Friday, April 18, 2014

To Build a Home ::
That was the Week That Was

Oh look, everyone else just turned up ^^

Garrisons really are a key part of your entire gaming experience in Warlords. You don't need to take my word for it now, there's irrefutable proof, in print and audio form, from various sources to back up those assertions I've been making here for the last month or so. As soon as you help fight back the Orcs in Draenor your reward is a place to form your own outpost. This will be your Garrison, and although Blizzard are at pains to point out you can just level dungeons for ten levels if you wish, you'll miss an awful lot of content that (I'm thinking) won't be like any other you'll have seen from the company before. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say they had to redesign large proportions of the game to even make this work. This feature is one you are going to WANT TO PLAY, because I think this could be the beginning of the future of your MMO experience with Blizzard.

That's a fairly grandiose claim, even for me. Let's go about justifying it, shall we?

Commit this map to memory. From Wowhead :D

Although we may never know for sure, there are those who would speculate that Garrisons are what's holding up the deployment of a large-scale playable Client for anyone else outside Irvine. Of course, there's a great deal more at play than *just* this feature in the finished product, but what appears to have become apparent as a result of the PAX interviews is that this is the place you'll want to come to as you level, and what you do here (points) at the map is moving Blizzard into a new age of individual 'choice' that has never previously existed in game. Of course, for some, choice means not wanting to play at all and simply piling towards a World First Kill, but these people make up an increasingly small proportion of Warcraft's player base. For most, there needs to be more than just powering to max level, a level of engagement that will last beyond the first run from 90-100. That means making every time you take the journey a different adventure than the one previously. That appears to be the niche your Garrison is attempting to fill.

A cursory look at this map above will tell you that although everyone has to have their Farm, Town Hall and Mine in the same place, pretty much everything else is up for debate, and that is something so new Blizzard have admitted having to re-write code to accommodate the consequences. This is the clearest indicator for some time that Blizzard have exhausted pretty much all previous avenues of linear questing, even though I can guarantee there will be those who claim this is no less linear over time: the key difference is the choice of input from the player. There will still only be a finite number of building combinations, and presumably a limited combination of interactions with Followers and via Missions. However, this is a quantum leap forward from killing 10 rats and then gathering 6 plants without any other choice. The problem for many players is the understanding they have, which Blizzard may like to overlook, no need to ever repeat the process of levelling more than once. One would argue that the Garrison isn't for these people anyway, but Blizzard may secretly hope if the format is attractive enough they may be persuaded to play the 'game' at least once.

LOOK IT'S A HORDE MAP. They have more letters :O

This is all you can expect, in the end, but to make that attractive Blizzard already know the stakes: the game is littered with failed attempts at creating content that engages the player. There are already those who feel they know that this too will be simply thrown away as a bad idea at the end of the Expansion, that there is nothing Blizzard will ever be able to do to make the process of 'questing' attractive to everyone: which is exactly the point. The aren't trying to please everyone, they're attempting to attract as many people as possible, with a combination of attractive snares that will make this idea last (presumably) an Expansion and maybe beyond. That means hot-linking Professions into this so you can't just use them alone any more if you wish to make the most of what's on offer. It means giving the Garrison enough attractive 'features' that levelling without one being at least basically utilised will put you at a disadvantage. It means trying to dissuade players from using one-shot pulls for massive XP or running trash over and over again to level alt number five by giving them a realistic alternative that guarantees they can see content in different ways, creating different experiences as they go.

In the end, however, if you don't like questing, you won't like this. You'll just see it as another way to dress up the same old thing because you're utterly focussed on what YOU need from the game. Blizzard will never please you because, ultimately, you refuse to be open to the possibility that you are half of the problem.

For me, this is a time of daily excitement. I have to rein in my enthusiasm for fear of putting people off because I can see something completely new being built pretty much from the ground up. I am enough of a realist to understand the limits of linear gameplay and timeframes, that there will be only so many options presented, but that's not going to stop me GETTING UNREASONABLY EXCITED at what I can see and what I KNOW could be possible with this combination of factors. What encourages me most, more than anything else, is that with this feature, Blizzard show me that they have listened to all those years of criticism. There are distinct and definite moves to make the game less rigid and more intuitive, to add life and depth to parts of the franchise that have remained static since the beginning. Okay, so it's not my idea of what I'd like but that really doesn't matter because I trust these people, that they know what they're doing, and even if they may not identify me as their target audience, I still respect them for what they are capable of doing.

I also genuinely believe that whatever they come up with, it's going to be worth the wait. Some may say this is misguided enthusiasm, yet I do not care. You should not judge something before you've tried it, and you shouldn't dismiss it out of turn just because you think your way is better. Give these guys a chance, and play Garrisons at least once, and THEN pass your judgement.

Until then, watch and wait.

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