WoW! Thoughts! — On Improving Garrisons

Thoughts on the feedback and criticism Blizzard has received over Garrisons and how they can be iterated on in the future.

Garrisons. Some players love them; Some players. . . do not love them. Either way, maintaining a small fortress is integral to the Warlords of Draenor experience. And while our Garrisons may remain in Draenor as our journeys take us elsewhere, Blizzard has said the systems it has introduced will be iterated throughout the game going forward.  However, for now we are still just learning how our bases will evolve throughout this expansion, as information is beginning to seep out about patch 6.1. Some simple requests for quality of life (like being able to change the garrison music) are being implemented, while other notes show the direction we can expect our garrison to grow, such as the new platinum level for garrison invasions. While the following list is of desired garrison improvements, please note that many of these features may not be feasible at this point in the expansion.  If anything, these ideas are presented so that future expansions can be designed with them in mind.

Racial architecture. When players started asking about racially customizing their garrison, Blizzard’s response was to allow players to select the race of their garrison guards as a function of the Level 3 Barracks.  While I appreciate the feature, as a Horde player it has been underwhelming.  I like my Tauren Frostwall Braves, but the Frostwall Axethrowers are still trolls and the guards in the mine are unaffected. Furthermore, players have been vocal in their desire to see their native architecture reflected in a base that they are supposedly responsible for. Admittedly, all garrison structures are designed from blueprints that Gazlowe or Baros Alexston are provided, so there is a canonical reason why garrisons favor orc and human architecture, since those are the only blueprints available. Still, Blizzard has hopefully heard the outcry, and is designing an assortment of buildings for future garrisons. If Warspear in Ashran can have an array of architecture from all the Horde races that should hopefully bode well for garrisons in the future.

Pre-designated plots. Blizzard made a major miscalculation by providing four plots for mandatory buildings: the mine, the fishing shack, the herb garden, and especially the pet menagerie. The mine and herb garden have effectively destroyed the economy for ore and herbs in this expansions, with every player able to gather more than enough of those resources (the only reason to mine and gather herbs at this point is to collect primal spirits). Players who relied on the gathering professions have no market to sell their goods.   (At least the Barn requires a medium plot, but even that provides enough leather that non-skinners can avoid the auction house.) However, it makes sense that these buildings would be given plots of their own, since a mine, garden, or pond can take up a significant real estate.

The mine and the pond especially require features that need to pre-exist in the garrison, unlike the rest of the buildings which are interchangeable. Regardless of whether a player enjoys or participates in fishing, it makes sense every lot would have a shack since every garrison would have a pond. But the pet menagerie has no such requirement. It is a plot just like any other plot for building. Yet every player gets this lot regardless of their experience pet battling.

I do not pet battle. I tried it out in the Mists beta, and while I enjoyed it, I deigned never to play it again because it changed the game too much. Yet now a lot is dedicated to this purpose in my garrison, one that must be developed to obtain the Architect title. I understand that achievements sometimes require players to try different things (like A Long Strange Trip’s various PVP challenges), but this is poorly implemented, especially since you need to have max-level battle pets to unlock the plot.

Yes, there are guides to unlocking the plot in forty-five minutes or so, but even the fishing shack can be accessed with a fishing skill of one, and fishing is much more boring than pet battles. Ideally, all these plots should be accessible – even the mine and fishing shack could be designed so that if players felt they did not need access to a cavern or a body of water, a different structure could be built on that lot instead. I would not mind placing a storehouse where the little hut outside my mine currently sits (although if anywhere, it should be placed on the empty plot for the menagerie).

At the very least, though, I would like the Architect title to not require all the assigned buildings.  Restricting that title only to Pet Battlers is an odd choice.

Downgradable plots. Currently, a level three garrison provides players with three small buildings, two medium buildings, and two large buildings. Everyone starts with a Barracks in their first large plot, and the extra follower and bodyguard perks make it worth retaining, plus it provides the racial guards. That leaves players with one other large plot.  In my garrison, that building started as stables until I acquired all the mounts, then became a war mill, and is currently a goblin workshop.

The goblin workshop is interesting with the random invention it provides each day – the Skyterror jetpack is appealing as it is an item with two charges that shoots a player straight up into the sky, and then lets them glide as they fall back to earth in a limited form of flight. The two charges this item provides (along with Aviana’s Feather, which does the same thing) provide a limited form of flight that can be used to travel almost anywhere on Draenor. The other large building is the Spirit Lodge, which provides portals to points around Draenor. Once I earn the blueprints for the Goblin Workshop level 3 I’ll give the Spirit Lodge a try, although, it sounds underwhelming.

Instead, I would rather build a Gladiator’s Sanctum, which is a medium plot building. I originally had a Lumber Mill in my first medium plot (for the resources) and then an Inn in the second slot (for the ability to recruit followers). Now that I have enough resources, my Lumber Mill has been replaced by a Barn (for the Savage Blood). At some point, I would like to build a Gladiator’s Sanctum and try out some PVP to see if I can earn some of the associated titles (in particular, Warlord of Draenor is appealing). However, at this point, I lack space to build the Sanctum for this task.

Just as light armor can be worn by a higher proficiency (the mail armor skill allows the wearing of cloth and leather armors, for example), garrison plots should allow buildings of smaller sizes; medium plots could house small and medium buildings, and large plots could allow for buildings of any size. Perhaps I would find that my Gladiator’s Sanctum is a waste of space, but at least I’d do so sacrificing the random Goblin devices instead of the ability to acquire new followers or gather savage blood. Honestly, the selection of large buildings is surprisingly disappointing. For what should be the biggest and the best, they are quite underwhelming.

Followers. While we are getting additional followers in 6.1, including a legendary follower, as well as new missions and ways to select those missions, there are a few other improvements that can be made to followers. First, it would be nice if the twenty (or twenty-five with the Barracks) follower cap was removed. I could understand Blizzard leaving it so that only twenty-five followers in your list would show up in your garrison (if only because rendering followers could get unwieldly with greater numbers), but it seems weird to seek out and acquire these followers and then effectively bench them for arbitrary reasons. Then again, hunters have long faced this problem with their pet stables.

Second, any follower should be eligible to be a bodyguard, not just the current selection of five. It is nice that you can have any follower walk around the garrison with you by asking them to patrol (although Blizzard failed to implement a way to have them stop patrolling with you until you leave the garrison), but I would much rather take some followers I became familiar with while questing, like Lokra, all around Draenor with me rather than someone like Aeda Brightdawn, who is a blood elf warlock found just sitting outside Shattrath.  The five followers each have reputations and quests associated with them, and it would be excessive to expect Blizzard to make and track separate reputations for each follower, as well as giving them special abilities once their reputation is maxed out, but this could be set so that the abilities and reputation applied to several different bodyguards. Perhaps Lokra and Ishaal could share reputations and skills, so that once Ishaal’s reputation is maxed out, both he and Lokra can grant mailbox access. This way, my experience journeying around Draenor would feel even more personal, as I could hand select my companion.

Alts. Watching the Blizzcon 2013, I was surprised that Blizzard was surprised when players asked about allowing their alts to visit each other’s garrisons.  To anyone who maintains an assembly of characters, the desire to see them in the same place at the same time should be obvious, yet Blizzard seemed blindsided by this request, and subsequently no such option currently exists.  The solution is for alts to be able to serve as followers in another character’s garrison.  Once an alt meets certain requirements, such as completing the Tanaan Jungle introduction, a player should be able to recruit that character into their garrison. Depending on the alt or spec of the alt, it could be assigned to the related buildings or go on missions for rewards and experience. The only caveat should be that while an alt is in use – at a building or on a mission – it should be unavailable to play. I would enjoy walking around my garrison and seeing my alts hanging out; Surely other players consider their alts to be a guild of sorts, saving Azeroth together even if they can never actually meet. For altoholics, this would be a dream come true.

Overall, garrisons turned out to be quite pleasing. The amount of daily tasks they provided seemed overwhelming at first, but as players have winnowed down that task list, either by completing items or realizing certain tasks are unimportant (such as mining), the facets of the garrison experience that require improvement have become evident.  While it is exciting to witness the garrison grow throughout this expansion, the direction that Blizzard goes with the idea next is truly exciting.  Hopefully, they are listening to the player feedback provided at an early enough point in the next development cycle to shape an experience that truly reflects the kind of gaming experience that players truly want.

WoW! Blurbs!

Patch 6.1 is on the PTR.  The latest news is the debutt — I mean, debut of the Blood Elf models.

A Veteran Edition to compete with the Free-to-Play Starter Edition has been datamined.  Now you can stay in your guild for free but only play sub-level 20 characters.  Level 19 twinks rejoice!

Players who have been subscribed since the beginning of World of Warcraft received an anniversary statue from Blizzard.  I better get at least a watch when my ten year subscription anniversary hits in 2020.

Blizzard released a preview and raid schedule for Blackrock Foundry.  Once we shut the Foundry down, won’t the Iron Horde just be the Horde?

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

The Latest from Mash