This Garrison Life
“Last thing I remember, I was running for the door.
I had to find a passage back to the place I was before.
Relax, said the night man, we are programmed to receive,
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
– The Eagles, Hotel California
My blog is basically my personal opinion and experience in MMO gaming, most notably in WoW. I feel I need to preface this post with such a disclaimer because I want to talk about something in World of Warcraft that seems to be polarizing right now, and that’s the love, or hate, of Garrisons.
When I first got started in WoW, I embraced the RPG part of MMORPG a little more fully. I’d log out in the inn, sitting in a chair or laying down on a lounge or bed, just as if my character were real. But that was the extent of my desire for player housing. Over the years, I’ve seen many players advocate for such housing, either personal or for a guild. Personally, I’ve never had a desire for this, but it was obvious that it had some importance to a good portion of the player base
So, Blizzard, in its infinite wisdom, has bestowed us with player housing, which, in its actual form, is so much more than housing. We have Garrisons now. Our own little table for one. Our own town hall, and grounds with various buildings of our choice: stables, barracks, crafting cottages, inns, bunkers, barns, etc. We’re provided with a mine and herb garden that we can use to gather mats even if we don’t have mining or herbing as a profession. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
Well, that depends on who you talk to. Some people feel overwhelmed by their garrisons. Some people love them because it’s their own little town. Some people love them because they can gather materials they wouldn’t normally be able to, or gather in lieu of farming. Some people feel these extra things to be a chore. Some people find them mandatory, some people say you don’t have to do all the things, some people feel like they’re playing the entire game from within their garrison, and some people lament the lack of social interaction involved in garrison life.
Basically, garrisons are an intrinsic part of the new Warlords of Draenor expansion. Once you start the introductory quests into this new land, you’re set on a rigid path that does not end until your garrison is established. Then you’re free to quest as you will. Your basic garrison allows you to set up a few buildings, and as you level, you can add onto the number of buildings you possess. Herb gardens and mines are automatically given and provide crafting materials that can be harvested daily. Crafting buildings allow for the production of materials through “work orders”, where you provide the raw materials and over a set period of time, it becomes a specialized material that can be used in crafting. Lower level craft buildings allow up to 7 work orders, higher levels can command a few dozen. However, each piece is produced at a set rate of time, regardless of number. “Followers” can be recruited to populate your garrisons and go on “missions” to level themselves, get armor upgrades for themselves (and sometimes you), earn garrison resources, and even gold. Garrison resources are another harvestable currency that’s accrued over time, and are used to purchase building upgrades and items.
I can see the obvious pros: garrison resources are earned without doing anything, certain building types reward players with items such as mounts, transmog gear, feasts for buff foods, even conquest and honor points toward PvP gear. Yes, you can herb and mine even if you don’t have herbing and mining as a profession. You can gather as many herbs and ore on a level 3 building as you could spending an hour or more out in the world, farming. More so because there is no flight in Draenor. Follower missions can, once the followers are leveled to 100 and geared to iLvl 645, reward you with raid-level gear for yourself.
But here’s a con, especially to a player who is forced to be casual due to real life demands: what about the time a garrison takes out of the little play time you have? The time it takes to gather herbs and mine, send followers out on missions, do crafting cooldowns or work order renewals can be quite substantial. More so if you have more than one character in Draenor. If you have only 2 hours of play time per weeknight, if you even get to log on every night, losing 15 minutes or more to “garrison chores” across multiple toons is hard to swallow.
Another con is what garrisons have done to many professions, and the worth of materials on the auction house. Most “epic” level Warlords-crafted gear requires special materials that can only be created through daily crafting cooldowns and work orders. The materials are soulbound. There is a vendor in your garrison who will sell them to you for another type of resource, but the cost is exorbitant to buy more than a couple. Despite the fact that your building can handle up to 36 work orders (with all conditions met), you only get one piece of material every 4 hours, not counting what you make yourself with your crafting cooldown. Since most Warlords pieces take at least 100 of whichever material to create, this means 400 hours to make one, if you go by work orders alone. Crafting cooldowns help ameliorate this, but even with those in place, it still takes almost a week or more to create one piece. This is a serious gate to leveling your profession. You can’t just decide you’re going to devote an hour to leveling your professions, it just won’t work that way anymore
Additionally, because of the availability of ore and herbs to non-gathering players, those players who try to earn in-game currency through farming raw materials have really been given the shaft. Values for these materials have plummeted since most players can just access those from their own garrisons and not need to purchase any. Conversely, the prices for items made with precious materials have skyrocketed. 5,000 gold for a weapon enchant. Why? Because it took a week to get the materials to create that enchant because of work order gating and crafting cooldowns. Yet, Blizzard has said they will not be continuing garrisons in future expansions. So leaving gathering professions to pick up those that are more lucrative now would probably be a waste of time in the long run
And let’s not forget the social aspect, or lack thereof, surrounding garrisons. You’re in there, by yourself, just you and the NPCs. Your garrison isn’t adjacent to any major city where you can just jog on in. You’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, in Shadowmoon Valley. You have to go to Ashran to see any sign that other players do, in fact, play this game. From there, you can catch a portal to a few select Capitol Cities. Yes, you can invite someone to come visit, but your garrison still remains the loneliest city. And, I haven’t even touched on the time it takes to gather followers, level them through missions, and gather armor tokens for them to raise their iLvl.
In my opinion, Blizzard would have been much better served if the garrison concept had been made a guild perk. This way, it would be something that all in guild could contribute to, eventually opening up all the buildings and professions. It would have allowed social interaction amongst a guild in its own little space. And, preferably, that space would have allowed quick access to a capitol city.
Furthermore, crafting would have been much better off without being tied to our garrisons. This would have allowed players to genuinely treat garrisons as “optional” content. Someone told me that I didn’t have to do “all the things” in my garrison. True enough, I have given up on mining herbs and ore on a daily basis. But where I’m still forced to interact with my garrison is work orders for my crafts. In an attempt to level the playing field for everyone due to a perceived unfairness that people sold materials for too much money, or people leveling professions faster than others because they had the gold to just buy mats, Blizzard has created a barrier to those who earned their in-game currency in these methods. These people used to put time and effort into farming materials that the rest of us were too lazy to get, and we were glad to pay the price. Now, those people have been downsized by the glut of materials. It interferes with how the market for materials and crafted goods work, unnecessarily so.
Someone recently said that they thought the most valuable currency in Warlords of Draenor was time. Time to farm garrisons, time to earn apexis crystals, etc. When all indications are that MMORPG players are an aging group, that more of our lives are devoted to real life, and especially when Blizzard has spent enormous amounts of time “simplifying” (or, in my opinion, dumbing down) how we do everything else, garrisons were a complication that just weren’t right for the game. If you enjoy yours, or moreover, if you have the time for it, more power to you. But for many of us, the novelty is gone.