Wednesday, July 30, 2014

To Build a Home (BETA Edition) ::
Long Walk Home

Yes, I *know* its not Friday but summat else is happening then and this seems like as good a time as any to do this post :P

An important move?

In the latest Beta build of the Expansion, players are now rewarded with something interesting for establishing their Garrison on Draenor: a second Hearthstone. There's an entirely practical consideration for this move, as it happens: as we have explained before, your Garrison is effectively instanced content. That means that should Instance servers collapse it makes practical sense to have an exit route, and that means setting your *main* Hearthstone somewhere else. I'm betting that Blizzard would like me to do that in Ashran, but that's a blog post for another time. What I'd like to consider now is the question of just how much customisation are we actually likely to be handed in our Garrisons come the feature going live. The signs are already here that Blizzard understands the possibilities available, it is whether we'll get them on release or somewhere down the line...

/chinstroke. Capture from Wowhead.

The allure of totally customisable content is not to be overstated: many people I have spoken to since Garrisons were mooted at Blizzcon have stated they hoped for something akin to The Sims in terms of flexibility. The reality, of course, is that in a ten year old game where the focus of interest is a long way away from building your own house, it is probably unrealistic to expect Blizzard to drop everything to make this happen. However, there are definite indicators inside the Beta that there is wiggle room on the notion of DIY game construction. Blizzard have baked a set of Transmog only sets into part of the Garrisons Perk mechanic, for instance. You'll want to aim fore a Level 2 Dwarven Bunker if you want access to four distinct armour sets that can only be purchased with items that drop from the various Clans across Draenor. These items are also BOA, which means yours truly will be collecting all of them for use at some point in the future.

Orcs again from Wowhead. Nice Plate.

However, we're not talking about making your character look spiffy here, our concern is with your Garrison, which for a while in Alpha looked as if it would have little if anything to lend itself to true player customisation. Then Monuments appeared, which will allow you to display your prowess in various fields of attainment that are not simply limited to Raid Bosses killed (am liking the monument that marks you gaining maximum skill in all the crafting/gathering professions.) Getting access to the L3 structures (albeit briefly) has also given some hints of the possibilities that we could have in future: they're not huge, but it is a start:

Note the Crest and Wall Hangings, customisation fans.

My take on player housing is pretty simple: if it was truly the plan to allow people their own place in game, then I'd be the one organising the tables and chairs here as well as what went on those empty banners. As it is, I'm betting I'll be able to display on those banners the crests of the Factions I like the most, and maybe eventually be able to display a Dwarven crest above the fireplace as opposed to simply an Alliance one. It is going to be a long haul, I suspect, especially with the amount of artwork that will be involved to make all these possibilities become a reality, because as we have discussed before this isn't a game being built from the ground up, this is new things being bolted onto a pretty established framework. However, what has become apparent during this development process is that Blizzard have grasped the significance of customisation in the mindset of players.

Ammo. In development...

...and flaming shells in production.

We're seeing a distinct shift of emphasis away from rigid options for player outfits. It is not unreasonable therefore to suggest that this change may well extend further into your Garrison than simply the wall hangings and statues, but it will need time, and Blizzard will rightly be reticent to commit massive resources to such undertakings until they are convinced this new feature will be a success.

For now, we can only sit and wonder what possibilities might be on the table after Warcraft's eventual release...

No comments: