Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fix Dem Garrisons!

So, Blizzard has thrown down the word and declared they are not happy with the way garrisons work, particularly for alts. I'm sorry I don't know how to link in blue texts from the forums, so that's a screen grab up there, but I hope it conveys the point. And I couldn't agree more. I would also generally state that the could be improved in general.

Don't get me wrong: I'm mostly pretty happy with the garrison (although I'm finding some other rubs that bug me a little. More on that later.) But there is always room for improvement. While Takralus is talking about alt garrisons, I think more can be done to all garrisons that would be an improvement for alt people and for more single-character players.

Improve the Garrison Control UI
First problem is that there are two UIs, one that is accessed at your garrison (or an outpost) by clicking on the table, and then there is the crossed sabers icon on the edge of your mini map. Neither UI shows you all the information you need to run your garrison, and generally, they are still muddled. I spend more time deciding which followers to send on what missions because you have to click here and then click there to see various information. At the same time, I can't see my stock of garrison resources, and the chat window is blocked. Uncool.  Plus, you have to wait, and wait, and wait while the little animations showing your followers butchering denizens of Draenor load and then play and then celebrate their victories, only after you've manually clicked on the treasure chest yourself.  Very Uncool. You can't sort missions by any sort of priority. You can't sort your followers by their abilities.  Totally uncool.

There are add-ons that can help with some of these things and I'm exploring those now and may report on them soon. But if Blizzard wants to improve the garrison maintenance experience, this would be the best place to start.

Armor Tokens Need to Be BoA
It's not happened yet, but at some time in the near future, Merinna is going to have a barracks full of followers who all have 655 gear itemization and will be at the pinnacle of their abilities, with nowhere left to go. The quests to acquire armor and weapon tokens will not end however. What am I going to do with these tokens except curse them for not being transferrable to my alts?

Frankly, I think this one is going to happen. Early in the expansion, there was every reason to control these tokens, but that becomes much less important as time goes by. What's more, these are so cute and easy to pop in the mail to an alt in the first place, I can't imagine that Blizzard developers weren't already thinking that way.

Anything produced in the Garrison needs to BoA
The other day, I was hoping to make a gun for my hunter and my engineer had 96 gearsprings on hand. Meanwhile, the hunter had picked up 6 gearsprings or so from somewhere (Blingtrons, perhaps?). But the gearsprings are all soulbound and can't transfer anywhere. The hunter who's strictly a gatherer will never end up using those dumb gearsprings. And meanwhile, I could only wait six more hours and hope that the engineering kiosk would produce the necessary parts. (It didn't, and I had to wait another three hours on top of that).

Meanwhile, alchemical catalyst is totally unbound and can go wherever I want it to go. I appreciate that gearsprings are hardcore crafting materials and the catalyst just produces consumables, but this is mostly just inconsistent. I could get so much more done if these parts were BoA instead of soulbound.  Some might argue that I shouldn't deserve to get "so much more done" because that's not how it's supposed to work. I'd say anyone who's gone through the process of maintaining multiple garrisons has earned it.

Why do I have a Garrison Full of People and Still Have to do My Own Gathering? 
I've got 28 people working in my mine, so why do I have to go down there every day and pull out all this metal by myself? I like those commandojacks who pop in to cut down a tree for me, "Don't you have a world to save, Merinna?" they say, "Here let me do that."

On one hand, the mine is a pretty interesting place and the designers did a great job in organizing this space. And let's face it, having this easy access to resources is so much better than the other option, which is not having these resources.

On the other hand, gathering stuff is the first thing I don't do when time is short. It just takes longer than anything else. Filling up my bags with herbs and ore when my character is a professional gatherer of neither sometimes irks me. 

In some ways, the mine and herb garden represent the worst of the typical freemium game mechanics that has been incorporated into WoW. The resources are there, just waiting for collection, making big noticeable yellow splits all over the minimap. They make a compulsion to not leave these resources just...sitting there.

Blizzard tried to recreate aspects of the old RTS Warcraft in the garrison. But in those old games, did anybody think gathering resources was the fun part? You could plop a forge or whatever and move on, coming back to check its function later in and spend less than 30 seconds on the whole effort. Not so with a WoW garrison. I'm trying to imagine some "fun" in running the mine a few months from now, and I just don't see it.

So, with all that said... I can't imagine how to solve this problem. To come up with some "auto-gathering" function at the garrison would take some significant coding and would defeat the purpose of having these nicely designed features in the garrison. I could argue that you could have your boys bring in the resources and collect X resources each day, or you could do it yourself and collect X + Y resources. That would complement the work done but that would be an even bigger mechanical coding problem. Blizzard is not going to redesign a big chunk of code for a content patch. They've shown many times before that this is not how they choose to use their man hours.

Bank Access Needs to be Standard

You know which garrison building I hate? The Storehouse. It's such a revolting pile of filller. I can just see the conversation that happened at Blizzard HQ:

DevA: We need one more small type building to offer.
DevB: How about a Storehouse!?
DevA: What is a storehouse for? To put stuff in?
DevB: Yeah, exactly!
DevA: Wha? That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard.
DevB: Well...we could put the bank access there too.
DevA: That still sucks, but we've got to put something in there ...

Let me state this unequivocally: There are few things I hate more than having to make a special trip to Ashram to dump all 42 types of resource out of my bag and into the bank. It's not a time sink in the most glorious sense of that expression, but it is a time waste.

I think Blizzard bobbled the ball in terms of how they handled facilities this expansion. They put most amenities out on the garrison but wanted to come up with good reasons for players to visit actual faction hubs. So, they stuck the auction house and bank out in the hubs. But those hubs were supposed to be lore-rich places like Karabor until that got shelved late in development. So we all settle for those mud camps on Ashram which are infinitely less interesting. Rather than have a good reason to visit the faction hubs, it's just really inconvenient that you have to go there at all.

To hell with Ashram. I use the auction house once a week, maybe. So, it can stay. But I use the bank at least once a day for each character and usually more than that. Make that convenient. A banker could be sitting in the trophy room, I think so I actually have some reason to use that part of my town hall.

Patch 6.1

Since I started writing this last Thursday, patch notes for 6.1 have come out and they haven't included anything remotely similar to any proposal here, which makes me wonder why they even raised this issue. Garrisons are getting things like new content (which is good) and a jukebox (which is weird). The heirloom tab is rolling out which suggests major coding is going on, but I think it will be up to the add-on makers to really tweak the UI. Some smaller bind changes could yet occur though.

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