I don’t think a lot of World of Warcraft players look back at Warlords of Draenor with fondness. I get that. It introduced a storyline and continent that was at best a fantasy cul-de-sac, it suffered from some of the worst content drought that WoW ever had, and it had too little to do at the endgame. But the thing you’ll hear players cursing the most, oddly enough, are garrisons.
What’s weird is that, at the start of Draenor, everyone loved garrisons. Loved loved loved them. It’s hard to remember that now, but back in November 2014, it’s all anyone wanted to talk about. Finally, players had a spot of their own in the game and some sort of weird hybrid functional housing-base-thing. There was a lot of carrots to chase with this system, a lot of potential rewards, and plenty of choices to be made. There was even a light degree of customization, as players could pick up music scrolls and holiday overlays to change it up from the default.
They were also really useful, both as a home base and as a generator of resources. Players could work on professions, gather mats, train up battle pets, and so on. Really, other than offering portals, your garrison could perform pretty much every city service need.
But what happened? There are two main complaints that seem to get circulated enough these days to be the “reality” of the garrison fallout, although I personally think that it was more complicated than that (and I hold to the opinion that there were a lot of folks like me that never *disliked* their garrisons and would have liked to see the system continue). The first is that garrisons encouraged the community to be too insular and isolated, which is something I don’t buy that much; people are as social or not as they want to be, even if they’re standing in the middle of a city square. The second is that constantly logging in to run follower missions became a tedious, frequent chore that you couldn’t escape due to the huge gold generation that it produced.
Blizzard’s solution at the end of Draenor was planned obsolescence for garrisons. Gold missions were nixed, the garrison system wasn’t supported past the expansion, and there were new systems designed to try to replace that role. Order halls were supposed to be kind of the Garrisons 2.0, just less personal and more social but with a lot of functionality. I found them to be a waste of space and definitely not as enjoyable as operating my own garrison — because it wasn’t mine. It was communal space in a game full of communal spaces.
I think that Blizzard could have produced a far more elegant solution to continuing with garrisons while making changes to address those two common points of complaint. Adding a lot more customization in terms of decoration and personal expression could have driven players to visit each other, especially if there was a rating system or the like in place. Mission frequency could have been tuned way down — which is, in fact, what Blizzard has done with mission tables elsewhere.
Whether the garrison would have stayed put in Draenor or moved shop (via magic?) to the newer expansions, I don’t know, but there could have continued to be ways to tie it into the latest storylines. And if Blizzard wanted more carrots to keep players motivated, well, then there was always ways to continually upgrade buildings to feature the current expansion’s mats and focus.
I guess I wanted to say that I kind of liked garrisons and I miss them now that they’re defunct. Looking over the last several years, there was no content system in the game that excited me as much as this one did. Here’s hoping that Blizz can whip up something as or even more interesting for the next expansion foray.