're not anymore, and we wonder what feels so different about Warlords?

It may seem odd to claim that such a seemingly small detail could really be one of the biggest reasons that Warlords saw the fastest and furthest sub drops in WoW history, but I genuinely think it had a much bigger part than we give it credit for.

It becomes even worse when you combine it with the other issues with the expansion. It's too much of a hassle to leave your garrison in the first place, and there's no reason to even if you wanted to. That was a pretty significant problem with Warlords on its own, but look at what you deal with in response to that - hanging out in your garrison. Hanging out in the most desolate, lonely, isolated place possible.

side effects may include attempting to role play with yourself

We've long made complaints about having nothing to do but hang out in the main city, but it is more than clear that this typical and common feeling we've seen in expansions past is made a thousand times worse by our garrisons.

In hindsight, it's almost unbelievable that they didn't foresee this problem. We've had "stuck in the main city syndrome" for years and years, how did they think it wouldn't happen again? Especially without flying. Regardless of whether or not you're pro-flying, being able to fly means it's easier to leave the "main city". You may not know why you are leaving or where you plan to go, but I flew out of Shrine during Mists hundreds of times for no particular reason. The scenery was nice. I like the flying mounts I have - sometimes I'd fly just to watch my mount's animation. Even if I left for no reason, I tended to end up somewhere.

hello cloud serpent butt

I don't get on a flight path to leave my garrison for no reason. To get on a flight path, I have to know my destination first. I have to look at the map and think "where do I want to fly to?" After thinking about it, my conclusion is the "exit game" button.

There were a lot of problems with Warlords, but none of them are quite as unique to this expansion as the garrison problem. We've had "nothing to do" problems before, we've been "stuck in the main city" before, we've had "repetitive boring daily chores" before, but never have we had to endure these problems surrounded by cold, empty loneliness.

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