Woohoo Guildie Guest spot has been revived! Crooked is one of our Elemental Shamans and has been with Frostwolves since mid 2014. He is usually reserved but when he feels strongly about something he will not hesitate to speak up. He has been an amazing at filling out various raid roles and chores in a pinch.
Navimie and Mctacky prompted me to do a guest post. But I didn't know what to write about. So I thought about what aspect of the game people will remember 6.0 for, that everyone can associate with, and it has to be garrisons, and how they tied into levelling. So this post will offer a glimpse at my perspective on that.
The one constraint is that my perspective is limited to horde side. I will eventually experience alliance side, but from most accounts I've read, whilst people generally prefer the alliance garrison, the differences appear mostly aesthetic and thematic.
I've never personally wanted player housing in WoW. This is mostly from never having played another game where it was a substantial, memorable feature. The closest I can remember would be Skyrim, where the houses acted as somewhere to dump my excess stuff, due to weight limitations on what you could carry. I never got into decorating and buying all the furniture, as the default chests never seemed to get full, and I didn't plan on hanging around there because that’s not where the action was. But, I recognise player housing is a popular, oft requested feature, and the only reason to reject the idea of them is if it detracted from other content.
|"What a lovely house you have..."|
Before garrisons were announced I would have imagined player housing in WoW as a small instanced area in a capital city, much like Brawler's guild or the old Hall of Legends. It might be 'bigger on the inside', but it wouldn't be more than a couple of rooms, with somewhere to hang trophies and keepsakes from your accomplishments, like a mini version of the trophies that appear around Orgrimmar when a major raid boss is defeated. Alternately, a 'guild hall' where guildmates could hang out and interact, with the decorations based on guild achievements.
I didn't expect it would be a new frontier, a launching pad for major questlines and lore, a focal point for professions, or a default destination. Parts of which have been surprisingly cool.
Establishing and growing
Saurfang experienced a horrible bug on release where few could get their garrison built on the first day. Then there were persistent issues with being able to even enter them. I'm pretty tolerant of server issues, but it did not help with first impressions of garrisons when they became a hindrance to playing.
The level 1 garrison's small and ramshackle appearance (with an abundance of logs, despite the lumber mill building later emphasizing that there are few trees in Frostfire) pales in comparison to Bladespire Citadel, the Frostwolves city that you help liberate from the ogres. That place is massive and imposing, despite it basically being ruins, and it is disappointing that you visit it 2 or 3 times during questing and then you are done with it. But in the scheme of things, the level 1 garrison doesn't matter, because you spend so little time there.
It wasn't until I established my garrison on an alt, without server issues and heavy competition for quest objectives, that I realised how quickly you actually reach level 2. The cinematic suggests that this was originally planned to become available much later, but was brought forward to enable players to get to the crux of the garrison sooner.
|"I have seen you and your armies win many hard fought battles across Draenor" - but I only just got here!|
At that point your character will be roughly 92, and the next and only remaining garrison level upgrade becomes available when you reach 100. But while levelling, reaching 100 is already your primary goal, so level 3 garrison just becomes a reward for doing so. It is not something you work towards, you just purchase it with currency once it is available to you. It is the WoD equivalent of flight licences becoming available at max level in previous expansions - purchasable with currency, great to receive, but not a goal in itself. I think most players would feel this is fine - it is effectively a content unlock. But it is not one that you have any connection to. Ask anyone that worked to unlock a class mount or druid flight form to understand what I mean.
In effect, if we were given the equivalent of level 3 garrison immediately, the experience would barely change. Our progression would still have been dictated by lack of resources, building plans, achievements, and character level for quest eligibility to unlock secondary profession buildings. Garrison level has little meaning, so we don't get to truly experience the reward of seeing our garrison itself grow as a result of our efforts. That is left to the buildings.
Exploring the building options, starting to work on the achievements and rewards, and using profession buildings to help level your professions, was quite enjoyable, even if I made some poor, well intentioned choices (primarily, overlooking the Salvage Yard, and taking the Spirit Lodge, with the reasoning that flying would be available in 6.1, therefore it would be most useful to have sooner rather than later). For the most part, the achievements and currency required to open level 3 buildings were balanced and achievable as well.
But for the garrison as a whole, I felt disconnected. The garrison just snaps from one state to the next. I suppose this is represented in the garrison resources you spend to upgrade, but it is not done well. And Vol'jin congratulating you on your progress in the level 3 cinematic was out of the blue.
For this reason, I would have liked to see some sort of garrison level progression at end game. One possibility being more garrison levels beyond level 3 that you gained through end game content. Or, tying garrison level to a factor other than your character level, such as the number of followers (eg 1 garrison level per 10 followers). That way, you could still experience levelling of your garrison whilst levelling your character, but it wouldn't stop at 100, and it would make it feel like you had an impact on growing your garrison, rather than just saying 'make it so' when your peons present you with an upgrade because you dinged.
In the same vein, rather than just being lumped with building plans, it would have been nice to earn them - or their level 2 upgrades. Instead it all seemed rather arbitrary. I think they had the right idea with the salvage yard (a small building) - find and assist someone with the skills/knowledge to help you establish the building. I would have liked to see more of this, perhaps tied into follower profession skills.
For example, rather than just being granted a mine, rescue a follower with the mining profession from a goren infested mine in Gorgrond, who in gratitude helps you establish a mine in your garrison. Or, complete an arena based event like the Ring of Trials in Nagrand to recruit the gladiator for your gladiator sanctum. A small change, but sometimes that's all that is needed to better connect you with the world you are exploring.